Fantasy Matchups: Ezekiel Elliott vs Saquon Barkley

by Andy Goddard @godsy1985

With Todd Gurley having an injury plagued end to the 2018 season, people are rightly reluctant to draft the LA Rams running back with the first pick. With the running back position being so vital to fantasy teams, is there a better option if you are lucky enough to get the number 1 pick?

Most fantasy mock drafts have both Ezekiel Elliott and Saquon Barkley being claimed in the first two picks but who, out of the two, should you pick? Now, before we proceed, I am well aware of the holdout potential that us fantasy owners are currently having to monitor with Zeke, but, let’s move forward assuming Jerry Jones and co. will do the right thing and sign him to a deserved contract before week 1 commences.

Ezekiel Elliott – Running Back, Dallas Cowboys

Since entering the league in 2016, Elliott has played nearly 90 percent of the Cowboys’ snaps and has handled over 80 percent of the carries when active. ‘Zeke’ carried for 1,434 yards in the 2018 season on 304 attempts, averaging 4.7 yards per carry. He also caught 77 passes (on 94 targets) for 567 yards scoring a combined 9 touchdowns.

A true ‘3 down back,’ he is a durable workhorse and running behind one the best offensive lines in football, so you know there will be production. Zeke is always dangerous after the catch on screens and dump offs but with his improvement as a wide receiver, look for him to cause even more problems for opposition defences.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Ron Jenkins

The return of Jason Witten may take away some of his targets, but based on last years’ stats, his passing upside still outweighs other top tier running backs. Having already demonstrated tackle-breaking and big-play ability its no wonder Zeke is anticipated to be picked first or second. 

The Cowboys’ are changing their offense for the 2019 season by promoting Kellen Moore to offensive coordinator. This doesn’t mean any less of Zeke, who is the centrepiece of the offense. It could actually mean more scoring opportunities but there is uncertainty about what the ‘Moore’ offensive scheme will look like.  

There are a few concerns though. Along with the holdout situation, Zeke has already faced suspension during the 2017 season and after an altercation at a Las Vegas music festival in May 2019, where he shoved a security guard. Zeke was lucky to avoid another suspension.

That was a little reminder that he is one bad decision away form being a suspension candidate once again.

Dallas also appear reluctant to run Elliott near the goal line. In fact, he ranked just 17th last season for runs inside the 5 yard line with his 10 carries. Despite that, he did rank 8th overall for rush attempts in the red zone with 39 carries. Elliott has also fumbled the ball 12 times in his career. Although only three of these have led to the ball being lost, in comparison, Barkley didn’t fumble once during his rookie year.  

Other running backs may get more opportunities for touchdowns near to the goal line but Zeke is projected to yet again lead the league in carries, and with his improvements in the receiving game, Elliott is a solid number 1 pick for any fantasy owner! 

Projected Fantasy Stats 2019 

Carries Yards Average TD  Receptions Yards TD Fantasy Points 
312  1386  4.4  10  74  581  271.5 

Saquon Barkley – Running Back, New York Giants

The 2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year regularly torched defenses as both a runner and receiver last season. Barkley had a league-high 2,028 yards from scrimmage and a total of 15 touchdowns justifying his pick at number 2 in the 2018 NFL draft. 

‘Big Blue’ could have picked a much needed quarterback but went with the Penn State man and his performances last season showed it was the right decision.  

Like Elliott, Barkley is a workhorse clocking up 261 carries and 119 targets. He was on the field for 83 percent of the Giants’ snaps and handled 75 percent of the handoffs.

Barkley was the NFL leader in broken tackles in 2018 but his domination is more than just this single ability. He had 16 rushes of 20 plus yards during his rookie year (which is tied for fifth most since 2000) and with his 91 receptions, Saquon was one of just six running backs who lead their teams in catches last season.  

Photo Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

However, the Giants’ do have their problems – and it starts at Quarterback. Eli Manning has never been known as a ‘dual threat’ quarterback but the 38 year old has been increasingly immobile resulting in a career worst 7.5% sack rate in 2018.

He has also lost the biggest weapon to throw the ball deep downfield since losing Odell Beckham Jr. Manning has gone from averaging 22.6 points per game to just 18.6 last season when without Beckham, also falling from 7.1 yards per attempt to 6.4.

