With the preseason kicking off Thursday night, fantasy football is just around the corner. Be sure to check back frequently for up-to-date fantasy football rankings. Keep those rankings in mind as we take a look at each division’s players on the rise, on the decline and ones to watch for all 32 teams. Here’s a look at the AFC North.
Antonio Brown, WR—It seems nearly impossible that Brown could be held in any higher regard, but it’s happening in early drafts. In half-point PPR leagues, he’s getting drafted fifth overall, ahead of the likes of Alvin Kamara, Melvin Gordon and Saquon Barkley. The next best wide receiver getting taken is DeAndre Hopkins at No. 9. Brown is a can’t-miss player and, despite not being a running back, you can draft him as early as you like.
Vance McDonald, TE—When you have a potent offense with a lot of weapons it can be tempting to try to cash in on some of the wealth that’s spread around. McDonald has the talent to be a solid fantasy contributor but his injury history doesn’t instill confidence. He just left practice with a foot injury on Sunday so it could be another year of nagging issues. On the bright side, he’s pretty much free in drafts and offers upside.
One to watch
James Washington, WR—The rookie was extremely impressive in college, but with Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster in town it’s hard to picture Washington having a positive weekly impact. He’s currently going in the 14th round in most drafts, but I expect that to move up once more leagues start drafting. It’ll be interesting to see where he ends up at the end of the season, but be sure you have your starting WRs all set before entertaining drafting him.
Alex Collins, RB—Collins is getting drafted early in the fourth round in fantasy drafts and will be the lead rusher for the Ravens. He rushed for 973 yards last year, playing in 15 games, starting 12 of them. He rushed for six touchdowns, all of them coming in the second half of the season.
Joe Flacco, QB—Flacco has thrown a touchdown on 3.8 percent of his passes for his career. He’s been below 3.8 percent in each of the last three seasons. Last year he tossed just 18 TDs to 13 interceptions, averaging only 196.3 yards per game. It was his worst per game average since his rookie season when he averaged 185.7 yards.
One to watch
Lamar Jackson, QB—It definitely sounds like Jackson will get on the field even if he isn’t named the starting quarterback. His talent is too much to keep on the bench. I’ve got a feeling he’ll take over full time sooner rather than later, especially if Flacco continues to struggle. Flacco’s contract be damned.
Joe Mixon, RB—I call him the leader of the post hype crowd. He was supposed to be great right out of college, but people were reminded that he was drafted by Cincinnati, a team with a terrible line and a coach who doesn’t play rookies early. That said, he came on late and is set to be at least an RB2 in my opinion.
A.J. Green, WR—Don’t get me wrong. Green will still be a WR1 and should have a good season, but he’s getting drafted after Michael Thomas, Keenan Allen and Davante Adams. Those are three players he was clearly ahead of before last season’s fantasy drafts. The Bengals’ poor season in ’17 and Andy Dalton still in Cincy has Green slipping a bit.
One to watch
John Ross, WR—Ross is a player who could end up surprising fantasy owners. He played in just three games in his rookie season and scored negative fantasy points due to a fumble on his only touch of the season. After running a 4.22 in the 40 at the NFL combine last season, expectations were high. Injuries stunted his first year, but he’s healthy now and making plays at camp. He’ll be virtually free in drafts, so selecting him late could pay off.
David Njoku, TE—Tyrod Taylor will start the season with No. 1 draft pick Baker Mayfield on the bench. Taylor has a history of connecting well with the tight end position and could help Njoku’s value. The second-year player is currently being taken as the No. 13 tight end.
Josh Gordon, WR—Hopefully this changes soon, but it doesn’t look good when Gordon doesn’t start training camp with his team. We don’t know when he’ll return, but it’s not apparent that he’s facing any league discipline. Gordon is currently getting drafted ahead of Jarvis Landry, who may end up with more fantasy points by the season’s end.
One(s) to watch
Running backs—It’s tough to say which of the backs expected to get playing time will come out on top. Carlos Hyde is being drafted highest, in the seventh round. Duke Johnson is being taken in the ninth while rookie Nick Chubb is right behind Johnson. It’s the kind of backfield I tend to avoid, but if things settle as the season progresses, one could be useful off the waiver wire.