by Noah Pires
February 01, 2019
Sleepers? In February?
I figured I'd get out in front of things and make some bold claims for 2019. A lot of these rely on teams not making big moves in the offseason, so some of my analysis could possibly be trash in two weeks. I'm okay with that, I'll fall on that sword, I'll die on that hill, I'll use another cliche. What I won't do, though, is not provide content for you during this sad stretch between the Super Bowl and the Preseason. That wouldn't be just. Without further ado, get your pen and paper out, it's time to take notes. Class is in session, and there's no better time to learn than the present (I warned you I'd use another cliche).
KIRK COUSINS - MINNESOTA VIKINGS
As we all know, Kirk Cousins, in real life, is a complete bum, and that's putting it nicely. The guy is being paid way too much to blow this hard, but hey, I can't be mad at the guy, I'd take the money too if I knew I could finesse it out of somebody. Anyway, I'm not here to talk about whether or not Kirk Cousins should be living off food stamps, I gather you all here to clear up some things about my man in Minnesota. Sure, you can let reality cloud your judgement and say "well, he sucks in real life, why should I trust him as my QB1?", but I'd advise straying away from that analysis. Why? Well, let's hop into it.
Firstly, look at his weapons. Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph (ok, maybe I shouldn't include him in the same sentence as the two preceeding names), and even Dalvin Cook. All of these guys, aside from Cook, finished top 10 at their position (1/2 PPR) in 2018, something that can't be done without semi-decent fantasy QB play. If these guys are scoring touchdowns, guess who's throwing them? Last year, Cousins dropped a Hiroshima level bomb of touchdowns, the big three-oh, for the first time in his career. Along with that accolade, he surpassed 4,000 passing yards for the fourth straight season. Despite this, he finished outside the top-8 quarterbacks for the first time in nearly half a decade (when I phrase it that way, it sounds a lot longer than 4 years). Why is this you may ask? Well, it's two main things.
One, the influx of fantasy points at the position this season. Sure, we all know Patrick Mahomes channeled his inner Elton John and summoned Rocket Man (by the way, if you haven't heard this masterpiece, give it a listen), but beyond him, seven other quarterbacks eclipsed 300 fantasy points, which is more than both 2017 and 2016 combined. Cousins by no means had a poor season statistically, but in comparison to others in 2018, he wasn't as dominant as he had been in the past. Keep in mind, though, that this was his first season in Minnesota and was playing under an OC who just got sent out to pasture. I'm not making excuses for 'Ol Kirk, but this first year could have been a lot worse, so the fact that it didn't should be seen as a positive heading into his second season in the purple and gold.
Secondly, and this may surprise you, a major reason Kirk fell outside the top 8 quarterbacks this season was due to his rushing numbers. Kirk is by no means a threat with his legs, clocking in at a 4.93 40-time, but in Washington, he found paydirt...a lot. In his 3 seasons as the full-time starter, he scored 13 rushing touchdowns. THIRTEEN. To put that into perspective, Russell Wilson and Tyrod Taylor each have 16 career rushing touchdowns. Kirk never dipped below 4 in a season and topped out at 5, which is an extra 24-30 fantasy points, while with the Vikings, he scored once with his legs. The 20-24 point difference from those additional rushing TDs would have made him the QB8 this year. Maybe with an actual running game (dread)headed by Dalvin Cook his rushing touchdowns won't revert back to what he boasted in the past, but I believe he can certainly make up for it in the passing game with the additional weapons he has in Minnesota compared to the shitshow that was the Redskins.
Now, why am I loving Kirk? Well, I had conducted a few polls recently (very scientific of me if I may add) on Tweeter to gauge people's thoughts on the QB landscape heading into next year, and to my surprise, Kirk came in at #18.
