Offseason Fantasy Football Impacts: AFC & NFC North
To say this offseason has been wild would be an understatement. There have been so many trades and acquisitions of significant importance that it’s tough to even recognize the NFL anymore. If you stepped away from football for any length of time (like I did), you might be wondering what in the world happened while you were away.
To get a better understanding of what we are facing this season, let’s take a look at each division and evaluate the offseason moves starting with the AFC and NFC North.
In typical Browns fashion, this season is going to be filled with drama. Again. QB Baker Mayfield requested a trade in March but there has yet to be any movement for the first-round draft pick. Instead, the Browns went out and signed the highly controversial DeShawn Watson who hasn’t played a snap in a year and is knee-deep in the legal system (to put it mildly).
We are not even sure if Watson will play at all this year or what kind of punishment the league has planned to pass down. We could see only half the season with him as the starter or we won’t see him at all until 2023.
Next in line is the serviceable but unexceptional Jacoby Brissett. Although usually a backup, he did start for the Colts in 2017 and 2019 and also started in five games for the Dolphins last season. He hovered right around 270 completions on 450 attempts for 3000 yards and threw 13 and 18 touchdowns consecutively. He led the leagues in the number of times sacked with 52 but that number improved in 2019 to 27 and he had nine finishes as a QB1 over those two years.
Unless you’re in deep leagues or Superflex, Brissett should not be on your fantasy radar at the draft. However, the Browns’ new wide receiver is a problem for the upcoming season.
Amari Cooper was traded from the Dallas Cowboys to the Cleveland Browns and will take over as the veteran, alpha wide receiver over Donovan Peoples-Jones and rookie David Bell. It’s great to have clarity in the pecking order when looking at a receiving corps, but it doesn’t help much when we don’t know who will be at quarterback.
What makes it even worse is that it could be rusty Waston for only a little bit of time or the backup in Brissett. Those aren’t amazing options for Cooper or for fantasy managers looking to draft him.
Speaking of quarterback dilemmas, the Pittsburgh Steelers will have to deal with a QB battle to start the season. Ben Roethlisberger retired after 18 years of being the Steelers quarterback, leaving a huge void to fill.
They picked up Mitchell Trubisky who had bounced from the Bears to the Bills and showed some significant improvement but then they turned right around and drafted Kenny Pickett in the first round.
I should also mention that Mason Rudolph is included in the quarterback battle for 2022 but I say that as I roll my eyes and hope it’s not true.
It is going to be a tough year for the remaining receivers, but all hope is not lost. Diontae Johnson remains a valuable player to draft who manages to get it done no matter who is at quarterback. TE Pat Feiermuth is another player who may be partially immune to the quarterback scuffle because of his dependability and availability on the field. Let’s not forget that rookie QBs love their big-bodied TEs. Or so I’ve heard.
No matter who is at quarterback, the Steelers have to address their porous offensive line and inability to run the football. Hopefully, James Daniels (G) and Mason Cole ( C ) can help beef up pass protection and run blocking.
I will get more into former Raven WR Marquise Brown in the West edition of this article series, but that trade was the biggest offseason move in terms of fantasy football.
Brown vacates 143 targets that will fall on the shoulders of TE Mark Andrews, and WRs Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay. The Ravens aren’t known for their prolific passing game, but there are fantasy points aplenty in the Ravens’ offense.
The same holds true for the Bengals who will be largely the same at every fantasy position with one big exception… a gigantic chip on their collective shoulders after losing in the Super Bowl.
By far, the biggest roster shake-up in the NFC North rests solely with the Packers. The loss of Davante Adams is a huge blow to Aaron Rodgers’ production in 2022 and it’s hard to believe he is no longer in Green Bay. No offense, but Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, Sammy Watkins, and rookie Christian Watson do not come close to what Adams has been able to do in his career.
Not only did Rodgers lose Adams, but both Marques Valdez-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown are also on different teams. That leaves Cobb and Lazard as the only receivers (aside from Robert Tonyan at tight end) as familiar targets.
Both Rodgers and Adams fantasy value take a hit with his trade in terms of fantasy and the Packers’ fan base also loses. It will be interesting to see how the QB can fare without his elite wide receiver and if he hears his name in the MVP race this season as well.
Speaking of wide receiver moves, the only significant changes to the Bears’ offense in the offseason was the loss of Allen Robinson and the addition of St. Brown from the Packers. The Bears’ offense will likely not miss Robinson since Darnell Mooney emerged as Justin Fields’ go-to receiver last season.
However, this is excellent news for Robinson who finds his new home with the defending Super Bowl Champions the Los Angeles Rams. Not bad at all, Robinson. Not bad at all.
The Bears spent their early draft capital on defense, which makes sense, especially after losing Khalil Mack to the Los Angeles Chargers. Justin Fields has a lot on his plate this season, but that is par for the course in Chicago.
The Lions added Ohio State’s Jameson Williams during the draft even though the young receiver is still recovering from injury. He won’t have an immediate impact on the team, but it speaks well of the organization’s intent to try to plan for the future. They also added veteran D.J. Chark as another weapon for QB Jared Goff.
This may seem a little ho-hum, but I am excited for Chark, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and TE T.J. Hockenson. For most of last season, defenses only had to worry about St. Brown and Hockenson as the majority of the Lions’ offense. Even D’Andre Swift was limited by injury and only played in 13 games (with only four starts) as well as game script.
By adding another wide receiver, Goff and the Lions have at least another option to stretch the field and the opportunity to stretch out defenses as well.