The (Tight) End of the World as we know it?

By James Fotheringham (@NFLHypeTrain)

As the Hype Train Driver, I’m used to changing scenery. Looking out of the window, everything can look different from season to season. The NFL, and certainly fantasy football, are no different.

The Tight end position has been a bone of contention for many fantasy players over the years. The low number of fantasy relevant tight ends and the premium to get good ones has led to a variety of suggestions and solutions. Some leagues turned the TE position into a Flex spot including Tight end, others make it 1.5x points and some have scrapped the position altogether.

Going into last season, most people seemed to suggest that beyond Kelce, Ertz and Kittle, there’s very little out there. Through the season the likes of Austin Hooper, Darren Waller and Mark Andrews took flight and added their names to the “Relevant” list. Even the tandem at the Rams of Higbee and Everett became fantasy pickups. It leaves the fantasy world in an interesting position.


Current Situation


The free agency period has been hectic despite the Coronavirus pandemic.

As I currently see it, this is the situation at Tight End for each team:

The headlines this off-season have been made by Austin Hooper (going to the Browns), Hayden Hurst (filling the void in Atlanta), Greg Olsen (adding to the long list in Seattle), Jimmy Graham (being given yet another overpaid contract, this time from the Bears) and Eric Ebron (joining Vance McDonald in Pittsburgh).

With very few good quality tight ends left on the market, it appear a lot of teams are going to be relying on 2nd year tight ends stepping up or maybe even rookies. I’ll leave it to the podcast and twitter feeds to talk about those impacts on the NFL, but in terms of fantasy, Hurst has value, Hooper has some value but it’s more stunted than if he had stayed in Atlanta. Ebron will be a red-zone target so he has to score a TD to be relevant week to week. Jimmy Graham won’t see any kind of uptick while Greg Olsen may be a dark horse option if he can stay healthy. As the off-season rumbles on I’m sure it will be touched on more, but that’s my initial thoughts.


The 2020 Draft


There are a few interesting landing spots. The Patriots, Cardinals, Redskins, Panthers, Packers and Jaguars could be in the hunt for a new Tight End after some other possible spots were filled in free agency. There’s time yet for some trades, but many teams are going to be looking to develop the talent they have or target one in the draft. With 6 strong landing spots we could well see 1 or 2 rookie tight ends make it into starting line-ups.

There’s not as many standout options as in previous years but Cole Kmet (Notre Dame), Brycen Hopkins (Purdue) and Jared Pinkney (Vanderbilt) are the 3 gathering the most interest. There’s not likely to be a 1st season breakout this season. Rookie Tight ends usually require a full season before becoming fantasy relevant and a feature of the offence but there have been times where this has been overruled. 


The 2020 Season


AP Photo/Damian Strohmeyer

After years of Gronk… Kelce… Then the rest; there’s now more than just 2 or 3 tiers of Tight End and no real dominant Tight End causing early round headaches in fantasy drafts. The lack of an outright #1 reduces the value and with so many options, 2020 might see tight ends fall down the order and, in some leagues, they may become a streaming position similar to QB’s and Defence/Special Teams.

Kelce, Waller, Andrews and Kittle are the guys who are going to give you a solid score every week and are a key piece of their offences. These will be most likely be the first 4 Tight Ends off the board and the value will probably be in drafting the 4th one so that you have the best RB and WR options possible, whilst still being able to trust your TE.

The next level contains tight ends where you’ll want to play them in plus matchups, and they will probably provide a good return more often then they will fail. The issue is consistency and knowing that any week there is a reasonable chance they won’t be much help. Tandems like Ertz and Goedert may find themselves here. Injury risks like Engram and Olsen may also feature here. Similarly, second season breakout candidates like Fant and Gesicki should be in this wide tier. (I’ll dive a bit more into this shortly).

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The third tier includes those who are a gamble and the risk of them not performing is built into their ADP, and those who will be consistent but not in a very effective way. Rudolph and Smith in Minnesota are a duo that may stunt each other’s fantasy relevance, but Kirk Cousins doesn’t help either. Jimmy Graham may end up here depending on the TE and QB battles in Chicago. The rookie tight ends may also end up in this tier.

The final tier is for the players who will remain on the waiver wire unless their matchup is particular tempting (e.g. Playing Arizona last season). The likes of Eifert, I.Thomas and Burton come to mind. The Tennessee situation is difficult to determine as Walker is injury prone and Jonnu Smith doesn’t seem quite ready to be the #1 so the tandem with him and Firkser may make them. The off season could change some of these scenarios, but it will take a few weeks of the season before it becomes a bit clearer.


Examining Tier 2


The success of schemes where Tight Ends are RedZone threats, check down options or planned in as pass catcher have led to an increase in targets. The fact George Kittle, and Travis Kelce ended up as the highest scoring Non-QB fantasy players (from the season) in the Superbowl shows the importance of the position in the modern NFL. The days of it being a baron landscape have been overblown in my opinion. This all bodes well for the new generation with the likes of Waller, Andrews and Goedert coming through.

The increase in the “Tier 2” Tight ends and the chances that one will crack tier 1 make the fantasy draft much more interesting. I’ve listed 20 players who could be in Tier 2. These wont all be tier 2 as fantasy season rolls around but there’s arguments for each of them. I’ve split them into categories.

Established Options: Doyle, Cook, Engram, Olsen, Henry, Fells.

Two TE Sets: Olsen/Dissly, Ertz/Goedert, Higbee/Everett, Howard/Brate, McDonald/Ebron, Njoku/Hooper.

Potential breakouts: Fant, Hockensen, Gesicki, Herndon, Knox, J.Thomas.


Established Options


Be it because of injury, QB play or competition these guys won’t be able to crack the upper echelons but are usually going to be playable.

Cook had a decent year with Drew Brees last season while Greg Olsen has moved to the TE haven in Seattle. Both he and Evan Engram are injury risks and if they are missing more often then you can play them, you’re better looking elsewhere.

Jack Doyle is perhaps the least spectacular on the list but is the most consistent and may actually be a sleeper pick now with Eric Ebron out of the way and Philip Rivers slinging the ball for one year in Indy. The recently franchise tagged Hunter Henry will be reliant on what the Chargers do at QB, while Darren Fells will need to prove that his form last season can be made consistent, though did sign a new deal this offseason. Jordan Thomas behind him may also steal some targets so buyer beware.


