Fantasy: Free Agency Period – The Winners

by Rob Grimwood – @FFBritBaller

It’s been a busy free agency for NFL teams over the last couple of weeks; but a much needed and welcome distraction to everything else that’s currently happening in the world.

But what do these moves mean for your fantasy teams in 2020? Over the next two articles, i’m going to break down the winners and the losers from all of the transactions that have taken place so far.


Kyler Murray


The Arizona Cardinals pulled of a move during the free agency that left everybody scratching their heads, wondering how they pulled off such a coup. That was, of course, the acquisition of superstar receiver DeAndre Hopkins from the Houston Texans.

Kyler Murray all of a sudden now has one of the most tantalising skill set offenses in the NFL. From Hopkins to legendary Hall of Fame receiver Larry Fitzgerald returning for one last year, and the emerging star of Christian Kirk alongside 2nd year hopefuls Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler and KeeSean Johnson. The Kliff Kingsbury ‘air raid’ offense really has got no excuses to be raking up the air miles on the field in 2020.

Photo Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

After a QB7 rookie campaign in fantasy last year, it’s hard to think Murray will be doing anything other than improving on that. Kenyan Drake made a good enough impression since his move from Miami that he’s earned another year on this offense too, yet another reliable, tried and trusted weapon for Kyler out of the backfield.

It’s exciting times for Cards fans and this ever-improving offense, fantasy fans should be sharing this excitement for Kyler Murray, there’s no such thing as too many weapons when it comes to fantasy QB’s


Amari Cooper


Staying in Dallas was one of the best places for Cooper to keep his fantasy value. He clearly loves it there in ‘Jerryworld’, and the feeling seems to be mutual between the fans and the other players.

In his 25 games for the Cowboys, Cooper has amassed 1,914 receiving yards with 14 touchdowns; that’s 77 yards per game and a touchdown every other game (0.56 TD’s per game). For context, that’s in the same vicinity as DeAndre Hopkins’ time in Houston (78 yards per game average with 0.49 TD’s per game) and Mike Evans in Tampa Bay (80 yards per game with 0.53 TD’s per game). Both of which will be within the top 2 wide receiver tiers for 2020.

Dez Bryant had many productive seasons as a WR1 in fantasy football from his time in Dallas with Tony Romo and Dak Prescott under centre. Now it is time for Amari to step up and continue being the reliable receiving option for the Cowboys and fantasy owners in turn for the next few years.


Indianapolis Colts’ Receivers


Indy is lacking in skill position depth, but those that are there have just received a significant bump up in fantasy value with the upgrade of quarterback to Philip Rivers. Jacoby Brissett was admirable, and was far from terrible, but he wasn’t the best at getting great receiving production out of anyone not named T.Y Hilton.

Photo Credit: SI .com

Rivers in an experienced veteran who finally has a competent offensive line ahead of him to give him enough protection to provide some actual time in the pocket rather than being constantly under pressure like he was for the Chargers, especially in recent years.

I expect Indy will add to their receiving corps through the upcoming draft; but for now, T.Y Hilton cements himself as a fringe WR1 for a likely cheap price of a 4th/5th round pick, and last year’s rookie Parris Campbell will likely be in the sleeper category for analysts as the season grows closer.

If Jack Doyle remains the only pass catching tight end in Indy too, expect his value to also rise in a treacherous tight end fantasy landscape as Rivers has always produced fantasy relevant TE’s with the likes of Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry in the past.

One of my favourite sleepers already also due to the Rivers’ upgrade, is running back Nyheim Hines. The swiss army knife is Indy’s version of Austin Ekeler (see later in article for Ekeler’s 2019 production), who should see plenty of work in the passing game out of the backfield.


Cleveland Brown’s Skill Players


One of the main contributing factors for the Browns’ miserable 2019 campaign was the offensive line, or lack-of, being unable to give Baker Mayfield time in the pocket.

Jack Conklin (former Titans OT) is a massive upgrade for that line and you can only imagine Cleveland will be taking whichever stud tackle is left with the 10th pick of the 2020 draft.

These pieces may well prove to be the difference for this offense which will open up the fantasy value for all of the keys players. Nick Chubb had a great season in 2019 and was third in the NFL for rushing yards (1,494) and has 18 combined touchdowns since becoming a Brown in 2017 so we can expect that to continue. As we can with Jarvis Landry, as he once again will benefit from OBJ taking the premier defense away, like in 2019. OBJ’s production might rise once again if Mayfield is able to improve and between David Njoku and newly acquired Austin Hooper, the tight ends’ should have their week to week match-up based values too.


Austin Ekeler


With all the running back moves this off-season, i don’t think any have won more so than Austin Ekeler has. Not only does he see Melvin Gordon move away (to the Denver Broncos) from the backfield and no significant replacement brought in, he finds himself in a passing offense that will be moving forward with someone new. Therefore, a bigger emphasis may be placed on the tried and trusted running game with Ekeler as the sole star.

Photo Credit: Wilfredo Lee / Associated Press

The beauty of the situation is- even if the Chargers do bring in another running back, they probably aren’t going to be the same quality as Melvin Gordon where Ekeler was still productive enough to see him finish as the RB4 in PPR scoring (RB8 in non-PPR) last season.

The new QB in LA will likely be a rookie in from the first round, if not the veteran Tyrod Taylor who served as Rivers’ backup last season. Either way, Ekeler is going to be hyper-targeted out of the backfield and should be a top 10 PPR running back once again in 2020.

NFL Free Agents: Spinning the wheel of fortune

By Sean Tyler (@SeanTylerUK)

With the franchise tag deadline and free agency looming, it’s time for the @Full10Yards top 10 free agents list (five on each side of the ball) and some thoughts on where they might land ahead of the 2020 season. Thanks to Instagram, we know the 41-year-old Drew Brees is returning to the Superdome for at least another year with the Saints. So while he’s technically still a free agent, he isn’t on this list. So who is? Let’s spin the wheel…


TOP OFFENSIVE FREE AGENTS


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Image Credit: Paul Sancya/AP

1. Dak Prescott (QB) – Dallas Cowboys


He began his time at Dallas by winning Offensive Rookie of the Year and most recently, he led one of the league’s top offenses, throwing for 4,902 yards and 30 touchdowns in his best campaign yet.

