AFC North: Trevin Wade

The Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers start their three-day rookie minicamps today, and the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals will hold theirs next weekend. I'm planning to stop by to see the newest Ravens this afternoon. It's crazy to see the birth dates of these rookies. Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell was born in February 1992. I was in college at that time. But I digress. Let's move on to the wake-up call ...

RAVENS: Offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie reached a two-year agreement worth a maximum value of $7 million, according to The Baltimore Sun. A source told the paper that the deal includes incentive clauses and workout bonuses. McKinnie's agent, Michael George, said: "We worked very hard to get him back there. Bryant had offers from other teams (Chargers and Dolphins). In the end, this was the best situation for him. He's real happy. I know they are." Click right here to read my take on the Ravens keeping McKinnie.

BENGALS: The Bengals announced they will hold combined practices with the Falcons before their preseason opener at Atlanta. The two teams will conduct workouts together on Aug. 5 and 6 at the Falcons' training facility, then play their first preseason game at the Georgia Dome on Aug. 8. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis had Falcons coach Mike Smith on his defensive staff in Baltimore from 1999 to 2001. “I’m glad we were able to work this out with Mike and the Falcons,” Lewis said, via the team's official website. "We’ve done some joint practices with other teams in Cincinnati in the past, and I think it helps our guys stay sharp and focused as we move through the preseason. You put yourself on the field with another team and let the competitive juices flow a little bit.”

STEELERS: How badly did the Steelers want Syracuse safety Shamarko Thomas in the draft? Pittsburgh traded a third-round pick in 2014 in order to select Thomas in the fourth round this year. According to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, it was the first time since 1973 that the Steelers traded a future draft pick. The Steelers, though, expect to receive third- and fourth-round compensatory picks in 2014 for wide receiver Mike Wallace, running back Rashard Mendenhall and cornerback Keenan Lewis."We viewed him as valuable as a third-round pick would be," general manager Kevin Colbert said of Thomas.

BROWNS: Tony Grossi of ESPN Radio in Cleveland believes the drafting of LSU's Barkevious Mingo with the No. 6 overall pick will affect linebacker Jabaal Sheard's playing time the most. "If Mingo is as good as the Browns expect, he will relegate Sheard – at some point early in his career -- to a rotational sub off the bench," Grossi wrote. Grossi also reports that rookie cornerback Leon McFadden (third round) could push Trevin Wade off the roster and free safety Jamoris Slaughter (sixth round) could do the same to Eric Hagg.
Nearly all the AFC North teams played it safe in Thursday night's preseason finales. Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco and Brandon Weeden all sat out and watched the backup quarterbacks play.

The only starter who played, the Bengals' Andy Dalton, left in the first quarter with an injury but it's not considered serious. Dalton said his hand went "a little numb" after getting hit in the arm but it's "no problem at all." Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said, "Andy’s fine. He’ll be fine for Baltimore. He would have gone right back in this game if it had been the regular season.” So, crisis averted.

If you couldn't watch all four division teams play simultaneously, you're in luck. I had my eye on each one and here are some observations:


In the 20-16 loss at Indianapolis, Dalton was hurt on the opening drive after getting sandwiched. Offensive tackles Andrew Whitworth and Dennis Roland both got beaten for sacks on the play. It hasn't been a great preseason for Whitworth, who is the second-best left tackle in the division.

The Bengals didn't play their top two running backs, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Bernard Scott, because both are recovering from injuries and are getting ready for the regular-season opener. For once, Cincinnati's run game didn't suffer. Brian Leonard ran hard and broke tackles for 27 yards on three carries. Cedric Peerman, who makes more of an impact on special teams, looked good on a 13-yard run up the middle.

No one wants to see Dalton hurt. The Bengals, though, have to feel comfortable with backup Bruce Gradkowski. He finished 12 of 19 for 95 yards and led his fourth touchdown drive of the preseason.

Rookie wide receiver Marvin Jones displayed some resiliency in the second quarter. On the same drive in which he dropped a touchdown pass, he came back to catch a back-shoulder throw from Gradkowski and ran into the end zone. Jones is making a push for some playing time this year.


In the 28-20 loss to Chicago, Colt McCoy watched his strong preseason take a nosedive. In his first start this summer, McCoy was 2 of 5 for 16 yards for a 9.1 quarterback rating. That's going to put a dent into McCoy's 119.1 rating from the first three games. McCoy was also intercepted on a high pass that was thrown with no pressure around him. The Browns will let everyone know what they plan to do with McCoy on Friday.

The Browns have a concern at linebacker after rookie James-Michael Johnson left with an oblique injury. With Chris Gocong out for the season with an Achilles injury and Scott Fujita facing a three-game suspension from the NFL, Cleveland planned to depend on Johnson and Kaluka Maiava. The Browns might need Fujita to win his appeal to avoid going deeper on the depth chart. Johnson was having a strong performance before getting injured on an open-field tackle.

Backup running back Montario Hardesty had trouble getting back to the line of scrimmage because he got little help from his blockers. He finished with 24 yards on six carries and he didn't fumble for the first time since the preseason opener. Brandon Jackson fared much better, gaining 48 yards on seven carries.

