My goodness: The times, they are a-changin’!
The Buffalo Bills took down the AFC East, the Miami Dolphins were in serious contention for a playoff spot, the now GOAT-less New England Patriots were utterly boring and average, and the New York Jets well, uh, okay, the Jets were awful. Some things aren’t changing much, I guess.
Regardless, the changing of the guard in the AFC East is leading to some exciting times and I, for one, will be a Bills fan this playoff (unless they meet the Cleveland Browns, of course).
Beyond that, the new AFC East landscape is providing dynasty gamers with intriguing situations worthy of exploration. The playoffs will continue to shed light on these depth charts, and we are also looking forward to the 2021 draft in anticipation of how that will shake things up.
And so naturally, I am here to unpack things for you with the aim of tackling the entire NFL division-by-division, starting with the aforementioned AFC East, and giving you dynasty-based analysis of each team by position group.
As a quick note: I’ll be focusing primarily on interesting or ambiguous situations. You don’t need me to tell you that Patrick Mahomes is a Gridiron God. You also don’t need me to tell you that Jordan Howard is burnt toast. So, please, don’t feel cheated when I skim over certain players.
With that out of the way, let’s buckle in.
Good for you, Buffalo!
As a Cleveland fan, I feel like we are cousins in misery. But hey, things are looking up for the both of us!
One of my favorite NFL truths is that the Bills are the most stable franchise in the AFC East. From a fantasy standpoint, this passing game especially is becoming one of the most fun and prolific.
There is a new sheriff in town, and his name is Josh Allen.
I was dead wrong about him, I’ll admit it. And truthfully, that will happen with outliers. I mean, just look at this progression. It’s unreal.
So as one who missed out on him, all I can do is sit back and enjoy the show.
For as good as Allen is, the running back situation is about as bad.
Devin Singletary and Zack Moss are prototypical cardboard cutout running backs. Singletary is the satellite and Moss is the grinder — and frustratingly enough for dynasty gamers, they just cannibalize each other.
Now, to be fair, they’re doing as much as they can with the athletic skills they possess. Neither are great athletes, so we must certainly applaud the fact that both are able to create yards for themselves.
Singletary has mustered 1.67 Yards Created Per Touch (No. 11) and Moss has been slightly better with 1.71 Yards Created Per Touch (No. 7). However, neither appear to be bell-cow material, and that likely means that barring an injury to the other, they will continue to eat into the other’s workload. We can’t even turn to draft capital for help since both carry 3rd round pedigree.
Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that Buffalo will invest heavily at the position given that they’ve sunk two 3rd round picks into the backfield over the past two drafts and Allen is a prolific Red Zone threat with 8 scores on the ground himself (No. 3).
Additionally, as we alluded to earlier, the Bills like to air it out.
Despite having a +5.06 Game Script (No.2), they were still top-half in the league in Pass Rate with 60.25-percent, a significant jump from last year’s 54.96-percent. With Allen becoming a star, the Bills want to keep throwing to bury teams — and it’s working.
We can safely move on and get what we can with both Moss and Singletary. There just isn’t much to get excited about here.
Stefon Diggs is amazing and you can read all about how I missed on him and others here.
John Brown has been solid when he’s played, but I’m not in love with a field-stretcher on the wrong side of 30.
Cole Beasley was great this year and I traded for him where I could during the season. I think he will regress next year but will still be serviceable.
I’m not here to talk about those guys, though. I’m here for Gabriel Davis!
Yes, that player that you could grab in the 4th round of rookie drafts this year. He’s rising up dynasty rankings for good reason.
Coming out of Central Florida, Davis went under-the-radar. In such a deep class, it’s understandable, but a second look at his profile and we should be questioning why so many let him fall.
While Davis isn’t a burner, he’s a solid-enough-athlete for how the Bills are using him. He came in with a 103.1 Speed Score (77th) which helped make sense of his gaudy 17.2 College YPR (81st). Add in an excellent 29.1-percent Target Share (81st) and 19.4 Breakout Age (80th) and we have a nice profile. He was, on paper at least, the one to take the baton from John Brown in the field-stretcher role.
However, few, if any, anticipated the rookie production that Davis laid down. As Brown struggled with injuries, Davis soared and Allen kept finding him downfield. Davis notched top-10 marks in both Average Target Distance (15.4) and YPR (17.1); he coolly and calmly transferred his game from the Golden Knights to the pros.
Not too bad for a 4th round pick!
His efficiency should give us confidence that next year he will be ready to step into a more permanent role. We see that with a +15.8 Production Premium (No. 15) and 2.07 Target Separation. He keeps performing highly and getting open.
