Predicting the Playoff Merry-Go-Round

By Shaun Blundell – @Shaun_F10Y

One of the great things about the NFL is its designed to produce parity across its competing teams. Recent history suggests that roughly half of the teams that make the playoffs one year do not repeat 12 months later. Predicting the playoff field in August is a tough gig but without further ado let’s predict the 12 strong field and detail those that have been replaced and why.

Dropping Out

Chicago Bears – The formula for the Bears last year was to win tight games and win the turnover battle. It’s tough to win close games 2 years in a row, and can the defence turn over the ball as regularly? It’s a lot to ask, add in the fact that it’s a loaded division and I can see the Bears slipping out of the playoff field this season.

Seattle Seahawks – Russell Wilson is brilliant, but I just don’t see an awful lot else to get excited about on the Seattle roster. The once feared defence is certainly lacking star quality outside of Bobby Wagner and although Pete Carroll will have them competitive as always, but I can’t see another playoff run this year.

Philadelphia Eagles – I think it will be tight in the division (see below) but I don’t think the runner up record in the NFC East will be good enough for a wildcard spot. So much will depend on Carson Wentz after the safety net that was Nick Foles has been removed.

Houston Texans – The Texans roster has plenty of individual star power with the likes of Watt, Clowney, Hopkins and Watson but lacks overall depth. The offensive line and secondary are big concerns in what is a pass first league, and I believe they will not overcome both.

Baltimore Ravens – How long will it take for defences to catch up with the run heavy approach of Lamar Jackson and co? The Chargers handled them comfortably in last year’s playoffs and Jackson will have to develop quickly as a passer to allow the offence to be more balanced. I don’t think that happens this year, if at ever does.

Repeat Performances

New Orleans Saints – Drew Brees has possibly 1 last chance to win at all and despite a strong division, I can see the Saints playing in January again next year.

LA Rams – I don’t buy a post Super Bowl hangover as there is just too much talent on this team along with question marks on others in the division.

Dallas Cowboys – QB question marks for the Skins and Giants probably make the NFC a 2-way fight between the Cowboys and Eagles. I’ll take the Cowboys, just!

Kansas City Chiefs – Still questions defensively but the offence will more than carry the Chiefs with MVP, Pat Mahomes entering year 3.

New England Patriots – Don’t they just always win the AFC East? Hard to see past yet another divisional crown in 2019.

LA Chargers – It could be another wild-card berth for the Chargers but expect them to go back and forth with the Chiefs all season.

Indianapolis Colts – After a poor start in 2018 a red-hot finish followed. Andrew Luck should be able to lead the Colts to the postseason as division winners this time around.

New Kids on the Block

Minnesota Vikings – Expect a greater return from the Kirk Cousins investment in year 2 with a better O-line in front of him. I still see the Vikings as the most complete team in the division and if they can keep Thielen and Diggs healthy along with Dalvin Cook I expect the offence to roll. Defensively the return most of the key players and Anthony Barr’s U-turn on the New York Jets in free agency is a massive plus.

Atlanta Falcons – The Falcons were dealt huge injury blows to the defence last year and assuming that they don’t suffer the same fate they should be a middle of the road unit this time around. Matt Ryan and the high-powered offence will carry this team and Julio Jones thinks he might put up 3,00 yards receiving! I can’t see that but I can certainly see a big season from Atlanta and expect them to find a wild card berth.

Green Bay Packers – Call it blind faith but assuming Aaron Rodgers plays a full 16 games, I think the Packers find a way to get it done. Mike Pettine plays good aggressive defence and has plenty of young talent to work with. They are always so strong at home so if they can find a couple of road wins I believe they will sneak into a wildcard.

Cleveland Browns – I know…..believe it when you see it, it is the Browns! It is just impossible to look past how much talent has been assembled on this roster in just a year and a half under John Dorsey. Baker Mayfield, OBJ, Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb, Denzel Ward, Myles Garret to name but a few of the stars that will be suiting up in orange and brown. It’s been a while, and as Browns fan it’s been painful, but this season promises to be great.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Similar to what I said about the Patriots, they just don’t miss the postseason party very often. Minus the diva that is Antonio Brown and the diva that is Le’Veon Bell, look for Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster and James Conner to have nice campaigns. The Steelers have a habit of playing up or down to their competition and if the Browns do indeed fire then look for the AFC North to be sending 2 representatives into the January competition.

In Summary

So there you go, your 12 playoff teams are as follows: –

NFC – Saints, Rams, Cowboys, Vikings, Falcons & Packers

AFC – Chiefs, Patriots, Colts, Browns, Chargers & Steelers

Prediction for the Superbowl? Don’t be silly, nobody can predict what is going to happen that far advance in the NFL!

I’ve Got Your Back

By Lawrence Vos, 6 June 2019 (@NFLFANINENGLAND)

In Baseball they are called relief pitchers, guys who come out of a pen, previously occupied by bulls, to try and either maintain a winning position or play an important part in reviving a team’s chance of winning.

