16 Aug Fantasy Football Pre-Season Primer: AFC North
By: Mike Stromme – @stromme_93
Grown-ass men riding bikes built for children, pimped-out whips, heavy humidity and player “X” in “the best shape of his life” can only mean one thing… TRAINING CAMP! For a breakdown of all the other divisions I’ve covered thus far, click here.
For a more detailed AFC North and NFC North breakdown, check out our NFL Podcast.
Here are some training camp story lines with fantasy implications to keep an eye on this August:
Oh, where to begin with this team…
The back field, receiving core and tight ends were a HUGE question mark to begin with, now the quarterback situation has decided to jump right into the fantasy quagmire that this team has become.
Joe Flacco is going to miss the entire pre-season (and possibly the start of the regular season), with a bad back. That’s a problem, given that two cogs of this offense, Jeremy Maclin and Danny Woodhead, have barely worked with Flacco (if at all). 2016 free agent signing Ben Watson missed the entire season with a torn Achilles, so he hasn’t exactly developed a rapport with Flacco either.
Even the offensive coordinator, Marty Morningweg, didn’t take over the gig until Week 6 of last season.
It will be interesting to see how this team adapts to early adversity on the offensive side of the ball.
I’m really interested to see how Jeremy Hill responds to the team drafting Joe Mixon, while publicly admitting that they were looking to trade the fouth-year running back.
Once drafted as a low-end RB1, Hill heads into camp looking to prove himself worthy of a spot on an NFL roster after averaging a measly 3.7 YPC over the past two seasons.
It will be interesting to see what Jeremy Hill looks like with a chip on his shoulder.
Another year, another QB battle in Cleveland.
The names change, but the question that’s never answered is: Who starts for the Browns in Week 1?
This year, we have Cody Kessler, rookie DeShone Kizer out of Notre Dame and the infamous Brock Osweiler.
As it stands right now, Kessler is reportedly “the man to beat”. However, Kizer and Osweiler are apparently breathing down his neck.
Kessler proved to be competent in limited action last season, he completed 65.6% of his passes for 1,380 yards, threw 6 TDs to just 2 INT in nine games.
Kizer showed promise in college, but was regarded as a “system QB” by some draft experts. However, he appears to be picking up Hue Jackson’s system rather quickly, and could be taking first-team reps “if he continues at this clip”.
After showing some promise in Denver as Peyton Manning’s backup, Osweiler fell flat on his face after signing for $19 Million with the Houston Texans last offseason season. He admitted to relaxing on his fundamentals after signing for big money, and hopes to get back to where he was in 2015. Yeah, we’ll see.
Welp, SOMEBODY has to play QB for this team!
There’s two story lines we really have to keep an eye on this pre-season, and neither of them involve players currently practising with the team.
Running back Le’Veon Bell is currently holding out for a new contract. He reportedly turned down an offer that would have reportedly given him $42 million over three years, averaging over $12 million guaranteed
per season according to NFL Network analyst and former Pittsburgh Steeler CB Ike Taylor. Bell reportedly turned down the offer because the RB “wants to be paid like a WR and RB”. Bell reportedly doesn’t want to miss any regular season time, so I’m sure an agreement will be reached before the Steelers take on the Browns Week 1.
The second story, is the curious case of Martavis Bryant and the fact that the first week of the pre-season is right around the corner and the the WR hasn’t been officially reinstated by the league following his back-to-back one-year suspensions for various positive tests for banned substances. Bryant, who hasn’t seen an NFL field since 2015, isn’t legally allowed to practice with the team as of yet. According to the Pittsbugh Post-Gazette, the reason for the delay in his absense stems from the fact that, in the eyes of the NFL, Bryant hasn’t completed the conditions needed to be granted reinstatement.
Will we see either of these players resolve their issues before the start of the season? Neither are complete locks to start Week 1 for the Steelers. Both of these issues need to be monitored diligently.