by Nick Ercolano
June 05, 2019
Alright, so the juice is in the WRs and the RBs. Those are where the views come, the subscribers, but nonetheless - we have to diagnose the QB and TE positions, and since I am a doctor, we're going to do just that. Here are my quarterbacks and tight ends to avoid in 2019 fantasy football - The OFFICIAL QB and TE Do NOT Draft List.
I often say that an average NFL QB is going to be as good as the weapons around him. If Antonio Brown is gone, this offense is going to decline, imo. Ben finished as the QB3 in fantasy last year. If you had him, it was a pleasure, but it's time to break the loyalty. He attempted the most passes in the NFL last year (675), but he wasn't good. While that high volume led him to lead the league in passing yards (5,129) and 5th highest passing TD total (34), he led the NFL in interceptions (16), he threw 31 interceptable passes per PP.com (2nd most), his PFF QB grade was 17th, and adjusted completion % was 29th among 39 qualified QBs. His RZ completion percentage ranked 28th, where he led in both RZ interceptions (4) and 10zone INTs (2), and his Deepball completion percentage ranked 26th. He. Was. Not. Good.
Here's the big stat though (per Mike Tagliere's podcast) Ben totaled a league-low 46% of his yards through the air in 2019. 54% OF HIS PASSING YARDS CAME AFTER THE catch. That tells you, unsurprisingly, that his WRs were really good after the catch. Huge shock - Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Not to mention Vance McDonald moving with the ball in his hands.
Sure, the Steelers added some wideouts this offseason. The Steelers shocked a lot of people, myself included when they took Diontae Johnson with the 2nd pick in the 3rd round in this year's draft. I'm just not sure exactly what they see in Johnson. An undersized receiver, in the 18th percentile for weight-adjusted speed score. Similar metrics to Antonio Brown admittedly, except his breakout age is below average while playing against Toledo in the MAC - while Brown did it at the age of 19, 87th percentile.
** Just a side note ** Big tip for you guys, there is a TON of research being done on this (PlayerProfiler was obviously far ahead of the curve, but PFF just released articles, RotoViz has done tons of stuff), but breakout age for a wide receiver is basically the most predictive number we have for NFL success, outside of draft capital (breakout age by actual age, not year of college that they're in) - and I'd argue it's equally as important because breakout age usually tells you how good a player is, while draft capital is basically telling you how many chances a player will get. And you just think about it from a logical point of view - someone going for 60-1000-10 at the age of 19 vs someone who does it at 21.5 - you're a drastically different person as a male from a biological point of view - growing, 2 years more to get stronger, work on your routes, get faster - like if you break out at 18 or 19 - you're so naturally good at football - with tons of time to develop into a star.
So they add Johnson, they also signed Donte Moncrief to battle James Washington who was trash last year. I actually lowkey love the Moncrief signing and I've been scooping him in bestball drafts in Rounds 13, 14, 15. But regardless, outside of JuJu, they have a bunch of unproven weapons who need to capture Brown's vacated targets. You can create all the hypothetical success you want in your head, but the range of outcomes for this weapon group is huge, it could be really bad, or it could be very good - but you have to at least acknowledge what it could be.
"BuT tHe StEElErS aRe So GoOd At DrAfTinG WrS" - yeah they have been there's not denying that. JuJu, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant (who by all measures was not actually a good pick outside of one half of one season - never had a year with 800+ yards), Emmanuel Sanders, Santonio Holmes... but in that same time span they've also drafted Fred Gibson, Willie Reid, Dallas Baker, Limas Sweed, Toney Clemons, Justin Brown, Markus Wheaton, Sammie Coates, DeMarcus Ayers... Realistically, yeah they've nabbed some really great WRs, but the hit rate is still low, much lower than 50%, so... just keep that in mind.
Ben is an easy pass in an offense trending in the wrong direction, and towards more of a run-heavy approach. Give credit to PIT front office for their offensive line. If it gets to the point where Ben starts going like QB15-18, yeah I'll scoop fa sure.
