Tunnel Vision Exclusive: Who is #1?

DOMINICK PETRILLO @ENVISIONFF


As Ricky Bobby said: “You’re either first or last,” and if you prefer Nelly, “two ain’t a winner and three no one remembers.” Either way, we are going to look at my choices for the most likely players at each position to finish at number one. I am sure a lot of you think this is an easy task. For the most part, you are right. So, for purposes here, I will also put a dark horse at each position ranked outside the top Five consensus Rankings at Fantasypros.com. Obviously, this will not be a player who is likely to finish number one. But in the right circumstances could. And by right circumstances, I don’t mean a meteor hits and takes out half the running backs to allow Peyton Barber to move up the rankings. So, let us now find out. Who is #1?

Quarterback:

Aaron Rodgers| Green Bay Packers- The consensus says Patrick Mahomes will be the number one quarterback in 2019. But why? Sure, he threw for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in 2018. But No one who has ever done this has ever repeated it? Aaron Rodgers is still the most talented quarterback in the NFL today. Possibly in NFL history. And he is out to show it again after a down season. A down season in which he threw for 4,442 yards, 25 touchdowns, and only two interceptions by the way. He did all of this on a fractured leg and with a banged-up receivers room including Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison who both missed multiple games.

With Cobb now in Dallas, it will fall to some of the younger guys to step up. Marquez Valdes-Scantling looks to be the man to do so. Rodgers has already stated Valdes-Scantling looks better this offseason and is ready to take over the number two role. If not him, Allison will be there as the number two behind Devante Adams.

Adams is the man in Green Bay. He has double-digit touchdowns in three consecutive seasons, and he had the second most targets in 2018. Rodgers has said he is going to get him the ball, even more, this season. If you have Adams in fantasy, you love to hear this as it could make him the WR one overall in 2019. Also, if his targets do increase, he cannot get them all. MVS is an excellent addition in fantasy drafts. If you can get him in the eighth or ninth round, you will be thrilled. He could easily finish as a WR two at the end of the season.

Aaron Jones and Jamal Williams are still there in the backfield. The run game should be better this season. But not great. The Packers offense revolves around Rodgers and will continue this way until he hangs up his cleats. He will make sure of it. While the team needs to get, especially Jones more involved, this involvement will include receiving work. Jones is an adequate pass catcher, and he will garner 30 to 40 receptions in this offseason. If he can do this along with his rush numbers, he will open up the offense even more for Rodgers. This is going to be dangerous for opposing defenses as Rodgers will carve them up.

As long as Aaron Rodgers stays healthy, he has the best chance to knock Mahomes off his pedestal as number one.

Stat line: 4,400 yards 42 TD 7 Int. 3 rush TDs

Dark Horse:

Carson Wentz| QB 10| Philadelphia Eagles- The man in Philadelphia could be the man in the NFL this season.

Before his injury in 2017, Carson Wentz was the number one fantasy quarterback and was on track to win league MVP. Despite missing the final three games, he still finished as the QB four. He has the talent to get there, and he also has the team.

Alshon Jeffrey is a true number one receiver. Not flashy or a target hog, he is still a guy who demands respect from defenses. This will allow the surrounding cast of receivers to get open. DeSean Jackson is perfect for this offense. He will provide the deep threat which was lacking in 2018 after the injury to Mike Wallace. If Nelson Agholor can get back to his 2017 form now that he is back in the slot, this team is going to be deadly.

The best of all these groups have to be the tight end position. Zach Ertz is coming off a season in which he broke records for targets and receptions by a tight end. These numbers will come down for sure. Much like Patrick Mahomes or George Kittle, Records cannot be broken over and over, so their numbers are set to regress. But this doesn’t mean he is falling off a map. It just means he will come back to normal. In his case, normal is the TE two or three in fantasy.

We also have Dallas Goedert at the position. A player who had five touchdowns as a rookie and is only getting better. These two could produce the best tandem at tight end since Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. It is not out of the realm of possibility for both of them to finish in the top 12 come seasons end. Not just because the position is down. But because they are both that talented.

After a litany of injury issues in 2018, the run game got two significant boosts this offseason. The first was when the team traded for Jordan Howard. A player who people like to make fun of but still had 250 carries last season in Chicago. He also finished as a top 20 running back in PPR leagues despite not catching the ball. Not a bad pick up for a fifth-round draft pick. The other addition, of course, was Miles Sanders. More of a pass catching back than Howard, this could be his primary role early in the season while getting his feet wet in the pros.

By mid-season, he could be the main guy in the ground attack allowing Wentz to have a reliable receiving option to compliment the receivers. If this happens, Carson has the potential to finish as the QB one. If it doesn’t pan out this season? He can still finish as the number one just based on the rest of the offense.

