Category Archives: Fantasy Football

No Suspension For Tyreek Hill

tyhillAccording to a statement released by the NFL, Tyreek Hill will not face a suspension in 2019 for the alleged child abuse that we discussed previously. We will not discuss the moral implications of said news, but we did have to adjust our Chief’s projections following the news.

Hill gets an immediate boost, finding himself in our top 5 at the position, only lagging behind players like Julio and Michael Thomas because of how difficult it is to predict which weeks he’ll boom and which week’s he’ll bust. Regardless of his lack of elite consistency, 16 games of Hill should result in some pretty spectacular numbers.

Kelce’s outlook doesn’t change much, and I expect the backfield to remain fairly constant, but the impact on Sammy Watkins, and especially popular rookie target Mecole Hardman is a bit more painful.

We expected Watkins to see an uptick in targets during the assumed suspension, so his new outlook drops him into the WR3 range in our projections, and Mecole Hardman will have a very difficult time being worth of a roster spot. With too many excellent receiving options in front of him, I can only see him being deployed on certain passing downs, and even then, he’ll likely be a down the field target who may see fewer than 20-25 catches on the season.

In the wake of this news, we implore you to bump Hill up into the top ten at your position, but also caution you to remember that even if his final stat line bests that of players like Michael Thomas and Julio Jones, he’ll have far less consistent production than either player, so rank him accordingly.

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Bust Watch: WR

Qualifying a players’ season as a bust is a challenge, as the application of the term is entirely subjective. As with any predictive activity, these can and should be taken with a grain of salt. The players highlighted below represent risk that we either think is too great to invest in, or enough regression is expected to make their draft position too rich for their potential backslide.

Odell Beckham Jr. – Cleveland Browns (ADP 16 – WR 5)

While I admit to being a big fan of Odell Beckham the football player, my analysis requires a realistic view of his situation in Cleveland. The shift from a Giants offense that siphoned touches through OBJ’s hand to a more balanced attack in Cleveland may not be the most lucrative landing spot for the talented receiver.

I’m convinced he’ll still see a high number of targets, but expecting him to approach the level of performances he had in years past for the Giants may not be the most realistic outlook. With Jarvis Landry on the roster, I can envision a pretty likely target split between the two players, and if he doesn’t rebound from his two sub 14 YPC seasons in 2017 and 2018, Beckham may have a hard time paying off the investment. While he’ll still contribute, I caution anyone from drafting a player at their ceiling, which is about where Beckham is going in drafts so far.

Brandin Cooks, Los Angeles Rams (ADP 43 – WR 17)

BCooksBeing drafted as a middling WR 2, Cooks’ fans point to his consistent production across several seasons with several teams as why they’d draft him over other excellent receivers valued in a similar way. When I look at his potential floor, though, he strikes me as the kind of big play receiver who’s dependent on injuries to teammates to fully realize his potential.

With Robert Woods chewing up the short yardage looks, and Cooper Kupp inexplicably maintaining red zone rapport with Goff (at least before the injury), Cooks will be reliant on big plays to make up his points, and I’d rather a safer receiver at the point in the draft I’d expect to see him go. Any regression at all to Gurley or Goff,or relative health to his fellow Rams’ receivers, and Cooks could disappoint in 2019.

Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia Eagles (ADP 74 – WR 29)

It’s been a rough road for Jeffery following his fourth straight disappointing campaign after seeing nearly 300 targets and 2,500 yards across two seasons in 2011 and 2012. While his ADP certainly represents some of the concern we have for him, the writing seems to be on the wall in Philly, where DeSean Jackson was brought back in despite filling a similar down the field role that Jeffery excels in.

With Ertz and Agholor still inhabiting the roster, Jackson arriving in free agency, as well as J.J. Arcega-Whiteside being drafted in the second round, there’s no doubt in my mind that Jeffery is poised to disappoint again. Even if he’s healthy (and there’s no guarantee this is the year he bucks the trend), there’s not enough looks in this offense to keep Jeffery from looking like a bust again this year.

Honorable Mention – Will Fuller, Houston Texans (ADP 82 – WR 32) – We’re all guilty of looking at a players total fantasy points and drawing short sighted inferences from it, but it’s seem to taken on a life of its own with Texans receiver Will Fuller. Despite never catching more than 47 balls in a season, people cling to the hope that he’ll extrapolate on the 7 TDs on 28 receptions that we saw two years ago during Watson’s break out season. This offense is going to run through Nuk Hopkins, and I expect Coutee to leapfrog Fuller on the depth chart, relegating him to a start-and-pray role on fantasy teams, an unenviable position considering guys like Dante Pettis, Christian Kirk, Sterling Shepard, Courtland Sutton, Curtis Samuel, and Dede Westbrook are all going after him (even in PPR formats!)

