Mentally breaking from the herd is a must in fantasy football. When you draft, do you always select the guy at the top of the player list? No, you’ve got your own opinions. Your own methodology. Hundreds of articles, thousands of bits of information all coming together to form your strategic tapestry. These bold predictions seek to shake your constructs and unsettle the settled!
1. Miles Sanders makes the leap into the game’s elite
Sanders is currently ranked around No. 12 in PPR leagues. This puts him in the immediate company of players like Aaron Jones and Josh Jacobs. Expectations are already pretty high for the second-year Eagles running back. What appeals to me about Sanders is his workload and three-down role. From Weeks 11-16, he had at least 11 carries in every game and as many as 20. He had at least four targets per game in that stretch and as many as six. A modest bump to his targets per game and we’re talking about a workload on par with Alvin Kamara. Assuming the Eagles get their receivers better involved in this offense, I feel the efficiency can really take off. That’d lead to more first downs, more red zone opportunities and more goal-line work. If you go RB-RB to start your draft, snagging Sanders in the middle of Round 2 could provide you with two top 5 RBs by the end of the season.
2. Matt Breida is a Top 20 running back
So let me get this straight: Breida’s average rank is 35th in PPR formats. So that means, he is ranked somewhere around the high 20s to the mid 40s by most of the experts on these consensus rankings sites? Does anybody really believe Jordan Howard is more talented? I don’t! Sure, Breida was playing behind an above average line and scheme with the 49ers, but Howard hasn’t had a run go for longer than 25 yards since 2017. He’s not what he once was and even that wasn’t much! Breida can contribute on all three downs. Even in a limited and shared backfield, he managed 16 receptions on 18 targets last season before his Week 11 injury. Of course, he has battled with injuries in each of the last two seasons. But when you’re drafting a RB3, are you looking for slow and steady wins the race, or a guy with talent that really exceeds his draft value? That’s what I thought!
3. Evan Engram will bust and his ADP doesn’t reflect his risk
In eight games last season, Engram snagged 44 passes on 68 targets for 467 yards and three TDs. Engram being a bust really doesn’t so much have to do with his talent, it has to do with his continued degradation and health since coming into the league—eight games missed in 2019 and five games missed in 2018. Sure, if you get 16 games from him he's a top 5 tight end with ease. At a position like TE, where it’s mostly top heavy (elite at the top, fast drop-off in talent and production after the first tier) why would you go for a guy like Engram who will require a late sixth-round pick when you can roll the dice with upside on Mike Gesicki or T.J. Hockenson in Round 11? You could even get Rob Gronkowski a touch later than that unless you’ve got a Patriots/Bucs superfan in your league. Hayden Hurst is going in Round 12. You get the point. Engram hasn’t shown he can put it all together for one great season, so I’m not buying him until he can at least do it once.
4. Joe Burrow will finish among Top 15 quarterbacks
Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Wilson, Dak Prescott, Russell Wilson, Josh Allen, Drew Brees, Kyler Murray, Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers, and Tom Brady. That’s 11 guys at the top of the quarterback list. That’s the group that I think will definitely beat out Burrow. Among this next grouping, which includes Burrow, I think it’s a coin toss whether he outscores them in fantasy: Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Wentz, Matthew Stafford, Baker Mayfield, Daniel Jones, Jared Goff, Kirk Cousins and Ryan Tannehill. Burrow is in a really favorable position with guys like A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd and Joe Mixon at his disposal. This offense doesn’t need an overhaul. The pieces are already there. I really would like this situation even more if the Bengals signed somebody like Delanie Walker via free agency to open up the middle of the field. For those of us who like to wait on a quarterback, drafting them back-to-back in the middle rounds, I’d love to take Burrow and Philip Rivers or Drew Lock in Rounds 13 and 14.
5. Kenyan Drake expectations way too high
It’s easy to like a player who finished with seven touchdowns in his last three games. He probably won a league title for a lot of fantasy owners thanks to his monster Weeks 15 and 16. With that in mind, Drake is being drafted a touch higher than Nick Chubb and Aaron Jones in PPR formats. Drake finally saw his largest total workload in 2019 with 220 touches (170 carries, 50 receptions) and that came in just 14 games. He’s never rushed for more than 817 yards in a single season. He had one touchdown entering Week 15. The stars aligned for him and of course I’d like to see him build upon that success, but he’s in the company of players who’ve been more consistently good. I need to see a little more consistency before I can buy in at his current ADP (31).
6. Stefon Diggs is a Top 15 WR
Look, Diggs was putting up borderline WR1 numbers in Minnesota. They’re a run-first team. Who’s going to eat up Diggs’ targets or compete with him now in upstate New York? John Brown and Cole Beasley? Dawson Knox? Most of you probably need to think for a second to remember who Knox even is! Now the Bills also want to be a run-first team and force feed carries to Devin Singletary to huge success. However, Josh Allen has not had a WR anywhere close to Diggs’ level. His poor consensus ranking (25th) right now likely has more to do with Allen than a pure assessment of Diggs’ fantasy viability. Yet, the former Maryland Terrapin receiver only had 94 targets a year ago. What could he do with 140? If Brown and Beasley can each see 100 or more targets last season, there’s no excuse for Diggs to not see many more than that.
7. Look for a David Johnson bounce-back
Yes, we are now four years removed from Johnson’s breakout 2016 season (1,239-16 & 80-879-4). This should be the best offense surrounding Johnson that he’s ever had. Deshaun Watson wills this team forward practically every week and while the loss of DeAndre Hopkins hurts, the Texans have a sneaky deep receiver corps. Imagine how many times we’re going to see Johnson throw a chip block, sit out in the flat and get dump-off after dump-off in this offense. Watson will be looking downfield, extending the play and making the easy pass. Let’s not forget how good Johnson’s hands are, so he can even line up out wide like a receiver. I don’t think Johnson has a strong case to be a top-five back, but the bar is set pretty low with him ranked the 21st back in PPR.
8. Rookie Receiver on the Rise
Michael Pittman Jr. is the new Mike Williams in this Colts offense. We already know about T.Y. Hilton and we know Jack Doyle has had some previous success when given playing time. We also know that Philip Rivers can support more than one fantasy pass-catcher and did so for many years with the Chargers. Pittman is basically off the radar with so many rookie receivers coming into the league. Like any rookie, it may take him a month or longer to make a splash. That said, I’m looking to win the final weeks of the fantasy season, not the first few. Pittman is ranked 70th among PPR WRs and is seeing an ADP of 169. That puts him in Round 15, firmly late-round flier territory. Parris Campbell is a slot receiver at 6-foot and 205 pounds. Pittman has that long, lanky frame (6-foot-4 and 223 pounds) with great ball skills at the point of attack. He is Mr. Contested Catch. Predicting a final rank isn’t the goal here since he could produce very little for the first half of the year. This bold prediction is more of a “Pittman will be in your starting lineup during your league’s postseason.”
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