AFC North position rankings: Tight end

The AFC North is running a series where every position will be ranked and what could change at that position.


1. RAVENS: Baltimore made the tough call when it released Todd Heap in the offseason and went with two inexperienced tight ends. But Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta became the AFC North's best combination at a tight end, which as a position, failed to live up to expectations in the division. Dickson finished third on the Ravens with 54 catches for 528 yards. He ended the season strong with four of his five touchdowns coming in the second half of the season. Pitta led all second-string tight ends in the division with 40 receptions for 405 yards and thee touchdowns. He was one of Flacco's favorite targets on third downs, where he had 17 receptions. What could change: Third-stringer Kris Wilson is an unrestricted free agent. His only catch was a 1-yard touchdown grab in the divisional playoff win against Houston.

2. BENGALS: Jermaine Gresham was the best tight end in the AFC North this year. Despite missing two games with a hamstring string injury, he led the division's tight ends in receptions (56) and touchdown catches (six). He also became the first Bengals tight end in 30 years to post two straight seasons of 50 receptions or more. In the comeback win over the Bills, Gresham pulled the Bengals to within 17-13 in the third quarter with a one-handed 17-yard touchdown grab and then had a 25-yard reception in the fourth quarter, which was the longest play in the game-tying drive. Donald Lee contributed 11 catches, and Colin Cochart added five receptions and one touchdown as the blocking tight end. What could change: Two veterans -- Lee and Bo Scaife -- are free agents and might not return. Lee provided a veteran presence when Reggie Kelly didn't re-sign, and Scaife injured his neck in the preseason and was placed on injured reserve.

3. STEELERS: Heath Miller is the most complete tight end in the division. He blocks as well as he catches passes. His receptions would've been higher than 51 this season if he was used a receiver more often. The Steelers should've gone to him more in the red zone. He finished with 631 yards and two touchdowns. David Johnson, who is also used as a fullback, added 12 catches and one touchdown. Undrafted rookie Weslye Saunders played a lot more than his four catches would indicate. What could change: The Steelers need to add another tight end because Saunders has reportedly been suspended for the first four games of the season by the NFL for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances. It's an uncertain future for Saunders, who went undrafted because of his troubled past.

4. BROWNS: Cleveland had the deepest tight end group in the AFC North, but that took a hit when Ben Watson and Alex Smith missed a total of five games because of injury and ended up on injured reserve. The Browns' tight ends also never became an integral part of the West Coast offense. Watson's catches went from 68 in 2010 to 37 last season. Evan Moore has a lot of potential, but I'm not sure why the Browns signed him to a three-year, $9 million contract when they aren't going to highlight him. He ended up with 34 catches for 324 yards and two touchdowns. He's more than a red-zone target. Overall, this group has talent but it seemed to get overlooked on game days. What could change: Smith is a free agent, but the Browns seemed to like his feisty attitude. Rookie Jordan Cameron should be more involved in the offense next season after catching only six passes last season.

Feb. 20: Special teams; Feb. 21: Defensive line; Feb. 23: Linebackers; Feb. 24: Defensive backs; Feb. 27: Offensive line; Feb. 28: Wide receivers.

For Thursday: Running backs