AFC North: NFL draft 2010

[+] EnlargeMontario Hardesty
AP Photo/Ed ReinkeMontario Hardesty rushed for 1,345 yards and 13 touchdowns for the Vols last season.
Every day this week, the AFC North blog will look at a different rookie draft pick to get division fans more familiar with the player we will see this upcoming season.

Friday we take a look at new Cleveland Browns running back Montario Hardesty, who was taken in the second round.

Here is Hardesty's full scouting report, according to the draft experts at Pro Football Weekly:

  • Positives: Good muscular build. Presses the line. Runs hard and competes. Is not afraid of contact--run behind his pads and will lower his shoulder. Keeps his legs moving on contact and fights for extra yardage. Runs through ankle tackles. Flashes a spin move. Sees the cutback. Nice hands and concentration as a receiver. Willing face-up blocker. Good playing temperament.
  • Negatives: Lacks elite foot quickness and does not have speed to gain the edge. Average leg strength--neutralized in the hole by smaller safeties. Shows little shake or wiggle. Is not overly elusive or creative to string multiple moves together. Gears down to cut. Injuries cost him games in three different seasons and durability could be a concern.

Share your thoughts below on Hardesty, who is another new addition to the AFC North.

Getting to know: WR Jordan Shipley

April, 29, 2010
Every day this week, the AFC North blog will look at a different rookie draft pick to get division fans more familiar with the player we will see this upcoming season.

[+] EnlargeJordan Shipley
Tim Heitman/US PresswireJordan Shipley was productive for Texas last season, catching 116 passes for 1,485 yards and 13 TDs.
Thursday we will take a look at new Cincinnati Bengals receiver Jordan Shipley, who was taken in the third round.

Here is Shipley's full scouting report, according to the draft experts at Pro Football Weekly:

  • Positives: Extremely tough. Very crafty and knows how to slip through traffic and work the middle of the field. Has soft hands and good ball skills. Good functional playing speed. Good short-area quickness and vision to elude defenders in the return game. Outstanding production. Exceptional work ethic.
  • Negatives: Lacks functional strength and struggles to get off the line against tight press coverage. Struggles to beat the jam and gets knocked off his routes. Durability is suspect.

Share your thoughts on Shipley, one of the newest additions to the AFC North, below.
Every day this week, the AFC North blog will look at a different rookie draft pick to get division fans more familiar with the player we will see this upcoming season.

Wednesday we will take a look at new Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Jason Worilds, who was taken in the second-round.

Here is Worilds' scouting report, according to the draft experts at Pro Football Weekly:

  • Positives: Good musculature and upper-body strength. Shows power in his hands to press off blocks and topple blockers. Quick and agile. Flashes a sudden spin move. Hustles, chases and pursues relentlessly from the backside. Wrap tackler. Very tough and will play hurt.
  • Negatives: Inconsistent get-off. Is mashed by the double-team. Needs to develop a more diverse arsenal of pass-rush moves--relies on speed too much. Does not show elite closing burst. Shows some hip tightness and does not redirect smoothly.

There you have the pluses and minuses with Worilds.

You know the routine: Good addition or bad addition to the AFC North?
NFC Big Question: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Will the Cleveland Browns go with a rookie starting safety this season?

Rarely is an NFL coach stumped by a football question.

But after the Browns took cornerback Joe Haden in the first round of the NFL draft, coach Eric Mangini was quizzed on his starting safeties, which caused some hesitation.

[+] EnlargeT.J. Ward
Chris Williams/Icon SMIThe Browns hope T.J. Ward can step in and be a starter at safety.
"It's a ways away," Mangini said. "So I can't really say that definitively right now."

Over the next two days, the Browns drafted a pair of safeties -- T.J. Ward of Oregon and Larry Asante of Nebraska. The Browns are hoping one of these players matures quickly and earns a starting role this season alongside veteran Abram Elam.

Safety was arguably Cleveland's biggest need entering the draft. It was a major reason many projected Eric Berry or Earl Thomas to land with the Browns in the first round.

