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We are one day away from draft night and I cannot wait. Who do you have your team taking with their first pick? If you are like me, you are consuming all of the NFL content to keep you satisfied until the regular season kickoff. Your teams have reported for offseason activities, the 2019 regular season schedule was released, free agency is still fluid, and now the biggest NFL offseason event nears- the NFL Draft. Before the draft frenzy ensues, I recap the major fantasy winners and losers of NFL free agency.

If you missed my 2019 kick-off piece and NFC preview you can view it here.

Today I take a look at the potential fantasy impact of AFC free agency. The AFC won the title for the most blockbuster, headline grabbing, acquisitions. Unfortunately, these moves can have a huge impact on some of our most reliable fantasy stars, negative and positive. Let’s get started! 

AFC North

  • Baltimore Ravens
    • Losers:
      • Ravens DST: A perennial fantasy defense, the Ravens D/ST took a hit with the losses of stud linebacker’s C.J. Mosley and ZaDarius Smith, along with veteran losses of safety Eric Weddle and Ravens ‘life-er’ DE Terrell Suggs. Can the addition of potential future hall of fame Safety, Earl Thomas,  help offset the losses on defense? Defensive head coach, John Harbaugh, remains at the helm and I can see the Ravens D remaining a top 10 fantasy D/ST in 2019, but I recommend letting your league-mates take this defense early. 
    • Winners:
      • RB Mark Ingram: RBBC-headache ‘Buck’ Javorius Allen is gone, Alex Collins out, Ty Montgomery out, a run first offense, and no Alvin Kamara to share carries. Mark Ingram is a nice addition for Baltimore in real football, but will Mark see enough touches on a weekly basis to make himself fantasy relevant in Baltimore this season? BAL has been searching for a reliable early down and goal line back the past couple of seasons. My concerns, Lamar Jackson steals a lot of rushes and Gus Edwards showed us he is worthy of work- averaging 96 ypg the last 6 games of 2018. I do think Mark will have a better fantasy finish in Baltimore than he did in New Orleans (RB 30) but I don’t think he can be relied on for consistent week-to-week RB2 production. I’ll draft him as a low-end RB2/Flex play. 
      • QB Lamar Jackson: A full offseason as the bonafide QB1 paired with a solid stable of running backs, look for Jackson to improve in year two. Jackson is the biggest beneficiary of the Ingram acquisition. Baltimore’s run first tendencies and slow pace of play limit Jackson’s ceiling. An explosive dual-threat quarterback, Lamar is a worthy QB bench stash if you like to roster two quarterbacks. 
  • Cincinnati Bengals
    • Winners:
      • RB Joe Mixon: No major free agent acquisitions in Cincy but retaining OT Bobby Hart and the addition of OG John Miller to the offensive line will bode well for The Red Rocket, Andy Dalton, and 2018 breakout RB- Joe Mixon. The biggest concern for Mixon and the Bengals is the lack of offensive line depth. Look for the Bengals to take an Offensive Tackle early in the draft. If the Bengals line can remain healthy, I expect Mixon to remain a solid back-end RB1 as he prepares his body for a large workload in 2019. 
  • Cleveland Browns
    • Winners:
      • QB Baker Mayfield/WR Jarvis Landry: Honestly it’s hard to predict what Odell Beckham Jr ‘s production will look like in Cleveland. A new offense, new coach, and new quarterback are all variables that will have an impact. One thing not in question is OBJ’s elite skill level. Odell will still be drafted as a top 10 WR, as he should, but the bigger beneficiaries in Cleveland are Baker Mayfield, Jarvis Landry, and Nick Chubb. With OBJ in town it will open up consistent single-coverage and 2nd tier CB attention for Jarvis Landry. Landry struggled to provide consistent fantasy production last season as the only real threat in the receiving core but he still managed a WR19 campaign. If Freddie Kitchens can put this all together and handle the egos in the locker room then we are in store for fantasy fireworks from Baker and the dog pound. 
      • RB Nick Chubb: After Chubb’s display of rushing prowess last season, my original concern coming in to 2019 was defenses stacking the box against CLE. That was before the blockbuster OBJ acquisition. OBJ and Landry will force defensive safeties to stay honest allowing plenty of room for Chubb to feast. The big concern for everyone is the acquisition of Kareem Hunt. Luckily for Chubb, Hunt is suspended for the first 8 games of the season. Do not lose sight of the fact that, even in season long/redraft leagues, you need to view your fantasy campaign on a per week basis. 8-weeks is plenty of time for Chubb to help you secure pole position in your league. Make sure to build RB depth for the last half of the season or sell high and package Chubb in a mid-season trade. 
      • Cleveland DST: Another late round D/ST that I am keeping my eye on. Additions of stud OLB Olivier Vernon, S Morgan Burnett, S Eric Murray, and DT Sheldon Richardson rivals the stacked roster Cleveland has on the offensive side of the ball. It is weird writing about all of the fantasy potential coming out of Cleveland. With all of these defensive acquisitions it is easy to forget about the 2017 1st overall draft pick and 2018 pro-bowl DE Myles Garrett. Another intriguing aspect is the departure of division rival, Antonio Brown, from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Look for the Cleveland defense to be more than a bye week fill in this season. 
  • Pittsburgh Steelers
    • Winners:
      • WR JuJu Smith-Schuster: If you missed the awkward twitter war between Antonio Brown and JuJu then do yourself a favor, google it. JuJu’s motivation level should be at an all-time high entering this season as the bonafide WR1 in PIT. Let’s add Ben Roethlisberger’s and Mike Tomlin’s desire to prove they can be a prolific offense without the diva wideout. Not to mention JuJu had more receiving yards (1426 to 1297) and receptions last season (111 to 104) than Antonio Brown. We have seen JuJu produce without AB on the field before. The last two games of 2017, while AB was sidelined, JuJu produced stat lines 6/75/1 and 9/143/1 (Rec/Yds/TD). Look for Ben to force feed JuJu this season. Buy- Buy- Buy!
      • TE Vance McDonald: Someone besides JuJu will benefit from the exit of AB in this offense. On top of AB’s 104 receptions- 1,297 yds- and 15 touchdowns leaving for Oakland, the departure of TE Jesse James’ 39 targets and 423 yards will give plenty of opportunity for Vance McDonald to produce in this offense. With a viable running game in PIT, Vance will see plenty of opportunities to get behind the middle of the defense. At a shallow position in 2018 look for Vance to solidify himself as a viable fantasy TE in 2019. If you pass on Kelce/Ertz/Kittle this season then wait on your TE and grab McDonald in the laters rounds. 

