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.

Season in Review – New York Jets

By Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)

Today we take a look at the New York Jets. Not quite saving the best ’til last but alas, another season to break down for you. Is Adam Gase the answer in New York? Is Sam Darnold still their guy? Will LeVeon Bell still be a Jet next season? Let’s find out.


Entering the season


Adam Gase punched the 2nd hole in his AFC East loyalty card when moving from Miami up the east coast to East Rutherford, New Jersey. Whilst I very much doubt he’ll get a full house with New England/Buffalo, there were many amongst the Jets’ fanbase that were hoping that he’d get his chance sooner rather than later. It just seems like yesterday that he had that extraordinary eye bulging press conference when being introduced to the media, to be later dubbed “Taco man”.

LeVeon Bell’s exodus from Pittsburgh saw him end up in the green of New York, looking to finally sort out the muddling backfield which it has been for years. He signed a 4 year $52.5 million deal with $35m of it fully guaranteed. Whilst many in the fanbase were “happy”, Adam Gase seemingly wasn’t, causing tension between him and Mike Maccagnan. Elsewhere, Sam Darnold was expected to step up in his 2nd year, especially with Gase being the “Quarterback Whisperer”.

Draft wise, Quinnen Williams was the pick at #2 whilst their next pick, Jachai Polite didn’t even make it to the Regular Season, ultimately ending up on the Seahawks/Rams practice squads. The rest of the draft class was not much to write home about with Tackle Chuma Edoga and Tight End Trevon Wesco both playing cameo roles in their first season.


DURING THE SEASON


It turned out to be a peculiar season for the Jets, finishing 7-9, but you have to say the assist goes to the strength of schedule and you could argue that the team should have had a better record.

The early part of the schedule saw Sam Darnold sit out due to a case of Mono (the price of fame, eh?) but he returned in week 6 to demolish the Cowboys at home to register their first win of the season.

Image result for sam darnold mono
Todd Kirkland/Getty

They finished off the back half of the season 6-2 with losses coming against the Ravens and the Bengals. Their wins against a half Rudolph/half Duck led Steelers and a “nothing to play for” Bills team in week 17 meant they were able to finish with a 7-9 record.

This was a team that were 2nd worst in terms of points scored, 3rd down conversion %, total 1st downs and total rush yards on the season. Not great, Bob.

The running back position was as bad as it’s ever been with off-season free agent signing LeVeon Bell averaging a career-low 3.2 yards per carry and did not have a 100-yard rushing game (no running back on the roster mustered over 4 yards per carry). How much of that was on him or the poor offensive line play or playcalling, is up to you to decide.

One glimmer of hope for the Jets offence was the chemistry between Sam Darnold and Jamison Crowder, who’ll look to build on their rapport which enabled the slot receiver to find the endzone 6 times (team high) on 78 receptions. Fellow wide receiver Robby Anderson didn’t quite have the breakout he was perhaps expecting and the tight end production from Ryan Griffin, filling in for Chris Herndon, varied on a week to week basis but he managed to find the endzone 5 times.


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The defence as a whole unit played averagely, with their run defence being one of the better units in the league.

You could argue Quinnen Williams had a quiet start to his career, totaling just 2.5 sacks on the season and 15 solo tackles. Leaders on the defence started and ended with Jamal Adams, especially when CJ Mosley went down after week 2. Linebacker Jordan Jenkins was their sack leader with 8, giving him 20 on his career and building nicely upon his 7 from 2018. Certainly a name that flies under the radar in the NFL.


OFFSEASON OUTLOOK


The Jets probably hindered themselves more with that back half win collection they achieved, picking from the #11 spot. There are a variety of needs so would be candidates to trade back if the opportunity presents itself.

Image result for leveon Bell
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

In free agency, WR Robby Anderson looks likely to head for the exit door and the LeVeon Bell/Adam Gase rift rumours continue and has led to speculation about the Jets trying to trade Bell this offseason, something that seems unlikely because of the $13 million guaranteed he has coming his way this season.

Many will continue to question Adam Gase and his suitability in the organisation and with good reason, this team seem to be behind the 8-ball in terms of being the team that overhauls the Patriots (if that ever becomes a thing) with both divisional rivals putting themselves in a much better position to do just that. The Jets may be landed for a while in New York.

Passing the Baton – Which rookie QB sees the field first?

