The AFC North takes the crown for most intriguing fantasy division heading in to 2019. With so many names to cover, I will jump right in. If you missed my NFC North preview last week, peep it here. 

Each week I preview key fantasy players, division-by-division, leading us to the start of pre-season games. Next up, NFC East.

ADP, and strength of schedule stats referenced below are based on fantasypros.com data. 2019 projections referenced are based on razzball.com 2019 projections managed and updated by our very own @RudyGamble

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens

  • QB Lamar Jackson
    • 2018 Recap
      • QB29
      • Played all 7 games after operating as full time starter (week 11), backup/gadget QB for first 9 games
      • Beat weekly projections 2 out of 7 games started (missed weekly projections by < 1.3pts in 4 starts)
      • 11 total TDs (6 passing) and 7 turnovers ( 3 INT/4 FUM)
      • 697 rushing yards (QB1) on 147 attempts (QB1)
      • 170 pass attempts (QB37)  (388 project full starter 16 games QB25)
      • 18.6 fantasy point per game QB13 (average of the 7 games he actually started) 
    • 2019 Outlook
      • Strength of Schedule at-a-glance
        • Starts the season facing the #2 ranked easiest fantasy defenses against QBs in week 3 @ KC and only one top 10 hardest fantasy defense (#6), vs ARI week 2
        • 23rd overall easiest strength of schedule 
        • Finishes the fantasy season (weeks 13-16) facing the #8 and #7 easiest fantasy defenses, week 13 vs SF & week 15 vs NYJ. Only seeing one of the top 10 hardest fantasy defenses  (#1) week 14 @ Buffalo.
      • Hopefully you can lock up a week 1 fantasy playoff bye and exploit Lamars juicy matchups weeks 13, 15 and 16. After breaking down Lamar’s stats from his limited starts in 2018, it’s obvious why he is an intriguing late round grab heading into draft season. Given a full season in 2018, we would have seen over 1,200 yds on the ground from Lamar. This is based on his 79.7 rushing yards per game in the 7 games he started. His 18.6 fantasy points per game, in his starts, is a better average than Dak Prescott, Phillip Rivers, Tom Brady, and Kirk Cousins in 2018. Talk about great late round QB value, Jackson is getting drafted 139th overall and the 19th QB off the board. If you need more convincing  ‘Beautiful Mind’ Rudy Gamble projects Lamar finishing as QB11 in 2019. The second coming of Mike Vick? Vick told us so on Move the Sticks Podcast, calling Jackson “a spitting image.” Put me in line for the Lamar Jackson lotto ticket. 

If you missed Rudy’s beautiful twitter breakdown on Lamar I’ll link the start here…