Two TE Sets


A big threat to the relevance of the TE position in fantasy is the two tight end systems. When one goes down the remaining player isn’t guaranteed to take off (but sometimes they do). It’s often a case that when both options are playing, one will take off each week, but it never stays consistent who it is.

Take Higbee and Everett for the LA Rams. After both toiled early on in the season, Everett broke out, only to then go down injured and leave Higbee to pick up the slack. It’s a combo where one or the other can work but together they ruin each-others value. Everett started getting the targets over Higbee and that got the ball rolling. They ended up with similar stat-lines, but I’d be wary of drafting either of them in 2020 as you’re going to have to hope you pick the one that takes off first.  

I’ve mentioned Olsen already but when you look at Seattle, they could play 4TE and only 2WR looking at their depth charts. Olsen, Dissly, Hollister and Dickson could all be playable if they are in that weeks set. Will Dissly (when he’s fit) has been superb but you’re just waiting for something to break. He’s probably worth a roster spot while he’s active unless Olsen hogs all the targets.

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Howard and Brate are going to have Tom Brady this year which leaves them as total wildcards so it’s obvious that some people will take the gamble in drafts. McDonald and Ebron at the Steelers are probably going to flip-flop in terms of being relevant but across a season they should be usable. I nearly put Njoku and Hooper into tier 3 but Baker can’t be that bad again can he? If Njoku gets trades he gets a boost and Hooper likewise become more trustworthy. Again, both will be a gamble but if anything gives them an uptick in opportunities, their draft stock will rise with it.

The big one currently is in Philly as the Ertz/Goedert combination is proving to be great news for the Eagles but bad news for fantasy. Ertz is still tabbed as a top 4 TE and with good reason. He is still a beast, a great catcher and can dominate a game. The problem is, Goedert is very much going to same way but has a few less years wear on the tyres. Using both is allowing them to stay healthier and give Wentz options. With their lack of true WR options I think you’ll find both can be top 12 options this season but calling which games will be Ertz dominated and which Goedert dominated may be the difference between a win and a loss.


Breakouts


Most rookie Tight Ends don’t hit in their first year but start really coming on in their second. There’s going to be some differing levels of improvement thanks to their respective teams’ philosophies and personnel but if it’s late in your fantasy draft and you fancy a gamble, hopefully one of these will be kicking around.

Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Noah Fant is one of my major hopes for this season. Drew Lock has improved the QB situation in Denver and with Sutton breaking out, Fant found himself becoming relevant late in the season. He was well hyped last season after the draft, and this is probably the year he really gets going. Mike Gesicki falls into the same boat here. His main issue is being in Miami and not being certain what he’s working with. The advantage he has is that the offence is sort of being built around him as he’s one of the few decent, young offensive pieces they have.

TJ Hockensen may need a few things to go his way to truly break out. The Lions have never historically been a good place for Tight Ends but considering the capital they spent on him, they are going to have to find ways of getting him the ball. Matt Stafford isn’t a bad QB, he just needs to be 100% healthy mentally and physically (which he hasn’t been for a few years now). Dawson Knox is also a rookie who may need some team improvement to see relevance, however the Bills keep progressing and is Josh Allen can start finding Knox like he did towards the end of last season, then who knows what they may create.

Jordan Thomas is a long shot who could be a serious sleeper. If Darren Fells doesn’t come back and the Texans rest their hopes on Thomas, he will get the targets from Deshaun Watson and when you consider how good fells was for fantasy last season, that could be a decent position to have.

The final name to throw in here is Chris Herndon. He’s threatened to break out before but suspensions, injuries and QB changes have stopped that from happening. With a new season can come new hope, however he is last on my list at this level.


The Outlook


The Tight End landscape is now probably as wide spread as it has been for a long time. The calls for the position to be scrapped were a little pre-mature and now that younger guys are breaking through, and taking less time to become relevant, the turnover is only going to get better. The success of the Chiefs and 49ers this season with Kelce and Kittle as prime targets does bode well for teams trying to find their TE equivalent so it’s possible more teams may look this way.

The good news for fantasy is that it’s not as much of a headache as it used to be. The need to weight up when to take a relevant tight end was tough. You could guarantee a good one but which RB/WR would you miss out on? But if you waited too long and had to settle for what was left, was your RB/WR worth it? Now there’s enough late options to know it’s fine to delay. Where the likes of Waller and Andrews fall may be critical to how the fantasy draft season goes. It’s just nice to be able to say that fantasy Tight ends are becoming an interesting thing once more.  

Free Agency Bonanza

A bonanza episode needs a bonanza cast and that’s what we have with Charlie from Ice the Kicker along with Murf and Stocks from 5yardrush.
We chat about the news including Gronk’s retirement before we get into the meat on the bone of Free Agency.
Differing opinions on Nick Foles but Murf and Tim share their opinion on breakfast cereals in Put The Mockers On It.
We go through all the big Free Agency Deals and ask the big questions before Ste from Cover2TV tackles the quiz!
We round off by letting you know the exciting things coming your way in the next week!

Super Bowl Surprises

A very special Super Bowl episode with a few surprises.
We have a very special guest who likes to “look at the numbers” and was an inspiration for this podcast.
We look at more numbers with Adam in our best bets section. We go head to head with the £100 before we round out with all of you lovely people and your Super Bowl Predictions.

Super Bowl Time!

Get your foam fingers out and shut off your alarm clock, it’s Super Bowl week!
Tim and Lee give you the low down to the big one in Atlanta.
How did New England and Los Angeles make it to the big one? And what will be the keys to the game? What makes Brady so great and can McVay wrestle the torch from Belichick where it’s the upstarter vs the master.
The Fantasy Fam from across the pond tackle our quiz, with a keen eye on a previous contestant’s score…Can they beat it? Can you beat it?
Don’t forget to submit your Super Bowl predictions to be on Friday’s show and enter our free competition to win an NFL jumper! Head over to our twitter @full10yards for all the info.

9 Disappointing Fantasy players in 2019

Hey everyone, it’s my newest blog from the fantasy world!

