by Nick Ercolano
August 01, 2018
This one was a tough one for me to write because I usually do this piece early in the summer before you guys hear my analysis on most players. So now that I've waited until almost August, I feel like these bold predictions need to be really bold, otherwise, they're not really that fun. I also wanted to do bold predictions that I actually believe will happen. I'm not just going to say... oh well here's a bold prediction, player X scores 21 touchdowns and finishes as WR1. The only predictions I make are based on big facts only to byke them up.
Before I start though, I want to hear one of your guys' bold predictions down low. You can write one, two, three, three hunnid. Idc, just drop em down, love hearing bold predictions. So do that real quick. Also, hit the thumbs up button while you're down there.
I'm going to give you three.
1. Sammy Watkins finishes with the most fantasy points on the Chiefs offense in 2018. Ahead of Kelce. Ahead of Tyreek Hill. And yes, ahead of Kareem Hunt. This is fucking bold, considering all three of those guys are going at least 45 picks before Watkins is: Hunt (10), Kelce (24), Hill (28). I've already heavily voiced my concern about Hunt and Hill this year, very much so. To reiterate quickly this is my problem - Kareem Hunt saw a little bit below 90% of the Chiefs carries in 2017, and number far, far above the typical carry split we've seen under Andy Reid. The RB2 normally sees between 20-35% of the carries in Kansas City. Last year, that number was 6%. The reason, because Spence Ware tore his PCL and LCL. Hear, what I'm saying. In no way do I think Ware is a better runner than Hunt, Hunt is very good, but Ware being back healthy means Reid won't exhaust the sophomore back who balled out in 2017. Ware is also a big back, who weighs almost 230lbs, some serious size on Hunt. Hunt only saw 6 GL carries in 2017, Ware saw 9 despite playing in two fewer games. Hunt also scored 4 of his 11 TDs from 35+ yards out in 2017, a distance you can't chase to repeat. So, a dip in overall volume, plus having the GL carries taken away scare me off of Hunt. Travis Kelce is the one most likely to repeat his numbers here imo, but he's the least likely to actually challenge Watkins for overall FPs, Kelce is a beast for his position, but when you stick tight ends in the overall flex category in terms of just straight up fantasy points, they don't compete with the RB1s and WR1s. Tyreek Hill is an easy fade as a WR1 for 2018 fantasy football. An amazing real-life player, Hill's efficiency last year was ridiculously high, while so was Alex Smith's, who ranked 6th in the NFL in deep ball attempts and 1st overall in deep ball completion percentage, a number that, whether or not it was Hill's doing, like chicken or the egg, it's going to be extremely difficult for Patrick Mahomes to match Smith's efficiency, even if in a vacuum, Mahomes is a far superior deep ball thrower.
So, what's good with Watkins. Slapped with the injury-prone label due to early career foot and lower leg problems, Watkins is coming off of set-back free 15-game (rested in Week 17) szn in LA. Watkins signed a fat contract this offszn, the biggest among all FA WRs, to the tune of 3-years and $48M. You have to take note when a play caller like Andy Reid, a genius offensive mind goes out and hand picks this guy. He's going to have big plans for Watkins. And that's what we're hearing out of camp concerning Sammy Watkins.
Chiefs.com's B.J. Kissel writes the connection between Patrick Mahomes and Sammy Watkins is "real." Kissel writes Mahomes and Watkins have consistently been connecting throughout the offseason program, and fellow receiver Chris Conley said Watkins has picked up the offense "as fast as anyone I've seen." You're obviously going to hear a lot of reports like this throughout the offszn, but it's better than the opposite. Watkins was traded to the Rams offense in mid-August, so he had just a few weeks to learn this Rams offense, gain chemistry and make an impact. He'd still finish with 8 touchdowns on just 66 targets.
Coach Andy Reid said he's been moving Sammy Watkins "all over the place" on offense. "We were moving him everywhere," Reid said. "He hasn't had to do that in his career." Per Rotoworld - "In past stops with the Bills and Rams, Watkins has been a traditional X receiver on the back side of defenses, routinely facing the other team's best corner or seeing double coverage."
