Injuries happen, we’re all familiar with the pain of a lost season, but as we enter the doldrums of the off season, it’s as good a time as any to talk about the players who didn’t finish the 2018 season due to injury, and what we can expect for 2019.
Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers
It may be easy to label Garoppolo as injury prone after his second significant injury across 10 total NFL starts, but it wouldn’t be fair. What is fair is questioning if Jimmy G was worthy of all the hype going into the 2018 season. A quick peek at the ADP data shows that folks were drafting him ahead of names like Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers, and NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes. Did his numbers to that point in his career justify a QB1 draft position?
I’d argue no.
While Garoppolo was impressive down the stretch for a 49ers team that was out of it early in the year, his 2017 numbers were propped up by schedule that included games against poor defenses and playoff teams packing it in. Even then, the numbers were good, not great. Extrapolating his numbers shows that despite relatively high yardage (280 or so yards comes out to about 4,500 yards) but his scoring numbers remained mediocre as his 7 TDs and 5 INTs comes out to 22/16.
Early ADP data suggests drafters are concerned for his production coming out of the injury, and this much is fair. As the 16th ranked QB, he’ll hardly cost a premium, but the range of outcomes for a Garoppolo season is nerve wracking. Sure, he could realize the potential that had Kyle Shannahan salivating over his skill, but a sub 4,000 yard season with middle of the road scoring numbers could leave him as waiver wire fodder.
The Dr.’s EARLY Predictions: 14 Starts, 3640 Yards, 24 TDs, 13 INT
Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
Much like Garoppolo, Wentz has a growing injury history that has to have fantasy owners questioning if his ability is worth the risk. Of course, the production was there right out of the gates when he returned to the field in 2018 as evidenced by the QB1 numbers he put up through his first 7 starts (an average of 20 points per game, good for QB11).
Still, a second straight season ended due to injury stung as Nick Foles managed to bring the Eagles back from the brink and into the playoffs by going on an improbable run. It’s unlikely Foles is back with the Eagles, so Wentz starting position is all but guaranteed, but the likelihood of an injury has to be considered higher than for most QB’s of his age and skill level. His current status is “questionable for OTAs” but I’d expect him back for week 1, and as long as he’s on the field, he’s worth starting .
The Dr.’s EARLY Predictions: 12 Starts, 3,375 Yards, 23 TDs 6 INTs, 120 Rushing Yards.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
Dalton is unlikely to be a highly coveted fantasy commodity in 2019 even if he is still the starting QB for the Bengals, but the fact remains that he’s been a pretty consistent across a career that’s seen him start 16 games 6 times in 8 years. The bigger question surrounding Dalton isn’t his health, but the rumors that Cincinnati may be looking to move on from the Red Rocket going into 2019.
First, he’s been a fantasy mirage most years, having a few good games before fading back into the pack, and he’s never really been an elite, must-start option, so expecting things to change next year may qualify under “the definition of insanity.”
Of course, if he lands elsewhere through trade or release, then we may be having a different discussion. Teams like the Dolphins and the Giants may be a landing spot for the veteran signal caller, and each situation presents it’s own pro’s and con’s. Of course we can’t assume either scenario when making our too-early predictions, so for now let’s assume he’s back in Cincinnati.
The Dr.’s EARLY Predictions: 15 Starts, 3,390 Yards, 24 TDs, 15 INTs
Honorable Mentions: It never ceases to amaze me how Cam Newton can be constantly injured but consistently produce in terms of fantasy production. With D.J. Moore continuing to improve and an offense that’s slowly shifting to Christian McCaffrey, we hope Newton will find better health in 2019. Unfortunately for Alex Smith it’s unlikely health will allow him to play. We’re expecting him to miss the entire 2019 season after finishing 2018 on IR with a broken leg.
I’d like to preface this by saying that every player has some kind of value, but the real issue I take with the following players is the value other fantasy players have assigned to them. As always, take these with a grain of salt, as I’ll likely look at any of them if they fall into a round with appreciable value.
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB – San Fransisco: It sure looked like Jimmy G was the real deal as he lead the listless 49ers to 5 straight wins to close out the season. And it certainly helped his stock that he beat three playoff teams in Jacksonville, Tennessee, and the LA Rams. But has he done enough in his brief time as a starter to warrant being drafted as the 9th QB off the board?
Instead of targeting a QB with 7 career starts and expecting a top 10 finish at the position, it’s a far safer proposition to look at the names directly behind him on the list. Matt Stafford, Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger, and Philip Rivers can all be had, and all offer far more consistent value in my opinion. Do I think Jimmy G is a bust candidate? No, not particularly, but with all the buzz surrounding the former heir to the Tom Brady empire, I’ll let someone else overpay for the unknown commodity.
