Dominick Petrillo @envisionff
We always see rankings about which team is the best in the NFL. Whether it be on offense or defense or even overall. But no one seems to do a power ranking of teams when it is related to fantasy football prospects. In this third part of our power rankings, we will look at good offensive situations.
Obviously, this is much more important than real life power rankings, so they need to be given their fair due. Over this six-part Tunnel Vision Exclusive we are going to do just this for you. That’s right. It is going to give you the be all end all of fantasy power rankings. Ok, I may have oversold it a bit, but it is going to show who has the best fantasy relevant players that you should be looking at in drafts.
Of course, fantasy is an offensive game so this article will focus on offensive players. However, for those of you who still think defenses have a place in leagues, I will additionally add my D/ST rankings at the end of the article. Where they belong.
Editorial Note: These rankings do not take into account any rookies Rookie rankings are very loosey goosey. We truly do not know how they will perform until they do so in the NFL and not college. Therefore, these rankings will only take into account players who have already spent time in the league.
Ezekiel Elliott had a monster season and should be in heavy consideration for the number one draft pick in many fantasy drafts. He not only ran the ball great last season but with 77 receptions, was finally utilized in the passing game. A trait he was thought to have but was not shown to its’ full vigor until last season. The only slight, and I say the slight, concern is his lack of touchdowns. Despite touching the ball 381 times he only recorded nine total touchdowns. While good, it is not the 20 recorded by the likes of Todd Gurley or David Johnson in their best seasons. If this number raises to even 14, he will far and away be the top RB in fantasy for 2019. Any place you can draft him you should with no hesitation.
When it comes to the passing game what is there really to say. It sucked last season. At least until the arrival of Amari Cooper. Then it was just average. While it looked to most like Cooper had a monster second half of the season, much like Derek Henry in Tennessee most of the production came in a few games. In the case of Cooper, it came in two games. One of which he scored over 30 fantasy points and another in which he scored over 40.
With a full offseason of work between Prescott and Cooper, the connection should gain a lot of traction. The consistency of good games should also go up for both of them. Cooper is a real threat to finish in the top 15 at the WR position for fantasy. He is going off the board in the fourth round, he is a solid pick at this point in drafts.
As for the other options in the passing game worth drafting, well, there is, wait, I got it. Never mind. No, I don’t. Witten is out of the booth, thank goodness and back on the field, but he was broken down when he left. Now with a year off and being 37 years old, his time as a worthwhile TE is gone and so is any reason to draft him. Allen Hearns is back for another season and Michael Gallop is entering his second season after not showing much his rookie year to be excited about. The offense, besides Cooper and Elliot, is lacking but with two of the top players at their respective positions, this could be enough for Dallas to contend in the NFC East.
Dak is a game manager for sure. With Cooper and Elliott, this is what he is expected to be. But he also has the rush ability a lot of game managers don’t have. In 2018 he ran for the same number of touchdowns as Ezekiel Elliott with six and this number should remain in the coming season as he tries to stay upright behind a quickly deteriorating offensive line once seen as the best in the NFL.
If Prescott can continue to grow in his connection with Cooper and Elliott puts up the reception numbers, he had in 2018 he should be a top 12 quarterback for fantasy. He will not be drafted this high which will also make him a great late round value for those who wait on a quarterback. If you play dynasty, he should be a target as he is young and will only continue to get better along with Elliott and Amari Cooper in the Cowboys’ offense.
If you are a redraft player the Buccaneers are stacked. If you are a dynasty player? Maybe not quite so much.
Jameis Winston should have a great season under new head coach Bruce Arians. He took a broken-down Carson Palmer and revitalized his career and he now should do the same for Winston. At least for this season.
In 2018, under Dirk Cutter, the combination of Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick would have ranked as the number two fantasy QB for fantasy and with Arians, at the helm, this should not go down much. The lack of a run game makes Winston a valuable late-round pick. He a clear path to finishing as a top five to seven QB when all is said and done for 2019. With O.J. Howard, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin as the options in the passing game, this offense could put up a lot of points. And based on their defense last season they will need to if they want to be competitive.
Mike Evans will be a target monster as he always is. He can be all over the map when it comes to touchdowns including seasons of double-digit touchdowns as well as seasons with only three. The receptions will be there through making him a high floor play, especially in PPR formats. Don’t expect him to gather much yards after the catch as Golden Tate he is not but his depth of target keeps his yardage up as he still averaged over 17 yards per catch in 2018 and gained 1,524 yards on 86 catches.
