Kevin Taylor’s 5 Bold Predictions for 2019
Lamar Jackson Will Be a Top-Five Quarterback
From week 11 to week 17 of the 2018 season Lamar Jackson was the number eight QB in fantasy points per game. That is when he took over as the starter in Baltimore. Everyone knows of his struggles throwing the ball in his rookie year. He had a 58% completion percentage and only six touchdown passes in those seven starts. He also did not complete more than 14 passes in any start. His fantasy rankings were earned based on his mouth-watering rushing stats. He had 17 rushes per start and 79 rushing yards per game, while not completing more than 14 passes in any start he also chipped in four rushing touchdowns during that time too. The Ravens were also a top-five team in pace and ran the most plays per game last season.
Coming into 2019, Jackson gets his first full offseason as the starter and the Ravens promoted Greg Roman to offensive coordinator. Roman should be a good fit with Jackson as he worked with Colin Kaepernick and Tyrod Taylor in the past when they produced their best seasons. The Ravens figure to be one of the top rushing attacks in the league again this year, which will keep Jackson’s floor secure from a week to week basis.
Jackson is being drafted as the 17th QB off the board in drafts so far. To me, that is way too low as he has a top-ten QB floor with top-five upside. The Ravens have said they want Jackson to run less to keep him healthy. Jackson’s 147 rush attempts last year were the most all-time at the position and he only started seven games. This was a mammoth 272 rush attempt pace for 16 games. Jackson’s strength is rushing the ball; it wouldn’t be wise for the Ravens to totally limit him. If they cut out five or so rushes per game then he would be at 12 carries a game and a 192 full season pace.
One could make the argument that Jackson has positive touchdown regression coming his way as well. He finished with a team-high 38% of red-zone carries, as well as 32% of rushes inside the 10. However, he only accounted for 28% of the teams rushing touchdowns in the red zone and 21% inside the 10, which was 2nd most on the team in both categories.
I believe it is fair to think Jackson will improve some as a passer and how much he improves could unlock his ceiling in fantasy. With Roman calling the plays, and the Ravens drafting two exciting receivers Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin, it is easy to see how Jackson can improve in year two.
James White Will Be a Top 8 RB and Catch 100 Passes.
White finished 2018 with 94 carries and a whooping 123 targets! The targets were one behind league leader at RB Christian McCaffrey. However, White caught 20 fewer passes than McCaffrey did. White led his team in targets in 2018 and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him do it again. White also had the 12th most red-zone touches among running backs and was fifth in yards per touch at the position. Quarterback Tom Brady has limited mobility at this stage in his career and looks to dump it off to his running backs often. White and slot receiver Julian Edelman have been with Brady the longest and have certainly earned his trust in important situations.
White is currently being drafted as the 25th running back in PPR settings after finishing seventh at the position in 2018. I believe White will be the fourth running back in NFL history to reach 100 receptions in a season while being a top-eight running back for the second straight year. There are four pieces missing from their passing game from last season, with Josh Gordon still not reinstated from his suspension.
|Player||Reason for Absence||Targets per Game|
|Josh Gordon||Indefinite Suspension||5.9|
|Chris Hogan||Free Agency||3.4|
|Cordarrelle Patterson||Free Agency||1.9|
|Targets Available Per Game||16.8|
If White could get just one more of those targets per game that would put him at about 140 and that would have him ranked at 12th highest in the NFL at any position. One could also argue that White is due for some positive regression in his catch rate. He was 32nd among running backs catching 87 of his 123 targets (70.7%). He posted higher percentages in two of the previous three seasons (74.1% and 77.8%). If White caught 77.8% of his passes last year that would have put him at 96 receptions. If White got 140 targets this season, he would only need a 71.4% catch rate to have 100 receptions.
Another factor that could weigh in White’s favor is the game script. The Patriots played with the third-best game script last season, meaning they had the lead more often than other teams. If that falls at all, that is good news for White, who excels in passing game or negative game script situations. White is being criminally under drafted at 25 among running backs in PPR settings. He has the passing game role on lockdown in the backfield and is trusted significantly by Tom Brady.
