Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
Fantasy owners were taken on a great ride by Watson from Week 3 to Week 7 last year. Over a five-game stretch, Deshaun passed for 1,472 yards with 18 TDs and seven Ints while gaining another 186 yards on the ground with another TD. His success over this span projected over 16 games would have led to 5,305 combined yards with 61 TDs. When looking at his passing stats, Watson never attempted over 34 passes in any game. He made plenty of big plays while taking 19 sacks on the year over 204 pass attempts. His offensive line is a huge problem, and defenses will have a whole offseason to come up with a scheme to slow him down. His season ended in early November in 2017 with a torn right ACL that required surgery. I’m sure he’ll be limited in training game with minimal if any playing time in the preseason game. His running value will be restricted for sure in September. With league average passing attempts (550) and about eight yards per pass attempt, Deshaun should pass for 4,250+ yards with another 500 yards on the ground. I would temper his huge TD output in 2017 over five games to about two TDs per game in 2018. It’s much better to set a good floor than overcommit to his ceiling. Realistically, Houston didn’t upgrade his receiving core in the offseason, and Will Fuller needs to prove he can stay healthy. I expect him to be overpriced for my blood this draft season.
Outlook: Watson is a special player, but he doesn’t have the supporting cast at receiver to be trusted as an edge QB in 2018 after coming off a major injury. Fantasy owners will draft him as a top 5 QB this year, which will lead to him underperforming his draft position due to his drop in explosiveness after suffering a major knee injury in 2017.
Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers
The mystique of Garoppolo was almost cult-like after his trade to the 49ers. Jimmy has seven career starts in the NFL, which all ended in victories. He’s completed 67.3 percent of his passes in the NFL. Over his five starts with San Francisco, Garoppolo passed for 1,560 yards with seven TDs and five Ints while gaining an amazing 8.8 yards per pass attempt. Defenses only sacked him eight times compared to the 35 sacks taken over the other 11 games. Jimmy passed for over 290 yards in four of his five starts last year with 20 completions over 20 yards with five of those passes gaining 40 yards or longer. Garoppolo had this breakdown in catches, yards, TDs, and targets to RBs (30/294/0 on 39 targets), WRs (64/842/2 on 100 targets), and TEs (23/412/3 on 31 targets) in his first starts. His game is built to react to defenses by using the whole field and all his receiving options. For his Fantasy value, a Fantasy owner has to be fair when reading his passing options. The 49ers lack a true WR1, WR2, and an elite TE. They have pass-catching options at RB with a speed WR (Marquise Goodwin) and a couple of possession WRs. I’ll set his bar at 4,000 passing yards with about 25 TDs. I can’t trust Garoppolo as a starting Fantasy QB, but I’m willing to jump on his ride if his receiver core shows more upside. Jimmy will make the talent around him better, which is a similar path as Tom Brady. Only a QB2 for me in 2018.
Outlook: I’m going to put Garoppolo in the bust column if a Fantasy owner decides to draft him inside the top ten QBs. He has talent and upside for sure, but the 49ers need to add elite players around him in the passing game.
Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings
There’s a lot to like in Cook’s resume at Florida State. He rushed for 4,464 yards on 687 carries over three seasons while scoring 48 TDs. Dalvin even chipped in with 79 catches for 935 yards. His looked more explosive rushing the ball in 2015 (7.4 yards per rush), but he gained an amazing 14.8 yards per catch last season. His running style has something in common with Devonta Freeman who also went to FSU. The key for his upside will breaking free at the second level of the defense where his vision and his open field quickness will create huge plays. Cook will make plenty of yards after contact due to his strength and ability to break arms tackles. Dalvin will be a massive threat in the passing game, but he needs to improve his technique and toughness in pass protection. In 2017, Cook blew out his ACL in his left knee. I’m never a fan of a player coming off an injury as too much could go wrong in his recovery. Last season the Vikings’ RBs finished with 457 rushes for 1,803 yards and 14 TDs plus 84 catches for another 681 yards and two more TDs. With repeated success, Minnesota will once again have a special run game, but their offensive line will rank at the backend of the league. Of all the backs on the Vikings in 2017, Cook was by far the most dynamic with three down value. In his four games, he had 95 touches for 444 yards with two TDs and 11 catches. His skill set points to 50+ catches at the minimum with a floor of 275 rushes. Possible 1,300+ yards with six to eight TDs and 40+ catches with the best value coming late in the season.
Outlook: Talent-wise, Cook should rank in the top 12 RBs. I’m never a fan of players in any Fantasy sport coming off a major injury especially when drafted at full price. Latavius Murray is going to get in the way leading to a slow start to the year by Cook. I’d suggest buying a more proven piece to the puzzle over the first round and a half of drafts while understanding that Cook should hit his stride halfway through the year.
LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills
After a special season in 2016 where McCoy delivered 1,633 combined yards with 14 TDs and 50 catches leading to the 4th highest ranking at RB in PPR leagues, LeSean was tough to pass up on draft day in 2017. He’s a perfect case where stats from the previous season shouldn’t dictate draft value. By the end of last year, McCoy finished with comparable yardage (1,576) and catches (59), but regression in TDs (8) and less room to run (4.0 yards per rush compared to 5.4 in 2016). He finished as the seventh-ranked RB in PPR leagues with 264.60 Fantasy points. The rub here is the next RB drafted in many leagues last year was Todd Gurley, who outscored Shady by more than 120 Fantasy points. McCoy will start 2018 at age 30 with six seasons with over 1,000 yards rushing and five years with 50 catches or more. He has a high floor in most weeks with a chance to get more than 20 touches per game. Over the last eight seasons in the NFL, LeSean has 11 missed game in 108 possible starts. His stats point to another top 10 finish at RB in PPR leagues, but his offensive line has weakness. Not to mention, the loss of a running QB will free up another linebacker to limit his ability to break into space. It is tough avoiding a player with a long resume of success, but the direction of this offense suggests more regression. Possible 1,400 yards with a chance at another 50 catches and below ten TDs. At best a second piece to the puzzle with risk on his late-season value.
Outlook: In 2018, I don’t like the direction of the Bills’ offense. When you add in the possible off the field issues for McCoy, he becomes a bust for me if he’s drafted in the first three rounds of 12-team leagues in PPR leagues. His ADP will have a wide range of value over the weeks leading to the live drafts in Vegas, which requires a Fantasy owner to battle the fine line between risk and value.
Rex Burkhead, New England Patriots
Over ten games in 2017, Burkhead has 518 combined yards with 30 catches and eight TDs. His overall skill set in the passing game isn’t as high as James White, but he can be a mismatch problem vs. some linebackers. Over a four-game stretch from Week 12 to Week 15, Rex scored five rushing TDs with only one game of value in yards (103 combined yards with three catches on 15 touches). Twice last season Burkhead missed time with injury (ribs and knee). Only an insurance policy in the passing or in-game cover on early downs.
Outlook: I rarely read written player contents from other sites, but a friend of mine sent me a link to an article. I almost laughed when this writer painted Burkhead as value three rounds after Sony Michel. Let’s review the Burkhead tape. He’s been in the league for five seasons with his best year leading to 518 combined yards in 2017 with the Patriots. He has pass-catching ability, but he’s not a better option in New England over James White. Hell, he couldn't beat out Jeremy Hill in Cinci for snaps and Hill is still on the Patriots’ roster. If you want an insurance card for Michel, Rex has to be drafted after round 12. Don’t worry if you miss on him as he’ll be found on the waiver wire by Week 4 with Sony painting a bright picture in the New England’s backfield.
Kerryon Johnson, Detroit Lions
Over three seasons at Auburn with one coming as a full-time starter, Johnson rushed for 1,391 yards and 34 TDs plus 55 catches for 478 yards. Much of his scoring last year came on of the wildcat type offense leading to his best year (1,585 combined yards with 20 TDs and 24 catches). In his college career, Kerryon gained only 4.8 yards per rush. He runs with a long stride and upright position, which I believe is going to be a problem in the NFL. His movements require space to gain yards even with some wiggle and power. In 2018, I view him as a work in progress with a wide range of outcomes from week-to-week. I sense a draft day bust while offering no interest to me in the Fantasy market.
Outlook: I’m not in the Johnson camp in his rookie season. The Lions have too many options at RB and Kerryon doesn’t have the tools to seize a big enough opportunity without an injury.
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Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
Over the last three seasons, Fitzgerald has 325 combined catches for 3,394 yards and 21 TDs on 456 targets. He’ll enter 2018 at the age of 35, which will give Fantasy owners a reason to fade him on draft day. Larry only needs 390 yards to pass Terrell Owens for the second most all-time. He needs 102 catches to pass Tony Gonzalez for the second most catches in NFL history. With David Johnson back on the field and what looks like an upgrade at QB with the addition of Sam Bradford, Fitzgerald should have more bullet in his gun. His yards per catch (9.6 in 2016 and 10.6 in 2017) will require plenty of looks to be a competitive lead WR in 2018. Hard worker with winning opportunity, possible 90+ catches for 1,000+ yards with mid-level TDs. Over his last three seasons, his catch rate (71.3) has been phenomenal.