This means that opposing teams can load the box, expecting the run or short pass which certainly doesn’t help Barkley. 

This could also work as an advantage for Barkley as he is guaranteed touches. Barring any injury, he will carry the ball around 300 times during the 2019 season and although Manning’s stats may have dropped off with OBJ’s absence, during the final four weeks of the season this made little difference to Barkley as he still ranked in the top 5 running backs during this time.  

The main concern for Barkley is the state of the Giants’ offensive line. It was ranked 29th in the league during the 2018 season and whilst the addition of guard Kevin Zeitler (from the Browns) will be a minor boost, the line still looks…..urgh! 

Projected Fantasy Stats 2019 

Carries Yards Average TD  Receptions Yards TD Fantasy Points 
297  1363  4.6  10  86  698  285.8 

So who to pick with the 1.01 in PPR? 

Whether you pick Elliott or Barkley at number 1, you are going to get a three down workhorse who will rack up the fantasy points for your team.

If I had to pick one (and I suppose that’s the point of this!), I would go with Barkley. Although he is playing behind a poor offensive line and with an ageing quarterback I just feel that his big play ability alongside his use as Manning’s primary receiver will see him deliver more often.

Zeke also worries me with suspension issues and isn’t as productive in the receiving game. We also do not know how the new Cowboys’ offensive coordinator will look to utilise him. 

Why so low? Fantasy players that are undervalued

by Rob Grimwood – @FFBritBaller

It’s baffling to me. All it takes is one negative narrative or one anomalous season for certain players to be completely disregarded by the fantasy community. Sometimes it’s right to do so, I mean we all remember Trent Richardson and more recently Corey Davis not living up to expectations for fantasy owners.

But, in some cases, I don’t see what all the negativity about, and there are a few players this year who’s ADP is lower than what I believe it should be which begs the question, why are you guys so low?

Jordan Howard – Running Back, Philadelphia EaglesADP: RB35 non-PPR

RB35! That’s a late 7th round pick in 12 man standard scoring leagues. What has Jordan Howard done to deserve an RB3/borderline RB4 tag? Ok, I understand on a week to week basis last year he wasn’t anything special and we didn’t see any magical 60-yard breakaway runs, I know, I owned him in multiple leagues.

Yeah, it stung a little, especially having been on the Howard hype train during the off season this time last year. But statistically, he still delivered. He finished the season with 935 rush yards with 9 rushing TD’s. That was good enough to see him finish up the 2018 season as the RB20 in all league formats, averaging 10.6 fantasy points per game.

His yards per carry went down to 3.7ypc from 4.1 in 2017 and 5.2 in 2016, and Tarik Cohen’s breakout continuation certainly earned him more reps as he consistently flashed brighter than Howard throughout the bulk of the campaign.

But I don’t see how those stats warrant the current price tag. He’s an absolute steal down in the 7th round where he’s going around players such as Kareem Hunt (banned for 8 games), Latavius Murray (a backup RB in New Orleans), and Ronald Jones (2018’s RB stink leader).

Now, I could understand this whole travesty slightly more if he had been traded to a mid-level, mediocre team in the off-season – but he moved to the Eagles! That’s certainly not a downgrade from Chicago, some might argue its a lateral move, but if anything, i think the situation on offense in Philadelphia is better.

Photo Credit: Tim Hawk/NJ Advance Media

He now gets to run behind a better o-line, with a better QB, in a Superbowl calibre squad. The only danger comes in the way of College Football’s one-season wonder, Miles Sanders. Yeah, that’s what he is folks, sorry to break it to you.

Sanders has struggled so far this season with a lingering hamstring injury which kept him out of the pivotal OTA’s and minicamp portion of the off-season. He might be back reporting for training camp duties soon, but i’d be surprised if he’s 100% healthy when week 1 rolls around.

The worst case scenario for Howard this season is that he finds himself in a committee situation. Even still, behind that o-line, in a team that should be in the Superbowl hunt come January, he’s still going to be fantasy relevant with his 935 yard, 6 touchdown floor. He’s still an RB2 in fantasy.

