Surprise Packages

By Lawrence Vos (@NFLFANINENGLAND)

Everyone likes a surprise, from an unplanned gift out of the blue from a loved one to your favourite team scoring a huge upset against an ‘on-paper’ better opponent.

It may only be the start of Week 3 but some highly desirable packages are already being unwrapped across the landscape. Here, we take a look at the five early surprises in the 2019 NFL season.


John Ross III – WR – Cincinnati Bengals


Ross was a top-ten first round selection in 2017 who wowed scouts with a 4.22 40 yard dash. His first season, bar one run, was obliterated by injury, and his second, despite suiting up in 13 games was abysmal, only catching 21 balls (from 58 targets). The small ray of light in 2018 was that one third of his catches resulted in touchdowns. Expectations had been lowered entering 2019, with the buzz falling at Tyler Boyd’s feet after A.J. Green was declared out for the early part of this season. Ross has stunned lots of folks with two 110+ yard games (270 yards in total) in two weeks, scoring three touchdowns. Andy Dalton looks like he has done an Andy Dufrense after the removal of Marvin Lewis and his top splash-plsy target is John Ross. This production won’t sustain a full season, but stating on the field Ross can break 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns.


Gardner Minshew – QB – Jacksonville Jaguars


Coming into the 2019 season, unless you were a College football aficionado or you wore a teal T-shirt with the words ‘Duuuuuuval’ emblazoned on the front, then the likelihood is you didn’t know who Gardner Minshew was. Now thanks to his facial hair and cheeky smile he is sweeping the nation with Minshew Moustache Mania, a phenomenon only intensified with a nationally televised Thursday Night win over the Tennessee Titans. Minshew was a Round 6 pick after a spectacular senior season at Washington State where he ended up fifth in Heisman Trophy. In 2018 Minshew won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, an accolade that has been picked up in the past by the likes of Peyton and Eli Manning and Matt Ryan. Minshew is the new cult hero in the NFL, which is a welcome distraction from the Antonio Brown debacle for the Commissioner. I’ll meet you down the joke shop for a Fu Manchu moustache.


D.J. Chark (do do do do do do do do) – WR – Jacksonville Jaguars


Yes it is mandatory that every time you say D.J. Chark’s name (do do do do do do do do) that you hum that tune. The Jaguars second round draft pick in 2018 was under the water as a rookie, averaging just over one catch a game in 11 contests (14-174). In just two games this year the co-MVP of the 2018 Senior Bowl had two starts, two touchdowns and two-hundred and one receiving yards, at 18.3 yards a catch. In Week 3 he caught a touchdown for a third consecutive game and is now averaging 5 balls and 90 yards a game. After a rookie season where Chark (do do do do do do do do) fumbled on his first ever catch he has been reborn in year two. He doesn’t have significant college tape, having not recorded a catch until his third season at LSU. In three weeks this season he already has enough You Tube highlights to make a montage with some cheesy rap music featuring Crystal and ‘Yac. If you haven’t already make sure you check if he is on any of your fantasy waiver wires.


Carlos Hyde – RB – Houston Texans


This dude has already played on one-eighth of the NFL’s rosters, suiting up in 66 contests to date, including two this season for the Houston Texans. With over 3,400 rushing yards and 120 career catches Hyde is no slouch. When Lamar Miller went down for Houston in late August there was a big hole in the backfield, so the Texans traded tackle Martinas Rankin to the Chiefs for Hyde. Quietly but efficiently in 2019 Hyde has accumulated 173 yards rushing at 5.8 a carry in two starts. No touchdowns to date, and not a perfect pickup, Hyde is getting the ugly yards, the first and second down work in the middle 50 yards of the field. Deshaun Watson has looked a bit funky so far this year and he needs Hyde to ensure he has someone in the backfield that can run and pass block. Hyde is not a pass catcher, but he knows how to sustain drives. With a scattering of scores Hyde becomes fantasy relevant, but for now he is still surprising fans with some veteran savvy toting the rock.


