Dominick Petrillo @envisionff
Atlanta Falcons: So, who finished as the number two quarterback in fantasy in 2018? Two thumbs pointing at Matt Ryan. And he is still going to be disrespected in drafts and taken in the 10th round. Sign me up please.
Being in another new offense is not a good thing for Ryan as it seems to take him a season to adjust. The difference this time is he has his old offensive coordinator back in Dirk Cutter. This means he will not need an adjustment period as he has already been in this system before. With Julio Jones coming off another great season and being signed to a new contract extension he will continue his dominance of opposing cornerbacks and with a young star in Calvin Ridley on the opposite side of the field, he now has a counterpart who will draw attention from defenses as well. Much like Jones provided this for Roddy White early in his career, Ridley will help Jones get even more chances after leading the league last year with 170 targets. Jones will be taken as the last few picks of the first or first few picks of the second round and he, quite possibly could be the safest of any pick in this area as he has been steady his entire career whether playing healthy or through injury he always seems to put up the same line of 90 receptions for 1,400 yards and six touchdowns and we can expect the same again. Ridley coming into his second year is also on the rise in this offense as we saw from Tampa Bay in 2018, Cutter loves to throw the ball and Ridley will also benefit and should finish in the top 30 receivers in the NFL for fantasy this season. Going in the fifth round, he would make a good third receiver for your team who could have week winning upside if he is played as your flex.
In the running game, Tevin Coleman is out and Ito Smith is in, but the real key is going to be the return to health for Devonta Freeman. After barely playing in 2018 the 27-year old will be counted on to return to the field and provide the running and pass catching ability he showed in previous years when he had fantasy finishes of RB one and seven before his last two shortened seasons. If he can return to be a top 10 back for fantasy the Falcons will be even better and getting him in the fourth round could be a steal. Imagine a team starting off Odell Beckham, Dalvin Cook, T.Y. Hilton, or George Kittle if you like high picks on a tight end and then Freeman in the fourth. As Adam Sandler would say. Not too shabby.
Los Angeles Chargers: Another team who could move up or down in these rankings by season end is the Chargers. If Hunter Henry finally stays on the field and proves to be what everyone thinks he is, he could finish as a top-five tight end with the love of the position we know Philip Rivers has. Add to this the abilities of Keenan Allen and Mike Williams and the receiver’s group should be solid, to say the least. The loss of Tyrell Williams to stretch the field will be felt but this should not hamper the Chargers, especially when they will have six games against the Raiders, Chiefs and even the Broncos who all have vulnerable defenses, to say the least.
The Pass game will continue to be good with Rivers and being had in the double-digit rounds means he will not cost you a lot in drafts allowing you to stock up at other positions where you start more than one player. With Melvin Gordon always seemingly hurt when it comes fantasy playoff time, he is a risky first round pick. But if you want him, this is where you will have to take him and this could lead you to the playoffs, but then scrambling to win once there. A true three-down back, if Gordon stays healthy, he is for sure a top-five type back for fantasy. With both run ability and maybe even a better pass catcher than runner his upside is that of Ezekiel Elliott or Alvin Kamara, but his injury history is the only thing keeping him from attaining this potential. Maybe this is the year.
Keenan Allen has seemingly been dropping down draft boards and at this point is on the fringe of dropping out of the second round and into the third. If this happens, he is a steal for someone who gets him thereto pair with a player like Elliott or Saquon Barkley to start off a fantasy draft. If you want to overpay at draft time, but potentially get the next great tight end you could also opt for Hunter Henry in the Fifth round. Too high for this drafter, but if his production matches the hype? He could have as many points as Zach Ertz and Travis Kelce combined. Not going to happen, but the hype seems to be trending in this direction.
Minnesota Vikings: After almost making the Super Bowl at home in 2017, the Vikings faltered to a disappointing second-place finish in the NFC North and missed another trip to the playoffs.
This, of course, had a lot to do with the play of Kirk Cousins. While he was not the only reason for the failure his uneven play was the main cooperate for it.