Drew Brees Will Not Be a Top-15 QB This Season
Quarterback may be the deepest it has ever been in fantasy football. Josh Allen was the number one overall QB the last six weeks in 2018 and his average ADP is 22nd at the position, just behind sleepers Mitch Trubisky and Jimmy Garoppollo. Brees has finished eighth at the position in each of the last two years. However, he was fourteenth the last 7 weeks of the season. In 2018, Brees posted his fewest passing attempts and passing yards as a member of the Saints. He had the sixth-most passing touchdowns in the league at 32 and shockingly the fifth-most rushing touchdowns at QB with four, also the most of his career.
Right now, Drew Brees is being drafted as the seventh-highest QB. The Saints are turning to a more run-heavy offense. Over the last three years, rush attempts have increased and pass attempts have decreased. I’m expecting Brees to throw less, as has been the trend for the last three years. I also believe he will not have more than two rushing scores seeing as he has only done that twice in his lengthy career. The Saints also low-key have a solid defense that will keep them in most games, as they finished 11th in defensive DVOA last year. Remember, Brees threw for only 23 touchdowns two years ago in 2017. That is a realistic possibility to happen again, as well as the decrease in yards and rushing touchdowns.
Derek Henry Will Not Be a Top-30 Running Back This Season
There is a growing trend in the NFL with running backs getting fewer carries and being used more in the passing game. Last year, running backs averaged 42.8 carries per game, which is the lowest mark since 2000. On the other hand, they saw the second-most targets over that span at 14.1.
In 2018, Henry finished as the 16th RB in PPR formats and finished 37th at the position in 2017. Henry was also third in the league in rushing touchdowns last year so there could be some regression in that category. It is important to remember the up and down year that Henry had in 2018. Through week 13, he was the RB 39 in PPR leagues and 34th in standard leagues. He then went on the best four-game stretch of his career where he had over half of his rushing yards in that stretch. He has had 18 and 17 targets during the last two years and played in every game those two years. Dion Lewis had 155 carries last year and 67 targets in the passing game.
In 2019, not much has changed in terms of the Titans offense. Henry and Lewis are still in the backfield. Henry should still be a near-zero in the passing game, which makes him game script dependant. Henry also injured his calf on the first day of camp, still has the calf wrapped, and has yet to resume practicing. He is being drafted in the top 20 among running backs in most leagues right now. People chasing those last four games from 2018 will wind up disappointed in Henry while he becomes a frustrating start/sit decision from week to week.
Kenyan Drake Will be a top-10 running back this season
In 2018, Drake finished fourteenth among running backs in fantasy points (PPR). He did this with Frank Gore, leading the team in carries at 156 to Drake’s 126. Drake had 73 targets last year which was second on the team to Danny Amendola’s 79.
Fast forward to this year, Frank Gore is in Buffalo and the two backs that return in the backfield are Drake and second-year RB Kalen Ballage. The Dolphins drafted Myles Gaskin in the seventh round of the draft and have Bengals castoff Mark Walton but those are the only players in the backfield right now. There is a new coaching staff in Miami, so Drake will probably have to earn the lead back role. If he can earn the favor of the coaching staff he could be in for more targets seeing as they come from New England, who is famous for throwing to their running backs often. Drake’s ADP right now is the 28th running back off the board. That is fourteen spots higher than he finished last year. He could be a legitimate three-down running back, which is very rare in the NFL these days.
There is no doubt that Drake will be involved this year, especially in the passing game where he excels. Ballage should get more than his 36 carries and 11 targets from last year. However, I think it would be fair to speculate that he and Drake split up Gore’s carries from last year. If each took about half of Gore’s carries, that would be an extra 78 for each back, thus bumping Drake to 204 carries and Ballage to 114. 200 plus carries and 70 plus targets will undoubtedly put Drake into the top 10 of running backs, with six backs doing that last year and all finishing in the top-ten.
(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)