AFC North: Dan Herron

Thoughts on the Cincinnati Bengals’ 27-19 win over the Tennessee Titans Saturday night at Paul Brown Stadium:
There's a chance that Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis will practice today, just a little over seven weeks removed from tearing his triceps. We'll find out if that happens this afternoon. That leads us into our wake-up call, which has some injury news:

RAVENS: Quarterback Joe Flacco and speedy wide receiver Torrey Smith have struggled to connect the past two games against the Steelers. He was held to one catch for seven yards in Pittsburgh and made three receptions for 33 yards last Sunday. "Yeah, it's definitely frustrating," Smith told The Baltimore Sun. "Regardless of how tough it may be, it's my job to make the play and more often than not I make it. But there were a couple of plays that I'm very upset about."

STEELERS: Ike Taylor, the team's top cornerback, will miss at least two weeks with a hairline fracture of his right ankle, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Cortez Allen will start for Taylor at right cornerback, and Curtis Brown takes over at nickel back. "I thought both guys did a really nice job," coach Mike Tomlin said. "They proved that it wasn't too big for them. Cortez Allen has played a lot of defensive football for us this year over the course of the season. I was not surprised by his performance but I was pleased with the defensive contributions of Brown."

BENGALS: Cincinnati placed rookie third-round pick Mohamed Sanu on injured reserve after he had surgery on his foot. The team signed running back Daniel Herron to take Sanu's roster spot. According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, Herron was also added because Cedric Peerman’s status is up in the air after he injured his ankle during the first half of last Sunday’s game.

BROWNS: The Plain Dealer's Terry Pluto said the rumor of replacing general manager Tom Heckert with Mike Lombardi doesn't make sense. "A former executive with the Browns and Raiders, Lombardi's draft record doesn't come close to matching what Heckert did in Philadelphia and with the Browns," Pluto wrote. "In fact, Lombardi was very critical of the Browns picking Josh Gordon in the second round of the supplemental draft. Nor was he thrilled with the 2012 Browns draft -- the one that produced starters Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden, Mitchell Schwartz, James-Michael Johnson and Billy Winn."
Click here for a complete list of the Cincinnati Bengals' roster moves.

Significant move: The Bengals' final spot likely went to wide receiver Ryan Whalen over middle linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy. What weighed in the decision was the Bengals' increasing confidence in rookie Vontaze Burfict, whose character issues caused him to plummet from being a first-round pick to an undrafted free agent. Muckelroy, a 2010 fourth-round pick who isn't eligible for the practice squad, was supplanted by Burfict as the primary backup to Rey Maualuga. Whalen, a 2011 sixth-round pick, is the seventh wide receiver on the roster. Guard-center Trevor Robinson joined Burfict as the only undrafted rookies to make the final major cutdown. The Bengals decided to keep 10 defensive backs, which includes seven players who have been drafted in the first round.

Onward and upward: The only one of the 10 Bengals draft picks this year not to make the team (or get placed on injured reserve) was running back Dan Herron. He was projected to go on the practice squad when Cincinnati made him its final pick of the draft and he didn't earn his way onto the roster. Herron led the team with 25 carries in the preseason but he averaged 1.7 yards per carry. Another draft pick on the bubble, fourth-round tight end Orson Charles, beat out Colin Cochart. The Bengals can put their third quarterback Zac Robinson on the practice squad just like last season.

What's next: The Bengals are expected to put center Kyle Cook on injured reserve Tuesday, taking advantage of that new rule that allows them to bring him back after eight weeks. Cook injured his right foot and ankle in a preseason game on Oct. 23, and the Bengals signed veteran Jeff Faine this week to replace him. After placing Cook on IR, Cincinnati can use that roster spot to bring back guard Otis Hudson, a 2010 fifth-round pick.
The AFC North blog wanted to know what the fans thought about the drafts for each of the division teams. Now, let's compare your grades against the ones given by ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.:


The picks: CB Dre Kirkpatrick (first round), G Kevin Zeitler (first round), DT Devon Still (second round), WR Mohamed Sanu (third round), DT Brandon Thompson (third round), TE Orson Charles (fourth round), CB Shaun Prater (fifth round), WR Marvin Jones (fifth round), S George Iloka (fifth round), RB Dan "Boom" Herron (sixth round).

Kiper's grade: A-minus

Fans' grade: A (42 percent in the SportsNation poll)

Fans' comments:

Adam from Dayton: Bengals Draft Grade: A -- I thought that the Bengals did an excellent job in adding depth. The one "head scratcher" that seemed to come about this year was trading their second first round pick when they could have got David DeCastro, the highest-rated guard. Granted they received an extra pick and still grabbed a very big and strong guard a few picks later in Kevin Zeitler with that trade, I think it really boiled down to the fact they could have got the best guard, instead all of Bengal Nation saw him go to the Steelers. All-in-all, everyone knows the AFC North is an old-school run -first division, so beefing up the D-Line with a couple of huge, strong, and athletic linemen was a sound way to go and I for one am happy to see the new blood that the team has. These Bengals have tapped into the fountain of youth rather quickly, yet they are getting better and being built for the future.

