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AFC North Player Analysis

Baltimore Ravens

QB Steve McNair – The Ravens are hoping to open up the offense more with McNair at QB and Coach Billick had a nice run in Minnesota with Randall Cunningham a few years ago. He has his old favorite WR to throw to (Mason) and a very good TE. He’s currently being drafted as the 19th QB. His upside this year is in the top 12 so if you can grab him as a backup it would be a good move. I do wonder however … how much does McNair have left.

 

RB Jamal Lewis – After back-to-back disappointing seasons, Lewis’ stock is pretty low going into 2006. In looking at the situation, it’s hard to argue that it should be higher. He started camp on the PUP list because of a hip injury. The Ravens signed a guy that had 1000 yds and 12 TD last year to challenge him. Finally, the Ravens are switching running schemes (no more I-formation). Lewis is just too risky to draft earlier than late in the 2nd round this year.

 

RB Mike Anderson – For one day it looked like Anderson could be a 1st or 2nd round guy in your draft this year. Then the Ravens re-signed Lewis for a huge contract and Anderson fell down the charts. Don’t forget him, however. Lewis has missed time each of the past two years and he may not fit the new running schemes. Anderson could easily see extended playing time in 2006.

 

RB Musa Smith – Reports out of Baltimore claim that Smith is pushing Mike Anderson for the backup RB spot. While it is unlikely that Smith will beat out Anderson, keep an eye on the situation.

 

WR Derrick Mason – Mason is primed for a rebound this year. His ADP is around 20 which is probably right. He’s a safe #2 WR with the potential of being in the 10-12 range among WRs when the year is over.

 

WR Mark Clayton – I have to be honest. I wasn’t a huge fan of Clayton coming out of college and he hasn’t done anything to prove me wrong. I know the passing game is supposed to be better this year but I can’t understand why he’s ranked higher than Michael Clayton, Joe Horn, and a number of other WRs on this site.

 

WR Demetrius Williams – He’s a rookie with some talent. But he’s only a rookie. Don’t bother.

 

TE Todd Heap – If Heap is able to avoid the injuries that have bothered him in the past, he should have a very productive year. He’s in an offense that has minimal WR talent and a new QB that loves to throw to the TE.

 

Cincinnati Bengals

QB Carson Palmer – After the 2005 regular season, Palmer was lined up to compete with Peyton Manning for the #1 QB off the board in this year’s drafts. As we all know, however, Palmer was seriously injured in a playoff game with Pittsburgh. It appears that Palmer will be ready to play week 1 but there’s no guarantee. It helps that Palmer’s game isn’t based on his speed and shiftiness but drafting Palmer is a big risk. Be sure you get a decent backup if you grab Palmer.

 

QB Anthony Wright – Wright appears to be the leading candidate for the backup job. If Palmer isn’t ready for week 1, Wright could be a sneaky start if you like to take risks.

 

RB Rudi Johnson – Quietly, it seems, the former Auburn RB is having an excellent career. After being underrated the last couple years, he is finally being regarded as a first round RB in most fantasy leagues. I do wonder, however. Can he continue to produce if Palmer isn’t throwing the ball all over the field? Can he beat a defense stacked to stop him?

 

RB Chris Perry – the former 1st round draft pick has excellent hands and would be a good fill-in if Johnson were to be injured. Unfortunately, Perry is usually injured as well.

 

WR Chad Johnson – I don’t like guys that run their mouth all the time (Keyshawn Johnson, Terrell Owens, etc…). But I love Johnson. Maybe it’s because he’s on my dynasty team but I find him to be funny and relatively harmless. I also find him to be a bonafide WR stud. He’s the #8 WR on this site (according to my scoring system) which is way too low. He should be in the top 3.

 

WR TJ Houshmandzadeh – TJ is the perfect compliment to Johnson. He’s an excellent #2 WR and can be relied on to move the chains. He’s decent in the red zone. He’s not a game changing player but he’s very good and should be a good #3 WR for your fantasy team.

 

WR Chris Henry – Henry is not capable of staying out of trouble. It cost him in the NFL draft and it cost him this past offseason. It will not, however, cost him in September. Look for Henry to be the #3 WR for the Bengals and look for him to succeed. He has a ton of talent and if Palmer is healthy, Henry will have some very good weeks for you.

