Welcome to the 2023 IDP Football AFC East Breakdown.
The AFC East has become one of the toughest divisions in football.
The Dolphins traded for Jalen Ramsey for pennies. The Jets already had an elite defense after years of good drafts and free-agent signings. The Bills' defensive line hasn't lived up to high expectations since the signing of Von Miller, but it still has the potential to break out, and the team also has quality linebackers and defensive backs. The Patriots had multiple players score defensive touchdowns last season.
Here are 28 important IDP players to pay attention to in the AFC East.
2023 IDP Football AFC East Breakdown
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Jordan Poyer, S
Poyer is one of the rare defensive backs who can rack up 100 or more tackles in a season. He did it three times in a row from 2018-20. While he had a slight decrease in his tackle numbers the past two seasons (and missed five games last season), he did make more interceptions and pass defenses.
Matt Milano, LB
With Tremaine Edmunds having left for windier pastures, Milano projects to be the play-caller and leader of Bill's defense. Already he was on the field for 96% of the snaps last season, a year in which he made his first Pro Bowl and AP All-Pro Team after setting or tying career highs in solo tackles, passes defended, interceptions, and interception return yards.
Von Miller, EDGE
There is no question that Von Miller has had a Hall of Fame-caliber career. But is he still an IDP star worth a roster spot at age 34? He hasn't had more than 9.5 sacks in a season since 2018. He only made 21 combined tackles in 11 games in 2022. True, he would have been on pace for about 12.5 sacks if he had played a full 17 games, but at this point, his frequent injuries--he's played 26 games in the past three seasons--may be more a function of his age than bad luck.
Taron Johnson, CB
Johnson makes a lot of tackles and impact plays for a cornerback. In two of the past three seasons, he made 90 or more combined tackles, and he has either forced or recovered a fumble in each of his five seasons. With 3.0 sacks, he tied for the most sacks for a defensive back in 2021. His ball skills are less stellar; he has never made more than one interception or nine pass defenses in a season.
Gregory Rousseau, DL
The No. 30 pick of the 2021 Draft, Rousseau has shown improvement in his first two seasons, jumping his PFF grade from 70.2 to 83.6 and his sack total from 4.0 to 8.0.
Micah Hyde, S
Hyde had made 70 or more combined tackles for three straight seasons heading into 2022. But he got injured and only played two games last season. Now he is going to be 33 years old this season. Does he still have it in him?
Damar Hamlin, S
Filling in for the injured Hyde, Hamlin made 91 tackles before he suffered a cardiac arrest and was revived on the field in Week 17. He might start the season behind Hyde on the depth chart, but the fact that he is alive, let alone playing football, is amazing. Who wants to take +100 odds on Hamlin winning Comeback Player of the Year?
Jalen Ramsey, CB
Ramsey came on strong as a playmaker in recent years, making 34 pass defenses in the past two years and making his first two sacks in 2022.
Wilkins was the No. 1-scoring defensive tackle in the IDP Guys Invitational last season, and he would have ranked as the No. 5 defensive end, too. (He does split his time about 50-50 between tackle and end, but he's listed at DT on MyFantasyLeague.) While he has only made 7.0 sacks in the past two seasons, which is not bad for a tackle, he made over 187 combined tackles and 108 solos.
Using one of your 600 tweets today to remind you that Christian Wilkins is a top 5 defensive tackle in the NFL‼️ pic.twitter.com/fxslFm8eA0
— King of Phinland?? (@KingOfPhinland) July 3, 2023
Jaelan Phillips, EDGE
Phillips took big steps in his development as an elite pass rusher last season. His pass rush win rate was 20.9% through the first ten weeks of 2022, twice that of his rookie season and higher even than what we saw All-Pros like Myles Garrett, T.J. Watt, and Maxx Crosby in their sophomore seasons. In a stretch from Week 10-14, he made half a sack or more in five straight games.
Xavien Howard, CB
Howard is a case study of how hard it can be to rely on interceptions from IDP DBs year after year. Twice, in 2018 and 2020, he has led the league in picks. But he followed it up both times with seasons that didn't come close. He is coming off a one-interception and 45-tackle showing last season. Now that he starts across from Jalen Ramsey, we can expect Howard to be targeted more often. That could be good for his interception, pass defense, and tackle numbers.
David Long, ILB
David Long grades well, and the hope is that he can get on the field more and hit triple digits in tackles if he stays healthy. Unfortunately, he has never played a full season in his four-year career. He made 86 combined tackles in 12 games with the Titans last season, which projects to 122 in a full season. He hasn't made a single sack or fumble recovery in his career, but he is a late-round sleeper in leagues with tackle-heavy scoring.
Jerome Baker, LB
Baker has made over 90 tackles in his past four seasons and double-digit QB hits in 2020 and 2021.
In his second season, Holland made 77 solo tackles to go with 19 assists, 1.5 sacks, two interceptions, and a forced fumble. He ranked as a fringe top-12 safety in position-specific leagues.