So draft season is finally over, the rookies have had their mini camps and will now be joined by their veteran colleagues to battle for starting positions and roster spots. There were 5 Quarterbacks selected in the first round of the draft this year, which means there are 5 QB’s around the league who are looking around and seeing someone who is there to take their job. What I’m going to do is take you through how long I think it’ll take for each of the 5 rookies to see the field.

I’m approaching this without taking past or potential injuries into account. I’m not a doctor, nor can I predict the future.

 

Baker Mayfield

Tyrod Taylor has already been named as starter for the 2018 season by Hue Jackson and he’s even gone so far to say that the plan is for Baker to sit the whole season. I think this is a smart plan, however I’m not too sure how clever it was to announce it to the world. He’s put pressure on himself and his coaching staff by backing Taylor to deliver, which owners sure fire thing.

Cleveland have been desperate to find a franchise Quarterback and have been for many years. Because of this they’ve have broken young QB’s in the past by throwing them in when they’re simply not ready to play. John Dorsey went out and signed Tyrod Taylor to guard against this happening again, despite wanting to draft a possible franchise saviour soon after.

Taylor is a perfectly capable starter in this league, he’s experienced, everyone knows his strengths and weaknesses; he’s not going to turn the ball over and can extend plays and drives with his legs but he isn’t going to make a tonne of big throws or win a game on his own.

Taylor has been equipped with more than adequate weaponry this off season and on paper, the Browns’ offense looks like it could cause some problems for other teams. If the offense ticks over, puts points on the board and Cleveland win a few games, the pressure will be off and it’ll just be up to Baker to soak up knowledge and be a good teammate.

Mayfield will play in the pre season and playing against backups, he’ll probably look pretty good and get a lot of people excited. This will put pressure back on Jackson and on Taylor. If Taylor doesn’t perform, fans will be calling for the number 1 overall pick and Jackson will be on the hot seat. Mayfield being the competitor he is, he’ll be planning on getting on the field as soon as possible but this all comes down to coaching and pressure. How will his pan out?

I think Cleveland will be much improved this season and I think they’ll win at least 6 games but their schedule is pretty tough the start off. With this in mind they’ll be out of the playoff race between week 12 and 14, so when the games become meaningless, they’ll probably test the waters with Mayfield.

 

Prediction: First start, week 13 vs. Texans.

 

Sam Darnold

The path to the field feels easier for Darnold in comparison to Mayfield as his situation in New York sees him pitted against an aging veteran and a player who is returning from a major knee injury.

Josh McCown to me, is a non-factor in this QB battle and was brought in more for his leadership and mentoring skills inside the locker room. Todd Bowles did name McCown as the starter but that was prior to drafting Darnold and September is still a long time away.

So it boils down to Darnold vs. Bridgewater. Teddy’s surgically repaired knee was something he “wasn’t comfortable talking about” in March and has only just made it back to the practice field. Bridgewater is only guaranteed $500,000 of the $6 million contract, so if the knee doesn’t check out, he might not even make the team and his career is most likely done.

I’m hoping that the knee is fine and if that’s the case the former Viking almost certainly has the inside track to the starting job. Bridgewater has done it in the NFL and performed at a good level, if he can do so in white and green, he’ll be an upgrade on what the Jets have been fielding at Quarterback recently.

On the other side of the battle, Sam Darnold was rated by many as the best QB available in the draft and he was widely tipped to be taken with the first overall pick. So he’s clearly talented but like the rest of the 2018 QB class, he’s got his flaws. In college he turned the ball over far too much and I’m sure Todd Bowles and the Jets coaching staff would prefer to sit him for a while whilst he works out the kinks.

However like Hue Jackson, Bowles will be coming under fire from fans and the media if the Jets have a stuttering start. There will be clamour to throw Darnold in to try to kick start the team and jolt them into life. Since the supporting cast is pretty poor and it’ll be throwing Darnold to the wolves a little bit and be asking too much of his improvisational skills but it may the the last roll of the dice from Bowles.

I don’t see the Jets making much noise this season, their schedule is pretty favourable to start off, with winnable games early. In the flip side, those teams will be looking at the Jets and thinking the same.

 

Prediction: First start, week 9 vs. Dolphins

 

Josh Allen

So this is where it gets really interesting. Josh Allen is the least pro ready of all of the first round QB’s but he also has the least competition for the starting role.

As the veteran, A.J. McCarron has the inside track and Bills officials have actually said that to begin camp, Allen will start as QB3 on the depth chart, ahead of Nate Peterman. Yep, this isn’t a great Quarterback situation in upstate New York.

