If you missed our NFC fantasy preview, you can find it right here. And now, it's time for the AFC portion of our annual Deadspin fantasy guide ... FLESH FOR FANTASYYYYYYYYY!!!
Joining me for part two is Yahoo fantasy expert Andy Behrens. You can get your preview two ways: via podcast (available here or in iTunes; split into two parts for the AFC due to a Behrens kitchen malfunction), or you can get my write-up of it down below. This is NOT a hater's guide. Our goal is to provide you with actual, useful information here. We go through every team just to remind you who's gone where and shit like that. And I'm crazy excited to forget recent preseason injuries and holdouts when I draft. SO STOKED FOR MJD IN WEEK 1 YOU GUYS.
Steelers: As of now, wide receiver Mike Wallace remains a holdout, although Behrens says there's talk that he'll report over the weekend. If so, Wallace is right at the edge of the top 10 for all fantasy wideouts. Antonio Brown, who plays opposite him, had a nasty catch and run against the Colts last week that will almost certainly cause me to draft him three rounds too early. That happens any time you see someone perform well in the preseason. INSTANT SLEEPER POTENTIAL. Rashard Mendenhall is coming back from a torn ACL, and his replacement (Isaac Redman) is already hurting. The backup backup is Jonathan Dwyer on a team that should, given the talent distribution, pass 40 times a game, with Big Ben getting his ass sacked on 10 of those pass attempts. Big Ben remains just on the outside of the second-tier fantasy QBs, but no one is better at throwing four TDs off 10 completions.
Ravens: Joe Flacco's completion percentage has dropped every year for the past three years. So even though Lee Evans fucked him raw in January, there's still something missing from Flacco's game, keeping him from racking up the kind of insane passing stats that everyone else seems to be getting in Roger Goodell's NFL. Downfield threat Torrey Smith is probably the best Ravens wideout to draft, with Anquan Boldin on the downside of his career. The Ravens tight ends are AWFUL. Take it from someone who had to start Ed Dickson multiple times last season. Ray Rice is a top-3 back and has extra value in PPR leagues.
Bengals: A.J. Green is a fucking stallion who can outrun conventional bullets. Behrens has him as his No. 2 wideout overall, and I can't really argue with him. There's no one opposite Green that scares anyone, with tight end Jermaine Gresham likely getting the second-most looks from Andy Dalton. Given Dalton's regression toward the end of last season, be wary of him making a leap into becoming a 30-TD kind of passer. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is here to get all of Ced Benson's old carries. He's a reliably average back.
Browns: BARF. Everything about this offense is putrid. The Browns even LOOK putrid. They look like a banana that's been left out in the sun for a week. Anyway, Trent Richardson was drafted essentially to be the entire offense, but his knee got scoped and I have all the faith in the world that the Browns will rush him back too soon and that he'll play five games all year. However, if you're like me and you have a raging hard-on for rookie backs, you will probably draft Richardson up high anyway. Supplemental draftee Josh
Morgan Gordon, Greg Little, and Mohamed Whatshisface highlight the league's worst receiving corps. You will draft none of them.
Patriots: Tom Brady is a top-3 fantasy QB, and the rules in place to protect quarterbacks from both defenders and light breezes are helping to extend his longevity. Brady has an embarrassment of riches on offense, including WELKAHHHHHH and newcomer Brandon Lloyd. We're not sure if Lloyd can reproduce his insane numbers from that one freakish year he had in Denver. There are too many other people to throw to. But still, it beats playing in the Rams offense, which is really just a pile of discarded amputee limbs at this point. Welker remains the No. 1 wideout option for Brady. Tight end Rob Gronkowski, when not fucking pornstars and walking around with his dick out, has a freakish ability to get open in the red zone. It'll be hard for him to match his record-smashing totals of a year ago, but he's still probably the top tight end in fantasy. The OTHER tight end, Aaron Hernandez, was the third-highest-scoring TE in fantasy last season. JEEEESUS. He even runs the goddamn ball. Stupid sexy Patriots. As always, never trust any running back on a Bill Belichick team. Especially Stevan Ridley, because he sucks. And Woodhead. God, nothing fills me with rage like having to start Danny Woodhead during the bye weeks.
