AFC East Training Camp Preview

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Buffalo Bills: Rookies 7/22, Veterans 7/24

Buffalo has some positive momentum coming into the 2019 season now that Josh Allen has a year of experience under his belt.  There will be continuity within the offense under OC Brian Daboll and Sean McDermott.  The Bills won 6 games last year and ranked 30th in total offense but 2nd in total defense.  The defense will continue to rank near the top of the league and help the young offense be competitive and finish near or above .500.  We’re drafting Josh Allen as a QB2 this year with potential QB1 upside.  His rushing stats to end the 2018 season helped make him the #1 overall QB from Week 12 on.  In these last 6 games, he ran for 476yds and 5 TDs while throwing for 1,242yds and 8TDs.  He did throw 7 interceptions during this 6 game span, easily his biggest area he needs to work on.
Buffalo did some nice offseason work by adding two veteran WRs to help Allen out so I am optimistic about his development as a passer taking a step forward this year.  New FA WRs John Brown and Cole Beasley were brought in to help round out Allen’s game.  Known for his strong arm, John Brown is a perfect fit for Allen in the deep passing game.  A WR like Brown will be inconsistent week to week but is an ideal late round best ball target.  Slot WR Cole Beasley gives Allen the check down WR that Buffalo did not have last year.  I’m open to Beasley leading the team in receptions this year and being a big factor in helping Buffalo be more efficient on offense.  WRs Zay Jones and Robert Foster both came on late last year and were Allen’s favorite targets.  Robert Foster is very similar to John Brown and can win deep with Allen’s big arm.  With deep threats like Brown and Foster, Beasley should have favorable matchups underneath.  Zay Jones is the biggest WR target of the bunch at 6’2″, 200lbs and gives Buffalo a true WR1 type player.  He hauled in 5 of the 8TDs Allen threw in the last 6 games of the year and is most likely to lead this team in TDs for 2019.  When it gets to the double digit rounds of drafts, there won’t be many WR1s left on the board and Zay Jones begins to present value for us here.  He’s also in Year 3 and has been generating positive buzz this offseason whereas last offseason he was injured and going through an off-field incident.  We should not be interested in any of the other WRs outside of these main 4 guys for Buffalo but just file the names Isaiah McKenzie and Andre Roberts in case of emergency.
The running backs in Buffalo are in a four-way cluster with LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore, TJ Yeldon and Devin Singletary.  They added Gore and Yeldon in free agency and then drafted Devin Singletary in the 3rd round of the draft.  This makes for an undesirable fantasy situation this year.  Perhaps there is some clarity once training camp begins but all of these guys will be vying for play time.  McCoy and Gore are the veterans and will likely carry the load but I would assume Yeldon gets mixed in on 3rd downs with McCoy.  At some point this year they’ll want to see what Singletary can do.  Either way, I’m going to fade the Buffalo RBs and focus on Allen and Zay Jones in the passing game for redraft.
The tight end situation in Buffalo is another position we might want to avoid.  They brought in FA Tyler Kroft from Cincinnati but he broke his foot in offseason activities and might start the year on the PUP list.  Behind Kroft, Buffalo drafted Dawson Knox out of Ole Miss in the 3rd round.  Knox has been running with the ones and can be a complete TE.  An excellent blocker with upside as a pass catcher.  He was buried in the pecking order for targets at Ole Miss behind AJ Brown and DK Metcalf, but he has the ability to get open in the seam and make chunk plays.  I’m excited for Knox in dynasty leagues.  After Kroft and Knox, Lee Smith is the veteran blocking TE and another drafted rookie in the 7th round, Tommy Sweeney.  We’ll stay away from Bills TEs this year but monitor Knox for the Future.