Andheez: I went for an A. Kirkpatrick is solid. Zeitler is a beast. Some publications had Still as the top DT pre-combine. Not sold on Sanu, but I think the Charles pick was fantastic. I am not one to ostracize someone for a DUI. Prater, Iloka and Herron probably won't stick, but sounds like Jones was a nice find.

mann_usmc: I give the Bengals a C. Here we go drafting a CB in the first round again. Keep Johnathan Joseph and you can fill other spots (safety). The next four picks draw a big question mark. If you're going to draft an OG, then why not take the best prospect in a decade in DeCastro? You pass on him and allow the Steelers to draft him and all you gain is a third-round pick. That is a big miss in my opinion. Secondly, you draft two DTs when you already have Domata Peko and Geno Atkins. Sure these guys provide depth, but I would think that with my second-round and third-round picks to be a contributor. I wouldn't use draft picks that high for backups.


The picks: RB Trent Richardson (first round), QB Brandon Weeden (first round), OT Mitchell Schwartz (second round), NT John Hughes (third round), WR Travis Benjamin (fourth round), LB James-Michael Johnson (fourth round), G Ryan Miller (fifth round), LB Emmanuel Acho (sixth round), DL Billy Winn (sixth round), CB Trevin Wade (seventh round), TE-FB Brad Smelley (seventh round).

Kiper's grade: B-minus

Fans' grade: B (38 percent)

Fans' comments:

Kovacs from Dallas: This draft is an A if Weeden works out but probably a low B or high C if he doesn't. Worst case the draft added two starters at key positions, RB and RT, and much-needed depth at areas where it was badly needed, DT and LB. If that's the worst case it's still a nice-looking haul.

Kyle from Columbus, Ohio: The Browns did a pretty good job of filling some holes and adding some depth. I really like the T. Richardson pick, but I think they reached a little for B. Weeden. My only complaint is that if you decide to take a first-round QB, you have to give him some weapons. T. Benjamin looks like a special-team guy, who may help out in the slot.

JBT1MIAMI: Simple D-minus. I'm still waiting for any fan to address why it's not an issue that Trent Richardson didn't compete at the combine because he had his knee scoped. How is he any better injury-wise than [Montario] Hardesty, knowing he's also had both ankles reconstructed. Why no issue with this? Why not just trade for [Rashard] Mendenhall if it's no issue. He's proven on the pro level. Think Steelers believe this kind of thing is an issue with running backs? I guess it's like training a dog, people have to separate emotional attachment of drafting a hyped running back, and learn about calm reasoning. Emotions just gave the Browns a 3-13 record.


The picks: OLB Courtney Upshaw (second round), OT-G Kelechi Osemele (second round), RB Bernard Pierce (third round), C-G Gino Gradkowski (fourth round), S Christian Thompson (fourth round), CB Asa Jackson (fifth round), WR Tommy Streeter (sixth round), DT DeAngelo Tyson (seventh round).

Kiper's grade: B

Fans' grade: B (40 percent)

Fans' comments:

Shadowwolf1001: It's really toss-up. There are some strong picks here that would warrant an A, but there are also some picks I'm not too sure about which probably warrant a B. I'd have to vote B-plus with the potential of an A grade later on.

jdille123: C-plus. Ozzie [Newsome] must have taken this one off. Still got some good talent, but he usually does better.

youmadbromad: I gave them a D because they did not draft a new FG kicker.

Dave from Mansfield, Ohio: I'm giving the Raven a 'B.' They came into the draft with holes at LB, OT, OG and filled all of these needs. However while Upshaw should help feel the void left by Terrell Suggs, Kelechi Osemele should step in and start at guard and hopefully Gino Gradkowski develops as the replacement for Matt Birk. Plus Tommy Streeter has the potential to be a huge steal if his football skills catch up to his physical stature and speed.


The picks: G David DeCastro (first round), OT Mike Adams (second round), ILB Sean Spence (third round), NT Alameda Ta'amu (fourth round), RB Chris Rainey (fifth round), WR Toney Clemons (seventh round), TE David Paulson (seventh round), CB Terrence Frederick (seventh round), G Kelvin Beachum (seventh round).

