by Nick Ercolano
May 21, 2019
The post-hype sleepers, the ones we've all forgotten about for whatever circumstances. They were hurt, someone else emerged, they datin' the coaches daughter. Ifso facto, these guys are ready to bounce-back in 2019 fantasy football. Let's get this bread
2018 Fantasy Rank: QB23, QB17 FPPG
2019 Fantasy ADP per DRAFT.com: QB13, 114
Big Dick Nick is gone. Things can return to normal in the brain of Carson Wentz. Wentz will be fully recovered, ready to roll in 2019, with one thing on his mind. To make me look good on my channel. Predicting a let-down 2018 campaign was easy after supercharged 2017. We say time and again in the HQ, one of the most telling/predictive stats for a QB is the TD rate. In 2017, Wentz threw a TD pass on 7.5% of his throws. It's an outlier of a number, Rodgers, Brady and Brees all hover around the 5.5% mark for their career. He had nowhere to go but down in the passing efficiency category. Wentz rate dropped down to 5.2% last year, which is still a solid number. Looking at the Eagles' passing volume Wentz has come in the league, they've attempted 595, 565 and 610 attempts, giving you an average of 590 attempts - safe number given the style of offense the eagles have. A 5.2% TD rate would give Wentz (or the PHI QB) 31 passing touchdowns on 590 attempts.
I think Wentz over/under for pass TDs should be safely around 30. That's a fantastic number for a guy that you're getting at around QB15. The other part of his game is the rushing ability. That was completely scaled back in 2018 because he was coming off of the torn ACL. His rushing totals of the L5 games of 2018 went: -3, -4, -2, 6, 7. The L5 games of 2017: 16, 30, 29, 18, 8. Those couple of extra points are the difference from being QB15 in FPPG down to QB7 or 8.
What else I love was them bringing back DeSean Jackson in free agency. A legitimate field stretcher. Not someone they keep trying to make work, but failing miserably. I.E. Mike Wallace. Torrey Smith - like, Philly, just stop, this ain't Madden fam. Just cause they all got the 95 speed don't mean they're beating coverage the same. And you look at the receiving core Wentz had in his big 2017 campaign. No one even hit 825 receiving yards - not Ertz, not Jeffery, not Agholor. Vegas has already pegged D-Jax's yardage total over/under at 900.5. Ertz will get his, Jeffery will near that. Then they go strong on the offensive side of the ball in the 2019 NFL Draft.
They add three offensive players within the first three rounds. 1st rounder Andre Dillard at tackle who will take over for the 37-year-old Jason Peters and will also act as depth for this line and used two second rounders on Miles Sanders who is an athletic back that will catch passes from the backfield as well as the monster of a man in J.J. Arcega-Whiteside from Standford, a fantastic redzone weapon and on contested catches which plays well to Wentz style of play, use that big arm and let his receivers make plays down the field.
Wentz is in a really good spot to smash his ADP and possible inch his way back near the top 5.
2018 Fantasy Rank: RB24 overall, RB26 FPPG (half PPR)
2019 Fantasy ADP per DRAFT.com: RB24, 115
If there is a player I've heard less about this offseason, I'd be surprised. I haven't heard a single thing about Ekeler being a really good, under-the-radar fantasy pick in 2019. I imagine it has something to do with him not blowing up when Melvin Gordon got hurt and he got the opportunity, but Ekeler was never going to be a workhorse - he's 5-9, 199lbs. I'd guess it also has to do with, similar to his starting counterpart, Ekeler missed two games a year after his rookie campaign fell three games short of a full 16. A full 16 had Ekeler finish with right under 1,100 total yards and 7 touchdowns - I think you'd take that from someone going after pick 100. Obviously, if you're a Melvin Gordon owner he's going to be someone that you should draft a round or two earlier.
The guy as I'm filming this is literally 23, turning 24 like tomorrow lol, but he's ready to roll:
Ekeler's quietly been one of the NFL's most efficient backs since he entered the league in 2017, both as a runner and pass-catcher. Averaged 5.5 ypc in 2017, he more than doubled his carry total in 2018 and kept his YPC above 5 (5.2). He averaged 10.3 YPR in 2017, which was 6th amongst all RBs with at least 25 catches on the year. That's a big number for an RB, usually, that's non-repeatable, but Ekeler did it again last year, catching 12 more passes in 2018 then he did in 2017 while increasing the YPR to 10.4, 3rd in the NFL - the guy is just a playmaker. And a big playmaker too - he was #1 among NFL running backs last year in breakaway run rate, the highest percentage (9.4%) of runs that went for 15+ yards. Almost 10% of his runs went for 15+ yards. He was 4th in the NFL last year in yards per touch. The guy doesn't need 20 touches to be a really good fantasy flex for you.
Are we worried about Austin Ekeler lite? Justin Jackson? No. The Chargers had no intentions of having Jackson's playtime eat into Ekeler's. Jackson played on more than 37% of the snaps once, that was Week 15 when neither Ekeler nor Gordon played against the Chiefs. Jackson averaged 3.6 YPC that game, KC was one of the worst run defenses in the NFL last year. When Gordon was out, Ekeler was seeing a near 75% snap split in the backfield. Jackson is a sub-200lb 7th round pick that does what Ekeler does, just not as good.
