- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals had the most successful drafts in the NFL. This isn't me saying it. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. gave three teams an 'A', and two of them were last season's playoff teams from this division. Take a bow, Ravens and Bengals.
You'll need a subscription to read all about Kiper's 2013 draft grades, but I'll give you a portion of what Kiper had to say about the Ravens, Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers, along with my take on each one:
Kiper Jr.'s grade: A-minus
Kiper Jr.'s comment: "The Ravens had another excellent draft because they needed starters at some key spots and pulled it off. That's not easy to do when you're slotted in at No. 32."
Jamison Hensley's take: What stands out about the Ravens' draft is they might have found three immediate starters despite selecting at the bottom of the round for two of them. The player I like the most is Kansas State inside linebacker Arthur Brown. The Ravens aggressively traded up for him, and he should supplant Rolando McClain. Matt Elam should replace James Ihedigbo at safety, although his size is a concern. Missouri Southern State's Brandon Williams has a chance to beat out underachieving Terrence Cody at nose tackle. I would give the Ravens a grade slightly lower, because they were unable to address wide receiver and offensive tackle earlier. By just a few picks, Baltimore saw West Virginia receiver Stedman Bailey get taken before them in the third round and watched Louisiana Tech's Quinton Patton go in the fourth. Excellent draft for defense, a below-average one on offense.
Kiper Jr.'s grade: A-minus
Kiper Jr.'s comment: "The Bengals somehow didn't address a pretty big need early (and they don't have many) and still really impressed me. The Bengals seem to be a groove with the draft, the only downside being the picks that came via the Carson Palmer deal are now spent. It was fun while it lasted."
Hensley's take: The Bengals raised expectations because of productive drafts the past couple of years, and they might have surpassed them with this group of players. Using the 21st overall pick on Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert, a player some draft experts had going as high as No. 6, is one of the best values in the first round even though this position wasn't a need for Cincinnati. It's true North Carolina's Giovani Bernard wasn't the top-rated running back of this draft, but his ability to break big plays and catch the ball is exactly what the Bengals coveted. Plus, it's a bonus pick from the Palmer trade. Southern Methodist defensive end Margus Hunt, an athletic freak, intrigues me more than any other pick in this division. The biggest knock is the Bengals didn't address their biggest need (safety) until the third round. Georgia's Shawn Williams isn't on the same level as an Elam or Johnathan Cyprien, both of whom were available in the first round, but he'll get a chance to start.
Kiper Jr.'s grade: B
Kiper Jr.'s comment: "The Steelers got a little bit of their bite back. I love the selection of Jarvis Jones in Round 1. I just thought Le'Veon Bell was a bit of a reach. I'll say this for him, however: Bell played behind some pretty awful blocking last year and still managed to be productive."
Hensley's take: If you read my post-draft analysis, you already know that I think taking Jones was the best move when looking at the drafts for every AFC North team. The Steelers needed a pass-rusher after cutting James Harrison, and they got the best one coming out of college this year at No. 17. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the pick I'm most skeptical about is the Michigan State running back Bell. He's a finesse back who could turn out to be another Rashard Mendenhall in terms of running style. I'm not enamored by Oregon State wide receiver Markus Wheaton or Illinois cornerback Terry Hawthorne, but it's hard to criticize given the Steelers' history with wide receivers in the third round and cornerbacks in the middle of the draft. The second-best player in Pittsburgh's draft class could turn out to be Syracuse safety Shamarko Thomas, a fourth-round selection.
Kiper Jr.'s grade: C-plus
Kiper Jr.'s comment: "I don't know if it's a good thing, per se, but the guy who will impact the Browns most in 2013 might not be the player they took at No. 6 overall. The hope is (LSU linebacker Barkevious) Mingo becomes a star, and (San Diego State cornerback Leon) McFadden can perform early. The good news is, both could happen."
Hensley's take: When looking at the players the Browns drafted over these three days, I would give the Browns a C-minus. When you look at the big picture, the Browns deserve a solid B. I like the fact that the Browns took a pass-rusher with the upside of Mingo in the first round over Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner. I like how the Browns traded two picks in the middle rounds of this mediocre draft for higher ones next year. And, even though it was a move made by the old regime, I like the decision to draft wide receiver Josh Gordon in the second round of last year's supplemental draft even more when looking at the wide receivers that were available in the second round Friday night. You also have to add veteran wide receiver Davone Bess to this class after the Browns picked him up for basically nothing during this draft. My biggest criticism, and I brought it up in the post-draft analysis, was failing to sign a veteran cornerback in free agency. That would have strengthened the reason to pass on Milliner in the first round and would have taken pressure off McFadden, the 11th cornerback taken in the draft, to start right away.
The Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals had the most successful drafts in the NFL. This isn't me saying it. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. gave three teams an 'A', and two of them were last season's playoff teams from this division.