With ESPN and Yahoo NFL Fantasy Football leagues starting shortly, and Best Ball leagues already going, our goal is to get you prepped early for your upcoming NFL fantasy drafts with our team previews that feature a look into key positional additions and departures, breakdowns, and possible sleepers.
We’ll be releasing four team previews per week, starting June 25 and going through August 16, beginning with the AFC East.
**As part of our season-long, NFL DFS package, Awesemo will release his NFL Fantasy Football rankings in mid-July for premium members. The world’s number one ranked DFS player is going to use his DFS approach, applying it to season long fantasy to help you find value in your drafts. More on that, soon! If you’re not a member, sign up for Awesemo+ to get access to our premium rankings, projections and Slack Chat, including Awesemo’s weekly premium office hours, where he takes all your fantasy football questions.**
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Last day’s preview:
- Key Fantasy Departures: Targets
- Offensive additions
- Best Ball ADP
- Positional breakdowns: QB, WR, RB, TE, O-line
- Preseason players to watch
- Betting guide
- NFL Fantasy players to target
- Biggest question mark
- Fantasy football sleepers
- Awesemo’s fantasy football rankings
- News and updates: check back throughout the next two months
- Final thoughts
Fantasy Football Overview
Mike Tomlin returns for his 13th season. Time Flies. From a fantasy football perspective, not too much has changed for the Steelers heading into 2019, other than the departure of Antonio Brown. Le’Veon Bell is gone, but of course he was gone last year, too. The entire offensive line is back, the Steelers depth receivers are back, they added no notable free agents and made no major coaching changes. The only real question on the offensive side of the ball is who is going to take Brown’s targets?
Pass rate: 2nd
Run rate: 31st
Key Fantasy Departures: Targets
- Antonio Brown: 164
- Jesse James: 39
- Justin Hunter: 13
Much ado about nothing. The Steelers focused on offense during the middle rounds of the NFL draft, not bothering to try and replace Antonio Brown through free agency or trade.
- Donte Moncrief: The oft underperforming sleeper, heads over Pittsburgh after unsuccessful stints in Indianapolis and Jacksonville. He’s already getting OTA buzz and his draft position is rising.
- Diontae Johnson: the University of Toledo product is being overdrafted due to the Steelers history of finding WR gems. Opportunity knocks, but this is a deep-sleeper, dynasty add, at best.
- Benny Snell Jr: Do-it-all back out of Kentucky is an interesting deep-sleeper and dynasty pick.
Best Ball ADP
- 14) James Conner
- 16) JuJu Smith-Schuster
- 83) Vance McDonald
- 104) Jaylen Samuels
- 118) James Washington
- 123) Ben Roethlisberger (QB14)
- 125) Donte Moncrief
- 215) Brady Snell Jr.
- 232) Diontae Johnson
Quietly, 36-year-old Ben Roethlisberger tallied his highest yardage total as a pro last season, with 5,129 yards. It’s safe to say that with the loss of Brown that number isn’t repeatable. Expect 4,000-4,500 yards and 30 TDs. There’s nothing exciting about drafting Big Ben, but he’s a viable, safe option in the 12-16 range.
With roughly 220 targets up for grabs from the departure of Antonio Brown, it’s not a bad idea to mine the Steelers for receiving value. Someone is going to take that 2WR role and run with it. And on one of the most pass-happy offences in the NFL, that’s a spot to target.
James Washington is the current favorite to over the role. The second-year man out of Oklahoma State struggled at times last year, but was trending up towards the end of the season. As mentioned, new signing Donte Moncrief impressed in OTAs, and his draft stock is on the rise.
Of the two, Moncrief is the safer play, while Washington has higher risk and higher upside. At that stage of the draft (around picks 100-110), it’s a decent idea to grab both if you can, wait and see what happens and then drop the lesser of the two. That strategy works for Best Ball as well (without the dropping part, of course), though you are mitigating your gains.
Eli Rogers is the forgotten man, despite tallying 48 receptions in 2016. He’ll likely find himself on the bubble with the addition of Diontae Johnson and the gadget play/special teams acumen of Ryan Switzer, who’s a dark horse bet to make a name for himself in this offence.
And of course, there’s not much to say about JuJu Smith-Schuster, who’s one of the great young talent’s in the game. JuJu is still just 22-years-old, but finished last year with an 111-1426-7 line, and there’s no reason think he can’t improve upon his WR8 ranking from a year ago. He’s a year older and there are a bunch of targets up for grabs.