Eddy Pineiro – K – Chicago Bears


The term ‘double-doink’ only existed in the pantheon of a clown display in circus tents, or for you ancient people, by Timmy Mallet on an episode of Wacaday. That changed forever when Cody Parkey the Chicago Bears kicker made that not-so-sweet metallic pipe music in a playoff loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Bears kicking game became a punchline since the doinktastic miss, and the Training Camp and Pre-Season kicking battle in the Windy City has suffered from national ridicule. Step up Eddy P, who has fully justified his coach’s decision to keep him as he scored a game winning 53-yard field-goal as time expired against the Broncos in Week 2. Pinerio has been 100% on all 5 of his kicks so far, but the Bears kicking woes are not yet eliminated as he is listed as questionable for MNF against the inept Redskins.

One other name to mention in the surprise package category is New England Patriots punt returner Gunner Olszewski, the best unit based name since the legendary Detroit Lions quarterback of the early 90s the one and only Chuck Long, There is a long way to go in the 2019 season, and it will be fascinating if these guys are still fan favourites by the time we reach December.

Potential Fantasy Breakout Candidates for 2019

by Adam Walford – @TouchdownTips

Every year in the NFL there’s a below the radar pick who blows up and finishes in the top 24 of their positions, obviously, our job as GM of our fantasy teams is to try and find those diamonds in the rough. While that’s not an easy thing with the popularity of fantasy football online and the amount of information out there posting very similar information it’s something that we all strive to find.

The key things that I look for are changes in circumstance, whether it’s a change of Head Coach, or Offensive Coordinator, injuries to team-mates, or just buzz coming from beat-writers during the offseason, all these things can improve or diminish a players impact in real life and in fantasy football.

First up is a name you’ll find on every break-out list all over the internet, but it’s one I couldn’t possibly ignore:

Chris Godwin – Wide ReceiverTampa Bay Buccaneers (ADP WR19 – Last season 155.7pts, WR24)

Godwin is on my list due to the change of Head Coach in Tampa. Bruce Arians comes out of a very quick retirement to try and convince Jameis Winston not to throw the ball to the opposition for a while, he brings with him Byron Leftwich who he described as a “rising star in the business.”

The Tampa defense hasn’t been a good unit over the years and they’re in a tough division against some very good offenses, this generally means they need to score points and the best way to do that is to let your QB chuck the rock around.

godwin
Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

He will be WR2 to superstar wideout Mike Evans, who should have a great season, but there’s a lot of seasons where QBs have managed to support a WR1 and 2 in fantasy scoring.

Last year Godwin finished with 7 TDs, 842 yards at an average of 14.3 yards per reception. Over his career, Bruce Arians has deployed 4 WR sets 42% of the time when the league average is down at 10%.

Obviously, that means a guaranteed increase in snaps for Chris Godwin, and don’t forget the likes of Breshad Perriman, Justin Watson and Scotty Miller who should also benefit from Arians’ system.

 

Rashaad Penny – Running Back, Seattle Seahawks (ADP RB33 – Last season 65.9pts, RB64)

It’s not often that a running back drafted in the first round gets so relatively few carries in an offense (419 yards from 85 carries at a touch under 5 yards per carry), especially in one that uses the run game so often (53% of their plays last year used the run game).

Penny’s first season got off to a poor start due to a broken finger which allowed teammte Chris Carson to get the bulk of the carries and keep the main job for the majority of the season.

In the small sample size I saw of Penny though, I thought he was a great runner especially behind the poor Seattle offensive line which was the reason they drafted him anyway.

Penny led college running backs in broken tackles in his final year for San Diego State, something that the Seahawks undoubtedly picked up on. Another reason for him playing second fiddle was that he wasn’t up to scratch pass protecting; That’s something which can be taught though, and he’ll have improved on that last season and during training camps.

