Until the Buffalo Bills unexpectedly burst out last year, the AFC East was looking like slim pickings for fantasy managers. The Bills will still be the cream of the crop in the division this year, but they’re not going to be alone in helping to stock your fantasy rosters. We all know that Josh Allen and his receivers will draw high draft spots, but the other three teams offer a ton of value picks that will serve your fantasy teams well. Let’s look at the division going worst to first.
New York Jets
Must Draft: Chris Herndon, TE: Where you might strike receiving gold is with tight end Chris Herndon. He’s on the last year of his rookie deal and he’s playing for his next contract. Remember, this offense will be similar to the 49ers. How did tight end George Kittle do when he wasn’t injured? Yup, Herndon gets the Kittle role in this offense, and rookie QB’s love to lean on their tight ends.
Avoid: Zach Wilson, QB: The passing game begins and ends with rookie Zach Wilson. To be honest, I’m leery. He only had one college season that made NFL GMs turn their heads. However, if that one season was him finally putting everything together, then he’s going to be a good one. Some are worried that he’s Johnny Manziel 2.0. I expect the coaches will spoon-feed him the offense, meaning he’s not likely to put up big numbers this year. Zach Wilson is more of a grab and stash for next year type of guy.
Value: Corey Davis, WR: Hey kids, can you say “garbage time production”? Good, I knew you could. Seeing as he’s a big downfield receiver, and the Jets are likely to be trailing a lot, he could have some big games with 100 yds and a TD, but he’ll also have games where you’d have better luck at Where’s Waldo than finding Corey Davis in the box score. He’s a great best-ball pick.
Tepid, I mean Tevin Coleman. Chances are that Coleman starts the season with rookie Michael Carter subbing in on passing downs and eventually taking Coleman’s job. If you’re going dumpster diving, or Zero-RB, same thing, for your run game, grab both players in hopes of scrabbling together the semblance of one decent running back.
Must Draft: Myles Gaskin, RB: One of the most pivotal and surprising pieces of the offense last year was RB Myles Gaskin. The Dolphins didn’t bring in anyone else of consequence at the running back position. That tells you what you need to know about Gaskin’s usage this year. He’s a good runner, but not outstanding. Where he makes himself valuable for your fantasy team is as a receiver out of the backfield. In 10 games, only starting seven of them, he had 41 receptions for 388 yards. If you project that to just 15 games played (if he misses a couple due to injury) that puts him on pace for 60 receptions. I’ll take that all day long from my RB who currently has an ADP in the fourth round. Grab him in the third and enjoy the profits.
Avoid: Jaylen Waddle, WR: I say this with a caveat. I’d pass on Waddle this year unless you want a late-round cheap keeper or you’re in a dynasty league. In straight-up redraft, I don’t trust him. He’s still limping on that bad ankle and even collapsed in a heap last week during practice. Plus he’s competing for catches with two grown-ass receivers in DaVante Parker and Will Fuller, as well as TE Mike Gesicki. It’s going to be a good passing attack this year, but Waddle isn’t likely to do enough to help your fantasy team.
Value: Tua Tagovailoa, QB: Don’t forget Tua, who only got in a partial season after returning from a hip injury. Remember how dominant he was in college? Had he not been injured he might have been the No. 1 pick in 2020. Now that Grandpa Fitzpatrick has moved on, Tua had a full offseason to study the offense, and a full, normal training camp. He has solid QB2 potential with an outside shot at being a surprise QB1. He won’t rush for even 500 yards, but in college, he was always a running threat at the goal line.
Bust: Will Fuller: Fuller is on a make it or break it contract and it looks like his foot could be the break it part of that. When he’s good, he’s good and when he’s not he’s usually injured. Last Saturday, just four days ago and only a week into camp Fuller hurt his foot and is sitting out practices to let it heal. Foot injuries are never good and usually take a long time to fully heal. The severity is currently unclear.
New England Patriots
Must Draft: Damien Harris, RB: Harris is the only back on this roster that I’d consider for fantasy. On 167 carries last season he averaged 5.0 yards per carry and deserves more carries. Bill Belichick has hinted that Harris may have more of a traditional “bell-cow” back role in the offense. Keep in mind that Belichick is the one saying that. We all know that his RB usage generally drives fantasy managers crazy, but also, don’t forget that one year LeGarrette Blount had 18 touchdowns.
Avoid: TE’s Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry: They brought two good tight ends on board, Jonnu Smith effectively eviscerating the value of both. Remember when the Pats had Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez? Expect to see some of those old plays revived, but keep in mind that Smith and Henry are not Gronk and Hernandez.
Value: Cam Newton, QB: He had a bumpy 2020 in New England and had difficulty mastering the offense, but it wasn’t all bad. Due to Covid, he played in just 13 games, and in those 13 games, he only threw eight touchdowns. That sounds bad, doesn’t it? BUT, in those 13 games, he ran for 592 yards and 12 touchdowns! That is a lot of bonus points from your QB. This year, he must fight off uber-accurate rookie Mac Jones. Keep in mind though that Belichick has been a head coach since 1991, 30 years, and he has never once started a rookie QB in Game 1 of an NFL season. Cam might be a nice late sleeper in your draft. He’s got to pass better this year, right?
Bust: James White, RB: He returns after a down year in 2020. Was that a fluke, or did he lose carries to Cam and catches to Cam’s inaccuracy? I think it’s the latter. With James White aging, Damien Harris surging, and Cam Newton running as well as throwing to two decent tight ends, White’s share of the plays is looking smaller and smaller.
Must Draft: Josh Allen, QB: There may be some new blood in the receiving core, but every play starts with the ball in Allen’s hands. The Bills drafted two o-lineman to give him more time to throw. It will be an early pick, but if you want a premier QB, that’s what it takes. His rushing ability gives him a nice padded floor and if he actually throws better this year, he has no ceiling.
Avoid: Devin Singletary, RB: We’ve seen two years of Singletary and he’s a serviceable third-down back. He might actually be a very good back, but OC Brian Daboll seems uninterested in using him.
Value: Stefon Diggs, WR: Typically WR’s do poorly in their first year in a new offense. Not Diggs. Or was that Diggs doing poorly? Could he be even better in his second year in this offense? Yes.
Bust: Emmanuel Sanders, WR: His peak, absolute best year in the NFL was 2014! Twenty effing fourteen?!!? Were some of you even born yet? In 2014 we were worried about ebola! Ok, I may be exaggerating, but he has been in the league for 12 years and this is his fourth team in the last four seasons. If he was still that good, one of these teams would have kept him. He’s a serviceable, reliable veteran receiver that knows how to learn an offense.