Season in Review – Kansas City Chiefs

By Sean Tyler (@SeanTylerUK)

As we get to the end of our Season in Review series, we finally get to the story with the fairy tale ending. Here’s the lowdown on the 2019 campaign that saw the Kansas City Chiefs lift the Lombardi Trophy for the first time in 50 years.


ENTERING THE SEASON


2018 had been a successful year for the Chiefs, winning the AFC West and getting within a coin toss of reaching the Super Bowl. An overtime loss in the AFC Championship game to the Patriots may have ended differently if Patrick Mahomes had started with the ball instead of Tom Brady…

In the offseason, KC released two of their most established players in linebacker Justin Houston (now with the Colts) and safety Eric Berry (still a free agent). They also shipped out newly acquired receiver Sammie Coates, now starring in the XFL for the Houston Roughnecks.

DE Dee Ford was franchise tagged before being traded to the San Francisco 49ers, while Frank ‘The Shark’ Clark came in from Seattle. He was joined by running back Carlos Hyde, corner Bashaud Breeland and the Honey Badger himself, safety Tyrann Mathieu.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

All this trade action left KC with no first-round option in the 2019 NFL Draft. Nonetheless, with their first selection (#56 overall), the Chiefs acquired WR/return specialist Mecole Hardman from Georgia, who went on to the Pro Bowl in his first season. Their other Round 2 choice, safety Juan Thornhill, formed a solid partnership with Mathieu.

During pre-season, Chiefs fans wouldn’t have had a sense of what was to come. Of course, they beat the Bengals but lost the other three warm-up games to the Steelers, 49ers and Packers.


DURING THE SEASON


In 2019 – the Chiefs’ 50th NFL campaign, 60th in total and seventh under Andy Reid as Head Coach – they shot out of the gate with four straight wins. As well as going to Jacksonville (three receiving TDs for Sammy Watkins), Oakland (four TD passes by Patrick Mahomes in the second quarter) and Detroit (three rushing touchdowns), they dished out a rare L to the much-fancied Baltimore Ravens at Arrowhead Stadium. One of Hardman’s two receiving plays that day was an 83-yard score during which he was clocked at 21.7 mph.


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But given how the season started and finished, it’s hard to believe that KC then went on a run of just two wins in six. Their 19-13 loss to the Colts ended a 25-game streak of scoring at least 25 points, and they also fell at home to the Texans (having only 20 minutes of possession didn’t help). Matt Moore stepped in at QB after Mahomes injured his knee in a TNF win over Denver, and started two home games: a loss to the Packers and a win against Minnesota, decided by a Harrison Butker FG with three seconds left.

Mahomes returned with a bang to face the Titans, attempting 50 passes, racking up 446 passing yards and nailing three TD throws, including a 63-yarder to Hardman, but it still ended in defeat. Luckily, it was their last one of the campaign.

James Kenney/Associated Press

Through their sticky patch, KC had stumbled from a confident 4-0 to an unsteady 6-4. But from Week 11 onwards – when the Chiefs dispatched the LA Chargers in Mexico City – they became the model of perfection, recording nine wins in a row, including The Big One in Miami on 2 February. 

After their bye week, the Kansas City defence really stepped it up, keeping Oakland to just nine points and running a blocked kick back to the house with the final play. After a 23-16 win over the Patriots, which sealed the AFC West crown for the fourth time on the bounce, the Chiefs held both the Broncos and Bears to a single field goal in easy wins. 

In Week 17, Hardman returned a kick-off for a 104-yard TD in another victory against the Chargers, earning them the No.2 seed in the AFC and a free pass through to the Divisional Round of the playoffs. The Chiefs battled back from 24-0 down after 15 minutes to see off the Houston Texans 51-31, with Mahomes throwing three of his five TDs passes to TE Travis Kelce, and Damien Williams running in two more. Their points tally was a KC postseason record, it sealed back-to-back playoff wins for the first time in franchise history and it was first time any team has scored TDs on seven consecutive drives since 1970, when Kansas last won the Super Bowl. (Oooh, spooky…)

Jeff Curry

The Chiefs hosted the AFC Championship, where they got their revenge over the Tennessee Titans in front of the Arrowhead faithful. Again, they trailed at the end of the first quarter but five TDs (including two for Tyreek Hill) saw them advance to Super Bowl LIV with a 35-24 win.

