2011 AFC East Fantasy Preview
by Russ Bliss (8/16/11)

Buffalo Bills

QB's: Ryan Fitzpatrick is the unquestioned starter. On the heels of a surprising 2010 season he makes a viable fantasy backup. Tyler Thigpen is behind him and has no chance to unseat Fitzpatrick.

RB's: Underappreciated Fred Jackson is expected to be the primary RB and has the most upside of the group. He also catches the ball well and will split time as the 3rd down RB with C.J. Spiller. Jackson doesn't get the credit he deserves and makes a stable RB3 for fantasy. Spiller was a disappointment as a rookie and is not expected to cut too much into Jackson's time to start the season. He will serve as the change of pace and occasional 3rd down RB. Johnny White is a rookie who has been turning heads in training camp, but is no higher than 3rd on the rotation. White's not particularly big and shouldn't cut into Jackson's role as goal line RB.

WR's: Steve Johnson had a surprising 2010 and looks to be the #1 WR. While I'm still not convinced he is a solid every week fantasy starter, he certainly showed the upside for it and should be drafted as a fantasy WR2. David Nelson is likely to be the #2 WR with Lee Evans now in Baltimore but that's no sure thing. Craig Davis is also there but he couldn't be very good in San Diego with a great QB throwing to him and Davis projects no higher than the 4th WR.  Providing he is recovered from a fractured wrist injury suffered in 2010, Roscoe Parrish is ideally suited in the slot as the #3 WR. Former Jet Brad Smith will have a role, but whether that means he actually gets some receptions this year is in serious question. More likely he is listed as a WR but is really a Wildcat QB who finishes with more rushing attempts than anything. Donald Jones will compete for a starting job but he needs work. Marcus Easley will likely compete for the #5 WR spot but has the upside to compete for a bigger role and challenge for a spot higher on the list, but has to prove he can stay healthy.

TE's: David Martin, Scott Chandler, and Shawn Nelson are the top 3, but the order is unknown and none of the three have any business being on a fantasy roster. The offense doesn't use the TE position much as receivers, and none of them are particularly good pass catchers.

K: Rian Lindell is a pretty good kicker, but he's on a team that struggles to move the ball and unless you need to carry a backup kicker, Lindell shouldn't be drafted.

Miami Dolphins

QB's: After failing to get any real competition for incumbent Chad Henne, it appears that it will be Henne who starts the season. Henne has struggled though and his leash will be short. Former Panther Matt Moore was brought in and will be the backup unless Henne completely flops in preseason. Even though there are some weapons to throw to in Miami, I'd have to be desperate to have a Miami QB on my fantasy roster.

RB's: The Dolphins made a splash getting Reggie Bush, but it's not nearly as big a splash for fantasy purposes. If Bush couldn't succeed in New Orleans, what makes anyone think being in Miami will mean greatness for him? While Bush was initially placed atop the depth chart in training camp, I expect rookie Daniel Thomas will be the primary RB when the seasons starts getting 15-20 carries per game with Bush as the 3rd down and change of pace guy getting maybe 10 total touches. Thomas is a big RB who can take the pounding of being a featured guy and also catches the ball very well. Thomas will also be the goal line guy and barring injury should be a good RB2/3. Lex Hilliard and Kory Sheets are the bench guys with neither having much of a chance to be relevant barring injuries. Lousaka Polite is a FB who gets an occasional touch, but isn't even a blip on fantasy radars.

WR's: Another turbulent offseason for Brandon Marshall doesn't diminish the fact he is the best WR on the team and the most likely to be a consistent fantasy producer as a WR2. Maybe the recent revelation about his personality disorder will mean he gets the proper treatment going forward and can get back to being nearly unstoppable on the football field. Brian Hartline is the other starting WR, but he has little fantasy upside and consistently gets outplayed by slot WR Davone Bess. Bess is a nice PPR type but lacks big play ability. Still, in the PPR format Bess is worthy of being a WR3/4. Rookie Clyde Gates (he changed his first name from "Edmond" very recently) is likely locked into the role of speed guy #4WR. But that isn't likely to translate into fantasy worthiness. A cast of non-descript guys including Roberto Wallace and Marlon Moore will battle for the 5th WR spot.

TE's: Anthony Fasano is the starter and enjoyed a good 2010. Good for him that is. His final numbers were okay, but showed little hope of being worth a spot on a fantasy roster. Rookie Charles Clay is expected to bounce between TE and FB and is the likeliest candidate to be Fasano's true backup. Mickey Shuler and Jeron Mastrud have no value at all.

K: Dan Carpenter's accuracy really struggled the last half of 2010, but he is entrenched as the kicker and for a few games last year was great. But an inconsistent offense and his accuracy issues means I'll be leaving him on the waiver wire at fantasy drafts. 

New England Patriots

QB's: Tom Brady is a rock solid fantasy QB1 and one of my top 7 for 2010. Behind him Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett will battle it out to be the top backup and while both are untested, both would be stepping into a great offensive system if they were called upon.

