Next up in our What To Watch For series is the AFC East. In this series, we will be giving you one fantasy football relevant issue of note for each team in the NFL. The Patriots have won the AFC East for eleven straight seasons, but the exit of Tom Brady makes the division a little more interesting. From a fantasy perspective, there may be some hidden gems and some fools gold in the AFC East. Here’s what to watch for.
New England Patriots
Is the fantasy world sleeping on Sony Michel?
Sony Michel is currently being drafted in the 8th round as the RB38. Some will call this tremendous value, others (Joe Zollo) will tell you that you are still overpaying. Initially, when you see a starting RB that touched the ball over 250 times last season going that late, it seems like an easy pick. Michel’s inefficiency last season makes it harder. Does it even matter if he gets 250 carries again?
Michel has been in the league for two years and has recorded over 200 carries in both. As a rookie, he averaged over 4.5 yards-per-carry and had over 900 yards, despite missing three games. In 2019, he played in all 16 games and recorded 38 more carries, but still missed the 1000-yard mark. In both seasons, he scored seven or fewer touchdowns and failed to crack the top-30 in PPR scoring. The fact that the Patriots all but ignore Michel in the passing game — he has just 31 total targets in two seasons — means that unless he starts scoring A LOT more touchdowns, your 8th round investment isn’t likely to give much in return, even with 200+ carries.
What Does “Zack Moss in the Frank Gore role” look like for fantasy?
When Bills GM Brandon Beane said he envisions Zack Moss playing a similar role to Frank Gore in this offense, it did two things simultaneously: It gave Moss’ fantasy value a bump and it broke the hearts of those wanting to see Devin Singletary get a huge workload.
Gore touched the ball 179 times last year — one touch less than Singletary — though Singletary missed four games. However, Gore turned those touches into just an RB50 fantasy finish. Gore, like Sony Michel, was irrelevant because of his inefficiency and lack of passing down work. While Moss’ college stats show he could be every bit the receiver that Singletary is, it may not matter. The addition of Stefon Diggs, while also retaining John Brown and Cole Beasley, is likely to lead to a smaller target share for the running backs on a team that already doesn’t target their backs very much. While Moss is in line for over 150 carries, he will find it hard to be a fantasy factor in Year 1 without a Singletary injury.
New York Jets
Breshad Perriman might be the winning lottery ticket.
Normally, when one player replaces another, we caution against having similar expectations because they are not the same player. That may not be the case for the Jets this year, as Breshad Perriman is pretty much a faster version of Robby Anderson. While calling someone the “new Robby Anderson” isn’t exactly a compliment in fantasy football, it could lead to some value in 2020.
Value comes from ADP and right now, Perriman can be had for essentially nothing in fantasy drafts. In drafts where he is taken, it is around the WR60 spot. Anderson, for all his inconsistency, was the WR39 last year, finishing with 779 yards and five touchdowns. In the final six games of 2019, Perriman had 560 yards and five touchdowns for Tampa Bay. Perriman basically matched Anderson’s season in just those last six games. The Jets offense is by no means equivalent to Tampa Bay, and this is the first sign of life we’ve seen in Perriman’s career, but if he sees the 96 targets that Anderson did and keeps the intensity we saw to end 2019, Breshad Perriman will be a winning lottery ticket in fantasy football.
Are we sure Matt Brieda is the passing-down back?
When a team hires a coach from another team’s coaching staff, the fantasy world loves to find the matching pieces, especially when that staff was as wildly successful as the New England Patriots. Last year, Albert Wilson was going to be the new Julian Edelman for Miami and T.J. Hockenson was going to be the new Gronk in Detroit. It didn’t quite play out that way though, did it? In 2020, calling Matt Breida the new James White may lead to similar disappointment.
Jordan Howard does not catch passes. I’m not sure why this is a thing, but it is definitely a thing. Over his 4-year career, Howard has been targeted just 123 times, and 50 of those came in his rookie year. With all that being said, Matt Breida has never seen more than 40 targets in a season and has only been targeted 89 times in the three years he’s been in the league. San Francisco’s backfield is notoriously more crowded than what Howard has been dealing with, but Brieda is not the proven pass-catcher that we are pretending he is. New OC Chan Gailey will certainly open this offense up, but the Dolphins only threw to their running backs 90 times last year. There is a good chance this running back group as a whole doesn’t see as many targets as James White and, more to the point, those targets are likely to be split between Howard and Breida.