The Fantasy Breakdown – AFC East Edition

The Fantasy Breakdown – AFC East Edition

Welcome back to the Fantasy Breakdown! This week, we will take a look at the AFC East.

Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills will be the biggest surprise of the AFC East this year, book it. I am putting my belief square on the shoulders of Sean McDermott. If he can coach this defense up while Josh Allen continues to improve his throwing mechanics, the Bills could low key be a team that creeps into the playoffs. Though most of the NFL has transitioned to heavy pass offenses, the Bills could fit closer to a Ravens model of running the ball and playing good defense in order to accumulate 9 or 10 wins.

Here is a player by player breakdown

Josh Allen – A waiver wire darling last year, Josh Allen will look to build on his rookie season and improve his passing mechanics. His preseason play thus far has been a bit up and down, but he is locked in as the starter and still provides extra value as a running quarterback. One potential issue with Allen is his proclivity for absorbing hits rather than avoiding them, but hopefully, he is able to endure a full season. His current ADP is appropriate, but he’s still not consistent enough to be the only QB on your roster. If you can lock down a Big Ben or a Philip Rivers, Allen would provide an excellent streaming option off the bench.

LeSean McCoy – Shady McCoy hit the wall last year, unable to produce much as he was marred by injuries for most of the year. Although Sean McDermott and the Bills brass have come out and said that McCoy is still the presumed starter, Devin Singletary has looked excellent in camp so far. McCoy’s ADP is about the only thing that makes him valuable right now. Even then, I’d still be very worried about McCoy. On 287 carries in 2018, he only had a shade over 1100 yards and 6 touchdowns, and I don’t expect him to approach that volume this year. Unless he drops to the 9th or 10th rounds, I have no interest in Shady this year.

Devin Singletary – The Bills running back room is crowded, but Singletary has impressed early on in training camp and preseason action. If he continues on this path, he will likely gain between 100-150 touches, which will serve to eat into LeSean McCoy’s fantasy output. Singletary is a flex starter on day one of the regular season, but if anything at all happens to McCoy, Singletary could be on track to take over as the starter, making him an RB2 with RB1 upside.

John Brown – Brown was able to establish himself as a go to deep threat last year, and was on pace to pass 1000 yards before the Ravens switched from Joe Flacco to Lamar Jackson.  This year, he will look to repeat his production from last year, but with a new team and a new quarterback. The biggest boost to Brown’s value is the absence of competition, as he is already the best WR on the roster, making him worth a dart throw at his current ADP.

Zay Jones – Jones is an interesting wide receiver to examine, as he nearly doubled his receptions, yards, and touchdowns in 2018 in comparison to his rookie season. One must assume he has begun to develop some chemistry with Josh Allen, and if he can continue to improve, he could surprise many owners as a valuable asset in fantasy football.

Robert Foster – Cole Beasley seems to be the preferred option for fantasy football owners as an indentured slot receiver, however, I think Robert Foster provides a ton more upside. In the last 7 games of 2018, Foster was 11th in receiving yards, and 3rd in yards per reception. Granted, it may take an injury to John Brown or Zay Jones for Foster to unlock his full potential, but he’s basically free in most leagues right now, making him a guy I like to look for at the end of my drafts.

Tyler Kroft – I’ve only included Tyler Kroft here to tell you not to draft him or stash him, as he suffered a broken foot that will likely keep him out of some regular season games. Even if he is able to make it back, it will be very tough for him to produce on the field with a foot injury that is likely to still be healing.

Dawson Knox – The Bills traded up for Dawson Knox despite a lack of production in college, which they have attributed to a scheme fit rather than his actual talent level. Knox is nursing a minor hamstring injury, but it shouldn’t preclude him from starting week 1 given Tyler Kroft’s foot injury. He’s not yet worth a draft pick, but he is worth keeping an eye on to see if he can develop into a real treasure, or if he’s just fool’s gold.

