Here’s my contribution towards QB List’s bold prediction week. As you already know, these are not meant to come true in order to be really bold. Real talk – football snuck up on me. I have two drafts this weekend that I’m completely unprepared for, but that’s 2020 for you. Three of my picks give away my late-round quarterback strategy, but to be fair the last two years I’ve hit big on Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. Without further ado, let’s get to it.
Daniel Jones Finishes As The QB4
The first thing I did when I saw Matthew Berry’s Love/Hate article was text our faithful leader, Erik Smith. Berry’s cover boy is Daniel Jones. Can I still write about him? Thanks dad!
Last year, I covered streaming quarterbacks for the site, and in Week 11, I wrote the following regarding Jones, “Jones remains matchup dependent for the remainder of the season but heading into next year, I’ll be targeting Jones as my late-round quarterback due to the ceiling he’s already shown us.” Well, here we are and my favorite late-round quarterback this year is Daniel Jones. The Giants’ QB started just 12 games last year, throwing for over 3,000 yards with 24 touchdowns in his rookie campaign.
Jones showed flashes of brilliance last year. Despite missing two weeks with an ankle injury, Jones managed to finish as the QB6 in points per game from Week 8 on.
On the weapons front, you’d be hard-pressed to find a quarterback surrounded by as many weapons as Jones. From Saquon Barkley in the backfield to the receiving weapons of Sterling Shephard, Golden Tate, Evan Engram, and Darius Slayton, Jones should be in a situation to take a leap to the next level. That collective of weapons never stepped foot on the field together last year. Their offensive line should be on the way up after the Giants spent the number 4 overall pick on Andrew Thomas.
While the full Konami Code is not in play for Jones, he did add an extra 3 fantasy points per game with his legs. While at Duke, Jones scampered for 17 touchdowns in 36 games, so making plays with his legs isn’t something new to the Giants’ quarterback. Jones is currently coming off the board as QB15 in the 9th round with an ADP of 105. This makes Danny Dimes one of my favorite upside plays.
Philip Rivers Finishes As A Top 6 QB
While Danny Dimes is my “Shiny New Toy”, Philip Rivers is my “Old Man Rebound”. After 16 years with the Chargers, Rivers will take the field wearing a different jersey. I was somewhat astonished to find out that Rivers has started every regular-season game for the Chargers for the last 14 years. Despite his consistent playing time, 2019 was a down year for Rivers. The team moved the ball well, with Rivers throwing for over 4,600 yards, but they just couldn’t seem to finish drives. Rivers’ 23 touchdown passes were his fewest since 2007 and they came with 20 interceptions.
Perhaps those stats are why he’s being drafted as the QB24 with an ADP of 148. One of the immediate upgrades for Rivers comes with the offensive line. According to PFF’s Offensive Line Rankings, Rivers goes from the 30 ranked O-Line all the way to number 1. The Chargers haven’t ranked higher than 26th in pass blocking since 2014. With Rivers not “seeing ghosts” from being pressured, I think we see a Renaissance in his year 38 season.
When we compare the weapons from those he had with the Chargers to those he inherits with the Colts, we’re looking at a push at the least. At running back, he’ll be going from the Melvin Gordon/Austin Ekeler to Jonathan Taylor/Marlon Mack. On the surface, this is a downgrade, but between the drama of Melvin Gordon’s holdout and Jonathan Taylor’s upside, this might be closer than the names might suggest. At wideout, Rivers goes from Keenan Allen and Mike Williams to veteran T.Y. Hilton and a collection of young upside WRs – Parris Campbell, Michael Pittman, Jr., and Zach Pascal. What Allen and Rivers had was special, but I view the WR weapons as a slight upgrade. On the tight end front, there’s no doubt that the move from Hunter Henry to Jack Doyle is a downgrade. However, overall this is pretty close to a neutral move from a weapons perspective. If you then factor in the offensive line upgrade, this is a significant positive move for Rivers.
Giving Philip Rivers time in the pocket will lead to good things for the Colts offense this year. In 2019, Rivers attempted the 7th most deep passes in the league despite shoddy O-Line play. That showed in his 30.7% deep ball completion percentage – 27th best in the league. Give Rivers time and a clean pocket and I expect that completion percentage to rise, leading him to be a top 6 QB for fantasy purposes this year. With an ADP of 145 as QB24, Rivers costs you nothing and could even be added off the wire if he looks good in the first couple of weeks.
