(Photo by Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)
With the QB List Staff Rankings for 12-team PPR leagues complete, it’s time to double back and put some of the players I value differently than the group under the microscope. My rankings are based on where I think these players can finish overall and not necessarily the position where I’m drafting them. Feel free to leave any draft questions, compliments, or creative roasts about my rankings in the Comments section at the bottom.
Players that I’m Higher On
Jameis Winston (QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers) – My Rank: 95 / Staff Rank: 132
Between decision-making breakdowns that lead to ugly interceptions and bizarre off the field incidents, it’s easy for the lowlights to stick in your mind when Winston is mentioned. The bottom line is that Jaboo has never found himself in a better position to succeed as a high-end fantasy football quarterback than in 2019. If you believe Mike Evans is a WR1 (you should) and you buy that Chris Godwin and O.J. Howard will progress to have their best seasons to date, I think it’s prudent to believe that the guy throwing them the ball will also elevate his statistical output. Yes, he had those receiving options last year too. He also had a coach desperate to save his job, that was ready to bench him at any moment and was suspended to start the season, limiting last year’s final stat line. Enter Bruce Arians. Outside of his aggressive, vertical-attacking “No risk it, no biscuit” offense, Arians has a reputation for being one of the best at connecting with his players and a track record of maximizing QB talent (there is a reason we remember a reinvigorated Carson Palmer succeeding with the Cardinals late in his career). The Buccaneers finished with the most net passing yards (5,125) and the fourth most pass attempts per game (39.1) last season and I expect a similar outlook in 2019 considering their pass-happy offensive scheme and subpar personnel in the run game and on defense.
Anthony Miller (WR, Chicago Bears) – My Rank: 91 / Staff Rank: 105
The risk-averse crowd could point out Miller’s injury history ranging from a broken foot at the end of his college career to the separated shoulder he reaggravated on multiple occasions throughout 2018 and had surgery on in the offseason. Bum shoulder and all, Miller played through the injury and still managed to lead the Bears in touchdown receptions (7), finishing second among rookie wideouts (Calvin Ridley, 10). Recent reports have stated that Miller could be limited to start the season due to an ankle injury which could make him even more of a value if his draft price falls or a frustrated owner drops him after a slow start. You might not get peak Miller right away but if he can establish himself as the Bears go-to slot WR as expected, a role that saw Taylor Gabriel collect 93 targets last year, I view him as someone who could be a weekly starter for you once he returns to form.
Evan Engram (TE, New York Giants) – My Rank: 53 / Staff Rank: 65
Engram joins Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz as the only tight ends to average at least 11.5 fantasy points per game (PPR) in each of the last two seasons. Because those were Engram’s first two seasons in the NFL and he no longer has to contend with Odell Beckham for targets, I think big things are in store for year three. Per NFL Next Gen Stats, his nine yards after the catch per reception were second to only George Kittle last season and his average separation (4.4yds) was tops among all pass-catchers. Even if Engram doesn’t surpass the 100-target threshold as expected, you can bet on him to bust open some big gains with his 4.42 speed.
Marvin Jones Jr. (WR, Detroit Lions) – My Rank: 64 / Staff Rank: 78
On the surface, there’s a lot not to like about Lions receivers heading into 2019. Matt Patricia brought in new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to run his offense predicated on an efficient rushing attack and ball control. The Lions also have to contend with a few challenging secondaries this year including the Chargers and two matchups each against the vaunted Bears and Vikings defenses within the division. My optimism comes from the thought that the Lions defense may not give them a choice but to pass more than they want to if they’re playing from behind. Although I think Kenny Golladay will continue his development as a force in the passing game, I’m not convinced that this won’t be more of a 1A/1B situation with Jones Jr. Theo Riddick and Golden Tate are no longer around to siphon targets and Jones Jr has proven his ability to rack up fantasy points at an efficient rate, finishing as the PPR WR12 just two seasons ago. In the nine games he played in 2018, he collected 11 targets inside the 20-yard line and was ninth among receivers in average targeted air yards. If we think Golladay (Staff Rank: 40) can be a top 40 player despite being the main focus of double teams, I feel Jones Jr has the ability to outproduce his draft position as someone who only needs a few targets to connect to provide WR2/ WR3 totals on a fairly consistent basis even if we fade him on weeks he has to face those top defensive units.
Players I’m Lower On
Darrell Henderson (RB, Los Angeles Rams) – My Rank: 123 / Staff Rank: 88
I understand scorned 2018 Todd Gurley owners hedging their bets and moving Henderson up the ranks but the injury worry has gone too far. Even if Gurley is forced to miss time this season, I think Henderson will still split the backfield workload with Malcolm Brown and remain more of a change-of-pace/ complementary option instead of slotting into the lead back role. I expect Henderson to display flashes of brilliance throughout the year but it will be nearly impossible to predict when those splash plays will come considering the multitude of weapons in this prolific Rams offense.
N’Keal Harry (WR, New England Patriots) – My Rank: 152 / Staff Rank: 110
Even if Josh Gordon was still watching from the sidelines (and there’s no guarantee he won’t be at some point this season, unfortunately), Harry is not someone I want to put much stock into the outside of dynasty or keeper formats. The Patriots want to grind you down with their run game, get the ball out of Tom Brady’s hands quickly by peppering Julian Edelman and James White with targets and take calculated shots downfield to Gordon. As a first-round selection, the Patriots believe in Harry to be a big part of their future but for 2019 I think you should consider him as more of a player to keep on speed dial in the event of an Edelman injury or Gordon absence.
Tyler Lockett (WR, Seattle Seahawks) – My Rank: 68 / Staff Rank: 43
This ranking is probably the most likely to make me look silly because I do believe in Lockett’s ability to produce efficiently even if he doesn’t get as many targets as most traditional top receiving options on other teams. The obvious concern is the run-centric Seahawks offense (427 total pass attempts in 2018, last in the NFL) not providing enough consistent volume in the passing game to support a top 20 WR. Even though Doug Baldwin wasn’t in his usual form last season as he battled injuries, he still commanded the defense’s attention opposite Lockett. With Baldwin now retired and rookie D.K. Metcalf making his way back from a knee scope to start the year, I expect Lockett to see significantly more double teams as the main focus of the defense in passing situations. I’m ok with missing out on Lockett and keeping an eye on guys like David Moore and Jaron Brown as the Seahawks look to establish a secondary option in the passing game.
Well written article. Quite interesting.