I must admit, there are a ton of good quarterbacks ahead of him, but the fact that he's being viewed as a bottom 16 QB is preposterous. Obviously I know it's way too early to take ADP seriously, hence the title, but recency bias is a huge factor in fantasy football, and when the public fades a player, that's when we pounce. I understand that you may be worried about investing in a quarterback that only finished inside the top 12 in 7/16 games, but guys like Tom Brady, Mitchell Trubisky and Jared Goff all either fell short of or matched that number (Brady 6x, Trubisky 6x, Goff 7x).
In 2019, I'm loving where I can scoop up Kirk Cousins. He's getting a healthy Dalvin Cook back, which has shown to help his production
and plays for a team that wants to throw the ball, coming in at a 64% pass rate, 4th highest in the league (63% of the time when Cook played). It remains to be seen who will be the OC in 2019, but I have enough faith in Cousins, who looks to be undrafted/a late round steal, to be a solid top 12 option for the upcoming season.
JOSH ALLEN - BUFFALO BILLS
What a coincidence, two quarterbacks who STINK in real life coming in as some of my favorite sleepers for 2019. If I was a Giants fan, I'd like terrible quarterbacks in real life AND in fantasy. Anyways, the reason I'm such a huge fan of Allen is relatively simple, he had absolutely NOTHING this year, yet he still produced. From Week 12 (after returning from injury) on, he was fantasy's QB1, finishing top 5 on four separate occasions, with his worst performance in that span coming against the Patriots (QB22). Most of his production didn't come from that rocket arm however. Instead, Allen decided to run off on the plug more than twice, and to his benefit, he got away safely, amassing 476 yards and five tuddies on the ground over that six week span. When you pace that out to a full 16 games, it totals an ungodly number, 1,269 (nice) yards, to be exact. Obviously the chances of him sustaining this efficiency on the ground is about as likely as Manti Teo getting to play footsie with his girlfriend, but it points to the upside and potential he has. Take a look at Cam Newton, for example. Outside of his 2015 MVP campaign, he has never thrown for more than 24 touchdowns, and he has eclipsed 3,500 passing yards just four times in his eight year career, yet he has finished as a top 12 fantasy QB six times. Like Newton, Allen isn't quite the elite passer one would hope to boast at the helm, but he's still young, and his ability to use his feet more than makes up for it for fantasy purposes.
Another thing that worked against him was a depleted receiving core. I mean, let's just look at his top receivers in 2018, shall we?
Zay Jones: 56/652/7
Robert Foster: 27/541/3
KeLvin Benjamin: 23/354/1
Listed above we have a guy who almost jumped out a window in the preseason, an Alabama alum who recorded 2 catches through the first 9 weeks of the season, and a guy who, as Booger McFarland would and did say, was one Popeye's biscuit away from playing tight end. Are ya kidding me? Imagine going into your first season in the NFL, having to learn from Nathan fucking Peterman and A.J. McCarron in the offseason, and being thrown into the fire that was the 2018 Buffalo Bills. All things considered, he did pretty damn well.
Sure, he may not be any good in real life, but that may actually play to his benefit. Think about it, come August, who's going to want to waste a draft pick on a guy who looked awful last year and plays for the Bills? Me, that's who. If he lands inside the top 20 QBs (ADP), I'll be shocked, and I wouldn't even be surprised if he's closer to 25 than 20. A few reasons why he may jump up a few spots in the span from now until August (I'm currently writing this on January 27th) is due to the Bills' cap space and the ensuing NFL draft. The Bills have the 3rd most cap space at the moment, and with guys like Golden Tate, John Brown (I will literally explode if the Bills get him, that would be beautiful), Robby Anderson, and hell, even Randall Cobb, becoming free agents this offseason, the Bills are in line to make some much needed additions to the receiving core. Even at tight end, they could make a run for Jared Cook or Tyler Eifert if they wanted to. The world is their oyster, and Josh Allen will certainly be a beneficiary. Along with free agency, the Bills hold the 9th overall pick, meaning they could invest in an offensive lineman, as they ranked 19th in pass blocking in 2018, per ProFootballFocus. Even if they bring a receiver or two in, or invest in their o-line, is there any chance he eclipses the 20th QB off the board? No chance. For the price you'll likely need to pay in 2019, it's all systems go with taking Josh Allen, especially since he gets to play the Jets, Pats, and Dolphins six times, all of which were primo matchups this past season.
