2024 Dynasty Division Outlook: AFC East IDP

Last year, we brought you a new series covering each NFL division’s IDP dynasty fantasy football outlook. We are back at it again this year. We’ll bring you an overview of each team, highlight the best and worst positional groups, and make some cool predictions for the division as a whole. Let’s jump into it!

Buffalo Bills

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When you have a quarterback like Josh Allen making more than $40 million per year, it’s not easy to pay top dollar for other players around him and the Buffalo Bills had to make some tough decisions this offseason, especially on defense. Buffalo released CB Tre’Davius White and S Jordan Poyer while their other S Micah Hyde is contemplating his retirement. Even with those losses, Buffalo should have a pretty formidable secondary. Taron Johnson, Christian Benford, and Rasul Douglas all finished as top 20 PFF-graded cornerbacks during the 2023 season.

Cole Bishop is an intriguing potential breakout at safety for the Bills with the loss of Poyer and Hyde. Bishop will have the chance to earn a starting spot this off-season and could be in for a big year if he’s able to secure that spot.

However, the Bills return their tackling tandem of Matt Milano and Terrel Bernard. Bernard is a former third round pick in the 2022 draft who exploded last year in his second season in the league for 143 tackles, 10 TFLs, 6.5 sacks, and 3 interceptions on his way to a top-five LB season. The strength of this defense from an IDP perspective is Bernard and Milano who should see a lot of action in the run game behind a bad defensive line as opposing teams look to avoid their corners.

Miami Dolphins

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Miami is going through a change in leadership on the defensive side of the ball as Vic Fangio exits and Anthony Weaver enters as defensive coordinator. There have been numerous quotes all off-season from Dolphins defenders about how they didn’t love Fangio’s system and are really enjoying what Weaver is implementing.

The Dolphins will also be without two of their better defenders upfront with the losses of Andrew Van Ginkel and Christian Wilkins, one of the best interior defensive linemen in the league. The Dolphins still return Bradley Chubb and Zach Sieler who were both excellent IDP options in 2023 and should have Jaelen Phillips back at some point during the season as he recovers from an achilles injury.

At the second level, the Dolphins replaced Jerome Baker with Jordyn Brooks who was a tackling machine during his four years in Seattle. Brooks has had 110 or more tackles in each of the last three seasons and should be considered a safe LB2 for IDP purposes.

This Miami secondary should be strong in 2024 with the new scheme and addition of Jordan Poyer but there aren’t a lot of IDP plays. Jalen Ramsey has been one of the best DBs in football for the last decade but is a little too good for IDP purposes. However, Jevon Holland had an excellent 2023 season and should be viewed as a low-end DB2 going into next year.

New York Jets

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Arguably the best defense in football, the New York Jets have studs at all three levels of the field. It all starts with their elite corner trio of Sauce Gardner, DJ Reed, and Michael Carter. As good as they are in real life, they’re awful for IDP. Opposing offenses opt to avoid throwing the ball and none of the three rack up enough tackles to be usable in shallower IDP formats.

Instead, the players you need to target are their two linebackers: CJ Mosley and Quincy Williams. Mosley has been one of the best linebackers in football since he was drafted in 2014 and hasn’t shown many signs of slowing down finishing as the LB20 in total points last season. The only thing that can hold him back is his own teammate. Quincy Williams finished as LB7 in 2023 with 139 tackles and 15 TFLs. Both LBs are excellent IDP plays for 2024 but I would prefer Williams in dynasty purely based on age.

The defensive line is good and deep. Quinnen Williams is one of the best interior defensive linemen in football and a solid DL2 play in IDP. After him, the Jets have a ton of edge depth between newly acquired Haason Reddick, Jermaine Johnson, and Will McDonald IV. The way New York has opted to rotate their pass rushers in the past makes it hard to imagine any one of these players being excellent weekly options. I imagine each one has between six and eight sacks this season and very few tackles as the two LBs eat up tackles in the run game.

New England Patriots

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There wasn’t a ton of turnover on the defensive side of the ball this off-season but the Patriots may have lost the best defensive coach of all time in Bill Belichek. That loss will surely impact this defense as a whole, but it’s hard to judge how it will impact individual player production.

The strength of this defense is at the linebacker position, especially if you include Matthew Judon, who varies in positional eligibility depending on the site. Judon has double-digit sack upside which is always valuable. The other two true LBs, Ja’Whaun Bentley and Jahlani Tavai, are not special players by any means but they are going to play a lot of snaps and have 110+ tackles which makes them LB2-LB3 plays with little upside.

The real star of this defense is Kyle Dugger who finished as DB11 overall last year and should be locked in for another monster workload in 2024. Dugger had 109 tackles a year ago and played more than 1,100 snaps; he’s locked in as a DB1 for the 2024 season and beyond.