This year should be different as Delvin Cook should be much improved in his second season back from his torn ACL suffered his rookie season. Minnesota must truly have confidence in him as they let Latavius Murray head to the Saints in the free agency and replaced him on the depth chart with Amir Abdullah. You don’t replace anyone with Abdullah unless you have the utmost confidence in the person playing in front of him. Delvin Cook should, with his pass catching ability out of the backfield be a locked and loaded running back one this season and he will cost this price in fantasy drafts. Currently, with a price of a late first-round pick, the good thing is with the players going in front of him, his price is not likely to go any higher. The bad thing is, it is not going to go down either. Being taken in the same range as Joe Mixon and Le’Veon Bell, Cook should be your choice at this point. He is on a better offense than either of the others and despite the limitations of Cousins, he is also the best quarterback of any the three are playing with.
When it comes to receivers not many teams can compete with a one, two, punch like Minnesota. With Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen in the fold as high PPR value guys, either one is a great draft choice as they both can give you wide receiver one production on any given week. Or even in the same week.
The knock-on Diggs has always been his durability. A trait he showed last season may be finally coming out for him. With Adam Thielen starting off strong last season with seven straight games of over 100 yards, we know the talent is there for him to be the man also. With Laquan Treadwell all but gone, finally, more targets will go to the duo in 2019. Not that Treadwell was a major contributor, but when you are talking about players at the highest level, even 10 more targets can put them ahead of another.
With Diggs and Thielen both going in the third round, it will be imperative for you to decide which one to take. With the upside and the lower draft cost, the lean is to take Diggs. This will allow you to get a solid running back core while still starting off with a good PPR option as your WR one. But if you choose Thielen, no one will bat an eye. Including me. As I said, you really can not go wrong with either of these players and both should be in the conversation to finish as top 12 fantasy receivers at season’s end.
At the tight end position, Kyle Rudolph was all the rage in 2018. Coming in with a new quarterback who loved using his tight end in Washington for the past four seasons. But this didn’t happen last year and much like most of the position group in the NFL Rudolph disappointed owners after what we thought was a get right year with Case Keenum in 2017. At this point, much like the rest of the non-elite tier of guys, he should be a late round guy who you take after the rest of your roster is filled in with studs. Don’t overpay for a Trey Burton or a longshot like Jack Doyle. Instead, wait for a few more rounds, build your stacked team and take Rudolph. If he doesn’t shine? No loss. You are in the same boat as most others in your league. If Kirk Cousins gets back to using the tight end as he did with the Redskins? You could have a top-five finish from a late round pick. Either way, it is a win-win for you.
Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck showed after a few rusty weeks to start last season that he is back and ready to become a top quarterback in the NFL.
With the Addition of Devin Funchess, yes Devin Funchess, there is finally another receiver to play along with T.Y. Hilton and provide some size in the WR group.
While this will be good, both for Luck and Hilton, it will be bad for Eric Ebron who could become the most over drafted tight end this season coming off a 13-touchdown season. There were many factors in this explosion of production for Ebron. First was the injury to Jack Doyle who when healthy was the pass catcher of the tight end group despite not getting the touchdowns. As stated, there really was no other playmakers in the passing game besides Ebron and Hilton who himself missed time from injury.
With Doyle again healthy and another big red zone target in Funchess coming into town, Ebron will have a severe regression in stats both touchdown and receptions. This means for those of you drafting him as the TE five or six, he will disappoint, and you would be better off bypassing him entirely at his current draft price.
As for T.Y. Hilton and Devin Funchess. Their stock should be high, and it is. T.Y. Hilton can sneak into the discussion for a WR one and at his ADP of the end of the third round, he should be a safe bet over others going in the same area of drafts. Players like Amari Cooper who had a good back half of the season in Dallas but has been very inconsistent.
As for Funchess, much like a player like Kenny Stills or DeDe Westbrook, the talent is there but as the second receiver or in Westbrooks case, the first receiver on a bad offense, there will be boom weeks and bust weeks. As a double-digit pick, he could provide good upside with WR three potential. But if you take him to high his value will wain more and more and you might be disappointed taking him as your WR three instead of a player like Calvin Ridley whose floor may be a WR Three instead of Funchess ceiling being such.