This all boils down to whether or not you think James Conner will retain his status as every down back in the Steelers offence. Gadget back Jaylen Samuels is creeping up draft boards and Benny Snell Jr. is waiting in the wings.
But there are no real signs the Steelers plan to do anything but roll with Conner. He was a three-down back last year, finishing with just under a thousand rushing yards and 500 yards receiving in just 12 games. He blocks, he catches passes and he finished sixth in PFF’s elusive rating.
The sharps were all over Vance McDonald at the beginning of the Best Ball season, and now his draft position has caught up to reality. Antonio Brown’s departure might benefit McDonald as much as anyone, because the Steelers also lost TE Jesse James in free agency. McDonald set career highs in catches and receiving yards last year. He’s one of the top, mid-round, high-upside options available if you miss out on the Big Three.
Pass blocking: 2nd
Run blocking: 12th
The Steelers return four starters from a year ago, and possibly five if the coaching staff decided to keep Matt Feiler at RT after he took over for an injured and now departed Marcus Gilbert last year.
Steeler offensive line coach Mike Munchak left for the Broncos, but as the Steelers do, they opted for continuity, promoting RB coach James Saxon to the position. Not much should change.
With three perennial Pro-Bowlers, it’s difficult to imagine this line as anything other than it was last year – one of the best units in the NFL.
Preseason Players to Watch
- The WR2/3 battle.
- Is anyone stealing snaps from James Conner?
Ben Rasa’s NFL Fantasy Football and Betting Preview
Pittsburgh Steelers 2019 O/U Win Total – 9 (Over -125 , Under -105)
The Steelers seem to always be in the hunt, but this year they will have to get it done without two of the cornerstones of the recent success, as Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell are both no longer in Pittsburgh. It is not all bad as Big Ben still has plenty of options and Vegas is still shading them slightly to grab another double digit win season and possibly find the playoffs.
Ben’s Favorite Player to Target
JuJu Smith-Schuster – WR
Antonio Brown is gone and that means ~175 targets are now up for grabs in this offense. JuJu already had secure volume as he coexisted with Brown, but now he’s the clear #1 option and should get all the work he can handle. The big question mark is can the rest of the Steelers options do enough where defenses can’t overhaul their coverage to Smith-Schuster and really limit his efficiency on the massive target share he will see. I think the Steelers will still be a potent offense and with Big Ben still there I expect JuJu to be in line for an easy 100+ catch season with the ability to be one of the top WR’s across the entire league.
Biggest Question: What to do with Ben Roethlisberger?
Big Ben naturally is going to miss Bell and Brown despite some of the friction over the years, but clearly he still has talent around him with Conners in the backfield and the weapons on the outside. Still , Big Ben’s best years are behind him and now needs additional players to step up to take the pressure off the new big two playmakers (Conners, JuJu) in this offense. Furthermore he is in a weird spot in Best Ball and Season Long leagues in terms of draft position as he seems like a backend QB1 but you don’t want to reach for a QB2 with a mid-round pick. Unless Roethlisberger falls down the board a bit he’s a guy I will let other people grab as there are still plenty of questions about this new look offense and a lot of quality Fantasy QB options across the league.
Fantasy Football Sleepers: James Washington – WR
As I mentioned earlier without AB there are 150+ targets up for grabs and JuJu can’t grab them all so someone has to step up. The Steelers added Moncrief, but James Washington is a guy they spent a 2nd round pick on in 2018 and have high hopes on for the future. The former Oklahoma State Cowboy is a big play threat and him stepping up as viable 2nd WR option will make this entire offense more dynamic. I think Washington makes strides in his 2nd season and will have every opportunity to breakout now that Brown has departed.
Awesemo’s NFL Fantasy Football Rankings
Check back in mid-July for season-long projections and rankings from the #1 Fantasy Sports Player.
Updated throughout preseason and training camp because we all know things can change quickly in the NFL.
The AFC North really is in transition with the perpetual doormat Cleveland Browns a threat to win the Division and the Steelers not nearly as secure as they normally are. Losing All-Pro caliber players will take any offense down a few notches, but the Steelers still have a lot of talent around an experienced QB and that will keep them relevant deep into the year. Like most teams they need to stay healthy, but if they do I think they will be in the hunt once again with a chance to lock down the North and find the postseason.