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    2019 Fantasy Football: Vacated targets in the AFC North

    The second article in a series of vacated targets, we turn our attention to each AFC North team for the upcoming 2019 fantasy football season based on offseason transactions that could change player values

    Vacated targets are an important thing to look at year over year in fantasy football. This is the second in a series of articles reviewing each team’s vacated targets and the general narrative around what that might mean for 2019 fantasy football production. Last week, we covered the AFC East. This week, we turn our attention to the AFC North.

    2019 Fantasy Football AFC North

    Baltimore Ravens – Vacated Targets: 279 / 52%

    The Baltimore Ravens won the AFC North last year, but they will look very different when they take the field in 2019. They lost their top two target getters downfield in WR Michael Crabtree and WR John Brown and their top three target getters out of the backfield in Alex Collins, Buck Allen, and Ty Montgomery.

    One can see from the 52% of targets being vacated that this team is essentially going into full rebuild mode regarding their offensive playmakers. On top of that, all signs indicate that this team will be going very run heavy this year as well, making for an interesting landscape for fantasy production through the air.

    But all is not lost. The Ravens drafted Marquise Brown as the first wide receiver off the board. They hope to bring him in and get him up to speed right away to help second-year QB Lamar Jackson take the next step forward in his progression. On top of Brown, they also drafted Miles Boykin in the third round. In addition, they signed some UDFA players to help bolster their receiving corps.

    Baltimore added rookie RB Justice Hill and signed veteran Mark Ingram to shore up the backfield. These additions should help the Ravens run the ball like they want to do. Baltimore’s running backs, and that includes Jackson in many ways, should receive the bulk of fantasy football production out of this offense.

    Brown and Boykin should still be able to produce early, however, with Brown receiving around 75 targets and Boykin getting about 35 of his own in this revamped offense.

    Pittsburgh Steelers – Vacated Targets: 209 / 31%

    The Pittsburgh Steelers threw the ball a whopping 676 times last year, with the largest portion of that going to the perennial top receiver in the game, Antonio Brown. But now Brown has been traded to the Oakland Raiders and Le’Veon Bell has moved on to the New York Jets after skipping the whole season. That leaves a pretty good void for targets in the Pittsburgh offense going into 2019. Ben Roethlisberger still likes to throw, but without his top two targets and tight end Jesse James now in Detroit, it’s hard to predict just how this offense will look when they take the field.

    Thankfully, JuJu Smith-Schuster is still on the roster, and the Steelers wasted little time in backfilling their receivers group. They signed free agent Donte Moncrief and drafted speedster Diontae Johnson. Look for both players to step up and help this team out. They also get a healthy James Conner back, along with a breakout fantasy candidate in Vance McDonald. McDonald is now the sole starting tight end in Pittsburgh. Combine that with second-year WR James Washington and they should have plenty of options to fill the void left behind after losing Brown and Bell.

    Cleveland Browns – Vacated Targets: 59 / 11%

    The Cleveland Browns decided to go in a different direction with their offseason plan. They only lost about 60 targets losing players like Breshad Perriman, Carlos Hyde, and Darren Fells. Quarterback Baker Mayfield had a great rookie season and is looking like a leader with plenty of potential, so bringing back the main roster of receivers is a great plan of attack. The Browns changed their coaching staff to more align with the mindset that Mayfield is their guy and they need to support him. All of this is somewhat bland and would provide for a boring year-over-year comparison if it weren’t for one little thing…

    Cleveland went out and traded for one of the top receivers in the game in Odell Beckham Jr. Beckham was targeted 124 times last season with the New York Giants, so perhaps you can see the problem. How will he keep that up on an offense that didn’t lose many targets? The players that left are not even in the same galaxy as a player like Beckham.

    Beckham should have no issue eclipsing the 100 target mark again, siphoning targets from teammates Jarvis Landry, David Njoku, and Antonio Callaway. Opposite from their AFC North counterpart Baltimore Ravens, the Browns now have too many mouths to feed. That should make for some interesting drama as the season unfolds. So much for being boring, huh?

    Cincinnati Bengals – Vacated Targets: 22 / 4%

    Similar to their cross-state rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals opted to keep the core of their offensive skill players relatively intact, only losing third string bit players like RB Mark Walton and TE Tyler Kroft in the offseason. They also lost their long-time coach in Marvin Lewis. Lewis had been described as an old dog who couldn’t learn new tricks.

    The Bengals front office, therefore, decided it was time for a change. They went out and got someone from the Sean McVay tree, Zac Taylor, to be their new head coach. Taylor is an offensive minded coach, but the jury is still out on whether or not he can bring that Los Angeles Rams offense to Cincinnati.

    The Bengals added RB Bruce Anderson, RB Trayveon Williams, and TE Drew Sample in the 2019 NFL Draft. It’s unlikely that any of these rookies will make a very large impact right away barring injury, so look for similar production from Bengals stalwarts A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, Tyler Eifert, Joe Mixon, and RB Giovani Bernard to repeat their target totals from last year. All of which should see a slight increase if the offense takes it up a notch as well, which could likely mean more fantasy football production without seeing a big change in targets.

    Hit us up on twitter @PFN365 with your thoughts on who will get the lions share of vacated targets for each team. Also, continue to visit the Pro Football Network for NFL news and in-depth analysis while also visiting our new Fantasy Football section.

    Andrew Hall is a writer for PFN covering Fantasy Football. You can follow him @AndrewHallFF on Twitter.

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