Over the next two weeks, we will unveil our preseason All-Division teams, as is our annual tradition around this time of year. As always, the rosters were compiled largely by a panel of one, though there was significant input from the writing and editorial staff at CBSSports.com after I took an initial run at the rosters on my own.
We began on Tuesday with the. Today, it's the AFC North, and then we'll move through the rest of the conference this week. Next week, it's on to the NFC. Without further ado...
Offensive skill positions
It was a two-man battle between Burrow and Lamar Jackson for the quarterback slot in this division. While Jackson's ceiling is as high or higher than any quarterback in the NFL (as evidenced by his winning MVP and dominating the league in 2019), Burrow is likely better positioned for success in 2022 due to the plethora of pass-catching options the Bengals have supplied him with, as well as an upgraded offensive line in front of him. It's like splitting hairs when choosing between two of the game's best, but that's what you have to do when you can only pick one for a roster like this.
You can make an argument for Najee Harris, Joe Mixon, or even JK Dobbins at running back here. But Pittsburgh's offensive line and the likely overall poor quality of the offense pushed us away from Harris; Mixon's somewhat limited role in Cincinnati's offense pushed us away from him (he likely won't play on obvious passing downs again); and Dobbins' torn ACL pushed us away from him. That leaves Chubb, who, while also likely in a limited role, is still arguably the best pure runner in the league. We'll take that on our team.
Picking a tight end was easy. While Pat Freiermuth and David Njoku have a chance to shine in larger roles, Andrews is already among the most productive players at his position. Coming off career highs in catches and receiving yards (and playing time), he should stick as Jackson's top passing-game option, and have a shot at another All-Pro season. It was also easy to put Chase and Higgins on this team. The top two options for Burrow, they're going to be really damn good for a long damn time. Chase just put together one of the best rookie seasons in NFL history, and Higgins, in Year 2, topped 70 catches and 1,000 yards in just 14 games. After those two, it came down to a choice between Johnson, Claypool, Rashod Bateman, Amari Cooper, and another running back. We went with the two Steelers receivers due to the catch and big-play ceilings they've shown so far in their careers.
Stanley has missed the better part of the past two seasons, but when last healthy, he was an All-Pro-caliber player. The bet here is on a healthy season. There are a number of other good tackles to choose from, including Jack Conklin, La'el Collins, and Jonah Williams, but we'll go with Wills continue to emerge as a quality starter on the left side of Cleveland's offensive line.
Speaking of quality starters on the left side of Cleveland's line: Bitonio was an absolute no-brainer here. And then, we went with a pair of Cincinnati's offensive line imports from this offseason in Cappa and Karras, who should solidify the interior and right side in front of Burrow. Baltimore's Tyler Linderbaum could take the center spot away before long, though.
Watt and Garrett might be the two best edge rushers in the NFL. It was extremely easy to select them for this roster. Heyward remains an extremely effective -- and underrated -- game-wrecker from the interior of the defensive line. He's made five consecutive Pro Bowls and four All-Pro teams (three first, one second) in that stretch, notching at least eight sacks in four of those five seasons. Even at age 33, he should have another excellent year. Campbell is getting up into his late 30s and no longer plays 80-90 percent of defensive snaps, but he can still wreak havoc as a heavy rotational player. He's one of the most versatile defensive linemen in the league with the ability to rush from inside and out, and play the pass and the run at an extremely high level. So long as he stays healthy, he's going to produce in a big way.
Wilson stepped into a larger role in his second NFL season, and was a very solid piece in the middle of a Cincinnati defense that performed at a much higher level than many expected. He should continue to progress now that he's got even more experience. Owusu-Koramoah is one of the most versatile linebackers in the NFL, able to do everything from rush the passer to cover wide receivers in the slot. He's going to be a huge chess piece for Joe Woods' defense, which has one of the best back-seven groups in the league.
The defensive backs in this division are really damn good. Humphrey missed some time last year but when healthy, he is among the best man cover corners in the NFL. He'll be a foundational piece for new defensive coordinator Mike McDonald. Ward and Newsome, meanwhile, form one of the best one-two corner punches in the league already. Ward got his big payday already, and if Newsome's rookie season was any indication, he'll be getting his own before long.
At safety, there is so much high-level talent here that players like Grant Delpit, John Johnson III, Chuck Clark, and Vonn Bell barely received consideration. Fitzpatrick and Williams already got paid, and Bates is on the franchise tag, because they're all among the small handful of most effective safeties in the league. Fitzpatrick remains elite in coverage, and is one of the league's best defensive backs at forcing turnovers. Williams is the prototype center-field safety, being dropped into a loaded secondary. And Bates, even in a somewhat down season last year, was highly effective. In what is essentially a contract year, he should be at his best this season.
I won't lie... I asked our resident kicking expert (John Breech) who he thinks are the best kickers and punters in each division, and copy/pasted those names onto each All-Division team. Olszewski was an All-Pro in 2020 and didn't drop off too much last season. It's reasonable to expect another good season in the return game, even on a new team.