Offseason surprises: Unpredictable AFC

As NFL teams evaluated where they are after offseason workouts and before training camp, many are thankful for surprises that should help.

In the AFC, that includes some real odd situations that allowed one former Heisman winner, another Heisman runner up and an All-Pro pass rusher to surface as surprises.

In Oakland, the Raiders managed to get their former first round Heisman star Charles Woodson back after his sensational stint with the Green Bay Packers didn't seem to impress any contending teams.

The Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens were able to sign pass-rush star Elvis Dumervil only because of a paperwork snafu in Denver.

And in San Diego, rookie linebacker Manti Te'o, the Notre Dame Heisman runner up who faced huge challenges on and off the field, is looking like a future star again.

Here is a glimpse at the Spring Surprises for each AFC team based on a survey by The Sports Xchange (listed alphabetically):

BALTIMORE -- Acquisition of outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil.

The Ravens signed Dumervil to a $35 million contract after a fax snafu that caused the Denver Broncos to cut a Pro-Bowl pass rusher in the prime of his career. If not for the Broncos' paperwork issue with Dumervil's former agent, Marty Magid, the Ravens never get a shot at Dumervil.

BUFFALO -- Linebacker Kiko Alonso, a rookie second-round pick.

Alonso appears to be the Bills' best find at linebacker since they used the 34th pick of the 2007 draft to take Paul Posluszny, who moved to Jacksonville in 2011. Alonso will start in the middle for a team that ranked 32, 28 and 31 against the run the last three seasons.

CINCINNATI -- Rookie wide receiver Cobi Hamilton.

Hamilton was selected in the sixth round with the last of the two picks that the Bengals got from New England for Chad Johnson. He has has shown good quickness and route recognition that puts him in the mix for one of the receiving spots.

CLEVELAND -- Tight end Gary Barnidge.

Barnidge looked great in offseason drills. He caught only six passes at Carolina last year, but new Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski was offensive coordinator for the Panthers and knew Barnidge had ability. Barnidge missed all of 2011 on injured reserve and prior to that caught 12 passes in three years.

DENVER -- Safety David Bruton.

When he re-signed, it was thought it was to continue as good backup and great special teamer. However, Bruton rotated into the first team, as the Broncos divided first-team safety repetitions between him and incumbents Mike Adams and Rahim Moore. Bruton has the physical tools; he is the Broncos' biggest and fastest safety.

HOUSTON -- Rookie safety D.J. Swearinger.

A second-round pick from South Carolina, Swearinger got a lot of offseason playing time because star free agent acquisition Ed Reed was out after arthroscopic surgery on his hip. Swearinger was impressive and defensive coach Wade Phillips may find a way to use him with Reed and Danieal Manning.

INDIANAPOLIS -- The acquisition of former New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw.

Bradshaw was signed to the Indianapolis roster during the final week of OTA practices and did not take part in any workouts with the team. He underwent foot surgery in January, but when he is completely healed, Bradshaw will be the most complete back and most likely the best pass blocker in the Colts' offensive backfield.

JACKSONVILLE -- Rookie safety Johnathan Cyprien.

The Jaguars wanted to trade out of the first pick of the second round of the draft, but couldn't get a taker. Now they're glad they kept the pick as Cyprien has been solid from the first day of rookie minicamp. It carried over through the team's OTAs and into the mandatory minicamp. His talent in breaking up passes was well ahead of any other defender.

KANSAS CITY -- Players buying into new head coach Andy Reid's program.

Attendance in the offseason strength and conditioning program and on-field work with OTAs and minicamps was nearly 100 percent. Some veteran Chiefs were experiencing their fourth head coach in six seasons, but seemed to rally more around this new coach and impressed him with their willingness to work.

MIAMI -- Cornerback Brent Grimes.

Grimes was by far the best playmaker on the defensive side of the ball in the offseason, which caught many off guard considering he's coming off a torn Achilles tendon. Grimes flashed the speed and athleticism that made him a target for the Dolphins. He was all over the place during practices, breaking up passes and covering receivers.

NEW ENGLAND -- Losing two tight ends and maybe finding another.

Rob Gronkowski's sixth recent surgery and murder charges against Aaron Hernandez erased what was the best 1-2 tight end depth in the NFL. In Coach Bill Belichick's Next Man Up system, undrafted rookie Zach Sudfeld(6-7,253) did his best to become that next man. He had 45 catches at Nevada-Reno last year and looked outstanding in the Patriots' offseason drills. A true surprise.

N.Y. JETS -- Running back Mike Goodson, when he was available.

A trade for Chris Ivory and the signing of Goodson gave the team an excellent 1-2 punch. Goodson wowed the Jets during OTAs -- at least when he was in attendance and not dealing with his various legal issues. Goodson's ability to turn a corner and hit a second gear can give the Jets a layer of explosiveness lacking in an otherwise pedestrian offense.

OAKLAND -- The return of defensive back Charles Woodson.

The former Raiders star was believed to be looking for a contending team after his brilliant stint with the Green Bay Packers. When no such suitors stepped up, Woodson returned to the Black Hole in search of at least one more great season. His veteran experience should help.

PITTSBURGH -- Offensive coordinator Todd Haley accepting input from players.

Haley was aware enough to see that the offense was having difficulty assimilating new plays and terminology. He asked quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and other players to suggest new names for plays and audibles that helped bridge the gap back to previous coach Bruce Arians.

SAN DIEGO -- Rookie inside linebacker Manti Te'o.

It's hard to be a surprise when you are a finalist for the Heisman Trophy the previous season. But Te'o looked every bit the part of an All-America from Notre Dame instead of a player that was overmatched in the BCS Championship Game against Alabama and personal issues. The real surprise would be if Te'o, a second-round pick, doesn't trot out with the first unit for the season opener.

TENNESSEE -- Cornerback Tommie Campbell.

Last year, Campbell was getting a good look at being a starting cornerback, then he gave up a touchdown to Braylon Edwards in the preseason opener and that was that. With the addition of defensive coach Gregg Williams and the Titans adopting more of a man-to-man, Campbell is again looking like a potential starter, in competition with veteran Alterraun Verner and rookie Blidi Wreh-Wilson.