In the NFL they are called backup quarterbacks, and their appearance on a playing field is normally one of two scenarios, either as a tokenistic couple of kneel-downs to finish a game that’s outcome has long been decided or to replace either an injured or ineffective starter.

Nobody actually wants to be a backup quarterback, pretending to be the ultimate team player, but secretly wishing the starter throws a pick-six on his first drive.

The position is personified by the iconically named Clipboard Jesus, Mr Charlie Whitehurst. The hirsute wizard played for seven teams, winning two of nine career starts. (A little sprinkling of trivia here, Whitehurst was part of a trade from Seattle to San Diego in 2010 that saw the Seahawks grab Golden Tate with the second round pick they acquired.)

Backups can be both loved and feared by fans, adored if they are about to come in and mount a John Rambo style rescue mission, and frightening if they are that obscure nobody even knows who they are or what college they played for. Cue the likes of Chad Litton in Kansas City who could out-duel Chad Henne this pre-season to gain the spot behind Patrick Mahomes. Litton by the way went to Marshall, was an UDFA in 2018 having been signed, waived, and then moved his entire rookie season to the practice squad with KC.

It also turns out backup quarterbacks make excellent coaches. Who would have thought spending years and years in the shadows of greatness would actually payoff? Three names immediately spring to mind here – Gary Kubiak, Frank Reich and Doug Pederson.

Kubiak, now assistant head-coach in Minnesota, will be hoping to revive the form of another former backup in the form of Kirk Cousins. Kubiak backed up John Elway for nine seasons, including three times in Super Bowls, before moving into coaching in 1995. Kubiak was again patient, and when he returned for a third time to the Rockies he led the Broncos to a Super Bowl win.

Pederson followed in a similar vein to Kubiak, with 10 seasons in the NFL and just three wins (the exact same number a Kubiak), but he managed to get a ring in 1996, backing up Brett Favre in Super Bowl XXXI, getting on the field as the holder on kicks. Pederson went on to win a second ring as the Eagles head coach, behind the talents of yep – a backup quarterback.

In contrast Reich has the unenviable record of being the only backup quarterback in NFL history to be the backup in four consecutive Super Bowls, behind the legendary Jim Kelly.  Now head coach of the Colts, its highly likely he joins Kubiak and Pederson as a Super Bowl winner, maybe even as early as this upcoming season.

The second-string quarterback can make or break a team. Examples of overwhelming success by a backup include Nick Foles with the Eagles (2017) and Jeff Hostetler with the Giants (1990) both who went on to lift the Lombardi Trophy when all was said and done.

Now the full-time starter in Jacksonville, Foles, playing in his second stint with Philly (he was an original Eagles draft pick in 2012) is the most recent example of zero to hero, leading the Eagles to an improbable Super Bowl win, and almost a second consecutive trip to the promised land in 2018. Not that Cody Parkey had anything to do with the Eagles 2018 playoff progression.

So who are the cream of the veteran clipboard (or should I say Microsoft Surface) holding crop coming into 2019? If the likes of Big Ben finally does a London Bridge, or if Mayfield mutilates his meniscus who are the top 10 backup quarterbacks heading into the 2019 season.

10)  AJ McCarron – Houston Texans

McCarron has made this list based on potential and not on any kind of actual achievement. A lifetime backup, with just three starts (in 2015 for the Bengals), McCarron is an insurance policy in Houston. He was signed by the Bills in March 2018 but never played a down, as he was traded to Oakland in September, where he ended up backing up David Carr. McCarron has an impressive, if not legendary, college resume, having won back-to-back BCS titles with Alabama in 2011 and 2012, he has just not managed to translate this winning mentality to the NFL. Deshaun Watson is in some circles being projected as the number one fantasy QB for 2019, but if he goes down with an injury McCarron will be thrust into the spotlight.

9) Blaine Gabbert – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Normally even the thought of Blaine Gabbert sends shivers down fantasy owner’s spines, but like David Dunn (the former football star played by Bruce Willis in Unbreakable) Gabbert does appear to be made of some stern stuff. Aside from 2014, where he managed just 7 pass attempts) Gabbert has somehow managed to start at least 3 NFL games in 7 seasons, including the last four, for three different teams (49ers in 2016, Cardinals in 2017 and Titans in 2018). It’s a bad omen for Jamies Winston that Gabbert is loitering in the background, waiting for his mandatory three game stint. Buccs fans you have been warned – Gabbertime is coming.

8) Nick Mullens – San Francisco 49ers

A name that only die-hard 49ers fans knew before he made his debut in the middle of 2018, Nick Mullens became a media darling after he won in his NFL debut 34-3 forcing fans to go from ‘whoooooo?’ to ‘wooooooh!’ (in a Rick Flair style). Mullens no doubt wears the #4 jersey in honour of some no-name quarterback’s single-season passing record he broke at Southern Miss. For those of you struggling to join the dots yes Nick Mullens owns a passing record in the Deep South once held by Brett Favre. 8 starts in 2018 for a guy who was hoping to remain on a practice squad was some feat. Mullens has proven he can be serviceable when needed, and his grit is clear to see. Jimmy G is the unquestioned starter when fit, but Mullens will only have learnt how to cope well from half a season under center.

7) Josh Rosen – Miami Dolphins

Rosen’s departure video aimed at Kyler Murray as he left Arizona for Miami earlier this year seemed to show him as a genuine decent kind of guy, but inside he must be seething. How often a first round QB gets not only replaced but traded within 12 months is a rarity. How often this could in theory happen two years in a row is infinitesimally small, but if Miami fail to gain any traction in the win column in September and October and we could be Tweeting out the #tankforTua hashtag on a daily basis. Rosen is currently being outperformed by the bearded magician Ryan Fitzpatrick and is on a trajectory to open the season as a backup. Rosen is in a unique position amongst this top-10 as he can viably become the Week 1 starter, but you would be foolish to bet against a 2019 sprinkling of Fitzmagic.   

6) Blake Bortles – Los Angeles Rams

Bortles has missed only 5 games in 5 seasons, producing 17,646 yards and 103 touchdowns for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Where he has failed to get impressive numbers is the win column, with only one successful season (10-6 in 2017) in five, which has included 49 losses. Perhaps a head-scratching move by the Los Angeles Rams to pick-up Bortles, when scrutinised the one-year deal is low risk and low cost, and gives the current NFC Champions a veteran backup who knows how to perform under pressure. Jared Goff has no fear he will be replaced, and for Bortles he will likely be on his third NFL roster by 2020, but surely even he beats having Sean Mannion as your number two.

5) Robert Griffin III – Baltimore Ravens

Talk about a carbon-copy backup. There has to be some sort of irony in this situation where a guy who was criticised for not being able to slide is now backing up a guy who he will replace on the field if he is equally unable to master self-preservation as a runner. RG3 is backing up L-Jax in 2019, names that sound like a couple of Star Wars extras in a Mos Eisley cantina. Lamar Jackson is indeed the shining star in Baltimore, and RG3 is the personification of the faded star. RG3 had one of, if not the finest rookie QB season in NFL history back in 2012, passing for 3,200 yards and rushing for 815, along with just 5 interceptions in 15 regular season games. Never to repeat that season RG3 has only won 6 games between 2013 and 2018. L-Jax has the physical tools to break the NFL single-season rushing record, but by definition he could also suffer an injury in Week 1 as a result. RG3 is poised for a quality pre-season and this will make fans think twice about giving him real game time.

4) Tyrod Taylor – Los Angeles Chargers

When you take a team to the playoffs for the first time in 18 years you become a little bit of a folk hero, which is what Tyrod Taylor did with the Buffalo Bills in 2017. Yes he didn’t get the win and the Bills managed only three points in a loss to the Jaguars, but Taylor deserved credit for giving some life to a living-dead franchise. Taylor was a 2015 Pro-Bowler, quite a remarkable achievement considering his first four NFL seasons in Baltimore saw him pass for a total of 199 yards and zero touchdowns behind Joe Flacco. Taylor had the unenviable job of de-icing the windows and turning on the heated seats in the Brownsmobile as Baker Mayfield, the overall top pick of the 2018 Draft by the Browns took the driver’s seat during week 3. Taylor didn’t get a sniff after Baker took the field, and it’s unlikely he will get any planned playing time in the City of Angels in 2019 behind Old Man Rivers, but this doesn’t diminish his place in this top-10.

3) Case Keenum – Washington Redskins

The Redskins for once had lady luck on their side when Dwayne Haskins landed in their lap in the middle of the first round of the 2019 draft. Haskins will be the fan favourite to start Week 1, with Case Keenum reverting back to his original NFL role of backup. Now with his sixth team in seven seasons, Keenum has been a bit of a rags to riches story since his rookie year with the Houston Texans back in 2012. In the last two seasons Keenum started 30 games (14 for the Vikings and 16 for the Broncos) helping the Minnesota to an improbable NFC Championship in 2017-18. Coach Gruden wanted a veteran presence on the field (as opposed to limping along the sidelines) and Keenum fits the mould. The future is not Keenum, but the Redskins present may well involve some game time for the player voted #51 in the NFL’s top 100 for the 2017-18 season.

2) Jacoby Brissett – Indianapolis Colts

Pretty much the ideal backup, Jacoby Brissett has not only got significant experience starting for his current team the Colts, he has also served his apprenticeship under the real Dark Lord of the Sith – Bill Belichick. There is no controversy in Indy as Andrew Luck is the future Hall of Fame starter. Brissett may have only thrown for 2 yards in 2018, but don’t let that fool you, this is a highly mobile, highly intelligent and above all highly resilient QB. Brissett started 15 games in 2017 for the injured Luck, passing for over 3,000 yards and rushing for over 250. What makes Brissett stand out was that he hung in there two seasons ago, getting sacked 52 times by a porous offensive line. Now transformed to one of the top offensive lines the Colts have a rock solid backup who they may only be able to keep a hold on until the end of the 2019 season.

