Once a division that was just a gimme for the New England Patriots, the rest of the AFC East is starting to push back against the Super Bowl champs.
The Buffalo Bills and New York Jets each face challenges with the quarterback position, as EJ Manuel and Geno Smith were members of the same quarterback draft class that has yet to dazzle anyone. This is a show-me-year for Geno, and his time may be up if he can’t take advantage of his new weapons. The Bills currently have a “quarterback battle” between Manuel, Tyrod Taylor and Matt Cassel, which is as exciting as it sounds.
While the Miami Dolphins made some big moves during the off-season and in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Fantasy Football community does not seem ready to embrace Ryan Tannehill as a legitimate quarterback force. He almost has too many targets to name now, and I’m still left guessing on who will finish as his favorite target in 2015 Fantasy Football leagues. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was able to push Tannehill and Lamar Miller into Fantasy relevancy last season, and Fantasy players want to know if the Dolphins’ offense can keep up the momentum.
The Patriots walked away from the 2015 NFL Draft with tight end AJ Derby as the only skilled player selected on offense. We are left with almost the same cast on offense as last year, but the potential four-game suspension of Tom Brady has created the uncertainty that New England was bound to face at the quarterback position in the coming years, albeit on an increased timeline.
— Russell S. Baxter (@BaxFootballGuru) May 31, 2015
With rising talent in the AFC East, who are some of the players you want to keep an eye on in your 2015 Fantasy Football leagues?
2015 AFC East Position Battles
New York Jets RBs
- Chris Ivory
- Stevan Ridley
- Zac Stacy
- Bilal Powell
The New York Jets will not be known for small and shifty backs in 2015 Fantasy Football leagues.
After Stacy was reasonably upset with the St. Louis Rams’ selection of Todd Gurley, the 24-year old back found himself in an even more crowded backfield. The Jets didn’t have to pay a big price tag to find out what Ridley can do with a one-year deal, Ivory is projected as the starter and Powell also signed a one-year deal. I discuss the Jet’s backfield in depth on my website, but this is a situation the average Fantasy player will want to avoid.
Powell’s main value is as a pass-catching back, which is a category where Ridley and Ivory offer almost no value. Stacy, however, is at least serviceable when called upon to catch passes. If you absolutely must own a running back from the Jets, I suggest pairing Ivory and Stacy or Ivory and Ridley to see how things play out. The competition is wide open for these backs to step up, but it’s not a fun situation to try and figure out.
Buffalo Bills QBs
- Matt Cassel
- EJ Manuel
- Tyrod Taylor
- Matt Simms
Rex Ryan’s new team will focus on the run with the addition of LeSean McCoy and veteran Fred Jackson still in the mix, but the starting quarterback needs to move the ball down the field to save McCoy from becoming a one-man-show.
Odell Beckham Jr. and Mike Evans received most of the accolades among rookie wide receivers in 2014, but Watkins finished with a quiet, yet solid year (982 yards and six touchdown grabs). I also didn’t realize Watkins finished his rookie year with four games of 100 or more receiving yards. The starting quarterback for the Bills now has Percy Harvin at his disposal, but if you are still waiting to see Harvin produce Fantasy-relevant production, your best bet is to find a hot tub time machine and travel back to his 2011 season in Minnesota.
Cassel never found his rhythm after taking over for Brady in New England, rumors continue to leak that Manuel was on the trading block and I’m not sure why Simms was added to the roster. It’s almost Taylor’s job to lose at this point. For players on the Bills outside of McCoy, you should really only be concerned about the quarterback battle for the sake of Watkins and potentially new tight end Charles Clay.
New England Patriots RBs
- Jonas Gray
- James White
In the AFC East, the Patriots have been known to frustrate Fantasy players with various running back rotations. LeGarrette Blount will miss the opener to the 2015 NFL season, so White or Gray will need to step up in his absence.
A solid outing against the Pittsburgh Steelers could offer a sign for a bigger workload for the rest of the season, but it doesn’t appear Blount will have too much competition after his suspension. White may see more opportunities as Shane Vereen is now with the Giants, and White can serve as a pass-catching back. Brandon Bolden is still in the mix, but new join Travaris Cadet could carve out a role in the passing attack, as he hauled in 38 receptions for 296 yards on the New Orleans Saints last season.
This AFC East battle will mainly interest daily players looking to get into action for the first game of the season, but there currently aren’t any major position fights to keep an eye on in New England.
Miami Dolphins WRs
- Jarvis Landry
- DeVante Parker
- Kenny Stills
- Greg Jennings
The Dolphins scored the 11th-most points in the NFL last season, but Tannehill and company finished 2014 with only the 21st-most red zone touchdowns.
To remedy stalling near the red zone, tight end Jordan Cameron (6-foot-5) and rookie receiver Parker (6-foot-3) were brought in to give Tannehill more options. The offense also features second-year receiver Landry, Stills as a deep threat and Jennings for veteran guidance. The 26-year old quarterback has been questioned about his accuracy and arm strength when it comes to the deep ball, but Tannehill was also one of the most sacked quarterbacks in the NFL in 2013 and 2014. If the offensive line can stay healthy, he may finally be able to silence his critics.
Landry was surprisingly valuable in PPR leagues last season, averaging 5.6 receptions in the 15 games he saw action. With the emphasis on improving the red-zone attack, however, I think Cameron and Parker are the two main targets Tannehill will be looking for. This is really an up-and-coming offense, and I’m looking forward to some of the Fantasy power it has to offer in the AFC East.
Make sure to check out our position battles in the NFC North to help with your preparation for your 2015 Fantasy Football leagues.
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