Bust Watch: RB

Qualifying a players’ season as a bust is a challenge, as the application of the term is entirely subjective. As with any predictive activity, these can and should be taken with a grain of salt. The players highlighted below represent risk that we either think is too great to invest in, or enough regression is expected to make their draft position too rich for their potential backslide.

Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons (ADP: 28 – RB 15)

DeFreemanWith the premium being placed on top running backs this year, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that a player with as many question marks as Freeman is still being selected as a potential top 15 RB. I’d still caution you against expecting a big year out of Freeman, though.

Aside from the fact that he’s not shown himself to be as durable as a three down workhorse should be, you have to take into consideration that the return of Dirk Koetter to the Atlanta coaching staff doesn’t bode well for his numbers. Aside from one season in Tampa (Doug Martin’s RB5 finish in 2015), Koetter hasn’t produced a single top 20 RB in any other season since 2012. His history shows he likes to spread the ball around, and there’s no reason to expect him to use the rest of the backs on the roster, especially given how fragile Freeman has been in recent years.

Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders (ADP 37 – RB 20)

Beyond the obvious generational talents like Zeke Elliott and Saquon Barkley, predicting fantasy success for rookie running backs has been a crap shoot at best. The high degree of difficulty has led me to fade most rookie running backs that see their names called in the top 20 at the position, and Jacobs is no different.

He’s hardly the undeniable talent that recent first round backs have been, and given his track record of splitting backfield work (and losing touches to Damien Harris in college), compounded with the constant dysfunction that seems to reside in the Raiders locker room, I’m steering clear of Jacobs at his current draft price.

Sony Michel, New England Patriots (ADP 39 – RB 21)

Speaking of Damien Harris, being selected by the Patriots in the third round of the draft added fuel to the fire that Sony Michel may not be 100% to start the season. These are just speculative rumors, but the truth is that Harris is a talented back who’s very presence on the roster represents a threat to Michel’s touches.

Already limited to the first two downs, any loss of touches for Michel could be disastrous for his owners. Adding to the concerns are his lingering knee injuries, something that shouldn’t be taken lightly when selecting a player who is likely to be your second running back. With the Patriots always a threat to switch up the game plan, Michel is slowly becoming a name I won’t be calling on fantasy draft day.

Honorable Mention – Derrius Guice, Washington Redskins (ADP 65 -RB 27) – Guice has a lot to prove, and a lot to overcome, before I can trust him as a starting fantasy running back. With Adrian Peterson hungry to retain touches, and Bryce Love lurking in the background should Guice stumble, there’s no promise that Guice assumes a large role in the offense just because he’s returned from injury. If he falls in drafts, he may be worth a flier, as the talent was there, but he’s a cautionary tale if you have to reach too early to get him.

Bust Watch: QB

Qualifying a players’ season as a bust is a challenge, as the application of the term is entirely subjective. As with any predictive activity, these can and should be taken with a grain of salt. The players highlighted below represent risk that we either think is too great to invest in, or enough regression is expected to make their draft position too rich for their potential backslide.

Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs (ADP 23, QB1)

While we do like Patrick Mahomes as a fantasy asset, and we expect him to compete for the top spot among fantasy QB’s, his draft position reflects his 2018 performance, and we’re staunchly against paying for last years stat lines. History has shown us that regression is non-discriminatory, as even the best QB’s of all time have seen their numbers come back slightly to the pack after similar seasons.

For the purpose of this article, it’s his draft position that’s prohibitive. Currently going on average in the early 3rd, he’s a prime candidate to under perform that draft position. With players like Aaron Rodgers and Andrew luck being available several rounds later, there’s no reason to commit to Mahomes when you can add depth to the skill positions on your roster.

Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints (ADP 77, QB8)

NFC Championship - Los Angeles Rams v New Orleans SaintsDrew Brees has had a fantastic career, and he’s helped many fantasy teams succeed over the years thanks to his gaudy numbers and incredible consistency, but 2018 showed that Brees is no longer a top 10 option at the QB position. He was gangbusters to begin the season when Mark Ingram was suspended (averaged nearly 25 points per game over that stretch) but his backslide was pretty noticeable over the next 12 weeks.

From weeks 5 to 12, he was QB 11, scoring fewer points than Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, and Mitch Trubisky. From Weeks 13-16, the most important weeks of the fantasy season, Brees averaged 11.1 points per game… 24th among QBs. The truth is that the New Orleans offense runs mostly through the backfield, and the addition of Latavius Murray reinforces that. Drew Brees will be worthy of a roster spot in 2019, but not at the cost of an 8th round pick.

Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals (ADP 101, QB11)

The rookie class for QB’s in 2018 was far from exciting, yet here we are watching Kyler Murray’s ranking among QB’s creep into the top 12 in mock drafts. In addition to the obstacles his size presents, he’s inheriting one of the leagues worst passing offenses, something that shouldn’t be overlooked.