I absolutely love this. Anytime you're moving a receiver around and having them learn multiple positions it's a positive in my eye. It's not easy for a defense to learn all of someone's strengths and weaknesses, so if you're moving Watkins around, he might be a beast out of the slot, but also very good outside, he gets to use all of his attributes.
Watkins was a former top-5 pick back in 2014 coming out of Clemson. He just missed the 1,000-yard mark during his rookie year, while scoring 6 touchdowns, a really nice rookie campaign. In 2015, he was only able to play in 13 games, but managed to catch 60 passes for 1,047 yards and 9 touchdowns. Paced out to 16 games you're looking at 74 catches, just under 1,300 yards and 11 touchdowns. He would finish that year going for over 80 yards in all 6 of their final games, four going for 100+ as well as scoring 6 touchdowns in those 6 games. High hopes led to Watkins high ADP in 2016. He entered the year with a bum foot, only to further injure it early on, miss 8 games and pretty much have a lost season.
Then, as I said, he was traded to LA with little time to develop into a real threat on this team. Watkins ranked 5th in the NFL in QB Rating when targeted, 8th in production premium and 11th in target premium. Really what I'm getting at is, I don't see any reason to believe that Watkins' talents have gone anywhere, it's just been bad luck with injuries and/or really bad situations for the former top-5 pick, who is still just 25 years old.
A deep threat, with 4.43-speed, 90th % WASS, Watkins will play the possession role as well as see plenty of opportunity downfield. As I mentioned, Alex Smith in this offense last year threw the 6th most deep balls in 2017. Jared Goff ranked 20th among NFL QBs. Last year, 9-of-39 receptions went for 20+ yards for Watkins, and back in his breakout 2015 season, Watkins ranked 2nd in YPT, 6th in YPR and his aDOT was 2nd highest in the NFL. He's a good deep threat. But the Chiefs need another target near the EZ outside of Kelce, that's where Watkins will succeed. He balled out last year in the RZ for the Rams. He saw just 10 RZ targets last year, converting 7 of them into TDs, 4-of-5 inside the 10Z, where Kelce was a barely involved, seeing just 3 10Z targets. The Chiefs threw the ball in the RZ on 61% of their plays, 5th highest in the NFL.
So, he's a deep threat, with high-end speed, but will play the X-receiver position while moving around as their possession receiver in an offense that throws the ball a lot in the RZ and he's a very strong RZ receiver. This is the year Watkins pulls it together.
2. Anthony Miller scores 8+ TDs on his way to being the Chicago Bears #1 fantasy WR in PPR leagues and fantasy's WR1 in 2018.
"I've talked endlessly about my love for Miller this offseason. He's my dynasty WR1 in this year's class, and I'm not just talking about it, I believe it. I traded one of my 1st round rookie picks next year for Miller in one of my dynasty leagues.
I've been touting him all summer, and now the training camp reports are boomin', unsurprisingly.
According to ESPN Bears reporter Jeff Dickerson, second-rounder Anthony Miller is "earmarked" for the slot receiver job. That was never ever a concern in my mind. The question for me becomes, how long until Miller is the starter in 2WR sets. However, per Warren Sharp's 2018 Football Preview which I highly suggest y'all cop on Amazon, last year the Chiefs ran 3WR personnel on ust 53% of their plays, but once Nagy took over play calling duties, that number jumped up a full 10% to 63%.
The Bears traded up to get this guy. So they have this new HC, Matt Nagy who was terrific as the Chiefs OC, coming in and hand picking this playmaker, Miller.
