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AFC East Fantasy Football Deep-Dive: Best Picks, Sleepers, Draft Advice for 2021

A team-by-team deep dive, bringing you the best of the AFC East for 2021 fantasy football.

With the 2021 NFL season fast approaching, I’ve taken it upon myself to go division-by-division and breakdown each team for 2021 fantasy football. For each team, I’ve picked the best fantasy options and a few up-and-comers on the roster who could have sneaky fantasy value this coming season. I’ve also included Sharp Football’s Strength of Schedule Metrics for each team (1st = easiest, 32nd = hardest) and my own 2021 .5PPR rankings for the players were applicable.

Buffalo Bills
Overall Strength of ScheduleOpposing Off. EfficiencyOpposing Def. EfficiencyOpposing Pass D EfficiencyOpposing Run D Efficiency
9th10th18th22nd14th

The Bills’ 2021 Strength of Schedule reveals mediocre slates of both opposing offenses and defenses—a similar look to last season when Buffalo took the league by storm, producing the fifth-best NerdBall Efficiency rating (53.8%), while employing the league’s second-highest first-half, early-down (FH/ED) passing rate of 64%. That they did so with a litany of injuries at both guard spots is a lesson that the NFL should continue to learn: passing remains the optimal play call in most situations.

The only major offensive personnel alterations to occur in the off-season were the departure of Z-receiver John Brown and the addition of veteran WR Emmanuel Sanders. Whether or not Sanders operates as Brown’s direct replacement, Sanders has been available as a starter for 75% of his team’s games over the last five years. Brown, meanwhile, has been available for just 61% of. It’s much more likely that Sanders can operate in a more voluminous capacity than Brown ever could.

Certified Beasts

QB Josh Allen (My 2021 rank: QB2) & WR Stefon Diggs (My 2021 rank: WR1)

The Bills’ pass catching group is so dense it required its own standalone article. Both Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs are elite picks at their respective positions. Drafters would do well to add them at their respective ADPs.

RB Zack Moss (RB34)

The Bills showed their hesitancy in committing to Devin Singletary, the organization’s 2019 third-round pick, by immediately spending another third on Moss the following year. Moss didn’t steal the show in 2020, but there are reasons to be optimistic about his flex-worthiness in 2021.

Moss’ rookie campaign was derailed early on when the promising back suffered a toe injury sometime between the kickoff of the Week 2 contest against Miami and Wednesday of Week 3—a hindrance that seemingly plagued him into November. The team was careful in his deployment, limiting his snaps and using him mostly as a rusher, the latter of which was a bit of a surprise after Moss finished third on the team in receiving yards for his final collegiate season as a Ute.

Moss will forever be impacted by Josh Allen’s red zone rushing prowess (five TDs on 14 RZ carries last year), but the second-year backs’ main competitor, Singletary, really isn’t a cause for concern. Singletary is a proficient dual threat back but his underwhelming combination of both size and athleticism severely limit what he can offer this offense. Although Moss may not see a standalone workload like many an NFL lead back, maintaining a 12-15 carry workload with a slight bump in receiving usage should result in a far better sophomore outing. He’s a reasonable draft choice at his eighth round, RB37 ADP.

Sneaky Beasts

WR Gabriel Davis (WR42), Cole Beasley (WR44), & Emmanuel Sanders (WR54)

I broke down the WR2 battle in Buffalo couple of weeks ago, but here are the cliff-notes. Davis offers the highest, flex-worthy upside of the bunch while Beasley brings uniquely reliable high-floor performances with spiked weeks. Sanders looks to be the primary rotational receiver for both Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley. Should either miss time, Sanders would be a weekly flex play.

Miami Dolphins
Overall Strength of ScheduleOpposing Off. EfficiencyOpposing Def. EfficiencyOpposing Pass D EfficiencyOpposing Run D Efficiency
10th18th5th4th15th

The Dolphins’ revamped pass catching corps is set to make a splash this year as the ‘Fins are set to face a slew of solid offenses and an array of dreadful pass defenses.

Certified Beasts

RB Myles Gaskin (My 2021 rank: RB28)

Gaskin barely makes the cut here as his mid-fourth round, RB23 ADP is awfully rich for what might amount to a role-playing committee leader. The now-third-year back’s 2020 was story of two sporadic halves. Not stealing the starting job until Week 3, Gaskin’s production was hurt by a Grade 2 MCL injury that cost him four games on Injured Reserve. This was followed by a two-week stint on the NFL’s COVID-19/Reserve List. In his seven full games as a starter though, the dual threat back averaged 106.7 scrimmage yards, 0.6 touchdowns, and 4.4 targets per game. His season-long 4.7 targets per game was tied for sixth in the NFL.