As we all know by now, Mahomes rallied his team once last time in the season finale, leading a late charge to beat the 49ers 31-20 and take their first championship title since Super Bowl IV exactly 50 years ago. Read my take on the game here.


OFFSEASON OUTLOOK


Heading into the offseason, it’s obvious that KC really need a new quarterback… ha ha, as if.

While they may need a new backup, with Matt Moore entering free agency, their top priority should be re-signing Chris Jones, the team’s sack leader for the last two years. The defensive lineman’s contract could set them back around $20m a year – akin to what they pay Frank Clark – and when the time comes, they’ll have to pay Mahomes mega-bucks too. This won’t leave GM Brett Veach much of his $13.9 million cap space (the sixth lowest in the league) to be as aggressive as he has in previous offseasons unless something else gives.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Of the Chiefs’ 24 players whose contracts are expiring, LeSean McCoy, Terrell Suggs and Spencer Ware are three that will probably depart or even retire. And when it comes to April’s NFL Draft, the Chiefs only have five picks, having traded away their sixth and seventh rounders. As champions, they’ll pick last, starting at #32 overall.

Given the free-agent status of Jones, as well as Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller, the Chiefs may target a defensive lineman (Jordan Elliott from Missouri?), cornerback (Clemson’s AJ Terrell seems a possibility) or linebacker (I’m seeing Kenneth Murray out of Oklahoma and LSU’s Patrick Queen mocked to the Chiefs). Another edge rusher could complement Clark well, so Curtis Weaver (Boise State) or Zack Baun (Wisconsin) may also be in the mix.

On the other side of the ball, WR Sammy Watkins has another year left but he didn’t score after Week 1. The Chiefs could release him, save a shed-load of money and pluck a young pup from a loaded 2020 class. They could also upgrade at running back, either with a draft pick like Johnathan Taylor from Wisconsin or maybe a free agent, with the names Austin Ekeler and Matt Breida being bandied about.

But as you’d expect with a Super Bowl-winning side with a much-respected HC, there’s a lot of silver lining and not very much cloud in the long-range forecast. So if you fancy a flutter on the year ahead, the Chiefs (in or around 6/1) are the current favourites to defend their title next year in Tampa.

AFC West Breakdown

Last Season 

Kansas City Chiefs 12-4

L.A Chargers 12-4

Denver Broncos 6-10

Oakland Raiders 4-12

Kansas City Chiefs

Draft selections: 

Round 2 – Mecole Hardman, WR, Georgia & Juan Thornhill, S, Virginia 

Round 3 – Khalen Saunders, IDL, Western Illinois

Round 6 – Rashad Felton, CB, South Carolina & Nick Allegretti, IOL, Illinois

Offseason key additions:

Tyrann Mathieu – The Honey Badger came over after playing just the single season in Houston, signing a 3 year, $42m contract with the Chiefs.

Emmanuel Ogbah – The Nigerian defensive end came over in a trade that say safety, Eric Murray go in the opposite direction, to Cleveland. One of two defensive ends that came through the door to cover the loss of Dee Ford to the 49ers. The other addition was…

Alex Okafor – The veteran pass rusher will replace Dee Ford as the Chiefs primary speed rusher off the edge after signing a 3 year, $18m dollar deal to join Kansas City.

Offseason key departures:

Justin Houston – Franchise legend Houston was allowed to walk in free-agency. However, he still found his way on to a contender, signing with the Indianapolis Colts.

Eric Berry – Berry has yet to find another team since being released by the Chiefs and perhaps it’s questionable whether he will do considering he suffered a ruptured Achilles in 2017 and was subsequently diagnosed with Hugland’s deformity in his heel following the injury. 

Super Bowl odds: 8/1

Analysis:

It’s all going to be on Mahomes and the offense but are the Chiefs better on the whole than they were in 2018? I’m not certain. Fans are putting enough money on them to make them favourites for the Superbowl but how much is that off the back of the hype and media love-in that we’re seeing for Patrick Mahomes? I think that’s definitely playing a part, personally.

