AFC North: Joel Bitonio

One was an absolute wrecking ball on defense, consistently finding his way to the football. The other was eased into his team's offense before ultimately taking it over the second half of the season, and helping it earn a postseason berth.

But only one would be named the AFC North's Rookie of the Year.

[+] EnlargeC.J. Mosley
Patrick Smith/Getty ImagesIn his rookie season, Ravens LB C.J. Mosley registered five or more tackles in every game.
That honor went to Baltimore Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley, who barely edged out Cincinnati Bengals running back Jeremy Hill. From the five-person voting panel, Mosley received 12 overall points to Hill's 11. Mosley also had three first-place votes to the two that went to Hill.

Out of the pair, Hill is the only one up for the NFL's Rookie of the Year award that will be announced this weekend in Arizona. He's the only AFC North representative, contending with a group made up of all offensive players. Receiver Odell Beckham Jr., quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, receiver Mike Evans and receiver Sammy Watkins also are up for the honor. No defensive player has earned the award since 2010, when Ndamukong Suh received it.

Mosley was seemingly everywhere for the Ravens this season. He had 129 tackles, the eighth-highest total for any defender in the league. He also was part of a defense that ranked eighth in the league.

In addition to the 129 tackles, Mosley also had three sacks, two interceptions and forced and recovered a fumble. The Alabama product also had 19 tackles in the Ravens' two playoff games, including 10 in the divisional-round loss to the Patriots. In a Week 5 loss at Indianapolis, he had a season-high 14 stops.

Hill became a threat for the Bengals starting in Week 9 when he rushed for a season-high 154 yards and two touchdowns in a 33-23 win against the Jaguars. It was his 60-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that helped ice the win, and firmly put him in his fan base's consciousness. That week, and for the two after it, Hill started in place of Giovani Bernard. The third-year running back was resting after experiencing a series of injuries following hard hits in previous games.

Also during Bernard's absence, Hill rushed for 152 yards in a homecoming game at New Orleans. The Baton Rouge, Louisiana, native and LSU product went on to become the Bengals' top option at running back after Bernard returned. Across the final nine weeks of the season, Hill rushed for 929 yards, more than any other back in that stretch.

In addition to their Rookie of the Year award, ESPN.com's AFC North reporters voted on four other honors for the division (Coach of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player). We've been handing out the awards daily since Monday.

Mosley finished third in the division Defensive Player of the Year voting, and Hill finished third in Offensive Player of the Year voting.

AFC North Rookie of the Year: Mosley, 12 points; Hill, 11; Joel Bitonio, 8, Cleveland; Martavis Bryant, 1, Pittsburgh.

Panel of voters: Scott Brown, Jeremy Fowler, Coley Harvey, Jamison Hensley and Pat McManamon.
Five takeaways from the first day of Cleveland Browns minicamp:
  1. Hoyer
    Brian Hoyer had another one of those "he's ahead" days. He was quicker in his decisions and more decisive in reads. He simply looked ahead of Johnny Manziel at this point. Now this should still not be a surprise, but clearly Manziel has some work to do between now and training camp. As for Hoyer, Pettine assured the media gaggle that being in "Spartan Mode" on certain team drills does not mean he is losing ground because of fewer reps.
  2. Rookie guard Joel Bitonio will miss the minicamp with what coach Mike Pettine called "an ankle injury." That's a setback, but for linemen a minicamp isn't vital. Bitonio should be full go for training camp in late July, per the team's coach.
  3. Wide receiver Anthony Armstrong had an excellent day, breaking past Buster Skrine for a deep throw from Manziel, and making several other catches. Armstrong's edge is he knows the system from playing for Kyle Shanahan in Washington. His disadvantage is he's 31, though Pettine called Armstrong "the ultimate professional." He's one of 14 wide receivers at the minicamp. Suspension worries, anyone?
  4. The Browns continue to say there is no injury issue, but Miles Austin continues to watch most of the offeason practices. It would be nice to pencil Austin in as the starter -- either opposite Josh Gordon or in place of Gordon when his suspension finally comes down -- but he's barely been on the field since he signed as a free agent.
  5. Jabaal Sheard discussed his role in the new defense, comparing it to the way Mario Williams was used last season in Buffalo. Williams moved around a lot, and spent most of his time rushing the passer. Seems Sheard will as well, as he emphasized he's more defensive end than linebacker these days. That doesn't seem to bother him much; at 270 pounds it's tough to stay with smaller, quicker players.
Catching up on some of the leftovers from the Cleveland Browns offseason practice on Wednesday:

• As things stand now, John Greco is lining up at right guard, with free-agent signee Paul McQuistan and second-round draft pick Joel Bitonio at left guard. Bitonio looks the part of a guard. Stout, strong -- and he brings a bit of a 'tude to an offensive line that probably would welcome it. When Ray Farmer was asked by ESPNCleveland.com about the one under-the-radar guy the Browns drafted, a guy he thought fans would really like to see, he mentioned Bitonio. Clearly there are high hopes for him -- and clearly those high hopes are part of the reason the team did not take a receiver in the second round.

• Brian Hoyer had some interesting things to say about new wide receiver Andrew Hawkins. Hoyer compared Hawkins to Wes Welker in the way he runs his routes and finishes them. Hawkins looked very good on the day the practice was open.

• The attention paid to running back spot, something that was missing last season, was evident during one practice in shorts. Ben Tate and Terrance West both look the part, and Farmer is very high on free agent Isaiah Crowell.

• The way Tyler Thigpen threw on the day folks could watch him begs the question: What the heck happened to Vince Young?

• It was refreshing to hear Farmer say on radio that Hoyer is ahead of Johnny Manziel by a substantial margin. Refreshing because it was honest and lacked the games of past regimes of talking around an issue. And it's refreshing because Farmer recognizes it's not in any way a condemnation of Manziel. He should be behind right now; he’s been a Cleveland Brown for one stinking week.

• An objective look at the quarterbacks shows this: The No. 1 with three games started for the Browns coming off an ACL reconstruction, a first-round draft pick trying to learn as he goes, a veteran backup trying to revive his career and an undrafted free agent. Yes, it's a good thing it's May.
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BEREA, Ohio -- The pick: Joel Bitonio, offensive tackle, Nevada

My take: In Bitonio, the Cleveland Browns added a big, mean, nasty offensive lineman who can play guard or tackle. It would figure that the Browns would move Bitonio inside, since they have stood by Mitchell Schwartz opposite Joe Thomas. Bitonio is highly regarded and should be a good addition to the line, even if he’s not a receiver.

Wideouts: At this point, Browns fans have to be reeling from the news that wide receiver Josh Gordon faces a one-year ban for another failed drug test. Adding a nasty tackle might not soothe those feelings, especially since the Browns passed on a number of good receivers at this spot, including Cody Latimer of Indiana and Marqise Lee of USC. If Gordon is indeed suspended for a calendar year, it leaves the Browns void of playmakers at the spot and of the team’s most important player. At some point, the Browns need to find someone to catch passes.

What’s next: The Browns have the seventh pick in the third round, the 71st overall. Doesn’t that have to be a wide receiver?

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