Monthly Archives: April 2019

The Draft: A First Round Review

For the sake of brevity, we’ll only really focus on players that I feel have a chance to make an impact on the fantasy landscape in 2019. These lists are often incomplete, as we can never really say who will win a job that they had no business winning this early in the year, so be gentle with your comments. 

Quarterbacks

The story of the first round will be that of Quarterbacks, as Kyler Murray made it two consecutive years with QB’s going first overall (and 4 out of the last 5 years). Of course, you’ll find very quickly that my opinion of Murray isn’t all that high, especially given the situation he finds himself in as the likely starter for a mediocre (at best) Arizona team.

His skill set as a mobile quarterback that makes plays with his legs certainly fits Kliff Klingsbury’s MO as he coached Baker Mayfield at Texas Tech previously. But with a shaky O-line, a lack of reliable weapons outside an aging Larry Fitzgerald, and little chance of competing week to week, he’s best left alone in all but the deepest drafts and keeper/dynasty leagues.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t Dwayne Haskins going as the second passer off the board. That distinction belongs to Duke QB Daniel Jones, who was selected 6th overall by the New York Giants in what may be the most surprising move of the draft. Sitting at 17th with their second pick, I, along with many, expected them to take a player like Josh Allen and either move up into the early teens or hope he fell. It’s unlikely Jones sees the field in 2019, and likely for a few years at that. He’s a raw product who will need plenty of seasoning if he’s going to be anything more than a middle of the pack QB (which I expect).

Dwayne Haskins, of course,  is an interesting case as he fell into the Washington Redskins lap. With the pedigree of a pure pocket passer, he’ll still have to compete for snaps with Case Keenum, who has the obvious inside track. But if Keenum struggles, this is the one QB situation where there’s a chance we see Haskins on the field in a capacity that may warrant a spot start here or there. Again, these first round QB’s are far from finished products, so we’d advise against drafting any of them.

Tight Ends

We knew there was a pair of very good tight ends likely to go in the top 32, but we were unsure of where they would end up. Several teams in the top 15 had need at the position, with the Jaguars, Packers, Lions, and Patriots comprising some of the better options to land an important play maker.

Ultimately, the smoke surrounding the Jaguars and T.J. Hockenson was nothing more than a smoke screen as the talented Iowa product went one pick later to the Detroit Lions. His addition fills a massive hole that seems to have existed for decades in Detroit. His ability to both be a weapon in the passing game as well as skills as a blocker make him a candidate for immediate impact in the Motor City. Of course Jesse James represents a quality, if not unexciting veteran presence that will likely mean a slow fantasy start for Hockenson, so don’t over commit to the player unless something changes in the preseason.

His battery mate in Iowa, Noah Fant, however, has only Jake Butt to compete with for starting duties. With a passing game that needs all the help it can get following last years injury laiden season, and a quarter back in Joe Flacco who’s historically enjoyed success with pass catching Tight Ends, this could be a great marriage between player and team. It’s too early in the off season to suggest he’ll have no real obsticals to being fantasy relevant, but I’d be surprised if he wasn’t worth rostering, if not targeting late in drafts.

Wide Receivers

Of all the first round positions, the wide receivers were the least predictable this year in terms of first round talent. While seemingly ever expert big board had a handful going in the first, it was Baltimore and New England, two receiver starved teams, taking a pass catcher late in the first round.

At 24, the Ravens selected one of the incoming draft classes most explosive receivers in Marquise Brown. While he was unavailable to participate in the combine drills, it was suggested that Brown would have had one of the fastest, if not THE fastest 40 times of the class. With post-catch skills, and the ability to play inside or outside, he’ll likely be one of Lamar Jackson’s favorite target before long.

Meanwhile, it was the Patriots going slightly off the board with their 32nd overall selection of N’Keal Harry. The 6’3″ Arizona State product will be a welcome red zone target for a Patriots team that lost both Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan in the offseason. With a roster full of diminutive “slot” type receivers, Harry will immediately be looked upon to be the big, outside receiver. Of course, he doesn’t have the kind of speed or separation one would hope for out of a first round guy, but his ability to help in the run game, as well as line up all over the field will be invaluable for a coaching staff that asks its players to be versatile. Don’t expect monster numbers out of the gates, but he could approach double digit touch downs if he gets on the same page with Brady early in the year.

