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AFC North: A Pre-Draft Fantasy Assessment

With the Conference Championships in the rearview mirror and two long weeks before Super Bowl 50, it’s time to look ahead to the 2016 fantasy football season. What can I say? As a Detroit Lions fan I have learned to begin looking forward to next season very early on. While there are plenty of factors ahead that will alter the fantasy landscape such as the Draft, free agency and injuries, it’s never too early to get a jump on things.

Over the next few months we will take a division-by-division look at teams from a fantasy perspective. Again, these are fluid evaluations that will obviously be altered many times between now and fantasy draft day. Let’s start things off with the AFC North division.




QBNo one. There is not a viable fantasy QB on the team at this time. Johnny Manziel has partied himself out of consideration and the Browns will need to address the position either via free agency or the draft. Finding the QB of the future should be job one for new head coach Hue Jackson.

RB – Isaiah Crowell: Not much to see here as Crowell averaged only 3.8 yards per carry and scored five times. This offense needs an enema and Crowell is no more than a RB3 or possible flex option.

Duke Johnson was one of the few bright spots on the offense especially in PPR formats. He finished his rookie campaign with 61 receptions and a pair of receiving touchdowns. There is a chance Johnson gets the chance to take over lead back duties, but he doesn’t warrant any early/mid-round draft consideration at this time.

WR – Travis Benjamin was a boom-or-bust WR 3/flex option last season while managing to haul in 68 passes and five touchdowns from an array of mediocre (I am being kind) QBs.

No other Browns WR had 50 receptions as Brian Hartline checked in at No. 2 with 46 catches and a pair of touchdowns.

I would speculate on the future for Dwayne Bowe but there isn’t one. He’s done like dinner.

The name to keep in mind is Josh Gordon if he is reinstated by the league. It was reported on January 20th that Gordon has applied for reinstatement. Gordon has top-10 talent but will need to toe the line to regain fantasy relevance. Oh yeah…he’ll also need a decent QB as well.

TE – After six non-descript seasons in which he failed to catch more than 13 passes in any campaign, Gary Barnidge burst on the fantasy scene in 2015. The former Louisville Cardinal racked up 76 receptions for over 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns finishing as a top-five TE. Barnidge should be able to build on his monster season as his new head coach was just the OC for an offense that saw TE Tyler Eifert catch 13 touchdowns. Barnidge will be in that group of TEs ranked from 5-10 and can be drafted late and bring TE 1 potential in 2016.

The Rob Housler signing was a bust and there are no other TE options of interest in Cleveland.

K – We will not be spending a lot of time breaking down this position for any team. Travis Coons should return next season and isn’t a top-12 choice on a team that will likely struggle to move the ball again in 2016.

D/ST – Nothing much to see here either as this defense lacks playmakers outside of DE Desmond Bryant and Karlos Dansby. Bryant just turned 30 and Dansby is 34, so the Browns will need to find younger replacements for the veterans. The team managed only 29 sacks last season with Bryant leading the way with six and OLB Armonty Bryant logging 5 ½ sacks.Armonty Bryant was arrested Christmas morning for possession of the prescription drug Adderall and was inactive for the season finale. With a checkered past, it is no lock Bryant returns in 2016.

The Browns top CB Joe Haden is dealing with serious concussion issues that landed him on injured reserve and could be one more big hit away from his career ending. New defensive coordinator Ray Horton has his work cut out for him until this team can land some younger talent. There is no reason to consider drafting the Browns D/ST.

About Wally Spurlin

Wally Spurlin is a Fantasy Football Staff Writer at Fantasy Sharks and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writer Association (FSWA). Spurlin’s work has appeared in print publications, including the FSWA award winning 2014 USA Today Fantasy Football magazine as well as the 2015 edition. Wally is also a weekly co-host on the Fantasy Football Feeding Frenzy pod cast on Fantasy Sharks Radio at Blog Talk Radio.Follow him on Twitter @WaltonSpurlin