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Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Top rookie in the AFC North

By Jamison Hensley

There's one rookie on ESPN's Matt Williamson's Rookie Watch with two weeks remaining in the regular season. It's not Trent Richardson or Josh Gordon. Based on Williamson's observations, the top rookie in the division is Bengals guard Kevin Zeitler, who ranks fifth on the list.

In fact, Zeitler is one of only two lineman in the top 10 (Minnesota's Matt Kalil is No. 7). He ranks behind three quarterbacks (Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III) and a running back (Washington's Alfred Morris).

This is what Williamson had to say about Zeitler:
As the Bengals rush toward a possible playoff berth, Zeitler continues to play a strong game week after week. Consistency and reliability are exactly what you want from your starting guard -- and Zeitler has those traits in spades. Meanwhile, BenJarvus Green-Ellis has eclipsed 100 yards on the ground in four of his past five games, averaging nearly 109 yards per game during this hot stretch, with the help of Zeitler.

Some questioned the Bengals during the draft when they traded back in the first round and passed on taking David DeCastro, who was considered the top guard prospect. DeCastro was selected 24th by the Steelers and made his first start last Sunday after hurting his knee in the preseason. Zeitler, meanwhile, has lived up to expectations for the Bengals. The 27th overall pick has allowed 3.5 sacks this season and has committed one penalty.

Williamson listed Richardson, Gordon and Browns offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz as other notable rookies.