2019 Fantasy Football: Players to avoid in the AFC East

There are thousands of fantasy football articles advising you who to draft and when. However, what about the players to stay away from?

There are thousands of fantasy football articles advising on who to draft and when. However, what about the players to stay away from?

In my next fantasy football series, I will be going around the NFL and selecting one player from each team for fantasy football owners to avoid in their drafts.

I kick off the series with selecting a player from each team in the AFC East.

Sony Michel, RB, New England Patriots

The Case

The hype surrounding New England Patriots running back Sony Michel is excessive. Everyone knows he dominated the 2018 postseason by rushing for 336 yards over three games, which is the 13th-most ever by any player in a single postseason. He also scored the lone touchdown in the Patriots’ 13-3 victory over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII.

However, Michel is the lead player to be a regression candidate for fantasy football in 2019. He will struggle to duplicate his 2018 performance.

Michel has a degenerative knee condition, which makes him a considerable health risk. He has suffered significant knee injuries, and his knee issues began in high school when he suffered a torn ACL. In last year’s preseason, he had a procedure in early August to have fluid drained from his knee. The Patriots brought him along slowly and he returned in Week 2. In a Week 7 matchup last season, he was diagnosed with a knee strain and missed two games.

During this offseason, Michel reportedly had to undergo a knee arthroscopy which caused him to miss the final portion of the team’s workouts. Although the initial reports are positive, this has to be a red flag for Sony Michel fans.

Another negative for Michel is his lack of contribution in the passing game. He received just 11 targets as a rookie, catching seven of those passes for 50 yards and zero touchdowns. Furthermore, it’s difficult to envision an increasing role with James White and Rex Burkhead more talented in the passing game.

In addition to those two running backs, the Patriots added another running back in Damien Harris in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. The Patriots didn’t draft him in the third round to sit on the bench. Harris is projected as a north-south runner who excels in short-yardage situations.

The Verdict

The crowded Patriots’ backfield should concern fantasy owners. Michel is currently being drafted as RB20, which places him in as RB2 for owners. With a running back by committee being utilized, there is no way that Sony Michel is worthy of a third-round pick.

In the last seven seasons, the Patriots have never had back to back seasons with a 1,000-yard rusher. Michel’s situation is not favorable for him to accomplish that feat.

The Patriots will employ Sony Michel and Damien Harris on early-down work, which will limit each player’s fantasy production. Michel can also be phased out of game plans due to his lack of involvement in the passing game. James White and Rex Burkhead will play in distinct passing situations.

The injury history and the crowded backfield is enough to make me avoid Sony Michel at his current draft price.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Miami Dolphins

The Case

Ryan Fitzpatrick continues his tour of the AFC East with his signing to his third team in the division. The Miami Dolphins signed the veteran quarterback to a two-year deal after trading incumbent starter Ryan Tannehill to the Tennessee Titans.

Fitzpatrick was the talk of fantasy football after the first two weeks last season. He totaled passing over 800 yards and eight touchdowns. However, this is Fitzpatrick’s eighth team, and he is a great backup quarterback but could never hold down the starting job. His highs are astronomical while his lows are heartbreaking. For every 40-point game he provides fantasy owners, he is just as likely to give you a four-point game.

Notwithstanding the signing of Fitzpatrick, the Miami Dolphins stole the much-maligned former Arizona Cardinals first-round pick Josh Rosen in Day 2 of the 2019 NFL Draft. Rosen was deemed available once the Cardinals went all-in on new coach Kliff Kingsbury, and his offense, by selecting Kyler Murray as the number one overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft to become their new franchise quarterback.

Rosen had a dreadful rookie season in Arizona after being drafted 10th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. With inferior coaching in Arizona, the Cardinals finished 3-13 and scored the least amount of points in the NFL last season. The former Bruin was sacked a colossal 45 times in 13 starts last season.

Rosen will get a fresh start in Miami and will be competing with Ryan Fitzpatrick for the starting job.

The Verdict

Granted, Fitzpatrick is the expected starter in Week 1, but Josh Rosen will inevitably get a chance to prove himself this season as the potential franchise Dolphins quarterback. Regardless of which quarterback starts, he will be facing an uphill battle with a new regime, which means a new offense to learn with an unimpressive receiving corps in Kenny Stills, Albert Wilson, and yearly training-camp standout Devante Parker. Combine that obstacle with significant concerns on the offensive line and a running game in flux, and you have to be anxious to draft Fitzpatrick as your starter in even two-quarterback leagues.

Fitzpatrick is a great DFS option as he might provide owners with some “Fitzmagic,” but he does not possess much upside and is a stop-gap quarterback. The only question is it for Josh Rosen or next year’s draft selection?

LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills

The Case

LeSean McCoy has been one of the fantasy stud running backs of the past decade. It was only a few years ago when he was a definite first-round selection. From 2010 to 2017, he had at least 1,000 yards from scrimmage every season. Unfortunately, no one can beat Father Time, and he will be 31 at the start of the 2019 season. It looks like his days as a No. 1 running back are long gone.

McCoy rushed for only 514 yards and averaged a lowly 3.2 yards per carry last season. This production came off the heels of a 2017 season in which he averaged only four yards per carry, the lowest mark of his career until last season.

McCoy will have some company in the Buffalo Bills backfield in 2019. The Bills signed veteran running backs Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon this offseason. Gore has produced the fourth-most rushing yards in NFL history (14,748 yards). He comes over from the Miami Dolphins where he rushed for 722 yards on 156 carries (4.6 yards per carry) last season.

T.J. Yeldon has spent his entire four-year career with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Yeldon is an ideal change-of-pace back who will be inserted in obvious pass situations. To add to this crowded backfield, the Bills drafted Devin Singletary. He is an elusive back who has been called a LeSean McCoy clone.

The Bills offense is not high-powered by any means. Rookie quarterback Josh Allen was the Bills best offensive weapon last season. Shockingly, Allen was the team’s leading rusher last season with 631 rushing yards. He broke the team’s rushing yard record in a game by a quarterback when he rushed for 135 yards against the Miami Dolphins.

The young quarterback showed flashes last season but was inconsistent as most rookie quarterbacks typically are. Unfortunately, he does not have much to work with in Buffalo. He has one of the worst receiving corps in the league, and the offensive line is atrocious.

The Verdict

McCoy has been the focal point of the Bills offense for years, but he has struggled the past few seasons mightily.

The Bills are in the middle of a team rebuild and need to continue to build around Josh Allen. The selection of Devin Singletary looks to be the passing of the torch from McCoy. In the meantime, McCoy and Frank Gore will form a running back committee in obvious run situations. Yeldon comes in on passing downs, and the team hopes that either wide receiver Zay Jones or Robert Foster live up to expectations.

The Bills have a championship defense, but their offense is lacking firepower. McCoy has seen his better days, and there is no evidence that he will have a big bounce-back season. These factors render him a player to avoid in fantasy football drafts regardless of his proposed draft value.

Le’Veon Bell, RB, New York Jets

The Case

NFL fans know the soap opera surrounding Le’Veon Bell last season. He sat out the entire season over a contract dispute with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He signed a massive free-agent deal with the New York Jets this offseason. He is now ready to prove himself in 2019.

With the Steelers, Bell was a Fantasy Football God! He was on another level, putting up incredible stats and was a superb pass-catcher out of the backfield. He was one of the NFL’s premier playmakers and probably the best dual threat during his time with the Steelers.

The former Spartan comes to the Jets and instantly becomes their top runner AND best receiver.

Bell attempts to be the full workhorse for the Jets but will face some hurdles in New York. The most glaring obstacle is head coach Adam Gase. Gase mentioned this offseason that he didn’t want the Jets to obtain Bell. That is not the way to start your relationship with your multi-talented running back.

Bell averaged 27.5 touches per game in his last two seasons with the Steelers. In contrast, in six seasons as an offensive coordinator or head coach, Gase has never given one of his running backs even 21 touches per game.

With the Steelers, Bell was running behind one of the best offensive lines in the league. In New York, Bell will have some long games running behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL.

The Jets lack the elite offensive weapons that Bell was accustomed to in Pittsburgh. Quarterback Sam Darnold is entering his second season as the starter and should be better, but now he has to learn another offense under Gase. The receiving corps is not exceptional and does not place fear in opposing defenses.

The Verdict

Le’Veon Bell was a great player in Pittsburgh, but how does being out of football for a full year affect him? Will he still be the same type of player? His current ADP of eighth overall indicates that most fantasy football owners believe he will step in and produce immediately in New York.

Many concerns limit my confidence in picking Bell in the first round of fantasy drafts. The Adam Gase factor, weaker supporting cast, and the inferior offensive line are risk factors that allow me to see Bell underperforming his current draft position.

Selecting Bell in the first round is paying for the best-case scenario. The Jets will not be a good team this season. They haven’t made the playoffs in nearly a decade, and the 2019 season will not break that streak.

I foresee Bell starting slowly and facing a ton of eight-nine man boxes. There will be inconsistent production from Bell which should force him out of the first round but makes for an excellent late second-round pick.

Please remember that you cannot win your fantasy football league in the first round, but you can lose it with the wrong pick. Let someone else select Le’Veon Bell in the first round.

Dennis Sosic is a writer for Pro Football Network covering the Cleveland Browns and fantasy football. Sosic also co-hosts the AFC North and Goal podcast with fellow PFN writer Travis Yates. You can follow Dennis @CALL_ME_SOS on Twitter.

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