Jets: Behrens and I both agree that Tim Tebow will be starting by Week 4 at the latest. Some evangelical idiot in your league will draft him four rounds too high, absolving you of having to draft him. I don't know that Tebow's presence will have a positive effect on Shonn Greene, as it did Willis McGahee, because Shonn Greene is kinda terrible. However, there's no more LDT around to bogart carries, so Greene will get a chance to prove himself before fumbling it away like a fucking idiot. Dustin Keller is an average fantasy tight end. Santonio Holmes is a locker-room cancer with a big dick. I owned him last year. He sucked. When he got 50 yards and scored a touchdown, I considered it a career game for him. Do not draft this man.
Bills: Draft them and trade them. All of them. This offense was brilliant for the first quarter of last season and then promptly went into the shitter the second Ryan Fitzpatrick got paid. Fred Jackson was arguably the best back in fantasy right before he got injured, so he remains the first choice over C.J. Spiller, who performed admirably in his absence. Wide receiver Stevie Johnson got paid in the offseason (nearly $20 million guaranteed), which may cause him to go into the tank. Fellow receiver Marcus Easley has made some noise in camp. Any time some random player does something neat in camp, you have to say they MADE NOISE. Players like that are usually cut a week later.
Dolphins: GAHHHHHH. If you start a Dolphin on your team at any point this year, you are probably in dire straits. Reggie Bush was fantastic at the end of last season, but that was during a magical stretch when he somehow avoided injury. I assume karma will pay him back this year by breaking both his ankles and giving him VD. The backup, Daniel Thomas, is shit. The wideouts—Davone Bess and Brian Hartline—are waiver bait. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is Blaine Gabbert waiting to happen.
Texans: Arian Foster is the consensus No. 1 back in fantasy. But oh, that naughty Ben Tate. He's still there, ready to hop in on red-zone possessions and causing you to scream WHAT THE FUCK?! Drafting Arian means handcuffing Tate three rounds later (if he falls that far) and then spending all week arguing with yourself over whether or not to start BOTH players. Keep in mind that Matt Schaub is back, which lessens the Texans' need to run the ball 40 times a game. Andre Johnson is a top-10 wideout with occasional injury issues. Tight end Owen Daniels can put up monster numbers when he isn't hurt, which is never. Kevin Walter is small and annoying. As for Schaub, I have no idea. When he's healthy, he's a second-tier fantasy QB. But you're probably better off drafting Eli over him.
Titans: Jake "Locksucker" Locker is your starter. He'll be throwing to Kenny Britt, who is as terrifying on the field as he is running down pedestrians while shitfaced. Britt will either catch 200 yards worth of passes or get suspended for four games. There's no in-between. I fear him on many different levels. He's currently awaiting a suspension from the Ginger Hammer. Nate Washington had a career year last season. Whatever. He blows. Kendall Wright is worth watching. As for Chris Johnson ... that asshole owes you money. He's not among the top-3 fantasy backs anymore. But if you find yourself at No. 7 and you draft him, you will surely talk yourself into believing he will return to his old self. You'll be certain of it, and then the fucker will go and run for 25 yards on 36 carries in Week 1. The bastard.
Colts: The defense is so rotten that Andrew Luck may be able to compile impressive passing stats in his first season. Given how rookie passers have flourished as late, it seems foolish to bet against him. Reggie Wayne will be his No. 1 target. Austin Collie is a missed high-five away from donating his brain to science. Coby Fleener, Luck's buddy from Stanford, was brought in to provide a security blanket at tight end. Luck will need it. Donald Brown—GUHHH DONALD BROWN—is your running back, I guess. God, he sucks.
