Wednesday, December 23, 2009
AFC North draft rewind
By James Walker
» NFC Draft Rewind: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South
» Draft class lists: Baltimore | Cincinnati | Cleveland | Pittsburgh
Examining the draft classes of each division team.
Best rookie: First-round pick Michael Oher is not only Baltimore’s top rookie, but he’s one of the best first-year players in the NFL. He solidified the right tackle position with good technique and athleticism. The Ravens also are considering moving Oher to left tackle.
Biggest surprise: Third-round pick Lardarius Webb made steady progress. By the end of the season, he was one of the team's starting cornerbacks and also returned kicks. Unfortunately for the Ravens, Webb tore his ACL last week against the Chicago Bears and is out for the season.
Jury is still out: Second-round pick Paul Kruger remains a mystery. The linebacker/defensive end hybrid was inactive for seven games but also made a couple big plays when given the opportunity. The Ravens received some heat for passing up receivers in the first day of the draft. So it's important that Kruger is a good pick.
Bust alert: Some late draft picks haven't produced or didn't make the team, but it's hard to consider them busts. Kruger would be the only possibility.
Best rookie: Many were surprised when Rey Maualuga fell to the second round, and the former USC linebacker is proving why. Maualuga has been a force in Cincinnati's defense, recording 58 tackles, three forced fumbles and a sack. His physical style fits right in with the AFC North.
Biggest surprise: The Bengals needed a quicker back to complement Cedric Benson and found a steal in the sixth round with Bernard Scott. He is second on the team in rushing with 301 yards. Look for Scott to play a bigger role next year.
Jury is still out: Right tackle Andre Smith never got his rookie year off the ground when he missed all of training camp with a contract dispute. Once he joined the team, a broken bone in his foot sidelined him for most of the season. This year is pretty much a wash for the No. 6 overall pick, but expectations will be high next season.
Bust alert: The Bengals could still use help at tight end, which is why Cincinnati is disappointed rookie third-round pick Chase Coffman didn’t pan out. Coffman seemed confused from the beginning. He struggled learning his assignments in training camp and never got used to the speed of the NFL. He’s currently on injured reserve with bone spurs.
Best rookie: Second-round pick Mohamed Massaquoi has become Cleveland's top receiver after the trade of Braylon Edwards. Massaquoi has 30 catches for team-high 549 yards. He’s also averaging 18.3 yards per catch.
Biggest surprise: Kaluka Maiava was the other linebacker at USC. He was a backup behind first-day picks Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews Jr. and Maualuga. Maiava, a fourth-rounder, has been a pleasant surprise, recording 39 tackles, a sack and two forced fumbles.
Jury is still out: Brian Robiskie was widely considered the most polished receiver in the draft. That’s why many in Cleveland are wondering why he's not playing for a 3-11 team. He has just five catches for 92 yards this season.
Bust alert: It doesn't look good when a fourth-round pick (Maiava) is starting ahead of second-round linebacker David Veikune, who has struggled to fit into the defense. There is a good chance the Browns will change defensive schemes to a 4-3 in 2010, which could give Veikune a fresh start.
Best rookie: Third-round pick Mike Wallace brought another deep threat to Pittsburgh's offense. The receiver quickly gained the respect of his teammates with his production and work ethic. He has 34 catches for 609 yards, and the team is not afraid to go to Wallace in the clutch.
Biggest surprise: Wallace also is the biggest surprise. In college he struggled with his routes, but hard work and coaching have helped Wallace make an immediate impact.
Jury is still out: The Steelers invested two draft picks this year in cornerbacks. But both Keenan Lewis and Joe Burnett haven’t contributed much. Burnett is starting to get more playing time in recent weeks rotating with William Gay.
Bust alert: Pittsburgh hasn’t gotten anything this season out of third-round offensive lineman Kraig Urbik. The Steelers consider him a project, but they need depth on the offensive line now.