AFC North Divisional Dive

by Jason Allwine · NFL
AFC North Divisional Dive

The NFL Draft is over, most free agents have been signed, and trades have been made. Barring any more major trades, we now know what each team will be working with in 2022. Before we move completely onto the next year, it is important to remember what players and teams found success in 2021. After all, a player’s fantasy success is largely tied to their team’s success. This series will serve to function as a reminder of last year’s performances and also take a look at who may breakout in 2022. Each division will have its teams dissected and I will find a player who should be a more valuable asset in 2022 than they were in 2021. Every relevant player leaving, every relevant player coming, and every draft pick is here. So without further ado, let’s take the AFC North Divisional Dive.

Cincinnati Bengals

2021 Record: 10-7

Offense: Points For – No. 7 , Yards For – No. 13

Defense: Points Allowed – No. 17, Yards Allowed – No. 18

Top Fantasy Players

1. Joe Burrow, QB – 314.24 points

2. Ja’Marr Chase, WR – 304.6 points

3. Joe Mixon, RB – 287.9 points

Fantasy Relevant Players Leaving

1. C.J. Uzomah, TE – Jets

Fantasy Relevant Additions

1. Hayden Hurst, TE

Draft Results

R1: Daxton Hill, S, Michigan

R2: Cam Taylor-Britt, CB, Nebraska

R3: Zach Carter, DL, Florida

R4: Cordell Volson, OL, NDSU

R5: Tycen Anderson, CB, Toledo

R7: Jeffrey Gunter, EDGE, Coastal Carolina

Potential Breakouts

Ja’Marr Chase, WR

Ja’Marr Chase burst onto the scene in his rookie year by finishing as the WR5 in PPR and winning Offensive Rookie of the Year. How could his season in 2022 be considered a breakout year? Well, look no further than the tweet below.

Chase finished behind Tee Higgins in both Target Share and Red Zone Target Share, probably because he was a rookie. Now, he is going into his second year after clearly establishing himself as an elite talent. Again, he finished the year with the 17th-most targets among WRs. There is no reason for him not to be top 5 in that category. Which is at least 160 targets, or at least 30 more than his total in 2021 (128). Chase averaged 2.38 (No. 4) Fantasy Points Per Target in 2021. If he gets the targets he deserves, he could go for some NFL records for sure.

Pittsburgh Steelers

2021 Record: 9-7-1

Offense: Points For – No. 21, Yards For – No. 23

Defense: Points Allowed – No. 20, Yards Allowed – No. 24

Top Fantasy Players

1. Najee Harris, RB – 300.7 points

2. Diontae Johnson, WR – 274.4 points

3. Ben Roethlisberger, QB – 218.1 points

Fantasy Relevant Players Leaving

1. Ben Roethlisberger, QB – retired

2. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR – Chiefs

3. Ray-Ray McCloud, WR – 49ers

4. James Washington, WR – Cowboys

5. Eric Ebron, TE* (still a free agent)

Fantasy Relevant Additions

1. Mitchell Trubisky, QB

2. Miles Boykin, WR

Draft Results

R1: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

R2: George Pickens, WR, UGA

R3: Demarvin Leal, DE, Mississippi State

R4: Calvin Austin, WR, Memphis

R6: Connor Heyward, TE/FB, Michigan State

R7: Mark Robinson, LB, Ole Miss / Chris Oladukon, QB, SDSU

Potential Breakouts

1. Kenny Pickett, QB

Assuming Mitchell Trubisky begins the year as the starter and Kenny Pickett takes over around midseason, he could provide excellent draft value. Of course, tons could happen between now and the start of the season, and Pickett could very well start Week 1. And there is the concern that he has the smallest hands among all starters in the NFL. But we have seen success from QBs with small hands, even if there is more ball security concerns. Check out my article on hand size for further information on the importance. Regardless of his hand-size, Pickett finds himself in a great landing spot. Even Mason Rudolph was at least average on this team, and now they’ve added George Pickens and Calvin Austin, two pretty solid rookie WRs. Mike Tomlin won’t force him into a tough spot, which gives him a solid floor but maybe not a very high ceiling.

