AFC North: 2019 State of Affairs (Post Draft)
Baltimore has a new look, and kind of a new style about themselves. Let’s run the ball, all the time! Let’s run it from the QB position, the RB position, the WR position – and even the Wildcat. “Hey Coach, how can we run the ball with the tackle?” Don’t get me wrong, the running of the ball has been working! Teams have not seem to be able to spy on the QB and stop the run at the same time. Now, with Lamar Jackson & newly signed Mark Ingram they can truly run it down their opponent’s throats. Baltimore has not done a great job, at all, drafting WRs to create a balance of run & pass, so this change to all run, all the time works to their advantage. The expectation was to once again use an early draft pick on a prime #1 WR. After signing Michael Crabtree (FA), Willie Snead, drafting Perriman and other young WRs, they needed to try something new. This time around things may turn out a little different this year as new GM Eric DeCosta brings more of a scouting background with him. This aspect may have the Ravens cashing in on draft picks in the near future.
In the draft, the Ravens drafted Marquise Brown from Oklahoma at 25th overall & Miles Boykin from Notre Dame at 95th overall. These two players might be key to the attempt to balance out the offense. I still believe that the Ravens have a year or two before they could tend for the title in the AFC North (and also the decline of the Steelers – if that happens – will play a part in the rise of the Ravens), but with a couple of pieces falling in the right direction Baltimore might surprise you! Last year, they went 10-6 and won the division. I am not sure how, but they did and are not really primed to take another step forward. If not forward, then backwards it is!
Fantasy Relevance: Trust is hard to come by both in fantasy and in real life. So, when thinking of the Baltimore Ravens there are only a few players on the team that I can trust to produce. This is for now, until we can fully identify what kind of team is Baltimore or how consistent will Lamar Jackson will be. You can fully trust Mark Ingram as he will be the feature back, with the ability to carry the team to 1,000+ yards, 45 Rec & 8-10 Total TDs. This could rival Ingram’s best year in New Orleans in 2017. He finished that year with 1,124 yards, 58 recs for 416 yards and 12 total TDs. The Ravens did not invest in their OL until the 4th round in the draft, but they only allowed 8 sacks, and 25 knockdowns (hits & sacks). this will bowed well for rushing and passing yards if they invested in the right WRs this off-season.
Another player that I would recommend would be Lamar Jackson, as he now would have another off-season under his belt, the team drafted better WRs, and he has the rushing talent to help sustain his value. He would be also considered a Sleeper, as he is still a developing talent. But, once it click’s for him and the game slows down, even a little bit, he value will skyrocket. He could be your 2nd or 3rd QB with upside!
Fantasy Sleepers: RB Justice Hill (Speed, Fastest Combine 40 time for RBs – rookie, so may come along in the second half of the season), WR Marquise Brown & Miles Boykins (Great Combine totals, and lack of competition at WR position and so much speed to go around), TE Hayden Hurst (2018 1st Rd drafted, This will be Hurst’s second season, and was drafted ahead of Mark Anthony. TEs take longer to develop, and still might be a working progress in 2019).
My2Cents/I’m Just Sayin’: Why hold onto a young guy from 2016 4th round (134 overall) that has only gotten you a total of 148 rushing yards? The four year contract was only for $2.7 million (with a signing bonus of $383,000). Why do you hold him, because you liked what you saw, he is cheap and could very well be an asset. I see Kenneth Dixon being a thorn in the Ingram/Justice Hill own’s backside. He will show flashes, he will have his big games and he will eat at the table of Ingram & Hill. I said before that Hill may come on towards the tail end of the season, well that is because I believe they want to see the “beginning” or the “end” of the Dixon story. Ingram/Hill “buyers” BEWARE! Some may look at Hill and say they drafted him to replace what Dixon was supposed to be, but Dixon could very well help himself by staying healthy, out of trouble off the field and find success on special teams.
