Fantasy Exit Interviews -- AFC North


AFC North


Baltimore Ravens (10-6)

2018 Team Offensive Ranks Total offense: 13th
Passing: 22nd
Rushing: 2nd

Statistical Leaders (Final positional ranking/PPR ranks)
Passing: Joe Flacco -- 2,465 yards, 12 TD, 6 INT (QB30)
Rushing: Gus Edwards -- 718 yards, 2 TD (RB47/RB56)
Receiving: John Brown -- 715 yards, 5 TD (WR37/WR41)

What went right: It was a bit ironic that a team named the Ravens excelled on the ground. But such was the case in 2018. The problem for fantasy managers was finding the Ravens best rushing option. Before the season, Alex Collins had the look of an RB2 steal. By the end of the season, attention had pivoted toward undrafted rookie Gus Edwards. In the interim, Kenneth Dixon, Javorius Allen and quarterback Lamar Jackson took their turns at toting the rock. It all helped the Ravens become a playoff team but left many fantasy enthusiasts deciding to draft Ravens nevermore.

What went wrong: As effective as Baltimore was on the ground, they were equally unproductive through the air. The year began with Joe Flacco posting mostly mediocre statlines and eventually ceding the job to Jackson. While the rookie signal-caller added an element of excitement to the attack, his work in the passing game left a lot to be desired. Jackson's struggles with accuracy were on full display in 2018 and the production of his receivers waned as a result. By mid-season, having a Ravens wideout on your fantasy roster was hard to justify.

What needs to improve: With a dynamic talent like Jackson at quarterback, Baltimore will need to find an offense that can maximize his strengths. Enter Greg Roman. The veteran coach replaced former offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg in January and already reportedly has ideas on how to remake the offense around its centerpiece quarterback. That's a wonderful idea but the Ravens will still need to add pieces. Receiver John Brown will be a free agent, Michael Crabtree turns 32 next season and is declining and Willie Snead was a non-factor for much of the year. There is still some additional roster building that needs to happen.

Cincinnati Bengals (6-10)

2018 Team Offensive Ranks
Total offense: 17th
Passing: 24th
Rushing: 21st

Statistical Leaders (Final positional ranking/PPR ranks)
Passing: Andy Dalton -- 2,566 yards, 21 TD, 11 INT (QB23)
Rushing: Joe Mixon -- 1,168 yards, 8 TD (RB9/RB10)
Receiving: Tyler Boyd -- 1,028 yards, 7 TD (WR16/WR15)

What went right: In his second season, Joe Mixon became the workhorse that many expected him to be. The Oklahoma product averaged better than five yards on his team-leading 280 touches -- a number that easily would have surpassed 300 had he not missed a pair of games with a knee injury. The Bengals also discovered a new option at receiver with Tyler Boyd leading the squad in catches, yards and touchdowns. Unfortunately, that discovery came out of necessity after top wideout A.J. Green battled a toe injury for much of the season.

What went wrong: Health -- or a lack thereof -- was a major factor in Cincinnati's 2018 production. In addition to losing Green for seven games, tight end Tyler Eifert again missed the majority of the season. This time it was an ankle injury that ultimately sent Eifert to injured reserve, marking four times in six NFL that Eifert has appeared in eight or fewer games. If you ever want to see a less impactful seven-touchdown season, study 2018 John Ross. While it was certainly better than his dismal rookie campaign, we're still waiting for the speedy receiver to prove he can be an actual playmaker.

What needs to improve: The Bengals continue to live in offensive purgatory but there is hope that a new season will bring change. Cincinnati parted ways with Marvin Lewis after 16 seasons and hired former Rams quarterback coach Zac Taylor and former Raiders assistant Brian Callahan to be their new head coach and offensive coordinator, respectively. What does this mean for the Bengals' attack in 2019? No one rightly knows but as long as Mixon and Green are healthy, they're likely to be drafted within the top three rounds..

