(Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire)
Fortune favors the bold, particularly in fantasy football where injuries and surprise performers crop up on the regular. Although I only made four bold predictions this season, I hope you all enjoy either taking the plunge with me or waiting to laugh at me come February.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins finishes as a top 8 tight end
Most fantasy experts have ASJ near the bottom of the TE2 category. However, Austin Seferian-Jenkins has a lot going for him this year. For starters, his rapport with new quarterback Blake Bortles has been very solid. Bortles has long treated his tight ends well, even getting run-blocker Marcedes Lewis five touchdowns last season. Second, Jacksonville’s receiving corps are nothing to write home about, which could allow ASJ and his six-foot-five frame to garner more attention in the red zone. Lastly, the Jaguars have one of the easiest schedules for a tight end.
Health is the big issue here, but at 25 this could very easily be the year that ASJ breaks out. He’s long had the talent to be a top-ten, even top-five tight end in this league. With a tight end-friendly QB and a lackluster supporting cast, this should be the year.
Brandon Marshall has eight or more touchdowns
Much has been made about how many defensive weapons the Seattle Seahawks have lost this season. However, two of their biggest losses were in the passing game – with tight end Jimmy Graham and receiver Paul Richardson each departing for greener pastures. In fact, of the 34 touchdown passes caught by the Seahawks last season, 20 of them were caught by players not on the 2018 roster. It climbs to 22 if you count J.D. McKissic, who was just placed on the IR.
So, someone has to pick up the slack in the receiving game, particularly in the red zone. Enter free agent signee, Brandon Marshall. Marshall was thought by many as a potential cut candidate, but his strong performance in the preseason has earned him a roster spot.
The six-foot-five Marshall and his 82 career touchdown receptions should get most of the attention in the red zone. Indeed, the Seahawks have ended many practices with Wilson working on fade routes to Marshall, a good sign that they are hoping to utilize him in those red zone sets. Plus, his competition (outside of returners Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett) is tight end Nick Vannett and new receiver Jaron Brown. Vannett has 15 career receptions and Brown has been outplayed by Marshall so far this preseason.
Marshall should not be drafted on draft day except in 14+ team leagues. However, he is absolutely worth keeping an eye on. Eight to 10 touchdowns could keep him fantasy relevant as a desperation flex play – and he stands to benefit if any of Baldwin, Lockett or Brown are injured.
Matt Breida outperforms Alfred Morris
Since Jerick McKinnon lost his 2018 season to an ACL injury, the talk surrounding the 49ers backfield has centered around Alfred Morris and Matt Breida. Morris is expected to be the early-down back, a role he held under Kyle Shanahan in Washington earlier in his career. While he was incredibly dominant then, he has only totaled 790 rushing yards in the last two seasons combined while being buried behind Ezekiel Elliott on the depth chart.
Morris should make a solid return if grabbed off waivers or snagged in the later rounds, but in PPR formats specifically, I’d rather have Breida. Morris has never had more than 17 catches in a single season and has 10 in the last two years combined. Breida had 21 receptions for 180 yards and a touchdown last year and should be counted on as the third-down back. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the second-year back do plenty of damage out of the backfield as well, and when all is said and done I think Breida is the back to own in San Francisco.
De’Anthony Thomas Becomes a Flex Play
Oh De’Anthony Thomas, how I wish I could quit you. To be clear, I own zero shares of Thomas – and you shouldn’t either. At this point, he is Kansas City’s No. 5 receiver at best and is not even listed on their running back depth chart even though he was primarily a running back in college.
Still, Thomas managed to hold onto his roster spot and is likely going to be Kansas City’s primary kick and punt returner once again. Thomas only received 16 targets last season, but he made the most of them by hauling in 14 receptions for 143 yards and two touchdowns. The volume just has not been there for the dynamic playmaker, but if it ever shows up – he has the speed and big playmaking ability to be a boom-or-bust flex play down the line.
Don’t pay for him on draft day, but in deeper leagues, it can’t hurt to add him to a watchlist.