Cleveland Browns

2021 Record: 8-9

Offense: Points For – No. 20, Yards For – No. 18

Defense: Points Allowed – No. 13, Yards Allowed- No. 5

Top Fantasy Players

1. Nick Chubb, RB -215.3 points

2. Baker Mayfield, QB -202.5 points

3. Jarvis Landry, WR -133 points

Fantasy Relevant Players Leaving

1. Rashard Higgins, WR – Panthers

2. Austin Hooper, TE – Titans

3. Jarvis Landry, WR* (Still a free agent)

4. Baker Mayfield, QB* (Still with the team but expected to leave)

Fantasy Relevant Additions

1. Deshaun Watson, QB

2. Amari Cooper, WR

3. Jakeem Grant, WR

Draft Results

R3: Martin Emerson, CB, Mississippi State / Alex Wright, DE, UAB / David Bell, WR, Purdue

R4: Perrion Winfrey, DT, Oklahoma / Cade York, K, LSU

R5: Jerome Ford, RB, Cincinnati

R6: Mike Woods, WR, Oklahoma

R7: Isaiah Thomas, EDGE, Oklahoma / Dawson Deaton, C, Texas Tech

Potential Breakouts

David Njoku, TE

With Deshaun Watson coming to town and Austin Hooper leaving, David Njoku gets an obvious bump in expected fantasy production. In 2019, Watson threw nine TDs combined to tight ends Darren Fells and Jordan Akins. Njoku is way more talented than those guys were and is positioned as the veteran “receiver” on the Browns offense with Jarvis Landry still not on the roster.

David Njoku Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

He will probably end up as the No. 2 target behind Amari Cooper, but it is probable that Njoku gets fed next season. In his only season with 50-plus receptions (2018), he averaged 9.6 (No. 10) Fantasy Points Per Game. Now he has a better QB and is in a better situation in general. All signs point to a highly productive season, which has been hoped for for years now.

Baltimore Ravens

2021 Record: 8-9

Offense: Points For – No. 17, Yards For – No. 6

Defense: Points Allowed – No. 19, Yards Allowed – No. 25

Top Fantasy Players

1. Mark Andrews, TE – 301.1 points

2. Lamar Jackson, QB – 239.98 points

3. Marquise Brown, WR – 226.3 points

Fantasy Relevant Players Leaving

1. Marquise Brown, WR – Cardinals

2. Sammy Watkins, WR – Packers

3. Miles Boykin, WR – Steelers

4. Devonta Freeman, RB* (still a free agent)

5. Latavius Murray, RB* (still a free agent)

Fantasy Relevant Additions

None

Draft Results

R1: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame / Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa

R2: David Ojabo, LB, Michigan

R3: Travis Jones, DT, Utah

R4: Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota / Jalyn Armour-Davis, CB, Alabama / Charlie Kolar, TE, Iowa State

Jordan Stout, P, Penn State / Isaiah Likely, TE, Coastal Carolina / Damarion Williams, CB, Houston

R6: Tyler Badie, RB, Missouri

Potential Breakouts

Rashod Bateman, WR

The Ravens traded away Lamar Jackson‘s favorite target, Marquise Brown, on draft night. Earlier in free agency, Sammy Watkins signed with the Chiefs. The only WR left is 2021 first-round pick Rashod Bateman. While some of Brown and Watkins’s targets will go to Mark Andrews, most will likely end up going to Bateman. What he does with those targets remains to be seen, but the potential is there.

J.K. Dobbins, RB

J.K. Dobbins had was expected to go in the third or fourth rounds in fantasy drafts last season before tearing his ACL in the preseason. In his 2020 rookie year, Dobbins ran the ball 134 times for 805 yards, averaging a league-high 5.4 True Yards Per Carry. The former second-round pick will look to build upon his rookie year this upcoming season. He has excellent speed, with a 4.37 (99th-percentile) 40-yard dash, and is on a very efficient offense. He will not be an RB1 since Jackson demands so many carries, but Dobbins should easily provide RB2 value.