1) Ryan Tannehill – Tennessee Titans

Ok it’s a bit of a cheat but Ryan Tannehill is now facing his first season with a new team and games a new role of backup quarterback. Having started 88 games in six seasons, Tannehill is a seasoned veteran who will be the most experienced number two in the league. The former Texas A&M wide-receiver (112 catches between 2008 and 2010 for the Aggies) has never played in an NFL game he hasn’t started. He has also failed to ever get his former team the Miami Dolphins to 9 wins mark in a season. With over 20,000 yards passing under his belt and a 2.6% career interception average, Tannehill has a surprisingly good set of stats to show, but this is not reflected in his winning games. Marcus Mariota has been a career underachiever and is one of those fantasy quarterbacks you simply avoid. Tannehill could end up starting for the Titans at some point in 2019 so watch the waiver wire in the latter part of the season if you need a bye-week replacement or a best-ball bargain.

Pick It Apart; Marquise Brown

The Draft is in the books and the dust has settled. But how well did your team do in the first round?


We are taking a look back at every selection in the first round and giving you the lowdown on the pick; Was it a reach? Was it a steal? We’ll tell you and give you the impact for fantasy football….


Pick: #25


Player: Marquise “Hollywood” Brown


Drafted by: Baltimore Ravens


Grade: B+


Analysis:

The Oklahoma WR was the first one off the board at his position.

What does this mean? In general, not a lot but it says a lot about the team’s opinions and value on the player when the team selecting them decide to choose them over everyone else available in the draft.

Considering the Ravens are a heavy run first team, some were surprised at this pick.

I was not.

Baltimore just had to get some Wide Receivers in order to try and make defences honest; Marquise Brown was my favourite WR coming in to the draft and loves YACing it up like a 19 year old on their birthday in a nightclub. Marquise Brown can do all the routes and will provide an instant option from day 1 on all the short and intermediate plays with the occasional 9 route to keep it interesting.

In his 2 seasons with the Sooners, Brown posted over 1000 yards in both seasons (he did have Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray throwing him the ball) including a Oklahoma  single game record of 265 receiving yards against Oklahoma State.

These numbers meant he was a First Team All American and All-Big12 selection.

“Hollywood decided to forego his final year to declare for this year’s draft.

He isn’t the biggest at 166lbs and didn’t appear at the combine due to a Lisfranc injury (which may still niggle him for a few months yet) so there are questions marks about whether he’ll be able to take on the big boys. But he is a speedster, who will create separation and will get open, perfect for his new QB. He isn’t a guy who will win your typical 50-50 balls, which is good because Lamar Jackson will not throw into tight windows in this type of offence.


Fantasy Football Impact:

A lot of people will be turned off by the offence he is in, a lot of people will be turned off by the Quarterback that is throwing him the ball. This will mean that a lot of leagues will see him undrafted in redraft leagues in 2019. He’ll be a waiver wire pickup for sure if that is the case.

However as with all rookie WR, they are always seen as shiny new toys so there will no doubt be people taking him with a last round pick (dont pick up kickers, kids). Added in to that, the fact that he’ll have big games here and there means he is perfect for Bestball leagues. He can run every route and he’ll be open a helluva lot. I like Brown as a sleeper this year.

What can you expect from Brown in year one?

Well, certainly not anything near his cousins numbers (yes, even in Oakland). Anything around the 50 receptions mark can be expected along with anything around 600 yards and a couple of TDs. A lot will depend on his ability to get YAC, something he excelled in at College. Much more of an exciting dynasty prospect and usually goes in around the early part of round 2.

SIGN. ME. UP!

5 Early Fantasy Sleepers

Written by Lawrence Vos – 27/5/2019

Early non-playing season sleepers

I feel for all the British railway historians and weekend landscape gardeners who will Google this article hoping to find glorious pictures of blocks of abandoned wood they can drool over.

A sleeper for this particular article is defined as a relatively unknown or non-famous NFL player (veteran or rookie) who is projected to far outweigh his previous production, and breakout by exceeding his expected statistics, based on traditionally being a mid-to-late draft pick.

Before we dive into the 2019 fantasy pool Eric ‘The Eel’ Moussambani like, wearing a pair of borrowed swimming trunks, let’s take a look at some of the outstanding 2018 sleepers who were highly unlikely to have been drafted in any fantasy leagues before the end of August last year, but ended up breaking out.

2018 actual sleeper breakouts

QB

Nick Mullens, San Francisco 49ers (2017 Practice Squad)


Mullens came in for C.J Beathard, who himself was subbing for injured starter Jimmy Garoppolo. Mullens ended up starting the entire second half of the season and recorded a respectable 2,277 yards through the air alongside 13 passing touchdowns. Nobody drafted Mullens to their fantasy team for week 1, but by the latter part of the 2018 season he was proving to be a half-decent waiver wire or late bye pickup. Mullens is not someone to draft or roster in 2019, but he gives the 49ers a low cost reliable backup, if he makes the 53-man roster.

