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.
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. In this fourth part of our power rankings, we will look at solid offensive situations.
Of course, fantasy is an offensive game, so this article will focus on offensive players, but 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 who may have joined the team through the draft or as an undrafted free agent. Rookie rankings are very loosey-goosey, and we genuinely 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.
With the new contract given to Russell Wilson this offseason, the Seahawks better throw the ball a lot more than they did last season. With the health of Doug Baldwin causing him to retire, this could be tough sledding.
After a stellar 2018 we will have to wait and see if much like JuJu Smith-Shuster, Tyler Lockett is ready to be the man in Seattle’s pass game. If he is and they continue using the run game effectively, Russell Wilson could return to the QB one spot for fantasy he achieved in 2017. If not, he will likely be no higher than the QB six or seven. Currently going in the sixth round, he is a solid pick being taken after the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, and Baker Mayfield but above players like Cam Newton and Jared Goff. This is the perfect spot for him to reside and he could be a good pick at this spot over players at other positions whom you might get here.
In the run game which ran the ball the most in the league last season, this should still be the Chris Carson show despite the “draft equity” spent on Rashaad Penny. It is clear to anyone who watches that Carson is the better player. First and foremost, he can actually catch the ball. His real downside is his willingness and almost attraction to taking hits from defensive players, which does get him hurt from time to time. If he can figure this out, he will not only become a better running back, but he will also make him a steal in the fourth round leaving those taking Penny in the fifth wondering what they were thinking.
Penny only had 12 targets last season and this is not likely to improve anytime soon. The departure of Mike Davis to Chicago leaves 150 rushes up for grabs and Penny should get the lion’s share of these with the rest going to Carson. Even if this happens, Penny will come off the field in passing situations as he is also not a good pass blocker after not having to do so in college. If Penny slides into the seventh round or further, he may be worth a shot. If he is still being taken in the fifth round, he is a hard pass as at this point, I would instead abandon the late QB model and go get Rodgers or Luck instead of risking my run game on Penny.
Tyler Lockett has big shoes to fill when Doug Baldwin retired. He came back from a gruesome leg injury and in his second season back showed he is finally fully healthy pulling down 57 catches for 965 yards and 10 touchdowns. His 16.9 yards per catch was near the top of the NFL, and if he can increase his number of receptions over the 75 mark, he could be a low-end WR1 or WR2 for fantasy. With Baldwin retired this would look to be an easy scenario to see happening making him a good pick as your WR two or three in the sixth round after getting some stud RB depth at the top and filling in with WR later in drafts.
Andy Dalton is Andy Dalton. Almost no player in the league at the quarterback position is as dependent to his surrounding cast for fantasy production.
In 2015 when he had what was considered by many to be the most talented roster in the NFL, he was an MVP caliber QB before his thumb injury. In the seasons since with much less talent and injuries to AJ Green taking their toll, he has been a much different player. Coming into this season with Green healthy, Tyler Boyd ascending and Joe Mixon and Gio Bernard in the backfield, Dalton could have a banner year yet again. He should not be drafted in the top 10 at the QB position, but the good thing is you won’t have to.
More likely than not, you can get him as the final pick or two in your draft while loading up on other more critical positions. This will not only make Dalton a great value pick, but it will also allow you to make an even stronger team as the worry about where to take a QB will not be there for you.
He has the weapons around him now, and hopefully, new coach Zac Taylor will finally bring an offensive scheme to the team. A concept which Marvin Lewis abandoned many years ago in favor of missing the playoffs. A strange tactic and one which got him fired all be it 12 years too late.
When it comes to the main stars around him, we need to start with the new man Joe Mixon. He is a true three-down back and has a solid path in this offense to garner over 1,000 rush yards, 75 receptions, and double-digit touchdowns. Mixon is a top 10 play at the RB position and could easily contend for a top-three finish if the offensive line is improved over last season. He is currently going at the beginning of the second round in drafts, and this is a good target for him. Being taken in the same range as Nick Chubb and Dalvin Cook, all of these players should have good seasons, but Mixon may have the safest floor.
With Dalvin Cook, there are always the injury concerns as well as the offensive line concerns in Minnesota which make him iffy. In the case of Nick Chubb, he will be the unquestioned starter for eight games, but he is not the pass catcher Kareem Hunt is, and it will be challenging to determine how much work he will lose when Hunt returns in Week 10. This means Mixon, not Chubb or Cook should be the first target in this range and if you can get him, you should feel very comfortable with your RB one being locked down.
The other back Gio Bernard is a good pass catching back and an excellent blocker, but with Mixon taking a step forward he will be relegated to handcuff duties, and there is no room for handcuffs early in the season. If you are in a deep league, he can be taken in the 12th or 13th round as a flyer in case of injury. But don’t expect a lot out of him otherwise. It just won’t be there.
