Advance Scout: Mark Ingram Heading to Free Agency, Todd Gurley Raising Keeper Concerns
Here is a look ahead to the Super Bowl and upcoming offseasons for this past weekend’s Conference Championship teams, from both NFL and Fantasy perspectives.
Kansas City: It was very admirable how Patrick Mahomes rebounded from a terrible first half and still finished with just under 300 passing yards, three TDs and no interceptions. New England did a terrific job of making him uncomfortable in the first half, even when he was out of the pocket. While some future opponents may try to mirror that approach, Mahomes overcame the coldest weather and toughest opponent of his first full season as a starter, and there is no way to fully contain him over an entire game. He is going to be a first-round pick in some mainstream leagues next year, but in our recent early mock, he was picked in the fourth round. Damien Williams, who recently signed a two-year contract extension, will get a deserved opportunity to be the Chiefs’ featured back in 2019. He is versatile and dynamic and is the latest Kansas City RB to relegate Spencer Ware to afterthought status. Williams’ lack of proven production over a full season, though, should be a minor concern. I see him as low-end RB1 type for 2019 who just needs to prove it more over a full campaign before I take him over a top player with a better track record.
New England: The Rams have done a very good job of keeping Ezekiel Elliott and Alvin Kamara in check in the playoffs after ranking 23rd against the run during the regular season. So Sony Michel’s two-game playoff run of 100 rushing yards and multiple TDs is in jeopardy. But Josh McDaniels—who sometimes does not get enough credit along with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick—will be thinking ahead to employ his multi-talented trio of RBs in varying ways to make the Rams pay for their aggressive defensive front, and they will find ways to exploit gambling CB Marcus Peters. The Super Bowl is another big stage for James White and, as we saw this week, Rex Burkhead figures in the mix now, too. Aqib Talib is a tough draw for any WR, but Julian Edelman has stared down the best in the game before. Plus, Rob Gronkowski still remains a nifty secondary target. Michel has boosted his Fantasy appeal for 2019 no matter what. He has shined even in a committee, and if health were not a persistent concern, he could be more than just a possible high-end Fantasy RB2. Michel has become progressively more comfortable as the Patriots’ lead ball carrier and has delivered when it has counted the most in his rookie year.
New Orleans: Drew Brees has already indicated he is going to come back for another go-round, but Fantasy owners should be careful not to overrate him heading into 2019. He did finish as the seventh-most productive Fantasy QB overall, but his statistical production slipped down the stretch in the regular season and in the playoffs. In his final four regular season starts, he did not throw more than one TD pass, and he threw two in each postseason game. During that span, he had only two 300-yard games. Possibly adding another playmaker in the passing game during the offseason could help maintain confidence in Brees as a Fantasy QB1. Mark Ingram is set to become a free agent, and while he has openly stated he loves playing in New Orleans and is not looking to run out the door, he could become one of the most coveted free agent RBs on the open market and would get a chance to be a featured back somewhere else. He would be a really nice fit on a team that is looking for an experienced impact RB to fill a hole on offense, such as the Jets or Buccaneers, who need to make some financial room first. Philadelphia is another good landing spot if they can clear some cap space. Oakland does have some money to spend, too and maybe the Texans will choose to move on from Lamar Miller, but I really like New York, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia as suitors. Ingram could really help a new coach and a young QB with the Jets, and he is a final offensive puzzle piece with the Bucs and Eagles. If Ingram leaves, the appeal of Alvin Kamara can only skyrocket as it did when Ingram missed the first four games of the 2018 season.
Los Angeles Rams: When you consider that C.J. Anderson only rushed for 44 yards on 16 carries, it’s hard to believe that Todd Gurley’s knee or something else was not a factor. He now has two weeks of rest ahead, but he had three idle weeks before the playoffs started and still was not the clear featured back in the past two games. What you cannot do is let this uncomfortable feeling impact your keeper decisions. A healthy Gurley is simply too good to keep off the field for any extended stretch. C.J. Anderson is likely to seek a starting job elsewhere as a free agent. There is not enough clear information about Gurley’s health yet, though, to make any assumptions about his Super Bowl workload. We will just have to wait and see what his body allows him to handle.