Fantasy: Free Agency Period – The Winners

by Rob Grimwood – @FFBritBaller

It’s been a busy free agency for NFL teams over the last couple of weeks; but a much needed and welcome distraction to everything else that’s currently happening in the world.

But what do these moves mean for your fantasy teams in 2020? Over the next two articles, i’m going to break down the winners and the losers from all of the transactions that have taken place so far.


Kyler Murray


The Arizona Cardinals pulled of a move during the free agency that left everybody scratching their heads, wondering how they pulled off such a coup. That was, of course, the acquisition of superstar receiver DeAndre Hopkins from the Houston Texans.

Kyler Murray all of a sudden now has one of the most tantalising skill set offenses in the NFL. From Hopkins to legendary Hall of Fame receiver Larry Fitzgerald returning for one last year, and the emerging star of Christian Kirk alongside 2nd year hopefuls Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler and KeeSean Johnson. The Kliff Kingsbury ‘air raid’ offense really has got no excuses to be raking up the air miles on the field in 2020.

Photo Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

After a QB7 rookie campaign in fantasy last year, it’s hard to think Murray will be doing anything other than improving on that. Kenyan Drake made a good enough impression since his move from Miami that he’s earned another year on this offense too, yet another reliable, tried and trusted weapon for Kyler out of the backfield.

It’s exciting times for Cards fans and this ever-improving offense, fantasy fans should be sharing this excitement for Kyler Murray, there’s no such thing as too many weapons when it comes to fantasy QB’s


Amari Cooper


Staying in Dallas was one of the best places for Cooper to keep his fantasy value. He clearly loves it there in ‘Jerryworld’, and the feeling seems to be mutual between the fans and the other players.

In his 25 games for the Cowboys, Cooper has amassed 1,914 receiving yards with 14 touchdowns; that’s 77 yards per game and a touchdown every other game (0.56 TD’s per game). For context, that’s in the same vicinity as DeAndre Hopkins’ time in Houston (78 yards per game average with 0.49 TD’s per game) and Mike Evans in Tampa Bay (80 yards per game with 0.53 TD’s per game). Both of which will be within the top 2 wide receiver tiers for 2020.

Dez Bryant had many productive seasons as a WR1 in fantasy football from his time in Dallas with Tony Romo and Dak Prescott under centre. Now it is time for Amari to step up and continue being the reliable receiving option for the Cowboys and fantasy owners in turn for the next few years.


Indianapolis Colts’ Receivers


Indy is lacking in skill position depth, but those that are there have just received a significant bump up in fantasy value with the upgrade of quarterback to Philip Rivers. Jacoby Brissett was admirable, and was far from terrible, but he wasn’t the best at getting great receiving production out of anyone not named T.Y Hilton.

Photo Credit: SI .com

Rivers in an experienced veteran who finally has a competent offensive line ahead of him to give him enough protection to provide some actual time in the pocket rather than being constantly under pressure like he was for the Chargers, especially in recent years.

I expect Indy will add to their receiving corps through the upcoming draft; but for now, T.Y Hilton cements himself as a fringe WR1 for a likely cheap price of a 4th/5th round pick, and last year’s rookie Parris Campbell will likely be in the sleeper category for analysts as the season grows closer.

If Jack Doyle remains the only pass catching tight end in Indy too, expect his value to also rise in a treacherous tight end fantasy landscape as Rivers has always produced fantasy relevant TE’s with the likes of Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry in the past.

One of my favourite sleepers already also due to the Rivers’ upgrade, is running back Nyheim Hines. The swiss army knife is Indy’s version of Austin Ekeler (see later in article for Ekeler’s 2019 production), who should see plenty of work in the passing game out of the backfield.


Cleveland Brown’s Skill Players


One of the main contributing factors for the Browns’ miserable 2019 campaign was the offensive line, or lack-of, being unable to give Baker Mayfield time in the pocket.

Jack Conklin (former Titans OT) is a massive upgrade for that line and you can only imagine Cleveland will be taking whichever stud tackle is left with the 10th pick of the 2020 draft.

