DYNASTY RELEVANT PLAYERS – AFC EAST

By Andy Moore (@Ajmoore21)

With the post rookie excitement dying down and the off-season lull now in full effect, it’s time for a deep dive into those dynasty rosters.

After a league chat about fantasy wastelands, we got thinking that surely every team has at least one fantasy relevant player. Looking back at 2019, this could mean a Joe Mixon, a Kenny Golladay, a Terry McLaurin – all players who put up points for fantasy owners on a fairly consistent basis, despite being on pretty rough NFL offenses.

The one criteria for these players is quite simple; they must have multiple seasons of fantasy relevance ahead of them.

We’ll be looking at each division individually, starting with the AFC East.


Buffalo Bills


Player: Stefon Diggs

Position: WR

Age: 26

2019 Fantasy Points (PPR): 212.1

The Bills sit as arguably the best team in a bad division at present, they’ve got a signal-caller whose big arm and escapability propelled them to the playoffs last season and a coaching staff that isn’t afraid to let loose on offense.

A seemingly underwhelming group of wide receivers stepped up to the plate in 2019, with John Brown and Cole Beasley both positing fantasy relevant numbers. But, as they look to make the jump to Division Champions, the Bills’ front office have decided to add another weapon to the arsenal.

Trading Stefon Diggs would be tremendously stupid
Hannah Foslien/Getty

Step forward Stefon Diggs. In 2019 with the Vikings, Diggs finished as WR20, posting 212.1 PPR points off just 63 receptions. And it’s easy to see why there were constant reports that the former 5th round pick was unhappy with target volume, as he was the only receiver in the top 20 of PPR ranking with less than 100 targets, despite playing in all but one game.

The move to the Bills has produced mixed views in the fantasy community, with some seeing less accurate quarterback play and the often-bleak conditions in Buffalo as a hinderance on Diggs’ upside.

Despite this, there’s a clear path to prolonged fantasy relevance for the Maryland product.

Firstly, Diggs comes into the Bills’ locker room as the clear WR1. Despite John Brown’s 1000 yard season in 2019, you simply don’t invest a first round pick in a 26 year old receiver to target him sporadically, especially a receiver who has a record for publicly demanding the football as often as possible.

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Then there’s the rocket arm possessed by the franchise quarterback. Diggs is a master at tracking the football as a downfield threat, it therefore makes perfect sense that Buffalo will marry Allen’s arm prowess with this ability as often as possible.

Finally, as previously noted, the Bills are a team on the up, they’re in win now mode, with their divisional rivals in rebuild mode or coached by Adam Gase and they’re putting everything in to winning with Allen, whilst he’s on his rookie contract. If they’re to do this then they need a player that they can rely on to drag them to narrow wins on occasion, with the capital invested in Diggs and his prior pedigree, it’s clear they see him as ‘the guy’.

You should too.


New England Patriots


Player: N’Keal Harry

Position: WR

Age: 22

2019 Fantasy Points (PPR): 39.4

Well, for the first time in more than a decade we’re looking to Foxborough with a real question mark in mind. The messiah is gone, there was no ‘star’ QB signed to replace him and it’s not an exaggeration to say the dynasty hangs in the brink.

Fantasy-wise, outside of Brady, the Pats have only really had Rob Gronkowski as a consistent weapon in recent years. Sony Michel has flashed in spells, but he finished as RB31 last year, James White is a good flex option in PPR leagues (RB18 last year) but outside of that, it’s been slim pickings for fantasy players.

Where Would Patriots' N'Keal Harry Rank In 2020 Draft? NFL Analyst Explains  | New England Patriots | NESN.com
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The struggle at receiver was all too publicised last season, with multiple reports suggest that Brady was desperate for better weapons in the passing game. That struggle came despite the drafting of N’Keal Harry out of Arizona State in the first round of the draft.

Harry was the first receiver drafted in the opening round by the Pats since 1996 and understandably the hype around him picked up early. Hopes of early chemistry with Brady were dashed when an ankle injury sent the former Sun Devil to the injured reserve prior to the season.

A late return was fairly unproductive, with seven appearances only turning into 12 receptions, 105 yards and 2 TDs. That unproductivity limited Harry to just 39.4 PPR points, with a high score of 9.7 points against the woeful Bengals in week 15.

So why is he on this list?

Well for starters, there’s a complete lack of competition surrounding Harry other than aging star Julian Edelman, and he is facing a fight to stay relevant without TB12. Mohammed Sanu is the only other competition of note on the Pats roster, and he didn’t exactly shine last year.

