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2020 AFC North fantasy football outlook

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.

Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

The Ravens dominated the AFC North in 2019 with a Steelers side minus Ben Roethlisberger, a Bengals side that was still a Bengals side, and a disappointing but still talent rich Browns team. The division should be much improved this year, if only because the Roethlisberger should be back behind center.

Trustworthy Elite: Lamar Jackson

Fantasy is a week to week game, and Lamar Jackson averaged, AVERAGED, 6.7 points more than the 2nd best points-per-game QB in 2019 (Dak Prescott). Any player who averages a rushing/receiving TD more then the number two player at the position is not only worth an early pick, but the only reason you would not make that selection is because you think the performance was a fluke.

Lamar Jackson’s 2019 was not a fluke. To say his performance was unexpected would ignore a sizable minority in both the fantasy and real football community who pegged Jackson as a generational talent coming out of Louisville. Keep in mind that Lamar did everything he did last year with a injury-hampered rookie Marquise Brown, rookie Myles Boykin, 2nd year tight end Mark Andrews, and Willie Snead.

You can stream to replace a quarterback like Russel Wilson, even a guy like Dak Prescott can be overcome with a good matchup player, but Lamar is the type of quarterback the league hasn’t seen since Michael Vick’s prime.

Jackson is an absolute, don’t even bother trying to tell me that tired shit about how QB is so deep, must draft at his ADP of 19 overall.

League Winner: Mark Ingram

Folks are as eager to throw dirt on Ingram’s grave as they were last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. And while the Ravens have invested fairly substantial draft capital in some intriguing, young running back talent, Ingram is a veteran leader not prone to making mistakes. In as offense as explosive as the Ravens were last year and should be again in 2020, coaches often choose to rely on the reliable, rather than take too many chances on a younger player who may be a half-step quicker or a shade faster.

Ingram is currently sitting at an ADP of 46 in Fantasy Pros 0.5 PPR consensus ADP. He’s going just behind Le’Veon Bell and James Conner for context. And so while Ingram is not going outrageously late, do not hesitate to grab Ingram a full round early. Draft him ahead of guys like Jonathan Taylor, Melvin Gordon, and Chris Carson with confidence.

Do Not Draft: Joe Mixon

Joe Mixon is a talented running back on a team that excels at being unable to get out of its own way. And while many point to the second half of 2019 as proof of Mixon finally taking that big step forward, others like myself, will point to the rest of Mixon’s relatively short career as a bit of a cautionary data point.

Outside of whether Mixon is The Real McCoy or just Colt McCoy, there is a lot up in the air going in to 2020 for an infamously incompetent franchise like the Bengals. Throwing in additional unknowns like a rookie quarterback, one of the league’s youngest and most unproven coaches (perhaps the last coach hired during the Sean McVay Tulip Mania), and Mixon’s early pre-season rumblings that he may hold out for a long term contract.

There are just too many guys behind Mixon’s ADP like Tyreek Hill, DeAndre Hopkins, Nick Chubb, Julio Jones, Travis Kelce… too many other better options to take a big swing on Mixon.

Late Round Sleeper: Ben Roethlisberger

For the record, yes, I feel like a bit of a stooge calling Roethlisberger a sleeper. But, for a quarterback two years removed from being the QB3 in fantasy, going off the board at QB14 seems like an out of sight, out of mind ranking. If you ignore my stellar advice on taking Lamar Jackson in the first round, and you end up cobbling together a committee, the Steelers start with a pretty soft opening schedule with games against the Giants, the Broncos, and the Texans.