2019 Fantasy Football: The Deep State reveals AFC North studs and duds

In part three of an eight-part series, The Deep State divulges the 2019 fantasy football studs and duds from each NFL division. This week, the AFC North gets its closeup.

Fantasy Football
Photo Credit: The Sporting News

Pittsburgh Steelers

Stud: James Conner, running back

There’s been a lot of talk this offseason about Conner’s workload decreasing due to shared carries with Jaylen Samuels and the arrival of rookie Benny Snell. Let your fellow fantasy owners buy into this narrative and draft Conner at a bargain price. He did everything that was asked of him last season in filling in for Le’Veon Bell, a tall task for any running back. Why would the Steelers scale back from that this season?

Sure he’ll be spelled by Samuels or Snell from time to time for a breather, but make no mistake, Conner is the workhorse of this offense. It’s a game plan head coach Mike Tomlin has used over and over to the tune of two Super Bowl wins. With Conner, there’s no reason to move away from that winning formula.

Dud: Vance McDonald, tight end

The Steelers offense is very good. They lost arguably the best running back in football in Bell and dealt with off-field strife all season long with one of the best receivers in the game in Antonio Brown. Despite this, they finished fourth in total offense. At age 36, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 5,129 yards and 34 TDs. So why is their starting tight end on the dud list?

Despite all those passing yards, Big Ben just doesn’t utilize the tight end all that much. In 14 starts, McDonald had just 610 receiving yards and 4 TDs. Some may be optimistic after the departure of TE Jesse James, but a look into the numbers would disagree. James wasn’t a factor for most of the season. In the final eight games of 2018, he only caught 9 passes for 87 yards, so it’s not like he was eating into McDonald’s targets. McDonald is a TE2 with little upside, despite the preseason buzz.