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AFC North rookie rankings

10/22/2010

As we approach Week 7 in the NFL, it's time to provide an update on how rookies are performing in the AFC North.

Here is our first installment of rookie rankings:

WardWard1. T.J. Ward, safety, second round, Cleveland Browns

Stats: 54 tackles, one forced fumble

Skinny: Ward has made his presence known as the best draft pick so far for Cleveland president Mike Holmgren and first-year general manager Tom Heckert. Ward is a fierce hitter with good instincts and is always around the football. He’s great in run support and plays hard all the time, which is what Cleveland needs. Ward still makes rookie mistakes but does it at full speed. He will only get better, as the Browns have someone in the secondary to build around.

PounceyPouncey2. Maurkice Pouncey, center, first round, Pittsburgh Steelers

Stats: Five starts

Skinny: Pouncey was impressive enough to earn the starting center job from Day 1. He helped bring a power running game back to Pittsburgh, which was vital in the team's 3-1 start without suspended quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Pouncey has had one poor game so far against the Baltimore Ravens and Pro Bowl defensive lineman Haloti Ngata. But Pouncey has been solid otherwise.

GreshamGresham3. Jermaine Gresham, tight end, first round, Cincinnati Bengals

Stats: 22 catches, 158 yards, two touchdowns

Skinny: Who would have thought Gresham (2 TDs) would have doubled Chad Ochocinco's touchdowns after five games? With Ochocinco getting so much coverage, Gresham and teammate Terrell Owens have been the biggest beneficiaries, combining for 53 receptions. Gresham needs to improve on getting more yards after the catch. But Cincinnati's first-round pick has been productive and is on pace for a 70-catch season.

McCoyMcCoy4. Colt McCoy, quarterback, third round, Browns

Stats: One start, 281 passing yards, one touchdown, two interceptions

Skinny: McCoy responded well to a very tough situation against Pittsburgh. Despite the loss, McCoy showed toughness and leadership, and that shoots him up the rookie rankings. McCoy is expected to get his second straight start Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. It's very early, but McCoy at least offers hope that Cleveland may have finally found their quarterback of the future.

HadenHaden5a (tie). Joe Haden, cornerback, first round, Browns

Stats: 18 tackles, one interception, four pass defenses

Skinny: Haden is getting better every week after a slow start. His ball skills and playmaking abilities are starting to shine through, as evident by his 62-yard interception return last week against Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Haden relied on his natural athleticism his entire career in high school and college, and now Browns coach Eric Mangini said Haden is learning to put it all together in the classroom in the pros. Haden, Cleveland's No. 7 overall pick, has a chance to be in the starting lineup by season's end.

ShipleyShipley5b (tie). Jordan Shipley, receiver, Bengals

Stats: 15 catches, 190 yards

Skinny: Shipley is Cincinnati's second rookie cog in the passing game. He’s averaging a respectable 12.7 yards per catch from the slot as quarterback Carson Palmer's safety valve. Shipley missed one game because of a concussion after taking a big hit from Ward in Week 4. Shipley will return to action Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.