The All-Risky Team: 2019 Edition
Every draft is all about gaining value pick after pick. The more value you get over a pick, the more your selections will be worthy. Of course, the hardest part of this equation is to gain value over early picks, as they are already set for a lot of points. Usually, small details play a factor in this case.
And to have an early pick as a big disappointing throughout the season can ruin your team completely.
With that in mind, here’s the All-Risky Team for the 2019 season considering players set to be drafted within the first seven rounds (ADP).
QB — Baker Mayfield (Cleveland Browns, ADP 62 / QB 4)
The hype surrounding the Cleveland Browns makes perfect sense. After all, the team finally appears to have found a franchise quarterback, who will play alongside two solid running backs and several very good receiving weapons, including one of the best wide receivers in football.
But nothing is that easy in the NFL, especially considering that the opposing defenses now have a better notion of what Baker Mayfield can do. 2019 will mark, too, the first season that Mayfield beings the year as the starter in the depth chart, which means there will be more challenges for the 24-year-old.
About Mayfield’s 2018 performances, they were indeed impressive. However, his 2.9% of interception per pass attempt was second-worst in the league among quarterbacks with at least 400 attempts (Sam Darnold). And is first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens the right man to fix that?
The Browns’ offensive line can also be a concern point as both offensive tackles have yet to play at a very high level.
Finally, Cleveland’s running game sometimes still lacks consistency. They were ranked middle of the table in yards and yards per carry last season, but not having topped the 100-rushing yards mark five times last season (twice in a row following the bye week) is potential adversity. I know that Nick Chubb is healthy again and that Kareem Hunt can change this narrative thoroughly after his suspension. However, they both have to confirm it on the field.
You can say that everything looks on track for the Browns in 2019. In theory, yes. But until we all see how this brand-new roster will work together, the risk exists.
Honorable Mention — Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers).
RB1 — Melvin Gordon (Los Angeles Chargers, ADP 30 / RB15)
Only one player scored more touchdowns than Melvin Gordon’s 28 since 2017. Last year, the 26-year-old improved as both runner and catcher despite not playing in four games, totaling career highs 5.1 yards per carry and 490 receiving yards. And his 6.1 yards per touch were the NFL’s best among running backs with at least 200 touches.
Therefore, there was no doubt Gordon would be an early first-round selection.
But the RB, who is set to become a free agent next season, wants a new contract before the 2019 regular season kicks off. And a new deal with the Los Angeles Chargers, according to several reports, hasn’t made any significant progress with Week 1 less than two weeks away. In other words, Gordon’s holdout continues.
Of course, every super-star holdout became more relevant after fantasy-stud Le’ Veon Bell sitting out for the entire year in 2018. The fantasy owners don’t want to have a once-locked first-round pick missing any time during the regular season.
It’s tough to say when, but we all know Gordon will be drafted, as there’s still hope the Chargers will give him what he wants — For the record, this can be a league-changer steal scenario.
Considering how many significant injuries have affected the Chargers this offseason, they may not have anywhere to go but to sign Gordon once the window to win is closing. Where to draft the running back is an intriguing, risky question though.
Honorable Mention — Leonard Fournette (Jacksonville Jaguars).
RB2 — Dalvin Cook (Minnesota Vikings, ADP 19 / RB 11)
In two seasons in the NFL, Dalvin Cook has played in just 15 games. The good news is that 11 of those happened last year, but it’s clear that injuries have been a huge concern for the Minnesota Vikings in every talk regarding the former second-round prospect.
Plus, the Vikings’ offensive line struggled in 2018, being ranked 25th in run blocking according to the Football Outsiders. Team’s 4.29 yards per carrying ranked below league’s average (4.36).
Those two things have played a factor on limiting Cook of doing what he did best in college football: Score touchdowns — He has only six in his pro career thus far.
Meanwhile, the Vikings drafted third-round running back Alexander Mattison this year, adding depth and a potential plan B to the backfield. While that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s already a desperate scenario, every time a team recruits an early RB already with a young, injury-prone runner in the roster, questions can be asked.
On the other hand, Cook appears to be ready for the 2019 season. The fact that the Vikings drafted Garrett Bradbury in the this year’s first-round, pushing Pat Elfein out to guard (his original position), gives hope that the OL will improve.
Minnesota is still waiting for a breakout campaign from Cook, and every year can be that year. The running back’s potential entices the fantasy owners, but that’s an uncertain scenario.
Honorable Mention — Kerryon Johnson (Detroit Lions).
WR1 — A. J. Green (Cincinnati Bengals, ADP 53 / WR 22)
Even though some emerging names have surprisingly stepped up for the Cincinnati Bengals, A. J. Green is still Andy Dalton’s No. 1 offensive weapon, especially alongside offensive-minded head coach Zac Taylor.
Since entering the league in 2011, only a few wide receivers have been better than Green, who surpassed the 1,000-yard mark six times and averaged 87 catches, 1,284 receiving yards, and nine touchdowns per 16 games in his career. A seven-time Pro Bowler, he was targeted at least 100 times in all but one pro season in that span.
