Hello everyone, and welcome to Razzball’s Fantasy Football 2017 Division Previews. On this piece, we’ll take a look at this year’s AFC East. In past offseasons, we’ve seen many versions of the same headline: “Watch Out Patriots, Dolphins/Bills/Jets Are The New Team To Beat”. And while we haven’t seen that storyline yet, this is a division that moved in the right direction as a whole. It’s good to see that just for football in general. There are a lot of fantasy storylines and scenarios to dive into, so let’s get right to it…
New England Patriots
The defending Super Bowl champs enter 2017 after an offseason that saw the additions of offensive weapons such as Brandin Cooks, Dwayne Allen, Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead, in addition to Stephon Gilmore as well. There is no doubt that the Patriots look primed to play football in February once again.
First thing is first, we all should know that Tom Brady is an absolute stud. He’s my number 1 QB in any sort of format, and I’ve gone on long enough. Let’s move on to his weapons. There is no doubt that Brandin Cooks can have the upside as a true WR1 in fantasy in New England, but is the risk worth the reward? His ADP is currently at 27th overall in standard league, which is the 11th receiver off the board, and a little bit high considering that most of Brady’s targets over the years have came over the middle of the field, thanks in large part to the efforts of Welker, Edelman and Gronk. In fact, there is an argument to be made that the last time the Patriots had a truly vertical threat before Cooks was when Randy Moss was on the team from ’07-’10 (unless you’re a Brandon Lloyd fan). But to say that Cooks can dominate the share of receptions in this offense like other 2nd round wideouts can might be a stretch, especially with the addition of a healthy Rob Gronkowski back into this offense. It’s a big risk to take a wideout that early in a crowded offense, but we’ll have to see if it will work out or not.
In terms of the rest of the receivers, there isn’t much going on. We know that James White should be productive out of the backfield and that Edelman and Gronk should continue to get their separate attention. Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell are interesting candidates to become fantasy relevant this year after excellent playoff performances, but it has yet to be seen if they will actually become dependable during the regular season. Again, it’s tough to tell now that they have Cooks in the picture.
In the backfield, it’s a whole other story. With LeGarrette Blount out of the picture, the Patriots brought in Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead over the offseason. Early reports suggest that Mike Gillislee should be the early down back, with James White filling in on passing downs, and Rex Burkhead serving as the change-of-pace option, but that could change with a strong camp from Burkhead or even Dion Lewis. It’s a crowded mess, and it doesn’t help us that Bill Belichick is probably the worst coach of all time for fantasy purposes. Gillislee currently has an ADP of 64th overall, which is nice value for a starting running back if he can claim it before the season starts.
Let’s talk about Gronk briefly. Gone are the days of his ADP numbers around the late 1st round, as his current numbers hover around the mid-second round. He’s still a beast, and probably will always be one, but you have to keep in mind he hasn’t had a 16-game season in a long time.
Finally, their defensive unit. The Pats D/ST is currently the 6th one off the board in the middle of the 13th round, so it isn’t likely that you”ll have to spend an “early” selection on them. It’s hard not to hate this unit with Brown, Ninkovich, Flowers and Hightower up front, with Butler, Gilmore and McCourtey in the secondary.
The Miami Dolphins made the playoffs in 2016. They made the playoffs?! Holy crap! I didn’t think they had it in them after that horrible start to the season, but with strong play from Jay Ajayi during the back half of the year, they managed to play some football in January for the first time since ’08. With a healthy O-Line heading into the year, the Dolphins offense should be a quietly good one in 2017. However, that all depends on the man in charge.
Ryan Tannehill is an interesting QB prospect heading into the year. His ADP as of now is around 216th overall, so his likely going undrafted in your league unless you play in one of those 20-team leagues, and I wish you the best of luck. I don’t think he’s a bad QB per se, and there have certainly been offseasons in years past that had many who pinned him as the surprise Top-10 finisher, but it never has truly panned out. Heading into 2017, the Dolphins seem to want to run their offense through Jay Ajayi, but Tannehill should still get his licks in, especially if 3rd-year wideout DeVante Parker can finally have his breakout that we’re all waiting for. Tannehill is a low-risk QB2 for those in leagues that need one, and might even pan out to become a streaming option for those two weeks he’s playing the Jets.
