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State of the Team by Fantasy Position - AFC North
David Dorey
July 12, 2007

This series of analysis on the 32 NFL teams takes a look at where teams have been over the last three years for each position - where they have ranked in the most notable categories and the hard statistics produced. This is to give a view of each team heading into training camp and what they most likely need to improve on this season and where their strengths lie that likely won't need any changes. Ending each team review is a brief summation of what to watch in training camp in August to uncover those developing situations that you can take advantage. Combining where teams have come from and what they have done in free agency and the NFL draft gives you the very same thing that NFL coaches are looking at as they attempt to improve their team for 2007.

Baltimore Ravens
QB Carries Rush YD Rush TD Pass Comp Comp % Pass YD YPP Pass TD Int Rank YD Rank TD
2004 54 188 1 464 258 56% 2559 9.9 13 11 32 30
2005 45 158 1 559 335 60% 3381 10.1 17 21 19 24
2006 67 153 1 523 328 63% 3535 10.8 21 14 13 14


Quarterback
- The Ravens improved in every passing category with the change to Steve McNair and for 2007, expect more of the same here. McNair is no savior nor is he lighting the fantasy world on fire but he provided an upgrade at the quarterback position last year and provided just what the team needed for a balanced attack. He goes into his second year as a Raven so numbers could rise incrementally this year but there's nothing that August needs to show about McNair.

 

RB Carries Rush YD YPC Rush TD Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD Rcv TD Rank YD Rank TY Rank TD
2004 435 1885 4.3 10 74 56 76% 376 0 8 14 18
2005 397 1414 3.6 3 113 88 78% 551 2 20 24 30
2006 401 1518 3.8 10 94 74 79% 503 2 23 20 17


Running Backs
- Here is where the big change is - at least potentially. The Ravens finally stopped living in 2003 when Lewis had 2000 rushing yards and realized that losing Chester Taylor (and Priest Holmes before him) actually did make a difference. So they shopped Lewis off to the Browns and picked up Willis McGahee from the Bills. This offense likes to showcase the running game which typically gets 400 or more carries per season. McGahee really had not been that impressive for the last two years in Buffalo and turned in numbers similar to what Lewis did in the same time span. But this is the big change for the team and worth watching in the preseason. McGahee gets a new lease on life on a team that has a great defense and loves to run. It won't get any better for McGahee than being here so he's a definite watch in August to make sure he integrates well into the offense. What will be interesting in training camp is to see how much McGahee works out as a receiver. He normally only had around 150 receiving yards each season in Buffalo which mimics what Lewis has been doing here but McGahee could figure more heavily into the passing game since he's faster than Lewis was and the offense has been using the running backs more for receptions in the last two years.

 

TE Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD        
2004 121 81 67% 768 9.5 6 9 14        
2005 155 101 65% 1064 10.5 8 3 5        
2006 147 95 65% 946 10 9 5 2        


Tight Ends
- No change here. Todd Heap is still the top dog though he lost three scores to Daniel Wilcox last year. He had to get chemistry with McNair last year but his pattern of catches never changed other than five of his six scores came in the first half of the season. If McGahee proves to be any upgrade from Lewis, that reduced scoring we saw in the second half of 2006 may continue.

 

WR Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD        
2004 252 121 48% 1415 11.7 7 31 28        
2005 284 146 51% 1766 12.1 7 29 31        
2006 276 159 58% 2086 13.1 10 18 20        


Wide Receivers
- The only new player here is Yamon Figurs (drafted 3.10) but he's a fast, smaller guy (174 pounds) that will mainly contribute on special teams as a returner. McNair's presence last year didn't do anything for Derrick Mason, but second year player Mark Clayton ( 939 yards, 5 TDs) had a great season. The only aspect of interest here is if Clayton looks like he will take the final step up into a breakout 2007 season.

Training Camp Fantasy Angle - With minimal changes to the passing game, the only notable here is the continued development of Mark Clayton who appears ready to breakout in his third season and how well Willis McGahee is being integrated into the offense, particularly if he is working much catching passes out of the backfield.

