A Look at What the AFC North Did On Draft Weekend

We already know what the Steelers did during the 2011 NFL Draft, but what about the teams they’re competing with in the AFC North? Here’s a quick look…

Baltimore Ravens: 1 (27) Jimmy Smith, CB; 2 (58) Torrey Smith, WR; 3 (85) Jah Reid, OT; 4 (123) Tandon Doss, WR; 5 (164) Chykie Brown, CB; 5 (165) Pernell McPhee, DE; 6 (180) Tyrod Taylor, QB; 7 (225) Anthony Allen, RB

The big name here is obviously Jimmy Smith in the first round, regarded as one of the best (if not the best) cover cornerbacks in the entire draft. So why did he slide so far? Character concerns, which probably makes him a great fit for the Ravens. And if you listen to the talking heads, he will be kept in check by the wonderful leadership in the Baltimore locker room. In other words: The same thing that’s said about every player that gets drafted by the Ravens. But while Steeler fans worry about his coverage skills, the player that could make the biggest improvement for Baltimore is their second round pick, wide receiver Torrey Smith.

The Ravens receiving corps last year was high on big names and short on speed. Derrick Mason, Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh are all fine possession receivers, but they’re also closer to the end of their careers than the beginning. They’re also seriously lacking in the speed department. The closest thing Baltimore had to a downfield passing threat that could blow the top off the defense was Donte Stallworth, and he stinks. Smith ran a 4.43 40 at the combine, and while that’s not exactly Mike Wallace speed, it’s still better than what Baltimore had, and could give Joe Flacco the deep threat he and the Baltimore offense needs.

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Cincinnati Bengals: 1 (4) A.J. Green, WR; 2 (35) Andy Dalton, QB; 3 (66) Dontay Moch, OLB; 4 (101) Clint Boling, G; 5 (134) Robert Sands, S; 6 (167) Ryan Whalen, WR; 7 (207) Korey Lindsey, CB; 7 (246) Jay Finley, RB

Going into the draft I thought the two best players projected to go in the first round were LSU’s Patrick Peterson (Arizona, No. 5) and Georgia’s A.J. Green. The Bengals, after turning down a trade offer from the Atlanta Falcons (more on that in a second) selected Green fourth overall, giving them a trio of receivers, at the moment, headlined by Green, Chad Johnson Ochocinco (for now, anyway) and Jordan Shipley. Not bad. What is bad, however, is the possible quarterbacks that will be throwing passes to them.

Carson Palmer is still on the team, but it’s starting to look as if the franchise is ready to move in another direction. Assuming Palmer is granted his wish of no longer playing for Mike Brown and Marvin Lewis, the Bengals’ opening-day quarterbacks are Carson’s brother, Jordan, or the team’s second round pick, TCU’s Andy Dalton.

Dalton looks to be a fine prospect, but sometimes the situation a player goes to is just as important as his ability. Would Aaron Rodgers be a Super Bowl champion and an All-Pro level quarterback had he been picked by a terrible 49ers team in 2005? Would Alex Smith have suffered the same mediocre fate if he had the opportunity to sit for a couple of years and join a quality team in Green Bay? Would David Carr and Tim Couch have washed out of the league so quickly had they not been fed to the wolves by expansion teams? Obviously, we don’t know. We also don’t know if Dalton is good enough to overcome whatever it is that’s ruined just about every single quarterback prospect that went to Cincinnati over the past two decades. If he isn’t, it’s not going to matter how many big names or how much talent the Bengals have at wide receiver.

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Cleveland Browns: 1 (21) Phil Taylor, DT; 2 (27) Jabaal Sheard, DE; 2 (59) Greg Little, WR; 4 (102) Jordan Cameron, TE; 4 (124) Owen Marecic, FB/LB; 6 (137) Buster Skrine, CB; 5 (150) Jason Pinkston, OT; 7 (248) Eric Hagg, S

I like what the Browns did this weekend and they owe a great deal of thanks to the Atlanta Falcons for mortgaging large chunks of two drafts to get one player,  Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones. After reportedly making an offer to the Bengals to move up from the 27th pick to fourth — and being turned down — the Falcons made the same offer to the Browns, sitting in the sixth spot, and Mike Holmgren was more than happy to accept. Cleveland came away with five additional draft picks in 2011 and 2012 (the deal was the No. 6 overall pick in 2011 for the 27th, 59th and 124th picks in 2011, along with Atlanta’s first and fourth round picks in 2012). Atlanta selected Jones, which the media has lauded as a bold, aggressive move by a team that’s looking to win the Super Bowl right now. That’s certainly one way of looking at it. For me, it was too aggressive.

