NFL Season Predictions: AFC North Breakout Defensive Players


Aug 24, 2023

The AFC North is stacked with high-end defensive talent, and many players can break out and add to that list in 2023. 

Click on the links below for a more detailed analysis of each team in the North and their potential breakout players. 

Baltimore Ravens – Patrick Queen, LB

Linebacker Patrick Queen is approaching a pivotal contract year with the Baltimore Ravens. To secure a lucrative deal, he needs to elevate his game. Playing alongside talents like Roquan Smith should boost Queen’s performance. So far, his career-best in the NFL is five sacks in a season. While he has shown the potential to be a game-changer, he hasn’t fully realized it yet. With Baltimore’s recent defensive additions, Queen is poised to see increased production.

Cincinnati Bengals – Dax Hill, S

Dax Hill garnered praise for his performance in the Cincinnati Bengals preseason match against the Green Bay Packers. Expectations are high for Hill’s second year with the Bengals, bolstered by the buzz generated in training camp. Hill’s role becomes vital with the Bengals secondary losing key players. Demonstrating versatility and showing potential in his rookie year, Hill is set to start in his primary position. Anticipation is high for him to break out for Cincinnati in 2023.

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Cleveland Browns – Greg Newsome II, CB

Cornerback Greg Newsome II’s versatility is a standout feature, making him adaptable and intriguing. As he enters his third NFL season with the Cleveland Browns, we anticipate further growth in their secondary. After showing marked improvement from his first to second year, expectations are high for his continued development in Year 3. Under Jim Schwartz’s defense, Newsome’s value is undeniable, and 2023 is set to showcase his skills for the Browns.

Pittsburgh SteelersKeeanu Benton, DT

Keeanu Benton has emerged as a standout during the Pittsburgh Steelers training camp. Drafted out of Wisconsin, he showcases numerous qualities that promise a perfect fit for Pittsburgh’s defense. Benton might play a pivotal role in his rookie year if he maintains his health. Despite his size, he possesses remarkable speed for a defensive tackle, reflecting skills he displayed in Wisconsin. Benton will face a learning curve like all rookies, but he has immense potential. The Steelers must be pleased with their decision to pick him in the second round of this year’s draft.

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Thumbnail photo via Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

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