The overall weapons in Philadelphia are better than the weapons surrounding Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. The team is deeper at all positions, and this will allow for Wentz to spread the ball around even more. Is its likely Wentz overtaking Rodgers at the top? No. But it is possible. And this is why he is a dark horse.

Running back:

Saquon Barkley| New York Giants- It’s simple. I love Saquon Barkley. More importantly, though. The Giants love Saquon Barkley. This is good considering he is now the best player on their roster due to a trade of Odell Beckham Jr. to Cleveland.

Replacing Beckham with Golden Tate is not exactly apples to apples. They are not the same type of receiver, and the talent level is not the same. Tate is good at what he does, but Beckham is excellent. There is a significant difference. This leads to Barkley getting even more usage than in his rookie campaign.

Whether Eli Manning or “Eli Manning Jr.” Daniel Jones is the starter for New York; they are going to need help. Saquon Barkley is the help. After having over 90 receptions as a rookie, Barkley is likely to challenge Christian McCaffrey for the lead this season. 115 receptions are realistic for him as dump offs from Manning or Jones are expected to inflate this number to a ridiculous level.

The offense in New York is not good. While you would love for an offense to run through the quarterback, it can’t here. Neither is good enough at this point in their respective careers. It will have to go through Barkley. This may not be good for his long-term prognosis, but for this season, it is great for his fantasy owners. He could far and away be the RB one in leagues. Both standard and PPR leagues. The ceiling is there, but what makes him more valuable is his floor. He doesn’t have one. His floor is RB four.

Most players have a large range of outcomes. Whether it be possible suspension or a change in philosophy. With Barkley, the Giants will only go as far as his massive legs will take them. He will do his best to keep them out of the number one spot in the 2020 NFL draft. And by doing this, he will be a workhorse to a large extent. Think DeMarco Murray circa his last season in Dallas.

Stat line: 260 rushes 1,450 yards 14 TD 110 receptions 1,000 yards 10 TD

Dark Horse:

David Johnson| RB six| Arizona Cardinals- After a season in 2016 where he finished as the RB one, we wanted to see what he did in 2017. After breaking his wrist in the first game, we had to wait another season. The perception was he was terrible in 2018. But was he really?

No, he didn’t have 1,000 yards rushing gaining only 940 or 258 carries. But he did have seven touchdowns. And no, he didn’t catch the ball nearly as much as we thought he would. He only had 50 receptions for 456 yards and three touchdowns. But he still finished as the RB 10 for fantasy. He was also dealing with a terrible offense on a lousy team and even worse coaching.

With Arizona only averaging 65 plays per game behind Mike McCoy and Byron Leftwich it would have been hard for any player to have a passable season. Which is why no one did. Josh Rosen could not find any time to throw the ball as the offensive line collapsed more frequently than a house of cards. This meant David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and company could do nothing to save a shipwreck of a season.

This season the Cardinals have torn it all down and started over. Except for the General Manager for some reason. With Kliff Kingsbury coming in from Texas Tech and bringing in the air raid offense things will pick up. At least in terms of the pace of play if nothing else. The team also brought in Kyler Murray. An athletic quarterback, who unlike Rosen, will be able to move out of the pocket to extend plays. There is nothing better for a running back than a running quarterback. Especially a running back who can also catch the ball if the quarterback runs into trouble.

David Johnson may not finish at number one. As good as Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott and Christian McCaffery will be he most likely won’t. But there is a chance. Even if he doesn’t, he is going to be far better than last season. He should be close to 100 receptions again. He will still have over 1,000 yards, both rushing and receiving. And he could get back get to 20 touchdowns. It’s incredible to think these numbers are not good enough to finish number one. But they were far better than his dreadful RB 10 finish last season. So, get him in all of the drafts you can. If you don’t have a top four pick, don’t worry. There is a chance, slight as it may be, that Johnson could be the RB one at the end of your championship run.

Wide Receiver:

Davante Adams| Green Bay Packers- Ah yes. The benefits of being the number one receiver for an Aaron Rodgers led offense.

In 2018 this meant 111 receptions for 1,386 yards and 13 touchdowns in 15 games. The 169 targets were also second in the league and if Rodgers is to be believed is only going to go up. Aaron Rodgers loves Adams, which means fantasy owners do too.

Over the past three seasons, Davante Adams has clearly taken his place among the game’s elite receivers. In the stratosphere of DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones, and Odell Beckham, this may be the year he finally tops them all. At least in fantasy ranks.

