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NFL Draft: Team Report Cards - AFC North
John Tuvey
April 29, 2008
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Baltimore Ravens

Needs Addressed: The Ravens looked smart dealing down once Matt Ryan went off the board, then looked desperate moving back up to grab Joe Flacco—especially since it was another 38 picks before Brian Brohm and Chad Henne were selected. Nonetheless, Ozzie Newsome played the draft board like Stevie Ray Vaughan plucking guitar strings; about the only need he failed to address was depth for Baltimore’s aging cornerback tandem. Oneil Cousins and David Hale provide insurance should Jared Gaither not develop as Jonathan Ogden’s replacement, while Tavares Gooden will benefit under the tutelage of Ray Lewis
 
Fantasy Impact: With only Kyle Boller and Troy Smith in front of him, Flacco could be in the starting lineup by midseason; whether that’s the best approach for a small-school player most feel will need time to develop remains to be seen. Ray Rice could offer the Ravens a Maurice Jones-Drew-like alternative to Willis McGahee. Second-day receivers Marcus Smith and Justin Harper can develop along with Flacco but don’t offer much immediate impact.

Overall Grade: B

Cincinnati Bengals

Needs Addressed: The Bengals may have been aced out of Sedrick Ellis, but they recovered quite nicely. Keith Rivers is your odds-on favorite for defensive rookie of the year, and Cincy addressed its run-stopping deficiencies with Pat Sims and Jason Shirley in rounds three and five, respectively. The second round may have been a reach for Jerome Simpson, but between he and third-rounder Andre Caldwell the cupboard won’t be bare if Ocho Cinco goes AWOL. Adding tackle Anthony Collins in round four was perhaps the steal of the draft, as the Bengals will have time to develop him behind Levi Jones and Willie Anderson. 
 
Fantasy Impact: Cincy was expected to address its running back position but appears ready to roll the dice with its existing corps as they didn’t add any runners via the draft. Selecting three receivers—the aforementioned Simpson and Caldwell plus Louisville’s Mario Urrutia—indicates the Bengals are ready to move on from Chris Henry and perhaps even Chad Johnson. Tight end remains a need, but this offense hasn’t effectively used the position for years anyway; there’s also a chance the 6-6, 232-pound Urrutia could be bulked up and moved inside.

Overall Grade: B+

Cleveland Browns

Needs Addressed: When you consider that Cleveland used its first three picks on Brady Quinn, Corey Williams, and Shaun Rogers, it was a good draft even before linebacker Beau Bell fell into the Browns’ lap in round four. With just five selections, all of them after the top 100 players were off the board, it’s tough to fault Phil Savage for failing to address his team’s lack of cornerback depth or an heir to running back Jamal Lewis. Tight end Martin Rucker is solid Kellen Winslow insurance, and sixth-rounders Ahtyba Rubin and Paul Hubbard were great value picks.
 
Fantasy Impact: Cleveland clearly isn’t expecting anyone to step in and contribute immediately, and maybe they have more faith in Jason Wright and Jerome Harrison than they’ve demonstrated in the past. Rucker could be a deep sleeper if Winslow hops back on his motorcycle, and some are already slotting Hubbard into the “big receiver” role currently inhabited by Joe Jurevicius.

Overall Grade: B-

Pittsburgh Steelers

Needs Addressed: Head coach Mike Tomlin indicated there are two schools of thought to protecting his quarterback; he eschewed the obvious (drafting a lineman to replace Alan Faneca), opting instead to add more weapons at the “skill” positions. While the Steelers received outstanding value in both Rashard Mendenhall and Limas Sweed, their only move to address the offensive line was injury-prone tackle Tony Hill. Rush end Bruce Davis fits the mold of Steeler linebackers and was another great value in round three, and developmental quarterback Dennis Dixon could pay dividends down the road.
 
Fantasy Impact: Sweed provides Pittsburgh with the big target they’ve lacked since Plaxico Burress left town; whether Big Ben will have time to find him behind a depleted line remains to be seen. Dynasty leaguers who carried over Willie Parker have to be concerned about Mendenhall’s presence; if goal line looks are among the touches the rookie steals from Fast Willie, they’ll quickly move from concerned to enraged.

Overall Grade: C+


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