RB

James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers (2017 3rd round pick)

Philip Lindsay, Denver Broncos (2018 Undrafted Free Agent)

Gus Edwards, Baltimore Ravens (2018 Undrafted Free Agent)

Lindsay and Edwards were not drafted but both started for their teams. Edwards played 11 games, including 6 starts, helping to act as a battering ram taking handoffs from silky running quarterback and fellow rookie Lamar Jackson. Edwards ended up as the fifth leading rookie rusher. The person who finished three slots above him for rookie rushing was Philip Lindsay. The former Colorado player not only went over 1,000 yards (1,037) he became the first undrafted offensive rookie to make the Pro Bowl. Not so much a sleeper, more like someone coming out of a coma to run a marathon. James Conner’s story to date is remarkable, having recovered from cancer in 2016, he was somewhat of an afterthought when drafted by the Steelers at pick #105 in 2017, as LeVeon Bell was wowing the planet with his unique ‘delay and dash’ running style. Nobody thought Bell would hold-out the entire 2018 season, but he did and Conner came in to register just under 1,500 all-purpose yards (973 rushing and 493 through the air). Conner started the 2019 Pro-Bowl over Lindsay. 

WR

Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals (2016 2nd round pick)

Ok this is a bit of an anomaly to the traditional sleeper criteria as Boyd was picked #55 in the 2016 NFL draft. What gives Boyd the title is his progress from 2017 (1 start and 22 catches) to 2018 (14 starts 76 catches). In 2018 Boyd recorded his first 1,000-yard season (1,028) and led the Bengals in targets, catches, yards and touchdowns (7 – tied with John Ross). Boyd benefitted from a major injury to All-Pro wide-out A.J. Green, but circumstance does not generate statistics, effort, consistency and trust from your quarterback does.

TE

Chris Herndon, New York Jets (2018 4th round pick)

Herndon was the sixth tight-end to be drafted last year and as of Week 1 he was the fourth-string behind a rag-tag bunch that included Eric Tomlinson, Neal Stirling and Jordan Leggett, names only their mother loves (or knows about). In a position that is notoriously punishing to first-year players Herndon ended up on the 2018 All-Rookie Team. His 39 catches led all rookie tight-ends and his 502 yards only trailed fellow rookie tight-end Mark Andrews of the Ravens (552). Achieving this with a rookie quarterback was pretty remarkable too, as Herndon ended up the second leading receiver on the team.

Five 2019 offensive sleeper candidates

So where does this lead us to in 2019? Who is sitting there like an about-to-be disturbed roof full of asbestos in a 1960s primary school, ready to join Baker Mayfield’s ‘dangerous club’, in experiencing an external transformation? Here are five offensive sleeper candidates:

QB

Drew Lock, Denver Broncos (2019 2nd round pick)

The Broncos have struggled at quarterback since the retirement of Peyton Manning at the end of 2015. Four passers have started since then, namely Brock Osweiler (4), Paxton Lynch (4),Trevor Simien (24), and Case Keenum (16). None are considered a franchise quarterback, and to top it off John Elway moved for past-his-prime quarterback Joe Flacco in free-agency. Still searching for a future star the Broncos drafted Drew Lock in the second round of this year’s NFL draft. Many draft-nicks had Lock getting selected in the first round, but he fell, and Denver had to move up and trade with the Bengals to acquire his John Hancock. Lock is the current backup on the depth chart, but he could be on the field by Week 6 if Flacco fails to get the Broncos moving smoothly. Lock was a highly productive college quarterback at Missouri throwing for over 12,000 yards and 99 touchdowns in 46 starts. Nobody is drafting Flacco in fantasy, but you may want to consider taking a flier on Lock on your bench.

RB

Ronald Jones III, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2018 2nd round pick)

To say Ronald Jones’s rookie season was a disaster would be a gross understatement. If his inept performance was caused by injury there would be a valid reason to relax, but Jones participated in 9 games. His one touchdown (in a 26-23 win against the Browns) was a lone highlight. Besides that his 44 rushing yards and 33 receiving yards were barely worth typing in this sentence. Currently listed as number two on the Tampa depth chart, behind Peyton Barber, Jones has the opportunity for a fresh start under new head coach Bruce Arians. The Buccs didn’t draft a running back this year, another good sign for Jones to have some genuine fantasy impact in 2019. He is durable, as indicated by a 591 carry college career at USC, including a 1,550 rushing performance in 2017. Jones can go from zero to hero and with a good start to his season he could end with 1,000 all-purpose yards.