Camp starts July 29th; Preseason Games: 1-PHI, 2-NYG, 3-@WAS, 4-@ATL

 

Cincinnati Bengals
QB Carries Rush YD Rush TD Pass Comp Comp % Pass YD YPP Pass TD Int Rank YD Rank TD
2004 28 89 1 536 324 60% 3520 10.9 23 22 17 15
2005 36 55 1 538 362 67% 3935 10.9 32 14 7 1
2006 29 32 0 523 327 63% 4067 12.4 28 13 6 3


Quarterback
- Nothing to prove here - Carson Palmer came off a bad knee injury and instead of tanking early as was feared, he turned in a career best season. All the same players return this year with one exception - Chris Henry will miss the first six games. That could be a problem since he turned in 616 yards and a team high nine touchdowns last year. Palmer had problems connecting with Chad Johnson in most games and he'll need to correct that for 2007 since he can no longer rely on finding Chris Henry down the sideline for the first half of the season.

RB Carries Rush YD YPC Rush TD Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD Rcv TD Rank YD Rank TY Rank TD
2004 392 1621 4.1 12 84 59 70% 341 2 18 28 14
2005 407 1751 4.3 12 112 86 77% 483 5 12 12 13
2006 391 1559 4 14 86 61 71% 416 0 21 22 11


Running Backs
- Rudi Johnson has been incredibly consistent for three seasons now and there's no change on the horizon here. What is mildly worth following here is the development of Kenny Irons who the Bengals drafted with their 2.17 pick. Given the lengthy injury issues with Chris Perry, Irons should be stepping into the back-up role this year but that will need to show itself in training camp. The Bengals like to run about 400 times per year and Johnson cannot carry that heavy a load. Chris Perry had 51 catches for 328 yards in 2005 for the 14 games that he lasted and it added a nice dimension to the offense. WIth Henry gone for eight games, having a pass catching back could pay even more dividends this year. Hopefully training camp will make the back-up role clear and show if the passing game will be extended to the running backs this year as it did in 2005.

 

TE Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD        
2004 78 46 59% 334 7.3 5 28 19        
2005 49 37 76% 309 8.4 2 27 27        
2006 51 35 69% 374 10.7 2 26 27        


Tight Ends
- A few years ago the Bengals used to mix three different tight ends which combined equaled a crappy fantasy tight end. Now they're down to mainly Reggie Kelly but that still doesn't mean more than about 250 yards a season tops. Nothing to follow here.

 

WR Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD        
2004 352 219 62% 2845 13 16 5 10        
2005 386 239 62% 3143 13.2 24 3 1        
2006 390 232 59% 3288 14.2 26 1 1        


Wide Receivers
- This should be interesting, at least potentially. With Chris Henry such a big contributor last year and now that he'll be gone for the first half of the season, either Palmer is going to find another slot receiver to use or will just shift to heavier use of T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Chad Johnson and possibly the running backs as receivers - the Bengals have really never used tight ends much. So either Tab Perry or Antonio Chatman step up and take the slot role (and keep it meaningful) or expect more action for Johnson and Houshmandzadeh. Chatman has spent four seasons with little to show for it but Perry enters his third season and could make a run for the slot. But Perry has only caught a total of nine passes in his two seasons so it would be a surprise for him to make a very big step up. Knowing that Houshmandzadeh and Johnson are already veteran starters, it will be worth watching to see if any one steps into the vacated slot role for the first half of the season and appears to have the chance for some significant stats. Even in the best case, the player would be too inconsistent to consider as a fantasy starter (or even a bye week filler) but it would make the rest of the offense appear to not be short-handed.

Training Camp Fantasy Angle - No changes here other than the loss of Chris Henry for the first half of the season. Worth noting if anyone steps up into his spot for the first half of the year but mainly just to feel good that the offense will continue to click. Also, the relatively highly drafted Kenny Irons is worth following to see if he can take the clear back-up role and if he will contribute on third downs as a pass catching back.