Berry was a target for Cleveland at No. 7. But when he went off the board at No. 5 to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Browns turned their attention to Haden. It also forced Cleveland to look very hard at safeties in the second round.

Some draft experts felt the team reached for Ward at No. 38. But Ward was a player the Browns really liked.

"When I looked at him and spent time with him he reminded me a lot of Lawyer Milloy," Mangini said. "I think he's got outstanding instincts in the running game. He’s one of these guys that can navigate through traffic and it's almost like the blockers don't exist. Very rarely does he miss tackles."

The Browns selected Asante in the fifth round. He has similar skills to Ward in terms of being an aggressive hitter at safety. Right now, Ward is the favorite to be the Week 1 starter. But both rookies will have plenty of opportunities to impress Cleveland's coaching staff in training camp.

"Just like with the other guys, he will battle at safety for playing time," Browns general manager Tom Heckert said of Asante. "We do think he is a good player. He played at a big-time level of competition, which is always a nice thing to have."

With opposing quarterbacks on the schedule such as Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer, the Browns need at least one of these rookie safeties to be fast learners.

Bengals assign rookie numbers

April, 27, 2010
For those in "Bengaldom" interested and perhaps looking to buy jerseys of their favorite rookies, the Cincinnati Bengals have assigned numbers to first-year players.

Here they are, according to the team's website:

Getting to know: OLB Sergio Kindle

April, 27, 2010

Every day this week, the AFC North blog will look at a different 2010 draft pick to get our community more familiar with rookies we'll see this upcoming season.

[+] EnlargeSergio Kindle
Brian Bahr/Getty ImagesThe Baltimore Ravens took Sergio Kindle of Texas in the second round.
Tuesday we will take a look at former Texas defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid Sergio Kindle, who was a second-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens.

Here is Kindle's full scouting report, according to the draft experts at Pro Football Weekly:

  • Positives: Looks the part with good length and overall muscle definition. Athletic. Good balance and body control. Coverts strength into power. Explosive first-step quickness. Rips off blocks, bends the corner and closes fast to the quarterback. Uses his hands well to control blockers and can set the edge against the run. Violent, striking hitting with explosive hip snap. Good instincts. Plays hard and pursues the ball, showing good range. Is able to play over tight ends and shadow them downfield. Drops into zone and shows awareness. Tough and will play hurt. Versatile.

  • Negatives: Plays upright at times and is tightly wound -- shows some stiffness moving laterally. Shows some tightness in his hips. Needs to develop a wider array of counter moves. Immature. Character will be scrutinized after a DWI in 2007 and a one-car accident in which he damaged a building and left the scene. Is rough around the edges and considered too much of a follower.

There you have the pluses and minuses with Kindle.

Now it's time for our community to weigh in: Good addition or bad addition to the AFC North?

Did Browns draft medical risks?

April, 26, 2010
BEREA, Ohio -- The first draft of the Mike Holmgren era with the Cleveland Browns is in the books, and something that stands out is some of their top picks have a history of injuries.

The bios of three top picks all show medical red flags to varying degrees.

Here is the breakdown:

Second-round safety T.J. Ward

  • Had a left knee problem that dates back to high school. Had two surgeries -- one as a high school senior and another as a college freshman at Oregon.
  • Missed nearly half of the 2009 season with an ankle injury.
Second-round tailback Montario Hardesty

  • Tore ACL in his right knee as a freshman and granted medical redshirt after multiple knee surgeries.
  • Lingering ankle problems as a sophomore forced Hardesty to miss three games in 2007.
  • Suffered a foot stress fracture late in his junior season.
Third-round quarterback Colt McCoy

  • Suffered a shoulder injury in the BCS title game in January but is fully recovered.

Holmgren said all of their prospects passed through the proper medical checks with the organization.

"I think in the preparation, it's a big part of the discussion," Holmgren said. "Our medical people, we have to trust them and they have to really let us know honestly how they feel about these guys because it's a big investment. Once we get the green light, which happens before the draft, then we go."

Carlos Dunlap: Boom or bust?

April, 26, 2010
Cincinnati Bengals second-round pick Carlos Dunlap is one of the most intriguing draft selections this year in the AFC North.

