As we approach free agency and the NFL draft, rumors will be speculated as to who ends up where. It’s important to take a look into each of the team’s needs before you submit to the powers of the rumor mill. Over the next few weeks, we will be addressing team needs focusing on skilled positions from each division. In this article, we dive into the AFC East division and break down the areas of need for each team. We will explore how they could remedy those needs either through available free agents or the NFL draft.
Offseason Fantasy Outlooks for the AFC East
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New England Patriots
The Super Bowl 53 champions are notorious for doing a lot (like winning Super Bowls) with very little. The areas in which you or I may think they have urgent needs, the Patriots may disagree. Still, they are not exempt from this list and like every other team, they too, have holes to fill in 2019.
It was clear, Tom Brady didn’t have the best weapons at WR in 2018. Super Bowl 53 MVP, Julian Edelman was the only exception but the Patriots have their fair share of issues at WR heading into the 2019 season. Edelman will be 33 years old. Josh Gordon, arguably their best outside receiver, has been suspended indefinitely by the NFL. There is no telling if or when Gordon will return or if it will be as a Patriot. Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett are expendable as they combined for 822 receiving yards and 6 TDs. Cordarrelle Patterson is a free agent and could end up looking elsewhere for a bigger role in an offense.
Although the skill position talent pool isn’t deep this year, there are still some WRs that could be a good fit for the 2019 Patriots. There are some low cost, compliment pieces like Cole Beasley and Adam Humphries. They resemble the “scrappy” reliable type receiver that Bill Belichick finds attractive. But no one fits that mold better than Golden Tate, who has proven to be one of the most reliable wide receivers in the game. Tate is the best free agent WR and could draw a bidding war which the Patriots typically shy away from. Lastly, Cordarrelle Patterson may find his way back on the roster in 2019. Options are limited and Patterson is already familiar with the system.
It’s no secret the Patriots will have to begin looking ahead at the QB position. Tom Brady will be 42 in 2019 and they do not have a legitimate succession plan for the future Hall of Famer. There is even less talent available at QB via free agency. Don’t be surprised if Bill Belichick and the Patriots look to the 2019 draft for a quarterback to Bill’s liking.
The Miami Dolphins are expected to release Ryan Tannehill at some point this offseason. They could wait until after June 1st as they would save $18.7M versus $13.2M if they were to release him sooner. The Dolphins would have a dead money cap hit if they wait until June 1st to release him so the jury is still out as to when they will move on. Regardless, Tannehill is all but out of Miami. It doesn’t appear the Dolphins have an immediate plan to replace Tannehill for 2019 either. They have shown interest in a couple, possible franchise QBs in the 2020 NFL draft which points to the 2019 season as a rebuild.
Teddy Bridgwater is a decent game manager with mobility. Although he is only 26 years old, the Dolphins may not have to dive deep into their wallet to secure him for a few years. Another possible filler at the position could be Tyrod Taylor. He is not the best talent at the position but he did break the Bills playoff-less streak in 2017. Tyrod isn’t someone that will carry a team on his back, but he throws very few interceptions and could help the Dolphins not look like the Bad News Bears in the interim. He’s also already familiar with the AFC East having played with the Bills for 3 seasons.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Dolphins actively seek to add another RB, potentially a lead back. They do have a talented running back in Kenyan Drake but they have refused to feature him as the workhorse. The Dolphins chose to give more attempts to a 35-year-old veteran instead of seeing what they could have for the future in Kenyan Drake who averaged 4.5 YPC on the season.
There have been links in Miami to Le’Veon Bell since he loves to party there, but the Dolphins would have to free up some salary to bring him on. Mark Ingram is another possibility if they wanted to upgrade their Frank Gore situation but Ingram has expressed interest in staying in New Orleans. New coach, Brian Flores may stand pat at the position in his first season with the Dolphins as he has enough talent to focus on improvement elsewhere.
