10 Bold Fantasy Football Predictions: June Edition
Much of what we do here at RotoExperts is math-based and centered around probability. What is the range of outcomes for Josh Jacobs career? How likely is Patrick Mahomes to repeat his 2018 MVP season? How much risk is involved in projection Dede Westbrook for a 20% market share of the Jaguars passing targets? The math behind creating accurate projections and leveraging those projections against Average Draft Position both in DRAFT Best Ball’s and in weekly management leagues are h how fantasy football leagues are won. However, bold fantasy football predictions are both fun and useful. There will always be players who hit their 90th percentile projection and their 10th percentile projection. No one has the magic potion to solve which players will hit those ranges but taking stances can not only be useful but help you win your leagues. Travis Kelce over Gronkowski in 2018, holding Alvin Kamara throughout the tumult in New Orleans in 2017, David Johnson as the 1.01 in 2016; these are examples of extreme bold fantasy football predictions that have paid off over the last several years.
With that in mind, here is my first edition of Bold Fantasy Football Predictions for the 2019 fantasy football season. I will produce several more of these lists before the start of the 2019 season but this should be a helpful guide as to where I see more of a ceiling or floor to players relative to their median projection.
Bold Fantasy Football Predicts
1. Damien Williams Is Fantasy Football RB1
The case for Damien Williams is very simple. He was the best running back on the Chiefs roster last year after Kareem Hunt was cut, including an outstanding performance in the Divisional Round against the Indianapolis Colts. The team added backup-quality running backs in Carlos Hyde and Darwin Thompson over the offseason but did not invest significant dollars or draft capital in anyone while they extended Williams’ contract. Williams is the lead running back in the best offense in football and they may even have to rely on him more this season than Hunt was last year due to the potential absence of Tyreek Hill. I have taken Damien Williams in the second round and will continue to do.
2. JuJu Smith-Shuster Finishes As THE WR1
While many are projecting Pittsburgh to step back in pass attempts now that Antonio Brown is off the team, it makes for them to remain a pass-happy team. Smith-Shuster, James Washington, Donte Moncrief, Vance McDonald, and Diontae Johnson represent a significant draft capital and salary cap investment in the passing game. James Conner and Jaylen Samuels were efficient receivers in 2018 and project to do so again in 2019. Smith-Shuster had 166 targets last season while averaging 8.6 yards per target and was only second on the team in targets. Adding an extra 20 targets (very possible) while keeping his above-average efficiency and scaling Smith-Shuster into some of Antonio Brown’s touchdowns leaves you with a player who could easily be the highest scoring non-QB in fantasy football. AB84 scored 15 of Pittsburgh’s 51 touchdowns last season; if Smith-Shuster can even get to 10, he enters into a new tier of player.
3. Dak Prescott Is A Top-Five Fantasy Football Quarterback
Dak Prescott has very consistently been held back by Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan. Playing in a stodgy, uncreative and run-heavy offense has kept Prescott from accessing his real fantasy football ceiling. Despite this, Dak has finished as a top 12 fantasy football quarterback each year of his three-year career but has never topped 4,000 passing yards or 400 rushing yards. Early reports from Dallas Cowboys OTA’s have been overwhelmingly positive regarding Kellen Moore’s offensive design for Dallas. Dan Orlovsky from ESPN compared it to the Matt Nagy offense that Chicago ran in 2018. If we project for 80 rushing attempts for Dak and a faster-paced offense, he has a fantasy football ceiling other QB’s cannot access. Prescott will have a full season with Amari Cooper who averaged 9.5 yards per target in a Cowboys uniform last season and Michael Gallup will be a full-time starter on the outside. The arrows for this offense are pointing up, Prescott is a skillful runner (5.0 yards per rush attempt for his career) and fantasy football selections at QB should mostly be driven by ceiling which Dak has.
4. This Is The Last Year Devonta Freeman Is Drafted As An RB2
The writing is on the wall for Freeman. Despite the fact that Tevin Coleman left town after his contract expired, there is still meaningful competition on the roster in the form of Ito Smith and Brian Hill. Freeman’s touches have gone down every year since 2015 when he recorded 338 total touches. He was only able to play in two games last season before being stuck on the IR and the history of running backs rebounding after several years of descending usage and effectiveness is not kind. Overall, it is most likely that Freeman starts out the year with the majority of the backfield share with Ito Smith but as the season extends, the unathletic (45th-percentile SPARQ score) Freeman is likely to wear down as he has the last two seasons. In the event that Freeman gets injured again or generally underperforms, it seems that fantasy football drafters will no longer be valuing his 2015 season as his ceiling.
5. Royce Freeman Overtakes Phillip Lindsay
In the last 20 years, there have been three undrafted free agent running backs who ran for more than 1,000 yards in their rookie season: Phillip Lindsay, Dominic Rhodes, and LaGarrette Blount. You would assume that reaching that mark as a rookie almost guaranteed future success, but you would be wrong. Rhodes never again had 1,000 yards and only topped 100 touches two more times in his career. Blount had 1,000 yards again but six years later and with his third team. Lindsay is still a good draft pick at his ADP, but so is Freeman. Historical precedence would suggest that the running back with more draft pedigree is going to get another chance to prove his worth. If Denver stops playing Devonte Booker entirely, there would be a handful of backfield targets for Freeman to pick up and Lindsay only received 62 more carries than Freeman did in 2018. This backfield split is a lot closer than many have projected and given Freeman’s college resume (79 receptions in four season), it is clearly in the realm of possibility that Freeman becomes a 250-touch level running back in 2019.