Tom Brady, QB – New England: This may surprise some, especially being a Patriots fan living in Massachusetts, but the news out of New England has been mostly terrifying, yet Brady is still being drafted as the QB4. Between a lack of off season work, his top target from last year being traded, and his former safety net in Julian Edelman facing a 4 game suspension after missing all of last year with a knee injury, and you have a recipe for disaster if you lob and early round pick at Brady.
Of course, he’ll probably prove me wrong, but there’s no way I’m drafting Brady before Brees, Wentz, or Newton – the next three QB’s on the list. If I can get Brady for a discount, I’m comfortable with his superior talent making up for these things, but in the 5th round I’m drafting skill players and snagging someone else several rounds later.
Dion Lewis, RB – Tennessee: Every year the final running back rankings reveal a few surprises, and Dion Lewis’ 203 points (RB13) was certainly the stand out name to me. But now a member of the Titans, Lewis’s name keeps popping up on watch lists as a name to watch, something I just can’t get behind.
While he’s undoubtedly an electric player when healthy, 2017 was the first time Lewis turned in 16 games in his career, and betting on anything more than 7 games is a crap shoot with the diminutive back. Also against him is his role in the Tennessee offense, as he slides in neatly on the depth chart as the 3rd down back behind elite runner Derrick Henry. Sadly, no team targeted their backs less than the Titans 66 total RB targets. The ceiling is so low in Tennessee with a healthy Henry on the roster that I’m staying away from Lewis at all costs.
Kenyon Drake, RB – Miami: On the surface, Drake seems like a logical name to take the “next step” into fantasy relevance, especially after he dominated the touches for the Dolphins down the stretch, turning 91 touches into 444 yards and 2 TDs from week 13 on. How did the Dolphin front office repay him? By bringing in Frank Gore via free agency and adding Kalen Ballage in the draft.
We’ve seen similar situations before, and I’d argue caution when investing in the Miami backfield. Much like the Spencer Ware/Kareem Hunt situation last year, there is likely very little room for error when it comes to touches for Drake. Of course, staying healthy should see him resume the roll of the top dog, but touches will be limited, and his prospects of turning in a top 20 RB season are slim in my estimation.
T.Y. Hilton, WR – IND: It’s easy to look at the bottom line and say “but Hilton was productive” while ignoring the deficiencies playing in Indianapolis’ offense creates. The news on Andrew Luck has been mostly positive, but it still doesn’t look like he’ll be returning any time soon, yet fantasy drafters haven’t seem to given up on Hilton as an elite WR.
A closer look reveals how inconsistent Hilton was with Jacoby Brissette throwing him the ball. More than half of his yards (966 on the season) came in only three games (505) which in this case can’t be offset by the threat of scoring, as his 4 TDs is about what you can expect for the smaller receiver. If he continues on the pace he’s at, he’s a flex start at best, which is something that you can’t afford out of a 4th round pick.
Tyreek Hill, WR – KC: This one may sound strange, as I was a big fan of Hill’s going into last season, even going out of my way to own him in several leagues, but every year we must re-evaluate each players value and leave the past love in past when ranking players. Hill is currently the 10th WR coming off the board, but presents many of the same problems highlighted above with T.Y. Hilton.
Similarly, his final stat line is a bit of a mirage as the 75 catches for 1,183 yards only represents half of the story. Aside from four big games (552 yards and 3 of his 7 TDs), Hill failed consistently to hit 5 catches or 100 yards. Add to the roster a WR the caliber of Sammy Watkins, and he’s now relying on the big play to score, further damaging his fantasy value. While I can see a similar 100 targets, the effects of additional receiving weapons, an elite run game, and a first year starter are too much to overcome when drafting a player as early as Hill needs to be drafted.
Evan Engram, TE – NYG: Another player I preached judiciously last year, Engram turned in one of the finest fantasy seasons for a rookie TE ever, and is being rewarded for it by being the 5th TE off the board in 2018. As a TE being drafted in the 6th round, you’d like to be relatively sure that his production will remain consistent, but that’s where the problem begins.
Last year, as we all know, was a perfect storm for Engram, as the receiving corps for the Giants was decimated all year, leaving Engram as the only reliable starter capable of catching the ball. Now, he’ll be fighting for targets with a healthy Odell Beckham and Sterling Shephard, and he’ll see far less usage in the red zone as the Giants drafted Saquon Barkley, the best RB prospect for Big Blue in years. Could he surprise, sure, but will be finish as the TE5? Not a chance.
While the season still sits firmly on the horizon, fantasy nerds like myself help prop up the early season ADP data by grinding mock drafts despite having very little information to work with. While I’ll still examine each position with the “hidden gem” feature articles later in the summer, we’re going to provide sleeper updates on a monthly basis until the season begins.
