With off season programs well underway, we’re finally seeing news trickle in that help us identify players who are trending up and those who are trending down. Of course, the key is to block out the hyperbolic “coach speak” articles posted on team-friendly blogs and websites, and focus only on the stuff that feels genuine. Take it with a grain of salt, but this is what we’re hearing around the league.
Kenny Golladay, WR – DET
The Lions have had an interesting second off season under head coach Matt Patricia. Budding star Kerryon Johnson has proclaimed his desire to feature less as a work horse, Marvin Jones continues to recover slowly from a knee injury that ended his 2018 early, and it was revealed that Matthew Stafford was dealing with a broken back for parts of 2018. The one constant we can point to in this offense is the precense of Golladay as the top passing target this year for the Lions. With Jones not participating still in off season programs, we’re comfortable moving Golladay up in our positional rankings, and re-tiering him into the potential WR1 area. We’re confident that he’ll have an excellent 2019.
Tevin Coleman, RB – SF
When Coleman signed in San Fransisco, we were skeptical of how that backfield would be handled. Shanahan has shown a willingness in the past to using two backs for two very different purposes, and we weren’t sure just how Coleman fit into that picture with McKinnon possessing very good pass catching abilities, and Brieda and Mostert having had some success as well. Now, with the concerns arising with McKinnon’s recovery, and Brieda’s absense at OTA’s, it’s been Coleman that’s assumed the defacto #1 spot. With his history of success under Shanahan, we see a clear path to excellent fantasy production in 2019.
Andrew Luck, QB – IND
It’s hard to trend up when you’re already being considered one of the top three options at the position in fantasy circles for 2019, but with the questions surrounding Hill in KC, Luck is slowly becoming one of the better values in the early rounds for the position. He’s still going earlier than we like for our own selection, but the addition of Funchess, who has been impressing in camp, as well as speedster Parris Campbell in the draft, and you can see how this receiving group could be lethal. Expect Luck to live up to the lofty expectations we’re labeling him for in 2019.
Marqise Lee, WR – JAC
Going into 2018, it looks like Lee was poised to breakout, but a season ending injury cost him the entire season. Considering the success of players like Dede Westbrook, it’s concerning that Lee has been sidelined so far throughout the off season program in Jacksonville. If he’s slower to returning, the likely hood of him returning to fantasy relevance becomes more and more difficult to justify.
Miles Sanders, RB – PHI
Sanders has been sidelined to start OTAs and the news out of Philadelphia is that he’s slowly falling behind the other backs in terms of potential usage. With Doug Pederson’s history of using a committee, Sanders will need a miracle to be anything other than a future asset, as Jordan Howard and company should assume a larger share of the early downs, leaving Sanders as a difficult sell even as the 32nd back off the board on average. We’re never high on rookie RB’s to begin with, but Sanders is going to get the full fade treatment from us until further notice.
Marcus Mariota, QB – TEN
My attention was piqued when I heard Mariota was planning on playing at a weight about 15 pounds heavier than he had previously, leading to concerns that he’d eschew running to stay in the pocket. One of Mariota’s best fantasy attributes has been his ability to mitigate any lack of production through the air by running the ball. With the recent news that the Titans GM suggested the team wants Mariota to run less in general, and it’s becoming clear that this could be a difficult year for Mariota owners. Until he proves he can be successful in the pocket, an immobilized Mariota is a player I’m unlikely to own shares of.
In what ended up being a pretty milquetoast preseason game, the Colts vs Ravens game featured several off season story lines that we’ve had our eye on all along.
The most important of those being whether Andrew Luck can return to form following an injury filled two year stretch that has seen his value go from a top 3 QB to a middle round prayer. In limited action, Luck failed to impress as his 6 for 13 line with only 50 yards and one INT was hardly reminiscent of the gun slinger he was early in his career. Still, seeing him on the field is encouraging nonetheless.
Catching passes primarily from last years starter Jacoby Brissett, the receiving corps was paced by the tight ends as Eric Ebron secured the highest catch total (4) and Jack Doyle brought in his two receptions for 32 yards. The landscape for the Colts will surely look different when the season starts, but this is a TE position battle that may be one to monitor if Ebron can eat enough into Doyles production to keep him from being fantasy relevant.
The Colts run game wasn’t very impressive, but the Ravens’ Kenneth Dixon flashed the talent that has many wondering how much of a leash Alex Collins will have. His 5.3 yards per carry mark (32 yards on only 6 carries) and team leading 3 receptions for 24 yards is the kind of production that had many targeting Dixon last year in drafts. While Collins job is secure for now, Dixon is a name to watch if he continues to play with the kind of burst and efficiency we saw last night.
