AFC North Divisional Breakdown for 2021 (Fantasy Football)

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The Fantasy Footballers are rounding third and heading for home in this off-season stretch. Ok, maybe mixing baseball metaphors with football isn’t your thing but as we move through July, the Footballers are going through their divisional breakdowns as the draft season approaches. To kick off the series, Andy & Jason broke down the competitive AFC North on Thursday’s episode: AFC North Breakdown + Tale of Three Seasons, Dome Time!

I’ll recap each team highlighting their offensive & defensive statistics from 2020, the story behind their record, ADPs for each player, and leave you with some of the biggest fantasy questions entering the season.

Editor’s Note: Looking for full statistical projections for the players on these teams? From rookie Najee Harris‘ workload to Baker Mayfield‘s 2021 outlook, every team is statted out in full in the 2021 Ultimate Draft Kit!

Pittsburgh Steelers

Head Coach: Mike Tomlin
Offensive Coordinator: Matt Canada replacing Randy Fichtner

Offense

2020 Pace of Play  PPG Total Yards Pass Att. Pass Yards Pass TD Rush Att. Rush Yards Rush TD
20 12 24 1 15 6 28 32 27

Defense

  • DEF Rush Yards – 11 / DEF Pass Yards – 3 / Points Against – 3

Schedule

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  • First Four Matchups: @ BUF, vs LV, vs CIN, @ GB
  • 2021 Projected Vegas Win Total: 8.5

Current ADP

The Steelers started the 2020 season 11-0 and looked like an elite team. But things quickly changed as they stumbled to a 1-4 record down the stretch and a WildCard loss to Cleveland in playoffs. Peeling back the curtain, they were fortunate going 7-2 in one-score games. The real issue was the team’s decision to completely abandon the run ranking dead last in rushing yards. This was even more evident with Big Ben averaging 40.5 pass attempts per game. The volume is a bit of a misnomer as he averaged the fewest yards per attempt (6.3) of his career and led the league in attempts under 2.5 seconds per PFF. This was all to mask him behind that terrible offensive line. James Conner is gone and with the early draft capital invested in Najee Harris, it looks like he’s going to receive 75+ percent of the workload, which is rare in today’s NFL. Diontae Johnson was hyper-targeted when on the field leading all WRs in target share per snap but he also famously struggled with drops. He’s still an elite separator. Chase Claypool had a ridiculous rookie campaign highlighted by a 4-TD game. Juju Smith-Schuster signed on for one more year but with aDOT dropping year-over-year, he’s nothing more than a big slot WR without the ceiling we once thought he was capable of. Eric Ebron is there but apart from the occasional TD, he’s not on the redraft radar especially with incoming rookie Pat Friermuth added to the mix.

Biggest Fantasy Questions

  • Is Big Ben barely on the radar even in 2QB/SuperFlex leagues?
  • Will Najee Harris see the biggest workload for a rookie since Zeke? If he sees 275+ touches, is that volume too hard to pass up at 2.10?
  • Is the offensive line going to be so bad it changes the way we view this team’s weekly fantasy outlook?
  • Which of the Pittsburgh WRs has the highest ceiling? Floor?
Baltimore Ravens

Head Coach: John Harbaugh
Offensive Coordinator: Greg Roman

Offense

2020 Pace of Play PPG Total Yards Pass Att. Pass Yards Pass TD Rush Att. Rush Yards Rush TD
31 7 19 32 32 13 1 1 3

Defense

  • DEF Rush Yards – 11 / DEF Pass Yards – 3 / Points Against – 3

Schedule

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  • First Four Matchups: @ LV, vs KC, @ DET, @ DEN
  • 2021 Projected Vegas Win Total: 10.5

Current ADP

Last year was a roller coaster ride for the Ravens as they started the year 5-1. After their Week 7 bye, they lost 4-of-5 and then preceded to win five in a row heading into the playoffs. Their 41 % pass rate was by far the lowest in the league and the Ravens pass-catcher averaged more than 50 rec yards per game. Lamar Jackson‘s TD rate (10%) predictably regressed but still, 6.9 % is still an elite number. If you drafted Lamar in the 2nd round, you were disappointed as he was the QB9 through the first 11 weeks of the season. However, if you traded for him like Mike Wright, he was the QB2 for the final five weeks. That stretch also coincided with the emergence of rookie RB J.K. Dobbins who averaged 16.7 fantasy points per game from Week 11 on. Gus Edwards was a solid FLEX option who was re-signed this offseason. The issue in this offense is the “small pie” passing game where Ravens WRs combined for 137 receptions in 2020, the fewest in the NFL. The unit was efficient with 17 total TDs (t-13th) but never the boom you wanted with Marquise Brown as he never finished as a WR1 in any week in 2020. With only four weeks inside the top-24, he was a total bust last year. Rashod Bateman was added to the mix as a first-round draft pick but Andy & Jason debated about his merits as a rookie WR in a low volume passing offense. Mark Andrews still can be elite with the biggest discrepancy from his breakout 2019 campaign being the failed “deep connection” in 2020. He still finished as the TE4 and is a safe pick in the 5th round.

Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

Biggest Fantasy Questions

  • Is there an argument to take Lamar over Josh Allen or Kyler Murray as the QB2?
  • Can Dobbins sustain his high TD rate? What if he sees a slight uptick in targets?
  • Is the passing pie too small to trust any Ravens WR?
  • Is Mark Andrew another bounce-back candidate? Are you willing to take him at ADP?
Cleveland Browns

Head Coach: Kevin Stefanski
Offensive Coordinator: Alex Van Pelt

Offense

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2020 Pace of Play PPG Total Yards Pass Att. Pass Yards Pass TD Rush Att. Rush Yards Rush TD
27 14 16 28 24 13 4 3 5

Defense

  • DEF Rush Yards: 9 / DEF Pass Yards:  22 / Points Against: 21

Schedule

  • First Four Matchups: @ KC, vs HOU, vs CHI, @ MIN
  • 2021 Projected Vegas Win Total: 10.5

Current ADP

The Browns might be the best team in this division according to Jason Moore. He ain’t wrong as this team has assembled a loaded roster especially on the defensive side of the ball. In terms of their record, they overachieved in 2020 going 7-3 in one-score games and they were the only playoff team in 2020 with a negative pt differential (-11). Nevertheless, Baker Mayfield carries some optimism as his pass rate went up dramatically over the final two months of the season. For fantasy, his floor seems pretty low as he’s been a QB1 in just 15-of-45 career starts (33%). Nick Chubb is an outlier in every sense of the word and the only RB who can come close to Derrick Henry-type of production despite not having a ton of work in the passing game. He’s the only RB in the modern era to run for 1,000+ yards AND 9+ rush TDs in fewer than 13 games played. Kareem Hunt had the dream scenario last year when Chubb went out (Weeks 5-8) but he averaged only 12 more total yards per game. TDs saved his season as he totaled only 38 receptions.. also known as one more than he had in eight games in 2019. Jason is on team #No-dell preferring to not take the risk with Odell Beckham Jr. There is upside with him compared to Jarvis Landry, who is more of a floor play. This team did throw to the TE position 30 percent of the time in 2020 (t-3rd highest in the NFL) so Austin Hooper will likely have some streaming moments to come.

Biggest Fantasy Questions:

  • At this point in his career, do we know what Baker Mayfield is? And do we want that for fantasy?
  • Is 1.06 a bit rich for Nick Chubb, a player that isn’t catching passes?
  • Is Kareem Hunt going to be a reliable every week RB2? Do you want him on your teams?
  • If you got OBJ as your WR3, would you be ecstatic or nervous to keep starting him?
  • Is this team going to take a step forward despite their “lucky” record in 2020?
Cincinnati Bengals

Head Coach: Zac Taylor
Offensive Coordinator: Brian Callahan

Offense

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2020 Pace of Play PPG Total Yards Pass Att. Pass Yards Pass TD Rush Att. Rush Yards Rush TD
23 29 29 14 27 27 17 24 22

Defense

  • DEF Rush Yards: 29 / DEF Pass Yards: 19/ Points Against: 22

Schedule

  • First Four Matchups: vs MIN, @ CHI, @ PIT, vs JAX
  • 2021 Projected Vegas Win Total: 6.5

Current ADPs

Oh, the Bengals. They did play Cleveland close both their losses & they beat Pittsburgh once. But Zac Taylor’s record in two seasons (6-25-1) is rough with a win percentage of .203 aka barely above the Mendoza Line for those baseball fans. Joe Burrow‘s injury was devastating but even before he took sacks at an absurd rate last year. Some of them were the offensive line’s fault and some were his. His ADP is way too high for the Footballers who have him ranked as their consensus QB19. If you draft Burrow, you’re betting on volume alone and not looking at that brutal opening schedule. Joe Mixon also will be returning from injury and the guys are bullish on his 2021 prospects. His 17-game pace from last year: 410 opportunities. You can’t find that type of 3-down workload usually in the middle of the second round. This offense hyper-targeted its WRs with 69 % of targets, tied for the 3rd highest in NFL. Hopefully, those targets are more efficient this year with A.J. Green gone. Ja’Marr Chase gets the headlines after the team took him 5th overall (despite needing O-Line help). Andy & Jason are split and decided to take a water bet on Chase versus Tee Higgins. Higgins had 10 games of seven or more targets but he was more “good than great” never finishing above WR10 on any week. Tyler Boyd is a target machine in the slot and he started out the year on fire as the WR8 through the first eight weeks of the season. However, after the bye, he was the WR63 the rest of the way albeit with Joe Burrow for most of that time.

Biggest Fantasy Questions

  • Do we expect Joe Burrow to be more limited as a runner/scrambler? What is his ceiling?
  • Does Joe Mixon still have top-5 upside? What is the floor?
  • If each of the three WRs is going to see 110+ targets, who do you want at their current ADPs?
  • Is six wins still too much to ask even in a 17-game season?

Comments

ReverendR says:

Man, Mixon burned me last year. I’d hate to run it back with him but that volume is delicious.

DeadMemeDad says:

Check the head coach for the Steelers again!

Aaron says:

TYPO: Mike Tomlin coaches the Steelers fellas! Thanks for all the great insights you provide!

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