AFC North top picks off to rough start

August, 8, 2012
8/08/12
9:55
AM ET
Trent Richardson's sore knee could keep the Browns running back out of Friday's preseason opener. This has unfortunately become the status quo for the top rookies in the AFC North this summer.

Of the top picks for each team in the division, there's a good chance that only one will make his preseason debut this week. That would be Steelers guard David DeCastro, and he's only starting Thursday because of an injury to Willie Colon. The good news for DeCastro is that he's only experiencing growing pains. Others haven't been so lucky.

Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, the Bengals' top pick in the 2012 draft, is on the non-football injury list after hurting his leg before camp began. He's expected to miss the preseason, but coach Marvin Lewis said the No. 17 pick could return for the regular-season opener next month.

Outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw, the Ravens' top pick, was sidelined for seven straight practices with a shoulder injury before practicing Tuesday on a limited basis. Head coach John Harbaugh said it's unlikely that Upshaw will play Thursday at Atlanta, but he has yet to make a final decision on the second-round choice.

While these picks are going through a rough start, this year's rookie class could make an immediate impact. It's possible that 11 rookies will start the regular-season opener. The Browns could go with six rookies: Richardson, quarterback Brandon Weeden, offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz, wide receiver Josh Gordon, defensive tackle John Hughes and linebacker James-Michael Johnson. There could be two rookie starters for the Steelers (DeCastro and offensive tackle Mike Adams) and the Bengals (guard Kevin Zeitler and wide receiver Mohamed Sanu). Upshaw is expected to be the only first-year starter for the Ravens.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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