Aside from Dixon, the passing game was a color by numbers performance as 14 Colts players secured at least one pass. While John Brown has remained the buzziest player in Ravens practices, it appears that percentage share is going to be an issue for any Raven’s receivers. Consider the value when drafting a Ravens’ receiver as you’ll likely see inconsistent production regardless of who you draft.
32. New York Jets
It’s low hanging fruit to bash on the listless Jets, but the relative lack of fantasy fire power is hardly a surprise to anyone. Aside from deep sleeper lists and waiver wire conquests, the Jets boast a roster devoid of much except late round fliers.
Worth Drafting: Isaiah Crowell (ADP 102), Robby Anderson (ADP 104), Bilal Powell (ADP 169)
While none of these players should be selected with anything but serious flyer considerations, Powell may offer the most upside in PPR leagues only. Crowell, on the other hand, doesn’t project to work much with the passing game, so it all depends on how you think he’ll be used. I expect this team to pass a lot, similar to how last years team found themselves training early. Anderson could out perform the 11th round price tag, but I expect Quincy Enunwa (undrafted in ESPN leagues at this point) to return to some relevance in terms of offensive workload. Every target he steals from Anderson is a massive hit to his fantasy value.
Deep Sleeper: While Sam Darnold has his work cut out for him behind both Bridgewater and McCown in front of him, it’s only natural that the best QB of the bunch get some consideration. He probably won’t play, but in dynasty leagues he’s worth a late round pick, and as waiver wire fodder he should be on your radar until the team finally names it’s starter.
31. Buffalo Bills
This could be even worse, pending the fallout from LeSean McCoy’s domestic violence accusations. Even if he remains on the team, though, I expect a decline across the board as this team is littered with youth and raw future talents. With the pending media firestorm, I’m out on Buffalo unless it’s dealt with sooner than later.
Worth Drafting: LeSean McCoy (ADP 17), Kelvin Benjamin (ADP 91), Charles Clay (ADP 145)
Obviously McCoy’s inclusion on this is difficult, as the ADP data hasn’t caught up to the fall I’m expecting. If he’s found guilty, he’ll be gone from the league post haste, making this team even worse. Unfortunately for Benjamin and Clay, the prospects working with AJ McCarron and Josh Allen are nebulous at best. While Taylor didn’t have as massive a year statistically as we expected last year, this team should struggle to find consistency.
Deep Sleeper: Zay Jones’ rookie year was a disappointment to those, like me, who had him pegged as a high end rookie option. His 10 starts only yielded 27 receptions and 316 yards; not good enough. Still, the talent is there, and Jones is a downfield threat who may work well with Allen’s monster arm. It’s a long shot, and a player I only look at in the deepest of drafts, but Jones could be a contributor by the end of the season.
30. Baltimore Ravens
A common theme among the teams named to this point are the potential quarterback controversies. While I fully expect Flacco to start when healthy, it’s important to note that Lamar Jackson has the potential to unseat Flacco, especially if he’s awful again this year. To combat that, the Ravens brought in free agent receivers Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead, so expect a bit of an uptick in Baltimore’s overall numbers.
Worth Drafting: Alex Collins (ADP 53), Michael Crabtree (ADP 72), Kenneth Dixon (ADP 180)
One of the more interesting competitions is going to be Collins and Dixon in the Baltimore Backfield. Dixon was labelled as the heir apparent last year before an injury ended his season. Collins was fantastic in relief, giving many the impression that the team had moved on. But even after several off the field issues, Baltimore expects Dixon to be a part of it’s offense. The leash will be short, but this may start as a committee and coaches will likely ride the hot hand.
Deep Sleeper: It’s been a while since Willie Snead has popped up on the fantasy radar, but in Baltimore, he’ll have every opportunity to show the talent that flashed in New Orleans. With John Brown no safe bet to see the field, Snead should be heavily involved in the passing game, and Flacco does love to fling it.
29. Miami Dolphins
A team that maybe deserves a bit more respect than they receive annually, the Dolphin’s roster is a who’s who of mediocre players. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is back, so it’s possible he and Davante Parker rekindle the magic that made them both trendy picks a few years ago, but I’m not going to go that far just yet. Likewise, the questions in the run game need to be answered before I invest heavily in a run game that’s actually produced some fantasy relevant backs in recent years. While Kenyan Drake has the inside track, don’t count out Frank Gore as he will likely see a healthy dose of carries early on.