These pieces may well prove to be the difference for this offense which will open up the fantasy value for all of the keys players. Nick Chubb had a great season in 2019 and was third in the NFL for rushing yards (1,494) and has 18 combined touchdowns since becoming a Brown in 2017 so we can expect that to continue. As we can with Jarvis Landry, as he once again will benefit from OBJ taking the premier defense away, like in 2019. OBJ’s production might rise once again if Mayfield is able to improve and between David Njoku and newly acquired Austin Hooper, the tight ends’ should have their week to week match-up based values too.


Austin Ekeler


With all the running back moves this off-season, i don’t think any have won more so than Austin Ekeler has. Not only does he see Melvin Gordon move away (to the Denver Broncos) from the backfield and no significant replacement brought in, he finds himself in a passing offense that will be moving forward with someone new. Therefore, a bigger emphasis may be placed on the tried and trusted running game with Ekeler as the sole star.

Photo Credit: Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press

The beauty of the situation is- even if the Chargers do bring in another running back, they probably aren’t going to be the same quality as Melvin Gordon where Ekeler was still productive enough to see him finish as the RB4 in PPR scoring (RB8 in non-PPR) last season.

The new QB in LA will likely be a rookie in from the first round, if not the veteran Tyrod Taylor who served as Rivers’ backup last season. Either way, Ekeler is going to be hyper-targeted out of the backfield and should be a top 10 PPR running back once again in 2020.

NFL Free Agents: Spinning the wheel of fortune

By Sean Tyler (@SeanTylerUK)

With the franchise tag deadline and free agency looming, it’s time for the @Full10Yards top 10 free agents list (five on each side of the ball) and some thoughts on where they might land ahead of the 2020 season. Thanks to Instagram, we know the 41-year-old Drew Brees is returning to the Superdome for at least another year with the Saints. So while he’s technically still a free agent, he isn’t on this list. So who is? Let’s spin the wheel…


TOP OFFENSIVE FREE AGENTS


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Image Credit: Paul Sancya/AP

1. Dak Prescott (QB) – Dallas Cowboys


He began his time at Dallas by winning Offensive Rookie of the Year and most recently, he led one of the league’s top offenses, throwing for 4,902 yards and 30 touchdowns in his best campaign yet.

But the cheap deal has run out and someone has to pay the dude. Will it be the Cowboys? It seems they’ll have to go north of $30 million a year, which begs the question “Is he actually worth that?” That’s quite a pay-out but the Cowboys seem to want to build around him. Being the franchise poster-boy for the next few years comes at a price.

Safe bet: Dallas. To quote Jerry Jones, “He’s our quarterback of the future” so it looks increasingly likely that the Cowboys will retain Prescott. He’ll want to cash in on his potential and Jones will make him a happy camper.

Long shot: Dallas. Nope, it’s still the Cowboys. Al three of the team’s most valuable players have expiring contracts (that’s Amari Cooper and Byron Jones too) and it’ll be hard to keep all three. With contract talks back up and running again, Dak seems to be the one who’s going nowhere.


Image credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

2. Amari Cooper (WR) – Dallas Cowboys


Oh boy, do the ‘Boys have free agency headaches. The former Raider filled Dez Bryant’s cleats well but well enough to get top dollar? He’s not perfect but he’s the best receiver available and by that score, he won’t come cheap. If Dallas don’t think he’s worth $20 million a year, or think that paying Prescott, Cooper and corner Byron Jones will break the bank, he might walk.

Safe bet: Dallas. Theoretically, Jerry Jones could pay Dak and tag Cooper, keeping another star in the Lone Star State and giving Coach Mike McCarthy quite the toolkit in his first season.

Long shot: Washington. The Redskins have the cap space to pull the trigger. Imagine if their divisional rivals snaffled Cooper to go alongside rising stars Terry McLaurin and Dwayne Haskins.


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Image Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel

3. Ryan Tannehill (QB) – Tennessee Titans

I doubt any player boosted his reputation more in 2019 than Tannehill. His sensational second-half of the season, leading Tennessee well into the playoffs, suggests he may have more to offer than the waning old men, Brady and Rivers.

