The 2018 NFL Fantasy Football season is closing in on us. Throughout the next eight weeks, we’ll be going through all the fantasy options for teams by division. This is the third installment and we’ll be going over the AFC North which is a division that got a lot more competitive for second place. I still think the Steelers will run away with the division lead but the competition for second between the Ravens and Browns will be a lot closer this year.
AFC North Fantasy Outlook
Additions: WR John Brown, WR Michael Crabtree, WR Willie Snead, QB Robert Griffin III
The Baltimore Ravens completely overhauled a lot of their roster after a 9-7 2017 campaign, bringing in a lot of WR talent to an offence that for the most part last year looked horrible. Finishing 29th in passing yards and 27th in total offensive yards. Look for Baltimore to have a much better offence, while maintaining one of the best defences in the league.
QB: Joe Flacco is safe to say in the twilight of his career and won’t be fantasy relevant going forward beyond being a good streaming option. The future of the Ravens is Lamar Jackson, the former Heisman winner out of Louisville who got drafted in the 1st round, 32nd in this year’s draft. Flacco has been named by Harbaugh the starter but has stated that Jackson will be part of the rotation and take snaps. Jackson will be an amazing fantasy option when named starter if you’re in a keeper league or trust that he’ll win the job later in the year, drafting Jackson late might be a good option.
RB: Despite recently retired Danny Woodhead being injured most of the year, the Ravens running backs performed pretty well finishing 11th in rushing yards. Both Alex Collins and Javorius Allen are decent flex options, with Collins probably have more of an upside fantasy wise.
WR: The Ravens wide receivers are going to be tough to gauge this season, out of the first five WR’s on the depth chart, only one played for this Ravens team last year. Crabtree, Brown and Snead will all be newcomers to the Ravens offence and it will be interesting to see how they have distributed the ball. Crabtree is listed at WR1 and for good reason, he’s become one of the better red zone threats in the NFL and an excellent fantasy option. All three Ravens WR’s should have varying degrees of fantasy value.
TE: Currently sitting at #1 on the depth chart for the Ravens is 1st round, 25th overall selected Hayden Hurst out of South Carolina. Hurst was unanimously named to the 2017 All-SEC football team and will be looked at to carry the workload at tight end for the Ravens this season with no reliable backup fantasy wise.
Defence: It’s the Ravens. Their defence has always been good, year in, year out. They finished second last season in fantasy scoring and should be able to maintain as a top-five team. Draft the Ravens defence and you don’t have to worry about your D/ST for most of the season.
Additions: QB Matt Barkley
The Cincinnati Bengals are coming off a season where despite finishing the last place in total offence, managed to finish the season with a 7-9 record. I think they are the only team in this division that got worse this offseason and expect them to finish last in the division.
QB: Andy Dalton is about the definition of your average NFL QB, finishing 17th in fantasy scoring last year. I wouldn’t expect his value to go up much, or down much. Andy Dalton going forward will be a nice streaming option against favourable matchups.
RB: People who gambled on Joe Mixon last season and possibly kept him in keeper leagues are hoping this season we’ll get to see everything that Joe Mixon is about. A lot of experts have him listed as the potential fantasy breakout player of the year and why not? He’s an above average runner that will finally get the reigns in this offence as his only competition is Giovani Bernard. Bernard is dominant in the passing game so Mixon should get the workload when it comes to carries. Surprisingly since 2013, Bernard is 9th in fantasy scoring amongst all running backs. He’s worth drafting late.
WR: I could write an entire article on why I don’t think A.J. Green is worth the ADP he’s consistently drafted at. A.J. Green finished 10th in fantasy scoring last year despite only bringing in 75 targets. That’s what always tempers me on the expectations surrounding A.J. Green, they don’t give him the ball enough. He’d be a solid top pick every season if he brought in 90+ passes like the rest of the WR’s in his range. He doesn’t have much of a supporting cast around him as Brandon LaFell is nothing more than a desperate streaming option.
TE: Tyler Eifert is one of the best tight ends in the league when he’s healthy, the problem is he hasn’t played a full 16-game season in his career. In fact he’s only played in 39 out of a possible 80 games since being drafted. Back-up Tyler Kroft is a solid streaming option when Eifert isn’t healthy as he finished 15th in scoring last season. Everybody wants to see what Eifert can do in a full 16-game season though, hopefully, 2018 is that.
Defence: The Bengals defence finished 21st in fantasy scoring last year and are nothing more than a match-up dependent streaming option. Do not draft the Bengals defence.