But the cheap deal has run out and someone has to pay the dude. Will it be the Cowboys? It seems they’ll have to go north of $30 million a year, which begs the question “Is he actually worth that?” That’s quite a pay-out but the Cowboys seem to want to build around him. Being the franchise poster-boy for the next few years comes at a price.

Safe bet: Dallas. To quote Jerry Jones, “He’s our quarterback of the future” so it looks increasingly likely that the Cowboys will retain Prescott. He’ll want to cash in on his potential and Jones will make him a happy camper.

Long shot: Dallas. Nope, it’s still the Cowboys. Al three of the team’s most valuable players have expiring contracts (that’s Amari Cooper and Byron Jones too) and it’ll be hard to keep all three. With contract talks back up and running again, Dak seems to be the one who’s going nowhere.


Image credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

2. Amari Cooper (WR) – Dallas Cowboys


Oh boy, do the ‘Boys have free agency headaches. The former Raider filled Dez Bryant’s cleats well but well enough to get top dollar? He’s not perfect but he’s the best receiver available and by that score, he won’t come cheap. If Dallas don’t think he’s worth $20 million a year, or think that paying Prescott, Cooper and corner Byron Jones will break the bank, he might walk.

Safe bet: Dallas. Theoretically, Jerry Jones could pay Dak and tag Cooper, keeping another star in the Lone Star State and giving Coach Mike McCarthy quite the toolkit in his first season.

Long shot: Washington. The Redskins have the cap space to pull the trigger. Imagine if their divisional rivals snaffled Cooper to go alongside rising stars Terry McLaurin and Dwayne Haskins.


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Image Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel

3. Ryan Tannehill (QB) – Tennessee Titans

I doubt any player boosted his reputation more in 2019 than Tannehill. His sensational second-half of the season, leading Tennessee well into the playoffs, suggests he may have more to offer than the waning old men, Brady and Rivers.

He resurrected his own career and the Titans’ season, and will probably get a tag of some sort. He obviously benefitted from Derrick Henry’s success, but he seemed pretty mobile in the pocket and kept making the throws asked of him.

Safe bet: Tennessee. The Titans shouldn’t overpay a guy who had three good months and who might not hit the same dizzy heights again but the franchise tag buys them a year’s grace.

Long shot: New England. Neither GM Jon Robinson nor HC Mike Vrabel seem that upbeat about him and the Brady-to-Nashville whispers just won’t go away. With a straight swap, could the reincarnated Tannehill continue his renaissance under Bill Belichick?

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Image Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

4. Derrick Henry (RB) – Tennessee Titans


Henry was the top rusher in the league last year, with 1,540 yards and 18 TDs. Going for over 180 yards in both his postseason games, there’s no hint of him easing up or slowing down.

Despite helping the Titans ride their late-season wave of glory, Henry is a running back. And these days, they don’t keep getting paid, especially if they’re a non-factor in the receiving game (Henry had just 28 targets all year). Like Dallas, the Titans have two big contracts to sort out. They could pay Tannehill first and then see what they can offer Henry, or vice versa.

Safe bet: Tennessee. He’s among the top RBs, on a resurgent team with a decent O-line, and in a system that clearly works for all concerned. Why leave Nashville?

Long shot: Houston. With Carlos Hyde unlikely to stay, adding a tank like Henry to the backfield could help the Texans take the next step in 2020.


Image Credit: Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire

5. AJ Green (WR) – Cincinnati Bengals


Valuing AJ Green is a toughie. He was an elite wideout when we last saw him but thanks to toe and ankle injuries, that was 18 months ago. Despite being 31 and without any tape from last season, Green should still have some juice in the tank. We just don’t know how much.

Green wants to stay if the price is right. If healthy, Green would be the ideal pro to help Joe Burrow ease into the NFL, having had 1,000-yard seasons in six of his eight years in the NFL. Cincy didn’t trade him during the season so it’s hard to see him going now.

Safe bet: Cincinnati. Just a few weeks ago, Green said he wanted to be a Bengal his whole career. The most likely scenario is that he stays for a prove-you’ve-still-got-it year.

Long shot: Las Vegas. If contract talks break down or Green is tagged-and-traded, the Raiders could do with a skill position upgrade. They are sorted for slot receiver, running back and tight end but a true outside track star would be the missing piece.


TOP DEFENSIVE FREE AGENTS


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Image Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

1. Chris Jones (DT) – Kansas City Chiefs

If Jones hits the open market, he is primed to get paid. $18 million a year is the going rate for a wrecking ball of a defensive tackle who’s notched 24.5 sacks in the last two seasons. Jones is a rare beast who can dominate games… even alongside Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes.

An explosive pass rusher and Pro-Bowler who can stand shoulder to shoulder with Aaron Donald and JJ Watt, Jones could expect top whack. But can the Chiefs (available cap space: $13.7 million) afford him, having given something in that ballpark to Frank Clark already? A monster extension to Mahomes will also be needed when the time comes.

Safe bet: Kansas City: The Chiefs should keep Jones but may need to tag him for at least another year.

Long shot: Indianapolis. Maybe KC apply the tag but trade him for draft compensation. The Colts could be up for such a move, as they have draft picks to play with and need some pass-rush help.


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Image Credit: Michael Reaves/Getty Images

2. Shaquil Barrett (EDGE) – Tampa Bay Buccaneers


As mentioned in a recent season in review piece, Bruce Arians said of Barrett: “He ain’t going anywhere.” Given his league-leading 19.5 sacks in 2019, they can’t let him walk but there’s still a chance that Barrett is a one-hit wonder. His four seasons in Denver were decent enough but in that time, he only got 14 sacks. That muddies the water somewhat.

Safe bet: Tampa Bay. He’ll stay put, although it would be wise for the Bucs to use the franchise tag and check last year wasn’t a fluke. Then, he will seriously reap the rewards down the line if he continues on his current trajectory.

Long shot: Tampa Bay. He’s already talked of giving Tampa a “home-town discount” due to Florida’s income tax arrangements so that’s another tick in the “not going anywhere” column.


Image Credit: Chris Szagola/Associated Press

3. Jadeveon Clowney (EDGE) – Seattle Seahawks


Clowney is an enigma. His production doesn’t live up to the billing – he had just three sacks last year and is yet to hit double figures – and he’s had some niggly injuries. But he produces big, game-defining moments, and he’s got the time and potential to grow as a pass rusher.

For a change, I’m not predicting a franchise tag scenario here because the Seahawks agreed not to use it when they acquired him from Houston. And they got him for a song in the first place. So despite non-elite production, Clowney can expect to become one of the highest-paid defenders in the NFL. We’re talking something like $100 million over five years. Ouch.