Dynasty IDP Aspect: The DEF has passed the torch from the Ray Lewis, Suggs, Mosley days. In fantasy you could rely on these studs for years. They relied on them for so long that they did not do a very good job of grooming their young guys to put them in a position to step up and trust them. BUT, a true Raven-type of player that belongs at the top of the IDP list for this team is Earl Thomas. With a chip on his shoulder from Seattle, Thomas will provide the BIG hits that we are accustom to seeing from him & the Ravens D. In the middle of the field I would invest in the future when thinking about OLB Matt Judon. 6’3″ 261lbs, 26 years old and got his feet wet in 2017 & 2018 in a part-time capacity. Right now he is sitting at 129 total tackles, 19 total sacks and 3 total forced fumbles. It is now time to see what he can do in a full time roll. Judon is a little bit of a sleeper but a name to listen for! An up & comer would be LB Kenny Young. Put him on your “Watch List” and keep tabs on him. If he is forced or forces his way into a starting role, he is an asset that you could get for cheap.
2019 Prediction: 3rd in Division (with a surprise if they reach 2nd, and that is if the Steelers hand it to them.)
Optimism in a town many call “Believe-land”. With 2018 over and almost on the cusp of winning the winning the division & getting into the playoffs, the Cleveland Browns have made a HUGE splash in the off-season. The signing of head Coach Freddie Kitchens will be looked at as the paperclip holding everything together in 2019. With Coach Kitchens taking over late in the season, the fans will have a “wait and see” approach to their new leader on the sidelines. Another reason to believe in the Browns is the current quarterback, Baker Mayfield. As a rookie, he was able to process through his reads quickly and distribute the ball to his primary players. Now, Mayfield has even more skilled players to distribute the ball to. The blockbuster trade for Odell Beckham Jr. is one of the biggest trades in recent memory. The Amari Cooper was big for lots of reasons, but this feels bigger than that one! ODJ & Kareem Hunt signing has the beloved Dawg Pound fans barking like crazy!
In the draft the Cleveland Browns focused on the defensive side of the ball. With the 46th overall pick, they drafted CB Greedy Williams from LSU. This is a great pick of need and provided talent. The other standout pick happened in the 5th round, 155th overall with LB Mack Wilson of Alabama. This pick will provide Cleveland with a young LB for the next 4 year, that has the potential to be what CJ Mosley was to the Ravens. Media outlets are suggesting that the Browns could make it all the way to the Super Bowl. I am not as foolish to believe the hype as I know it takes time to mesh and produce as a team. As it stands on paper I believe it to be a lock to win the AFC North Division, barring any significant injury to prime players. This is the “changing of the guard” as the Steelers will now take more of a backseat. If this were to happen, it is huge news as the Cleveland Browns have not won a division title since 1989! So long ago that it was won when the division was the old AFC Central Division.
Fantasy Relevance: “Keep calm and let the process happen”. That is my advice as a fan. As a Fantasy perspective, I think that there are studs on this team that could help you win! But like any movement of players and teams alike, it takes time to jell. OBJ, will be a player to trust to help you win, but because of the mouths “at the table”, his production will need to develop over time with Mayfield. I would expect Landry to fully do what he did last year, 900 yards & 4 TDs. It will be on fewer receptions as there will be more one on one coverage, so more space to run after the catch. Call that the OBJ effect. Baker Mayfield is the obvious beneifit of the OBJ effect. Having another sure handed WR with Landry will help his numbers rise. Mayfield also has the ability to be a mobile QB and take off for some yards. In 2018 Baker had 39 rushing attempts with 131 rushing yards. He did not go over 43 yards in a single game and no rushing TDs. I would expect that to change a little, with the OBJ effect opening things up a little. Baker may have a little more running room to potentially get a couple of rushing TDs.
Baker is the second best QB in the division, so he should be drafted as a backup with major long term dynasty upside, that might have Mayfield ending up within the top 10 by season end. His overall Dynasty ranking is pretty high as the sky’s the limit. Click here to see my Dynasty QB rankings. The OL was ranked 4th last year, and that will not change. This provide trust in the run game. Trust in Chubb/Hunt – and to a lesser degree; Duke (Read below).