KENNETH DIXON - BALTIMORE RAVENS
My mans Kenneth Dixon slots in as one of my favorite sleepers heading into next season for one simple fact: he's good at football. Sure the guy may like to spark up during his free time, which got him suspended a few years back, but when he's on the field, the only thing he's burning are defenses. If you watched him play in the limited time he was active this season, you'd see he was clearly the best back in Baltimore. Gus Edwards may be more physical, and Ty Montgomery might have better hands, but as the complete package, Dixon is in a tier of his own. Now, the guy's never really gotten a fair shake, dealing with season ending injuries, suspensions, and having to call Joe Flacco his starting quarterback, but all is good heading into 2019. Firstly, he's the only back the Ravens have that is under contract for next year. Yep, you heard that right. Both Tymont and Buck Allen are unrestricted free agents, Alex Collins is a restricted free agent, and Gus Edwards is an exclusive-restricted free agent. I'm not extremely well-versed in all this contract talk, but with the usage we saw this past year, I wouldn't be surprised to see them let Buck and Collins walk. Buck was involved to begin the year, but after week 8, he failed to register more than 1 touch in any game, and as for Collins, he began the year as the lead back and slowly lost that role before mysteriously landing on I.R. following week 11. So, as I mentioned before, if it's just Montgomery and Edwards returning next season, the best back of the bunch would clearly be Dixon, and Baltimore recognizes that. In each game he played, he never failed to record less than 9 touches (7 times including payoffs), which is fairly impressive considering he was placed on the PUP list in the middle of the season with a knee sprain. With those touches he was given, in a short timeframe, he was productive, averaging 5.88 yards per touch (for comparison, Saquon Barkey averaged 5.76 and Christian McCaffrey averaged 6.02), as well as a 5.3 true yards per carry average, 2nd best in the NFL ("true YPC discounts all runs greater than 10 yards. By factoring out the disproportionate impact of long runs, the metric rewards running back consistency." as described by player profiler). These two help paint the picture of his production and consistency with the touches he was given in 2018, but why am I chasing a guy who never topped 13 touches as a viable sleeper heading into next year? Well, it's simple, Lamar muthafuggin Jackson.
Remember when I said one thing that held Dixon back was Joe Flacco? Yeah, well that statue is gone, and in his place stands the dynamic quarterback from Louisville. Before Jackson took the reigns, in weeks 1-10, the Ravens were passing the ball 64% of the time, good enough for the 8th highest rank over that span, but when LJax stepped up, that number plummeted to 39%, lowest in the league by a longshot. How the hell did this happen? Well, it's a combination of things. Firstly, it's likely because they didn't want Jackson going out there and throwing a ton, and secondly, their defense. For as long as I've been alive, the Ravens have a good defense. Whether it's led by Ray Lewis or a much more morale man in C.J. Mosley, the team just seems to stop their opponents, and this season was no different. They allowed the 2nd least points (18.2), which meant Lamar rarely had to play from behind, and if he did, it wasn't a big margin to overcome. Teams like the Ravens, who don't have an air raid offense, like doing one thing: dominating time of possession, which they did well, ranking first in that category. I've said a lot of things about the Ravens as a whole, but my main point here is that everything that is Baltimore works to Dixon's favor heading into 2019, even if he isn't a workhorse back. From Weeks 11-17, the Ravens had 316 carries, 197 of which weren't by Lamar Jackson, which means the runningbacks averaged 28.14 per game. This number alone would have ranked 10th in the NFL, and that isn't counting Jackson's attempts. Baltimore clearly wants to run, and with the depth chart looking like it will be headed by Dixon, and if not, a likely split between he and Edwards, Kenny will get more than enough volume to produce, not to mention he was infinitely more involved in the passing game than Edwards, who totaled 1 target in his 7 starts.
