Fantasy

Fantasy Spotlight: AFC North Breakdown

BALBaltimore Ravens

I love that the Ravens brought in Marc Trestman. He’s not a good head coach, but no one should question the fact that his offensive scheme is exciting and more importantly to fantasy football players, very fantasy-friendly.  It didn’t all go to plan last year because Jay Cutler doesn’t care about anything (I always root for Smokin’ Jay. He’s an asshole.) but there is definitely promise in a Marc Trestman offense, and it’s interesting to see two traditionally gritty, battle in the trenches teams in this division, these Ravens and their rival Steelers, evolve into high-powered, explosive offenses.

Bustworthy Beauty: Breshad Perriman, WR
H/T: www.orlandosentinel.com

H/T: www.orlandosentinel.com

I expect to get a lot of flak for this, but I don’t buy Breshad Perriman. It’s not that I don’t think he’ll be an okay player, but I don’t want him in the tenth round like people are taking him. I understand that he falls into an expected starting role as the go-to deep threat for an aggressive offensive system under Marc Trestman with one of the strongest arms in the league throwing to him, but he struggled with drops in college and is a below-average route runner. He’s an almost carbon-copy of Torrey Smith in terms of role and everyone that had any part in Torrey Smith last year spent more than one Sunday crying about it. The lack of diversity in route-running is difficult to change as a rookie receiver, and it’s what puts a guy like Amari Cooper head and shoulders above someone in the vein of Perriman. I can’t justify taking Perriman over a number of the receivers going after him (Davante Adams, DeVante Parker, Steve Smith, Kendall Wright). If I can get Davante Adams three rounds later I’d much rather take that plunge.

Sleeping Sweetheart: Joe Flacco, QB
H/T: baltimoresportsreport.com

H/T: baltimoresportsreport.com

No one ever seems to consider Joe Flacco a viable fantasy quarterback and many have him borderline top-20 for the season. He finished as the number 13 quarterback in standard leagues last year, and he warrants consideration even in standard leagues as a strong backup candidate and a more than adequate bye week fill-in. At a position where 11 quarterbacks were separated by 2.2 points per game last season (Matt Ryan (7) averaged 16.8 points per game and Kaepernick (17) averaged 14.6 points per game). Flacco was right in the middle of that pack averaging 15.6 points per game. He won’t blow you away, but I don’t see much reason to take Matt Ryan 50 spots earlier in your draft to get a similar level of production.

PPR Princess: Justin Forsett, RB
H/T: thebaltimorewire.com

H/T: thebaltimorewire.com

I’m not a huge fan of Forsett in general. He’s 29, and I try to avoid running backs over the age of 28 because that’s about when they begin to expire. He has all the makings of a one-year wonder, and the Ravens are clearly not confident with him as well, drafting insurance in Buck Allen. Forsett was heavily considered as our bustworthy beauty for these reasons, and I wouldn’t recommend taking him as high as his current ADP, a fourth round value. Still, Forsett caught 44 balls last year and that number projects to go up in Marc Trestman’s hyper-aggressive offense (Matt Forte had 102(!) catches in Trestman’s offense last year), making him a good PPR value for the season.

Dynasty Darling: Maxx Williams, TE
H/T: www.chatsports.com

H/T: www.chatsports.com

The Ravens addressed their biggest need in the draft and brought in a tight end to shore up a weak position. I won’t lie, I was high on Dennis Pitta last season (Spoiler: I was wrong), and with his injury past, Maxx has minimal competition to be an immediate starter. He’s not particularly big or strong, he’s not going to wow you with Jimmy Graham-esque athleticism, but he has enough speed to beat linebackers and is versatile enough to line up as a receiver. He needs to build some muscle and work to be more physical, but given his route-running capabilities, apparent football IQ, and incorrectly spelled name, there’s a future here.

CIN Cincinnati Bengals

I’m not sure what to make of the Bengals offense. Theoretically, they have good pieces and should be a powerful offense. Unfortunately, they employ an awful quarterback who is nothing more than a stopgap to a hopeful home run in the future. The Bengals as currently constructed won’t contend for a Superbowl, and they didn’t add any pieces in the offseason to warrant a change of opinion. The team seems like a prototypical case of deja vu they seem to be primed for a fourth consecutive season of “not good enough” because Andy Dalton is hopeless and can’t complete passes at all.

