AFC North Week 1 DraftKings Daily Fantasy Preview

It’s time to break down the AFC North in all the Week 1 matchups for daily fantasy players on DraftKings. This is our second of eight divisional breakdowns. Here’s our AFC East analysis.

Unlike the AFC East where a lot of teams have a lot of question marks at multiple positions, the AFC North is more straightforward. At the same time, depth at WR seems to be the big question in this division, with the Cleveland Browns being a mess all around on offense for multiple reasons.

Let’s dive in.


Baltimore Ravens

QB $
1. Joe Flacco6700
2. Tyrod Taylor5000
3. Keith Wenning5000
RB $
1. Bernard Pierce4600
2. Justin Forsett3000
3. Lorenzo Taliaferro3000
WR $
1. Torrey Smith5400
2. Steve Smith4000
3. Marlon Brown3000
4. Jacoby Jones3000
5. Deonte Thompson3000
TE $
1. Dennis Pitta4400
2. Owen Daniels3500


Cincinnati at Baltimore (-2.5 ) O/U 43

Despite several cheap players here, there are very few people I like going up against the Bengals. This Cincinnati defense was this third in total defense and fifth in scoring defense last year. This unit loses James Harrison, but it’s important to remember he had little impact last year. This D should be at least as good, if not improved. First-round draft pick Darqueze Dennard will help on the outside.

Joe Flacco is a high-risk low-reward play. That’s especially the case without Ray Rice in the backfield to help the running game, and the Ravens are breaking in veteran WR Steve Smith and TE Owen Daniels.

For this team to be successful, the OL has to be better. Through two preseason games, it’s been far from that. They had one nice drive against the 49ers late in the first quarter, but San Francisco had partially its first and second unit by then. The Ravens left their first string on the field for the entire first half against the Cowboys, and it was bad. Yes, they scored 27 points in the first half, but here’s what went down. Baltimore’s first 14 points came on a fumble return for a TD and a kickoff return for a TD. After a field goal from taking advantage of good field position, the Ravens scored a quick 10 points to close the half, but Dallas was deep into its second string. And by the way, this is the Cowboys defense we are talking about.

Look, it’s two preseason games, but to think this offense is going to perform well against the first-string Bengals is pretty iffy at best. Should you roll out Bernard Pierce in a GPP or two on DraftKings since he’s the clear starter and is under priced in general cause of the Rice suspension? Ehhh, maybe. This Ravens offense hasn’t been very good in the red zone the last couple seasons. I see no reason why this OL will do any better week 1. I think there are better value plays out there.

The same goes for Torrey Smith and Steve Smith. Flacco is known for spreading the wealth on his inefficient passing game. Torrey never had more than seven catches in a game last year, and he only had more than five on three occasions He only went over 100 yards twice. We all know about Steve is getting up there in age, and yes, he might score a TD. But again, we are gambling on a TD from both to even be worth it. It’s just too much risk (not to mention the lack of PPR opportunities) to give it real consideration. The Ravens are a fade from top-to-bottom.


Cincinnati Bengals

QB $
1. Andy Dalton6800
2. Jason Campbell5000
3. A.J. McCarron (injured)5000
4. Tyler Wilson5000
RB $
1. Giovani Bernard6600
2. Jeremy Hill4400
3. BenJarvus Green-Ellis3300
WR $
1. A.J. Green7400
2. Mohamed Sanu3200
3. Dane Sanzenbacher3000
4. Ryan Whalen3000
5. Brandon Tate3000
TE $
1. Jermaine Gresham3400
2. Tyler Eifert3600
3. Alex Smith3000


Cincinnati at Baltimore (-2.5 ) O/U 43

On the flip side of this game, before we get into the Bengals offense, I think the Cincinnati D is worth a play here in a GPP. I don’t think they are the No. 1 choice, but the O/U 43 is the fourth-lowest of the weekend. Consider that the Bengals D was tied for fourth in fumbles recovered and fifth in INTs (there is a little variance here of course), that goes pretty well with a solid D from top-to-bottom in yards allowed. Granted the Bengals are on the road in this game and a slight dog, but Flacco threw four pick-sixes last year and this Baltimore offense is very questionable. Again, not the best play, but certainly worth a shot in a GPP. The risk isn’t that high, and there’s solid upside.