Jaguars: There's no way in hell the Jags are trading MJD, so do not draft him and then assume he'll get traded to some kickass team like Denver. Chances are, he'll have to report, and then take a beating the rest of the season as Blaine Gabbert monkeyfarts his way out of the league. Tight end Marcedes Lewis is PUKE. I drafted him last season after he scored 10 TDs in 2010 and what did I get? A BIG FAT ASSHOLE. God, I hate him. Laurent Robinson has no prayer of repeating his fantastic season in Dallas a year ago. Rookie Justin Blackmon has breathtaking ability and played brilliantly last night against Baltimore, but it's Blaine Gabbert throwing him the ball, so that's a problem. Lee Evans is here and he still sucks. UPDATE: He was cut. Whoop dee!
Broncos: On average, Peyton Manning is being drafted toward the end of that second tier of QBs that includes Tony Romo and Peyton's brother. Behrens noted that Manning has looked sloppy in the preseason, but Peyton Manning has never been the sort to care about preseason games. If you draft him, you essentially have to take another QB in the next round or so to lessen the risk. Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker stand to be the beneficiaries of Manning's largesse. Tight end Jacob Tamme (aka Dallas Clark Jr.) was brought in to give Manning a friendly face. Running back Willis McGahee took time off from impregnating your girlfriend to have a fantastic 2011 season. He could become even more productive now that there's a functional passing offense in town. However, beware rookie Ronnie Hillman taking away a few carries.
Chiefs: That goddamn shithead Peyton Hillis is here to rob Jamaal Charles of precious goal-line carries. Can't we just lock Peyton Hillis is some kind of meat locker for a while? He ruins EVERYTHING. When healthy, Charles is an absolute beast and deserves to get the lion's share of touches. When he's on, he's basically Priest Holmes. He could be a great value in the second round or so. Tight end Tony Moeaki is one of those guys who's always tapped as a sleeper and then gets hurt. Wideout Dwayne Bowe is with the team after a short holdout. He's like Britt in that, when he's on, he's fucking terrifying. I do not sleep well at night facing Dwayne Bowe the next day in fantasy. But drafting Bowe always comes with risk. No. 2 wideout Jonathan Baldwin is very tall and likes punching people. Quarterback Matt Cassel is a fantasy backup.
Raiders: If you draft Darren McFadden, TRADE HIM. Don't be suckered in by three straight 100-yard performances in the first three weeks, and don't start thinking to yourself: "Wait, I can't trade him! THIS IS HIS MOMENT!" Nope, you done fucked up. He'll snap his leg the next week and you'll be left with nothing. Backup Michael Bush is gone now, leaving a platoon of backups including Mike Goodson, Marcel Reece, and something called Taiwan Jones. Sounds like the name of Kurt Russell/Jackie Chan film. Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey suffered a shoulder injury last Friday and promising wideout Denarius Moore is having hamstring problems. That's not good for quarterback Carson Palmer, who needs both wideouts to stay healthy so that he can throw the ball downfield to them only to have it picked off by two corners simultaneously.
Chargers: Ryan Mathews is already hurt. Behind him is a whole wreck of has-beens like La'Ron McClain, Jackie Battle, and Ronnie Brown. By the way, if you're looking for a cool handcuff chart, KFFL has one here. Wideouts Malcom Floyd and Robert Meachem are notoriously unreliable. Tight end Antonio Gates is consistently brilliant. And Marmalard, dear Marmalard, remains a second-tier fantasy QB. I owned Marmalard in my keeper league for five years and I drafted him again last night. I have to say, he may be a redassed turnover machine, but he's MY redassed turnover machine.
This week's Deadcast is available for your listening pleasure right here. You can also find the new Deadcast in the iTunes Music Store here. Special thanks to Liberated Syndication for hosting us. Now sit back, relax, and botch your draft.