Eli Grabanski’s 5 Bold Predictions

(Photo by Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire)

We all love making predictions. And the bolder the prediction, the better the payoff. You may have seen many of our writers here at QB List shoot their shot with their predictions this week. And while many of them will probably not come true, the ones that do could make the difference between a first place fantasy finish and a last place one. So without further ado, here are my bold predictions for the 2019 fantasy season.

 

Kyler Murray Finishes as the #1 Fantasy QB

 

A rookie finishing #1 in fantasy has never happened before, but in Kliff Kingsbury‘s offense I believe Kyler Murray has a real opportunity to be the first. Here are his Heisman winning numbers from last season at Oklahoma (14 games).

2018 Stats Completions Attempts Completion % Pass Yards Pass TDs Interceptions Rush Attempts Rush Yards Rush TDs
Kyler Murray 260 377 69.0% 4361 42 7 140 1001 12

In recent years, we’ve seen rookie quarterbacks have phenomenal seasons. In 2016, it was Dak Prescott throwing for 23 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions. In 2017, Deshaun Watson was tearing the league up with 19 passing touchdowns in 6.5 games prior to tearing his ACL. In 2018, we saw Baker Mayfield break the touchdown record (27) in 13.5 games. Murray’s talent, in addition to being in Kingsbury’s air-raid offense is a perfect storm to be another rookie QB success story.

When Kingsbury was a coach & play-caller at Texas Tech, they were one of the most explosive offenses in college football. They had a passing attack that was in the top-10 in the country every season of his tenure (six seasons), was in the top-20 nationally for total offense in every season of his career, and finished in the top-25 in points scored five out of six times. In addition, in Kingsbury’s college coaching career, he coached his quarterback to lead the nation in passing three times (Patrick Mahomes in 2016, Case Keenum in 2009 & 2011). While I don’t see the Cardinals being a great team due to their defense, I do think that Kingsbury can make Kyler Murray have one hell of a fantasy year.

 

The New York Jets are a Top 3 Fantasy Defense

 

The Jets made some big-time additions to their defense in the offseason, signing linebacker C.J. Mosley and drafting defensive lineman Quinnen Williams 3rd overall. They still have defensive lineman Leonard Williams, safety Jamal Adams, and cornerback Trumaine Johnson. While they lost defensive minded HC Todd Bowles, they still have a strong defensive coordinator in Gregg Williams who directed the Cleveland Browns defense last year to lead the league in tackles, rank 5th in interceptions, 5th in fumbles forced, and 1st in fumbles recovered. In addition, Adam Gase has been known to run one of the slowest paced offenses over the past few years, with his Dolphins ranking last in number of plays run per game in two of the last three years. By playing the game at a slower pace, this should keep the defense fresh and effective.

The last major point for a potential Jets defensive breakout is that they have a phenomenal schedule. Here’s a look at the teams they play next year and those teams 2018 offense ranking.

 

Week Team 2018 Total Yards Rank 2018 Pass Yard Rank 2018 Rush Yard Rank 2018 PPG Rank
1 Buffalo Bills 30th 31st 9th 30th
2 Cleveland Browns 13th 14th 14th 20th
3 @New England Patriots 5th 8th 5th 4th
4 BYE BYE BYE BYE BYE
5 @Philadelphia Eagles 14th 7th 28th 18th
6 Dallas Cowboys 22nd 23rd 10th 22nd
7 New England Patriots 5th 8th 5th 4th
8 @Jacksonville Jaguars 27th 26th 19th 31st
9 @Miami Dolphins 31st 30th 18th 26th
10 New York Giants 17th 11th 24th 16th
11 @Washington Redskins 28th 28th 17th 29th
12 Oakland Raiders 23rd 18th 25th 28th
13 @Cincinnati Bengals 26th 24th 21st 17th
14 Miami Dolphins 31st 30th 18th 26th
15 @Baltimore Ravens 9th 22nd 2nd 13th
16 Pittsburgh Steelers 4th 2nd 31st 6th
17 @Buffalo Bills 30th 31st 9th 30th

 

The Jets only have three games against teams that were top 10 scoring offenses (x2 against New England, x1 Pittsburgh) in 2018 and four games against teams that finished top 10 in total yards (x2 against New England, x1 Pittsburgh, x1 Baltimore). All of these factors have me believing that the Jets have a very real possibility to be the breakout defense of the year and finish top 3 for fantasy purposes.

 

Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz Finish as Top 12 Fantasy Tight Ends

 

Zach Ertz is generally one of the first three tight ends off the board, but unlike George Kittle and Travis Kelce, Ertz has a talented backup behind him in Dallas Goedert. As a second-round rookie last year, Goedert caught 33 passes on 44 targets for 334 yards and 4 touchdowns. All offseason, the reports are saying that he may be poised to take the next step and in the first week of preseason, he looked the part, catching three passes for 50 yards.

