2024 IDP Football AFC North Draft Guide

by Steve Hungarter (IDPHunter)
IDP Football AFC North Breakdown

Welcome to the 2024 IDP Football AFC North Draft Guide. I will be reviewing some of the top players at their respected IDP positions, including Roquon Smith, Patrick Queen, Miles Garrett and more. I will also give you a peek into what the coaches are doing in mini-camps and any scheme changes you need to know about.

The AFC North is known for its tough defenses and aggressive play styles, making it a prime division for IDP fantasy football enthusiasts.  Join me and look at the position top IDP players spread through this division.

2024 IDP Football AFC North Draft Guide

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Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens led the NFL last season with sacks (60), the fewest points allowed (16.5 pg), and takeaways (31) We enter training camp with a new defensive coordinator Zach Orr, who has the pieces to make this fit in his new team scheme. This team is a threat both on offense and defense, as evident by the impressive depth chart and pieces it has picked up this off-season. The biggest question should be how will this defense hold up and now look in 2024.

How will the Raven's defensive philosophy differ with a new coaching heading into 2024?

This is one of the bigger burning questions this off-season. Baltimore's defense proved it could be an elite option this '24 season.

New coach Zach Orr's defense will differ from Mike Macdonald's in its approach. At the time of this writing in June, minicamp has offered a sneak peek of what that will look like. The clue here is that Orr has tipped his hand in player usages (he seems to love blitzing linebackers) and shown us a detailed approach to blitzing and creating pressures. This is interesting as Last season, the Ravens led the NFL with 60 sacks but only blitzed 21.8% of the time to achieve those impressive numbers, that's the fifth-lowest percentage in the league, so those drafting this DST unit could see an amazing return on investment

What players will benefit from this new scheme?

In his first year as coordinator, Orr,  a former linebacker, seems likely to dial up the pressure more often.  Granted minicamp competitions are still happening, but this information should benefit two linebacker names that stand out. Roquan Smith is the top elite option at linebacker and is generally drafted as the first or second linebacker off the draft board. This off-season we called Trenton Simpson and IDP Sleeper and he has emerged as the standout player void left by Patrick Queen. With a promising start at camp, Simpson continues to impress with his passing, blitzing, and ideal run support.

The Ravens' defensive line is one of the team's strongest position groups. Re-signing Justin Madubuike after his 13 sacks last year. Madubuike seems likely not to repeat this but has been very disruptive throughout OTAs and minicamps. The sleeper here should be Odafe Oweh, a player who had five sacks in 23, but hasn't yet become a household name.

Who will fill in, opposite Kyle Hamilton. in the secondary?

Marcus Williams, Kyle Hamilton, Marlon Humphries

This unit was great last season, ranking 6th (191 yards per game) in passing defense. But where are the IDP players I should be targeting? Led by Kyle Hamilton, who earned a Pro Bowl despite being injured most of last season. The biggest question would be, what will this unit look like around Hamilton? Marlon Humphreys is a name and a good player to own in CB CB-required leagues, but missing seven games last year and likely won't crack your shallow team lineups. It would help if you were not drafting him as a top 50 at the position.

A player who you could rely upon as a sleeper here is Marcus Williams, your league mates will leave him late in drafts. Williams is another big playmaker at Safety, but injuries have riddled his career (missing seven games in '22 and another six games in '23) If Hamilton and Williams could stay healthy this could be one of the best tandems in the league. The later player, you could get late in drafts.

Cleveland Browns

This team feels like it's just one QB away from making a run with several loaded depth charts at key positions on its roster. The Browns have done an outstanding job at securing talent. The Browns surprisingly were the NFL's ranked first total defense (1st) last season. They were also a good real-life team against the pass (1st) and the run (11th) but how well does that translate into IDP? Let's take a closer look.

How does this team's defensive scheme translate in Fantasy Production?

The Browns usually start games and roll out five defensive backs, keeping games closer in early quarters. The Team produced 18 interceptions, the most since 2014 (21). This defense flourished in its first season under the new Leader on the defense, Jim Schwartz.

Utilizing an aggressive scheme and play call that emphasized high rates of man coverage and blitzing, Cleveland allowed the fewest yards in the league. The gap between the Browns and the second-best defense (Kansas City Chiefs) was larger than the gap between the Chiefs and the ninth-best defense (Buffalo Bills). Additionally, Cleveland yielded the lowest completion percentage and the lowest Total QBR in the league.

The linebacker room was a little suspect, but that has been shored up. There are a few players that could benefit here in IDP.

What IDP players should benefit from in year 2?

Myles Garrett is the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year and has the ability and potential to defend the title in the 2024 season well. Jordan Hicks, a proven green dot signal-caller is a huge upgrade at what they had and should continue to put up LB2 numbers despite his age. Jeremiah-Owusu Koramoah is another rising star, who took the next step under Schwartz's new defense by leading the team in tackles with 101. His quickness allowed him to notch 3.5 sacks, 2 Int, and a FF. Safety Grant Delpit is another player, we have ranked as DB16 in our draft kit and should have a better season now healthy. We consider this a value.

Buy or sell Browns DST in 2024?

This season, the Cleveland Browns' DST unit is being drafted as top-5 in your Fantasy drafts. Largely because this defense ended as the league’s top unit, thanks to their pass rush led by the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, allowing just 105.5 rushing yards (11th) per game. But with questions at linebacker and a re-stocked AFC North RB attack, I see this ranking as an overvalue and would much rather wait at the position. (Not to mention being torched in the wildcard game against the Texans)

This year the division and the schedule will be different, as they face the challenge of maintaining that performance against 13 of Pro Football Focus's top-32 running backs.