  • RB Mark Ingram
    • 2018 Recap
      • RB32
      • 4 games missed due to suspension
      • Beat weekly projections 5 out of 12 games played
      • Two games over 100 yds rushing
      • 1.75 receptions per game on 2.25 targets per game
      • 4.7 yards per carry and 8.1 yds per reception
      • 10.1 Fantasy points per game
    • 2019 Outlook
      • Strength of Schedule at-a-glance
        • An attractive start to the season, 4 out of his first 6 games, Mark will see the #4, #1, #3, and #2 easiest (weeks 1, 2, 3, 6) fantasy defenses
        • 12th easiest strength of schedule for RBs
        • Finishing the season (weeks 13-16), he faces the #9 easiest fantasy defense and no fantasy defense ranked in the top 10 toughest for RBs
      • The thought of getting to see Ingram as a true lead dog is the ultimate tease after Ingram finds himself in the notorious running-back-by-committee backfield located in Baltimore. An even bigger hindrance to Ingrams value in 2019 is Lamar Jackson at Quarterback, the leading QB in rush attempts during the 2018 season. At least Ingram won’t have to fight with RB’s, ‘Buck’ Javorious Allen, Ty Montgomery, and Alex Collins for touches this season, whom all left Baltimore this offseason. Rudy has Mark Ingram finishing as RB25 in 2019.Which is right inline with Mark’s ADP, 44th overall and the 24th running back off the board. His juicy strength of schedule to start the season might be a great early season play and then sell high after his week-11 matchup against Cincinnati (#2 easiest fantasy defense for RBs). 
  • BAL Quick Hits: We can use Baltimore’s RB strength of schedule for Lamar Jackson too, as he will be rushing against these defenses just as much as he is passing. After looking in the mind of Rudy Gamble and breaking down Jacksons limited action from 2018, it’s easy to see how Jackson can get projected to finish near the top 10 for 2019. It will be tough to place value on any of the pass catchers in BAL as they have a tendency to spread the ball around, run first, and a have a dual threat QB. Willie Snead is the highest projected WR this season, projecting to finish 2019 as WR 54. Hollywood Brown is an interesting dart throw, if you are looking to get action on a receiver with dynamic playmaking ability and game breaking speed. It’s hard for me to get too excited about the TE position in general, unless we are talking about the top tier players at the position, but Rudy has Mark Andrews finishing as TE8 (ahead of Evan Engram and fantasy twitter crush O.J. Howard). Gus Edwards will be the handcuff to own if you decide to grab Mark Ingram in the middle rounds. Gus came on strong down the stretch for Baltimore last season averaging 93 yards per game weeks 11-17. The Ravens D/ST will be a risk this season as they will regrettably be drafted as an early fantasy defense after finishing DEF5 in 2018. Losing linebacking studs C.J. Mosley, Zadarius Smith, and DE stalwart Terrell Suggs will have an impact on this defense . Will the addition of Safety Early Thomas be able to offset the losses in the front 7? Rudy has Baltimore falling out of the top 10 and finishing as DEF15. 

