By Pasha Hashemzadeh
Here we provide you with a fantasy outlook for each AFC North team:
QB Joe Flacco is in the midst of recovery from a torn ACL he suffered last season. With the aging WR Steve Smith also recovering from a torn achilles, the passing game figures to struggle this year. Given Smith is healthy come season time, lining up opposite him will likely be former home run threat Mike Wallace. Kamar Aiken will serve as the WR3 until Breshad Perriman comes back (if he is able to come back). The Ravens don’t have any fantasy options in their passing game. They boast a stable of running backs including Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, and Kenneth Dixon. Forsett had a breakout year a couple seasons ago though has gone downhill since then. Buck Allen is a subpar talent, leaving rookie Dixon as the lone intriguing prospect and he is a decent late round flier in drafts, as the Ravens figure to be run heavy. This could end up being a RBBC. TE Crockett Gilmore is a decent talent and second year man Maxx Williams looks to bounce back from a poor rookie outing. Neither are on the fantasy radar. The Ravens have enough talent on the defensive end to be a good streaming option this year.
The Bengals lost a couple weapons to free agency this offseason in WRs Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones. TE Tyler Eifert broke out last year and was a major redzone target for QB Andy Dalton, though he was injured early this offseason and is very iffy for the start of the regular season. He should still be drafted as a TE1 given his upside, though a low-end TE1 at the moment given the injury. A.J. Green is an all-world talent at wide receiver and figures to see a lion’s share of targets this season. He will take all he can handle and is a surefire top five WR. Opposite him, rookie Tyler Boyd and veteran Brandon LaFell will duke it out for #2 duties. Boyd has more upside and is a player to monitor during camp and preseason as he has immense talent. The Bengals figure to be a run-heavy offense, with RB Jeremy Hill manning the early down work with Gio Bernard spelling him in passing situations. Hill will be the goal down back. Both are good flex options in fantasy this year. Dalton merely serves as a QB2 with upside. He is a good backup to have on your roster. The Bengals boast tons of talent on the defensive end of the ball and this unit should be drafted as a top 10 defense.
Cleveland has very little talent on its offense outside of highly touted rookie WR Corey Coleman. He is worth a mid to late round selection on draft day given his talent and probable heavy usage. QBs RG3 and Josh McCown will duke it out this offseason for starting signal caller duties. Neither are worth rostering and are towards the bottom of the league in our QB rankings. RBs Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson figure to see an even split at running back, with Crowell working more on early downs. Duke Johnson is the better fantasy option given his work in the passing game and he is simply more talented than Crowell. He can be had in the later rounds. TE Gary Barnidge was a late bloomer, as he broke out last year. He is on the TE1 radar, though is currently recovering from sports hernia surgery. The Browns offense won’t do the defense any favors this year. The unit is not worth rostering in any leagues.
The Steelers figure to have a high-powered offense entering the 2016 season, with probable overall #1 fantasy pick WR Antonio Brown leading the charge. This will be an intriguing offense with veteran future HOFer QB Big Ben and All-Pro RB Le’Veon Bell a big part of the unit. All three aforementioned players should be drafted as top five players at their positions, with Brown and Bell as surefire top five overall picks. With WR Martavis Bryant suspended for the year, Markus Wheaton and second year man Sammie Coates will duke it out for WR2 duties in Pittsburgh. Neither are worth late round fliers, as Brown, Bell, and newcomer TE Ladarius Green figure to see most of the work on offense. Green should be drafted as a TE1 and could very well have a breakout year in this potent offense, especially with defenses keying in on Brown. RB DeAngelo Williams is a must-handcuff to Bell, as he proved his worth last year when Bell went down. Bell is currently rehabbing his injured knee, but should be all systems go come season time. Don’t fret if he is held out of preseason, as it would only be precautionary. The Steelers offense will put a lot of points on the board, masking deficiencies on the defensive end and making the unit a decent streaming option this year.