The best wide receiver on the Buffalo Bills in 2018 was Zay Jones and he totaled just 652 receiving yards. Yes, blame could be placed on the damaged offensive line and quarterback play but the fact remains, the Bills need a playmaker at the WR position. Josh Allen will be entering his second season as the Bills starting QB. They will want to enhance his weapons at WR to fully showcase his talents.
The Bills may want to think about adding a reliable slot receiver, someone like Cole Beasley. Copying what the Patriots do in order to compete with them isn’t the worst idea in the world. Beasley could serve as the “Julian Edelman” in this offense. Beasley has been a clutch third-down option for the Cowboys but has never really been a volume guy. The Bills could get reliability and a volume guy with free agent wide receiver, Golden Tate. Prior to 2018, Golden Tate had 4 consecutive seasons with 120 or more targets and 90 or more receptions. Tate wouldn’t just be a great addition to the WR corp in Buffalo, he would likely be the best WR on the team.
The Bills recently cut tight end, Charles Clay, from their roster. This leaves little talent at the position for 2019. They may feel comfortable moving forward with last year’s rookie, Jason Croom. He did lead all Buffalo tight ends in receiving yards and was the only Bills TE to score a TD in 2018. Sounds impressive but he ended the year with just 22 receptions on 35 targets for 259 yards and 1 TD reception. With that said, Croom could be someone to target in the last round of fantasy drafts should the Bills chose not to make any splashes at the position. With Charles Clay gone and Josh Allen getting more comfortable in the offense, Jason Croom could emerge as a decent option at the ever declining position.
Given how hard it was for me to try and sell you on the only potential option at tight end for the Buffalo Bills, they should look to improve. Jared Cook was the best offensive weapon for the Oakland Raiders in 2018. He is a free agent this year and given his top 5 finish at the position, it would be wise for Cook to test the market. It has become a difficult position to rely on (at least for fantasy football purposes) but the Bills have a chance to gain a veteran TE coming off the best season of his career. He would be a great asset for the young Josh Allen and would add veteran leadership to the young receiving corp.
New York Jets
The Jets were near the bottom of every statistical list for the running back position in 2018. As far as position skills go, improving their backfield should be at the top of the list. The Jets cannot be content with featuring Isaiah Crowell and Elijah McGuire going forward. Last year, Crowell led the Jets ground game with 685 rushing yards. Good enough for 27th best among all running backs. I’m sure that is not where the Jets want to be at a production level from the running back position in 2019. Outsourcing appears to be the best route to improve.
A lot of analysts favor the Jets as the best landing spot for Le’Veon Bell for two reasons. One, the Jets have an alarming need at the position and two, they have the available cap space to attract Bell. If the Jets are able to land Bell, they would have a pretty well-rounded attack on offense. Sam Darnold would gain a pass catching back that would also open lanes up for the existing and/or new WRs via free agency. They have a talented tight end, Chris Herndon who proved to be a viable asset midway into the season. Finally, the Jets wouldn’t have to lean on the likes of Crowell because they would have Le’Veon freaking Bell.
Quincy Enunwa was recently extended four years with the Jets but everyone else could find themselves on a new team in 2019. Free agent Jermaine Kearse has been rumored to potentially reunite with the Seahawks. Restricted free agent, Robby Anderson may be a trade candidate for the Jets. Anderson finished the 2018 season strong. He was actually the No. 4 fantasy WR in the last quarter of the season. This could bring value in a possible trade for the Jets. They have plenty of money to extend and could use it to enhance their wide receiver corp.
As the relationship with the Steelers appears to be over, Antonio Brown is an immediate option for the Jets. Brown is looking for a fully guaranteed contract which will make it difficult for negotiations. The Jets have a chance to make themselves an attractive destination if they were to sign Le’Veon Bell. It sounds like a tall order but the fact is, both of these players have a decent chance of ending up a New York Jet. Of course, they could miss out on the Bell and Brown sweepstakes. But, in the end, the Jets are in a good spot to land 1 or 2 of the available free agent WRs.
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