RB's: Few teams have such a confused backfield for fantasy purposes as the Patriots. BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for over 1,000 yards and 13 TD's last year but the team drafted 2 RB's in the first 3 rounds. They also have last year's surprise 3rd down ace Danny Woodhead. I doubt if re-signed veterans Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris make the team as both are getting up in age and the two drafted rookies, Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley are pretty sure to have roster spots along with BGE and Woodhead. Here's how I see it shaking out: BGE will be the primary and goal line RB with Vereen as his primary change of pace and Woodhead being the 3rd down specialist. Ridley will be the secondary goal line/short yardage RB as he offers better size than Vereen or Woodhead and is more of a power guy like BGE. Vereen is smaller than BGE and bigger than Woodhead and more versatile all the way around so he is likely the top backup to both. I expect a platoon system which will prevent any of them being reliable week to week. Barring injuries shaking this out into clearer focus, it's hard to bank on any of the Pats RB's being more than bench guys with upside and risk.

WR's: Chad Ochocinco was acquired and is likely to be the best fantasy option in non-ppr formats. Ochocinco may have a big chip on his shoulder after a really lackluster 2010 and with new life, and Tom Brady throwing him the ball, will either really exceed expectations, or fall well short of them in 2011. He will start with Deion Branch opposite him and Wes Welker moving into his traditional slot WR role (where he excels). Welker is a good bet to lead the team in receptions, but doubtful to lead them in yards or TD's. In PPR formats, Welker is a solid WR2. Branch can be a WR 4/5 for fantasy purposes but the addition of Ochocinco will likely cut more into his targets than anyone else. Brandon Tate and Julian Edelman are the 4th and 5th WR's. Edelman is a lot like Welker in terms of his style of game, while Tate is the explosive big play maker. But being so far down on the WR depth chart, neither is likely to have any impact barring injuries. Taylor Price will battle for a job, and if the Patriots keep 6 WR's he's likely that guy.

TE's: Rob Gronkowski started 2010 slow, but was huge the last half of the season and providing he stays healthy is a big fantasy football sleeper to finish in the top 8 TE's in 2011. Aaron Hernandez was hot to start the year in 2010 but cooled off the second half of the season. With so many weapons for Brady to throw to, it's difficult to put trust into more than just Gronkowski being a solid fantasy TE1. Rookie Lee Smith is more of a blocking TE and doesn't figure to cut into Gronkowski's or Hernandez's receptions at all.

K: All reports say that Stephen Gostkowski has healed up from the torn quad muscle injury that ended his 2010 season prematurely. If that is truly the case, there's no reason for Gostkowski to not be one of the top 5 kickers for fantasy in 2011.

New York Jets

QB's: Mark Sanchez continues to evolve into a better QB than I expected him to become. He's not a fantasy starter, but you could certainly do worse for a backup. The Jets say they are going to let Sanchez throw it more this year and that means Sanchez could be a rotational starter for fantasy teams who don't get a sure fire #1 starting QB. Mark Brunell is the backup to Sanchez but would have little value if forced into action.

RB's: The Jets learned their lesson in 2010 and now will turn to Shonn Greene as their feature RB. If Greene can learn to catch the ball better, he would be a complete RB, but he's still inexperienced at it so LaDainian Tomlinson assumes the role of primary 3rd down pass catching RB. Greene has RB1 ability in fantasy while LT is nothing more than maybe a PPR consideration for the bench. While rookie Bilal Powell gets a lot of hype, second year man Joe McKnight is the 3rd RB and top backup to both Greene and LT. Powell has better size than McKnight though and if Greene were to get injured, it would be a platoon situation.

WR's: Santonio Holmes is the unquestioned #1 WR and best fantasy prospect. For fantasy he is a borderline WR1/2. Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason will fill out the 2nd and 3rd WR spots. Burress needs to get back into football shape after a couple of years out of the league, but if he does, he gives a dimension of size not found in the other two. He and Mason may flirt with close to the same amount of catches, but Burress should be finish with more TD's, making him the better fantasy option. But only as a WR4 unless he really surprises in preseason, in which case he could move up in value. Rookie Jeremy Kerley is the #4 WR but holds little fantasy value in that spot. Patrick Turner is the favorite to be the 5th WR, but will face a challenge from both rookie Scotty McKnight and veteran Logan Payne.

TE's: Dustin Keller would be a better fantasy TE if not for the fact the Jets run the ball so often. He has a lot of upside to be ranked in the top 10 fantasy TE's, but between the offensive philosophy and the targets that must go to the WR's, Keller is better suited as a solid backup fantasy TE. Matthew Mulligan and Jeff Cumberland are the very unexciting backup TE's.

K: Nick Folk is likely to be their kicker, but his accuracy issues mean he will face competition from Nick Novak (another inaccurate kicker). I expect Folk to win the job, but if he struggles, it won't be a surprise for the Jets to find a different too long into the season. There are points to be had from a kicker on this team, but given the tenuousness of the situation, I'd want a different kicker than Folk (or Novak).

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