Another good value in drafts, for now, Evans is going in the same area as Antonio Brown, A.J. Green and behind a player like JuJu smith-Shuster. All players who he should be taken ahead of this season.
Chris Godwin did not have the season many expected in Tampa Bay last season. Some of this had to do with the carousel at quarterback but a lot of it had to do with DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries being on the team. Neither of these players is there any longer and this means a wide-open field for Godwin across from Evans. If you are in the sixth or seventh round of your draft, Godwin should be a major target for you. He will take over the Humphries role which led to 76 receptions for 816 yards and five touchdowns as the main slot receiver in the offense.
Of course, Godwin will not get all of the targets given to Jackson and Humphries. However, he will be given enough to raise his 2018 numbers of 59 receptions for 842 yards and seven touchdowns into the range of a wide receiver two in this offense. Look for him to have numbers very close to Evans in the receptions department as he should challenge for 90 or more receptions for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. This may seem lofty for him as he will be the clear number two but alas, we forget, both Antonio Brown and JuJu had over 100 catches and 1,000 yards in Pittsburgh last season. It can be and, in this case, will be done again in Tampa.
O.J. Howard had a season shortened by injury in 2018 but coming back this season he still seems as the TE four in fantasy drafts. If you like taking tight ends this high and you miss out on the top three, Howard could be a guy to target. One thing to worry about with Howard is that Arians does not tend to use the TE position as much as other coaches. This could be a coaching decision, but it could also be due to the fact he has never had a good TE on his roster. We are sure to find out this season as Howard is far better than any he has ever had. If he does use him, Howard could easily join the big three to form the fantasy four. But if not, you may have just wasted a fifth-round pick on a TE instead of getting a star player like Calvin Ridley or perhaps his teammate Devonta Freeman should he slide a few spots. While the ceiling is certainly higher than most at the position, the floor is also lower than most and could in fact not be a floor so much as a trap door.
As we said the Buccaneers do not really have a run game which means unless it is a late-round flier, no one is really worth drafting. Ronald Jones Jr. was terrible in 2018. He was injured and when he did play, they wished he was still injured. If he is going to remain on the team after this season, he will have to do something this season. Arians loves using the RB to catch passes, but Jones is not a good pass catcher although it looks like they want to use the Jordan Howard experiment on him anyway and see what pans out. If you can get him in the 11th or 12th round, you could do worse. But if you are counting on him as a weekly play and get cute by drafting him too early, you might just get burnt in the Florida sun.
With all the attraction for the pass game and QB in redraft, Dynasty is a different matter. Mike Evans will continue to be good for dynasty, but will Winston be there after 2019? Who knows? He has not been consistent and has been very immature to boot. If Tampa Bay falters into a top pick next season the GM will be gone, and Arians will have the ammunition to get his own signal caller for the rebuild meaning a departure for the man from Florida State. With his departure could go the fantasy hopes of Godwin and Howard. We truly don’t know for sure. Take Evans with confidence in all formats, but when it comes to the rest of the team be careful in dynasty leagues but go all in for redraft.
Le’Veon Bell? You are gone. Antonio Brown? Take your craziness to Oakland. So now there is a fully functional team left in the Steel City. Ok, Roethlisberger is still there but what can you do.
With the departure of Bell and Brown, we will truly see the impact JuJu Smith-Shuster and James Conner can make as their replacements. If the offensive line loves Conner as much as they seemingly hated Bell, he could break the all-time rushing record currently held by Eric Dickerson. Not likely for sure but the line is outstanding and should provide him with plenty of room to run as well as add to his 50 receptions from last season despite missing time at the end of the year with a leg contusion.
There are mixed feelings whether Bell made the Offensive line or if the line made Bell what he was. I seem to lean to the latter and if so, this will mean Conner will continue to improve over his 2018 season in which he amassed almost 1,000 yards on 215 carries with 12 touchdowns. He also caught 55 of 71 targets for 497 yards and another touchdown. His 12 rush touchdowns were more than Bell has ever had in one season and shows his ability to be an RB one for fantasy. James Conner should easily be a first-round fantasy pick and should be safe given the production of last season in only 13 games with only 12 of those being as a starter.
