Season-Long Fantasy Outlook - AFC North

Check out this post for a breakdown of my philosophy on each position

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens

Quarterback: Lamar Jackson is firmly in the group of reliable fantasy quarterbacks moving forward. He runs the ball enough to give him a decent floor and I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up with him as my starter in multiple leagues.

Running Back: This backfield appears to belong to Mark Ingram II going into the season, but I’m not so sure he’s going to hold onto it. He was fantastic with the Saints over the past two seasons but he’s 29 years old and will inevitably take a step back at some point. If he continues to excel and keeps a stranglehold on this Baltimore backfield throughout the season, he could be a top 10 fantasy running back. If he takes a step back, he will have to share this workload and he has the potential to be a complete fantasy dud.

There is some uncertainty here, so my official stance on Mark Ingram is “if he’s there, take him”. If he falls, or if he’s the best available when it’s your time to draft, then take him. This could be a need-based pick too. If you’re in the 4th round and already have 3 running backs, then I think I might pass on Ingram. If you only have one running back in the first 3 rounds then I think you’re almost obligated to take him.

The other option here is rookie running back Justice Hill out of Oklahoma State. He should be a solid player who could find himself in a starting role if Ingram is injured or ineffective. He projects as roughly a 15th round pick and I think he’s definitely worth a look in the late rounds. He literally defines the word “sleeper” this season.

Wide Receiver: This is a run-first offense as long as Lamar Jackson is the quarterback (or RGIII or Trace McSorley) so I am a little hesitant to really target these Baltimore receivers. They do throw the ball, so a guy like Willie Snead can be somewhat interesting, but my focus in this groups is Marquise Brown.

Hollywood Brown has an excellent skill set and has a ton of potential as an NFL player. They used the 23rd overall pick on this guy, so they definitely want to try to work him into the offense this year. He might have as much upside as any rookie in the league this year and he projects as a 15th round pick. I will have Marquise Brown on as many teams as possible.

Tight End: I don’t want Nick O’Leary.

Cincinnati Bengals

For being a pretty uninteresting real-life team, the Bengals have some really interesting fantasy players. I think they’re going to suck asshole this year and Vegas agrees (5.5 RSW). They should spend a lot of this year playing from behind and developing some of their young weapons, so there are a few guys I really like from this squad.

Quarterback: If you have to start Andy Dalton a few weeks when he has a good matchup it’s not the end of the world. There’s no reason to draft him though.

Running Back: Joe Mixon should completely dominate this backfield this season. They love him in Cincy and the only threat to steal touches from him is Giovani Bernard. He is probably getting drafted right where he belongs in the early 2nd round. I prefer both James Conner and Dalvin Cook over Mixon, but if you need a running back and he’s available then I think he’s a great pick.

After Mixon, you’re just handcuffing him with Bernard if anything. I don’t know much about the other young backs on this team and I don’t see the need to spend a draft pick on anybody other than mean Joe.

Wide Receiver: Ugh this WR unit is a mess. I’ll start with the one sure-thing: Tyler Boyd. Boyd excelled last season and is a legitimate top-25 fantasy wide receiver for this season. He’s a great young player who played his college ball at the University of Pittsburgh, the single greatest program in the history of college football. I like Boyd better than all the other receivers being picked around him in the draft (Hilton, Jeffery, Lockett, Williams, Moore).

Then it gets messy with A.J. Green. He is expected to miss time to start the season so he is projected as a mid 5th round pick. If he makes a full recovery he has the potential to be a top 5 fantasy WR as always, but I just don’t think I can trust him. If you feel very good about your first 4 picks in the draft, then you can take a shot on Green. Otherwise I think I’m just staying away from this injury-prone pussbag.

You can also take a shot on John Ross, but I have convinced myself he will never be good, so I’m not doing it. That leaves us with one last guy to consider: Damion Willis. Zac Taylor announced this weekend that Damion Willis is going to start week one for the Bengals. I really don’t know anything about Willis, but if they’re confident enough to make the rookie receiver a week 1 starter then I think he’s definitely worth a look in the late rounds.