What’s not to like? Scoop him up before it’s too late!
Overall, the receiver room looks solid, and while I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Bills land another pass-catcher, I’m not counting on it.
The Bills were wide receiver-dominant this season, but that might change moving into next season. With a great tight end class incoming, a new face would definitely have an opportunity to shine. And yet, I’m not counting out Dawson Knox.
Knox flashed a little as rookie, thanks to elite athleticism.
Oh, and did you know he played college ball with A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf? You may have heard about that a time or two prior.
As a result, Knox was an interesting add in 2020. Entering into his second season, the hope was that he could command more than his 11.2-percent Target Share (No. 30) as a rookie. Unfortunately, for those of us who acquired him, he battled a concussion and a calf strain, effectively squashing half of the season.
And yet, injuries heal and Knox slowly became acclimated to the offense. Week-by-week he carved out more of a role and even reeled in 3 scores from Week 12 onward. Perhaps most encouraging was how Knox was able to get open. His 2.26 Target Separation (No. 2) gives us hope that he can translate that elite athleticism into fantasy production.
Knox is anything but a sure bet, however, he is certainly worth acquiring in anticipation of a third-year breakout with this offense on the rise.
Recap: Sell Moss and Singletary; buy Davis and Knox.
After surviving the Adam Gase years (somehow they made the playoffs in 2016), the Brian Flores-era began in 2019 with little-to-no expectations. It was a bad team, and yet, the Ryan Fitzpatrick-led Dolphins eked out five wins much to the dismay of those in favor of a good ole fashioned tank job. What an impressive turnaround for the Dolphins to win 10 games this season.
While they’re surely despondent after the Week 17 drubbing at the hands of the Bills, the ‘Fins have a bright future with a nice environment for fantasy points. Additionally, they’re holding a slew of high-value picks thanks to the man, the myth, the legend: Bill O’Brien.
What’s there to say? “Fitzmagic” is the man.
Oh wait, Miami took Tua Tagovailoa at the 1.05 didn’t they?
Okay, well, we should talk about him, then.
Since Week 8, Tagovailoa has played a majority of the time. Flores clearly had a tough balancing act as he wanted to give the rookie signal-caller much needed experience while pursuing a wildcard berth. Tagovailoa’s rookie struggles led to the occasional Fitzmagic sighting but by and large, Tagovailoa was the guy in Miami, giving us plenty to analyze.
While Tagovailoa was prolific at Alabama, the one thing that had people buzzing pre-draft was his hip; a brutal injury made him a tough evaluation. The talent was there, but there were legitimate questions about how his body would hold up at the NFL-level. Regardless, Miami saw a future star selecting him ahead of Justin Herbert, although it was unclear if he would see meaningful snaps this season.
That context is important while looking at his numbers, because they weren’t that great to be honest. While the talent around him was lacking this year with a Supporting Cast Efficiency of -7.17 (No. 26), it’s hard to ignore his own underwhelming efficiency. He struggled to get the ball downfield with a paltry 6.3 YPA (No. 30) and his -7.70 EPA (No. 61) made it understandable that Flores turned back to Fitzpatrick on occasion.
And yet, there were a few bright spots:
While Tagovailoa’s 71.8 True Completion Percentage (No. 26) looks putrid, it seems it was more about his receivers than it was about him. He finished with an 80.3-percent Catchable Target Rate (No. 3) and a 7.9 Accuracy Rating (No. 2) showing off his ability to place the ball even as his receivers failed to reel it in or do anything with the ball once they did manage to catch it as seen in a horrendous 3.05 Receiver YAC Per Target (No. 63).
I’d be shocked if the Dolphins grab another passer at the top of the ’21 NFL Draft, so Tagovailoa should be safe. With another year under his belt, we should see a nice leap forward in 2021.
Heading into the season, it looked like the Miami backfield would be split between Jordan Howard (see ya!) and Matt Brieda (who was barely seen on the field).
But emerging from the mire was none other than Myles Gaskin.
The 2019 seventh-round pick from Washington broke out all over the place as a freshman and ended up with an illustrious collegiate career. And yet, he didn’t profile as a workhorse, and that was certainly confirmed when he slipped to the final round. As a mediocre athlete who stands 5-9, 205, he looked like a satellite back, even though he carried an underwhelming 6.9-percent College Target Share (44th).
However, Gaskin made the most of his opportunity this year.
