If you’ve read anything I’ve written on the site, you likely know that I love the Bengals and the AFC North. This is my favorite division, and I love how the teams in the division play. It’s gritty, blue-collar football and home to many of the nastiest defenders in the NFL over the past thirty years.
Let’s look at the North; the Bengals, Browns, Ravens, and Steelers. From the Queen City to the Steel City, there are some strong assets for IDP fantasy football. Here’s who you should be targeting.
The Bengals employ a 4-3, and the starters on the line are listed as DJ Reader and BJ Hill inside, with veterans Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard at the ends. The team added Myles Murphy from Clemson in the first round as well.
If you are in a league requiring defensive tackles, Hill is a solid player to roster. He raked in 69 tackles last season and added some excellent plays if you had a big-play scoring format. Hill had a forced fumble, three fumbles recovered, three sacks, and four passes defended.
Hubbard finished in the top 24 of defensive end scoring despite missing the last two games. He benefits from all the attention Hendrickson gets on the other end. Hubbard has 60 tackles and six sacks, but I could see those numbers rising in 2023. I project him for 70 tackles and nine sacks.
Hendrickson took a massive step back in 2022 after getting top ten positional ranking following two seasons of more than 13 sacks. Hendrickson had 32 tackles and eight sacks, barely finishing inside the top 50 of DE-scoring. That is not what you hope when you draft someone as highly as Hendrickson was going. I expect a slight bump back up in production, but I don’t know if he hits the double-digit sack mark again.
Myles Murphy is a big, twitchy, powerful edge rusher who is stout against the run and has juice as a pass rusher. He fits exactly what the Bengals like at the position.— mike (@bengals_sans) April 28, 2023
He's only just begun to scratch the surface of his potential and show grow into a good starter. pic.twitter.com/0NJ9TM0QiJ
It’s partially due to the addition of Myles Murphy. The former Clemson stud has a mountain of untapped potential. He could develop into a top defensive end with his wicked first step and handwork. The Bengals will likely rotate Murphy in to help his development.
An interesting thing to note is – of the top nine cap hits on the team, four of them are the aforementioned veterans. With looming massive deals for Ja’Marr Chase, Joe Burrow, and possibly Tee Higgins, something will need to break. I could see the defensive line losing one or two of the starters after 2023. Only Reader’s contract is up after the season.
The only linebacker I am rushing to roster in IDP is Logan Wilson, our LB7 on the site. He’s gotten better in each of his three seasons, and I expect another bump up in 2023. He had 121 tackles, a pair of sacks, and an interception in 2022. He’s the old-school type of middle linebacker with tackle production to keep his scoring steady and will throw in a big play here and there. I project him to have 140 tackles, three sacks, and an interception in 2023. Wilson is a locked and locked LB1 starter.
Germaine Pratt hangs around 100 tackles nearly every season and is a solid LB3/4 for IDP rosters. It never feels good having to slot him into your lineup, but he’s always going to get you seven or eight points. Pratt added nine passes defended last season to help his scoring, but that was twice as many as he had in his first three seasons combined.
The Bengals had a defensive overhaul in the secondary, replacing both safeties. Both had been reliable starters in IDP, but we have interesting options slotting in at safety now. But first, the cornerbacks.
I’m an advocate of streaming corners, and starters Cam Taylor-Britt and Chidobe Awuzie are both solid streaming options. Both players will get you a solid source of tackles as the Bengals’ offense forces teams to throw to keep up with them. Nickelback Mike Hilton is in the same boat too, and he’s going to hover around 60-65 tackles and be relied on if you need a start.
Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell have departed, leaving the Bengals with a massive hole at secondary. They addressed it by drafting Daxton Hill last year and Jordan Battle this year. They also added Nick Scott in free agency, and he’s currently slotted in at the starting free safety spot. He’s not really a guy you want to rely on in fantasy, though.
Michigan Safety Daxton Hill's ability to line up at both safety and nickel is something scouts will like. Being comfortable with his coverage skills to play in space. Nice chest to chest technique on the slot fade. Squeeze that space. pic.twitter.com/knNalL0qBH— CROCKPOT🤴🏾 (@Eric_Crocker) January 20, 2022
Hill could be, but we also have to see it. I thought Hill wasn’t going to be the type of safety we rely on for fantasy; better in coverage and not as much of a help in run defense. In essence, I don’t see him garnering 100 tackles to make him a reliable IDP option.
