2019 Fantasy Football Outlook: AFC East Edition

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Fantasy Football Outlook
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - FEBRUARY 03: Sony Michel #26 of the New England Patriots rushes against the Los Angeles Rams during Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on February 03, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Getty Images)

In this week’s 2019 fantasy football outlook, I preview the AFC East. Le’Veon Bell makes his return but is he still worthy of a first round pick? Also, there is a trio of sophomore quarterbacks to keep an eye on. Will one or all emerge as a fantasy stalwart? Finally, the Patriots. There is a clear cut favorite in the pass-catching game but as usual, the backfield will be a weekly roll of the dice. Although the future Hall of Famer Rob Gronkowski has departed. Who will be the beneficiary of those targets?

2019 Fantasy Football Outlook: AFC East Edition

New England Patriots

Tom Brady finished 2018 as the number twelve overall fantasy quarterback. The emergence of Sony Michel in the run game has put Brady in the tier of QB2 or low-end QB1. Brady produced nine games over 20 fantasy points. He had a nice stretch of games, weeks four through seven, where he scored over 20 FP in each game. Fantasy owners will have to decide if they are able to live with the games that Brady throws for one or zero touchdowns (eight times in 2018). The other part of the equation will be the loss of Rob Gronkowski. Even though he was often injured defenses still had to account for him. Fantasy owners should still be able to count on Brady attempting greater than 30 passes per game. Draft Brady with caution and expect numbers similar to 2018.

Running Back By Committee

Sony Michel and James White continue to be the two-headed monster in the New England backfield. Michel’s rookie campaign, like many other rookies, was inconsistent (double-digit fantasy points weeks four, six, inj., 12 and 16 also note he had 18+ carries in those games.). He did show flashes of potential over the course of the year and it wasn’t until the playoffs that the Patriots began to lean on him in the running game.

The problem remains, which running back will be the main producer of fantasy points. Fantasy owners can project Michel to get 13-20 touches per game without many receiving targets. James White is the better value in Point Per Reception leagues. In the first nine games of 2018, White averaged 21 FP per game, better than seven targets receiving and averaged six carries. White’s fantasy production tailed off at the end of the season with the Pat’s relying more on Michel. However, he was still targeted 10 times per game between carries and passing targets.

Belichick also drafted Damien Harris in the third round out of Alabama to further muddy the waters. Keep your eye on Damien Harris. He is a stout runner and could see time in short yardage situations. His value is in dynasty leagues. Rex Burkhead is still on the roster and James Develin will be sure to continue his role as a goal-line vulture. Michel proved that he can be leaned on in the running game. Just as White will continue to be the passing down back. I view Michel as an RB2 in standard scoring with decreased value in PPR leagues and the opposite can be said of White.

A PPR Monster

Julian Edelman will be a target hog. He averaged more than eight targets per game. He is a WR1 in PPR leagues and WR2 in standard leagues. The only thing that keeps him from being a WR1 in both formats is Belichick’s offense predicated on spreading the ball and running game. However, he’s the type of wide receiver I like to target in the second/third round of drafts. N’Keal Harry was drafted in the second round and should be drafted in dynasty leagues. I’ll leave him on the waiver wire in re-draft leagues.

No one can replace Rob Gronkowski’s production, up to eight targets per game when healthy. However, the Patriots know how to get the most out of all their offensive pieces without him in the line-up. The tight ends in the Patriots offense usually have value however the Patriots have Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Ben Watson. Watson benefits from his already established connection He already has with Brady. Jenkins might be the newest reclamation project by Belichick. He has talent but has never lived up to the potential. With that being said, he has to be able to take to the coaching from Belichick. They’re both worth a flier if you draft more than two tight ends.

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins look like a cast of fantasy misfits. They’ve added Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen. Fitzpatrick, if he wins the starting job, will be worth a start in the first couple of games. He’s sure to light it up and then fizzle out. I like Josh Rosen. He showed promise on an awful Cardinals team. If the Dolphins offensive line can protect him, he could be intriguing.

If this team can make good use of Kenyan Drake he’d be a low-end RB2. Drake received double-digit targets/touches in nine games and produced double-digit fantasy points in seven. I like him in PPR leagues because of his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Drake will be sharing duties with Kalen Ballage. Ballage did little to earn the trust of the Adam Gase regime. Can he earn the trust of Brian Flores? Time will tell. If he earns the two-down role add him. Until then, I’ll leave him on the waiver wire.