Kiper's grade: B

Fans' grade: A (61 percent)

Fans' comments:

WhoDeyAJGreen: As a Bengal fan (obviously) and an OSU football fan, I graded them as a A-minus. Great value picks while also filling needs. The player that will make the difference between an A-minus and A-plus is Mike Adams. If he can get his [act] together, then they had one heck of a draft from top to bottom.
nyontopin2003: This draft looks like the 2002 draft from a potential standpoint and one can only hope it is that good. Interesting to see if the Steelers are going the four year route on players rounds 2 through 7 due to the Wallace situation, small cap issues expected in 2013-2015, or because they see those players being that good through the depth of this entire Steelers draft class. Only time will tell.

Tyrion_Scannister: Putting aside the fact that grading a draft right away is the dumbest thing ever, I gave it an "A". On paper, DeCastro looks like he was a steal, and Ta'amu will fit perfectly in that defense after some grooming. If those two pan out, and Mike Adams develops into a legitimate starting LT, this could be one of the best drafts for any team in a number of years.

You've seen the grades handed out by ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, so now it's your turn. Each day, we'll look at the draft for one team in the AFC North and ask you to put a grade on it.

Either post a comment below or send me one to the AFC North mailbag. At the end of the week, I will post a fans' report card that includes all the division teams along with selected commentary.


What grade would you give the Cincinnati Bengals draft?


Discuss (Total votes: 34,624)

First up is the Cincinnati Bengals. Here's what they did in the 2012 draft:

First round: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama. The Bengals needed a young cornerback and he could play right away depending on Leon Hall's recovery.

First round: Kevin Zeitler, G,Wisconsin. He is projected to be the starting right guard when the season begins.

Second round: Devon Still, DT, Penn State. The Bengals needed to address depth on the defensive line and picked up last year's Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year.
Third round: Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers. Cincinnati is looking for a No. 2 wide receiver, and Sanu caught a Big East-record 115 passes last season.

Third round: Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson. The Bengals got stronger -- Thompson did 36 bench press reps at combine -- to stop the run.

Fourth round: Orson Charles, TE, Georgia. Big-name talent coming out of college will upgrade Bengals' No. 2 tight end spot.

Fifth round: Shaun Prater, CB, Iowa. Biggest impact should come on special teams considering logjam at cornerback.

Fifth round: Marvin Jones, WR, California. Underrated talent will compete for No. 2 job opposite A.J. Green.

Fifth round: George Iloka, S, Boise State. Good size and speed but has a habit of missing tackles.

Sixth round: Dan "Boom" Herron, RB, Ohio State. An inside-the-tackles runner who has to make an impression on special teams.

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.

Walker's weekend mailbag

June, 4, 2011
Let's see what in our AFC North inbox this week.

Steven Velte from Baltimore writes: JW, why does Joe Flacco get so little respect around the league and Matt Ryan gets much more praise?

Walker: Steven, I don't have a clear answer. But I do have a "face of the franchise" theory involving these two quarterbacks. Both players are very close at this stage of their careers, but the difference is Flacco is not the face of the Ravens. Ray Lewis is. After that there's Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, etc. For the Falcons, Ryan is the face of the franchise. So I think he gets much more publicity and credit for his team's success, despite their statistics being almost identical the past three seasons.

Will from Sykesville, MD, wants to know what the chances are of Flacco beating Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers this year.

Walker: We opened that question up to our community this week, Will, and most believe it's not going to happen in 2011. I'm not ready to make any firm predictions, but I was a little surprised by the results. Flacco has been close in the past, Super Bowl runners-up usually struggle the following year and Baltimore's roster is stacked even before free agency. Injuries aside, I expect the Ravens and Steelers to compete for the AFC North title again. Flacco and the Ravens have their best shot to catch Pittsburgh at home in Week 1.

Rye Dalton from Encinitas, CA, wants to know if the Cleveland Browns would have any interest in the supplemental draft for Ohio State players.

Walker: Good question, Rye. The Browns have additional draft picks to spare in 2012 and need all the help they can get this year. So I would list the Browns as a potential candidate for the supplemental draft. The two players of interest for the Browns could be offensive tackle Mike Adams and tailback Dan Herron, because they both play positions where Cleveland lacks depth.

JMo from Bed Stuy wants to know if safety Darren Sharper could be a target for the Browns.

Walker: I don't see this as a good match, JMo. If Sharper plays next season, he's in the twilight of his career and probably wants to play for a contender. The Browns, in my opinion, are at least. ... OK I'm not going to say it this week. I don't want to upset those Browns fans who think their team will be Super Bowl contenders this year.

Michael Ricke from Kristiansand, Norway, wants to know why Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer would want out now.

Walker: Until Palmer speaks publicly, we won't have the full details. But reading the signs, Palmer is tired of the losing and has lost confidence in the Bengals' ability to field a championship-caliber team. Palmer, 31, gave Cincinnati his prime years and only has a few good seasons left. Palmer believes he has a better chance of winning a Super Bowl elsewhere. And after watching Cincinnati for the past 20 years, I don't think anyone can argue with Palmer's line of reasoning.

Christian from Phoenix wants to know what kind of offseason activities have Bengals players organized.

