Changing Scenery: AFC Edition (2019 Fantasy Football)
Odell Beckham Jr. made the biggest splash this offseason while doing a cannonball (one-handed, of course) into Lake Erie as a new member of the Cleveland Browns. However, there are plenty of other fantasy-relevant players who also made a move either to or within the AFC.
Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown will no longer don the Steelers’ black and gold. Andrew Luck has a new weapon in Indianapolis. A pair of veteran quarterbacks are trying to build a new home, while an injury-plagued receiver is eyeing a playoff push.
Who are the winners and losers of these offseason transactions in the AFC? The answers have been conveniently placed on your screen just below this text. Enjoy!
Nick Foles (QB – JAX) via Philadelphia
There’s good news and bad news here. Let’s start with the good news: Foles will be the starting quarterback for Jacksonville. He signed a four-year, $88 million deal with the Jaguars after padding his resume as Philadelphia’s savior in 2017-2018 … Now for the bad news: Foles will see an abundance of passing attempts, but there’s definitely a quality/quantity conundrum attached. That’s basically a longwinded way of saying Jacksonville doesn’t have pass catchers to help him out. The Jaguars will likely enact another run-heavy approach, so Foles enters the 2019 campaign as a QB2 or waiver streaming option depending on roster configuration of your fantasy league.
Joe Flacco (QB – DEN) via Baltimore
Seeing Flacco wearing anything but the purple, black, and white armor of the Baltimore Ravens will take some getting used to. He’s in position to start for the Denver Broncos, although we’ll need to monitor a challenge from rookie QB Drew Lock heading into the season. Make no mistake about it, this is Flacco’s job to lose, which puts him in a similar fantasy conversation as the aforementioned Foles. He’s another QB2 option who may be worthy of a bye week stream in standard leagues, but at least Flacco has some interesting young weapons (Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant, DaeSean Hamilton) to feed occasional upside.
Le’Veon Bell (RB – NYJ) via Pittsburgh
Unlike the previously mentioned quarterbacks, Bell is a bonafide fantasy starter through every conceivable league. Having said that, we should temper expectations when comparing him to the all-purpose monster we have grown accustomed to in Pittsburgh. The Jets’ offense is trying to find an identity, and they aren’t nearly as polished as the teams Bell has previously played for. Sure, the overall touches will be there, but you could also leave plenty on the table by grabbing Bell in the first round of standard leagues.
Odell Beckham Jr. (WR – CLE) via New York Giants
It is very easy to get excited about Beckham’s move to Cleveland. Teaming up with Baker Mayfield has captured the imagination of football fans around the country. Could this be the next great QB/WR combination? Yes, but that’s an absolute best-case scenario. What’s a realistic baseline for Beckham’s first year with the Browns? Let me start by saying that he’s a legitimate first-round pick (or early second) in standard fantasy drafts. In other words, not much has changed from the beginning of last season. However, his range of outcomes has gotten wider. There’s more upside while trading Eli Manning for Mayfield, but you never really know how a change in scenery will unfold. I am personally bullish on Beckham, as he should see a ton of volume in a well-balanced offense that will continuously put him in optimal situations.
Antonio Brown (WR – OAK) via Pittsburgh
The previous write-up mentioned how the range of fantasy outcomes has widened with Beckham moving to Cleveland. That statement pales in comparison to Antonio Brown’s landing spot in Oakland. Talk about off-the-field issues all you want, Brown and Ben Roethlisberger developed clear chemistry that helped “AB” break into the elite tier of wide receivers. Will Derek Carr help keep him there in Oakland? The Raiders’ QB has looked good with high-end receivers like Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper (at times) in the past, and Brown will certainly see as many targets as he can handle. That alone makes him worth a look in the second round of standard drafts.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the QB development in Miami. Josh Rosen (QB – MIA) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB – MIA) both landed in South Beach via Arizona and Tampa Bay respectively. Rosen obviously contends as the franchise cornerstone moving forward, but Fitzpatrick is still in contention for the starting job. You’ll want to keep an eye on how this shakes out as we move closer to the season.
Now this one is interesting. Devin Funchess (WR – IND) doesn’t nearly carry the same pedigree as Beckham or Brown, but fantasy enthusiasts should definitely take note of his move from Carolina to Indianapolis, where a more accurate quarterback will be throwing his way. Funchess is a large possession receiver who perfectly supplements the speed of T.Y. Hilton. The 6’4″ pass-catcher represents another strong red-zone target for Andrew Luck.
We aren’t really sure how Mark Ingram (RB – BAL) will perform outside of the Saints’ impressive rushing attack. However, seeing volume in Baltimore’s run-heavy offense should help his fantasy numbers along the way. Ingram is essentially a better version of Gus Edwards, who served as Baltimore’s primary running back down the stretch in 2018. Sure, Ingram will probably lose rushing touchdowns to Lamar Jackson, but this seems like a good fit for the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner. Ingram will contend with Kenneth Dixon and rookie Justice Hill along with Edwards in the backfield, but the Ravens didn’t sign Ingram to observe from the sidelines.
I’m not sure how much fantasy significance will come from it, but Demaryius Thomas (WR – NE) signed with the Patriots. As long as he stays healthy, Thomas could have a significant role for a New England team looking for any pass catcher to emerge outside of Julian Edelman. This wouldn’t be the first time Tom Brady helped a veteran receiver find fantasy relevance.