Outlook: As much as I respect the game and work ethic of Larry Fitzgerald, I get the sense that his price point is too high in 2018. He’s coming off three straight 100-catch seasons with elite targets (145, 150, and 161), but Larry will enter the 2018 regular season at age 35. Fantasy owners will draft him as a high-end WR2 while bypassing some younger players with higher ceilings. Fitzgerald should underperform his ADP (36) while multiple WRs drafted one round or later could outperform him this year.
Chris Hogan, New England Patriots
After a poor first game of the year (one catch for eight yards on five targets), Hogan was the Patriots’ top receiving over the next four games (5/78/1, 4/68/2, 5/60/1, and 8/74/1) while receiving 32 targets. He suffered a shoulder injury in Week 8, which led to him having no value over the second half of the year. Over his 24 games with the Patriots, Chris has 17 catches of 20 yards or more and five catches over 40 yards with 11 TDs. His game has flashes, but Hogan tends to lack opportunity. His early season success in 2017 should lead to more looks, but I can’t see him outplaying a healthy Jordan Matthews. Flash player with a chance at 50+ catches with 700+ yards and a handful of TDs.
Outlook: There’s no way I’m buying Chris Hogan as a WR3. He’s 29 while never catching over 41 balls in a season. I know he was on a career-high pace in 2017, but Hogan can’t be trusted as a starting WR in PPR leagues over a long NFL season.
Robert Woods, Los Angeles Rams
Over four seasons in Buffalo, Woods caught 203 passes for 2,451 yards and 12 TDs on 345 targets. His best success came in his sophomore year in 2014 when Robert caught 65 of his 104 targets for 699 yards and five TDs. He missed seven games over the last two seasons leading to only 21 starts. Over 12 games in 2017, Wood was on pace for the best season of his career. He caught 56 of his 85 targets for 781 yards and five TDs, which projected over 16 games would have been 75 catches for 1,041 yards and seven TDs. It’s too bad Brandin Cooks will pass him on the depth chart leading to a step back in chances. The Rams don’t have a TE of Fantasy value, which points to the WR3 in the Rams’ offense having a chance at 50 catches for 600+ yards and minimal upside TDs.
Outlook: In the early draft season, Woods has an ADP of 74 as the 36th WR of the board. His opportunity will take a sharp decline in 2018 with Cooper Kupp and Brandin Cook receiving most of the WR targets on the Rams. I don’t expect Woods to be trusted as flex option over the 16 week NFL season.
Marquise Goodwin, San Francisco 49ers
Goodwin entered 2017 with ten career starts over four seasons with the Bills. In his 39 games played, he had 49 catches for 780 yards and six TDs on 111 targets. His catch rate (44.1) was a huge problem. For the first time in his career, Marquise stayed healthy for all 16 games last year leading to 56 catches for 962 yards and two TDs on 105 targets. He had three games with over 100 yards receiving (5/116, 6/106, and 10/114) with two of those game coming with Jimmy Garoppolo starting at QB. Over the last five games of the year, Goodwin caught 29 passes for 384 yards and one TD on 43 targets. I’d love to believe in his upside, but his injury past and lack of college resume (120/1364/7 over four seasons at Texas) paint a trap picture. I’m sure he’ll be over-drafted in 2018, which make him an easy avoid for me.
Outlook: My gut tells me to avoid Marquise Goodwin as he has an injury history, and he won’t be the top WR on the roster in 2018 with a healthy Pierre Garson on the field. More of a big-play WR with a step back in opportunity this year.
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Trey Burton, Chicago Bears
Over the last two season with the Eagles, Burton caught 60 combined passes for 565 yards and six TDs on 91 targets. Last year he played well in two starts (2/41/1 and 5/71/2) with Zach Ertz out of the lineup, which will be his attraction to Fantasy owner in 2018. His catch rate (66.3) is high in his career, but he did only gain 8.8 yards per catch in 2016 with minimal growth last year (10.8). In college, Burton played QB, RB, and WR, which shows he has talent and athletic ability. Last year TEs in Chicago caught 61 passes for 680 yards and five TDs on 98 targets. I expect the best season of his career, but he has a talented young TE behind him on the roster, and I sense he’ll be over-drafted in 2018. Only a 50/500 guy with minimal upside in TDs.
Outlook: Many sites will have Burton listed as breakout TE in 2018, but his game will get exposed by defenses when receiving TE1 coverage. He rarely makes big plays, and his TD production will be minimal with the Bears. At best, a TE2 with much higher ADP (112) than I’m willing to pay. I don’t believe he’s the best TE on the roster.
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