Positional Group Rankings

Defensive Line

  1. Jets: B+
  2. Patriots: B
  3. Bills: B-
  4. Dolphins: D+

As we work through the positional group rankings of the AFC East you’ll notice that this division has very clear strengths and weaknesses. The interior defensive line is definitely not a strength.

The Jets earn the top grade by the sheer dominance of Quinnen Williams alone. Williams is one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL and arguably THE best now that Aaron Donald has called it a career. Williams took a step back in sack production after his monster 2022 season going from 13 to only 6 sacks, but his performance was still there. He finished 3rd in pass-rush win rate and 5th in total pressures so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Williams get back closer to 10 sacks in 2024 and he’s a rock-solid DL2. But after Williams, the Jets only have a pair of 49er outcasts in Javon Kinlaw and Solomon Thomas who are quite frankly awful.

The Patriots and Bills are fairly similar to the Jets at this position but just with worse versions of Quinnen Williams – the Patriots with Christian Barmore and the Bills with Ed Oliver. Both are fine players but nowhere near Williams.

The Dolphins pretty comfortably sit in last place at the interior defensive line after losing Christian Wilkins in free agency to the Las Vegas Raiders.

Edge – Defensive End/Outside Linebacker

  1. Dolphins: A
  2. Jets: B+
  3. Patriots: B-
  4. Bills: B-

Where the Dolphins lack in interior defensive linemen they more than make up for it on the edge and at outside linebacker. Bradley Chubb and Jaelan Phillips are the stars of the show on the edge and combined for 20 sacks in only 24 games last season. The problem is they will both be returning from major injuries. Miami may have lost Andrew Van Ginkel and Emmanuel Ogbah in free agency, but they’ve filled those gaps by drafting Chop Robinson in the first round – all of this fails to mention Zach Sieler who was Miami’s most productive edge player from a fantasy perspective last season and finished as the DL10 in overall points with 52 tackles, 9 sacks, and a pick six.

The Jets may be a little low on this list for some people, but I have concerns about their edge defenders. They lose the hyper-efficient Bryce Huff and also John Franklin-Myers to free agency and that leaves them with newly acquired Haason Reddick and the youngsters Jermaine Johnson and Will McDonald IV. I know Reddicke has had 13 or more sacks in each of the last four seasons, but he’s 30 years old and currently not even with the team amidst contract concerns. Add in the volatility of the young pass rushers and I think there is a bigger floor than currently perceived for this edge group.

The Patriots and Bills are a lot less exciting at EDGE. Matthew Judon is returning from a biceps injury for the Patriots but he should return DL2 value if healthy. Von Miller is aging at a rapid pace for the Bills but Greg Rousseau opposite him is an intriguing sleeper if he’s ever given enough snaps.

Linebacker

  1. Jets: A+
  2. Bills: A-
  3. Patriots: B+
  4. Dolphins: B

Linebackers are not nearly as sexy as defensive ends in terms of highlights or contracts but they are much more valuable from an IDP fantasy perspective. The Jets easily take the top spot with Quincy Williams, LB7, and CJ Mosley, LB20, leading the defense. Both accumulated 140 or more tackles this past season and should be locked in as solid LB1-2 plays for 2024.

The Bills have a dynamic tackling duo of their own with Terrel Bernard and Matt Milano. Bernard tallied  143 tackles and 6.5 sacks in 2023 and should be poised for another huge season in year three.

New England has a pair of unheralded players in Ja’Whaun Bentley and Jahlani Tavai who had good 2023 seasons and the Patriots bolstered the room with coverage specialist Sione Takitaki.

The Dolphins exchanged Jerome Baker for Jordyn Brooks in the offseason via free agency and Brooks should be the tackler leader on this defense in 2024 and should serve as a viable LB play for fantasy purposes. The problem is LB2 in Miami, David Long, is nothing special next to Brooks.

Cornerback

  1. Jets: A+
  2. Bills: A 
  3. Dolphins: A-
  4. Patriots: B-

The AFC East is absolutely loaded with talented cornerbacks. Not only do we have elite individual players, but these teams have depth behind them as well. There might not be a better position group in the entire NFL than the Jets cornerbacks with Sauce Gardner, DJ Reed, and Michael Carter.

All three of New York’s corners ended the season with top 20 PFF coverage grades but they weren’t the only team with that claim. The Buffalo Bills also accomplished this with their trio of Taron Johnson, Christian Benford, and Rasul Douglas.

The Dolphins decided to pair Kendell Fuller with Jalen Ramsey on the outside and there should be significant improvement in the secondary in South Beach.

The Patriots are in last place but young Christian Gonzalez showed flashes last season and Marcus and Johnatan Jones both can make plays on the ball.

Safety

  1. Dolphins: A
  2. Patriots: A-
  3. Jets: C-
  4. Bills: D+

It’s easy to see where these teams are allocating resources in the secondary. For as good as the cornerback rooms are, the safety rooms are equally as bad in some instances. Miami expects excellent safety play in 2024 from breakout Jevon Holland and newly signed Jordan Poyer. Both have 100-tackle potential but could hurt each other’s fantasy upside. I view both as low-end DB2s.