Week 9 is in the books and today we are looking at the top 9 (with 9 weeks completed, get it?!) disappointing Fantasy Players so far. You have probably got in your own minds some players that haven’t performed on your team and you are thinking you will never ever play those players again dropping them in disgust. We all have those cursed players but you know in a year or so you may just be tempted and cast your eye over them. It happens every year!

Imagine this, you get the first overall pick this year and opt for Le’Veon Bell and then follow that pick up with LeSean McCoy and then you hit Gronk… Yep, I’d be pretty mad too… That happened to my pal and he has been playing catch up ever since… sad times *evil laugh*.

Anyway, let’s get a bit more cheerful and continue on in our quest of mediocrity or just down right stinkers, in no particular order my top nine players that have been disappointing in 2018 season* in the standard scoring format.

  1. Matt Stafford in at number one currently ranked at 20 of QBs – he has scored over 20 points on two occasions and despite quite a porous defence, the Lions are still attempting to get a run game going. Fumbling and being sacked (10 TIMES this past week against the Vikings) are creeping in the game repertoire and it’s not a good look fantasy wise.
  2. Running Back Lamar Miller (RB22) has only posted up 3 weeks of over 10 points and being the only real running threat, this should be more. With Deshaun Watson slinging the ball like he does though we can’t really blame poor Lamar for this lack of production, the Texans just have better options out wide.
  3. Mr Consistent, consistently bad, Keenan Allen is next with just 3 games over 10 points and one touchdown this year. Woof. And he is not worth trying to pick up for the run ‘just in case’ he has a tough run of fixtures to round off the year.   
  4. Kyle Rudolph makes the list despite the TE friendly QB in Kirk Cousins. Rudolph is not getting the looks even with a weakened Vikings Running game, although admittedly the return of Cook will strengthen that. But this means that Kirk might not be throwing as much and Rudolph will lose the shine on his red nose even more.
  5. Gronk gets on the list, a great first outing and then disappointment. Niggling injuries admittedly have hampered production but what I don’t get is why he says ‘he is good to go’ when clearly he is not and the stats show that. 1 touchdown this season and in a weakened TE field, Gronk is ranked 11th. Just awful.
  6. Larry Fitzgerald (apart from the last two weeks) hasn’t produced averaging around 3.5 points per game to week 7. This is just isn’t very fantasy friendly.
  7. Mark Ingram, probably a harsh inclusion being suspended for 4 games but his 5th game offered so much promise with 2 TDs and we all thought he was back… but after that, the following three games have shown us that Kamara is the number 1 in the backfield and that is hugely disappointing to those that stashed him in rounds 4/5 of the draft.
  8. Russell Wilson has been another I think could be considered a little disappointment this year. He just doesn’t seem to have that impact that he used to and is not rushing as much. Maybe I am being a little harsh, but his biggest week has been 23 points and only topped 20 points two other times and these were marginally. Think the magic has been lost.
  9. I am a Skins fan but I’m putting the whole Skins offense on this list. All apart from Peterson who has shown flashes of brilliance. There is not one offensive weapon that you can rely on to produce. Personally, I can’t wait to see Derrius Guice there, we need him and could be a great fantasy player next year… That concludes the list! This also is not to say that the above players won’t have a great last few games but to this point they may have burnt you, I apologise on their behalf. 

    Which player has disappointed you most this season? Let us know! 

    *This list doesn’t include Le’Veon Bell, that would be too obvious. I hope he find it in his heart to apologise to the millions who spent their first pick on him.

Let me know of any players I have missed by getting in touch on Twitter @ScottfMackay or maybe get in touch with the podcast @full10yards where there is currently a free Larry Fitzgerald jersey to be won!

Joy Divisions – AFC West

Before the season starts, myself and good friend of the podcast Lee Wakefield (@wakefield90) will give a summary of each division, how we see it playing out over the season along with some players to target in fantasy in each.

AFC West:

In the words of the Pet Shop Boys – “GO WEST!, life is peaceful there” I think it could be the complete opposite. When has it ever been peaceful in San Diego  Los Angeles?

Perhaps the most intriguing division in the AFC (though the South may have their say) and most people would argue a case for every team in the division actually winning it.

TIM

Los Angeles Chargers:

Let’s start with the Chargers; If you listen to the podcast or read some posts, you’ll know I am a big fan of the Chargers this year to win it all. Injuries are coming thick and fast with Hunter Henry and Jason Verrett going down for the season already (sigh) but the Chargers were already a great defence when Verrett was injured last year. The loss of Henry hurts but there is enough in the pass catching room to spread it around.

Mike Williams needs to step up and should after missing most of his rookie season whilst Tyrell Williams has already shown he is reliable. Both WIlliams’ should be sought after in drafts as they are usually going undrafted and it would be silly not to have a piece of this offence. Keenan Allen isn’t a sure thing to stay healthy either (last season was his first where he played a full 16 game slate). Then there’s Antonio Gates…..

Melvin Gordon is a stud and expect Austin Ekeler to see an uptick in usage in the backfield. Anthony Lynn should be able to get more from this team that ended the season on a hot streak and should have been playing playoff football last year.

Whilst I wouldnt want to see anymore disruption to this team, I think there is something special happening there in Los Angeles (maybe it’s the Rams). Their “home” ground was a bit of a distraction last season and should be more accustomed to playing at the StubHub Centre this year and be able to deal with the lack of home fans there (quite a lot of home games are against teams that don’t travel well too in terms of fanbase).

Key Storyline:  Can the Chargers avoid more injuries which could lead to a derailed season and give Rivers a final push at a deep playoff run?

Denver Broncos: 

Looking forward to seeing how the Broncos start the season, they could be another darkhorse for going deep in the postseason.

Case Keenum will need to hit ground running but has a great compliment of weapons surrounding him. I feel Royce Freeman will beat out Devontae Booker at the running back position but it could be a bit of a committee after the exit of CJ Anderson.

This could be the last hurrah for Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders at wide receiver, with draft picks Courtland Sutton and DeSean Hamilton a year or so away, they could seamlessly take over and will get some snaps this year.