Alshon Jeffrey – Wide Receiver, Philadelphia Eagles ADP: WR28 PPR

Without trying to sound like a Eagles band-wagoner, here we have another prime example of an elite level player being over-looked. Again i’ll say it – the Philly offense is good, real good, as in top 5 good.

Carson Wentz was a shadow of his former self last year after his nasty ACL tear in 2017, tied in with a fractured back which saw him miss the end of last season. Now he’s back to full health and by all reports is looking sharp at training camp.

DeSean Jackson also re-joined his old team this off-season and brings in a dynamic to the offense that hasn’t been there since, well, DeSean Jackson. Defenses won’t be able to ignore Jackson across the field from Alshon, which means less coverage for the 6ft 3 beast to deal with meaning he can capitalize on winning single coverage contested jump balls, something Jeffrey specialises in.

With a career average of 14.5 yards per reception and a solid 800 receiving yard floor, Jeffrey could be in for his best season as an Eagle to date. Only once when having played 13 or more games (4 out of 7 seasons) has he finished outside of the top 20 in PPR scoring for wide receivers. That was last season (26th) with Wentz at half-throttle and career backup Nick Foles slinging the rock.

Alshon is a great target in the mid-sixth round and will definitely return his WR3 ADP value, draft him with confidence.

Jameis Winston – Quarterback, Tampa Bay BuccaneersADP: QB13

Stop rolling your eyes, Jameis is a thing. Sure, he’s had his flaws.. and yes, they’ve been pretty big flaws when throwing interceptions and fumbling the ball are the main two problems. I’m over it though. Why? Bruce Arians is why.

Arians is the best coach that Winston has ever worked with and I am confident that BA wouldn’t have come out for retirement if he didn’t see the potential the Tampa Bay offense has with Jameis at the helm.

Photo Credit: Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports

Last season between Ryan Fitzmagic and Winston, the Bucs finished the regular season with 5,125 passing yards, 2nd most in the league. With Fitzpatrick leaving for Miami, all of those yards now fall to Jameis.

Do I think Winston is a 5,000+ yards passer, no. Especially with the loss of DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries this off-season which accounted for over 1,500 of those yards. But, with Chris Godwin expected to take a step up, Cameron Brate back from injury and dare I say Breshad Perriman finally making good on his talent – I can see Jameis throwing for 4,300 yards and 30 TD’s this year.

In one of the toughest divisions in football and a tough schedule, the Bucs are likely going to see themselves behind in the majority of games, something which almost always relies on the passing game to bring a team back.

If Winston can continue to improve on his mistake making, with the fact he’s an under-rated runner (25.5 rush yards per game in 2018), he could be a reliable quarterback for fantasy owners and has the potential to be in the top 10 come the end of the season.

Devonta Freeman – Running Back, Atlanta FalconsADP: RB18 PPR

Stop with the “Devonta Freeman is made of glass” narrative, please. I’m asking nicely. Yes, three grade 1 concussions aren’t great to have on your injury resume, but a grade 1 concussion is anything from a headache after a collision to slight dizziness. These concussions are not Jordan Reed levels of career threatening problems, so stop overreacting.

Also, the knee sprains he suffered in the 2017 playoffs have not returned. Last seasons’ knee injury was ‘a bruise’. The foot injury was also a bruise. You want to know why Freeman missed all of last season? It was a sports hernia which is a one-off injury and needed surgery.

This narrative that surrounds Freeman is blown way out of proportion if you ask me. He’s back now to full health and is a full participant in training camp with one major plus point, no Tevin Coleman to compete with.

The backfield is all Freemans’. “But Ito Smith is there don’t forget”… Really? Smith’s 3.5 yard per carry average last year proved what a lack-luster running back he was and now Freeman is back, Smith be the backup, and only that.

Let’s erase Freeman’s 2018 1 1/2 game season and let’s go back to his full rookie contract (where, by the way, he played in 61 out of 64 games… yet he’s injury prone? Welp). Freeman had two seasons with over 1,000 rushing yards and 450 receiving yards with 27 touchdowns in those seasons and 37 total touchdowns in his rookie contract.

He finished as the RB1, RB6 and RB13 (PPR scoring) during those years too, with his rookie season spent as a backup to Steven Jackson.

