The 4th Down Decision: AFC North

Written by Zach Lyons, co-host of Football & Other F Words and The Flex, “The 4th Down Decision” will look at various fantasy topics from whether you should “Punt” or “Go For It”. When reading the advice please keep in mind: 12-team league, PPR, 6-pt passing TDs. All ADPs based on FantasyPros.com‘s latest.

The AFC North is rife with fantasy football opportunities. We all know Lamar Jackson, Mark Andrews, and even Justin Tucker are at the top of their respective positions, but you also have guys like Joe Mixon, Big Ben Roethlisberger, Nick Chubb, and Odell Beckham Jr. in these divisions.

But what about some of the forgotten players or position groups in this division?

Go For It: Bengals wide receivers not named A.J. Green

A.J. Green

  • Current ADP: 67 (6th Round)
  • Current Positional Ranking: WR29

Tyler Boyd

  • Current ADP: 73 (7th Round)
  • Current Positional Ranking: WR31

Auden Tate

  • Current ADP: 311 (Undraftable)
  • Current Positional Ranking: WR93

Last month I wrote that Joe Burrow will be the next great rookie quarterback. If he’s going to be that good, his receivers will benefit.

The Bengals are one of those offenses I really like from top to bottom with one exception: A.J. Green. Green should continue his ADP free-fall because of the current injury that is keeping him out of training camp, but Tyler Boyd is still going after him in most fantasy drafts. 

Green is a certified undraftable for me. I will not pick him in the first 10 rounds; he cannot be trusted, and even when he is on the field, he’s already lacking chemistry with the young quarterback. On top of that, Green will be playing this season more than likely on the last bit of shelf life left in his career.

When drafting, I always take into consideration the other players on the team. Not a novel idea, but I like to compare the values, not just the name. This is one of many examples: Is it better to draft Green in the 6th round and someone else in the 7th, or draft a better/healthier player there and pick up Tyler Boyd one round later? The answer is Tyler Boyd.

Tyler Boyd ended last year as WR18, and that is with someone like Ryan Finley throwing the ball. Tyler Boyd, in my opinion, is a certified week-in and week-out starter with Joe Burrow, or really any QB, behind center. Look where he’s being drafted, as WR31, and you’ll see the value is tremendous.

I expect another receiver to benefit from Joe Burrow behind center, and it is already happening: Auden Tate. Fair warning, I am not saying Auden Tate should be drafted, but if you are in a deep league or dynasty league and have some bench spots to fill, he should be a target.

Auden Tate in training camp seems to be catching at least one touchdown every day, and it seems to be that he is the goto guy in the redzone for Joe. Now this obviously could change the healthier Tee Higgins gets, but do not forget Auden Tate had some big showings in his second year with the Bengals.

Now heading into his third year, he seems to have caught the attention of Joe Burrow in the passing game. I don’t think this is just meaningless hype, I think this is simply the progression of a talented young wide receiver.

If Green somehow cannot find the field by Week 1, Auden Tate would be a good flier to take a chance on and plug in against a Chargers defensive backfield that is not scaring anyone.

[Editor’s note: the Chargers defensive backfield, after adding Chris Harris Jr. and with a fully healthy Derwin James, does actually scare me]

Punt: JuJu Smith-Schuster as WR12

  • Current ADP: 33 (3rd Round)
  • Current Positional Ranking: WR12

Yeah, I’m good on JuJu. I know Big Ben is back, and he has a renewed fire in his eyes, but something about where people are currently drafting JuJu has left a bad taste in my mouth.

I know there was a quarterback carousel in Pittsburgh last year, but JuJu even with Big Ben those first two weeks was WR33, and ended WR65. I just don’t think he has the capability of being the WR1 in Pittsburgh.

I also do not think Pittsburgh has a current WR1 on the roster, and that means JuJu has to fill that void until someone else emerges. I have no earthly idea why he is being drafted as the WR12 for fantasy purposes.

Just look at the list of wide receivers currently going after him: Amari Cooper, Adam Thielen, Cooper Kupp, and on it goes. These wide receivers will be more consistent week-to-week in their offenses than what JuJu will bring to the table.

People are going to bring up his 2018 campaign. However, that is with Mr. Big Chest (Antonio Brown) lining up across from him. People will bring up that he’s gotten stronger, but strength has never been his issue. Then people will say Big Ben is back… well like I said, the problem isn’t Big Ben, it’s JuJu.

He also faces the 9th-hardest schedule for fantasy WRs. Being that he is their de facto WR1 from an opposing defense’s POV, that does not bode well for his production. He also faces stiff competition across the way in his own division with six games against Baltimore, Cleveland, and Cincinnati. 

Without a WR1 opposite him, JuJu will NOT live up to his WR12 status, and I will be letting other people make the mistake of drafting him while I sit back and take his lesser valued counterpart, Chase Claypool, all the way to the championship.

