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Top 5 CBs in AFC North heading into 2015

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Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

For the majority of the offseason, the Ravens have had their arms full embracing the hype catapulted at them by the media. As for me, I've been bracing myself for the hatred by some of our readers every time these articles go live. All that changes after this post. Fingers. Crossed.

The Rules

1. Since statistics may tilt the public's perception of how truly great a cornerback is, we will do our best to determine how these defensive backs fare this season and rank them by schedule. The AFC North division plays the AFC West and NFC West in 2015. 
2. Oldest to youngest. Wisest to freshest. Unless your name is Joe. 
3. Again, and hypothetically, nobody suffers injuries. Maybe heartache, but no torn ligaments.

From most adroit ... to most fresh.

5. Tramon Williams, Cleveland Browns, ninth season

The former Green Bay Packers cornerback signed a three-year, $21 million contract in March and is a projected starter for Cleveland. He and Joe Haden may end up becoming the AFC North's most vulturous, backpedaling duo by this season's end. Williams has defensed passes in double-digits since 2008, and at the age of 32, is one of the more durable corners in the league -- starting in all 16 games in four of the past five seasons.

4. William Gay, Pittsburgh Steelers, ninth season

The Steelers need the cornerback to step up and deliver in 2015. He's one of the older guys (alongside strong safety Will Allen and linebacker Lawrence Timmons), on a unit that's in dire search of a vocal leader. Last winter, Gay defensed 12 passes in 2014 and all three of his interceptions went to the house. He's a playmaker and isn't afraid to lay his shoulder (69 tackles last season was second highest of his career).

3. Jimmy Smith, Baltimore Ravens, fifth season

Four-year deal worth $48 million with $21 million guaranteed ... after a season he started in eight games. The Ravens secondary is an injury away from climbing Super Bowl heights. A healthy Smith may be the answer to punching another entrance ticket to the elusive stage. Smith's, 26, long-term commitment is a tell-all sign that the Ravens organization wants him to bring the house week in, week out.

2. Dre Kirkpatrick, Cincinnati Bengals, fourth season

We're not sure if quarterbacks will test the likes of seasoned veteran Leon Hall or attack the younger, less-experienced Kirkpatrick. Starting in only five games in two seasons, DK made the most of his time on the grass, nabbing three interceptions in each campaign. In 2014, he housed the rock after picking off Peyton Manning for the second time. This one stings, but in 2013's season finale, Flacco's pick six was thrown to DK, adding insult to injury and eliminating the defending champions from the playoffs. Zowch.

1. Joe Haden, Cleveland Browns, sixth season

"Honesty is the best policy." If you haven't watched the Baltimore Beatdown Podcast Live! segment recorded last Thursday, I took issue with Haloti Ngata's statement. Haden is not only crushing the industry in jersey sales, No. 23 is one elite cornerback that has to fall asleep in 2015 to fall .... off the No. 1 spot.

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