AFC East

  • Buffalo Bills
    • Winnners:
      • QB Josh Allen: Was there a hotter QB down the stretch of the 2018 fantasy football regular season? Josh Allen posted 26 and 30 fantasy points in week’s 12 & 13, catapulting some managers into the fantasy playoffs. Josh averaged, a hot, 21.4 fantasy ppg the last 5 games of the season and I couldn’t name a single relevant fantasy skill player in Buffalo during this time. The Bills made a focus this free agency period to protect Josh and surround him with capable offensive weapons. Cole Beasley is a nice addition in the slot and speedster wideout John Brown will compliment Josh Allen’s monster arm. The addition of TE Tyler Kroft gives another safety valve for Josh which is critical for a young QB. Bringing in Center Mitch Morse over from Kansas City will be the biggest help on the 0-line for Josh Allen. OT Ty Nsekhe and OG Quinton Spain were also brought in to help the young QB. Look for improvements out of Buffalo this season. 
    • Losers:
      • RB LeSean McCoy: Unfortunately, McCoy did not find himself included the Philly reunion tour with DeSean Jackson. The volume-reliable RB, LeSean McCoy will now have to share his workload in Buffalo with the additions of Frank Gore and recently signed T.J. Yeldon. It will be interesting to see how carries are split in Buffalo, but look for Yeldon to take on 3rd down/passing down responsibilities with Gore sharing early down/goal line work with McCoy.  
  • Miami Dolphins
    • I’m not sure what to think about the Dolphins this fantasy season. I guess with Frank Gore gone maybe Kenyan Drake can live up to the hype that was bestowed upon him last year. Honestly, I’m scared to rely on any Dolphins players for consistent fantasy production. If anything, all of the opposing defenses in the AFC East benefit from the current state of MIA.
  • New England Patriots
    • Winners:
      • WR Julian Edelman: It was a treat being able to snag Edelman late in fantasy drafts due to his 4-game suspension. Edelman buyers won’t have this luxury with a WR22 finish in 2018 and fantasy stalwart Rob Gronkowski retiring. After returning from his 4-game suspension, Edelman was one of the most consistent PPR fantasy receivers. In 9 out of the 11 games he played he exceeded 12 fantasy points, averaging 14.6 ppg. Look for Edelmans targets to increase this season with Gronk gone and Julian as Tom Brady’s longest tenured wideout. Buy me all of the Edelman stock. 
  • New York Jets
    • Winners:
      • QB Sam Darnold: Another blockbuster AFC acquisition, Le’Veon Bell joins the New York Jets after taking off the 2018 season. Sam Darnold stands to benefit the most from this addition. Also, adding quick area slot WR Jamison Crowder will help Darnold in the passing game. Getting OG Kelechi Osemele from Oakland will help bolster the offensive line for both Bell and Darnold. Most importantly, getting rid of defensive coach Todd Bowles and bringing in offensive mind Adam Gase will bode well for this offense. 