Bradley Chubb, arguably the steal of the draft at pick 5 will be a monster on the other side of Von Miller and will make an immediate impact, but the back end of the defence will have to deal with the loss of Aqib Talib.

I feel as though a .500 season is about where the Broncos will aim for as a foundation and should be getting about 9 or 10 wins with the talent here.

Key Storyline:  Can Case Keenum replicate his form from last season?

Kansas City Chiefs:

Andy Reid made a big statement by trading Alex Smith to the Redskins and putting his faith into 2nd season QB Patrick Mahomes. The passing attack seemingly will be more of a vertical one (though Smith was the best deep passer of last season) which is also supported by the acquisition of Sammy Watkins from the Rams. Sammy really needs to put his stuff together otherwise his talent will go to waste.

Spencer Ware returns after missing the whole of last season and could be a sneaky value late in drafts if getting a bit of this backfield. Kareem Hunt, the leading rusher last year was only able to manage that feat due to Ware’s injury and a near 90% RB market share in terms of touches so it will be intriguing as to the allegiances and loyalties of Andy Reid between him and Ware.

The defence has lost Marcus Peters to the Rams and this could lead to some high scoring games at Arrowhead. The question is can Mahomes lead them to enough victories in his first full season as the signal caller.

Key Storyline: Has Andy Reid made the right call and can Patrick Mahomes lead this team or is it too premature for him?

Oakland Raiders:

Jon Gruden taking over from Jack Del (can of) Rio is one of the main off season stories and also his personnel changes have been somewhat eyebrow raising.

Jordy Nelson, Doug Martin and others are players that have come through the door in the offseason and it seems that this will either be a disaster, or a masterstroke. I will bet on the former if I had to choose and it will be fascinating to see how it plays out in Oakland. Their best offensive player has left for Baltimore in another strange deal and it seems as though they are intent on giving Amari Cooper full responsibility for their WR success this season. Considering his high drop rate and poor production last season, it is going to be high risk and high reward type stuff.

Gruden has said that he wants to run the ball and Marshawn Lynch performed well last year when many people doubted him. He could break down this season and Doug Martin was obviously brought in to help share the load, though he himself is prone to injury.

Regardless of what happens, it should be fun to watch…

Summary:

I think this is all set up for the Chargers this year. I am fully on the bandwagon and tip them to go all the way. The window for Rivers is closing but if it’s gonna be any year, this will be the one. Good value for all of the players in fantasy here in LA so make sure you get a piece.

If they fail, Denver could be a sneaky team at decent odds if Keenum is able to be anywhere near his abilities of last year at Minnesota. Their defence could have the old swagger back but they have enough on offence to win games in shootouts should their defence fail. The Denver players are fairly priced in drafts at the moment and could prove their worth come the end of the season.

Kansas City are the wildcard of the division and their range of outcomes is quite vast. If Mahomes slots in and plays well, they could be thereabouts come December though i feel their defence could let them down. Fantasy wise, Sammy Watkins is a value and must come up trumps soon. All the rest are overpriced and I wont take any part of Hill, Hunt, Kelce or Mahomes. Spencer Ware is a guy to watch in training camp.

Oakland possess a stay well clear sign for me and Gruden may have pulled a masterstroke in signing a 10 year (yes, 10 years potentially) contract for mega bucks ($100m) which could prove a costly investment and the source of laughter for years to come.

Dont be surprised if 2 teams come from this division for the playoffs.

Predictions:

  1. Los Angles Chargers,
  2. Denver Broncos,
  3. Kansas City Chiefs,
  4. Oakland Raiders

LEE

So after going over the best division in the conference last time out, today it’s the AFC West.

Let’s start with last season’s AFC West champions, the Kansas City Chiefs. A lot of people seem to be a lot lower on the Chiefs than last season which I think is slightly unfair. I do think they have lost a little bit of balance as their defense doesn’t look as good but I don’t think they’re going to be much worse.

They’re just going to be different; much more offensive and much more explosive. This is mainly down to the fact it’ll be Patrick Mahomes II under center as opposed to Alex Smith. This means more big plays and more excitement, which should be music to the ears of the likes of Tyreek Hill and new wideout, Sammy Watkins. It may also mean more turnovers due to the higher degree of difficulty and risk factor of of the throws Mahomes is going to be making. Another aspect of it is that even though he wasn’t completely redshirted as a rookie, this will essentially be the former Texas Tech star’s rookie year.

Another question mark is; Will Kareem Hunt suffer of sophomore slump and how will Spencer Ware taking away some of his carries affect the running game? Food for thought for fantasy as well as Andy Reid. The offense also lost Matt Nagy as OC, so how will the Chiefs cope with that?

However, even in the face of these questions the trump card is Andy Reid. Reid is one of the better regular season coaches in the history of the league and they still have a talented roster. Because of that, the Chiefs will still be in playoff contention, even if the defense isn’t as good and if it gets rocky for Mahomes in patches.

Next up, the Raiders…

I’m not really sure what to say here. The Raiders are either going to shock the world and be fantastic and the hire of Jon Gruden is going to look like a masterstroke or they’re going to be awful and look like a team trying to play football from a bygone era.

To give you an idea of why I say that; there have been rumours that Gruden has been using tape from the ‘70’s in meetings with Raiders players. Who does that?

There’s also the issue that Jon Gruden seems to be going about player recruitment like he’s trying to reassemble the team he won his fantasy league with in 2015 with the signings of Jordy Nelson and Doug Martin.

Then we come to the biggest issue, the Khalil Mack saga. Picture this, you’re Jon Gruden and you have one of the best pass rushers in the game and you don’t pay him, even worse, you’ve only been in contact with your star defensive player once since you were hired… you’re out of your mind, right? It’s getting really messy now Mack is missing time and there’s even some people talking about a trade.

Oakland have got some talent on their roster but there’s just too many questions and too many odd things surrounding the team for me to get too positive. They also need rebound seasons from the likes of Derek Carr and Amari Cooper! Waiting for me to get positive? Hmmm… let’s not talk about their draft. Good news? They’ll probably have a pretty high pick in the first round next year!

