The AFC has never been a fantasy powerhouse. Last year the only players to finish in the top 20 in their given position were Julian Edelman and Le’veon Bell, John Brown and Josh Allen. And even with a RB17 finish, Bell was a disappointment. This year could be much different with the moves that have occurred around the league; the AFC East is home to plenty of new faces and some of them with a lot of potential. In this article I will analyze the AFC East mentioning one player to draft, one player to avoid, one sleeper and one bust from each team.
New England Patriots
Drafting: James White
Despite the Patriots backfield being a murky one, James White is the only running back who has always remained a constant. Now primed to step into a leadership role this season, I see him as a valuable fantasy option. White is the closest thing to Christian McCafffery that the Patriots have, and we know how much Cam Newton likes targeting his running backs. Since 2017, 21.8 percent of Newton’s completions came on passes to the running back. Being drafted as RB32 I am all in on White this season.
Avoiding: Julian Edelman
Now entering his age 34 season, Julian Edelman will remain a big piece of the Patriots offense but may not receive the same number of targets as he did with Tom Brady at the helm. Last season Edelman caught 100 of 153 targets, while leading the league in drops with nine. I’m not calling for Edelman to bust this season, I’m just avoiding him at his current ADP. Being drafted as the WR36, he surrounded by plenty of options with more upside.
Sleeper: Devin Asiasi
The Patriots drafted Asiasi in the third round of the 2020 NFL draft and with Matt Lacosse opting out of the season due to COVID-19, Asiasi will enter the season as the first TE on the depth chart. His 6’3’’ 258-pound frame and 4.73 second 40-yard dash show all the physicals to be an effective NFL tight end. The last time that the Patriots drafted two tight ends in one year resulted in superstars Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. If Asiasi and Dalton Keene can become even a fraction of that pair, Asiasi at TE41 would be a ridiculous steal.
Bust: Sony Michel
James White is the player that I want in the Patriots backfield for one reason: he is the only non-touchdown dependent player. If you look at Sony Michel’s fantasy production from last year, he had six weeks where he scored double digits, of those six weeks four of them were because of a touchdown he scored. The issue with touchdown dependent backs in the Patriots offense is there is no way of knowing who the goal line carries will go to, out of Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris, White, Michel, and Cam Newton, they can’t all get consistent touchdowns. Add to this that Michel is starting the year on the PUP list and I’m staying far far away.
Drafting: Devante Parker
Last year Devante Parker was an unusual fifth year breakout player, a feat that is usually very difficult to sustain. Despite this, I have the utmost confidence that he will live up to his ADP and continue the production that he had last year. The Dolphins are an up and coming team and at age 27 and as the number one option, Parker still has plenty of good football left. Currently being drafted as the WR25, I think he will definitely play to his expectations, potentially more.
Avoiding: Ryan Fitzpatrick
As we all know, the Dolphins drafted Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft in hopes of finding their franchise QB. Fortunately for Fitzmagic, he still has the starting job. Last season Fitzpatrick served as a viable QB as a week to week matchup play, this year, however, his matchups are not nearly as favorable. In the first six weeks of the season, Fitzpatrick has tough matchups in New England, Buffalo, Jacksonville, Seattle, San Francisco and Denver. Assuming that he has trouble in a majority of these games, I see the lack of production forcing Brian Flores’ hand and trying out his new toy, Tagovailoa, just a few weeks into the season.
Sleeper: Preston Williams
With the recent opt out of both Allen Hurns and Albert Wilson, Preston Williams is now penciled in as the second-string wide receiver for the Dolphins. Last year in his rookie campaign he showed flashes of promise culminating in week nine when he caught five passes for 72 yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately, he was hit with a knee injury in that same week causing him to miss the rest of the season. In his new role, Williams will pick up where he left off and exceed his value as the WR53.
Bust: Jordan Howard
Jordan Howard took a step back last year in the Eagles system, as they favored future star Miles Sanders. This year with yet another change of scenery, Howard is slated for an important role in the Dolphins backfield. Along with Howard, the Dolphins also brought in Matt Breida, who in my opinion is more talented and definitely more versatile. Breida is a 3-down back, he has pass-catching ability, good vision and according to Next Gen Stats is the fastest ball carrier in the league, his 83-yard touchdown run in week four was clocked at 22.3 mph. For me, Howard busting is more about his competition, with Breida going as the RB36 and Howard being drafted as RB35, Breida is the Dolphins back I want.
