Grading the AFC

April 28, 2008|By KEN MURRAY

North

Ravens: B+

Pick to watch -- QB Joe Flacco has a better temperament to lead the team than Kyle Boller. It shouldn't take long before he takes over.

Bottom line -- Their first three picks - Flacco, RB Ray Rice and LB Ta vares Gooden - are guys who figure to contribute early. Although he's suspect, CB Fabian Washington was worth a fourth-pick gamble. Offen sive tackle remains an issue.

Steelers: C+

Pick to watch -- WR Limas Sweed (6-4, 217) is a big target for Ben Roethlisberger in the red zone, some thing the Steelers haven't had since Plaxico Burress left.

Bottom line -- RB Rashard Mend enhall could be Willie Parker's suc cessor. The Steelers needed more de fensive help early.

Browns: D

Pick to watch -- Martin Rucker, brother of retired Carolina Panther Mike Rucker, is a receiving tight end but a liability as a blocker.

Bottom line -- They sacrificed their draft to acquire veterans - in this case, not a bad thing.

Bengals: D

Pick to watch -- OLB Keith Rivers should easily improve what has been a terrible defense.

Bottom line -- So many defensive holes, so few picks.

EAST

Patriots: A

Pick to watch -- It will be fun to see how Bill Belichick uses versatile LB Jerod Mayo in his ever-changing defense.

Bottom line -- Getting two line backers and two cornerbacks early was perfect for what they need.

Dolphins: A

Pick to watch -- Bill Parcells took Jake Long as the cornerstone of the line, but it's uncertain whether it'll be at left tackle or right.

Bottom line -- Parcells' signature was on this draft, and the Patriots will soon hear his approaching footsteps.

Bills: B

Pick to watch -- Leodis McKelvin has value at cornerback and kick re turner, but the Bills really need him to deliver on defense.

Bottom line -- If McKelvin and WR James Hardy produce, it'll be a good draft.

Jets: C

Pick to watch -- DE Vernon Ghol ston wasn't the first player they cov eted, but he'll probably do more for them than RB Darren McFadden would have.

Bottom line -- A lot of their free-agent moves look negligible, but Gholston and TE Dustin Keller are good additions.

SOUTH

Colts: B

Pick to watch -- TE Jacob Tamme isn't a blocker, but Peyton Manning loves those tight ends down the middle.

Bottom line -- The picks look un der-whelming until you realize Bill Polian made the picks. He knows what he's doing.

Jaguars: A

Pick to watch -- DE-OLB Derrick Harvey gives Jack Del Rio an edge pass rusher who can be very disruptive.

Bottom line -- The Jaguars trad ed up to get Harvey and DE Quentin Groves, who could be bookend pass rushers in a division that starts with Manning.

Titans: C

Pick to watch -- RB Chris John son had the fastest 40-yard dash time at the scouting combine. He's not a between-the-tackles runner but can be a big threat if used correctly.

Bottom line -- Upgrades for the offense will help QB Vince Young.

Texans: D

Pick to watch -- RB Steve Slaton is another intriguing player if you can get him the ball in space.

Bottom line -- The Texans must believe in OT Duane Brown because he was the seventh tackle taken. They had a chance to get Jeff Otah or Sam Baker at 18 but traded the pick to the Ravens.

West

Chargers: D

Pick to watch -- RB Jacob Hester isn't going to replace Michael Turner anytime soon.

Bottom line -- A.J. Smith had few picks and used them to fill backup needs.

Chiefs: A-

Pick to watch -- Having DT Glenn Dorsey fall to them at No. 5 was a coup. He makes the team bet ter right away.

Bottom line -- Moving up to get G-OT Branden Albert (Glen Burnie) in the first round was a strong move for the offense. The Chiefs didn't get the receiver they needed.

Broncos: B

Pick to watch -- They get an ex plosive, if small, receiver in Eddie Royal, who will return kicks, too.

Bottom line -- Two of their first three picks went for the offensive line, which is critical to getting the running game back.

Raiders: C-

Pick to watch -- RB Darren McFadden is a playmaker who will take pressure off QB JaMarcus Russell.

Bottom line -- After McFadden, Al Davis went back to picking sus pects with speed.

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