[Editor’s note: the Pittsburgh wide receiver to own here is Diontae Johnson, currently going 99 overall (WR40)]

Go For It: Drafting two Ravens running backs

Mark Ingram

  • Current ADP: 60 (5th Round)
  • Current Positional Ranking: RB26

J.K Dobbins

  • Current ADP: 16 (8th Round)
  • Current Positional Ranking: RB35

On this morning’s episode of The Flex, we talked all about fantasy football handcuffs. Typically, I am against worrying about handcuffs of certain players, but the value currently presented by these two guys is too hard to pass up.

Mark Ingram is one of the most under-appreciated fantasy players ever. Here is his fantasy finish in total points since 2014, in parenthesis is his finish in points-per-game:

  • 2014: RB15 (RB10)
  • 2015: RB10 (RB6)
  • 2016: RB8 (RB10)
  • 2017: RB6 (RB8)
  • 2018: RB32 (RB28)
  • 2019: RB11 (RB10)

So depending on how you weigh certain stats (we like to keep points-per-game at the forefront), he has been a Top-10 running back every year except one. So what happened in 2018?

In 2018, after seeing a snap count of 55% the previous season, Ingram dropped to a 33% share of snaps. He played in 12 games, but only started 6. The reason is pretty obvious (if you are into fantasy football at all): Alvin Kamara took over the backfield.

However, when Ingram signed with the Baltimore Ravens last year, moving to a run-first offense, he saw the majority of the running back snaps and his fantasy value went right back up. Ingram is nothing but consistent when given a proper snap count. He’s even been productive with less than majority snap counts, such as his 55% season in 2017 when he finished as RB6.

Ingram does more with less than many other fantasy running backs. He has only seen an average of 44% of snaps since 2014. Most fantasy stud running backs look to have around 60%-78% of snaps.

So in the 5th round, Mark Ingram will outplay his RB26 status in PPR, but you best believe you should be drafting J.K. Dobbins, too.

Regardless if you have Ingram or not, Dobbins is a must. He is the future of the Ravens running backs—we’ve seen this play out with Kamara down in New Orleans—and while in this offense there is ample opportunity for both of guys to be fantasy relevant, we all know how this story will end.

Dobbins was my RB1 coming out of college. I really liked that while he was only exceptional in one or two areas, he did not have a flaw in any part of his game. He is already making some acrobatic catches in training camp, and he is a proficient pass blocker.

The case can be made to draft both, because over the course of the season you will have a constant force in that Ravens backfield that rushed a league-leading 596 times last year. What I envision is that Ingram starts out the year as RB1 for the Ravens (and an RB1 for fantasy purposes), but Dobbins will be the RB1 for both on the backend of the season.

Sure, this means you have to spend two picks fairly high, but I think to get off to a hot start and finish the year when it matters, it’s a winning strategy.

The case can also be made to skip Mark Ingram and just draft Dobbins. I wouldn’t argue with this either. Dobbins will provide excellent value, and will be a league winner for your team, but also provide valuable trade bait, if Ingram was to fall off suddenly, or get injured.

J.K. Dobbins is a must-own.

Go For It: Jarvis Landry

  • Current ADP: 66 (7th Round)
  • Current Positional Ranking: WR28

Since being drafted by the Miami Dolphins in 2014, do you know how many times Jarvis Landry has finished outside of the Top-20 fantasy wide receivers? Once. His rookie year, he had 84 catches for 758 yards, and 5 touchdowns, and that earned him a WR31 ranking.

Much like our friend Mark Ingram II, Landry continues to be under-appreciated, but he does have a reason to continue to fly under the radar, he is very inconsistent week to week. Here is his fantasy finish in total points since 2014, in parenthesis is his finish in points per game:

  • 2014: WR31 (WR39)
  • 2015: WR9 (WR13)
  • 2016: WR13 (WR15)
  • 2017: WR5 (WR6)
  • 2018: WR18 (WR27)
  • 2019: WR12 (WR22)

Now let’s be honest, the Cleveland Browns as a whole under performed last year, but Landry still managed to put up his third 1,000-yard season to go along with 6 touchdowns. However, I am expecting a huge bounce back from this Cleveland Browns offense.

Under new head coach Kevin Stefanski, I believe we will see an offense more tailored to Baker Mayfield’s strengths, and thus will see the whole offense humming. There shouldn’t be any reason that Landry does not outperform his current ADP by a wide margin.

Odell Beckham Jr. is reportedly invigorated and ready to destroy some opposing defenses, which can only help Landry eat up some of those receptions. Ultimately, in PPR, that’s what he needs, he needs to be constantly targeted, and that is where his inconsistency lies.

Landry is not a world beater, he is not a deep threat, he is a reliable, sure-handed receiver that can be counted on to be in the right spot at the right time, and those guys depend on seeing ample targets per game to stay fantasy relevant.

With consistency at quarterback, a lot of the troubles the Cleveland Browns offense had last year will be corrected. OBj will be feeling better, the run game will be better, and the defense on paper will probably be worse. All of these things, along with Mayfield’s progression, will actually help Landry.

Landry is one of those high-floor, low-ceiling guys that you can keep safely in your starting lineups most weeks because he won’t ever hurt you, he can only help you.

Have questions? You can reach Zach at zach@broadwaysportsmedia.com.

Love my opinions? Hate my opinions? Leave comments below, and let’s discuss!

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