Safe bet: Seattle. It’s no secret that Russell Wilson wants him to stay and Head Coach Pete Carroll won’t want to further weaken a defensive line that ranked 31st in pass rushing last year. We’ll see him at CenturyLink Field next season for sure.

Long shot: Houston: I know, I know, but bringing Clowney back might not be as dumb as it sounds. The Texans’ passing defence was porous and JJ Watt isn’t getting any younger, so a newer model could give their edge rushing a timely boost.


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Image Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

4. Yannick Ngakoue (Edge) – Jacksonville Jaguars


Think of him like those Velociraptors in the original Jurassic Park film, sneaking in – quickly and silently – hunting down quarterbacks and flaying them alive with their oversized talons… err, sorry, got a bit carried away there. It’s actually more like rushing the passer, getting sacks and forcing errors.

He’s clocked 37.5 sacks through his first four seasons but if he gets elite money now, he’s getting overpaid.

Safe bet: Jacksonville. He’s still young and even in an off-year like 2019, Ngakoue’s eight sacks and 50 total pressures last season – his lowest since he was a rookie – was quite a nice floor.

Long shot: Buffalo. The Jags are strapped and it’ll cost a cool $20 million to keep him. But the Bills have the dosh. They are also losing Lorenzo Alexander to retirement and Shaq Lawson is also hitting free agency, so could have a couple of major gaps to fill.


5. Justin Simmons (Safety) – Denver Broncos


Big, fast and springy, Simmons is a run-breaker and a ball hawk, with 94 tackles and four interceptions in 2019. Those stats made the 26-year-old Pro Football Focus’ top safety last season, signalling a massive step up this year. But the teams sniffing around will need to kick the tyres to make sure he’s not another one-year breakout player getting top dollar for one unrepresentative season.

Safe bet: Denver. Simmons has evolved from a third-round draft pick into an essential element of the Broncos D so I suspect keeping him in Mile High City is a priority for John Elway, even if it’s via the franchise tag for now.

Long shot: San Francisco. If the Niners can’t keep hold of Jimmie Ward, especially given his history with injuries, yer man Simmons could be a great fit in the Bay.


ALSO IN THE PICTURE


Tom Brady (QB), New England Patriots

I couldn’t not mention Brady, could I? Time is catching up with TB12 after 20 seasons but given his stature in the game, he will still turn heads, even though he’s on the wane – he was only the 11th-ranked quarterback in 2019. I doubt he’ll want to up-sticks and start again at the ripe old age of 43 so staying in New England for one last hurrah with Uncle Bill Belichick before he sails off into the sunset doesn’t seem unreasonable. But if you wanna gamble and put it all on red, the Las Vegas Raiders have a youthful core and the financial where-with-all to add weapons around him.

Philip Rivers (QB), Los Angeles Chargers

Although a relative spring chicken (a mere 38), Rivers’ arm isn’t what it was, what little mobility he had is long gone and he had 20 INTs last year. That said, he also threw for more than 4,600 yards and 23 touchdowns so all is not lost. Rivers won’t be back in LA so again, Indianapolis would make a lot of sense. Their offensive line works and Rivers would be reunited with former Chargers QB assistant Frank Reich. Thinking more out of the box, he’s just moved to his family to Florida. Tampa Bay anyone?

Jameis Winston (QB), Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jameis is your guy if you want a bucketload of throws, thousands of yards, loads of touchdowns and a million interceptions. He’s high risk, high stakes, high reward. The Buccaneers are considering living dangerously again by bringing back the all-and-nothing QB, using the franchise tag for damage limitation. Failing that, the Indianapolis Colts GM said the jury’s still out on Jacoby Brissett.

Brandon Scherff (G), Washington Redskins

Scherff is a run-blocking guard who might have broken into the top 10 if he’d stayed healthy. Despite taking to the field only 19 times in two years, he’s arguably the best interior lineman in this year’s free agent class. The three-time Pro Bowler and former first round pick should stay with the Redskins under new HC Ron Rivera but if he doesn’t, let’s pretend for a moment the Cincinnati Bengals actually engaged in free agency. Scherff would help a terrible O-line protect some young whippersnapper called Burrow.

Byron Jones (CB), Dallas Cowboys

Despite hip surgery last offseason, Jones backed up his breakout 2018 campaign with another top year. Versatile enough to also play safety, Jones will be the top corner on the market which, according to the laws of supply and demand, means he’ll get paid above and beyond his ability. Minnesota could improve at corner, with Xavier Rhodes’ form falling away and Trae Waynes heading for free agency, while the Philadelphia Eagles could help their injury-ravaged secondary by poaching from a divisional rival.

Season in Review – LA Chargers

By Lee Wakefield (@wakefield90)

Welcome to the Chargers season review, by me, a fan.

It’s January and unlike January last year, there has been no playoff football for the Chargers.

Yes, 2019 didn’t end in a Superbowl either, so it was a failure – Just as this season has been but at least the book closed with hope last season. This season, the book closed with questions, and lots of them.


Entering the Season


Well, at least we get to start on a positive note.

Like I alluded to above, yeah getting smoked in the divisional round to the Patriots wasn’t a great way to bow out of the playoffs last year but at least the Chargers had won a playoff game for the first time in what feels like forever and won 12 games in the regular season – Often having to dig deep in those games and get over the hump with a big play, or gutsy play call, or sometimes even a last minute kick.

Optimism was high and some people, fans and media members alike, where talking up the Chargers to make a Superbowl run in 2019. And you know what? The optimism wasn’t misplaced. The team, on paper looked talented and full of playmakers, they’d just come off a 12 win season and their playoff win was one where the coaches out coached the Ravens coaches and they shut down Lamar Jackson almost completely. It looked like everything was coming together.

Thomas Davis came in to sure up the linebacking room and add some experience and steel – Something that was deemed to have been required to stop teams running all over them, like New England did in Foxborough the night the season ended.

Jerry Tillery was added with the 28th overall pick – another mechanism for plugging running lanes but also to add some interior pass rush to match the high quality rushers off the edge that they already possessed.

The signings, whilst not plentiful, seemed sensible and logical. The draft class outside of Tillery contained exciting safety, Nasir Adderley and linebacker Drue Tranquill, and some potential high upside projects, like left tackle, Tray Pipkins – Something the Bolts thought they could afford to wait on, given the talent at their disposal.