New York Jets
Drafting: Chris Herndon
The biggest storyline out of Jets camp is that Chris Herndon is primed for a big season. The talent has never been an issue, rather it’s been a question if he can stay on the field. Herndon missed the first four games of last season due to a suspension and then followed that up with an injury to derail his sophomore season. This year his confidence is back, and the Jets feel that Herndon can breakout. I for one have bought in. With not much competition in the passing game and good reviews from the coaching staff, Herndon could easily pull eight to ten targets a game. Currently being drafted as the TE20, I love the upside.
Avoiding: Sam Darnold
Throughout his first two seasons in the league Sam Darnold has shown promise, but he has been restricted by the lack of a supporting cast. Last season in hopes of adding support, the Jets brought in coveted running back Le’veon Bell. Bell was not enough to save the team and while they did revamp the o-line, I don’t see any changes this year. Darnold’s struggles also stem from the fact that he doesn’t have a particularly good coach; once deemed a QB whisperer, Adam Gase struggled in that same department in Miami and has struggled in New York. If Darnold is going to go in my line up, Gase needs to be out of a job.
Sleeper: Frank Gore
I can’t believe I’m putting a 37-year-old veteran as my sleeper, but Frank Gore seems to fit the bill. After coming off a career low 599 yards last year in Buffalo, the Jets coaching staff have been vocal about how much Gore has left in the tank. It turns out that a big reason for Gore’s choice of the Jets was his relationship with Adam Gase who has mentioned that he thinks Gore and Bell are “two guys that can play all three downs.” While Gore is no longer a first string running back at this point in his career, the rave reviews surrounding him warrant keeping him on your radar especially at RB122.
Bust: Le’veon Bell
Last year Le’veon Bell put up a middling fantasy football performance that didn’t live up to his high ADP. The positive of last season is that the Jets used Bell as their first option, he had plenty of opportunities. The negative is that even though he had plenty of carries he produced a poor 3.2 yards per carry. This year may not be the turnaround that we all hope for. The revamped Jets o-line will not guarantee success. Adam Gase did admit to using Bell incorrectly last season and hopes to improve on that, but it looks like Bell’s days of being a bona fide RB1 are a thing of the past.
Drafting: Stefon Diggs
This year Stefon Diggs to Buffalo was one of the biggest moves in the off season. I, for one, have always believed that Diggs has the talent of a first-string wide receiver, but due to injuries and the presence of Adam Thielen he has never completely reached his full potential. There is no world where Diggs is an under the radar player, but I think that this year will be a big one for him. The question that hinders Diggs’ production has nothing to do with Diggs at all, it all hinges on Josh Allen’s throwing ability. Allen has shown the arm strength, that’s no question, the accuracy is the problem. Luckily, Digg’s is a level of receiver that Allen has never had the privilege to throw to, a playmaker whose route running will find openings that even Allen can hit. At WR28, I see no way that Diggs does not eclipse his ADP.
Avoiding: Devin Singletary
Last year I was a huge fan of Devin Singletary and this year I still am, but unfortunately, he is a risky draft pick for me. Last year in his rookie season, Singletary finished as the RB31 missing weeks 3-5 with a hamstring injury. This year Singletary seems to be poised for a breakout, but my biggest fear is the goal line carries. With Josh Allen rushing for nine touchdowns and Zack Moss threatening to take his share of touches, there are plenty of backs I would rather have at RB24 than Singletary.
Sleeper: Zack Moss
Zack Moss is currently being drafted as the RB40, that alone is enough for me to believe that he is threatening to take Singletary’s job, but the ADP is warranted. The Bills drafted Moss in the third round of the 2020 NFL draft, and he has shown plenty of promise so far in camp. Moss was originally taken to be the bruiser back at 5’9’’ 223 pounds, but he has shown he can be much more. Any running back that can squat 600 pounds gives me a reason to draft them, especially at RB40.
Bust: John Brown
Much like the Singletary-Moss impact, Diggs’ entrance means fewer catches for “Smokey” Brown. And while I’m calling from an improvement for Josh Allen, the likelihood of the Bills’ quarterback sustaining two fantasy relevant receivers and the possible emergence of Dawson Knox seems unlikely. Currently being drafted as the WR48, with the likes of Jerry Jeudy and Preston Williams around him, I would go with the higher upside options over Brown.