This Could Take A While

The receiving corps is still led by Devante Parker. Parker has the ability but it just hasn’t translated on the field. Draft at your own risk. I won’t. Kenny Stills shows a little more consistency but is worth nothing more than bench depth if you’re desperate. Both of these receivers will have a solid game or two but are nothing more than fool’s gold. The Dolphins added Brice Butler and Albert Wilson, both offer little value. If either quarterback shows an affinity for any of these receivers they’d be worth a bye week filler.

Mike Gesicki was drafted in the second round in 2018 and showed little in the passing game. The ‘Phins added journeymen, Dwayne Allen, and Nick O’Leary. This is a position to avoid.

The Dolphins are in a full re-build. The addition of Josh Rosen is intriguing because of the promise he represents. Drake offers value and if the Dolphins end up leaning on him in the run game and on passing downs he could be excellent value. I’m avoiding all receivers from this team.

New York Jets

Sam Darnold showed a lot of poise for a rookie quarterback. He developed a nice connection with Quincy Enunwa (avg. nine targets the first four games), before his injury. And then with Robby Anderson and rookie, tight end Chris Herndon. However, he produced more than 20 fantasy points only twice (week 15 and 16). Even with, Le’Veon Bell to help shoulder the load he should be left on the waiver wire.

Welcome Back

The addition of Bell will be huge for this offense. The X-factor will be coach Adam Gase. The offseason is drama filled in New York, and why wouldn’t it be. Gase did little with the dynamic Kenyan Drake (see above for usage) leaving fantasy prognosticators to wonder if he’ll have the same effect on Bell (he’s used to more than 300 targets/touches per season).

Is Bell still a first round pick? Why not? I like him if your picking at the end of the first round and he should still be valuable in PPR leagues. It wouldn’t shock me to see fantasy owners take a wait and see approach with Bell pushing him into second rounds and depressing his value in auction leagues. Pick him up with confidence.

Robbie Anderson is a fourth-quarter stud. Two years in a row Anderson hogged targets and was fantasy gold for owners on playoff runs. Quincy Enunwa, injured again, had started the year with a nice rapport with Darnold. The addition of Bell will take away targets from the receivers.

Chris Herndon, 2018 fourth-round pick, had a very nice rookie year. He’s an athletic tight end with good hands capable of moving the chains and getting into the end zone. I see Herndon as a TE2 with upside.

Buffalo Bills

Josh Allen displayed exactly what the Bills drafted a big arm and running ability. Allen’s big arm led to spectacular plays. Similarly, his 89 rushes for 631 yards and eight touchdowns was a show of the running ability that he has. The downside, however, was his inaccuracy which, led to more interceptions (10 touchdowns/12 interceptions). If he’s able to improve on a 53% completion rate the sky’s the limit and will vault him to QB1 status. As of now I would draft as a QB2 and start him with a favorable match-up.

The Ageless One

Frank Gore returns for another year. He and T.J. Yeldon were added in free agency and Devin Singletary was drafted in the third round in this year’s draft. This signals the end of LeSean McCoy as a fantasy must. Although there will be a healthy competition in the backfield this is a situation better left untouched. Singletary is a small but stout back and bears consideration in dynasty leagues. He was a workhorse back for Florida Atlantic running for 66 touchdowns in his three-year career. Lastly, Yeldon may have some value as a passing down back in PPR leagues. Gore and McCoy will split carries and that’s just not the consistency I want in my fantasy backs.

The Bills, all of a sudden, boast a really nice corps of receivers. Zay Jones and Robert Foster both had a nice 2018. Additionally, they’ve added a solid Cole Beasley and John Brown. Kelvin Benjamin has since joined the Biggest Loser due to his affinity for Twinkies. Jones had 102 targets, Foster had 44 targets (and took one 75 yards for a score). Benjamin had 62 targets but was only able to haul in 23 (one could argue Allen’s lack of accuracy).

Nothing To See Here

Avoid the Bills’ tight end position. The Bills lost Charles Clay to free agency. But, added Tyler Kroft. However, Kroft will not be available for 2019 after an offseason injury. Lee Smith and second-year pro, Jason Croom, from the University of Tennessee, are the remaining tight ends on the roster.

The Last Word

I expect Julian Edelman to have a huge season. He’s so consistent. I’m intrigued by each of the second year quarterbacks, however, Allen is the one I’m drafting. Finally, don’t sleep on Le’Veon Bell, do not hesitate to draft him at the end of round one.

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