When projecting for 2021 though, it’s fair to wonder if the diminutive players’ 5-foot-9, 205 pound frame may have a tough time holding up under a bellcow’s 20-touch workload. The severity of the MCL injury is a concern. That said, the 2021 strength of schedule metrics do offer encouraging game scripts that would feature a pass happy style of play, a boon given Gaskin’s above average receiving capabilities. Should Gaskin’s ADP fall two rounds or so, he would immediately become a must-draft as a weekly flex start. As of now, he’s a high-risk/high-reward RB2.

Update: Myles Gaskin appears to be playing second fiddle, behind Malcolm Brown. At this time, readers are advised to pass on Gaskin unless he falls a few rounds past his current ADP. Accordingly, Brown is now a name consider late.

WR Will Fuller (WR31)

Perhaps the single most variant high-risk/high-reward fantasy option in the NFL today, Will Fuller offers massive upside at his current 8.09, WR37 ADP in .5PPR drafts. Were his nagging injuries temporarily “solved” through the use of PEDs last year? We can’t be certain.

What we can be certain of though is that Will Fuller is hands down the most talented receiver on the Dolphins roster and he proved that he can operate as a full-time X-receiver last year. He’s not just a one-trick, downfield pony. Fuller dealt with an ambiguous leg issue in Week 2 of 2020 but from Weeks 3 through 11, after which Fuller failed a PED test and was suspended for six games, the stud wideout racked up 115.1 .5PPR points, eighth-most at the position during that span.

In regards to 2021, Fuller-drafters will have to live with a donut in Week 1, as he still has one game left on his six game suspension. After that though, it’s wheels up. Draft Fuller confidently in the seventh or eighth round as a flex player who can handily produce as a WR1.

Sneaky Beasts

RB Malcolm Brown, Salvon Ahmed, & Gerrid Doaks

As mentioned in the Myles Gaskin section, there are slight causes for concern over his grasp on the backfield’s touch-count. Malcolm Brown is a savvy veteran, recently acquired this offseason. Salvon Ahmed played reasonably well as a spot starter in his rookie campaign last year. Gerrid Doaks is an intriguing, highly athletic rookie who could carve out a change of pace/banger role as the season progresses. Gaskin handled a surprising amount of the redzone rushes last year after the team moved on from designated goal-line back Jordan Howard, but Doaks is an immediate candidate to take touches for himself when the team enters scoring position.

WR DeVante Parker (WR48), Preston Williams (WR73), Jaylen Waddle (WR57), & TE Mike Gesicki (TE9)

With the expected pass happy season on tap, drafting pieces of Miami’s aerial attack late in drafts is a sound proposition. Parker offers a steady veteran presence and a locked in starting role if his health holds. For two seasons now, Preston Williams has been a promising up-and-comer, held back only by injuries. With the depth chart as deep as ever, he’s got a long road ahead of him but at his undrafted ADP, he’s a fine dart throw. Slot dynamo, rookie Jaylen Waddle is expected to do battle with veteran TE (read: jumbo wide receiver) Mike Gesicki for targets this season. While it’s more likely than not both players somewhat lower each other’s ceiling, it’s entirely possible that one of them is able to separate. It’s also just as likely that they keep each other fresh in a frequent and profitable rotation. Time will tell.

QB Tua Tagovailoa (QB16)

If it wasn’t already obvious, the second-year signal caller has more pass catching weapons than he knows what to do with and a schedule that looks like every quarterback’s dream. Fair questions exist regarding his continued development but this team is clearly all in on him.

In Tagovailoa’s nine games as a starter last year, the Dolphins threw the ball on first-half early-downs 58% of the time, the ninth-highest rate in the NFL. Conventional wisdom would dictate a run-heavy scheme for a young QB early on but head coach Brian Flores is cut from an analytical cloth and knows that it’s far easier to pass against base defense units that are built to stop the run, not the pass. With that kind of intelligent coaching, the sky’s the limit for Tua Tagovailoa in his sophomore campaign. Draft him aggressively, a round ahead of his QB22, 14.01 .5PPR ADP.

New England Patriots
Overall Strength of ScheduleOpposing Off. EfficiencyOpposing Def. EfficiencyOpposing Pass D EfficiencyOpposing Run D Efficiency
19th27th9th6th20th

The run-centric Patriots will be in a weekly battle with the game script this year. Although they’ll routinely face some of the worst overall defenses in the league, their expected slate of opposing passing offenses is the most efficient in the league, per SharpFootballStats.com. If New England is able to control the game early, things should run smoothly. In scenarios where opposing signal callers are able to score at will in the first-half, Bill Belichick’s crew may be out of luck before half-time.

Certified Beasts

WR Nelson Agholor (My 2021 rank: WR49)

Agholor begins anew with the Patriots after quickly being signed to a two-year contract at the onset of free agency. His primary WR competition will be the slow, if precise route runner Kendrick Bourne (also a free agent signee) and Jakobi Meyers who had his shot to carve out a prominent role last season but failed to seize the moment. Agholor may have some down weeks but should be the de facto No. 1 WR in New England this year.