Fantasy Sleepers: Antonio Callaway, is my biggest sleep for the Browns. This is the OBJ effect, again! With the concentration on OBJ, and the potential studs at RB, Callaway will be able to take the top off again. In my mind, think of when Mike Wallace was starting out in PITT. They had to focus on so many different other things he could get do the field so quickly that no one could even keep up. This production is not sustainable play after play, but he will get his shots. He is considered a sleeper for me because he should be the #3 WR, and because he has been known for some off the field issues. I believe that OBJ & Landry (together) will be a positive component for him to learn from. At 22 years old, you want to make sure your are there with your older brothers as they are about to have some fun!
Duke Johnson, is my other sleep for this stacked Browns team. I put him on this sleeper list as there are a lot of things we don’t know about the future of Kareem Hunt. Also, I suspect that he will be traded at some point before the trade deadline. This is the main reason he is a sleeper. If released from the Browns and someone wants him, trades for him – it will fuel Johnson and it will get him back to the place we all drafted him for. trade destinations will also depend on his value (current & future). Could propel him to stardom in HOU, JAX, TB or IND, or reduce him to a low end bye week filler (what-the-heck-play) on a team like SF, NE, or CIN. He could be a “buy low” candidate right now, but be careful as his value is in flux. I wouldn’t blame anyone trying to “unload” him, as people thinking to get what you can. Rebuilding: If I received a 2nd or 3rd rounder for him (could get Rodney Anderson in late 2nd or 3rd), I would do it in a heart beat. Win-Now: Hold, depending on roster and landing spot if traded.
My2Cents/I’m Just Sayin’: Duke was a product of someone else, that the origination was not really apart of. And because he has done pretty well, and has value (and you replaced him with “your” guys) then the writing is on the wall and he will be traded. Chubb is an all around back & so is Hunt. Keep Hunt out of trouble and you can trade Johnson for draft capital to invest in something else. The excitement and hype around the this team is electric! We haven’t had this much positivity and expectations for success in a VERY LONG TIME!
Dynasty IDP Aspect: Cleveland drafted CB Greedy Williams (2nd RD), LB Sione Takitaki (3rd RD) and LB Mack Wilson (5th RD) has them primed for a stacked DEF with good young players behind them. These players are players to draft for the future, except Greedy can be drafted and start for your IDP this year. With QBs testing Greedy early and often, he will be show that he was ranked as one of the best in the draft class. Can get Greedy in a Rookie only draft late in the draft, if not in Waiver Wires after the draft. Miles Garrett, Oliver Vernon, Sheldon Richardson, Joe Schobert, Chistian Kirksey, Gerard Avery, Denzel Ward, Damarious Randall, and Morgan Burnett are all starters and fantasy relevant! Looks like CLE is the one to beat on OFF & DEF!
2019 Prediction: 1st in Division
The Cincinnati Bengals ending 2018 as a team that went 6-10. As a team there are so many issues and questions. During the off-season, the Bengals did not really help themselves at all. Many of the immediate issues are related to the QB. Though, part of the issue is that the Bengals needed to help Andy Dalton out. They needed to help him by strengthening the OL, keep the WRs & TEs healthy and improving the defense. Ok, so that is fixing just about everything. In the draft, Cincinnati drafted OL Jonah Williams of Alabama at #11 overall. This pick is key to help. The Bengals’ continued investment in the OL,. shows they truly are trying to fix some of their problems. That was until their second pick at 52 overall, when they selected TE Drew Sample from Washington. Resigning Tyler Eifert in the off-season, and having C.J. Uzomah, this pick seemed to out in left field. With John Ross not producing like the Bengals would have like, the need for a WR would have been my pick if they wanted to address the offense. The question about whether Andy Dalton is their franchise QB has come up a couple of times this off-season. Many media outlets called for a change at QB, as they believed that the Bengals were going to draft the QB of the future early in the draft. Well, a vote of confidence was given to Dalton when they only drafted QB Ryan Finley of North Carolina State in the 4th Round (104th overall). This draft and lack of off-season acquisitions has me believing that another 6-10 season might be the expectation.