Cornerback James Dockery was flagged twice for pass interference in the second quarter. The second one eventually led to a touchdown. Rookie cornerback Trevin Wade was physical and had good coverage in allowing the first touchdown of the game.

As if the Browns needed something else to worry about, they have to iron some things out on special teams. Reggie Hodges got his second punt blocked this preseason.


In a 31-17 loss at St. Louis, Sergio Kindle hurt his chances of surviving Friday's cutdown. He hit quarterback Sam Bradford a full second late, drawing a roughing-the-passer penalty to help the Rams convert third-and-22. Kindle, a 2010 second-round pick, was on the bubble entering this game.

Continuing Thursday night's trend of rookies getting hurt, second-round pick Courtney Upshaw will have an MRI for his strained shoulder, according to coach John Harbaugh. Upshaw has been backing up Albert McClellan at outside linebacker.

Veteran linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo had his worst game with the Ravens. Working with the first-team defense because most of the starters sat, Ayanbadejo struggled against the run and got lost in coverage. It was so bad that he apologized for his performance on Twitter.

What I like the most about Tyrod Taylor, who started in place of Flacco, is his ability to make plays with his legs. Even though he focused more on being a pocket passer, Taylor wasn't hesitant to take off for a 22-yard scramble. He did get stripped from behind earlier in the game, but it was the result of a third-string lineman (Cord Howard) getting beat by a former first-round pick (Robert Quinn).

Looking at Curtis Painter's up-and-down performance, I'm not sure he convinced the Ravens to keep three quarterbacks. He threw two touchdowns and was intercepted three times. One interception was returned 76 yards for a touchdown.

Justin Tucker missed his first kick of the preseason, but it's difficult to be critical of him. It was a 57-yard attempt. He later hit a 49-yarder in the third quarter.


If this was Charlie Batch's last game with the Steelers, he made it a memorable one, or at least as memorable as the preseason gets. In the 17-16 victory over Carolina, he completed 11 of 14 passes for 102 yards. Batch showed great touch in leading Emmauel Sanders out of double coverage for a 37-yard touchdown. The new rule regarding injured reserve helps Batch's chances of sticking around Pittsburgh for an 11th season, but there's no guarantee that he'll make the cut.

For the second consecutive week, a Steelers draft pick went down with a serious knee injury. With two minutes left in the third quarter, linebacker Sean Spence hyperextended his knee while chasing quarterback Jimmy Clausen. Spence's knee bent awkwardly underneath him, and the third-round pick needed to be carted off the field. Spence was expected to make an impact on special teams this season and could have received playing time if there were injuries at inside linebacker. Unlike David DeCastro's knee injury, this one happened on the natural grass of Heinz Field.

This isn't a newsflash, but rookie running back-receiver-returner Chris Rainey is a game-changer. He twice scored on punt returns in one quarter, only to have both brought back because of penalties. This would've given him the touchdown trifecta. The fifth-round pick had scored on a 41-yard run and a 57-yard catch this summer.

Nose tackle Casey Hampton made his preseason debut after having ACL surgery in January. His presence was felt immediately as he got off a block from guard Mike Pollak and made a tackle. Hampton's return was good to see for the Steelers, even though Steve McLendon has played well enough to start.

Jonathan Dwyer solidfied himself as the primary backup to Isaac Redman, and the Steelers could need him based on Redman's durability. Dwyer was physical (even delivered a stiff-arm) and showed good feet to elude tacklers. He finished with 63 yards on 13 carries, a 4.8-yard average.
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.

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 Cleveland Browns draft?


Discuss (Total votes: 37,916)

Next up is the Cleveland Browns. Here's what they did in the 2012 draft:

First round: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama. The Browns traded three picks to move up for Richardson, who scored 24 touchdowns in 2011. The Browns scored 20 on offense last season.

First round: Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State. Cleveland didn't want to risk losing him, so it drafted the 28-year-old quarterback late in the first round instead of early in the second.

Second round: Mitchell Schwartz, OT, Cal. He was considered the best right tackle prospect in the draft.

Third round: John Hughes, NT, Cincinnati. He gives the Browns depth behind starters Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor.

Fourth round: Travis Benjamin, WR, Miami. Small but quick, Benjamin can play slot receiver and contribute on returns.

Fourth round: James-Michael Johnson, LB, Nevada. He's a versatile linebacker (can play inside or outside) who will make an impact on special teams.
Fifth round: Ryan Miller, OL, Colorado. A projected backup who can play guard or tackle.

Sixth round: Emmanuel Acho, LB, Texas. Leading tackler for Texas last season lacks range for NFL starter.

Sixth round: Billy Winn, DL, Boise State. Questionable work ethic caused this middle-round prospect to fall.

Seventh round: Trevin Wade, CB, Arizona. A finesse cover man who projects to be a nickel back.

Seventh round: Brad Smelley, FB-TE, Alabama. A hybrid player on offense who needs to contribute on special teams to stick around.