He showed off exceptional pass catching ability. He’s sitting at 9.5 YPR (No. 1) with a 13.4-percent Target Share (No. 8). The Dolphins have rewarded him with a 67.5-percent Opportunity Share (No. 10). He is among the likes of Mike Davis and James Robinson as waiver wire adds who greatly helped dynasty rosters this year.
The knock on Gaskin is that he hasn’t set the world on fire running the ball. His 4.0 True Yards Per Carry (No. 49) hasn’t been helped by a 67.8 Run Blocking Efficiency (No. 60). We can’t pin all of his inefficiency on the line though. His lack of top end speed resulted in a pitiful 2.1-percent Breakaway Run Rate and he’s only created 1.22 Yards Per Touch (No. 31).
While Gaskin has been solid, it’s hard to see him as a long-term option. We could easily see the Dolphins acquire a better player in the offseason and it’s likely best to get what you can for Gaskin before the bottom inevitably drops out.
There isn’t much to worry about with Mike Gesicki: The Dolphins invested a second-round pick on this elite athlete and have peppered him with 16 Deep Targets (No. 3) this year, utilizing that top-end speed. He should continue to produce, especially as he gains rapport with young Tagovailoa.
Recap: Buy Tagovailoa if you’re able (or hold him if you’ve got him); sell Gaskin and pray that a stud receiver lands in Miami.
New England Patriots
Tom Brady, the aforementioned GOAT, leaves and the Patriots become unexceptional.
It wasn’t long ago that we were drafting Sony Michel and N’Keal Harry because they landed in New England.
For fantasy purposes, this is a mess with many question marks heading into the 2021 season.
It is becoming more and more apparent that Cam Newton will move on from New England.
While he hasn’t thrown the ball well with his 77.3 True Passer Rating (No. 30), he is still a dominant Red Zone rushing threat. He leads the league with 42 Red Zone Carries and 12 rushing scores. I would pay close attention to how things shake out for Newton, as he can still be a useful super-flex option if he lands in a better spot and is given a chance to start.
Beyond Newton, we know Jarrett Stidham is just a guy. The hope is that New England lands an interesting rookie like Mac Jones or that decent free agent finds their home in Foxboro.
The aforementioned Michel is absolutely toast. Remember when he was taken before Nick Chubb? Good times.
It’s certainly possible that New England adds a runner in the offseason, but they also may just be content to roll it back as they have plenty of other areas to address. That leaves two incumbents: James White the satellite back, and Damien Harris the grinder.
White has been locked into the pass-catching role since his sophomore season and has the well-earned reputation as an elite receiving option at the position. He is a UFA in 2021, so it’s certainly worth monitoring the situation.
If White departs, Harris becomes far more interesting.
As a grinder, Harris has performed well this season in 10 games played. He has particularly succeeded in making people miss. His 28.2-percent Juke Rate (No. 8) and 1.70 Yards Created Per Touch (No. 9) gives us hope that he can continue to command a majority of the rushes, further erasing the memory of Michel. Perhaps the most impressive number is his 7.4 Average Defenders in the Box (No. 1). Truly, it’s insane to think that Harris has been able to muster 4.8 True Yards Per Carry (No. 6) despite defenses knowing that New England was going to run over and over again.
However, to truly take the next step forward, we need Harris to start catching the ball. He only managed 5 catches this season and will need White to depart to likely improve noticeably. We also need to see New England with a quarterback who pushes the ball downfield, keeping the defense honest so Harris can run more freely.
Overall, Harris is an interesting acquisition and if the overall environment in Foxboro improves, he could be in line for a nice breakout, validating those of us who scooped him up in the second and third rounds of rookie drafts last year.
This passing game was an absolute joke in 2020.
It is sad, but Julian Edelman is a roster-clogger.
Damiere Byrd isn’t anything special.
Jakobi Meyers is interesting.
But alas, we must talk about [N’Keal] Harry.
Now, I didn’t actually end up with any Harry in 2019 since the first round is the round to hammer running backs by and large.
I’ll be honest though: I really liked him coming out of Arizona State. He absolutely crushed his competitors with a 43.9-percent College Dominator (88th) and possessed an elite 18.7 Breakout Age (95th). Throw in solid athleticism, including a 109.8 Speed Score (90th), and first round draft capital, and he felt like a great bet. I understand why he was going so high in rookie drafts.
And yet, his rookie season was essentially lost because of a toe sprain and hip contusion. His seven games played were mostly forgettable.
And then this season has been equally disappointing as injuries have hampered him (shoulder sprain, ankle sprain, concussion) as has the overall New England passing environment. Though he fought through and played in 13 games, he doesn’t have much production to show for it. We can’t even look at efficiency for encouragement. Harry is basically the owner and operator of the struggle bus. The one thing to hang his hat on is a solid 71.4-percent Contested Catch Rate (No. 7).