Players Worth Drafting: Kenyan Drake (ADP 41), Devante Parker (ADP 91), Kenny Stills (130), Mike Gesicki (ADP 165), Frank Gore (ADP 172), Albert Wilson (ADP 182)
It was a strange development that saw the Dolphins bring in an aging Frank Gore via free agency, and Kalen Ballage in the draft. If the team believed in Drake, then I’d argue that at least one of them would be elsewhere. As a 5th round pick, that scares the hell out of me, and may force me to look elsewhere. That elsewhere, in this offense, are the 160 targets vacated by Jarvis Landry. While Parker will get his, Albert Wilson is a sneaky pick to slide into the slot. If the Dolphins like his game more than Amendola’s he could be a monster producer out of the 19th round.
Deep Sleeper: I should probably stop screaming his name from the rooftops if I want to secure him in the later rounds, but Kalen Ballage is an intriguing player in that he possesses all the skills necessary to become a 3 down back in the league. Possessing impressive speed for his size, and above average hands in the passing game, Ballage could easily see his timeshare expand to a level that supports a roster spot.
28. Denver Broncos
The addition of Case Keenum elevates this team from dead last, to near last. That’s not to say there’s no one worth drafting, because I do like some of the talent on this roster, but the days of Denver popping out top 30 players is in the past. While Demaryius Thomas still possesses the skill to overcome sub-par quarterback play, the question is can Case Keenum’s arm support multiple fantasy receivers in Denver like it did in Minnesota? Given the age of guys like Emmanuel Sanders, and the inexperience at TE and in the backfield, and I’m cautious when drafting a Denver player.
Players Worth Drafting: Demaryius Thomas (ADP 38), Royce Freeman (ADP 58), Emmanuel Sanders (ADP 68), Devontae Booker (ADP 151), Case Keenum (ADP 157)
Case Keenum went from draft bust to hero last year as he brought the Vikings to within one game of the superbowl. Cashing in on that success, he’s slated to take over the starting gig and I’m not so sure that he’s the franchise cornerstone that last years performances convinced Denver he was. If he reverts back to the player he was before, and I’d argue it’s far more likely that he does, then this offense could continue to struggle beyond Demaryious Thomas.
Deep Sleeper: 2nd Round pick Courtland Sutton has a steep hill to climb with fantasy stalwarts ahead of him in Thomas and Sanders. Expect him to be up to the task. With Sanders coming to the end of a sparkling career, Sutton may see enough of the field to warrant a roster spot after a few weeks.
27. Dallas Cowboys
Oh how the mighty have fallen. I’m sure there’s plenty of Dallas fans shaking their head at the ranking, but the bottom line is that aside from Ezekiel Elliott, their roster is middle of the road at best. When you consider the talent that walked out the door in Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, it’s easy to see why this roster doesn’t inspire much confidence in the fantasy community.
Worth Drafting: Ezekiel Elliott (ADP 4), Dak Prescott (ADP 122), Allen Hurns (ADP 128), Michael Gallup (ADP 164)
A whole lot of mediocre pretty accurately describes the Dallas passing game. While the bulk of the offense is going to run through the run game, it’s a burning question as to where the passing game will trend. It’s clear that fantasy players are out of Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley, the two incumbent receivers of note, but I think Hurns isn’t talent enough to be a true number one receiver. At his current cost, he’s a low risk option, but I’d ignore him at any steeper a price.
Deep Sleeper: I doubt it will be this way when drafts come along, but Gallup is the best chance Dallas has to replace Dez Bryant with a player on it’s roster. He’s not as talented as Bryant in his prime, but Gallup has all the tools to eat up a ton of targets. It might not happen right away, but he has #1 written all over him.
26. Indianapolis Colts
It’s amazing how poorly a franchise can manage it’s star players, but the job the Colts did last year with Andrew Luck’s injured shoulder takes the cake. By not properly handling the injury, they set back the franchise years and forced fantasy owners to look elsewhere for production. The Jacoby Brissett experiment wasn’t all bad, but it didn’t produce much in the way of fantasy points.
Worth Drafting: T.Y. Hilton (ADP 31), Andrew Luck (ADP 91), Jack Doyle (ADP 97), Marlon Mack (ADP 98), Jordan Wilkins (ADP 185), Eric Ebron (ADP 191), Nyheim Hines (ADP 193)
It’s got to say something for how important you are as a player when the success of everyone on this list comes down to if you play or not. For Andrew Luck, that scenario is very real, and could affect who and when you draft. With Hilton especially, the cost is so high that any doubt you have that Andrew Luck is healthy should dissuade you from drafting him. With half of his yards in only 2 games, he’s a massive bust candidate with Brissett under center.
Deep Sleeper: Ryan Grant may not be a sexy name, but the disregard may work in your favor if Luck is back on the field. A healthy Luck is a safe bet for 550 attempts and someone other than Hilton is going to get involved. Grant is likely to be that guy as the tight ends and depth receivers aren’t great options.