He resurrected his own career and the Titans’ season, and will probably get a tag of some sort. He obviously benefitted from Derrick Henry’s success, but he seemed pretty mobile in the pocket and kept making the throws asked of him.

Safe bet: Tennessee. The Titans shouldn’t overpay a guy who had three good months and who might not hit the same dizzy heights again but the franchise tag buys them a year’s grace.

Long shot: New England. Neither GM Jon Robinson nor HC Mike Vrabel seem that upbeat about him and the Brady-to-Nashville whispers just won’t go away. With a straight swap, could the reincarnated Tannehill continue his renaissance under Bill Belichick?

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Image Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

4. Derrick Henry (RB) – Tennessee Titans


Henry was the top rusher in the league last year, with 1,540 yards and 18 TDs. Going for over 180 yards in both his postseason games, there’s no hint of him easing up or slowing down.

Despite helping the Titans ride their late-season wave of glory, Henry is a running back. And these days, they don’t keep getting paid, especially if they’re a non-factor in the receiving game (Henry had just 28 targets all year). Like Dallas, the Titans have two big contracts to sort out. They could pay Tannehill first and then see what they can offer Henry, or vice versa.

Safe bet: Tennessee. He’s among the top RBs, on a resurgent team with a decent O-line, and in a system that clearly works for all concerned. Why leave Nashville?

Long shot: Houston. With Carlos Hyde unlikely to stay, adding a tank like Henry to the backfield could help the Texans take the next step in 2020.


Image Credit: Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire

5. AJ Green (WR) – Cincinnati Bengals


Valuing AJ Green is a toughie. He was an elite wideout when we last saw him but thanks to toe and ankle injuries, that was 18 months ago. Despite being 31 and without any tape from last season, Green should still have some juice in the tank. We just don’t know how much.

Green wants to stay if the price is right. If healthy, Green would be the ideal pro to help Joe Burrow ease into the NFL, having had 1,000-yard seasons in six of his eight years in the NFL. Cincy didn’t trade him during the season so it’s hard to see him going now.

Safe bet: Cincinnati. Just a few weeks ago, Green said he wanted to be a Bengal his whole career. The most likely scenario is that he stays for a prove-you’ve-still-got-it year.

Long shot: Las Vegas. If contract talks break down or Green is tagged-and-traded, the Raiders could do with a skill position upgrade. They are sorted for slot receiver, running back and tight end but a true outside track star would be the missing piece.


TOP DEFENSIVE FREE AGENTS


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Image Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

1. Chris Jones (DT) – Kansas City Chiefs

If Jones hits the open market, he is primed to get paid. $18 million a year is the going rate for a wrecking ball of a defensive tackle who’s notched 24.5 sacks in the last two seasons. Jones is a rare beast who can dominate games… even alongside Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes.

An explosive pass rusher and Pro-Bowler who can stand shoulder to shoulder with Aaron Donald and JJ Watt, Jones could expect top whack. But can the Chiefs (available cap space: $13.7 million) afford him, having given something in that ballpark to Frank Clark already? A monster extension to Mahomes will also be needed when the time comes.

Safe bet: Kansas City: The Chiefs should keep Jones but may need to tag him for at least another year.

Long shot: Indianapolis. Maybe KC apply the tag but trade him for draft compensation. The Colts could be up for such a move, as they have draft picks to play with and need some pass-rush help.


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Image Credit: Michael Reaves/Getty Images

2. Shaquil Barrett (EDGE) – Tampa Bay Buccaneers


As mentioned in a recent season in review piece, Bruce Arians said of Barrett: “He ain’t going anywhere.” Given his league-leading 19.5 sacks in 2019, they can’t let him walk but there’s still a chance that Barrett is a one-hit wonder. His four seasons in Denver were decent enough but in that time, he only got 14 sacks. That muddies the water somewhat.

Safe bet: Tampa Bay. He’ll stay put, although it would be wise for the Bucs to use the franchise tag and check last year wasn’t a fluke. Then, he will seriously reap the rewards down the line if he continues on his current trajectory.

Long shot: Tampa Bay. He’s already talked of giving Tampa a “home-town discount” due to Florida’s income tax arrangements so that’s another tick in the “not going anywhere” column.


