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Fantasy football targets: AFC North

With fantasy drafts approaching, many are rushing to find the players they want on their team. Here is a list of the fantasy football targets for the AFC North division this season.

Antonio Brown

Antonio Brown (Photo by:

The consensus fantasy football WR1, Antonio Brown looks to continue his historic pace this season. If there was a player anyone should take over the top four RBs in the first round, it’s Antonio Brown.

Even with Big Ben’s away game history in recent seasons, Brown has still been able to put up big fantasy numbers as Roethlisberger’s favorite target. If Brown is not taken within the first five picks, have pity on your league; no one must know what they’re doing.

Le’Veon Bell

Having said that about Brown, Le’Veon Bell is one of the few players fantasy owners could get away with drafting over Brown. A PPR stud as well as a good RB1 in standard format, Bell will be playing once again on a franchise tag. This prompted Bell to post on Twitter that this year will be his best.This season, Bell is an undisputed first round, top five pick.

Ben Roethlisberger

With the weapons Big Ben has at his disposal and how he has used them in the past, it has made him the most fantasy relevant in the division. Brown, Bell, some guy named Juju, an outlaw (Jesse James) and a veteran in Vance MacDonald round up his most valuable targets. Ben has used them very well to fuel the Pittsburgh offense. However, QB depth is very deep this year in fantasy so drafting him any sooner than the ninth round may prove wasteful.

Michael Crabtree

As part of the new receiving core in Baltimore, Crabtree is the more accomplished and consistent among himself, Willie Snead, and John Brown. He will be Joe Flacco’s favorite among the three.

Crabtree is currently being drafted as a high-end flex WR as the 30th WR taken off the board in PPR formats. That’s understandable given he’s on a new team, new system and new QB. However, his average draft position (ADP) of the latter half of the sixth round is a little disrespectful. He could provide WR2 value and be drafted in the early-to-middle of the fifth round. Any earlier than that and a fantasy owner is doing what is called “reaching”.

Alex Collins

Alex Collins

The lead back in Baltimore, Collins is being drafted in the latter half of the third round. The Irish river dancer is definitely an RB2 in either format. Collins may be going higher in standard drafts given his powerful running style and lack of passing down work. He’s not a sexy pick, but Collins is definitely a solid RB2 to roll with.

Jarvis Landry

The Browns’ new WR1, Landry has been a PPR King of “Garbage Time” for Miami the past couple seasons. Now with a new QB, new team and new system, Landry may have fallen in some mock drafts considering his new team, QB and system are that of the Browns. However, his ADP of the early fourth round seems just given his “garbage time” status. In fact, it may turn out to be kind if Josh Gordon steals away targets. Because we haven’t seen Josh Gordon consistently in the last three or four seasons if at all, he shouldn’t be  ranked higher than Landry in fantasy. Landry has earned respec because he is a good WR no matter the QB. His ADP is justified.

Josh Gordon

Josh Gordon fantasy
Josh Gordon (Photo by:

Without a doubt, Josh Gordon is the biggest boom or bust player this fantasy season. His current ADP has him being drafted late in the fourth round, shortly after his teammate Jarvis Landry. That could prove to be a steal given Gordon’s history in fantasy when active on the Cleveland roster with all the QB shuffling they do.

However, if Gordon gets busted for drugs or checks himself back into rehab mid-season, it could prove to be a wasted pick. Gordon is the biggest gamble this season. Proceed with caution.

David Njoku

In the AFC North, the TE market is dry and full of streamers. At one point, Tyler Eifert, Dennis Pitta and Heath Miller were relevant in fantasy. With Pitta and Miller retired and Eifert struggling to stay healthy, Njoku appears to be the TE in the AFC North to own.

However, with Gordon, Landry and Duke Johnson as teammates, Njoku looks to be a better play in standard format. If Njoku isn’t getting the targets, he becomes entirely TD dependent. Njoku is currently being drafted in the middle of the ninth round. That seems about right considering the drop-off at TE around TE number eight (Kyle Rudolph in the seventh round).

Duke Johnson

He may not be the workhorse back in Cleveland, but Duke Johnson is the safest back in PPR formats the Browns have. If Landry was the King of “Garbage Time” for receivers, Duke represented the running backs last season for that title. Johnson is practically guaranteed the passing-down work while Nick Chubb and Carlos Hyde battle it out for the early-down work. And while the Browns’ offense looks intriguing this season, their defense does not; the Browns could be passing a lot in the second half of games and looking to Johnson more than the other backs.

ADP has Duke in the late eighth round which could wind up being a steal in PPR formats. Note: if you are in a standard format, Carlos Hyde (ADP in the middle of the fifth round) may be the Cleveland back you want to go with.

AJ Green

photo from

The Bengals number one had a rough season last year. That may not be entirely on him however, as QB Andy Dalton was under pressure for much of the season with a lackluster offensive line. The Bengals addressed the offensive line through the draft and trading; preseason has shown that the offensive line is better at pass blocking.

Green will have a bounce-back year in fantasy. Green’s current ADP has him being drafted late in the second round as the eighth WR taken. That puts Green as a low-end WR1, but he has a high-end ceiling depending on the Bengals’ offensive output. Draft Green early in the second depending on the situation.

Joe Mixon

Joe Mixon has the lead back duties in Cincinnati, but not the full workload of a bell-cow back. This is because of the presence of Giovani Bernard as the passing-down back. However, Mixon still has PPR value as he has proven that he can catch passes out of the backfield and make plays in the open field.

ADP has Mixon going late in the second round as an high-end RB2. The ADP is correct; any earlier and a fantasy owner could be looking at a bust. The Bengals’ run-blocking hasn’t been known to be stellar in recent years; Mixon could be getting the bulk of his fantasy value out of the backfield. Owners just need to hope Bernard doesn’t cut too much into the passing game. Do not reach for Mixon in the draft.


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