AFC North: Cameron Hayward

NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Who is one potential breakout player for each AFC North team in 2013?

Baltimore Ravens: Kelechi Osemele. It can be argued that Osemele did, in fact, break out at the end of his rookie season. And it could be argued that the Ravens’ shuffling of their offensive line -- moving Osemele to left guard from right tackle, Michael Oher from left tackle to right tackle and inserting Bryant McKinnie at left tackle -- was the single biggest reason for their spectacular Super Bowl run. But while the argument holds true that Osemele excelled at left guard, I believe he is just scratching the surface and will become a Pro Bowl-caliber player and one of the elite guards in the game. Still new to the position, Osemele is a massive human being with extremely long arms and huge, powerful hands. But unlike some offensive tackles who move inside, leverage and pad level is not a problem for this extremely talented young man.

Cincinnati Bengals: Mohamed Sanu. There wasn’t a Bengals player who jumped up as a breakout candidate, unlike with the other three teams. That isn’t to suggest that Cincinnati has drafted poorly. I view young players Kevin Zeitler and Vontaze Burfict as already having broken out. Last year’s first-round pick, Dre Kirkpatrick, certainly is a candidate, but we haven’t seen enough at the NFL level to judge him. The same is true for Devon Still and Brandon Thompson. That left receivers Sanu and Marvin Jones, who logged about double the snaps as Sanu in 2012. Either could develop into a quality second option opposite the great A.J. Green, but Sanu is the better prospect in my opinion. While he isn’t a perimeter burner like Green, he is a sure-handed, big-bodied wideout who fits well with Andy Dalton, who gets the ball out quickly and allows his receivers to perform after the catch. Like the defensive players mentioned above, there isn’t a lot of film of Sanu to go off. He caught just 16 passes before a Week 12 foot injury ended his rookie season, but he should be penciled in as a starter and see plenty of favorable matchups.

Cleveland Browns: Jordan Cameron. There were easier choices for the Browns than Cameron, namely on the offensive side of the ball, from their impressive rookie class from a year ago. Trent Richardson, Josh Gordon and even Mitchell Schwartz all have extremely promising young careers after impressing as rookies. I expect all three to drastically improve and for Richardson to be one of the top running backs in the league in 2013. But I went with Cameron, a relatively unknown tight end, because of his abilities, the coaching and a major increase of snaps. Cameron is the typical athletic former basketball player with the long frame to really excel against safety and linebacker coverage. But why do I really expect this breakout? Look no further than Cleveland’s new head coach, Rob Chudzinski. Going back to his days as the tight ends coach at the University of Miami, Chudzinski has a spectacular track record for developing great talent into great production at this position. Cameron is his latest project; expect it to go very well.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Cortez Allen. Recent first-round selections David DeCastro and Cameron Heyward crossed my mind for this honor, but I went with Allen over those linemen. Allen fits the mold of what Pittsburgh does at cornerback to a T. On a regular basis, the Steelers draft big, developmental cornerbacks in the middle rounds. Those players tend to have nondescript rookie seasons while making their bones on special teams and learning “The Steeler Way” in Dick LeBeau’s defense. In Year 2, these cornerbacks often take a step forward, playing in sub packages and filling in for injured starters. And if that development goes well, as it did for last year’s starting cornerbacks, Ike Taylor and Keenan Lewis, they take over a starting position. It’s Allen’s turn to do exactly that. The Steelers allowed Lewis to leave for New Orleans, showing they have all the faith in the world in Allen. They did sign William Gay -- another corner they once drafted and who fits this mold -- but Gay is a depth player who is obviously familiar with the system and franchise. Allen gets the opportunity to step up. Expect big things.
Earlier this year Brett Kostoff, a Cincinnati native and longtime Bengals fan, contacted the AFC North blog and said he was so fed up with the team's losing that he is auctioning off his fandom on eBay.

This week we caught up with Kostoff to get an update on which team he's supporting this season and how that transition is going. Here was his response:
[+] EnlargeSteelers merchandise
Courtesy of Brett KostoffSome of the Steelers merchandise recently acquired by former Bengals fan Brett Kostoff.
"As far as the auction went, it sold for $510 to the Pittsburgh Steelers. I couldn't be happier, honestly. I know that might sound crazy coming from a former Bengals fan, but it's like going from the basement to the penthouse as far as football operations. I never disliked Pittsburgh like the rest of the city of Cincinnati. I always RESPECTED it. I've been 100 percent following everything Steelers since the auction ended, including watching the interviews and reading up on Cam Heyward, Marcus Gilbert and hoping that if Ike Taylor doesn't re-sign (hopefully he does) that Cortez Allen or Curtis Brown can step up! I'm not like the other die-hards that will write you and say how they should sign Nnamdi Asomugha. That will never happen in Pittsburgh. When is the last time they dropped that kind of money on a free agent? After reading your blog [Monday] about Mike Brown not trading Carson Palmer it only makes me that much happier about my decision! Everyone in this city will still bash Carson Palmer, Chad Ochocinco, T.O., Corey Dillon and myself and call us quitters. But as Einstein once said "Insanity -- doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." I think we all might be just ahead of the game. I've never been more excited about a season. Hopefully we actually have a season. I thought it would take me longer to make the transition than it did, but I actually dislike the Bengals as a whole and it may just be the 20 years of torment as a fan they put me through. Haha. Thanks for checking in."

Wow. Kostoff is very serious about his new fandom and happy to be a card-carrying member of Steeler Nation. He also sent the AFC North blog the picture of his new Steelers merchandise that you see above and provided a list of items he purchased with the auction money.

Here was Kostoff's complete list:

  • One signed 16x20 autograph picture of Troy Polamalu
  • One white-stitched NFL official Polamalu jersey
  • Two Terrible Towels
  • Two hooded sweatshirts (one of the black NFL equipment)
  • One black NFL equipment hat
  • One glass license plate with a Steelers logo
  • One black mini helmet in a Steelers display case
  • One yellow mini helmet in a Steelers display case

Was Kostoff wise to leave "Bengaldom" and switch allegiances to the Steelers? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.