*0:08-0:26 - double move routes*
*0:45-1:21 - One-handed catch, next play tough stiff arm*
*1:35-1:55 great double move - strong hands, contested in tight space*
*2:10 - great YAC*
*2:40 - best play on here by far - if that isn't Antonio Brown idk what is. Amazing route inside the 10, really tight space, amazing hands*
*4:58 - incredibly tough contested catch in EZ for TD*
191 catches for 2,896 yards and 32 touchdowns in his last two seasons of college. 32 touchdowns over the last two years. This guy is just a playmaker. It doesn't matter who he's playing against. He's going to get the job done. Of course, playing for Memphis is going to naturally dissuade people. But looking back at last season, they played against some decent opponents. For one, UCF, Central Florida, yes the 13-0, real national champs, on the road, Miller caught 14 balls for 195 yards and 3 tuddys. They played at Houston, Miller went 10-178. Against UCLA: 9-195-2. In 2016, Houston was a good team, Miller went 15-169-2. Against Ole Miss, 10-132. I know Ole Miss wasn't good in 2016, but still an SEC defense. Against a 10-3 Tulsa team, 12-250-2, Against the champs in 2016 - 10-153-1. You get the point, and that is, although he played weaker opponents, he balled out against his toughest ones while at Memphis.
Trubisky is a guy who loves to throw the ball over the middle of the field and is much better doing so. Even dating back to college, that one year at UNC where Trubisky was a starter, guess who he leaned on - Ryan Switzer, who is now an NFL slot receiver, 5-8 181lbs - caught 96 balls for 1,112 yards with Trubisky throwing him the ball. Looking at last year too, Kendall Wright saw the high majority of targets from Trubisky's small sample size. Also per Warren Sharp's preview "On all downs when targeting the middle of the field, Trubisky's 105 QB ratings ranked 7th/32 QBs and his success rate ranked 2nd in the NFL. On early downs only, Trubisky's 114 rating ranked 3rd with a league-best 69% success rate."
The best part about this whole Bears offense, everyone is new. Allen Robinson, Trey Burton, Taylor Gabriel. No one has a leg up when it comes to getting on the coaches good side, or gaining a connection and chemistry with Mitch Trubisky. It's a level playing field and I think given what we know about Trubisky and his success throwing the ball at certain parts of the field, and Miller's talent, they'll gain a really quick connection over the summer.
Lastly, I just love Miller's story and the fact that he has that chip on his shoulder. “You can see he’s a playmaker,” Nagy said. “He plays with some confidence. As coaches, we said this when we drafted him, you saw the tape, saw that he could make plays, and he plays with a little of that swag. And you never want to take that away. You’ve got to control it."
Miller - "I came from nothing,” he said. “I was a walk-on. Nobody offered me. Now I’m a second-round pick and I’m out here with the Chicago Bears, one of the best organizations in the league, and I couldn’t be more blessed to be here. So I’m going to have fun every chance I have to get out here.”
3. C.J. Anderson outscores Christian McCaffrey in 0.5 PPR
Yup, I actually stole this from someone that tweeted it at me yesterday when I asked on Twitter. So shoutout you for being the plug. This was my favorite one I heard, and the more I thought about it, the less outrageous it became.
I wanted to take a completely statistical and mathematical approach to see if this was actually possible. So, that's exactly what I did.
Last year, Christian McCaffrey finished with 188.6 fantasy points (0.5 PPR), which was good for RB11 overall, RB13 PPG. C-Mac gained 435 rushing yards on 117 carries, scoring twice (3.7 ypc), but obviously was great as a receiving back, catching 80 of 106 targets for 651 yards and 5 scores. So, the questions we need to answer are these:
1. Will McCaffrey get more work in the running game?
2. Will he be more efficient in the running game?
3. Is his role in the passing game going to be the same?
Question #1, will he get more work in the running game? He saw 117 carries last year. That's not a lot. I feel like Carolina showed their cards when, well for 1... they gave Jonathan Stewart 198 carries to McCaffrey's 117 last year. If you wanted to give him more work, why wouldn't you do it while Stewart was averaging 3.4 ypc. That was the worst mark of all 27 RBs in the NFL with 170 carries or more.
So, sure we can talk about McCaffrey putting on a hole 5lbs this offseason, but them going out and signing Anderson tells me that he's going to stick right into the Stewart role. So, do I think he will get more work in the running game, no I don't.
