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Fantasy Files: Divisional Previews – AFC East

The AFC Belichick division delivers the goods once again...and the Jets still have a football team

Cleveland Browns v Buffalo Bills
Have you ever been to Buffalo? In December? It’s cold there...
Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

To help prepare for the upcoming season for all you fantasy footballers, we will examine every team in the league before the start of the season. This effort will be organized through divisions and we will go roughly in order of overall strength of offenses from worst to best. Since teams in the same division play roughly to same schedule, it can be helpful to consider the defenses each division will face. I use team stats from Football Outsiders (DVOA), Average Draft Position (ADP) from Fantasy Football Calculator, and standard fantasy scoring on Yahoo. As always, comments, disagreements, and questions are welcome.

Today we cover the AFC East. The division has some interesting teams that provide useful pieces for building a fake team. This division also has the Jets…

Los Angeles Rams v New York Jets
Green looks weird on him
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

New York Jets

31st Passing DVOA, 19st Rushing DVOA

QB: Josh McCown (Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg)

RB: Matt Forte, Bilal Powell

WR: Quincy Enunwa, ArDarius Stewart, Chad Hansen, Charone Peake

TE: Jordan Leggett, Austin Sefarian-Jenkins

Gone are Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. While Decker battled injuries and Marshall battled…being Brandon Marshall, the Jets didn’t do much on offense, ranking next to last in passing. With Josh McCown, there’s at least a chance that the offense can be efficient, but the weapons on the outside don’t inspire much confidence. Enunwa put up a few useful games last year and he’s got a good chance of becoming the primary receiver in this offense. That’s good for targets but will his talent be enough to handle top coverage? I’m not so sure. It probably goes without saying but it’s generally not a great idea to invest in bad passing games.

Poor Matt Forte leaves a bad Bears team only to walk into a Jets situation that is arguably worse than the one in Chicago. Remember, the word on the street last year was that New England was interested. As one of my favorite Bears of the modern era, it hurts me to see him play out his career on such a flaming pile of wreckage, but such is life in the NFL. I hope it launches a post-career in broadcasting for him. Forte still carries name brand recognition so don’t be surprised if he’s over-drafted by someone in your league. Word out of the Jets camp is that they want a more even split between Forte and Powell. That would leave me even more concerned about taking a guy like Forte with his high mileage. Powell is interesting again this year, but he’ll only crack your lineup with an injury to Forte.

Arizona Cardinals v Miami Dolphins
Tannehill’s best play...handing off to Ajayi
Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

Miami Dolphins

17th Passing DVOA, 16th Rushing DVOA

QB: Ryan Tannehill

RB: Jay Ajayi, Kenyan Drake, Damien Williams

WR: Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills

TE: Julius Thomas

Year 2 of the Adam Gase era enters with largely the same personnel as last season. Jay Ajayi went from being in the doghouse to downright carrying fantasy teams. He returns to lead this backfield again and is currently coming off the board at the end of round 1 / start of round 2. I don’t see anyone on the roster threatening to take his spot so the only person that can slow Ajayi down is himself. A fantasy team backfield of Ajayi and Jordan Howard looks pretty good if you’re drafting at the end of the round.

Quarterback whisperer Adam Gase was indeed able to elevate Tannehill’s game last year. He might not be a guy you want to trot out as your starter, but he’s likely to be drafted and rostered in most leagues and will play in the bye weeks. Jarvis Landry piled up some good numbers last year and if you’re in a league with a PPR element, he’s on everyone’s wish list. The DeVante Parker search party comes back again – tantalizing talent will try to develop in a consistent threat this year. If you want to take a chance in the later rounds after you’ve solidified your starting lineup, knock yourself out. Kenny Stills is still around, running fly routes, catching the occasional ball. He’ll be a late round flier like he is every year. Julius Thomas is still making money off of Peyton Manning. Good work if you can find it.

Cleveland Browns v Buffalo Bills
The best running game in football?
Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Buffalo Bills

19th Passing DVOA, 1st Rushing DVOA

QB: Tyrod Taylor

RB: LeSean McCoy, Jonathan Williams

WR: Sammy Watkins, Zay Jones, Andre Holmes, Corey “Philly” Brown

TE: Charles Clay

This team is really stinkin’ good at running the football. A good offensive line, a superb running back, and a good running quarterback make the Bills feel a bit like a throwback college team. McCoy is going to cost a 1st rounder in most leagues and the set up on paper is great and I think he’s worth it after the big 3 backs are gone. There’s no competition for McCoy to lose significant touches to and he’s shown he still has juice in those ankles.

I like Tyrod Taylor more than most. He projects as a mid-tier backup so he’ll likely be drafted and rostered by someone all season. If you’re the kind of drafter who likes to wait on signal callers, Taylor provides juice with his legs and occasionally has success with his arm. In the right matchup though, he can produce. Sammy Watkins got hurt last year, of course, and at this point if you feel like you can’t trust him, I get it. Let someone else take the injury risk. Zay Jones, rookie 2nd rounder out of Stephen F. Austin has a chance to earn playing time in competition with Andre Holmes and Corey “Philly” Brown. Taylor isn’t likely to keep multiple receivers relevant but the pedigree of Zay Jones and his high draft status have me intrigued. Keep an eye on his progress through the preseason. He may be a sneaky sleeper.

Super Bowl LI - New England Patriots v Atlanta Falcons
The GOAT of head coaches...not so much in fashion
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

New England Patriots

2nd Passing DVOA, 17th Rushing DVOA

QB: Tom Brady

RB: Dion Lewis, James White, Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillislee

WR: Julian Edelman, Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell

TE: Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen

If you just watched the Super Bowl, you’d think James White was the MVP of the league. He, of course, was just a matchup exploit the Patriots found against the Falcons and leaned on it throughout. Dion Lewis spent much of last year rehabbing from injury but the Pats clearly like him as they’ve kept him around. They’ll both join newly signed Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee in a backfield that I wouldn’t bet a dollar on understanding. Belichick is notoriously difficult to decipher for the running back position. I can see all 4 of these guys playing a big role or getting cut.

Tom Brady is awesome. I’ll never judge you for taking Brady as the first QB. I pulled one share of Brady last year and it paid off handsomely. That was because he was a discount at exactly one draft table for me last year. That won’t happen this year as there isn’t a 4 game suspension to factor in. Brady may, in fact, be even better than we think as Bill Belichick did Belichick things and traded his first round pick for Brandin Cooks. Add in the versatile pass catchers out of the backfield, a hopefully healthy Rob Gronkowski, and the reliable Julian Edelman, and this might be Brady’s best season since the Randy Moss heyday. I sign off on all names on the passing game mentioned above and I’ll even kick the tires on a Malcolm Mitchell investment.

AFC East Review

Investing in the Patriots passing game or Bills running game is a solid plan. The most balanced offense might be the Dolphins and a 2nd year leap for the Gase system could make a lot of Dolphins draft day bargains. Avoid the Jets like the plague. The East gets the AFC West and the NFC South. A lot of good offenses with a number of poor defenses to be had in that schedule.

All AFC East Fantasy Team – The ideal roster as chosen from only AFC East squads:

QB: Tom Brady

RB: LeSean McCoy

RB: Jay Ajayi

WR: Julian Edelman

WR: Jarvis Landry

WR: Sammy Watkins Brandin Cooks

TE: Rob Gronkowski

D: Patriots