Okay, onto the offense. Andy Dalton isn’t worth it here. It’s important to remember though – as much criticism he’s received for the contract he got (and I know QBs don’t get paid on stats alone), he did rank 7th in passing yards last year, 3rd in TD passes and 10th in TD-INT difference. So, before you jump on the public-perception bandwagon that he stinks or is just average, there are going to be great spots to use him down the road.

The RB situation is a borderline nightmare for daily fantasy players. I’d first and foremost say, let’s rule out Benjarvus Green-Ellis. I don’t see him getting anymore than 10% of the carries or being anymore than a third-down back. Jeremy Hill has looked great in his first two preseason games, and if Cincinnati drafted him early a year after getting Giovani Bernard, you’d think they plan to use him. Personally, I think Hill and Carlos Hyde are clearly the two best rookie RBs, and I think we are going to see time split evenly between Hill and Bernard. Bernard will be the starter, and he should be. But I am definitely not spending DraftKings’ $6,600 on Bernard, nor am I even gambling $4,400 on Hill. There’s no reason to risk early.

As you’ll notice on the Bengals depth chart, Marvin Jones is missing. He suffered a foot injury, and Cincinnati is hoping to have him back Week 5. A.J. Green has been his usual dominant self so far in preseason. There is no reason to think he won’t continue to be one of the elite WRs in the NFL. Green is actually only the eighth-most expensive WR on DraftKings. Also, in Green’s two games vs. the Ravens last season, here are Greens numbers: at BAL, 8 Rec, 15 TGTS, 151 YDS, 1 TD – vs. BAL, 4 Rec, 10 TGTS, 61 YDS, 1 TD. I don’t like to go off of small sample sizes, but Green usually does well regardless of the opponent. This is just one small example. I wouldn’t mind throwing him into a couple GPPs.

But the one question we always seem to ask ourselves about Cincinnati is, will there be a consistent second person for Dalton?  Believe it or not, after Jones’ 712 yards, Bernard’s 514 yards were the third most. We are then basically looking at a three-way tie between Jermaine Gresham, Mohamed Sanu and Tyler Eifert for fourth who all went between 458 and 445 yards as well as between 4 and 2 TDs. Given that Sanu should be out there for almost every play and that he’s only $3,200 on DraftKings, I’d consider using him once if it’ll help you get one of the elite RBs. The top running backs have fantastic matchups in Week 1.

But again, anyone on the Bengals shouldn’t be considered a great play. The Baltimore D is statistically very similar to Cincinnati’s, just not quite as good. The unit is 11th or 12th in nearly every basic category, although they were tied for fourth in sacks. Terrell Suggs coming back from injury will help substantially too.


Cleveland Browns

QB $
1. Brian Hoyer6000
2. Johnny Manziel6300
3. Rex Grossman5000
4. Connor Shaw5000
RB $
1. Ben Tate5200
2. Terrance West4600
3. Isaiah Crowell3000
WR $
1. Miles Austin3600
2. Andrew Hawkins4500
3. Nate Burleson3000
4. Anthony Armstrong3000
5. Travis Benjamin3000
TE $
1. Jordan Cameron5000
2. Jim Dray3000


Cleveland at Pittsburgh (-6) O/U 40.5

Well, I am surely glad I didn’t write the AFC North preview until after the second preseason week. That’s not because I’m shocked Brian Hoyer is starting over Johnny Manziel, but it’s because of the difference in what package Manziel was given from game one to game two. Against the Detroit Lions, Manziel ran a fair amount of read option and QB draw. None of that happened against the Redskins. Granted the Browns might have wanted to limit the hits Mazniel takes, but if the Browns want Manziel to succeed and be their future, they need to let Johnny be Johnny. That doesn’t mean let him throw the ball 50 times and go no huddle all the time, but it does mean get him outside the pocket more often and make the defense spread out more. This will ultimately help Ben Tate or whoever else is in the backfield.

But getting to Hoyer. He’s a fade 100%. He’s going against Dick LeBeau for the first time. The O/U and spread doesn’t support it. But I want to add something else about Hoyer longer term. There’s the notion that Hoyer is a veteran and had great success with the Browns last year before he got injured. While technically true, keep in mind that Hoyer’s three starts where he won each one were at the Vikings (when they were arguably the worst team in the NFL. Hoyer was 30-of-54 with 3TD and 3INT for a 31.4 QBR), vs. the Bengals (solid game, 25-of-38 2TD 0INT and a 64.5 QBR) and vs. the Bills (only threw four passes before he got hurt). Hoyer has a good work ethic and appears to have great leadership qualities, but will he be able to perform well against elite teams consistently? After what we’ve seen from these receivers and how poorly the Browns looked on Monday night, it’s hard to imagine that. I see little-to-no reason to use Hoyer for the near future.

On the positive side of things, Tate should get legitimate consideration depending on the matchup. We’ll see how much Terrance West gets used, but I expect Tate to get a very high percentage of the touches. He proved himself to be more than just a backup in Houston when Arian Foster was down and could do well against a weak rush D behind Joe Thomas. But he’s certainly a no-go against Pittsburgh.

As for WR/TE, oh boy. With Josh Gordon likely to be suspended for a while, Jordan Cameron is the one familiar face back. But other than that, the age and health of Miles Austin is always a concern. Andrew Hawkins is the No. 2 receiver and is in his 4th season, but he’s only 5’7″ and usually not a big-play guy. Nate Burelson is out with a hamstring injury, and he should be back. But it’s no guarantee he even makes the roster, and he’s returning from breaking his arm from the pizza driving incident last season. Let’s sit and wait on the WRs for at least the remainder of the preseason. Also, with Gordon out of the picture, Cameron will likely have another solid season. But DraftKings’ $5,000 is a bit too much. He’s the fourth-most expensive TE.


Pittsburgh Steelers

QB $
1. Ben Roethlisberger7600
2. Bruce Gradkowski5000
3. Landry Jones5000
4. Brendon Kay5000
RB $
1. Le’Veon Bell6700
2. LeGarrette Blount3800
3. Dri Archer3000
WR $
1. Antonio Brown7500
2. Markus Wheaton3300
3. Lance Moore3300
4. Darrius Heyward-Bey3000
5. Martavis Bryant3000
TE $
1. Heath Miller4000
2. Matt SpaethN/A
3. David Paulson3000


Cleveland at Pittsburgh (-6) O/U 40.5

The Browns do have an improving defense, and they showed that last year. However, they still gave up a 23rd-ranked 25.4 points and allowed an 18th-ranked 111.3 yards on the ground.

I’m in for a Le’Veon Bell play here for multiple reasons. No. 1, the Steelers are playing more up-tempo. This means more plays. This means more opportunities for Bell. No. 2, I expect Bell to get at least 80% of the carries this season. No. 3, Bell did get 20 and 23 carries vs. the Browns last year, and I don’t expect the Browns offense to be on the field for much of this contest. No. 4, the Steelers are favored by six at home. No. 5, Bell provides solid PPR upside. No. 6, Bell is only the ninth-most expensive RB and is in my top 5 for best RB plays of the weekend.

I’d pass on Ben Roethlisberger (non pun intended). Going against Joe Haden and that pass defense simply isn’t an ideal matchup. That’s another reason to hold off on WR Antonio Brown. The key for the Steelers passing game down the road in terms of DFS is who will be that second guy with Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery gone. There are two guys I would look at. One is Heath Miller. Even though Miller played 14 games last year, he only played a partial role in the first few and had a more full time job as he got healthier. Secondly, he was used heavily in the run game last year since the OL had a ton of injuries last year (like usual). If the OL is healthy and Miller stays healthy, I expect a great year from him. He still catches everything his way and has historically been a favorite target for Roethlisberger in the red zone. The second guy is Markus Wheaton. This guy has big-play potential and was hurt for most of his rookie season last year. He made a tough TD grab from Ben on a short post-corner route in the Steelers preseason game vs. the Bills.

View all posts by Nick Juskewycz
Nick Juskewycz

About the Author

Sked Nick is a Daily Fantasy Sports enthusiast and a former Bleacher Report Featured Columnist. Most of his time is dedicated to the sports world in front of several televisions, monitors and a projector. This involves researching, writing, watching games or simply keeping up to date on news.He graduated with honors from Bowling Green State University with a degree in sport management and journalism. Furthermore, Nick was a radio play-by-play and color commentator for Bowling Green football, men's basketball, women's basketball and baseball. He also has experience working with the BGSU athletic department.Follow @NickJuskewycz

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