Three of these running backs are within the AFC North. The Baltimore Ravens now have Derrick Henry ranked No. 2, the Pittsburgh Steelers boast a duo with Jaylen Warren (No. 19) and Najee Harris (No. 22). Beyond the division, the Browns will also contend with notable runners on their schedule such as the Philadelphia Eagles’ Saquon Barkley, who has never faced the Browns, along with Isiah Pacheco, and Alvin Kamara. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has plenty of talent, but his unit will be tested. The defense must be prepared to handle this array of elite runners and force opponents to rely on their passing game. I am just not buying them early in drafts as regression should happen.

Cincinnati Bengals

Yikes. The 31st-ranked defense (28th pass defense and rushing defense 26th) has major issues heading into 2024 let's look at this.

What was the root cause of Defense struggles last season?

The Bengals run a 4-2-5 defense, which only uses two LBs to keep Logan Wilson and Germaine Pratt in those roles. Both have become IDPs valuable because they are significant for snaps. Still, in real life, this unit was bad, keying against the run, and becoming the 5th worst run defense. The Linebackers need to play better, it's a far cry from what this unit did just two years ago and needs to be better. Because of the scheme they are deployed, expect both to be drafted in leagues.

The burning question is going to be whether or not this team could stop the run, and we will have to look to this interior line come pre-season for those answers. During this writing in June, you would hope for improvement being key players were injured. This is an important task, as this division is full of some of the better NFL running backs.

Who will step up and help the pass rush opposite Trey Hendrickson?

Trey Hendrickson had a career year with 17.5 sacks and needs another book-end defender to complement his leap. Sam Hubbard, playing on one healthy leg last season, should be much improved. The defensive line which showcases Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard,  are both top 25 DL at their IDP position. The Dynasty taxi stash here is Myles Murphy, a highly anticipated rookie in '22 that we are waiting to break out.

How does the impact of Dax Hill moving to Cornerback help the team's overall passing defense?

Early camp reporting indicates that Hill seems to be thriving at CB. Daxton Hill was a DB9  in 1-2-3 scoring, but he did most of those numbers at Safety.   I am fading him due to platforms I play in, while a trade candidate in many active leagues. I am fading both Hill as well as Cam Taylor-BrittMike Hilton only gets a look in the deepest leagues due to his slot role and tackling ability.

This question is more of an indictment of the overall need for a secondary overhaul giving up many explosive plays on both pass and run. Vonn Bell returns and is a sleeper of mine. He should be able to help clean up the horrendous 7.1 net yards per pass attempt, which was the worst in the NFL. This room should be better with Jordan Battle and Geno Stone contributing. Except for Bell in Redrafts, Battle in Dynasty are the only two I am interested in.

Pittsburgh Steelers

What happened to the defense last season?

Finishing just 21sr (342.1) in total defense, this team did not strike fear in anyone's hearts as it historically did last season. A mediocre ranking of 19th (115.0) against the run and 17th (227.1) against the pass defenses, proves this unit is certainly overwhelmed. You would assume it did not have many impact players reading those stats but it surprisingly does! It was injuries that riddled this team.

Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick missed a significant portion of the season due to various nagging injuries, and when he did play, his effectiveness was limited, The Steelers had multiple middle linebackers with season-ending injuries, forcing them to sign players off the street and integrate them into gameday roles within a week.

The worst injury of the all had to  T.J. Watt suffered a knee injury just before the postseason, severely limiting the team’s chances of a playoff run. Watt is an all-pro every year and makes the team better around him.

Cam Heyward (who was also injured), Alex Highsmith, and Joey Porter, are more names who prove this unit to be very good. Never judge a book by its cover, the unit despite all obstacles resulted in being ranked eighth in defense takeaways, foreshadowing what kind of production a healthy season could occur.

Stock up for Free Agent signee Patrick Queen?

The Steelers began the 2023 season with a rotation of Cole Holcomb, Kwon Alexander, and Elandon Roberts at inside linebacker. However, midseason saw both Holcomb and Alexander sustain season-ending injuries within a week of each other, forcing the team to cobble together their lineup for the remainder of the season. Getting an elite signal caller was a must this off-season.

Patrick Queen is proven and has played over 1,000 snaps in each of the past two seasons, including a career-high 1,121 in 2023. A true three-down player, Queen recorded 8.5 sacks and 48 quarterback pressures, which ranks second in the league among inside linebackers over that span.

How does rookie Payton Wilson factor in his first season?

Wilson was an absolute steal in the draft in the third round and is playing outstanding in OTAs being compared to Bobby Wagner by his coaches. Wilson is highly regarded as one of the top linebackers in this draft so the comparison holds.  However, despite the praise it appears he is seen as a long-term investment for the Steelers. The Steelers have been doing a solid job of adding depth the last two seasons. As mentioned above, with the musical linebacker chairs of Roberts, Highsmith, Queen, and Watt as this team's starters,  we should see a slow start to Wilson's career seems inevitable.

Final Thoughts

This might be the very best IDP division in all of football. Sure, these players are getting a bit older but with younger players like Payton Wilson, Trenton Simpson, and JOK emerging there is a reason for excitement and proves why they nickname this the Black and Blue Division.

Check out our other great Fantasy Football content from the F6P Team!

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