Knowledge is power and the greatest asset you can acquire in order to compete for a fantasy football championship. Here's your 2018 preview of the AFC North, the first of eight division profiles leading to draft season.
2018 Fantasy MVP: Alex Collins, RB
If head coach John Harbaugh wants to keep his job, he'll commit to Collins as his workhorse. How many times can you go back to the Kenneth Dixon, Danny Woodhead or Buck Allen well before you realize it's dry? Collins produced 606 total yards and six rushing touchdowns the final seven games last season. His current average draft position (ADP) is a fourth rounder (38th overall). He could significantly outperform this if Harbaugh gives him the opportunity.
2018 Fantasy Rookie of the Year: Hayden Hurst, TE
Tight ends have been prominent in the Ravens offense, but they haven't had one as talented as Hurst in a while. He's worth a late-round flier and could pay dividends if you play the match-ups correctly.
2018 Fantasy Sleeper: Michael Crabtree, WR
The Ravens pass offense was an embarrassment last season. Crabtree is a significant upgrade and won't face too much competition for targets from Willie Snead and John Brown, both injury-prone playmakers.
2018 Fantasy Bust: Joe Flacco, QB
Outgoing GM Ozzie Newsome has certainly upgraded Flacco's weapons, but there's also a reason he drafted Lamar Jackson. The gunslinger has never achieved his full potential from a fantasy perspective, and will likely be waiver-wire fodder this season. Don't waste your time.
2018 Fantasy MVP: A.J. Green, WR
If healthy, Green is a top-10 fantasy receiver with upside, but he has never reached 100 receptions, 1,500 yards or 12 touchdowns so many will downgrade his achievements. His numbers are consistently elite — he earned his seventh straight Pro Bowl nod in a supposed down season last year — but hardly ever eye-popping. Because of fantasy owners discounting the Bengals for various reasons, you will likely land Green at the end of the second round or even beginning of the third. A true steal.
2018 Fantasy Rookie of the Year: Mark Walton, RB
The fourth-rounder out of Miami has a similar skillset to Gio Bernard, which means if he surpasses Bernard on the depth chart, he'll have value in most PPR leagues.
2018 Fantasy Sleeper: Joe Mixon, RB
The Bengals significantly upgraded a horrendous offensive line with the additions of Corey Glenn and Billy Price. Mixon will be the "bell-cow" in this offense. His only competition is an aging veteran in Bernard and an inexperienced rookie in Walton. You'll draft him in the third round or lower, but you can expect first round production.
2018 Fantasy Bust: Tyler Eifert, TE
Eifert is an extremely talented receiver and a threat to score every game he's healthy, which is rare. He has appeared in only 24 of the past 64 games over the last four seasons because of various injuries, including multiple back injuries. Never bet on a bad back.
2018 Fantasy MVP: Carlos Hyde, RB
Hyde is capable of holding off rookie Nick Chubb for at least a season. Consider Chubb has a long ways to go in pass protection and isn't a weapon receiving out of the backfield. For the first time in a while, there are a lot of potential mouths to feed in Cleveland, but Hyde will provide top 15 production with upside if he stays healthy.
2018 Fantasy Rookie of the Year: Antonio Callaway, WR
Can I interest you in a speedy return guy who is a home run hitter at receiver. He was probably the best athlete in his draft class, but fell into the middle rounds because of legal issues and a suspension from his college team (and some issues he's dealt with in preseason). Sounds a lot like the dynamic Tyreek Hill, doesn't it? Well, Hill was drafted by the same general manager in Kansas City, that drafted Callaway in Cleveland (John Dorsey). Callaway features better size, which should allow him to hold up better. He'll also likely be a waiver-wire gem so the investment won't be prohibitive.
2018 Fantasy Sleeper: Tyrod Taylor, QB
Baker Mayfield's presence will likely keep Taylor's ADP very low. In fact, Taylor will likely go un-drafted in most leagues. Same 'ol situation. Taylor has always managed to be a sufficient fantasy asset and has never had weapons like this. Fantasy owners always underrate him as a passer and seem to negate his value as a runner. Target him as a QB2 with streaming possibility and upside.
2018 Fantasy Bust: Jarvis Landry, WR
Since 2016, Taylor had a pretty solid track record of throwing to his outside receivers with Buffalo, attempting less than 20 percent of his passes to slot targets. Complicating this even further is the redundancies he shares with Duke Johnson. Landry will still have value in most PPR leagues, but his days of 100 receptions are over and I don't anticipate him matching or surpassing his nine touchdown receptions from a year ago.
2018 Fantasy MVP: Antonio Brown, WR
You can't top Brown if you're searching for the safest pick in the first round. He has produced top three numbers at his position each of the past four seasons, and he's even more valuable in PPR leagues. I'd consider him a bargain anywhere outside the top four picks.
2018 Fantasy Rookie of the Year: James Washington, WR
The 2017 Biletnikoff Award winner (top wide receiver) is expected to start right away in three-receiver sets. The Steelers ran 731 snaps using a three-wide formation (the second-highest in the NFL last season). He'll compete with some serious talent for targets, but he should have the opportunity to produce, which will make him a legit late-round flier in most drafts.
2018 Fantasy Sleeper: Vance McDonald, TE
I expect McDonald's role to grow in a traditionally tight end friendly offense. He struggled early after being traded from the Niners last season, but rallied late, having his best game against the Jaguars in the playoffs (10 receptions for 112 yards in a 45-42 loss). Ben Roethlisberger has made less talented tight ends fantasy relevant. I expect McDonald to be a late-round gem.
2018 Fantasy Bust: Le'Veon Bell, RB
There are three things that concern me about taking Bell with the top overall pick. First, he's coming off a 407-touch season that also saw his yards per carry fall almost an entire yard (from 4.9 to 4.0). Second, he's far more injury-prone than the other potential top overall picks. In five seasons, he's played in a full 16 games only once. Finally, while his touches, total yards and contribution in the passing game have made him an elite running back, he's topped double-digit touchdowns twice, reaching 11 twice. By comparison, Todd Gurley, David Johnson and Ezekiel Elliott all have seasons with at least 16 total touchdowns on their resumes.
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