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2019 Fantasy Football Predictions

Gridiron Experts Staff Fantasy Football Predictions 2019

A new Fantasy Football season can’t officially kickoff without bold predictions and hot takes. That’s why the Gridiron Experts team have come together to make a bunch of bold fantasy predictions and back them up best they can in a group article. Below the table of predictions, many of the staff writers have taken the time to explain their hot takes for 2019.

Make sure to check back next week when we also make bold predictions on the season, like division winners and Super Bowl champ.

Which of your Breakout Fantasy Player Predictions do you feel most strongly about and why?

Zack Patraw

Zack Patraw  – Sam Darnold is the guy who comes to mind for me. He’s ranked very low on a lot of experts rankings and he’s going undrafted in a lot of leagues. He’s coming into his second year and had a very solid backend of his rookie year. They have a lot of weapons that can help him succeed and take the next step. They brought in Le’Veon Bell who will take a ton of pressure off of him, and Jamison Crowder is a solid option to go along with their other receivers. I’m not looking for him to be a top 10 quarterback this year, but I could definitely see him outperforming where most everyone has him ranked now.

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Brandon Hamer  – Jameis Winston is currently ranked as my QB10 in redraft leagues for 2019. The Buccaneers led the league last year in team passing yards. Sure, Dirk Koetter is gone, but I see the Buccaneers remaining pass-heavy again this year. In 11 games last year, Jameis threw for 300 yards five times and threw four touchdowns twice. He has sneaky rushing upside, having averaged just over 25 yards rushing per game. Nothing crazy, but its a decent little boost in the rushing column. In a contract year surrounded by top tier talent at all pass-catching positions, I expect Jameis to blossom under Bruce Arians a.k.a The Quarterback Whisperer, and carry legitimate Top 8 upside in what should be a Top Five passing offense once again in 2019.

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John Ferguson – I took some risks with some of my breakout picks, but one that I feel like I played it fairly safe on was Baker Mayfield. The Browns were a different team in the second half of last season once Freddie Kitchens took over and now with Odell Beckham Jr. being added to the receiver corps, I just don’t see how Mayfield doesn’t breakout. You can just see the confidence he has now anytime he graces the media.

Aside from that, I actually like the competitive nature of the Browns schedule as well. It won’t be a complete cakewalk for them, but it’s not an overly difficult schedule as well which leads me to believe that Mayfield will need to push the ball down the field on a regular basis. That was something he did well last season ranking 10th amongst all QBs in both deep ball attempts and deep-ball completion percentage. He was also efficient in the red zone completing 66.7% of his passes there.

Mayfield nearly led the Browns to a playoff push in his rookie season despite incompetent coaching for half the year. I can’t see a single red flag that makes me think he doesn’t take the next step towards securing a starting role in this franchise for years to come.

 

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Brad Castronovo  –  After a fantastic rookie campaign, there’s a lot of hype around Baker Mayfield. I like the second-year QB to take yet another leap under new head coach Freddie Kitchens. Mayfield has options galore with the offseason addition of Odell Beckham Jr. and Kareem Hunt for the second half. Provided the offensive line keeps him protected and Kitchens provides him with a long enough leash, Mayfield will thrive in Cleveland in what I think will be a run at one of the AFC Wild Card spots.

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Michael Hauff –  The Buccaneers hiring of Bruce Arians didn’t just add more intrigue to the NFC South, it has also brought intrigue to Buccaneer’s signal-caller, Jameis Winston. Job security may have seemed a little shaky for Winston with the previous regime, but Arians has made it clear since day one that Winston is his guy. I think we see those sentiments translated onto our fantasy football rosters in 2019 as Winston is my candidate for fantasy breakout quarterback. The renewed faith is part of my decision making for sure, but it isn’t like Winston was a lost cause. In five of his 11 starts last season, Winston would throw for 300 yards or more. These sorts of numbers allowed Winston to finish as a top 15 QB in seven of his 11 games played. All of this should go hand in hand with Arians who’s offenses have ranked in the top 15 in passing since 2009.

Mike Rigz

Mike Rigz  – I like Robby Anderson as a potential breakout player and feel he’s a value pick at his current ADP (6.09 in PPR). From a statistical standpoint, it’s easy to pick apart flaws in Anderson’s game, but his NFL career has consisted mostly of catching passes from Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh McCown. While things weren’t always great with Sam Darnold either, they did have some big plays in 2018. With a full offseason together I believe Anderson and Darnold can improve their on-field chemistry. The volume is there, Anderson just needs to improve on execution. Last season the 26-year-old WR saw 94 targets while coming away with just 54 receptions. However, Anderson ranked 11th amongst all WR’s for Air yards and saw 11 endzone targets in 14 games. He could peak this season if the Jets offense takes the next step forward with their franchise QB.

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Seth Keller  –  The Atlanta Falcons offense has all arrows pointing toward having a great 2019. They have 13 games in domes, Julio is healthy, Ridley is coming into his own, and they invested in improving their O-line. Currently, Ito Smith is sitting behind Davona Freeman on the depth chart but I’m confident that even a healthy Freeman won’t stop Ito from breaking out in 2019. Last year with Coleman as the lead back there was a 199 to 117 split in attempts. In 2017, Freeman and Coleman had a 196 to 156 attempts split. I could see Ito around the 150 attempts and 30 target mark in 2019. if Freeman goes down, again, in 2019 those numbers will get even better. The icing on the cake is that he is 57th RB, nearly the 14th round in drafts.

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Andrew Erickson – 2019 will be the year of the running quarterback led by the most versatile one of them all in Lamar Jackson. He adds a dynamic to the game that fantasy has not seen since Michael Vick. Having a quarterback with speed makes the defense more one-dimensional and forces them to use zone instead of man coverage.

Teams that face mobile quarterbacks are unable to utilize a Man Cover 2 defensive scheme where there are two safeties back to protect against the deep ball. This was true according to Sports Info Solutions and Football Outsiders, where teams avoided that scheme all costs when playing Jackson in 2017. In their database, they found that opponents of Jackson playing other teams used Man Cover 2 at the fourth-highest rate in the FBS. But when they played Jackson that rate fell to an astonishing 52nd lowest-rate.

In the NFL in 2017, Man Cover 2 was used at 133% the rate it is used in the FBS. In that season it was the fourth-most popular coverage in the NFL. Nine teams employed this defense on more than 10% of quarterback dropbacks. That included the Steelers, Buccaneers, Titans, Browns, and Broncos. The Bengals were above 9%. Jackson only got to play three of these teams in 2018 as the starter (Buccaneers, Browns, and Bengals). No surprise he rushed for 90+ yards in all three games. His rushing totals were highest against those teams than any other teams he played all season his rookie year. Not a coincidence.

Interestingly enough in 2017 in the FBS, teams that faced non-scrambling quarterbacks employed Man Cover 2 more often. When Jackson got the chance to face Man Cover 2, he dominated with his legs practically forcing teams out of the coverage. Via Sports Info Solutions, Jackson faced two-man on 50 dropbacks and scrambled on 13 of them (26%). His success rate was 84.6% and he averaged 15.2 yards per attempt.

The main takeaway here: Man Cover 2 is the coverage that leaves defenses most susceptible to success by mobile quarterbacks, especially on scrambles. Add in receivers like Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin and Jackson’s fantasy upside is astronomical. As a quarterback that is already going late in redraft leagues outside the top-twelve, he’s the easiest quarterback to get on your fantasy team that will surpass expectations based on draft cost. Then as the savvy fantasy owner, you are, you research the teams that play a lot of Man Cover 2 and look for Jackson to have big games against them. Ever wonder why Michael Vick was so good in Madden? Well, it’s because by default Man Cover 2 is one of the first defensive options that a player could select…MIND BLOWN. So maybe Vick was not just a cheat code, but rather every Madden player just picked the absolute worst defense against him without knowing….go figure.

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Anthony Cervino –  Ever since Antonio Brown was sent packing, I’ve been all over Vance McDonald in Pittsburgh. Not only did he finish as the TE10 in 15 games last season, but it also seems like he shook the injury bug that hindered his upside since his days with the 49ers. What’s more, McDonald finished 2018 3rd in targets on the Steelers behind the aforementioned Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster. With both AB and Jesse James playing with different clubs, there are 168 vacated targets between the two of them. And while the Steelers drafted Diontae Johnson and signed Donte Moncrief this offseason — they also drafted James Washington last year — McDonald has the rapport and trust with Ben Roethlisberger. More than we can say about Johnson and Moncrief, who didn’t play with the Steelers in 2018 and Washington struggled more times than not with his limited opportunities. If McDonald, who finished 4th in yards after catch, 12th in yards per reception and 13th in yards per target last season amongst tight ends, can remain healthy and on the field, he could not only finish 2019 second in targets on the Steelers, but he also has top-six tight end upside written all over him when it is all said and done.

Ben Cigler

Ben Cigler –  In a year where some of the top rookies went to teams that will struggle, I look to the rookies who went to teams that are expected to succeed. Then I look at scheme fit and projected playing time. The player who I think gets the edge is David Montgomery. The main reason is Chicago’s defense will allow Matt Nagy to call a game where the Bears control the ball and run the clock. Montgomery might not start the season as the team’s number 1 running back, but I think it will help him have fresh legs near the end of the season. That should benefit his Rookie of the Year candidacy as they lean on him in the later parts of the season. I think Montgomery’s offensive contribution and his team’s overall success will contribute to him receiving the OROY hardware.

Which of your Bust Fantasy Player Predictions do you feel most strongly about and why?

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Anthony Cervino –  It feels like I am in the minority outside of my FF Faceoff Podcast co-host Mike Hauff, but I am fading Mark Ingram everywhere in 2019. Not only will Ingram turn 30-years-old in December, but he also did not look like the same player running behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL last season while he was still a member of the Saints. What’s more, not only is Ingram now going to be asked to lead a backfield — he was behind Alvin Kamara for the better part of the past two seasons — but the Ravens’ front five is not as talented as the Saints were in 2018. And then there is the Justice Hill factor. Yes, the Ravens paid-up for Ingram on the open market, but they also spent fourth-round draft capital on Hill, who dazzled at the combine, finishing with the No. 2 SPARQ score amongst running backs. Explosive, versatile and already flashing at training camp and in the preseason, Hill could ultimately take over as the RB1 in Baltimore by mid-season. Rather than spending mid-single-digit round fantasy draft stock on Ingram, I am waiting almost five rounds later to get my hands on Hill.

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John Ferguson – Lamar Jackson is a guy I just can’t get behind this season. I understand why people are so enamored when they drool over the upside he offers with his crazy rushing stats from last season, but he’s still a QB and not a very good one at that. He managed only one game with over 200 passing yards last season. While the Ravens receiving corps got a complete overhaul, it was a pretty underwhelming selection of new talent with rookie Marquise Brown poised to be the team’s WR1.

The main thing with Lamar that has stuck with me from when I analyzed rookie performances from last season was the incredibly unsustainable amount of fantasy points Jackson relied on from his rushing production. An incredible 63% of Jackson’s fantasy points came from rushing yards and TDs while only 30% of his points came from passing yards. To put that into perspective, modern-day mobile QBs like Deshaun Watson and Cam Newton generally have fallen in the 25%-26% range of their fantasy points coming from their rushing production.

The Ravens have and will be a run-first offense. Their defense has ranked top 10 in the least points allowed each of the last three seasons keeping overall scores low. The passing volume and efficiency just won’t be there for Jackson to be a worthy starter and if you pair that with likely rushing regression, you get a QB bust.

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Brandon Hamer – Russell Wilson is still being drafted as if he is a Top 6 Quarterback. In real life? Maybe. In fantasy? No shot. As a matter of fact, I have him outside my Top 12. We don’t know how he is going to perform with the loss of his longtime favorite target Doug Baldwin. Chris Carson ran for 1,000 yards last year and Rashaad Penny is going to get more carries this year as well. The Seahawks will remain a run-heavy team in 2019. In 2018, out of Quarterbacks who played in all 16 games, Russell Wilson ranked dead last in pass attempts with only 427. There were four quarterbacks who played less than 16 games who had more attempts than him. The Seahawks offensive line ranks near the bottom of the league yet again after not doing much of anything this offseason to improve the unit from last year. In a run-heavy offense who lost one of their best receivers and behind a shaky at best offensive line, I just don’t see Russell Wilson returning any value at his current ADP.

 

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Brad Castronovo – I think that there’s a lot of hype around Nick Chubb right now and I don’t feel comfortable buying him at his current ADP. Chubb had a fantastic breakout year in 2018, but the addition of Kareem Hunt makes me a bit uneasy about the second half of the season. I think that Chubb will be one of the top fantasy RBs in the league for the first half of the season, but it’d be a nightmare scenario if he were to enter a timeframe with the incredibly talented Hunt down the stretch. That’s not a risk I’m willing to take, and I refuse to believe Hunt will be relegated to the bench when he returns. Therefore, I think Chubb has a huge chance to be a bust at his current ADP.

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Michael Hauff –  Out of my all of my bust picks, I feel as if Kyler Murray is the one that warrants an explanation. Make no mistake, as a 49ers fan, I fully anticipate Murray giving me headaches on Sundays for years to come. Some of those headaches may even come this season, but it is his ADP compared to other players at his position that is concerning to me. As of this writing, in half-point formats, Murray is the eighth quarterback off of the board with the first pick in the eighth round. Behind him are players like Cam Newton, who had one of his most consistent seasons in 2018 as well as Drew Brees and Philip Rivers. There is no denying that there is a certain sex appeal to drafting Murray, I get it. While he will have some great games in 2019, I don’t think the Cardinals as a whole will be a good enough football team for Murray to be as consistent as the previously mentioned quarterbacks.

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Seth Keller –  This is going to upset some people. So if your the type that likes to deny the lessons history teaches us, please steel yourself. Using ProFootballReference’s Season Finder, there have only been 11 tight ends since 1970 to put up over 130 PPR points in their rookie season (130 points would have been a TE1 in both 2018 and 2017). Only 4 of these seasons coming from the past decade. I am a believer in the long term potential of many of the rookie tight ends from the 2019 class. However, the people that are screaming from the rooftops that there are rookie tight ends worth drafting in a typical 12 team 15 round redraft league are wrong! TJ Hockenson is a very talented young football player but he will find it difficult to be effective in this struggling Lions offense. The last talented tight end that the Lions had was Eric Ebron and he was never able to break into the top 12 at the position. Furthermore, Head Coach Matt Patricia has spoken many times about making this offense more of a run-first offense in 2019. Hockenson should be on the field plenty because he is a good run blocker, unfortunately, you are awarded no points in fantasy for blocking. If you use a 13th round pick on Hockenson you are basically throwing away a pick that could be used on a lotto ticket that could pay off with much greater dividends (like Ito Smith!).

Ben Cigler

Ben Cigler –  I picked Eric Ebron because his production last year will drive people to draft him higher than the return he is going to give GMs this year. Another reason is Jack Doyle is now healthy. In 2017 before Ebron came to Indianapolis, Doyle had over 100 targets (108) and caught 80 of them. Last year Ebron took over when Doyle was sidelined with injuries. In the 5 games when Doyle and Ebron were healthy, Ebron was limited to 45, 26, 21, 38 and 40 percent of the offensive snaps. The final nail in the coffin for me is touchdown production because it is something you can’t effectively predict. 13 TDs is hard to do when you are the top tight end. It’s almost impossible to repeat for a tight end, especially when he will split time. Ebron will have value, just not compared to where fantasy GMs will probably draft him this year.

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Andrew Erickson Robby Anderson has predictably the most difficult schedule of cornerbacks in the NFL this season. As the primary outside option, he will face off Tre’Davious White x 2, Denzel Ward, Stephon Gilmore x 2, Byron Jones, Jalen Ramsey, Xavien Howard x 2, Josh Norman, Joe Haden, Marlon Humphrey, and William Jackson III. He is already a boom-bust player by nature, and it’s no guarantee that he even leads the team in target share or touchdowns with Quincy Enunwa, Jamison Crowder, and Le’Veon Bell in the mix. Anderson in 2018 in Weeks 5, 14, 15, and 16 scored 24.1 points per game. The other ten weeks he averaged six points per game. Considering you can grab Allen Robinson, Will Fuller, Dante Pettis, or Curtis Samuel later, Anderson is the easiest fade for WR2s in fantasy in 2019.

Zack Patraw

Zack Patraw  I am just not sold on Damien Williams. First off, you look at what he did prior to taking over lead running back duties after Kareem Hunt left. He failed to ever reach 50 rushing attempts up until then. Now everyone just assumes because he has the opportunity that he is going to take it and run? I say not so fast. Carlos Hyde is a solid option that is capable of leading a backfield or at least sharing one, and Darwin Thompson is a more than capable rookie running back that should see a good share of touches as well. With an ADP in the late second round, I am more than just fading Williams, he’s completely off my list to draft.

 

Thanks for reading

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