AFC North rookies who could impact in 2013

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The 2013 Ravens’ draft class will look to prove this year that Ozzie Newsome and his staff again struck gold. Defense was the theme early as the team took Matt Elam, Arthur Brown and Brandon Williams, establishing the fact that Newsome’s number one goal was getting the defense back to top-5 caliber.

The Ravens weren’t the only team in the division that had great drafts and grabbed solid players that are going to contribute immediately. The AFC North’s could be relatively even this year with every squad undergoing some change. There are going to be some rookies that give every team trouble and make coordinators lose some sleep.

I’ve broken down each draft class and will try to project the North’s top rookies and who the Ravens are going to have to keep in check during the fall.

Pittsburgh Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell: Some have scrutinized this pick as being a very average one, but Bell was the right choice in the second round for Pittsburgh. When you think of this guy, you have to think of the AFC North. His play at Michigan State was officially in the “bulldozing” category. He’s a big guy and has shown many times that arm-tackles will not do for opposing defenses. (Ed Reed is thankful nobody in the AFC South drafted Bell.)

The young back tore up the Big Ten emerging as the conference’s best, racking up close to 1,800 yards on the year. Going for over 30 carries in multiple games, this kid is going to be a concern for the middle of the defense. Dean Pees’ defense is going to have to contain this guy and clog every hole.

Cincinnati Bengals’ Tyler Eifert: There is a lot to like about this pick, and it starts with the athleticism. The Notre Dame alum isn’t a quick weapon, but he is everything a tight end should be—big, a great blocker, and strong. His 6’6” frame helps him catch any ball thrown in his direction, allowing him to win the one-on-one matchups needed to be an elite pass-catcher. He’s not going to put up ridiculous numbers, but he’s going to be clutch in big moments.

This pick makes Andy Dalton even better with another big, strong weapon. We might be seeing some big rookie-to-rookie battles this year with Arthur Brown, a great defender, going head-to-head against Eifert.

Cleveland Browns’ Leon McFadden: The biggest thing the Browns had to address this off-season was a corner, and they filled the need with McFadden. With the exception of Joe Haden, Cleveland’s cornerbacks were among the worst in the league. Facing teams with great one-two punches at receiver was a huge problem for the Browns in 2012, so this will be a big adjustment for Rob Chudzinski’s team.

CBSSports.com had bright things to say about the future starter:

McFadden finishes his career as one of the most decorated defensive players at San Diego State. He leaves the Aztecs with 47 career passes defended and 8 interceptions, starting 45 games over his career. The son of a nine-year MLB veteran, McFadden is a talented all-around athlete with the fluid skill-set and productive resume to make an impact at the next level.

McFadden might be a star and for a team like the Ravens whose receiving corps is anything but set, this pick won’t put a smile on the face of offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell. The team took advantage of the sub-par defensive backfield last year, but this year might be different.

Young stars could impact the division and make it the one to watch.

Time will tell who stands tallest.

 

References: CBS Sports, ESPN.com

Which AFC North Rookie will make the biggest impact in 2013?
S Matt Elam, Ravens (81%)
RB Le'veon Bell, Steelers (13%)
TE Tyler Eifert (5%)
CB Leon McFadden (1%)
This poll has completed. Thank you for voting.

7 Raves on “AFC North rookies who could impact in 2013

  1. Robert on said:

    What’s your logic behind choosing Bell over Jarvis Jones for the Steelers? There were times I’d heard Jones called the best defender in the draft.

    • Joe Wedra on said:

      Jarvis Jones is incredible and I do think he’ll have a great rookie season. I chose Bell because I think he’ll be the biggest breakout surprise rookie in 2013. I can see him being the talk of the league by the end of the year if he plays to his best ability and the Steelers use him correctly. You are right when talking about Jones. He’s going to have a great year as well.

    • Paul Lukoskie on said:

      Jones is a hell of a pass rushing prospect, but he leaves a lot to be desired as a run defender. Against Alabama, they ran at Jones a lot with success. From the tape I have watched of him, he doesn’t shed blocks well and he is more interested in picking an angle and trying to run around the lineman. He does have a ton of upside though.

      From that perspective, LeVeon Bell could impact more for Pittsburgh because Bell could very well be the starting RB come the regular season. Jones may be used purely as a situational pass rusher early on. Also, the Steelers are lacking play makers at receiver outside of Antonio Brown. That means they’ll probably lean on the running game a lot more than they did in the past with Mike Wallace in the mix.

  2. Paul Lukoskie on said:

    I agree with you about Eifert. He could easily become the best TE in the AFC North. Even better than Pitta or Heath Miller. A lot of Bengals fans were surprised when they took Eiffert, but Gresham has yet to really emerge as a top flight receiving threat. Eiffert gives the Bengals a different look because he can line up as a traditional TE or as a slot receiver.

  3. Paul Lukoskie on said:

    As for what rookie will impact the most?

    I have go Matt Elam. He is almost a lock to start at SS across from Michael Huff, who is a damn good cover safety in his own right. So, a lot of QBs are going to go after Elam, which means he is going to get a lot of opportunities to be a play maker. Whether that is disrupting passes, picking them off, or making a big hit at the line of scrimmage, Elam is kind of a “do it all” safety. He’ll be a good fit here…especially if the front 7 can generate a dominant pass rush, which I think they definitely can with Suggs and Dumervil.

    Also…why no mention of Barkevious Mingo? Mingo and Kruger could become much more of a dominant pass rushing duo than Woodley and Jones.

    • Joe Wedra on said:

      Thanks for the comments, Paul! Mingo will make an impact, but I think he’s a guy that might need a year or so to get going. Once he does get used to the NFL, you’ll see what he showed at LSU.

  4. Larry Bell on said:

    Mackey award winner Tyler Eiffert will be the TE who will put the Bengals over the top. I think he has glue on his hands..

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