Cleveland Browns (7-8-1)

2018 Team Offensive Ranks
Total offense: 20th
Passing: 14th
Rushing: 14th

Statistical Leaders (Final positional ranking/PPR ranks)
Passing: Baker Mayfield -- 3,725 yards, 27 TD, 14 INT (QB17)
Rushing: Nick Chubb -- 996 yards, 8 TD (RB14/RB15)
Receiving: Jarvis Landry -- 976 yards, 4 TD (WR23/WR21)

What went right: What went right came out of what went wrong. After another poor start to the season, the Browns fired head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. They were replaced by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and running backs coach Freddie Kitchens. From there, the Browns offense took flight with rookies Baker Mayfield and Nick Chubb leading the way. Mayfield finished the season 11th in touchdown passes thrown while Chubb was a top 15 fantasy runner. With Kitchens retaining the job as O.C. this offseason, there is plenty of reason for optimism about what this offense might do in 2019.

What went wrong: Cleveland got a solid season out of Jarvis Landry and tight end David Njoku showed that he has a high ceiling as a pass-catcher. But the rest of the pass-catching corps didn't hold up its end of the bargain. The year began with Josh Gordon being away from the team for personal reasons. That rocky relationship ended when the Browns traded Gordon to the New England Patriots. That left Antonio Callway, Rashard Higgins and others to fill in the gaps ... none did in any significant way.

What needs to improve: The Browns added free agent Kareem Hunt, who was released by the Chiefs last season after video surfaced of Hunt attacking a woman in a hotel hallway. However, the running back remains ineligible to play and it's likely that he'll be suspended for at least a portion of the season. When he returns, how he fits in the offensive plan alongside Chubb remains to be seen. Beyond that, Cleveland will need to find a downfield threat for Mayfield. Perhaps that player is already on the roster (Callaway? Damion Ratley?) otherwise, Cleveland general manager John Dorsey will have a task for the offseason.

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-6-1)

2018 Team Offensive Ranks
Total offense: 6th
Passing: 2nd
Rushing: 31st

Statistical Leaders (Final positional ranking/PPR ranks)
Passing: Ben Roethlisberger -- 5,129 yards, 34 TD (QB2)
Rushing: James Conner -- 973 yards, 12 TD (RB7/RB6)
Receiving: JuJu Smith-Schuster -- 1,426 yards, 7 TD (WR9/WR8)

What went right: When Le'Veon Bell decided to sit out until the Steelers offered him a new contract, the onus fell on James Conner to handle the running back duties. The former Pitt Panther took the ball and ran with it -- literally. Conner topped 1,400 scrimmage yards and scored 13 touchdowns on his way to being 2018's biggest fantasy draft bargain. Last season also saw JuJu Smith-Schuster take a major step forward. After playing second fiddle to Brown in 2017, Smith-Schuster showed how explosive he could be, leading the Steelers in receptions and receiving yards.

What went wrong: If you spent an early-round pick on Le'Veon Bell ... well, you probably weren't too thrilled. What began as a game of contract chicken turned into one of the NFL's top running backs sitting out the entire season as an effort to get paid what he believes he's worth. Internally, the Steelers were a strife-filled lot but for fantasy purposes, there wasn't too much else to complain about. All of the expected pieces posted expected numbers. Throw in Smith-Schuster's breakout season and this offense was everything you could have hoped for.

What needs to improve: Now comes the hard part. Bell is gone. Antonio Brown has made it clear that he wants to be traded. Can the Pittsburgh offense continue to be a fantasy juggernaut without two of its longtime playmakers? Conner was outstanding last season, though he wore down late in the year. Much will be asked of him again this season and he's likely to be a late first or early second-round pick in many drafts. Will Smith-Schuster be just as productive without Antonio Brown across the way? Is James Washington ready to pick up the slack? This offense will have question marks entering 2019.

Marcas Grant is a fantasy editor for NFL.com and a man who is learning to be one with traffic. Send him your moments of transit zen via Twitter @MarcasG. If you read all of that, congrats. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram.