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AFC North rookies the Bengals should fear

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Which rookies should the Bengals be worried about facing in the division for years to come?

NFL Combine - Day 5 Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

We’ve have had some time to examine each team after the draft, so it’s only natural we take a look at players other teams in the division added who could give the Bengals headaches for at least the next few years. The Browns had three first round picks to help them improve from last years’ 1-15 season. The Ravens had a mid-first round pick, with which they bolstered their secondary. And the Steelers had one of the final selections in Round 1, but could it be their Round 2 player who’s more of a long-term threat?

Myles Garrett: pass rusher, Cleveland

The selection of Myles Garrett was quickly forgotten after the Bears traded up to the No. 2 pick and kicked off the first round madness. The Browns added an insanely talented pass rusher who will probably wreak havoc on quarterbacks for years to come. I mean, have you seen what he looks like? It’s insane. The guy looks like a real life version of Hercules.

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Garrett has all the tools to be one of the best pass rushers in the NFL in a few years. Andy Dalton should be terrified to face Garrett twice a year, especially with uncertainty at the left tackle position. If Andrew Whitworth was still around, maybe Dalton could sleep soundly the night before Browns game, but if Cedric Ogbuehi doesn’t take a big step forward, Dalton could be seeing stars by the end of games against the Browns.

Garrett may take a year to get into the groove of pass rushing at an NFL level, and hopefully that gives the Bengals’ offensive line time to catch up to his possible ability. Let us all hope that’s the case...for Dalton’s sake.

David Njoku: tight end, Cleveland

The Browns got themselves an impact player on offense in Round 1, too. Njoku is a mismatch at the tight end positions, and if he gets matched up on a slower defender, it’ll be a huge issue for opposing defenses. The Browns knew exactly what they were doing when they traded back into the first round to snatch up Njoku, who was sliding further than anticipated and was the third tight end taken in Round 1.

Njoku is still raw. His stats don’t jump off the page and scare you, but you can see glimpses of his potential watching him play. The way he runs after the catch is frightening. It feels like he runs so much faster than his 4.6 40-yard dash time. The most telling stat for Njoku is his 16.2 yards per catch average last season at Miami. He is a big-play guy and whether it’s beating defenders deep or creating yards after the catch, he is a threat to make a field position changing play at any moment.

The Browns offense is still a work in progress, though. They added Kevin Zeitler during free agency to help put an actual offensive line in front of whoever ends up starting before they put DeShone Kizer out there. Isaiah Crowell just signed his restricted free agent tender, so he and Duke Johnson Jr. will pair up again. On another note, Josh Gordon’s reinstatement just got denied for now, but Njoku is another piece of an offense that is slowly assembling itself.

Njoku isn’t going to be that scary next season. This offense is still a work in progress and Njoku isn’t ready to be the focal point of it. He may never be, but he is a nice option who can take advantage of single coverage.

JuJu Smith-Schuster: wide receiver, Pittsburgh

The Steelers are pretty loaded with offensive weapons, which includes Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. Those are the two guys who defenses will pay the most attention to. That leaves plenty of one-on-one opportunities for other receivers to take advantage of.

Smith-Schuster isn’t a threat to beat anyone deep, but he is a very talented possession receiver who can move the chains. In 2016, had a drop off from his sophomore season when he caught 90 passes for almost 1,500 yards. He only managed 70 catches for less than 1,000 yards but did catch 10 touchdowns both years.

The Steelers have struggled finding a steady receiver opposite Brown. Martavis Bryant missed all of last season after breaking the NFL’s substance abuse policy, and Bell, after missing the first three games of the season, was the second leading receiver behind Brown.

Smith-Schuster has some competition to beat out to get playing time, but he could end up being a reliable target for Ben Roethlisberger. That’s really all the Steelers’ offense needs at this point.

Marlon Humphrey: Cornerback, Baltimore

This pick is more about being the last piece of the puzzle the Ravens started putting together last season when they added Eric Weddle to a secondary that already had Jimmy Smith. This offseason they brought in Tony Jefferson from Arizona and Brandon Carr from Dallas to further improve their secondary. Then, the Ravens added another cornerback in the first round by picking Humphrey.

The Ravens now have one of the most complete secondaries in the NFL, and having Humphrey as either their third or second best corner is such a luxury. Humphrey will easily be the most tested member of the secondary. The biggest knock on him coming out of college was he can be beat deep pretty easily, but the Ravens can have Weddle shadow over the top of his area for help.

Humphrey and Smith make up a terrifying duo of corners who are very talented at jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage and throw off the timing of the offensive play. The Bengals will probably have issues giving Dalton extra time in the pocket this season, so any sort of time taken up fighting the jam could be the difference between a big play and a sack for the Bengals.

Which AFC North rookie are you most scared of?