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Then there’s the physical tools that Harry possesses, at 6ft 2”, 228 pounds, the 2nd year pro has the height and build synonymous with the traditional X receiver. As a college player he specialised at high pointing the ball and dominated in contested catch situations, add to that a tendency to add yards after the catch and it’s not hard to see why Belichick and co invested high draft capital in Harry. They’re not giving up on him easily.

The coaching situation, player age and division strength all go some way to balancing the concerns that some hold because of the Pats’ QB situation, and it’s clear that there’s a path for Harry to become fantasy relevant this year and for many more to come.


New York Jets


Player: Sam Darnold

Position: QB

Age: 22

2019 Fantasy Points (PPR): 189.16

I think the Jets might be one of the hardest teams to scour for fantasy talent in this series, and I think this lies squarely with the coach.

Adam Gase’s offenses since he stopped working with Peyton Manning have ranked, 21st, 24th, 25th, 31st and 32nd. In other words, they haven’t been very good.

That being said, it’s not like this Jets roster lacks talent. At running back they’ve got a player who was once viewed as the best in the league in Le’Veon Bell, and believe it or not he’s still on 28. And, despite rarely dominating games in the way we’ve become accustomed to, Bell still managed a respectable RB16 finish last season. 

Sam Darnold to wear specialized pads to protect spleen in first game back  from mono - CBSSports.com
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

In the pass catching department there’s probably more concerns. Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims are the most likely to see the most snaps in 2020 , with Gase and Jets fans praying that Mims  can develop into the out and out WR1 that is desperately needed.

However, despite the mess, it feels like the Jets have got their franchise QB under centre already. Sam Darnold has had a pretty rough start to his pro-career, the infamous ‘seeing ghosts’ moment against a dominant Patriots defense perhaps best demonstrates that.

That being said, there’s reason to be hopeful for the former USC star. In both his seasons in the league so far Darnold has started 13 games, and last year he saw improvements in total yardage, total TDs, interceptions thrown and QB rating, as well as the all-important fantasy points, up from 168 to 189.

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With Gase seemingly on his last chance as a Head Coach, a Super Bowl winning QB as backup and an improved running game with the addition of Frank Gore, there is no reason why Darnold can’t continue that progress this year.

For me his real fantasy value comes in Super Flex leagues where the more flashy 2018, ’19 and ’20 QBs are demanding far higher start up picks. Darnold is sat there at ADP75 which is ridiculous value in SF for a QB who looks set to the be the Jets’ QB for many years to come.

Buy low now!


Miami Dolphins


Player: Devante Parker

Position: WR

Age: 27

2019 Fantasy Points (PPR): 246.2

If we’re scraping the barrel with the Jets’ fantasy options, then those in Miami are only slightly better at this stage. The difference however, is the upward trajectory of the team when compared to their rivals in New York.

The arrival of Tua Tagovailoa means it would have been easy to stick the Dolphins’ new franchise QB in this slot, but with criteria of ‘must be fantasy relevant in this and future years’, it feels like it’s slightly too soon. Despite reports to the contrary, it’s not clear cut as to who the starter will be in week one, with Ryan Fitzpatrick enjoying a strong end to last season that propelled him to QB17 overall.

With Kenny Stills gone, will DeVante Parker finally breakout?
Michael Reaves / Getty

At running back, the Fins have had a complete makeover with last season’s trio of Kalen Ballage, Patrick Laird and Myles Gaskin all being eclipsed by the running yardage of their 37-year-old QB. Ballage in particular was a dumpster fire both on the pitch and for those who picked him in fantasy.

Jordan Howard and Matt Breida have been added to Miami’s roster in the off-season, in what appears to be a significant upgrade. Howard brings a consistency to the run game, with two 1000 yard seasons and a 4.4ypc average under his belt in the four years he’s been in the league. Breida looks set primarily to feature as the third down specialist, with his explosive speed set to complement an offense which already has two of the quickest players in the league in Jakeem Grant and Albert Wilson.

Somewhat surprisingly Brian Flores and Chris Grier opted not to add another receiver to the mix in this year’s draft, perhaps paying testament to the fact that this is indeed a multi-year rebuild and the need was bigger on defense. That leaves the aforementioned Grant and Wilson alongside Preston Williams, who enjoyed a good rookie year after going undrafted,  Isiah Ford and Devante Parker.

Those who have been playing fantasy football for some time will be familiar with the term ‘break-out year’ and how Parker was about to have one every year since 2016. However, in 2019 it finally arrived! The former Louisville star caught 72 passes for 1202 yards and 9 TDs, by far his best season in the league (thanks Adam Gase).

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A four-year contract was the reward, and as with Diggs in Buffalo, there’s nothing standing in the way of Parker being a fantasy WR1 this year and for the next couple at least. He’s only 27, the clear WR1 on the team this season and coming off a year in which he put up 246.2 PPR points, finishing as WR11 overall.