So why is Devonta Freeman now being valued as mid RB2 option when he’s never finished lower than 13th when considered the starter? We know he’s on one of the best offenses in the league, with an improved o-line and a backfield all to himself. Pick him up in the 3rd round and be excited to have an elite RB fall that late.

Jarvis Landry – Wide Receiver, Cleveland BrownsADP: WR24 PPR

One of the most polarizing receivers in the game. Us Brits would call him ‘Marmite’. You either love him, or you hate him. Judging by his ADP, people are well and truly on the fence.

On the one hand, the off-season monster acquisition of Landry’s former College teammate and best pal Odell Beckham from the sinking Giants along with the emergence of tight end David Njoku last season, it would at first appear that Cleveland now has a lot of mouths to feed.

Photo Credit: John Kuntz/cleveland.com

Maybe so, but I am looking at it from a more positive angle.

Let’s start with the talent. No one can argue Landry doesnt possess elite talent. He has some of the most impressive hands in the business, that’s a well known fact. Yet there is a narrative out there that despite his elite hands, he’s not that good of a receiver.

I’m not buying that. Last season he underwhelmed, i’ll give you that. But that’s what happens when you are the only real threat from the position and you find a lot of double coverage and defenses not allowing you time to stretch the field. A player with Landry’s skill-set needs a distraction.

Enter OBJ. Behind the net-kicking, cry-baby and attitude, there’s a potential hall of fame receiver. He’s a superstar that has any defense worried. OBJ will draw the top coverage which in turn will allow Landry the time and space he needs to be the leagues best possession receiver.

A target monster for the majority of his career to date – if you’re in a PPR league, players like Landry really jump of the page statistically.

YearTmGTgtRecYdsY/RTD
2014MIA161128475895
2015*MIA16166110115710.54
2016*MIA1613194113612.14
2017*MIA161611129878.89
2018*CLE1614981976124

Not only has Landry never missed a game, he’s never seen less than 112 targets come his way, 131 if you take away his rookie year. Around the 1,000 yard mark over the last 4 seasons and this year he has year two of last years’ rookie sensation Baker Mayfield.

NFL teams can produce two top wide receivers for fantasy too, so don’t worry about OBJ solely stealing the limelight. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb did it in 2014 (WR2 and WR6 in non-PPR scoring), and more recently Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen have entered the fray together (both top 20 WRs in 2017 and 2018).

Two elite wide receivers with a young, accurate superstar throwing them the ball – it’s a whole load of fantasy delight being whipped up from the Browns for 2019, and a hell of a lot of ‘blessing’ is going to happen this season in Cleveland.

all ADPs taken from fantasyfootballcalculator.com

Beginner’s Guide: 10 Big Tips for Fantasy Drafting

by Rob Grimwood – @FFBritBaller

I wish when I was first encapsulated by the wonderful world of fantasy football I had sat down and took a few minutes to look at some tips and tricks from veteran fantasy analysts. Now, I am certainly not suggesting I am a veteran by any stretch, but I like to think I know a thing or two when it comes to this anomalous yet elusive affiliation to the NFL. So I will offer you my opinions of how to compete competitively and let you in to some trade tricks and secrets that will hopefully steer you to victory and have the edge over your rivals.

1) Mock Drafting

A mock draft is where you will get the lie of the land of where players are being drafted in live practice drafts. Most fantasy football platforms will have a mock draft system either on their app or on their websites.

I prefer to use ESPN’s fantasy app and that certainly has a very good mock draft section but DraftWizard, CBS, Yahoo, NFL Fantasy and Sleeper also offer this service in the off season.

(AP Photo)

It is vital to mock draft all the way until you do your real draft. You will be able to use different draft positions in order to figure out where you think is the best place to draft from and which spots your specific targets are falling to.

For example, if you really want to have Davante Adams on your team, you will find in most mocks at the moment he is being drafted in the first round between picks 6 and 9. If you choose the sixth spot, you can then see what player falls to you in the second round and so forth.

Keep swapping positions and do multiple drafts until you can find a constant where you are happy with the players you are drafting.

2) Find a draft strategy for you

Once you have done a few mock drafts and you have got your targets and know roughly where they are being drafted, the next step is to get yourself a couple of systems to play with.