I understand that Murray has the kind of improvisational skills that will get him points on the ground, but without having seen him play against NFL competition, there’s no way I’m investing in Murray as my starting QB in fantasy. This is the kind of pick that can really cost you down the stretch.

 

2019 Sleeper Series: TE

While we acknowledge that every fantasy analyst provides a “sleeper” list every year, we attempt to look deeper to avoid giving you a cookie cutter, paint by numbers list. While not everyone of our sleeper picks will pan out, the reason we’ve selected most of them is that the value their draft position represents makes them worth the risk in our opinion.

Mark Andrews, Baltimore Ravens (TE 22 – ADP: 189)

Last year, the Ravens selected two tight ends in the draft, and Andrews found himself taking a back seat in fantasy to Hayden Hurts, who was generally accepted as a more NFL ready prospect. When Hurst went down with a broken foot, Andrews performed admirably in an offense that went through many transformations over the year. While Hurst has purportedly put in a lot of work, we see Andrews as the top passing option at the position in that offense. There are still many obstacles to climb, notably a run-first sophomore QB that didn’t look his TE’s way nearly enough, but Baltimore has shown it is willing to use it’s TE’s in the passing game a lot in the past, and he’s the top option to assume that role in 2019.

Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts (TE 23 – ADP: 210)

JDoyleWhen the dust settled on Doyle’s disastrous 2018, Eric Ebron stood tall as one of the most surprising success stories of the year. Still, a deeper look at the numbers shows that when the two of them were on the field (a six game sample size) it was Doyle, and not Ebron, that saw the most targets. In fact, 84 of Ebrons 110 targets game in the 10 games Doyle missed, so it was a sizable difference in workload when Doyle was on the field.

Regardless of how you view Ebron, there’s evidence that suggests Doyle is Luck’s preferred target at the TE position, and Doyle is basically free. Extrapolating his 6 games over a full season still only provides him with 88 targets, but given his rapport with Luck in the past and the high flying nature of the offense, Doyle is the kind of late round target I’m okay with gambling on. His ceiling is top 5 at the position.

Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins (TE 28 – ADP: 254)

I say it every year… don’t draft rookie TE’s unless you’re in a keeper or dynasty format. Gesicki fell victim to the rookie hype train last year only seeing 7 starts over 16 games and disappointing down the stretch as he failed to make an impact in year one. As typically happens in fantasy, the community seems to have forgotten that Gesicki was praised coming in the league as an excellent athlete with good hands.

In year two, he’ll have no real competition on passing downs, and Dwayne Allen has proven to be best suited for run blocking, and he’ll be given a new QB in Ryan Fitzpatrick who has shown in the past that he loves targeting Tight Ends. Additionally, the offensive scheme of Coordinator Chad O’Shea will likely resemble the offense New England ran for the last 5 years as he served under McDaniels and Bill O’Brien for the team in different capacities. There is nearly no risk in selecting Gesicki, but the reward is a potential top 10 season.

Honorable Mention: Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles (TE 21 – ADP: 177) For Goedert to really pop, he’ll need an injury to Zach Ertz (or trade) but given that the Eagles threw nearly 200 passes toward TE’s in 2018, there’s reason to believe he’ll offer value regardless. He’s more of a dynasty type target, but there’s some value in deeper leagues and for Ertz owners, and his ceiling is top 5 if Ertz goes down.

2019 Sleeper Series: RB

While we acknowledge that every fantasy analyst provides a “sleeper” list every year, we attempt to look deeper to avoid giving you a cookie cutter, paint by numbers list. While not everyone of our sleeper picks will pan out, the reason we’ve selected most of them is that the value their draft position represents makes them worth the risk in our opinion.

Rashaad Penny, Seattle Seahawks (RB 33 – ADP: 77)

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Seattle SeahawksPenny’s 2018 can certainly be categorized as a disappointment after many expected him to be the bell cow in Pete Carroll’s new “run first” offense. Given how the Seahawks moved up to select him in the first round, one can be forgiven for expecting him to see more volume than he did, but many of us warned that the chatter surrounding Chris Carson shouldn’t be ignored.

Of course, as the season wore on, Penny saw his involvement in the offense grow, and he flashed at times, finishing the season 6th among qualified runners with an 8.2% breakway run rate (runs over 15 yards) as well as 13th in Juke Rate (29.8%). These kinds of metrics really show the kind of dynamic runner that he is, which contrasts starkly to the grinding nature of teammate Chris Carson. Luckily for Penny fans, the Seahawks ran the football more than all but one NFL team, and with Mike Davis’ departure, there may be enough work for both Penny and Carson to succeed in fantasy terms.

Even if Carson stays healthy, Penny has legitimate value at his current ADP. With their commitment to the run, 180-200 touches for each back is attainable, but given Penny’s pedigree, an injury to Carson could mean big things. He’s got the kind of skill that gives him a RB1 ceiling if he somehow falls into the lions share of work. That’s the kind of back I target in the middle rounds when I’m filling in the position with depth.