Cincinnati Bengals

  • RB Joe Mixon
    • 2018 Recp
      • RB10
      • 2 games missed with a knee injury
      • Beat and hit weekly projections 7 out of 14 games played
      • 4 games over 100yds
      • 3.1 receptions per game on 3.9 targets per game
      • 4.9 yards per carry and 6.9 yards per reception
      • 17.4 fantasy points per game
    • 2019 Outlook
      • Strength of schedule at-a-glance
        • Starts the season (weeks 1-4), facing one of the top 10 easiest fantasy defenses (#9 wk 3) and the #9 ranked toughest defense in week 4. 
        • 19th easiest strength of schedule for RBs
        • Finishes the season (weeks 13-16) facing the #4 easiest fantasy defense (week 16 @ MIA) and no matchup against a defense ranked in the top 10 toughest
      • Joe Mixon emerged as a true ‘bell cow’ fantasy back in 2018, finishing 4th in total rushing yards (1,168) and 8th in rushing attempts (237). Getting drafted this year in the spot he finished 2018 as the 10th RB off the board (14th overall). I love what Cincinnati did this offseason in free agency and during the draft to help improve their stud RBs opportunity to run in open lanes. Making it a priority to bolster this offensive line, adding key veterans up front and taking OT Jonah Williams 11th overall in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Rudy has Mixon finishing two spots ahead of his ADP, projecting him to finish as RB8. 
  • WR A.J. Green
    • 2018 Recap
      • WR44
      • Missed 8 games due to a toe/foot injury that required season ending surgery
      • Beat weekly projections 3 out of 8 games played
      • 2 games over 100yds receiving
      • 9.5 targets per game 
      • 5.6 receptions per game
      • 15.1 yards per reception and .75 TD per game
      • 18.5 fantasy points per game 
    • 2019 Outlook
      • Strength of Schedule at-a-glance
        • Week 1-4, faces the #4 easiest fantasy defense in week 2 and the #5 hardest fantasy defense in week 3
        • 26th easiest strength of schedule for WRs (7th hardest)
        • Finishes the season (weeks 13-16), facing the #2 easiest defense in week 13 and no defense ranked in the top 10 hardest
      • Since 2014, AJ Green has alternated playing a full 16-game season or missing multiple games due to injury. If we follow his pattern, after missing games in 2018, he will play in all 16 games in 2019. This is horrible logic to lay your head on but it gives AJ Green truthers hope! In the full 8 games he played in 2018, Green averaged 18.5 fantasy points per game which ranks him as WR10 ahead of Mike Evans and Stefon Diggs. Green has participated at OTA’s in a limited fashion and is slated to be ready to go for the start of the season.  He is getting drafted 36th overall and the 14th WR off the board. Historically drafted as a WR1 in recent years, we find Green leading off the second tier of WRs and atop of WR2 rankings. Talent is not in question but health is, for the soon to be 31 year old entering his 9th season. Toe/Foot injuries scare me but we have seen other elite receivers come back just fine, Julio Jones the prime example. I am surprised to see AJ relatively low in Rudy’s projections (WR25), immediately behind his receiving-mate Tyler Boyd. Look for Green to finish somewhere between his current ADP and Rudys projection, with WR1 upside if he returns 100% and can stay on the field for the full 2019 campaign.
  • WR Tyler Boyd
    • 2018 Recap
      • WR17
      • 2 games missed at the end of the season with a sprained MCL
      • Beat weekly projections 7 out of 15 game played
      • 3 games over 100yds receiving
      • 7.2 targets per game and tied-WR22 in total targets (108)
      • 5.1 receptions per game and tied-WR16 in total receptions (76)
      • 13.5 yards per reception and .47 TD per game
      • 15.8 fantasy points per game
    • 2019 Outlook
      • Strength of schedule (same as his partner AJ Green)
        • Tough weeks 3-10, facing 4 of the top 10 hardest fantasy defense and zero defensive units ranked in the top 10 easiest fantasy defenses
        • Week 1-4, faces the #4 easiest fantasy defense in week 2 and the #5 hardest fantasy defense in week 3
        • 26th easiest strength of schedule for WRs (7th hardest)
        • Finishes the season (weeks 13-16), facing the #2 easiest defense in week 13 and no defense ranked in the top 10 hardest
      • Not as prolific, but do we view Green/Boyd similar to Thielen/Diggs? Both fantasy relevant but figuring out who will outscore the other is a crap shoot. Boyd is going nearly 2 rounds later than Green but, per Rudy Gamble, projected to finish ahead of AJ Green. Which is more likely to happen, Boyd outplaying his ADP (60th overall/WR23) OR Green (36th overall/WR14)? Which do you feel more confident in happening? Zac Taylor, the new head coach, comes over from the dynamic LA Rams who features the slot receiver in this system, i.e. Cooper Kupp. Will Taylor keep Green on the outside and utilize Boyd in the slot OR will he chose to move Green in to the slot allowing him to take advantage of slot CBs? Either way, both receivers will have fantasy value in this new offense. 
  • CIN Quick Hits: I won’t waste your time breaking down a QB that finished outside of the top 24, not even relevant in two QB leagues. Maybe bringing in HC Zac Taylor will give Dalton 2-QB league value. TE Tyler Eifert signed an extension to remain in CIN for 2019. At the same time, the Bengals signed their other receiving TE, C.J. Uzomah, to a 3 year contract extension. If you are one to take fliers on TE’s late, then this might be the season to look at Eifert. He is going undrafted at the TE position (213 overall/TE 24). John Ross has been a bust and will get a second chance in this offense but I prefer to take a flier on other WRs this season. 