If either falters or gets injured, I do like Battle to step in, and I like his IDP prospects a little better. Battle is versatile, and I like him in run defense better. He’s got great instincts and hits with physicality.
The Browns also employ a 4-3 defense primarily and have a couple of solid options inside. They added defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, and he’s a good option in DT-required leagues. He’s going to give you around 50 tackles and a few sacks. Tomlinson is who I would grab from this interior group. They added Siaki Ika in the draft, but he’s mainly a space eater who can generate pressure up the middle.
The team added another player from Minnesota, EDGE rusher Za’Darius Smith. Smith had nine sacks to go along with 43 tackles and is more valuable in big-play scoring formats. He’s capable of a dozen sacks, especially when he’s operating in a front seven that includes this next guy.
|2022*||16||15||4||2||0||0||0||0||16.0||60||37||23||18||26||13||AP DPoY-5, AP2, PB|
Myles Garrett is as consistent as it comes as a pass-rusher and a guy that makes your IDP lineups feel all warm and fuzzy. Lock him in and know that he’s going to get sacks. Garrett has averaged 13.5 sacks over the past six seasons – one of those seasons, he only played ten games. And he’s going to be good for 40 tackles as well. Garrett is only DL3, don’t overthink it – the guy is a baller.
Unreal play by Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. Nearly won the game for Cleveland.— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) October 25, 2022
The Browns drafted JOK with the intention of him being able to defy the Ravens run game and hunt Lamar Jackson down.
He’s been a menace in that sense undoubtedly. pic.twitter.com/fdnrFh2QXn
The linebacker group in Cleveland is nothing to write home about, and one guy I am targeting in IDP is Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah or JOK. He’s been steadily improving and is entering his third season in the league after a strong career at Notre Dame. JOK is a physical and athletic linebacker, also much better on the field than in the stat sheets. He’s capable of putting that side of it together and emerging, and JOK is one of my potential sleepers for 2023.
The team gets Anthony Walker back, and he may be the most reliable IDP option at linebacker for the Browns. He’s being forgotten about in the drafts I have seen but had 113 tackles in only 13 games for the Browns in 2021. A return to over 100 tackles is likely, and Walker would be a great option for your LB3 position if he returns to form. He’s going to rake in tackles and doesn’t offer much for big-play scoring.
Denzel Ward and Martin Emerson emerged as solid options to start in CB-required leagues, with Ward being one of the most reliable corners. He finished in the top ten on a points-per-game basis, with 52 tackles, three interceptions, and 14 passes defended.
Grant Delpit has lived up to his draft billing, finishing as a top-ten safety in his second full season in the NFL. He had 104 tackles, four INTs, and ten passes defended. Delpit should equal that and improve on it potentially, and is on his way to being a locked and loaded S1. He’s the second player on this team I am aggressively targeting for IDP in drafts.
The new free safety is Kansas City cast-off Juan Thornhill. If you’ve played IDP for a few years, you know about Thornhill and likely won’t roster him under any circumstances. He’s wildly inconsistent for fantasy, and his play on the field is similar.
The line for the Ravens is a wasteland for IDP fantasy purposes, and the only one I would even roster is defensive end Justin Madubuike. But as far as defensive ends go, he’s a DE5/6, so he is only startable in desperate circumstances. You start him and pray for a sack, basically.
The Ravens acquired Roquan Smith from the Bears, then inked him to a massive five-year extension in the offseason. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you your LB1 overall in our rankings and on most sites. He tallied 171 total tackles in 2022, adding in four sacks, three interceptions, and six passes defended. Simply put, Smith can do it all. He’s a monster and should be the first linebacker off the board in drafts.
Patrick Queen is the second linebacker you want to target, but he’s quite a dropdown from Smith as far as production. Queen had 116 tackles, five sacks, two INTs, and six passes defended. As far as production, he’s a solid LB3 for IDP squads but has been a bit of a disappointment as far as his draft capital. The Ravens recently declined his fifth-year option. If Queen lived up to his first-round capital, the Ravens would likely not have inked Smith to a massive deal.
Trenton Simpson For Dummies pic.twitter.com/lKKfi7fetq— RAMEY (@HoodieRamey) April 29, 2023
And the team likely wouldn’t have drafted Trenton Simpson in the third round of the most recent draft. He’s a wildly athletic and versatile linebacker and plays with intensity. His versatility may end up with him playing all over and limiting his IDP value. I’d still take a shot with his talent. Simpson is a playmaker and could be a special player.