D’Onta Foreman, Houston Texans (RB 47 – AD: 125)

While turnover at the RB position is one of the quicker NFL life cycles, it seems that Lamar Miller just won’t go away. While there was significant buzz surrounding Foreman prior to his ACL tear, the waters are far more tepid in 2019 as concerns about his repaired Achilles has some wondering just what his ceiling is.

I’m less inclined to worry, though, given just how young Foreman was when he suffered his injury. Unlike others who’ve suffered similar injuries, Foreman is afforded more time to recover, and when he returned to the field last season, the buzz began to build once more. Obviously, he’ll need to pass Miller on the depth chart to really inherit the kind of touches that makes him worth a pick, but we don’t see that as a major obstacle. Drafted to be the successor, he’ll have every opportunity to win snaps, something the Texans have to want as well. In the 13th round or later, there aren’t many better options than Foreman in terms of potential and ceiling. If he wins the gig, not a far fetched scenario, then he’s a solid weekly  start at the position.

Damien Harris, New England Patriots (RB 50 – ADP: 143)

The news out of New England is that Sony Michel looks great after having his knee scoped. I’m not convinced that he’ll stay healthy. Of all the backs going late in drafts, I see Harris’ path to touches as one of the easiest to predict; the Patriots have been candid about how they plan to run the ball. Spoiler alert; they’re going to do it alot.

For the low cost of a 15th round pick, Harris should have his fair share of work this year, and an injury to Michel, which is almost a foregone conclusion at this point, would make him immediately worth starting. Obviously, we don’t advocate hanging onto a guy for too long if the opportunity is slow in coming, so remember these late round guys are waiver wire fodder if something pops up that’s better, but Harris has excellent value in the final few rounds of your draft.

Honorable Mention, Tevin Coleman – San Francisco 49ers (RB 30 – ADP 69)

It seems that everyone is slowing coming around to the fact that Coleman is clearly the best option to lead the backfield in San Francisco. Jerick McKinnon hasn’t shown he can hold up over the course of a full season, and is recovering from a major knee injury, Matt Brieda was quickly replaced on early downs with the ancient Alfred Morris last year, and Coleman has shown he can play all three downs in a Shanahan offense, something that could pay massive dividends for a guy who’s going in the 7th round. I don’t expect it to take long before Coleman is reaping rewards for the folks drafting him.

 

Friday Mock: ESPN PPR

It’s been a while since we last attacked a Mock Draft review, but as we inch further into the off season, our opinions on teams and players have shifted, and we were curious to see who was trending up, and who was falling in drafts. We logged into an ESPN draft last night before bed, and this was the result (from the 5th spot in a 10 man PPR mock).

Round 1 – Pick 1.05: Melvin Gordon, RB – Chargers

Drafting fifth this year may be one of the more difficult decisions in the first round, but I was committed to taking a RB early, and I liked him ahead of question marks like Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson, and Todd Gurley. I briefly toyed with the idea of taking Hopkins or Adams here, but it’s too early in the first for me to wait until the 2nd for a RB.

Round 2 – Pick 2.06: Juju Smith-Schuster, WR – Steelers

None of my top WR targets fell to me, so I was hoping to take Kelce here, and he went just before my pick. With James Conner and Leonard Fournette representing the two top backs on my list, I decided to take the safety of Juju Smith-Schuster as my WR1. Sure, there’s a chance some regression could creep into his numbers with Brown gone, but barring injury, he’ll see 165-180 targets in 2019, a fantastic floor after missing my top targets.

Round 3 – Pick 3.05: Julian Edelman, WR – Patriots

I considered taking Thielen here for his ceiling, but his second half last year is still firmly in my mind. Instead, I went with Edelman, a guy I expect will have one of the larger target shares in the league after the depature of Rob Gronkowski in the off season. Already targeted heavily inside the red zone (11 inside the 10 yard line was 4th, and his 6 TDs in that zone were tied for 3rd) there’s little evidence that Harry is going to change the reliance Brady has on Edelman. Always undervalued, I appreciate him as a steady PPR performer, and as my WR2, I’m excited for how he and Juju pair up.

Round 4 – Pick 4.06: Aaron Jones, RB – Packers

The 5th spot strikes again as Jacobs, Chubb, Williams, and Kerryon all went to start the fourth, leaving me with slim pickings at the RB position. This was a learning experience, as I may consider taking a back in the 3rd round of similar drafts and selecting one of the available WR’s like AJ Green or Brandin Cooks in the 4th round. Instead, I took Jones, who’s ceiling was enough to elevate him over the other available running backs (Derrick Henry, Sony Michel, and Chris Carson).