Image Credit: Chris Szagola/Associated Press

3. Jadeveon Clowney (EDGE) – Seattle Seahawks


Clowney is an enigma. His production doesn’t live up to the billing – he had just three sacks last year and is yet to hit double figures – and he’s had some niggly injuries. But he produces big, game-defining moments, and he’s got the time and potential to grow as a pass rusher.

For a change, I’m not predicting a franchise tag scenario here because the Seahawks agreed not to use it when they acquired him from Houston. And they got him for a song in the first place. So despite non-elite production, Clowney can expect to become one of the highest-paid defenders in the NFL. We’re talking something like $100 million over five years. Ouch.

Safe bet: Seattle. It’s no secret that Russell Wilson wants him to stay and Head Coach Pete Carroll won’t want to further weaken a defensive line that ranked 31st in pass rushing last year. We’ll see him at CenturyLink Field next season for sure.

Long shot: Houston: I know, I know, but bringing Clowney back might not be as dumb as it sounds. The Texans’ passing defence was porous and JJ Watt isn’t getting any younger, so a newer model could give their edge rushing a timely boost.


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Image Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

4. Yannick Ngakoue (Edge) – Jacksonville Jaguars


Think of him like those Velociraptors in the original Jurassic Park film, sneaking in – quickly and silently – hunting down quarterbacks and flaying them alive with their oversized talons… err, sorry, got a bit carried away there. It’s actually more like rushing the passer, getting sacks and forcing errors.

He’s clocked 37.5 sacks through his first four seasons but if he gets elite money now, he’s getting overpaid.

Safe bet: Jacksonville. He’s still young and even in an off-year like 2019, Ngakoue’s eight sacks and 50 total pressures last season – his lowest since he was a rookie – was quite a nice floor.

Long shot: Buffalo. The Jags are strapped and it’ll cost a cool $20 million to keep him. But the Bills have the dosh. They are also losing Lorenzo Alexander to retirement and Shaq Lawson is also hitting free agency, so could have a couple of major gaps to fill.


5. Justin Simmons (Safety) – Denver Broncos


Big, fast and springy, Simmons is a run-breaker and a ball hawk, with 94 tackles and four interceptions in 2019. Those stats made the 26-year-old Pro Football Focus’ top safety last season, signalling a massive step up this year. But the teams sniffing around will need to kick the tyres to make sure he’s not another one-year breakout player getting top dollar for one unrepresentative season.

Safe bet: Denver. Simmons has evolved from a third-round draft pick into an essential element of the Broncos D so I suspect keeping him in Mile High City is a priority for John Elway, even if it’s via the franchise tag for now.

Long shot: San Francisco. If the Niners can’t keep hold of Jimmie Ward, especially given his history with injuries, yer man Simmons could be a great fit in the Bay.


ALSO IN THE PICTURE


Tom Brady (QB), New England Patriots

I couldn’t not mention Brady, could I? Time is catching up with TB12 after 20 seasons but given his stature in the game, he will still turn heads, even though he’s on the wane – he was only the 11th-ranked quarterback in 2019. I doubt he’ll want to up-sticks and start again at the ripe old age of 43 so staying in New England for one last hurrah with Uncle Bill Belichick before he sails off into the sunset doesn’t seem unreasonable. But if you wanna gamble and put it all on red, the Las Vegas Raiders have a youthful core and the financial where-with-all to add weapons around him.

Philip Rivers (QB), Los Angeles Chargers

Although a relative spring chicken (a mere 38), Rivers’ arm isn’t what it was, what little mobility he had is long gone and he had 20 INTs last year. That said, he also threw for more than 4,600 yards and 23 touchdowns so all is not lost. Rivers won’t be back in LA so again, Indianapolis would make a lot of sense. Their offensive line works and Rivers would be reunited with former Chargers QB assistant Frank Reich. Thinking more out of the box, he’s just moved to his family to Florida. Tampa Bay anyone?

