Poll: AFC North's impact rookie on defense

May, 17, 2012
5/17/12
1:30
PM ET
There was only one defensive player taken in the first round by an AFC North team this year, but defense still rules this division. Let's take a look at four players who could make immediate impacts in their first season in the NFL:

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Which rookie will make the biggest impact on defense this year?

  •  
    26%
  •  
    15%
  •  
    32%
  •  
    27%

Discuss (Total votes: 6,866)

Bengals CB Dre Kirkpatrick: The 17th overall pick will get a shot at starting right away. He could replace Leon Hall, who is still recovering from an Achilles injury, or he could beat out veteran Nate Clements. Kirkpatrick is an aggressive hitter but he only made three interceptions in 25 starts at Alabama.

Browns DT Billy Winn: Some would suggest third-round pick John Hughes will make a bigger impact, but Winn is better suited to fill in for Phil Taylor, who will be sidelined with a chest muscle injury. Winn is a quick, penetrating lineman who made 35.5 career tackles for loss at Boise State. He slid to the sixth round because of questionable work ethic.

Ravens OLB Courtney Upshaw: He is expected to replace Jarret Johnson as the edge setter on run defense and rush off the edge in passing situations. The Ravens will need Upshaw's presence on the pass rush (15.5 sacks the past two seasons at Alabama) even more after Terrell Suggs went down with an Achilles injury. Upshaw is motivated after falling to the second round in the draft.

Steelers NT Alameda Ta'amu: There will be a spot open in the starting lineup if Casey Hampton hasn't recovered from knee surgery in January. Ta'amu was considered the best nose tackle prospect behind Dontari Poe and is known for his ability to eat space inside. The Steelers wanted him so much that they traded up 10 spots in the fourth round to get him.

Go ahead and register your vote, or let me know what you think in the comments section below.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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