Round 5 – Pick 5.05: Chris Godwin, WR – Buccaneers

It was time to get back on track after making the reactionary selection in the 4th, and the WR pool here was far more secure than the RB group (Carson and Drake were the only available guys worth considering in round 5 in my opinion). I was out on Alshon Jefferey before the mock started, so it came down to Godwin and Mike Williams. Williams has a monster ceiling, and I briefly considered him here, but unlike Godwin, not much has changed in that Chargers offense to inspire confidence that he’ll see a significant uptick in targets. Godwin should feature as the WR2 in that offense, and while Evans is the clear top pick, Arians has coached some excellent WR tandems in the past.

Round 6 – Pick 6.06: Kenyan Drake, RB – Dolphins

So the tail end of the 5th and the start of the 6th saw a nice blend of players I wasn’t in on get selected. When my pick came up, I only had to decide if Tyreek Hill was worth a flier in the fourth round over my top ranked available RB (Kenyan Drake). With Miles Sanders coming along more slowly than anticipated and Tarik Cohen representing a lack of overall opportunity, Drake felt like the right choice here. 

Round 7 – Pick 7.05: Hunter Henry, TE – Chargers

I went into this pick thinking I’d add additional depth at the RB or WR position, but seeing names like Guice, Watkins, and Landry, I felt myself shifting towards adding a top 5 player as a starter for either QB or TE. While I do like Deshaun Watson (the top ranked QB on my board), I still believe that top 5 production can be replicated later in the draft, and Henry should see more volume than most of the TE’s going behind him.

Round 8 – Pick 8.06: Tevin Coleman, RB – 49ers 

I kind of regret not taking Rodgers in the 7th round, as I expect him to push Mahomes for the top spot at the QB position, but Coleman is a nice consolation prize. I’ve covered him in articles before, but his blend of pass catching and smooth running made him a force in Shanahan’s offenses prior, and with McKinnon and Brieda not suited for three down work, Coleman represents the only top 25 potential in my opinion in San Fran. The pool at this point was thinning, and I was not considering taking Marvin Jones or Will Fuller to secure a mediocre WR, so the pick was an easy one for me.

Round 9 – Pick 9.05: Golden Tate, WR – Giants

I’ve kind of shifted my allegiance from Sterling Shepard to Golden Tate, and it has as much to do with how Tate’s career has gone than any deficiency in Shepard’s game. Eli Manning’s advanced statistics show that that over the last two seasons he’s had one of the lowest air yards per attempt, throwing a depth of 3.3 yards per in 2017 and 3.7 yards per in 2018 (both in the bottom ten of the league). With Tate being the likely slot man, he should benefit from a lot of the vacated targets, and is a super safe WR4.

Round 10 – Pick 10.06: Jordan Howard, RB – Eagles

This is one pick I’d like to have back… Rashaad Penny was selected just before this pick, and I may have been on tilt convinced myself that Howard could benefit from Miles Sanders lack of progress in pass protection. With an injury prone QB in Wentz, there’s some hope that Howard may see the field a bit more if Sanders CAN’T pick it up, but best case scenario is the 25 year old Howard resumes the first and second down role he had in Chicago, and I’d probably have been better off taking Nyhiem Hines, a PPR force on a top 3 offense, and coincidentally then next RB selected after me.

Round 11 – Pick 11.05: Donte Moncreif, WR – Steelers

The Steelers supported two excellent fantasy options last year, and I feel that their offense is primed to do it again this year. While Moncrief hasn’t really lived up to the hype from his rookie season, he still represents the kind of ceiling I want out of my WR5. He has size (6’2 – 220 lbs) and speed (4.40 speed) and could finally be given a chance to shine in a role that may suit his skill set. With only James Washington to beat out for target share, he’s a wonderful low risk high reward play at this point in the draft.

Round 12 – Pick 12.06: Dak Prescott, QB – Cowboys

So… I will absolutely admit that I messed this pick up. I LOVE Prescott this year (you can find out more about him in my QB Sleeper article) but I made the selection a little too quickly and missed out on Russell Wilson (who was inexplicably still available). I understand that Seattle is going to run the ball a ton, but I still believe in Wilson’s talent, and his legs help make up for any lack of production through the air he may experience. His ceiling is still top 5 at the position. Instead I took Prescott…. just a reminder folks, pay attention even late in the draft.

Round 13 – Pick 13.05: Adam Humphries, WR – Titans

Some point to Corey Davis’ target share as a reason to ignore other Titans receivers, but following the release of Rishard Matthews a few season ago, the Titans have had a hole at the slot receiver position, something Humphries figures to fill just fine. This late in the draft, I’m looking for players with upside, and Humphries has proven that he can be a contributor in this league already with 137 receptions over the last two years, so in the 13th round I may have found a wonderful flex/bye week starter, and potential trade bait if most of my receivers pan out.