The job of Marlon Mack looks secure for the 2019 season. This is good for those of you holding on to him in dynasty leagues and also makes his draft price in the fourth round great value for a starting back in a potent offense. Despite drafting Jordan Wilkens and Nyheim Hines last season, the Colts still relied heavily on Mack and they have said they want to do so again this year. If he is on your dynasty roster he should be a solid performer on a weekly basis for you and if you are looking to go WR heavy in fantasy drafts, Mack, unlike his division mate Leonard Fournette, makes a good pick to start your RB group in the late third or early in the fourth round.
Quarterback Andrew Luck is going off the board as QB two in the fifth round and while too high for many people who subscribe to the late round model for quarterbacks, if you want to take a high pick at quarterback, he should finish in the top three to five at season’s end with his non-injury floor being QB six or seven. So, you could do worse.
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers is going to smash this season.
Coming off a down season in which he only threw for 4,333 yards, 25 touchdowns, and two interceptions while playing on a fractured knee, Rodgers is on a mission. Not only this but the man who seemingly takes slights harder than the orange man in office is mad about his reported complicity in the dismissal of Mike McCarthy last season. Whether the article in question is all true, not at all true or what is more likely, somewhere in between doesn’t matter. What matters is Rodgers believes it is a lie and is going to use it as ammo as he runs rough shot over the NFL in 2019.
Still the most talented QB in the game today and possibly of all time, Rodgers is one of a few players capable of keeping Patrick Mahomes from finishing as the QB one for the second season in a row. Currently, he is also going in the fifth round of fantasy drafts which is also a savings of three rounds over the young gun Mahomes. This may not seem like a lot for players who prefer to wait on a quarterback until late, but in the fifth round, he might just be better than another player you might get at this point. A player likes Courtland Sutton or Rashaad Penny for instance. So even at this price, he is far more worthy of a pick than Mahomes in the second.
As for the weapons surrounding him, Davante Adams is a monster. Quickly becoming one of the top receivers in the league Adams is a first-round draft pick in fantasy drafts and this will not change anytime soon for the young target. And yes, I do say target as he garnered 169 of them in 2018 and this number should not drop much if at all in the pass-happy Packers attack. This fact makes him a safe pick in the first round of drafts. Much safer than perhaps Odell Beckham Jr. moving cities or even a running back like Melvin Gordon who may or may not stay healthy all season and despite the love has still never rushed for over 1,000 yards in a season/
The run game, while not highly used is going to be better this season as Matt LaFleur comes in from Tennessee where he finally figured out to use Derek Henry. This means he should realize to use your best players, and this means good things for the other Aaron. Aaron Jones.
Currently being taken as RB 17, Jones has the potential for more upside than others going in this range of the draft. Surrounded by players like Phillip Lindsay and Leonard Fournette, Jones is the player in this group with the highest likelihood to finish top eight at season end. This means taking him even a little bit higher in the range of Marlon Mack or Nick Chubb is reasonable with his potential for a higher finish.
So, what isn’t Green Bay higher in the rankings? Well, they don’t have a reliable tight end as Jimmy Graham has proven to be a shell of himself in recent seasons. Yes, I know Rodgers uses the tight end about as much as a blind man uses binoculars, but it is still good to have the threat available to him in the rare occasions he needs him. Graham was far overvalued by most of the fantasy community last season. They will not be so easily fooled this time meaning if you want to get him for some reason, you will get him in the 11th or 12th round and should not be taken in the top 10 at the position.
The other reason for the lower ranking is the WR two. Who is it going to be and how will they perform? Geronimo Allison is back with the team and Marcus Valdez-Scantling is also there but neither gave us a reason for much optimism in 2018 meaning unless they draft a rookie who really hits his rookie year, this could be one of the weakest WR two positions in the league. And this means they can’t be put any higher over teams with proven commodities at least one of these positions.
Aaron Rodgers can make up for a lot of misdeeds in an organization and he may have to do it again here. But the confidence is there that he can and will do it in 2019. Don’t shy away from the options in Green Bay. But other than Rodgers, Adams, and Jones. Don’t seek them out either.