Friday, May 17, 2013
Reviewing AFC North position rankings
By Jamison Hensley
For the past two weeks, the AFC North blog has ranked the positions in the division. Some positions were easy (running back was straightforward) and others were not (wide receiver and secondary were the toughest for me).
To review all of the positions, I asked ESPN's Matt Williamson to provide his rankings, which we can compare to mine. Surprisingly, they were very similar. We only disagreed on the top rankings at two positions: wide receiver and tight end.
At wide receiver, I had the Steelers at No. 1 followed by the Bengals and Williamson had them reversed, with Cincinnati as the best group. I can understand putting the Bengals first because they have the division's top receiver in A.J. Green. There's no one close. My decision was based on Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders being a better tandem than Green and Mohamed Sanu.
It was the same situation at tight end, where I had the Ravens at the top and the Bengals second. Williamson put the Bengals at No. 1 and the Ravens right behind them. I believe the Bengals have a chance to have the best tight ends, especially if Tyler Eifert surpasses the expectations for a rookie. But I went with Baltimore right now because Dennis Pitta could have the most catches by any tight end in the division (especially if Heath Miller is sidelined for a period of time) and Ed Dickson played his best football last season after Jim Caldwell took over as offensive coordinator.
Williamson said the offensive line was the toughest position to rank on offense.
"I actually think Pittsburgh's front five will be noticeably improved from a year ago, but the other three teams in the division could feature top-10 type offensive lines," Williamson said. "In the end, I went with Cleveland slightly over the Bengals and Ravens, even though I have some minor concerns about the Browns' guards."
My thought process with the offensive line was similar. The Browns' weak spot is their guards, but the rest of the line (tackles Joe Thomas and Mitchell Schwartz along with center Alex Mack) is so good that Cleveland deserves to be No. 1.
On defense, Williamson called ranking the cornerbacks "a tough chore."
"By putting Baltimore and Cleveland at the top in this group, I went with star power over depth, as I am a huge fan of Joe Haden and Lardarius Webb, who might just be the Ravens' best defensive player as he returns from injury," Williamson said. "The Bengals have a lot of capable bodies at corner and Leon Hall is a well-above-average starter, while Pittsburgh also features a very solid cornerback in Ike Taylor and some intriguing young talent."
In case you missed any of my rankings, simply click on the position to see how the AFC North teams stack up at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, secondary and special teams.