My look at the top-10 newcomers, division-by-division, moves on to the AFC North.
1. Corey Williams—Cleveland Browns
I could have gone in a lot of directions here, but the 27-year old end/tackle Williams is a tremendous upgrade on the Browns defensive line.
The 6'4''-313-pound Williams, who has 14 sacks over the last two years, will have to be a major catalyst for Cleveland if they wish to build on a strong '07 season.
2. Joe Flacco—Baltimore Ravens
While I do not think that Flacco is as talented or as "NFL-ready" as other first-day selections Matt Ryan, Chad Henne and Brian Brohm, he is an upgrade over Kyle Boller who has been a monumental disappointment.
The biggest thing new coach John Harbaugh had to do was come in and move away from Boller and, though I don't agree with his selection, he has done that.
3. Shaun Rodgers—Cleveland Browns
I have Rodgers listed here for many of the same reasons that I had his new teammate Williams listed at number one.
Rodgers is a another huge upgrade for the Browns at the defensive tackle position and, if he can stay healthy and motivated, I believe that Rodgers can become a major force again.
4. Rashard Mendenhall—Pittsburgh Steelers
Just when I thought the Steelers couldn't get anymore scary they draft the dangerous runner Mendenhall, an absolute steal at number twenty-three.
He and Willie Parker will be one of the most dynamic backfield tandems in the conference and will open up the passing game for "Big Ben".
This is not good news for me as a New England fan.
5. Keith Rivers—Cincinnati Bengals
Who better to help turn around a struggling team with a lack of discipline and a nose for trouble than two-time national championship winner Keith Rivers.
Rivers is not only an exceptional linebacker on the field, but also a high character guy off of it. He will bring toughness and stability to Cincinnati's struggling defense.
6. Ray Rice—Baltimore Ravens
Rice, the 5'9'' runner out of Rutgers University, has a real chance to do some damage his rookie year.
Rice, a second round pick, will obviously not start ahead of workhorse Willis McGahee, but I believe that the two of them together can eventually become the Taylor/Jones-Drew combo of the north.
7. Jerome Simpson/Andre Caldwell—Cincinnati Bengals
With Chad Johnson upset and a major question mark, rookie receivers Simpson and Caldwell will more than likely have to step their game up and contribute to the offense early if the Bengals have any postseason hopes.
While both reached the NFL through very different paths, I believe that they both will become viable options for Carson Palmer in the passing game this year.
8. Justin Hartwig—Pittsburgh Steelers
An "under-the-radar" signee by the Steelers, Hartwig will be the starter at center on opening day against Houston. A former Carolina Panther, Hartwig will add experience and a playoff pedigree to an already solid offensive line.
9. Limas Sweed—Pittsburgh Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger asked management for a bigger target at wide receiver and got one in the 6'5'' 219-pound former Longhorn.
Sweed, another of the Steelers second round picks, should come in right away and compete against Nate Washington for that third receiver spot.
I am really not looking forward to the Patriots-Steelers game.
10. Fabian Washington—Baltimore Ravens
We round out our top-10 here with a guy who, in the last two years, has amassed 80 tackles, five interceptions and a forced fumble, despite not being a full-time starter.
Still only 25 years old, Washington looks like he will mostly play at the nickel for the Ravens, but with aging starters Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle ahead of him, look for the former Raider to make an positive impact for the Baltimore defensive in 2008.
The NFC North is up next!
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!