Category Archives: Sleepers

First Day Trending

It’s been a hectic couple of weeks and we’ve been unable to provide you our unique brand of fantasy analysis, but we’re back to rectify that. Our weekly DFS article will be delayed somewhat, but we’ll hopefully post our Sunday games targets, so keep an eye out for that.

For now, we’ll take a final look at players who are trending up and trending down, and touch on a few major pieces of NFL news that broke over the last few weeks.

Three Up

Zeke Elliot, RB – Dallas CowboysYes, this one is low hanging fruit, but with the anxiety everyone felt during the first rounds of their draft, it’s important to remind you that Zeke Elliott is one of the three best fantasy assets in all of football. Even though he didn’t play a snap for the team in pre-season action or see the field in practice, he’s a set it and forget it player who should see massive volume all year long.

Devin Singletary, RB – Buffalo Bills: We teased the possibility previously, but reading the headlines following LeSean McCoy’s release was shocking nonetheless. While Frank Gore and T.J. Yeldon will demand work, Singletary went from being a later round project to being considered the top back in the Bills committee. As a third round pick, it’s clear the team wants to involve him heavily, so don’t be surprised if he carves out a solid role for himself.

Evan Engram, TE – New York GiantsI’ve been pretty vocal about my support for Eli Manning sans Odell Beckham, and while he’s still unlikely to perform in the top 15 at the position, it’s very likely he’s a more efficient passer in 2019 thanks to an improved offensive line and less reliance on forced throws to OBJ. Engram is the most likely to benefit from these factors, as injury and suspension means he’ll likely be the top passing target for Manning this year. We watched him finish atop the position a few years ago in a similar environment, so expecting a top 5 finish at the position is far from a difficult ask.

Honorable Mention: With the news that Jerick McKinnon will likely miss the season, Matt Brieda sees a sizable jump after being placed atop the team depth chart ahead of it’s week one match up. I still feel Coleman should be used heavily, but Brieda could easily work into the RB2 conversation.

Three Down

The Colts Receiving GroupIt’s not their fault that Andrew Luck hung em up following an injury riddled career, but the truth is that with Brissett stepping in on short notice, there’s going to be a tough transition period early in the season. Hilton is likely to continue being a focal point for the office, but even he deserves to fall a few spots in your rankings. Guys like Parris Campbell and Ebron/Doyle need to feel the hammer too as their roles are further reduced until we see how Brissett handles the lead role this year.

N’Keal Harry, WR – New England PatriotsHe looked like he may be in for a sizable rookie workload when the Pats brought him in with a first round pick, but the decision to play him early in the preseason despite some lingering injury issues may have led to the IR trip he’ll be taking. While he’s expected back sometime this season, he’ll miss a chunk of games, lending to the idea that he won’t contribute much this year regardless.

Deebo Samuel, WR – San Francisco 49ersOne of the more popular early offseason breakout candidates, Samuel may be a bit behind the curve after seeing the most recent 49ers depth chart. Currently sitting behind Pettis, Goodwin, and Kendrick Bourne, Samuel may not see enough snaps to be worth rostering early in the season. Of course, Pettis and Goodwin have a history of injury, so if a spot opens up, the rookie could see his usage bounce back. Still, temper your expectations early on.

Honorable Mention: It seemed like fate when Duke Johnson slid onto the top of the Texans’ depth chart following a season ending injury to Lamar Miller, but suddenly, he’ll face competition from a former teammate in Carlos Hyde. The two players couldn’t be more opposite, as Hyde profiles as a early down player and Johnson as a top flight pass catcher, but it means fewer touches for Johnson, who was beginning to look like a sneak RB2 candidate. Of course, Hyde could bomb in Houston, but I have to dock Johnson a bit until we know.

Draft Day Decisions: ZeroRB

We’re on record as saying the current state of the running back position in the NFL may not be the most conducive to a ZeroRB strategy, but if you’re committed to it, there are ways to navigate your draft to give yourself the best chance at success. Of course, it’s important to nail your first 5 rounds, as any major misses at the other core positions could spell disaster for your season.

We’ve gone ahead and mocked out our first five rounds; the below is our roster sans running back.

