The AFC North writers at ESPN have put together another roundtable. This time the focus is on the rising stars in the division. Each beat writer made their choice and then backed it up with the reasoning behind the decision.
Jeremy Fowler of the Steelers beat decided his rising star would be linebacker Ryan Shazier. He did mention Jeremy Hill and C.J. Mosely but already consider their stars as being pretty bright. Shazier, in his opinion, has the opportunity to shine with a healthy season.
Coley Harvey of the Bengals blog decided on Dre Kirkpatrick is his rising star. Mentioning how he burst onto the scene in the last years with two interception night against the Broncos on Monday night football. He thinks Kirkpatrick has the ability to shine being the starter this season and expects him to step in and excel in that role. He also mentioned Baltimore running back Justin Forsett as a candidate, but chose against him based on his successful 2014 campaign.
The Ravens beat writer, Jamison Hensley, likes Tyler Eifert all the way. He thinks this is the season when Eifert lives up to his first round potential. He even goes as far as comparing him to Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham. The major question he has around the young Bengals tight end is his health. (Don't we all?)
Pat McManamon out of Cleveland thinks an easy answer is Jeremy Hill, but for him, the better answer is Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant. In his opinion, Bryant shined last season even after being inactive the first 6 games.With Antonio Brown demanding attention, he thinks Bryant will have the opportunity to shine in the Pittsburgh passing game.
I love that all four of the writers made mention to players on Cincinnati's roster. It shows not only the respect the Bengals have around the league, but also the potential for amazing talent on this squad. It is interesting that no player from the Browns was mentioned. I really like two of their draft picks from this year, Danny Shelton and Xavier Cooper. Perhaps they were overlooked because they are still regarded as question marks, but the rotation the Browns have built on their defensive line looks scary heading into this season.
The two Steelers mentioned above, Shazier and Bryant, both could have a big impact for Pittsburgh. Shazier is well known to many Bengals fans as he played for the Ohio State Buckeyes and was a fan favorite. When he was drafted part of me twinged knowing the type of player he could be and the fact that the Bengals will now have to face him twice a year.
Forsett from the Ravens was pushed into a starting role after the Ray Rice fiasco unfolded. Forsett was a strong running back and with another offseason to prepare, could be a huge part of the Ravens' offense in 2015.
The Bengals do seem to have a ton of talent that is on the cusp of stepping up. If the players do take a leap this year and become rising stars, this team could be outstanding. Imagine Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard realizing their potential this season. The Bengals could have a remarkable secondary. Jeremy Hill improving on last season and Tyler Eifert playing healthy would make this offense so much more formidable.
My choice for rising star this season would be Kirkpatrick also. Through flashes of brilliance at times in his young career and how he has excelled in special teams, I think he is going to embrace being a starter and have his best season yet.