It was a successful draft for the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. How do I know? Well, I looked at Mel Kiper Jr.'s draft grades. The AFC North was the only division where each team received a grade of at least 'B.' In fact, the Cincinnati Bengals were one of four teams who earned an 'A.' So take a bow, AFC North.
You'll need a subscription to read all about Kiper's grades, but I'll give you a portion of what Kiper had to say along with my take on each one:
Kiper's grade: A-minus
Kiper's comment: The Bengals didn't hit any home runs in value, but as we sat on the set, we'd nod to each other with every pick.
Hensley's slant: Count me among those who think the Bengals had one of the strongest drafts in the NFL because they got six quality players in the first four rounds. Dre Kirkpatrick is the best zone cover corner in this draft, and guard Kevin Zeitler and defensive tackle Devon Still are top-three players at their positions. I would've given the Bengals a slightly lower grade, perhaps B-plus, for a couple of reasons. They waited until the third round to address wide receiver, which was their most pressing need. Cincinnati could've taken Baylor's Kendall Wright or Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill in the first round. And while Zeitler will be an impact player, the Bengals passed on one of the best guard prospects in decades (David DeCastro) for an extra third-round pick, which Cincinnati used on another defensive tackle (Clemson's Brandon Thompson). Overall, this is the second great draft in a row for Marvin Lewis and the Bengals.
Kiper's grade: B-minus
Kiper's comment: The Browns will get questions on value, but they had a plan and stuck to it. There were good wideouts available at No. 37, so that's the pick I question the most.
Hensley's slant: While others are criticizing the Browns for moving up one spot to get running back Trent Richardson, I'm applauding it. No one knows for sure if the Browns got bluffed by the Minnesota Vikings to trade up to No. 3, but they didn't need to find out. It was the right move to give up three picks for a team that entered the draft with an NFL-high 13. Richardson brings a tough identity to an offense that got frequently pushed around last season. The biggest problem I had with the Browns draft is where the team chose to take quarterback Brandon Weeden. He is an upgrade over Colt McCoy and could develop into a quality starter, but the Browns could've traded down in the first round to get him (and pick up an extra pick) or they could've waited until early in the second round to take him. Cleveland failed to get an impact receiver, although it did add speed with Miami's Travis Benjamin in the fourth round. The Browns filled their biggest void by drafting underrated offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz in the second round.
Kiper's grade: B
Kiper's comment: The Ravens had a great weekend. Any time you move out of the first round, still get a guy with first-round talent (Alabama outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw), and he happens to fill your biggest need, you're happy.
Hensley's slant: This is exactly where the Ravens should be graded. This was a solid yet unspectacular draft. Outside of Upshaw, none of these names jump out as future stars. What you have to like is how the Ravens addressed several needs without reaching for players. Upshaw should fill Jarret Johnson's void, Iowa State's Kelechi Osemele could step into Ben Grubbs' spot at left guard and Temple's Bernard Pierce (27 touchdowns last season) takes over Ricky Williams' backup role. Delaware guard Gino Gradkowski looks like the team's future center and might start there in 2013. A great low-risk, high-reward pick was Miami wide receiver Tommy Streeter in the sixth round. Ravens officials set the goal of upgrading their depth and they did it in workmanlike fashion.
Kiper's grade: B
Kiper's comment: Pittsburgh got one of the total steals of the draft when Stanford guard David DeCastro fell all the way to No. 24. This was a fantastic draft in my opinion.
Hensley's slant: The Steelers should've received a slightly higher grade for this strong draft. I'm thinking at least B-plus. Pittsburgh got three players in the first four rounds who could start for a long, long time (DeCastro, offensive tackle Mike Adams and nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu). You have to love the dedication to improving the offensive line in front of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. DeCastro is a future Pro Bowl player, and Adams may be the most talented offensive tackle on the roster right now. As Kiper says, Ta'amu isn't a special talent, but he should be the heir apparent to Casey Hampton. You have to add in there a player who should be a special teams monster (linebacker Sean Spence) and a running back who adds explosiveness to the offense (Chris Rainey). It's drafts like these that the Steelers can take a vacation in the first wave of free agency every year.