  • 1.08: Davante Adams, WR – GB
  • 2.05: Mike Evans, WR – TB
  • 3.08: Amari Cooper, WR – DAL
  • 4.05: Deshaun Watson, QB – HOU
  • 5.08: Evan Engram, TE – NYG

Overall I’m pleased with the depth at WR, especially with Cooper as my WR3. While Adams is one of the most consistently excellent fantasy producers in the game, Evans and Cooper are potential top 10 receivers that will help off set any potential let downs at the RB position. Securing a top 5 QB and TE (and guys I expect to be closer to the top 3) is a win as well.

So with my core settled, it’s time to switch my focus to the running back position. With much of the starters gone, and a long turn, my strategy is to secure a back I feel has the highest floor rather than a boom or bust candidate. Here is who is available (ranked by ADP).

  • James White, NE
  • Kenyan Drake, MIA
  • Lamar Miller, HOU
  • Tevin Coleman, SF
  • Latavius Murray, NO
  • Rashaad Penny, SEA
  • Derrius Guice, WAS
  • Miles Sanders, PHI

Ultimately, I’d like to secure two names off this list, but there are a few I’m not really interested in as my RB 1. James White and Latavius Murray both have monster upside in their respective offenses, but with White, his RB7 finish last year doesn’t tell the full story of a RB who’s usage is impossible to predict. He and Murray are not exactly set it and forget it type backs, so I’m not going with them.

Ultimately, I’ve paired my decision down to Lamar Miller, Rashaad Penny, and Derrius Guice.

Miller, while seemingly the least exciting starting RB in the league, has a pretty solid grasp on all three downs. Given the release of D’Onta Foreman, and the lack of an impact backup, I’m confident he’ll get volume, even if the big plays aren’t there.

Penny and Guice, on the other hand, offer much higher ceilings than Miller, but have more crowded backfields to navigate if they’re going to receive the lions share of their teams touches. Between the two, Penny feels safer to me given how often Seattle projects to run the ball. Even if Chris Carson continues to hold off Penny for the top roster designation, I expect Penny to see a healthy number of touches in 2019.

The Decision

We admit he’s not exciting, but Lamar Miller is perfect for a ZeroRB target. He’s got all three downs to himself, and while he’ll likely plod along around 4YPC, he can be more safely relied upon than the other names on this list. With a chance I can land a player like Guice or Sanders in the next round, I’m comfortable with Miller as my top RB in a ZeroRB draft.

Bonus Round

The one nice thing about selecting your starting backs in this range is that fewer teams are drafting backs at this point. Both Guice and Penny fell to the 7th round, further reinforcing the selection of Miller who’s a solid anchor in this strategy.

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.

Finding Value: D/ST

VmillerFirst, I’d like to preface this entire article by saying it’s a far better strategy to wait in your draft to select your D/ST. As we’ve seen over the years, there’s very little value in paying above value for an “elite” D/ST. Whether it was last years Bears, the prior years Jaguars, or the Rams, Saints, or Cardinals defense before them, prevailing wisdom says your just as likely to get a top D/ST off the waivers as you are in the middle rounds of your draft.

So why even focus on Defenses and Special Teams? Because we want to try and find next years Bears defense in the late rounds.

Of course, with defenses there’s far more volatility in terms of scoring as there are at the skill positions. Any time your relying on an entire unit and its game plan to secure you points, there’s a large degree of uncertainty going into the year. This is true of all D/ST’s – including the top ones.

Who’s Available?

So who are we going to see at the end of my draft? Let’s be clear – unless your playing in an experts league, there’s no way to provide truly accurate D/ST information. In friends and family leagues, there’s always a strange run on defenses far to early, so we tend to ignore the top 7 or so D/ST’s in our research. That means we’re ignoring the following teams:

Chicago Bears (ADP: 91), Los Angeles Rams (ADP: 106), Jacksonville Jaguars (ADP: 124), Baltimore Ravens (ADP: 128), Los Angeles Chargers (ADP 131), Minnesota Vikings (ADP: 140), Houston Texans (ADP: 149).

