Henry John @HankTimeSports
Even though the actual season lasts 22 weeks from kickoff to Super Bowl Sunday, the NFL never truly rests. Through trades, free agency and the draft, a lot of player shuffling transpired this offseason, as per usual. Many of these moves will undoubtedly have significant impacts on the Fantasy Football landscape. Particularly when it comes to established NFL veterans, Fantasy owners must adjust their evaluations and projections for these players accordingly based on their new team or new situational outlook heading into the upcoming season. The following are some familiar Fantasy Football stalwarts who were on the move this offseason. Should we expect them to go over or under their Fantasy points totals from last season in 2019? Here are my takes.
*Fantasy points totals based on fantasydata.com’s PPR scoring system*
In what was the biggest surprise trade of the offseason, the rebuilding New York Giants sent Odell Beckham Jr. to the now scary Cleveland Browns. Rebuilding is an all too familiar concept in Cleveland where the Browns haven’t been to the postseason since 2002. Beckham and Co. intend to change that this season. Arguably the best receiver in the NFL joins fellow wideouts Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway and Rashard Higgins, and tight end David Njoku as the primary targets for second-year signal caller Baker Mayfield. The fact that Beckham was able to finish as the WR14 in total Fantasy points last season despite A) missing 4 games to injury and B) playing on one of the worst offenses in the league should just confirm how talented he is. Despite now being on an offense with more mouths to feed, a presumably healthy Beckham will thrive in a vastly superior situation.
In what was the biggest unsurprising trade of the offseason, Antonio Brown got his wish. After very publicly sharing his frustration and discontent with Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers, he was traded to the Oakland Raiders. Despite the absence of Le’Veon Bell for the entire 2018 season, the Steelers offense still functioned quite well. This included Brown who had over 100 receptions and 1,200 yards receiving for the sixth straight season. But he now finds himself on a team where the top receiver in yards last season was the tight end. Brown will certainly be a reliable target for QB Derek Carr. The real concerns are whether the offensive line protection can provide Carr with time to throw and whether a supporting cast of Tyrell Williams, Ryan Grant, and rookie Hunter Renfrow can deflect enough attention away from AB. It could wind up an uphill battle for the 30-year old star.
The Philadelphia Eagles have been utilizing a running back committee approach for the past couple of years, winning a Super Bowl with it two seasons ago. That could change a bit in 2019 as the team acquired workhorse back Jordan Howard from the Chicago Bears. While he was dealt for the absurdly low price of a sixth-round draft pick, the numbers advise to not underestimate JoHo’s ability. He rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons, and, at 24 years old, Howard is far from washed up.. Despite being the odd man out skillset wise in Matt Nagy’s offense last season, Howard still produced 935 yards rushing and 9 scores. The Eagles are predicated on Carson Wentz and the passing game, but they have lacked a sturdy ball carrier to take pressure off of the air raid. Expect Philadelphia to feed Howard plenty this season.
By the time he returned from a 4-game PED suspension last season, Mark Ingram was firmly behind Alvin Kamara on the New Orleans Saints RB depth chart. A year after the tandem had a near 50-50 split of the workload, 2018 saw Kamara get the lion’s share of the touches. Perhaps most notable was Kamara’s 81 receptions compared to just 21 for Ingram. Add it all up and the 29-year old’s decision to join John Harbaugh, Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens in free agency this offseason makes a lot of sense. Baltimore has committed to operating as a run-first offense by means of siding with Jackson as the quarterback for the upcoming season. And run they must since there is no top tier or even second tier wideout on the roster. While Gus Edwards and rookie Justice Hill will both likely vie for touches, the Ravens will be running so much that it is hard to see Ingram’s volume being significantly damaged. He should easily surpass last year’s 645-yard, 6-TD line.
Cam Newton’s shoulder injury effectively spelled Fantasy doom for the entire Carolina Panthers offense last season, minus Christian McCaffrey. Following a 2017 season in which he posted career highs in receptions, yards, and touchdowns, Devin Funchess was held to just 549 yards, 4 scores and 44 receptions last year. When that is the stat line of your top wideout, it’s going to be a long year. Funchess signed with the Indianapolis Colts as a free agent this offseason. The 25-year old gets set to enter his fifth NFL season, this time with Andrew Luck as his quarterback and as the number two option to the dynamic T.Y. Hilton. Throw in Eric Ebron at tight end, a stout offensive line, and a running game that picked up steam a season ago and Funchess should enjoy the fruits of a Colts offense destined for big things in 2019.
If not for Dalvin Cook being hampered by injuries, Latavius Murray would have likely been a sparsely used backup in Minnesota the last two years. And while he wound up getting the opportunity to have an increased workload, he was by no means spectacular. Hovering right around the 4-yards per carry mark and approaching 30 years old, Murray just is not a lead NFL running back. Signing with the New Orleans Saints in free agency means he does not have to be one. Alvin Kamara is the clear lead back for the Saints. Add in superstar receiver Michael Thomas and fellow newcomer Jared Cook, and the Saints will again have a potent passing attack led by Drew Brees. Murray is nothing more than a change-of-pace back to Kamara. The only way he outperforms last year’s Fantasy point total is by finding pay dirt often as part of what should be a high-scoring offense.
It didn’t come as a big surprise that Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement from the NFL following the New England Patriots’ latest Super Bowl victory. A big question that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady must answer in 2019 is where Gronk’s share of the targets will go. Free agent signee Benjamin Watson will undoubtedly be part of that answer operating out of the same tight end position. At 38 years of age, Watson won’t be the quickest target Brady has to throw at. He will, however, be the biggest. With the check down pass being such an integral part of the offense, Watson will get his share of those looks over the middle to complement James White and Rex Burkhead out of the backfield and Julian Edelman in the slot. The yardage total won’t be huge, but Watson can surpass his 31 receptions and 2 touchdowns from a season ago.