Round 14 – Pick 14.06: Austin Hooper, TE – Falcons

With my last position player selection, I took a flier on Falcons TE Austin Hooper. He was a significant Red Zone target last year, and provides a genuine safety net for Hunter Henry who still has plenty to prove in his young NFL career. I could have taken another skill position player here, but I already have 6 receivers and I didn’t see any value at the available running backs. At this point, he’s a flier who will become a roster spot if the need arises.

Final Roster

  • QB: Dak Prescott
  • RB: Melvin Gordon, Aaron Jones, Kenyan Drake, Tevin Coleman, Jordan Howard
  • WR: Juju Smith-Schuster, Julian Edelman, Chris Godwin, Golden Tate, Donte Moncrief, Adam Humphries
  • TE: Hunter Henry, Austin Hooper.

Final Thoughts

I’d like to blame the few mistakes I made on drafting late at night, but they were just true mental gaffs. If I’d paid closer attention, I’d have had Russell Wilson and Nyheim Hines instead of Prescott and Howard, and I may have skipped Hunter Henry and invested in a player like Derrius Guice. I still maintain that drafting 5th and 6th are two of the more difficult things to do in 2019. The elite group of backs is four deep, and committing to a WR at the 5 spot puts you on a path that requires a lot of faith in mediocre running backs.

I’m not unhappy with how this mock turned out, but I do have some work to do on those transition rounds (4-7) as they are the most important rounds in your fantasy draft. Let me know if you’d have done anything different, and as always, happy drafting!

2019 Sleeper Series: WR

While we acknowledge that every fantasy analyst provides a “sleeper” list every year, we attempt to look deeper to avoid giving you a cookie cutter, paint by numbers list. While not everyone of our sleeper picks will pan out, the reason we’ve selected most of them is that the value their draft position represents makes them worth the risk in our opinion.

Golden Tate, New York Giants (WR 41 – ADP: 105)

It’s not often a player with a proven track record for success finds himself filling the kind of void left by a player of OBJ’s caliber, but Tate fits the bill as the Giant’s newest passing game addition. I will caution anyone who thinks his inclusion on this list means I expect him to see ALL of Beckham’s targets, but even if Shepard sees his target share increase from 107 to closer to 125, that means Tate can expect nearly 100-110 targets himself, and that’s all a player of his caliber needs to be relevant.

Even when splitting time between two deficient offenses last year (Philly and Detroit) he managed 74 receptions on 110 targets, giving me faith that he can duplicate that in a similar offense in New York. Of course, don’t expect him to average more than 10-12 yards per reception, but 80 for 850 and 5 TDs is a modest projection, and would make him a steal at that draft price.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Green Bay Packers (WR 52 – ADP: 136)

The big rookie flashed at times in 2018, but struggled with consistency as for every monster performance, he seemed to turn in two duds. Of course, as a fifth round rookie, it’s not surprising that he wasn’t as efficient with his opportunities. Still, seeing 72 receptions and being a season long piece of one of the leagues most proficient passing offenses puts him in a unique position in 2019.

At best, he’s the number two option in the Green Bay passing game as Davante Adams is one of the leagues more elite receivers, but all he’ll need is to improve on his catch percentage to blow his current ADP out of the water. Combined with his youthful inefficiency, MVS saw a mediocre yards per target mark of 8.1 yards (49th among qualified receivers) and was saddled with an abysmal catchable target rate of 68.1% (only 49 of his 72 targets… 98th among qualified receivers). If any of this improves, and with Aaron Rodgers at the helm it should, then MVS is poised to pay off investors in spades.

Adam Humphries, Tennessee Titans (WR 71 – ADP 215)

AHumphriesHumphries turned down an offer to play in New England to go to Tennessee, and the fantasy community has docked him hard for it. Currently being drafted as the WR 71, you’re basically able to target him as a waiver wire pick up if you’d really like. Of course, this becomes much more confusing when you consider that as the third option in Tampa Bay last year, Humphries managed to finish as the wide receiver 24 in PPR formats.

With his primary role as a slot receiver, he should improve the Titans offense from the jump, providing Mariota with a valuable target over the middle and on shorter routes. Given the lack of success they’ve had down field, I don’t feel that I’m out on a limb expecting Humphries to pace the Titans in receptions, and should well out perform his ADP, providing real value in the late rounds.

Honorable Mention: Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers (WR 24 – ADP 59) His ADP doesn’t present the kind of value the guys above do later in the draft, but many forget just how high the Chargers were on Williams when they drafted him early in the first round a few years back. Now completely removed from any injury history, he’s a borderline WR1 even if Allen stays healthy. If Allen goes down, then Williams becomes a potential top 10 receiver.

