The 2013 NFL draft provided all of the fireworks that we've come to expect from the annual selection process. From top prospects slipping down draft boards to organizations landing franchise players in opportune manners, we saw it all.
As we shift our focus to the conference that put out the 2012-13 Super Bowl champions, however, we must ask: Which AFC teams made the biggest statements?
Certain teams made noise without drafting a single player in the first round, displaying their prowess in addressing needs through the lesser-known prospects. Others addressed every need they had and did so by landing top-tier rookies.
The question is, who made the biggest statements on draft day?
Cincinnati Bengals: A
The Cincinnati Bengals had a masterful 2013 NFL draft, addressing every single need they possessed. Most impressively, they added a new dynamic to an already explosive offense and opened up the field in a manner in which we've never seen this organization do before.
It all starts with selecting Tyler Eifert, the No. 1 tight end on the board.
Eifert now teams with Jermaine Gresham to create one of the best pass-catching duos at the tight end position. Paired with All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Green and Pro Bowl quarterback Andy Dalton, the Bengals now have an elite passing attack.
They also added an explosive running back that can catch the ball in Giovani Bernard out of North Carolina. More importantly than his catching, Bernard will complement 1,000-yard, between-the-tackles runner BenJarvus Green-Ellis by providing a big play presence.
Cincinnati closed out their offensive draft by landing running back Rex Burkhead and All-SEC wide receiver Cobi Hamilton, who stands at 6'3", during the sixth round.
From the second to the fourth rounds, the Bengals landed defensive end Margus Hunt out of SMU, safety Shawn Williams of Georgia and linebacker Sean Porter from Texas A&M. Hunt aced the scouting combine with elite size and athleticism, while Williams was one of the best defensive backs in the SEC.
Porter, meanwhile, was a first-round prospect entering the season due to his dominant tackling ability. Due to a change of system, however, he never recovered and fell to the fourth round.
Von Miller would testify to how good he can be.
Capped off with guard Tanner Hawkinson, offensive tackle Reid Fragel and center T.J. Johnson, the Bengals landed high-quality players with every single pick. Most importantly, they left no need unaddressed.
On paper, this was one of the best drafts in the history of the franchise.
Miami Dolphins: B+
Whether or not they were successful is debatable, but the Miami Dolphins certainly made a statement at the 2013 NFL draft.
The Dolphins traded up during the first round, selecting pass-rusher Dion Jordan out of Oregon. Although reasonable to question the move, there is no question that the Dolphins made their intentions known by trading up to select Jordan.
They're looking for young, defensive stars that can rush the passer opposite Cameron Wake. They found one in Jordan.
During the later rounds, the Dolphins were less than spectacular, but managed to remain in-state with three Florida Gators. That includes the SEC's fourth-leading rusher Mike Gillislee, outside linebacker Jelani Jenkins and place-kicker Caleb Sturgis.
By adding three defensive backs, it further became clear that Miami was all about defense in this year's draft.
Pittsburgh Steelers: A-
The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team that entered the 2013 NFL draft with concerns over their future due to the status of their aging stars. With star wide receiver Mike Wallace leaving to join the Miami Dolphins, age instantly became an even greater concern.
And then Pittsburgh aced the draft.
The Steelers opened up with Heisman Trophy candidate and pass-rushing extraordinaire Jarvis Jones. With Jones on the outside, the Steelers found an instant replacement for James Harrison and significantly improved their pass rush.
With 14.5 sacks during the 2012-13 college football season, the SEC product is proven in that sense.
The Steelers continued their defensive improvements throughout the draft, landing safety Shamarko Thomas of Syracuse in the fourth round. On top of ranking in the top five by position in the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical jump and broad jump, Thomas is a physical and rangy playmaker.
Paired with Troy Polamalu, the Steelers may have found their star safety of the future.
Offensively, the Steelers improved in the best way possible. They landed quarterback Landry Jones in the fourth round, running back Le'Veon Bell in the second round and wide receiver Markus Wheaton in the third round.
Bell is a dominant physical specimen with intriguing athletic ability, Wheaton caught 91 passes in 2012-13 and Jones was once a first-round prospect.
In turn, Pittsburgh's statement was loud and clear. Not only were they getting younger, but they also targeted the players that appear capable of contributing sooner rather than later.
It's not about having the best draft in this scenario, it's about making a statement—Pittsburgh did.
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