Fantasy Relevance: In the division & league, we know what the Bengals are. They are 6-10 team that might be on the way down. With AJ Green hitting the “ripe” age of 30, coming off a down season (way down) and coming off toe surgery can you really trust Green? I believe he will have a little bounce back, but will still show people that he is on the decline (i.e. Demarius Thomas & Dez bryant). If you still have him on your team, I hope it is as a 3rd WR. I would not be surprised to see Green get traded before the trade deadline, as they will not be playoff contenders and he is in the final year of his contract. $11.97 million for 2019 is what is owed to Green, but I believe someone will trade for him as long as he remains healthy. With the Cincinnati Bengals, HEALTHY is a big word. It does not seem like anyone can stay that way. AJ Green & Tyler Eifert were hurt losses on offese last season. They can not really do anything well without the key players. Now, Mixon is the only one that I believe you can trust to get his. Joe is only 22 years old and could be a potential building block of the Bengals. In 2018 he rushed 237 times for 1,168 yards (4.9 avg), 8 TDs with 43 Receptions, 296 yards & 1 TD. Joe Mixon & Tyler Boyd are the pieces that should be viewed as “rising” on the team. Everyone else seems to have lost their luster. The OL is ranked 24th for the 2019 season, which again about right where they were last year. No improvement all the way around.
Fantasy Sleepers: This is tough, as I just said that Joe Mixon & Tyler Boyd are the pieces that should be viewed as “rising” on the team. Everyone else seems to have lost their luster. So, in saying that I think that John Ross is a sleeper, but even I have lost faith in him. In the 2017 draft he was drafted #9 overall, and has done nothing! Part of this is not being healthy, not getting the reps with Dalton, Dalton not staying healthy, and Dalton not being able to sling the ball down field to get it to Ross. I believe change is coming in this aspect, as they drafted Ryan Finley in the 4th RD and he was considered to have mediocre arm strength but accurate. They will most likely get Finley on the field once they have lost enough to see if what they have. So change is coming, but I did not say that it was going to be successful. They will be in the market early in the 2020 draft to get their new QB (read My2Cents at the bottom for more on this topic). To look to the future, I like Rodney Anderson, to make a great case to get his touches. We was a great steal in the draft as the Bengals drafted him the 6th round. he has the ability to be a Latavius Murray-ish kind of back – IF, he can stay healthy. Seems, like they just added more health problems too. He has already had a broken leg as a freshman, fractured vertebra as a sophomore and then tearing his ACL two games into his senior year. So, really all we have to go off of is his JR year. 188/1,161/13 (6.2 YPR) rushing with 17 receptions. If he can stay healthy – investing a small amount now, might give you a huge advantage in 2020, or 2021.
My2Cents/I’m Just Sayin’: Let’s see… Everyone to IR, or simply trade/cut them. If I was in charge, I would be trading, cutting, and getting draft capital for next year. Currently they only have their own 7 draft picks in 2020 & 2021. This will need to change if they are going to be relevant any time soon! They did not hit on any one in the draft except Jonah Williams of Alabama. This will have a trickle effect, as if he can come in and protect the QB, or provide holes for the RB – it will certainly help the offense. It was a complete surprise to everyone that the Bengals did not draft a WR, but drafted not one, but two RBs late in the draft. It just seems like the new-ish coaching staff and GM was nervous or scare to mess the draft up… and then they kind of did. No real difference makers in fantasy.
Dynasty IDP Aspect: To me, there is not much Offensive or Defensive players to get excited about. Within the division & league they have now become the old Browns. To give you something, you can look for Preston Brown to have a bigger role and better numbers than he had last year as he was hurt also. He is only 26 years old, and so he has time to grow a little more, and more playing time might help with that. A staple on the DL is Geno Atkins. But, even Geno will need to step up his play to be fantasy relevant.
