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Fantasy Watch: AFC North

by Nick Mensio
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

All-Fantasy First Team

QB: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
RB1: Le’Veon Bell, Steelers
RB2: Jeremy Hill, Bengals
WR1: Antonio Brown, Steelers
WR2: A.J. Green, Bengals
WR3: Martavis Bryant, Steelers
TE: Tyler Eifert, Bengals
D/ST: Bengals
K: Justin Tucker, Ravens

Editor's Note: For updated rankings, projections, exclusive columns, mock drafts and tons more, check out our Draft Guide!


1. Giovani Bernard, Bengals: I think Bernard is a very useful and skilled football player, but Jeremy Hill is the man now in Cincinnati and more than capable of being a three-down back. Hill can drop the hammer as an inside runner on first and second down and actually was PFF’s No. 7 pass-blocking back last season. Bernard saw 55 targets last season and will still see snaps on passing downs, but his looks will be harder to come by with Tyler Eifert and Marvin Jones healthy. I’d much prefer guys like Jeremy Maclin, Ameer Abdullah and Doug Martin in the same ADP range as Bernard.

2. Terrance West, Browns: Reports from Browns camp have been all over the place this offseason. At one point, West was running as the No. 4 back behind projected starter Isaiah Crowell, rookie Duke Johnson and veteran journeyman Shaun Draughn. Then, West ended up taking the first rep at training with the first-team offense. West was unimpressive on the field as a rookie and fell into the coaching staff’s doghouse off it. This is a muddy backfield with West having the least talent.

3. Steve Smith Sr., Ravens: Senior turned 36 earlier this offseason, and the Ravens have said they want to scale back his snaps after he wore down over the second half of last season. Baltimore drafted Breshad Perriman in the first round of April’s draft, while it also seems high on youngsters Marlon Brown, Kamar Aiken and Michael Campanaro. New OC Marc Trestman is a pass-happy play caller, but I’m letting somebody else draft Smith, and I’ll take John Brown and Brandon LaFell in the same range.

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1. Andy Dalton, Bengals: Being drafted as QB26 behind guys like Nick Foles and Derek Carr, Dalton is basically free. How quickly we forget Dalton was a top-five fantasy quarterback in 2013 before tumbling to No. 18 last season. Thanks to injuries to A.J. Green, Marvin Jones and Tyler Eifert, Dalton was left with Mohamed Sanu, Brandon Tate and Jermaine Gresham as his top targets at times. With everyone back healthy and OC Hue Jackson ready to “open Pandora’s box,” I’ll gladly take Dalton in an AFC North without much defense. He’s going to have a number of top-10 fantasy weeks.

2. Isaiah Crowell, Browns: Give me a talented inside runner with a nose for the end zone who sits atop his team’s depth chart behind one of the league’s better offensive lines in the seventh round of drafts every day of the week. He’s not going to dominate touches in Cleveland’s backfield with rookie Duke Johnson figuring to have a role, but Crowell is the favorite on early downs and in the red zone.

3. Breshad Perriman, Ravens: Perriman’s god-awful head of hair aside, the dude is a mega-talent that just needs to harness it. The rookie has had an up-and-down first couple months with the Ravens. He’s been drop-prone at times but has also been praised as a “quick learner” by coach John Harbaugh. Perriman opened training camp as the starter opposite Steve Smith Sr. and has nobody but Senior and a host of unknowns in his way for targets in pass-happy OC Marc Trestman’s scheme. Alshon Jeffery developed into a star under Trestman in Chicago. Perriman is just as talented.

4. Marvin Jones, Bengals: Like with teammate Andy Dalton above, casual fantasy football owners have seemed to forget about Jones. He turned 77 targets into 10 touchdowns in 2013 and was PFF’s No. 7 receiver as a part-time player. Jones was a red-zone dominator two seasons ago before hurting his foot/ankle and missing all of 2014. Still 25 in one of the league’s most talented skill-position groups, Jones has WR3 upside at his very affordable, basically-free 12th-round ADP.

Late-Round Fliers

1. Lorenzo Taliaferro, Ravens: Last year’s fourth-round pick, Taliaferro averaged 4.3 YPC across 68 carries as a rookie and showed a nose for the end zone with four touchdowns. Leaner and quicker after dropping eight pounds and trimming body fat in the offseason, Taliaferro is the heavy favorite for early-down backup duties behind soon-to-be 30-year-old Justin Forsett. He’s worth a dart throw as the handcuff to an aging running back in Forsett.

2. Dwayne Bowe, Browns: Somebody’s got to catch the football in Cleveland, right? Being drafted after No. 4 receivers Phillip Dorsett and mega-bust Cordarrelle Patterson, Bowe will be in the mix to lead the Browns in targets and touchdowns. That may not be more than 800 yards and a handful of scores, but Bowe is a fine value at his 14th-round ADP.

3. Andrew Hawkins, Browns: Expect Hawkins to challenge Bowe for the team lead in targets as a sure-handed safety valve for Josh McCown. He turned 101 targets last season into a 63-825-2 receiving line with Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel and Connor Shaw. McCown is no worse. The only problem with Hawkins is he’s not going to score much, leaving most of his value in PPR leagues.

4. Kamar Aiken, Ravens: If for some reason first-round rookie Breshad Perriman isn’t able to adjust to the NFL in year one, Aiken will be the next man up. He ran with the starters during the spring while the Ravens broke Perriman in and made a number of dazzling grabs. With plus size (6-foot-2, 215) and speed (4.45 forty), Aiken at least has the upper hand for No. 3 work behind a raw rookie and 36-year-old veteran Steve Smith Sr.

5. Rob Housler, Browns: Housler has long been an intriguing name in the fantasy football community. Highly athletic with a 37-inch vertical and 4.55 speed, he’s been dubbed a wide receiver in a tight end’s body. Housler never had a chance in Arizona under coach Bruce Arians, who doesn’t feature the tight end, but signed on with the Browns to replace Jordan Cameron. The Browns will get him out away from the line of scrimmage as a “move” tight end and let him stretch the seams. Getting all the first-team reps on an offense starved for playmakers, Housler is going undrafted in 12-team leagues.

Nick Mensio

Nick Mensio has been covering the NFL for NBC Sports Edge since 2012. He can be found on Twitter at @NickMensio.