Grading a draft not even 24 hours after its completion is a pretty ridiculous exercise. Busts become booms, first-round blue-chippers and second-round steals never see their potential.
What we can do is take a look at how teams addressed certain needs, how they evaluated particular players during the draft and what those moves mean. The decisions during the draft are only on paper at this point, which isn't everything, but it is something.
At first glance, the AFC North as a division had a strong weekend. The Pittsburgh Steelers have long had a reputation as a solid organization when it comes to the draft, and Baltimore Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome is developing a reputation as one of the best minds in the game. Here's a look at what each in-division team did.
1. (32) Matt Elam, S, Florida
2. (56) Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas St.
3. (94) Brandon Williams, DT, Missouri Southern St.
4. (129) John Simon, DE/OLB, Ohio State
4. (130) Kyle Juszczyk, FB, Harvard
5. (168) Ricky Wagner, G, Wisconsin
6. (200) Kapton Lewis-Moore, DE, Notre Dame
6. (203) Ryan Jensen, C, Colorado St-Pueblo
7. (238) Aaron Mellette, WR, Elon
7. (247) Marc Anthony, CB, California
Analysis: Through free agency and then the first four rounds of the NFL Draft, the Ravens have seemingly reloaded their vaunted defense in one offseason. Elvis Dumervil, Michael Huff, Chris Canty and Marcus Spears were all signed prior to the draft. After all the unrest surrounding futher Hall of Famer Ed Reed at safety, the Ravens already completely revamped that position with Huff and first-round pick Matt Elam. Newsome said after the pick that Elam was "their guy" all along.
Kansas St. LB Arthur Brown was a guy many had ranked as a top-30 player or better. Of all the "steals" on draft day, at least on paper, this was one that made a lot of noise. Then comes Brandon Williams, who adds depth to the Ravens' defensive line, and the Buckeye, John Simon, a tough-nosed bull rusher of a linebacker. The Ravens could have added four key pieces to a new and younger defense, three of them in th front seven.
Grades: I will not be giving out grades, because putting a number on something as fluid as an NFL draft doesn't really do any good. But below are grades from ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr and Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke.
What these picks mean is more important. What the Ravens did was add two players many draft evaluators had in their top-30 or top-25 players, each on the defensive side of the ball after Ray Lewis, Reed, Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe and company all left. Add in Dumervil, Huff and the others, and it's a new-look defense that could still be a very strong unit.
The Ravens could have added a wide receiver to complement the major investment in quarterback Joe Flacco, like Tennessee's Justin Hunter or California's Keenan Allen. Spending $20 million on one player would seem to warrant giving him as many weapons as possible. But it's hard to argue with taking a defense that could have been decimated and possibly turning it around in a couple of weeks.
Kiper: A- (Needs A-, Value B+)
1. (21) Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
2. (37) Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina
2. (53) Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
3. (84) Shawn Williams, S, Georgia
4. (118) Sean Porter, LB, Texas A&M
5. (156) Tanner Hawkinson, G, Kansas
6. (190) Rex Burkhead, RB, Nebraska
6. (197) Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas
7. (240) Reid Fragel, OT, Ohio St.
7. (251) T.J. Johnson, C, South Carolina
Analysis: While the Ravens revamped their defense, the Bengals added a couple of weapons to a young and talented offense. Tyler Eifert was a possible option for the Browns in a trade-down scenario and then for the Steelers at No. 17 but was finally taken off the board by the Bengals, who needed another threat in the passing game to take some heat off of receiver A.J. Green, already one of the NFL's very best. The Bengals hope quarterback Andy Dalton can take the next step in his career, and giving him a second receiving option should help.
The Bengals had two second-round picks as part of the incredibly one-sided deal that sent Carson Palmer to the Oakland Raiders in exchange for a first-rounder last year and a second-rounder in this draft (the Bengals used last year's pick to take Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick, while Palmer has already left the Raiders in a trade to the Arizona Cardinals). The latter part of the deal nabbed North Carolina's Giovani Bernard, a versatile running back who can also catch out of the backfield. The Bengals surprised a few by making Bernard the first RB to come off the board and not Alabama RB Eddie Lacy.