RB

Malcolm Brown, Los Angeles Rams (2015 Undrafted Free Agent)

The dictionary definition of an insurance policy, Brown is crouching in the weeds whilst the news of Todd Gurley’s knee ailments appears to be gaining growing concern by Rams coaches and fans alike. Brown has already been subject to a poaching bid earlier in the year by the Detroit Lions, with the Rams deciding he was too valuable to let go. Brown averaged a respectable 4.9 yards a carry in 2019. He missed the Rams playoff run to the Super Bowl having gone on injured reserve in December. Much like a cockroach after the apocalypse Brown has been on the Rams roster for four seasons now, and is one Gurley injury from one of the biggest opportunities of his career. Much like James Conner in Pittsburgh Brown is in a great positing to have immediate fantasy impact. You only need look at the production of C.J. Anderson as Gurley’s backup in 2018 to see how impactful a back in L.A. can be. Brown has fresh legs and knows the offense inside out. As a #2 he can get 400-500 rushing yards. As a starter he has the capability to go over 1,250 all-purpose yards in 2019.

WR
Demarcus Robinson, Kansas City Chiefs (2016 4th round draft pick)

Former Florida Gator wide-receiver Demarcus Robinson has been like a Velcro-covered ball that has been rolled around some freshly mowed grass, he has the potential to stick and hit the target but hasn’t quite managed to yet. The Chiefs have had Robinson on their roster for three seasons now, but he has only started 13 games (out of 48 he played in) and this has resulted in underwhelming statistical production (43 catches for exactly 500 yards and four scores). Where Robinson elevates his sleeper status over other wide-outs is not just potential, its opportunity. With Tyreek Hill (I shudder even typing his name) facing a major suspension and current #1 WR Sammy Watkins missing 18 games over the last four seasons, Robinson can easily triple or even quadruple his average production over the past two years. Yes the Chiefs drafted Mecole Hardman, but with few exceptions, rookie receivers struggle to have a huge impact. With the NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes throwing to him in 2019 its time for Robinson to step up to the NFL dance floor.

TE

Matt LaCosse, New England Patriots (2015 Undrafted Free Agent)

Up there with Snow White, Rip Van Winkle and Dracula Matt LaCosse is a classic sleeper. Another winner through self-destruction around him by others, not just pure talent, LaCosse is in a pretty perfect place at a pretty perfect time. With perhaps the greatest tight-end in NFL history now retired in New England, and ageless-wonder Ben Watson recently suspended, all the 6ft 6inch man mountain has to do is beat Austin Seferian-Jenkins to the starting spot for Week 1. LaCosse had a mini breakout of his own with the Broncos in 2018, with 24 catches for 250 yards. Prior to that LaCosse generated no impact with the Giants (two-stints), spent six days as a New York Jets player, and was on injured reserve throughout 2016. His three catches prior to 2018 were barely worth a Wikipedia note. LaCosse is the sort or reclamation project that Bill Bellichick will love to get his evil claws right into. Staying on the field both as a starter and part of some two tight-end sets could see LaCosse generate over 50 catches for over 650 yards and 6-8 touchdowns. That would be a viable starting output from someone who will be only slightly rising up fantasy draft boards at the moment.

The Running Man

By Lawrence Vos, 26 May 2019

No I’m not taking about underrated Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, but for a bonus point can you give me the connection between this movie and NFL rushing folklore?

For those of you who didn’t have to Google that one of Arnie’s victims (Fireball) was former Cleveland Browns legendary running back Jim Brown I congratulate you, and for those of you who did I hope you enjoyed adding this to your NFL trivia arsenal.

That was 1987, when a survival-based reality gameshow was a forerunner for the likes of The Hunger Games. Fast forward to 2019 and arguably the best survival-based reality show on our screens now is the NFL.

The Running Man focussed on a very fit human-being, wearing a bright costume, relying on team-mates to help him navigate pitfalls and escape from tough adversaries on-foot (with the exception of Dynamo who was arguably the worst villain in cinematic history. He was 340lb, sang opera, drove a dune buggy and wore an armour plate covered in LEDs.)

Avoiding trouble and helping to lead a team to victory is a very similar set of pursuits to that of a running quarterback in the NFL.

In 2019 we have a top tier of five starting quarterbacks who can be categorised as rushing quarterbacks and then a second tier of five who can be described as mobile but not rushing quarterbacks. Note I am only putting starters in these tiers. The likes of L.A. Rams backup Blake Bortles (a respectable and surprising 365 rushing yards, 6.3 yards a carry and a first down on almost half his runs in 2018) do not count.

Tier-1
Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson, Cam Newton, Deshaun Watson.

Tier-2

Patrick Mahomes, Marcus Mariota, Dak Prescott, Mitch Trubisky, Jameis Winston.

Tier-1 Rankings

So let’s look at Tier-1 and see how they rank for 2019 fantasy draft purposes.