[+] EnlargeCarlos Dunlap
Brad Schloss/Icon SMICarlos Dunlap clearly has the talent to play defensive end, but his intensity has been called into question.
In terms of talent, the Bengals got a tremendous prospect at defensive end. But every team passed over Dunlap in the first round -- and some passed Dunlap twice -- because of character and work ethic concerns.

Here is Dunlap's full scouting report, according to the draft experts at Pro Football Weekly:

  • Positives: Has exceptional body length and very long arms to disrupt passing lanes and bat balls. Has fluid movement skills, can open up his stride and string out plays to the sideline -- closes very quickly to the ball. Can split through the double-team. Engulfs ball carriers like an anaconda and is a sure tackler.
  • Negatives: His pass-rush repertoire is very limited. Intermittent intensity and effort--has a soft football-playing temperament and is too comfortable coasting and going through the motions. Lacks focus, and character is a big question -- was suspended for the SEC Championship Game after being arrested for DUI just four days before the game.

This is the enigma that is Dunlap: The positives are certainly alluring, but the negatives are very worrisome. That is why most consider Dunlap one of the biggest "boom-or-bust" players in this year's draft.

Perhaps working in Cincinnati's favor is that Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is very stern with his players. That could be just what Dunlap needs. The Bengals also have experience with risky players before -- some have worked, while others did not.

Will Dunlap pan out for the reigning AFC North champs?

Steelers rookie free agents

April, 26, 2010
The Pittsburgh Steelers announced their seven rookie free agents Monday.

Here is the list:

The Steelers now have a total of 89 players on their offseason roster. They will have to get down to a 53-man roster when the regular season begins in September.

Ngata, Cody are worth the weight

April, 26, 2010
Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Bart Scott used to say, in all seriousness, that he could take Haloti Ngata to any rough neighborhood in America and feel completely at ease.

Getty ImagesRavens DTs Haloti Ngata and Terrence Cody combine to weigh around 700 pounds.
Imagine how Scott would feel traveling with Ngata and new acquisition Terrence "Mount" Cody? At a combined listed weight of nearly 700 pounds, consider this pairing Baltimore's version of the Secret Service.

The president in this case is future Hall of Fame middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who has to be extremely happy with Baltimore's draft. The girth of Ngata and Cody should eat up a lot of space while keeping offensive linemen off Lewis, who will be free to fly around and finish off plays.

Baltimore's run defense was rated No. 5 last season. But barring injuries, that ranking could get even better with a defensive line rotation of Ngata, Cody, Kelly Gregg, Trevor Pryce and Cory Redding. Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Jarret Johnson, Dannell Ellerbe and rookie Sergio Kindle also are among a physical group of Baltimore linebackers.

The Ravens still have questions in the secondary, particularly when it comes to health and depth at cornerback. But Baltimore's front seven should be among the most formidable units in the NFL next season.

Mel Kiper's AFC North draft grades

April, 25, 2010
I'm not big on grading an NFL draft 24 hours after it's complete. But I know a lot of people are.

So we bring in ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper to do the heavy lifting and provide his evaluations for the AFC North:

Baltimore Ravens

Kiper's draft grade: A

Analysis: Only two teams received the highest grade possible from Kiper, and the Ravens were one of them. To fully appreciate what Baltimore did in the draft, you have to consider the team began the week with just five draft picks. Then the Ravens shrewdly traded out of the first round with the Denver Broncos for three picks later in the draft, and that's when the Ravens went to work. Kiper loves the second-round selections of linebacker Sergio Kindle and defensive tackle Terrence "Mount" Cody. Kiper also believes the team grabbed a pair of quality tight end prospects in Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta. Baltimore acquired as much talent as anyone without having a single selection in the first 42 picks.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Kiper's draft grade: B

Analysis: Kiper doesn't believe the Steelers drafted any huge impact players. But he liked the solid acquisitions, which resulted in a solid grade. I haven't seen anyone so far who doesn't like the choice of first-round pick Maurkice Pouncey. The former Florida center seems like a perfect fit in Pittsburgh's interior offensive line and should bring toughness to that unit. Linebackers Jason Worilds and Thaddeus Gibson were risky in terms of need, but Kiper believes they can help for now on special teams. Kiper highlighted running back Jonathan Dwyer as a possible sleeper.