Bottom line is that the Chiefs will be a good team and probably pretty fun to watch if you like watching lots of points being scored.

Look out for: 

Points! I think the Chiefs will be involved in a lot of shootouts this coming season and I feel that they’re actually going to be pretty comfortable with that given the offense they have. They know they have the real deal in Patrick Mahomes under center, they have the offensive mind of Andy Reid on the sidelines and r̶i̶g̶h̶t̶l̶y̶ ̶o̶r̶ wrongly they will have Tyreek Hill suit up from week 1 and even side from him, they have one of, if not the best tight end in the game, who like all the best tight ends, is a mismatch nightmare.

Flip it over to the defense and I don’t see how this defense is much better than last year. They might be more opportunistic, with Thornhill and Mathieu on the back end and with the pass rushers that they’ve added but I strongly believe that they still won’t be a “good” defense.

However, in the modern NFL that’s more than passable when you have the firepower to go toe-to-toe with anyone. All the Chiefs need to do is put the ball back in Mahomes’ hands one more time than the opponent and that could be enough.

To sum up,as I’ve said, I think the Chiefs will be good again and will win 10 or more games but I’m reluctant to go further than that, given how lopsided their team is.

Los Angeles Chargers 

Draft selections:

Round 1 – Jerry Tillery, IDL, Notre Dame

Round 2 – Nasir Adderley, S, Delaware

Round 3 – Trey Pipkins – OT, Sioux Falls

Round 4 – Drue Tranquill – LB, Notre Dame

Round 5 – Easton Stick, QB, North Dakota State7

Round 6 – Emeke Egbule, LB, Houston

Round 7 – Cortez Broughton, IDL, Cincinnati 

Offseason key additions:

Thomas Davis – The veteran linebacker comes in from Carolina to give the Bolts some big time leadership. That said, Davis may be in his mid 30’s but he can certainly still play. Davis signed a 2 year, $10.5m contract with the Chargers to become one of only two free agency acquisitions. 

Offseason key departures:

Darius Philon – I was surprised when the team allowed Philon to walk in free agency. He’s entering his prime, the team had developed him from a 6th round flier to a very useful defensive tackle who was a key part of their rotation in 2018. Philon chipped in with 8.5 sacks over the past two seasons and brought some real energy and urgency to the defensive line. I guess what we can say is that this was a nod towards the selection of a defensive tackle in the early part of the draft – Which obviously came to fruition with the selection of Jerry Tillery, someone who should go on and become a better player than Philon if all goes well. Nevertheless, I am sad to see Philon go and wish him well in Arizona.

Super Bowl odds: 14/1

Analysis:

I feel like the Chargers are primed for a big season and to have a big run at winning a Lombardi. The team is very talented and the roster is one of the most balanced in the NFL, with young stars and top class veterans on both sides of the ball. Let’s not forget that this was a team that was a late season implosion against the Broncos away from being the #1 seed in the AFC. I feel that there’s a chance that they can get the #1 seed this year which will mean that opponents are travelling cross-country to play in L.A. and that they will get that all important week of rest before the playoffs begin; two things that the Patriots had to their advantage before the Divisional matchup in January.

Look out for: 

What happens to Melvin Gordon? The only dark cloud hanging over the Chargers at the moment in the contract dispute they have with their star running back. Will Melvin Gordon sign? Will he be traded and if he does get traded, where to and what’s the compensation going to be? Or, will he appear for the Chargers mid season (probably week 10), with a chip on his shoulder and a point to prove? Personally, I have no idea, I change my mind every time I read something about it… However, as a Chargers and Melvin Gordon fan I will say this; neither side is in the wrong here and both sides are making business decisions that they feel are the right thing to do. There’s no ill feeling towards either side on my part and that will remain the case no matter the outcome… Well unless he gets traded for a dirisory compensation, then I’ll have something to say.

Denver Broncos

Draft selections:

Round 1 – Noah Fant, TE, Iowa

Round 2 – Dalton Risner, OT, Kansas State & Drew Lock

Round 3 – Dre’Mont Jones, IDL, Ohio State

Round 5 – Justin Hollins, LB, Oregon

Round 6 – Juwann Winfree, WR, Colorado 

Offseason key additions: 

Bryce Callaghan – A lot of fans may ask who on earth is Bryce Callaghan? Well, as we all know, I’m a sucker of defense and especially defensive backs and to me, Bryce Callaghan is one of the best slot corners in the game right now. Callaghan arrives from Chicago where he worked in, now Denver Head Coach, Vic Fangio’s system, on a 3 year, $21m deal which may well turn out to be one of the most shrewd pieces of business in the league this off season.

