AFC North: 2012 NFL draft

Kiper's mock draft 2.0: AFC North

February, 8, 2013
2/08/13
4:00
PM ET
ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. put together his Mock 2.0 Insider which looks a lot like his first version for the AFC North teams. In fact, only one player changed on his picks for the division. As always, you'll need an Insider subscription to see the entire post. But I can give you some of Kiper's predictions on the AFC North teams:

6. Cleveland Browns

Kiper's pick: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State

Hensley's comment: Kiper is still sticking with Werner as his pick for the Browns. Werner, who had 13 sacks last season, would fill a big need as a pass-rusher. But Kiper has said Werner is a 4-3 end and wouldn't fit the Browns' new 3-4 scheme.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers

Kiper's pick: Ezekiel Ansah, LB, BYU

Hensley's comment: Once again, Kiper didn't change his pick. He still has Ansah going to the Steelers. He's a massive athlete who is being compared to Jason Pierre-Paul. Ansah is a raw prospect and there is concern whether he will ever be a 3-4 outside linebacker at 275 pounds. But he will make an impact as a pass-rusher immediately.

21. Cincinnati Bengals

Kiper's pick: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas

Hensley's comment: This pick makes a lot of sense for the Bengals. Vaccaro is a physical defensive back who would fill the biggest void on defense over the past year and would be a great compliment to Reggie Nelson. Teams often find good values by taking a safety in the bottom half of the first round.

32. Baltimore Ravens

Kiper's pick: Kevin Minter, LB, LSU

Hensley's comment: Inside linebacker is currently an area of need. Ray Lewis retired, Dannell Ellerbe is a free agent and Jameel McClain is coming off a spinal-cord injury. Minter is a tackling machine, but Kiper notes there's a chance that Minter won't last this long. With the drama surrounding Manti Te'o, Minter could take his spot in the top half of the first round and Te'o could fall down to the bottom of the first round.
Let's break down the Pittsburgh Steelers' 2012 draft:

FIRST-ROUND SPOTLIGHT: The Steelers would've been happy to come away with either linebacker Dont'a Hightower or guard Kevin Zeitler at No. 24. Not only did both players fall to the Steelers but so did Stanford's David DeCastro, the top guard prospect in a decade. Pittsburgh couldn't have drawn up a better board. DeCastro is a physically dominant blocker who will immediately start at left or right guard. The Steelers can thank the Bengals for passing on him at No. 21.

IN HINDSIGHT: The riskiest move of the Steelers' strong draft was taking Ohio State offensive tackle Mike Adams with the 56th overall pick. He was clearly the best offensive lineman left late in the second round, and he fills another need on the offensive line. But Adams was removed briefly from the Steelers' draft board because of character concerns. Pittsburgh's other option was Oregon running back LaMichael James, who was taken by the 49ers five picks later.

BEST VALUE: NT Alameda Ta'amu, Washington. Memphis' Dontari Poe, the draft's top-rated nose tackle, was taken at No. 11. The Steelers got the second-best one in Ta'amu 98 picks later in the fourth round. That's unbelievable value. The massive Samoan is the heir apparent to Casey Hampton.

TOP LATE-ROUND PICKUP: RB Chris Rainey, Florida. His acceleration and high-cut speeds add a different look to the Steelers offense. New offensive coordinator Todd Haley has to be creative with Rainey because of his size (5 feet 8, 178 pounds), but Rainey can make some big-time plays if used the right way. He also has three career touchdowns as a returner.

SOMEONE WHO DIDN'T LIKE THIS DRAFT: Willie Colon. He might have lost his starting job when the Steelers drafted Adams in the second round, but he won't be losing money. After Colon refused to take a pay cut this offseason, the Steelers agreed to restructure his contract to create salary-cap room. Colon received $3.8 million of his $4.5 million base salary in the form of a bonus. The Steelers might have considered cutting Colon after this draft if not for the restructuring. With all that money the Steelers handed him in February, he's guaranteed to make the team.