Ryan Tannehill, MIA: Don’t confuse his inclusion on this list as a suggestion that the Dolphins are a team on the rise; because they’re not. What he is, though, is a potential top 15 fantasy quarterback available in the last few rounds of your draft. Ignoring last season, Tannehill has finished 13th (2013), 7th (2014), and 15th (2015), and turned in a dud in 2016 as the QB25 (he did miss 3 games). Those aren’t world beater numbers, but considering the relatively easy schedule he’ll face, and his ability to generate surprising yards on the ground (he averages around 200 yards per season) his floor is well above what we may expect from a player being drafted currently in the 21st round of deep drafts. As a bench player, he costs very little draft capital, but provides more upside than the other QB’s being drafted in a similar spot.
Matt Ryan, ATL: A massive drop off from his QB2 finish in 2016, Ryan’s 2017 has scared off potential suitors and saw him drop to the QB16 spot per current consensus ADP data. No longer playing with the pressures of the QB who blew the biggest super bowl lead, Ryan is poised to bounce back. Atlanta returns it’s superstar backfield, still has Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, and added Calvin Ridley at the draft, marking a very clear focus on surrounding Matty Ice with weapons. A return to the high flying offensive numbers of 2016 may be a stretch, but I’d find it hard to believe if Ryan turns in another dud this year. I fully expect a top 10 QB finish, and one that can be added in the 11th round of your draft.
Ty Montgomery, GB: I know I was derisive of Montgomery last year, but in spite of that, his current ranking (RB59, ADP – 100) is criminally low for a back that many viewed as a top 20 back last year before injuries derailed his season. While he remains an injury risk, a health Montgomery should resume his lead back role in 2018, especially in the passing game. It doesn’t hurt that he’ll be catching passes from the best QB in the game right now. If you need to add depth at the RB position, or punted on early round backs, Montgomery may help bail out a roster.
Marlon Mack, IND: While Mack was a trendy sleeper pick last year behind the aging Frank Gore, his performance over the season left a lot to be desired. In 16 games Mack garnered double digit touches only twice (in week 1 and week 8) otherwise he was an after thought in a terrible Colts offense. Now, he’s in line to be the lead back with Gore leaving for Miami, and the news that he’s fully recovered from surgery to repair a torn labrum he played the season with further cements his “sleeper” status in my mind. Even if Andrew Luck remains on the shelf, in the 8th round of drafts (ADP of 77th overall), Mack provides a solid floor while presenting plenty of upside.
Devante Parker, MIA: Last year, Parker was drafted with the expectation that he’d take a leap into the positions top 20; instead he was saddled with horrendous quarterback play and inconsistent targets following the season ending ACL injury suffered by Ryan Tannehill. While Tannehill doesn’t present much of an upgrade over Jay Cutler and co in terms of real football, he does have a great rapport with Parker. Coupled with a relatively easy schedule, an Parker is a steal at 104 overall.
Cole Beasley, DAL: Another tumultuous offseason for the Cowboys saw franchise corner stone Dez Bryant leave via free agency and Jason Witten retired. Despite the addition of Allen Hurns, the player who stands to gain the most from the absence should be Cole Beasley. After leading the team in targets in 2016, Beasley felt the effects of the Elliott suspension hard as the season saw him finish with only 36 catches on 63 targets. Let’s not forget, though, that the diminutive slot man led the team in targets in 2016 and saw a healthy 75 targets the year before. Expecting 80+ targets shouldn’t be too difficult a prediction considering that Dak Prescott has to throw to somebody and Beasely represents the best option for slot work on a run first team. Basically an afterthought in drafts so far, Beasley can be had for the low low price of nothing.
David Njoku, Cle: Coming out of college Njoku seemed like a lock to contribute right out of the gates, but as we so often find out, rookies are a crap shoot in fantasy. Now, the word is that targets are going to be scarce for the talented tight end, thanks to three very good receivers and two capable pass catching backs on the roster. I’d argue that with Tyrod Taylor’s propensity to scramble with the football, Njoku could be a nice target for owners looking to add TE depth late in drafts. While he likely won’t finish in the top 15 at the position, he’ll probably see a healthy number of targets in the red zone, giving him value regardless.
Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, Jac: One of these days my Sefarian-Jenkins take is going to pay off in spades, and this year looks like it’s the year. Uber talented, Sefarian-Jenkins toiled away on a Jets team that couldn’t get consistency on offense no matter how hard it tried. It was recently revealed that ASJ suffered from substance abuse issues that he’s since sought help for and claims that he’s sober and focused on football for the first time as a pro. Color me intrigued as an involved Sefarian-Jenkins could be a monster in fantasy, especially given the lack of top tier weapons in Jacksonville following Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns departures. A late round target, he’ll cost you next to nothing to acquire but could be a massive piece of a championship run.
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.