Additions: Nobody of note.
We already know the Steelers are going to win the division this year, they are the best team in the AFC North by far and haven’t really gotten worse over the offseason. Finishing 3rd in offensive yards and 5th in defensive yards, the Steelers are looking to compete for their 7th Super Bowl championship.
QB: Ben Roethlisberger. Ole Reliable once again will be under centre for the Steelers this season. Big Ben finished 10th in fantasy scoring last season as he’s flanked by the best RB in the league and is throwing to one of the best WR’s in the league. As long as he has those weapons at his disposal he’ll be fantasy relevant.
RB: Le’Veon Bell is the best running back in the NFL in my opinion, but contract negotiations with the Steelers haven’t been going well and he holds out on training camps. It affected him early last season, but it didn’t take long for Bell to find his form. If I have the 1st pick in the fantasy draft, I’m taking Le’Veon Bell. No other Steeler running back is fantasy relevant beyond being an injury handcuff.
WR: The Steelers, in my opinion, have one of the best one-two punches in the league when it comes to the wide receiver position. Antonio Brown is without a doubt one of the best WR’s in the league and JuJu Smith-Schuster is quickly becoming one of the better second options in the league. Brown will go in the first round of every draft while JJSS is being drafted currently around #43. Recently drafted James Washington is one of the most explosive WR’s in this year’s draft and in my opinion is worth taking a late round flier on.
TE: The one downside to all the offensive weapons the Steelers have is that the tight end position seems to fall to the wayside. Jesse James is the best TE that the Steelers have and in one of the best offences in the NFL, finished 22nd place in fantasy scoring. He’s not worth drafting and should only be streamed in good matchups.
Defence: The Steelers defence has never ranked worth than 17th over the last decade and finished 8th last season. The loss of Ryan Shazier is huge for this defence and will lower their ceiling. The Steelers defence should finish around the middle of the pack.
Additions: WR Jarvis Landry, QB Tyrod Taylor, RB Carlos Hyde, QB Drew Stanton
It’s safe to assume that the team that has combined for 1 win in two seasons (1-31) won’t finish this season with the same outcome. I expect the Browns to compete for second in this division and if everything clicks perfectly could be a wildcard team.
QB: Tyrod Taylor has been giving the reigns for at least the first year of this new look Browns. He only has one year remaining on his contract and with recently drafted QB Baker Mayfield sitting behind him, one can only assume that Tyrod will be a one and done here in Cleveland. He might not even survive the entire year. Tyrod Taylor finished 16th in fantasy scoring last year and while he does have much better weapons around him, the potential promotion of Baker Mayfield makes him a scary pickup in Fantasy.
RB: The Browns have a crowded backfield, to say the least. Newly acquired Carlos Hyde sits on top of the depth chart right now and it will be his position to lose. Finishing 8th last season in fantasy scoring, I wouldn’t expect him to finish anywhere near that this year. Hyde is worth a late-round pick. Duke Johnson Jr. will have some decent value as a flex due to his involvement in the passing game, they almost use him like another WR. Newly drafted Nick Chubb also shouldn’t be counted out as potentially overtaking Hyde for the starting job at some point in the season. Basically, the Cleveland running back situation isn’t defined yet and it’s hard to put faith into any of their backs giving you your return on fantasy investment. The only safe bet is that Duke Johnson Jr will be used in the passing game and should be a reliable flex.
WR: Despite Jarvis Landry being one of the best PPR WR’s in the game, he has a bit more competition this year as he will compete with Josh Gordon for a share of the football. Both Landry and Gordon will have fantasy value, but it will be interesting to see which one gets the ball more on a week to week basis. Landry finished 8th in PPR scoring last year and I fully expect that to go down a bit. Expect Jarvis Landry to finish the season with around WR3 numbers and Josh Gordon if healthy to finish a bit higher.
TE: David Njoku had a pretty good rookie campaign all things considered finishing 24th in fantasy scoring on a 0-16 team. He’s a strong option for 2018 breakout player with a much-improved QB situation and a team that should perform much better overall. He’s worth risking a late round pick on a position that is very volatile in fantasy.
Defence: The Browns defence finished 27th place last season in fantasy scoring. I expect them to improve a lot this season and might even become fantasy relevant. I wouldn’t draft them just yet but they are a defence to keep your eye on when you’re looking for match-up favourable streaming options in the middle of the season.
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