AFC North Offensive Position Rankings Overview

US PRESSWIRE

Over the past week, ESPN AFC North blogger, Jamison Hensley, ranked each team in the division by position. Here are the completed rankings and a brief overview of what it all means for the Bengals.

As you may have seen last week, ESPN blogger Jamison Hensley set out to rank every team in the AFC North by position. On Friday, Hensley wrapped up the offensive side of the ball, completing his rankings for the quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, and offensive line groups for each team in the division.

Without further ado, here are his results.

Quarterback:

1. Pittsburgh Steelers

2. Baltimore Ravens

3. Cincinnati Bengals: In two seasons, Andy Dalton has proven to be a solid quarterback. Will he take that next step this season? That's the big question facing the Bengals this year. He's good enough to take the Bengals to the playoffs. He may even good enough for them to win the division. I'm just uncertain whether he can take the Bengals deep into the playoffs. I like how he plays with a chip on his shoulder, but he has limitations as a quarterback. Dalton has to learn how to cut down on his 20 turnovers (16 interceptions, four fumbles) from last season. The Bengals downgraded at backup, going from Gradkowski last year to either Josh Johnson or John Skelton.

4. Cleveland Browns

This ranking is pretty cut and dry. Both Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger have each won at least one Super Bowl, while Andy Dalton has been knocked out of the Wild Card round twice. Until either Flacco or Roethlisberger leave the AFCN--or Dalton joins them as Super Bowl winner--he will continue to play second (or in this case, third) fiddle in the division.

Running Back:

1. Baltimore Ravens

2. Cleveland Browns

3. Cincinnati Bengals: It took time for BenJarvus Green-Ellis to hit his stride in Cincinnati. He gained over 100 yards in four of his final six regular-season games. While Green-Ellis was more explosive than anticipated, he averaged 3.9 yards per carry. This is what you're going to get from Green-Ellis -- a solid but not spectacular back. He'll still carry the load on early downs and in the red zone. The spark will be provided by rookie second-round pick Giovani Bernard. He brings more speed to the backfield as well as more impact in the passing game. The Bengals' backfield will be improved from last season, but the Ravens and Browns have more talented featured backs.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers

Whereas the quarterback ranking was fairly straight forward, the running back ranking is sure to ruffle a few feathers. Baltimore is the unquestioned number one, but Cleveland in the number two spot is definitely up for debate. Other than Trent Richardson, the cupboard is relatively bare for the Browns. Monterio Hardesty was highly regarded coming into the league in 2010, but a knee injury wiped out his rookie season and he hasn't been the same player since. In Cincinnati on the other hand, the running back spot is brimming with talent, and while this year's second-rounder, Giovani Bernard, has yet to touch the field in a regular season game, all indications are that he will be a major contributor in 2013.

Wide Receiver:

1. Pittsburgh Steelers

2. Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green is clearly the best wide receiver in the AFC North. There's no one in his class. He has a shot at catching more than 100 passes for 1,500 yards and double-digit touchdowns. There's less of a concern about the No. 2 wide receiver this year, but the Bengals don't have a proven option either. Mohamed Sanu, a third-round pick from a year ago, caught four touchdowns in three games before getting injured. Still, he had 16 total catches. Cincinnati has potentially better depth than Pittsburgh with Andrew Hawkins and Marvin Jones, who could be the biggest surprise in the Bengals' passing game this year.

3. Baltimore Ravens

4. Cleveland Browns

The only thing keeping the Bengals from capturing the number one spot here is the uncertainty surrounding the number two wide receiver spot. Mohamad Sanu is the early favorite for the role, but he is coming off an injury and was only able to contribute during a handful of games in 2012. If healthy, Sanu has the potential to lock down the spot for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, these rankings favor production over potential, which is why Pittsburgh remains number one. For now.

Tight End:

1. Baltimore Ravens

2. Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals potentially have the best tight end tandem in the division. They certainly have invested in the position, selecting a tight end in the first round in two of the past four drafts. Jermaine Gresham has admittedly not lived up to expectations, even though his catches and receiving yards have increased every year. The problem with Gresham is his lack of explosiveness and increased drops, especially in the playoff loss at Houston. It was a wise move for the Bengals to draft Tyler Eifert in the first round. He can stretch the field and make an impact in the red zone.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers

4. Cleveland Browns

The tight end ranking is another example of production taking primacy over potential. If he lives up to his billing, first-rounder Tyler Eifert could easily launch the Bengals to the number one spot. Together with Jermaine Gresham, the Bengals duo of tight ends has the potential to be a poor man's version of Gronkowski and Hernandez. Until the season starts, however, Cincinnati remains in second place.

Offensive Line:

1. Cleveland Browns

2. Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals have the No. 1 tackle combination with Andrew Whitworth on the left side and Andre Smith on the right. By the end of the season, Cincinnati's top lineman will be right guard Kevin Zeitler, who looks like a Pro Bowl player. The question mark -- and the soft spot of this line -- is at center, where Kyle Cook and Trevor Robinson will compete for the starting spot.

3. Baltimore Ravens

4. Pittsburgh Steelers

Number two seems about right for the Bengals here. As Hensley points out, the tackle combination of Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith is the division's best, but the revolving door at center knocks them down a peg. With three draft picks spent on the o-line this year, however, the Bengals' depth on the offensive line is arguably the best in the AFC North. If guards Kevin Zeitler and Clint Boling continue to progress and either Trevor Robinson or Kyle Cook can lock down the center spot for a full season, the Bengals have a chance to overtake the Browns in this category.

Overview:

Overall, Hensley's rankings seem pretty spot on. The Bengals' offensive strength rests in their o-line and receivers, which just so happens to be an ideal combination to help out third-ranked quarterback Andy Dalton. If Dalton can put it all together in 2013, the team might just find themselves making some noise in the postseason.

Adding up all of the rankings and averaging them out, the Bengals come in second place, just behind the defending champion Ravens.

Average Rankings

1. Baltimore Ravens: 2

2. Cincinnati Bengals: 2.4

3. Pittsburgh Steelers: 2.6

4. Cleveland Browns: 3

Now it's your turn, Bengals fans. What do you think about Hensley's rankings? Where would you rank the team?

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