It was all looking rosy… Until it wasn’t.

Melvin Gordon started his well publicised contract hold out, Derwin James broke a metatarsal and Russell Okung contracted a Pulmonary oedema.

Adderley then split a hamstring tendon and Tillery was taking longer to adjust to the speed of the NFL than expected and Pipkins wasn’t supposed to play yet…

Where did that sunshine go? Where did out draft class go?

Then the games began.

During the Season


After the early optimism. things weren’t looking great off the field in some respects, the spring felt quite a long time ago but we were going to roll with it and we still backed ourselves. Now the Colts were rolling into town

A prequel for a playoff game perhaps? An early season gut check. 

“At least Hunter Henry was back”, “we can get away with having no Gordon, we’ve got Ekeler and Jackson”, oh how we comforted ourselves.

And Derwin? Well yeah, we’ll miss him badly but he’ll be back around week 8 to lead us into the postseason.

Well, we beat the Colts, just. In overtime. “This is what we do, we can grind wins out against good teams”, “Just like last year”. Like idiots we allowed ourselves to think like this.

The signs were there. We just didn’t know what the signs were yet. Rivers was picked off superbly by Malik Hooker, in the endzone, in this game. Yeah… You know where I’m going. The Chargers, from week 2 onwards well, as the saying goes, Chargered (It’s a phrase that pisses me off whenever I see it, I hate it, it’s what idiots say on the internet to score cheap points or likes but I’ll use it, because this season was just as irritating).

Detroit, week 2 – Rivers threw a pick going for it all instead of just allowing the team to kick a field goal and Austin Ekeler fumbled on the goal line, trying to leap over the pile – Something he’d done successfully earlier in the game. 1-1.

Houston another winnable game goes awry and later Denver and Tennessee…

Gordon was back by now but looking extremely rusty. The whole holdout thing was how exactly not to do it, a disaster for all parties from start to finish.

When I say Gordon was back, it was just in time to fumble literally inches away from scoring a game winning touchdown in Tennessee as the clock ticked its final few ticks.

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Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports

We’re 2-5 and weeks are ticking by, wins that should have been won are slipping through our fingers and players are dropping like flies. Adrian Phillips to a broken arm the latest. The glue of our defense gone.

No Derwin, no Philips, Tillery still not producing, no discernable attempt at fielding competence opposite Haywood at corner, King only present in body. Where has our defense gone?!

Christ this season is falling apart. Like I said, Chargering is irritating at best.

The weirdest game ever – in terms of my post match feeling, at least – followed. At Chicago, week 8.

A game we won as Eddy Piniero missed a walk off field goal. A WIN!

But I was p****d off, we played terribly and didn’t deserve the win. I didn’t feel like celebrating. This wasn’t the team we all thought it was from a year ago. This very much felt like it was papering over some exceptionally large cracks.

I’m eight weeks in now and the issue I mentioned in week 1 has bubbled without exploding in our face yet. It was about to. Through 8 weeks, Rivers had 7 interceptions. Many stupid, needless and costly.

“Rivers is always prone to the odd game like this”, “It’s the line’s fault”, “we’re 3-5, we can bring it back”.

Oh how we deluded ourselves. Well… to add to the delusions. We went and beat Green Bay. Just what we needed. Although it wasn’t. The Chargers would only beat a hapless Jags team the rest of the way.

We all know what happened from here… We threw it all away. Literally and repeatedly.

The team were disjointed on the field and lacked joined-up thinking off it. Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, was a casualty and nothing much changed. Was it his fault? Or was it actually the offensive line?

13 more Rivers interceptions, 4 multi-pick games: questions about effort and in-fighting reigned from inside the locker room.

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Image Credit: Sean M. Haffey/Getty

The end of an era was nigh. Rivers? Lynn? Telesco? All three? Who was going? In the end it only seems like it’s goodbye to Philip Rivers, and hello to, well, we’re not sure yet. Cam Newton or Justin Herbert? Or Tom Brady? Who knows… Rivers is reportedly moving himself and his family to Florida. Where everyone goes to retire, right?

All we know it’s there’s more questions than answers at this point and the optimism is long gone.


Offseason Outlook


Lots of work to be done. That’s what the outlook it.

Look, this group isn’t too bad, far from it, they have some very talented players and a bunch of good draft picks to take.

The General Manager and Head Coach probably won’t survive another poor season either, so you’d like to think it’s time to push the chips into the middle of the table and make some moves.

First things first – The deadwood needs clearing out. There are a few players who have either, just not worked out or are earning way too much to keep around compared to the end product on the field.

Next – Well, maybe this over anything but maybe you need the money from clearing out the deadwood but anyway, SIGN JOEY BOSA.

Don’t mess around like you did with his rookie deal. Walk in with a smile on your face and a blank cheque in your hand and say: “Joey, you’re the face of the franchise now, you write whatever number you’d like on that cheque and you can have it”. Get it done. No amount is too much. If this team is serious about making a fist of it in Los Angeles, then you absolutely have to keep Bosa in the building. AND! This team could do without the drama of another holdout. Thanks.

Next, have a good draft!

Telesco’s drafts have been spotty at best – We’ve had some notable hits but also some notable misses – Especially in round 3 (If Gordon goes elsewhere in free agency, the Bolts should receive a 3rd round compensatory pick), so eyes peeled for that one. I want to see another QB. Whether it’s Justin Herbert at 6 or Jalen Hurts on day 2, this team needs to usher in a new era at SoFi Stadium, even if the new era begins with Tyrod Taylor under center.

Hopefully we’ll see the 2019 draft class come to the fore too and therefore they’ll be like new signings too.

There’s always room for optimism in the offseason and as I said earlier, there is talent in every room for L.A. but some careful surgery is needed. If they receive that, then we could be looking at a worst to first candidate in 2020.

Maybe.

Full10Takeaways – Week 6

By Shaun Blundell and Lawrence Vos

Week 6 is in the books, here’s 10 takeaways as we hit the cruise control into the main belly of the season.

Super Bowl Aspirations Drifting Down The River(s)


Image Credit – Jason Miller/Getty Images

Several teams have disappointed to start off the 2019 campaign, but if you are looking for an overwhelming underachiever look at the Los Angeles Chargers.

