Week two of this website’s fantasy football team reports showcased the AFC East, and I’m back to critique the opinions, projections and rankings found in those team reports, just like last week with the NFC East.
Lately, and almost as long as we can remember, the AFC East is owned by the New England Patriots as the other three teams provide little competition for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. However, the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, and Buffalo Bills all seem to be making strides improving their teams. I don’t expect any of them to dethrone the Patriots just yet, but Brady is a year older and doesn’t have the same weapons he once had, so this division could be in line for a real shake-up soon.
Team Report (June 16)
Buffalo Bills are definitely a franchise that is under construction. All predictions made by Dave and Mike* have a like button with a check mark next to it minus one player: C.J. Spiller.
The potential this young man brings to the table is through the roof. His talent and skill set is comparable to Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk. However, the fact that he plays for the Buffalo Bills prevents him from realizing his full potential. We saw glimpses of elite status in 2012. This Bills put the brakes on that by starting over with a new coaching staff, hiring Doug Marrone to replace Chan Gailey.
Last year with then-rookie E.J. Manuel under center, defenses felt little threat from the passing game and stacked the box to never really let Spiller get going. This year I expect we are going to see more of the same – a stacked box and average statistics. Until Manuel connects with his wide receivers more regularly and stretches the field, Spiller is going to have a tough time scoring enough points to put him amongst the Top 10 running backs in fantasy football.
This website’s current cheatsheets have the following running backs all ranked below Spiller and I would not hesitate to draft any of them, in no particular order, ahead of Spiller: Arian Foster (bounceback year), Reggie Bush (dynamic offense), Montee Ball (great offense; top quarterback), Alfred Morris (revamped offense), and Zac Stacy (workhorse).
[ * Editor’s note: Dave writes the player capsules, Dave and Mike combine their efforts on the player projections and rankings. ]
Team Report (June 17)
Miami Dolphins always seem to have some big question marks at the start of every season. Heading towards this season, some of those questions include: Will Ryan Tannehill take a big step forward in his development entering this third season? Who will win the starting job at running back, Lamar Miller or newly acquired Knowshon Moreno? Will Mike Wallace remotely live up to his big money free agent contract signed prior to last season?
As any football fan knows, a good running game will open up the field for the passing game. However, the passing game of the Dolphins, outside of Mike Wallace, doesn’t have many standouts. That is, until they drafted Jarvis Landry.
Brian Hartline is slotted in as the number two wide receiver going into training camp and he could very well shine playing opposite Mike Wallace, who should continue to see double coverage due to his size and speed. However, the Dolphins didn’t waste a 2nd round pick on Jarvis Landry; they knew what they were doing.
Although Landry is not as big as most scouts and coaches like their wide receivers, he played in the tough SEC, so he has experience playing against quality talent and bigger defenders. His excellent hands, toughness, impeccable blocking and route running skills will definitely shoot him past Brandon Gibson (who has a lingering knee issue) and Rishard Matthews for the number three wide receiver spot.
Dare I say it, given the chance and opportunity to prove himself, Landry may challenge veteran Hartline at number two. Landry should be on your fantasy radar, and not just in dynasty leagues. He didn’t even rate in this website’s Not Ranked – On The Radar section of the cheatsheets, and I’m calling that out as an oversight.
New England Patriots
Team Report (June 19)
Although Tom Brady turns 37 in August, he is ultra-competitive and will continue to push for another Super Bowl ring. Unfortunately, Brady’s receivers leave a lot to be desired to help him do that. There is still considerable uncertainty with Rob Gronkowski‘s health. He could start the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, forcing him to miss a minimum of six weeks. That leaves the Patriots with the likes of injury-prone Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson, boom-or-bust Kenbrell Thompkins, newly-acquired Brandon LaFell, and a poor man’s Wes Welker, Julian Edelman at wide receiver.
As I mentioned in my early ADP analysis article, I feel Julian Edelman will be the man to step up in a major way for the Patriots this year and frankly, he has to if the Patriots want to continue to reign as division champions. As the number one wide receiver that will be given plenty of opportunity to shine, especially if Gronk is out for an extended period, I feel the current projections of 85 receptions, 850 yards and 4 TD are understated.
The Patriots will lean on their running game as much as possible (note they are without LeGarrette Blount this season), but in passing situations Edelman will be his first choice. Brady trusts him more than anyone short of Gronk. New England only had 25 receiving touchdowns in 2013, and Edelman’s share was 6. I expect Brady to return to the 30 TD club again. Edelman should be the one to receive some, if not the majority, of that increase.
New York Jets
Team Report (June 19)
Do or Die is exactly what New York Jets ownership is telling Rex Ryan. An 8-8 record will not save his job this year. The Mark Sanchez experiment left a bad taste in the mouths of many Jets fans, so with hopes of turning things around, the franchise spent some money this offseason. They added backup quarterback Michael Vick as insurance for starter Geno Smith, and signed former Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson after he was released, and former Denver Broncos WR Eric Decker to a rich contract that left NFL media and fantasy experts alike scoffing at the Jets.
This website currently has Decker ranked 40th at wide receiver, which is even a little lower than his ADP of WR35 at Fantasy Football Calculator (12 team, standard scoring). I strongly disagree with this ranking.
The Jets are a team that will most likely be playing from behind the majority of their games, which means Geno Smith will be forced to pass the ball. Decker, as Smith’s only reliable receiver, should receive a ton of targets. We all know there is no comparison between Geno Smith and Peyton Manning, but with another year under Smith’s belt, a full training camp plus four preseason games, there should be no reason why these two can’t develop some chemistry relatively quickly. At the end of the season, Decker will finish as a Top 30 receiver or better.