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AFC Draft In Review

Baltimore Ravens

Picks: QB Joe Flacco(1), RB Ray Rice(2), ILB Tavares Gooden(3), S Tom Zbikowski(3), OG Oniel Cousins(3), WR Marcus Smith(4), OT David Hale(4), S Haruki Nakamura(6), WR Justin Harper(7), RB Allen Patrick(7)

Best Pick: QB Joe Flacco

Analysis: B: Some may question whether or not the Ravens paniced a bit when the Falcons sleected Matt Ryan #3.  The move down with Jacksonville was a shred one for Ozzie Newsome, but to give most of it away to get back in the Top-20 for Flacco had some scratching their heads.  It is obvious the Ravens had Flacco graded significantly higher than Brian Brohm and Chad Henne.  Flacco does possess the best "NFL-Arm" in the draft, but time will tell whether or not playing at Delaware prepared him for the rigors of the AFC North.  The Ravens also took advantage of having 7 total picks in the Top 4 rounds, with Rice, Gooden and Zbikowski set to play significant roles as early as 2008.  For a team desparate for a shot in the arm after the Brian Billeck era, John Harbaugh and Co. did a solid job.


Buffalo Bills

Picks: CB Leodis McKelvin(1), WR James Hardy(2), DE Chris Ellis(3), CB Reggie Corner(4), TE Derek Fine(4), LB Alvin Bowen(5), Xavier Omon(6), OT Demetrius Bell(7), WR Steve Johnson(7), CB Kennard Cox(7)

Best Pick: WR James Hardy

Analysis: B- : The Bills hit homeruns with their first two picks, with Hardy being the most exciting.  At 6-5 - 217, he'll provide the large target Trent Edwards needs to continue his progression, and provides the Bills offense a significant weapon to play along side Lee Evans.  With McKelvin, the Bills were able to grab the most talented corner in the draft, at last replacing Nate Clements. I like the value of getting Chris Ellis in the 3rd Round, and I have been high on Xavier Omon for awhile.  The Bills still have a huge hole at TE, overlooking options earlier in the draft, then reaching to grab Derek Fine from Kansas.  Overall a solid haul for the improving Bills.

Cincinnati Bengals

Picks: LB Keith Rivers(1), WR Jerome Simpson, DT Pat Sims(3), WR Andre Caldwell(3), OT Anthony Collins(4), DT Jason Shirley(5), S Corey Lynch(6), TE Matt Sherry(6), LB Angelo Craig(7), WR Mario Urrutia(7)

Best Pick: LB Keith Rivers

Analysis: C : Nothing really went according to plan for the Bengals who were hoping one of the premier DTs would fall to them at #9.  It didn't shake down that way, with New Orleans trading up to get Sedrick Ellis.  As it stands, Rivers is an excellent addition to the defense.  It is the rest of the draft that strikes me as odd.  The Bengals refused to trade Chad Johnson, then drafted three receivers.  The choice of Jerome Simpson that high in the 2nd round was baffling to me, and with the Benglas struggling in several areas on defense they went back to the Wide Receiver-well once again to gets Andre Caldwell.  While the 3rd round was decent value for Caldwell, his injury histroy has to be a concern.  Pat Sims is an intriguing pick, but there are simply too many questions to go any higher than a C for the Bengals.


Cleveland Browns

Picks: LB Beau Bell(4), TE Martin Rucker(4), DT Ahtyba Rubin(6), WR Paul Hubbard(6), DE Alex Hall(7)

Best Pick: TE Martin Rucker

Analysis: A : The Browns were an A before the draft even started for the moves they made, starting with the acquisition of QB Brady Quinn last year.  With Quinn, Corey Williams(traded 2nd Round pick) and Shaun Rogers(traded 3rd Round pick), the Browns have their quarterback of the future while solidifying the defensive line.  They didn't stop there, getting Lb Beau Bell, a sure-fire 2nd Round pick before injuring his knee during practice for the Sr. Bowl.  The steal for the Browns, and maybe of the entire draft, was nabbing TE Martin Rucker in teh 4th Round.  In another shrewd move, Phil Savage moved up to Rucker, a pass-catching threat that will supply insurance in case the Kellen Winslow situation spirals out of control.  WR Phil Hubbard, who slipped all the way to the 6th Round could be the #3 WR before it is all said and done.