Another possible first-round pick, although because of hype, is JuJu smith-Shuster. If he can be gotten in the middle of the second-round he could be a great draft pick ahead of A.J. Green and Antonio Brown. If you take him above others like Michael Thomas or Odell Beckham Jr., you might be disappointed come season end.
Yes, he is the only player in NFL history with three 90-yard pass receptions and yes, he has done this in only two seasons. But this was as the number two in an offense with the best receiver in the NFL on the other side of the field and a top five running back behind the QB. While he will still have the RB there this season, he does not have the WR across from him to take cover. He will be the man, moving to the outside and this means a possible regression in stats strictly due to circumstances, not talent.
He could still have close to, if not more than 100 catches and will go over the 1,000-yard mark but the key will be if he can gain the touchdown share which was had by brown over the past five seasons in Pittsburgh.
Big Ben is coming off a season where he finished as a top-three fantasy season. For him, this is an outlier and is not likely to repeat. Not just because of the loss of Bell, who wasn’t there last season anyway, and Brown who is now in Oakland. But also, because his average fantasy finish is in the range of QB 10 and not three. What do we always say? Just because something happens once doesn’t mean you should expect it again. Most things revert back to the norm and in this case, if you draft him as the QB three you will be crying all the way to the consolation bracket. Remember Matt Ryan after he was the QB one in 2016? Yeah, he followed it up by finishing QB 12 the following season. If you take him in the range of a Dak Prescott or Philip Rivers you will be happy with your return. If you draft him among Patrick Mahomes, Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson you will lose out in this one.
While Roethlisberger will have Conner a JuJu, two possible to 10 players at their positions for fantasy, he does not have much else. Vance MacDonald is there at tight end, but he is more hit or miss on a week-to-week basis than I am at a shooting range. The WR two and three are also much weaker than last season.
James Washington is going to have to replace JuJu as the WR two which means a lot more than the 17 receptions he had as a rookie. If he can step up the Steelers offense could be fine and along with Donte Moncrief could have some value. James Washington is getting a lot of talks this offseason and is starting to rise sharply in fantasy drafts. If he goes in the top eight rounds you should avoid him as he is not the risk, you want to take for a WR three on your roster. If he falls lower or he is your WR four or five he should be a good fill in and flex play in certain matchups.
Moncrief, although not a great season, was the WR one in Jacksonville and as an underneath receiver could bring the role back to Pittsburgh if JuJu truly does stay outside this season. If this is the case, he, not Washington, could be the one to step into the second receiver role. He has a safer floor than Washington although the ceiling is not nearly as high as with Washington. He should be drafted in the same area as Washington may be a round or two higher. But either way there are better options for your WR four or five position, and both of these players should not be at the top of your list.
In a season shortened by injury, Carson Wentz mixed some good games in with his bad ones but overall had a decent season coming back from his torn ACL and before his fractured back ended it.
In only 11 games, Wentz threw for 3,074 yards, 21 touchdowns, and only seven interceptions while completing a very nice 69.3 percent of his passes. The number of touchdowns could be a little higher but after another year healing from his ACL and hopefully a fully healthy offensive line and run game he will have more chance to flourish again.
After a 2017 season in which he won the Burt Bell Award as the best player in the NFL, he should show again in 2019 why the Eagles moved up to number two to draft him out of North Dakota State.
Wentz, currently going off in the ninth round of fantasy drafts is going to have a comeback season this year and with a good chance to finish in the top seven at the position should be in consideration above others in this area like Jameis Winston and even Jared Goff. He should also get back to running a bit which will allow him to extend plays and find also Jeffery and Zach Ertz down the field for big plays and a lot of offense.
When it comes to the passing game there are two main guys to focus on in the draft. Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz. Zach Ertz is firmly in the top three tight ends in the NFL and whether you take him first, second or third you can not go wrong by taking him. In 2018 he broke the TE record for receptions with 116 and also had eight touchdowns at the position making him the number two scorer at the position. While a record is not likely to be broken two seasons in a row but his 10 yards per catch Is a full yard lower than his career average meaning if this comes back up and he adds 100 or 200 yards to his total it will compensate for a drop of 10 to 20 receptions. He is a solid pick in the third round for those who like taking one of the top TE’s high in drafts although out of the three of them Ertz may be third behind Kelce and Kittle in upside. The floor though is important and all of them have a super high floor. So, pick your poison here.
