Predictions and projections for the upcoming fantasy football season. Some bold, some basic, but stepping out on a limb and answering the lingering questions on fantasy football owners’ minds.
Let’s be honest: predictions aren’t worth the price of the paper on which they’re written. Everybody’s got them and few are consistently accurate.
You could take a blindfolded monkey, sit him in a bunkered office on the night of a lunar eclipse, spin him around in a chair and let him fling his dung at a bulletin board full of Post-it notes and he might out-predict the experts.
Still, there’s something oddly appealing about predictions, and here’s my random flinging at a cork board … maybe some of it will stick.
2019 Fantasy Football Predictions
Patrick Mahomes will suffer a setback
I had a discussion with a buddy over Christmas break. I told him I believe Mahomes “could someday be an elite quarterback.” He told me Mahomes was already there. It’s up to you to have your own barstool argument, but I like to see a bigger body of evidence before I buy stock. Mahomes lit the football world on fire in 2018 but I see a setback on the horizon — even if it’s a minor one.
Jameis Winston will see a resurgence under Bruce Arians
Winston got off on a bad foot in 2018 due to a three-game suspension for — well, being an idiot. Ryan Fitzpatrick made it difficult for Winston to return to his job, and when Winston did, he had his struggles, even getting benched midseason. When he returned to the lineup, he looked like a different player. With Arians taking over the offense, I see those good trends continuing.
Baker Mayfield will be drafted too early
Nobody wanted to buy into Mayfield because he was a bit of a headcase who reminded fans of Johnny Manziel. That, and he was playing for the Browns. But Mayfield strung together some admirable performances and now the hype train is barreling away from the station. Pump the brakes a little on the expectations. He’s roster-worthy, but likely will be a spot-starter at best.
Matthew Stafford can be had at a bargain
Stafford has been perennially underrated as a fantasy football prospect throughout his career. He’s consistently posted QB1 numbers nearly every year, but had a setback in 2018. The team had no tight end, plus they traded Golden Tate during the season, which further took away from his firepower. However, in 2019 with teams focusing on stopping the explosive Kerryon Johnson, I expect the passing game to open up. He’ll have a resurgence of sorts — maybe not QB1, but certainly a strong backup that can be had in the later rounds.
Quarterbacks on the move will sit idle during the season
Among the quarterbacks on the move this offseason are Joe Flacco (Broncos), Case Keenum (Redskins) and Nick Foles (unknown as of this writing). They’re on the move for a reason — they’re not that good. All too often, fantasy owners will buy the “change of scenery” myth. But just because a player is in a new — and possibly better — situation, that doesn’t mean he’ll be worth a damn on your fantasy football roster.
Le’Veon Bell’s best days could be behind him
I know, I know. I’m REALLY going out on a limb by saying “could be.” I just want to prepare fantasy football owners for a disappointment of sorts. Bell had no idea just how great a situation he was in as a Steeler. He had a possibly future Hall of Famer slinging the ball to one of the best receivers in the game — not to mention a couple of other burgeoning young wideouts. But he got greedy and wanted to break the bank. Now, he could find himself making a lot of money on a less potent offense. He’ll still be good, no doubt. Even great. But he’s no longer in the conversation as best fantasy option in the league.
David Johnson will catapult back into the upper tier
Shame on Mike McCoy for having a weapon like Johnson at his disposal and failing to adequately deploy him. That’s why McCoy got canned midseason. Byron Leftwich took over and hardly did much better. New head coach Kliff Kingsbury is going to utilize Johnson the correct way and we’ll see a much more versatile DJ than we witnessed in 2018.
Chris Carson will be valued too highly
Less than a year ago, Carson was being undervalued throughout the fantasy football landscape. The Seahawks had just drafted Rashaad Penny and the assumption was that he’d be their workhorse. Oops. Penny never quite earned the trust of head coach Pete Carroll, who had an affinity for Carson. Carroll is on record saying that Penny will push Carson for more snaps and I expect Penny to be more prepared for the NFL level, playing with a chip on his shoulder. Carson should still be a fantasy-relevant player, but he’s going to be taken entirely too early in many leagues.
Kerryon Johnson will be a stud
Johnson can flat-out ball. He’s fast and explosive and makes tremendous cutbacks. Assuming he can return from his knee sprain and start the season 100%, we’re looking at a potentially explosive season from him. It sounds like Johnson will be a dual threat, too. New offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said Johnson “is a guy that’s talented in the running game, but I’m also excited to see some of things I’ve heard about, his ability in the passing game — which I think can really be a bonus for our offense.”
