Mel Kiper Jr.'s AFC North summer audit

Mel Kiper Jr. is doing his summer audit for every division, and the ESPN draft guru addressed the AFC North on Thursday. You'll need a subscription to read the entire breakdown (which includes names to watch for each team in the 2013 draft), but here's a portion of Kiper's analysis for the Bengals, Browns, Ravens and Steelers:


Newcomer to watch: BenJarvus Green-Ellis isn't a remarkable upgrade but is certainly a better running back than Cedric Benson, who couldn't turn gaps into big plays. Green-Ellis never puts the ball on the ground, and you can see this offense becoming a mistake-free group as Andy Dalton matures.

Big question: Last season, the Bengals improved on the defensive side of the ball, and I wonder if they are ready to become one of the better defenses in the NFL in 2012. People will look at Cincy and want to see progress from wide receiver A.J. Green as he emerges into a star, more from Dalton as he becomes fully settled and a better run game. But don't be surprised if the best defense in the AFC North isn't from Pittsburgh or Baltimore in 2012.


Newcomer to watch: If right tackle Mitchell Schwartz (second round) adjusts quickly, the offensive line should be a strength. Teams will need to bring numbers against the run, and it'll be up to Weeden to make them pay.

Big question: Greg Little had a pretty solid rookie year, with 61 catches and more than 700 yards, when you consider how average this pass offense was in 2011. The question is whether he and Mohamed Massaquoi are enough for Weeden. If Little doesn't take the next step, wide receiver becomes a big need headed into the 2013 draft.


Newcomer to watch: It wouldn't surprise me if Kelechi Osemele (second round) is starting at guard before long. He played tackle in college, but I've always said he'd be better inside; I think the Ravens feel the same way.

Big question: Can Paul Kruger continue to improve as a pass-rusher? Can Sergio Kindle finally emerge and become the player the Ravens believed they were drafting in 2010?


Newcomer to watch: In drafting David DeCastro, the Steelers have a Steve Hutchinson-like plow at guard. He and Maurkice Pouncey could quickly become the best center-guard tandem in the NFL.

Big question: My question is whether some of the younger personnel [on defense] can make that next step and become dynamic. Lawrence Timmons is already exceptional, but it's time for guys such as Cameron Heyward, Jason Worilds and Steve McLendon to become names.