Bustworthy Beauty: Jeremy Hill, RB
H/T: profootballtalk.ncbsports.com

H/T: profootballtalk.ncbsports.com

Sometimes, Jeremy Hill gets drafted at the back end of the first round or early in the second and I’m worried for those owners. Because of how amazing Hill was in the second half of last season, people seem to forget that Gio Bernard was the starter in Cincinnati until he hurt himself, and I had on “good authority” that Bernard would touch the ball A LOT (As it turns out, Matthew Berry lied to me, but I forgive him because I’m a fan of the man.). Regardless of the swing-and-miss on Gio, that doesn’t mean that he automatically gets rescinded to irrelevance. Bernard adds another facet to the offense that teams can’t ignore, and the Bengals need to put him on the field. I don’t expect Hill to be bad, in fact, far from it. Dalton can’t throw and Hill is a prototypical power back, but expecting 20 carries every week might be foolish.

Sleeping Sweetheart: Tyler Eifert, TE
H/T: bleacherreport.com

H/T: bleacherreport.com

I love Tyler Eifert. I think his talent is immense and now that Jermaine Gresham is no longer a thorn in his side, Eifert may be primed for a big year. The physical tools are all there. He stacks up amazingly well in comparison to guys like Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, and Travis Kelce (currently the top three tight ends). Their combine results are alarmingly similar, and if his quarterback situation was better, Eifert could easily be considered in the top ten at the position at the very least. In shallower leagues he won’t get drafted, but I’d STRONGLY recommend considering him as a late round flier or to watch the wire like a hawk early in the season for his name.

PPR Princess: Giovani Bernard, RB
H/T: fansided.com

H/T: fansided.com

I understand he was woefully disappointing last season, but he was slated to be the starter last year and his open field versatility is amazing. In today’s NFL, there isn’t really a three down role for a smaller, elusive running back, simply because they generally can’t take the beating if they touch the ball 20+ times a game (The most notable exception to this is LeSean McCoy.), but as a change-of-pace and passing down back, Gio provides another weapon for the offense. Especially in a system which utilizes dump-offs frequently, partially because of Hue Jackson’s offensive scheme and partially because of Andy Dalton’s dangerous incompetence, Bernard will carry value, most notably in the passing game.

Dynasty Darling: A.J. Green, WR
H/T: thesportspost.com

H/T: thesportspost.com

You know what makes A.J. Green such an amazing long-term fantasy asset? It’s the fact that he’s caught for more than 1000 yards in four straight seasons. Now, that may not seem like it’s THAT impressive. But we then have to consider that he’s done that in spite of, not because of his quarterback, Andy Dalton. I know I’m beating a dead horse here, but it’s just a fact. A.J. is the obvious pick here as a dynasty selection, so it’s not a sexy pick, but elite receivers of this caliber don’t come along often and it’s important to snatch one up whenever possible.

 

CLECleveland Browns

The Browns are nothing short of a circus, and that’s putting it nicely. They literally seem to have no plan for anything. They just lobbed money at random players who have no long-term outlook in the league. They seem to be hoping Johnny Manziel stops being a dipshit and learns how to be an NFL quarterback to carry them to the promise land. Josh McCown is supposed to tide them over till that point, basically promising that this offense will remain a train wreck for at least another season.

Bustworthy Beauty: Isaiah Crowell, RB
H/T: clevelandbrowns.com

H/T: clevelandbrowns.com

The Browns can’t make a decision on their running back situation. They really can’t make a decision on anything actually, and might as well be holding open tryouts for roster spots. I think Crowell is good enough to be a three down lead back, but the triple-headed backfield with an overweight Terrance West and an apparently amazing Duke Johnson is cause for concern. The positive we can take from this is the strength of the offensive line bodes well to create some running lanes, but how often do we really expect the Browns to be leading in games to lean on the run? Realistically, no one should want anything to do with this offense, so being a bust is relative. To be safe, everyone should just remove all Cleveland players from their draft boards and everyone will be happier.

Sleeping Sweetheart: Dwayne Bowe, WR
H/T: www.chatsports.com

H/T: www.chatsports.com

This is a prime example of a no-future football asset, but SOMEONE has to catch the ball in Cleveland, and Bowe offers the best combination of pedigree and… skill. He’s not much more than a possession receiver at this point in his career and honestly doesn’t seem to care about football anymore. Still, he’s making 13 million dollars over the next two seasons and if he’s on the field, there’s a chance footballs fall into his lap. Keep gettin’ dem checks, Dwayne.

PPR Princess: Anyone that cares enough to catch the ball
H/T: www.sodahead.com

H/T: www.sodahead.com

There’s no one in the passing game that’s super exciting. The receivers are awful if we’re being kind, and no one will really turn heads for opposing defenses. I suppose the answer here is Duke Johnson… but he’s a rookie running back hoping to be like Justin Forsett, but there are durability concerns and at best we’re looking at a poor man’s Gio Bernard in a Jeremy Hill/Gio Bernard situation. I guess Duke catches maybe 40 balls but it’s nothing to go gaga over like everyone seems to be right now. It’s thoughts like these that make people overdraft guys. I’d err on the side of caution.

