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Divisional standouts – the top-graded players in AFC North play

Offense Overall Grade against AFC North teams: 82.7 This should come as no surprise, as Antonio Brown has eviscerated defenses in the AFC North for years.
Yanda allowed a pressure rate of just 2.4% in the two divisional games he played in last season, which ranks first overall among the division’s guards in AFC North games.
As for running plays, DeCastro earned a run-blocking grade of 76.7, ranking third out of 11 qualifying guards in AFC North competition.
In divisional games, he earned a pass-blocking grade of 89.8, ranking first among AFC North offensive tackles.
Overall Grade against AFC North teams: 80.4 Mixon had a solid rookie season in the NFL, finishing as the highest-graded running back in AFC North play.
80.6 pass-blocking grade in AFC North competition ranked second among the division’s guards.
Last season, Shazier finished with an overall grade above 90.0 in divisional games, the only player in the AFC North to do so.
He had a great rookie season, finishing as the top-ranked edge defender in AFC North competition.
Look for Garrett to make a leap so big in year two that he will be worth at least one win for the Browns this season.
Overall Grade against AFC North teams: 84.4 Heyward’s run defense played a huge part in the Steelers’ undefeated reign over the North last season; he finished with a run defense grade of 89.6 in AFC North competition, ranking first among the division’s interior defenders.

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Cincinnati Bengals’ Jeremy Hill (32) is tackled by Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ryan Shazier (50) during the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The NFL regular season is rapidly approaching. Soon, talks of the top players and best teams will flood social media as each team’s fanbase will champion for their guys. One of those key components to be considered a top player is how well they stack up against their divisional rivals.

In our last look back at the 2017 season, we take a glimpse at the players who have the highest grades against their division rivals from a season ago. We’ll take a look at the top-10 grades on offense and defense only on contests against their respective divisions. How well did your favorite players play against the division last year? Don’t see them below? Grab a PFF Elite subscription for access to Premium Stats 2.0 to find out for yourself.

[This is the culmination of a series that has highlighted the league’s highest-graded players when they take on their divisional rivals.]

Offense

Overall Grade against AFC North teams: 82.7

This should come as no surprise, as Antonio Brown has eviscerated defenses in the AFC North for years. Last season, Brown had 15 explosive plays (gains of 15 yards or more) in AFC North competition, ranking first among the division’s pass-catchers. He is as efficient as they come, as he gained an average of 2.98 yards per route ran in divisional play, also ranking first. In terms of moving the chains, not a single pass-catcher in the AFC North had more catches for first downs in divisional play than Brown had last year, as he gave his team a fresh set of downs 24 times through the air. It doesn’t get any better than Antonio Brown, and it won’t get any better for his AFC North rivals when they have to play him this season.

Overall Grade against AFC North teams: 82.6

Although Yanda only played two games last season, he met the 50-snap qualifier and made the list at number two. Yanda allowed a pressure rate of just 2.4% in the two divisional games he played in last season, which ranks first overall among the division’s guards in AFC North games. Yanda also made an impact on running plays, as he earned a run-blocking grade of 77.6, ranking second out of 11 qualifying guards in divisional play. Look for Yanda to reclaim his spot as one of the league’s best guards as he makes his return this season.

Overall Grade against AFC North teams: 81.0

DeCastro is coming off a huge season after earning a 90.0 overall grade and ranking first among all offensive guards in the NFL. The biggest reason for DeCastro’s career-year in 2017 was his pass-blocking, and his rivals in the AFC North saw it first-hand. In AFC North games, DeCastro allowed a pressure-rate of just 2.5%, ranking third among offensive guards; he surrendered only five total pressures on 203 pass-blocking snaps (one hit, four hurries, zero sacks). As for running plays, DeCastro earned a run-blocking grade of 76.7, ranking third out of 11 qualifying guards in…

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