 

Miami Dolphins: Rookies 7/21, Veterans 7/24

The Dolphins are in rebuild mode and brought in new head coach Brian Flores, previously the linebackers coach in New England.  Flores has had many positions on the NE staff going all the way back to 2004.  He brought in Chad O’Shea as his OC who was also in New England as the wide receivers coach from 09-18′.  These two guys have me excited for the future of the Dolphins franchise as they will try to implement things they have learned under Belichick all these years.
Miami brought in veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to hold the fort down for 2019 but also made a splashy trade for Josh Rosen in the draft.  Early reports are that Fitzpatrick is the clear #1 and may have fantasy value for us this year, most likely as a QB2 in 2QB leagues.  He might have some streaming worthy weeks early on.  If the team can be competitive with Fitzpatrick, I’d expect him to keep getting starts until things start going south, which is most likely by the mid point of the season.  The Dolphins will want to see what they have with Rosen this year before going into the 2020 draft where they are expected to have a top 5, top 10 pick.  Overall, I wouldn’t blame you for ignoring these QBs completely in 2019.
The running backs in Miami are lead by Kenyan Drake and 2nd year Kalen Ballage.  Kenyan Drake finished as the RB14 in PPR leagues last year, which is impressive considering Adam Gase used Frank Gore so much in running situations.  Drake is a fantastic pass catcher and should be a PPR target for us in the 4th and sometimes 5th rounds.  I’m expecting his receiving stats to be similar to last season (53rec, 477yds, 5TDS), but it wouldn’t surprise me if he improved on these numbers.  Keep in mind, new OC Chad O’Shea worked in NE as the WRs coach, an offense that peppers it’s RBs with targets in the quick passing game.  Factor in more carries and there’s no reason why Drake can’t be a sneaky RB1 this season.  Behind Drake we have Kalen Ballage.  Ballage was a 4th round pick in last years draft and had some nice moments last year, specifically a 12 carry, 123yd, 1TD performance against the Vikings in Week 15.  Ballage is a better runner than pass catcher, so expect him to be in the mix with Drake for carries.  Early reports out of Dolphins camp is that Ballage is struggling with the passing game, making me value Drake even more since we’re not concerned about him losing this role.  After these top 2 backs, the Dolphins drafted Myles Gaskin in the 7th round and added Kenneth Farrow.  We’ll monitor the rookie as well as Farrow to see if these guys can push Ballage for playing time.
Since we are not very excited about the QBs Fitzpatrick and Rosen, what can we expect from this Dolphin WR group?  It’s definitely got some talent but remains capped by the QB play.  DeVante Parker is getting a fresh start and has had another tremendous off season, so they say.  Parker is being drafted in the double digit rounds and is a similar prospect to Zay Jones for me.  Once we get this deep, you just won’t find many WR1s left, so he might be worth a shot.  Parker should be a good fit with Fitzpatrick and can perhaps be a smaller version of Mike Evans for him as his go to guy.  After Parker, we have Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson.  Stills is a decent best ball play and can be similar to the DeSean Jackson role that Fitzpatrick had success with last year.  Albert Wilson is back from injury and will be my favorite Miami WR to target because he is basically free in drafts.  He is a quick slot type WR who can also stretch the field and be moved all over the formation.  I’ll mention OC Chad O’Shea again here because the Patriots have had so much success with smaller quick WRs.  After these top three guys, we’ll see Jakeem Grant, Brice Butler and rookie Preston Williams get mixed in.  We won’t use any of these guys this year but they will get some opportunities.
The tight ends in Miami will be interesting because of the success that Patriot TEs have had.  Second year Mike Gesicki should take a step forward this year and is an intriguing dynasty player.  Fitzpatrick had success with OJ Howard last year so I’m open to Gesicki having TE streaming weeks this year.  Behind Gesicki we have Dwayne Allen and Nick O’Leary.  Allen will continue to be used as a blocker and O’Leary would be the backup for Gesicki.