In the backfield, it’s a little bit more clear. We have our stud Jay Ajayi, who fought past rumors of his possible departure en route to a great second half of the season with multiple 200-yard rushing games. This year, he’s primed to do the exact same thing, maybe even to produce on passing downs as well. It’s interesting to see if they will actually use him on passing downs, as it seems like that role would be reserved for Kenyan Drake, or even Damien Williams, but we’ll see for sure once camp and preseason rolls around.
As for wideouts, there isn’t much here. I’m obviously a fan of Jarvis Landry as the main option here, but I wouldn’t mind a late round selection on DeVante Parker (ADP: 98th overall), who still has all the pieces of the puzzle to break out this year, but it’s anyone’s guess to whether he will or not. Kenny Stills is still in the picture, but I’d feel better about him if he was a bit more dependable, but as a true WR3 on this team, he can’t be unless one of the other two guys go out. It gets a bit more interesting when we talk about the offseason addition of TE Julius Thomas. Honestly, I believe he doesn’t carry any risk at his current value as the 15th TE off the board, but it’s not worth it, unless you’re in that deep of a league. He’s likely to be a streaming option when we see a juicy matchup for him in 2017.
And finally, I can’t say that I want to target their D/ST in drafts come August. It isn’t the worst of units, but I think I would feel more comfortable streaming them when we see a juicy matchup in ’17.
Well, the Rex Ryan experiment is over in Buffalo as the Bills bring in another defensive mind in new HC Sean McDermott, formerly the DC of the Carolina Panthers. The most intriguing thing about this offseason move is how the Bills will transition into a new offense under both McDermott and new OC Rick Dennison, formerly of the same position under Gary Kubiak in Denver. Rex Ryan’s style of offense could be defined as the classic “ground and pound”, which was good for one LeSean McCoy, but I can’t say that this will be how the Bills will play their game in 2017. In fact, “ground and pound” could be the exact antonym for how the Broncos played their game the past few years under Dennison. So if Tyrod Taylor finds himself in a pass-friendly offense with a healthy Sammy Watkins for a full 16 weeks, is it crazy to think that he’ll finish as a Top-12 QB, especially in 4pt-per-TD leagues? Matt, Tehol and I don’t think so, and we all have came to the conclusion that he’s a good QB2 to have on your teams come draft day.
Speaking of Watkins, I don’t hate the idea of him as a WR2 or 3, although if you aren’t going WR-heavy, he’s likely going to be a WR2 for most teams. As probably the only legitimate weapon for Tyrod (rookie Zay Taylor seems to be a bit banged up, but should be ready to go for camps) aside from possibly TE Charles Clay, he’s definitely a lock for a crap-ton of targets, although as Matt pointed out, should be public enemy numero uno for opposing DC’s.
I’ve said it a lot, and I’ll continue to say it: I love LeSean McCoy this year. I don’t care how old he his, I’ll always a take a bell-cow back running behind a very solid offensive line as one of the only weapons on the team. I do think that it’s smart to take his handcuff Jonathan Williams (who has Top-15 weekly upside should Shady go down), but without Gillislee in the picture, it’s the Shady Show in Buffalo.
As for their defense, I’m really intrigued to see if Sean McDermott can model his success in Carolina, but this time with this Bills squad, but I’d like to wait a few weeks to see if that actually happens, and then adjust accordingly.
New York Jets
Alright guys, I’m going to make this super short and simple. I’m not drafting whoever wins this QB battle for the century in Hackenberg vs Petty vs McCown. Quincy Enunwa has a pretty cheap price tag at an ADP of 143rd overall, so I might take him as a what-the-heck WR5 option, and I will always consider Bilal Powell in PPR leagues. It’s good to see that Austin Seferian-Jenkins was getting good reports out of OTA’s to start, but I would probably only use him as a deep streaming option unless he truly comes to fruition. And finally, I am not taking this defensive unit at all until they fix their secondary.
Alright everyone, thank you so much for keeping me company as we continue to get off to a strong month of Juy here at Razzball. We’ve got a lot planned this month and next, so keep your eyes out for rankings and articles galore. As always, please do not hesitate to leave a comment or question below.
You Can Follow Zach on Twitter @razzball_zach.