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AFC grades: Stockpiling Pats earn high marks

Jason Cole
Yahoo Sports

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NEW YORK – Fans might call me something of an easy grader, with five AFC teams earning at least an A-minus for working the NFL draft with great expertise.

There wasn't necessarily a blueprint for those teams. New England worked the draft to get four second-round picks among the 12 players it selected. Even better for the Patriots is that they picked up two second-round picks in the 2010 draft with all of their moves, including trading out of the first round.

In contrast, the Jets earned an A-minus even though they took only three players overall. That's because New York managed to jump all the way from No. 17 overall to No. 5 to get quarterback Mark Sanchez in a much-celebrated trade. It was an aggressive, yet cheap move by the Jets (it cost them only a first- and second-round pick and three little-known players).

Aside from those two teams, Baltimore made a terrific move to get offensive tackle Michael Oher, a top talent who fell to No. 23, Jacksonville significantly upgraded its offensive line and Kansas City took a huge step toward repairing and changing its defense.

Conversely, the Raiders continued their struggles, earning the AFC's only F. That's what happens when your first two picks are reaches. Big reaches.

AFC East

Buffalo Bills
Picks: LB Aaron Maybin, C Eric Wood, CB Jairus Byrd, OL Andy Levitre, TE Shawn Nelson, S Nic Harris, CB Cary Harris, DB Ellis Lankster.
Positives: Maybin, Byrd.
Negative: Wood.
Bottom line: C-.
Considering the recent trade of Jason Peters, this is a pretty mediocre draft. Maybin is a dynamic, pass-rushing athlete the Bills haven't had at linebacker since the days of Bryce Paup. The downside with Maybin is he hasn't played that much and spent only one year as a starter at Penn State. If the Bills can keep defensive end Aaron Schobel healthy, Maybin could team with him and fellow defensive end Chris Kelsay to give the team a dynamic pass rush. Byrd is an interception machine, finishing his career at Oregon with 17, and gives the Bills some much-needed depth in the secondary. However, neither Wood nor Levitre are great athletes, even by offensive line standards, and appear to be reaches. Miami Dolphins
Picks: CB Vontae Davis, QB Pat White, CB Sean Smith, WR Patrick Turner, WR Brian Hartline, TE John Nalbone, S Chris Clemons, OT Andrew Gardner, LB J.D. Folsom.
Positives: Davis, White and Smith are premier athletes.
Negative: No help at defensive tackle.
Bottom line: C.
There is no questioning Davis' talent. He may be the best pure cornerback in the draft and has the ability to be a Pro Bowler regular. The problem is, like his brother Vernon with San Francisco, Davis thinks he's great already and doesn't listen to coaching. Dolphins VP of football operations Bill Parcells should help his coaches turn that ego into something special. White is a really intriguing talent, particularly if you like the Wildcat offense, but taking a gimmick player in the second round seems like a stretch. If he becomes Antwaan Randle El, that's great. If not, he's a big reach. Smith is a special athlete who could become better than Davis. Finally, Turner is an intriguing player. The problem is that the Dolphins needed to get a young defensive tackle in a bad way. New England Patriots
Picks: S Patrick Chung, DT Ron Brace, CB Darius Butler, OT Sebastian Vollmer, WR Brandon Tate, LB Tyrone McKenzie, G Rich Ohrnberger, C George Bussey, DT Myron Pryor, LS Jacob Ingram, WR Julian Edelman, DT Darryl Richard.
Positives: Chung, Butler will help rebuild the secondary.
Negative: No immediate impact player.
Bottom line: A.
The Patriots were in serious need of upgrading the depth and youth of their roster, which was accomplished. Along the way, they also picked up two second-round picks for the 2010 draft as Bill Belichick continued to perfect the trade down. The fact that teams continue to give the Patriots draft picks seems insane, but Belichick is more than willing to work the phones on draft day (the Pats were in on seven trades). Along the way, the Patriots ended up with four second-round picks and two more in the third round. Chung is likely to become a starter and many people thought Butler might sneak into the first round. Chung is a big-time hitter and Butler has great speed. The two offensive linemen in the second round are great long-range prospects. Big upside for both. New York Jets
Picks: QB Mark Sanchez, RB Shonn Greene, G Matt Slauson.
Positives Sanchez, a possible franchise quarterback.
Negative: Not many players.
Bottom line: A-.