5 – Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals

Murray, the number one overall pick in this year’s draft is a phenom before he even steps onto an NFL field. The Cards pushed all their chips into the middle of the table for the former Oklahoma signal-caller, they even traded away Josh Rosen, their first round pick from 2018, to the Dolphins, to avoid any talk of competition. Murray won the 2019 Heisman Trophy for a remarkable 2018 season which included breaking the 1,000-yard barrier on the ground. The problem with projecting Murray’s impact in the NFL in 2019 is not due to the height issue (standing at 5f 10 inches) it’s more his track record. Murray originally began his college career in 2015 at Texas A&M. In his freshman year Murray served at the backup to Kyle Allen (now backup to Cam Newton in Carolina) before getting playing time when Allen performed poorly. Murray ran for 335 yards and a single score, but was again relegated to the bench by the time the Aggies reached the Music City Bowl. Keeping it all very incestuous Texas A&M lost that Bowl game to Louisville 27-21, going down to game MVP Cardinal quarterback Lamar Jackson (more later) who had 226 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns, including a 61-yard effort in the second quarter. Another quirk from that game was that two scorers for Texas A&M are now Murray’s target team-mates – WR Christian Kirk and converted TE Ricky Seals-Jones. Murray didn’t see action in 2016 as it was criteria of his transfer to Oklahoma, and in 2017 he had one start as back-up to none other than 2018 first overall draft pick Baker ‘wake up dangerous’ Mayfield.

Prediction

Already anointed as the Cardinals starting quarterback Murray will be looking to use his feet to keep drives alive and find his former college colleagues, as well as feeding future Canton enshrine Larry Fitzgerald. There will be a significantly increased workload for running back David Johnson in terms of dump-offs and screens, who will look to get 2,000 all-purpose scrimmage yards himself.

2019 projection – 431 rushing yards, 6 touchdowns.

4 – Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

Cam is not mortal, he is built like a Greek god, and is close to indestructible. 4,808 rushing yards and 58 touchdowns in his first eight seasons is nothing short of Hall of Fame numbers for a quarterback. Newton has missed just five games in his career, and his ground total is 150th in NFL history, for ALL players, and 14th amongst ALL active players. After arthroscopic surgery earlier in the year, to fix a lingering throwing arm injury, Newton is being eased back into action at OTA’s (organised team activities) in May, but will be fighting fit for September.  

He missed two games in 2018, but using his average rushing yards per-game this would have equated to 558 ground yards, which would have put him above 2018’s #3 rushing quarterback Deshaun Watson. Newton is now joined by one of the top three overall running backs in the NFL in the form of Christian McCaffrey, who will take away carries and scoring opportunities from the former number one draft pick. Newton has averaged 110 rushing attempts over the past three seasons and whilst his attempts in 2018, under new offensive co-ordinator Norv Turner, was the second lowest in his career, it’s no cause for concern as he nearly reached his statutory half-century.

Prediction

Cam has rushing the football in his DNA and no coach will be able to remove that. Defences, especially those in his division, are used to this form of torture, but any average linebacker is going to lose the war of attrition. Newton is consistent and although his rushing touchdowns hit an all-time low in 2018 (4) he can still provide that fantasy scoring boost that Brady, Brees and even Mahomes are unable to.

2019 projection – 525 rushing yards, 5 touchdowns

3 – Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans

Entering his third season, Deshaun Watson has learnt a lot, but unfortunately for him he has been sacked a lot. In 2018, his first season playing all 16 regular season games Watson was sacked a rib-crushing 62 times (the Texans were the only team to allow over 60 sacks). This can be attributed to two main factors – Watson holds onto the ball too long, but he is doing so in-part as he is contemplating scrambling out of the pocket and finding a crease or a rushing lane. Watson managed a very respectable 551 yards on the ground and 5 scores in 2018, but part of this output was generated as he was trying to make the most of a collapsed pocket or a blown block by a running back. Despite taking snaps in front of five colanders with legs Watson made the 2018 Pro-Bowl and proved that he can command a team and stay injury free. In fact, he was the first player in NFL history to have 4,000+ passing yards, 25+ passing touchdowns, 500+ rushing yards, and 5 rushing touchdowns in a single season. The former College National Championship winner (2016) had one 1,000-yard rushing season at Clemson (2015) losing to powerhouse Alabama in the Championship game (where he ran for 43 yards and a score).

Prediction

Watson needs to remain upright for longer, but he also needs to be smarter with his feet. The Texans wisely drafted two offensive linemen in the first two rounds of the 2019 Draft (Tytus Howard #23 overall and Max Scharping #55) to relive some pressure but like Cam Newton Watson is a smooth natural runner with excellent instincts to find space. Houston’s new offensive coordinator Tim Kelly is a quiet in-house appointment. This is Kelly’s sixth year in the Texans offense, having served as tight-ends coach the last two years (fun fact Kelly’s brother Dennis is an offensive lineman for the Tennessee Titans). Coach Kelly will be asked to further develop Watson, so expect much of the same and a small increase in Watson’s ground scores.

