Grading AFC North's first-round picks

All the AFC North teams got better in the first round Thursday night. That's saying a lot, because this division only had one pick in the top half of the first round.

The Browns got the draft's best running back (Trent Richardson). The Steelers got the best guard (David DeCastro). The Bengals addressed needs at cornerback and guard, and gained a third-round pick (93rd overall) from the Patriots. And the Ravens gained a fourth-round pick (98th overall) from the Vikings for sliding from No. 29 to No. 35.

Here's how I graded the newest additions to the division:


Grade: B.

Hensley's comment: This would have been an 'A' first round for the Bengals if they stayed at No. 21 and drafted DeCastro. The Bengals recovered well with Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler, but an extra third isn't worth losing out on the best guard in the draft since Steve Hutchinson. Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick is a solid, but not spectacular pick.

What the Bengals are saying ... Head coach Marvin Lewis: "I think in both players they have opportunities to start, and work their way into the lineup. We drafted both of them to play. We came in here hoping to cover a couple of needs for the future in the first round. I think we’ve been able to do that in picking the cornerback and the interior offensive lineman."


Grade: B.

Hensley's comment: The Browns made a great move by trading up to get Richardson, but followed it up with a questionable one by taking quarterback Brandon Weeden in the first round. Cleveland should've taken Iowa offensive tackle Riley Reiff or Stanford guard David DeCastro at No. 22, or traded back to get Weeden. Taking him that high in the draft is a reach.

What the Browns are saying ... Head coach Pat Shurmur: "When we don't hand it to Trent, we'll have Brandon throw it in there. He's displayed the ability to get his team in the end zone and win games. We all know the importance of the quarterback position, and we're addressing it to the point that we have a guy that we think is our guy as we move forward."


Grade: Incomplete.

Hensley's comment: You can't give a grade until you see who the Ravens take at No. 35. Baltimore gained a fourth-round pick for falling back six spots. This will be a strong grade if the Ravens can get Alabama outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw in the second round.

What the Ravens are saying ... General manager Ozzie Newsome: "You can’t control what’s going to happen. When you watch the board come off like it did today, to have the ability to go back and acquire another player and still get a player that you probably would have picked at your pick is good business for us.”


Grade: A-plus.

Hensley's comment: The Steelers are among the NFL's best drafting teams. The rest of the NFL made it easier for Pittsburgh on Thursday night. The Steelers, who need to upgrade at guard, had their choice of three top prospects -- DeCastro, Zeitler and Georgia's Cordy Glenn -- at No. 24. That just doesn't seem fair. DeCastro exclusively played right guard at Stanford, but the Steelers haven't ruled out moving him to the left side.

What the Steelers are saying ... General manager Kevin Colbert: "Really, we didn't think David would be there at 24 quite honestly. We valued him that high. We identified several players we would trade up to get, and he was one of them. With every pick, the odds increased. Where we picked, it was a nice group; we would have been happy with three or four players where we picked."