2019 Prediction: 4th in Division
The off-season of the Pittsburgh Steelers was on every channel. You couldn’t get away from it, even it you wanted too. Everyone wanted to know what was going to happen with one of the best RBs since coming into the league in 2013 when the Steelers drafted him in the second round (48th overall). Bell finally informed everyone that the New York Jets would be his new home. Now the Steelers know that RB James Conner was going to be their starting RB, but was their trouble in the WR room? What is going on with our stud WR, AB? Turmoil, hurt pride, underappreciated and underpaid. Things that will hurt a locker room. AB requested a trade towards the end of last season. It came true when Oakland traded for the WR that wanted out of Pittsburgh. So, Pittsburgh has now lost a top 5 RB & a top 3 WR – in 1 off-season. I agree that JuJu Smith Schuster looks the part of a WR#1, but with AB there, he was able to take the pressure off JuJu. Now CBs & Safety’s will be focused on him. Who is going to help him, Vance McDonald, James Washington, what about Donte Moncrief? I don’t think so. Even the defense doesn’t look like a typical Pittsburgh defense. The LB core has not looks the same since Ryan Shazier went down. It is their attempt to replace Shazier with the first round pick (10th overall) LB Devin Bush out of Michigan. They traded up from #20 to draft Bush. This was a solid pick to help fix the middle of the LB core. This was the only prime player picked that will truly help the Steelers right the ship. 9-6 at the end of last season might become more of the norm for them. I expect that “middle of the pack” kind of record again this season, with the Ravens & Steelers fighting for 2nd in the division. I give it to Pittsburgh as they have been there time & time again, and Baltimore has new, young fresh legs, and it might take a minute to get there again.
Fantasy Relevance: PIT always has some guys that are going to be fantasy relevant. JuJu Smith Schuster is the BIG name right now, and media outlets are saying he will have better numbers than AB (OAK). I believe that he is going to have to have better numbers to get them back to the top of the division or in playoff contention. I just don’t see that happening the way they are projecting. I believe they will rely on the run a little more often to help keep Big Ben upright and healthy for a couple more years. Vance McDonald will also consume some of the targets that was left on the table by AB. With Jesse James gone to DET, Vance has more of a clear path to playing the pass-catching TE role. He will be also be considered a sleeper, but I bet he will grow his numbers by 200-300, which would have him flirting with 1,000 yard season. He had 4 TDs in 2018, and I see that increasing as well to 6 or 7. That number will depend on the reliance of other sleepers James Washington & Benny Snell Jr. James Conner will also be a weekly starter and a good bet to produce more than 2018. In 2018, the OL was ranked #1 and that should be the case this year too. They only allowed 13 sacks, 20 hits and 103 hurries – and that was for the league’s second-most pass -blocking snaps. Solid OL, Solid QB/RB and a newly promoted WR to #1 status, I am still reluctant to think he will out produce AB. I have JuJu in my top 10 in Dynasty because of the opportunity and talent, but I would advise people to at least be optimistically-cautious with JuJu.
Fantasy Sleepers: WR James Washington, Rookie RB Benny Snell Jr. & TE Vance McDonald. All three of these players could see production (more production) because of the AB trade. PIT has a reputation of drafting the right player a year or two before their stars get old or are traded away. Then those that have been drafted are placed properly into the starting lineup and it works. PIT have found & drafted A. Brown, Smith-Schuster, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, and Markus Wheaton and all with picks no earlier than the end of the second round. James Washington is that next player up. James got his feet wet last year when AB started being “AB” and wanting to get out of PIT. He managed to see 38 targets, 16 rec, 217 yards and 1 TD. In last year’s combine Washington ran a 4.54 40-yard dash. This isn’t a true burner time. At 5’11” tall, he was drafted because of his hands, route running and his smooth transition from inside, outside and in the slot. This all-around WR could produce from anywhere. (Side note, he also was with at Oklahoma St in college, and so was the one throwing him the ball in college, Mason Rudolph, who is also the backup QB behind Big Ben. Consequence? It will make you think about the chess game PIT is playing – this fact will come out later when Roethlisberger is closer to being retired [2021 could be a year PIT could get out of his extended contract] Mason Rudolph is under contract until 2022… wow, funny that works out…). We talked about Washington & McDonald, so my take on Benny Snell Jr. is that with the best OL, and still relatively unknown commodity in Conner, draft a back that can complement Conner or hold his own as a starter. Snell Jr has a NFL pedigree from his great uncle & his father. Snell is Kentucky’s all-time rushing leader. The knock on him and probably the reason he slipped to he 4th round is that he has pedestrian speed – 4.7 40 time.
