The AFC North blog continues to rank the top 40 players in the division.
No. 28: Casey Hampton, nose tackle
HamptonTeam: Pittsburgh Steelers
2010 stats: 20 tackles, one sack
Last year's ranking: No. 21
Analysis: Hampton continues to stuff the run at a high level. But at this stage he is a specialist and a two-down player. Hampton is the consummate plugging nose tackle in a 3-4 defense. He's hard to move off the ball, stops running plays at the point of attack, and allows teammates like James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, and Lawrence Timmons to run around and finish the plays. One of Hampton's best efforts of the season was during the AFC Championship Game, when he helped stuff the New York Jets on a big fourth down play at the goal line. Hampton recorded 20 tackles and one sack in 15 games last season. But his production in the middle of Pittsburgh's 3-4 defense will never be measured by statistics.
No. 27: Chad Ochocinco, receiver
OchocincoTeam: Cincinnati Bengals
2010 stats: 67 receptions, 831 yards, four touchdowns
Last year's ranking: No. 13
Analysis: Ochocinco continued his trend of inconsistency. He had his second down season in three years, which hurt the Bengals' offense. You knew it wouldn't be a good year early when Ochocinco had two offseason reality television shows, which cut into his training. He never seemed to make the Bengals his No. 1 priority, and at 33, Ochocinco cannot afford to just show up and have Pro Bowl-caliber seasons. But I do I have Ochocinco ranked ahead of Terrell Owens, because Ochocinco, when healthy and focused, is more explosive at this stage in their careers. He's four years younger than Owens, and could definitely help a contending team if he's traded out of Cincinnati. The Bengals are rebuilding and looking to go younger at receiver.
No. 26: Michael Oher, left tackle
OherTeam: Baltimore Ravens
2010 stats: 16 starts
Last year's ranking: No. 23
Analysis: Oher dropped three spots in "Walker’s Fab 40" after an inconsistent sophomore season which included a switch to left tackle. Oher had a stellar rookie year in 2009, and looked at home at right tackle. But issues with former left tackle Jared Gaither forced Baltimore to do some shuffling. Oher was decent, but not great, on the left side. He had problems with pre-snap penalties and struggled more with his pass blocking and footwork protecting quarterback Joe Flacco's blind side (no pun intended). Baltimore's offensive line as a whole also took a couple steps back. Flacco was sacked 40 times in the regular season, and the running game was up and down. It will be interesting to see what Baltimore does with Oher in 2011 after seeing him play both positions for a full season.
No. 25: Eric Steinbach, guard
SteinbachTeam: Cleveland Browns
2010 stats: 16 starts
Last year's ranking: No. 26
Analysis: Steinbach makes his second consecutive "Walker's Fab 40" list after another solid year for Cleveland. He is the third offensive lineman for the Browns to make this year's list, joining center Alex Mack (No. 30) and left tackle Joe Thomas (TBD). The trio is still pretty young, and should be together for another few seasons in Cleveland. Steinbach is lighter than most guards, but is good in space and has the ability to pull, which is important. Browns running back Peyton Hillis often ran behind Steinbach and Cleveland's left side during his breakout season, when he recorded 1,177 rushing yards.