 

New England Patriots: Rookies 7/21, Veterans 7/24

The Patriots enter the 2019 season with Tom Brady turning 42 in August and a Gronk sized hole in the tight end unit.  They lost their Linebackers coach and WRs coach to Miami but retain OC Josh McDaniels under Bill Belichick.  New England ranked 5th in total offense last year and also ranked 5th in rushing attempts and rushing yards.  As Brady gets older, they will continue to be one of the run heaviest teams in the league.  They also ranked 8th in pass attempts and passing yards per game so they remain an elite and balanced offense.
Not much needs to be said about the quarterback situation here.  Brady turns 42 this year and is showing no signs of slowing down just yet.  The Patriots drafted QB Jarrett Stidham in the 4th round out of Alabama so we’ll monitor his status in training camp and more importantly the preseason.  Brian Hoyer will be the main backup to Brady but I’m most excited about watching Stidham to see if he could be the potential heir here.  Brady is being slept on in drafts and is valued as a QB2 even though he was a low QB1 last year.  He’ll be an ideal late round QB target if you plan to wait.
The running backs in New England will be the juiciest asset for fantasy owners this year.  The best fantasy option will be James White, RB7 last year in PPR leagues.  He remains as the clear passing back in this offense and will be targeted heavily again as Brady continues to work the horizontal passing game.  You can get him in the 4th and sometimes 5th round in redraft leagues.  The big question in this running game will revolve around the health of Sony Michel.  He recently had his knee scoped and missed all offseason activity.  The Patriots also spent a 3rd round draft pick on Damien Harris out of Alabama.  It’s interesting to me that they decided to spend a 3rd round pick after taking Michel in the 1st round last year.  Harris would be the replacement for Michel and get plenty of 1st and 2nd down work while White maintains his pass catching role.  Michel is currently being drafted in the 4th and 5th round range while Harris is creeping up in ADP as early as the 8th round.  Be sure to monitor Michel’s training camp activity and do not forget about Rex Burkhead, although I feel as if Burkhead is more of a handcuff for James White but he could also be in the mix for work if Michel misses time.  This is a top 5 running offense and will have multiple RBs be useful for us this year.
The receiver group in New England will also provide us with some fantasy assets this year.  Behind Julian Edelman though, the rest are a bit of a toss up.  They drafted N’Keal Harry out of Arizona State with their first round pick this year and have many drafters excited for his future.  He’s a hot dynasty commodity but I am skeptical about his redraft value for this year.  He struggled with getting separation in college and reports out of early camps echoed this analysis.  He’s one of the bigger names to keep an eye on in training camp this year.  Edelman remains the #1 here though and should be targeted as early as a late 3rd, early 4th round pick in PPR leagues.  He has 100 catch upside and is always in sync with Tom Brady in the short passing game.  Philip Dorsett will be on the field often and will likely be #2 on the depth chart.  He’s more of a best ball play but could have some redraft value for us.  The Patriots signed veterans Demaryius Thomas and Dontrelle Inman.  Thomas is recovering from an Achilles injury and might not even make the team, most likely a PUP list candidate if he does.  Early camp reports were that Inman was behind some of the guys I’ll talk about next, but his roster spot is up in the air.  Two guys who turned heads in early camp were Braxton Berrios and Maurice Harris.  Harris ran often with the 1s and was very efficient in catching passes from Brady.  Special teams ace Matthew Slater should also be a good bet to make the team.  The biggest question mark here will be Josh Gordon.  A suspension is coming but remains unknown.  If/when he can play, Gordon should be rostered in all formats.  He remains one of my favorite late round darts.  So to recap, outside of Edelman, we really need to watch this group in preseason to see how the pecking order shakes out.
Rob Gronkowski has retired, leaving the Patriots with a lot of questions at TE.  They signed Ben Watson and Matt LaCosse, but Watson will serve a four game suspension to start the year.  I’d expect Watson to step in as the starter when he returns, but we’ll have to monitor the training camp battle between LaCosse and Stephen Anderson to see who gets the top spot to start the year.  Anderson is an athletic pass catching TE and was on the practice squad last year, so he should have more comfortability and knowledge of the offense then the other two new TEs.