With the offseason well underway, and the NFL draft looming in the distance, the time is now to evaluate the many moves that went down following the start of free agency. Over the next week, we’ll evaluate each position individually, and attempt to break down the impact of each move to this point.
Kirk Cousins Signs With Vikings:
With the ink drying on Kirk Cousins’ 84 million dollar contract, the fantasy community stirred in it’s offseason slumber. While too many unanswered questions rest between here and fantasy drafts, this represented the first major offseason domino in many to come. The question remains, though; what does this mean for fantasy owners?
A top 5 season is a general expectation, especially considering that Cousins finished 6th in standard ESPN leagues last year. Minnesota’s roster is litered with game breakers, and a more consistent run game should mean a more consistent threat to score for the Vikings new signal caller. With their sights set on the super bowl, the Vikings should be a great source of fantasy contributors, and Cousins should be a target for anyone.
Alex Smith Signs with Washington:
Replacing Cousins in Washington will be Alex Smith, the notorious game manager previously starting for the Kansas City Cheifs. His track record is far from inspiring, but surprisingly enough he managed to finish as the fourth highest scoring quarter back in standard ESPN leagues last year.
Much of that can be attributed to the lack of healthy QB’s, but Washington presents a unique challenge in terms of predicting success. No longer stocked with weapons like Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, Smith will instead be throwing to a stable of unproven youngsters and oft-injured tight ends. Whether or not he’s a target come draft day depends on what the community suggests his average draft position is. A low end QB1 is as good as I’ll give him at this point, but may not select him as anything but flier in the later rounds, assuming he falls that far.
Case Keenum Signs With Denver:
Continuing the trend of displaced QB’s, Minnesota’s surprising star Case Keenum moves on to Denver after a season that witnessed him outscore superstars like Matt Ryan, Derek Carr, and Jameis Winston. While it’s fair to question the validity of those numbers, as Keenum was viewed mostly as a backup to this point, there’s not a lot of drop off in terms of talent around him going to Denver.
Elite wideouts Demarius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders should help him continue to produce, and an elite defense should give him plenty of opportunity to score points. While I won’t say he’s ready for prime time, another top 15 finish isn’t out of the question.
Tyrod Taylor Traded To Cleveland Browns:
While it’s with a great deal of consternation that I even include a Browns QB in this article, the truth is that Taylor has been a very productive fantasy QB over the last few years, and should have plenty of opportunity in Cleveland with the weapons surrounding him. Elite wide outs Josh Gordon and Jarvis Landry present a major upgrade to what he found himself working with in Buffalo, and two capable pass catchers out of the backfield in Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson mean Taylor’s ability to run will be on full display as teams will be forced to respect the weapons around him.
Does this mean I’ll be reaching in drafts to select a Browns QB? Absolutely not, but as a back end top 10 QB, Taylor may have the moxie to bring fantasy success to teams in the middle to late rounds thanks to what has become the curse of playing for Cleveland.
Sam Bradford Signs With Arizona Cardinals:
The biggest risk in the NFL in terms of fantasy quarterbacks has got to be the always injured Bradford. Every year it’s the same thing; superlative starts make way to lengthy DL stints and surgery. While my personal opinion is Bradford is no more than a last round flyer, the Arizona Cardinals present an opportunity for him to bounce back into fantasy owners good graces.
With enough weapons to be successful, and a run-first scheme that may help him stay healthy, Bradford should be on your radar in the preseason as a backup candidate. When healthy, he’s a top 15 QB, but I’d be willing to bet we’ll be seeing an Arizona backup by week 6.
Honorable Mention: Jimmy Garoppolo signed a massive deal to stay in San Fransisco, and the fantasy community is chomping at the bit to see what he can do with a full seasons worth of reps. Teddy Bridgewater, the least impactful of the Minnesota triumverate that departed in the offseason, finds himself in the Jets’ backfield as a potential starter. The talent is there, but questions surround his surgically repaired knee. Andrew Luck has resumed throwing, and while there’s plenty of concern that his career may never get back on track, the pedigree is there for the man to be a top 5 QB again. With less risk in late rounds, he’s a nice bounce back target that costs nothing if he never returns to form.
With the NFL season creeping ever closer, we’ll examine current consensus ADP data provided by Fantasypros.com to discuss the players we love and the players we hate based on where they’re being drafted.