The latter second-rounder brought in Margus Hunt, a very raw but very athletic pass rusher. Hunt will be a project but has terrific upside. In the third round, the Bengals addressed their need at the safety position with Shawn Williams, who should be able to come in and compete with Taylor Mays for a starting spot. The safety position has been a major hole in the Bengals' defense, and it was a safe bet that position would be addressed at some point in the draft.
Grades: The Bengals are young and talented, and they continue to add weapons on the offensive side of the ball. The NFL has seen an upward-trending change in how tight ends are used in today's pass-happy offenses, and Eifert surely fits the mold as someone who can make an impact in the middle of the field. The running back position had become a bit of a sore spot as well, and Bernard should be able to contribute right away.
The Bengals could have addressed their need at safety earlier in the draft, either with Elam (who went to the Ravens in the first round), Florida International's John Cyprien (who went one pick later to the Jacksonville Jaguars) or Louisiana State's Eric Reid. While that's still a strong need, giving a young quarterback some help isn't a bad idea.
Kiper: A- (Needs B+, Value A-)
1. (17) Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
2. (48) Le'Veon Bell, RB, Michigan St
3. (79) Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State
4. (111) Shamarko Thomas, S, Syracuse
4. (115) Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
5. (150) Terry Hawthorne, CB, Illinois
6. (186) Justin Brown, WR, Oklahoma
6. (206) Vince Williams, LB, Florida St.
7. (223) Nick Williams, DT, Samford
Analysis: As usual, it appears as though the Steelers played the board well and took the best player available, and for the second year in a row it fit a major need (last year, the Steelers took David DeCastro, widely believed the best value pick in the first round). Jarvis Jones, who to some (Kiper) might have been the best player on tape, fell to the Steelers at No. 17 after the New Orleans Saints passed on him two picks earlier to take Texas S Kenny Vaccaro instead. Jones was a terror in his two seasons in the SEC but had serious medical concerns connected to his spinal stenosis diagnosis a few years ago and on-the-field concerns after he turned in a terrible performance at the Scouting Combine. Jones might have been an option for the Browns in a trade-down. His medical red flags and workout concerns aside, what's on film is impressive, and Jones could be the next in the line of talented pass rushers at outside linebacker in the Steelers' 3-4 defense. Jones also replaces James Harrison, who signed with the Bengals.
In the second round, the Steelers took MSU workhorse RB Le'Veon Bell, who could settle a turmoiled position. The Steelers tried name after name in the backfield last year, and no one stepped forward. Bell has a chance to make an immediate impact.
Then came the selection of Markus Wheton, a receiver much in the mold of Mike Wallace when he was a rookie—a blazing speedster who needs some polishing with his route running.
The Steelers and Browns then pulled off their first trade since 1968, with the Steelers getting the Browns' No. 111 pick for a 2014 third-rounder. With it, they took safety Shamarko Thomas. It's believed this could be the last year for Troy Polamalu in Pittsburgh, so the Steelers could be needing some depth at that position. Browns CEO Joe Banner, who defended the trade yesterday, certainly hopes Thomas doesn't become the next Polamalu.
In the fifth, the Steelers brought in the free-falling Landry Jones as a low-risk quarterback to be groomed under Ben Roethlisberger. For what it's worth, Bill Polian had Jones has his top-ranked quarterback entering the draft.
Grades: The Steelers managed to address multiple needs in the early rounds and came away with what appears to be good value. Jones should fit well in their 3-4 scheme and Bell could make as big an impact as any rookie taken on that side of the ball. Wheaton and Thomas each add depth and Jones is a nice value in the fifth who can learn under Roethlisberger for a few years. If he ends up playing, great, if not, it wasn't too high a price to pay.
The Steelers could have taken Eifert, who then went to the Bengals four picks later. Roethlisberger continues to be one of the NFLs better quarterbacks, but Wallace is gone and Heath Miller is getting older. Giving Big Ben some weapons might be a priority heading forward.
Kiper: B (Needs B+, Value B)
For what it's worth, Kiper gave the Browns a C+. He liked the selection in the third round (68th overall) of CB Leon McFadden but questioned Barkevious Mingo's production in college. That draft grade was also hurt by the two trades that brought in two picks for the 2014 draft, and the fact that the Browns didn't have a second-rounder after taking Josh Gordon in the supplemental draft. Burke gave the Browns a D+.