Cleveland Browns

  • QB Baker Mayfield
    • 2018 Recap
      • QB17
      • 2 games missed as backup QB week 1-2
      • Beat weekly projections 7 out of 15 games
      • 27 passing TD (QB11) to 14 INT 
      • 0 rushing TD
      • 39 rushing attempts (QB18) for 131 yards (QB20)
      • 486 pass attempts (QB17)
      • 17.1 fantasy points per game
    • 2019 Outlook
      • Strength of Schedule at-a-glance
        • Tough start of season (weeks 1-4), facing the #5 (TEN), #10 (LAR), #2 (BAL) toughest fantasy defenses against QBs. Only facing one of top 10 easiest fantasy defenses, #7 in week 2
        • 24th easiest strength of schedule (8th hardest)
        • Tough finish in the fantasy playoffs, facing the #6th (ARI) and #2 (BAL) hardest fantasy defense during weeks 15 & 16
      • The Browns offense enters 2019 as the hottest fantasy team to invest in and many will put their bid in to purchase ownership of this QB. After starting the season as the backup QB and having to navigate the controversial dynamic between former Browns head coach Hue Jackson it was impressive to see what Baker was able to do with this team.  Rudy currently has Baker projected to finish 2019 as QB13. His ADP sits at 91 overall and the 6th QB off the board. He is slightly overvalued and suffering from the offseason hype after the addition of elite wideout Odell Beckham Jr. Going in the middle of the 7th round and paired with a tough schedule Mayfield is too rich for my blood. If you can get him in round 10 or later then draft away. I always advise drafting a QB in later rounds, I will make sure to grab a couple shares of CLE skill players where I can. 
  • RB Nick Chubb
    • 2018 Recap
      • RB17
      • Played in all 16 games (became starting back in week 7)
      • Beat weekly projections in 5 games
      • 4 games over 100yds rushing
      • 2.0 receptions per game on 2.8 targets per game (since starting week 7)
      • 5.2 yards per carry and 7.5 yards per reception
      • 12.2 fantasy points per game 
    • 2019 Outlook
      • Strength of schedule at-a-glance
        • Does not face a fantasy defense ranked in the top 10 easiest for RBs until week 10
        • 18th easiest strength of schedule for RBs
        • Juicy finish to the season (weeks 12-16), faces the #4, #2, and #1 easiest fantasy defenses for RB (wk 12, 14, 15). Faces the #9 (PIT) and #2 toughest fantasy defenses weeks 13 and 16 respectfully. 
      • OBJ on the roster and Jarvis Landry lining up in the slot will force defenses to keep the extra safety out of the box creating plenty of opportunities for Chubb to see a “light” box. If you look at Chubb after starting from week 7 (weeks 7-16), Chubb averaged 17.9 fantasy points per game which would put him at RB9 for the season. Currently projected to finish as RB13, his ADP is right in line. He is currently drafted as the 11th RB off the board and 18th overall. I really love Chubb’s opportunity this season and with an attractive strength of schedule down the stretch I’m okay with drafting Chubb as my RB1 at the end of the 1st round or beginning of the 2nd, if you deploy an RB-RB-WR draft strategy OR WR-RB-RB. If Chubb can help you get 8 wins to start the season then it’s worth the risk with Kareem Hunt still on the roster. Hunt will have to prove that he can integrate in to the offense and if Chubb is rolling then it will be tough for the coaching staff to take carries away from him. Hunt is an insurance policy for Chubb owners. Rudy has Hunt projected to finish as RB63, instilling confidence for me taking Chubb as my RB1.  
  • WR Odell Beckham Jr.
    • 2018 Recap
      • WR15
      • 4 games missed, at the end of the season, due to a quad injury
      • Beat weekly projections 5 out of 13 games played
      • 5 games over 100yds receiving
      • 9.5 targets per game and QB14 in total targets (124)
      • 5.9 receptions per game and QB15 in total receptions (77)
      • 13.7 yards per reception and .46 TD per game
      • 19.2 fantasy points per game
    • 2019 Outlok
      • Strength of schedule at-a-glance