- Mark Ingram, RB – NO
- Jordan Reed, TE – WAS
- Sammy Watkins, WR – LAR
- Julian Edelman, WR – NE
- Jimmy Graham, TE – SEA
- Kelvin Benjamin, WR – CAR
- Martavis Bryant, WR – PIT
- Golden Tate, WR – DET
- Russell Wilson, QB – SEA
- Mike Gillislee, RB – NE
Player I love – Golden Tate: After a rough stretch to start the season, Tate followed up the bye week by catching at least 5 catches over the final 6 weeks to finish just shy of 1,000 yards. In PPR leagues especially, his value is rock solid late in the 6th round.
Player I Hate – Martavis Bryant: A few years ago, Bryant flashed big play ability to grow into the kind of unsustainable hype machine that burns fantasy teams who over-commit to lack of performance. While the skill is certainly there, Bryant has yet to prove he’ll stay clear of discipline long enough to reward fantasy owners. With the names going after him I’m passing entirely in the 6th round.
- Tevin Coleman, RB – ATL
- Larry Fitzgerald, WR – ARI
- Andrew Luck, QB – IND
- LeGarrette Blount, RB – PHI
- Tyler Eifert, TE – CIN
- Brandon Marshall, WR – NYG
- Bilal Powell, RB – NYJ
- Ameer Abdullah, RB – DET
- Emmanuel Sanders, WR – DEN
- Adrian Peterson, RB – NO
Player I love – Tyler Eifert: All Eifert does is catch touchdowns, to the tune of 18 over his last 21 games. Finally healthy, Eifert should continue to grow in the Bengals offense, and it feels comfortable to extrapolate the second half of last season to predict 750 yards and 10TDs.
Player I Hate – Bilal Powell: Don’t get me wrong, I was on the Powell train earlier in the off season too, but the buzz got too big and now he’s being drafted before starters like Perkins, Abdullah, Gore, and Martin… which feels far too early for me. He’ll have some decent games but the Jets are going to be bad this year and to commit to Powell in the 7th round is foolish.
- Stefon Diggs – WR – MIN
- Jameis Winston, QB – TB
- Frank Gore, RB – IND
- Delanie Walker, TE – TEN
- Cam Newton, QB – CAR
- Derek Carr, QB – OAK
- Doug Martin, RB – TB
- Paul Perkins, RB – NYG
- Eddie Lacy, RB – SEA
- Kirk Cousins, QB – WAS
Player I love – Doug Martin: It’s likely that if Martin wasn’t facing a suspension, he’d be going in the first 3 rounds of drafts, but thanks to his absence, the Muscle Hamster has fallen to the round 8 range. His offseason performances have me leaning towards bounce back year with a RB1 ceiling in the weeks following his return, which is a steal in the 8th round or later.
Player I hate – Eddie Lacy: What seemed like a match made in heaven for Lacy and the Seahawks has turned into a situation that has fans wondering if he’ll even make the team. Thomas Rawls has been announced as the starter and we all know C.J. Prosise is a lock for third downs, leaving slim pickings for the anything-but-slim back. Sure, Lacy may start by default if Rawls can’t stay healthy, but it doesn’t bode well for confidence if you decide to take a chance on the former Packer.
- Willie Snead, WR – NO
- Marcus Mariota, QB – TEN
- Kyle Rudolph, TE – MIN
- Jamison Crowder, WR – WAS
- Danny Woodhead, RB – BAL
- Derrick Henry, RB – TEN
- Matellus Bennett, TE – GB
- DeSean Jackson, WR – TB
- Robert Kelley, RB – WAS
- Donte Moncrief, WR – IND
Player I Love – DeSean Jackson: It’s no secret that I’ve been targeting Jackson since the day he signed in Tampa. A burner with elite speed, he’ll slot in on day one as the 2nd WR opposite Mike Evans. If you think he had room to run last year when he had 1,000 yards and average nearly 18 yards per catch, just imagine the room he’ll have with Evans drawing doubles and Winston’s cannon of an arm leading him down field. Consistency will likely be lacking since he won’t top the team in targets but in the 9th he’ll be fantastic value.
Player I Hate – Donte Moncrief: This isn’t to say that I think Moncrief is a bad player, but the situation in Indy is looking worse by the week and while T.Y. Hilton will still find his fair share of targets, Moncrief could be in fantasy trouble if Scott Tolzien is handling the football. If Moncrief falls a few rounds I may consider him, but in this position I’d go with any number of receivers over him.
- Randall Cobb, WR – GB
- Eric Decker, WR – TEN
- Dak Prescott, QB – DAL
- Ben Roethlisberger, QB – PIT
- Pierre Garcon, WR – SF
- Kareem Hunt, RB – KC
- Zach Ertz, TE – PHI
- Jonathan Stewart, RB – CAR
- Jeremy Maclin, WR – BAL
- Terrance West, RB – BAL
Player I love – Eric Decker: After the drama surrounding Decker when he was cut with New York it seemed he may be destined for the veteran run around as he looked for a landing spot. Now he’s in Tennessee and the rumors are that he’s Mariota’s new favorite weapon and he’s been looking his way in the red zone an awful lot. Decker could be a massive value at his current ADP.