Running Back (Josh Jacobs)

Despite several years in a row with an early RB selection, this year only saw one back go in the top 32 picks; Alabama’s Josh Jacobs. A three down back, Jacobs finds himself in the best case scenario in terms of instant starting ability as Oakland pegged him to replace the retiring Marshawn Lynch. There are backs on the roster he’ll have to beat out, but his skill set should make him the favorite to win the bulk of the carries out of the gate. Take it with a grain of salt, though, as we saw Raiders backs fail to find room to run all year last year, so it may be tough sledding if you invest too high a pick on him, but Jacobs should provide some fantasy value if available late in your draft.

What If… Tyreek Hill Is Gone?

tyhillFor only the briefest moment, it appeared like Tyreek Hill may avoid any major consequences for the ongoing child abuse drama that’s been unfolding quietly in Kansas City. Now, with the leaked audio painting Hill as even more of a villain, the Kansas City Chiefs have begun the process of distancing themselves from Hill by barring him from team activities.

Of course, our justice system provides that defendants are innocent until proven guilty so in the interest of due process, I won’t comment beyond saying the child abuse allegations are of the worst order and any and all guilty of abusing children should face maximum punishments.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we can discuss what this might mean for the Kansas City Chiefs as a whole in terms of fantasy football should Hill miss significant time as a consequence.

The most obvious impact could be at QB, where reigning MVP and new Madden cover athlete Patrick Mahomes would lose a valuable down field target. A quick glance at his 2018 numbers paints a pretty obvious picture; Mahomes was extremely dependent on the deep ball, finishing first in the league at the position with 91 deep passing plays (20 or more yards in the air) and 1st among qualified QBs in yards per attempt and yards per completion statistics. Losing Hill would mean roughly 25% of his passing attempts would need to be redistributed to the rest of his receiving corps.

I expect some regression, especially given that Travis Kelce can’t reasonably assume more than the 150 targets he had last year already. With no Hunt on the roster, it falls to players like Sammie Coates and Sammy Watkins to pick up the slack, especially down the field, and neither of those players can get separation like Hill. Given his ranking of 7th among qualified quarter backs in danger plays, it’s likely that Mahomes biggest regression will come in the form of TD/INT ratio. Expecting a number closer to 35-40 TDs with 16 or so INT would still make him hyper valuable, but maybe not at the level we saw last year.

Of course, Sammy Watkins, if he’s healthy, stands to gain the most from Hills absence. If we extrapolate his 10 game sample size to a full 16 game season, a 64 catch, 825 yard, 5 TD season would have been in the cards. Of course, having Hill protect you by taking the top off likely led to his career best 72% catch percentage, so I have to dock him a bit there.

So what can we expect from Watkins? Aside from being dinged up occasionally, I expect him to assume a few of Hills targets per game, giving him 6-8 or so in the games he starts. Provided he maintains a catch ratio of 65% or so, it wouldn’t surprise me to see 70 catches for a shade over 1,000 yards and 7-10 TDs. This is assuming of course they don’t add a big piece through the draft or trade.

Kelce’s production shouldn’t change much, as he exists in a space on the field that Hill never really impacted, so we won’t waste much time on him. He’s still my top TE option going into 2019 and Hills absence wouldn’t change that.

But what about Sammie Coates? Will he even make the roster? Will it be too confusing having too Sammy(ie)’s on the roster? He was a popular prospect target early in his career in Pittsburgh, but to this point, he hasn’t been much other than a roster filler. My guess is Kansas viewed him as a fourth option at best, so it’s hard to get excited about him even if Hill misses time.

While his 20 yards per catch number in 2016 may make you think he’s a good fit to replace Hills production, remember he was a fourth option in Pittsburgh, and he’s never been sure handed. It’s more likely he makes the roster now, and he’s certainly worth a look late in drafts, but his ceiling is NOT Tyreek Hill.

In the end, this could all blow over and Hill could rejoin the Chiefs in time for your draft, but don’t bet on it. With the league’s image taking hits left and right thanks to domestic violence issues, this will likely be resolved quickly. It’s worth keeping an eye on, but I’d guess we won’t see Hill in a Chief’s uniform again, and unlikely in the league at that matter.

2019 NFL Draft Preview

Patience is a virtue… or at least that’s what they say.

