Two days in, I think all four AFC North teams have to be pleased with what they’ve accomplished in the NFL Draft.
You’re supposed to love your own draft, I know. But these teams have added pieces and filled needs without huge reaches, desperate trades or interesting, um, logic.
The Browns haven’t had a spectacular two-pick draft. But they’ve had a solid one, adding pieces at key position and resisting the urge to chase a quarterback who isn’t ready or mortgage future selections. The Browns are building assets, slowly, with an eye on 2014 and beyond.
The Bengals are ready to compete for the division title. They might have scored a big-time runner in Gio Bernard on Friday, a night after adding Tyler Eifert to the pass-catching mix and the pick before they got a tantalizing project of a pass rusher in Margus Hunt. Safety Shawn Williams should come game ready; he’ll need to.
There are pieces in place for a big season (or few seasons) in Cincinnati. It’s still about beating the Ravens, first, and playing like the Bengals belong, not like they’re always trying to prove that they do.
The Ravens traded up in the second round to get Arthur Brown, who must have had medical concerns to drop that far. He plays linebacker, by the way, and the Ravens just lost one of those, right? The Ravens track record says it was a gamble worth taking. They’ve added three defensive players in looking to reload, not rebuild, a defense that finally took a back seat to the offense last season — and the Ravens won a Super Bowl.
The Steelers are still the Steelers. They still need to protect Ben Roethlisberger and they still have age and money issues, but they filled needs Friday with Columbus native Le’Veon Bell at running back and an absolute flyer at receiver in Markus Wheaton, who isn’t Mike Wallace – who is? – but can be an instant impact guy.
Once upon a time, not so long ago, the Steelers got Wallace in the third round, too.
The Browns are playing for the future and drafting to eventually keep pace with the quarterbacks their division rivals have; eventually, too, they’ll get one of their own. The Steelers are trying to maximize the years their quarterback has left. The Bengals need their quarterback to be ready for the big games and big expectations ahead.
I really, really like what the Bengals have done in this draft. They — the Browns, too — need to do it every year since the Ravens and Steelers pretty much have for a long time, with few exceptions (and fewer in Baltimore).
The Ravens finally found a quarterback, and they’re the team everybody is chasing. Come fall, we’ll see if the Bengals are ready to be division royalty and if the Steelers can show that last year was simply that one year they have every now and then.