I always try and get an even spread of talent throughout my team in all the positions. I tend to go with a system of using my first four picks as a mix of running backs and receivers and alternate those positions each round, although this year I have found myself taking three RB’s in the first four picks and really liking my team at the end.

But usually, if I take a running back in the first round, I’ll then grab the best available receiver in the second round or vice versa. Or maybe you find yourself and your favoured position to grab RB, RB with your first two picks as you like a couple of later round picks as sleepers or flyers to fill in your receiving corps.

Alternately you could like the zero RB strategy where you don’t pick a running back until the mid-rounds where you can get potential break out players like David Montgomery or Kenyan Drake.  It’s very much each to their own.

Again, this is why mock drafting is so important, you can play around with all these different strategies to see which one you like, but ALWAYS have a backup plan because, trust me, not all drafts fall how you want them to!

3) Research, ADP and Sleepers

ADP is short for Average Draft Position. This ADP of a player is based upon where he is being drafted in mock drafts during the off-season and real drafts once they start getting underway (usually from July onwards).

It’s an indication for us, the fantasy GM’s, to see where the general public are drafting players and where about they are in relation to other players around them. Basically it’s a public ranking system.

I find the best websites for ADP checks are fantasyfootballcalculator and FantasyPros. ADP’s provide a pivotal tool for us analysts who write about fantasy but also a reliable source for you to plot out where you should be looking to draft the players you want in your team(s).

This goes hand in hand with finding sleepers. It always pays to do research. Whether it is reading one of my articles (excuse the plug), or maybe listening to fantasy podcasts or other media outlets that provide good information, stats and opinions and maybe even just going to watch a players tape on YouTube.

A sleeper, for those who don’t know, is a player slated to be drafted in the late rounds (from round 7 onward as a general rule of thumb) in fantasy drafts but is a player that you/an analyst thinks will have a very good season and outperform his ADP. Anything after the 12th round or undrafted players that are fancied are known as deep sleepers.

One of my sleepers this year for example, is rookie running back Justice Hill from the Baltimore Ravens. I love the opportunity he has to potentially be the back there or at least in a decent split work load with Mark Ingram, and his current ADP is RB52 or 140 overall.

Photo Credit: baltimoreravens.com

4) Know your league format and points system

This might seem obvious, but you might find yourself in a few different leagues with differing rules. For example, you may be a part of a PPR (points per reception) league where players get extra points every time they make a catch.

This will drive wide receiver, tight end and pass catching running backs value up. Players like Tarik Cohen and James White are just two that come to mind as productive receiving backs. You might also consider taking one of the top wide outs ahead of a running back like Melvin Gordon or David Johnson if you are drafting in the middle of round one.

You could be in a dynasty league where younger players have more value than the veterans. Or the league you are in may offer bonus points for extraordinary games or long runs/catches so big play players such as Brandin Cooks or DeSean Jackson who can break off a 90yard TD reception at any point in any game have more value.

5) Drafting Quarterbacks

It’s easy to assume that QB’s are one of the first players off you’re draft boards. Well, that shouldn’t be the case. I have never drafted a QB before the 6th round and I will always continue that tradition.

The reason for not picking a quarterback early is logical, in my opinion. Despite that position being the highest scoring in fantasy terms, usually your league will consist of a maximum of 16 players but most likely 10 or 12 and usually your league will only require you to start 1 QB.

There are 32 in the league, obviously, so you’re more than likely going to get a top performing quarterback in the mid to late rounds. Unless you have an infatuation with either Aaron Rodgers or Patrick Mahomes where these two are likely to go in the first few rounds along with Andrew Luck and probably DeShaun Watson, why not wait and get potential studs like Russell Wilson or Jameis Winston who are currently going in rounds 9 and 10 respectively.

You could even wait until the later rounds where you will find potential top 10 QB’s in Dak Prescott (round 11) or Mitch Trubisky (round 13).

Throughout the season, the points between these sorts of options and some of the higher ranked positional players won’t be that different, but the options down in the later rounds sometimes offer a lot more in terms of upside.

In my opinion, it is not worth wasting an early round pick where you could use those spots to bolster up your running back corps or receiving options where you will be starting 2 or in some cases 3 of each of these positions.

6) The Tight End

I’m tempted to copy and paste a lot of what I’ve just said regarding quarterbacks. You only have to start 1 tight end in most fantasy leagues. Travis Kelce is in a league of his own and is a viable option within the first 2 rounds if you really wanted to take the nailed on TE1 on the season. 

Zach Ertz and George Kittle are likely to be the next two TE’s off the board and probably before round 5. But after these bigger names it’s a big pool of potential breakout seasons vs veterans who will consistently put up average points.

So why not wait until you can get players like Eric Ebron, Vance McDonald or David Njoku who are all available later than the 7th round and again, fill up your roster with the power positions first.

7) Bulk up on Wide Receivers and Running Backs

So I have touched on this concept in the quarterback and tight end paragraphs. You are going to be drafting more WR’s and RB’s than any other position. In a standard setup this will be the case too.

Even if you have filled your quota of starting positions, continue to look for talented players that you can fill your rosters with in case of injuries or if your selected player(s) bust. Trust me when I say, this is the most important thing to take into consideration when drafting. Not only does it bolster your team, you will also have trade bait later on in the season.

8) Pay attention to who others in your league have drafted

Again, this might sound obvious, but come draft day, it all goes by very quickly. It’s always worth using your allotted time when it’s your turn to have a quick flick through all of your rivals’ teams to see what pieces they have drafted and what needs they have.

For example, if the next 3 teams after you in the draft order all need running backs, it may be worth considering grabbing the best available RB in case that triggers off a run and you are left with slim pickings come your next turn.

On the other hand, if a lot of players have already filled a position, like a QB, you might want to wait another couple of rounds before taking your guy as it’s likely he will still be available.

You could also be sneaky in the later rounds and snatch another players handcuff running back or receiver which will give you trade leverage if their main player goes down with a long term injury or is suspended.

9) Keep one eye on the bye weeks

On most, if not all of the websites you are likely to be drafting on, somewhere on the info screen will tell you when a player is on their teams bye week. This could affect your draft strategy because you might not realise a few of your players have coinciding bye weeks and you don’t really want to have to drop your key players mid-season because you only have a couple of players eligible.

It’s not the end of the world as you could just have that week as a loss week but it could be a tie-breaker if you have to choose between two similar players and you don’t ever want to go into a season knowing you’re definitely going to lose at least one week.

10) Leave Kickers and Defense/Special Teams until last

If your new to fantasy you might not think how little special teams/defence and kickers affect your fantasy team. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but only a couple. You can draft Justin Tucker or Greg Zuerlein once you’re happy you have a good amount of depth, but certainly not before round 10.

(Photo Source: Ken Blaze/ USA TODAY Sports)

Adam Vinatieri and Stephen Gostkowski are also solid options, but certainly don’t pick them up until round 12 at the absolute earliest. Kickers usually fluctuate with their points and you’ll find that points wise throughout the season, the main bulk of decent kickers will score a similar amount of points week-to-week and will only average 5-8 points per game.

As for defence/special teams, don’t even bother drafting them until the last couple of rounds. OK, a couple are likely to go off the board predictably Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Rams, but throughout the season it’s usually beneficial to play the match-ups from week to week and most of the time a favoured defense for that week will be available on the waiver wire.

As for draft day, take a look at the early season schedule to see who has favorable match-ups… I know i’m targeting the Dallas Cowboys D/ST towards the tail end of drafts thanks to a good looking first few weeks.

Thanks for reading this article, if you are struggling with some of the technical words I’ve used in this article, don’t worry, coming next will be a jargon buster breaking down industry related words and phrases.

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

Deep Deep Deeep Fantasy Sleepers: Part 2

by Rob Grimwood – @FFBritBaller

I love deep diving in fantasy football. It’s one of the many areas within the industry that I just love researching. From favourable roster positions to raw, unearthed talent – trying to scrap around in the bargain bins of fantasy football to find the next Alvin Kamara,  Adam Thielen or even Odell Beckham who was overlooked by fantasy owners in 2014; deep diving is certainly one of my favourite offseason past times.

It’s been a fruitful offseason of scouting for me too, so much so I had to split this article into two parts! The first part featured the likes of Dylan Cantrell, WR (L.A Chargers), Deon Yelder, TE (Kansas City Chiefs), Chris Conley, WR (Jacksonville Jaguars) and Darren Waller, TE (Oakland Raiders) and part two will offer up 4 more super deep sleepers that are not to be ignored late on in your drafts!

Let’s dig in!

Dexter Williams – Running Back, Green Bay Packers

Sure, Aaron Jones is the bell cow in Green Bay, I hear you. But, Jones doesn’t come without injury concerns. Of his two seasons to date, Jones has never completed more than 12 games in a regular season. This is mostly down to a reoccurring grade 2 knee sprain which has flared up on 3 different occasions.

ajones

If Jones does go down injured in 2019, or isn’t able to sustain his 49 rushing yards per game career average, the natural reaction will be to assume Jamaal Williams is the next guy up for the Pack, but that may not be the case. With a career average of just 3.7 yards per carry over his two years in the league baked in with mediocre-at-best receiving statistics (52 receptions for 472 yards, 9.1 per rec and 2 TD’s); I for one wouldn’t be surprised if new Head Coach Matt LaFleur decided to put trust into one of his drafted guys instead, Dexter Williams.

Dexter Williams was apart of the highly successful 2018 Notre Dame Fighting Irish team that managed to be one of the 4 teams that qualify for the College Football Playoffs. Despite missing 4 games because of undisclosed personal matters, Williams returned on week 5 for the Irish and ended the season with 995 rushing yards (6.3 per carry) with 133 receiving yards off 16 receptions with 13 total touchdowns. 

Although he didn’t blow anyone away at the combine, his 40 time was fine (4.53s) and he managed 17 bench reps which was better than what higher picks Damien Harris (16), David Montgomery (15) and Benny Snell (16) managed.

Williams is a between the tackles kind of back, funnily enough, MockDraftable have him compared the best to none other than teammate Aaron Jones, thus confirming that if Jones was to miss time, it may well be Dexter that becomes the most productive ‘Williams’ in the Green Bay running back room.

His strengths coming out of college is that he possesses great vision and is a clever runner, especially when gaps are forged for him. To be successful in the NFL, he’ll need a good o-line in front of him to provide those needed gaps. The Packers offensive line is considered to be a top 10 line in the league, so the opportunity is there for Williams to be successful should the chance occur.

 

Alex Barnes – Running Back, Tennessee Titans

Who an earth is Alex Barnes, I hear you say. Well folks, Alex Barnes may well be the next Phillip Lindsay. An undrafted free agent rookie hailing from a small-ish school in the Big 12 conference who had 1,355 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns for Kansas State in 2018. Yes, that’s more than Devin Singletary (1,348), Miles Sanders (1,274) and David Montgomery (1,216) who are all highly regarded prospects and were all drafted.

His stats were not too dissimilar to Lindsay’s final college season in 2017, but Barnes is quite the opposite when it comes to physical attributes. At 6’1 and 225lbs, he is built from the same mold as Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson, and Melvin Gordon. If you were drafting all four today solely on combine performances, Barnes wouldn’t be out of place alongside these big hitters.

Melvin Gordon Lev Bell David Johnson Alex Barnes
40 Yard Dash 4.52s 4.60s 4.50s 4.59s
Bench Press 19 24 25 34
Broad Jump 126 118 127 126
Shuttle 4.07s 4.24s 4.27s 4.10s
Vertical Jump 35.00 31.50 41.50 38.50

The situation for Barnes in Tennessee isn’t a bad one either. Despite Derrick Henry breaking out somewhat towards the end of the season, I still can’t help but get the impression the Titans are still undecided if Henry is their man.

Henry’s breakout game came in week 13 where he went on to finish the remainder of the season to break through the 1,000-yard rushing marker (1,059), however, 585 of those yards came after week 12 which means the Tennessee rushing game in the first two-thirds of the season was pretty non-existent.

They were quick to act on Barnes after the draft too, picking him up just over a week after the NFL draft was completed and was seemingly a high profile UDFA with multiple teams reportedly interested.