My2Cents/I’m Just Sayin’: With PIT, you just expect them to be in contention. That is a testament to their front office and coaches. So, though I don’t fully buy into the hype of JuJu being as good as AB (right off the bat), I think the production will be there for him & the team. They just seem to have things fall into place. Once they truly fix the decline of the DEF, they will be in every game offensively and defensibly! This will be the test for Big Ben. If this small rebuild – more like re-tool works we could see Big Ben a little longer than expected. But, if it starts to go sideways and they don’t make the playoffs this year or next, you will start see the “plan B” pieces start to be put into place (QB Mason Rudolph). He is one that I will be watching in Pre-season to see how his development is coming. This will also be a sign as well.
Dynasty IDP Aspect: Devin Bush, TJ Watt, Vance Williams, Cameron Heyward & Terrell Edmunds will be the players most likely owned and viewed as weekly starters. I am not sure there is much surprises behind the starters. But, I would look at 3rd Round CB Justin Layne (Michigan State) to look for a spark of an up & comer. He is big, physical and was projected to go in the 2nd round. he will have a little time to develop and learn from Joe Haden & Steven Nelson. To me, I think he could develop into a nice shutdown corner as he has the power and willingness to be at the line of scrimmage. The Steelers are still looking for the next BIG thing at CB/Safety. They are still missing the days of Troy Polamalu. Devin Bush was drafted to be on the field every play for the defense. So, he should be one to target in rookie drafts early in the 2nd round. I have had two rookie drafts where he went 2.2 & 2.4 (both PPR).
2019 Prediction: 2nd in Division
My2Cents/I’m Just Sayin’:
This is the start of my section called My2Cents/I’m Just Sayin’. Which means, it’s just my own opinion and my fantasy obsessed mind working overtime. Fantasy is like playing chess (I mentioned it, kind of earlier with the section of PIT). I love looking for the pieces that make sense and seeing if I can figure out what GM’s and coaches are thinking. It’s also my mind trying to make sense of what has happened in the league. I am not sure if I like My2Cents or I’m Just Sayin’ better, so for now I included them both. Please feel free to let me know which you like.
Here we go…
The AFC North has seen exactly what a change at QB can do for a team. Two out of the four teams have a new QB. So, it also makes sense to me that if you want to be relevant in this division you might need to have an exciting mobile QB. I am not hyped on mobile QBs, as I love the Peyton Manning types that standing there nice and tall (which I am not), and deliver a pass that is so beautiful that the NFL Network has to slow it down and add music to it. But this division has seen a quick turn around with some QBs that can extend plays, ones that have that passion on every play. Not sure you could read it above, but there was only one team that doesn’t have a QB that fits the bill. Imagine if the Bengals had drafted Kyler Murray or Dwayne Haskins. The division would house Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Ben Roethlisberger – and then either Kyler Murray or Dwayne Haskins? Oh My!!! that would be exciting to watch every division game! What if the Bengals has gone after Teddy Bridgewater? What if…?
Mark my words, the Bengals will find their new-ish coach a QB that will be relevant in that conversation soon (2020 Draft or via trade)! Once the ticket sales slow down because Dalton/Finley are still there and not exciting and they finally address this “elephant” in the room. “That’s what Arizona just did right?” – Well’ I bet they sold a couple more tickets after that draft pick was called out!
Why did the Chargers agree to terms with Tyrod Taylor. I though it was the perfect set up for him to go to the Bengals (thinking that Dalton was going to get traded) and meet back up with Hue Jackson and then they would draft a mobile QB late like Tyree Jackson out of Buffalo (college). But, how is Hue back with CIN anyways? I figured he would get another chance to coach again down the road. I thought he was going to be out of work for at least a year… man, you wonder why CIN is at the bottom of the division.
Sometimes things make TOO much sense, that people don’t think about it.
I’m just sayin’…
What makes sense to you? Let me know…
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