- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. put together his list of the top 10 impact fantasy rookies. While this division isn't known for having many stars in terms of fantasy football, Kiper believes there are three first-year players to watch in the division. It's an Insider piece, so you'll need a subscription to view the entire article. But here are the AFC North rookies:
Kiper: I didn't love that the Steelers took him in the second round -- that was a bit of a reach for me. But I will say that he was very productive last year at Michigan State despite some awful blocking.
Jamison Hensley: Bell could be a fantasy sleeper. Even though the Steelers haven't had a rookie running back gain over 1,000 yards since Franco Harris, Bell should beat out Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer for the starting job. And, with a big red-zone option like tight end Heath Miller hurt, Bell could get more opportunities to score short-yardage touchdowns.
Kiper: Cincinnati adds an offensive dimension it hasn't had in years -- a pass-catching threat out of the backfield. Bernard was the most versatile RB in the draft, which makes him a perfect fit for a Cincy offense that didn't just want a guy with more explosiveness through the hole, but also a screen and dump-off threat for Andy Dalton.
Hensley: There has been talk that Bernard will have a 50-50 split in carries with BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Although I don't see that happening, Bernard will make an impact as a change-of-pace back and as a receiver. The Bengals envision him eventually being another Ray Rice. But Bernard will have a much bigger fantasy value over the next couple of years, when he'll have a better shot at starting.
8. Tyler Eifert, Bengals tight end
Kiper: There are going to be lots of teams kicking themselves for not grabbing Eifert. I know the Bengals already have Jermaine Gresham, but he has not done the job on intermediate throws. Eifert is the perfect player to fill that void and I can tell you the coaching staff thought the world of him before they drafted him.
Hensley: The Bengals are extremely high on Eifert and it's apparent by the number of times they lined up in two tight end packages in the season opener. In my projections, Gresham will end up with more catches than Eifert but I expect Eifert to finish with more touchdowns. The way Eifert competes for the ball -- he would be an excellent rebounder in basketball -- makes him a valuable weapon in the red zone.