Many casual fans dark horse Super Bowl pick preseason the Chargers are unraveling and are only being kept in faint contention by the Chiefs having their own hiccups. This one got ugly early as Phillip Rivers turned the ball over twice early as the Steelers jumped into a 14 point lead that the Chargers would never recover from.

Rivers is becoming a bit of a turnover machine and he will need to correct a lot of wrongs if the Chargers are to make a playoff run. Melvin Gordon’s return has so far netted an average of 33.5 rushing yards per game, not exactly screaming “Pay Me!”.



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Nothing Phoneyniner Here


Image Credit – Nhat V. Meyer / Bay Area News Group

Robert Saleh, take a bow my friend.

The 49ers defence bottled up the once thought unstoppable LA Rams offence to move to 5-0 on the year. The 49ers were a perfect 0-9 allowing 3rd down conversions and a perfect 0-4 allowing 4th down conversions limiting the Rams offence to just 165 total yards. Offensively another heavy dose of the run game was backed up by an efficient if not spectacular game from Jimmy G. George Kittle was of course the main target hauling in 8 grabs for 108 yards, not bad for a guy who was questionable to play.

Huge game in the division which now sees the 49ers in a convincing position.


Stop Having A Digg At The Vikings Passing Game


Image Credit – Elizabeth Flores / Star Tribune

Make no mistake about it, this is still Dalvin Cook’s team, but for this week at least he took a back seat to the passing game.

The Vikings lead by an all of a sudden explosive Kirk Cousins saw his 2 favourite targets combine for 13 receptions and both find the end zone. Stefon Diggs was the main man this week as he compiled a season best 7/167 and 3 touchdown effort as the passing game that went missing for a few weeks continued its resurgence against a banged up Philly defence.

There were whispers of trades a week or 2 ago for the Vikings top pair on the outside, I’d label that as “fake news”.


Winston or Mariota? How About Neither


Image Credit – John Walton / Getty Images

5 years after the debate of who the Buccaneers would take with the number 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft there is a new question about those 2 “top” quarterbacks. Which 1 is worse?

Jameis had a horror show in London, fumbling the ball away, getting sacked 7 times and throwing 5 picks. Just when you think he has turned a corner, he throws in a game like this just to remind you of how inconsistent he is. Mariota was benched as the Titans were shutout by the Broncos and replaced by Ryan Tannehill. The Titans offence has been anemic outside of their week 1 win over the Browns and this change has been a long time coming.

Jameis probably wins you more games but also costs you more games, either way look for both franchises to address the position next Spring.


Murray momentum mounts 


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Image Credit: Michael Hickey/Getty Images

With four weeks gone the Arizona Cardinals were winless and looking in trouble. After six weeks the same team is hotting up after a two-game win streak.

Yes the opponents have been the Bungles and the porous Falcons defense, but you can’t do any more than win against the teams on your schedule. Behind rookie quarterback Kyle Murray and rookie HC Kliff Kingsbury the Cardinals are starting to turn a few heads.

Their next four games are a real split of two winnable (Giants and Buccaneers) and two very tough matchups (Saints and 49ers). Murray completed just under 73% of his passes in the Week 6 win against the Falcons, and he has only thrown one pick in the last three games. His vision is on the rise as he has only been sacked once in the last two games, after taking twenty in his first four outings. In addition Kingsbury is allowing Murray to use his small but speedy legs, and this has resulted in 125 yards rushing in the two victories, more than his ground output in the first four combined.

If the Cardinals can get a winning record it will be a major achievement in the inaugural season for Kyler and Kliff. If they somehow scrape a Wild-Card berth it will be a minor miracle.

The Cardinals defense is the team’s Achilles heel, but when you have the talent of Murray and the ageless Larry ‘see you in Canton’ Fitzgerald catching the ball you never know.

Watch this space. 


McLovin McLaurin


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Image Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Washington Redskins have a history of drafting wide receivers early in the draft who end up flaming out.

The latest example being Josh Doctson, picked 22nd in the 2016 draft. Doctson was jettisoned from D.C. during the offseason after racking up a disappointing 81 catches for 1,100 yards in 33 games. He is now on I/R with the Vikings.

In the 2019 Draft the Redskins waited until the third round to grab Doctson’s potential replacement, Ohio State’s Terry McLaurin. Six weeks in and McLaurin has 23 catches, 408 yards and a stellar five touchdowns, including two in the ‘Skins first win of the season against the Miami Dolphins. six weeks in and McLaurin leads all rookie WR in catches, yards and touchdowns, all this inclusive of not even suiting up in Week 4.

The last great Redskins player to wear the number 17 shirt was Super Bowl winning quarterback Doug Williams, now the Senior Vice President of Player Personnel. It’s a big set of shoes to fill, but at his current pace McLaurin is going to have a 1,000 yard rookie season and will be in the running for offensive rookie of the year honours.

Wins might be hard to come by for the 2019 Redskins, but sometimes you have to face adversity to see who is still standing. For Terry McLaurin he is not standing, he is streaking down the sidelines catching pigskins.

Redskins rookie QB Dwayne Haskins was McLaurin’s signal-caller in college, so if you think the results are good with Case ‘fill-in’ Keenum then 2020 could be a real blast. 


Jets win sealed without a kiss


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Image Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com

Over this side of the pond we call it glandular fever, but over in the land of the free and the home of the brave they call it mononucleosis or ‘mono’ for short. More affectionately known as a teenage kissing infection, ‘mono’ was the reason the New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold had missed three games between Week 2 and 6.

After being declared fit for last Sunday’s game in Dallas there was not a high degree of expectation, so when the Jets travelled east on Sunday night with a victory it was headline worthy. 338 yards passing from Darnold was his second best output in his two seasons, and his 92 yard touchdown pass to Robby Anderson was the longest by any QB this season.

In the win against the Cowboys the Jets at one point had an 18-point lead, but despite an impressive Dallas second-half comeback, this was a statement victory at Met Life Stadium. Leveon Bell scored his first TD in a Jets uniform, but had another ho-hum game, leaving the contest to be won or lost by Darnold. This was a weird game statistically as Dallas did not commit a turnover, and were far more efficient on third-down.

Sometimes the stats are not the story, and on Sunday this was about the Jets franchise QB returning to a team that had looked like it had thrown it’s hat in the ring for a chance at the number one pick in the 2020 draft.

With Darnold back the Jets are not a playoff ready team, but they are capable of 4-5 wins by the end of the season, something their AFC East division rivals the Dolphins can only dream of. 