When it comes to the wide receiver position AJ Green and Tyler Boyd should finish as top 24 players and either could finish top 12.
If Green can stay healthy, he is still the WR one and will continue to be for a few more seasons. His draft price has fallen into the middle of the third round meaning he and Boyd, middle of the fourth round, are very close in draft price. Green still has the far higher upside, and because the value between is not extreme, Green should be the one to get between the two although if you miss out Boyd is a great option to fall back on in the next round. Boyd had a solid 2018, but he did a majority of his damage while Green was on the field. When he was called upon to be the man, he faltered, showing he is not quite ready to take over just yet.
The only question is what to do with John Ross. He has speed and well, nothing else. He reminds me of an Al Davis pick. See a fast guy and draft him we will teach the rest. Well, you can’t teach health and in the case of Ross, a route tree. He, much like D.K. Metcalf in the 2019 draft is a one trick pony and, in both cases, injuries limit the trick. The biggest enemy of a speedster is a hamstring issue, and Ross has been dealing with this since being drafted number nine in the NFL draft.
His cord for being such a high draft pick is almost stretched to the limit, and this could be his final go around. If you still believe in his ability, you can take a last round chance on him. Or better yet hope he falls to waivers and grab him. But if you draft him counting on production, you might be depressed with the results you incur.
The tight end position is a mess. Not just for fantasy football overall but also for Cincinnati. The Bengals re-signed both Tyler Eifert and C.J. Uzomah making it a cluttered situation. Tyler Kroft walked and went to Buffalo, which is one good thing but either way, on a week-to-week basis who knows who to start. If Eifert is healthy he is a touchdown machine and will be the starter but when has he ever been healthy and on the field.
Both Eiffert and Uzomah are going to go late in drafts and in most cases should be avoided like day old seafood which sat out all night. There may not be many elite choices at TE, but there are certainly 12 better ones than these two wild cards.
The best player on the team is Christian McCaffrey. But the most valuable player is Cam Newton.
We saw last season when Cam doesn’t run as much, he is not a good fantasy asset at the QB position. While yes, he was dealing with a shoulder injury which left his arm underpowered and caused surgery this offseason, he was never a good thrower anyway. As he gets older, we will have to wait and see if he can transition from a runner to a thrower and if the answer is no, he will lose more and more value each passing season.
Many still have him ranked in the top eight at the position, but being a little more cautious is best in his case, making him a worrying pick so high in drafts. Even players who some may have ranked lower are safer and should be considered. Josh Allen, Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz, all who are ranked lower by most are safer picks and should be taken in place of Newton. Especially in early drafts in which we don’t know for sure how his shoulder will heal and if the start of his season will be affected at all.
At running back, it is Christian McCaffrey and no one else. After last season what more do you need to see. Even the most ardent fan could not have seen coming the type of season had by McCaffrey in 2018. Ron Rivera said they would give him 20 touches a game and to our surprise, it actually happened, and he dominated.
In drafts, this season Ezekiel Elliott and Saquon Barkley are the top two picks on most boards, but if you take McCaffrey over either of them, you should not be questioned. He was that good last year and should be again this year.
In D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel, the Panthers have two young receivers who made a mark last season. Add in the mix Chris Hogan to replace Devin Funchess in the WR room, and the group has not gotten any worse. Although probably not any better either. Hogan is a JAG and should be drafted as such in the range of other WR fives or so, but Moore and Samuel should both provide production which makes them picks to look at higher in drafts.
Moore is a big receiver with great hands and will be the number one on this team. He is a top 15 player at the position and taking him in the fourth or fifth round as your WR2 is a good selection after grabbing one of the top name guys in the first or second round.
In the case of Curtis Samuel, he showed ability in 2018 after a lackluster rookie season in 2017 which left many wondering if he would even make the team in 2018. In 13 games for Carolina in 2018, Samuel caught 39 passes for 494 yards and five touchdowns. These numbers are far from great but with Devin Funchess departure freeing up almost 100 targets his numbers should move into the range of a low-end W3 at worst. Meaning 65 receptions for 800 yards and an additional two or three touchdowns is not out of the question.
With Greg Olsen being a shell of himself, it will be up to Ian Thomas to step in at the tight end position to lend any significant role from the position. Although playing in 16 games in 2018, Thomas caught only 36 passes for 333 yards and two TD. At 6’3 and 260 pounds he is not the speedy TE and will not be able to be used the same as Olsen was in this offense and this is not good for fantasy where Olsen was consistently a top six player.
Much like many of the tight ends in the league, he is a middle of the pack guy and maybe even lower with the uncertainty of Cam Newton moving forward. Don’t look for him to provide you a lot of good games and he will most likely disappoint you most weeks meaning, avoid if at all possible, in redraft leagues and only take a late round flier on him in Dynasty leagues.
The quarterback is there; the elite wide receiver is there, and the running back who just refuses to go away is also there. These all sound good, but it is the rest of the supporting cast we need to worry about in Houston.
Deshaun Watson came back from a torn ACL to have a very good 2018 season. Despite having a terrible offensive line who got him sacked a league-high 56 times he still threw for 4,165 yards, 26 touchdowns, and only nine interceptions. Coming back from his ACL and having to run for his life he also managed to run for 551 yards and five touchdowns on 99 total scrambles. This ability gives him an even higher floor as we have seen even with the leg healing, he can use his legs to make more plays.
Whether you have him at QB five or six, he is clearly a top half QB one in 2019 and in the fifth round of drafts, he is currently being taken at a price to match. This is a price which is too high for some of us while others will be alright paying such a price to get a plug and play starter with no worries about him. If this is, you than he is a safe play and should be a player whose floor is pretty set in stone and his ceiling can be that of the QB one.
Deandre Hopkins is the WR one on many boards. Whether you have him at number one or not, one thing we know is he will not make it out of the first round of fantasy drafts. With the uncertainty of Antonio Brown in Oakland and the age of Julio Jones moving them down to some people, Hopkins is set to take the mantle as the next number one wide receiver in the NFL. Whether it be Brian Hoyer, Brock Osweiler or now Deshaun Watson, Hopkins has proven to be quarterback-proof in his ability to make things happen in the passing game.
On 163 targets in 2018, DeAndre Hopkins caught 115 passes for 1,574 yards and 11 touchdowns to finish as the WR one in many scoring formats. This season should be no different as another offseason of working with Watson will only grow their connection, and if Will Fuller or Keke Coutee can stay on the field, they can provide a needed weapon on the other side to move some coverages away from him.
Fuller and Coutee, if healthy, could give the Texans a top-flight group of receivers for Watson to work with. We have already seen the relationship between the QB and Fuller as he was on pace for 28 touchdowns in 2017 before getting hurt again. The most significant risk with Fuller is always the risk of injury as he is still coming off a season-ending injury. This time a torn ACL caused him to miss the second half of 2018. If he is healthy and back on the field Will Fuller is a WR three and could even finish as a WR two within the offense and across from Hopkins.
When it comes to last year’s rookie Keke Coutee, he is a slot receiver who stepped in during the absence of Fuller. When he was not dealing with his own hamstring issues. In only six games, Coutee had 28 receptions for 283 yards and one touchdown. Although not great numbers, the 4.5 catches per game is better than a lot of rookies receive and shows the comfort level Deshaun Watson has in throwing him the ball when needed. Although lower in the ranking than Will Fuller, Coutee can still be a WR four and much like Fuller has a ceiling which could see him move into the WR two or three territories if he stays on the field for the entire season.
Ah, Lamar Miller. The man who just will not go away. He said I am here and am not going anywhere. And this is good for the Texans as Miller sneakily had a top 15 fantasy season for 2018 as D’onta Foreman failed to come back to form from an Achilles tear in his rookie season. If Foreman can come back this season, it may dampen the fantasy relevance of Miller. Unlike an ACL, the Achilles is not something so easily returned from, and Foreman may never be the same so the upside for Miller could continue to be a top 15 back for one more season at least. Going off the board as an afterthought in a lot of drafts, Miller can be had lower than most other players with a guaranteed starting role.
He would make a good RB two on your team after grabbing a star in round one followed by a nice set of receivers in the next few rounds. If 2018 is any barometer for success in this offense than you should be happy with Miller, in 14 games, had 210 carries for 973 yards and five touchdowns while adding 163 yards and one touchdown on 25 catches in the pass game. If the Texans get any sort of improvement on the offensive line, these numbers will go up to over 1,000 yards rushing and over 30 receptions. He should also have more opportunity to score touchdowns, and this number could even go up to close to the double-digit mark. This upside makes him a very attractive pick.
As for the Texans tight ends? Ugh. Never mind.
The Chicago Bears had an unexpectedly good season in 2018. This was due to the defense reminding us of the 1985 Bears and not the offense of the 2007 Patriots.
Despite missing two games, Mitch Trubisky had a solid second season in Chicago raising his touchdown total from seven in his rookie season to 24 in 2018 while also improving his TD to INT ratio from 1:1 to 2:1. Although the Bears will remain a run-first team, Trubisky should continue to build on his 3,223 pass yards and his 24 touchdowns this season. Not a top 10 fantasy quarterback, he can still provide a solid floor for a weekly streamer or as an excellent late round QB to get while filling out your roster with studs at other positions.
The run game with two top 20 backs in 2018 looks very different this season. Out goes Jordan Howard to Philadelphia and in comes Mike Davis from Seattle. The only constant is Tarik Cohen who while fitting in the Matt Nagy system very well is more a compliment back making it needed to have him as part of a committee. There were a lot of big plays from Cohen in 2018 and we can expect them again this year, but they will be few and far between and should not be counted on for a win on a week to week basis. If you draft Cohen above the fifth round, you may be setting yourself up for failure as he will certainly not be the bell cow, there and this will limit his value especially with Mike Davis there to garner a lot of the run work.
Davis had 150 rushes and 42 targets with the Seahawks in 2018 as he is a far better pass catcher than Howard meaning he could be on the field on both run and pass downs and there for even further reduce the value of either he or Cohen in this offense. If Davis does have fantasy value, it will be negligible at best.
The wide receivers in Chicago should be better this season. Not just because they have another year of experience in the case of Anthony Miller., but also a year further away from injury in the case of Allen Robinson.
After starting off slow coming back from a torn ACL, Robinson came on strong near the end of 2018 to finish with 55 receptions for 754 yards and four touchdowns in just 13 games. He should take a step forward in year two of his tenure in Chicago and become the leader of the receiving group catching passes from Trubisky. He is the number one receiver for the team and should finish as a top 20 fantasy WR making him a solid draft pick in the late fifth or early sixth round after taking wide receivers with fewer variables within the first rounds to build upon.
With Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller, we have good, not great compliment pieces and both can be looked at the WR five area of your draft around the eighth or ninth round. After a fantastic career at Memphis including double-digit touchdown season as a junior and senior, Miller is the player most likely to succeed in this duo. He is not just a downfield guy but can also play underneath, making him far less boom or bust than the speedy Gabriel who may have more yardage but on far less volume. In most leagues where PPR is the standard and standard are the unicorn, Miller is the guy with the high upside.
Tight end in the NFL is a sea of mediocrity. Two of those mediocre players reside in the windy city. Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen with splitting duties at the position making a bad situation even worse for their owners. If you have to pick one, the clear choice is Burton as he has the contract and will be the starter. He could finish in the top 10 for fantasy although a top 15 finish is more likely. Just like with others in his range you can pick or choose whichever you want as the production will generally be the same no matter which one you choose. If you miss out on Burton or Shaheen, there will be a Tyler Eifert or Jack Doyle right around the corner for you to grab so don’t reach for one of them.
There are two players on this roster who do not need much said about them but for different reasons.
Eli Manning, or should I say the corpse of Eli Manning is a shell of himself the past few seasons. He has a noodle for an arm and can’t hit a throw for longer than 15 yards downfield. He is not an option in redraft leagues and is barely in consideration for play in a two QB or super flex league except as a backup. If you want to draft him, it is on you but just remember who warned you against it.
On the opposite hand is Saquon Barkley. The reigning rookie of the year is easily the number one or two players off all draft boards and rightly so. Not only does he run amazing, but he is also a major beneficiary of the noodle arm attached to Manning.
261 rushes for 1,307 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground would be a superb season in its own right. Add to these 721 yards and four more touchdowns on 91 receptions and you more from superb to incredible. Well, this is the 2018 rookie season had by Barkley and with Odell Beckham now in Cleveland, these numbers should only go up, up and away.
Now for the rest of the fantasy players on the giants. Golden Tate will try and fill the huge shoes of Beckham Jr. While not as skilled as Odell, Tate is a possession receiver who has only failed to break the 90-catch barrier once in the last five seasons and he leads the league in yards after catch on a yearly basis. Tate is tough to bring down and in durability, which is one key area where Beckham was a little lacking, so there is that. The talent is not the same, and he will not get the 40-yard throws from Manning as Beckham did. But he will turn a 10-yard slant into a 40-yard touchdown and could finish very close to the same production overall.
It is only one year removed from Tate being a top 12 WR for fantasy, and if any Giants receiver can do it, it will be Tate. He is currently going as WR 43 in drafts, and he is easily a top 24 WR making him a serious value in the ninth round of drafts. He should be not just looked for but targeted and even drafted higher to get him.
The returning favorites are Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard who just signed a shiny new four-year contract. He has done a good job in the past two seasons in place of Beckham when injured but with Tate, in the slot, he will primarily play the outside and again, with the limitations of Manning at this stage, this will affect his value for fantasy. He is going in the same ninth to the 10th round area as Tate is but he, by far has less upside potential in the offense and is at best a low-end WR three and more likely a WR four.
Evan Engram should see an uptick in his production coming off a good rookie season in 2017 and a less than stellar year two in 2018. With the retirement of Gronkowski and the falling off of players like Jimmy Graham and Jordan Reed, Engram becomes a top-five tight end and can be taken as early as the sixth round for those of you who make them at this point. With Eric Ebron and OJ. Howard having questions around them heading into the season, Engram is the safest of the tight ends in this range to take in drafts. While Howard’s ceiling could be higher in the Bruce Arians offense his floor is also lower, and this makes Engram a name to target for solid TE production on a weekly roster.