Ja’Wuan James – Probably the best right tackle available in free agency was Ja’Wuan James and provides some insurance against growing pains that rookie tackle, Dalton Risner may experience, since we know how difficult the transition into the pros can be for young linemen. James could also start alongside Risner should Risner start his Broncos career inside at guard.

Joe Flacco – The writing was on the wall when Lamar Jackson was drafted in Baltimore – The Flacco era was coming to an end. The Broncos QB situation was in limbo so the chucked the Ravens a 4th rounder for the pleasure of having the veteran QB bridge until the Drew Lock era commences in the near future.

Offseason key departures:

Shaq Barrett – The Broncos lost a decent depth piece from their pass rush rotation when Barrett went to Tampa Bay.

Shane Ray – Ray has signed with the Ravens. See the Barrett, Shaq for the analysis.

Bradley Roby – The Broncos and the Texans switched former first round corners in free agency as Roby went to Houston and Kareem Jackson joined Denver.

Super Bowl odds: 66/1

Analysis:

Denver should get better on defense with the fantastic mind of Vic Fangio now running the show but in his 60’s, is it too late to be a first time head coach? I’m skeptical on whether there’s enough talent on the defense to be successful with Fangio’s system and whether Rich Scangarello is experienced enough to get a tune out of the Broncos offense, which like the D, has some talented players but probably not enough. I think overall, even if Fangio is a success, the Broncos are still another good draft/offseason away from being a really good team again.

Look out for: 

The development of Drew Lock. Lock is the next swing from the fences that GM, John Elway has taken in search for his QB in Denver but the signs thus far aren’t good. After the Hall of Fame game, Fangio said that he expected more from Lock but wasn’t surprised [at his lackluster performance]. That, boys and girls, ain’t good. Flacco obviously isn’t a great QB anymore, if he ever was so it’ll be interesting to see whether Fangio turns to Lock at any point during the season, especially if Denver aren’t in the playoff hunt. Subsequently, how will Lock do if he does indeed make it on to the field. If it doesn’t go well or if he sits on the shelf all season, Elway’s seat may become a little warmer.

Oakland Raiders

Draft selections: 

Round 1 – Clelin Farrell, Edge, Clemson, Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama & Jonathan Abram, S, Mississippi State

Round 2 – Trayvon Mullen, CB, Clemson

Round 4 – Maxx Crosby, Edge, Eastern Michigan, Isaiah Johnson, CB, Houston, Foster Moreau, TE, LSU

Round 5 – Hunter Renfrow, WR, Clemson

Round 7 – Quenton Bell, Edge, Prairie View A&M 

Offseason key additions:

Mr. Big Chest – Antonio Brown was banished from Pittsburgh to Oakland. Does he still have the ability to be an excellent addition to the Raiders? Yes. Does he have the appetite? This is where it gets questionable. Yes, AB has an unbelievable work ethic but in Oakland he has no chance to win a championship whereas he did in Pittsburgh for much of his time there. I wonder how much the imminent move to Las Vegas had a bearing on this move… I’m sure AB will love the bright lights and what it could do for his personal brand.

Trent Brown – Brown is a solid tackle who had a lot of success in New England. Now, I’m not saying he’s a bad player because he’s not but how much of that was down to Dante Scarnecchia? Who is regarded as the best offensive line coach in the NFL. We’ll see… Brown got wildly overpaid so it could look like a bad signing, quickly if he doesn’t perform.

Tyrell Williams – Tyrell is a good receiver who was a WR3 in L.A. who wanted to be paid like a WR2 and deployed like a WR2. He’s gotten his wishes but I wonder about the fit. Derek Carr doesn’t go deep very often, less often than any QB in the league. Williams is best of deep routes… you see where the problem lies, don’t you?