        • Favorable start to the season (weeks 1-5),  faces the #12, #2, #11, and #4 easiest fantasy defense against WRs and only one defense ranked in the top 10 hardest (#1 BAL week4)
        • 23rd easiest strength of schedule for WRs
        • Mediocre finish to the season (week 13-16) with a tough finish during the fantasy championship, he only faces one of the top 10 toughest fantasy defenses (#1 BAL week 16) and no defense ranked in the top 10 easiest for WRs
      • Odell’S 19.2 fantasy points per game put him at WR7 for the 2018 fantasy campaign. With an aging arm and dysfunctional NYG, it was refreshing to see OBJ still come through for fantasy owners during the regular season. I’ll leave the statistical predictions up to Rudy, he has Odell finishing as WR10 with his new team in Cleveland. Finishing with 130.7 targets, 1214yds, and 82 receptions. Yes, he’s on a new team but there is no question in his elite play making ability. Odell is getting drafted as the 5th WR off the board and 16th overall putting him in the middle of the second round, the cheapest we’ve been able to get Beckham in recent years. Pair him with a better arm and more dynamic QB under center it’s easy to make a case for drafting OBJ in the second round. 
  • WR Jarvis Landry
    • 2018 Recap
      • WR18
      • Started all 16 games
      • Beat weekly projections 6 out of 16 games
      • 4 games over 100yds receiving
      • 9.3 targets per game and WR7 in total targets (149)
      • 5.1 receptions per game and WR13 in total receptions (81)
      • 12.0 yards per reception and .25 TDs per game
      • 13.6 fantasy point per game
    • 2019 Outlook
      • Strength of schedule at-a-glance (same as OBJ)
        • Only faces 4 defenses ranked in the top 10 of toughest the whole fantasy season
        • Favorable start to the season (weeks 1-5),  faces the #12, #2, #11, and #4 easiest fantasy defense against WRs and only one defense ranked in the top 10 hardest (#1 BAL week4)
        • 23rd easiest strength of schedule for WRs
        • Mediocre finish to the season (week 13-16) with a tough finish during the fantasy championship, only faces one of the top 10 toughest fantasy defenses (#1 BAL week 16) and no defense ranked in the top 10 easiest for WRs
      • Landry failed to provide us with consistent fantasy production on a weekly basis, with falling short of his weekly projections in 10 games. Finishing as WR27 based on his fantasy points per game. His total targets and receptions were promising until OBJ showed up on the scene, who is presumably going eat in to Landry opportunities. At the same time, OBJ will allow Landry to receive ‘secondary’ attention from opposing defenses. Defensive coordinators will be forced to focus on keeping OBJ in check. Beckhams arrival has pushed Landrys value down draft boards, 61 overall and the 26th WR off the board. Landry is projected to finish as WR23, providing decent value in early/mid rounds. 
  • CLE Quick Hits: GM John Dorsey continues to prove his prowess by headlining free agency with his acquisition of elite WR Odell Beckham Jr and bringing in dynamic RB Kareem Hunt. Mayfield looks to have the ‘moxie’ to handle this group of personalities on the field and has many picking Cleveland to run deep in the NFL playoffs. Bringing in offensive coordinator Todd Monken and promoting former assistant head coach/RB coach Freddie Kitchens to head coaching duties bodes well for this offense. At the same time, as I wrote in my free agency preview, this Browns D/ST unit has some streaming value with the additions of OLB Olivier Vernon, S Morgan Burnett, S Eric Murray, and DT Sheldon Richardson to pair with budding stud DE Myles Garrett. I’m not interested in TE David Njoku, he has failed to deliver any fantasy relevancy since entering the league, he is projected to finish as TE 17. Another key, under the radar, addition by John Dorsey is veteran Center Mitch Morse coming over from the high powered Kansas City Chiefs. It’s easy to get behind the Dog Pound hype heading in to 2019. 

