Top 3 toughest divisions this year?
The AFC North as of late has been the Pittsburgh Steelers on top, the Cincinnati Bengals getting close (then Marvis-Lewis-Syndrome happens), the Baltimore Ravens going backwards, and… well, the Cleveland Browns in the basement(#basementboyz). But changes are coming and I believe this division will actually be one of the toughest divisions in the league. Rather than keeping you guessing, here is why the AFC North is going to be one of the toughest divisions in all of the NFL.
- QB – Ben Roethlisberger – Snake: Rd 7 – Auction $4-14 – The first thing that comes to mind when you think of Big Ben is the R word. That’s right… RELIABILITY! With his age and history of injury it’s incredibly difficult to take him in your draft; but his upside is off the charts. Not only does he have arguably the best RB1 and WR1 he is supported by a strong O-line and other amazing receiving options which will be discussed below.
- RB – Leveon Bell – Snake: Rd 1 early – Auction $60-72 – It’s not the first time that Bell has held out but it may be the last. This should be his last year on the Steelers unless they give him a, well deserved but long awaited, contract that reflects what he does for the team. This means it is essentially a contract year for Bell and he will want to prove that not only can he produce but he can exceed expectations and continue this regardless of age. (Running backs usually have a very short shelf life)
- WR – Antonio Brown is a top 5 pick in any draft and is worth the $50-58 dollars you will be spending in auction because year in and out he has been the most reliable wide receiver to own. Early reports of low grade injuries in his leg are alarming but nothing to write home about since he is indeed getting older you can only expect some aches and pains. You may see a decrease in reps to give him more of a break but nothing detrimental to his production. Juju Smith-Schuster is the future of the Steelers and he knows it. Within the next 5 years Antonio Brown may not be in the NFL anymore and Juju will STILL be young since he came into the league at only 20 years of age. He will be going between rounds 4-6 and should for $20-32.
- TE – Vance Mcdonald – Snake: Rd 10-12 – Auction: $1-5 – Like I said in my Big Ben segment, he has a TON of weapons. Vance is athletic, can block and can catch but what he can’t do it seems is stay healthy. When healthy Vance can be a very start-able Tight End especially in the red zone even with all the weapons around him, it’s just his versatility that will always kill is ADP.
- QB – Tyrod Taylor – Snake: Rd 11-13 – Auction: $1-6 – Tuh-Rod may be a huge steal this draft and is worth that bench spot(since no one can truly trust a Cleveland QB to start the season). He has the legs to make plays even when his less than stellar O-line lets a couple through. He has the arm to get the ball to his insane amount of options that I never thought Cleveland would have, and he has the attitude to make a winning contribution to not only his team but to his stats. He has a lot to prove and I think he is worth a stash on your bench to start the season.
- RB – Carlos Hyde will be the bellcow it seems and for good reason. Health issues aside he IS the best running back on the team and has the build of a 3 down back. I wouldn’t reach for him further than 7th round and wouldn’t spend more than $12 on him but if you need a RB3 with RB2 upside Hyde is your guy. Duke Johnson will be a fantastic PPR option especially since the defense should open up a lot due to Tyrod’s legs. Duke should be going around the 5th round and could go for $20-30 depending on your leagues. Nick Chubb is an understudy right now and while he is underperforming I believe he can be the future of the backfield as soon as next year, draft only in dynasty or if you REALLY want a handcuff.
- WR – This is the first year that I can remember that I am extremely excited for the Browns wide receiver crew. Jarvis Landry may have the best hands in the league and the winning attitude this team truly needs. He should be going around the 4th round and should be in the mid 30’s in auction. Antonio Callaway may be the star everyone thinks he can be but off field troubles, like his teammate, could hinder his chances. Expect him to go very late in your draft and you shouldn’t spend anymore than $12 since he is high risk high reward. Now for the man Cleveland and all owners have been waiting for, Josh Gordon. Expectations? Who knows. Frustration? Through the roof. Excitement? Immeasurable! The last time Gordon was a starter he was arguably the best wide receiver in the league. Off field troubles have sidelined him for a few seasons now and though he is still young and seems to be in the best shape of his life he should still come with a warning tag. Expect him to go around the same time as Landry and around the same price.