New England Patriots
Matt Judon, DL/LB
Since joining the Patriots in 2021, the former fifth-round pick has made double-digit sacks and 60 combined tackles in two straight seasons. And he has the coveted dual DL/LB eligibility in Sleeper.
Matt Judon: "We have unicorns, for real. We got a guy like [Kyle] Dugger that can play on the line of scrimmage, at linebacker depth. He can play at corner, but he's a safety.” pic.twitter.com/MHHor3o3g2
— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) July 1, 2023
Kyle Dugger, S
Don't expect him to repeat his wild three-defensive touchdown season. But an athletic safety like Dugger, who can make a couple of picks and a couple of hits on the quarterback and take a fumble 59 yards for a touchdown while also making 70-100 tackles, can pop off on any given week.
Josh Uche, DL/LB
Uche notched 11.5 sacks last year, in just his third season, while only seeing the field for 38% of the snaps. He only made 27 combined tackles. The year before, he made 3.0 sacks and 12 tackles within just 138 fewer snaps. Even if he can keep up his extreme sack rate, those numbers only make him a starter in leagues that are extremely tilted toward sacks.
Jonathan Jones, CB
A seven-year veteran, Jones played nearly 900 defensive snaps for the first time last season, and he made 69 combined tackles, four interceptions, including one that he returned for a touchdown, and 11 pass defenses.
Christian Gonzalez, CB
The 17th-overall pick of the 2023 Draft, Gonzalez projects to start alongside Jonathan Jones at corner. In his junior year at Oregon, Gonzalez made four interceptions and returned them for 118 yards. In this dynamic Pats defense, which scored seven defensive touchdowns last season, maybe he could bring one to the house this year.
Marcus Jones, CB
Like Kyle Dugger, Marcus Jones is an extraordinary athlete who scored touchdowns in many different ways last season. He did it on an interception, a punt return, and, on the offensive side of the ball, as a wide receiver. He projects to be the Patriots' CB3, who would be in on nickel sets, and he's not a bad cornerback. In Weeks 13-16, when he started because of injuries to Jack Jones, he made 25 tackles and allowed only a 37.5% completion percentage in coverage. Hopefully, he will maintain his occasional role on offense and function as an IDP cheat code.
Ja'Whaun Bentley, LB
The Patriots' LILB has made over 60 solo tackles and 100 combined tackles for each of the past two seasons. Last year, he also set a career-high with 3.0 sacks and a fumble recovery. The Pats typically rotate linebackers, which limits his playing time; the 80% of snaps he had last season was his highest total yet. He's not a big-play LB like Frankie Luvu, and he's not going to approach 200 tackles like Foye Oluokun, but he is a serviceable backup in deeper IDP leagues.
New York Jets
Quinnen Williams, DL
Williams made 12.0 sacks while lining up as a defensive tackle for 70% of his snaps in 2022. That was the 11th-most sacks in the NFL and the second-most amongst defensive tackles, behind only the Chiefs' Chris Jones. As Williams is entering his fifth season and is only 26 years old, he should continue to develop. He was the highest-graded college prospect by PFF the year he entered the draft and was selected No. 3 overall.
C.J. Mosley, LB
The 31-year-old tackle monster shows no signs of slowing down. In each of the past two seasons with the Jets, Mosley amassed over 150 combined tackles. In his career, he has averaged 8.2 tackles per game.
Sauce Gardner, DB
If you are going to call yourself "Sauce" and steal (and burn!) an opposing fan's cheesehead hat to showboat at Lambeau Field, you'd best be good. Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner is that good. Not just in real life but with his ball skills, he's good in IDP, too. He led the league with 20 pass defenses and added two interceptions and 75 combined tackles. The two interceptions are probably his floor, as he made three interceptions in fewer games in each of his three collegiate seasons at Cincinnati. In another year, some of those 20 deflections might turn into a couple more interceptions.
Enjoy some Sauce Gardner highlights with your views pic.twitter.com/DQHPoYnK7A
— Will Parkinson (@Willpa11) July 2, 2023
Quincy Williams, LB
Since joining his brother on the Jets in 2021 after two years on the Jags, the other Williams has surpassed 70 solo tackles and 100 combined tackles while adding a couple of sacks in each of his two seasons. He's no C.J. Mosley; Quincy Williams is on the field for about 80% of the snaps and averaged 108 tackles a season. But he's an LB4 if he maintains this production.
After four seasons in Tampa Bay, Whitehead joined the Jets last season and set a career-high in combined tackles with 89 while making two picks (tying a career-high). He's in a large group of safeties whose rankings fluctuate widely from week to week and season to season and is worth consideration in position-specific leagues.
D.J. Reed, CB
The other half of the Jets' elite cornerback unit, Reed isn't quite as elite as Sauce, but he made 80 tackles and 12 pass defenses, both career highs, in his first season playing in <del>New York</del> New Jersey.
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