Let's break down the Baltimore Ravens' 2012 draft:

FIRST-ROUND SPOTLIGHT: The Ravens traded out of the first round, but they still got a first-round talent in Alabama outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw. He will set the edge on run defense like Jarret Johnson, who went to San Diego in free agency, and he will team with Terrell Suggs as Baltimore's edge pass rushers (Upshaw had 15.5 sacks in the past two seasons). He has a high motor and lots of motivation after falling into the second round. “Once we get back to football," Upshaw said, "it's going to be me just wanting to go out there and prove someone should've taken me.”

IN HINDSIGHT: In addition to outside linebacker, the Ravens' biggest need was left guard. Baltimore should've thought about trading up from its second pick in the second round to get Midwestern State's Amini Silatolu or Georgia's Cordy Glenn, who were selected 40th and 41st overall. The price would've been a third-round pick, which the Ravens used on Temple running back Bernard Pierce.

BEST VALUE: C-G Gino Gradkowski, Delaware. He received a third-round grade by some teams and slipped into the early part of the fourth round. Smart and athletic, Gradkowski is expected to be groomed as the successor to Matt Birk, who turns 36 before the start of training camp. The last time the Ravens used a fourth-round pick on a center was Jason Brown in 2005.

TOP LATE-ROUND PICKUP: WR Tommy Streeter, Miami. This was a no-brainer for the Ravens to take a flier on Streeter in the sixth round. Some thought he could go as early as the second round, but his inexperience (a one-year producer) and inconsistent hands scared off teams. The Ravens needed another deep threat for Joe Flacco, and Streeter's size (6 feet 5) and speed (he reportedly ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds) is definitely intriguing.

SOMEONE WHO DIDN'T LIKE THIS DRAFT: Paul Kruger. He's waited to find his spot in the starting lineup since he was selected by the Ravens in the second round three years ago. It looked like he would finally get his opportunity when Johnson signed with the Chargers in free agency. But he's no longer a favorite for that outside linebacker job since the Ravens drafted Upshaw.

Let's break down the Cleveland Browns' 2012 draft:

FIRST-ROUND SPOTLIGHT: RB Trent Richardson and QB Brandon Weeden. The Browns made the right move to trade up to No. 3 for Richardson. Whether an actual threat existed or not, the Browns couldn't risk another team leapfrogging them for the best playmaker in this draft outside of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. As far as Weeden, my biggest problem is taking him at No. 22. The Browns could've traded back in the first round and still got Weeden along with an extra pick. But, if Weeden becomes the franchise quarterback, it doesn't really matter where the Browns picked him.

IN HINDSIGHT: The Browns had targeted Baylor's Kendall Wright as one of the top-tier wide receivers in this draft. Cleveland would've had Wright if it moved up three spots in front of the Titans, who picked Wright at No. 20. Under that scenario, the Browns could have taken Weeden at No. 37 or moved back into the first round for him.

BEST VALUE: OT Mitchell Schwartz, California. Some might say this was a bit of a reach because Schwartz was considered a third-round pick (that was my initial reaction as well). But I think this pick will look much better five years from now than it did Friday. The Browns filled their biggest need with the best natural right tackle prospect in this draft. He's physical and has good bloodlines (his brother Geoff played guard for four years with the Panthers before signing with the Vikings this year).

TOP LATE-ROUND PICKUP: DL Billy Winn, Boise State. The second-round prospect fell to the sixth round because of concerns about his work ethic. He has the size to play defensive tackle and the speed to play defensive end. As a three-year starter, Winn recorded 105 tackles and 13 sacks.

SOMEONE WHO DIDN'T LIKE THIS DRAFT: Colt McCoy. The Browns used the 22nd overall pick on a 28-year-old quarterback. That signals the end of McCoy's run as the team's starting quarterback. McCoy never had the arm to be a starter in this league, but he has a lot of intangibles that impress you. He could find his niche as the backup.