Player I Hate – Ben Roethlisberger: Big Ben will still win a lot of games this year, and he does have Antonio Brown to throw to, but these things may convince you that he’s an elite fantasy QB when in reality that ship has sailed. This team is going rely on Le’Veon Bell more than ever and while Roethlisberg will be serviceable, he’s less valuable than he’s ever been.
Joe Mixon, RB – CIN: With only one pre-season week in the books, any and all observation must be taken with a grain of salt, but Mixon certainly impressed in his NFL debut, rushing 6 times for 31 yards and hauling in one reception for 11 more. Mixon’s draft position has been slowly climbing as the hype machine gets louder, but a few more performances like this and the fears surrounding Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill’s presence on the roster will lose their weight.
Andrew Luck, QB – IND: The news out of Indianapolis is that Luck will be ready “around” the time of the season opener. This situation is sticky at best, considering that Luck is still being drafted as high as the #4 QB. Forecasting a QB’s effectiveness following his return from a lengthy recovery like Luck’s is difficult but I’ve already dropped Luck to #9 on my QB rankings as I anticipate some rust as he works his way back to game shape. If Luck misses any significant time, it could be even worse for owners who invested in him earlier in the preseason on the promises of Jim Irsay and the Colts front office.
Jordan Matthews, WR – BUF: Newly acquired wide out Jordan Matthews found himself injured following his very first Bills practice with what the team is reporting as a chip fracture in his sternum. At this point, he’s been labelled as week to week which makes for a messy situation as Matthews has to still learn the offense and his new role. While he may return from this injury quickly, it’s important to note that Zay Jones could very likely lead the passing game early on, and can be had for next to nothing at the end of drafts. If you’re high on Matthews in the Bills offense, just understand it could be a while before he pays off on the score sheet.
Alfred Morris, RB – DAL: Most (myself included) looked at Darren McFadden as the obvious stand in for Ezekiel Elliott’s 6 game suspension, but after a fine performance from the once-starter Morris, the waters are certainly muddied. I’m not suggestion that a single pre-season game would change the entire outlook on the Dallas backfield, but it’s far from the realm of possibility that Morris at least steals enough carries from McFadden to render either of them a flex starter at best. If I were forced to bet on either of them getting the bulk of the carries for 6 weeks, it’s still on McFadden, but I’d monitor the situation if you’re a Zeke owner who’s keen on snagging his handcuff.
BWhether your throwing an early round pick at a top 5 QB or your waiting until the middle rounds to grab a back end QB1, it’s important to remember that eventually you’ll need a second quarterback for byes and injury.
Sure, you could opt to skip drafting a second QB and stream the waiver wire as the needs arise, but depending on how deep your league is you may be left with slim pickings for late bye weeks. Below we’ll examine each of the consensus QB1 selections and I’ll attempt to give you 3 targets to keep in mind when drafting your backup.
Week 5 BYES: Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Kirk Cousins
Having the early bye, it’s important to have a backup plan in place for the bye week and any potential injury issues later in the year. Both Ryan Tannehill and Joe Flacco are available in the 17th round or later in standard drafts, and both have favorable schedules during the home stretch of the regular season. Playing the Raiders (Flacco) and the Titans (Tannehill) are particular boons considering both teams finished in the top 10 for most generous fantasy defenses for opposing QBs. If you’re interested in late picks in deep leagues or just want to watch the waivers, Josh McCown of the Jets offers very little upside but does play the Browns in week 5 so could be a valuable stand in while your QB is on their bye.
Week 6 BYES: Russell Wilson, Dak Prescott
Neither one of the guys inspires the confidence of an Aaron Rodgers despite the potential for monster seasons. The Vikings’ Sam Bradford has a nice matchup against the Packers that should feature higher scores while Blake Bortles draws the Rams in week 6. Sticking with the he’s playing the Browns theme, DeShaun Watson (should he win the starting job) will not have much difficulty putting up decent points in week 6, and aside from the week 8 matchup against the Seahawks, has very winnable games down the stretch.
Week 7 BYES: Matt Stafford
Sure, he’s not really a QB1 to most, but in 12 – 14 team leagues he very well may end up your starting QB. Alex Smith (Rnd 16) draws the raiders, and Carson Palmer (Rnd 14) draws the Rams. Odds are you’re not going to wait too long to grab a backup but if you’re convinced of Staffords abilities, McCown has another nice matchup in week 6 against the Dolphins.
