Odd Man Out: AFC Edition
The recent NFL Draft and free agency have drastically changed the complexions of most of the NFL’s 32 teams. These are some of the once relevant players in the AFC who could be left standing in the cold come game time.
Dion Lewis RB, Patriots: What a difference a year makes. A season ago it would have been inconceivable to think that Lewis wouldn’t be a major part of the Pats’ offense going forward, but with a long history of injuries and the offseason additions of Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead, in addition to the Super Bowl heroics of James White and the impending return of LeGarrette Blount, Lewis has been rendered virtually expendable. I’m not saying he won’t have value, I’m just saying you won’t have any idea when it will come or for how long.
Buck Allen RB, Ravens: The Ravens knew Kenneth Dixon would miss four games, but instead of relying on Terrance West and Allen to carry the load, the team brought in Danny Woodhead as the new change-of-pace back. A healthy scratch for much of 2016, after an impressive rookie campaign the year before, Allen is an afterthought in Baltimore, and his days there are likely numbered.
Brandon LaFell WR, Bengals: It’s true, LaFell has just been signed to a 2-year contract as of March, but even the second-best season of his career where he flirted with 1,000 yds receiving and 6 TDs couldn’t keep the Bengals from adding speed demon and eventual playmaker John Ross to the corps. Add A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert and an up-and-coming Tyler Boyd who is eight years LaFell’s junior, and there isn’t much room left for LaFell to produce.
Chris Ivory RB, Jaguars: Ivory got his shot last season, but it was to no avail as the 29 year-old couldn’t even take the reigns from T.J. Yeldon, much less become the franchise back for the Jags. Now that Leonard Fournette has been crowned, Ivory has little to no chance of having fantasy relevancy, as he’s not as capable a pass catching back as Yeldon. At least he got paid…
Charcandrick West RB, Chiefs: Recently acquired rookie RB and RosterWatch favorite Kareem Hunt is likely going to give Spencer Ware a run for his money out of the gate as the new lead back in town, so it seems almost a foregone conclusion that West is out of the running. West says he lost 10 lbs in the offseason to counter his sluggishness on the field, but the guy is listed at 205 lbs… It’s not like he was a tank to begin with. At the very least Hunt will become the COP back behind Ware.
Travis Benjamin WR, Chargers: All of a sudden, the Chargers receiving corps looks crowded with a healthy Keenan Allen, a surging Ty Williams, and imposing rookie Mike Williams all vying for targets in Los Angeles. Oh wait, I forgot to include Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates to that mix. Benjamin seems relegated to a role as a situational deep threat and kick returner, at least until someone gets hurt.
Frank Gore RB, Colts: I’ve learned not to bet against Gore most of the time, but the guy is now 34 and has spent over a decade in the league as a starting RB. It only makes sense that the Colts look to the future of the position, and their signings of 25 year-old Robert Turbin and rookie Marlon Mack looks like a move in that direction.
Jeremy Hill RB, Bengals: Hill will get a chance to start again somewhere in the league, it just probably won’t be in Cincinnati. It’s Joe Mixon’s time to feast now, and Gio Bernard is going to get the scraps. Hill is just too inconsistent and too ho-hum of a running back to keep the starting job from the beastly rookie.
Sammie Coates WR, Steelers: I’d like to say it was nice while it lasted, but Coates was underwhelming as the “replacement” for Martavis Bryant last season. The impending return of Bryant and the addition of JuJu Smith-Schuster is going to make it all but impossible for Coates to carve out a role in Pittsburgh.