The All Division Preseason Team was chosen based on performance in 2011, projected success in 2012 and extraneous factors, such as potential, opportunity and overall talent. Positions are taken generally, meaning there won't necessarily be one right tackle and one left tackle, but there will be two offensive tackles.
A position of rising strength in the AFC North, it's young and it's uber-talented.
As we mentioned in the offensive tackle segment, passing is becoming a bigger part of this division, and the league overall. While the rise in quarterbacks certainly helps that, a team's ability to find talented receivers in the draft is becoming borderline insane. Any wonder why teams want to throw the ball more in this league should simply look at the Pittsburgh Steelers.
With two receivers in 2011 amassing 1,000 yards (Mike Wallace 1,193, Antonio Brown 1,108), but neither of them having been drafted higher than the 3rd round (Wallace, 2010), they got big production for few dollars.
All AFC North: Offensive Tackle | Offensive Guard | Center | Running Backs
WR Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
Granted, the "Steelers cheap receivers" bit changed in 2012, at least for Brown, who inked a five-year extension this offseason. (sidenote: Wallace is hankering for one of his own).
Brown will still be relied on heavily for production inside the hashes, and showed this preseason he's fully capable of taking short passes for long distances.
WR Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh Steelers
Speaking of long distances, Wallace has a career 18.7 yards per catch average, the highest among active NFL receivers. Though he's chided for seemingly holding only the Deep Threat role in an offense that previously prided the deep ball above anything else, Wallace has shown the ability to break plays from a shorter field as well.
And if he can't, the league will certainly see that, as new Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley is likely to use Wallace in shorter situations as well. Assuming he can get the ball over Brown, that is.
WR A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
Green is the prototypical dominant receiver, tremendous size, great long speed, big hands and outstanding leaping ability. There's very little a defensive back can do to stop him, and he'll be among the league's best for a very long time. Not many rookies rack up 1,000 yards the way he did in 2011, and there's no reason to think he won't do the same in 2012.
WR Torrey Smith, Baltimore Ravens
A Wallace clone in Baltimore, his mention here over proven talents like teammate Anquan Boldin is based more on potential than anything. Smith looked as raw as any receiver last season, oftentimes looking off-balance and confused in the offense. But when he had balance and he looked like he knew what he was doing, he produced big plays. Five of his seven touchdowns were from 25 yards or more, despite his quarterback's 23.6 percent completion percentage of throws that traveled 20 yards or more in the air. He's a game-breaker with a lot of upside.