AFC South

  • Houston Texans
    • OT Matt Kalil is an improvement for one of the worst offensive lines in football last year. Safety Tyrann Mathieu is the biggest loss on defense paired with a couple of DB departures, but they were able to bring in two DB’s and Jacksonville Safety Tashaun Gipson to help offset the losses. Retaining Jadeveon Clowney was huge for the core of this defense. Besides fortifying the line for Deshaun Watson, no other major fantasy implications from free agency thus far down in the Lone Star State. 
  • Indianapolis Colts
    • Winners:
      • WR TY Hilton/QB Andrew Luck: With a WR14 finish in 2018, look for TY Hilton and Andrew Luck to improve under the second year of Frank Reichs direction. Bringing in 6 ft 4 in. WR Devin Funchess, from Carolina, will help Andrew in the end zone and help pull coverage off TY.
      • Indianapolis DST- The addition of veteran OLB Juston Houston will help this young rising defense not only with his play on the field but in the locker room. Will this translate to reliable fantasy production? It might be a season too early to rely on them on a weekly basis but if you stream defenses then the Indianapolis Colts D/ST is one to keep your eye on. 
  • Jacksonsville Jaguars
    • Winners:
      • RB Leonard Fournette: Super Bowl MVP and Philadelphia Eagles legend, Nick Foles, moves his family south to Duval County to help bring back the Jaguars to playoff relevance in the AFC. The lack of a real passing threat from Blake Bortles shutdown the Jaguars rushing attack last year. Pairing Philly’s 2017 QB coach, John DeFilippo, with Foles in Jacksonville, as the new offensive coordinator, was a smart move by this front office. Will we see more Big Nick magic this season? If anything, this will help create a little more space for Fournette to return to his 2017 form. Also, Jacksonville decided not to retain Fournette’s backfield mates from 2018- TJ Yeldon and Carlos Hyde. If Fournette can manage his attitude then I like his chances to bounce back.
  • Tennesse Titans
    • Winners:
      • QB Marcus Mariota: Bringing in OG Roger Saffold over from the NFC Champion LA Rams, adding slot WR Adam Humphries will help provide protection and another weapon at Mariota’s disposal. This is a prove it year for Marcus as he enters the final year of his contract. Mariota has struggled to stay on the field for a full season in his young NFL career. He added weight during the offseason, showing up noticeably heavier when reporting to Tennessee’s offseason program. I’m not drafting Marcus as my QB1 but he is worth a spot on my watch list. 
      • Tennessee DST: Averaging 10 fantasy ppg the last 4 weeks of the season and placing top 10 in scoring, 3 out of those 4 weeks, made Tennessee D/ST unit a valuable streamer during fantasy playoffs. Adding edge rusher, Cameron Wake, to suit up alongside stud DT Jurrell Casey will bode well for this defense. Keeping them in the conversation of weekly fantasy relevant defenses. The only downside is playing in a division with QB Andrew Luck, Deshaun Watson, and Big Nick Foles. 