 

New York Jets: Rookies 7/19, Veterans 7/24

The Jets enter the 2019 season with new head coach Adam Gase and OC Dowell Loggains.  Loggains was with Gase as the Dolphins OC and was the Bears OC in 2016-17.  Gase”s resume has been iffy ever since he was the OC for Denver with Peyton Manning as his QB, and the last few years with the Dolphins sure weren’t very bright.  Now he gets second year QB Sam Darnold and FA Le’Veon Bell.  Our expectations should not be too high but there is a lot to like on this Jets offensive roster.
Starting with Darnold at QB, he had some bright spots in his rookie season, starting 13 games and notching 4 wins.  He had a great three game stretch in weeks 5-7 and finished strong in weeks 15 and 16.  The Jets still have one of the bottom ranked offensive lines but the offensive skill players around him got better.  Darnold will most likely be a QB streaming option for us in typical redraft leagues and a low end QB2 in 2QB leagues.  If he can take a step forward this year, perhaps Darnold can enter the top 15 QB discussion for 2020.  Behind him we have Trevor Siemien, Davis Webb and Luke Falk so we’ll see if Webb/Falk can push Siemien for the number 2 spot.
And now for Le’Veon Bell and the running backs.  There has been a bit of controversy around Adam Gase and Bell, suggesting that Gase did not want to pay for the RB.  Gase has used an RBBC approach for the last few seasons in Miami.  We’re probably hoping for something like what he did with Knowshon Moreno in 2013 in Denver, which was worth 241 carries and 60 receptions on 74 targets.  A player of Bell’s talent should entice Gase to get him the ball as much as possible, so I’m thinking these Moreno numbers are Bell’s floor for 2019.  Bell is being drafted in the first round and is probably the riskiest of the first rounders, but also has a high reward with the upside being a top 5 RB.  Behind Bell, we have Elijah McGuire, Bilal Powell and Ty Montgomery.  The Jets decided to resign the veteran Powell and also added Montgomery.  All of these backs are versatile and capable of handling carries and targets.  We’ll have to monitor who emerges as the number 2 in camp in case of emergency.  Bell has been off for a year so durability is a concern, but on the flip side you can argue that he’s as fresh as he’ll ever be.  Trenton Cannon and De’Angelo Henderson will compete for the final roster spot.
The Jets have solid trio of starting WRs with Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa and FA Jamison Crowder.  Robby Anderson finished as the WR37 but played at a WR1 level in weeks 14-16.  He’s proving to be more than just a deep ball receiver and was lining up in multiple positions and having success on various routes.  Gase has mentioned that he wants to keep being creative and finding different ways to get Anderson the ball.  Anderson signed a 1 year tender so he’ll be playing at his best in order to earn a new multi year contract. The Jets gave Quincy Enunwa a 4yr, 36-million dollar deal this offseason as well.  Enunwa was Darnold’s favorite target in the first four games of the season but injuries derailed his promising start.  He is viewed a big slot WR but the Jets brought in Jamison Crowder who primarily lines up in the slot, so we’re expecting Enunwa to move outside and occasionally line up in the slot.  It’s unclear which of these two will be second in the pecking order for targets, but if injury occurs to one of them the other should be considered an asset.  After the top 3, it’s a big toss up.  We have Tim White, Charone Peake, Josh Bellamy, Deonte Thompson and Deontay Burnette.  They signed UDFA Greg Dortch and Jeff Smith as well.  We’ll monitor this group to see who makes the roster for 2019 but don’t count on any of them being fantasy relevant this year.
The tight end group for the Jets will be without starter Chris Herndon while he serves his four game suspension.  Herndon was beginning to build buzz as an exciting young sleeper at the TE position, but now that he’s missing four games he has almost become undraftable in redraft leagues.  He may be worth your last pick or one of the last couple rounds, but it’s difficult to carry a TE who’s already missing 75% of his games.  You can snag him as your TE2 as long as you have a starter for the first 4-6 weeks while he gets back into form.  While he’s away, the Jets will see what they have in 4th round pick Trevon Wesco out of West Virginia.  Wesco will compete with veteran Eric Tomlinson this training camp so we’ll monitor this battle and see who wins the starting job.

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