We are still feeling the heat of the summer and training camp
is just around the corner, but there is never a bad time to make
predictions for the upcoming season. Not every note is earthshattering,
but they will all certainly give you a better insight for draft
day. Today I’ll take a look at the AFC and follow up with
the NFC next week.
RB1 Potential: The mess in the Bills backfield
could allow Mccoy to start the season as a workhorse.
AFC East -
Buffalo:LeSean McCoy could end up
posting elite numbers. With the unsettled quarterback situation
(Tyrod Taylor hasnít gotten the extension he was seeking),
McCoy (203-895-3), who was sharing the workload with Karlos Williams
(93-517-7), should get off to a flying start now that Williams has
been suspended four games for violating the league's substance abuse
policy. In Philadelphia, when McCoy started rolling, his confidence
went through the roof and he produced elite fantasy totals (see:
2011, 2013 and 2014). An added bonus of McCoy running well coupled
with a great draft on the defensive side of the ball, the Bills
D/ST could become elite too (they ranked 26th last season).
Miami: The signing of free agent Arian
Foster will kill Jay
Ajayiís fantasy value. Ajayi is no longer the only option and
as long as Foster stays healthy this is a shared backfield situation.
The Dolphins are still a pass-first team (63.1 percent of the plays
in 2015) and there isnít enough work for either runner to post RB1
numbers unless the other is completely out of the picture.
New England: Do not to draft any Patriots
running back - period. Itís simply impossible to get into Bill Belichickís
head from week-to-week. Five different backs led the team in fantasy
points at the position last season Ö six if you count Tom Brady
leading them in Week 7 with four rushes for 15 yards and a touchdown.
Thatís the usual story in New England. Even if you handcuff Dion
Lewis and LeGarrette
Blount, you canít out-smart Belichick, so donít try. Itís not
worth the mental anguish.
New York Jets: If the Jets donít sign
Fitzpatrick, the value of Matt
Forte rises. If either Geno
Smith or rookie Christian
Hackenberg is under center, the Jets will have to feature Forte
both as a runner and with his considerable receiving skills. Smithís
yards per completion has dropped from 12.3 in 2013 to 11.5 in 2014
to just 9.8 last season and his best college days at West Virginia
were spent dumping the ball off to Tavon
AFC North -
Baltimore: Although the Ravens will
once again be one of the most prolific passing teams in the league
they wonít have a WR1. The Ravens led the league last season in
passing attempts (676 ), and as their best player is still quarterback
Flacco they will put the ball in his hands as often as possible.
Smith (37) is too old and coming off an Achilles injury, Mike
Wallace hasnít been the same since making the mistake of leaving
Breshad Perriman canít stay, make that get, on the field and
Aiken produced solid numbers last season because he was the
only option. The four receivers will also have to share the ball
with newly-acquired TE Ben
Watson and returning Crockett
LaFell is no Marvin
Jones (lost to the Detroit Lions in free agency). The new No.
2 wideout in Cincinnati behind A.J.
Green has little-to-no fantasy value. Green gets the majority
of the targets and tight end Tyler
Eifert get red zone looks. That makes LaFell the likely deep
decoy. Heís only caught more than 50 balls once in six NFL seasons
and that was with Tom
Brady under center. Andy
Dalton is no Brady.
Cleveland: Be very careful about jumping
on the Corey
Coleman bandwagon too soon. First, the team has to find a viable
quarterback, RGIII notwithstanding. Second, there is a chance Josh
Gordon gets reinstated when eligible August 1st and heíd instantly
become the teamís No. 1 wideout. Third, I think the team features
running backs Isaiah
Crowell and Duke
Johnson in 2016.
Bell (ADP 1.03, 3rd overall) is being drafted much too high.
I love Bell, but the Steelers are not going to allow him the luxury
of ďrun-out-the-clockĒ carries. Heís just too valuable to the team
and Pittsburgh has a very good backup who can get the job done in
Williams. Bell has averaged 24.1 opportunities per game (rushing
attempts + targets) in his first three seasons, but I expect that
to be reduced to around 21 in 2016 and those three lost opportunities
could be significant. Heís going to have end-of-the-first round
or high second-round value in 2016.