The Browns ultimately moved up from 27 to 21 to select Baylor’s Phil Taylor, regarded as the best nose tackle in the draft, and followed that up with Pitt’s pass rushing defensive end Jabaal Sheard in the second to help reconstruct their defensive line. From there, Cleveland used the second round pick it received from Atlanta to take North Carolina wide receiver Greg Little. And here’s where my problem with the Falcons comes in.

Had the Falcons not made their trade they would have been in a position to add Little with this pick. I don’t deny that Jones is a better prospect than Little — there’s a reason he was a top-10 pick and Little was not — but is he five draft picks better? This goes back to the discussion we had about the Steelers trading up in the first round and potentially giving up their second round pick (plus another pick) to get Prince Amukamura. I was against it because I couldn’t see giving up that much value for one player. And that was only one or two picks. Outside of a potential franchise quarterback I can’t think of one player in the draft that I’d feel comfortable giving up five draft picks for.

The trade not only helped the Browns land Taylor and Little, they also selected Owen Marecic in the fourth round, a modern day Chuck Bednarick during his college days at Stanford, having started at both fullback and linebacker.

During a game against Notre Dame he pulled off one of my favorite moments of the 2011 football season when he scored a touchdown on offense as a fullback and then followed it up on the very next play from scrimmage with an interception return for a touchdown.

Everything I’ve seen has him projected as more of a fullback in the NFL, and while he’ll likely serve as Peyton Hillis’ lead blocker, he certainly provides quite a bit of flexibility.

BONUS FUN! Patriots and Eagles make a trade just for the hell of it.

During the 1974 NHL Draft, then Buffalo Sabres general manager Punch Imlach was angry at the methodical pace of the selection process and used his teams 11th round pick to select a fictional Japanese player by the name of Taro Tsujimoto to stick it to the league (how this hurt the league more than his team, I’ll never know, but that doesn’t make it any less hilarious). It took the NHL weeks to figure out the player didn’t really exist, and the NHL’s historical database currently lists that selection as an invalid claim. The point is that even the people in charge of the draft process get bored with it near the end.

On Saturday, the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles were another fine example when they apparently made a trade just for the sake of making a trade, swapping picks No. 193 and 194. That’s it. No other compensation, simply swapping picks, seemingly for poops and giggles.

From Frank Tadych of NFL.com

As the 21st of 22 trades made during this NFL draft, it simply went like this: Eagles get pick No. 193. Patriots get pick 194. That’s it.

None of us could figure out who benefited from the trade, or why it was made. But after some digging, the answers are “no one ” and “just for fun.”

The Patriots and Eagles apparently made this trade just for kicks.

I don’t care what anybody says, I think that’s hilarious. The Eagles ended up taking Ohio State linebacker Brian Rolle at 193, while the Patriots selected Central Arkansas Defensive End/Outside Linebacker Markell Carter.

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  • ROb D

    I couldn’t believe Charlie Casserly genuflecting to the Pats and their draft…I think they screwed the pooch and so do a lot of their more knowledgeable fans. Someday they’ll parlay their way into having every single pick in the 6th round which they will then turn into every pick in the 7th round. It’s a lot of stuff and nonsense. You have to ,,at some point, turn the picks into productive players or what exactly is the point? To keep ESPN happy and giddy I guess…morons.

    Browns and Bengals seem to have done very well. I don’t like the Ravens draft much. Smith is a very risky pick and I guess I really don’t like Flacco much or I’d be scared of Torrey Smith.

  • DC in ATL

    A few days before the draft, one of the hosts on a sports talk radio station here in Atlanta let it slip that he spoke to a Falcons coach about Jimmy Smith.

    The unnamed coach said that the off the field issues wouldn’t prevent them from considering Smith, however Smith’s poor tackling technique and overrated coverage abilities made it unlikely they would draft him.

  • kyle

    funny coincidence that three out of four teams in the afc north drafted a running back in the 7th round. or maybe not. it’s late.