Brady's name still holds value in fantasy football, after all of these years. People get really mad on the internet when I say not to draft him. The majority of you already know this, and you know that he didn't perform well last year in fantasy, but I thought if I'm gonna take down the goat, I need to bring the big facts. You come at the king, you best not miss.
Brady finished the year throwing for 4,355 yards, 29 TDs and 11 INTs. Statistically speaking, it was a solid performance all-around for a typical QB, but not so much the case for the 31 time Super Bowl champ.
For the fourth consecutive year, Brady's attempts/game (35.6), passing yards/game (272), and fantasy points/game (18.2) have decreased. Brady turns 42 this August and has put up arguably the greatest fight against father time that we as a human race have witnessed in our 2019 years on this planet.
It looks like that fight is coming maybe be coming to an end for your fantasy team in 2019. For the first time since 2010, the Patriots threw the ball on fewer than 55% of their offensive plays. It seems obvious that a run-heavy approach will be New England's game plan moving next year after drafting another running back in Damien Harris with their third round pick.
These are Brady's splits last year while both Burkhead and Sony Michel were on the field - the pass attempts numbers dropped by more than 5 per game, his yardage by 55. When they drafted Damien Harris in the 3rd round this year, they ensured that they'll have at least one, if not two or three healthy runners all year to run behind Brady. Don't forget, they also drafted Isaiah Wynn, the guard/tackle out of Georgia with their first 1st-round pick to pair with Sony Michel last year but he missed his entire rookie szn with a torn achilles.
They lose Gronk to retirement, Chris Hogan is gone, you're fooling yourself if you think Josh Gordon is going to be back and making a real impact in 2019. They did draft N'Keal Harry, who I love, with their first-round pick this year, but he's a rookie - their WR depth chart is one of the most depleted in the NFL, they had no other choice but to target a WR early in this draft. It's wheels up for the ground game in New England - their game plan is to keep Brady upright, on the field, without taking many hits is what will give them that success in 2019. Brady should be efficient, but he's not a top-10 QB this year in fantasy, so don't draft him like he is.
So, a few other guys that I don't have as much conviction on, but I know will be super popular choices. Let's talk about Patrick Mahomes, still widely looked at as the QB1, and he is still my fantasy QB1 this year, but I've been saying since March he's not someone you take before the 4th or 5th round, but he continuously went in the 2nd, sometimes 3rd round. We'd like to say that his numbers last year are unrepeatable, nearly 5,100 passing yards, 50 passing TDs - people be coming out on podcasts and be like, well by the simple mathematical equations the regression has a near 99.6% chance of occurring in the northern hemisphere - like thanks for your scorching hot take Skip Bayless. Like, yeah, it's super unlikely he puts those passing numbers up again, but he could lose 20% of his production and still be the QB1 easily. The larger debate is that he doesn't belong 30-40 picks ahead of Luck, Rodgers and Watson. Especially with what's going on with Tyreek Hill who is such a massive part of this offense. I'm not just talking about his volume (137 targets), Hill's 23.6% target share on the team was 16th among WRs in the NFL, also behind teammate Travis Kelce (26%) and George Kittle (26%), but his market share of air yards was 6th among NFL WRs (37%). He spaces the entire defense out to a degree that arguably no other weapon in the NFL does, and that's the biggest hit. Sure, Mecole Hardman is coming in, and I'm sure he'll do fine this year, hard to imagine someone failing in that spot, but he's not Tyreek Hill, and it's going to impact this offense. So, Mahomes is not much farther ahead of these other QBs in my opinion.