While Rodgers is still the best quarterback in the NFL, his receivers are not as much help as they are a hindrance. Adams there for sticks out even more. There is no Will Fuller, Jarvis Landry or Calvin Ridley across from him. This means he not only is the man, but he has to be the man in the offense. 200 targets, the likes of Jones and Hopkins in recent seasons is not unreasonable to project for Adams. If it does happen 125 catches and 1,700 yards is also not unreasonable to expect. Either way, the touchdowns will be there. He has had double-digit touchdowns in three consecutive seasons, and 2019 will make it four straights.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Geronimo Allison are nice. They are not on the level of the supporting cast mentioned above for the other elites. After this season? Maybe.

Much of the same arguments can be made for Adams as are made for why Rodgers will be the number one QB this season. The Targets will be there, the quarterback is there, and the team is going to be good. All this leads to the conclusion that Adams quite easily could be the WR one after the season.

Stat line: 120 receptions 1,600 yards 15 TD 185 Targets

Dark Horse:

Mike Evans| WR six| Tampa Bay Buccaneers- at 6’5 and 231 pounds not only is Mike Evans a huge man but a colossal target. And this is good because he is a target hog in this offense.

In his last three seasons, he has averaged 149 targets per season. He has also combined for 25 touchdowns. Including 12 in 2016 when he made his first of two-pro bowls.

In 2018 he converted 138 targets into 86 catches for 1,586 yards and eight touchdowns. Although he is not known for his yards after the catch, his incredible depth of target still allowed him to average 17.7 yards per catch. Jameis Winston loves to look his way and with no, and I mean no, run game this will only continue.

The Bruce Arians offense is extremely friendly to elite players. From Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson in Arizona to this season in Mike Evans. His 86 receptions should again rise to the level of his 2016 season in which he had 96 receptions. This will give him a massive upside. If he can raise his receptions to this level and his yardage numbers stay consistent, he could lead the league in receiving yards in 2019. Add to this his ability to have a double-digit touchdown season, and he is in the conversation for players who could surprisingly lead their position in fantasy.

Tight End:

Travis Kelce– Yeah, this one is going to be pretty short.

In 2018 Zach Ertz set the record for targets and receptions by a tight end. Heck, George Kittle even set the record for yardage by a tight end. But neither of them finished as the TE one. That honor went to Travis Kelce. Why? Simply? He is the best in the game.

He was only six targets shy of Ertz and only eight receptions shy of Ertz. To go with this, he held the record for yardage until Kittle played his last game. This means he was second in receptions and yardage with the others were far lower in one or the other. Kelce also had 10 touchdowns whereas neither Ertz nor Kittle made it to double-digits. This was all done with Tyrek Hill on the field. If he is back this season, it will likely only be for half of the season. If he isn’t back, the ceiling may be unlimited for how good, he could be.

The touchdown record of Rob Gronkowski may be in jeopardy. The targets and receptions of Ertz, as well as the yardage number for Kittle, are going to regress a bit. When it comes to Kelce, these numbers have become his norm. So, regression is not as evident. He will still see 140 targets and get near to 100 receptions. This makes him the man among men in the tight end field. I mean, really. Can there be a big argument here?

Stat line: 97 receptions 1,250 yards 12 TD 140 targets

Dark Horse:

Noah Fant| TE 23| Denver Broncos- Is Noah Fant going to finish as the TE one in 2019. Heck no. But to be honest, no one outside the top three has a chance at this position. Therefore, I figured I would talk about a player who even in his first season has a chance to finish in the top 10 despite being ranked outside the top 20. Give me a break, it’s tight ends after all.

Coming into the draft Fant and teammate T.J. Hockenson was the consensus one, two at the position. While Hockenson got saddled to Detroit and an offense looking to be run-heavy, Fant didn’t. He went to a team in Denver and a quarterback in Joe Flacco who wants a tight end. Denver hasn’t had one be successful since Peyton Manning dragged Julius Thomas into relevance. Joe Flacco hasn’t had one since, well last season. But Flacco loves his tight end more than, well honestly? More than a fat kid loves junk food. And don’t forget, I was a fat kid. So, I know.

With Emmanuel Sanders coming back from a torn Achilles at his age and running back Phillip Lindsay coming off wrist surgery others on the team will need to pick up the slack. This starts, for Flacco with the tight end. Noah Fant is an athletic 6’4 and 245-pound tight end. Coming out of Iowa who is starting to produce many great tight ends, he could be the next one in line. Kirk Ferentz and his staff must know something others don’t know about the position, and this makes the future for Hockenson and Fant very bright.

Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton are young and talented as well, and all three could provide a future which looks suitable for Drew Lock and the Broncos. For at least this season though the team belongs to the lean man from Delaware and this means the tight end is the one to own.

You don’t get fantasy points for blocking which is good as Fant is not a blocker. He is a receiver. And this is why he will be the best of the rookie tight end in 2019. Finishing top five may be a stretch for this season. But a top 10 is very likely and in the future? Top five seasons should abound.




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