If I want to talk about a team that did draft well, then I can talk about the Denver Broncos. Annoyingly, as a Chargers fan, Denver had a really good draft and it will stand them in good stead for years to come. You can see the logic in a lot of their picks; Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton can replace Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders in a year or two. Royce Freeman can nail down their starting running back spot. Bradley Chubb is the ideal running mate for Von Miller, a steal at 5th overall (if you can have a steal so high). Isaac Yiadom and Josey Jewell add good depth too.

The biggest negative for Denver in the off season was getting beat by Minnesota in the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes. Although it was quite funny to see the front office react like a young guy who just got rejected by a girl he really liked by essentially coming out and saying, “I didn’t fancy her anyway, mate”. They did settle on the slightly less attractive Case Keenum. Who everyone is sort of waiting to turn into a pumpkin again, which I find slightly unfair because he was excellent last year. Keenum is just a system guy who will be hoping that Denver have the right one to fit him and his style. Denver will also he hoping the same as one of Paxton Lynch or Chad Kelly will be backing him up… yikes.

Overall Denver are going to be better, not championship contenders but if they completely click, maybe a wildcard spot is within reach. Fantasy wise, no guys you’re targeting really early but you could do worse than Thomas, Sanders or Freeman for depth, or Hamilton and Sutton for a dynasty stash.

Finally, my team, the Los Angeles Chargers. Now, as any regular reader or listener knows, or if you follow me on Twitter, I’m pretty positive when it comes to the Chargers and you’ve probably heard all my hype so I’ll keep this brief.

I loved the Chargers draft. Derwin James was a steal in the first, then after that they filled out positions of need throughout the rest of the next two days. Much like the Broncos draft, you can see the logic behind every pick. All the buzz and highlights out of training camp this week on the rookies have been really positive too.

On offense the only big negative is Hunter Henry’s injury and the void it leaves for a playmaker at tight end. I feel like the Bolts will give an opportunity to younger players and role with more three and four wide receiver sets. The rest of the offence is pretty complete, watch out for further improvement from Melvin Gordon and potential breakout seasons from Mike Williams and Forrest Lamp.

The defense looks equally complete with top players littering the secondary and the league’s best pass rushing pair up front. The weakness could be the linebackers as there’s no real star but watch out for Kyzir White, who is making the transition from safety to linebacker coming into the pros. He’s a hard hitter and the Chargers will be looking for him to use his coverage skills to good effect over the middle.

Another big plus point for the Chargers is that they kept their entire coaching staff together through the off season hires. Both Co-ordinators and their most talented position coaches such as Ron Milus and Giff Smith, the defensive backs and defensive line coaches, who will surely be being looked at for DC jobs all over the league.

You could say I’m bias but I truly believe the Chargers are the best team in the West and will win the division and they have a chance to go deep in the playoffs. As I’ve said in previous articles, I feel like the road to the Superbowl goes through either Jacksonville or Foxborough in the AFC and those would be tough games for L.A. but by no means impossible.

Fantasy wise; Melvin Gordon is a first round player, ditto Keenan Allen. Rivers is a nice QB to have on your roster, he’ll have the odd down week but he will average a healthy amount of points per week. Deeper sleepers will be Mike Williams and potentially Tyrell Williams. A deeper dive could be Austin Ekeler for deeper leagues.

Prediction, won’t shock anyone but…

  1. Chargers
  2. Chiefs
  3. Broncos
  4. Raiders

Joy Divisions – AFC South

Before the season starts, myself and good friend of the podcast Lee Wakefield (@wakefield90) will give a summary of each division, how we see it playing out over the season along with some players to target in fantasy in each.

The AFC South was ridiculed last season for being weak recently, but could now be one of the stronger divisions in the AFC.

TIM

Jacksonville Jaguars:

Jacksonville may have missed a trick in not taking a cheapish QB either in the draft (Tanner Lee doesn’t count) or in Free Agency. It is obvious they are going to be one of the more run focused teams in 2018 with the signing of Andrew Norwell from Carolina added in Free Agency. Fournette is an outside shot to lead the league in rushing in my opinion, but health is a concern. The WR room is crowded and it’s a case of watching in training camp to see who catches the eye. Moncrief will only be there for the 1 year, allowing draft pick DJ Chark to learn this season. Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook are likely to be the leaders in production, but it’s not going to be a sizeable pie to eat with Bortles at the helm. The window for the defence isn’t getting any longer either and at some point all these elite players need paying so I think there could be a real push by our Jacksonville Jaguars this year.

Key Storyline: Can the Jags learn from their playoff defeat to the Patriots and go one further in 2018?

Tennessee Titans:

Titans have had a bit of an overhaul from top to bottom, with Matt LeFleur coming over from the Rams as well as some intriguing signings. Dion Lewis, Malcolm Butler have joined from the Patriots, which is always a good team to acquire from and have strengthened that defence in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Tennessee shocked Kansas in the playoffs last season and should be able to take that momentum in to the new season.

Mariota, a currently undrafted QB in most fantasy drafts should fare a great deal better in this potential offensive setup and Corey Davis should be a key player for them (which is reflected in his current ADP in fantasy football drafts). Rishard Matthews, Delanie Walker are the seasoned vets and always provide reliability for fantasy GMs whilst the backfield could be a headache but may be able to support both RBs with decent levels of production if firing on all cylinders (take Lewis over Henry). I can see the Titans in the postseason but cannot say for certain if it’s as a division winner or a wildcard, which you can get decent odds for too.

Key Storyline:  Are the Titans finally balanced enough on both sides of the ball to be a dark horse in 2018 and make a deep run in January?

Houston Texans:

The recurring theme for Houston is health. Both defensively and offensively, injuries have been a major problem.

JJ Watt, Jadevon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus, Lamar Miller, D’onta Foreman, DeShaun Watson to name just a few on both sides of the ball have not played consistently for full seasons in the NFL. One thing is for sure, if you guarantee us full seasons for this year for all of those players, these guys make the playoffs. The hype train on Watson is reaching Asian Bullet Train speeds and I will have no part of his early round ADP. One constant throughout the recent years in Houston is DeAndre Hopkins; this guy gets it done no matter who the QB is and is well worth the 1st round pick in fantasy this year.

Their draft was a quiet one due to their trading up for Watson last year so you can be forgiven for knowing nothing about the Texans draft. One name to watch out for is Keke Coutee, a downfield threat at WR.

