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AFC East Off-Season Changes
The Dolphins have made a statement heading into 2015 that they are a team to be reckoned with. After a few years of hedging on QB Ryan Tannehill being The Future, they decided to commit to him for 2015 at over $16 million. They did trade away their top WR and TE but reloaded in those areas as well. They added WR Kenny Stills via trade with New Orleans and picked up WR Greg Jennings (in an indirect throw-in from the Vikings in the Mike Wallace trade) and TE Jordan Cameron via free agency from Cleveland after a disappointing 2014 campaign. The biggest addition to the receiver corps came via the draft where the Dolphins added WR DeVante Parker from Louisville. At 6′ 3″, he is the tallest WR in the group. Kenny Stills is the burner of the group and Jarvis Landry the underneath possession receiver, so Parker will be the whole field threat, including the Red Zone. They also added WR Tony Lippett in the 5th round, as well, for additional depth.
After years of disappointment at the running back position, 2014 saw Lamar Miller finally break out with over 1000 yards and 8 TDs. However, I don’t feel like the Dolphins management are sold on him and will be looking to give 5th round pick Jay Agayi some early season reps and see what he can do and if the concerns about his knee (“bone on bone”) are a valid long-term concern.
The Dolphins D were a middle-of-the-pack defense in 2014, but they are expected to take a big step forward in 2015. They landed the biggest defensive prize in free agency in the form of Ndamukong Suh. They paid a LOT for him, but, if he stays out of trouble, he is definitely a difference maker. The Dolphins also added DT Jordan Phillips from Oklahoma in the 2nd round of the draft. Playing alongside a Suh should boost Phillips’ game since Suh will see constant double-teams.
Fantasy starters: QB Ryan Tannehill, RB Lamar Miller, WR DeVante Parker, WR Kenny Stills, Dolphins D
Fantasy bench: WR Jarvis Landry, WR Greg Jennings, TE Jordan Cameron
Fantasy Sleeper: RB Jay Agayi
New York Jets:
The Jets decided to oust their coach and then proceeded to vastly improve the one area that he took pride in. After giving Rex Ryan his pink slip, the Jets promptly signed CB Darrelle Revis to a monster contract and paired him, once again, with CB Antonio Cromartie, who also signed a very nice contract in free agency. These two will help hide the Jets’ deficiencies at linebacker with their single coverage. Up front, they had the top defensive lineman in Leonard Williams fall into their lap at the 6th pick. The defense may be the most improved unit on either side of the ball in the NFL.
On the offensive side of the ball, they picked up RB Zac Stacy from St. Louis for virtually a plane ticket and oft-injured Stevan Ridley in free agency to add to a crowded, but talented, backfield. At the WR position, they added Brandon Marshall for a low draft pick and drafted WR Devin Smith from Ohio State to line up with carry-over WR Eric Decker. Smith has the speed that the other receivers do not have. While the Jets do not have a QB under contract that scares a defensive with deep accuracy, every team does need a threat to stretch the field a bit. That being said, the key to this team will be at the QB position. Can Geno Smith turn the corner in 2015? If not, the Jets will be quick to bench him in favor of veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick. Adding Bryce Petty via the draft won’t factor much into 2015 but he was a nice value pick in the 4th round for the future.
Fantasy starters: WR Brandon Marshall, Jets D
Fantasy bench: RB Chris Ivory, WR Eric Decker
Fantasy Sleeper: RB Devin Smith, TE Jace Amaro
New England Patriots:
The biggest question right now is what kind of penalty will Tom Brady be looking at for Deflategate? It could be a large fine, but it sure seems like the NFL will be handing down a multi-game suspension. Will it be 2 games or 6? The Under/Over at the offshore sportsbooks puts it at 3.5 games. With the big losses on defense; Vince Wilfork, Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis, this team was bound to take a step back this year regardless of the suspension. They did get DT Malcolm Brown from Texas with the last pick of the 1st round, which was an absolute steal, but the NFL learning curve is steep for a rookie DT. The same thing can be said for 2nd round pick S Jordan Richards from Stanford. Nice pick, but expect to see him get educated on the playing field.
They added zero players on offense that weren’t under contract last season. I expect to see WR Danny Amendola take a step forward this year based on being healthy and finally getting to play a role in the offense after being under contract for two seasons.
Fantasy starters: QB Tom Brady, RB LeGarrett Blount, TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Julian Edelman, WR Brandon LaFell
Fantasy bench: RB Jonas Gray
Fantasy Sleeper: WR Danny Amendola
The Bills made their biggest splashes in the off-season by signing coach Rex Ryan and trading for RB LeSean McCoy. They had one of the best defenses in the league last season and that should continue under Ryan this season. McCoy is a big improvement over the running back by committee approach of injury-prone running backs that Buffalo has been rolling out the past few years. They also added veteran QB Matt Cassel to replace the veteran QB Kyle Orton after he retired. Ryan will run a QB competition this summer but one would believe that E.J. Manuel would need to greatly outshine Cassel to get the starting nod from Rex Ryan. The Bills have stud WR Sammy Watkins but were lacking a running mate until they brought WR Percy Harvin along in free agency with Ryan from the Jets.
Giving up their first round pick this year in a trade last season to get Watkins limited their high end draft picks and they did little with what they had left though they seemed to favor Florida State grads; taking CB Ronald Darby in the 2nd round, RB Karlos Williams in the 5th round and TE Nick O’Leary in the 6th round. The Bills have been looking for a solid TE option for years and O’Leary could end up filling that role.
Fantasy starters: RB LeSean McCoy, WR Sammy Watkins, TE Charles Clay
Fantasy bench: RB Fred Jackson, WR Percy Harvin
Fantasy Sleeper: TE Nick O’Leary
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