It's not often that you start off with the No. 17 overall pick in the draft and end up with a quarterback who might start right away. That's what the Jets did Saturday when they traded their first- and second-round picks along with some roster flotsam to Cleveland for the No. 5 pick and the right to get Sanchez. Great move because the cost was so incredibly cheap. The downside is that the Jets ended up with only three picks because of this trade and some others, but such is life. To get a potential franchise quarterback, you have to take some risk. Greene is a nice pickup on the second day after another trade up. Give Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum some credit for a couple of aggressive moves.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens
Picks: OT Michael Oher, DE/LB Paul Kruger, CB Lardarius Webb, LB Jason Phillips, TE Davon Drew, RB Cedric Peerman.
Positives: Oher, Kruger can play right away.
Negative: Webb is really small.
Bottom line: A.
The Ravens are one of the best teams at finding falling talent in the first round and did just that this year. Oher is a lot closer to the likes of Eugene Monroe, Andre Smith and Jason Smith than his status as the No. 23 overall pick indicates. Oher will likely push Jared Gaither to right tackle or take over at right tackle to give the Ravens an excellent young tackle combination. Kruger is an interesting player who seems destined to be an outside linebacker in Baltimore's 3-4 system and could replace departed Bart Scott. Kruger was miscast as a defensive end in college but should make a nice transition in the NFL. Meanwhile, it's going to be interesting to see how long the 178-pound Webb lasts with his physical style. Cincinnati Bengals
Picks: OT Andre Smith, LB Rey Maualuga, DE Michael Johnson, TE Chase Coffman, C Jonathan Luigs, P Kevin Huber, CB Morgan Trent, RB Bernard Scott, RB Fui Vakapuna, DT Clinton McDonald, WR Freddie Brown.
Positives: Smith, Maualuga and Johnson have plenty of talent.
Negatives: Attitude and work ethic issues with both Smith and Johnson.
Bottom line: B-.
As usual, the Bengals got the best players at whatever spot they drafted. Andre Smith was arguably the best left tackle in the draft before his stock fell after leaving the scouting combine without telling anybody in February and then being out of shape for his pro day workout. Maualuga is a terrific pickup in the second round, arguably the best inside linebacker in the draft and continues to upgrade the Bengals linebacking corps after getting Keith Rivers last year. Likewise, Johnson is a tremendously gifted athlete as an edge rusher with his height and reach, but his work ethic has been questioned. The Bengals simply don't factor in character when they pick, making their choices almost always boom-or-bust propositions. Cleveland Browns
Picks: C Alex Mack, WR Brian Robiskie, WR Mohamed Massaquoi, DE David Veikune, LB Kaluka Maiava, CB Don Carey, CB Coye Francies, RB James Davis.
Positives: Got out of the No. 5 spot, depth at wide receiver.
Negative: No great athletes.
Bottom line: C+.
New Browns coach Eric Mangini has this penchant for getting guys who are in his image: quiet, hard-working and industrious. But there's a point at which you need to get great athletes and this draft just doesn't have it. Mack was the best center in the draft, but they went after him a little high after making three trades down from the No. 5 spot. Also, the fact they got so little for the No. 5 pick isn't good, but this is the direction the NFL is going because of the cost of signing top draft picks. All of that said, Mack is a good player and Robiskie and Massaquoi are really good value players as complementary receivers. Assuming the Browns keep top wide receiver Braylon Edwards, this could be a good group. That's a big assumption. Pittsburgh Steelers
Picks: DT Ziggy Hood, OL Kraig Urbik, WR Mike Wallace, CB Keenan Lewis, CB Joe Burnett, RB Frank Summers, DT Ra'Shon Harris, C A.Q. Shipley, TE David Johnson. Positives: Hood, Urbik and Burnett.
Negative: Not a lot of immediate help and not enough on the offensive line.
Bottom line: C+.
Hood and Urbik both fill in at vital need positions. In particular, Hood should help when the Steelers eventually are forced to make the transition from Casey Hampton and Aaron Smith up front. Hood is a high-energy, big-body player who will get some time to harness his talent with the Super Bowl champions, who can afford to not have him play right away. Urbik could play right away, but will likely need some time to learn his craft because he lacks the pure athleticism to make up for mistakes. The bottom line is that this is a typical Steelers draft. Not particularly sexy, but very effective.

AFC South

Houston Texans
Picks: LB Brian Cushing, DE Connor Barwin, G Antoine Caldwell, CB Glover Quin, TE Anthony Hill, TE James Casey, DB Brice McCain, DB Troy Nolan.
Positives: Athletic ability of Cushing and Barwin.
Negative: No skill position players for offensive depth.
Bottom line: B+.
The Texans augmented a deep, talented defensive line with two defensive playmakers with their first two picks. Cushing has the desire and toughness to play right away and Barwin is a developing pass rusher, something Houston desperately needed in the front seven. Cushing can play either the strong or weak side. More than anything, Cushing has an attitude that exudes greatness. Other linebackers in this draft may have more pure talent, but Cushing will work as hard or harder than anyone in that group. Combine that with his athletic ability and you have the potential for something special. Indianapolis Colts
Picks: RB Donald Brown, DT Fili Moala, CB Jerraud Powers, WR Austin Collie, DT Terrance Taylor, QB Curtis Painter, P Pat McAfee, G Jaimie Thomas.
Positives: Brown, Moala are good value players.
Negative: Not enough help in the defensive front.
Bottom line: B.
It's hard to argue with team president Bill Polian when it comes to drafting anybody (just look at his record in the first round since joining the Colts). Thus, there's no question that Brown is a good value selection and fits into Indy's running game with his combination of quick moves and straight-line speed. The downside is that you'd think the Colts could have picked up a couple of veteran running backs this year in free agency and used that first pick on a defensive tackle. Getting Moala in the second round goes a long way toward filling that need, but the Colts could have used two guys like that earlier in the draft. Jacksonville Jaguars
Picks: OT Eugene Monroe, OT Eben Britton, DT Terrance Knighton, CB Derek Cox, WR Mike Thomas, WR Jarett Dillard, TE Zach Miller, RB Rashad Jennings, WR Tiquan Underwood.
Positives: Monroe, Britton will start immediately.
Negative: No wide receiver at a huge need position.
Bottom line: A-.
Some people might argue that WR Michael Crabtree would have been a better selection for the Jaguars with the No. 8 overall pick. But Monroe was also projected by many people to go a few picks higher. Thus, Monroe is a solid value pick at that spot. Moreover, Monroe is a quiet, dignified leader that the Jaguars desperately need in a locker room that has been chaotic the past few years. Getting Britton in the second round gives the Jags an immediate starter at right tackle and gives coach Jack Del Rio's team the chance to be dominant in the running game again. That said, the Jags really need another wide receiver, even after the signing of Torry Holt. Tennessee Titans
Picks: WR Kenny Britt, DT Sen'Derrick Marks, TE Jared Cook, CB Ryan Mouton, LB Gerald McRath, OT Troy Kropog, RB Javon Ringer, CB Jason McCourty, WR Dominique Edison, G Ryan Durand, DE Nick Schommer.
Positives: Britt's big-play ability, good value through first five rounds.
Negative: No immediate replacement for the loss of Albert Haynesworth.
Bottom line: B.
Getting Britt with the No. 30 pick was a coup for a receiver-starved team. Britt walks into the building as the best receiver on the Titans roster and gives them a vertical threat to augment the great running combo of Chris Johnson and LenDale White. Beyond that, Cook was a terrific pickup in the third round and should also help the moribund passing game with his speed. The offense needs to improve after the defense took a hit in the offseason with the loss of Haynesworth. Mouton is an underrated talent who should help a lot.

