By Tzali Nislick
After nearly two decades of mediocrity outside of the Patriots, the AFC East has the potential to be one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL this year. The quarterback landscape certainly got more interesting over the offseason with the departure of Tom Brady and the arrivals of Cam Newton and Tua Tagovailoa. Stefon Diggs is a welcomed addition for the Bills and the continued development of Josh Allen and Sam Darnold could make for the first intriguing season in years from this group of teams. In an all-new series where we look at every fantasy-relevant player in each division, the AFC East comes first. Let’s get started!
Josh Allen: I’m not as high on him as many others are. I know the Bills added Stefon Diggs who appears to be a match made in heaven for Allen’s cannon of an arm, but Kirk Cousins was a significantly better deep ball thrower than Allen in 2019. Pro Football Focus ranked Cousins as the 15th best deep passer compared to Allen ranking just 32nd. Allen establishes a decent floor with his rushing ability but that’s not as sustainable as someone who consistently makes his throws. I have Allen just outside of my top-10 quarterbacks this year.
Devin Singletary: I really hope Sean McDermott likes Devin Singletary as much as I do, as he totaled 603 rushing yards in his final eight games a year ago. The only hesitation I have with the second-year back is his touchdown potential. His two touchdowns in 2019 are concerning and he only received three carries inside the 10 yard line, while averaging just 3.33 YPC in the red zone. Buffalo spent a third round selection on Utah bruiser Zack Moss, who could get the bulk of the goal line attempts. I think that makes Singletary a low-end RB2 or high-end FLEX.
Stefon Diggs: After competing with Adam Thielen for targets over the last several years, Stefon Diggs figures to be the clear-cut number one option in Buffalo’s passing offense. And while I believe in Diggs’ talent, I think it’s important to temper expectations. He finished as the WR24 last season even while setting a career high in receiving yards, and that was with Thielen being banged up for the majority of the season. And as stated before, Josh Allen is greatly inferior as a deep passer and as a passer in general compared to Kirk Cousins. I think Diggs is more of a WR3/FLEX this year.
John Brown: John Brown always seems to make himself fantasy-relevant somehow. He finished as the WR20 last year and was surprisingly consistent while doing it, scoring double digit fantasy points in all but two games. I think the now 30-year old is due for regression though, with the addition of Diggs. Brown could be a valuable depth piece with an injury to Diggs, whose never played 16 games, but otherwise I don’t see Brown being much more than a bye week fill-in.
Ryan Fitzpatrick: I anticipate the journeyman starts Week 1 for the Dolphins while Miami lets Tua Tagovailoa get adjusted to NFL game speed before throwing him in the fire. The Dolphins don’t have an easy slate to start out, as six of the first eight games come against the Patriots, Bills, 49ers, Broncos, Chargers and Rams, six teams that have stout defenses at the very least. Fitzpatrick is nothing more than a streamer for as long as he’s the starter.
Tua Tagovailoa: Tua will start at some point this season. When? I don’t know. It’s possible he sits the first half of the year to avoid those defenses mentioned above. But his chance will likely come sooner rather than later unless Fitzpatrick turns into “Fitzmagic” and has Miami in playoff contention. I don’t see that happening, so when the Alabama product does start, I would’t be surprised to see him struggle early but pick things up the more he gets acclimated to the NFL. At his best, Tagovailoa could be a matchup-based streaming option, but his dynasty value far outweighs his 2020 redraft value. And as much as I like DeVante Parker and Preston Williams, they don’t compare to the quartet of Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle that Tagovailoa had at Alabama.
Jordan Howard: I don’t think Jordan Howard gets the credit he deserves. He’s a Pro Bowler, had back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons, has 30 touchdowns in four years and is only 25-years old. As much as I like him, there’s no denying he is limited when it comes to catching the ball. That’s where Matt Breida comes in and I think the two of them form a nightmare of a RBBC. If Brian Flores came out and declared one of them to be the full-time starter, he would be a FLEX option for me. But I think a committee is inevitable which leaves both of them as bench pieces until further notice.
DeVante Parker: It took five years, but Parker finally broke out last season. After finishing as the WR11 you’d think I’d be much higher on him heading into 2020, but I’m not for this one reason:
2019 DeVante Parker fantasy point splits with and without Preston Williams:
8 games with: WR36
8 games without: WR2
— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) July 3, 2020
I don’t think Parker will finish 36th now that Williams is back healthy, but I do think that Williams will significantly eat into his target share. I think Parker is better suited as a WR3 this season.
Preston Williams: Preston Williams was balling before he got hurt last season. He had similar numbers to Parker before tearing his ACL and his season truly went under the radar. Now that he’s back healthy in 2020 he’s one of my favorite sleepers at his position. He had top-30 upside if all goes well.
Mike Gesicki: Mike Gesicki had an extremely underrated year in 2019. He finished as the TE12 and came on strong towards the end of the season, going over double digits in four of his last six games. Now in his third season, he could be ready to make another leap. He’s one of my top breakout candidates for tight ends this year and he’s a borderline TE1.
New England Patriots
Cam Newton: Cam is tricky for me in 2020. When he’s been healthy he’s one of the best fantasy quarterbacks in the league, but the problem is it’s been a long time since he’s been 100%. Also, with the NFL announcing there would be no preseason, Cam’s first game-action with his new team would be in Week 1, which is a daunting thought. If there’s anybody who can revive his career, it’s Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels, but I still have my doubts whether he can stay healthy over 16 games and his unfamiliarity with the New England system may hurt him early on. I still believe in his talent though, so I’ll hedge my bets and consider him a mid-tier QB2.
Sony Michel: Michel may miss the start of the season as he recovers from an offseason foot surgery. Add that to an already lengthy list of lower body injuries the Georgia product has sustained entering his third season. If healthy, he could be a decent FLEX in non-PPR leagues as he’s shown he can play, being the Patriots’ lead rusher over the last two seasons. But I’d imagine the Pats try to utilize Damien Harris more in his sophomore campaign, hurting Michel’s upside, especially if Michel starts the season on the PUP list. He’s more of a flier than someone who was a target on many people’s draft boards the last two years.
James White: White won’t do much on the ground, but his ability as a pass catcher can’t be denied. Cam Newton had success in Carolina with Christian McCaffrey catching passes out of the backfield, so it’s possible he replicates that with White. The Wisconsin product finished as the RB18 last year, and I don’t see him repeating that production but he should still be involved enough in the offense to deliver FLEX-level numbers.
Julian Edelman: Julian Edelman has established himself as Tom Brady’s most trusted target, and he had the fourth highest target share in the NFL last season. Edelman also led the league in drops last year, and he’s entering his age-34 season. Oh, and Brady is on the Buccaneers in case you haven’t heard. The WR7 from a year ago seems destined for heavy regression in my eyes. Somewhere in the WR3 range seems likelier for him than repeating his 2019 production.
N’Keal Harry: N’Keal Harry might be one of my favorite post-hype sleepers coming into 2020. After missing the first nine games last year, he didn’t do much when he finally got back on the field either. But now that he’s fully healthy he could be ready to breakout. We’ve seen Cam succeed with big-framed pass-catchers like Harry in the past, with players like Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen.
New York Jets
Sam Darnold: I want Darnold to breakout, I really do. He has all the talent in the world but the Jets still have a lacking offensive line despite the draft selection of Mekhi Becton and they’re also bereft of weapons for the third year quarterback. Having Adam Gase as a head coach doesn’t help either. If Darnold was in nearly any other situation in the NFL he’d be better poised to succeed, but I still don’t see him breaking out just yet. Maybe next year if New York gets rid of Gase after 2020. Dynasty owners should not give up yet.
Le’Veon Bell: Last season was an utter disappointment for Bell. He had career lows across the board in yards, touchdowns and YPC for seasons that he’s played at least seven games in. His 66 receptions helped him finish as the RB16 last year, although it felt worse than that. I think Bell could be in for a similar fantasy finish in 2020, as the Jets will likely be chasing points and therefore forgoing the ground game. The only saving grace for him is that his ADP is through the floor, as he’s being drafted as the RB20. If that holds steady he could actually be a decent value but his ceiling isn’t nearly as high anymore.
Jamison Crowder: Anyone who drafts Jamison Crowder this season is getting a STEAL. Crowder’s current ADP is WR56. Let that sink in. For a guy who finished as the WR26 last year. I think WR26 is about his ceiling, but even still, that’s a tremendous value for someone going in one of the last rounds.
Chris Herndon: Herndon could be a sneaky tight end sleeper this year. It seems like many people have forgotten how productive he was as a rookie, going for over 500 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He had an injury-plagued 2019 and that’s why his ADP is TE23. He’s more of a mid-tier TE2 for me with the potential to crack the top-12 if he plays his cards right.