Cleveland Browns (ADP: 152)

The first team we’d expect to fall late in the draft (assuming your league doesn’t have 9 guys drafting defenses early) would be the Cleveland Browns. Their current ADP is 8th among D/STs and may be one of the better values at the “position” in 2019. In addition to bolstering an ascending offense, they added several key pieces to their defense via Free Agency and the Draft.

Olivier Vernon and Sheldon Richardson were added to a D-Line that already featured elite pass rusher Miles Garrett. This unit will be a headache for opposing coordinators from the jump, and the drafting of Greedy Williams adds depth to a defensive backs group that still features the services of T.J. Ward. Expecting this defense to perform above expectations isn’t a difficult stretch, and I like the Browns D/ST to provide pretty solid value with a pretty excellent ceiling.

Denver Broncos (ADP: 169) 

Ranked 8th among D/ST’s in season long scoring last year, Denver is currently going in the 17th round of drafts, and aside from a few losses in free agency, returns a very similar lineup in 2019. Once a popular early selection, it seems that the fantasy community has soured on the Bronco’s for one reason or another, and we’re just not with it.

Of course, we could be wrong, but basically getting a team with a good defensive pedigree, who added one of the leagues best corner backs in Kareem Jackson, and who added a little depth on the D-Line and the line backing corps during the draft, may prove to be a steal on draft day.  Of course having to play the Chiefs and Chargers twice each hurts their overall value, but from a potential perspective they’re a low risk high reward selection.

Seattle Seahawks (ADP: 224)

Tied last year with the Denver Broncos, the Seattle Seahawk defense is being completely disrespected with their 21st round average draft position. The big concern was the Seahawk’s inability against the run, finishing 17th against the run last year. But they still have plenty of talent, and Pete Carroll has put a quality group on the field (in terms of fantasy production) for nearly his entire tenure.

It’s also important to note that this team ran a TON last year, and should figure to do the same in 2019. If the offense can help the defense by keeping them off the field, it should be another solid top 10 finish for the D/ST in 2019.

Honorable Mention: I don’t think I can advocate anyone to draft the Jets D/ST but given the improvements they’ve made through the draft and off season moves, and the addition of Gregg Williams to coach the defense, they are one of the defenses on my radar for waiver-watch. I will admit that Williams last 3 or 4 years hasn’t been up to the standard he had prior to bounty-gate, but his weapons here (names like Leonard Williams, rookie Quinnen Williams, C.J. Mosley, and Trumaine Johnson stand out) could help them compete against two perennially underachievers in Miami and Buffalo twice a year, and a New England team that seems content to win lower scoring run-first games these days.

Adam Gase, RB Killer… or IS he?

 

LBell

Kenyan Drake owners breathed a sigh of relief when Adam Gase chose greener pastures (pun intended) with the Jets. The rationale? Gase hated Drake, and is automatic death to running backs.

When Le’Veon Bell signed in NY, the narrative rolled over, with fantasy football players made it clear they weren’t thrilled to have to draft a Gase RB early beca

use of what he does to them. The question I asked, though, is what does Adam Gase do to his running backs?

To really get an idea, one has to go all the way back to 2013, when Adam Gase took over the OC job in Denver. I remember the buzz surrounding Montee Ball as a three down workhorse, but that was quickly put to rest when former Miami RB Knowshon Moreno ran away with the starting gig. The next few years followed a similar trend. Here is a quick snapshot of his RB usage from 2013 to 2016.

  • 2013, OC in Denver: Knowshon Moreno average 19.1 touches per game and more than 4 passing game targets per.
  • 2014, OC in Denver: C.J. Anderson averaged 24.9 touches per game, and nearly 5 targets per.
  • 2015, OC in Chicago: Matt Forte averaged just over 20 touches per game, and over 4 targets per.
  • 2016, HC in Miami: Jay Ajayi averaged 21.8 touches per game (mostly on the ground).

It wasn’t until Ajayi suffered several injuries that Gase was forced to use Drake as his defacto starter. For some reason, Drake was hamstrung in the Gase offense, only starting 13 games across the two seasons and receiving fewer than 140 rushing attempts in either year. He was targeted a healthy amount (121 times over the two seasons) but his usage remained criminally low despite his explosive play and efficient numbers.