James Conner will toe the RB1 threshold
Kudos to those of you who handcuffed Le’Veon Bell with his full-season replacement James Conner. (And curses to you vultures who stole him from Bell owners.) Conner played better than expected and was a top-of-the-line fantasy back in 2018. This is a new season, however. Ben Roethlisberger is another year older and — at the time of this writing — Antonio Brown is on his way out the door. Conner will be further stretched and — as I noted in my aforementioned prediction of Patrick Mahomes — I need to see more out of a player before I anoint him as “arrived.” Conner may be drafted as an RB1, but he could easily slip below the threshold.
Tyreek Hill will be overdrafted
Hill posted huge numbers last year, catching 87 balls for 1,479 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was the top wide receiver in many fantasy leagues. That will not happen again in 2019. There’s no reason to believe Hill can’t and won’t be a WR1 this coming season, but he is not a Top 5 receiver — even though he could be drafted as one in far too many leagues. Paired with my expectation that his quarterback will experience a regression, I’m not taking him above a handful of other top players at the position.
On that note, so too will Amari Cooper
I’m already seeing Cooper ranked too high by some publications — some even pushing him into WR1 status. There’s a bit too much Kool-Aid sipping going on in that regard. Cooper was the spark that turned the Cowboys’ season around, but he’s never been a dynamite fantasy football player. I think too many fantasy owners will draft him on potential — and short-term nostalgia from the second half of 2018. But he still has Dak Prescott throwing to him and a track record of underperformance. I’m not saying don’t draft him; I’m just saying be wise about where you do it.
Rams WRs will have inflated ADPs
There’s a formula to stop the Rams’ high-powered offense and I think defenses are starting to pick up on it. We saw it with the Bears in the regular season and the Patriots in the Super Bowl. The team still will have one of the highest-scoring offenses in the league, so don’t avoid drafting Rams players altogether. But with Cooper Kupp returning to the fray and tight end Gerald Everett growing in his role, there are too many mouths to feed and fantasy owners will be too quick to pull the trigger on Rams wide receivers in their drafts.
Tyler Boyd will be a flop
When A.J. Green went down with a toe injury, Boyd stepped up and filled the void, finishing the season with 76 catches for 1,028 yards and 7 touchdowns. Boyd was a nice waiver wire pickup for fantasy owners in 2018 but don’t count on him as anything more than a low-level WR3 (if not WR4).
Courtland Sutton will struggle as a No. 1
The Broncos traded veteran wide receiver Demaryius Thomas last season because — among other reasons — they wanted to pave the way for their young receivers to get more playing time. Sutton showed flashes of being ready early in the season with Thomas still on the field, but once Thomas departed and Sutton became “the guy,” he failed to live up to expectations. In Year 2, he should see some improvement, but don’t draft him too high. New head coach Vic Fangio is a defensive guy and I would expect to see an offensive game plan more centered around the run game.
O.J. Howard will be selected too early
Howard showed flashes of fantasy football excellence in his second season in the league, showing why the Bucs spent a first-round pick on him. There were some concerns with the Bucs re-signing Cameron Brate to a long-term deal that the two-tight-end set might detract from Howard’s fantasy appeal, but Howard turned in some strong performances nonetheless. With Bruce Arians coming to town, expect a better Bucs offense but I wouldn’t be excited about production at the tight end position.
Rob Gronkowski will slide too far
First, Gronk has to return to the field — he’s been floating retirement rumors for the past couple seasons. Then, assuming he does play, he has to stay healthy — which has been a problem for him his entire career (he’s played only one full season in his career). Gronk’s best days are behind him, but he’s still a great player when he plays. He’s no longer the top tight end, but don’t let him fall off your board completely.
Trey Burton will be undervalued
Burton provides so much flexibility in Matt Nagy’s creative offense in Chicago. When he sat out the playoff game against the Eagles, it was noticeable. Not only do we remember Burton tossing that touchdown pass to Nick Foles in Super Bowl LII, but Burton lines up in the backfield as well as taking quick shovel passes up the middle. Burton will provide extra value in PPR leagues as a great TE2 — if not pushing the threshold of TE1 territory.
Kyle Rudolph will experience a bounce-back season
Kudos to those of you who thought Kirk Cousins would not be the Vikings’ savior (sheepishly raises hand). Cousins was highly overrated and signed a ridiculous guaranteed contract. Although things didn’t work out last season, though, the Vikings offense should improve and that will help Rudolph rebound. It’s not that Rudolph had a bad season — he finished with more catches and yards than in 2017. But he’s fallen since his 2016 season when he caught 83 balls for 840 yards and 7 touchdowns. I expect his touchdown total to improve from last year’s 4.
Evan Engram will continue to suffer from poor quarterback play
Engram, in my assessment, is one of the best tight end options in the league. His problem is that he’s languishing in an offense where quarterback play and diverse options are hurting his potential. Engram really should be up there with the Kelce and Kittles of the league, but until the quarterback position plays better, expect low-TE1 production.