2019 Projection – 580 yards rushing and 8 touchdowns

2 – Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills

Perhaps the biggest fantasy surprise from the 2018 Rookie quarterback crop was Josh Allen. Despite the Bills deluded decision to start Week 1 with Nathan Peterman as their starter, in a 3-47, yes 3-47 loss to the Ravens, that experiment was shorty canned and Allen became the #1 in Week 2. Where Allen excelled was his fast feet. In his three years at Wyoming Allen ran for a solid but unspectacular 767 yards and 12 scores, averaging a pedestrian 3.2yards a carry. As a result, not many people were prepared for Allen’s 631 yards rushing, 8 touchdowns and two NFL records between Weeks 12-14 (first quarterback to rush for at least 95 yards in three consecutive games and most rushing yards by a quarterback in a 3 game span –  335). Allen only started 11 games (and played in 12) as a rookie, so by the magic of averages he would have gained 841 yards, the sixth greatest rushing output by a quarterback in NFL history. Allen was let down by a very average skill group in 2018, which has since been boosted by wide-receiver free-agent signings Cole Beasley and John Brown and rookie running back Devin Singletary. As the unquestioned starter Allen can become a fantasy monster, not only by rushing but by having better targets across the field. Watch out for fellow second-year player wide-receiver Robert Foster who can surpass 1,000 yards and eight scores himself.

Prediction

Allen is one of those rare breed of players that has transitioned from a smaller college team to become a starting NFL signal-caller. He joins current starting quarterbacks like Joe Flacco (Delaware) Derek Carr (Fresno State) and perhaps the best example – ‘Big Ben’ Roethlisberger who hailed from Miami of Ohio. Allen is in a position to get the Bills into a Wild Card position in the next two seasons, something mobile passer Tyrod Taylor managed with Buffalo in 2017. With a 16 game slate Allen can shine, and that includes over 700 yards on the ground.

2019 projection – 757 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns

1 – Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

We have been here before back in 2012 when slight-framed but much-hyped first round draft pick Robert Griffin III rushed for 815 yards in 15 games. The 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year sustained a second injury of the season against the Seahawks in the playoffs that season, and since then he has rushed for 855 yards and three touchdowns over the next five seasons. Now Jackson’s backup in Baltimore RG3 is a cautionary tale of taking a young but slim-built quarterback and letting him run a lot early. L-Jax who did not run a 40 yard-dash at the 2018 Scouting Combine is arguably faster than RG3 and up there with the fastest NFL starting quarterback ever, Michael Vick. Vick, despite his jail time, managed an incredible rushing total in 13 playing seasons, gaining 6,109 yards including a mind-bending NFL quarterback rushing record of 1,039 yards in 2005. L-Jax has the skills to actually break this record, and with 16 games and no Joe Flacco on the sidelines watching his every move, it is possible this happens in 2019. L-Jax gained 695 rushing yards in 7 starts as a rookie, and extrapolating that to a full season would equate to 1,270 yards, which would obliterate Vick’s record.

Prediction

It’s not sustainable to expect Jackson to run for almost 1,300 rushing yards, but if we look at his 7 starts (546 rushing yards) and extend that out to 16 games, at 78 yards a game, that 1,248 in a season. The Ravens will be hell-bent on developing L-Jax as a passer, but they will no doubt allow him to display his ghost-like rushing ability. His His 4,132 rushing yards in college (including Bowl games) ranks 109 all-time for ALL players, including running-backs, so we are talking about a special talent. Providing he can stay injury free, which he has managed for the past three-years, L-Jax can deliver the greatest rushing season by a quarterback ever.

2019 projection – 1,115 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns.

NFL Draft Fantasy implications + F10Y NEWS!

On Today’s podcast, RIchard King from Rotoballer joins us as we run through some news including Doug Baldwin, Joe Flacco and Cody Kessler.
We take a look at some interesting Fantasy Football implications from the NFL draft including Washington, Baltimore, Arizona.
Simon from the Collapsing Pocket podcast tackles the quiz and in our 4th down we give you the big news about the Full10Yards and announce our competition prize and details on how you can enter to win a Pittsburgh Terrible Towel.
Please RT, Share, like, subscribe the podcast! we truly appreciate all your support and feedback.

NFC Storylines and LateRoundQBs

In Today’s podcast, we are joined by none other than JJ Zachariason (@lateroundQB) to chat about his podcast and late round QBs but more importantly, whether he would accept work as the first person narrator if they ever brought the TV show “Scrubs” back.

Talking of scrubs, we go through every AFC team and what headlines we will be reading in the offseason and also get JJ to give us a name that will fly under the radar in the upcoming draft.

Put the mockers on it looks at fizzy drinks and Sam from Head On A Swivel podcast tackles the quiz…can they get over the 8 hump?

PLUS info on some things we’ll be freshening up in April!

Exit Interviews – AFC North

AFC North time in our mammoth review series.
Ravens – @chibsRSR
Steelers – @DFF_JamesH
Browns – @UK_Browns , @all32Shaun
Bengals – @trequartbeasta (@bengalsUK)
As said in the pod, Ravens segment was recorded prior to Flacco and Crabtree stuff soooooo yeah.
Thanks to those that participated for the podcast!
Enjoy!