Greg Ward Flex-Worthy PPR Wide Receiver
According to FantasyPros, Eagles’ wide-out, Greg Ward is currently ranked as WR106 with an average overall ranking of 304.8. Last year, Ward was on the practice squad until injuries left the Eagles with literally no receivers. No Alshon Jeffrey. No DeSean Jackson. No Nelson Agholor. No development by JJ Arcega-Whiteside. They couldn’t even keep Mack Hollins and Jordan Matthews on the field. So, the former University of Houston QB came off the practice squad and won my heart. Here’s why I think it continues in 2020.
Ward played a significant role for the Eagles in Weeks 14-17 last year. Over those four games, he had a 17.6% target share which ranked third on the team behind Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. In that time he scored 48.4 fantasy points, which ranked 28th among all wide receivers. But Rich, what about points per game to account for wide receivers that sat out Week 17. Ah, I’m glad you asked. His 12.1 PPR points per game ranked 36th among wide receivers. In a 12 team PPR league, that’s flex worthy range right there.
Coming into the 2020 season, it seemed as though Greg Ward’s fantasy days were numbered. In theory, the Eagles would get back a healthy Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson. They spent a first-round pick on Jalen Reagor. They traded for Marquise Goodwin. However, Jeffery has yet to practice due to a Lisfranc injury, and Reagor is expected to miss time with a shoulder injury. Goodwin opted out of the season in early August. That leaves DeSean Jackson who played just three games last year after suffering an abdominal injury and, you guessed it, my boy Greg Ward.
So we’ve found a path to playing time and a history of what that share of the offense looks like. Of course, there are concerns about what his role will be when/if Reagor and Jeffery return, but until then, I view Ward as a flex-worthy option to open the year.
Damien Harris Finishes As A Top 20 RB
The New England running back situation has been a nightmare the last couple of seasons. Sony Michel has not gotten it done and just returned to training camp on August 26th after undergoing foot surgery in the offseason. Michel being out for so long gave Damien Harris the opportunity he needed to grasp at least a hold on the lead back job for the Patriots.
The Patriots made Harris a third-round pick in 2019 after spending his college career at Alabama. During Harris’s junior and senior years, he shared carries with Josh Jacobs. That means his College Dominator rating isn’t going to be as high as someone who was the lead back in college. As you go through his scouting report, Harris is an all-around, solid player. Nothing flashy, but a good pass-blocker, sure-handed, and outstanding field vision. If I gave you that scouting report, it almost sounds like the default characteristics of a Patriots running back.
It looks like Michel is going to need some time to prepare for the regular season. That gives Harris the first crack at handling the early-down work for the Patriots. If he indeed grabs that early-down work and a share of the goal line work, Harris’s value would be instantly shot up. Harris is currently coming off the board as RB50 at pick 133, making him an easy gamble late in drafts and a gamble that could pay big dividends.
Duke Johnson SZN
Raise your hand if you’ve ever been burnt by a David Johnson injury. Now that we’re all on the same page, put your hands down. Is there any reason to believe that David Johnson can handle the load for a full season? Since we’re worried about Johnson’s health, let’s take a look at the Texan’s depth chart. Hmmm, we have Duke Johnson, Buddy Howell, and Karan Higdon. Welp, I guess that makes it Duke Johnson season!
The knock on Duke Johnson is that he’s never “carried the load” before. However, no one has ever given him that opportunity to even try. I know we’re going back a ways, but in his junior year at Miami, Johnson handled 280 touches over 13 games. That was in 2014, but he managed to compile 2,073 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Johnson’s role in the passing game is already established. Last year, he saw a 12% target share. That converted to 62 targets, 44 receptions, and 410 receiving yards. For the year, he finished with 98.3 fantasy points, which landed him as RB38.
When we look at the Texans as a team, I’m not sure this is going to go well. Vegas has the Texans at a 7.5 team win total and the public has put more money on the under. If the Texans are in catchup mode, I expect Duke Johnson to be on the field a lot, even without a David Johnson injury. If he ends up going down, there’s a chance the Texans just ride Duke Johnson into the ground. With an ADP of 126 as RB45, I love Johnson as a late-round stash.
(Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)