Our AFC North reporters take a look at which rising star could make the biggest impact in the division.
Jeremy Fowler, Pittsburgh Steelers reporter: Steelers safety Sean Davis, who won the team’s rookie of the year award while playing with a torn labrum for most of the 2016 season. Davis is healthy now, and he’s focused on one position, strong safety. Last year, the team overloaded Davis by playing the second-round pick at nickel, corner and safety. In Year 2, Davis will break out as a big hitter and effective blitzer with size and footwork to cover ground in the open field. Cleveland receiver Corey Coleman should catch a ton of passes in Year 2. Ravens receiver Breshad Perriman is the downfield threat the Ravens need. Steelers cornerback Artie Burns has the makeup and competitiveness to become a long-term answer at the position. But Davis should play his way into stardom over the next year.
Jamison Hensley, Baltimore Ravens reporter: Steelers tight end Jesse James. This developmental prospect emerged last season after taking advantage of Heath Miller’s retirement and Ladarius Green’s inability to stay healthy. James is now the favorite to be the No. 1 tight end in one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses. His regular-season stats weren’t eye-popping: 39 receptions for 338 yards. James made his biggest impact in the postseason. He caught 11 passes for 137 yards in three playoff games. Only Antonio Brown had more receiving yards in the Steelers’ postseason. James’ biggest game was the divisional playoff win over the Chiefs, when he produced five receptions for 83 yards. He’s only 23 and just five months older than first-round tight end O.J. Howard, who will be a rookie with the Buccaneers.
Pat McManamon, Cleveland Browns reporter: Emmanuel Ogbah, DL, Browns. The Browns had 14 draft picks in 2014, and Ogbah was head-and-shoulders better than any of them. He's quiet, hard-working and professional, and he fought through the rookie wall, getting better as the season went on. Ogbah had 2 1/2 sacks in his final four games and six for the season. He should benefit from the signing of linebacker Jamie Collins and the drafting of defensive end Myles Garrett. Presumably, with Garrett and Ogbah, the Browns could have a pair of stout ends who can rush the passer for the next several years.
Katherine Terrell, Cincinnati Bengals reporter: Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier. Shazier isn’t exactly an unknown at this point, but as he enters his fourth season, Shazier only seems to be getting better. Shazier, 24, is coming off his first Pro Bowl season. He had interceptions in back-to-back games in the postseason and recorded an interception in four straight games, an impressive feat for someone playing his position. Shazier has yet to play a full season due to injuries, but he’s clearly a player who is going to rise in the next few years.