Tight End: Tyler Eifert is healthy again and is ranked as the 23rd overall tight end. If you think he can stay healthy he’s probably worth consideration if you aren’t able to get a sure-fire TE earlier in the draft.

Cleveland Browns

The team everybody is talking about for the 2019 NFL season is the Cleveland Browns. Their projected regular season win total is all the way up at 9 and I think they figure to have one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL.

Quarterback: Baker Mayfield should be a top fantasy quarterback this season, unfortunately he’s projected as an 8th round pick this season which is a little out of my draft range.

Running Back: Even with as explosive as this offense should be and as good as I think Nick Chubb is, I don’t think I have any interest in drafting him in the 2nd round this year. I am too concerned about Kareem Hunt stealing touches away from Chubb to rationalize taking him this high in the draft. I’m actually more interested in taking a late-round flyer on Kareem Hunt who could be the most valuable handcuff in fantasy this year after he returns from his 8 game suspension.

Wide Receiver: I think OBJ and Deandre Hopkins are going to be the two best fantasy receivers this season. OBJ might be the most talented receiver in the league and he is getting one of the biggest QB upgrades possible. He goes from a pathetic offense led by a god-awful Eli Manning, to a dangerous offense led by one of the best young QB’s in the league. This team is going to be fun to watch, and OBJ’s 25 fantasy points per game will be a big reason why. If you have a chance to get him, do it.

After that it’s Jarvis Landry, who should also have a decent year as the clear-cut number 2 receiver on this team. We all know Landry and Beckham are friends, and I think that means they’ll compliment each other very well. Landry is far less talented than OBJ, but this is the first season of his career that he won’t need to be the top receiver. Opposing defense will have to focus on the other side of the field, and I think that could mean big things for Landry. I will be reaching on Jarvis Landry in the late 5th round/early 6th round.

Tight End: David Njoku is the guy I’m hoping to get at tight end if I don’t get Kelce, Ertz, Kittle, or Engram in the earlier rounds. He projects as a 10th round pick which I think is just way too late. He’s gigantic, talented, and is now part of one of the best offenses in football. I think he gets you a solid 10-16 fantasy points per week this season.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers enter 2019 with a projected regular season win total of 9. This actually gives me some confidence that this team could be just fine this year. I expected them to have a significant down year compared to usual, but this number is decently high and makes me believe in the pieces they have left just a little more than I did before.

Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger is fine. If he’s my starting fantasy quarterback I will not be upset about it.

Running Back: James Conner is the clear-cut top option in this backfield by a fairly wide margin. I don’t see Jaylen Samuels getting in his way this season and that makes Conner a top-10 fantasy running back entering the 2019 season.

Samuels is a decent handcuff but he’s not quite the player James Conner is at this point in his career. If one of these two guys goes down it could mean some touches for Benny Snell Jr., so he would become one of my favorite handcuffs to own.

Wide Receiver: This is a pretty interesting unit this year. JuJu Smith-Schuster is clearly the top option and I would only expect him to improve on what was a fantastic 2018 campaign. That being said, I don’t see myself using an early second round pick on him. If I’m taking a receiver that early in the draft, it will be Deandre Hopkins, OBJ, Michael Thomas, Julio Jones, or Davante Adams. Outside of those 5 guys I will be prioritizing RB this year.

After JuJu, it’s a tight race between Donte Moncrief and James Washington for the number 2 spot on this team. They’re both projected to be late 9th round picks and I actually have some interest in both of them. If I’m picking in that range and their both available, I would prefer to take Washington because he’s 23 years old and has much more upside than Moncrief. We know what we’re getting out of the 26-year-old Moncrief who has had an up-and-down career so far. I’m giving the edge to Washington, but I think they’re both viable options in this range.

Tight End: Maybe Vance McDonald is better than I realize, but it seems crazy to me for him to be projected higher than David Njoku. If McDonald falls, I’ll take a chance on him as a potentially reliable option, but I don’t think I’m going out of my way to get this guy.

About the Author

  • Matt Shanahan (mshanahan)

  • Matt Shanahan is an engineer by trade and firmly believes in data-driven analytics. He grew up in Pennsylvania and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh. His betting strategy is to develop theories, create models to test those theories, and then collect data to see what works and what doesn’t.

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