AFC South -
Houston: I preached it earlier this
season, but I believe Lamar
Miller will be a top-five fantasy running back in 2016. Miller
is a younger version of Arian Foster with the ability to run and
catch the football and the Texans know how to use those skills.
They threw the ball 619 times last season, but with Miller their
rushing attempts should climb and he should see a lot more than
the 15.7 opportunities he saw in Miami. When Foster was healthy
in 2014 he saw 24.5 opportunities per game in a Bill OíBrien offense.
Moncrief will take a huge step forward. Andrew
Luck was injured and not very good for most of 2015, but thatís
not likely to happen again this season. Receiving tight end Coby
Fleener is now catching passes from Drew
Brees in the Crescent City, which means more targets are available
for Colts receivers. Moncrief saw 105 targets last season, just
29 less than T.Y.
Hilton and it could be more of an even split in 2016 as defensive
backfields will still have to worry about Hiltonís deep threat ability
first and foremost.
Jacksonville: The addition of Chris
Ivory to the Jaguars offense not only makes T.J.
Yeldon and afterthought, but will have an effect on Bortles
and the passing game too. Bortles threw a dozen touchdown passes
from the 5-yard line or closer and Ivory was brought in to score
from that range. If you reduce Bortles by half of those scores thatís
a significant hit to his season-long projection. Allen
Robinson is affected too. He caught five touchdowns from that
range so regression is likely coming for the talented wide receiver.
Murray wonít ever repeat his 2014 numbers in Dallas (393-1845-13;
57-416-0), so donít draft him before the fifth round. Letís face
it, the Eagles offensive line was decent (No. 12 according to PFF
in 2015), but it wasnít the Dallas offensive line and Tennessee
isnít anywhere close to either one of them based on PFF rankings
(29th). Add in rookie Derrick
Henry and there are too many factors weighing against Murray
finding room to run.
AFC West -
Denver: With Peyton
Manning under center, Demaryius
Thomas was an elite wide receiver, but with Mark
Sanchez or rookie Paxton
Lynch the choices in 2016, Thomas is barely a top-20 option.
The Broncos won the Super Bowl with defense and limiting turnovers
and thatís likely the plan for this season. Sanchez is a turnover
machine and so are most rookies so it figures the team will turn
to the run. That means Thomas and Emmanuel
Sanders will have to share a decreasing number of targets. Thomas
will be lucky to reach the 1,000-yard mark in 2016.
Kansas City: No, I donít want you
to pick Alex
Smith Ö ever. But I also donít want you to select Jamaal
Charles in the second round where heís being slotted (ADP 2.03,
14.7 overall). Charles is a very good back when healthy, but he
struggles with staying that way. I wonít give you the phony statistic
that he hasnít played in 16 games since 2012, but I will tell you
he gets nicked up a lot and the Chiefs will try their best to protect
him this season, by using Spencer
Ware at the goal line and spelling him with Charcandrick
West. So while I still expect him to run for 5.0 ypc again,
his usage will take a significant hit. For his career heís averaged
a lightly-used 17.25 opportunities-per-game and even that modest
number may be unreachable in 2016. Heís much too risky for a second-round
Oakland: When I take a late-round
flier on a tight end, itís going to be Clive
Walford. And based on ADP (197.0 overall) it appears I can get
him right before I take your kicker in Round 20. OK, heís not too
smart getting into an ATV accident that kept him out of spring OTAs,
but he is obviously talented after breaking receiving records at
the University of Miami where they have had a few pretty good tight
ends. Heís also got an up-and-coming quarterback in Derek
Carr. I can easily see him doubling last seasonís totals and
posting a 60-700-7 line.
Benjamin will be the Chargers ďnewĒ Malcom
Floyd. Thatís a great thing for Philip
Rivers and his offense, but not as good for fantasy owners.
Because the big play ability of Floyd, and now Benjamin, isnít consistent.
In Floydís last three seasons in San Diego (not including 2013 when
he played just two games), he cracked 90-yards exactly twice a season
and failed to accumulate more than 50 yards 24 times. Last season,
Benjamin reached the 90-yard mark four times and failed to reach
50 yards eight times. And in San Diego heíll be much lower on the
totem pole behind Keenan
Gates and Danny
Woodhead. Steve Schwarz served as the fantasy sports editor of The Sports Network and is the 2014 FSWA Football Writer of the Year.