Today’s question: Who is the rising star in the AFC North?
Jeremy Fowler, Pittsburgh Steelers reporter: Cam Erving -- yes, that Cam Erving, the Browns linemen who got bulldozed for much of last year. But Erving has first-round pedigree and many respected evaluators loved his game coming out of Florida State. The Browns misused him last year as a guard. He’s a center. With Alex Mack gone, Erving can settle in. He was in bad shape coming into 2015 training camp, but he has improved in that area. Less body fat will equal more body blows for opposing defensive linemen. This is a risky pick, but what the heck, I’m stumping for Cam. It’s not like the AFC North is loaded with young stars. Look at the rosters. There’s talent but no budding Odell Beckhams out there. Veterans still rule in Pittsburgh. Steve Smith will be the Ravens’ primary option once again. The Bengals have young corners and offensive linemen who might need more time to develop.
Coley Harvey, Cincinnati Bengals reporter: Without a doubt, Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap is the AFC North’s biggest rising star. Of course to Bengals fans, there is no “rising” about Dunlap’s star at all. To them, he has long established himself as one of the best players at his position. Dunlap has been a valued member of Cincinnati’s defensive line since his third-round selection in 2010, and he even set an official franchise record in single-season sacks last fall with 13.5. He has started playing more consistently well the last two seasons and he has proven just how much he can benefit from having the likes of Michael Johnson and a healthy Geno Atkins rushing the passer alongside him. All four starters in the Bengals’ four-man line rotation had five or more sacks last season. Outside of Cincinnati, Dunlap’s star is rising because he’s beginning to have a tangible impact on NFL defensive marks. Earlier this offseason, NFL.com projected him to be one of a handful of players who could overtake Michael Strahan’s single-season record of 22.5 sacks.
Jamison Hensley, Baltimore Ravens reporter: Steelers tight end Ladarius Green. It’s only his first season in the AFC North, but the 26-year-old is primed for a breakout season. Green is out of the shadow of the Chargers’ Antonio Gates, and he comes to an explosive Steelers offense where the focus of the secondary will be on the outside with Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton. That should leave the middle of the field open for Green. He has more big-time pass catching upside than Heath Miller, who retired after 11 seasons in Pittsburgh. The question with Green is his health. He finished last season on injured reserve with an ankle injury and hasn’t participated in offseason practices with the Steelers. The expectation is for Green to be ready for training camp and then establish himself as a popular red zone target for Ben Roethlisberger.
Pat McManamon, Cleveland Browns reporter: The temptation is to go with Steelers DL Cameron Heyward or Bengals TE Tyler Eifert, but they've both arrived. The choice here is Browns running back Duke Johnson Jr. Johnson missed two games last season and still caught 61 passes on 74 targets. On a bad offense, Johnson finished in the top five in receptions and receiving yard for running backs. New coach Hue Jackson has said that the talent of Johnson and Isaiah Crowell is "extreme," and he sounds eager to create mismatches for Johnson. "He does so many different things that gives your offense a boost," Jackson said.