I broke down my love for Carson Wentz in last week's bounce-back and post-hype sleeper video, but if you're fading Wentz because of the uncertainty around his back, I completely understand and it's a very legitimate concern. We're hearing a ton of random reports this offseason about Wentz - here's a timetable, nevermind he won't be back by then, he's a full participant, wait, no he's - he's doing the movie, Vince is doing the movie! Any injury reports like this make me weary - I want to see a guy participate for a few days consecutively before I assume he's healthy - not fucking reports of "expected to be a full-go by OTAs, training camp, Week 1" - literally the most used, but most useless phrase uttered throughout the summer. So we go back to March 3 we have a report that Wentz is expected to be fully healthy by start of offszn workouts in mid-April. So, mid-April comes, on April 15th we have a report that Wentz is not fully healed, straight from the faucet "It's still getting there" - but as of last week, May 20-21, Wentz opened up OTA's as a full participant, not setbacks or restraints, no knee braces and supposedly looks very good, and healthy. The entire point of me talking for these last two minutes is just to say that I won't be fading him, but if you are because of the injury concern, getting your byke all fucked up ain't nothing to fuck wit, I'm not going to be mad acha.
The same thing goes for Cam Newton. Another guy I'm not fading, but it's his second shoulder surgery in recent years - however, the big difference with this one is that he has WAYYYYY more time to recover than the last surgery, which wasn't even recovered when the regular season in 2017 started. It was literally like August last year and Cam could barely throw yet and they just threw him into the regular season - just an absolutely horrible decision by the Panthers decision makers risking his long-term health for the start of the season. He had the shoulder surgery in January, so he has a lot of time to recover. This is definitely a situation to monitor. He's not 100% yet, I don't even think he's throwing yet. So, the same thing. Most of you guys will say it doesn't matter because you can just get another QB, but here's the thing - y'all are soft and are playing in 1QB leagues - switch your league to Superflex so QBs, who are licherally the most important positions in the NFL, matter. In that case, yeah, picking the right or wrong QBs can make or break your team, so if you're risk averse and you want to fade Cam on the notion of you don't trust him to stay healthy - also not mad atcha.
This is one I've battled myself on back and forth all offseason. His ADP has been going in the right direction, down. He was originally the TE4-5 right behind the big 3, but he's TE7 now. The easy argument is to just call out regression, which will probably be the case after Ebron caught 13 TDs last year from Andrew Luck, leading all tight ends in the category.
I will preface by saying this. I think people are gonna start fading Ebron too much. Sure he might become touchdown dependent in 2019, but that's not necessarily the worst thing considering he's on one the NFL's best offenses, with an elite QB who throws to the TE, especially in the RZ as much if not more than any QB in the NFL. Ebron won't repeat his 14-total TD number from last year, but I wouldn't be surprised if he scores 8-9 touchdowns this year, which will likely sneak you into the top 5-7 fantasy TEs.
But there are a lot of things working against Ebron. One, we just had a report surface that Ebron had some work done on his groin. Could be clean-up but we don't know anything about it. Red flag number one.
They add Devin Funchess and Parris Campbell, both guys expected to come in and make an immediate impact on this offense. Funchess moreso in the redzone given his size.
We're also assuming Jack Doyle will be back. I want to talk about this for a second because every analyst I've seen talk about this posts the exact same analysis and numbers. They look at the number of snaps Ebron played with/without Jack Doyle on the field. And yeah, I get it, the gap in snaps is significant. Ebron was on the field for 40% of the snaps when Doyle was in, compared to 63% of the time when he wasn't. But I do want to look at this from a common sense standpoint. If the Colts can't rely on Doyle to stay on the field, their gameplan isn't going to revolve around expecting that to happen. Do you know what I mean? Given what we saw from Ebron last year, how would the Colts possibly be like.. yeah you know what, let's put Ebron back in a 30% snap role? And when Doyle came back, the last three games before he got hurt again Weeks 10-12, Ebron was playing on over 50% of their snaps, so a big boost. I just think to look at this from a more common sense standpoint than the same way every single person is looking at the Jack Doyle situation, is more useful and makes more sense.
Anyways, yeah there's a lot of moving parts here with Ebron - we saw his upside, which is great, but he's not repeating it. Can he still be a top 5 TE, absolutely, if he scores 8 touchdowns, he'll be a mid-upper TE1 this year. But he's TD dependent, which means he'll have as many bad games as he does good, not exactly something I want in my lineup where he's being taken. I think we'll look back on the numbers and he will be top 10, probably top 8, and people will be like wow I hated Ebron too much, but birds-eye view numbers don't paint the picture and we're going to see inconsistency out of him. At pick 69, I'd much rather take Hunter Henry, Tyler Boyd, Rashaad Penny, even Latavius Murray, all guys going around that pick.
Austin Hooper had a semi-big year, but the guy kind of stinks, tbh. Hooper had more games of 0 yards this year then he did 80 yards. That's because the guy had 0 games of 80+ yards, and caught 0 passes for 0 yards in Week 15 against Arizona. It's been 33 games since Hooper has hit 80 receiving yards in a game. You have to go back to Week 1 of 2017 when some asshole safety on Chicago blew his coverage and let up an 80-yard TD to him. Hooper had three decent games this year thanks to TDs that propelled him up TE rankings. Otherwise, the guy scored fewer than 7 FPs in 10-of-16 games.
I'm good. I'm a Falcons fan, I know what Hooper is, there's no upside here. There's no breakout coming.
Chicago with a lot of mouths to feed, getting fed by a QB that doesn't put up enough statistics passing wise to make this intriguing. You also have to remember that Adam Sheehan missed nearly the entire season with the summer foot/ankle injury. He was placed on the I.R. and returned in Week 11. By that point in the season, nine games in, he had one big game (9-126-1) against NE - but through those nine games, Burton was giving you 3.5 receptions and 45 receiving yards - not exactly amazing numbers given Burton is a TE that's 6'3-235lbs and you need those smaller TEs to be quicker, shiftier after the catch, more explosive because they lack the size.
Once Shaheen returned in Week 11, Burton's numbers dipped even further:
Over the final 7 games of the year with Shaheen in the lineup, Burton scored once, didn't eclipse 36 yards ever, and had the same amount of targets inside-the-10 yard line as Shaheen. You also look at the snap share, things started going more in favor of Shaheen:
For as cliché as it is and how much people make fun of it, it frequently translates into dominant RZ play - Shaheen was a college basketball player - a very good athlete, in the 83rd percentile as a weight-adjusted athlete, massive size (6'6 - 278), was a 2nd round pick. He's going to kill Burton in the RZ.
I wouldn't be shocked if Burton finished with around the same numbers as last year: ~50 receptions, 500-600 yards, but I'd set the over-under for his TD total around 4, not the 6 he scored in 2018.
Do yourself a favor and stop drafting these 34-year olds coming off of massive lower body injuries, please - Delanie Walker, Greg Olsen. Walker is far from 100% right now, the only thing we've gotten is estimated percentages of how well he feels, he's going to be 35 years old in August, coming off of a broken ankle, you don't heal quickly or get that explosion back when you're this age. Wouldn't be surprised if he was a 50% snap player this year, if not on the PUP to open up the year - they add A.J. Brown and Adam Humphries to an offense that should be very run heavy. Don't waste your time.
Greg Olsen's foot was a huge concern entering last year, and it didn't make us feel any better when he injured it, returned weeks later, injured it again, had foot surgery again this offseason. I'd be shocked if that foot held up all 2019. Ian Thomas is the TE to target in this passing offense. A 70th percentile weight-adjusted speed score, over the last five games of the season when Olsen was gone, Thomas averaged really good numbers:
5 catches on 6.4 targets/game, almost 50 receiving yards and 0.4 touchdowns. Thomas is a very sharp buy-low candidate in dynasty leagues, who's literally 22, I think he turns 23 tomorrow so shoutout you Ian Thomas, happy birthday big man. Don't let big dog nation down.
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