Best Division In 2012
With the draft out of the way, I feel its time to make a bold prediction about which division will be the best next year. Which Division do I think is going to be the best? AFC North. I liked everything their teams did in the draft, and they were already on the come up from 2011.
The Steelers helped Big Ben by giving him some big guys on the line in David DeCastro and Mike Adams. Adams has had a few off field concerns, but so have a few of the Steelers offensive players. They got a fast, agile RB in Chris Rainey in the 5th round. He may help Mendenhall a bit, even if it’s only 10-15 downs a game. Rainey has the speed to turn any play into a touch down, but is undersized and will get eaten up by linebackers like Terrell Suggs any day. They also picked up a decent pass-catching tight end from Oregon in David Paulson. To help on the defensive front, they picked up Alameda Ta’amu to be the anchor for that 3-4 defense and to give Casey Hampton a break at times. Sean Spence is a smaller LB, but he was a great player at The U, and will be sure to get some time in that insane LB rotation. He was a great tackler and had a way for finding the ball. The Steelers have a legitimate chance at making another run to the Super Bowl.
The Ravens cemented their 3-4 defense with their 1st pick in Courtney Upshaw. Upshaw has the potential to be a great OLB opposite of Terrell Suggs and is gonna cause havoc for years to come. They picked up a big project in the 7th round with Deangelo Tyson. He’s 315 pounds and could get some reps in on the line. They also picked up a DB with their 5th round pick in Asa Jackson. Small guy from a Division II school, but may have the speed to play slot, and definitely has the athleticism to play on the outside. On offense, the Ravens scattered around and went for certain areas. Bernard Pierce from Temple was a great pick in the 3rd round. He’s a bigger guy, but has the type of speed you look for in a big guy, and will be able to give Ray Rice a few breaks while being able to make a few plays himself. They also picked up an offensive tackle in Keleche Osemele. At 6’5″, 330 pounds, Osemele played tackle in college, but is more suited to play guard. They also picked up Tommy Streeter in the 6th round. Streeter played college ball at Miami and was a great receiver at times. He has a chance to make plays and gives Flacco a big target.
The past 2 years the Bengals have been building up, and this year I think they might be able to take it to the next level. Out of every AFC team, I think they had the best draft, giving them the best chances down the line. They drafted 2 great DTs in Devon Still and Brandon Thompson, and drafted a nice set of DBs in Dre Kirkpatrick and George Iloka. Still and Thompson were both early round talents, and are big guys up front. They can take up space and get disrupt the QB. The fact that they’ll be competing for the same spot only gives the Bengals another advantage. Kirkpatrick was great at Bama, and will continue to be great in Cincinnati. Iloka is 6’4″ and can is a big target who may make QBs afraid to throw to the middle. On the offensive side, the Bengals picked up Mohamed Sanu, Orson Charles, and Marvin Jones to help out Andy Dalton. A.J. Green was the only legitimate producer at receiver for the Bengals last year, but Sanu could come in and get under the radar stats. He should be a good complement to Green and the Bengals offense. They also used another 1st round pick on an offensive lineman from Wisconsin who could possibly start from day one. All in all, the Bengals had the best draft out of the entire AFC in my opinion, but it’ll be a few years before this group develops into a championship caliber team.
Last but not least, the Browns. The Browns made big strides this year getting Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden, and Travis Benjamin to the mix. Richardson has the frame to be a menace at RB and is an agile bruiser-type back. Weeden was criticized due to his age, but he’s a great QB who will challenge McCoy for the starting role. Benjamin was an explosive player out of Miami, but his hands were always questionable. He never did seem to like holding on to the ball, but has amazing speed. He will be a great kick returner and will be packaged into the receiving group nicely. They also drafted some much needed help on the offensive line with Mitchell Schwartz and Ryan Miller. On defense, they seemed to get talent in the later rounds. They picked up Boise State DT, Billy Wynn. Wynn was a force at Boise State, but could be lazy at times and wouldn’t produce in some games. To help him, they drafted John Hughes from Cincinnati. The Ravens running attack seems to piss off a lot of the AFC North considering the talent most teams picked up in the middle. To help D’Qwell Jackson at LB, they drafted James-Michael Johnson from Nevada, and Emmanuel Acho from Texas. Johnson is a great tackler who can come in and contribute early. Acho is a fast guy at LB, but is also undersized. He could find his way into the rotation during the middle parts of the season.
I feel like the AFC North has the potential to bring home another Super Bowl, but it won’t be a cake walk. The Ravens and Steelers are the most likely to win a Super Bowl, but the Bengals could be a surprise front runner with the talent they acquired from the draft. The Browns aren’t going to be Super Bowl contenders this year, but they made major strides in the long term. The AFC North will be the division to watch for next season.