Bills DST – More than the sum of their parts, I believe in the scheme and the coaching of Sean McDermott. With that said, the Bills do have some decent defensive players, particularly veteran defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, first round pick Ed Oliver and MLB Tremaine Edmunds. The Bills also added a ton of draft capital to this defense, and they have a ton of young talent that should make them an exciting unit to watch. They are a sneaky defense to draft late and use in streaming matchups.

New York Jets

I want so badly to be excited for the New York Jets, however, the hiring of Adam Gase was a terrible move in my opinion. Gase did nothing to impress me during his time in Miami, as even in Gase’s first season where they went 10-6 (after a 1-4 start), the Dolphins were crushed in the playoffs by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Gase has been able to garner head coaching jobs due to his stint in Denver, however, it’s hard to give a guy credit when he had Peyton Manning as his quarterback. Overall, the Jets have some talent, and will push to compete, but lack the coaching and the defensive depth to really be a threat to overtake the Patriots in this division.

Here is a player by player breakdown:

Sam Darnold – I was very impressed with Sam Darnold last year, considering the lack of difference-making skill players that surrounded him last year. Not much has changed in this respect, except for the addition of a true bell-cow running back (pun intended) and slot receiver Jamison Crowder. Even if the offense has improved slightly, Darnold is a back end QB2 that I won’t be looking at except maybe in streaming situations, dynasty leagues or two QB leagues.

Le’Veon Bell – Perhaps the freshest running back in the NFL after having taken a year off from football due to the holdout situation that led to his exit from Pittsburgh, Le’Veon Bell has already promised fantasy football fanatics the ultimate season to make up for last year. He may be hard-pressed to live up to this promise, given that literally, every member of his team is arguably worse than the team he just left. Add to that the fact that Adam Gase has already come out and said his star running back was overpaid, and it is fair to question if Bell will succeed in this system. Regardless of the risk, Bell is worth the first round price he is currently being drafted at, especially given that he has some of the easiest matchups this year, facing bottom half ranked defenses in 2018 in 8 games this year.

Robby Anderson – Arguably the most physically gifted receiver on the Jets roster, Anderson regressed last year due to injuries. Hopefully, he can stay healthy and capitalize on the growth of his young quarterback, Sam Darnold. If Anderson can play a full season, he could present a tremendous value given his current ADP. 

Quincy Enunwa – Before getting injured last year, Enunwa was quickly becoming the go-to target for Sam Darnold. Enunwa battled through a high ankle sprain that forced him to miss two weeks before hurting his left ankle, causing him to miss the last 3 games of the season. Much like his teammate Robby Anderson, Enunwa could provide tremendous value at his current ADP if he can stay healthy this year.

Jamison Crowder – The designated slot receiver for the Washington Redskins, Crowder will now reprise his role in New York. Crowder is significantly more valuable in PPR leagues than in standard, so be wary of drafting him if your league does not garner points per reception.

Ryan Griffin – Free agent acquisition Ryan Griffin will need to capitalize on the absence of Chris Herndon, who will be out a quarter of the season due to a 4 game suspension. Personally, I’m not holding my breath, as Griffin was never able to take advantage of his time in Houston. He is a better real-life football player than a fantasy football asset, so I’m staying away from him in any format of the league.

Chris Herndon – With the 4 game suspension looming, Chris Herndon is now undraftable. However, he is someone to keep on your radar when you’re in week 3 of your fantasy football season and you’re looking for a tight end streamer to stash.

Jets DST – The Jets might be the only bad defense set to get worse this year. Granted, they upgraded their linebacker group by adding CJ Mosley, however, the NFL is predicated on good pass defense in 2019, and the Jets might have the thinnest secondary in the entire league. Except for standout safety Jamal Adams, the secondary is a collection of warm bodies that would struggle to make a competitive roster. Gregg Williams will have his work cut out for him, but I’m not expecting much from this unit, and I’m certainly not drafting them in any of my leagues.

Miami Dolphins

Maybe more than any other team in the NFL this upcoming season, the Dolphins are a bit of an unknown quantity. I think there was a sense that this team was on the path to “Tanking for Tua”, but to be perfectly honest, I’m not so sure about that. The truth is, I don’t think the roster is as bad as we have been led to believe. New head coach Brian Flores is as much an unknown as this team’s potential, as he really was only the defensive play-caller in New England for one season before being anointed the Dolphins head coach. If this team can get a little Fitz-magic going early, they could surprise a lot of people this year.

Here is a player by player breakdown:

Ryan Fitzpatrick – There was perhaps no bigger story at the start of the season in fantasy football last year than the rise of Fitz-magic. Unfortunately, Fitz-magic quickly turned Fitz-tragic and ultimately lost hold of the starting job. At this point, Fitzpatrick is a matchup based streaming option. I’m not expecting much week 1 when he plays the Ravens, but I’ll bet on fireworks against the Patriots the following week. 

Josh Rosen – Rosen is only draftable in dynasty leagues or two QB leagues where you’ve already got your two starters and you’re looking for upside guys. The odds are he eventually takes over for Ryan Fitzpatrick, and at that point, he’s a low end, desperation play.

Kenyan Drake – Do you hate the Drake? I love the Drake! I was excited about Kenyan Drake’s potential this season, that was until he was seen in a walking boot at practice. The right foot injury is likely to keep Drake out the entire pre-season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this lingers into the start of the regular season. As such, Kenyan Drake’s ADP is falling fast, and if he were to fall into the late rounds, I might still look his way based solely on his talent. 

Kalen Ballage – It is time to cash in all of your chips at the Bellagio. Kenyan Drake’s injury propels Kalen Ballage into the role of presumptive starter, given that he and Drake were competing for the starting job. Ballage is bound to shoot up in value, maybe as high as the 5th or 6th round even. At that price, I’ll be looking elsewhere, as Kenyan Drake is still bound to come back and eat into Ballage’s volume. I’d be trying to package Ballage with some other players to get a premium guy if possible.

Devante Parker – Somehow, someway, Devante Parker is still the starting wide receiver of the Miami Dolphins. Despite never having really produced in real life, much less fantasy football, there isn’t much anyone can say to me that will make me happy about drafting Parker.  Parker is a bit dinged up right now, but it doesn’t sound too serious as he wasn’t required to wear and protective equipment. Given his history, it’s always a bit alarming when he misses practice. With that said, if he drops far enough, I’ll still take a dart throw on him just to see if Fitzpatrick can unlock something in him for a few games.

Kenny Stills  – I think Kenny Stills is the best receiver on this team. If he can get a larger workload than he has the past few years, I think he could easily surpass 1000 yards and massively outproduce his ADP. Especially now that he’s got a guy in Fitzpatrick that is going to sling the ball, Stills could be a tremendous value where he’s currently being drafted.

Albert Wilson – Bert alert! Hey, don’t fall for this. You can do better.

Mike Gesicki – Gesicki is a guy to keep an eye on late. He’s not currently worth drafting, but the reports out of Dolphins training camps have been very positive, stating that Gesicki has come back bigger, stronger and faster. Queue the football cliché, “he’s in the best shape of his life”, except that when it’s a player entering his sophomore season, I tend to pay a bit more attention to that, as it shows he’s developing his NFL body.

Dolphins DST – The biggest question about this team is going to be the defense, and if they can rebound from a disappointing year. Xavien Howard has struggled early in camp, getting burned at the Buccaneers and Dolphins joint practice by Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. Granted, it’s just a practice, but you don’t want to see arguably the best player on your defense getting clowned in scrimmages. Brian Flores is technically a defensive-minded coach,  if he can get this underrated unit to work together for a top 15 finish, the Dolphins might not be a candidate for their desired quarterback next year.

New England Patriots

The reigning, defending, undisputed, universal, Super Bowl Champions of the Wooooooooorld!!

*Shudders.* That just felt greeee-eeeee-eeeasy.

Anyways, here’s a breakdown of the stupid Patriots.

Here is a player by player breakdown:

Tom Brady – The living GOAT. Brady has my respect as the greatest quarterback of all time, but that does not translate to fantasy football. Tom Terrific might be waging a war against father time, but he is still living in the twilight of his career. The skill players around him are arguably the worst they’ve ever been, as aside from Julian Edelman, the receiving room consists of a bunch of virtual tight ends and one of the oldest tight ends in the league. Brady and Belichick still rule all, so I don’t mind taking Brady as my QB2 with QB1 upside if he falls to the double digit rounds.

Sony Michel – In spite of everything telling me that I should be valuing Sony Michel as a legitimate RB1 in fantasy football, I just can’t let myself do it because of one word: Belitricks. Michel has one of the easiest strength of schedule this year with 8 matches against bottom-ranked defenses, tied with Le’Veon Bell. Everything is pointing to Michel being a superstar running back, except for his head coach, and that gives me the heebie-jeebies.

James White – In PPR leagues, James White should still be heavily targeted. He might actually be the 2nd best receiver on this team behind Julian Edelman. I could see the Patriots running a lot of split back packages, deploying both Michel and White at the same time to mask whether they want to run or pass. In this case, White would retain his value from last year as a PPR darling.

Julian Edelman – Edeltron could be set to have the best statistical year of his entire career, given that he is officially the primary, and potentially only trustworthy option left on the Patriots roster. He’s still more valuable in PPR than he is in standard leagues, but he’s a dependable player that I like to target if I’m going RB heavy in the early portion of my drafts.

N’Keal Harry – The Patriots should be looking to develop their first round selection quickly, as they desperately need someone to step up on the opposing hash marks from Julian Edelman. Harry is a big body receiver who has already displayed some good over-the-shoulder catch ability in his first pre-season outing. He is suffering from a minor injury currently, but it should not affect his availability for the regular season. This is a guy to take a shot on, as I believe he will only get stronger as the season progresses.

Ben Watson – Forget that Ben Watson is 38 years old and had to unretire to be added to the Patriots roster because the real problem is it is still unclear whether or not Watson will face a 4 game suspension to start the year. Watson, who thought he was done with football, is accused of having taken a banned substance and will likely be unavailable until week 5 of the regular season. As such, I’m not looking to draft Watson in any formats.

Maurice Harris – A virtual unknown by most, Maurice Harris has impressed all throughout Patriots training camp and early on in the preseason. Harris could potentially upend the Patriots WR depth chart if he’s able to earn a spot on the roster, as he’s already developed chemistry with Tom Brady and has excelled no matter where he’s been lined up. If things continue this way, Harris could be the biggest WR value in fantasy football this year.

Jun 5, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Maurice Harris (82) catches a pass during mandatory minicamp at the Gillette Stadium practice field. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Lance Kendricks – The Patriots tight end that I would like to target is Lance Kendricks. Kendricks has been a pretty ho-hum tight end throughout his career, but the last time he was in a featured role, he did have 50 receptions for 499 yards and 2 touchdowns. Those numbers don’t leap off the page, but it means he could be a valuable tight end streamer that is going undrafted in many leagues.

Patriots DST – Nearly every year, in at least one of my leagues, there is someone who overdrafts the Patriots defense. Bill Belichick is arguably the greatest defensive mind in the history of the game, and so his defenses are expected to excel year in and year out regardless of who’s name is on the back of those jerseys. Rather than drafting the Patriots, you should avoid their defense at all costs, instead opting to let someone else make the mistake of having the Pats defense while they’re getting killed in September during the team’s “figuring ourselves out” phase. Once they’re dropped, scoop them up as your 2nd defense to play in November and December when they start rounding into shape and performing as a top ten unit.

NEXT TIME: The NFC North

Jack Lucenay

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