If you have Harry at point, you gotta hold and pray for health and a competent passer in 2021. Harry certainly hasn’t been given any favors with Newton on the controls this year, and I just don’t think you can get much in return after two lost seasons.
However, if you don’t have him, and you believe in that college profile, throw a low-ball offer and see what happens. A third-year breakout could certainly happen as it did with someone like Tyler Boyd. Assuming the Patriots pass on an elite receiver in the draft, Harry could finally emerge and start producing.
This would be a fantastic spot for a tight end in one of the deepest rookie classes in memory. If that Patriots invest early, grab that guy.
However, the Patriots may already have their future starter on the roster. If you’re looking for a dart throw, they have two options in Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene. You can read more of my thoughts on them here.
Recap: The buy-low window for Harris and Harry is wide open; throw some darts at Asiasi and Keene, too.
New York Jets
The Adam Gase-era in New York is over!
Seriously, how does this guy swindle teams into hiring him (shout-out Peyton Manning, I guess).
The Jets were a dumpster fire this year, but it can’t get much worse, right? Things will certainly be better in 2021, right? Right?
Poor, poor Sam Darnold: Life with Gase has been just awful.
It seems like ages ago when Darnold was flashing as a rookie in the second-half of the season. There was much hope, but the past two seasons have been soul-crushing with Darnold seeing ghosts.
And really, coaching aside, there isn’t much positive about his play: He continues to be a perilous passer with 36 Danger Plays (No. 6) and 29 Interceptable Passes (No. 4) despite only playing in 12 games this year. Accuracy has always been a struggle too. His 67.0 True Completion Percentage (No. 35) and 69.0-percent Catchable Pass Rate (No. 43) have owners terrified that he won’t figure it out.
What we have to bank on is that he gets better protection since his 77.5 Clean Pocket Completion Percentage (No. 6) is excellent and that he makes better decisions. He is still young (will be 24-yeard old at the start of the ’21 season) and has toiled in one of the worst environments in all of football.
The biggest question is whether or not Darnold will be in New York. Sitting at the 1.02, the Jets are in a great position to take Justin Fields and Darnold could be moved quickly. If the Jets decide to give Darnold one more shot, then we gotta hope that they build a better offense around him.
Either way, Darnold is a risky hold. His value could plumett quickly. If you do hold or buy low, you’re banking on improved play and a chance to start, neither of which are a lock.
I could either talk to you about the possibility of someone like Ty Johnson or LaMical Perine taking over the job next year, a rookie or free agent coming in and taking the job, or post Frank Gore’s career stats so we can collectively marvel at the running back who could not be killed.
Here’s my choice…
I’ve had fun playing Breshad Perriman in DFS tournaments this year but he’s not a long-term option.
Jamison Crowder has made me proud as a Duke Alum (Side note: My time at school coincided with his, and he alone made it worth it to go to Duke games). He should continue to be a solid depth piece on dynasty rosters.
However, the most interesting member of this receiving corps is Denzel Mims.
Despite missing the preseason and the first six games of the season, Mims hit the ground running, providing an encouraging stretch of games from Week 7 to 12. With his good size and elite athleticism, he seemingly became the WR1 in New York — or at least that is how opposing corners treated him.
Unfortunately for Mims, the Jets were a mess cycling between Darnold when he was healthy and Joe Flacco. This, with his injury, understandably led to a disappointing season when compared to others in this impressive class. And while there aren’t many encouraging efficiency numbers, we can be happy with his aDOT of 14.1 (No. 12) and 15.5 YPR (No. 17).
The Jets want to get him the ball downfield where he can leverage his incredible athletic profile to make plays. Where this game plan failed was accuracy. Darnold and Flacco gave Mims a Target Quality Rating of 3.9 (No. 104 — triple digits, gross) and a 57.8-percent Catchable Target Rate (No. 107).
No wonder Mims struggled to produce!
Mims is an obvious buy. He came into Week 7 ready to play and when the ball was on target, Mims was solid. We can expect him to thrive with a competent offense and a semi-accurate passer. Don’t miss this value dip.
Hey, Chris Herndon had a nice two game-stretch to end to season reminding us of his rookie season breakout! But honestly, unless it’s tight end premium formatting/scoring, I have no interest.
Maybe the Jets will come away with a more dynamic play-maker in the draft?
Recap: Hold Darnold at your own risk (it’s safer to sell if you can get something); buy Mims — and oh, appreciate Frank Gore!