6. Brandin Cooks Posts 90/1400/10
Brandin Cooks is the best player that the Los Angeles Rams have on offense. Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp have played their roles extremely well, while Todd Gurley and the tight ends have done what has been asked of them. Josh Reynolds proved that not just any player can produce in the Rams offense as he sputtered in Kupp’s role last season. Cooks and Woods seem almost identical in terms of RACR but Cooks averaged 1.4 more Air Yards per target than Woods in 2018. Cooks averaged 10.3 yards per target last season (the same as Kupp) and .9 more than Woods. The over-arching point is that Cooks was not fully unleashed in egalitarian offense last year. However, with another season of planning and play creation, I am operating under the assumption that the most talented wide receiver in this offense has a ceiling we have not quite seen yet. While this stat-line is not Cooks’ median outcome, he has the highest ceiling of any Rams’ pass catchers and that should be reflected in how you draft the three players.
7. Mike Williams Outscores Keenan Allen
If you are looking for a very safe 90 catches, 1000 yards, and five touchdowns, Allen is your guy. He has proven that in the seasons where he is not shelved with injury, he is going to get to that statline as the primary wide receiver in the Chargers offense. However, in just his first full healthy season, Williams topped Allen’s single-season best touchdown number with 11 touchdowns on 73 total interactions. That rate is likely to fall in 2019 but his total interactions should go up. Tyrell Williams is now an Oakland Raider and the Chargers third wide receiver option is going to be unproven Dylan Cantrell or inconsistent Travis Benjamin. Hunter Henry will pick up some of the redzone slack but the historical comps for Williams are very good; players with 11 or more touchdowns and more than 15 yards per reception as second-year players are Odell Beckham, DeSean Jackson, Allen Robinson and Mike Williams. If the former first-round pick runs hot on touchdowns for the second year in a row and picks up a more regular role between the 20’s, this bold prediction won’t seem so bold.
8. The Patriots Offense Is League Average In Yards Per Play
42-year old Tom Brady is a full 1.5 yards worse per adjusted pass attempt when Rob Gronkowski does not play. The Patriots starting wide receivers are a rookie, first-round bust Phillip Dorsett, 33-year old Julian Edelman and whatever Ben Watson/Matt LaCosse/Stephen Anderson can give them at tight end. James White will likely be asked to do even more than last season in the passing game while leaving the rushing almost entirely to Sony Michel and Damien Harris. The Patriots might very well win the division again, run the ball supremely well and play good defense but projecting this offense as one of the league’s best is incredibly hard. In the best year of Julian Edelman’s career, he averaged 7.9 yards per target. In fact, no one on New England’s roster averages more than 7.9 yards per target for their career. There is a very easy route for this being one of the worst offenses Bill Belichick has ever coached and if they are better than league-average, it will be a true feat.
9. The Buccaneers Offense Supports Five Fantasy Starters
The 2019 Buccaneers are the most offensively talented team that Bruce Arians has been a head coach of. His 2015 Arizona Cardinals offense lead the NFL in net adjusted yards per pass attempt with Carson Palmer, David Johnson/Chris Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, JJ Nelson, and Michael Floyd as the primary starters. Jameis Winston, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and O.J Howard are easily more talented than their Arizona counterparts and we all know that running backs are largely a product of team efficiency and not vice-versa. Jameis Winston should be able to perform better than 36-year old Carson Palmer which opens the door for Ronald Jones, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and O.J Howard to all rate as starters in 12-team PPR leagues (RB24 or better, WR24 or better, TE12 or better).
10. Curtis Samuel and D.J Moore Are Both Top-24 Wide Receivers
This is one of those bold fantasy football predictions that really is not so bold when you dig deeper into projecting both players out. Devin Funchess is now out of town, Greg Olsen hasn’t had a healthy season in three years, and outside of Christian McCaffrey, there isn’t another volume-hog on the roster. Samuel and Moore should both comfortably eclipse 100 interactions in 2019 even if they don’t take tremendous strides as players. However, the historical comps to Moore and Samuel are both kind. As I wrote earlier this month, Moore is one of only three players to post more than 750 receiving yards and 150 rushing yards on over 80 targets as a rookie in NFL history with Percy Harvin and Joey Galloway. Samuel averaged 12.3 yards per touch last year while scoring 7 times and excelling as a kick returner. I’m incredibly excited for what a multi-faceted offense can look like with CMC, Moore, and Samuel all playing as starters with a healthy Cam Newton. In past seasons, Newton has supported WR2 numbers for multiple players with Greg Olsen, Kelvin Benjamin, and Steve Smith. I am willing to wager that the Moore/Samuel tandem is better than any of the Olsen/WR tandems
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