2018 Fantasy Rank: WR61 overall, WR25 FPPG (half PPR)
2019 Fantasy ADP per DRAFT.com: WR35, 85
As you guys may or may not know, I'm in on a Matthew Stafford and overall Lions offensive comebyke in 2019, for reasons listed in this video. Jones just turned 29 years old, so even if at the tail end of his prime, he's still very much in it. He only played in 9 games, really only 8.5 last year, after suffering a serious "bone bruise" in his knee which led to surgery. He's expected to be a full participant in OTAs. Prior to 2018, he played in 47-of-48 games so health isn't a concern for me moving forward.
Kenny Golladay is the alpha in Detroit from this point moving forward. I don't hate that at all. Jones isn't built to be the WR1, imo, although he proved in 2017 that he can be. But now he gets the second CB on opposing defenses. He can do what he's meant to do, and that's stretch the field. He had multiple productive years playing behind A.J. Green in Cincinnati as the Bengals number two, including that 10-touchdown campaign in 2013.
Jones really wasn't bad last year, he averaged nearly 11 half ppr FPs game, which lands him at about WR25 in FPPG (guys that played in more than 8 games), if you don't count that final game where he left injured, that PPG number is boosted and he's around WR20 in PPG. Do I think he has the WR1 upside he produced in 2017? No way. But then again, I actually wouldn't be surprised if he produced similar numbers 61-1100-9, the only reason he was a WR1 that year was the overall position was miserable in fantasy, his 12.2 PPG that year would've been like WR20 this year, and not that far off from what he actually produced in 2018.
Last year saw Stafford throw his lowest total of RZ and 10Z passes ever in a season. I think we see those numbers increase a bit in volume and that's good news considering Jones is constantly a top target down there. He only played in 8.5 games last year, and he tied Kenny Golladay for the team-lead with 6 10-zone targets. If you pace that to a full 16-game pace Jones is top-3 in 10zone targets. Speaking of targets, Golden Tate, of course, is gone, so that'll free up targets overall.
Fantasy players are going to look at 2018 and be very down on the Lions and this passing game, I get it, recency bias, and you can't completely write it off, but they have a really solid group of weapons around Matthew Stafford and a top-8 pass-blocking line per PFF with a chance to be even better in 2019. A better line gives Stafford more time, giving Jones more time to get open deep, him going against CB2's. I think he's a great pick at WR36 for someone that can easily finish 10-15 spots higher in the rankings than his ADP.
2018 Fantasy Rank: WR30 Overall, WR37 FPPG (half ppr)
2019 Fantasy ADP per DRAFT.com: WR43, 105
Fitz resigns to Arizona for what is likely his final year in the NFL, one-year, $11 million. They obviously still think he's got something left in the tank.
And so do I.
For the same reason I like a lot of the Cardinals players in 2019 fantasy football, Fitz the gawd finds himself on this list. With Kliff Kingsbury leading the charge, I have no idea if this team is going to stink, but one thing we know for sure is that they're going to throw the ball, and at a worst, going to run far more plays on offense than they did last year:
You see on the bottom, once Mike McCoy took over last year, their play volume suicidally drove right off a cliff.
With Rosen under center last year, Fitz averaged over 7 targets/game, that's a 112-target pace for the year. I'll take even 100 targets for Fitz who's going to catch 90 of them in the 10th round. You also have to take a look at what Kliff Kingsbury did with his slot WRs in college:
Those are dominant numbers for a college receiver. The slot is a massive part of Kingsbury's offense and that's where Fitz ran nearly 70% of his routes in 2018. Does Fitz still have top-12 upside as he showed from 2015-2017, probably not, but I would not be shocked at all if he finished inside fantasy's top-25 wide receivers in PPR leagues. He's someone that if you can get him in dynasty for a 3rd round pick, I'm pulling that trigger like Omar.
Golden Tate - WR, New York Giants
Am I a fan of the signing, ehh. Am I running out to target him in my drafts. Also mehhh. But Tate has been one of the premier NFL playmakers over the course of his career. Tate was traded by Detroit in late October, it was the last year of his contract, they weren't paying him. Tate leaves Detroit as the team's leading receiver on the season with 517 yards and three touchdowns on 44 receptions to this name. The veteran wideout saw 26.6 percent of the Lions' targets in 2018. A massive piece of their offense, and he started off on fire.
He goes to Philly and just doesn't fit that offense at all.
He signs the 4-year, $37.5M contract with the Giants who just got ride of Evan Engram. They do already have a slot WR in Sterling Shepard, but he can play outside too. They asked him too much more in 2018 under Pat Shurmur, and I'm assuming they will again thanks to the Tate signing. He ran nearly 42% of his snaps from the outside in 2018, yeah OBJ missed some time, but he missed almost all of 2017 and Shep was just a 23.5% outside guy.
So, Tate will occupy the slot that's clearly going to focus less on the deep ball now that OBJ is in Cleveland, as they should, given Eli has routinely ranked outside of the top 20 in terms of deep ball accuracy over the last five years. His aDOT has been 7.8 or fewer in each of the past two seasons, ranking 30th or worse among NFL QBs. This fits with Tate's game. An 80+ catch, 900-yard, 5 touchdown season wouldn't surprise me at all from Tate here in 2019.
Ronald Jones/Peyton Barber - RB, Tampa Bay Bucs
Both have the opportunity in Tampa, with a new HC and no additions to the backfield which is out of control. Funny ass thing from a podcast with Evan Silva and someone else? A high-stakes DFS guy - who owns a club in Vegas - saw Jones there eating cheeseburgers and getting hammered right before the season was kicking off - wasn't ready for the league (youngest RB in the class)
Geronimo Allison - WR, Green Bay Packers
Anthony Miller - WR, Chicago Bears
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