LaMarcus Joyner – The feisty and diminutive safety comes over from the Rams since they couldn’t afford to keep him. Joyner definitely raises the level on the back end for the Raiders.

Offseason key departures:

Kelechi Osemele – Remember a few years back when Oakland had one of the better offensive lines in the NFL? Osemele was a huge part of that at the time but his play fell off recently and that unit it being rebuilt with younger bodies. He now finds himself at the Jets.

Super Bowl odds: 66/1

Analysis:

There’s been a heck of a lot of changes and there will be even more as the franchise moves cities and Gruden constructs his roster alongside Mike Mayock. All of which has resulted in me not really being sure if Oakland have actually gotten any better for it all. The Raiders are tough to call but as you’ll see in my oeductiom below, I’m siding with my doubt and my feeling that there will be some growing pains in 2019 and perhaps beyond.

Look out for: 

Drama. Gruden, Antonio Brown, Vontaze Burfict, Mike Mayock as GM and an imminent move of city. It’s going to get really, really interesting for Raiders fans and we’ll potentially get a peek into that throughout Hard Knocks. 

2019 Season Prediction:

L.A Chargers 13-3

Kansas City Chiefs 11-5

Denver Broncos 7-9

Oakland Raiders 3-13

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.

See you on the Upside…

Upside….Potential….Ceiling….

All words synonymous with fantasy football players we all get excited about each off-season.

We all keep a keen eye on minicamp battles, coaches speak from interviews to try and get that extra edge about players that we want on our teams every year.

Average Draft Position, or ADP, is the average position in drafts that players are taken and the beauty of it is, everyone has an opinion on players that are too high, players that are considered steals.

One thing that we always overpay for is where players have anything which is considered close to those first 3 words at the start of this article.

Fantasy Football GMs love a player with upside or potential. Whether it has come from another player leaving and potentially giving a player a bigger role in their offence. Or a player that has been traded for or drafted in to a team where lots of targets are available or come in to a high scoring offence.

Hype starts to build and in most cases, where we hear nothing from the players or the coaches on these players and their roles, we all board the hype train.

This skyrockets player’s average draft position in mock drafts and in some cases, actualy drafts. We usually find ourselves kicking the wall when these players don’t repay the faith we show in them as Fantasy Football managers.

Here we will look at the candidates where the hype train is full or where we are potentially way over the top on for next season.

Quarterbacks:

DeShaun Watson

There will be a common theme here at the Quarterback position. Small sample size but lots of ability.

After being drafted no.12 overall in the 2017 draft, Watson lit up the NFL in his 6 career starts, despite taking a game or two to get in to the groove.

His 1st season start was a TNF game against Cincinnatti and despite not the greatest of games (although coming away with the W), Watson never looked back.

Watson went in to New England in Week 3 and were seconds away from a massive upset of the Patriots. Week 4, Watson scored a rookie record equalling 5 TDs, battering the Titans with a 50 burger, earning Watson the AFC offensive player of the week. He followed that up with a 5TD performance on MNF vs the Chiefs. Week 6, Watson rolled into Seattle and passed for over 400 yards and 4 Touchdowns.

The rookie was named the AFC player of the month and broke the record for number of touchdown by a rookie in a calendar month.

His season was ended prematurely when tearing his ACL in practice on a non contact drill and still managed to put up 1699 yards, 19 touchdowns and 8 interceptions (including 2 more rushing TDs). He finished 50th on the NFL’s top 100 (polled by their peers).

So this season, Watson is going QB1 in some leagues (yes, over Aaron Rodgers) and even if Watson rediscovers his 2017 form for all 16 games in 2018, this is wayyyy too high. Granted his last 4 starts in 2017, he ended up QB1 and QB2 twice. People are drafting him at his ceiling and it’s no sure thing that we get that Watson back. AN ACL tear could lead to less mobility from Watson and the coaching staff dialling up less plays for Watson to run the ball and scrambling may also be on the downward trend. They are more likely to lean on their run game and their star studded defence in a division that has become a lot tougher.

It is far too risky to take Watson at his current ADP but I can certainly see why people are. I would bet my bottom dollar that Watson will go a few rounds later in 2019 than where he goes next season.

