By Lawrence Vos – @nflfaninengland – 25th July 2019
It’s somewhat fitting that the global marketing machine that is the NFL is soon to have a presence in the city that never sleeps, where day is night and night is day, where it seems people actually have tried to break the will of chefs at an ‘all you can eat’ buffet, and where Mike Tyson’s tiger once got stolen by an orthodontist.
Las Vegas is the home to the grandest casinos and the brightest lights, along with an abundance of slot machines. In fact, it is estimated the region is home to around 200,000 slot machines. The biggest win from one of these machines was just under $40m by a software engineer from Los Angeles.
So why the gambling references in a fantasy football article you say? Well if we are to talk about slot machines, especially ones that can yield the jackpot then let’s examine 10 of the top NFL slot machines, just before you go looking for a 3rd or 4th wide receiver in your upcoming PPR (points per reception) fantasy drafts.
On our visit to Sin City let’s also stop-off at a diner or two and play the 5c machine by the broken payphone and see if we can get a few bucks worth of cheap fantasy slot action too.
To add some show-time flair let’s commence my personal countdown, sung by none other than the nippletastic Janet Jackson, who is only a few days from a two-month residency in yes, you guessed it, Las Vegas (in fact for just $4,102 per person you can get a VIP banquet ticket !!!).
Now I’m not dismissing the likes of Adam Humphries talent but unfortunately he has gone to the team where wide receivers die (the Tennessee Titans) so he does not make my top 10.
10) Braxton Berrios – New England Patriots
Berrios may not have caught a regular season ball in his short NFL career, but he landed in perhaps the single greatest place to develop, under the tutelage of Tom Brady and Sith Lord Belichick. Drafted in the 6th round of the 2018 draft Berrios was a fan favourite at ‘The U’, where he caught clutch touchdowns and established himself as potential replacement material for the likes of Danny Amendola or Julian Edelman if he ever made the pros. It was inevitable that he would end up with the Patriots, and with Edelman currently side-lined with a thumb injury this is Berrios’s opportunity to fight for a place on the 53-man roster.
9) Trey Quinn – Washington Redskins
Unless you are a hard-core Redskins fan or you have some love for the 2018 Mr Irrelevant (the person drafted last) then you may not be familiar with this guy. Another product of the SMU wide-receiver factory that has produced the likes of Courtland Sutton, Emmanuel Sanders, Aldrick Robinson and Cole Beasley, Quinn is in a position to explode onto the NFL scene in 2019. He will likely have two quarterbacks throwing to him early in the season, which may not help in terms of building confidence. Quinn made a small cameo as a rookie, scoring once in a three-game stint in November and December. The stage is set for a huge upsurge in production – possibly 70 catches for 750 yards and 7 scores, but only if he can stay healthy for at least 15 games.
8) Randall Cobb – Dallas Cowboys
Not quite a Swiss Army knife, but not far off, Randall Ladonald Cobb II has been darting his 5ft 10-inch frame around NFL fields since 2011, starting 100 games and gaining over 5,000 yards on 470 catches. Cobb has been listed as a RB/WR back in 2012, but manning a slot position is the reason he is still around, and in a game of SwapSlot he now replaces Cole Beasley in Dallas. Cobb had a quiet 2018, in part due to injury, and is expected to bounce back in 2019 catching balls from Dak Prescott. Not necessarily great expectations for Cobb in Dallas, as Amari Cooper will look to put up All-Pro numbers in 2019, but he can carve out a quality role and hope for 60-70 catches and around 5 touchdowns.
7) Jamison Crowder – New York Jets
It was always a case of ‘next season he will be a breakout beast’ but it never quite happened in Washington, so the Redskins cut ties and Crowder ended up in the snazzy new Green of the New York Jets in free-agency. Before injury cut short his 2018 season Crowder had averaged 64 catches a year, and also had a cameo role as a returner, but occasional dazzling displays have never gained the momentum to move him into the realm of a fantasy stud. Now in the Big Apple and catching the pigskin from second year passer Sam Darnold we could finally be witness to a Crowder breakout that has been threatening for almost half a decade. With Darnold’s safety blanket Chris Herndon suspended and LeVeon Bell drawing coaches’ attentions Crowder roaming the slot could be an awfully familiar sight for Jets fans by the time the white stuff makes an appearance.
