2019 Players to Watch: AFC North

This post is the third installment of our 2019 Players to Watch series. In this post we’ll key in on players from the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, and Cincinnati Bengals; all of whom, I feel, are poised to take a big leap forward in 2019. Fantasy leagues are won and lost on draft day, pay attention to the names I’m about to give you, and you’ll have the upper hand on your league-mates before the season even begins. Let’s get started:

Baltimore Ravens: Kenneth Dixon, RB

Keneth Dixon’s young career has been largely derailed by injuries and suspensions. The suspensions are a relatively minor concern (he’s far from Josh Gordon status), but the injuries have come at significant cost. Dixon has played in only 18 games since being drafted in 2016, but when he has been healthy, he’s been a very effective running back. The LA Tech product has managed 715 yards on 148 rushing attempts, good for an average of 4.8 yards per carry. Dixon also has pass catching chops, adding 213 yards on 36 receptions. This year is the last on Dixon’s contract, so he’ll be looking to prove that he can be a consistent three-down option for the Ravens. If Kenneth Dixon is able to stay healthy, he could become the go-to guy in what projects to be a very run-heavy Baltimore offense.

Pittsburgh Steelers: James Washington, WR

The rookie receiver out of Oklahoma State wasn’t able to make much of a splash in 2018, but he may soon find himself with an opportunity to move up in the pecking order. Pittsburgh is most likely losing their two most potent offensive weapons with the impending departures of both Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. With Bell and Brown out of the picture, Juju Smith-Schuster becomes top dog and there’s an immediate opening for a number two, enter James Washington. In 2018, Washington was battling for targets behind Brown and Smith-Schuster, along with Eli Rogers, Justin Hunter, and Ryan Switzer. Rogers and Hunter will both hit free agency this summer, leaving only Ryan Switzer in between James Washington and a major role in Pittsburgh’s air attack. Washington is not known for elite breakaway speed, but he has proven ability to make tough catches in traffic, and still managed 13.6 yards per reception last year. If Washington is able to build rapport with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, he may quickly become a strong fantasy asset.

(Photo by Rob Carr /Getty Images)

Cleveland Browns: David Njoku, TE

The David Njoku hype train has been at near full steam ever since the young tight end was drafted 29th overall by the Browns in 2017. While Njoku hasn’t quite produced the way we would have liked, he has steadily gotten better while he’s been with the Browns. in 2018, Njoku managed 56 receptions for 639 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Cleveland Browns made massive strides towards relevancy in 2018. With a full offseason to learn and develop under new head coach Freddie Kitchens, Njoku will be looking to take his elite athleticism and evolve into the matchup nightmare he projects to be. If Njoku can establish himself as Baker Mayfield’s red-zone go-to, he can easily find himself among the top 10 fantasy tight ends.

Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati Bengals: Tyler Boyd, WR

It’s been quite some time since there was any excitement surrounding a Bengals wide receiver not named AJ Green. The emergence of Tyler Boyd is the silver lining Bengals fans should be focused on after watching their team finish 6-10. Boyd was able to breakout in 2018, posting his first 1,000 yard season with Green missing the final seven games of the season. Green will continue to the be the focal point of Cincinnati’s air attack for as long as he’s healthy, but age will soon become a factor for Green (he turns 31 in July), and it’s worth noting that he’s finished two of his last three seasons on injured reserve. Boyd will look to build on his breakout season under new head coach Zac Taylor. Taylor is an offensive-minded coach who will likely try to follow the model he’s been developing alongside Sean McVay in Los Angeles. Cincinnati will need to continue to bolster their offensive line to give quarterback Andy Dalton time to find Boyd down the field. As a fantasy option, Boyd has flex appeal and is worth even more in dynasty leagues, as he is only 24 years old and may eventually supplant AJ Green as WR1 in that offense.

That’s it for our Players to Watch in the AFC North! Make sure you don’t miss the next installment by liking and following our page on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/FFFeverBlog/

Author: Shawn LaFever