Another plus for Penny is that Carson missed OTAs with injury meaning he got all of the first-team reps and Pete Carroll runs the ultimate meritocracy, so if you’re playing well he’ll keep you in there.

Christian Kirk – Wide Receiver, Arizona Cardinals (ADP WR33: Last season 102 pts, WR57)

Kirk was having a pretty decent season in a horrible situation in Arizona last year; he had a rookie QB playing behind an atrocious offensive line last season and they ran an historically low number of plays and failed to move the ball.

Once again the change in coaching is a major reason here. Kliff Kingsbury comes in and will be bringing the air raid offense to the NFL with quick passes abound. They drafted Kyler Murray at #1 who threw for 4,361 and 42 TDs in his final year of college, as well as 3 WRs this year from the second round onwards.

None of those receivers has a history with Murray, whereas Kirk had a year with Murray for Texas A & M in 2015 and now has a year of NFL experience under his belt.

kirk
Photo Credit: TexAgs.com

Last season Kirk finished with 590 yards in 12 games at an average of nearly 14 YPC. I think the whole offense will be far more productive this year, probably running around 100 more plays than last season, and he, Larry Fitzgerald and probably Andy Isabella will be the main three guys in 3 WR sets – more time on the field, more plays, more production. Bosh.

Mark Andrews – Tight End, Baltimore Ravens (ADP TE20: Last season 90.2pts, TE17)

One of my Fantasy crushes this offseason is available for essentially nothing at the end of most mock drafts. He formed a good connection with Lamar Jackson and his less-than-accurate arm last season. In fact, in the games since Lamar Jackson took over at QB, Andrews had 308 yards and 1 TD, converting 13 of his 18 targets in that time which was a 771-yard season pace, which would have seen him fifth in yards for Tight ends last year.

Add to this they drafted Marquise Brown to keep defenses honest and add some much needed speed down the field, his addition should help free up space in the middle of the field where Mark Andrews roams.

The worry here would be that Hayden Hurst steps up and avoids injuries in his second year in the league, but seeing as he missed OTAs already and Andrews was always the better offensive weapon I don’t see that being too much of an issue. Given that he’s practically free at the end of most drafts, I think he’s a brilliant pickup.

 

John Ross – Wide Receiver, Cincinnati Bengals (ADP WR 101 – Last season 74.4 pts, WR81) 

Confession time – the reason for this guy being on the list is that a) I haven’t seen anyone else mention him and b) I’m allowed a homer pick aren’t I?!

Another wide receiver, another change of head coach and the possibility of better utilisation in the new system. Guess how many TDs he had last year? 2? 3? Nope, he ended with 7 TDs from 21 receptions, a lot of them from within the redzone.

While he does seem to have been a combine warrior so far in his career, something that I can’t deny too vociferously, he utilised his quickness as well as his speed last season to gain quick separation at the line of scrimmage.

If you want to get technical, he had a meteoric rise in targets from his first year at the Bengals, 29 times more in fact. If that happens again this year he’ll finish with 1,682 targets for the year!

Back to this upcoming year, he’s now under the coaching of someone from the Sean McVay coaching tree and it seems likely that he brings in some of the same creativity that works so well in LA, from what I’ve been hearing it will include an increase in play-action passes which should allow more time for players to get into space down the field.

I believe if Ross is used as he should be that he’ll be able to get separation and get free downfield to add to his redzone TDs.

 

All ADPs and previous season points are half PPR scoring from fantasypros.com

Podcast 33 – Hot Takes!

The temperature is rising as Rob Grimwood joins us for the 2018 Hot Takes episode.


Teams to miss the playoffs, later round sleepers to end up as WR2? We also round up the latest on players that have recently signed huge contracts in the NFL.

You don’t want to miss this one!

Rob Grimwood can be found on Social Media @FFBritballer and acrossthefantasypond.com and podcast! Go check it out (PS, you get some discount codes!!)