AFC NORTH- Fantasy Football 2021
NFL Free Agency just started, and there has been a lot of player movement across the league. Throughout the offseason, we will discuss players on the move and what type of fantasy football impact it will have. In fact, some of the players in new uniforms will be rising up the 2021 fantasy football draft boards.
We’ve already discussed the AFC East and AFC South so let’s cut to the chase and break down the AFC North.
Not much has changed at the start of the offseason for the Ravens. They will rely on QB Lamar Jackson to make plays with his feet and do just enough as a passer to win football games. The Ravens let RB Mark Ingram walk in free agency, which should open up the opportunity for J.K. Dobbins to put together top-15 running back fantasy football stats. Dobbins showed his worth during the Raven’s late-season winning streak and the playoffs. Outside of tight end Mark Andrews, the Ravens are in need of some additional pass catchers. Marquise Brown continues to prove that he’s a one-trick pony, and as much as Dez Bryant is a big name, he’s not the same player that once made him a top-tier WR on your fantasy football draft board. I know the signing of WR Sammy Watkins has Ravens fans excited, but Watkins is on the ladder part of what has been a mediocre NFL career. K Justin Tucker remains one of the elite in the game and is always worthy of being the top 1-2 kickers off the board.
The Browns did the unthinkable and put together a 10-plus win season and made the playoffs in 2020. Heck, they even won a playoff game against division rival Pittsburgh Steelers. A large part of their success had to do with the offense, as QB Baker Mayfield, RB Nick Chubb, RB Kareem Hunt, and WR Jarvis Landry made big plays to carry the offense. Mayfield showed a ton of maturity last season and took better care of the football, as he dropped his interceptions from 21 in 2019 to just 8 in 2020. In terms of fantasy football, and in general, the Browns’ biggest offseason acquisition will be a healthy Odell Beckham Jr. OBJ tore his ACL early in 2020 and, once fully recovered, should add another level to the Browns offense. I like the retooled offensive line, and anyway you look at it, Cleveland should be a playoff team for years to come.
The Bengals had the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and used it on QB Joe Burrow out of LSU. While Burrow’s rookie season was a bit of a roller coaster, he took good care of the pigskin until a Week 11 torn ACL ended his season. Burrow is expected to make a full recovery and should be available in Week 1. At the running back position, eight year veteran Gio Bernard was released by the Bengals, which means a healthy Joe Mixon should have his best year as a pro. Keyword, “healthy,” as Mixon has been injury-prone throughout his career. At wideout, All-Pro A.J. Green will go down as arguably the best wide receiver in team history. He is now with the Arizona Cardinals. However, that opens up more opportunities for Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins to produce big numbers. Higgins finished with 67 receptions, 908 yards, and 6 TDs, promising stats for a wideout who could potentially be a WR1 on upcoming fantasy football draft boards. One wild card at running back is Samaje Perine. Drafted by the Redskins in 2017, Perine never stuck as an NFL bell-cow option, but his strong finish to 2021 landed him a multi-year contract and a bunch of short-yardage work. It remains to be seen if Perine cuts into Mixon’s goalline work, but the odds are that will be the case.
Hating aside, Ben Roethlisberger still finished with 3,803 passing yards, and 33 touchdown passes against just 10 interceptions. Yes, a lot of his success came on short-yardage check-downs and intermediate routes, but the veteran wasn’t as bad as the media and armchair GMs made him out to be. Big Ben restructured his contract and will remain in Pittsburgh another season, which should lead to the Steelers fighting for the division title in 2021. I was a little intrigued by the Steelers signing QB Dwayne Haskins to a contract after the Washington Football Team released the youngster. Haskins was a Round 1 selection in 2019 but fell out of favor of head coach Ron Rivera fast. On the ground, the Steelers struggled in 2020, and a quick look at their depth chart and much of the same should be expected in 2021. James Conner has left to free agency, and Benny Snell heads into the NFL Draft as their more experienced and highest upside RB. I’d be shocked if Pittsburgh doesn’t address their RB needs in the draft. The strength of the offense is their pass catchers, and that should be the same this season. Diontae Johnson has developed into a PPR monster and should be considered a top-10 wide receiver on your 2021 fantasy football draft board. Ju-Ju Smith Schuster comes with baggage, but he’s an elite talent, and 2nd-year deep ball threat Chase Claypool might be the most gifted wide receiver of them all. Finally, tight end Eric Ebron should benefit from Big Ben’s lack of arm strength and should build on an impressive 56 reception 2020 season.
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Come back next week for more 2021 Fantasy Football news and insights!
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