All in all, Dixon is a complete package that should have no trouble garnering 12-15 touches per game next season. That may not sound like much, but let's put it this way: In 2016 and 2017 when Tevin Coleman was the clear #2 behind Devonta Freeman, he averaged 11.8 touched (9.8 rushes, 2 receptions), yet his efficiency helped him to finishes of RB18 and RB20, respectively (1/2 PPR). He certainly has similar upside, but the major difference is he has the chance at the starting job, while Coleman was playing second fiddle. If he falls any lower than RB40 heading into next season (currently not a top 42 RB on fantasyfootballcalculator), there's no way he doesn't return value (@OldTakesExposed).
RASHAAD PENNY - SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
I'm a fan of Rashaad Penny heading into 2019 for many of the same reasons that I'm loving Kenneth Dixon. They're both in similar offenses, namely because they have proven they want to run the ball, and have both shown flashes of elite play. One thing Penny has that Dixon lacks, though, is draft capital.
Sure, draft capital isn't the most important factor when evaluating a player (Kevin White, Corey Coleman, Laquon Treadwell, the list goes on), but it sure does help show how a team values their talent, no matter how much Pete Carroll loves Chris Carson. And I get it, Chris Carson is likely going to be a top 15 back heading into 2019, and that's fine. I'm not arguing that Penny is the better player in that backfield for fantasy purposes, but he isn't a backup in the sense that he'll only have value in the instance Carson misses time. Similar to Kenneth Dixon's situation in Baltimore, Penny is benefited by the fact that the Seahawks want to run the ball, giving major volume to players who, in other offenses, wouldn't even be considered fantasy assets. Last year, the Seahawks ran the ball over 33 times per game, the second highest mark in the league, and passed on an NFL-low 48% of plays. I'd argue it's not smart to keep the ball out of Russell Wilson's hands, but I'm a realist, and as long as Brian Schottenheimer is calling plays, I won't have any faith in them flipping script to a pass-heavier scheme. Along with the volume this backfield boasts is another potential positive that works to Penny's favor. Everyone's favorite 26 year old runningback who looks 35, Mike Davis, is an unrestricted free agent, and with Carson, Penny, and Procise (when's the last time he laced them up?) all on rookie deals, Seattle won't need to spend any big money on a position that isn't all that important. If Davis sails away Styx-style, that will free up 154 opportunities and 146 touches in that backfield. Will all of these fall right into Penny's lap? Well, no, because some of these touches came in Carson's absence, but even if he gets 75% of them, in addition to his workload last year, he's be sitting pretty at 204 touches, more than guys like Tevin Coleman (RB19), Matt Breida (RB25), and Mark Ingram (RB29) had last year. Obviously it's foolish to just say "Penny is going to get 200 touches GUARANTEED, take him in the 4th round". No. I'm not saying that. All I'm pointing to is the vacancy of opportunities that will be had in this backfield IF Mike Davis jumps town. If he doesn't, I'd still expect Penny to beat him out easily for the #2 job for the simple fact that he's better at football, not only because of where he was drafted, but because of he performed at a higher level in most categories last year, AS A ROOKIE. Penny not only had a higher YPC (4.6 vs 4.4) and true YPC (4.9 vs 4.6), he also had the 6th best breakaway run rate in the league (% of runs to go 15+ yards) at 8.2%, more than doubling Davis' 3.6%, and even topped him in evaded tackles per touch (29.8% vs 28.1%). When he got the ball in his hands, he was electric, and although Davis wasn't bad, why would they head into 2019 giving more touches to a guy who they have no real commitments to? Sure, Davis may have better hands, but it's not like a receiving back is what Seattle is looking for, as, in the 14 games Davis served as a backup to Carson, he recorded more than two receptions just twice. I'd trust Edward Scissorhands in that type of role, so why not Penny? I mean, in his first ever game, Wilson peppered him with 5 targets and caught 4 of them. Not too shabby.
