Studs and Duds: AFC North preview

By Michael Winn

Sports Blogger



Baltimore Ravens

Stud: Jeremy Maclin, receiver

The Baltimore Ravens made a key addition in the offseason, acquiring former Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs’ wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. Maclin is coming off of a down season in Kansas City, where he had 536 receiving yards and only two touchdowns. Coming off that season, there’s only one way to go from there, and that’s up. In 2016, the Ravens led the NFL in passing attempts, and with Maclin, that should only want to make them throw the ball more. Don’t be surprised if Maclin has the best year of his career and is selected to his first Pro Bowl.


Dud: All Ravens tight ends

Avoid all the Ravens’ tight ends in fantasy leagues this year, because although the Ravens throw the ball more than anyone in the NFL, I don’t see the tight ends getting as much love as they have in the past. Joe Flacco has more weapons to throw to this year with Maclin and newly added running back Danny Woodhead. These tight ends also do not have the connection with Flacco like they have had. Projected starter Nick Boyle has only a combined 24 receptions in his two-year career with the Ravens. Benjamin Watson is an addition who still needs to learn the offense.


Cincinnati Bengals

Stud: Joe Mixon, running back

(O’Colly File Photo)

Joe Mixon started his last year at Oklahoma as one of the best running backs in the 2017 class, but off-the-field issues caused him to slip to the end of the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Although Mixon is a rookie, he should be a scary sight to see in this Bengals’ offense. Mixon is still behind Jeremy Hill on the depth chart but should take over the starting spot sometime during the season. I don’t see Mixon getting too many reps at running back to start the season, but be ready for him to take fantasy leagues by storm.


Dud: Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill, running backs

Giovani Bernard and Hill have never lived up to their full potential because they have shared the backfield with each other. Now with Mixon in the mix, Bernard and Hill should see even less time on the field. Mixon is making big strides in the offense, getting second-team reps as Bernard is fighting a knee injury and not 100 percent. Mixon is catching up quickly to Hill and it’s only a matter of time before Mixon controls the starting spot. None of these running backs will make too much of an impact early, but look for Mixon to take over the duties as the workhorse in the Bengals’ backfield.  


Cleveland Browns

Stud: Kenny Britt, wide receiver

I know the word “stud” and Kenny Britt are not normally mentioned in the same sentence, but hear me out on this one. Britt has never had a consistent quarterback, as he has had 10 different quarterbacks in his eight-year career and has still consistently put up decent numbers. I believe Britt’s quarterback carousel has helped him make a name for himself around the league. With him putting up average numbers with below average quarterbacks, he easily makes himself a reliable option for either Brock Osweiler or DeShone Kizer. Expect to see Cleveland try new things on offense and include Britt when it gets deep in the red zone.


Dud: Brock Osweiler, quarterback

Brock Osweiler should not be a pick for anyone’s fantasy team, no matter how deep the league. Osweiler has yet to prove himself as a good fantasy quarterback, and I don’t see him doing that in Cleveland, either. Osweiler had a better team when he played with the Houston Texans last year, and he couldn’t keep the starting position or put up numbers fantasy owners would like to see. Osweiler averaged 200 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception last season. That was 11 fantasy points in ESPN standard scoring leagues. Osweiler is a definite no-go and should not be thought of when drafting a quarterback.


Pittsburgh Steelers

Stud: Steelers’ defense

Everyone knows about the three big B’s out in Pittsburgh, and with the comeback of Martavis Bryant, that offense will be record-setting. But everyone also knows that defense wins championships. James Harrison is returning for his 15th year and Bud Dupree has only gotten better. These linebackers that the Steelers have are a scary sight to see. With Harrison and Dupree rushing off the edge, expect opposing quarterbacks to be under constant pressure and making bad decisions with the ball. The cornerbacks will be greatly affected as opposing quarterbacks’ bad decisions will increase the number of interceptions this defense has. This defense will be a top defense this year and score a lot of points.


Dud: James Connor, running back

James Connor is getting first-team reps at the moment and is showing great promise as a potential star running back in this league, but he should not be taken yet. Connor is getting first-team reps because Le’Veon Bell is holding out of training camp and wanting a long-term deal, but this hold out is not expected to last into the regular season. Expect Conner to lose a lot of time on the field when Bell returns to claim his rightful spot as the Steelers No. 1 running back.


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