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   Fantasy Sleepers - AFC East Edition

May 22, 2024
Al Lackner

Buffalo Bills

The Bills have undergone plenty of changes in the off-season. A new GM and whole new coaching staff have led to changes in philosophy and personnel changes to boot. Tyrod Taylor will remain the trigger man for the Bills, and Shady McCoy still figures to be an elite fantasy RB. However, after that things become a bit dicey. The receiving corps will look completely different this year.

Which brings us to...

Zay Jones

Zay Jones

Jones will be overlooked in a great number of fantasy drafts -- and will probably be undervalued in Dynasty drafts as well. There are many reasons for that. The Buffalo Bills are clearly a run-first team, and Tyrod Taylor has yet to show that he can consistently find his open receivers. Moreover, in a draft where 3 wide receivers went in the first 10 picks, Jones was not even a first round pick. After all, Robert Woods (who high-tailed for LA) was unable to post big-time fantasy numbers in the role that Jones will look to ostensibly replace.

But that is where the fallacy sets in. Woods and Jones are very different receivers. And while it may be reasonable to believe that the original plan was for Jones to fill that WR2 role behind Sammy Watkins, the Bills' decision to trade Watkins may open new doors for Jones. Anquain Boldin retired just a couple of weeks after signing with the team. Jordan Matthews, whom the Bills acquired in a different trade with Philly, is battling a sternum injury. That leaves Jones as the team's top target now.

Once Matthews gets healthy, I expect him to play more of that possession role vacated by Woods. That leaves Zay Jones with the opportunity to become the team's top deep threat. Let's not forget that Jones left Arizona State as the all time leader in FSB history. That has to mean something in PPR fantasy formats! Davis, Williams and Ross will all probably be drafted in fantasy ahead of Jones -- but do not be surprised if Zay Jones leads all WR rookies in receptions and yards.

Miami Dolphins

Under new head coach Adam Gase, the Dolphins made a surprising playoff run last season. Expectations were high for them heading into the 2017 season, but then word got out that Ryan Tannehill's knee was continuing to bother him and season-ending surgery was in store. Enter Jay Cutler. Cutler had always exhibited top shelf arm talent, and he played in Gase's offense in Chicago. Of course, there is a reason why he was no longer playing in the NFL when the Dolphins came calling.

Parker, DeVante

DeVante Parker DeVante Parker has been a bust through the first two years of his career, but hopefully this will be a third-year breakout campaign for him in 2017. It didn't help that Kenny Stills re-signed with the Dolphins, but Parker should be able to outplay Stills if he's motivated and healthy. Parker actually played 15 games in 2016, but he only had 56 catches for 744 yards and four touchdowns on 90 targets. He finished second on the Dolphins in catches and yards behind Jarvis Landry, but Stills (42 catches for 726 yards and nine touchdowns) was the better Fantasy option.

Parker is built similarly to Brandon Marshall, with whom Jay Cutler enjoyed great success in both Denver and Chicago. Parker and Cutler have reportedly been working on their timing and chemistry, and I have a feeling that Parker may actually become a favorite of Cutler's OVER the like of Landry and Stills. I recommend drafting Parker with a mid-to-late-round pick in all leagues because the Dolphins made him a first-round pick in 2015 and are still committed to making him a good NFL player. He's had a good off-season, and that could lead to some great Fantasy production if things click for him this year.

New England Patriots

The Pats are so loaded that it seems absurd to refer to anyone on their team as a Sleeper. Brady and Gronk lead the headlines as fantasy studs -- both in the top 3 at their positions. New face Brandon Cooks, who comes over via a trade with the Saints, is a borderline fantasy WR1/WR2. The RB position, of course, is always a headache in New England.

Gillislee, Mike

Mike Gillislee

The departure of LeGarrette Blount leaves the door open for someone in the backfield to score goal line TDs. After all, Blount only scored 18 rushing TDs in 2016! Gillislee joined the Patriots after the Bills declined to match the two-year, $6.4 million offer sheet he signed with New England. The Bills had provided him with a tender that landed them New England's 5th round pick in the April draft. So it worked out almost like a trade.

After having served as LeSean McCoy's understudy the past two seasons, Gillislee now enters a backfield already headlined by Dion Lewis (hamstring), James White and Rex Burkhead. Gillislee provides the Pats with an ascending backfield talent. In 15 games last year as McCoy's primary backup, Gillislee rushed 101 times for 577 yards and eight touchdowns, while catching nine of 11 targets for 50 yards and another score.

I do not expect Gillislle to come close to the TD production that Blount provided last season. He has been bothered by a hamstring injury leaving fantasy owners to wonder about his role in the crowded Patriots backfield. Still he is better suited for that Blount role than Rex Burkhead, James White or any back in New England. I advise investing a middle-to-late-round pick on Gillislee as he will not be a reliable option week-in and week-out -- but he figures to have games where he will put up fantasy RB1 numbers.

New York Jets

It is easy to dismiss the Jets based on what looks to be a real mess on the offensive side of the ball. They have no legitimate starting QB. Their entire WR corps has been vanquished. Indeed, nothing they have done in the off-season has made them a better football team -- at least for 2017. The Jets will almost certainly be playing the 2017 season with an eye on acquiring the #1 overall pick in the 2018 draft and hopefully solving their their QB problem for once and for all.

Robby Anderson

Robby Anderson NYJ

Brandon Marshall is still in New York (or, rather, New Jersey) -- but he will be playing for the Giants now. Eric Decker now calls Tennessee home. Quincy Enunwa is out for the year. Folks, that is your starting WR lineup for 2016. But one familiar face does remain. That would be Robby Anderson, who had a decent string of games in Weeks 13-15 where he caught at least 4 passes for at least 60 yards in each game -- and scored 2 TDs during that time-frame.

Built like a toothpick -- Anderson is 6'3" and weighs 180 lbs -- there are legitimate concerns about Anderson's durability. Although he was listed at 190 at his pro day, he played at 170 last season. Anderson spent time in the off-season putting on more weight, but we will need to see how that translates on the field. He also spent the off-season working with Brandon Marshall, who thinks Anderson can be a #1 WR. Anderson does possess plus speed (4.34 at the combine in 2016, when he went undrafted out of Temple).

Given that he is the last man standing these days for the Jets, I expect him to be the team's #1 receiving option. For a team that figures to be trailing often late in games, Anderson could very well see a ton of garbage-time stats coming his way. Think Allen Robinson in 2015.

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