Now, with the NFL Draft looming on Thursday 4/25, we can finally put the deep, dark doldrums of the off season behind us and begin our Fantasy analysis anew. Of course, the only data we have to go on is the “expert” draft analysis that’s the usual suspects provide in spades in the Draft run up. With a track record that makes your local weather man look like Nostradamus, it’s best we take what we find with a grain of salt.

Of course, that won’t stop us here at the Dr’s Office.

On the Clock: Arizona Cardinals

With the first overall pick, the Cardinals are likely to generate a bit of controversy regardless of who they select. Until recently, it was assumed that Alabama QB Kyler Murray was the obvious choice for the rebuilding franchise, but after some negative buzz out of the combine, and questions surrounding his size, it appears that the Cardinals are considering other options.

With an incumbent at the position who was most recently drafted 10th overall, I’d imagine that the number one overall pick would be better used at another position. New rumors suggest that Ohio State’s Nick Bosa may be the new top target on the Cardinals board. That would mean Rosen get’s another chance, and Murray would fall to another team.

So Where Does Murray Go?

That’s the million dollar question, and if you’re not living under a rock, you’re probably being inundated with a large number of rumors surrounding several teams that have needs at QB.

At the top of the list sits the Oakland Raiders. While they have a former pro bowler in Derek Carr on the roster, Gruden hasn’t been quiet about his love for Murray. With 3 picks in the first round, they could move up to the 2nd pick to ensure they get their man, and move on from Carr.

If Gruden opts to stick with Carr, that leaves the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins as solid fits in terms of need. The ageless Eli Manning’s career is firmly in it’s twilight, and Alex Smith may never play again, so both of these teams targeting the drafts top signal caller makes sense. Of course, the Giants going with a diminutive guy like Murray seems like a stretch, but Washington would be a solid fit given their history at the position (RG3?) and the type of receivers they have on the roster.

My prediction is that Gruden makes a silly trade to acquire Murray, but I’d hardly be surprised to see him land elsewhere. Even Cincinnati could be a player on draft day.

Who Else To Watch

The first name to keep an eye on would be Ohio State product Dwayne Haskins. The pocket passer has connections to the Giants, having grown up a fan living in New Jersey, but the buzz is that the Giants would consider him at 17, but not at 6. This leaves him exposed to a fair number of teams that could benefit from having Haskins on their roster. Those teams include Washington, Cincinnati, Miami, and Denver.

It will also be interesting to see where Iowa State teammates T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant end up. As a Patriots fan, I would love to see Fant fall, but it’s seeming more and more unlikely that either player make it into the back half of the first round. Hockenson would seem to be a great fit for the Jaguars, and Fant could be a target for any number of teams, highlighted by Denver at 10 and Green bay at 12. Of course, the Patriots did trade up to select Rob Gronkowski, so don’t write them out of this just yet, but it will take a fair bit of moving up to select Fant.

End of the First

There’s a few other players to keep an eye on toward the back half of the draft as well, headlined by Duke QB Daniel Jones. With the Giants, the Raiders (potentially twice) and the Patriots all candidates to add a QB with picks in the back half, it’s unlike Jones falls beyond the first.

Of course we haven’t discussed the skill positions, and for good reason. Only one RB projects with first round talent, being Alabama product Josh Jones who would be a mighty fine fit for Oakland with one of the two picks they have late. With Marshawn Lynch announcing his retirement, this one feels pretty natural.

And some draft boards have Baltimore adding speedster Marquise Brown out of Oklahoma, but he could be a nice fit for a few other teams if Baltimore doesn’t target him. The Seahawks, the Packers, and the Patriots could all use an elite pass catcher, and if he falls, could be a nice steal late in the draft.

 

Back From Injury: RB

Injuries happen, we’re all familiar with the pain of a lost season, but as we enter the doldrums of the off season, it’s as good a time as any to talk about the players who didn’t finish the 2018 season due to injury, and what we can expect for 2019.

Jerick McKinnon, San Francisco 49ers

mckinnonThe idea that McKinnon was a three down back was debated heavily during last off season, and it’s likely to be a sticking point in the fantasy community in 2019 as well following a pre-season injury that cost him the entire 2018 season. The 49er’s used a stable of backs to replace the production they expected from McKinnon, and most impressive was 2nd year back Matt Brieda who took his opportunities and ran with them (pun intended). Despite the presence of veteran Alfred Morris, Brieda managed nearly 60 yards per game (814 yards) and a healthy 31 targets.

