Dan Adams’s Targets and Busts for 2019
The QB List consensus top 200 rankings are out, and for the most part, my rankings were close to everyone else’s. Most of the variation in my rankings came from my approach to drafting. I always prefer to wait on quarterback and tight end, and unless one of the elite players at those positions starts to fall I will probably be the last person in my drafts to take one. That approach causes me to typically rank those positions a lot lower than consensus, but I don’t necessarily dislike the player. For example, I have Patrick Mahomes as my top quarterback and would love to have him on my team, just not in Round 4 where our consensus ranks have him. Below are just the players that I value very differently than most of the staff here for reasons other than just those strategic differences.
Players I Love
Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars (My Rank: 21, Staff Rank: 32)
Fournette is the unquestioned lead running back on a Jaguars offense that should be vastly improved from last season. I don’t think Nick Foles is a huge upgrade over Blake Bortles, but unlike Bortles he currently has the trust of the coaching staff and won’t always be looking over his shoulder worried about being benched. That stability at quarterback coupled with an offensive line that should be much healthier (ie. better) is enough for me to be confident that Fournette will return to being a top-12 running back as long as he’s on the field. T.J. Yeldon is gone, and none of the other running backs on the roster profile as pass-catchers. Fournette’s rushing volume is already elite, and if he adds a significant amount of passing work he will make the jump to the top tier of running backs. Injury concerns with him are fair, but he’s currently healthy and ready to handle a full workload. With true bell-cow running backs becoming a dying breed, I am always interested in any player with that type of upside.
Brandin Cooks, WR, Los Angeles Rams (My Rank: 24, Staff Rank: 33)
Cooks is coming off a career-high in receiving yards last season, and four straight seasons of at least 1,000 yards and five touchdowns. He’s the most talented receiver on one of the best offenses in the NFL, and as he enters his second season in this system, his chemistry with quarterback Jared Goff should only improve. Cooks doesn’t have the same ceiling as some of the receivers ranked around him, because he probably won’t see a huge uptick in targets. Still, he is one of the safest bets to be at least a high-end WR2.
Josh Jacobs, RB, Oakland Raiders (My Rank: 30, Staff Rank: 42)
The Raiders spent a first-round pick on Jacobs to make him their workhorse, and so far there have been no indications that they’ve changed course from that plan. Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin combined for 262 carries and 44 targets last year, and Jacobs seems poised to take most of that work for himself this season. The Raiders offense should be much better with the additions of Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams, as well as another year to learn the Jon Gruden system. Running back is the easiest fantasy position for a rookie to make an instant impact, and Jacobs should be able to step into an every-down role from day one.
Chris Carson, RB, Seattle Seahawks (My Rank: 36, Staff Rank: 50)
The Seattle Seahawks led the league in rushing yards and running back carries last year, and they don’t seem intent on changing that going forward. Carson was the main beneficiary and with Mike Davis’s 112 carries and 42 targets leaving town, he should see an uptick in volume. His ADP is being depressed by concerns that Rashaad Penny will eat into his workload, but Carson has outplayed Penny to this point in their careers. He is also still firmly entrenched as the lead running back. With Davis gone and Doug Baldwin retiring, there is room for both Carson and Penny to see an increased workload this year. I am fine with drafting either player, but I absolutely love Carson at his current price.
Will Fuller, WR, Houston Texans (My Rank: 53, Staff Rank: 77)
Will Fuller has been an awesome fantasy asset whenever he’s been healthy; he just hasn’t been healthy that consistently. Cleared from last season’s torn ACL, he is a dangerous deep threat that has shown incredible chemistry with quarterback Deshaun Watson. Fuller averaged 15.2 PPR fantasy points a game last season, which makes him a startable fantasy receiver every week he’s healthy. He hasn’t made it through a full season yet, and he probably never will, but his weekly upside is valuable enough that I’m comfortable rostering him and worrying about finding a replacement for the weeks he’ll miss later.
Latavius Murray, RB, New Orleans Saints (My Rank: 57, Staff Rank: 79)
With Mark Ingram gone, Murray should slide into Ingram’s old role. It seems unlikely that the Saints would be comfortable with Alvin Kamara handling a huge workload for a full season, and if that’s the case there is plenty of work to be had for Murray here. After returning from suspension, Ingram handled 11.5 carries and 2.3 targets a game. That work would make Murray a weekly flex candidate with the upside being tremendous if Kamara was to miss any time. A flex play with upside is exactly what I’m looking for in this range, and if Murray can match most of Ingram’s production that’s exactly what he’ll provide.
Justice Hill, RB, Baltimore Ravens (My Rank: 87, Staff Rank: 143)
Hill is an incredible athlete who can make defenders miss in space, and he plays for one of the run-heaviest teams in the NFL. He should be able to contribute early in the season as a change of pace running back and a receiver out of the backfield. He also has the potential to win the starting job as the season goes on. His speed and elusiveness mean he is a big-play threat every time he touches the ball, and he’ll benefit from sharing the field with a mobile quarterback that will help stress the defense. The touches Hill gets will be valuable, especially if a couple of those touches per game come via the passing game.
Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens (My Rank: 102, Staff Rank: 109)
The ranks listed above don’t do my love for Lamar Jackson justice; he’s the consensus QB16 but my QB8. Jackson was a top-ten fantasy quarterback once he became the starter last year while contributing close to nothing as a passer. His running abilities are special, and they give him a high weekly floor coupled with a ceiling that most quarterbacks can’t touch. He has looked better as a passer this preseason, and he should be more comfortable in an offense built around him instead of one that was thrown together midseason. Any step forward as a passer would lock Jackson in as a top-ten quarterback, and if it’s a significant step forward he can challenge for the top overall fantasy quarterback spot. Players like Jackson, who has a legitimate chance to break the single-season quarterback rushing record, don’t come along often and when they do they make for great fantasy assets.
Darren Waller, TE, Oakland Raiders (My Rank: 129, Staff Rank: 205)
Waller is an incredible athlete at the tight end position. A huge target at 6’6″ who ran the forty-yard dash in 4.46 seconds and has a catch radius in the 96th percentile, Waller is an ideal candidate to replace what Jared Cook and his 101 targets brought to the offense. There are not currently any established tight ends for Waller to fight for snaps, and he is running with the first-team offense. Derek Carr loves targetting tight ends and while I don’t project Waller for a high-volume role, I do expect him to be efficient with those targets. He should be a big-play threat every time he touches the ball and he has a good chance to be highly involved in the red zone given his size and speed.
Players I Hate
Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angeles Chargers (My Rank: 37, Staff Rank: 21)
This changes if a contract is worked out between Gordon and the Chargers before the season starts, but for now I can’t justify taking someone holding out that highly. He seems on track to at least sit out the start of the season, and this is a player who’s also missed time to injuries in the past. If Gordon comes back without a new contract, he won’t have any incentive to play through minor injuries. It may take him a few weeks to work his way back into the offense if he misses games early in the season. Spending a second-round pick on a running back with that many red flags is too much risk for me.
Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles (My Rank: 43, Staff Rank: 30)
As I mentioned above, I don’t usually take tight ends early, but my dislike of Zach Ertz this season goes beyond that. Ertz saw 156 targets last season, and that type of volume on an offense with a healthy Alshon Jeffery, newly acquired DeSean Jackson, and a strong running game doesn’t seem sustainable. Second-year tight end Dallas Goedert also seems to be on the rise, and he could eat into Ertz’s workload as well. Ertz set the record for receptions by a tight end last season, so regression already seemed likely before adding in the increased competition. There seems to be a bigger gap between Ertz and the other elite tight ends, George Kittle and Travis Kelce, then most rankings are currently reflecting.
Phillip Lindsay, RB, Denver Broncos (My Rank: 64, Staff Rank: 56)
Phillip Lindsay had an incredible rookie season, becoming the first undrafted rookie running back to make the Pro Bowl. He did that after beating out third-round pick Royce Freeman for the starting job, but Lindsay wasn’t able to run away with the job as he had 192 carries in 15 games compared to Freeman’s 130 carries across 14 games. This seems like more of a committee situation than most ranks are accounting for, and with Devontae Booker still lurking on the roster to steal some work, I don’t think Lindsay gets enough volume to return value on his ADP. His high yards per carry of 5.4 also seems likely to regress, and playing in a Joe Flacco led offense isn’t going to do anyone any favors. This is not an offense that fantasy players need to go out of their way to get a piece of. I would prefer waiting to take Freeman instead of paying a premium for Lindsay.
Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons (My Rank: 78, Staff Rank: 53)
Calvin Ridley was the rare receiver that was fantasy-relevant as a rookie, but most of that production came from his 10 touchdowns. If Ridley didn’t post those touchdowns he probably wouldn’t be ranked as highly this season, and touchdowns are a stat that doesn’t always carry over year to year. Any regression in touchdown rate for Ridley would need to be made up for by improved volume. With all the weapons on the Falcons, that increase in volume doesn’t seem likely. Ridley is still firmly behind Julio Jones in the pecking order and Mohamed Sanu is still around as well. The Falcons may also look to lean on the running game more this year with a healthy (for now) Devonta Freeman. Then there is also the improved defense that should mean fewer shoot-outs. Ridley probably has a similar output to last season, minus a few touchdowns, and that is enough to make him a tough sell at his current ADP.
Derrius Guice, RB, Washington Redskins (My Rank: 115, Staff Rank 97)
I loved Derrius Guice coming out of college last year, and it was devastating to see him tear his ACL last preseason. He still isn’t cleared for contact, and it sounds like his ACL surgery did not go as smoothly as one would hope. The Redskins sound hopeful that Guice will play in the preseason, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be ready to shoulder any type of significant workload come the regular season. Adrian Peterson seems to have turned back the clock, and this offense probably won’t be good enough to support two fantasy running backs. I wish Guice all the best and hope this time next year he can be someone I’m targetting in drafts, but for now I think he’s an easy pass at his current ADP.
Ronald Jones II, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (My Rank: 152, Staff Rank: 108)
Last season, the Buccaneers gave Peyton Barber 234 carries and watched him average 3.7 yards per carry. They did that instead of utilizing their second-round pick, Ronald Jones II, who somehow managed to post an even worse yards per carry of 1.9 on his limited touches. That should tell you all you need to know about Jones. After coming into last training camp overweight, Jones has reportedly bulked up. This is not ideal for a running back whose game is predicated on speed. He may improve, but it seems unlikely he can turn this backfield into anything other than a committee. An underwhelming talent on an offense that figures to be one of the most pass-heavy, Jones is a player I have almost no interest in owning.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers (My Rank: 169, Staff Rank: 112)
Last season, a 36-year-old Roethlisberger led the NFL in passing attempts with 675. The Steelers replaced Antonio Brown with Donte Moncrief, which will make their passing attack significantly less dangerous. Roethlisberger offers nothing as a runner, so when his passing volume and efficiency both come down this season his fantasy value will take a hit. He’ll probably be around QB12 by season’s end, but I don’t think he has the ceiling that some of the more mobile quarterbacks being drafted after him offer. When I wait on quarterback I want to take a shot on someone who has the chance to have an elite fantasy season, and those days for Roethlisberger are probably long gone.
(Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire)