AFC North IDP Division Breakdown: The Bengals and Browns

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Do the Bengals fall “Pratt” on their face this year, or are the Browns ready to put in the extra “Myles”??


With the emergence of the Cleveland Browns last year, the AFC North looks to now be a four team race once again, or is it? The Browns returned to the league in 1999 after being shipped off to Baltimore by Art Modell. Upon their return they have finished above .500 twice in almost 20 years. Meanwhile the Cincinnati Bengals haven’t finished better than 7-9 in the last four years and have one of the worst statistical defenses in the NFL.

Needless to say, the competition has been pretty top-heavy of late with Pittsburgh and Baltimore controlling the crown. In this article I will give you a breakdown of some changes that has happened this offseason as well as, players to own at every IDP position.

Cincinnati Bengals Defense (TBD) 1st year DC Lou Anarumo

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The 32nd ranked defense gave up 48% of 3rd down conversions and allowed 31 points a game. This was a banged up and historically bad defense last year. Injuries to Preston Brown(re-signed), Nick Vigil(see more below), Carl Lawson(still hasn’t stepped on the field this year) and suspension of Vontaze Burfict (gone to Oakland). Seven different linebackers started a game for the Bengals, and 10 total at least took a snap at LB.

The safeties combined for a WHOPPING 221 tackles in 2018. Shaun Williams and Jesse Bates had outstanding years for owners in IDPFF last year, being one of if not the only, position group that looked like a formidable unit. Anarumo has never ran his own defense, so whether they run a 3-4 or 4-3 is still up in the air. The mix of players that fit better in one style but not the other, drafted in Teryl Austin’s time as DC, has left the once feared defense of the North, to literally not have an identity. Both Bates and Williams are great options at Safety going forward and should be plug and plays as a Safety1 or DB2 in IDPFF.

New Blood?

Down years from franchise players, Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins didn’t help the matter at all. The pressure rate from the 2 All-Pro defensive lineman wasn’t the issue. Wearing down late in games, due to the nearly 50% conversion rate opponents had on 3rd down, was wearing them out. With Sam Hubbard going into his second year, as well as Malik Jefferson(LB), drafting an extremely versatile DT in Renell Wren and a former Safety now turned Linebacker, Germaine Pratt, it seems the same ole mold for a Bengals Defensive Player has been broken. First year DC Anarumo is headed into 2019 with a big task, but I believe he is exactly what they need.

Anarumo is a coverage scheme specialist. The former New York Giants DB coach made a lot of Giants players in the secondary what they are now. Anarumo should bring new life to a defense that is on life support. If he can get the coverage better it could bolster this defense back to life.

Relevant DTs- Geno Atkins, Renell Wren (Taxi Squad)

Geno Atkins is still a formidable force in the inside. Solid DT2 option. Renell Wren see below

Relevant DEs- Carlos Dunlap & Sam Hubbard

I believe this is still going to be a bad football team and getting beat the majority of the time. Therefore teams running the ball and milking that clock. Dunlap is still a DE2-DE3 for me but I wouldn’t be opposed to throwing him in with another piece to upgrade your DE situation. Sam Hubbard had an impressive rookie season and I expect it to continue in 2019. If he sees the snaps Dunlap see he could be a league winner with the price he is at. I love me some Hubbard.

Relevant LBs- Preston Brown, Nick Vigil, Germaine Pratt & Malik Jefferson

This group is the biggest question going forward for Cincy. It’s likely Brown starts at MLB, Vigil SLB, with Jordan Evans playing WLB(not long). With so much still to be seen as far as what scheme they run, it’s tough to know what players fit and get most snaps.

So I’ll just rank them for you who I want the most to least.

  1. Nick Vigil
  2. Preston Brown
  3. Germaine Pratt
  4. Malik Jefferson

Relevant Safety Jessie Bates & Shawn Williams

The duo that put up over 220+ combined tackles last year now gets a DC that thrives in secondary schemes and versatile looks. Both great buys or holds going forward.

Player to Buy: Nick Vigil

He played just 11 games last season due to injury BUT, he set career highs in Solo tackles, combined, and Tackle for losses. Vigil returned in the season finale and put up 17 tackles! Even missing four games, he still lead all Cincy LBs in snaps and every game he played in(2 games got banged up) played 100% of snaps. BUY!

Taxi Squad add Renell Wren & Malik Jefferson

Wren is a 6’4” 318 lb DT from Arizona State drafted in the 4th round. With the versatility of newer players like Pratt and Malik Jefferson, I feel the team could be headed in this direction even more. Wren has a plethora of pass rush moves and is extremely lengthy, total opposite what they have now at the position. I think he could see 20-40% of snaps as a rookie and completely taking over in 2020 for Andrew Billings.

Cleveland Browns 4-3(5-2) Steve Wilks DC 1st Year

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The Browns have a bunch of new faces on the defensive side of the ball by going heavy on defense in the draft. In his 2nd year as GM of the Browns, John Dorsey has added depth and young talent to push the veterans on the team. Let’s take a look at the relevant players at every defensive position to target on your IDPFF Teams.

Relevant DTs- Larry Ogunjobi & Sheldon Richardson

Ogunjobi has turned into one of the league’s best interior players. Larry played and started in all 16 games, 80% of the snaps at DT and recorded an impressive 52 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and 10 TFL! For leagues that require DT, he is a must own. The newly acquired Sheldon Richardson signed a three year deal this offseason. Richardson has played for three teams in the last three years but has solidified the one hole the Browns had at their other DT spot. He started and played in all 16 games for the Vikings last year and put up 50 tackles 4.5 sacks and 6 TFL.

I’d rather own Larry Ogunjobi out of these two but Richardson wouldn’t hurt you one bit at DT.

Relevant DEs- Myles Garrett & Olivier Vernon

Myles Garrett played over 1000 (90%) snaps last year and we got to see just how special he could be. Unlike his rookie year where he played in just 11 games, Garrett played in all 16 in 2018. Racking up 44 tackles, 35 solo, 13.5 sacks, 12 TFL and check this one out…….. 29 QB Hits! He is getting to the QB A LOT, with Richardson now in the middle with Ogunjobi, and newly acquired Olivier Vernon playing opposite DE Myles Garrett. He could be in for a MONSTER YEAR!

Speaking of Olivier Vernon, Dorsey brought him in to replace Emmanuel Ogbah and his 800+ snaps and 70% playing time that was shipped off to Kansas City. Vernon only played in 11 games last year. He still managed 30 tackles, 7.0 sacks and 21 QB Hits playing OLB in New York. The seven year vet has played in 103 games and started in 80+ of them. I really wouldn’t classify him as injury plagued. His best season came as a DE for Miami in 2013, although that’s 5 years ago, this position change makes him relevant again as a DE2, DE3.

Relevant Linebackers- Joe Schobert(MLB), Christian Kirksey(WLB), Genard Avery(SLB), Sione Takitaki(WLB), Mack Wilson(MLB)

The Browns played 11 different LBs last year with injuries and poor play being heavily apart of it. Jamie Collins is now gone and he was the one LB that played the most snaps(90%), most tackles(104), and most TFL(13). Schobert(3) and Kirksey(9) combined to miss 12 games allowing Genard Avery to establish a role at WLB, with Collins at SLB and Ray Armstrong at MLB.

No offense to Mr Armstrong, but that wasn’t going to cut it. Dorsey drafted two Linebackers that could contribute right away if injuries pop again in 2019. If you own Kirksey or to a lesser extent Schobert, handcuffing them with their backup/Injury replacements could be a good idea in deeper leagues.

Schobert = Mack Wilson

Kirksey = Takitaki

I’d say they need to be acknowledged late in rookie drafts or start-up IDPFF drafts.

Joe Schobert is the one I want most with back to back 100 tackle seasons.

Relevant Safety- Morgan Burnett, Damarious Randall, Jermaine Whitehead

A common theme so far in this Browns breakdown has been, new faces. Well that continues here at Safety. Jabrill Peppers was sent to NYG in the Odell Beckham trade. This opened the door for John Dorsey to bring in Morgan Burnett to reunite with former teammate, Damarious Randall. Burnett is going into his 9th year as a pro and adds a veteran presence to a secondary that is young. He only played 11 games in 2018, starting in only 2 and hasn’t played a full season since 2012.

I’m not buying Burnett anywhere and believe he is out more than on field in 2019(already banged up in camp). Jermaine Whitehead is a guy I’m picking up off waivers and stashing until the inevitable happens, Morgan is OUT. Damarious Randall is a Safety1 for me going forward. He played over 90% of snaps his 1st year in Cleveland, racking up 85 tackles, 9 Pass Deflections, and 4 interceptions. I see those numbers staying around the same, even a touch of upside with old man Burnett next to him.

Relevant Cornerbacks- Denzel Ward, TJ Carrie, Greedy Williams

For a team that was 30th in the NFL in points allowed and 21st in yards allowed, it’s still going to be a spot that opposing offensive coordinator’s attack. Ward is on my sell now tracker and TJ Carrie remains a free pickup in 99% of leagues. Williams will see snaps, but will it be enough year one to warrant starting? I’m skeptical.

Keep a close eye out as the second half of the AFC North Breakdown will be coming soon. Follow me on Twitter @OklahomieDoug look out for our next episode of the Rated IDP Live Show.

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Howdy folks, names Doug Bevills. I’m a 14 yr Fantasy Sports Vet, that has been writing/ranking/podcasting for the last decade. Husband of 10yrs to my best friend, Father of 7(yup 7). I take care of 112 head of cattle, work 60 hrs week(heavy equipment), roll BJJ twice a week and still 99% of my thoughts are of IDP Fantasy Football. Was voted 15th ranked #IDPFFFollows 22nd #NFLDraftFFFollow and 6th Under 1k in 2019 on FFTwitter. Music,Movies,a stiff drink and Family!! Creator & Host RatedIDPLive on Podbean and YouTube #PodWars2019 and #WriterWars Sponsor Affiliates include MyFantasyLeague.com GETEMBOY.com DMs are always open @OklahomieDoug and look forward to chatting with you soon. PEACE!!