AFC East Fantasy Preview

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By Amol Nadkarni

Here we provide you with a fantasy outlook for each AFC East team:

Buffalo Bills:

Last year, all of the hype surrounding this team was around the defense, which was already a top five unit and was about to be taken over by defensive guru HC Rex Ryan. However, the defense regressed considerably under Ryan and it was instead the offense that showed they had the potential to be a solid if not great unit heading into 2016. QB Tyrod Taylor, who had a strong Pro Bowl season, showed that he has the potential to be, at the very least, an above average quarterback in the league and his dual-threat capabilities make him an intriguing signal caller to look at during the later rounds of drafts. At running back, the Bills are loaded. RB Lesean McCoy is pegged as the starter but second year RB Karlos Williams showed in limited playing time that he can be a very good back and could push McCoy for touches. The two of them arguably form the best running back tandem in the league, as McCoy can shake-‘n-bake his way to racking up yards, while Williams opts for a more direct, bruising running approach. McCoy should be seen as a solid mid to low-end RB1, while Williams is a top tier handcuff who can also be plugged into lineups any given week. A dark horse running back to look at is rookie Jonathan Williams, who could surprise this year and has impressed so far in OTAs. In Sammy Watkins, the Bills have an elite go-to receiver, who if can stay healthy will be a steal in the fifth to seventh rounds. Over the year, Watkins and Taylor formed a great deep connection and with another year under the belt together, the two should form one of the more exciting passing duos in the league. TE Charles Clay was expected to add another dimension to Buffalo’s passing attack last season but he ended up having a rather pedestrian year. Clay should be more involved in the offense this year as a utility player, but he will not be a pass-catching tight end to start week in and week out. This offseason, Ryan and GM Doug Whaley made a concerted effort to revamp the defense in the mold of a typical Rex Ryan defense. Players who did not buy into the scheme last year (i.e. Mario Williams, Nigel Bradham, etc.) have been shipped out and new recruits in the form of LB Shaq Lawson, LB Reggie Ragland, and DT Adolphus Washington have come in to form the nucleus of Ryan’s defense. Keep an eye on the Bills defense, as they might shoot up the defensive rankings in 2016 with a bounce back year.

Miami Dolphins:

It seems like every year the Dolphins field a talented roster, yet they never are able to get that talent to translate to more wins. It all starts with fifth year QB Ryan Tannehill, who seems to have regressed into an average at best quarterback, after he showed promise early in his career. Tannehill is a low tier quarterback, who should be drafted late or not at all. With the departure of Lamar Miller, the running back situation is unclear. RB Jay Ajayi is the most likely candidate to take over as the starting running back and it seems like new HC Adam Gase wants the former Boise State Bronco to be his every down back. Ajayi definitely has the talent to do so as he is a bigger back who can beat up on the opposition, with an aggressive running style. He will need to improve on his pass protection to be considered a workhorse, but he is definitely someone to keep an eye on going forward, as he has sleeper potential written all over him. In the passing game, the Dolphins really only have one go-to receiver in Jarvis Landry. Landry is a PPR must have, as he gets catches left and right and has exceptional run after the catch ability. Tannehill rarely ever throws deep and instead looks to Landry often during games. His catches might not seem like much but over the course of the game they often translate into solid fantasy points. Landry is the kind of wideout that you can depend on week in and week out to produce solid if not great fantasy points for your team. He is a high-end WR2. However outside of Landry there are few fantasy options in the passing game. Deep threat Kenny Stills is too “boom or bust” to be drafted and TE Jordan Cameron looks far removed from the player that broke out in 2013 with the Browns. The skill player to keep an eye on is second-year wideout Devante Parker out of Louisville. He is recovering from a left foot injury, but it looks like the Dolphins are just taking it slow with him and he should be full go by training camp. Parker is big-bodied receiver, who excels when the ball is in the air and he can make a play on it. He is also surprisingly very good at running after the catch and making defenders miss. There was a reason the Dolphins selected Parker in 2015 with the 14th overall pick in the 2015 draft and if healthy he could show why. He is definitely a sleeper that can be had in the mid to later rounds. The Dolphins have some talent on defense in DT Ndamukong Suh and OLB Cameron Wake. The additions of DE Mario Williams and LB Kiko Alonso make the front seven more formidable but the real questions lie in the secondary, as CB Brent Grimes departed to Tampa Bay. The Dolphins defense is more of a weekly plug and play defense, than a consistent week to week start.

