IDP Fantasy Preview: AFC North

IDP Fantasy Preview: AFC North

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IDP Fantasy Preview: AFC North

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Every year there are new faces in new places – not just players, but coaches too.  With those changes come scheme changes, and value changes with regard to fantasy football.  Which is why drafting off stats from the previous year isn’t a wise thing to do. However, reading each divisional IDP preview update would be a wise thing to do. If you have any additional questions please feel free to email me at gallo@thehuddle.com or find me on twitter @SteveGalloNFL.

Baltimore Ravens

HC: John Harbaugh
DC:  Dean Pees
Base Defensive Scheme: 3-4
Scheme Change: No


Defensive Line
Last year was not a dream…it’s true that Terrell Suggs was finally reclassified as a LB. This year it’s Haloti Ngata that gets a new designation, going from DT to DE. Along with that reclassification Ngata’s fantasy value goes up in smoke. 

Linebacker
Last year, Daryl Smith was the only Ravens LB to have fantasy value. He finished the season as LB16. This year he’s sporting an ADP of LB29. He’s another year older, the Ravens have Arthur Brown and also rookie C.J. Mosley. Brown might eat into some of Smith’s snaps, but where I think he really takes a hit is with Mosley starting next to him inside. With an ADP of LB24 others are on board with Mosley making a splash this year. I won’t be shocked if he finishes as a LB2 but I’m not in love with taking him as the 24th LB off the board either.

Secondary

Matt Elam’s freshman campaign, for fantasy purposes, wasn’t very good. For the season he only eclipsed double digits in a week three times and finished as the season as DB83. With a full season under his belt I’m expecting Elam to take a big step forward in 2014. His ADP of DB24 seems like a bit of a bargain to me. Upside is high-level DB2 to DB1. In CB mandatory leagues, both Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith should prove to be solid weekly options.

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Cincinnati Bengals

HC: Marvin Lewis
DC:  Paul Guenther
Base Defensive Scheme: 4-3
Scheme Change: No


Defensive Line
Mike Zimmer may not be the Bengals DC now but with Marvin Lewis still around as their HC don’t expect any changes defensively from the Bengals. Geno Atkins appears to be on track to start in week 1 and that’s great news for those in DT mandatory leagues. Even coming off of injury my expectation is that he’ll finish top-3 among DTs in fantasy scoring. At defensive end the Bengals will be without Michael Johnson who landed in Tampa Bay this offseason. Carlos Dunlap had a great season in 2013, finishing 9th among DL in fantasy scoring. This year I can see a repeat performance and wouldn’t be shocked to see him push top-5. That means I see his ADP of DL14 as a big value. I’m not expecting Margus Hunt to be fantasy relevant this year but I am curious to see what strides he makes in 2014.

Linebacker
I don’t care that Vontaze Burfict got paid this summer because I don’t think it will impact his play in a negative manner. I’m glad he was able to cash in because after his performance last year, he deserved it. Burfict finished as LB2 last year and this year I see him finishing no worse than LB5. Draft with the utmost confidence. Beyond Burfict you can get some bye week help from Rey Maualuga but that’s about all you should rely on him for in 2014.

Secondary
Reggie Nelson (DB85) and George Iloka (DB87) sure didn’t set the fantasy world on fire last year and this year I wouldn’t expect much different. With that said, if you are going to wait, and wait and wait even longer at DB then Iloka is a guy that I don’t mind buying a lottery ticket on. In CB mandatory leagues keep an eye on rookie Darqueze Dennard. When I spoke with Herm Edwards earlier this summer he said that Marvin Lewis was raving about the kid. As we know, or should know, rookie CBs provide value because QBs like to test them until they prove they shouldn’t. Dennard could pay off dividends for owners because of that. Another DB that most likely will be available on waivers to start the season is Shaun Williams and if he can work his way into a starting role at some point he’ll be a hot waiver wire add.

Cleveland Browns

HC: Mike Pettine
DC:  Jim O’Neil
Base Defensive Scheme: 3-4
Scheme Change: No


Defensive Line
The Browns no longer have Ray Horton as their DC, but with Jim O’Neil on board as their new DC they’ll still employ a 3-4 defense. Along the DL there isn’t much fantasy value to be had.

Linebacker
This is going to be Karlos Dansby’s second team in as many years, and you know what else it will be? It’s going to be his third straight year putting up LB15 or better numbers! Dansby had a fantastic 2013 (I still think the Broncos should have signed him last summer), ranking 4th among LBs in fantasy scoring. He was just four points behind Lavonte David (LB3) and six points behind Vontaze Burfict (LB2). This year, David is sporting an ADP of LB2, and Burfict’s ADP is LB3, but Dansby’s ADP pales in comparison at LB9. That’s very nice value for a player that has top-5 upside playing on a defense that doesn’t have anyone to vulture tackles from him. Rookie Christian Kirksey could carve out a nice LB3/4 type role if he’s able to secure a starting job next to Dansby in the Browns 3-4 defense.

Secondary
Donte Hitner, I mean Whitner, the former 49er takes the place of departed SS, T.J. Ward (Denver). Whitner has an ADP of DB29 and that makes him a perfect target in fantasy drafts. I see his upside as that of a low DB1 and at worst I’m expecting DB2 numbers. If rookie Justin Gilbert can work his way onto the field for enough snaps this year he’ll have value in CB mandatory leagues as QBs will be much more apt to pick on him than they will Joe Haden.

Pittsburgh Steelers

HC: Mike Tomlin
DC:  Dick LeBeau
Base Defensive Scheme: 3-4
Scheme Change: No


Defensive Line
The Steelers 3-4 scheme means you can look for DE help elsewhere.

Linebacker
Lawrence Timmons’ ADP last year was LB16, and he finished as LB20. This year his ADP is LB21 so it’s clear that IDP owners are finally throwing the towel in on Timmons having any sort of top-15 upside. As a LB2, Timmons will break his owners hearts far much less than when they were drafting him on his perceived LB1 upside. This year, rookie Ryan Shazier will be vulturing tackles from Timmons, ensuring he finishes at best as a LB2. As for Shazier, I think he’s being somewhat over-drafted but there is some upside to be had so I get it but with an ADP of LB22 his return on investment isn’t going to be much. In big-play leagues Jason Worilds will present some value, especially now that Lamarr Woodley is now in Oakland.

Secondary
Troy Polamalu has lost a step of five, and while he still has the instincts to get it done on the NFL level for the Steelers but fantasy wise, if you haven’t moved on yet, you should. Another thing that the Steelers defense lost is safety Ryan Clark (WAS).

Scoring system used for this article: solo tackle (2), assisted tackle (1), sack (3), forced or recovered fumble (3), interception (3) and pass defended (1).

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