Cincinnati Bengals

Kiper's draft grade: C

Analysis: Outside of the opening pick of tight end Jermaine Gresham, Kiper wasn't all that impressed with the Bengals' draft. Kiper, like most draft experts, believes defensive end Carlos Dunlap is a boom-or-bust player who underachieved despite great physical tools. Third-round cornerback Brandon Ghee potentially could help in sub packages against multiple-receiver sets, where Cincinnati struggled last season. No mention of receiver Jordan Shipley from Kiper. But he does think former Kansas receiver Dezmon Briscoe, who was taken in the sixth round, might surprise.

Cleveland Browns

Kiper's draft grade: C

Analysis: The first draft of the Mike Holmgren era in Cleveland also received an average grade from Kiper. He praised the pick of cornerback Joe Haden at No. 7 overall. But otherwise Kiper felt safety T.J. Ward and tailback Montario Hardesty were drafted too high and considered them reaches. Cleveland traded up in the second round to get Hardesty, who Kiper likes but didn't think the move up was necessary. Kiper also questioned why the Browns drafted Ward and Larry Asante, who are both considered "in-the-box" safeties. Kiper feels quarterback Colt McCoy at the end of the third round was a good value pick.
Now that the 2010 NFL draft is over, let's begin looking deeper into some of these late-round picks.

One thing that stood out to me Saturday was the Baltimore Ravens taking another receiver in fifth-round pick David Reed, who had a productive year for Utah in 2009 with 81 catches for 1,188 yards.

The Ravens are already stacked at receiver. It's to the point where any rookie surprises in training camp could come at the expense of pushing a veteran like Demetrius Williams or Mark Clayton for a roster spot.

Was this a message?

"We don't really send messages," Ravens coach John Harbaugh told reporters Saturday. "To me, it goes without saying that it’s a competitive league. It's tough to play in the NFL, it’s tough to make a team, it’s tough to earn playing time, it’s tough to start. That's why you have so much respect for the players in this league.

"Our guys know they have to compete, and just like we’ve said all along, the guys who play the best are going to be the guys who play. So, David Reed will get in there and compete, and we’ll see what he can do."

Williams and Clayton were highly touted coming out of college but have underachieved in their pro careers. Baltimore clearly is tired of waiting, which was one reason the team made the blockbuster deal for Anquan Boldin and also signed Donte’ Stallworth in free agency.

On top of that, drafting another receiver in Reed further raised my antennas.

AFC North draft analysis

April, 24, 2010
NFC draft analysis: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

This season is expected to be a close race in the division. So the drafts of the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns could go a long way toward determining who comes out on top.

With that said, here is a look at the decisions made this week in the AFC North:

Best move

The "Wizard of Oz" was at it again. After trading out of the first round for the first time in franchise history, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome came back strong in the second round by grabbing two first-round talents in linebacker Sergio Kindle and defensive tackle Terrence "Mount" Cody.

[+] EnlargeSergio Kindle
Harry How/Getty ImagesSergio Kindle notched 16 sacks over the past two seasons for Texas.
Baltimore passed over some good players in the first round when the team traded its No. 25 overall pick to the Denver Broncos, who surprisingly selected former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. In return the Ravens got three valuable picks and selected two potentials steals on defense in Kindle and Cody.

"Well, I think the biggest thing that we did [is] we got guys that we wouldn't want to play against," Ravens director of player personnel Eric DeCosta said. "You know, these guys all have, really, a dominant trait in some respect. They do different things very well, and that's intriguing in our situation to get a linebacker that can really rush the passer -- a very explosive guy. And then we've had a lot of success over the years with these massive run-stuffers. Terrence Cody is that guy."

The Ravens had Kindle rated very high on their board and weren't scared off by injury concerns about his knee. That was the reason he fell to the second round. Cody has weight issues. But if he's able to keep that under control, Cody can be a force alongside Pro Bowler Haloti Ngata to create one of the biggest pairings of defensive tackles in the league.

