by Adam Walford – @TouchdownTips
Every year in the NFL there’s a below the radar pick who blows up and finishes in the top 24 of their positions, obviously, our job as GM of our fantasy teams is to try and find those diamonds in the rough. While that’s not an easy thing with the popularity of fantasy football online and the amount of information out there posting very similar information it’s something that we all strive to find.
The key things that I look for are changes in circumstance, whether it’s a change of Head Coach, or Offensive Coordinator, injuries to team-mates, or just buzz coming from beat-writers during the offseason, all these things can improve or diminish a players impact in real life and in fantasy football.
First up is a name you’ll find on every break-out list all over the internet, but it’s one I couldn’t possibly ignore:
Chris Godwin – Wide Receiver, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (ADP WR19 – Last season 155.7pts, WR24)
Godwin is on my list due to the change of Head Coach in Tampa. Bruce Arians comes out of a very quick retirement to try and convince Jameis Winston not to throw the ball to the opposition for a while, he brings with him Byron Leftwich who he described as a “rising star in the business.”
The Tampa defense hasn’t been a good unit over the years and they’re in a tough division against some very good offenses, this generally means they need to score points and the best way to do that is to let your QB chuck the rock around.
He will be WR2 to superstar wideout Mike Evans, who should have a great season, but there’s a lot of seasons where QBs have managed to support a WR1 and 2 in fantasy scoring.
Last year Godwin finished with 7 TDs, 842 yards at an average of 14.3 yards per reception. Over his career, Bruce Arians has deployed 4 WR sets 42% of the time when the league average is down at 10%.
Obviously, that means a guaranteed increase in snaps for Chris Godwin, and don’t forget the likes of Breshad Perriman, Justin Watson and Scotty Miller who should also benefit from Arians’ system.
Rashaad Penny – Running Back, Seattle Seahawks (ADP RB33 – Last season 65.9pts, RB64)
It’s not often that a running back drafted in the first round gets so relatively few carries in an offense (419 yards from 85 carries at a touch under 5 yards per carry), especially in one that uses the run game so often (53% of their plays last year used the run game).
Penny’s first season got off to a poor start due to a broken finger which allowed teammte Chris Carson to get the bulk of the carries and keep the main job for the majority of the season.
In the small sample size I saw of Penny though, I thought he was a great runner especially behind the poor Seattle offensive line which was the reason they drafted him anyway.
Penny led college running backs in broken tackles in his final year for San Diego State, something that the Seahawks undoubtedly picked up on. Another reason for him playing second fiddle was that he wasn’t up to scratch pass protecting; That’s something which can be taught though, and he’ll have improved on that last season and during training camps.
Another plus for Penny is that Carson missed OTAs with injury meaning he got all of the first-team reps and Pete Carroll runs the ultimate meritocracy, so if you’re playing well he’ll keep you in there.
Christian Kirk – Wide Receiver, Arizona Cardinals (ADP WR33: Last season 102 pts, WR57)
Kirk was having a pretty decent season in a horrible situation in Arizona last year; he had a rookie QB playing behind an atrocious offensive line last season and they ran an historically low number of plays and failed to move the ball.
Once again the change in coaching is a major reason here. Kliff Kingsbury comes in and will be bringing the air raid offense to the NFL with quick passes abound. They drafted Kyler Murray at #1 who threw for 4,361 and 42 TDs in his final year of college, as well as 3 WRs this year from the second round onwards.
None of those receivers has a history with Murray, whereas Kirk had a year with Murray for Texas A & M in 2015 and now has a year of NFL experience under his belt.
Last season Kirk finished with 590 yards in 12 games at an average of nearly 14 YPC. I think the whole offense will be far more productive this year, probably running around 100 more plays than last season, and he, Larry Fitzgerald and probably Andy Isabella will be the main three guys in 3 WR sets – more time on the field, more plays, more production. Bosh.
Mark Andrews – Tight End, Baltimore Ravens (ADP TE20: Last season 90.2pts, TE17)
One of my Fantasy crushes this offseason is available for essentially nothing at the end of most mock drafts. He formed a good connection with Lamar Jackson and his less-than-accurate arm last season. In fact, in the games since Lamar Jackson took over at QB, Andrews had 308 yards and 1 TD, converting 13 of his 18 targets in that time which was a 771-yard season pace, which would have seen him fifth in yards for Tight ends last year.
Add to this they drafted Marquise Brown to keep defenses honest and add some much needed speed down the field, his addition should help free up space in the middle of the field where Mark Andrews roams.
The worry here would be that Hayden Hurst steps up and avoids injuries in his second year in the league, but seeing as he missed OTAs already and Andrews was always the better offensive weapon I don’t see that being too much of an issue. Given that he’s practically free at the end of most drafts, I think he’s a brilliant pickup.
John Ross – Wide Receiver, Cincinnati Bengals (ADP WR 101 – Last season 74.4 pts, WR81)
Confession time – the reason for this guy being on the list is that a) I haven’t seen anyone else mention him and b) I’m allowed a homer pick aren’t I?!
Another wide receiver, another change of head coach and the possibility of better utilisation in the new system. Guess how many TDs he had last year? 2? 3? Nope, he ended with 7 TDs from 21 receptions, a lot of them from within the redzone.
While he does seem to have been a combine warrior so far in his career, something that I can’t deny too vociferously, he utilised his quickness as well as his speed last season to gain quick separation at the line of scrimmage.
If you want to get technical, he had a meteoric rise in targets from his first year at the Bengals, 29 times more in fact. If that happens again this year he’ll finish with 1,682 targets for the year!
Back to this upcoming year, he’s now under the coaching of someone from the Sean McVay coaching tree and it seems likely that he brings in some of the same creativity that works so well in LA, from what I’ve been hearing it will include an increase in play-action passes which should allow more time for players to get into space down the field.
I believe if Ross is used as he should be that he’ll be able to get separation and get free downfield to add to his redzone TDs.
All ADPs and previous season points are half PPR scoring from fantasypros.com