New England Patriots:

As the cream of the crop in the AFC East, the New England Patriots have plenty of players that are excellent starts in fantasy in 2016. One does not have to look any further than QB Tom Brady, who is a model of consistency and always puts up the numbers, even at his age. Brady is the type of player that makes everyone of his receivers a better player and he has a plethora of weapons to throw to. Getting Brady in the seventh round is a steal for a player that should be seen as a high-end QB1. Last season, RB Dion Lewis emerged onto the scene and showed that he can be an effective dual-threat back, adding an extra dimension to New England’s offense. An ACL injury last season but a damper on his breakout season, but if he shows that he has fully recovered, Lewis is the kind of low-end RB1/high-end RB2 that fantasy lovers (especially in PPR leagues) will love to have in their squad. The Patriots have many receiving options, with TE Rob Gronkowski head lining the list. Gronk is the clear cut top tight end in the game today and is a matchup nightmare for anyone who tries to guard him. Since arriving in New England, Gronk has become Brady’s favorite target and whenever Brady needs a quick outlet, he looks no further than #87. Gronk will likely come off the board in the mid-to-late first round. This offseason, the Patriots decided to pair Gronk with another stud tight end, former Bear TE Martellus Bennett. It looks like the Pats will try to run a similar offense to what they ran in 2012, where Gronk was paired with TE Aaron Hernandez. Bennett will see a lot of targets and even though he is a second option to Gronk, he should still be viewed as a TE1. The top wideout for the Patriots is WR Julian Edelman, who does most of his work in the slot and will get many receptions (perfect for PPR). Edelman is a borderline WR1 but as a WR2 he is top-end. A name to keep an eye on is WR Chris Hogan, who joined the Patriots this offseason from Buffalo. Hogan is a similar receiver to Edelman, who could flourish in New England. He is a deep sleeper who won’t be drafted but could be a solid pickup during the season. The Patriots have a solid defense, led by an impressive corp of linebackers. They are overall a good unit and a strong fantasy start every week, despite the fact they don’t have one superstar on that side of the ball.

New York Jets:

Last season the New York Jet’s offense surprised, as the acquisitions of WR Brandon Marshall and RB Chris Ivory helped the Jet’s offense finish as the 10th best offense in 2015 (based on yards per game). QB Ryan Fitzpatrick played a big role in that 2015 resurgence, but as 2016 draws ever closer, the former Harvard does not find himself in a green and white jersey but rather in a heated contract battle with the Jets. If and when Fitzpatrick figures out his contract situation with the Jets, he still should not be seen as a reliable fantasy option. Throughout his career he has proven that he is the definition of inconsistent so expect his play next season to drop significantly. The offensive players to keep your eye on are RB Matt Forte and WRs Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Although many will say Forte is on the decline, he will be used effectively, in both the running and passing game, in OC Chan Gailey’s spread attack. Forte represents excellent value in the 3rd and 4th rounds, as he still should be seen at the very least as a low-end RB1. Marshall and Decker’s value in fantasy should be determined based off who is playing quarterback. If it’s Fitzpatrick, both of them should be able to make plays in the passing game on short and intermediate routes, and they represent good WR2 and WR3, respectively. At tight end, the Jets don’t have any viable fantasy options as Kellen Davis is just not a good tight end and Jace Amaro has failed to replicate his success at Texas Tech in the pros. The Jets defense is a top fantasy defense that can be played week in and week out. They have playmakers at all levels, with DE Muhammed Wilkerson anchoring the line, LD David Harris the linebackers and CB Darrelle Revis the secondary.