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IDP Divisional Preview: AFC East
We made it! The 2022 NFL season is finally here, and to celebrate, we're winding down our divisional preview series with the Bills, Dolphins, Patriots, and Jets.
Happy kickoff week! We made it, folks. The NFL season is finally here, so today we’re concluding our divisional preview series with the AFC East. Tripp helped us break down this division on the episode, which you can listen to below. Come for his soothing voice, stay for our disagreement on Jaelen Phillips (see below).
Let’s kick things off with one of the best defenses in the NFL: the Bills.
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Sleeper: Ed Oliver
After a slow start to the season, Oliver flashed big time to close it out with 12.87 PPG over his last 5 games, and 18.78 over his last 3 games. He also had 3 of those 5 games at over a 60% snap share. Game time will be the biggest roadblock for Oliver; the pedigree and talent are there, and there should be plenty of pass-rushing opportunities for the Buffalo squad as they’re predicted as favorites in most of their matchups in 2022. The issue is the Bills love to rotate D-lineman as much as Addie loves Chick-Fil-A, but if Oliver can creep into that 65% snap share area, you could have yourself a lovely steal, especially in DT-required leagues.
Bust: Tremaine Edmunds
Pour one out for Tremaine Edmunds Breakout Szn. We just need to come to terms with the fact that it’s never going to happen. We’re 5 years in now, and his play has gradually gotten worse each year up to this point. He still has the green dot, and he’ll still play a massive amount of snaps, so he will still hold some value for this season. (AND HE’S STILL ONLY 24!) But the pipe dream of him turning into a bonafide stud and top 12 LB like classmates Fred Warner, Shaquille Leonard, and Roquan Smith can be well and truly stifled. As Tripp said on the episode, we’re not suggesting you just dump Edmunds. He’s a solid LB2/3 who should produce this year and could take a step forward on a different team in 2023 and beyond. But if you’re counting on him as your LB1, you need to make a contingency plan. It’s not going to happen.
Stud: Christian Wilkins
Wilkins well and truly broke out in 2021 and that was with relatively low pressure and sack numbers (31 and 5.5). He was a tackle MONSTER, though: 90 total tackles from the interior, which is nuts. Only 2 other guys did it in 2021: Aaron Donald and Cam Heyward. You’ve heard of them, right? The insane thing was Wilkins did it with only 65% snap share, whereas Donald and Heyward were in the 80-90% range. If we can see Wilkins hit the 70-75% range, we could easily see the same amount of tackles being supplemented with an extra sack or 2, firmly cementing him in the mix with the aforementioned two, DeForest Buckner and Jeffrey Simmons in PPG.
Breakout: Jaelen Phillips
Early in the offseason, Phillips’ hype train was almost off the rails. He was already being talked about as a top 5 edge rusher and top 10 dynasty asset. That’s cooled slightly as we move closer to the season start as he’s had a relatively quiet offseason and preseason, and Miami brought in Melvin Ingram to add to their pass rush depth. In fact, our friend Tripp doesn’t even have Phillips ranked in his LB rankings at Footballguys and has him 3rd in snaps behind Ogbah and Van Ginkel, with just over 500 snaps. So maybe we’re the crazy ones, but we’re all in on Phillips going nuclear this year. He’s too talented to let the scrubs in Miami keep him off the field.
New England Patriots
Bust: Kyle Dugger
Kyle Dugger is a fun player to watch and it’s obvious Bill Belichick loves him. The problem with where he’s being taken in drafts, if the preseason is to be believed, is that it appears the Patriots will rotate their safeties. We’re going to pull this quote from Jon Macri’s amazing Utilization Report, which he’ll be updating weekly throughout the season: “The Kyle Dugger/Adrian Phillips rotation continued this week with Dugger starting the game before Phillips played the second drive. They split the third defensive drive. The rotation between the two looks like a virtual lock to continue into the regular season so draft/start each player with caution.”
Stud: Matt Judon
Judon surprised us in 2021 after many thought that leaving Baltimore would be a bad career move. Per PFF, he had 5 more regular season pass rushing snaps than T.J Watt and finished with one more pressure. Now, we’re not saying he’s better than Watt. We simply want to point out the elite company he’s keeping. Per Adam’s consistency charts, Judon was tied for 7th for 15-point games last season and was tied for 6th for 20-point games among edge defenders. New England hasn’t brought in anything new in terms of their pass rushing and they traded away Chase Winovich. Judon has DL1 upside and he’s going around the DL2/3 mark. At that price, he’s a smash pick.
New York Jets
Breakout: Jordan Whitehead
Whitehead was a solid S3 last season all while only playing 14 games in Tampa Bay’s 3 safety rotation with Antoine Winfield Jr. and Mike Edwards. He signed a healthy free agent deal with the Jets (2 years, $14.5M) and played 87.5% of his preseason snaps in the sweet spot (D-line, box, slot). So he’s clearly in line for that box role. Now, is Whitehead going to suddenly be a top 3 safety? No, but he went between DB31-39 in our IDP-only bestballs this summer—a bar he will easily clear if he’s healthy.
Sleeper: Carl Lawson
This feels familiar. You could almost cut and paste a blurb from the 2020 offseason into this section because nothing has really changed in the formula for why we like Lawson. In fact, he’s the epitome of a post-hype sleeper because you can get him at a serious discount compared to last year's prices, with him being in the DL50 range of our bestball ADP. Lawson is super athletic and a pressure monster. In 2020 he had 63 pressures that resulted in only 5.5 sacks, but 32 QB Hits. So he just needs to convert on a few more of those opportunities. Lawson has week-winning potential at bargain basement prices. He’s no risk, all reward. Who doesn’t love that?
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