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos
Picks: RB Knowshon Moreno, LB Robert Ayers, CB Alphonso Smith, CB Darcel McBath, TE Richard Quinn, S David Bruton, G Seth Olsen, WR Kenny McKinley, QB Tom Brandstater, C Blake Schlueter.
Positive: Moreno is the best all-around back in the draft.
Negative: Not enough help on the defensive front.
Bottom line: D.
It's hard to argue with the selection of Moreno, who is a terrific player. But you have to wonder what the Broncos are thinking when they take Moreno after signing running backs LaMont Jordan, Correll Buckhalter and J.J. Arrington earlier this offseason in free agency. Sure, the Broncos were ravaged by injury last season at that position, but they worked to fix it already. Considering the needs the Broncos had on the defensive line, not doing more there is highly questionable. Also, giving up a first-round pick in 2010 for the right to get Alphonso Smith could really backfire in a serious way, taking away many of the gains the team made by trading QB Jay Cutler earlier this month. Kansas City Chiefs
Picks: DE Tyson Jackson, DT Alex Magee, CB Donald Washington, OL Colin Brown, WR Quentin Lawrence, RB Javarris Williams, TE Jake O'Connell, K Ryan Succop.
Positives: Jackson and Magee.
Negative: Needed some skill position help for Matt Cassel.
Bottom line: A-.
New Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli turned his first three picks into key foundation players with the selections of Jackson, Magee and by trading for Cassel at the start of free agency. One thing Pioli learned well from New England's Belichick is to use your top picks on talented big men like Jackson, who is a carbon copy of Richard Seymour (the No. 6 overall pick in the 2001 draft) and then build around those guys. Add Jackson and Magee to Glenn Dorsey from the 2008 draft and suddenly you have the makings of a monster line. Get a few linebackers to go with it and the Chiefs stand to have a terrific defense by 2010. Oakland Raiders
Picks: WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, S Michael Mitchell, DE Matt Shaughnessy, WR Louis Murphy, DE Slade Norris, DE Stryker Sulak, TE Brandon Myers.
Positives: Speed with Heyward-Bey and Mitchell.
Negatives: Two gigantic reaches with Heyward-Bey and Mitchell.
Bottom line: F.
This draft is another cry for help by the Raiders as they keep taking players based on outdated theories about what works in the NFL. While wide receivers and defensive backs are still important, they must be complete players. Neither Heyward-Bey nor Mitchell are anything close to complete. At best, Heyward-Bey was ranked as the No. 3 receiver in the draft by most qualified analysts and should have been drafted somewhere in the 20s, not at No. 7 overall as the first receiver. Likewise, Mitchell was considered a borderline prospect, someone who should have gone in the sixth or seventh round. Furthermore, this was the eighth time in the past nine years that the Raiders have used a first- or second-round pick on a defensive back. They wouldn't have to do that if they would pick good ones. San Diego Chargers
Picks: DE/LB Larry English, G Louis Vasquez, DT Vaughn Martin, G Tyronne Green, RB Gartrell Johnson, CB Brandon Hughes, S Kevin Ellison, WR Demetrius Byrd.
Positives: English, Vazquez, Martin.
Negative: Didn't get top-end running back.
Bottom line: B.
English is a small-college player with big-time pass-rush skills, which the Chargers need after not having linebacker Shawne Merriman last season. Merriman is expected to come back this season, but may not get all of the explosiveness back from what he had prior to his knee injury. Therefore, English may have to be ready sooner than later. Vasquez, Martin and Green are the type of big-body guys the Chargers like on their interior lines and Martin should step right in to replace departed Igor Olshansky. However, the Chargers were really hoping for a shot at Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno, who was taken at No. 12 by Denver, four picks ahead of the Chargers. Moreno was going to be the guy to step in after LaDainian Tomlinson left.