However, injuries have played a factor in Green’s production on the field recently. His season averages last season would have been good for 81 receptions, 1,230 yards, and 10 touchdowns. But he missed seven games due to injury, which broke what could have been his best season since 2015.
Making things even worse — and riskier — for the fantasy owners, the 31-year-old wide receiver hasn’t played this preseason after undergoing an ankle injury surgery.
Although it was a minor surgical procedure, Green’s timetable for return is uncertain at this point, and while a Week 1 appearance hasn’t been ruled out, some reports say the wide receiver might miss a few games in September.
Bottom line: Every time he has played 16 games, Green has finished among the top 10 fantasy receivers. But he has done that only once in the past three seasons. Make your bet for 2019!
Honorable Mention — Kenny Golladay (Detroit Lions).
WR2 — Antonio Brown (Oakland Raiders, ADP 23 / WR 9)
Would anyone be surprised if Antonio Brown misses any game during the regular season after everything that he has said and done in his first offseason with the Oakland Raiders? He has filed two new grievances against the NFL because of the new/old helmet discussions and has lost both grievances, which means he will have to choose a different regulation helmet.
By the way, he even threatened not playing anymore if not allowed to wear his helmet a couple of weeks ago. And that’s not the only thing.
Brown also suffered a foot injury, which he used cryotherapy to aid his recovery, but ended up up with frostbitten feet that kept him out of practice.
Let’s say Brown finds an ideal helmet and no health issues challenge him anymore before the season opener. Even in this case, there’re no guarantees that the 31-year-old will perform in the same level as he did with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Since 2013, Brown has averaged 114 catches, 1,524 yards, and 11 touchdowns per season, and he’s coming from his best year touchdown-wide, leading the league with 15 receiving TDs in 2018.
In other words, the No. 84 has been a Top-3 fantasy wide receiver in every year since 2014.
But there can be a huge difference between playing alongside a future Hall of Famer quarterback and one QB that is trying to re-found the best form of his career. That’s why the franchise focused on boosting the offensive unit this offseason, also collecting another starting WR in Tyrell Williams, Super Bowl champion left tackle Trent Brown, and the first-round rookie running back Josh Jacobs.
They will try to make things easier for Derek Carr, who has seen a constant downfall in his touchdown passes recently. Since his personal-best 32 TDs in 2015, he threw 28, 22, and 19 per year.
Not comparing both wide receivers, but Amari Cooper had only a couple of great years with the Raiders, until being traded to the Dallas Cowboys to become Dak Prescott’s favorite and most reliable target.
I know that Brown is a better receiver than Cooper overall and that he’ll be the primary weapon among all the new acquisitions made by Jon Gruden. But all the uncertainties surrounding both Brown himself and the Raiders at this moment create a tricky scenario for the fantasy owners on where they should draft the stud wide receiver.
Honorable Mention — Chris Goodwin (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
TE — George Kittle (San Francisco 49ers, ADP 31 / TE 3)
George Kittle was amazing last season, and it’s reasonable to consider him one of the NFL’s best tight ends in 2019. But the combination of the San Francisco 49ers’ offseason transactions and the TE position value makes Kittle a rewarding, but risky, fantasy option.
Keep in mind that if you’re selecting a tight end in the third round, you have to be sure he’s going to be a stud. Therefore, you have to make sure that Kittle basically will repeat his fascinating campaign this year.
And I’m not saying Kittle isn’t a stud TE; the main point is that the several questions regarding where the 49ers’ offense will go in 2019 brings a risky part to the equation.
Before entering in the questionable part, here’s how incredible Kittle was in 2018: He totaled 1,377 receiving yards, breaking the single-season record among tight ends for that mark, along with 88 catches and five touchdowns.
Besides that, the 25-year-old topped the league in yards after the catch with 9.72 (WRs and TEs with min. 30 receptions), highlighted by three 70-yard receptions by the end of the year, including two 80-yard TDs.
In theory, if Kittle took the league by storm playing with backups C. J. Beathard and Nick Mullens for most of the part, he should be even better with Jimmy Garoppolo under center now. But Garoppolo has to prove himself as the franchise quarterback first, and no one knows yet which receiver will be his “best friend”.
Plus, Kittle’s fantasy differential last year was the big plays. Once the tight end got the momentum going during the season, it was tough to stop him. But will he be consistent with such a high standard in 2019? That’s not an easy thing to do:
I wanted to see if George Kittle's 2018 #NFL-leading yards after catch total was repeatable. So I compared each season's WR/TE leader, dating back to 2010, and looked at what they did the next year.
There's obviously correlation, but the league leader has always declined in YAC pic.twitter.com/Mfz5yn3YMB
— Billy Heyen (@Wheyen3) August 15, 2019
Finally, considering players from the Free Agency and the Draft, Jordan Matthews, Tevin Coleman, Deebo Samuel, and Jalen Hurd are all new faces for the Garoppolo-led offense. Not to mention Jerick McKinnon and Marquise Goodwin, who is back after suffering injuries in 2018, and Dante Pettis, who is surrounded by a lot of expectations entering his second pro season.
We shouldn’t be surprised if Kittle suffers from that.
Honorable Mention — O. J. Howard (Tampa Bay Buccaneers).
(Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire)