Sparknotes: AFC North
Over the next few days, we’ll publish a series entitled Sparknotes, each article will take a birds eye view into each NFL division and it’s most important fantasy players.
After a timultuous regular season, the lone AFC North representative to qualify for the playoffs was dispatched by the eventual Superbowl champion Patriots in the AFC championship game. This year, three teams not named the Cleveland Browns have aspirations for their own big games.
Notable Fantasy Stars: Antonio Brown (WR1), Le’Veon Bell (RB2), Ben Roethlisberger (QB13), Jesse James (TE33), Martavius Bryant (WR33), Eli Rodgers (WR79)
Synopsis: Pittsburgh is a perennial fantasy powerhouse, and the 2017 season looks to continue on that trend. Big Ben falls in my rankings due to injuries and age; the guy has taken a ton of damage over his storied career, but Brown and Bell are the most potent skill position due on the NFL. Part of their allure is the lack of reliable stars around them. Bryant figures to carve a nice little WR4 role for himself, but Rodgers and Jesse James offer little value for this year.
Notable Fantasy Stars: Joe Flacco (QB22), Benjamin Watson (TE30), Danny Woodhead (RB32), Kenneth Dixon (RB42), Mike Wallace (WR47), Breshard Perriman (WR50)
Synopsis: It should be an interesting year in Baltimore, as the team no longer features the ageless Steve Smith (retired) or TE Dennis Pitta (released). Flacco aims to bounce back in a big way this year, but his targets will be redistributed in a way that makes predicting this offense difficult. Danny Woodhead may be the back that sees the largest spike in value as he’ll man the passing downs exclusively and youngster Kenneth Dixon takes over goal line and short distance duties. Mike Wallace will continue to be a 15+YPC guy but Perriman is a conundrum: do the Ravens bring in a Decker or Maclin to be the #2 or do they trust Breshard to make the leap?
Notable Fantasy Stars: Tyler Eifert (TE4), A.J. Green (WR7), Andy Dalton (QB17) Joe Mixon (RB21), Giovani Bernard (RB46), Jeremy Hill (RB47), John Ross (WR58)
Synopsis: Going in 2017, the one sure thing on the Bengals roster is that Green and Eifert are going to see a ton of looks. John Ross figures to factor in to a much smaller degree, but his speed and ability should warrant him as a flier pick, especially in deeper leagues or keeper formats. The running back situation is where it gets muddled. They didn’t add Mixon to take a back seat to the previous two-headed monster. All signs point to Mixon being something closely resembling a workhorse, but Hill and Bernard present a conundrum. I expect Bernard to remain in the pass catching role potentially leaving Hill as the odd man out, but this is an interesting one to watch going into the season.
Notable Fantasy Stars: Isaiah Crowell (RB14), David Njoku (TE19), DeShone Kizer (QB26), Corey Coleman (WR41), Kenny Britt (WR43)
Synopsis: Truthfully, no one knows exactly who’s going to be calling plays from under center. I assumed by now Brock Osweiller would have been cut, but he continues to take starter reps even as draft pick DeShone Kizer and Cody Kessler both garner support as the starting QB. Neither Corey Coleman nor Kenny Britt offer much upside at this point, but either could be intriguing once some clarity forms from the passing game. One thing for certain is that The Crow should see the bulk of the reps at RB, with Duke Johnson Jr’s only real value coming in deeper PPR leagues.