Denver Broncos

Picks: OT Ryan Clady(1), WR Eddie Royal(2), OC Korey Lichtensteiger(4), CB Jack Williams(4), RB Ryan Torain(5), DT Carlton Powell(5), LB Spencer Larsen(6), S Joshua Barett(7), FB Peyton Hillis(7)

Best Pick: OT Ryan Clady

Analysis: B : The Broncos went against their M.O. in recent years by avoiding the big splash, avoiding the trades, and most importantly, drafting solid character guys that will be solid players on the field and better people off of it.  With Clady, the Broncos found the perfect match for the blocking scheme, a guy that can protect Jay Cutler for the next ten years.  In the second round the Broncos surprised some by taking WR Eddie Royal.  Royal provides the Broncos with the kind of return skills the team hasn't seen since Darrent Williams' untimely death and could battle for the #3 receiver job as soon as this season.  The Broncos continued to add value, depsite being without a 3rd round pick, and have added dpeth and athleticism to all facets of the game.  Jack Williams may have surprised some in the 4th round, but with Domonique Foxworth and Karl Paymeh set to be Unrestricted Free Agents next season the Broncos have provied themselve some dpeth and protection.  One guy to keep you eyes on is S Joshua Barrett.  He has all the skills to be a big time safety in the NFL


Houston Texans

Picks: OT Duane Brown(1), CB Antwaun Molden(3), RB Steve Slaton(3), OLB Xavier Adibi(4), DT Frank Okam(5), S Dominique Barber(6), QB Alex Brink(7)

Best Pick: RB Steve Slaton

Analysis: C : This draft could have easily been better had the texans not reached for Brown in the 1st Round.  After wisely trading out of the #18 spot, the Texans wasted the opportunity by grabbing Brown at #26.  That said, I'll have to assume Gary Kubiak and OL Coach Alex Gibbs know what they are talking about.  Fortunately for Battle Red fans, the 2008 Draft got much better as the rounds went on.  The Texans hit homeruns with Slaton in Round 3, Adibi in Round 4 and Okam in Round 5.  All three of these guys will have the opportunity to play immedately, and all three fell to the Texans well after their projection.  Slaton, specifically, will fit the "Denver" running schem perfectly.


Indianapolis Colts

Picks: OC Mike Pollack(2), LB Philip Wheeler(3), TE Jacob Tamme(4), OLB Marcus Howard(5), TE Tom Santi(6), OC Steven Justice(6), RB Mike Hart(6), WR Pierre Garcon(6), (OC) Jamey Richard

Best Pick: OLB Marcus Howard

Analysis: B : The Colts did exactly what you would expect from the Colts and that is put together a solid draft despite the fact they were without a 1st Round pick.  While on paper it appears the Colts draft three centers, what they did in actuality is add 3 linemen that have alot of flexibility, can play of multitude of positions, and will provide dpeth, not only in 2008, but beyond as the team rebuilds the O-Line arounf 2007 1st rounder Tony Ugoh.  The pick I like the best, however, is getting OLB Marcus Howard all the way in the 5th round.  Howard fits the Colts scheme like a glove, Thomas has the wheels to get into the backfield, or retreat into coverage.  While he is a bit of a project, his natural ability, coupled with teammates like Dwight Freeney, allow Thomas the time to come along as a pass-rush specialst.  If he ever does "get it", watch out.


Jacksonville Jaguars

Picks: DE Derrick Harvey(1), DE Quentin Groves(2), OLB Thomas Williams(5), CB Trae Williams(5), RB Chauncey Washington(7)

Best Pick: DE Quentin Groves

Analysis: B : Hindsight is 20/20, and it is easy to take shots at the Jags later if all the wheeling and dealing on draft day does not work.  As it stands now I give alot of credit to Jack Del Rio and company for going out and making bold moves to try and get over the hump in the AFC South, and AFC as a whole.  While it would be easy to pick Harvey as the Jags' best selection, it is the selection of Groves in the 2nd round that I liked the most.  It provides protection for Harvey, forcing opposing offenses to worry about two quality pass rushers instead of one.  Suddenly, the Jags are alot faster and more athletic along the defensive line.  They have lost some bulk, but the loss should more than be made up in speed.  Add RB Chauncey Washinton in the 7th round, and the Jags have a solid replacement for Maurice Jones Drew on special teams.


