- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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The AFC North blog continues to look at the different positions and rank each team in terms of draft need. For Thursday, the blog is addressing tight ends. Mel Kiper Jr.'s top five tight ends are: Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert, Stanford's Zach Ertz, Michigan State's Dion Sims, Rice's Vance McDonald and San Diego State's Gavin Escobar.
Here's the rankings ...
1. Pittsburgh Steelers: The only word we've received about Heath Miller is he's walking without a limp and that came in a radio interview this week with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Miller, who tore knee ligaments 3 1/2 months ago, is a strong candidate to start the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. The other Steelers tight ends with any experience are Matt Spaeth and David Paulson. For that reason, the Steelers have been linked to Eifert in the first round. Miller, a starter for all eight of his NFL seasons, had one of his best seasons in his first year in Todd Haley's offense. Still, Miller's salary jumps to $6 million in 2014, the last year of his contract, which is another reason for Pittsburgh to look to the future.
2. Cleveland Browns: The Browns didn't replace Ben Watson in free agency, so it's assumed that Jordan Cameron, a fourth-round pick in 2011, will get a chance to start. Cameron has potential, but he is still a project. Also, the Browns' flirtation with Fred Davis in free agency tells me they're not entirely sold on Cameron. It wouldn't surprise me if the Browns went with Cameron this year, but it wouldn't shock me if they drafted one either, especially if coach Rob Chudzinski, a former tight end, finds someone he likes.
3. Baltimore Ravens: I'm sure there are some wondering why the Ravens aren't last on this list. Baltimore has Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson, so there's no need at tight end. But both are heading into the final years of their contracts, and the Ravens often look ahead to groom replacements. The Ravens are expected to approach Pitta about an extension, but he may want to see his value in the free-agent market. The Ravens could look for a tight end in the middle rounds.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals are set with their top three tight ends this year: Jermaine Gresham, Alex Smith and Orson Charles. Gresham's production has increased in each of his three NFL seasons. He finished with 64 catches for 737 yards and five touchdowns. Smith provides experience as a nine-year veteran and also has experience in Jay Gruden's offense from his days in Tampa Bay. Charles is a solid pass-catching prospect who was drafted in the fourth round last year. There's no need for the Bengals to draft a tight end this year.
The AFC North blog continues to look at the different positions and rank each team in terms of draft need. For Thursday, the blog is addressing tight ends.