RB Damien Harris (RB31)

Recent reports indicate Harris has established himself as the clear-cut lead back in the Patriots’ backfield and his ADP has begun to show it. Currently coming off the board as the RB32 in .5PPR drafts at the back end of the sixth round, Harris offers a rock-solid floor while high touchdown upside should Mac Jones win the starting job. Should Cam Newton remain the starter though, Harris’ red zone outlook drops considerably as Newton remains one of the most dynamic goal-line rushers in the league.

Sneaky Beasts

TE Hunter Henry (TE20) and Jonnu Smith (TE17)

Henry and Smith were the biggest names of Bill Belichick’s 2021 free agent class, inking both to multi-year top-5 positional contracts as soon as he could. Given each player’s presence, their respective 11th and 9th Round ADPs on the TE1/2 borderline make for awfully rich prices. While both are expected to play prominent roles, unless they are able to out-target the wide receiver and pass catching running back groups as a whole, it will be tough for them to return reliable TE1 value. That said, both players carry somewhat elevated injury risks so nabbing one that falls a round or two could make for a smart pick.

RB James White (RB38)

White’s 2021 viability is based entirely on Mac Jones. Should Jones steal the QB1 job from Cam Newton in the preseason, White goes from irrelevant to a weekly flex play in full-point PPR leagues.

QB Mac Jones (QB27)

Volume drafters need to be looking long and hard at Mac Jones towards the end of their drafts. Although Cam Newton currently retains incumbent status, Jones is very clearly viewed as the future of this team. After using the 15th overall pick on him in this year’s NFL Draft, Bill Belichick has to be at least somewhat curious as to what Jones has to offer.

New York Jets
Overall Strength of ScheduleOpposing Off. EfficiencyOpposing Def. EfficiencyOpposing Pass D EfficiencyOpposing Run D Efficiency
16th14th8th14th8th

Jets head coach Robert Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur are the newest members of the Kyle Shanahan coaching tree to put down roots in a new town. With a largely middle of the road strength of schedule, we should get a good idea of the play-calling philosophies that Saleh and LaFleur brought with them to New York, as neutral game scripts look to be in strong supply.

Certified Beasts

WR Corey Davis (My 2021 rank: WR22)

Davis turned a career corner last season, posting the NFL’s sixth highest yards per route run average, 2.58, smashing his previous career-best mark of 1.83. He finished as the WR31 in 14 games played. No longer playing second fiddle to A.J. Brown in Tennessee, Davis has a real shot to be the receiving game-alpha dog this year. With a neutral strength of schedule ahead of him, returning low-end WR2 numbers is solidly within his range of outcomes. Davis’ 11.08, WR49 ADP is a steal.

Sneaky Beasts

QB Zach Wilson (QB24)

This year’s No. 2 overall pick enters a surprisingly favorable situation in New York. Saleh and LaFleur will be employing Shanahan’s dynamic, QB-friendly offense. LaFleur is especially familiar with its concepts after operating as San Francisco’s passing game coordinator over the last four years. During that span, the Niners targeted their running backs on 26% of first-half early-down throws, eighth-most in the NFL, per SharpFootballStats.com. The 2021 Jets have been built to continue this trend with running backs Michael Carter, Ty Johnson, and Tevin Coleman in the fold.

Enhancing Wilson’s outlook is his rushing prowess, especially near the goal-line, which was on full display during his final season at BYU when he rushed for 10 scores, 10th most on the team. Wilson makes for a sneaky late round pick that could pay QB dividends when the fantasy playoffs roll around.

RB Michael Carter (RB26) & Ty Johnson (RB43)

Rookie running back Michael Carter drew positive reviews in OTA’s this offseason, looking like a dark horse to assume full-time pass catching duties. Ty Johnson, meanwhile, has established himself as a capable rotational back through his two NFL seasons and both should be hot on the trail of aging lead back Tevin Coleman, who Saleh and LaFleur brought with them from San Francisco. For as long as he’s healthy, Coleman will have some sort of role in the Jets’ backfield, but injury issues have always been a concern for Coleman. The two quicker and younger backs should give him a run for his money as early as Week 1 of the preseason.

WR Elijah Moore (WR50)

Aptly outlined here by Hayden Winks, earlier this offseason, Moore has a shot to steal reps at both slot receiver and Z-receiver for the Jets this year. This flexibility makes him a safer draft pick than many seem to realize. Although Moore won’t be able to compete with Corey Davis for snaps at the X spot, journeyman Keelan Cole, veteran slot receiver Jamison Crowder, and the still-raw Denzel Mims are all that stand between Moore and a full-time, if two-position gig. Not an especially imposing group.

Reports from June tell us that Cole has firmly edged ahead of the struggling Denzel Mims. Crowder, meanwhile, was forced to take a 50% pay-cut just to retain his roster spot. Crowder’s physical limitations keep him firmly in the slot receiver role, but the restructuring shows a clear belief that Moore is the long-term answer. Moore makes for a solid bench-to-flex fantasy option at his 13.09, WR57 ADP.