Not sure their offensive line is a great deal better than last season so that will continue to be a struggle, especially if Watson is limited in his mobility either physically or by play calling.

Overall, there is a wide range of outcomes for Houston this season and it will be interesting to see how it pans out.

Key Storyline:  Can Houston stay healthy?

Indianapolis Colts:

At the time of writing (late July), you have to think that Luck WILL be on the field come week 1.  The question has always been “what type of Luck will we get?” though and we wont know for sure. One thing is for certain – this division is a lot tougher than when he last saw the field. The defences are meaner, the offences are more talented and the coaching is (slightly) better. Even if Luck returns as if he has never been away, their defence will be their shortfall and I think with or without Luck, these guys finish bottom of the South.

Moncrief has gone, replacing him with Baltimore throwaway Ryan Grant and have acquired Eric Ebron from the Lions.

Their draft haul was sizeable, having the luxury of picking up 4 outside linebackers and still being able to pick up 2 running backs (who could play a big part this year) and 2 Wide Receivers in Daurice Fountain and Deon Cain (who is particularly impressing in training camp – surprise surprise).

The good thing for fantasy GMs is that most of these players are all late round dart throws with major upside should Andrew Luck play a full slate of games, but as the Luck status becomes a bit clearer expect their ADPs to rise.

One final thing is the coaching team; Chuck Pagano has departed, to the delight of the fans ad Frank Reich, the OC for reigning Super Bowl champs Philadelphia (*puke*) comes over and could install a dynamic style of play and there will be a few diamonds here on this team..I just dont know who they are. At a guess, I’d take Hines and maybe take a late late flier on Cain.

Key Storyline: How much Luck do the Colts get this season?

Summary:

TM:

This will be an intriguing division this year and will definitely come down to the divisional games in week 17, just like last year.

Jacksonville have the elite defence, Tennessee have the balance whilst Houston have the explosiveness and high octane offence. I think it’s safe to dismiss the Colts but could have a say in the division. I think I’ll take the more balanced team and the best coach from the 3 to just about squeeze through and take the division, especially as some bookmakers make them 3rd favourites.

In fantasy, don’t sleep on the Titans offence (or defence if you grab one late) but do not take DeShaun Watson any earlier than the 7th round, even if you bought a ticket to board his hype train. I fear that injury will cost the Texans a real shot at a divisional title again this season and worst case scenario, JJ Watt could be done for a career (I really hope not). For that reason, I wont be investing in any Texans players but watch out for Keke Coutee in dynasty leagues.

Predictions:

1st – Tennessee Titans,

2nd – Jacksonville Jaguars,

3rd – Houston Texans,

4th – Indianapolis Colts

LEE

The AFC South promises to be one of the best divisions in the whole of football in 2018 as it has three genuine playoff contenders and the other team is set to welcome back a All-Pro calibre quarterback.

Let’s start with that quarterback and Indianapolis. Andrew Luck and his trusty sidearm are back and firing! Andrew Luck is on the field in training camp, throwing the official “Duke” ball and by all accounts is looking pretty good! Of course, it’s training camp and everything is great in training camp, the connection with T.Y. Hilton was always going to be just as good as ever… don’t let my cynical tone fool you, I genuinely want Luck to be back to his best because the NFL is a better place with him in it.

I know I referred to the Colts as a the other team earlier, and they are, they’re still two years away but definitely on the right path.

I say this because whilst I liked what they did in the draft; adding Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith, drafting Darius Leonard as their middle linebacker of the future and adding a pair of promising pass rushers, they are still thin on the ground at wide receiver and at running back. Also, outside of Malik Hooker and Quincy Wilson, the secondary looks very much like it can be attacked. The loss of Johnathan Hankins also means they’re weaker up the gut.

Do you see the holes that I’m talking about? The Colts are asking Luck to be Superman and for T.Y. Hilton be to his Thor and that’s the problem, the offense doesn’t really have any other Avengers (Quenton Nelson is Thanos, for those wondering; he’s going to be that bad ass) so they’re going to need to score 30 a game with that defense to have a chance to win some games.

So yeah, tough sledding for another year in Indy in a tough division until they can reload via the draft some more; the scars of the Ryan Grigson era run deep. Fantasy wise, oddly the only player I like on this team is Nyheim Hines as a late round sleeper (again, check out my most recent appearance on the Full 10 Yards podcast for more thoughts on him).

My favourite team in this division currently is the Titans and not just because of those slick new unis. Great coaching hire in Mike Vrabel, shiny new offensive co-ordinator in Matt LeFleur who is one of the best young OC’s in the game and a roster with players all over the field who are either really good now or feel like they’re on the cusp of a breakout. Oh and they won a playoff game last year when they weren’t as good.

As a draft guy, I definitely have a bias towards a team if I feel like they have had a good draft, not all the time but I feel it’s a really, really important aspect of the game.

Tennessee didn’t have a lot of picks but they used them really well! I loved the picks of Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry, they were two player who I rated very highly coming out. The Titans also added Dion Lewis to give themselves some diversity alongside the more bruising Derrick Henry.

The team already had a good, young QB, a strong offensive line, a good tight end and a wide receiver who was drafted fifth overall. So a pretty well rounded offense that contains a few players who, like I mentioned earlier, are on the cusp of a true breakout… I’m looking at you Marcus Mariota and Corey Davis. Both of whom would come into fantasy consideration from me, ditto the running backs, ditto Delanie Walker… ahh ditto everyone, I’m all in on Tennessee!

The defense is punctuated with established players like Jurrell Casey and Derrick Morgan and supported by budding stars like Adore’e Jackson and Kevin Byard. Without being the best roster in the NFL, I feel like they’re a very complete roster.

Right, before I carry on gushing about the Titans, I’ll move on to the Jaguars.

This is the best team in this division and potentially one of the best in the league. I fully expect a deep playoff run again from the team who was a couple of plays away from beating the Patriots last winter.

The defense speaks for itself, with Jalen Ramsey, I mean that literally, too. Although to be fair to them, the Jags have got a lot to shout about! As everyone knows, their defense is elite, all three levels are flooded with players who at the top of the game and they have so much depth too, especially along the defensive line.