Dynasty Darling: Josh Gordon, WR
H/T: www.waitingfornextyear.com

H/T: www.waitingfornextyear.com

Someday, Josh Gordon will be a monster all over again. He’s going to catch for more than 1500 yards and score double-digit touchdowns and lead the Browns to the playoffs. This is what I want and I want it so badly. Realistically, that hypothetical scenario needs to start with “Someday, Josh Gordon will stop being a moronic bonehead, realize he’s good at football, and stop making terrible life choices. Then he will return to the football field and not be a complete waste of talent.” The talent is there. He torched opposing defenses for more than 1600 yards in 2013 receiving passes from an underwhelming combination of Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden, and Brian Hoyer. Also, the source for the picture is quite fitting.

PITPittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh is entering this season as one of the most fantasy-friendly offenses in the league, with potentially the most exciting trio in the league (Roethlisberger, Brown, and Bell), rivaling Green Bay (Rodgers, Jordy, Lacy), Indianapolis (Luck, Gore, Hilton), and the like. This Steelers team isn’t the defensively focused juggernaut it once was but instead boasts an electrifying spread offense with a perennially undervalued quarterback.

Bustworthy Beauty: Martavis Bryant, WR
H/T: bleacherreport.com

H/T: bleacherreport.com

A Martavis Bryant breakout season is on the cards according to many fantasy experts and enthusiasts. I’m not one of them. I like the talent, I like the offense, but what holds him back is actually our sleeping sweetheart, rookie Sammie Coates. Reports say Martavis has  bulked up significantly to add another facet to his game, which was previously predominantly long-ball go routes. I don’t think he’ll have a BAD season by any means, the offense provides significant upside, but those expecting something around 1000 yards and six touchdowns may end up disappointed. It becomes an embarrassment of riches in Pittsburgh, especially considering that Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell WILL get theirs for sure and DeAngelo Williams, Sammie Coates, and Markus Wheaton could get chances down the road as well. I’ve seen him go as early as the sixth round in recent mocks and at that price point I expect a lot of unhappy owners.

Sleeping Sweetheart: Sammie Coates, WR
H/T: www.baltimoresun.com

H/T: www.baltimoresun.com

Heath Miller might end up being the popular answer here, because he’s always underrated and is always on the field because of his blocking capabilities. At this stage in his career he’s become solely a red zone threat. Instead, we’re going with an unpolished rookie wideout from Auburn with amazing big-play potential. He comes in as basically Martavis Bryant of last year, and the big-play nature of this offense may get him some looks down the field. He’s not draftable in most leagues, but it’s a nice waiver wire consideration as inevitable injuries occur.

PPR Princess: Antonio Brown, WR
H/T: isportsweb.com

H/T: isportsweb.com

This was the real no-brainer here. Antonio Brown is the top receiver on many draft boards this season and as the most effective and efficient cog in a vaunted offense, Brown’s volume will be there once again. After winning the receiving triple crown last year (129 catches, 1,698 yards, 13 touchdowns), some are skeptical that he’ll be able to repeat such an incredible season. While that might be the case, being the top value at a position doesn’t necessarily have to mean they’ll finish the top scorer at the position. That entails being the most reliable option at the position. At receiver, that’s Brown for me. There are more question marks with every other elite receiver, be it injury (Calvin, OBJ, Julio), contract concerns (Demaryius, Dez), cannibalism of touches and whoever has Aaron’s heart on the day (Jordy and Cobb), Terrible Quarterback Syndrome (AJ Green), or Douchebag Quarterback Syndrome (Alshon). We know for a fact that Ben trusts Antonio, he has a good track record of health and he projects to be a reliable elite producer for multiple years to come. If you have any concerns, take it up with this guy.

Dynasty Darling: Le’Veon Bell, RB
H/T: foxsports.com

H/T: foxsports.com

Le’Veon is coming off one hell of a season, failing to break 100 yards from scrimmage in just three games last year. The concern in redraft leagues is the impending suspension, but even without the first three games of last season (opening game being a 24 point explosion), Le’Veon was still the number five running back in fantasy. In a dynasty perspective, the three game suspension is almost irrelevant, considering he’ll have a home on your team for years to come. Running back is the most volatile position in the league, thus the importance of drafting a workhorse early. At just 24, Bell has an easy four years of dominance before falling off the proverbial running back cliff at around age 28 or so, the safest bet in a very unsafe tailback market. Bell is a shoo-in for the top overall pick in dynasty leagues (Please take him first. None of that OBJ bullshit.).

 

Yesterday: AFC East

Check in tomorrow as we continue through the NFL, featuring our AFC South Breakdown.

Click here to return to the 2015 Divisional Roster Breakdown homepage to catch the other articles in this series.

 

Featured Image: profootballspot.com

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