Whilst it’s usual for the message coming from Head Coaches to be that the veteran player will start, I kind of believe this one.

The lack of a star QB and the lack of talent across the offence as a whole plays into McCarron’s hands in terms of his chances to play. McCarron has been in the building longer, so he’s had more time with the play book so therefore should pick up quicker, plus the game should also be “slower” for McCarron too. Nathan Peterman had a horrible debut in Los Angeles but at least he’s been a pro for 12 months and knows the play book. On the flip side of this, Allen really needs to spend at least a year working on a lot of aspects of playing the position and learning how to be an NFL player as opposed to being in college and having class to deal with alongside football.

Sean McDermott should know this and we shouldn’t see Allen until 2019 at the very earliest. It will also be up to McDermott to resist the temptation to throw Allen in too early as a first round pick in the event that things are turning sour. The Head Coach shouldn’t be on the hot seat at any point throughout the season so this should help the situation and Allen’s development in the long run.

McCarron will likely play the whole season barring injury and barring Buffalo being a complete mess. His deal is a 2 year deal but it’s structured in a way that the Bills can get rid of him after 12 months without too much of a financial penalty.

 

Prediction: First start, week 1, 2019 season.

Josh Rosen

From the least pro ready to the QB who is most pro ready. Josh Rosen endured a mini slide on draft night but the Cardinals did well to trade up to the 10th overall pick to claim their man under center for the foreseeable future. Standing in his way are Mike Glennon and the oft injured Sam Bradford. I feel like Rosen could bypass both of his veteran colleagues during the pre season and wrap up the starting job. I am going to go out on a limb and say that he will do exactly that too. Here’s why…

So firstly, Mike Glennon was quickly displaced by Mitchell Trubrisky last season in Chicago and I think Rosen is a better QB now than Trubrisky was a year ago. So personally, I don’t see Glennon as much of a factor, I see him as the likely QB3 on this team. The Cardinals said they were going to be aggressive in drafting a QB and they were and brought in Bradford to compete, they brought in Glennon for if Bradford gets hurt.

So on to Bradford; he’s certainly a talented guy but he’s just not been healthy enough throughout his career, which is a real shame but it’s just the way it goes for some players. How healthy is he currently? How much permanent damage has been done? Will he ever be the same as he once was? These are all big question marks hanging over him at this stage. He’s obviously fit enough to pass a physical but is he just a ticking time bomb? Lots of questions.

Then onto Rosen. He slid mainly due to character concerns but unless he completely hates the game of football and isn’t committed long term to being a pro, is it unusual for a young man to have other interests? Not really. A lot of people who know him or know of him say stuff along the lines of, coaches have to challenge him intellectually. Well, New Arizona Offensive Coordinator, Mike McCoy runs quite a complex system, which is a variation of the West coast offense. So that should keep Rosen’s mind from wandering. Like I said, I think we’ll be seeing the new era start early in the desert.

 

Prediction: First start, week 1 @ Redskins.

 

Lamar Jackson

I think it was quite telling that Baltimore traded back into the first round to select Jackson and therefore have the 5th year option built into his rookie deal – they see him and their offense with a long term view.

When you look at Joe Flacco, you’ll see a prototypical Quarterback; tall, strong, big arm… you look over at #8, Lamar Jackson, he’s the completely different… he’s tall but lean, he’s mobile and he looks more like your modern day signal caller.

Joe Flacco is on his way out, he’s probably got a year or two left but his days are numbered. So is the offense too, that’ll be left behind with Flacco. Jackson being drafted signalled that a new era is imminent in Baltimore.

This total remodel of the offensive side of the ball will take time though and that’s a good thing for Jackson too. He’s got his flaws that he himself recognises and the fact that Flacco is entrenched as the starter gives everyone the time to work on the future whilst the present ticks along.

Baltimore won’t want to ostracise their Superbowl winning QB just yet either so all this points towards a season on the bench for Jackson in 2018, if not beyond. Obviously if Flacco gets hurt they will incorporate some elements into the offense which play to Jackson’s strengths, because they will be forced to throw him into the deep end in the event that Flacco’s troublesome back flares up, for example.

The Ravens also made a nice move bringing in Robert Griffin III too. RGIII will probably be used as a mentor for Jackson as a mobile QB and once Flacco is gone, they will then have two QB’s with similar styles – More long term thinking in Baltimore, something good teams do well.

 

Prediction: First start, mid 2019 season.