AFC North review

BALTIMORE RAVENS

Head Coach: Brian Billick (80-56 overall record)
Offensive schedule vs.: Pass -- 15th easiest; Run -- 7th easiest

The most notable move of the offseason for the Ravens occurred when the team traded for Willis McGahee, who will take over the featured role in the backfield for head coach Brian Billick. The return of veteran OT Jonathan Ogden and selection of OGs Ben Grubbs and Marshal Yanda in the draft will improve what was a questionable offensive line last season, so McGahee should be a considered well worth a first- or second-round selection as a borderline No. 1 or 2 fantasy runner.

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RAVENS TOP FIVE FANTASY PLAYERS

  1. Willis McGahee
    1. Todd Heap
    2. Mark Clayton
    3. Baltimore defense
    4. Steve McNair

Since McGahee likes to run in a one-back set, look for Billick to spread out defenses with more three-receiver looks that feature Mark Clayton, Derrick Mason and low-end sleeper candidate Demetrius Williams. The Ravens took a chance on Heisman winner Troy Smith, but he is not an immediate threat to unseat either Steve McNair or Kyle Boller on the team's current depth chart.

The loss of All-Pro LB Adalius Thomas will hurt the value of the Ravens defense somewhat, but their corps of linebackers still includes Ray Lewis, Bart Scott and Jarret Johnson and will remain solid. In fact, this unit will still be one of the first three defenses selected in all drafts next season.

CINCINNATI BENGALS

Head Coach:Marvin Lewis (35-31 overall record)
Offensive schedule vs.: Pass -- 8th hardest; Run -- 14th easiest

Both the Bengals and fantasy football owners alike lost one of the more talented but controversial wide receivers in Chris Henry, who will be forced to miss the first eight games of the season due to a league-imposed suspension.

With Kelley Washington now in New England, Tab Perry will be the favorite to replace Henry as the team's third wideout, but he won't have draft value. Quincy Wilson should push Kenny Watson for the second spot on the depth chart behind Rudi Johnson, so he could be nice late-round insurance for those owners who choose Johnson.

BENGALS TOP FIVE FANTASY PLAYERS

  1. Rudi Johnson
    1. Carson Palmer
    2. Chad Johnson
    3. T.J. Houshmandzadeh
    4. Shayne Graham

While the Bengals did lose veterans CB Tory James (Patriots), FS Kevin Kaesviharn (Saints) and LB Brian Simmons (Saints), head coach Marvin Lewis should be able to put an improved defense on the field with the addition of CB Leon Hall, LB Edgerton Hartwell, DT Michael Myers and FS Marvin White. Still, this unit will be no better than a high-end No. 2 fantasy defense next season.

CLEVELAND BROWNS

Head Coach: Romeo Crennel (10-22 overall record)
Offensive schedule vs.: Pass -- 15th hardest; Run -- 6th hardest

The Browns had a productive offseason, as the team added a franchise quarterback in Brady Quinn in the first round of the draft, a veteran running back in Jamal Lewis and two studs to their offensive line. Charlie Frye is the favorite to open the regular season as the starter, but Quinn could be under center sooner than later. Lewis won't produce enormous stats like he did earlier in his career, but he should still be considered a low-end No. 2 fantasy runner or flex starter behind a line that added veteran OG Eric Steinbach and rookie OT Joe Thomas.

BROWNS TOP FIVE FANTASY PLAYERS

  1. Jamal Lewis
    1. Kellen Winslow
    2. Braylon Edwards
    3. Joe Jurevicius
    4. Charlie Frye

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One of the team's most productive offensive weapons, Kellen Winslow, continues to recover from a microfracture procedure on his knee. Still, Winslow is on target to return in time for the start of the regular season. Barring a serious setback, he will remain an attractive No. 1 fantasy tight end in all formats.

While the Browns did make a few defensive improvements with the addition of LB Antwaan Peek and rookie CBs Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald, this unit still has no real draft value.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Head Coach:Mike Tomlin (0-0 overall record)
Offensive schedule vs.: Pass -- 13th hardest; Run -- 16th easiest

The Steelers didn't do much to improve their offensive attack in the offseason, but the team did add some depth to its backfield rotation with the addition of Kevan Barlow. While he isn't even guaranteed to win a roster spot, the veteran runner would have some limited draft value if he passes Najeh Davenport and Verron Haynes on the depth chart and becomes the immediate reserve behind Willie Parker. Santonio Holmes, who showed flashes of potential last season, is now the favorite to start with Hines Ward and will be a decent low-end sleeper candidate across the board.

STEELERS TOP FIVE FANTASY PLAYERS

  1. Willie Parker
    1. Hines Ward
    2. Ben Roethlisberger
    3. Steelers defense
    4. Heath Miller

The presence of new head coach and defensive wizard Mike Tomlin was apparent in the draft, as the Steelers added LB Lawrence Timmons to replace LB Joey Porter (Dolphins) and DEs LaMarr Woodley and Ryan McBean. With a stockpile of overall talent and Tomlin now at the helm, the Steelers defense will no doubt be one of the more attractive units in fantasy football next season.

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