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Fantasy Football Bust & League Winner Candidates: AFC North (2023)

Fantasy Football Bust & League Winner Candidates: AFC North (2023)

Several factors go into building a winning best-ball team. One of those factors is identifying which players will let your team down and bust. Another is knowing which players have league-winning upside, especially in the later rounds. To help you build an elite best ball roster, I will identify the most likely bust candidate and potential league winner for every NFL team.

Today I break down the AFC North teams: the Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, and Pittsburgh Steelers.

The ADP used for this article comes from Underdog Fantasy.

Draft Wizard

Best Ball Bust & League Winner Candidates: AFC North

Potential Bust Candidates

Odell Beckham Jr. (WR – BAL): ADP 112.8 | WR54

The veteran was a fantasy star early in his career, averaging over 15 half-point PPR fantasy points per game in each of his five years with the New York Giants. However, Beckham has averaged only 9.4 fantasy points per game since leaving New York, totaling 12 receiving touchdowns on 258 targets. More importantly, the former LSU star has a massive injury history and didn’t play in 2022. Meanwhile, the Ravens have spent two first-round picks over the past three years on wide receivers and have an elite tight end on the roster. Instead of drafting Beckham, fantasy players should target a receiver with more upside, like Romeo Doubs or Nico Collins.

Irv Smith Jr. (TE – CIN): ADP 153.1 | TE17

I don’t understand the appeal with Smith. The veteran tight end has averaged 5.2 half-point PPR fantasy points per game in his career. Furthermore, he has scored over 9.5 fantasy points in only four of 37 career games (10.8%). Yes, Smith joined Joe Burrow and the Bengals offense this offseason, so what? Last year Hayden Hurst had 68 targets and was only the TE24 despite Ja’Marr Chase missing five games with an injury. The following six tight ends off the board are Gerald Everett, Taysom Hill, Sam LaPorta, Juwan Johnson, Dawson Knox, and Mike Gesicki. All six are a significantly better pick than Smith. Don’t burn a draft pick with the veteran tight end.

David Njoku (TE – CLE): ADP 106.2 | TE9

Njoku was a popular sleeper/breakout candidate last year. The former Miami star did have 58 receptions on 80 targets for 628 receiving yards and four touchdowns while averaging 8.1 half-point PPR fantasy points per game, all career highs. However, he still ended the year only as the TE9 on a points-per-game basis. More importantly, Njoku’s appeal to fantasy players last year was the lack of competition for targets. Unfortunately, that changed after the Browns added Elijah Moore and Cedric Tillman this offseason. With Amari Cooper still the No. 1 pass catcher in Cleveland’s offense, Njoku isn’t worthy of a top-10 tight end selection.

Pat Freiermuth (TE – PIT): ADP 107.5 | TE10

Last year the Steelers only had 12 passing touchdowns, the fewest in the NFL. By comparison, Patrick Mahomes had 15 passing touchdowns over the first five weeks. Yet, Freiermuth was the TE8, averaging 7.3 half-point PPR fantasy points per game. Despite finishing five spots higher than his rookie season (TE13), the former Penn State star averaged fewer fantasy points per game last year than in 2021. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh added Darnell Washington and Allen Robinson this offseason. Furthermore, Diontae Johnson won’t be held touchdown-less again in 2023. Freiermuth is a solid NFL tight end but lacks the upside to warrant an eighth-round draft pick.

Potential League Winners

Rashod Bateman (WR – BAL): ADP 89.3 | WR45

All three Baltimore wide receivers have a similar ADP, going within 24 picks of each other. However, Bateman is my favorite of the trio. Unfortunately, he played only six games last year because of a foot injury. Yet, the former Minnesota star averaged over 2.35 yards per route run in 2022. He also turned into Lamar Jackson‘s go-to deep threat with multiple receptions over 30 yards. More importantly, Bateman averaged 3.62 fantasy points per reception over the first four weeks of the year before suffering the foot injury. Zay Flowers may be the cool new kid on the block, but I’ll take the third-year star with breakout potential instead.

Chase Brown (RB – CIN): ADP 191.3 | RB59

Everyone thought Joe Mixon had played his final down with the Bengals a few months ago. However, his handcuff is a potential league winner. Brown will replace Samaje Perine as the No. 2 running back in Cincinnati. Last year the veteran averaged 18 touches and 22.8 half-point PPR fantasy points per game in the two games without Mixon. Furthermore, Brown could have some stand-alone value like the veteran did last season. Perine averaged 11.7 fantasy points per game over the final seven weeks. Mixon has missed 26.5% of the games over the past three years. If he misses significant time this season, Brown becomes a mid-RB2.

Jerome Ford (RB – CLE): ADP 161.2 | RB50

Speaking of little-known handcuffs with significant fantasy upside, Ford is taking over as the No. 2 running back in Cleveland behind Nick Chubb. D’Ernest Johnson signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars this offseason, while Kareem Hunt won’t return in 2023. Unfortunately, the second-year running back had an extremely limited role on offense as a rookie. However, the former Cincinnati Bearcat had 1,500 scrimmage yards and an 8.5% touchdown rate in his final college season. Meanwhile, Chubb has missed 14% of the games over the past three years because of injury. If he gets a chance to start for Chubb, fantasy players will get massive performances from Ford.

Jaylen Warren (RB – PIT): ADP 135.1 | RB44

After talking about two lesser-known handcuffs, let’s dive into maybe the most popular handcuff in fantasy football. Najee Harris is the lead back in Pittsburgh, but Warren will have more of a role this season. According to The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly, offensive coordinator Matt Canada won’t be able to keep Warren off the field as much as he did last year. Meanwhile, the second-year back averaged 4.9 yards per rushing attempt as a rookie, seeing 14.3% of his rushing attempt go for 10 or more yards. If Harris gets hurt or (potentially) benched, Warren could be the late-round draft pick that wins fantasy players their league.

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Mike Fanelli is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @Mike_NFL2.

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