- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Ravens reporter
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The AFC North blog is continuing its rankings of each position for the next week. This is a projection on how the group will fare this season. It's not an evaluation based on last year. For Thursday, let's look at the tight ends.
1. Baltimore Ravens: The loss of wide receiver Anquan Boldin will lead to a monster year for tight end Dennis Pitta. He is expected to lead the Ravens in receptions and possibly touchdown catches as well. In the final year of his contract, Pitta knows his value increases with a big year. Ed Dickson, who was drafted a round before Pitta in 2010, had a disappointing regular season last year before playing his best ball during the playoffs. He is only a season removed from catching 51 passes and five touchdowns.
2. Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals potentially have the best tight end tandem in the division. They certainly have invested in the position, selecting a tight end in the first round in two of the past four drafts. Jermaine Gresham has admittedly not lived up to expectations, even though his catches and receiving yards have increased every year. The problem with Gresham is his lack of explosiveness and increased drops, especially in the playoff loss at Houston. It was a wise move for the Bengals to draft Tyler Eifert in the first round. He can stretch the field and make an impact in the red zone.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers: Heath Miller was the best tight end in the division last season. The switch to Todd Haley's offense led to a resurgence for Miller, who caught 71 passes and eight touchdowns. The reason you can't put the Steelers higher on the rankings is because you don't know Miller's health status. He tore knee ligaments late in the season and had surgery Jan. 2. It's uncertain when Miller will play this year, although many speculate he won't miss much time after the Steelers didn't draft a tight end. There is questionable depth at the position with Matt Spaeth and David Paulson.
4. Cleveland Browns: The breakthrough player at this position is going to be Jordan Cameron, who gets the starting job after the Browns didn't replace Ben Watson. Cameron is the type of athletic target who often flourishes in Norv Turner offenses. For that reason, it was tempting to put the Browns at No. 3, given the uncertainty with Miller. The Browns added some depth in free agency by signing Kellen Davis and Gary Barnidge. Davis was a two-year starter with the Bears who is considered an underachiever. Barnidge is a blocking tight end who is familiar with Rob Chudzinski's system from their days together in Carolina.
The AFC North blog is continuing its rankings of each position for the next week. This is a projection on how the group will fare this season. It's not an evaluation based on last year.