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Fantasy Football Pop Quiz - AFC East

I was not ready to come back to fantasy football. I suspected that to be the case when I started using Sundays to walk my recently rescued dog around the park, or hitting the grocery store in the morning. I had a strong feeling I wasn't ready when we enjoyed the World Cup and baseball games and cornhole at random bars in Texas. But I knew, I definitely, without question, knew I wasn't ready when I got a text asking me if I wanted a $16 Chris Thompson for the low, low price of my $12 Davante Adams in dynasty.

First off, really? Even by the most generous standards, Chris Thompson is just "in the mix" for Washington this year. Sure, catching passes is always helpful at the position, but we're looking at a guy who at best breaks out to be a #15 running back, and at worst is barely in the top-32 thanks to the team's constant indecision at the position. My 2017 feelings on Chris Thompson mixed with the headache caused by playing any Redskins running back between 2011-2013 and you realize all at once that the Washington Redskins were never much of an offense to produce consistently. Suddenly I find myself telling a grown man that I've never met that his trade is garbage and he should go away. Yes, we're back to the time of avoiding crappy trades, getting in rankings arguments with anonymous people in chat rooms and on Twitter, and yelling at a football player on a team you don't particularly like that much for either doing poorly/doing well for another guy/doing anything to interfere with a player you actually do own/etc.

Still, it's the most wonderful time of the year, even when I openly resent my love for it. In reality, there's nothing quite close. So, before I ruin your Sundays with my column or my very bad expert advice, I thought I'd write one very big rundown of every single team and who you should be looking at. Whether it's a cheat sheet before you draft, or pointing you to much better work by my colleagues here, it's time to take a look at the whole league and who makes the most sense for you in fantasy.

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New York Jets

If someone's gonna break out, it's got to be _____________

  1. Robby Anderson
  2. Isaiah Crowell
  3. Bilal Powell
  4. Jermaine Kearse

I think everyone forgets the continual flashes of brilliance that Isaiah Crowell showed for the Browns, the same reason the young back was taken at an average ADP of 31 last year in PPR drafts. Any indictment of Crowell should come more from how he was (or arguably wasn't) utilized, and not in a sudden drop-off in skills. Less receiving work made the potential top back just another guy, and while I don't necessarily blame all of Crowell's struggles on Hue and the Gang, I'd like to see Crowell back in an offense that is absolutely going to need to throw the football to their back thanks to a very problematic offensive line. Robby Anderson carried a lot of teams with stellar WR2/FLEX numbers in 2017, and while it's not a bad idea to still draft him, I'm a little less optimistic in him in 2018 than I was last year, while I believe in Crowell as a better buy low at player #85 in 2018 drafts.

A small technical note, of course, is that Crowell is seemingly living in concussion protocol right now, so it's worth seeing how he recovers before rolling him out there.

Save your one dollar bid for ________________

Ok, this is one of those extra credit questions that's impossible to mess up, as the answer is "Any Wide Receiver Who Makes the Jets Roster." While the running back position seems to be a whose-whose of NFL washouts, the wide receiver competition is quietly more interesting. Assuming guys like Enunwa, Kearse and Anderson are locks, it still leaves us with Ardarius Stewart, Chad Hansen, Tre McBride and Charone Peake. For all we can tell not being inside the front office, McBride is the clubhouse leader to make it and everyone else is a bit of a coin flip. Given that they are all younger fringe receivers, save that dollar for McBride or whoever ends up filling that last spot on this team in his stead. In reality, Anderson showed anyone can make an impact on this team rather quickly if they develop the right chemistry with new QB Sam Darnold.


New England Patriots

Damnit, are you going to make me talk about how great __________ is and how you should own him?

  1. James White
  2. Rob Gronkowski
  3. Chris Hogan
  4. Sony Michel

It's finally Chris Hogan's time in the sun, as I can't realistically complain about Chris Thompson's inconsistent usage and then tell you to get a New England Patriots running back. While I'd likely rank a combination of James White or Sony Michel more favorably throughout the season than Chris Hogan, one of those rankings would certainly be wrong because head coach Bill Belichick exists to coach football at an exuberant level while simultaneously not giving a shit about your fantasy team. Hogan is the closest thing I can see to being a consistent component of the Patriots' offensive attack, even coming off a season where his targets and yards per reception dipped so massively. Quite frankly, my biggest argument for drafting Hogan is the lack of better options around him, and how I expect him to play a role even when Julian Edelman returns.

The hype on __________ should be ignored at all costs.