So what does this mean for McKinnon? Currently he’s being targeted as a back end RB2 (RB23 or so) in Standard leagues, and as an RB3 in PPR leagues (RB27), which is a hell of a discount for a player many expected to compete for the top 10 at the position this time last year. Brieda was a revelation, but I’d be surprised if the 49ers didn’t give McKinnon the chance to win the job early on. This is one to keep an eye on, and if his current 7th round projection holds true, he’s a good bounce back candidate to target if you’re comfortable drafting backs in the later rounds.

The Dr.’s EARLY Predictions, 170 attempts, 740 Yards, 4 TDs, 22 Receptions, 200 Receiving Yards

Derrius Guice, Washington Redskins

Prior to his season ending knee injury, Guice was a popular choice among rookie backs to be a fairly productive NFL running back right out of the gates. In limited pre-season looks, it appeared that those predictions were safe. Then a knee injury against the Patriots derailed his season before it even began.

So in his stead, the Redskins signed the ageless Adrian Peterson to carry the load, and he was surprisingly productive. In 271 total touches, AP managed to put together a good stat line of 1,200 total yards, 21 receptions, and 8 total TDs. Considering that this should be Guice’s offense in 2019, it’s a good sign that this team ran the ball well with a 32 year old back.

Still… is Guice worth what’s shaping up to be a fourth round pick? Currently, Guice is being ranked in the late teens among running backs in PPR formats (18 per FantasyFootballCalculator) which I’d argue is a bit too high for a back who will likely only see early downs. With Chris Thompson likely to steal the passing downs (as long as he’s healthy) it’s unlikely that Guice turns in an elite season, and could be in for a slow start as Washington may be willing to ease him into the game plan early.

The Dr.’s EARLY Prediction: 220 Attempts, 950 Yards, 6 TDs, 25 catches, 180 Yards.

Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons

While it’s certainly good news that the asking price on the former top 5 fantasy back has come down, the idea of adding Freeman as a 2nd or 3rd back is still a terrifying prospect. Despite his history as a three down workhorse, Freeman’s recent struggles with injury have led to speculation surrounding the Atlanta backfield and what the team may eventually do to secure a more consistent product at the running back position.

Could it be Freeman, who, by all accounts, Atlanta expects to compete for lead duties? Sure, but with how well Tevin Coleman played in his absence and how relatively unknown depth pieces like Brian Hill and Ito Smith performed, there’s some danger in expecting him to return to the volume that had him pigeon holed as a RB1.

Even if he’s healthy, I’m not convinced Freeman handles a healthy enough dose of touches. Even a 60/40 split with Coleman and company means 180-210 rushing attempts and less than 1,000 yards. Currently being selected in early draft formats (read: take with a grain of salt) as the 20th back off the board, he’s a huge risk as a teams 2nd running back. Guys like Kerryon Johnson, Damien Wilson, Kenyan Drake, and Chris Carson are all being ranked behind him, and all have a better route to RB2 touches.

The Dr.’s EARLY predictions: 150 rushing attempts, 660 yards, 4TDs 18 receptions for 180 yards.

Honorable Mentions: It was the out of nowhere arrival of Phillip Lindsay that caught the attention of many in the industry, as the diminutive back leapfrogged the buzzy Royce Freeman to be the lead back on a Denver team that was clearly lacking elsewhere. After suffering a major wrist injury late in the season, Lindsay’s only obstacle to returning to the top of the depth chart is his recovery. Of course, Freeman could impress and steal away touches, but he’ll continue to be relevant regardless as his passing game contributions are safe. Unlike Lindsay, Kerryon Johnson garnered a fair share of buzz in the preseason, but fell in drafts simply because the narrative was Detroit couldn’t produce fantasy running backs. Prior to the team shutting him down later in the season, Johnson was electric in spite of this, slowly endearing himself to the fans in Detroit and carving out a major role in it’s offense. This year he should step in and take the leap into RB2 territory, including the potential for a handful of RB1 weeks.

 

Back From Injury: WR

Injuries happen, we’re all familiar with the pain of a lost season, but as we enter the doldrums of the off season, it’s as good a time as any to talk about the players who didn’t finish the 2018 season due to injury, and what we can expect for 2019.

Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams

CKuppWhen the Rams lost Kupp for the season due to a torn ACL, it was a big blow to owners who were enjoying the solid fantasy season Kupp had posted to that point. His 40 receptions and 550 yards, not to mention 6 TDs through 8 games, looked like it was the start to a potential WR1 season. Instead, the Rams plodded on, the strength of its run game, and its depth at WR keeping Kupp’s loss from being too big a liability.

Until it wasn’t.

You saw how much Kupp was missed in the super bowl, and with the recovery going well, it’s only a matter of time before we start speculating on his return. With a 10 month window between the surgery and week 1, I’d expect his availability to start the season to be in doubt, but just how long we’ll have to wait will determine how far he falls in drafts. If he were to play the bulk of the season, I’d have no qualms with ranking him as a mid level WR2 knowing full well that if he’s 100% he’s got WR1 ability in an offense that gets him in the red zone.

The Dr.’s EARLY Predictions: 100 Targets, 75 Receptions, 1,050 yards, and 8 TDs

Marvin Jones, Detroit Lions

The Dr. was certainly high on Marvin Jones coming into the season. After his breakout 2018 saw him turn 61 receptions into 1,100 yards and 9 TDs, we expected him to resume his role as the top outside option for the gunslinger Matthew Stafford. Instead, we saw him struggle to perform consistently before a knee injury ended his season.

Even when he was on the field, though, he’d taken a back seat to youngster Kenny Golladay, who came on strong in his second year. You may expect a large portion of Golden Tate’s vacated targets to benefit him, but the truth is that Jones’ ability to command outside targets will certainly take a hit this coming season. Currently ranked in the 25-28th on the WR rankings, he’s a tough projection. Unlike last year, we’re not sold on Marvin Jones as a consistent fantasy producer.

The Dr.’s EARLY Predictions: 50 receptions, 700 Yards, 6 TDs

Will Fuller, Houston Texans

It never ceases to amaze me how a player like Will Fuller can consistently be heralded as a top fantasy options despite not really putting together a season that screams “fantasy stud.”

With his season cut short last year, Fuller has now missed 17 games in his brief three year career. That’s not just a red flag, it’s an inevitability. Expecting him to be healthy is a bit insane, but beyond that, it’s his reliance on the endzone for fantasy scoring that scares me.

With only 32 receptions in 10 games last year, it’s obvious to me that he becomes a gameplan option for Bill O’Brien. Let’s face it, DeAndre Hopkins is option #1 at all times, and Fuller benefits from Watson’s big arm, but it’s unpredictable and unsustainable. With the injuries piling up and his health no better guaranteed in 2019 than it’s ever been, I’ll be avoiding him unless his price fall precipitously. He’s a fine talent, and he has a nose for the end zone, but I’d rather any number of talented guys being selected behind him on draft day.

The Dr.’s EARLY Predictions: 35 receptions, 560 Yards, 4 TDs

Christian Kirk, Arizona Cardinals

It was hardly the ideal situation for Kirk to be starting his NFL career, as the quarterback battle in Arizona was between Sam “Glassjaw” Bradford, and Josh “Oops, he’s on the other team” Rosen. Still, Kirk managed to demand targets, seeing six or more, 7 times over his 12 games.

With 2019 bringing with it another year of NFL experience for both he and Rosen, and the continued decline of future hall of famer Larry Fitzgerald, and it’s easy to see a path to 100+ targets for the 2nd year pro. If he can command a few extra redzone targets, he’s a safe bet to outperform his current ranking.

The Dr.’s EARLY Prediction: 72 receptions, 950 yards, 5 TDs

Honorable Mentions: It feels like A.J. Green is included in these lists every year, and he’ll likely be considered a high profile bust candidate again in 2019. The thing is, when he’s on the field he’s getting targets. If he falls in drafts, he’ll be a steal. Unlike Green, Marqise Lee had been hyped despite never really performing like a #1. With Keelan Cole failing to live up to his own hype, you may be expecting Lee to walk back on the field in 2019 and resume his role as the WR1. Don’t expect it. This is Dede Westbrook’s job to lose, and as long as Blake Bortles is throwing the football, there isn’t much to get excited about when you look down the depth chart.