Camp starts July 26th; Preseason Games: 1-@DET, 2-NO, 3-@ATL, 4-IND

 

Cleveland Browns
QB Carries Rush YD Rush TD Pass Comp Comp % Pass YD YPP Pass TD Int Rank YD Rank TD
2004 42 192 2 436 251 58% 3076 12.3 21 21 26 17
2005 37 99 1 498 297 60% 3323 11.2 15 18 23 27
2006 51 262 3 508 317 62% 3242 10.2 15 25 22 27


Quarterback
- Wow. This is worth following only if you are in a 24 team league or bigger and you wait too long to get a back-up quarterback. The season is already starting out as a mess since the Browns are installing a new offense and so far the quarterback who has struggled the least was Derek Anderson who wasn't supposed to be in the equation. Charlie Frye is fighting for his career while Brady Quinn just wants to start his. Even in a long term sense, there's probably not much fantasy value here in the future unless Brady Quinn can take the starting job early enough in the season and play well above the level of the typical rookie quarterback. WIth Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards on the team, it would seem that the quarterback would have to offer fantasy value but so far only those two players actually catch the ball with any regularity. Brady could be interesting to watch but mostly for what he may bring down the road.

RB Carries Rush YD YPC Rush TD Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD Rcv TD Rank YD Rank TY Rank TD
2004 386 1444 3.7 4 81 50 62% 348 1 24 31 32
2005 354 1361 3.8 3 88 65 74% 498 1 24 28 31
2006 313 1023 3.3 4 77 56 73% 379 0 31 32 32


Running Backs
- The big change here, at least to Browns' fans, is that Jamal Lewis joins the team and it was only four years ago that he ran for 2066 yards and 14 touchdowns. Of course, Lewis has been much less effective in the last two years with only around 1000 yards each season and this in spite of playing for the Ravens and getting around 300 carries per year. Lewis only averaged 3.5 yards per carry the last two seasons so he'll fit in fine with the Browns other than likely getting far fewer goal line opportunities and less carries. As deeply as Lewis has been going in drafts, he's worth a watch to see if he can offer some value as a third running back for your team. The Browns are installing a new offense and are undecided on who actually will be the starting quarterback so it is reasonable to assume that they will want to lean on the rushing game. It is also reasonable to expect that the rushing game won't be even as good with Lewis as he was in Baltimore and that barely ranked worthy of a fantasy starter. But the Browns were #32 in total yards and touchdowns by the team running backs last year so it can only get better... or at least it cannot get any worse.

 

TE Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD        
2004 106 61 58% 599 9.8 9 17 7        
2005 99 63 64% 570 9 4 19 15        
2006 171 127 74% 1138 9 6 1 10        


Tight Ends
- Kellen Winslow ranked #1 in tight end yardage last year for the NFL and he's also the #1 receiver for the Browns. The only notable here is how well the passing game looks in training camp with any of the three potential starters. If it struggles through August, it will be hard to spend a higher pick on Winslow but then again, he gets most of what they have anyway. Winslow had microfracture surgery in the off season and while the team has been positive about him being ready for training camp, the recovery could last into August and make Winslow even riskier to rely on. The bad part is that they won't want to overwork Winslow in camp or preseason games, making it harder to get a great read on his actual physical condition.

 

WR Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD        
2004 253 142 56% 2179 15.3 11 22 25        
2005 303 168 55% 2256 13.4 10 16 22        
2006 262 134 51% 1725 12.9 9 28 27        


Wide Receivers
- Braylon Edwards enters his third season and is worth watching based on the chance of a breakout season but he already had 879 yards and six scores last year for a team that had almost no other help. The only addition that the Browns have to the passing game is Tim Carter from the Giants but he's been an under performer as a slot receiver anyway. It would be great if Joe Jurevicius could be a #2 wideout that could reduce the coverage that Edwards gets but that never happened last year. Sadly for the Browns, there isn't much to track here because only Edwards matters and 2007 will likely have a changing quarterback situation unless Brady takes the start in week one. Otherwise, it will be hard to Edwards to realize his full potential.

Training Camp Fantasy Angle - The Browns are installing a new offense so that merits attention but so far it has not looked good. Lewis has already been downgraded in most fantasy drafts and while the Browns made an effort to upgrade the line, it may be next year before they fully realize it (when there will be a new head coach and yet another offense to learn). Winslow definitely merits watching to see if he will return from microfracture surgery none the worse for the procedure but that could be hard to completely determine since they won't overwork their star tight end anyway. Mostly - just getting a feel if this Brown's squad can step up from being one of the worst offenses in the league last year.

Camp starts July 22nd; Preseason Games: 1-KC, 2-DET, 3-@DEN, 4-@CHI

 

Pittsburgh Steelers
QB Carries Rush YD Rush TD Pass Comp Comp % Pass YD YPP Pass TD Int Rank YD Rank TD
2004 69 156 1 356 226 63% 2950 13.1 18 13 28 23
2005 50 125 4 375 225 60% 3037 13.5 20 14 25 18
2006 45 110 2 522 311 60% 4005 12.9 23 23 8 11


Quarterback
- Oddly enough, the perspective on Roethlisberger last year was that he had a terrible year but in fantasy terms, he's never been better nor had the Steelers. Of course there was that little issue with a league-leading 23 interceptions and he did have three games under 160 passing yards but the Steelers passing game was more productive than ever - other than those nasty interceptions. The Steelers are installing a new offense with OC Bruce Arians but he was already the wide receiver coach there for the last three years so it shouldn't be much different and it will be tailored to Roethlisberger who could have a decent season. Probably not a lot to watch for in August other than just gaining the sense that the offense is not really changing much.

RB Carries Rush YD YPC Rush TD Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD Rcv TD Rank YD Rank TY Rank TD
2004 533 2247 4.2 14 65 43 66% 334 3 1 6 9
2005 483 2015 4.2 17 62 46 74% 448 1 7 6 6
2006 415 1816 4.4 14 102 73 72% 587 4 11 13 8


Running Backs
- Like last year, the Steelers love to run, do it well and still have little behind Willie Parker that should cut appreciably into his action. Kevan Barlow was added and he could end up with goal line duty but the Steelers had Najeh Davenport last year and never used him. As productive as Parker has been, it seems unlikely that the Steelers will opt to reduce his carries much. It is largely the exact same offense from last year so the only aspect to watch is if Barlow runs well enough that he may end up as a goal line back. But even if it looks like it, that will be hard to rely on since the same situation existed last year. Hard to prove that Parker was wearing down last year when his final four games had three efforts over 130 rushing yards and one went for 223 yards.

 

TE Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD        
2004 29 17 59% 188 11.1 5 32 21        
2005 60 43 72% 522 12.1 6 21 13        
2006 59 41 69% 466 11.4 6 23 14        


Tight Ends
- Heath Miller took a step back from this rookie season, gaining only 393 yards and five scores as opposed to 459 yards and six touchdowns as a rookie. But he gets almost everything there is to get for the Steelers and there are some expectations that he should rebound back to rookie levels or higher this year. That will be hard to glean from training camp though.

 

WR Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD        
2004 264 168 64% 2448 14.6 12 16 21        
2005 257 139 54% 2134 15.4 14 21 14        
2006 353 198 56% 2973 15 13 3 15        


Wide Receivers
- The wide receivers turned in a very similar year to 2005 except for the additional yardage that Roethlisberger had to throw last year. Otherwise the numbers were consistent from 2005. There was, however, already a notable change inside those statistics. Hines Ward gained 975 yards on 74 catches last season and he had the exact same 975 yards on 69 catches in 2006. But he fell from 11 touchdowns to only six last year - and he wasn't a part of the increased yardage. That mainly came from the then rookie Santonio Holmes who dialed in for 49 catches for 824 yards and Nate Washington had 624 yards on 35 catches. The Cedrick Wilson experiment is now over, mercifully, and Holmes and Washington have stepped up. In particular is Holmes who became stronger as the season continued in 2006. Holmes is the one to watch here for a rare but not unheard of second-year break-out. He was the first wideout drafted in 2006 and played like he deserved to be.

Training Camp Fantasy Angle - There is a new offense of sorts being installed but it should be very close to what we already have come to know by design. Roethlisberger needs to show that he is shrugging off the errors that plagued him in 2006 and mostly Santonio Holmes should be closely watched for signs of an even bigger second-season. While this is the first year without Bill Cowher, there should be no real outward signs with the offense that show a difference.

Camp starts July 27th; Preseason Games: 1-@BAL, 2-CAR, 3-@PIT, 4-NYJ

Related Articles

State of the AFC East
State of the AFC North
State of the AFC South
State of the AFC West
State of the NFC East
State of the NFC North
State of the NFC South
State of the NFC West
a d v e r t i s e m e n t