Riskiest move

It's hard to doubt the Steelers with their stellar track record. But they did ignore more immediate needs in the top half of this year's draft.

Pittsburgh passed over help in other areas early to grab pass-rushers Jason Worilds and Thaddeus Gibson. Barring injuries, this pair of outside linebackers will have a very hard time getting on the field while sitting behind Pro Bowlers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley.

Worilds and Gibson could turn out to be productive players at some point. But if I had rated positions of need for the Steelers entering this draft, outside linebacker would have been last.

In particular, there were plenty of quality defensive linemen available in the first three or four rounds who could've provided a more immediate impact in Pittsburgh's defensive rotation. But the team did a solid job addressing another immediate need at cornerback by trading with the Arizona Cardinals for former Steelers starter Bryant McFadden.

Most surprising move

Although it wasn't shocking the Browns landed former Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, the manner in which Cleveland did it was very surprising.

The Browns really liked McCoy, particularly his intangibles and accuracy, but felt they had more pressing needs to address early in the draft. Cleveland instead plugged holes in the secondary and at running back for three rounds as McCoy surprisingly slid further than expected.

When the Browns came up at No. 85 overall, Cleveland finally got its quarterback of the future.

"In Colt's case, I really didn't think that he would be available to us," Browns president Mike Holmgren said. "I really felt that he would go before we had a chance to pick him. But when it didn't happen, it was something I really wanted to do and [coach] Eric [Mangini] and [GM] Tom [Heckert] went along with me and there you have it."

McCoy, a projected early second-rounder, wasn't too thrilled about his slide. But it could work in his favor.

As much as the city of Cleveland tends to love its backup quarterbacks, McCoy is coming to the Browns as a low third-rounder and without a ton of pressure to perform immediately.

Veteran quarterback Jake Delhomme is the starter in 2010, and the team has an experienced backup in Seneca Wallace. So McCoy should be able to hold a clipboard, learn the offense and get used to the NFL game for a full season before Cleveland thinks about putting him on the field.

"I don't expect him to play this year," Holmgren said. "We didn't draft [McCoy] to play this year."

File it away

The Bengals' third-round selection of Texas receiver Jordan Shipley adds a tremendous amount of competition to Cincinnati's receiving corps. Out of necessity, expect a surprise cut or two at the position coming out of training camp.

Pro Bowler Chad Ochocinco and free-agent pickup Antonio Bryant are set as the two starters. But Shipley, Andre Caldwell, Matt Jones, Quan Cosby and former second-round pick Jerome Simpson also will compete for roles on the team.

There are not enough roster spots to carry everyone. Could this be the year Cincinnati cuts ties with Simpson, who has been a bust his first two seasons? Or will the controversial signing of Jones, who’s had off-field troubles and was out of football last season, be for naught? Cosby, last year's punt returner, also is a possible cut.

The Bengals have a lot of options in their passing game, which struggled at the end of last season. But they will have to make some key decisions about who will be a part of it in 2010.

Holmgren: No plans to start McCoy

April, 24, 2010
BEREA, Ohio -- Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren knew the Colt McCoy questions were coming. So Holmgren immediately laid down the gauntlet for the 2010 season.

"I don't expect him to play this year," Holmgren said of the third-round quarterback. "We did not draft him to play this year."

The Browns are counting on veteran quarterback Jake Delhomme to be the starter this season. It also appears career backup Seneca Wallace is the early No. 2 candidate.

Holmgren said the decision will be up to the coaches. But everyone within the Browns' organization seems to be on the same page with how to nurture McCoy.

"I am completely comfortable with a quarterback coming in and spending time to develop his craft," Browns head coach Eric Mangini added.

Cleveland is a town that has been looking for a franchise quarterback for a long time. Delhomme, who threw 18 interceptions last season, is not the long-term answer. Neither is Wallace nor Brett Ratliff, which leaves only one option in McCoy as Cleveland's hope for the future.

The acquisition of McCoy has already created some buzz and excitement. But beyond the preseason, that excitement in Cleveland will have to wait.