With the NFL training camp beginning soon, fans will be looking at how the stars and the high draft picks for their favorite team will do this upcoming season. What fans often do not look at are potential sleepers that could make a big impact unexpectedly.
Today, we look at the AFC North; a division filled with heated rivalry and up-and-coming talent.
Taken in the fourth round of this year’s NFL Draft, Siragusa comes equipped with an NFL ready frame, decent athleticism, and with some refinement to his pass protection, he will become a bona fide starter on this offensive line.
Taken in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft, there was circulation stating that Davis could become a replacement for veteran Haloti Ngata. While that hasn’t been the case, some of the blame can come from Davis being injury prone.
With DT Timmy Jernigan sent to Philadelphia, there will be more opportunity for Davis to see meaningful playing time and he may even steal a few sacks from Brandon Williams, who is sure to be double-teamed often.
Taken in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Judon came from Grand Valley State; a school that does not produce loads of NFL talent, but Judon stood out. Eclipsing 20 sacks in his final season, Judon got scouts looking at his freakish production.
Last season for the Ravens, Judon recorded 12 tackles, 15 assisted tackles and 4 sacks– not bad for a rookie rotational pass rusher. Look for Judon to get even more production this year.
Taken in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Boyd was in the conversation as one of the better wide receivers in last year’s draft.
In his rookie season, Boyd had 603 receiving yards and 1 touchdown. With the addition of speedy receiver John Ross, Boyd will receive playing time in the slot receiver role, which could give him open targets, since defensive coordinators will be most worried about Ross and of course, A.J. Green.
Taken in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, many NFL fans were surprised Billings fell so far. Considered to be at least a second round pick, the Bengals got exceptional value for the big, prototypical nose tackle.
Billings was placed on the injured reserve for the entire rookie season, so it is difficult to assess whether he can translate his skills to the next level. However, with NT Domata Peko gone to Denver, Billings has a chance to see some decent playing time.
Taken in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Shaw was an intriguing prospect who had lots of NFL ready talent but also had some off the field concerns.
The Bengals seem to have gotten a steal selecting him, as he started 12 games and recorded 1 interception; not bad for a rookie.
Look for Shaw to get more playing time this year, as veteran Adam Jones is getting old and still gets in trouble with the law.
Taken in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Coleman looks to be the front runner for starting at right tackle.
With Austin Pasztor no longer on the roster, the Browns will look to find someone to anchor the right side of the offensive line so this unit can gel together and become one of the NFL’s premier offensive lines.
Taken in the sixth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Brantley comes with a lot of talent and even more baggage. Considered to be a second round pick, Brantley has impressive strength and overall athleticism, but an assault charge almost cost him the opportunity to be drafted.
Now that the charge has been dismissed, the Browns now have someone who can match up opposite Danny Shelton in Gregg Williams’ 4-3 defense.
Going undrafted out of Michigan, Stribling was considered to be a later round pick and could potentially be a decent special teams player.
The Browns may have found a steal with Stribling, as he has translated his collegiate success well during OTAs and mini-camp.
Looking at the Steelers’ wide receiving corps, one can make the assumption that this group is stacked with talent. With All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown in the mix and Martavis Bryant coming off suspension, there are a lot of questions as to how this receiving corps will shake out.
Rogers had an impressive year last season, as he started 8 games and collected 594 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns. If Rogers can prove himself to be among the better receivers in his group, expect him to have a productive year.
The Steelers quietly retrieved Alualu, formerly of the Jacksonville Jaguars this season. The former top 10 pick has not lived up to his draft pick value, but being on a team known for its defense could give Alualu some motivation.
Alualu started 10 games for the Jaguars and recorded 2.5 sacks and 1 forced fumble. Although those aren’t amazing numbers, it shows Alualu can be disruptive when he wants to. If Alualu is placed in a rotational edge rusher setting, he can become more productive with the limited snaps he’ll get.
Taken in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Hargrave, a defensive tackle out of South Carolina State, was barely known. After his first season, Hargrave had quiet brilliance as he started 13 games and picked up 2 sacks, which is impressive coming from the interior.
With more experience and his technique refined, Hargrave can become a marquee player on this defensive line for years to come.