 

TE Reggie Kelly – With all of the other weapons on this team, the tight end is often forgotten. Don’t bother drafting Kelly in your league.

 

Cleveland Browns

QB Charlie Frye – Frye had 164 pass attempts in 2005 so I ran some analysis to see how QBs with >=150 pass attempts their rookie year fared in their sophomore year (since 1990). The average is 198 completions in 348 attempts for 2280 yds, 13 TDs, and 11 Ints. This is a pretty reasonable guess for Frye this year. If he had anyone to throw the ball to, I’d be more excited about his 2006 prospects. If you get a chance to grab him in a Dynasty or Keeper league, though… do it.

 

RB Reuben Droughns – Droughns is the clear starter for the Browns. That makes him a valuable commodity for your league. He is not, however, a great RB. Neither is he playing in a great offense. Draft Droughns as your #2 RB with caution. Teams will be gearing for him and there aren’t enough options in the passing game to keep teams honest.

 

RB William Green – Green is running with the 2nd team in practice. The competition is wide open, however and the backup RB in Cleveland isn’t worth much unless Droughns is injured.

 

RB Lee Suggs – Before camp, Suggs was the favorite to win the backup RB spot. He’s currently 3rd on the depth chart. Don’t bother.

 

WR Braylon Edwards – It’s looking more and more like Edwards will be ready week 1 but it’s unknown how effective he will be coming off the ACL injury. Since history has shown it takes 2 years to fully recover, avoid Edwards this year.

 

WR Joe Jurevicius – Jurevicius is a #2 WR being forced into the #1 WR spot for Cleveland because of Edward’s injury. This is a recipe for disaster. I like Jurevicius. I think he adds a lot to a team. He is not, however, a #1 NFL WR. At the end of the day, however, Jurevicius is the only Cleveland WR I would draft but he’d be my #3 WR at best.

 

WR Dennis Northcutt – I felt like I needed to include 3 WRs from every team … otherwise I wouldn’t have mentioned him.

 

TE Kellen Winslow – He’s got talent. He’s got an ego. What he doesn’t have is the career to prove he can use his talent and validate his ego. Yes, injuries have cost him a lot of time. However, he hasn’t proven anything yet. Draft him as a #2 TE only.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers

QB Ben Roethlisberger – Ben is great. He’s young, he’s the starting QB for the Super Bowl champs, and he’s healthy enough to start week 1 (thankfully). However, he’s only a backup QB for your fantasy team. His stats will never match Peyton Manning’s because he doesn’t play in a wide open offense. Great NFL QB … Average FFL QB.

 

RB Willie Parker – For all the hype “Fast Willie” gets, he still only had 5 100-yd games last year and only 4 rushing TDs. He’s a boom-or-bust player. While he’s supposedly being given a chance to win the goal-line job, he shouldn’t be counted on for more than your #2 or #3 RB.

 

RB Duce Staley – Staley is the favorite to win the 3rd down back / goal line back role. He’s an excellent receiver and is a decent runner. If it weren’t for his inability to stay healthy, he’d be entrenched at the top of the depth chart. Keep an eye on him.

 

RB Verron Haynes – Here’s another guy to keep an eye on. He’s good out of the backfield and he’s an excellent special teams guy. If/when Parker or Staley are injured, Haynes could step in and steal a bigger role in the offense.

 

WR Hines Ward – Ward is the perfect WR for this offense. Drafting him is a very safe pick and he’ll be an anchor at #1 WR for your WR corps. He’s not a big-play guy but he’s extremely consistent.

 

WR Cedrick Wilson – With Antwaan Randle El moving to Washington, Wilson inherits the #2 WR spot. He fits this role pretty well and should have a nice season. However, the #2 WR on the Steelers isn’t worth drafting unless you need to start 4 or 5 WRs.

 

WR Santonio Holmes – Holmes was the Steelers’ first round pick this year. Since that day and the start of camp, none of the news surrounding Holmes was positive. Then camp started and he called Big Ben a liar and showed no remorse for his troubles. He could be in for a long year. Avoid him.

 

TE Heath Miller – Miller started out great in 2005 (6 TDs in the first 8 games) but tailed off. I attribute this to being a rookie and missing conditioning time in the Spring / Summer because of an injury. I expect Miller to sneak into the top 12 at TE this year. His ADP is lower than Winslow’s which I think is a crime.

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