Jameis Winston (QB), Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jameis is your guy if you want a bucketload of throws, thousands of yards, loads of touchdowns and a million interceptions. He’s high risk, high stakes, high reward. The Buccaneers are considering living dangerously again by bringing back the all-and-nothing QB, using the franchise tag for damage limitation. Failing that, the Indianapolis Colts GM said the jury’s still out on Jacoby Brissett.

Brandon Scherff (G), Washington Redskins

Scherff is a run-blocking guard who might have broken into the top 10 if he’d stayed healthy. Despite taking to the field only 19 times in two years, he’s arguably the best interior lineman in this year’s free agent class. The three-time Pro Bowler and former first round pick should stay with the Redskins under new HC Ron Rivera but if he doesn’t, let’s pretend for a moment the Cincinnati Bengals actually engaged in free agency. Scherff would help a terrible O-line protect some young whippersnapper called Burrow.

Byron Jones (CB), Dallas Cowboys

Despite hip surgery last offseason, Jones backed up his breakout 2018 campaign with another top year. Versatile enough to also play safety, Jones will be the top corner on the market which, according to the laws of supply and demand, means he’ll get paid above and beyond his ability. Minnesota could improve at corner, with Xavier Rhodes’ form falling away and Trae Waynes heading for free agency, while the Philadelphia Eagles could help their injury-ravaged secondary by poaching from a divisional rival.

Jury’s Out on Dak Prescott – Rob vs Lawrence

Rob’s Take – Pro Dak

You know that face you pull when you take that first sip of morning coffee but you forgot to put the sugar in? Well, after converting the masses into loving Austin Seferian-Jenkins this year for fantasy football three weeks ago (there is no statistical evidence for this claim, only assumption), I quickly found out that the face you pull for sugar-less coffee is remarkably similar to the face you pull when you have to eat humble pie. Cheers ASJ.

Nonetheless, I have a better feeling about this standoff with Lawrence, because this shouldn’t be a hard sell at all.

Dak’s Offense

It must be nice as a Quarterback in the National Football League when you know those 5 guys protecting you from getting decked by abnormally large and powerful humans are really good at their jobs. That’s the case for Dak. The Cowboys’ offensive line has been one of the best in the league for a few years now and with the recent news that Travis Frederick is participating in training camp, it may be getting back to full force.

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Photo Credit: Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star Telegram

Centre Fredricks, Tackle Tyron Smith, and Guard Zach Martin are all top 5 players in their respective positions and with Left Guard Connor Williams looking to build on a solid rookie campaign, it should be routine for this line to keep Dak upright in the pocket and buy him plenty of time to find his targets or stretch his legs

The receiving corps is the best Dak’s had to work with so far in his 3-year career too. Amari Cooper showed that he is more than capable of being a productive WR1 with 725 yards and 6 touchdowns off 53 receptions in the 9 games as a Cowboy is 2018, and Michael Gallup proved he can be an effective field stretcher with a healthy 15.4 yards per reception in his rookie campaign. Add seasoned veterans Randall Cobb and the return of Jason Witten into the fold too and it’s fair to say Dak has a solid core of decent receivers to throw passes to.

Ezekiel Elliott’s workload in the passing game went up considerably last season as he became a pivotal piece in Prescott’s arsenal. He saw more targets and receptions in 2018 than his first two seasons in the league combined. It worked too as he finished the season contributing 3 touchdowns and 567 yards through the air. A fair reason to believe this trend is likely to continue in 2019.

Fantasy Outlook

In the three seasons Dak has been under centre for the Cowboys he’s somewhat flown under the radar in fantasy circles. He’s finished those three seasons as the QB6, 10 and 10 respectively.

Rushing Quarterbacks are the new trend in fantasy football. Players like Prescott, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, and Cam Newton probably won’t be given Hall of Fame status at the end of their careers, but when rushing yards and touchdowns get you points in fantasy football, points win prizes.

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Photo Credit: Michael Ainsworth/AP

Dak is in the conversation of “rushing Quarterback”. He’s certainly undervalued as a rusher anyway. He’s scored 6 rushing touchdowns each season since entering the league and seems to camp around the 300-320 rushing yard mark, which he should be able to repeat this season too.

With the O-line potentially back at full strength and the quality of receivers improving heading into this season, I just don’t see how he finishes lower than his QB10 floor.