Walker: The Bengals have held a few gatherings, Christian, and the team will have organized practices for the next two weeks. The Bengals are a young, rebuilding team and need to get the work in.

Derrick from Rochester, NY, wants to know where Steelers safety Troy Polamalu ranks with some of the all-time great defenders.

Walker: Polamalu is definitely unique, and I think when his career is over, he will be a Hall of Famer. But it's hard to compare him with other all-time great defensive players like Lawrence Taylor, for example, until Polamalu's career is over.

Complaint department

Here are recent comments and complaints from our community.

Dustin from Pittsburgh writes: It's hard not to agree with Brett Kostoff's response. If you were in an abusive relationship for 20 years, would you stick around for another 20? Probably not. At some point you have to say enough is enough, cut your losses and move on. And we all know the Bengals have a lot of losses to cut.

Brandon Crawford from Sykesville, Md, writes: Sounds like Kostoff is making a lot of excuses. If you are a true fan you stick with your team through black and blue. Bottom line. This guy is a disgrace to all TRUE fans of the game.

Nick Diligente from Cleveland writes: I've been a fan for 30 years. After reading Brett Kostoff's response and listening to him compare it to the cable bill, I am starting to doubt my loyalty to the Browns. He really put it into a perspective the Browns fans should look at. Do you think the Ravens fans would let me move to Baltimore as Art Modell did?

Walker: Whether you agree or disagree with Kostoff auctioning his fandom, I think he makes a compelling case. Being a fan is an individual thing. One person's tolerance may be higher or lower than the next person. In Kostoff's case, he put a lot of time, money and energy into the Bengals and 20 years without a playoff win was enough. He didn't believe he was getting enough from his team in return. For other fans, the tolerance may be higher.

Andy from Clarion, PA, writes: James, it's obvious that the Steelers would love to have Ike Taylor back and Ike would love to come back. The only problem is that the Steelers seem unlikely to pay top dollar for him. If we would have another uncapped year, why would the Steelers not just pay him what he wants for that year and try to work out a longer deal later on or work on developing younger players in the meantime.

Walker: Andy, there are some holes in your reasoning. First, the Steelers don't know if there will be another uncapped year, and even so, Pittsburgh approached 2010 as if there was a cap. Second, Taylor is 31 and wants a long-term deal. This is probably Taylor's last chance to cash in big for his career and he won't sign a one-year contract. I would assume Taylor wants at least three years.

Jordan M. from Belle Vernon, Pa., writes: I'll occasionally read the comments on some of your posts, and the Nnamdi Asomugha to the Steelers posts are as aggravating as they are ridiculous. I can just imagine how frustrated you are by it, because I'm sure you get deluged daily w/that nonsense.. So I think you should start every post with "Nnamdi to Steelers-Never" until FA starts. It might deter the endless questions you receive.

Walker: It was frustrating at first, Jordan. But I have a way of finding humor in things, so eventually it became a running joke in the AFC North blog. He might be the most popular football player in Pittsburgh never play for the Steelers.

Kovacs from Santa Monica, CA, writes: Not AFCN related, but I can't take it anymore. Tony Romo is not good. He's not a winner. He has decent stats because he has arguably the best offensive arsenal in the game: Witten, Austin, Dez, Jones/Barber/Choice. Tony Romo is good at two things: looking good and playing golf. Rant over.

Walker: I've never been big on Romo, either, Kovacs. He's a good quarterback. But Romo is not a proven winner and gets too much hype due to the team he plays for.

Mike from Ashtabula, Ohio writes: Hey, glad you got a good laugh from my comments the other day. Well, it’s the truth. The Browns will win the division this year, Mr. Walker, and I hope you cover the team like you did with the Steelers and Ravens last year. The Browns will win 12 games this year and [Colt] McCoy will throw for 3,500 yards. TAKE THAT TO THE BANK.

Walker: I will remember you said that, Mike. By the way, are you sure McCoy will throw for 3,500 yards with those receivers?

AFC North "Homer of the Week"

Here is the biggest homer in the AFC North this week. Enjoy.

Justin Isett from Baltimore writes: I hate to say this, because this has homer written all over it, but the Ravens or the Steelers going undefeated isn't entirely impossible. Apart from each other they only have maybe three tough matches in which they would probably be favored. Pittsburgh has a Week 11 bye then Kansas city and a lot of rebuilding teams. So I don't think a 16-0 or 15-1 record for Baltimore or Pittsburg is unrealistic.

Walker: Justin, you knew you were going to be our "Homer of the Week" for this one. Neither Pittsburgh nor Baltimore will go 16-0 or 15-1 next season. As Mike from Ashtabula said, TAKE THAT TO THE BANK.

If you have any future questions, complaints, or homerific comments, feel free to send them to our AFC North inbox.