The offense is a little less pretty, it’s not bad but it’s nowhere near the level of the defense. Leonard Fournette is going to be leaned on heavily (maybe too heavily) and he’ll be hoping to improve in 3.9 YPC in year 2. The main issue comes with Blake Bortles and who is going to catch the ball for him… can Nathaniel Hackett paper over the cracks again and keep Bortles relatively error free? With no Allan Hurns and no Allan Robinson, the wide receiver corp looks a little flimsy too, there are names but someone needs to step up and become the guy.

Even with the possible issues on offense, I do believe that the team that represents the AFC in the Superbowl will have to beat Doug Marrone’s squad.

My little Jags fantasy draft tidbit: I’d only take Fournette in the 2nd round (or later if for some reason he’s still on the board). I feel he’ll be facing more than a few loaded boxes, which is tough going for a bell-cow back.

Last bit by no means least are the Houston Texans, another team who many fancy for a play off run and it’s easy to see why as their roster is full of big names and star talent.

To me though, it feels like everyone is waiting on Houston… waiting to see of DeShaun Watson will light it up over a full season, waiting for Nuk Hopkins to repeat his monster 2016 season where he lead the league in touchdowns, waiting to see J.J. Watt back destroying QB’s on a weekly basis. My question is, will they keep everyone waiting or deliver?

The interesting thing is that with this division having three potential play off teams, the likelihood is that at least one of those team will miss out, which is going to make those games between the three teams that little bit more spicy!

I’m also really looking forward to seeing the Honeybadger in a Texans uniform. I think he’ll have an enormous chip on his shoulder after the way he was cut by the Cardinals and he’ll be looking to prove everyone wrong, again. I’ll also be keeping an eye on his probable safety partner, Justin Reid. I am still not sure why he lasted until the third round of the draft, I feel like he’ll prove to be a steal for Houston.

For fantasy you can’t go wrong with Hopkins early if the top 4 running backs and Antonio Brown are gone. Watson should be off the board early too given his rushing ability, so if you want him be sure to get in early to avoid disappointment. Will Fuller has big play ability and may be worth a late round pick in deeper leagues too. I’m not a huge fan of Lamar Miller personally but he is a starting running back on a team that will run the ball A fair amount so I guess he does have some value.

So that’s me on the AFC South. Really good division in my eyes, probably only a couple that I’d have over it and the best one in the AFC.

Prediction:

  1. Jaguars (just)
  2. Titans
  3. Texans
  4. Colts

Joy Divisions – AFC North

Before the season starts, myself and good friend of the podcast Lee Wakefield (@wakefield90) will give a summary of each division, how we see it playing out over the season along with some players to target in fantasy in each.

AFC North:

On first look, it may be a simple one to solve, but the Steelers always make heavy weather of things…

TIM

Pittsburgh Steelers: 

Steelers have kind of owned the division for a while now and I have sneaky suspicions that they will either blow the division away again, or collapse and fall apart (potentially leading to Big Ben retiring, especially if he continues to self destruct when talk of Mason Rudolph surfaces). Whilst I believe it’s more likely of the former, their defence is not going to be as strong without Ryan Shazier and is a far cry from previous Pittsburgh defences.

On the offence, Martavis Bryant has left for Oakland and they have new shiny draft pick James Washington (a great late round pick in dynasty drafts), who could see the field a fair bit as the Steelers like playing 3 WR sets and were one of the teams with the highest % of doing so last season. JuJu Smith-Schuster is being way overdrafted but you cannot deny his talent, but Antonio Brown is also on the team too so JuJu will have more ups and downs than a theme park roller-coaster.

LeVeon Bell is once again playing under the franchise tag and could start off slowly like last season but expect him to be run in to the ground before he finds a new team next season (I am fascinated to see what he produces in a different scheme and setup, I liken it to Lionel Messi in soccer). QB Big Ben has never been in any of my fantasy teams and only offers value in Bestball leagues because I never can trust him and don’t want the headache each week of whether to start him or not but does have a low ADP in drafts this year.

Baltimore Ravens: 

Could be a sneaky playoff team this year and a lot will depend on how many games Joe Flacco plays…and I mean that in a good way.

If Flacco plays 16 games, that means that there are performing well and have a shot at the postseason. anything less than 12 or 13 and you’d expect the Ravens to end up with nothing better than 8-8. I honestly believe that the Lamar Jackson draft selection will prompt Flacco to play some good football because he has been absolutely dire in the last few years (well, ever since he won a Championship ring and got a new contract). Flacco can pretty much be discarded next year and it isn’t far-fetched to say that this could be his last season.

They have decent weapons on offence now though and have acquired Michael Crabtree from Oakland along with point to prove WRs in John Brown and Willie Snead.

I think it’s understated that the Ravens had seemingly a brilliant Draft. They took 2 Tight Ends in Mark Andrews and first round selection Hayden Hurst, both who can catch the ball and should be ready to go. Orlando Brown is a nice addition to the line to help keep that running game going.

Talking of running game, Alex Collins performed admirably at RB last season despite a depleted offensive line and should get a similar workload this year (just beware, Kenneth Dixon is lurking and could be a wildcard) so all things point to potentially an exciting season for Baltimore fans.

Cleveland Browns: 

I feel like everyone outside of the AFC North are rooting for the Browns this year. Whether that’s because they have been nothing short of a joke or whether it’s through sympathy. That said, this year they should be aiming for at least 5 wins.

Another team that has gone a major overhaul on offence. Carlos Hyde joins the running back room along with draft pick Nick Chubb to compensate for Isiah Crowell, who travels to the Jets. At WR, Jarvis Landry got PAID to come over and he joins a talented set of players in Josh Gordon (provided his issues stay away) and Corey Coleman (provided he shows his worth). David Njoku will be stellar in his 2nd season and Tyrod Taylor looks to bring some stability at the QB position, though it’s anyone’s guessat what point they bring in #1 overall draft pick Baker Mayfield. Similar to Baltimore, if Tyrod Taylor plays 16 games this season, it would indicate the Browns are having a good season (hard to fathom that it’s ever an outcome that is in the range of possibility). If Baker starts a handful, it’s because Hue Jackson is in the hotseat and will try and borrow even more time from somewhere.