Kansas City Chiefs

Picks: DT Glenn Dorsey(1), OG Branden Albert(1), CB Brandon Flowers(2), RB Jamaal Charles(3), TE Brad Cottam(3), CD DaJuan Morgan(3), WR William Franklin(4), CB Brandon Carr(5), (OT)Barry Richardson(6), WR Kevin Robinson(6), DE Brian Johnson(7), TE Mike Merritt(7)

Best Pick: DT Glenn Dorsey

Analysis: A : The Chiefs needed to score big in this draft and the did, with the help of a little luck.  First, the Raiders did them a favor at #4 by letting the best player in teh 2008 NFL Draft fall into their laps.  That allowed K.C. to nab Glenn Dorsey, then attack their second greatest need on the O-Line with Branden Albert.   With four more picks in the Top-80, the Chiefs struck gold again with CB Brandon Flowers.  Flowers has first round talent and should plug right into the spot vacated by Ty Law.  The Chiefs also addressed a need at TE, picking up Brad Cottam who has struggled with injuires but has the size and hands t be an effective TE.  RB Jamaal Charles should allow the Chiefs to lighten the load on Larry Johnson, who has started to show some signs of wearing down a bit.


Miami Dolphins

Picks: OT Jake Long(1), DE Philip Merling(2), QB Chad Henne(2), DE Kendall Langford(3), OG Shawn Murphey(4), RB Jalen Parmele(6), OG Donald Thomas(6), RB Lex Hilliard(6), DT Lionel Dotson

Best Pick: QB Chad Henne

Analysis: A : Leave it to Bill Parcells to come in and instantly make the Miami Dolphins a better football team.  We'll assume that Jake Long is going to play on the offensive line for the Dolphins for the next 10 years.  The draft actually improved after that pick.  The Dolphins were able to grab first round talent Philip Merling in the 2nd.  Better yet, the Dolphins were still able to grab the QB they wanted the whole time in Chad Henne.  By getting Henne later in the 2nd round, the Dolphins can bring him along slowly, without completely throwing last season's 2nd round pick John Beck under the buss.  Couple those three picks with TE Anthony Fasano and LB Akin Ayodele, acquired from Dallas for a 4th round pick, and the Dolphins have a vastly improved roster.


New England Patriots

Picks: LB Jerod Mayo(1), CB Terrence Wheatley(2), LB Shawn Crable(3), QB Kevin O'Connell(3), CB Jonathon Wilhite(4), WR Matt Slater(5), LB Bo Ruud

Best Pick: LB Jerod Mayo

Analysis: B : There is little doubt in my mind that Bill Belichick wanted to keep trading down.  Picking at #10 is not something the Patriots want to do.  Unable to get it done, the Pats took the best player on their board in Jerod Mayo....His is a perfect fit on that linebacking corp, and should find time on the field immediately.  I am also high on CB Terrence Wheatley who was a ballhawk at Colorado.  Shawn Crable, while not getting the pub of other prospects, is a solid, heady linebacker in the Mike Vrable mold.  The Pats always find the guys that fit their system, regardless of where or when they decide to pick them.  I think the Pats were able to pull it off again.

New York Jets 

Picks: DE Vernon Gholston(1), TE Dustin Keller(1), CB Dwight Lowery(4),  QB Eric Ainge(5), WR Marcus Henry(6), OT Nate Garner(7)

Best Pick: DE Vernon Gholston

Analysis: B : After spending heavily in the free agent market, the Jets were happy to consolidate their picks to target a few areas of need.  The first was getting Gholston who should be the perfect fit as a rush-linebacker in the Jets' 3-4 scheme.  While the knocl on VG was he disappeard at times I think Gholston has a bit of a chip on his shoulder.  The Jets moved back into the first round to grab Keller, a solid pass-catching tight end to provide some weapons for the triumpherate of quarterbacks.  The latest is Eric Ainge from Tennessee.  While Ainge seems to have all the physical tools he tends to let his emotions get the best of him.


