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AFC East Fantasy Preview

For the next few weeks, on the RB1 Fantasy Football Podcast, we’re highlighting a few must drafts, avoids, and deeper sleepers to keep an eye on, division by division. If you like anything you see here, tune in to the pod for a more in-depth look, or listen I guess it’d be.

Carolina Panthers v San Francisco 49ers
Cam eyeing a Super Bowl with the Pats
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The AFC East is the only division in the NFL which doesn’t have at least one player going in the first round of fantasy drafts (per Fantasy Pros half point PPR ADP).

The AFC East doesn’t have a player being drafted in the second round of fantasy drafts.

The AFC East doesn’t have a player being drafted in the third round of fantasy drafts.

The AFC East’s first fantasy player being drafted this year is Le’Veon Bell, he’s going 40th overall (middle of the 4th round for you math majors out there).

Early in fantasy drafts, the AFC East’s outlook is bleak. There are plenty of values to be had alongside a few miss-steps to be avoided from perhaps the weakest division in football later in your drafts.

Must draft… and don’t draft

We’ll start on a positive note here with a must draft, Cam Newton.

Cam is currently sitting at an ADP of 164 (QB 21); he’s going 142nd (QB17) in August Best Ball 10’s drafts. Let’s compare Cam against 2020 pre-season darling and one of my Do Not Drafts; Josh Allen. Allen is currently the #7 QB by ADP (69 overall).

Allen has drawn comparisons to Newton (and more sickeningly to Lamar Jackson) because both are big-bodied, scare-the-pants-off-defenses rushers. The key difference between these two is that Cam Newton is not an absolutely dreadful passer.

In Allen’s best season, last year, had averaged 11.4 yards per completion and 6.7 yards per attempt. In Cam Newton’s 2016 season, his worst fantasy season save for his two-game stint last year, Cam posted 13 yards per completion, 6.9 yards per attempt.

In pure fantasy terms, Allen averaged 17.7 fantasy points per game in 2019 (using ESPN scoring here, scoring which boosts rushing QB value as passing TDs are 4 points, rushing TDs are 6). Cam Newton has averaged fewer than 17.7 points per game 2 times in his 9-year career. The first and only time Newton did this in a full season was in 2016, the year Cam averaged 16.7 points per game as the Panthers absolutely trounced everyone they played in their drive to the Super Bowl, the Super Bowl they lost.

The only other time we’ve seen a sub-Josh-Allen’s-best season from Cam was last year when Newton averaged 8.3 points per game in his 2 games last season.

To be fair, though, this is all in the past. Cam is with a new team and coming off an injury which likely scared off a few teams. We will not know if Cam is healthy until we see him square up against a defender once the season is under way. Betting on Newton, though, is a fantasy owner making the same bet that one of the best organizations in football is making, betting the injury is behind him and the potential upside is greater than the low cost.

With Allen, you’re betting a young man who’s played football for quite some time now, over the course of one offseason, has all of a sudden become an at-least-just-a-bit-below-average NFL passer. I have no interest making that bet on Allen, and certainly no interest in making that bet at such a high cost.

Bonus do not draft… Stefon Diggs is a fantastic receiver, fantastic at football, and an absolute joy to watch play the game. Unfortunately for Diggs and Diggs enthusiasts, a receiver is inextricably tied to his quarterback. Josh Allen will be the albatross that drags Diggs’ fantasy value to the basement this year.

The Bills passed for fewer than 200 yards 7 times in 2019. The Bills high-water mark for passing yards last year was 260 yards.

Rookie Daniel Jones, Ryan Tennehill in 12 games, Gardner Minshew in 14 games, and 17 other quarterbacks threw for more than Josh Allen’s 20 TDs in 2019.At the end of the year, Stefon may end up with ‘WR2’ numbers. But, how will he get there (IF, big if, he does)? Ask yourself; when are you going to feel good about starting Diggs?

Avoid Diggs anywhere near overall 54 ADP.

Deep Sleeper (sort of…)

The wide receiver 35 feels like one of the easiest, auto-smash picks so far in this offseason. Julian Edelman is a bit long in the tooth, but he’s the only proven wide receiver the Patriots have going in to this year. Fantasy drafters are over-valuing the chemistry Brady and Edelman had together. Let’s not forget that, while chemistry is important, players have to be good to make chemistry work.

Cam Newton may not be the pin-point passer Brady is, but Edelman is really good at getting open and catching the ball. Newton is a good enough passer to get the ball to the open receiver, and the Pats are not going to have a ton of good options outside of Edelman this year.

Julian Edelman is a no-doubt, WR2/Flex start every week he and Cam are both healthy. Don’t overthink this one, take the value!