With Dion Lewis likely to remain in a pass-catching role and no other backs of significance on the depth chart in Nashville (David Fluellen, Jeremy McNichols, and Dalyn Dawkins) Alex Barnes may well be a household name for fantasy owners in the near future if he makes it onto the 53-man roster in late August.

John Brown – Wide Receiver, Buffalo Bills

John Brown may legitimately be the WR1 for the Buffalo Bills. Sure, as can Robert Foster and Zay Jones, I hear you, but have either of those receivers had over 1,000 yards receiving over the course of a season? No. In fact, Zay Jones’ best season in 2018 saw him rack up 652 receiving yards and just for the record, Foster had 541 yards and 3 scores in his one and only season to date.

I’ve always liked ‘Smokey’ Brown. Ever since his tantalising 1,003 rec yard and 7 touchdown season for Arizona in 2015, but it’s the injuries that have kept him from repeating those numbers. In his last two seasons of his rookie contract for the Cards, Brown only started 11 games, but when he did play, he still was able to perform to a high standard as he managed 13.3 and 14.2 yards per reception average in those seasons respectively.

smokey
Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, however, Brown was able to play the majority of the campaign and started 15 games in his one-year prove-it deal with the Baltimore Ravens. Despite performing admirably in 2018 and somewhat ‘proving it’ with 715 yards off 42 receptions (17.0 yards per reception) and 5 touchdowns, the Ravens clearly had plans to centre the future passing offense through the young guns which rang true when they drafted college standouts Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin instead of re-signing Brown.

But the saying goes “another man’s trash is another man’s treasure” and I believe that to be true for the Bills when they grabbed Brown in the free agency. Let’s forget the past for a second and focus on the strengths of Brown and his new quarterback, Josh Allen. 

Am I over-enamoured with Allen’s ability to be a quality NFL QB? Not particularly. But one thing that does impress me, along with the masses, is his arm strength. We saw it at the combine, you remember, the nigh on 70-yard cannonballs he was effortlessly floating into receivers arms. Well, what does that weapon require? A fast receiver who can get down the field. John Brown is one of the fastest players in the league when he’s at full fitness and could still likely hit his 4.34 40 time from his 2014 combine.

I’m buying in. Maybe not so much in PPR league formats as I don’t think Brown will be peppered with targets, after all, the Bills brought in possession receiver Cole Beasley for that role, but definitely as a “last pick dart throw” and definitely in standard-scoring leagues. I for one, will not be surprised if John Brown is a regular starting receiver on your rosters come fantasy playoff time in December.

Geoff Swaim – Tight End, Jacksonville Jaguars

This is the third tight end I am talking about during these 2 articles which just goes to prove you don’t have to spend a high draft pick on one of the top tight ends. It’s a volatile position where anyone of about 25 players can finish as a top 10 tight end in 2019 for fantasy football.

You can add Geoff Swaim into that mix too, mainly because he has been gifted a fantastic opportunity over in Duval county. Fellow newcomer and starting quarterback Nick Foles has had good success in the past when throwing to tight ends too; In his second stint in Philadelphia, Foles built a good rapport with superstar Zach Ertz, whilst also working with Travis Kelce at the Chiefs in 2016 and Jared Cook with his time as a St Louis Ram in 2015.

Swaim spent the majority of his rookie contract in Dallas firmly in the shadow of Jason Witten and didn’t get an opportunity to show any kind of attacking prowess until last season whilst Witten entertained us from the commentary booth instead of on the field.

Even then, Swaim found himself having to split targets with fellow tight ends Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz, and even though he wasn’t the biggest producer out of the three, he was the most consistent with an 81.3% catch rate – which was also the highest on the team and 14th best in the league.

swaim
Photo Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

This year, Swaim is taking those safe hands to pastures new where there is only an unproven rookie in Josh Oliver to contend with on the depth chart for pass-catching duties out of the tight end position.

In fact, the whole receiving core in Jacksonville is up for debate. With no clear WR1, no proven hot hand in the receiving game and a new quarterback with a proven track record of success throwing to tight ends, Geoff Swaim could be a sneaky pickup for fantasy players despite not having the best career-to-date statistics. Opportunity is king for fantasy tight ends and Swaim may well be the endzone target the Jags are crying out for.