Watson outshines Sherlock Ma’Holmes’ 


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Image Credit: Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports

Ok ok the headline is a stretch but it does not take a fictional detective to deduce that Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson is playing an an MVP type level after six weeks of NFL football.

Watson managed to out-duel his dynamic counterpart Patrick Mahomes last Sunday, with 280 yards in the air, and two huge touchdowns on the ground, including the game winner with just over six minutes left in the final quarter. Watson, like Kyler Murray, has avoided being sacked for two consecutive games, something he simply couldn’t avoid in 2018 when he was sacked a punishing 62 times in the regular season.

Watson now has 17 total touchdowns in six games, along with four wins and a division lead. The Texans were supported by a very solid performance from RB Carlos Hyde, part of a rushing attack that finished with just under 200 yards on the ground. Texans WR Will Fuller came back to earth after his stratospheric Week 5 performance. The Chiefs again were let down by their running game, a unit that simply has not been the same since dispensing of Kareem Hunt’s services last season. Hunt himself is nearing a comeback from a half-season suspension at his new team the Browns.

Talking of comebacks, Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill came back with a big fantasy splash in Sunday, with 5 catches, 80 yards and two touchdowns. It may only be Week 6 but this came could determine who ends up with the number two seed in the AFC when the regular season concludes. 


Lazard the 6ft 5inch lizard pounces 


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Image Credit: Benny Sieu / USA Today Sports

In a game dominated by field-goals, a grand total of eight converted, including the 23 yard winner from the Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby with no time left on the clock, it was a lesser known WR who delivered the true highlight of Green Bay’s late late win against the Detroit Lions.

Allen Lazard’s first catch of the season, and only second catch of his career, was an absolute jaw-dropper. Aaron Rodgers threw a rainbow to the left side of the end-zone into a window smaller than that seen in a smurf’s double-glazed box room. On the receiving end was the lesser-spotted Allen Lazard who made a highlight grab to bring the Packers within three points of the leading Lions.

Lazard, undrafted in 2018, spent time on the Jaguars and Packers practice squad in the past two seasons. The former Iowa State Cyclones WR, Lazard holds a number of his college team’s receiving records, including catches, yards and consecutive games with a catch (48). Scoring your first NFL touchdown in front of a worldwide MNF audience is the dream debut score for anyone, and catching it from Aaron Rodgers is a big bonus. They both play second fiddle to helping your team move to 5-1. Lazard’s four catches, his first four of the 2019 season all took place in the fourth quarter. It helps when you have such a huge frame and wingspan, and when your superstar teammate Davante Adams is injured.

This performance will no doubt have the waiver wire buzzing, but even if Lazard doesn’t score again this season, his debut touchdown is one he can show his grandchildren in 40 years time through a holographic “lazar” chip projection device embedded in his ear-lobe.


London Calling


Image Credit – Ant Upton / Associated Press

Great to see so many NFL network personalities over to support the 2nd London game this year.

The Gameday Morning crew took the call, and although its not to everyone’s taste it adds a great deal of humour and personality to the proceedings in my eyes. The Around The NFL heroes also made their return to these shores as the boys helped out on Sky Sports coverage throughout the broadcast. Live shows and podcasts were also on the agenda throughout the week as the investment in the UK goes from strength to strength.

We should remind ourselves not take this stuff for granted, and be thankful we have so much content to get our teeth into. 


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

Where Do They Go From Here; LA Chargers

After our divisional season review podcasts, we are now looking to the future and asking where each franchise goes from here. We put ourselves in the chair of being GM or the owner and going over what moves we would make in order to win a Superbowl, make the playoffs or just regain some pride…

Today we take a look at the LA Chargers. Don’t forget to check out our AFC West podcast where we talked with a fan from every team in the division!

How Did Last Season Go?

If you offered the Chargers a divisional round game loss to the Patriots, they’d probably accept that this is kind of where they should be. That said, I (Tim) was particularly high on them going in to the season that I had some of my hard earned on them. The Chargers were one of the more balanced and complete teams in the AFC if not the NFL last season and just succumbed to a typical Patriots January performance in a game that just got away from them early.

Hunter Henry going down before the season started was never going to be ideal and continued their flirting with Antonio Gates. Hopefully, that will not be repeated in 2019 (sorry Antonio, we love you, but you’re like 50 years old and slower than Jason Witten was taking to commentary).

The Chargers’s loss to KC in week 1 turned out to be pivotal in the end, but actually uncharacteristically started quite hot going 7-2 in the first 9 weeks with their only losses coming in Los Angeles (@Rams).

The Chargers ended up 12-4, tied with KC but lost the tiebreaker which may or may not have been crucial. We’ll never know.

They ended having both a top 12 offence and defence in terms of yardage and points allowed which confirms their status as one of the more well rounded teams.

In terms of personnel, on offence Mike Williams finally repaid the Chargers with being healthy and producing on the field after being a 1st round pick. Williams was able to chip in with 11 touchdowns (1 rushing) on 43 targets, a ratio that is probably unsustainable to repeat in 2019. Keenan Allen pretty much had a replica season from 2017; over 1000 yards on around 100 receptions and 6 TDs. More importantly, his previous injury issues seem to be well and truly behind him. Finally Tyrell Williams had a nice complimentary role in the offence, but seemingly not enough to warrant a bigger contract and will not be returning.

In the backfield, Melvin Gordon was the teams top TD scorer (no surprises there) but did miss 4 games due to injury. Austin Ekeler had himself a nice season, stepping in when required but also forcing his way to earn more snaps in this offence.

Overall, I think the Chargers 2018 can be seen as a success but 2019 will be the year where they will be expected to make an even deeper push in January and play a February game.

Quick word on the defence – Derwin James had a fantastic rookie season and was in the conversation for DRO. 3.5 sacks, 75 solo tackles and 3 interceptions confirming his status as one of the steals of the 2018 1st round. Joey Bosa came back for the 2nd half of the season and picked up where he left off. One of the top defences in the league and have age on their side so look for this to continue in 2019.

Housekeeping

LA Chargers own the 28th pick in the first round along with pick 60 (2nd round), 91 (3rd), 130 (4th), 166 (5th), 200 (6th) and 242 (7th)

Chargers have about $10m in cap space at this moment.

Outgoings

Tyrell Williams was expendable for the money that was available on the open market. Right place right time for him. Jason Verrett’s injury history came back to bite him and was let go. Defensive Tackles Philon and Liuget along with safety Addae were the other names looking for a new home.