  1. Rob Gronkowski
  2. Tom Brady
  3. Sony Michel
  4. Rex Burkhead

Only one guy on this list has threatened to retire multiple times, to join the WWE no less, and is still be drafted like a top-25 overall player. Oh, you're still taking Rob Gronkowski in the first three rounds of your drafts? Then be prepared for some disappointment. Especially if you had Gronkowski last year, you should have caught onto the worst kept secret in the NFL, which is that the team knows sending Gronk over the middle (previously his most dangerous spot) is now an invitation to send the talented tight end to the concussion tent. Though the NFL tool isn't exactly comprehensive for some reason, a quick look at Gronkowki's route running in 2016 vs 2017. Specifically looking at the 2017 chart, you can see a reliance on that over-the-middle play (very Madden-esque, actually), then a mid-season shift back to safer play calling (though it was often called at least once a game to signal that teams should still be afraid of that option, often with Gronkowski cutting a bit of a sidestep or quick out pattern to limit that sort of risk) before ultimately going back to that over the middle play before almost being decapitated with it by the Jaguars in the playoffs.

Seriously, watching the 2017 Rob Gronkowski season and focusing on the play calling would make any conscious NFL root for Gronk to get out of the league while he could. While one hopes that the team sticks with some safe one side of the field play calling for Gronk, it would limit his fantasy production as he's more likely to match up with a physically similar cornerback given the team's lack of true receiving options, and if he's still going over the middle then he likely won't play consistently... again. I simply don't see a path to a successful, healthy Gronk in 2018, meaning I'm avoiding him unless he's somehow going in mid-TE range.


Miami Dolphins

It seems ___________ is being overrated and underrated all at the same time. 

  1. Kenyan Drake
  2. Devante Parker
  3. Kenny Stills
  4. Albert Wilson

It only took until, uh, one column for me to give you the "All of them" multiple choice answer for 2018. Well, at least at first glance. Parker has plummeted from 54th in ADP in 2017 to a bargain basement 122nd today. Hell, I don't know if the guy is going to be anything either, but given that he's only 25 it feels like we're once again throwing in the towel too early on a still talented player. Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson could make the same argument, with both names being trendy-but-not-sexy preseason sleepers to jump into immediate action with than better-than-Cutler return of Ryan Tannehill while leapfrogging Parker. The real answer, though, is Kenyan Drake. While going at 42nd overall isn't much of a knock on a player like Drake's caliber, he was a top-ten running back from Week Nine on last season, won teams some fantasy cash with a decent playoff run (ignore Week 16 and 17....), and is generally avoiding any and all hype. Maybe it's because the team was too skittish to list him as the outright starter for the preseason depth chart. Maybe it's because we're all too busy running after Jerrick McKinnon. Maybe it's because Kalen Ballage exists. But he's the only outright starter, despite what the Dolphins say, to have the role outright yet be drafted so low.

Of course, that's what makes Drake overrated as well. Fantasy owners still sour over the similarity between this and Jay Ajayi are likely hoping not to get fooled again off of a string of good starts that also walked and quacked like the 2017 second-round running back. Being good and not great, at least not for long enough, means that Drake is both behind wild cards like Royce Freeman and above potential breakout talents like Ronald Jones, Rashaad Penny and Sony Michel. In a normal snake draft, keep an eye on if Drake falls and where you can grab him. If you're in a dynasty and someone is desperate, see if they'll trade you for a guy like Drake. Ultimately, the fantasy community is still so unsure here that not only do both possibilities make sense, but they are likely.


Buffalo Bills

If you forced me to write a column about every team and I had to give you one flyer from this team in particular, I'm going with _____________

A: Kelvin Benjamin
B: Chris Ivory
C: Corey Coleman
D: Zay Jones

The Buffalo Bills aren't the first team you think of when you think of a talent drain in the 2018 NFL (meaning, specifically, they had talent at one point and they lost it), but given that the Bills let their offensive line walk out the door, actively gave away the quarterback that led them to the playoffs, and have somehow seen the powers sucked out of anyone they drafted on the defensive line through some sort of table-breaking voodoo magic. So let's assume that running the ball is going to be harder for the Bills then nearly any team they face, which means I don't predict Chris Ivory is suddenly going to get good at that in his ninth NFL season. So we're left with the receivers, and while Kelvin Benjamin certainly has something to prove, we're still awaiting the official arrival of Zay Jones, who quietly had a decent 2017 that he may build on. Jones is rumored to be beating out Coleman in the preseason arms race, so he's another buck buy in very deep dynasty leagues.

Short Answer Section: Describe your feelings on the rest of the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins for fantasy purposes

Any hacky football writer will tell you every team has to score and so every team has value. Miami was good for 28th most points scored in the 2017 NFL, and the Bills were good for 22nd (and I can't stress enough that they made the playoffs.) The teams that filled the gap between them or below them have one very important distinction that these teams do not; they made moves to get better in 2018. The only reason I'm optimistic for the Jets is that they get to play these two teams twice, and damnit if they don't go at least 3-1 in those contests, I will be legitimately shocked. Of course, I was also the idiot who said that Adam Gase was the truth and that Devante Parker was finally going to make it happen in 2017. Ignore me, I am a big idiot, let's go Jets I guess.

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