Here is a look at how each team in the AFC North currently shapes up prior to NFL Training Camps.
Byron Leftwich/Dennis Dixon/Ben Roethlisberger: Due to Big Ben’s suspension, Leftwich or Dixon will be the starting QB for the first 4-8 weeks of the season. That should mean some decreased passing numbers in those games and a heavier dose of Rashard Mendenhall. Even when Ben comes back he will still need a few games to get the rust off.
Rashard Mendenhall: Mendenhall came in and played extremely well for the Steelers in his first full season. The Steelers brass has promised to get back to old Steeler football and run the ball more in 2010. That can only mean big things for Mendenhall.
Jonathan Dwyer: Dwyer was a nice pickup for the Steelers late in the draft. He won’t beat Mendenhall out for the starting gig, but will be a nice complimentary back and effective runner in short yardage and goal line.
Hines Ward: Still a PPR stud at this point in his career. I am sure Hines has a few more quality seasons left in the tank.
Mike Wallace: With the departure of Santonio Holmes, Wallace is primed to take over as the No. 2 receiver in Pittsburgh. He would be a nice add in dynasty leagues now because soon Hines Ward will be gone and Wallace will be the number one target.
Heath Miller: Miller turned in a superb performance in 2009 especially in PPR leagues. He should see a decline in production in 2010 with the heavier emphasis on the run.
Jeff Reed: Despite playing in a tough field to kick at and normally being in trouble off the field, Reed normally finishes in the middle of the pack of fantasy kickers. That’s where I predict him to be in 2010.
As long as Troy Palamolu can return, this defense should return to top third fantasy in 2010.
Joe Flacco: A good young developing QB in this league. He seem to take so many major strides early in the 2009 season, but regressed later on due to some minor nagging injuries and the team’s insistence on running the ball. I see a more balanced attack in 2010 due to the acquisition of Anquan Boldin and Dante Stallworth.
Ray Rice: Rice was the surprise of the 2009 season. He is a stellar option in PPR formats. I see no reason he cannot duplicate his efforts in 2010.
Willis McGahee: The goalline TD vulture should continue in his role as the short yardage and change of pace back for Rice.
Anquan Boldin: One of the biggest moves made by any team this offseason. Boldin automatically energizes the passing game and gives Flacco an excellent No. 1 option to throw to.
Derrick Mason: Mason, the consummate pro, is a solid receiver to help take some of the double coverages away from Boldin. Mason can still beat you as well.
Donte Stallworth: Stallworth should be an excellent deep threat receiver to go as a change of pace from Boldin and Mason who are more possession-type receivers.
Todd Heap: Heap played almost entirely free of injury in 2009. While he is serviceable at the position he is aging and either Dennis Pitta or Ed Dickson, both rookies, may contribute here in 2010.
Shayne Graham: Newly signed Graham should easily beat out returning kicker Billy Cundiff in camp and become an instant top third fantasy football kicker in 2010.
As long as Ray Ray Lewis is in the house, this defense should always be a top notch unit. A top 10 fantasy defense finish is almost certain.
Carson Palmer: The former No. 1 overall pick turned in only a so-so season in 2009. He seemed to fade dramatically down the stretch of the season. Perhaps he should have that shoulder surgery that he continually keeps putting off. It may make him better in the long run.
Cedric Benson: Another surprise fantasy player from the 2009 season. He also faded toward the end of the season. Seems like a recurring theme for the Bengals. Maybe they need a new strength and conditioning coach. Benson is a solid RB3 if he can hold up all season.
Bernard Scott: This flashy prospect now sits firmly in the No. 2 slot with Larry Johnson vacated to the Redskins. He is a guy to start to acquire in dynasty leagues. Benson had a ton of carries in college and is starting to age (28) now. Scott could be in a starting gig before you know it.
Chad Ochocinco: Eighty-five is still a decent receiving option, but he is no longer the elite receiver he once was. It may be time to try to transition to Andre Caldwell or perhaps someone from the 2010 draft.
Antonio Bryant: Bryant comes in for the departed Lavernues Coles. Problem is I don’t see him being any more of a receiving threat than Coles was last year. I wouldn’t expect big things from Bryant in 2010.
Jermaine Gresham: The rookie Gresham takes over a position that has rarely been utilized in the Carson Palmer days. Let’s hope Palmer can find this talent open in the field enough to make him effective.
Dave Rayner: The Bengals failed to resign incumbent kicker Shayne Graham. I guess that’s what you get when you miss key field goals in a playoff game. Anyway I am not sure Rayner is much of an upgrade. I would rank him in the bottom third of fantasy kickers.
This unit should hopefully get a full year on Antwan Odom to go with the rest of the defense. This defense should be a lower top third, higher middle third defense in 2010.
Jake Delhomme/Seneca Wallace/Colt McCoy: Delhomme is done as an NFL QB. With players currently on the roster though, Delhomme will probably see a few starts in the beginning of the season. Wallace would replace him due to a better understanding of the West Coast Offense. I think they will allow Colt McCoy a full year on the bench before taking the reigns in 2011.
Montario Hardesty: Hardesty is getting rave reviews so far by Eric Mangini from OTA’s and minicamps. He may easily turn into the running back with the most opportunity for greatness in 2010.
Jerome Harrison: Harrison was a superstar down the stretch of last season. The team must have felt he was too small to handle carrying the running back load for a full season. He will be a complimentary back to Hardesty.
James Davis: Last year’s training camp darling didn’t get to play in 2009 due to injury. He may still be sprinkled in from time to time but won’t see any major action.
Mohammed Massaquoi: Massaquoi made strides in his rookie season despite having inconsistent play at QB. He could develop into a solid receiving threat once Colt McCoy develops in the Browns system.
Brian Robiskie/Carlton Mitchell/Chansi Stuckey: This will be a key training camp battle to watch. Any one of these receivers may get the starting nod as the second WR in 2010.
Ben Watson: Newly acquired Ben Watson solidifies the TE position that lacked since the departure of Kellen Winslow II. He is a decent red zone option in the offense.
Phil Dawson: You don’t want the Cleveland kicker on your fantasy roster.
This is another unit to avoid come fantasy draft day.
Here is the predicted order of finish for the division in 2010:
1. Baltimore Ravens
2. Cincinnati Bengals
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
4. Cleveland Browns
Other division previews: AFC East