6) Anthony Miller – Chicago Bears
No not the second last criminal to be executed in Scotland (look it up), and no not the son of former Chargers legend with the same name, Anthony Miller the Bears second round pick from 2018 went a little under the radar in his first professional season. 33 catches were par for the course for a rookie, a huge dip considering his junior and senior seasons at Memphis yielded 191 catches for a smidge under 3,000 yards and 32 scores. The Bears were locked on grabbing Miller and traded up to grab him, and his seven rookie touchdowns were a pleasant surprise, they in fact led the Bears and were the most by a rookie since Willie Gault in 1983. Miller will be stronger and more confident in 2019 and will enjoy his trip to London, where he will be able to show a global audience that he is going to be a star.
5) Cole Beasley – Buffalo Bills
If Cole Beasley was a cartoon character he would be Scrappy Doo, as he is a hairy fighter who fights for every yard. Another free agent signing, moving from the warmth of Texas to the chill of upstate New York and the Buffalo Bills. Josh Allen was a fantastic fantasy rookie, surprising everyone with his legs, but now he has weapons, including John ‘Smokey’ Brown, All-Pro returner Andre Roberts and Beasley, who will become a snuggle blanket. With breakout candidate Robert Foster and Brown running the medium to long routes Beasley will be that 8 yards and a smack in the mouth kinda guy, and every team needs one. Beasley won’t set the stats sheet on fire but he will keep it simmering throughout 2019 with 75-85 catches and around 800 yards.
4) Dede Westbrook – Jacksonville Jaguars
I have taken part in a bunch of PPR (Points Per Reception) drafts so far and this guy seems to be one of my mid to late round picks that I simply can’t avoid. With a legitimate, but still erratic, quarterback Nick Foles now taking the reins in Jacksonville now is the time for Westbrook to make his first Pro-Bowl appearance. 16 games in 2018 and 66 catches was a big step in the right direction for a guy who made three playoff appearances as a rookie (in 2017) but failed to make any significant impact in those postseason contests. Now Westbrook can move that production up by 1.5x and push for an eye-popping 90 catches and over 1,200 yards. Not a big name now but give it a year and he will be a legitimate 2nd round fantasy pick.
3) Cooper Kupp – Los Angeles Rams
Blighted by injury, Kupp tore his ACL in a Week 8 game last season and missed the Rams playoff run, including a trip to the Super Bowl, where he was sorely missed. Jared Goff had a torrid time against the Patriots and the lack of a wily fox in the middle of the field was apparent. Now recovered Kupp has a high ceiling, and 2019 could see him catch between 90-100 balls. In half a season he managed 40 catches and a very respectable 14 yards a catch. He caught 73% of passes thrown and caught touchdowns in 5 of his 8 outings. Kupp is a terrier and his FCS college statistics gained at Eastern Washington are in fact legendary, that legendary that he has 6,464 yards in four seasons, more than Jerry Rice. Kupp is waiting to replicate his college production in the NFL and keeping injury free he can lead the Rams in targets, receptions and touchdowns in 2019.
2) Jarvis Landry – Cleveland Browns
Not so much a YAC (yards after catch) monster as he is a ball magnet, Landry does the dirty work, the 6-yard buttonhook on 3rd and 5. With OBJ taking up the mantle of the superstar wide-out in amongst the Dawg Pound, you can’t ask for any more than someone who runs beautiful routes and is not afraid to operate in the trenches. Landry has 481 catches in his 5-year career, mostly by playing disciplined football. If London had a 2020 franchise they could not do much better in the slot than grabbing Jarvis Landry and his superglue hands. Landry boasts the most receptions in the first four years of a career in NFL history, including two seasons with over 110 catches. Simply put Landry is on target to break NFL all-time catching records if he continues this pace. With Baker Mayfield throwing him the ball who is going to bet against him becoming the fastest player to 1,000 catches by 2023. (Incidentally the record is held by former Colts great Marvin Harrison who did it in 167 games.)
1) Julian Edelman – New England Patriots
If Tom Brady is the goat then Edelman is the ferret, wriggling into places that seem impossible to reach, making clutch catch after clutch catch. What more can be said for Edelman than winning a Super Bowl MVP award, one that he fully deserved in a game that even Patriots fans won’t want to watch ever again. Edelman has already written himself into Hall of Fame contention, and on that front is a published children’s author to boot. With Rob Gronkowski retired (well temporarily) Edelman will be the leader of the skill players both on and off the field. Providing his thumb injury heals nicely in August Edelman could produce a season for the ages with 100-110 catches and around 1,150 yards. Tom Brady may not be human, and that cyborg mentality has rubbed off on Edelman who has made more clutch catches than Ben Stokes and the rest of the England cricket team put together.