At corner, Marlon Humphrey is one of the players I target if I’m not streaming the corner position. He’s reliable and a good source of tackles with enough big plays to add value. He had 71 tackles last season, adding three sacks, three picks, and seven passes defended. Humphrey is routinely one of the top twelve scorers at cornerback.
Marcus Williams and Kyle Hamilton give the Ravens a strong duo for IDP fantasy purposes. Let’s start with Williams, who missed six games last year but was a top-ten safety on a points-per-game basis. He’s a consistent producer for IDP with the Ravens, and I have him projected for 90 tackles, three interceptions, and 10 passes defended.
Hamilton started to emerge in the second half of his rookie season, 2022, and is primed to be one of the top safeties in the league. He had 61 tackles and a pair of sacks in limited action, and I have him projected for 95 tackles, two sacks, two INTs, and a dozen passes defended. That projection is on the low end of what I believe he’s capable of. Hamilton is my DB7 and is trending upward.
The Steelers run a 3-4, and the man in the middle is one of the best in the league and for IDP. Cameron Heyward is a top-ten defensive tackle and one of the few tackles I am starting in leagues with a DL designation. He’s a lock for 70 tackles and 10 sacks if he starts every game. He’s 34 years old and shows no sign of slowing down, but figure that into his dynasty value if you are drafting Heyward.
The player to own on the Steelers’ defense is linebacker/EDGE TJ Watt. The 2021 Defensive Player of the Year had a tough 2022 season, only playing in ten games and taking a massive tumble in sack production. When he’s healthy, Watt is going to give your IDP team 55-60 tackles and is capable of 20 sacks. Expect a monster bounce back in 2023, and he’s my LB5, a player you put in your lineup and never take out.
Alex Highsmith has the nastiest spin move in the NFL and it's not even close. pic.twitter.com/uwzhOXlYwP— Billy Hartford (@BudDupreeFan) June 7, 2023
Alex Highsmith emerged in Watt’s absence and had a career year in 2022. He had 62 tackles and 14 sacks and was one of the biggest values in IDP last year. He plays the LB/EDGE position as well, and it remains to see if he can replicate that production. I’m hesitant to invest much in Highsmith until I see it again.
The Steelers brought in two new inside linebackers, Cole Holcomb and Elandon Roberts. I’m targeting Holcomb, he’s not a sexy name, but the dude just produces when he’s on the field. He may not be on the field for third downs, yet Holcomb will still flirt with 125 tackles in his role. The guy just tackles everything in front of him and knows where he needs to be to make that tackle.
Roberts had 107 tackles as a Dolphin last season and added 4.5 sacks to boot. Projecting nearly the same production is not out of the realm of possibility, and Roberts could be a good LB3/4 for little cost.
Rookie Nick Herbig is a name to watch also. He’s got solid athleticism and potential but is a project. If anyone can make something out of a player like Herbig, it’s the Steelers.
Pittsburgh added veteran Patrick Peterson to its cornerback room, and the veteran has been a stalwart for IDP production. He’s not quite the sticky corner he used to be, but Peterson is good for a few interceptions and around 60 tackles. He has finished in the top 15 cornerback scoring two of the past three seasons. Peterson is a veteran corner to throw in your CB spot and forget about.
Minkah Fitzpatrick picks off Joe Burrow and takes it back the other way for a Steelers touchdown. pic.twitter.com/x5K2zbO4GW— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) September 11, 2022
A top-five safety, Minkah Fitzpatrick, flirted with 100 tackles in 2022 and led the NFL with six interceptions. He’s versatile from the free safety role and is capable of more tackles when he comes up in support. Fitzpatrick also gets the INTs and passes defended; he simply does it all. He should be one of the top safeties drafted and is only 26 years old.
The other safety spot is occupied by Damontae Kazee, but I’m not overly excited about his IDP prospects. He’s been able to surpass 70 tackles twice but hasn’t been to that level since 2019 when he was filling in for Keanu Neal.
And Neal is the other safety in consideration for IDP. He will be 28 this season but has struggled to get back to the promise he showed in his first two seasons, 2016 and 2017. Kazee and Neal are both depth safeties for your IDP squads. The Steelers’ free safety position could be lucrative if one truly emerges.
The Dynasty Nerds YouTube channel is a channel you need to check out now. You can see the podcast straight from NerdHQ!! Smash that subscribe button. Sign up for the DynastyGM tool to keep that edge over your league mates. Manage all of your dynasty teams, use the trade calculator, and we just added a player shares tool so you can see all players you roster in one place.