2019 Sleeper Series: QB

Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams (QB 11 – ADP: 99)

Jared Goff, Khalil Mack

(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

We admit that despite his torrid pace over the first 12 games of the season, Jared Goff’s 2018 went fully off the rails down the stretch. Still, despite the poor showing late, he finished as the QB7, a feat that shouldn’t be overlooked. With the pending return of Cooper Kupp, his cupboard is again full as he joins Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks as one of the deepest pools of talent at the position in the entire league.

It’s also important to note that if Todd Gurley is limited, Sean McVay and company could need to lean on their first round quarterback even more in 2019. I’m not predicting any regression, and given that he’s being selected outside of the top ten, I see him as an absolute value in the 10th round or later of drafts. As we saw last year over the first 11 weeks of the season, his ceiling is near the top 5 at the position, and is one of my favorite draft day targets.

Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys (QB 18 – ADP: 134)

Last year, the Cowboys endured a particularly difficult off season. Stud running back Zeke Elliott was suspended four games, safety blanket Jason Witten announced his retirement, and very little was done to bolster a lack luster receiving corps aside from the draft. When the season opened, Dak Prescott predictably struggled, eliciting painful memories of former fantasy busts RG3 and Colin Kaepernick. By the time the team had its bye week, Prescott owners were in full blown sell mode.

If you happened to stick by him, or work out a trade for him like I did in one league, then you saw how quickly the arrival of Amari Cooper boosted Prescotts output. Prior to the week 8 acquisition, Prescott was averaging a meager 16 fantasy points per week (QB 16 over that stretch). Following Cooper’s arrival, Prescott’s output spiked to 19.3, which was 8th among QB’s during the home stretch.

With Jason Witten returning from retirement, Zeke Elliott not facing a similar suspension, and his receiving corps intact, there’s no reason to expect Prescott to fall outside of the top 10 at the position. In the 14th round, he may prove to be one of the drafts most valuable picks.

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (QB 23 – ADP: 168)

The 2018 Detroit Lions were a mess, something that feels true of most years in the franchise’s history. While I certainly lay a portion of the blame at the feet of Matt Patricia (the most overrated head coach in the league), we have to admit that the maelstrom of destruction that seemed to hit nearly every major skill position player on the team at one point or another was an obstacle too large for Stafford to overcome.

We expect Stafford to be fully recovered from the broken bones in his back, and with his weapons restocked through free agency (Danny Amendola) and the draft (T.J. Hockenson), we’re not sure there’s evidence to support his QB23 ranking. Finally featuring an effective running game, and several big time receivers at his disposal, Matthew Stafford is a prime candidate for positive regression. We won’t tell you we expect him to push the top 5 at the position like the other names on this list, but if you’re looking for value in the last few rounds of your draft or need a second starter for a league that allows you to start two QBs, then Stafford may be an excellent consolation prize for drafters who like to wait.

Honorable Mention, Jimmy Garoppolo – San Francisco 49ers (QB 20 – ADP: 151) Jimmy G was the talk of the town following his 5 game stretch to close out 2017. A season ending injury has set the signal caller back significantly as he sees his ADP drop to the 16th round. Still, he’s the starting QB in a Kyle Shanahan offense, he has several weapons to throw to in TE George Kittle, 2nd year pro Dante Pettis, and old Shanahan buddy Tevin Coleman, so we expect a major bounce back for Tom Brady’s former backup.

2nd Year Report: QB

A quick look at last years top QB draft picks and their 2019 outlook (Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, Lamar Jackson)

BMayfieldIn all of professional sports, there’s hardly a more exciting prospect than that of a rookie Quarterback in the NFL. The grooming process begins in high school, and we follow dutifully as they land with a big named college program right through to their inevitable selection in the first few rounds of the NFL Draft.

Of course, we admit that the jump from the college game to the NFL level takes some time, and the maturation process for these big name prospects tends to take a year at least for the talent to show on the field. So, in the interest of improving our 2019 fantasy outlook, we’ll take a closer look at the most highly touted first round QB prospects from last years draft, and how we feel about them going into the 2019 Fantasy season.

Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns

The somewhat surprising first overall pick in last years NFL draft, Baker Mayfield was vaulted into the starting role due to the injury to starter Tyrod Taylor, and he never looked back. In his first season, he piloted the Browns to their best season in a decade and Mayfield’s own performance was at the center of their resurgence. If you watched any of the Browns games which Mayfield started in, you could see why folks are so high on him as a fantasy asset.

Success is never guaranteed at the level these players exist at, so it was encouraging to see the Browns front office elevate Freddy Kitchens to Head Coach, then follow up by investing heavily in the offense, bringing in Kareem Hunt (suspended 8 games) and Odell Beckham to ensure that it isn’t a lack of weapons that keeps Mayfield from continuing his ascension. We do like Mayfield in fantasy terms, but we’re concerned that the hype may force Mayfield’s name to a place in the draft where his value becomes non-existant. Currently peaking around QB 5, Mayfield is being selected around the 70th picks of drafts. We always advocate waiting on your QBs, and we’re not positive that Mayfield’s value is a good enough reason to pull the trigger early, but if he rises any further, and we’ll advise against him.