I'm not saying Penny is going to be the guy in Seattle, nor am I saying he's a lock to be a top 25 back, but I am saying he certainly has the opportunity to get the volume needed to produce at that level for a relatively cheap price. Right now, there's like 3 people drafting (that number may be generous), so all ADP data is pretty useless, but if he lands anywhere near that RB40 range, which is where I'd expect to see him come draft day (barring any major offseason news of him being a starter or shit like that), then you can't pass up on that value. Just look at our old (but young) friend Mike Davis. He finished as the RB36 in 1/2 PPR last season, despite sharing time with two other backs, and in the two games Carson missed, he finished as the RB6 and RB14. Penny will be much more than a handcuff, but in the event that CC does break down, he'll be a near top-10 back, and at the spot he's likely to land in drafts, I'm pulling the trigger all day long.
MICHAEL GALLUP - DALLAS COWBOYS
Heading into the 2018 season, I was a big fan of Michael Gallup. He looked to be Dallas' #1 receiver, so even as a rookie, he'd seem to return value at his ADP (WR55). However, as the first few weeks rolled by, it was clear that Dallas wasn't getting anything done through the air, limiting MG's upside. That all changed following their bye, though, as Amari Cooper moved into town, essentially remastering the Cowboys' offensive scheme. Before his arrival, Gallup had seen 5 targets just once, never surpassing that number, but over his next 12 games (playoffs included) , he failed to reach that mark just three times, totaling 66 targets over that span (5.5/game). Sure, maybe the production wasn't there, but he was a rookie building chemistry with a quarterback that had his own issues. If you watched Gallup play, you'd know just how big of a threat he is, and could have been much more productive had Dak not missed him on a handful of deep balls. Obviously, Prescott's going to be the quarterback next season, so it's not like Gallup won't be overthrown ever again, but it speaks volumes that in his rookie year he garnered enough trust to get fed deep targets, ones which, when they hit, bring immense fantasy upside.
There isn't much statistical analysis I can use to back up my support of Gallup because he didn't do all that much last season, but he's a player who I have faith in simply because he gets the job done when called upon. The few metrics I can lean on, though, help depict the upside he has. Firstly, he has a nice pairing of aDOT (average depth of target) and YPR (yards per reception). His aDOT came in at 14.7 yards, good enough for the 15th highest mark in the league, and his YPR ranked 16th at 15.4. As I said before, Dak loved throwing it to him deep, the only issue was the accuracy of the throws heading his way. Only 46/68 (67.6%) targets were deemed catchable, 101st in the league, which really hampered his true volume. Although it's a cliche point, I think it applies here: with an entire offseason to grow together and build chemistry, more of these looks are bound to connect. Along with that, his volume will inevitably increase due to the type of offense Dallas seemed to favor once Cooper arrived. In Weeks 1-8, before making the trade, Dallas passed just 54% of the time; however, once they shipped off their first round pick for the man in black (not Will Smith), they upgraded to 59%. That may not seem like a big jump, but 54% is how often the Bills passed, and they ranked 4th lowest, while 59% matched the Panthers, ranking 16th. On top of that percentage, the Cowboys also ran the 12th most plays in 2018, meaning, although their pass % isn't in the upper half of the league, the sheer offensive volume they have helps boost the opportunities they have in comparison to teams, like the Dolphins, who passed on about the same percentage, yet had about 10 less offensive plays ran per game.
2019 is the year of the Horse (complete lie), and what do horses like to do? Gallup. This is a sign people, even if it is fake news.
DONTRELLE INMAN - INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Who? Yep, that's right, Dontrelle muthafuggin Inman. Now, he isn't going to be a guy with incredible upside, but towards the end of last season, he proved he could produce at a fairly decent clip.