Let's break down the Cincinnati Bengals' 2012 draft:

FIRST-ROUND SPOTLIGHT: CB Dre Kirkpatrick and G Kevin Zeitler. The Bengals presumably would've preferred for South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore to fall, but they still address an aging position with Kirkpatrick. You can thank the Oakland Raiders (this was a Carson Palmer pick) for Kirkpatrick, the best zone cover corner in this draft who should compete with Nate Clements for a starting spot. Zeitler is a blue-collar power blocker who is tough, smart and competitive. He's only the second offensive lineman to be taken in the first round by the Bengals in the past 10 drafts (offensive tackle Andre Smith was the other).

IN HINDSIGHT: The Bengals could've had Stanford's David DeCastro, the best guard in the draft, if they stayed at the No. 21 spot. Instead, they lost out on him by trading six spots back. The Bengals ended up with Zeitler and an additional third-round pick (Cincinnati used it on Clemson defensive tackle Brandon Thompson).

BEST VALUE: TE Orson Charles, Georgia. He was once considered one of the top tight ends in this draft and was projected to go in the first or second round. A recent DUI and a poor 40-yard time at his pro day (he was clocked in the high 4.7s) caused him to slide to the fourth round. The Bengals will play a lot more two tight end sets with Charles and Jermaine Gresham. Charles has a very high ceiling.

TOP LATE-ROUND PICKUP: WR Marvin Jones, California. It's fitting that the Bengals use the pick received from the Patriots in the Chad Ochocinco deal on a wide receiver. Jones has size (6 feet 2), quickness and a knack for getting open. Don't be surprised if he beats out third-round pick Mohamed Sanu for more playing time this year.

SOMEONE WHO DIDN'T LIKE THIS DRAFT: Jacob Bell. The veteran guard started 100 games for the Titans and Rams before signing with the Bengals as a free agent this offseason. Bell is now penciled in as a backup after the Bengals selected Zeitler in the first round. Zeitler is expected to take over at right guard and Travelle Wharton will start at left guard.

As many of the loyal readers of the AFC North blog know, I believe the Cleveland Browns made the right move in draft running back Trent Richardson. The Browns need an offensive playmaker, and Richardson was clearly the top one remaining after Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III.

Others don't agree. ESPN's Jeffri Chadiha sees Richardson-Browns as the "worst marriage" in this year's draft. Here's how Chadiha sees the situation:
There are plenty of reasons to like Richardson, including his college production, intangibles and overall toughness. What's hard to ignore is the recent history of highly drafted running backs in the NFL. Only two runners taken in the first round since 2007 have turned into stars -- Minnesota's Adrian Peterson and Tennessee's Chris Johnson -- and Richardson doesn't possess the explosiveness or speed of those two.

The Browns also have a lousy passing game, which means Richardson will find more defenders focused on him every time he lines up. That doesn't mean he won't be productive at all. It just means he isn't as likely to live up to the status of being the third overall pick in the draft. Keep in mind, Browns Hall of Famer Jim Brown already has called him "ordinary." From this vantage point, it's easy to think other people might have a similar opinion of Richardson this season.

While he makes valid points, I'm going to have to disagree. I see this as a perfect pairing. The Browns' offense got pushed around too much last season, and it gained a tougher attitude with Richardson. He's the type of back that Cleveland needs to compete against the likes of the Steelers, Ravens and Bengals.

What will help this "marriage" in the future is the addition of deep threats. When defenses began to stack the box against Richardson, the Browns need to be able to counter with a strong-armed Brandon Weeden throwing downfield to receivers who can gain separation.

One point that everyone can agree on is Richardson is the type of talent that will cause defenses to adjust and react. You couldn't say that about anyone on the Cleveland offense last season.
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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 Insider. 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:

Cincinnati Bengals

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.

Cleveland Browns

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.

Baltimore Ravens

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.

Pittsburgh Steelers

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.
The draft is over. Book it and now grade it. On a side note, I had Rokevious Watkins as my mock draft Mr. Irrelevant, but hey what do I know. (This is only a joke, I swear). Here's a recap of the final two rounds of the draft:

BENGALS: It was a quiet end to the draft for the Bengals, who had one pick in the final two rounds. Cincinnati used it on Ohio State RB Dan "Boom" Herron (sixth round), a physical back who lacks breakaway speed. You would expect a back to be physical with the nickname "Boom."

