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Blog Entry

AFC North Fantasy Outlook

Posted on: August 28, 2011 8:38 pm
 
Baltimore Ravens

Joe Flacco has shown improvement in each of his first three seasons with the Ravens and heads into 2011 as a top 12 fantasy quarterback. The durable Flacco hasn't missed a start in 48 straight and should throw for 25+ touchdowns especially after the acquisition of Lee Evans. Flacco and Evans have shown a determination to connect so far in the preseason and Evans could really have a solid year. With a year in Baltimore under his belt, Anquan Boldin will improve on his team leading 64 catches for 837 yards and 7 touchdowns and should eclipse the 1,000 yard mark. The team is stacked with young receivers in David Reed, Tandon Doss and Torrey Smith and who ever snags the three spot will have value in deeper leagues. The last two seasons Ray Rice has been quite impressive especially in PPR leagues where he has collected a two year totals of 141 receptions for 1,258 yards. Couple that with two 1,200+ yard rushing seasons and Rice is a solid top 5 pick. Ricky Williams replaces the departed Willis McGahee and should see spot duty to spell Rice. He should be handcuffed and drafted in leagues that carry 5-6 backs but has limited upside at this point in his career. With the loss of Todd Heap in free agency there is a huge hole at the tight end spot. Ed Dickson is penciled in as the starter but lacks experience heading into his second year with only 11 catches for 152 yards and a score. Dickson should go undrafted in standard leagues and added to the scout team as a possible pickup. Dennis Pitta is the back up and has little value.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals enter 2011 in yet another transition year. Carson Palmer would rather retire then play for the Bengals and his request to be traded has largely been denied. The face of the franchise and starter for 7 years has been put in the past with the drafting of Andy Dalton. He has looked sharp for a rookie and he will have his moments but he should only be used as a bye week replacement with room to grow as the season progresses. Also gone from Cincy is Chad Ochocinco, who is replaced by another rookie in A.J. Green. Green has the tools to become a top 10 fantasy receiver once seasoned and he will be exciting to watch in his rookie year. If the last two games for Jerome Simpson last season are any indication of what's to come then he could be a real sleeper. Simpson totaled 18 catches for 247 yards and 3 touchdowns against San Diego & Baltimore. Slot receiver Jordan Shipley has shown some fantasy spark but should only be drafted in deep leagues. Jermaine Gresham is an up and coming tight end and should improve on his quiet rookie year. Cedric Benson was resigned and he will be used a lot to take some of the pressure off Dalton. A third 1,000+ yard season is a given baring injury. I expected to see a lot more from back up Bernard Scott a season ago but he just wasn't used much. Entering his third season, Scott should see an increase in snaps but is only worth a flyer in deep leagues.

Cleveland Browns

Entering his second season, Colt McCoy looks to grow from his eight starts as a rookie.  He will have the benefit of a solid offensive line and a sound running game. He should be drafted as a number 2 quarterback. Peyton Hillis was a surprise fantasy stud a season ago and he will continue to be fed the rock and has proven to be a reliable target out of the backfield catching 61 passes for 477 yards. He is a solid number 2 back. Montario Hardesty was expected to be the lead back in Cleveland but his rookie year ended abruptly with a torn ACL. He will be eased into playing time during the season but it will not be enough unless Hillis suffers an injury. Brandon Jackson was signed away from Green Bay and he looks to be the third down back. Jackson led Green Bay in rushing in 2010 with 703 rushing and a dismal 3.7 yards per carry. He also now has the dreaded turf toe injury and should be ignored on draft day.  The receiver position is unsteady in Cleveland with no clear number 1 or 2 receiver. Last year's leading receiver Mohamed Massaquoi has been plagued by a foot injury and hasn't played in the preseason. He could still be the opening day starter but he has failed to impress in his first two seasons and Brian Robiskie may have overtaken him so there is not a lot to like. Robiskie has had a great camp and has shown great separation in his first two preseason games. He is still only worth a flyer in deeper leagues but he should be scouted if he does go undrafted. Heading into his 7th season Josh Cribbs has had very little production and should be left undrafted. Rookie Greg Little has been a bright spot in camp and will overtake Cribbs to be the week 1 starter. He has the potential to be some what useful but only in deep leagues with 5 or more receivers. Tight end Ben Watson was the team leader in receptions (68) and yards (763) one year ago and should be a quality number 2tight end again this season. The browns want to find a way to get Evan Moore more involved in the offense and will look to split him out at receiver in some situations. Moore averaged 20.1 yards per catch in limited time last season but should only be looked at in the deepest of leagues.

Pittsburgh Steelers

After sitting out a 4 game suspension a year ago Ben Roethlisberger stepped in a guided the Steelers all the way to the Super Bowl. He threw for 3,200 yards and 17 touchdowns in 12 games with only 5 picks. He is a top 12 fantasy quarterbacks and will improve without the distractions from a year ago. Rashard Mendenhall rushed for a career high 1,273 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2010. He should be drafted in the mid to late first round and will be the main truck again this season for the Steelers. Established veteran Mewelde Moore has no upside as the third receiver and should go undrafted. Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer are battling for the left over carries and whoever can win the number 2 spot would have value in this offense as a 5 or 6 back. Hines Ward returns for his 14th season but he is no longer the fantasy star he once was. He is still useful as a number 4 or 5 receiver. In only his second season Mike Wallace put up 1,257 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns. He is a big play receiver evident of his 20.9 YPC and is ranked as a top 10 fantasy receivers. Jerricho Cotchery was signed after being cut by the Jets but he is no more then a number 5 or 6 fantasy receiver with no upside. Emmanuel Sanders played the slot last season catching 28 passes for 376 yards and 2 touchdowns which was 4th on the team. Unfortunately Sanders had recent foot surgery and his start to the season is in jeopardy. This has allowed Antonio Brown to emerge ahead of Sanders heading into the season and he is a sleeper in deeper leagues and a useful return specialist as well. Heath Miller's numbers slipped down from his career year in 2009 and he should only be drafted as a number 2 tight end.

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