His current Average Draft Position is 12.06 in 12 team leagues which translates to be the 19th QB off the board. Yes, 19th. This goes to prove that if you play in 1QB leagues, don’t waste an early pick on a Mahomes, Luck or Rodgers, draft more valuable RB’s or WR’s in those spots instead and pick Dak up at the end of your drafts.

Mark my words, Dak Prescott will be on fantasy championship winning rosters in 2019, and he’s effectively free.

By Rob Grimwood – @FFBritBaller

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Lawrence’s Take – Anti Prescott

Dak Prescott is a marketing agency’s dream ticket. A young, healthy, controversy-free quarterback who is the signal-caller for ‘America’s Team’. According to ESPN in 2017 Prescott earned five times his salary in endorsements, chomping down on tortilla chips, chugging on soup and washing it down with some well-known dark-brown fizzy beverages.

We can conclude from this commercial success that Dak is not shy. Being the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys is perhaps the single most scrutinised position in the NFL, with the exception of the pigskin passers in the Big Apple.

Prescott’s History

We all know Dak was a 2016 fourth-round pick who led his team to 13 regular season wins as a rookie, a feat that nobody predicted.

Where the win total abruptly ended in 2016 was the divisional playoffs where Dak was out-dueled by Aaron Rodgers in a 31-34 home loss. The Cowboys went 28-13 down before Dak tossed two fourth-quarter touchdowns.

In 2017 the Cowboys finished with a winning record but failed to make the playoffs. A major lull in November resulted in three consecutive losses and just one team touchdown in those games. The Dak-led Cowboys were outscored by 70 points in those games, effectively eliminating them from the playoffs.

Last season Dallas won the NFC East, winning seven of their last eight with victories by tiny margins (7, 3, 8, 3, 6, 7 and 1) laying a goose egg against the Colts in Week 15.

Dak did scrape past the Seahawks for his first (and only to date) playoff victory, but when they traveled to Los Angeles to face the Rams in the divisional round, Dak found himself down by 16 in the third quarter. The deficit was down to Dak’s failure to generate yardage after an early score. The Rams forced Dallas to punt on four consecutive drives, holding the Cowboys scoreless in the second quarter.

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Photo Credit: Brad Loper/Fort Worth Star Telegram

In 2018 Dak did lead the NFL in one rather show-stopping statistics – most lost fumbles. His 12 butter-fingered blunders were admittedly tied with three other quarterbacks. He also threw a pedestrian 22 touchdowns, far less than two a game, ranking him 16th. Dak’s passing yards per game (242.8) was under studs like Case Keenum, Derek Carr and Eli Manning.

As a mobile quarterback, Dak is able to tuck and run if needed, but despite his rushing attempts in 2018 being his most ever, his y.p.c. was his career low (4.1). What cannot be denied is his consistency in rushing touchdowns, six a season now for three consecutive years.

2019 Fantasy Outlook

Dak is solid, in both body size and fantasy football, but he is not spectacular. He remains one of those third-tier quarterbacks that will be drafted, but anyone reaching for him anywhere before rounds 9-10 needs a serious talking to.

Prescott will have Jason Witten back after his Dennis Miller-like stint in the broadcasting booth, as well as a full season of Amari Cooper, but Dallas will still want to feed Zeke at every opportunity.

Dak is a fantasy ‘blah’, someone you will draft once you have seen the mega-studs go off the board, followed by the quarterbacks that will confidently rush for over 500 yards.

Prescott is a personal preference quarterback who will more likely be drafted to a fantasy bench than not.

If you hit round’s 9-10 and have still not drafted a quarterback then you likely have to pick from the likes of Roethlisberger, Rivers, Goff, Prescott and Winston. Personally I would grab Philip Rivers around this stage, or wait a round or two longer and pick up second-year breakout possibilities Josh Allen or Lamar Jackson (both complete with bonus rushing yardage).

Dak is a stand-up kinda guy, just don’t confuse all that smiling and eating yogurt as a sign you are drafting a fantasy stud.

By Lawrence Vos – (@NFLFanInEngland)