Jimmy Garoppolo

Jimmy G finished the season as one of the hottest QBs, and it seems the lasting impression has not been forgotten. After being traded from the Patriots for a measly price, Garoppolo wasted no time in the driving seat of the 49ers and the Kyle Shanahan offence. Winning all 5 games to end the season and throwing for over 1500 yards.

However, he did only throw 7TDs and was intercepted 5 times, a lot of people are buying in to what the 49ers offence could be next season and a lot of that probably has to do with Kyle Shanahan. Jimmy G is the 9th Quarterback off the boards, ahead of Stafford, ahead of Matt Ryan, Phil Rivers and Big Ben. That to me sounds crazy for a guy that has only started a handful of games, like DeSahun Watson. I know he was a backup QB in new England for multiple years and let’s face it, one handsome as hell guy! But to be this high in drafts is only going to lead to disappointment.

Kyle Shanhan loves of finding ways to get everyone the ball and is great at getting the most out of his backfields. Jimmy G wont actually need to do too much in this offence. Their defence has improved and the NFC west has probably got a bit weaker with Seattle going backwards. They also have 3 of their first 4 games away from Levi’s stadium against some decent teams, so you may find yourself ruing that 7th round pick of Jimmy Garoppolo if things don’t quite go to plan at the start of the season for the 49ers.

Running Backs:

Jerick McKinnon

I promise I am not a 49ers hater!

Similar to the comments above regarding schedule and the Kyle Shanahan sharing the love type of offence, Jerick McKinnon is seemingly the workhorse over in the bay area this season. I just worry about him being able to handle the workload. He was never given that in Minnesota and Latavius Murray ended up taking over that backfield in the absence of the injured Dalvin Cook. McKinnon has had plenty of chances to be what he is in San Francisco and never really convinced me he is anything mroe than a 3rd Down/Passing down back, which he is actually very efficient and explosive at.

McKinnon was RB33 in standard scoring last year and only finished inside the top 12RBs 4 out of the 16 weeks (0.5pt PPR). He signed a 4 year, $30m deal to join the 49ers and he has very little in the way of competition. Carlos Hyde has gone to Cleveland, leaving only Matt Breida and Joe Williams in the depth chart. Whilst Matt Breida could have a bit of joy in this offence, I am sure not taking a 3rd round pick chance on McKinnon, especially in standard scoring). McKinnon has never topped 160 carries and barely received 200 touches in a whole season. Whilst he has the ideal place to be utilized best with Kyle Shanahan, the same applies to all the players in the offence and I cant see McKinnon justifying a pick that early in what could be a lower than expected scoring team. Let him be someone else’s problem.

Derrick Henry

From Jerick, to Derrick.

Probably a cop out with Henry here, but if people are going to continue to draft him as high as the 3rd Round, he will continue to be labelled as such.

We all know how much of a physical freak Henry is. The bruising, towering powerful former Alabama back is as physically brutal as they come, but Tennessee made the moves to acquire Dion Lewis from New England. Everyone thought Henry would have been unleashed this season after the departure of DeMarco Murray, but the move for Lewis says to me that Tennessee are not entirely convinced with what Henry can over over a season. He isn’t a pass catching back, nor is he great at picking up pass protection. If it’s one thing that kills running backs in the NFL, it’s the lack of pass protecting skills (just ask Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay staff).

Henry did reel off a few long TD runs last season in garbage time and like I’ve said, the potential is there, but people are chasing their losses after last year and you will once again get your fingers burned. 4 top 12 finishes in fantasy last year does not inspire confidence for me with a 3rd round pick. Yuk. Players going in the vicinity of Henry at the moment are Joe Mixon, Christian McCaffrey and Jay Ajayi along with the rookie Guice. 100 times out of 100 I would take all of those over Henry. Always.

 

Wide Receivers

Josh Gordon

May be a bit of a controversial one here. No-one is doubting his talent or his credentials of justifying his 3rd round investment required to acquire him in drafts currently, there are just too many potential things getting in the way for me, his off field issues being top of that list.