The only concern I have with Parker is that this year’s draft has made it quite obvious that the Dolphins might go shopping at both WR and RB next year. With some high-quality talent in the WR class of 2021, there is the possibility that a big name comes in to take the WR1 spot. However, this shouldn’t impact Parker’s usage until at least 2022, so he’s still a safe buy now.

Deep Deep Deeep Fantasy Sleepers: Part 2

by Rob Grimwood – @FFBritBaller

I love deep diving in fantasy football. It’s one of the many areas within the industry that I just love researching. From favourable roster positions to raw, unearthed talent – trying to scrap around in the bargain bins of fantasy football to find the next Alvin Kamara,  Adam Thielen or even Odell Beckham who was overlooked by fantasy owners in 2014; deep diving is certainly one of my favourite offseason past times.

It’s been a fruitful offseason of scouting for me too, so much so I had to split this article into two parts! The first part featured the likes of Dylan Cantrell, WR (L.A Chargers), Deon Yelder, TE (Kansas City Chiefs), Chris Conley, WR (Jacksonville Jaguars) and Darren Waller, TE (Oakland Raiders) and part two will offer up 4 more super deep sleepers that are not to be ignored late on in your drafts!

Let’s dig in!

Dexter Williams – Running Back, Green Bay Packers

Sure, Aaron Jones is the bell cow in Green Bay, I hear you. But, Jones doesn’t come without injury concerns. Of his two seasons to date, Jones has never completed more than 12 games in a regular season. This is mostly down to a reoccurring grade 2 knee sprain which has flared up on 3 different occasions.

ajones

If Jones does go down injured in 2019, or isn’t able to sustain his 49 rushing yards per game career average, the natural reaction will be to assume Jamaal Williams is the next guy up for the Pack, but that may not be the case. With a career average of just 3.7 yards per carry over his two years in the league baked in with mediocre-at-best receiving statistics (52 receptions for 472 yards, 9.1 per rec and 2 TD’s); I for one wouldn’t be surprised if new Head Coach Matt LaFleur decided to put trust into one of his drafted guys instead, Dexter Williams.

Dexter Williams was apart of the highly successful 2018 Notre Dame Fighting Irish team that managed to be one of the 4 teams that qualify for the College Football Playoffs. Despite missing 4 games because of undisclosed personal matters, Williams returned on week 5 for the Irish and ended the season with 995 rushing yards (6.3 per carry) with 133 receiving yards off 16 receptions with 13 total touchdowns. 

Although he didn’t blow anyone away at the combine, his 40 time was fine (4.53s) and he managed 17 bench reps which was better than what higher picks Damien Harris (16), David Montgomery (15) and Benny Snell (16) managed.

Williams is a between the tackles kind of back, funnily enough, MockDraftable have him compared the best to none other than teammate Aaron Jones, thus confirming that if Jones was to miss time, it may well be Dexter that becomes the most productive ‘Williams’ in the Green Bay running back room.

His strengths coming out of college is that he possesses great vision and is a clever runner, especially when gaps are forged for him. To be successful in the NFL, he’ll need a good o-line in front of him to provide those needed gaps. The Packers offensive line is considered to be a top 10 line in the league, so the opportunity is there for Williams to be successful should the chance occur.

 

Alex Barnes – Running Back, Tennessee Titans

Who an earth is Alex Barnes, I hear you say. Well folks, Alex Barnes may well be the next Phillip Lindsay. An undrafted free agent rookie hailing from a small-ish school in the Big 12 conference who had 1,355 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns for Kansas State in 2018. Yes, that’s more than Devin Singletary (1,348), Miles Sanders (1,274) and David Montgomery (1,216) who are all highly regarded prospects and were all drafted.

His stats were not too dissimilar to Lindsay’s final college season in 2017, but Barnes is quite the opposite when it comes to physical attributes. At 6’1 and 225lbs, he is built from the same mold as Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson, and Melvin Gordon. If you were drafting all four today solely on combine performances, Barnes wouldn’t be out of place alongside these big hitters.

Melvin Gordon Lev Bell David Johnson Alex Barnes
40 Yard Dash 4.52s 4.60s 4.50s 4.59s
Bench Press 19 24 25 34
Broad Jump 126 118 127 126
Shuttle 4.07s 4.24s 4.27s 4.10s
Vertical Jump 35.00 31.50 41.50 38.50

The situation for Barnes in Tennessee isn’t a bad one either. Despite Derrick Henry breaking out somewhat towards the end of the season, I still can’t help but get the impression the Titans are still undecided if Henry is their man.

Henry’s breakout game came in week 13 where he went on to finish the remainder of the season to break through the 1,000-yard rushing marker (1,059), however, 585 of those yards came after week 12 which means the Tennessee rushing game in the first two-thirds of the season was pretty non-existent.

They were quick to act on Barnes after the draft too, picking him up just over a week after the NFL draft was completed and was seemingly a high profile UDFA with multiple teams reportedly interested.

With Dion Lewis likely to remain in a pass-catching role and no other backs of significance on the depth chart in Nashville (David Fluellen, Jeremy McNichols, and Dalyn Dawkins) Alex Barnes may well be a household name for fantasy owners in the near future if he makes it onto the 53-man roster in late August.

John Brown – Wide Receiver, Buffalo Bills

John Brown may legitimately be the WR1 for the Buffalo Bills. Sure, as can Robert Foster and Zay Jones, I hear you, but have either of those receivers had over 1,000 yards receiving over the course of a season? No. In fact, Zay Jones’ best season in 2018 saw him rack up 652 receiving yards and just for the record, Foster had 541 yards and 3 scores in his one and only season to date.

I’ve always liked ‘Smokey’ Brown. Ever since his tantalising 1,003 rec yard and 7 touchdown season for Arizona in 2015, but it’s the injuries that have kept him from repeating those numbers. In his last two seasons of his rookie contract for the Cards, Brown only started 11 games, but when he did play, he still was able to perform to a high standard as he managed 13.3 and 14.2 yards per reception average in those seasons respectively.

smokey
Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, however, Brown was able to play the majority of the campaign and started 15 games in his one-year prove-it deal with the Baltimore Ravens. Despite performing admirably in 2018 and somewhat ‘proving it’ with 715 yards off 42 receptions (17.0 yards per reception) and 5 touchdowns, the Ravens clearly had plans to centre the future passing offense through the young guns which rang true when they drafted college standouts Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin instead of re-signing Brown.

But the saying goes “another man’s trash is another man’s treasure” and I believe that to be true for the Bills when they grabbed Brown in the free agency. Let’s forget the past for a second and focus on the strengths of Brown and his new quarterback, Josh Allen. 

Am I over-enamoured with Allen’s ability to be a quality NFL QB? Not particularly. But one thing that does impress me, along with the masses, is his arm strength. We saw it at the combine, you remember, the nigh on 70-yard cannonballs he was effortlessly floating into receivers arms. Well, what does that weapon require? A fast receiver who can get down the field. John Brown is one of the fastest players in the league when he’s at full fitness and could still likely hit his 4.34 40 time from his 2014 combine.

I’m buying in. Maybe not so much in PPR league formats as I don’t think Brown will be peppered with targets, after all, the Bills brought in possession receiver Cole Beasley for that role, but definitely as a “last pick dart throw” and definitely in standard-scoring leagues. I for one, will not be surprised if John Brown is a regular starting receiver on your rosters come fantasy playoff time in December.

Geoff Swaim – Tight End, Jacksonville Jaguars

This is the third tight end I am talking about during these 2 articles which just goes to prove you don’t have to spend a high draft pick on one of the top tight ends. It’s a volatile position where anyone of about 25 players can finish as a top 10 tight end in 2019 for fantasy football.

You can add Geoff Swaim into that mix too, mainly because he has been gifted a fantastic opportunity over in Duval county. Fellow newcomer and starting quarterback Nick Foles has had good success in the past when throwing to tight ends too; In his second stint in Philadelphia, Foles built a good rapport with superstar Zach Ertz, whilst also working with Travis Kelce at the Chiefs in 2016 and Jared Cook with his time as a St Louis Ram in 2015.

Swaim spent the majority of his rookie contract in Dallas firmly in the shadow of Jason Witten and didn’t get an opportunity to show any kind of attacking prowess until last season whilst Witten entertained us from the commentary booth instead of on the field.

Even then, Swaim found himself having to split targets with fellow tight ends Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz, and even though he wasn’t the biggest producer out of the three, he was the most consistent with an 81.3% catch rate – which was also the highest on the team and 14th best in the league.

swaim
Photo Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

This year, Swaim is taking those safe hands to pastures new where there is only an unproven rookie in Josh Oliver to contend with on the depth chart for pass-catching duties out of the tight end position.

In fact, the whole receiving core in Jacksonville is up for debate. With no clear WR1, no proven hot hand in the receiving game and a new quarterback with a proven track record of success throwing to tight ends, Geoff Swaim could be a sneaky pickup for fantasy players despite not having the best career-to-date statistics. Opportunity is king for fantasy tight ends and Swaim may well be the endzone target the Jags are crying out for.