We now enter the top half of "Walker’s Fab 40" in the AFC North.
Let's get to it!
No. 20: Ike Taylor, cornerback
Team: Pittsburgh Steelers
2010 stats: 66 tackles, two interceptions
Last year's ranking: No. 29
Analysis: With linebacker LaMarr Woodley getting the franchise tag, Taylor is now Pittsburgh's biggest in-house free agent. Pittsburgh's best corner had another good season for the NFL's No. 2-rated defense, but he also will be 31 in May. Taylor stays in position and is a solid tackler, but he's not an elite game-changer at the position. Taylor's biggest weakness is his hands, which often prevents him from creating big turnovers. Taylor has 99 career pass defenses and just 11 interceptions in eight seasons. He averages only 1.4 interceptions per year.
No. 19: Johnathan Joseph, cornerback
Team: Cincinnati Bengals
2010 stats: 42 tackles, three interceptions
Last year's ranking: No. 16
Analysis: Joseph is Cincinnati's top cornerback and its biggest priority in free agency. He recorded nine interceptions the past two seasons for the Bengals. Joseph had an ankle injury that forced him to miss four games in 2010, and the pass defense noticeably suffered without him. Teammate Leon Hall (No. 31) is great as Cincinnati's No. 2 corner but didn't play as well filling in Joseph's role. The Bengals have to decide if they are going to pay big money to keep Joseph. As a 26-year-old cornerback approaching his prime, Joseph could get a lot of interest if he hits the open market.
No. 18: Carson Palmer, quarterback
2010 stats: 3,970 yards, 26 touchdowns, 20 interceptions
Last year's ranking: No. 12
Analysis: Palmer was one of the hardest players to rank in this year's "Walker’s Fab 40." He played his worst football in years for the 4-12 Bengals but still nearly threw for 4,000 yards. There were times when Palmer looked like a rookie quarterback, throwing into triple coverage and making mind-numbing turnovers. But Palmer also had several big games last season that showed he can still be effective. Bengals coaches also defend Palmer, saying his receivers were often not on the same page. Palmer created major headlines by recently demanding a trade from Cincinnati and threatening to retire. At 31, Palmer is on the downside of his career and only has a few good years left. The Bengals are rebuilding again but say they're not budging, creating an offseason standoff.
No. 17: Anquan Boldin, receiver
Team: Baltimore Ravens
2010 stats: 64 receptions, 837 yards, seven touchdowns
Last year's ranking: N/A
Analysis: Boldin was Baltimore's major offseason acquisition last year and showed flashes with three 100-yard games. He also displayed toughness and leadership in his first season with the Ravens. But Baltimore's offense for the most part underachieved and Boldin disappeared from the passing game for long stretches. That's probably more of an indictment of the Ravens' inconsistent play calling last season than it was Boldin. The team lacked a speedy deep threat, which made Baltimore's offense easier to defend. Entering his second season with the Ravens, expect Baltimore to be more consistent with finding ways to get Boldin the football.