AFC West

  • Denver Broncos
    • Bringing in, elite? QB, Joe Flacco should bring a higher level of QB play compared to what Denver experienced last season with Case Keenum. Keyword- should. Signing OT Jw’Wuan James will help fortify the strong side of this offensive line that struggled with consistency in 2018. With the change at QB and addition to the o-line, we can hope for more out of Denver this fantasy season. It’ll be interesting to see what happens on draft night with this team. Look for improvements out of second year players WR Courtland Sutton and RB Phillip Lindsay heading in to 2019. 
  • Kansas City Chiefs
    • Winners:
      • Kansas City D/ST: This defense unit that gave up the 6th most points in 2018 leaving a lot of room for improvement heading in to the offseason. After losing breakout DE Dee Ford and veteran OLB Justin Houston in free agency, KC had me concerned this unit was heading in the wrong direction. They were able to salvage these loses with the additions of Pro Bowl Safety Tyrann Mathieu and DE Frank Clark. Also, adding a couple of nice additions in DL Emmanuel Ogbah, DE Alex Okafor, LB Damien Wilson and CB Bashaud Breeland. Excluding the week 17 embarrassment of OAK this unit finished 18th in fantasy points. It’ll be tough to bring this defense from the bottom to fantasy relevancy but maybe we can see them turn in to a matchup based streamer over the course of the season. 
    • Losers:
      • QB Patrick Mahomes: Many will laugh at Pat making my losers list but is it possible for Mahomes to produce the numbers he did in 2018? Any team that loses the second quarterback on the field without a guaranteed replacement will place a lot of additional pressure on the Quarterback. Center Mitch Morse left KC for Buffalo leaving a huge hole in this offense. Without any proven starter on the roster, it will be interesting to see if KC takes a Center with its first pick in the draft Thursday night. If so, will a rookie be able to pick up what he needs in order to keep this high powered offense rolling. The uncertainty around, the #1 scoring fantasy WR, Tyreek Hill’s status heading in to 2019 also adds another layer of uncertainty around Mahomes ability to repeat. Will Hill even be on the roster this fall? Don’t get me wrong, Mahomes and Andy Reid will still be a dynamic offense in this league. Some of your league mates will contemplate taking Mahomes as their QB #1 and I won’t be surprised to see him go in round 2 of your drafts. That’s too expensive for me to consider him. Will he be able to repeat as the QB1 in 2019? Free agency didn’t make it any easier for him to do so. 
  • Los Angeles Charges
    • Winners:
      • WR Mike Williams- One of my favorite, mid-to-late round, draft darlings that I’ll be looking to grab in multiple spots this upcoming draft season. Tyrell Williams is gone and Mike really started to catch fire for the Bolts down he stretch, as they made a push for the AFC title. Looking at the last 4-weeks of the season, Mike out-targeted Keenan Allen 24 to 23 including 6 rezone targets to Allens 3. Mike finished the season with 10 TD’s making him the first receiver to do so since 1996 for the Chargers. If you watched any of the Bolts games down the stretch and in the playoffs you noticed Rivers consistently looking Mike’s way. TE Hunter Henry will earn looks in this offense but will he be able to hit the ground running as he returns from a season ending injury that prevented him from seeing any action in 2018. An organization that invested their 7th-overall draft pick in 2017 will continue to create opportunities for Mike in this offense to determine if he is worthy of a second contract. Look for Rivers to build on their chemistry in 2019.
  • Oakland Raiders
    • Winners:
      • QB Derek Carr OR QB ‘TBD’: Rounding out the headlines of AFC free agency is the Oakland Raiders addition of, 4-time First Team All-Pro wideout Antonio Brown, and Super Bowl LIII winning Left Tackle Trent Brown. Also, the additions of WR’s Tyrell Williams and Ryan Grant will help bolster this Raiders offense. The big questions will be Jon Gruden’s ability to put it all together and if Derek Carr can establish chemistry with AB. On paper it looks good but the uncertainty should help push AB’s draft position down. Similar to OBJ in Cleveland, the addition of AB and his elite talent will help the Raiders offense as a whole. The bigger question in OAK right now is their intentions on draft night. Will Oakland take a QB in the draft and deal Carr? Until Thursday night, Carr is the beneficiary of Oaklands free agency additions. 
      • Oakland Raiders D/ST- Mike Mayock brought in a slew of bodies to help out one of the worst defensive units in 2018. LA Rams safety Lemarcus Joiner headlines the defensive acquisitions in OAK. I do not believe this defensive overhaul will help make this unit fantasy relevant in 2019 but I expect them to perform better than last season. Let the Oakland DST hit the waivers to begin the 2019 season.