Week 8 BYES: Aaron Rodgers, Marcus Mariota
Week 8 offers a ton of value in terms of backups, and you could choose to wait until late if you grab Rodgers by drafting Mike Glennon (26th round) or Sam Bradford (playing the Browns). If you want to hedge you bets with Mariota, Andy Dalton is available in the 13th round and plays the Colts, and Carson Wentz has fallen back to earth a bit in the 14th round but could put big points but against the 49ers.
Week 9 BYES: Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger
Both Brady and Big Ben are two potential top 5 (or better) fantasy QB’s assuming their health holds up. Brady (despite being older) is a far less likely injury risk but it’s something to take into account when drafting an aging QB. Matt Stafford is a relatively low risk option to add in the 11th round assuming you’re concerned about missed time. Espcecially with Roethlisberger it’s important to be realistic. If you’d rather wait, both Joe Flacco and Ryan Tannehill can be had at the back end of the draft (both in round 17 or later) and both have above average schedules for fantasy production. Either or is a valuable addition to your team if you drafted Brady or Big Ben.
Week 10 BYE: Derek Carr
It depends on who you ask, but Carr is a borderline QB1 who should be drafted under the assumption that he should remain consistent. Still, having a backup for a starter who’s coming off a serious leg injury isn’t a bad idea. Eli Manning may only be drafted a few rounds later, but if he falls, he’s a perfect fit for the bye week and if Carr faces any missed time for injuries. Should he go before the 14th round, DeShaun Watson could fall to you as well, and his week 10 matchup against the Rams (and other favorable matchups in this area) mean less risk. While the by week matchups aren’t as good, Bortles (Rnd 16 – against the Chargers) and Bradford (Round 18- against the Redskins) could put up sizable numbers and serve as a valuable back up for the rest of the season.
Week 11 BYES: Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Jameis Winston
What a murders row of “who the hell knows” in week 11, although most questions should be answered by then. Still, there’s significant injury risk to Luck and Newton, so preparing is a necessity. Bortles matchup against the Browns makes him an obvious option in the 16th round, as does the potential shootout Joe Flacco (Rnd 17) is looking at against Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay, but the real crown jewel would be Carson Wentz in the 14th round; his ceiling makes for a dramatic backup but should he be needed for more than a week or two, he could produce in spades from the bench.
Of course it’s important to consider the bye weeks, but as always don’t compromise your strategy to fill in one or two weeks on the schedule. There are no worst case scenarios you’ll face that the other 9-13 teams you’ll play won’t also face, so make sure you start the best possible team and build around them as best you can.
With the Hall of Fame Game set to kick off the pre-season in just over three weeks, we still have very little information regarding the status of Andrew Lucks rehab from offseason shoulder surgery.
The most obvious fallout from this is with Luck himself, where my previous QB rankings had him still in the top five despite the lingering issues. At this point, with as little information as we have, I have dropped Luck in my postitional rankings from 5 to 9, falling behind Kirk Cousins, Jameis Winston, Russell Wilson, and Dak Prescott.
Beyond that, we have to consider what life without Luck would be like for the first few weeks. Hilton is a safer pick as he’ll likely be the focal point of the passing game. Frank Gore is a safe bet at his current ADP as well since it’s unlikely they’ll use him more or less regardless.
I’m not the biggest Moncrief fan in the world and depending on how much time Luck misses, he falls on my board, but I’m intrigued about Jack Doyle and his potential contributions. While there’s not enough statistics to provide answers for the young TE, it stands to reason that beyond Hilton, he’d be a likely saftey net for a young QB filling in for Luck. Don’t adjust your rankings on him.
Despite all this planning, we could hear in the next few days that Luck is a pillar of health and his rehab is progressing nicely. By all accounts, the Colts front office expects Luck to be ready for week one, but in the absence of solid evidence, it makes sense to prepare for the worst.