Denzel Ward, #4 pick in the 2017 draft joins what could be a sneaky defence but it was a surprise that Bradley Chubb was not on this roster.

From a fantasy perspective, it’s hard to know who will produce the most out of this group. Gordon could prove to be a bust should his troubles stay in touch with him, Corey Coleman could end up being cut if Dez Bryant joins the team (his twitter feed is always worth a watch) and Jarvis Landry will need to improve on his 8.8 yards per catch from last year whilst keeping the sky high number of Touchdowns from last season. I think David Njoku is probably the play as a late TE off the board and Tyrod Taylor is a risk with Baker Mayfield lurking but could be a good Bestball player at the end of drafts.

Key Storyline: Can all of these players gel and can they finally win a game?

Cincinnati Bengals:

The Bengals have the players to make a case for wildcard consideration this year but the offensive line needs to hold up, John Ross needs to live up to his billing now back from injury and Marvin Lewis needs to establish the teams identity.

Joe Mixon struggled to get efficiency from his runs last year but could prove a lot better for the experience, though Gio Bernard and draft pick Mark Walton are circling. AJ Green was his usual self (minus the ejection) and should do so again this year. Billy Price should sure up the line a little bit at center for the Bengals, helping Dalton have a bit more time and who knows whether Tyler Eifert will play this season (you could do worse than Tyler Kroft too).

On the defence, Burfict is suspended yet again and will be missed but the defence is a middle of the road type defence and should follow recent trends in terms of efficiency and production. I think it will be a few years until we see the Bengals in the palyoffs unfortunately.

Summary:

TM-

Not going to predict anything too drastic for the division but it would surprise me to see the Ravens get within 1 or 2 wins of the Steelers. Whether that’s because the Steelers implode or the Ravens get the grit between their teeth and improve. The Ravens have a good shot at January this year all things going well and it will certainly be interesting to see how many wins the Browns get (surely 1?!?!). I dont see the Bengals troubling anyone too much but Joe Mixon could be a top 5 running back in fantasy (contrarian hot take).

All the Steelers players you are paying for in drafts due to the high scoring potential, but Vance McDonald could be one to watch out for if you stream Tight End. The Ravens could provide some value by selecting their players in the later rounds (not Flacco though guys, let’s be real). The Browns probably wont return many points this year so would probably avoid most of those

Predictions:

1st – Pittsburgh Steelers,

2nd – Baltimore Ravens,

3rd – Cleveland Browns (!),

4th – Cincinnati Bengals

Lee

The AFC is going to be a really interesting division for the coming season. Every team has some storylines that will be worth keeping an eye an as we work through the season.

The least interesting storyline is that atop of the division is still the Pittsburgh Steelers. They still have the best players and best roster in the North but what’s going on with Le’Veon Bell? It’s pretty clear to see that there’s some bad blood between Bell and the front office and the star running back will most likely be playing his last season in Pittsburgh. How will this affect things? Well, I feel like the Steelers will try to get their money’s worth out of Bell and he’ll be looking at 400+ total touches through the regular season. Now, obviously giving your best players more opportunities means more opportunities for big plays but how much will that wear Bell down? How does it affect the offense overall? Is it putting him in the line of fire in terms of injuries?

Obviously with Bell, Ben, Brown and a top offensive line, the Steelers are going to score some point but can they keep other teams out? The defense doesn’t match up to the other side of the ball but they’re still going to be number 1 in the North. From a fantasy perspective, you can’t go wrong with Brown or Bell. Roethlisberger will stink a few weeks and probably get injured for a short time but a decent streaming option.

Next, a team who I personally find really interesting, the Cleveland Browns. On paper the Browns look like a really competitive team. Looking through their depth chart there are blue chip players throughout the roster. Yes, really. They also have some young players who they have drafted in the past couple of years who could grow into some of the better players at their positions.

I think what a lot of fans struggle to get past in the Browns name and recent history and because of that, they talk Cleveland down. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the Browns will be the next best team in the North. Todd Haley and Gregg Williams are top co-ordinators and now that Cleveland have moved away from moneyball, you can treat them as a normal football team again. I’ll come on to the Bengals and the Ravens soon but these team a excite me less than Cleveland at this moment in time. I’m not saying they’ll make the playoffs but they’re going to be better, much better. Fantasy wise; Landry is going to be gobbling up catches, if Josh Gordon has his mind and body in sync he could be a top 10 receiver. The back field is going to be a committee so wait and see who emerges and maybe try to get one off of waivers if you don’t fancy betting on one guy come your draft. My one to watch would be David Njoku, the super athletic tight and will be looking to become a big weapon in year two.

When it comes to the Bengals, I’m looking at that revamped offensive line. I’m seeing if they can help Joe Mixon break out, I’m seeing William Jackson can cement himself as one of the best corners in the game and can John Ross make positive yardage?

I think Mixon has a good chance to breakout and become a top running back. He’s definitely worth targeting in your fantasy drafts, some goes for A.J Green. Both late first to early second round players depending on the size of your league.

One thing that holds the Bengals back, to me is coaching. I was shocked when they kept Marvin Lewis on. He’s been in the job for a long time and really not yielded much success; didn’t Einstein say something about insanity and repeating stuff over and over and expecting different results? Hmmm.

The least interesting team in the division, to me, is the Ravens. Aside from Lamar Jackson, I didn’t like their draft, I don’t feel like they added much or improved very much at all. I feel like we’re just waiting for Lamar Jackson to unseat Joe Flacco and then things may get interesting. Then we’ll all be watching to see how the Baltimore offense evolves from a drab Flacco offense into something potentially really exciting with Jackson at the controls. At this point I feel like Flacco is only in a job because of the respect he’s earned through winning a Superbowl.

Jackson could be a nice pick up for you dynasty league by the way. Aside from him I’m not going anywhere near Ravens players in my drafts. The wide receiver room is awash with “meh” players and none of the tight ends interest me at all. Alex Collins could be a decent pick up but not someone worth targeting in my book.

This could seem pretty wild to some but my prediction is:

  1. Steelers
  2. Browns
  3. Bengals
  4. Ravens