Josh Gordon or “Flash” has missed so much time with his off field troubles with substance abuse and hopefully, all that is now behind him. Photos going round showing what kind of shape he is in at the moment look impressive and maybe finally we can see a return of the WR that finished with over 1600 yards (!) and 9TDs in 2013. If you can guarantee me 16 games for Gordon next season and that he has returned to optimum peak conditioning, I could perhaps buy in to his 3rd round investment, but there are also other factors now affecting this too much for me to be comfortable with doing so;

Firstly,  Hue Jackson. Hue Jackson is an awful coach. The Browns have won just won 1 game in 2 seasons and have not won on a Sunday since Dec 13, 2015. Yikes.

The team are perennial low scorers every season and this season looks to be no different.

Change in Quarterback, an influx of players on offence and a QB waiting in the wings in Baker Mayfield mean that there are so many variables surrounding this team that I cannot be confident that Gordon will return any value with his current draft position (or even expected returns for a potential WR1 or 2 for that matter).

Yes, he could quite easily have a season of 10TDs and 1000 yards, but Jarvis Landry being there really could cut into his piece of the pie, helping the team sustain drives and be a go to target for Taylor. Tyrod Taylor is an average, steady Eddie type of QB and although he throws a good long ball, it’s a messy offence and it’s hard to know how well this offence will gel. Added in to that a fairly difficult schedule and the fact he has to prove that he still has it too because he didn’t exactly set the world on fire on his return last year (18 rec , 335 yards and 1 TD in 5 games), I’ll pass.

Tyreek Hill

Hill was very much utilised all over the field last year: Rushing (14 targets behind the line of scrimmage too!), passing (threw an interception) and receiving.

This year, it could all come crashing down.

New quarterback in Patrick Mahomes (some say that will help Hill’s skill set on the nine route) and a new shiny Wide Receiver in Sammy Watkins. We all know what a healthy Sammy Watkins can do and obviously didn’t flash his best but had little time to learn the playbook in LA with the Rams. Watkins could shine brighter than HIll here, and he is going at least 4 rounds later in drafts. Oh, and there’s top tier TE Travis Kelce still there too.

Whilst Hill will be in contention for the most targets and touches in the offence, he could turn out to be very boom or bust next year. End of season stats may return dividends for Hill owners once it’s all said and done, but you may find yourself not playing in the fantasy playoffs because of Hill. Look at last seasons weekly finishes in fantasy (0.5ppr):

3, 47,17 ,59, 32, 3, 58, 5, 20, 36, 1, 37,10, 10 – That’s more ups and downs that a Thorpe Park Roller coaster. You want to commit to this as potentially your WR1? Oh, you do…well good luck to you. Word of Warning: Schedule. Kansas City and Andy Reid are well known for their Regular Season form. They smashed the Patriots on opening night last year so they are not afraid to play the big teams. They travel to the Chargers, Steelers and Broncos in the first 4 weeks and Mahomes will be tested on his mental strength as well as his abilities. One thing in Tyreek’s favour is that the KC defence is a shadow of it’s former self and could lead to a lot of shootouts.

Tight Ends

Trey Burton

You cant spell trendy without the word Trey.

Trey Burton, the former backup tight end in Philadelphia to Zach Ertz, the backup QB to Nick Foles (just kidding, but did you see that throw to Foles in the Super Bowl?) now finds himself in Chicago on a pretty nice deal. After getting pretty much a WR deal (4 year, $32m), it seems the man sharing his name with a UK mens clothing retail chain is line for an interesting workload this coming season. He is the 9th TE off the board and whilst that translates to a late 7th/early 8th round pick, it’s actually not bad value. It could just be that this may be a year too early.

Chicago and Trubisky struggled last year under John Fox (who has now gone) and Matt Nagy has joined the ranks so hopefully play calling wont see Burton’s production suffering. However, there are a lot of mouths to feed in Chi-town. Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and of course, marquee signing Allen Robinson have also joined the offence during the free agency and the draft and you also have Tarik Cohen lurking there in the backfield too. Trubisky will need to step forward to sustain a couple of these in fantasy and Trey Burton may not necessarily be top of the list. He should offer you a service at Tight End, which is hit or miss at the best of times but you may be struggling if it is only him you are relying on. I expect Burton’s ADP to rise going into preseason as the hype in this Chicago team gathers pace, at which point I may look to other options at Tight End. Drafting a tight end in round 6 or 7 but not being certain of being able to lock it and load it week to week isn’t something I am a fan of.