Updated 6/26 (numbers in parenthasis are change in ranking from 6/1 rankings)
- Aaron Rodgers, GB (E)
- Tom Brady, NE (E)
- Drew Brees, NO (E)
- Matt Ryan, ATL (E)
- Andrew Luck, IND (E)
- Jameis Winston, TB (E)
- Kirk Cousins, WAS (E)
- Dak Prescott, DAL (+1)
- Russell Wilson, SEA (-1)
- Cam Newton, CAR (E)
- Derek Carr, OAK (+1)
- Tyrod Taylor, BUF (-1)
- Marcus Mariotta, TEN (+2)
- Philip Rivers, LAC (E)
- Ben Roethlisberger, PIT (-2)
- Matthew Stafford, DET (E)
- Andy Dalton, CIN (E)
- Carson Wentz, PHI (+3)
- Eli Manning, NYG (E)
- Blake Bortles, JAC (-2)
- Ryan Tannehill, MIA (-1)
- Joe Flacco, BAL (E)
- Sam Bradford, MIN (+2)
- Carson Palmer, ARI (-1)
- Alex Smith, KC (-1)
- Deshaun Watson, HOU (E)
- Mike Glennon, CHI (+1)
- Paxton Lynch, DEN (+1)
- DeShone Kizer, CLE (-2)
- Cody Kessler, CLE (E)
- Jared Goff, LAR (+1)
- Josh McCown, NYJ (-1)
- Christian Hackenberg, NYJ (+2)
- Brian Hoyer, SF (-1)
- Mitch Trubisky, CHI (+3)
- Tom Savage, HOU (E)
- Trevor Siemian, DEN (-3)
- Patrick Mahomes, KC (+3)
- Jimmy Garoppolo, NE (+8)
- Landry Jones, PIT (+4)
- C.J. Beathard, SF (-1)
- Cardale Jones, BUF (-3)
- AJ McCarron, CIN (E)
- Drew Stanton, ARI (+1)
- Case Keenum, MIN (+1)
- Brock Osweiler, CLE (-9)
- Bryce Petty, NYJ (-5)
In preperation for my personal position rankings, I’ll be taking a look at the top of the list at each offensive fantasy position.
- Cam Newton – Newton was a Fantasy stud last year, owning the feild with his arm as well as his legs. Adding a top teir WR back into the fold with the returning Kelvin Benjamin
will mean good things for Super Cam this year.
- Aaron Rodgers – His 60% completion percentage was his career low as a starter, and much of that can be attributed to a lackluster run game and losing his number 1 receiver in Jordy Nelson for the entire year. He still managed nearly 4,000 yards and 30+ TDs in 15 games. If Nelson is ready to go and Lacy is even remotely the player he has been in the past, expect a return to greatness.
- Russell Wilson – If you believe the loss of Marshawn Lynch will make this offense a bit too one dimensional, then you’d be wrong. When he’s called on to make plays, all Wilson does is produce. He may not break records, but his ability to add 500-800 yards on the ground make him elite in terms of Fantasy.
- Drew Brees – A model of consistency, Brees again led the league in yards while completing nearly 70% of his passes. Another year with animproving O-line and 4 capable receivers means Brees can be counted on again to win Fantasy games.
- Andrew Luck – It’s not secret that Luck struggled mightily last year, missing significant time due to a plethora of injuries. Still, Luck has the goods – and the weapons – to produce at a high level. If they can keep him healthy, theres no reason to believe he’ll return to the elite signal caller we know he is.
- Ben Roethlisberger – The ceiling was raised a few years ago, and with Antonio Brown lining up to catch passes, you can’t expect too sharp a decline even as father time inches up behind Big Ben. He’s fallen a bit on my list with the news that Bryant will miss the entire season and his saftey blank in Le’Veon Bell will miss 4 games, and he may fall farther still.
- Carson Palmer – Old age seems to be an antiquated reason to skip on NFL QB’s in your fantasy leagues as Carson Palmer returns to the top 10 as a 36 year old. He’s got three fantasic receivers, a very good line, and a running game to help take off the pressure. Did we mention he takes care of the football? He may not be a flashy name, but he’ll get the job done.
- Philip Rivers – Rivers seems to never get the love that he deserves, but in the end he’ll throw the ball a ton which will mitigate any issues that may surround this offense. They’ll likely continue to easy Melvin Gordon into a larger roll, so expect games with 35+ attempts early on.
- Blake Bortles – I hear that we shouldn’t expect a repeat of the fantastic year we saw out of Bortles last year. I disagree. Hurns and Robinson are both great weapons and adding a successful down hill running in Chris Ivory will free up some plays over the middle. His legs can help him add another 250+ yards to what will likely be a 4,000 yard 30 TD campaign.
- Eli Manning – I’ll preface my inclusion in my top ten by saying I don’t really like Eli Manning. Not in the least, but he manages to find a way to put up fantasy numbers even while he’s managing ways to lose real NFL games. OBJ is Elite, Cruz (even at 50% of what he was) will attract some of the defense, and the kid they drafted, Sterling Shephard should give him more weapons to work with.
Missed the Cut
Tom Brady (his supension moved him from the top 10), Matt Ryan (so much hate for no reason. Has a top 3 WR catching the football), David Carr (close, but not there yet. Another up year in Oakland and he’ll be tough to deny), Tony Romo (he’s Eli Manning if Eli Manning got hurt every year. He’ll put up massive numbers when he’s healthy… which is likely less than 12 games).