Fantasy Football Preview: AFC East

We conclude our previews with the AFC East. It’s likely that the best and worst teams in the NFL reside here, for what that’s worth. Because of that discrepancy, I’m going to change up the format and break these players down by team. All references to draft position are from the Fantasy Football Calculator.

Buffalo Bills:

The Bills’ fantasy prospects are led by running back LeSean McCoy. He’s been top 10 in fantasy RB points per game both seasons in Buffalo, and their new coach Sean McDermott seems likely to keep McCoy featured. Further, with Mike Gillislee gone to the rival Patriots, McCoy could get more goal line work as well as maybe some more involvement in the passing game. He’s a great mid-to-late first round selection, and I like him as the 4th overall RB this season. McCoy does have an injury history, so Johnathan Williams is the handcuff to be aware of here.

Questions exists at the other positions in Buffalo. Sammy Watkins is the clear top wideout, but he’s missed 11 games over the last two seasons with foot issues, and he’s still working his way back. There’s certainly potential here, but he makes me nervous as a primary fantasy target, so I’m probably avoiding him and his pick 40 price tag. He’s joined by Charles Clay, another perpetually injured player, at TE, along with second-round draft pick Zay Jones at WR. I’m not huge on either player, but they’re going after pick 150 in drafts, so they’re flier options.

That lack of receiving options may be what holds back QB Tyrod Taylor in fantasy. He’s been a borderline starting QB recently, but he’s also hard to trust on a weekly basis. His rushing stats (over 1,000 yards and 10 TDs combined in the last two seasons) give him a nice base. Going around pick 135, he’s a good QB to combine with another later-round QB selection.

Miami Dolphins:

Following a playoff appearance last season, Miami brings back most of its offensive weapons along with a new face at tight end. Their focal point is also at running back, where Jay Ajayi exploded onto the fantasy scene. He finished as a borderline top 10 RB despite averaging less than five carries a game in weeks 1-4. His numbers were boosted by three 200 yard rushing performances, but he should find more consistency. He could catch more passes, which only helps. He’s a very solid choice in the top 15 of drafts. If Ajayi were to get injured, Damien Williams does factor into some goal-line work, but Kenyan Drake is also likely to be involved.

The pass catchers are intriguing and possibly format-dependent regarding their usefulness. The PPR target is Jarvis Landry. His first three seasons have led to 84, 110, and 94 receptions, respectively. He’s never scored more than five TDs, though, so he doesn’t have great upside. He’s easily a top 40 selection in PPR, while falling a handful of picks later in standard leagues.

The wild cards for receiving are DaVante Parker, Kenny Stills, and newly acquired TE Julius Thomas. Parker more than doubled his reception total last season, and he’s shown the physical gifts to be very good at the position. He’s being drafted in the 90s, which isn’t terrible at all for the upside. Stills is the big-play threat that ended up with nine TDs on just 42 catches. Going after pick 150, he’s a good target in standard leagues more than PPR. Thomas has high expectations with the move to Miami, but there are a lot of mouths to feed here. He’s not one of my favorite late-round targets for tight end, but he could have a nice season.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill probably falls into more of a streamer or possible pair-up guy, similar to Taylor in Buffalo. It’s a run-first team and he struggled in the new system last season.

New England:

They won the championship in 2016 and only improved in the offseason, so expectations are high again for the Patriots. As for fantasy, they are always a difficult team to sort through, and I rarely end up with Patriots on my teams. Tom Brady is a consensus top 3 choice at QB going into 2017. Personally, I’m not into his pick 30 price tag, mostly because New England isn’t a guarantee to throw a ton each week. They win with their game plan, not just their quarterback.

That also affects the rest of their fantasy outlooks. There are multiple talented skill players on this roster, but any may be the focal point on a given week. Rob Gronkowski continues his reign as top tight end. His injury history has finally allowed him to fall to around pick 20. I’m still not enthused considering he hasn’t played a full season since 2011 and will need maintenance.

Brandin Cooks was acquired from New Orleans, and he’s being drafted just a few picks after Gronk. Cooks is a talented WR, but there should be caution since he’s inconsistent from game-to-game and he’s joining a team with many established pieces. Those pieces include PPR mainstay Julian Edelman, who just signed a contract extension. Edelman is going around pick 50 (up a bit in PPR, a bit later in standard) and represents a potential great value there. He’s averaged at least six receptions a game each of the previous four seasons, so obviously he has a strong connection with Brady. He’s probably the best value of the New England pass catchers. The rest of the receivers include Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, and Danny Amendola, none of whom will find consistency without an injury.

If you thought that was messy, we still have to look at running backs. They have Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, James White, and Dion White all currently on the roster. All could be valuable, but who knows. Gillislee is the likely goal line back, and his pick 70 price tag is intriguing since LeGarrette Blount scored 18 touchdowns last season. White likely has the edge as a pass catching back, and he’s going around pick 115 in PPR, which could be a nice value as well.

New York Jets:

Thankfully, I don’t have a ton of space left to write about this dumpster fire. The Jets cut almost every veteran from their roster. You will likely see lots of youth and multiple QBs for this team. Is their fantasy value? Bilal Powell could be a worthwhile investment at RB. He’s going around pick 70, and he could have a big role alongside Matt Forte. Forte is going around pick 100, but will probably take a backseat on this rebuilding roster. The pass catching options are Quincy Enunwa, who is worth tracking. Austin Seferian-Jenkins will tempt as a TE flier as well. Robby Anderson and rookie Ardarius Stewart are receivers that will play a lot, but I’m not big on either.

That’s it for the AFC East and all of the previews. Happy draft preparation, everybody!

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