As many a fan can admit, you sometimes find yourself wishing you had a player from a team you despise. We are going to be taking that one step further today. Combining all of the players from the defensive and special team’s side of the ball to make The 2018 AFC North All-Division Team. For this division, we will be going with a 3-4, as that is what the majority of teams play.
The 2018 AFC North All-Division Team: The Defense and Special Teams
Defense End – Myles Garrett – Cleveland Browns
Although he only played 11 games his rookie season, Garrett immediately made an impact. Showing why he worthy of the number 1 pick, Garrett established himself as a solid edge rusher. Look for Garrett to continue to improve and make his way into the Pro Bowl conversation. With the offseason moves the Browns made, they should find themselves in more close games. If this is the case, Garrett will have more opportunities to rush the passer and increase his numbers.
Defensive Tackle – Brandon Williams – Baltimore Ravens
Williams missed weeks three through six in 2017, and the run game and defense faltered in his absence. While he was in, the Ravens looked like a completely different team. As is the case with many run stuffers in a 3-4, Williams doesn’t pile up stats. What he does do incredibly well is to eat up blockers. He clears the way for those around him to shoot gaps, and have clear lanes to make tackles.
Defensive End – Cameron Heyward – Pittsburgh Steelers
Heyward is consistently a monster off the edge. A fantastic 2017 season vaulted him into an argument for one of the best in the league at his position. Heyward compiled 12 sacks last year, earning him All-Pro honors. Constantly finding himself in the backfield, most disruptions that occur on his side of the field are due to him. With the older generation continuing to leave and a squad looking for leadership, Heyward is filling the role greatly.
Outside Linebacker – Jamie Collins – Cleveland Browns
Since his arrival from New England, Collins has been finding his groove again. After some troublesome times in his past, the opportunity to start fresh seems to be working. Looking to lead the Browns in a division known for its defense, Collins still has a long way to go. With a full offseason in Cleveland under his belt, Collins should be able to get back to his Pro Bowl form.
Middle Linebacker – C.J. Mosley – Baltimore Ravens
Mosley has been doing a good job at continuing the middle linebacker tradition in Baltimore. With great speed, Mosley is able to cover the majority of the field. With that, Mosley also can cover most players he is matched up on. Having led the team in tackles in 2014 and 2017, look for Mosley to repeat this stat in 2018. Mosley was the spearhead of a defense that had an NFL league-leading three shutouts in 2017. With Mosley at the helm of this defense, they could challenge for one of the best in the league in 2018.
Middle Linebacker – Joe Schobert – Cleveland Browns
Like Mosley, Schobert leads his team in tackles during the 2017 season. After transitioning to more of an off-ball role, Schobert has shined. With another season like last year, many fans around the league are going to be learning Schobert’s name. Danny Shelton, known for eating blockers and handling double teams, is now gone. With his departure, more is going to fall on the linebacker core in Cleveland. Look for Schobert to prove his worth, as he will be expected to do more in 2018.
Outside Linebacker – Terrell Suggs – Baltimore Ravens
One of the most dominant players at his position over the last 15 years, Suggs doesn’t show signs of slowing. After a 2017 season where he tallied double-digit sacks, Suggs still wants more. Although he doesn’t cover near as much ground as he used to, his pass rushing is still elite. We likely won’t ever see Suggs put together a defensive player of the year season again. Suggs has said he wants to play for a few more years. With the fear that he places into opposing tackles and Joe Thomas retiring, look for “Sizzle” to continue his dominance.
Cornerback – William Jackson – Cincinnati Bengals
After being graded as a top 5 corner in 2017, Jackson is looking to prove it isn’t a fluke. The Browns and Ravens both upgraded their receiving corps, and the Steelers are as strong as ever. With a lot of top receivers on the schedule, Jackson is in for an exciting year. In 2017, Jackson was rated as the second best corner in football by passer rating when targeted. The leaderboard doesn’t stop there, as his opponents catch rate lead all cornerbacks. If Jackson puts together another season, look for his name to be entered in the argument for best in the league.
Cornerback – Jimmy Smith – Baltimore Ravens
The end of the season for Smith was very disappointing. A torn Achilles and a four-game suspension hampered what had been a great year. Looking to improve at the start of 2017, Smith is one of the best corners in the game. He had the 4th best passer rating when targeted, and wasn’t targeted often either. He was 8th in cover snaps per target, showing quarterbacks where wary of going his way. With the limited opportunities, he still had three interceptions and nine pass deflections.
Strong Safety – Tony Jefferson – Baltimore Ravens
In his first year in Baltimore, Jefferson has made countless Ravens fans happy. Jefferson and the next man on the list form an incredibly formidable back end of the secondary. Jefferson is still learning, and all the veteran leadership in Baltimore is making him a better player by the day. If the Ravens are healthy and Jefferson is able to play to his role, he will have a fantastic year. Watch for Jefferson all over the field, as he is able to come up into the box and play as the 8th man.
Free Safety – Eric Weddle – Baltimore Ravens
If any have a question as to why the Ravens defense is so good, this list should help. With six of the eleven players coming off their squad, it’s no wonder they are such a great unit. Weddle is the veteran in the secondary. Since coming over from the Chargers, he has made up for the lost step with incredible knowledge. Weddle has made the Pro Bowl in both of his seasons with the Ravens. His stats back it up as well, with 10 interceptions and 20 passes defended.
Punter – Sam Koch – Baltimore Ravens
Koch is likely not to be on this list much longer. Entering his 13th year in the league, he doesn’t quite have the leg he once did. This hasn’t stopped his efficiency, as Koch lead the league by a wide margin in punts inside the 20. With 84 punts and only three touchbacks, Koch is still very effective at winning the field position battle for Baltimore.
Kicker – Justin Tucker – Baltimore
Not only is he the best in the division, he is the best in the league. An argument can be made that if he keeps this pace, he will go down as the greatest. The most accurate kicker in NFL history, Tucker comes in with a 90.2% on his kicks. He also has a great leg as well, having made a 57 yarder in each of the last two years. He is accurate as deep as well, making 15 of 17 from over 50 yards the last two seasons combined. There really isn’t an argument here, as Tucker is the best at what he does.
Returner – Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster – Pittsburgh
Dependent of if it is a kick or a punt, either one of these men is incredibly dangerous. They are able to change the field position battle in the blink of an eye, and teams should always be wary. When Redzone switches to a Steelers game and special teams are involved, get excited. It means one of these guys have just done something incredible.
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