2019 Players to Watch: AFC East

With the 2018 fantasy football season behind us, it’s time to start planning for the future. A thoughtfully crafted roster is key to success in fantasy, leagues are often won and lost in the late rounds on draft day. There’s much more to draft strategy than picking your favorite players, or knowing who the studs are on every team. In this series of posts, I’ll be identifying players on each team who I feel are set up to change the fantasy football landscape in 2019. By keeping tabs on these players throughout the offseason, you’ll have the upper hand on the rest of your league come draft day. Let’s get started by looking at four players who are all currently rostered on teams in the AFC East.

Buffalo Bills: Zay Jones, Wide Receiver

Zay Jones entered the league in 2017 after a wildly productive college career in which he posted over 4,200 yards receiving and set school records for both career and single season reception totals. Jones’ rookie year in the NFL was fairly underwhelming, only managing 27 receptions for 316 yards and two scores. In 2018, Zay Jones was able to essentially double his rookie season in all major receiving categories, posting 56 receptions for 657 yards and 7 touchdowns. Moving forward, there are a lot of factors that will come into play regarding Jones’ development. Jones will benefit from any improvement by his young quarterback, Josh Allen. Additionally, with Kelvin Benjamin no longer a member of the Buffalo Bills, Jones is currently the undisputed top dog among Buffalo’s wide receiver corps. With a full offseason to develop rapport, Allen and Jones are positioned to become a productive tandem. We’ll have to wait and see if Buffalo opts to bolster their receiver room with any fresh faces. For now, keep an eye on Jones as an up and coming young talent, with a ton of upside.

New England Patriots: Rob Gronkowski, Tight End

Rob Gronkowski has been a mainstay in the conversation for best fantasy tight end, until now. 2018 saw Gronk put up the least productive fantasy season of his career, and there isn’t a lot to suggest that better days are ahead for the big tight end. Tom Brady isn’t getting any younger, and there is no doubt that Gronkowski’s elite production has been at least partially due to the fact that he’s played his entire career with a future Hall of Fame quarterback. Additionally, Gronkowski has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career, nagging injuries limited him to only 10 games in 2018. The fact that Gronkowski is no longer the consensus #1 tight end in fantasy football is enough to change future draft strategies, but it’s also worth monitoring if the Patriots consider moving in a new direction at tight end all together.

Sep 25, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Quincy Enunwa (81) is unable to catch this pass while defended by Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters (22) in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City won 24-3. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

New York Jets: Quincy Enunwa, Wide Receiver

Quincy Enunwa came into 2018 after sitting out the previous season with a neck injury. Enunwa was unable to establish himself as much of a threat, recording only 38 receptions for 449 yards and only one score. This is not an indictment on Enunwa’s talent, the Jets’ offense struggled as a whole, working with rookie quarterback Sam Darnold and a less than phenomenal stable of running backs. Enunwa will look to build chemistry with Darnold this offseason, and the organization has already committed long term to the wide receiver, signing him to a 4 year, $36 million contract extension late in December. The development of Darnold and a new head coach should presumably boost Quincy Enunwa’s fantasy outlook. Quincy Enunwa is only 26 years old, and has proven to be a capable receiver when healthy. This could be a rare opportunity to find a top receiver later in your fantasy draft. Let’s no forget that Enunwa was able to put up over 850 yards while filling in for Eric Decker in 2016.

Miami Dolphins: Kalen Ballage, Running Back

I’ve been watching Kalen Ballage very closely ever since he was taken in the fourth round of last year’s draft. Ballage is a large running back at 6’2″ 230lbs, and possesses all the tools of an every down back. Ballage was unable to make much of an impact in his rookie year, outside of a stellar week 15 effort in which Ballage rushed 12 times for 123 yards and a touchdown. Although he is still behind Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore on the depth chart, the future is bright for the young running back. The dolphins are in the midst of a coaching change, a new head coach will give Ballage an opportunity to be evaluated on even ground with the other running backs. Additionally, Frank Gore is one of the oldest active running backs in the league, and will undoubtedly be pondering retirement this offseason. I dubbed Ballage a deep sleeper last season. Depending on how things shake out with a new coach in Miami, Ballage’s stock could rise drastically ahead of next season.

Keeping up with the aforementioned players could prove to serve you quite well in future drafts. Stay tuned for the next post in which we’ll take a look at four players in the NFC South.

Author: Shawn LaFever