New England’s Kyle Dugger is easily the most valuable safety from this division. Dugger finished as DB12 after a 109-tackle season. He is a set-and-forget DB1 play for the 2024 season.

With all the money tied up in other positions along the New York defense, it’s no surprise to see the Jets struggling at safety. Chuck Clark is returning after he missed all of 2023 with an ACL injury and Tony Adams was awful in year two.

At least the Jets aren’t as bad as the Bills in the back end. As part of their attempt to restructure their roster around Josh Allen, Buffalo had to release Jordan Poyer and it looks unlikely that Micah Hyde will be back in 2024 either. The loss of these two may cause trouble for their defense. Rookie Cole Bishop may be the biggest benefactor from their absence and is someone I’ll discuss below.

Divisional Predictions

MVP: Terrel Bernard, LB BUF

Terrel Bernard exploded onto the scene last year in his 2nd season in the NFL and I don’t see that stopping anytime soon. He had 143 tackles and 6.5 sacks in 2023 during his breakout campaign. Matt Milano should return from injury in 2024 after missing most of last year, but I’m not even concerned about that because Bernard was excellent in the games he played alongside Milano.

One roster change that I think benefits Bernard is the loss of Tyrel Dodsen who was excellent last year when filling in for the injured Milano. With no real depth behind the starting two LBs in Buffalo, I expect another 1,000 snap season and 130+ tackles for Bernard in 2024.

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Courtesy of Sports Reference.

LVP: Jaelan Phillips, EDGE MIA

In a division that’s this loaded with defensive talent, it’s incredibly difficult to find someone you think is least valuable. However, I have to go with Jaelan Phillips. Phillips is coming off an Achilles injury that he suffered in Week 12 but is still somehow saying he expects to be back on the field for Week 1 of the 2024 season. I find that incredibly unlikely, and even if he is, I doubt he will be nearly as effective until 2025.

To make matters worse, Phillips has not been incredibly productive throughout his first three NFL seasons. I’m a believer in the talent, but it’s becoming more difficult to wait for the Phillips breakout and I definitely don’t think we see it in 2024.

Most Improved: Greg Rousseau, EDGE BUF

All of Greg Rousseau’s underlying metrics make him look like one of the best defensive ends in football. His PFF grade and run-defense grade has climbed in each of the past three seasons and his pass-rush grade the last two years has been excellent.

In 2022, he was 16th in pass-rush win rate and followed that up with a 20th place finish in 2023. He’s also had a 14.5% pressure rate or better in each of the last two seasons as well. The only thing that’s missing is the playing time as Buffalo opts to rotate their defensive line a ton. I think we see a jump in Rousseau’s snap count in 2023 as they make cuts across their roster and Von Miller ages and Rousseau finally gets to double-digit sacks.

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Courtesy of PFF.

Biggest Steal: Jahlani Tavai, LB NE

I’m going to call my shot here and go with a deep pick for the biggest steal with New England’s Jahlani Tavai. Even though it’s a name few people know outside of Boston, Tavai finished the season as PFF’s 4th highest-graded linebacker for the 2023 season.

Tavai has seen a steady increase in production since joining the Patriots in 2021 and last year finished with 110 tackles while still only playing 80% of the defensive snaps. If he sees no increase in snaps, I think he’s still a steal. If he sees any jump in playing time then he will crush his ADP.

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Courtesy of Sports Reference.

Biggest Bust: New York Jets EDGE Defenders

It’s hard to find one individual player that will bust in this division because there are so many talented individuals; instead, I’ll point to an entire team position group. I talked about it briefly above, but I’m a bit worried about this unit as a whole.

The Jets have gotten excellent play from their EDGE defenders the last two seasons in large part due to their ability to continuously rotate between five or six guys and keeping everyone fresh. That’s not going to be the case this year as their typical depth is no longer there after the losses of Bryce Huff and John Franklin-Myers.

One of the trio of Haason Reddick, Jermaine Johnson, or Will McDonald IV is going to bust tremendously. It might just be Reddick who is 30 and looks closer to holding out for a new contract by the day. If he plays, I just feel it’s likely that one of Johnson or McDonald struggle with the increased workload.

Wait For It: Cole Bishop, S BUF

Cole Bishop is the obvious answer here. He has the inside track to start at safety week one and was taken in the second round. Bishop isn’t the most athletic, but he was still incredibly productive at Utah even though he was surrounded by other excellent defenders. Bishop also had eight sacks and three interceptions during his time in college.

The other obvious answer is Chop Robinson but I was not the biggest fan of his coming out of Penn State. With the injuries to Phillips and Bradley Chubb, Robinson should see a lot of playing time early but I worry about his role on the team once they return combined with his lackluster college production profile.

andrew francesconi