Alshon Jeffery is a big receiver and a great presence in the red zone. But he is not a high reception total guy. He will need to make hay on his yardage and touchdown numbers. Last season in 13 games Jeffery totaled 65 catches for 843 yards and had six touchdowns to help the Eagles to the playoffs. Although getting older, he is still the number one receiver on the team. He should put up similar if not better numbers this season with the healthy Wentz back for the team. He is going in the fifth round currently. This is a good spot to get a player who is on an ascending offense yet again.
One addition we will have to see about is that of DeSean Jackson coming back after being dismissed by Chip Kelly in hopes of ruining a team by molding it into oblivion. At 32 years old, Jackson has not lost a step and he showed it last season in the first two games with Ryan Fitzpatrick as he had four touchdowns and over 300 receiving yards before Winston returned to the lineup and again decimated his value. If you can get him in the ninth or 10th round he is a boom or bust deep threat. He has the ability to win you weeks. Carson Wentz can throw the ball deep when he has a receiver there to catch it. They tried to get him this last season with Mike Wallace before he went on injured reserve. But we did see the connection he had with Torrey Smith in 2017. This should give us a lot of confidence in his ability to use Jackson and this could lead Jackson to finish as a low-end WR three in fantasy.
In the run game, the backfield is loaded. But loaded with mediocrity. Josh Adams had some good games after the season-ending injuries to Jay Ajayi and the mostly missed season of Darren Sproles. But before these injuries, he could not make it off the practice squad meaning what is he really going to be in the NFL. Along with Corey Clement and Wendall Smallwood they should provide depth to a run game which should be headed by newly acquired Jordan Howard. Not a ball catcher by any means Howard is a first and second down back making it crucial Darren Sproles or Cory Clement step up in this role to provide the needed ability to keep defenses honest. If they can do so this could clear things for Howard to possibly have a top 20 finish at the RB position. A finish which he accomplished even last season in what was a down year for him in Chicago. The other backs do not have much if any value and unless Howard gets hurt in the preseason. They should not be drafted in standard sized redraft league.
Tom Brady is the goat. But he is getting older and he is losing some of his most reliable weapons along the way. Rob Gronkowski has officially retired for now and we don’t know if Josh Gordon will be on the field or not. This means his receiving group will consist of Julian Edelman who is also getting old, Austin Seferian-Jenkins who may or may not stay healthy and a group of guys so unimpressive they are led by Phillip Dorsett. So why are they above some other teams then? Because as old as Tom Brady is, he still seems to have magic in him, and they also have Bill Belichick on the sideline.
Tom Brady is not a top quarterback for fantasy anymore. In fact, he is not even clearly a QB one for fantasy. But he does make those around him fantasy relevant. Julian Edelman, Sony Michel, and James White are going to continue to be solid fantasy plays for this season and for as long as Brady is there.
Julian Edelman will be a PPR machine with 90 or more catches guaranteed as long as he is on the field. The yards and touchdowns are going to be lower than some other slot guys like Jarvis Landry or Golden Tate as they are better after the catch, but he will get you a solid baseline to start from. He is not the ideal WR one but if you take a Julio Jones or Michael Thomas early, he makes a perfect compliment as the WR two giving you two plug and play receivers every week. Taking him in the area of a draft where he is going, around a player like Alshon Jeffery, he would make a good choice. Jeffery has the touchdown upside, but his lack of high catch numbers still gives Edelman a similar outcome potential. Besides an ACL tear, Edelman remains healthy more so than Alshon does.
In the run game, this seems to be the Sony Michel show. He finally came on late in the season. Michel was the only touchdown scorer in the most boring Super Bowl of all time.
He is going in the third round of drafts right now. Although it is never good to trust a New England RB, he might be the exception to the rule. With James White being the receiving back Sony can concentrate on running the ball and getting the goal line touches making him a high ceiling player whereas White is a low ceiling but high floor player who is better taken in the seventh round or later in drafts as an RB three for your team. Both players will be solid contributors to you if gotten at the right draft capital. If you get either one you should be happy with your potential return on investment.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins is on his last leg. He has been given chance after chance and has still failed to show his true talent. If he is not going to do it in New England he never will. If you absolutely must draft him make sure it is your last pick before kickers and defenses. Otherwise, there are much better options to be had at the same point in the draft at the position. A shot on Tyler Eifert or Jordan Reed is just as risky and would provide so much more boom possibilities.