All four AFC North teams excelled in the first three rounds of the 2011 Draft.
Since we have already completed our AFC North first round grades, it's time to take a look at rounds two and three. Every AFC North team got at least one future starter during these rounds. All in all, this was a good day for the teams of the AFC North.
Baltimore Ravens: B. The Ravens made a nice pick in the second, taking Maryland WR Torrey Smith with the No. 58 overall selection. Make no mistake, this kid is a project, but at this point in the draft, most players are. Despite having decent size (6-foot-1, 200 lbs), Smith doesn't quite seem physical enough to me. He struggles to beat press coverage, which could certainly be a problem down the road. Nevertheless, if you are looking for someone to teach you how to be a more physical receiver, is there a better mentor (besides Hines Ward) than Anquan Boldin? Smith is also not a polished route runner at this stage in his career and will likely have to take a year or two to become a more thorough technician. Despite these potential obstacles, Smith has two things that really can't be taught: good size and game-breaking speed.
The Ravens also grabbed Central Florida tackle Jah Reid in the third round at No. 85. This kid isn't athletic enough to play LT, but it is possible that he could be a decent starter down the road on the right side of the line. Reid is a smart football player. He takes good approaches when creating holes in the run game and makes smart decisions in pass protection. Reid is strong and has the arm length necessary to get his hands on pass rushers early. The question is whether he has quick enough feet to effectively counter the speed of NFL pass rushers.
Cincinnati Bengals: B. You could almost see the Marvin Lewis waving goodbye to his suddenly-disgruntled quarterback Carson Palmer; the Bengals nabbed their signal-caller of the future, TCU's Andy Dalton, in the second round. Dalton doesn't have a cannon for an arm, but it certainly seems that he can put enough mustard on the ball to make most NFL throws. Dalton is not a statue in the pocket; he can move around just enough to escape the rush for a few extra moments. What worries me most about Dalton is that he does not seem to handle the blitz as well as I would like. NFL starters have to be able to stand strong against the blitz and calmly hit the quick slant, but Dalton doesn't seem to know where to deliver the ball in these situations. This is particularly concerning in the AFC North, a division in which exotic blitzes are the rule, not the exception.
In the third round, the Bengals selected Nevada OLB Dontay Moch. This guy is a another tweener DE who will most likely have to play OLB in the NFL. Moch is very fast for his size, clocking a 4.44 in the 40-yard dash, but the problem is that he has not yet developed the moves necessary to complement that speed. Specifically, Moch struggles to shed blocks and seems to play too high. Moch is an interesting pass rusher to be sure, but he will likely play almost exclusively in blitz packages on passing downs early in his career because he is simply not good enough against the run yet.
The Brownies used the first of their second rounders (No. 37) on Pitt DE Jabaal Sheard. I love this pick. Some Browns fans have questioned whether first-round pick Phil Taylor is really suited for the Browns' new 4-3 front. There should be no such doubts about Sheard. Sheard is a wily pass rusher who will consistently pressure the quarterback from the beginning of his career. What I like about him most is that he varies his approach to rushing the passer, sometimes using his quick burst (1.59 10-yard split in the 40) to catch offensive linemen off balance and other times using his hands to make deft pass rushing maneuvers. Sheard is also pretty interesting, as he has made headlines for saving an elderly woman from a burning building and throwing a dude through a glass door during a fight.
Cleveland also selected UNC's Greg Little, a receiver with great size (6-foot-2 1/2, 231 lbs) and good speed (4.53 in the 40 yard dash), with their other second rounder (No. 59 overall). I love, love, love this pick. Little is a former running back who is exceptionally physical and strong (27 reps at the combine) and a load to tackle. He has very soft hands and doesn't catch too much with his body. Little needs to work on the precision of the routes, but he flashes ridiculous body control, making good catches in traffic.
Pittsburgh Steelers: A. Every year, the Steelers school us on the virtues of patient drafting. While fans like me squirm and yearn for a trade up to grab an exciting player, the Steelers just sit there and wait, selecting the best player available like it's an easy thing to do. In 2011 the Steelers selected hulking Florida tackle and former Maurkice Pouncey teammate Marcus Gilbert with their second round pick (No. 63 overall). What I love about Gilbert is that he is very strong and gets a good first step once the ball is snapped. Besides this initial burst, I don't think that Gilbert will ever be athletic enough to handle speed rushers at left tackle, but I do think he will be a very good right tackle. He kind of reminds me of a smaller Flozell Adams in that he is a strong blocker who can't handle speed as well as I would like. He needs to work on his ability to diagnose the blitz, but with some experience, I think he will end up being a great player. This pick fills a giant need for the Steelers.
At the tail end of the third round, the Steelers proved again why patience pays off, selecting Texas cornerback Curtis Brown at No. 95. I actually wanted the Steelers to pluck Brown off of the board in the second round, but snagging him at the end of the third round is an absolute steal. Brown is an athletic corner and is very agile (4.00 time in the shuttle) and has a lot of explosion in his legs (39.5-inch vertical jump). This kid can cover in man and in zone, and though his 40 time (4.54) was a little bit disappointing, I think he has plenty of speed to stay with most NFL receivers. One thing Brown needs to work on is his physicality and tackling against the run. Given the defensive culture in Pittsburgh, don't expect this to be a weakness in Brown's game for long.
The Steelers addressed all three of their most pressing needs with their first three picks, and they never reached. I will give them an enthusiastic "A" for rounds one through three.
Which AFC North team made the best value pick in the second or third round?
Baltimore Ravens - Maryland WR Torrey Smith (92 votes)
Cincinnati Bengals - TCU QB Andy Dalton (154 votes)
Cleveland Browns - UNC WR Greg Little (323 votes)
Pittsburgh Steelers - Texas CB Curtis Brown (283 votes)
852 total votes