So was Drake an outlier? Is Bell a far safer pick in a Jets uniform than we were led to believe?

The haters will likely point to a sub-par (really bad if we’re being honest) offensive line as one of the biggest Bell detractors. The Jets O-line ranked dead last according to footballoutsiders.com in terms of run blocking. The only major upgrade at the line came in the form of former pro-bowl left tackle Kelechi Osemele. 

His 2018 was a bit of a down year, which allowed for the acquisition, but if he’s close to the player the Jets are hoping he is, he’s a major upgrade. Still, the most interesting addition came off the field with the addition of Offensive Line coach Frank Pollak. His resume includes several years as the O-line coach in Dallas during the “elite” years, and this bodes well for the Jets run game.

Do we have concerns? We always do when a player is coming off a year where they don’t see the field. Still, Bell is only 27 years old, and represents a big upgrade over Isaiah Crowell and Elijah McGuire, and should factor in heavily on the ground as well as through the air. Crowell’s 2018 wasn’t special by any means, but if he can average nearly 5 yards per game despite having poor evaded tackle (32nd) and Juke rate (26th) according to playerprofiler.com, then we expect Bell to perform at least that well.

We did dock him slightly in both the rushing efficiency and his passing game usage, just to reflect the missed time but I’m convinced that Bell could be a value on draft day thanks to the chatter surrounding Gase.

Projections: 265 Ru. Attempts for 1175 Yards and 8 TDs, and 57 receptions for 456 yards and 1 rec. TD (274 PPR points, 217 Standard Points)

Can Calvin Ridley Be Elite

CRidleyWe asked the same question of Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams last week, but we shift our attention to a player who has seen both support and been maligned in the fantasy community as of late: Atlanta Falcons second year receiver Calvin Ridley.

Most point to his current ADP as the biggest stumbling block (late 5th – early 6th), coming off the board as a WR2. They say that Atlanta has too many receiving options beyond him for him to see even a marginal uptick in target share in 2019, and I believe that is wrong.

First, we have to analyze how new Head Coach (and former Falcons OC) Dirk Koetter likes to call his offense. In the simplest way, he loves to throw the football. Since 2012, he’s ranked within the top 10 in the league in passing attempts and passing yards, and for two years straight with Tampa Bay, his offenses finished in the top 5. Expecting anything less than 620 or so passing attempts is foolish, and that’s where we start to see the promise.

Of course, there are a lot of capable pass catchers. After all, Mohamed Sanu and Austin Hooper both had about 14% of the target share last year, the same as Ridley. Being only separated by a total of 6 catches, it’s easy to see why some people expect more of the same in 2019. Still, it’s important to really dig deep to understand how both players were utilized in 2018.

Hooper was a year late on his “breakout” as he finally commanded a decent chunk of the offense, but his usage was spotty at best, with nearly 50% of his targets coming over a 4 games stretch, and his output across his 16 game season suggests he’s typically being used as a check down option. We only saw him crest 60 yards three times all season, and his highest total was 77 on 12 targets (9 receptions) against Pittsburgh in week 5.

Sanu, on the other hand, was far more consistent, being targeted 6 or more times in 10 games. Still, with his 94 receptions, he went for 100 once, and until the final two games of the season, saw 9 weeks of fewer than 50 receiving yards.

These are not the caliber of players who should be major obstacles for Calvin Ridley to ascend to the next level in his NFL career.

After all, his 92 targets came across 5 starts (in 16 games) and despite a few lulls in production, had far more impactful weeks than either Sanu or Hooper had. Ridley managed a fantasy score of 14+ points 7 times in 2019, and finished as the WR22 In PPR scoring and WR18 in Standard Scoring. All this while not “starting” a game until week 10.

While projections are never an exact science, we have to believe that Ridley’s upside far outpaces the other receivers on this roster, and while Julio is entrenched as the top target, Ridley shouldn’t be expected to regress in 2019. At his current ADP, he’s in line with what I consider his floor, making him a safe pick. I’ll stop short of suggesting his ceiling is 1,200 and 12, although it may be down the road, but our projections put him around the following:

75 Receptions, 975 Yards, 10 TDS and a WR15 finish.