- David Njoku – Snake: Rd 10 – Auction: $3-10 – Njoku will most likely be a boom or bust player this year but the organization is very committed to him as he is committed to being the Tight End they believe he is. He is built to be a redzone monster and should be, but his history of big drops could really hurt his output this season. He is still worth the chance as it seems he is far and above anyone else on the Browns Tight End roster.
- QB – Joe Flacco – Snake: Rd 10-13 – Auction: $2-10 – This may be the best preseason I’ve seen Flacco have. I don’t know whether it’s because of the organization drafting his future replacement or he is finally feeling healthy and ready to go but instead of relying on his huge arm he has been doing a ton of check downs and high accuracy passes and it really could end up being a nice late round snag if you grab him. Jackson most likely will not be starting at all this season, barring injury, but in dynasty he is absolutely worth a grab.
- RB – Alex Collins will be the bellcow it seems but Javarious Allen and Kenneth Dixon have looked pretty decent in the preseason. This backfield may be a backfield to stay away from even though Collins proved last year that he is more than capable of not only being a starter but being a high production fantasy RB1. Collins should be taken mid draft and depending on your situation he could be a boom or bust RB2 so spend wisely($30-40)in auction.
- WR – The wide receiving core of the Ravens may be the most interesting in the league for each player has shown brilliance and duds multiple times in the past seasons. Crabtree is obviously the number one and could be a favorite of Joe Flacco early on, he is worth a mid to late round snag with a modest $12-22 auction budget. John Brown has had many health concerns but has proven he can be a force in the open field; he will be a late round flier as well as late auction pick up. Breshad Perriman is no picture of health but when healthy his speed is a huge factor; another late round flier and late auction pickup. Willie Snead has show signs of brilliance but with the very crowded receiving core already I don’t know how much he will see. Expect Snead late but could go before Brown and Perriman, late auction as well.
- TE – The Ravens may have the most tight ends on roster in the league right now as they are looking for their long time starter. My money is on Hayden Hurst not only starting but being a name you’ll be hearing a lot on redzone. I don’t think you will be seeing much for yardage but he is looking to be a great redzone threat. He will be a 10-12 Rd pickup and shouldn’t go for more than $4 in auction.
Credit: Rob Chenoy – USA Today
Comeback player of the year candidate? I think so.
- QB – Andy Dalton – Snake: Rd 10-13 – Auction: $2-10 – Oh, Andy Dalton. I will never know what type of game you are going to have. Will you have an absolute monster game and make up this “Holy crap he is so underrated!” or will you have a string of games with 0 touchdowns and make us think “Ah.. Ok. That’s what I thought he was.” I truly think his struggles are in coaching and a lack of a running game. The era of Marvis Lewis is ending and a new era will begin soon so we shall see if Dalton can produce consistent QB2 numbers. For now, draft him as a backup.
- RB – Joe Mixon is my comeback player of the year. He has everything going for him including less competition and I believe he will take off this year. Later in the year he truly proved that he can handle the workload and started to get a groove in and with Jeremy Hill’s departure you can expect him to become a bellcow. Draft in mid second early third round and spend within a budget of $40-44. Giovanni Bernard is always and afterthought to me until I play against him. No matter what he will be involved in the backfield but mostly for passing. Gio will be a nice flex spot against great matchups but shouldn’t be reached upon. Draft him 7-9 Rd with a budget no higher than high 20’s.
- WR – In reality there’s only one wide receiver worth talking about on this team and it is, of course, AJ Green. Albeit some health issues and consistency problems due to his Quarterback, Green is still an elite wide out. His age is turning him more onto the low end WR1 side but he is STILL a WR1 with high upside. Draft late second early third and spend no more than $45.
- TE – Tyler Eifert – Snake: 9-11th Rd – Auction: $5-11 – Tyler Eifert is brittle. Seriously…brittle. But when on the field he is a top tight end and a game changer. I never usually say handcuff a tight end but it may be worth handcuffing Tyler Kroft as he played well anytime Eifert was out.
With each team having playoff caliber rosters and even the worst team having a completely new attitude and passion, who can honestly say this division doesn’t have a chance or being one of the toughest in all of the NFL?