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • QB Ben Roethlisberger
    • 2018 Recap
      • QB3
      • Started all 16 games
      • Beat weekly projections 9 out of 17 games played
      • 34 Passing TDs (QB5) to 16 INTs
      • 3 rushing TDs
      • 675 passing attempts (QB1)
      • 21.4 fantasy points per game
    • 2019 Outlook
      • Strength of schedule at-a-glance
        • Appealing start (weeks 1-4), zero matchups against any of the top 10 hardest fantasy defenses. In weeks 3 & 4, he faces the #8 (SF) and #1 (CIN) easiest ranked fantasy defenses for QBs
        • 30th easiest strength of schedule for QBs
        • Tough finish (weeks 13-16), Ben faces the #6 and #1 ranked toughest fantasy defense for QBs during the heart of fantasy playoffs (weeks 14-15). One matchup against a top 10 easiest fantasy defense (#7 week 16 @ NYJ)
      • Ben led the NFL in passing attempts and completions in 2018 allowing him to finish as QB3. Pittsburgh rewarded the veteran with a contract extension this offseason. Ben and Mike Tomlin will have a chip on their shoulders this season with a desire to prove right the decision to let Antonio Brown head West and choosing to move on from LeVeon Bell. I’m surprised to see Rudy projecting Ben as QB10 in 2019. Losing elite playmaker Antonio Brown will have an impact on this offense. Ben’s current ADP is sitting at 131 overall and the 14th quarterback off the board. He is going at the end of the 10th round, just around the time I start to look at grabbing a QB. Let your partners reach for Kyler Murray and Tom Brady whom both are going ahead of him. 
  • RB James Conner
    • 2018 Recap
      • RB6
      • 3 games missed due to an ankle injury (weeks 14-16)
      • Beat weekly projections 6 out of 14 games played
      • 5 games over 100yds rushing
      • 3.9 receptions per game on 5.1 targets per game
      • 4.5 yards per carry and 9.0 yards per reception
      • 21.5 fantasy points per game
    • 2019 Outlook
      • Strength of schedule at-a-glance
        • To start the season (weeks 1-4), no matchups against a top 10 fantasy defense against opposing QBs. Faces the #2 easiest ranked fantasy defense for RBs
        • 21st easiest overall strength of schedule for RBs
        • Advantageous finish to the season (weeks 12-16), no defense ranked in the top 10 of hardest fantasy defenses against RBs. Faces the #2, #11, #1, and #9 easiest fantasy defenses (weeks 12, 13, 14, and 15)
      • Running behind arguably the best offensive line in the league, paired with a favorable strength of schedule down the stretch of the fantasy season and into the playoffs, I like James Conners 2019 outlook. James is going 11th overall, the 9th RB off the board and is projected to finish as RB6.  
  • WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
    • 2018 Recap
      • WR8
      • Started all 16 games
      • Beat weekly projections 8 out of 16 games played
      • 8 games over 100yds receiving
      • 10.4 targets per game and WR4 in total targets (166)
      • 6.9 receptions per game and tied-WR5 in total receptions (111)
      • 12.8 yards per reception and .44 TDs a game
      • 18.6 fantasy point per game
    • 2019 Outlook
      • Strength of schedule at-a-glance
        • Starts the season, weeks 1-4, with no matchup against a top 10 fantasy defense against WRs. Faces the #4 ranked easiest fantasy defense in week 4
        • 30th easiest strength of schedule for WRs
        • Finishes the season, week 13-16, with matchups against one of the top 10 easiest (#2 @NYJ week 16) and one of the top 10 hardest fantasy defenses (#5 vs BUF week 15)
      • We might witness the definition of “force-feeding” from Ben Roethlisberger to JuJu this season. JuJu won the twitter beef this offseason between him and AB. Now, along with Ben/Tomlin, JuJu will look to win with his play on the field. Many will question his ability to operate as the true #1 but we’ve seen him operate as the #1 WR in Pit back in 2017 when AB sat out two games. JuJu posted stat lines 6rec/75yds/1TD and 9rec/143yds/1TD in these games. He already passed AB last season as the “#1” wideout in Pit by finishing ahead of AB in receiving yards and receptions. To back this up, Rudy has JuJu projected as WR3 for 2019. This presents value at his current ADP of 20th overall and WR7 off the board. 
  • PIT Quick Hits: AB vacating 169 targets along with Jesse James’ 39 targets will present additional opportunity in the offense outside of JuJu. I like TE Vance McDonald as a late round grab, currently drafted 88th overall (TE10) and is projected to finish as TE6. The other wideouts are projected finish at the following, Donte Moncrief WR37 and James Washington WR89. Jaylen Samuels is only projected to finish as RB65, not presenting a real threat to James Conner but make sure to grab him as a handcuff. I like drafting players or players on teams that have something to prove, cue the Pittsburgh Steelers

This wraps up my AFC North preview. Leave your comments and question below or as always you can interact with me on twitter, @NicRomeroFF

I will be out of town next week on a work trip, look for my NFC East preview by the end of the following weekend.