 

 

Goedert is extremely talented, but he will never completely take over the TE spot in Philadelphia because Zach Ertz has proven himself to be one of the best tight ends in the league over the last couple seasons, catching 116 passes on 156 targets for 1163 yards and 8 touchdowns. But considering Goedert’s growth as a player, and the Eagles emphasis on the TE position, Ertz and Goedert could both have great fantasy years. Let’s take a look at how much the Eagles have utilized their TEs since Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz joined the team in 2016.

 

NFL Season Team Completions Team Pass Attempts Team Passing Yards Team Passing Touchdowns TE Completions (%) TE Targets (%) TE Receiving Yards (%) TE TDs (%)
2016 Eagles 380 609 3798 16 129 (33.9%) 185 (30.4%) 1298 (34.2%) 5 (31.3%)
2017 Eagles 341 564 3967 38 110 (32.3%) 165 (29.3%) 1202 (30.3%) 14 (36.8%)
2018 Eagles 422 599 4524 29 154 (36.5%) 211 (35.2%) 1564 (34.6%) 12 (41.4%)
AVERAGE 381.00 590.67 4096.33 27.67 131.00 (34.4%) 187.00 (31.7%) 1354.67 (33.1%) 10.33 (37.3%)

 

Across the board, we see that the Eagles tight ends have accounted for around one-third of all the Eagles passing production over the last three years. Considering head coach Doug Pederson have talked about running more two tight end sets this year, the Eagles should heavily utilize both tight ends this year. With their talent and lack of general scarcity at the position, it’s very possible both finish as TE1s this year.

 

Joe Mixon Finishes Outside the Top 20 Fantasy RBs

 

Joe Mixon is extremely talented, and one of the candidates to finish as the #1 fantasy RB from a formula I created. But my fear that he’s in a poor situation which could lead him to underperform compared to his talent and current ADP. While many people view the Bengals firing Marvin Lewis and hiring Zac Taylor as a positive for the team, I’m not 100% sold yet. Some may expect Taylor to be a prolific play-caller like Sean McVay, but it’s important to remember that Taylor has only called plays at an NFL level for five games as an interim offensive coordinator for the Dolphins in 2015. In comparison, Sean McVay was the offensive coordinator in Washington from 2014-2016 prior to being hired by the Rams.

The Bengals have also seen their starting left guard from last year Clint Boling retire, 1st round tackle Jonah Williams suffer a shoulder injury that will cause him to miss the season, and star WR AJ Green suffer an ankle injury that will cause him to miss the start of the season. Mixon is an incredible talent and could definitely make this personal prediction look stupid, but his team has suffered a lot of injuries and he’s got plenty of new variables that I think it’s possible he takes a minor step-back this year.

 

Dede Westbrook is a top 15 fantasy WR in PPR

 

Dede Westbrook might be in the perfect situation for him to take the next step of his breakout. The Jaguars hired pass-heavy offensive coordinator John DeFilippo to call plays this year. Here’s a little look into how much DeFilippo loves to throw the ball.

 

Team (Year) Games Pass Completions Pass Attempts Pass Yards Touchdowns Interceptions
Cleveland Browns (2015) 16 371 (23.2 per game) 609 (38.1 per game) 4156 (259.8 per game) 20 (1.25 per game) 12 (0.75 per game)
Minnesota Vikings (2018) 13 370 (28.5 per game) 524 (40.3 per game) 3497 (269 per game) 24 (1.85 per game) 9 (0.69 per game)
TOTAL (AVERAGE) 29 741 (25.55 per game) 1133 (39.06 per game) 7653 (263.89 per game) 44 (1.52 per game) 21 (0.72 per game)

 

With DeFilippo in the fold, the Jaguars should be a good bet to throw the ball over 600 times this year. So there’s potential value to be had with some of the Jaguars pass catchers: DJ Chark, Dede Westbrook, and Keelan Cole. My money is that Dede Westbrook is the guy that surpasses expectations and finishes as a top 15 fantasy WR. The primary thought process behind this is that Westbrook was not only the best WR on the team last year, he is also the primary slot receiver in Jacksonville (played 73.9% of snaps in the slot). DeFilippo loves throwing short passes and putting his best receivers in the slot to get open, putting Adam Thielen in the slot 46.7% of the time last season. Considering his low ADP, Westbrook is a phenomenal investment to surpass expectations, and I could see him have a great fantasy year.

Eli Grabanski

I am one of the only Denver Broncos fans born and raised in Wisconsin. One of my life goals is to own a jersey from every NFL team. Follow me on Twitter @3li_handles

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