Question #2, will he be more efficient in the running game? It would be difficult to be less efficient right? Well, I would've said I agree, but they let go of their All-Pro LG Andrew Norwell this summer. Shootout my man Wade for sending this to me, he's going to have to confirm where this is from I think it's from Sharp Football Stats, but take a look:
McCaffrey was pretty trash running to almost every part of the line, ohh but guess what? 5.48 ypc at the LG. Who was their LG last year? Ohhh, right Andrew Norwell, PFF's #3 overall graded guard in the NFL last year. Will this make an impact on McCaffrey, yes. And it will on the rest of the team too, so I'm not so quick to pull the trigger on his efficiency to go up.
Question #3, is his role in the passing game going to be the same? It should be the same, but I don't expect any increase in usage. I mean, his 106 targets led all NFL running backs. That's a lot for a running back, so I wanted to take a look back at RBs that have seen around this target number and what happened the following year. Since the year 2007, that's as far back as PFF goes, there have been five running backs that have seen 100 or more targets in a season.
The results were not pretty, in favor of seeing the same amount of volume. Now, I'm aware that this chart has absolutely nothing to do with McCaffrey's outlook in 2018, or holds any predictive value but idk, maybe it says something like team's that rely so much on passing to RBs in a certain season need to get more offensive weapons and distribute their passing game elsewhere. Which is exactly what the Panthers did. First off, they get Greg Olsen back who missed most of last season with a leg injury. 4-of-5 of C-Mac's receiving scores came in games in which Olsen missed, his per game numbers and receptions dipped pretty dramatically when Olsen was in the lineup. They also drafted D.J. Moore with their first round pick. They traded for Torrey Smith, signed Jarius Wright, get 2016 first round pick Curtis Samuel back. There is way more to work with in this offense for Cam Newton than was in 2017 - not a great thing for McCaffrey. So, even if you think he sees an uptick in rushing volume, there's very, very little room for him to see more volume in the passing game, and very likely sees a decrease. He'll still see a ton of volume, like 90 targets is still a shit ton for a RB, but that would be 16 fewer than he saw in 2017 and would be a huge hit to his fantasy bottom line.
So my realistic projection for McCaffrey in 2018 would be around 500 rushing yards, 72 receptions and about 580 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns. Really not unreasonable, almost 1,100 total yards and five scores. Those numbers would put him at 174 fantasy points (0.5 PPR).
So, what does C.J. have to do to beat that? Stewart has been a guy that's ranked inside the NFL's top-8 in terms of rushing volume inside-the-5 yard line for the last three years. He gets a ton of GL work, scoring 21 touchdowns over the last three years. I think, one, Anderson gets all of that work. 2. Anderson will be more efficient than Stewart's 3.4 ypc, but will still get around 200 carries. The separater for me is in the passing game. Stewart caught just 8 passes in each of the previous two seasons, or .57/game. Anderson, over the last four seasons with the Broncos has averaged 2 receptions per game, and has never dipped below an 80% catch rate, while Stewart's catch rate over these last two years have been an abysmal 62% and 50%. So, Anderson offers more upside and efficiency at all apsects than Stewart at this point in his career. So, I'll keep Anderson at 210 carries around what Stewart has been at, and I'm going to put him at 4.1 ypc, idk why, but that's where I'll put it. So that's 861 rushing yards. I'm gonna be bold, and since there has been so much opportunity for Stewart at the GL, let's say C.J. scores 9 rushing touchdowns. Stewart did it in 2016, so why can't CJ do it now. That gives CJ 140.1 fantasy points. He just needs 34 more to beat my projection. I'm going to give him one receiving touchdown, Stewart has scored a receiving TD in three of the last four years, so that's 28 more points. As I said, Anderson should be more effective and ultimately more trusted and involved in the passing game, so I'll give him 20 receptions on the season. That's 10 fantasy points, so 18 left. At C.J.'s career 8.3 YPR mark, that would be 166.6 receiving yards, or 16.6 fantasy points, leaving us two shy of C-Macs and idk that's close enough, with any luck he'll make those two points up somewhere.
Kerryon Johnson finishes as #2 fantasy rookie
Emmanuel Sanders > Demaryius Thomas
J. Winston is a top-3 QB ppg.
Bonus ** Raiders finish with the worst record in the NFL.
by Nick Ercolano
January 14, 2019
by Nick Ercolano
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