BROWNS: ILB Emmanuel Acho (sixth round) was Texas' leading tackler last season, but he has average range. ... Boise State DT Billy Winn (sixth round) is a flashy but inconsistent interior player. ... Arizona CB Trevin Wade (seventh round) is a finesse cover man who has good ball skills. ... Alabama FB-TE Brad Smelley (seventh round) is a hybrid player on offense but he will need to contribute on special teams to stick around.

RAVENS: WR Tommy Streeter (sixth round) is a tall (6 feet 5), raw prospect out of Miami who caught 46 passes last year after making a total of six the previous two seasons. ... Georgia DT DeAngelo Tyson (seventh round) isn't a flashy player and he projects to be a backup nose tackle.

STEELERS: WR Toney Clemons (seventh round) from Colorado is a vertical threat who needs to get stronger. ... Oregon TE David Paulson (seventh round) is an overachiever who has steady hands yet lacks speed to get separation. ... Texas A&M CB Terrence Frederick (seventh round) has good instincts and works best in zone coverage. ... SMU G Kelvin Beachum (seventh round) is an aggressive blocker but he has limitations as a pass protector.

AFC North draft analysis

April, 28, 2012
4/28/12
6:47
PM ET
NFC draft analysis: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South


The AFC North continued its momentum from last season, when it was the only division to send three teams to the playoffs. Each team made significant upgrades by sticking to a plan. Of course, some executed better than others.

The Cleveland Browns used their first three picks on an offense that ranked 30th in scoring last season. The Cincinnati Bengals took three defensive players in the first three rounds. The Baltimore Ravens addressed their two biggest needs by using three of their first four picks on outside linebacker and offensive line. And the Steelers grabbed two starters on the offensive line with their first two picks.

Let's break down the draft decisions made within the division over the past three days:

BEST MOVE

Few teams manipulate the draft like the Baltimore Ravens. You have to applaud how the Ravens got a first-round talent in Alabama outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw when they were the only team in division not to draft in the first round. It wasn't just the best move in the AFC North. It was among the biggest steals of the draft.

Baltimore traded the 29th overall pick to the Minnesota Vikings for an additional pick in the fourth round (which was used on Delaware's Gino Gradkowski, their center of the future) and still got its targeted player -- Upshaw -- despite dropping back six spots.

Upshaw was once considered a top-10 pick, but he slid down draft boards after struggling at the Senior Bowl and sitting out NFL combine drills because of tendinitis in his knee. His high motor and bulldog mentality make him a perfect fit in Baltimore's traditionally tough defense.

"When you talk about Courtney, there still is a game we call football and Courtney is a football player," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "I'm sure if you would have asked us back in October, November if Courtney would make it to the third pick in the second round, everybody would have said, 'Probably not.' "

Upshaw's impact will be felt in two areas. He should take over the thankless job of setting the edge against the run that has long been handled by Jarret Johnson, who signed with San Diego in free agency. In passing situations, Upshaw will team with Terrell Suggs to give the Ravens their best edge rushers since they had Suggs and Peter Boulware.

RISKIEST MOVE

The Browns removed all the risk early in the first round, when they traded three picks to guarantee they would get running back Trent Richardson. Then, Cleveland turned around and took a major gamble later in the first round, selecting Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden with the 22nd overall pick.

This isn't the riskiest move that the Browns could have made at quarterback in this draft. Cleveland did pass on Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill in the top five. But taking a 28-year-old rookie quarterback ignited a lot of second-guessing. Cleveland had the chance to take Iowa offensive tackle Riley Reiff or Stanford guard David DeCastro at No. 22, or could have traded back into the second round to get Weeden. He has the physical tools and maturity to become a starter in the NFL. But taking him that high in the draft was a reach.

[+] EnlargeOklahoma State's Brandon Weeden
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiBrandon Weeden would already be the second-oldest starter in the AFC North.
The one certainty is that Weeden upgrades the Browns' quarterback position. He has a much stronger arm than Colt McCoy and is far more accurate. But there's more pressure when you take a quarterback in the first round, and the clock is already ticking considering Weeden would already be the second-oldest starter in the division.

Cleveland played it safe for the rest of the draft, taking three players who were four-year starters (offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz, linebacker James-Michael Johnson and guard Ryan Miller).

MOST SURPRISING MOVE

It was no surprise that the Steelers had the best draft in the AFC North. There was one move, however, that inspired a double take -- drafting Ohio State offensive tackle Mike Adams in the second round.

The Steelers don't usually take players with character issues and have little patience with behavioral problems on the team (see: Santonio Holmes). General manager Kevin Colbert acknowledged that Adams was off Pittsburgh's board after he failed a drug test at the NFL combine and the reportedly lied to the team. The Steelers only considered him again after Adams met some stipulations, which included counseling.

Although Adams has the look of a prototypical left tackle, his issues caused him to slip to the 56th overall pick. He is the biggest question mark in a strong draft for the Steelers. Pittsburgh landed the best guard in the draft (David DeCastro), a future starting nose tackle (Alameda Ta'Amu) and an electric playmaking running back (Chris Rainey). Perhaps that's the reason why the Steelers thought they could take such a chance on Adams.

FILE IT AWAY

The only position of need the Cincinnati Bengals ignored in free agency was wide receiver. And the Bengals passed on taking a wide receiver early despite three picks in the first two rounds.

Cincinnati let two of its top three receivers leave in free agency (Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell). Now that the draft is over, it still has not answered the question of who will be its No. 2 wide receiver. It's uncertain whether the two wide receivers drafted by the Bengals -- Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu in the third round and California's Marvin Jones in the fifth round -- will contribute immediately. Sanu is more known for being the player that got a prank call about getting picked by the Bengals in the first round before getting drafted by Cincinnati a day later.

The Bengals had been linked to Baylor's Kendall Wright and Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill, but they chose cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and guard Kevin Zeitler in the first round instead. Cincinnati has one of the best young wide receivers in the NFL in A.J. Green and a productive tight end in Jermaine Gresham. At this point, even Andy Dalton has to wonder who the third option in the passing game will be.
Let's take a quick look at what the division teams did in the fourth and fifth rounds:

BENGALS: Cincinnati should play a lot more two tight end formations with the addition of Georgia's Orson Charles (fourth round). He can get open in the passing game and help out the running game with aggressive blocking. ... Iowa CB Shaun Prater (fifth round) is a strong worker who lacks ideal height (5 feet 10). He projects to be a nickel back down the road. ...California's Marvin Jones (fifth round) is the second wide receiver taken by Cincinnati (Rutger's Mohamed Sanu was the other). He isn't technically sound but he was impressive at the Senior Bowl. ... Boise State FS George Iloka (fifth round) has a lot of range in pass coverage but he is an inconsistent tackler.

BROWNS: Cleveland addressed the need for speed at receiver with Miami's Travis Benjamin (fourth round). His other contribution could come as a returner. ... Nevada's James-Michael Johnson (fourth round) is listed as an inside linebacker but he could be the eventual replacement for outside linebacker Scott Fujita. ... Colorado's Ryan Miller (fifth round) is a mauling lineman who is extremely tall (6 feet 7) for a guard. He projects to be a right guard.

RAVENS: The Ravens found their potential center of the future in Delaware's Gino Gradkowski (fourth round). He could also compete for the job at left guard, where Jah Reid is currently penciled in as the starter. ... South Carolina State FS Christian Thompson (fourth round) adds depth at safety, where the Ravens lost Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura in free agency. ... Cal Poly CB Asa Jackson (fifth round) shows great burst as a punt returner but he is a raw cornerback prospect.

STEELERS: Pittsburgh's strong draft continued when the team selected nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu from Washington (fourth round). He could be pressed to start right away with Casey Hampton (ACL surgery in January) isn't ready at the start of the season. ... Florida RB Chris Rainey (fifth round) is an undersized explosive playmaker. He lasted this long because of character concerns.
The good news is the Bengals got the first-team All-SEC tight end in the fourth round. The bad news is he was there because of red flags, including a DUI arrest in early March.

That's why eyebrows were raised when the Bengals selected Georgia tight end Orson Charles with the 116th overall pick. The Bengals continue to show they are less concerned by character issues than other teams.

Cincinnati has had four players get in trouble with the law since last July: running back Cedric Benson (who is currently a free agent), cornerback Adam Jones, wide receiver Jerome Simpson (who has since signed with Minnesota) and linebacker Rey Maualuga.

In early March, Charles was arrested for a DUI in Athens, Ga., He submitted to sobriety tests and registered a .095 blood alcohol level, according to the police report. At the time of his arrest, Charles was rated as the the 38th-best prospect overall by Scouts Inc. and the No. 2 prospect at tight end in this year's NFL draft.

“I just elaborated to [teams] that it was a one-time mistake and that it won’t happen again," Charles told Cincinnati reporters, via the Cincinnati Enquirer. "That might have been the worst thing to happen in my life. Just to explain to my [11-year old] brother what I did and don’t follow in my footsteps and tell my mom I was sorry. I just put my family in a bind.”

Charles has the potential to be a solid No. 2 tight end for the Bengals behind Jermaine Gresham. He plays bigger than his size and caught 10 career touchdown passes, which tied a school record for that position.
There have been times in this draft where targeted players have fallen into the Pittsburgh Steelers' laps. This time, the Steelers went after one.

Trading up in the fourth round, the Steelers grabbed Washington nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu with the 109th overall pick. This addresses a major need because it's unsure whether five-time Pro Bowl performer Casey Hampton (ACL surgery in January) will be ready to start the season. Hampton, 34, is also entering the final year of his contract.

If Ta'amu isn't pressed into the starting lineup this year, the expectation would be for him to be the starter in 2013. The 6-foot-2, 336-pound lineman is all strength and power. He won't contribute on third downs, but he is the exact space-filler in the middle that the Steelers need to stop the run.

Getting Ta'amu continues a strong draft for the Steelers. Some had Ta'amu with a second-round grade.
It took until the fourth round, but the Cleveland Browns finally addressed the wide receiver position in the draft.

The Browns selected Miami's Travis Benjamin, who is small and fast. While there should be concerns about Benjamin being 164 pounds, he said his fastest 40-yard dash time was 4.26 seconds.

Cleveland desperately needed speed at wide receiver and this seems like a desperate move at the 100th pick of the draft. Benjamin, who has short arms and small hands, was projected to go in the fifth or sixth round.

But the Browns had to get a receiver with run-after-the-catch ability, and that's what they're banking on with Benjamin. There is also more of an emphasis to get the ball downfield with the addition of strong-armed quarterback Brandon Weeden.

In a conference call with Cleveland reporters, Benjamin said he tries to emulate Steve Smith and Devin Hester.
Judging by the daily accolades, the Pittsburgh Steelers are doing quite well in this draft. But based on their history, it would've been surprising if the Steelers faltered on draft day.

ESPN's John Clayton named the Steelers among his three winners two days into the 2012 draft. This is a portion of what Clayton had to say about Pittsburgh, which has drafted guard David DeCastro in the first round, offensive tackle Mike Adams in the second and linebacker Sean Spence in the third:
The Steelers needed a break that didn't involve a fractured arm or leg. They got it in the first round when guard David DeCastro fell to them at the No. 24 pick. He's the best guard prospect since Steve Hutchinson. Friday night capped the draft when Mike Adams fell to them in the second round. Getting a potential starting left tackle in the second round is a huge break. Adams had a first-round grade until the league informed teams Adams failed a drug test for marijuana. With Adams at left tackle, Mike Pouncey at center and DeCastro at left guard, the Steelers are assembling one of the better young offensive lines in football.

Clayton isn't the only analyst to applaud the Steelers this week. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. named the Steelers among his Day 1 draft winners.

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AFC NORTH SCOREBOARD

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