Oakland Raiders

Picks:  RB Darren McFadden(1), CB Tyvon Branch(4), WR Arman Shields(4), DE Trevor Scott(6), WR Chaz Schilens(7)

Best Pick: CB Tyvon Branch

Analysis: C :  Do the Raiders actually get what the draft is about?  With the best player in the draft sitting there in front of them, and perhaps the best pass rusher there as well, the Raiders and Al Davis once again go for the glitz and glam that is Darren McFadden.  The Raiders are already very deep at running back and McFadden adds another "star" player to the fray that will make JaMarcus Russell's job that much more difficult.  Want to make things easier on a young quarterback?  Get him a defense that can dominate, a defense that can make plays and create turnovers.  What the Raiders have done is add another voice in the huddle, another player that needs the ball to be effective.  I believe McFadden will be a solid player, but I know Glenn Dorsey is going to greatly enjoy playing the Raiders twice a year.  On the flip side, CB Tyvon Branch was a steal at #100 and WR Armon Shields has a chance to be the #3 receiver in Oakland.


Pittsburgh Steelers

Picks: RB Rashard Mendenhall(1), WR Limas Sweed(2), LB Bruce Davis(3), OT Tony Hills(4), QB Dennis Dixon(5), OLB Mike Humpal(6), S Ryan Mundy(7)

Best Pick: RB Rashard Mendenhall

Analysis: A : The Pittsburgh Steelers always find a way to get it done in the draft.  Yea, they have pressing needs along the offensive line, but when a Top 10 talent like Rashard Mendenhall falls in your lap you have to be smart enough to take him and the Steelers were.  He will provide the perfect compliement to Willie Parker, who is a question mark coming off the broken leg.  Lightning struck twice for the Steelers when WR Limas Sweed, another borderline first round talent was available in Round 2.  Sweed gives Ben Roethlisberger a big target to throw to, someone that will go up and make a catch in traffic, a perfect receiver for the fade route.  Never ones to ignore a pass-rushing linebacker, the Steelers were able to get Bruce Davis in the 3rd round.  While Davis isn't your prototypical Steeler D-end, he gets to the QB.  Keep an eye on QB Dennis Dixon.  The Steelers have a history of turning former QB's into stars at other positions.  Hines Ward, Kordell Stewart and Antwaan Randel El were all quarterbacks in college before being drafted by the Steelers.

San Diego Chargers

Picks: CB Antoine Cason(1), FB Jacob Hester(3), RB Marcus Thomas(5), CB DeJuan Tribble(6), OT Corey Clark(7)

Best Pick: Antoine Cason

Analysis: C : Nothing special about the Chargers draft, though Cason and Tribble are two solid corners to add to Antonio Cromartie.  Hester was a bit of a reach in the 3rd round, but the Chargers need to fill a need at RB/FB and Hester can play both.   Bigger concerns in San Diego are centered around Philip Rivers and LaDainian Tomlinson coming back healthy.


Tennessee Titans

Picks: RB Chris Johnson(1), DE Jason Jones(2), TE Craig Stevens(3), DE William Hayes(4), WR Lavelle Hawkins(4), OLB Stanford Kegler(4), CB Cary Williams

Best Pick: DE Jason Jones

Analysis: D : Easily my lowest grade in the AFC, the Titans had 6 picks in the first 4 rounds and did little with any of them.  While there is no denying Chris Johnson's speed there were several players on the board that would have filled more pressing needs, especially on defense.  DE Philip Merling was there, as were CB's Antoine Cason and Mike Jenkins.  While they made up for it a bit by taking Jason Jones in round 2, the rest of the Titans draft leaves alot to be desired.  I have the utmost repsect for Jeff Fisher, and what he has done over the years, but the more I look at the roster the more it doesn't seem to fit together very well.