Incomings

Not many glaring needs for the Chargers but Tyrod Taylor is the new backup to Rivers and Thomas Davis was a surprising addition to the defence though he will bring masses of linebacker experience.

Outlook for Next Year

Going to be looking at going 1 or 2 better than 2018 with this squad and anything less could perhaps see Anthony Lynn under fire.

It will be a case of hoping one or 2 things fall their way luck wise to be able to get there. Both sides of the ball are young enough but experienced and talented enough to say that this team should be contending for the next few years and anything less is a failure.

Prediction

I think the Chargers have to be considered as one of the top 3 teams in the AFC and I fancy them to make the AFC Championship game this year. Whether they win or not is not for me to say as I have a soft spot for them so will be slightly biased. They have the talent, they have the pieces on both sides of the ball, it’s just about going out there and doing it.

I had my money on them last year, they will again in 2019.

Fantasy Football

Rivers – perennially underdrafted – double digit rounds – QB 1

Melvin Gordon – mid 1st round pick – RB1

Austin Ekeler – double digits rounds -RB3/4 – PPR sleeper

Keenan Allen – late 2nd/3rd round pick – low WR1/high WR2

Mike Williams – 6th round area – WR2 ceiling

Hunter Henry – 5th/6th Round – TE1

 

Exit Interviews – AFC West

We made it to Friday folks! AFC West time and we have a great pod today which sees us take a look at the Chiefs, Chargers, Broncos and Raiders.

Plenty of talking points so we grab fans for each of those teams to take a look and break it all down.

Our thanks go to all those that contributed!

*Denver segment recorded prior to the Flacco trade…

Balling with the Best

Haven’t done an article for a little while so whilst I wait to depart for my second Britball game later today which pits the Clyde Valley Blackhawks hosting the West Coast Trojans, I have been thinking about doing something of this ilk, looking at Bestball (also known as MFL10s) and looking at who to target in the later rounds.

We’ll do a couple in each skill position and I would love to hear your alternatives.

Get in touch @full10yards on social media (and follow/like/subscribe to the podcast).

For those that are unaware of this more modern approach to fantasy football, it is a format with pretty much 1 rule – just draft.

All you need to do is draft your players, and the site that hosts your bestball league will pick your optimum lineup each week. Simple.

No more stressing about whether to play Jamison Crowder or Isiah Crowell in your flex spots each week (though if they are your choices…yikes) nor which QB or Tight End to stream. You simply draft a squad of players, ensuring you have depth at each position.

This is mainly catering for bye weeks; Bestball the only format where you should be looking at bye weeks as you get further in to the draft because there is no waiver wire or trading available in this format. Picks are usually made via a slow email drafting format mechanism (default is usually 8 hours per pick but is customisable depending on your game host) so you also don’t need to worry about getting all of your league managers together for a few hours to do a live draft.

Myself personally, I enjoy the roster management aspect of fantasy football. I enjoy having to make the decisions that can win or lose me weeks. Whilst I enjoy drafting and can see the appeal to those that just want to watch the football rather than their apps to see the scores in their fantasy league, it’s just not for me.

That said, there are certain players that suit Bestball and here are a few players that I think suit Bestball the most in each position.

Just before we start, here are a few tactics you should ensure you deploy in Bestball leagues.

  • Draft 3 Quarterbacks – if you draft 2 QBs, and 1 gets injured (like Ryan Tannehill did last season in my bestball league), you are going to lose points when your other QB is on a bye, leaving you at a severe disadvantage.
  • Draft a top tier TE at least. I say this because the flex position can also be filled by a Tight End, so even selecting 2 top TEs can give you the edge over the rest of the field. Someone like a Travis Kelce/Zach Ertz paired with a Delanie Walker/Kyle Rudolph would probably be ideal. You probably want to employ a similar tactic as with QBs, draft 3. There are some late round TEs that can score you points this year including ASJ, Ben Watson (massive sleeper alert) and Cameron Brate.
  • Remember it’s full PPR format. This changes a lot in both Bestball and normal leagues. Your players get 1 point for every reception they have, making possession receivers and passing down backs more relevant in fantasy football.
  • Ensure you have a mix of high floor and high ceiling players. Doing my fest Bestball last year, in hindsight, I probably should have gone for higher ceiling players. My usual modus operandi is to generally draft safe floor players to ensure i dont end up bottom. Whilst this serves a purpose in roster management leagues where you can sneak wins some weekas, in Bestball, you can get found out because usually, 3 or 4 players will always score higher than you thus, not actually giving you much chance of winning. Therefore in the early rounds, get your studs in each position that have huge ceilings. Compliment that with the higher floor guys in the later rounds and you’ll have a recipe for success. Ensure there is a balance there as picking to many volatile players in terms of conistency can see you sky high in 1 week, but then propping up the table the next.

Ok, I think we’ve covered the basics, now on to those that are decent plays in the later rounds

Quarterbacks

Dak Prescott – Dallas Cowboys

Now I know a lot of you are scared of Dak Prescott. The WR corps, the interceptions in the back half of last season, I get it. But let’s look at last season from a fantasy perspective.

Dak was a top 12 QB for 8 out of 16 games last year, including his first 6 games in a row. In fact, his 4 top 5 finishes in fantasy were bettered only by Cam Newton, Russell Wilson and Carson Wentz.

To further this, if you take out the weeks where Zeke wasn’t available to the team, Dak finished as a Top 12 QB in 7 out of 10 games. Not bad for someone who isn’t even being drafted in most leagues. Zeke is back and Dallas have made an effort to get their Offensive line sorted in terms of depth, adding Connor Williams and Cameron Fleming in the draft and Free Agency respectively. Add to that, Zack Martin signing a huge extension to ensure that the are all there for the foreseeable, things are looking up in terms of opportunity for decent scores in fantasy football. He is great with his feet, giving you the extra 2 pts for his rushing touchdowns which has totalled 6 in each of his first 2 seasons in the league as well as his average of over 300 rushing yards.

Again, the beauty of Bestball is that you dont need to predict when Dak has a good game so selecting him as your 3rd Quarterback in the late late rounds of your draft is a shrewd move for this year, as there are lots of players willing to swerve. I’ll have him ALL day.

Philip Rivers – Los Angeles Chargers

Whilst the 35 year old offers nothing with his mobility or feet, Rivers too is someone perenially overlooked in fantasy. Rivers was a top 12 quarterback for 11 out of 16 weeks last season, althought only making the top 5 twice. Rivers is a great compliment to any of the other QBs you select in the draft because if they have a bum week, Rivers is more than likely going to save you from a disastrous week. Sure, he has the odd game here and there that involves multiple turnovers, but again, you aren’t trying to find the matchups that suit in Bestball. Hunter Henry injury does leave a bitter taste in the mouth a little bit, but Rivers is accustomed to working with limited options.

Mike Williams should be able to show why he was a first round pick last year, returning from his multiple injuries and the rest of the Wide Receivers have been there multiple years now, not forgetting Melvin Gordon’s abilities out of the backfield and Austin Ekeler too.

Rivers is someone in the high floor category rather than high ceiling, which is what the stats are suggesting from last year, but Rivers has always performed well in fantasy football and he should be on your teams this year considering the low draft capital.

Running Backs

Kerryon Johnson – Detroit Lions

Alvin Kamara was the steal last year and whilst there are a multitude of nominees for this year’s Alvin Kamara type of find, at this point in the season, it is just nothing but a dart throw for all of the rookies. The reason I go Kerryon Johnson in this spot is purely potential. Kerryon can be a 3 down back and whilst most people groan about the selection, there is no-one last year that I have seen that was beating the drum about Alvin Kamara so you have to be speculative. No-one wanted anything to do with Kamara for the first 6 weeks of last season with Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram mudding the backfield and I see a lot of similarities here.

Kerryon has to not only beat out perennial underachiever Ameer Abdullah (which wont be too hard as I see Abdullah being cut and finding a home elsewhere), but also Free Agent signing LeGarrette Blount. The 2 time Super bowl winner from the last 2 years joins the Lions ranks and with Matt Patricia coming over from New England to be the head coach, these two will know each other well. Add to that 3rd down/passing back specialist and PPR machine from the last 5 years Theo Riddick, I totally understand if you don’t want anything to do with Johnson.

But hear me out,

Reports from OTAs and murmurs from beat reporters in Detroit is that they LOVE Johnson.

His final year in college saw him rack up 285 carries for over 1300 yards and 18(!) touchdowns at Auburn. He is a big, powerful runner and is elusive for his speed and isn’t afraid to put his head down and bulldoze through tackles. Something Ameer Abdullah simply wouldn’t do (also supports the signing of Blount, who is a similar type of runner so he is someone to learn from).

Let’s not forget that Detroit traded up in the 2nd Round to go get him too! This was when Matt Patricia was already at the Lions so it’s not as if you can say that Patricia isn’t tied to this guy. I think you’ll see a handing of the torch at some point in the season, with Blount taking the early weeks of work whilst Kerryon gets accustomed to the league, but as a potentially double digit draft pick, give me this guy. I think the stars will align for Kerryon fairly early on and it wouldn’t even surprise me to see him be the lead back by Week 1.

Tevin Coleman – Atlanta Falcons

Now Tevin Coleman is not exactly a double digit round pick but his value is great in most leagues, especially this year.

Coleman is in the final year of his contract, and is likely to find a new home next season, possibly being the 2019 Jerick McKinnon, so the motivation is there for Coleman.

He was also very efficient through the air last year, having the 3rd highest average amongst running backs behind Todd Gurley and Chris Thompson. Coleman on the whole is a very efficient player for fantasy. He always makes the most of his opportunities and always finishes his runs hard. He scores plenty of touchdowns too for someone taken in the 6th, 7th or 8th rounds (currently the 30th RB off the boards according to fantasyfootballcalculator). Coleman finished as an RB2 or better 10 out of 16 games last season and for someone you can potentially draft as your flex spot or RB3 bye week plugger, Coleman is a guy you should be keeping an eye on in drafts.

The offence regressed back to the mean last year after the dizzy heights of 2016 and I do think they can improve on 2017 certainly, if maybe not quite repeating their heroics of Super bowl year.

Honourable mentions: Matt Breida, Austin Ekeler, Rod Smith

Wide Receivers

Mike Williams – Los Angeles Chargers

Mike Williams missed the majority of last season so a lot of this has to be taken on trust.

The 2017 first round pick enters his second season after suffering a herniated disc in his spine in last year’s offseason, and was unable to muster a finish better than WR45 in half point PPR last season (go figure).

Williams is another that is being undrafted or is a last round dart flyer in most leagues.

The case for Williams however, is that he has the ability and skillset to thrive in this offence, even with Keenan Allen starting 16 games (we’ll come on to that shortly). Philip Rivers has been able to support multiple high end WRs in fantasy football over the years and I don’t see how Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin are more than bit part players. THe lack of Tight end opens up a whole host of opportunities in this offence and I see Williams as the main beneficiary. The 6 foot 2+ WR from Clemson is a big play guy which is illustrated by his College stats, aveergaing over 15 yards per reception over the 4 years there. Whilst he had his injury troubles in Clemson, when he was on the field for any length of time, he was able to produce. I don’t worry about his ability to transfew his pass catching skills to the NFL, it’s just the injury worries that could leave you disappointed this year.

The same can be said for Keenan Allen however, who was finally healthy for all 16 games last season, but if Allen is unable to repeat that, Mike Williams could become a league winner in fantasy.

His motivation is the chip on his shoulder to prove everyone that he was worth of the first round pick in 2016 (and has as such, been vocal about it) and I am excited to see how it plays out for the former 7th pick overall in his 2nd year in what should be a higher than average offence.

Mo Sanu – Atlanta Falcons

Mohamed Sanu was an unsung hero last year for the Falcons, posting 5TDs and over 700 yards from 67 receptions playing second fiddle to Julio Jones.

Similar to Coleman, I have picked Sanu on the potential that the Falcons offence can reclaim their 2016 form (almost) and that the arrival of Calvin Ridley helps spread this offence out even more.

Sanu was able to compile 8 top 30 finishes last season and that is a decent return for someon that is pretty much undrafted.

The division is an offence heavy one so there are plenty of opportunities for Sanu to post big numbers more frequently than most that you find at this point in drafts and as a last round dart throw, you can do a lot worse than Sanu.

Honourable mentions : Randall Cobb, Mike Wallace, Nelson Agholor

There is an early look at some people I like in Bestball this year. I deliberately haven’t gone Tight end or defences, as I will cover that later on in the summer.

Again, if you have anyone that you feel I should have included, get in touch!!