If you watched any Colts games in 2018, you'd know that, outside of T.Y. Hilton, their receiving core was atrocious. Eric Ebron was a red zone threat, but he dropped a ton of passes, and guys like Chester Rogers, Ryan Grant, and Zach Pascal had no semblance of consistency. When Inman arrived, though, it seemed like Andrew Luck found a receiver he could trust opposite #13. In his 9 games in Indy, he saw five or more targets 5 times, and 4+ in all but two games. Those aren't staggering numbers, but he was a mid season addition who hadn't proved he was an elite talent (like Amari Cooper or Golden Tate, who moved teams but had previously shown their worth), so it's not like the offense was going to mold around him. Despite this, he put up a handful of valuable fantasy days, finishing as a WR3 or better three times, and a WR4 or better five times. Like I said before, he isn't a high upside guy; rather, he's someone who will be available at the end of 99% of drafts who will provide a much more consistent floor than others in the same range. The only thing that would hurt his value would be if he isn't playing for the Colts next season, which is possible, as he's an unrestricted free agent. The good news is the Colts have a shit ton of cap space, so if they believe in him as much as I do, they'll have no issue bringing him back, especially since he's so damn cheap. Also, Ryan Grant, the 5 million dollar man, is an unrestricted free agent, so there's no way they aren't cutting ties with him.
If Indy decides to resign Inman, I think that'll show what type of confidence they have in him, especially since they have the money to bring in AB, Julio Jones, Bryce Harper, and whoever else wants to get paid. Since it's so early, it's tough to analyze him much further, because if they bring in an elite receiver or move on from Inman, this will be all for nought, but if things stand as they do today, I think there'd be immense value in taking Andrew Luck's #2 receiver in the final round of fantasy drafts.
GERONIMO ALLISON - GREEN BAY PACKERS
It seems like the Geronimo Allison breakout was 10 years ago. Well, I'm here to remind you that it actually occurred in early 2018 before a season ending injury. Crazy, I know. Before missing time due to as concussion...and a hamstring strain...and a groin strain, Geronimo seemed to be the secondary option in Green Bay's passing attack. Granted, Randall Cobb missed some time, and their rookie receivers were, well, rookies, so GA was the default #2, but he produced in that role. Over the first four weeks, he finished as the WR20, WR42, WR28, and WR36, gathering 29 total targets for a 19/289/2 line. It's a tiny sample size, so take this with a grain of salt, but that paces out to 76/1156/8 over a full 16 games. Now, I'm not saying that's the season he would have had, not at all, but it shows just how great he was in the limited time he was on the field. MVS had a very similar run in Weeks 5-9 (15/317/2 on 28 targets), but his production didn't last, as he topped 45 receiving yards just once in his final eight games. Randall Cobb was very similar to MVS in that aspect, too, topping 45 yards just once all season, in week 1 with a ridiculous 9/142/1 line. The good news for Geronimo, aside from the lack of consistency at the position behind the gawd Davante Adams, is that Randall Cobb is an unrestricted free agent, and with his price tag, there's no chance the Packers bring him back. Allison had looked to already beat out RC for the number two spot in the Green Bay passing attack, so if Cobb officially walks, it'll be his job to lose.
Now, when you're scouring for a potential breakout receiver, what are a few things you look for? If you're asking me, it's pretty simple:
1. Is he attached to a good quarterback?
2. Is he in a high powered/volume offense?
3. Is he actually any good (or rather, do we know he's bad)?
Geronimo checks all the right boxes. Not only is he connected to Aaron Godgers, he's also on a team that throws a shit ton. Last year, they topped the league at a 68% pass ratio, and two years ago, they were 2nd at 65% (didn't include 2017 since Hundley was at QB for the better half of the year, but they still ranked 7th highest %). Rodgers is a smart guy, so he's going to want to get the ball into his best players' hands, which means sayonara Jimmy Graham (had his lowest target total for a full szn since rookie year), and hasta la get the fuck out Equanimeous St. Brown (I can't recall how many times A-Rod looked at him with disgust). Even if ESB or MVS step up in their second year in the league, they throw the ball so much that, as long as Allison is the #2, he will get more than enough volume to produce. Last season, Geronimo's ADP was WR58 (per fantasyfootballcalculator), and with the lack of playing time he had in 2018, I'd imagine his draft position would be somehwere around the same mark. As long as he doesn't creep into the mid 40's, I'd be ecstatic taking him as a potential fringe WR2 with a fairly safe WR3 floor, similar to where he was being valued in-season when he was on the field. Recency bias is a bitch, and with us not seeing him play a meaningful role since September, he's bound to fall down draft boards. Fade the public my friends, there's prosperity in those dark voids filled with beautiful assets like Geronimo Allison.
QUINCY ENUNWA - NEW YORK JETS
There's just something about Enunwa that I'm a huge fan of. The guy is built like The Mountain, but when the ball is in his hands, he moves like he's Darren Sproles. There's no debating he's a special talent, but with his injury woes, which kept him out for the entirety of 2017 and a handful of games this past season, many people have forgotten how good of a fantasy asset he has been when on the field. Two years ago, he finished as the WR43 while playing behind Brandon Marshall, which isn't a great season, but he provided consistency with a blend of upside, finishing as a WR3 or better in 7/16 games that season. Now, if I was basing most of my analysis on Enunwa from two years ago, I'd understand if you didn't have much faith in Quincy, but we saw shades of 2016 early this past season. In his first 5 games, before he suffered an ankle sprain that held him out for a couple games, he was targeted 42 times (8.4/game) and had a 16 game pace of 67/890/3. If you think about it, a finish similar to that isn't all too unrealistic. His 2016 line was 58/857/4, and considering he was coming back from a season ending injury in 2017, along being thrown to by a rookie quarterback that had his own issues for most of the year, his early season production with Darnold in 2018 is a quite reasonable expectation for what's to come in 2019. With a full offseason to prepare and mature, and actually knowing with full confidence that he'll be the Jets' starting QB, he'll likely build a stronger rapport with Enunwa than he had last season.
I can almost guarantee Enunwa is going to be a huge value heading into 2019. Firstly, his ADP sat at WR73 heading into drafts in 2018, and his role last year looks to be the same as it will be this season (2nd option behind Anderson), and secondly, Robby Anderson's finish to 2018 will further inflate his ADP while suppressing Enunwa's. If he falls outside the top 50-60 receivers, there will be no risk in taking a late round flier on him. He has the upside of a top 30 fantasy option, where he was valued at after his early season production last year, while also being able to provide a fairly stable floor due to his target totals (was on pace for 99 targets). Adam Gase's eyes are too big to miss a talent like Enunwa, so as long as Darnold takes steps forward this offseason, the whole offense will improve, in turn, bringing Quincy immense fantasy value at the expected ADP he will hold come August.
CHRISTIAN KIRK - ARIZONA CARDINALS
Last, but certainly not least, we have Christian Kirk. Before fracturing his foot late in the season, causing him to miss the final 4 games of 2018, he was quietly having a fairly productive rookie campaign. In just 13 games, he had the 5th most receiving yards (590) in the rookie class, trailing only Calvin Ridley (821), D.J. Moore (788), Saquon Barkley (721), and Courtland Sutton (704). Because he missed time, though, his yards/game ranked second at 49.2, tied with D.J. Moore and just behind Ridley at 51.3. Out of context, this looks like a solid year from a rookie wideout, but under the microscope, it's all the more impressive. Firstly, Kirk was a 2nd round pick, taken by a team that would later be headed by a quarterback that wasn't even expected to start when the year began. Josh Rosen looked horrible, but he was thrown into the fire, surrounded by nothing but incompetence. His #1 receiver was 35 years old, he had no tight end threat, and the coaching staff thought it would be best to run David Johnson up the middle every play and keep his hands tied behind his back in the passing game, all behind the league's worst offensive line. With all of their offensive woes, it would be tough for anybody to produce, which is why Kirk's value, along with others on the team, will be suppressed heading into 2019. The good thing, though, is pieces of their offensive line (Justin Pugh, A.Q. Shipley) will be returning for next season, and they made coaching changes that can't possibly match the horrible decisions made by last year's staff.