Projection: 550 Attempts  / 4375 Yards / 32 TDs – 16 INTs / 135 Ru. Yards

Josh Allen,  Buffalo Bills

On the surface, Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills were not very good in 2018. Often regarded as the “JV” team in the AFC East, Allen wasn’t even considered on draft day in redraft leagues, and as a project in deeper keeper/dynasty formats. When the dust settled on another tumultuous season in Buffalo, Allen was surprisingly valuable on the fantasy front thanks to his ability to create with his legs.

Throwing for a mere 2074 yards in 12 games, and managing a meager 52.8% completion percentage, one could be forgiven for their continued skepticism on how valuable Allen can actually be for a fantasy team in 2019. Reports indicate that the coaching staff would prefer if Josh Allen spent less time running, and if there’s even a shred of truth to that, then our concerns are amplified as the offense in Buffalo continues to be a work in progress.

His pass catchers will likely be John Brown, Robert Foster, and Zay Jones, as well as a three headed monster in the backfield featuring two ancient monoliths in Frank Gore and returning LeSean McCoy as well as rookie Devin Singletary. The writing is on the wall in my opinion that this team intends to lean on it’s run game heavily, further impacting Allen’s value. Our opinion is that Allen is worth drafting as a flier where he’s currently going (16th round), but done with a short leash. If he’s not running wild, then the sub 60% completion percentage and lack of elite weapons is going to make for a long season.

Projection: 425 Attempts / 2,950 Yards / 17 TDs – 14 INT / 56 Ru. Attempts / 350 Ru. Yards – 4 Ru. TDs

Sam Darnold, New York Jets

Darnold was my pick out of the 2018 draft class to be the top passer, and for a short time it looked like he may be just that. Unfortunately, the lack of polish in his game led him to stumble down the stretch, and it’s clear he’ll need more seasoning before his talent really shines. Still, I’m not opposed to expecting that talent to flash again in 2019.

With the addition of Jamison Crowder, a receiver who’s best asset is his ability to gain separation, this Jets receiving corps is severely underrated. Robby Anderson is a legitiment NFL receiver, and Quincy Enunwa, when healthy, is excellent as well. Sprinkle in a much improved running game and the QB grooming talents of head coach Adam Gase, and a case could be made that Darnold is being severely underrated considering he’s basically free on draft day as the 25th QB off the board.

Now, I’m not suggesting to hitch your wagon to him as your starter, but if you have a deep enough bench and are saddled with a Roethlisberger or Brady and want to mitigate the risk, then Darnold may be your man. Take it with a grain of salt, as we’re still convinced his best years are beyond this one, but surprise wouldn’t be the emotion of choice if he shines in 2019.

Projection: 515 Attempts / 3,580 Yards / 23 TDs – 15 INT / 125 Ru. Yards – 1 Ru. TD

Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

When a young quarterback provides the bulk of his fantasy contributions on the ground, it raises enormous red flags. The history of these players is spotty  at best, with the exceptions to the rule being players who exhibited a far better grasp of their teams offenses than a player like Jackson did in 2018. Of course, his 7 wins and the sheer volume of ground-game production helped many teams overcome early QB struggles, but we’re not sure this translates to long term success.

Extrapolating the final 7 games of the season, and you see a player who’s 100% relying on his legs to be relevant in fantasy terms. His 556 rushing yards over the final 7 weeks is something I’d argue is unsustainable over a 16 game season, but I fully expect him to break the pocket on a regular basis anyhow. Of course, the turnovers are a major concern for me, as his 10 lost fumbles over the final 7 games points to a trend rather than exception.

Fact is, the Baltimore Ravens invested in their run game by adding Mark Ingram to the fold, and I expect the ground game and defense to do the bulk of the heavy lifting this year. Jackson can’t be expected to attempt even 400 passes, and as such is a dangerous pick on draft day. If you expect Harbaugh to let him loose on the ground in year 2, then he’s got value regardless, but if you’re like me and see history not being kind to players who struggle to throw, then you can see how the red flags could carry over into the season for the sophomore QB.

Projection: 391 Attempts / 2,822 Yards / 18 TD – 10 INT / 650 Ru. Yards / 5 Ru. TDs

Honorable Mention: Josh Rosen, Miami Dolphins: It’s unlikely that Rosen sees the field much in 2019 as Ryan Fitzpatrick was brought in to helm the team. It’s been repeated several times that the Dolphins aren’t on the hook for much, so Rosen’s roster spot isn’t even guaranteed at this point. Still, we like his work ethic, and he’s a guy we’ll watch as camps progress. With his big arm, and a competent coaching staff, Rosen could be a surprise waiver wire pick up if Fitzmagic fizzles like he did last year.