The new man in town, Kliff Kingsbury, has been praised for being an offensive guru (and part-time model), and if there's one thing the Cards need, it's a revamped O. I mean, he did start Davis Webb over both Baker Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes in two consecutive years at Texas Tech, but I digress. If he lives up to the hype, or even falls just short of it, he'll provide this offense 100x more value than Mike McCoy, their former OC, ever could. To put it simply, he can't be any worse than what the Cardinals had last season. Along with the new coaching staff is the possibility of Josh Rosen progressing this offseason. I know it's cliche, and I've used this argument many times before, but it's extremely tough for first year quarterbacks to adjust to the NFL in their first year, especially if they weren't expecting to start to begin the season. Just look at the past few years; which rookies came out and looked like busts, just to turn it around during their sophomore campaign? Tell me if these names ring a bell: Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, Mitchell Trubisky. These three guys were all the number one or two overall selection in their respective drafts, disappointed in their first season, were declared busts, and then proved the haters wrong. This doesn't mean it's bound to happen with Rosen, but there's a strong possibility that with a change of scenery and a full offseason to prepare, he makes strides in becoming a good NFL quarterback. Keep in mind he was seen as a top 5 pick heading into the draft and everyone was shocked when he slipped. Now, there are rumors that Kingsbury loves Kyler Murray, which could lead to the Cards shipping off Rosen and starting over again at QB, but as I said before, it can't possibly get any worse than last season, and at least if they did choose Murray, he'd expect to be the starter come week one (I mean, how shitty was it that Rosen's first appearance came against the best defense in the NFL, the Bears, in hopes he could lead a game winning drive?).
Taking all of this into consideration, I think Kirk will be an absolute steal in 2019. After Week 5 last season, he didn't post a game with under an 80% snap share, and over that span, had a pace of (96 targets) 54/882/6. Sure, those aren't quite WR2 numbers, but getting a guy likely around the ADP of WR40, he provides immense upside, especially since he put up those numbers in an anemic offense. Also, keep in mind that he finished as a WR3 or better in 6/12 games and averaged the 42nd most fantasy points per game (in 1/2 PPR among players who played 10+ games). As this team improves, so should Christian Kirk's production, and with Larry Fitzgerald turning 47 this year, I wouldn't be surprised if CK leads the team in targets (unless Kingsbury realizes David Johnson can catch the ball too), so as long as he's ranked outsider the top 40 receivers, I have no problem pulling the trigger on the guy.
DEMETRIUS HARRIS - KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
To be honest, I hate all tight ends outside of the top 7ish guys. Are you really confident in anybody that's picked outside of that range? They're all either TD dependent or so inconsistent that the chances of you starting them the right week are slim to none. Because of this, I'm just getting here early on 2019's Trey Burton. Like Burton, Harris is an extremely athletic tight end who is likely going to land in a new city this offseason.
Like, what? How are you 6'7 and run a 4.57. Ridiculous.
Obviously, this title of being a sleeper is contingent upon the fact that he finds his way onto a tight end needy team, like the Saints, the Bengals (Eifert is a UFA and always dead), Oakland (Cook is an UFA), or even Dallas, so if he finds his way on to one of these teams' rosters, I'd be fine just passing on the position all together and taking a shot at Meech.
That's all for now, folks. Up next is a new series, "Fantasy Remembrance", where I'll be analyzing guys who may have gone down with injury, or are simply overlooked, that can be drafted at a discount. If you want to keep up to date with these articles or enjoy my content, you can follow me:
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by Nick Ercolano
July 17, 2019
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