Saturday, August 18, 2018

2018 Fantasy Football Rankings v7

A week ago, I was genuinely excited to watch Washington's first preseason game.  But excitement quickly led to anxiety when Derrius Guice left the game due to a leg injury.  At the time, I could see him with trainers saying "it's my knee".  Oh boy.  The next day we learned he tore his ACL and will have to wait another season to play in a real NFL game.  To me, this serves as a reminder of several things:

1. The NFL should get rid of preseason games (or at least cut the amount of them in half).
2. No matter how much you like or dislike your fantasy team after your draft, a real life injury (or ten of them) are going to impact your squad over the course of the season.
3. The waiver wire is your friend.
4. The football gods want Dan Snyder to change the name of the team, and this is some sort of sick punishment.
5. Obviously #4 is (mostly) a joke.  I mean, I think the team should change the name, but whatever.  I don't own the team or run the NFL.  The real reminder in all of this is that Derrius Guice is an actual human being. 

Image result for derrius guice injuryAnd don't let the internet fool you.  For every tweet at this young man saying "You suck!" or "You ruined my fantasy team!!", there are 10 more that are positive and wishing him the best.  So don't assume everyone is a troll just because a few make the most noise.  I tend to believe the vast majority of people who pay attention to football would feel bad for Guice and hope he gets back on the field next year.  I even saw plenty of tweets that were apparently from other NFC East fans genuinely feeling bad for the guy.  And that's the reaction you should have.

Don't be that guy who enjoys someone getting injured on your opponent's fantasy team (or real life team for that matter).  Don't be that guy who gets pissed off when the guy on your fantasy team has a season-ending injury. 

DO be that guy who gives your buddy a hard time when he drafts Guice in the 5th Round this year after thinking "Oh man!  I'm getting a steal here!!!".  Absolutely do that.  But just be a decent human being, OK?  An NFL player tearing his ACL might have an impact to your fantasy team this year.  But you know what?  You didn't tear your ACL.  Or at least I assume you didn't.  You know what?  If you tore your ACL in a fit of rage after watching one of your fantasy players tear his ACL, I'm probably going to make fun of you.  But I'm not enjoying that NFL player getting injured.  Not even a little bit.

OK.  I'm off my soapbox now. 

My last rankings update was just three weeks ago, but I wanted to get one more out there before Week 1 of the season.  Yes, this will be the last one.  My draft is in just two weeks, and I'm sure plenty of other people have already drafted or will draft in the next couple of weeks.  A lot might change between now and the time of your draft, as I'm sure there will be injuries (especially in those third preseason games next week).  So keep an eye on injury updates leading up to your fantasy draft because I'm not planning to update these rankings again.

This time around I thought I'd separate my rankings into chunks of 12 so you can see each group as a round in a 12 team league.  You'll also then notice how I've separated tiers of RBs and WRs into these chunks, while sprinkling in the QBs and TEs.  And of course, the defenses are at THE END.  Hopefully this will be a good final cheat sheet if you haven't drafted yet.  I've even provided some draft notes after each round to give you an idea of my draft strategy in a standard league.

And with that, let's get to my last preseason rankings before the 2018 season begins.  I'll see you in Week 1!


1. Ezekiel Elliott
2. Le'Veon Bell
3. Todd Gurley
4. Alvin Kamara 
5. David Johnson
6. Saquon Barkley
7. Antonio Brown
8. Odell Beckham, Jr.
9. DeAndre Hopkins
10. Julio Jones
11. Michael Thomas
12. Davante Adams

No changes to my top-12. Grab one of my top-6 RBs or top-6 WRs in Round 1.

13. Rob Gronkowski
14. Leonard Fournette
15. Dalvin Cook
16. Kareem Hunt
17. Melvin Gordon
18. Devonta Freeman
19. Christian McCaffery: Moved up to this RB tier, where I feel like he belongs.
20. Keenan Allen 
21. T.Y. Hilton
22. A.J. Green 
23. Mike Evans
24. Doug Baldwin

I'd consider Gronk in Round 2. Otherwise, if you drafted a RB in Round 1, take a WR here.  If you drafted a WR in Round 1, take a RB here.

25. Joe Mixon 
26. Jordan Howard: With Guice done for the year, moved Howard back up to fill this spot.
27. LeSean McCoy: No suspension yet, so I've moved him back up to this RB tier (for now).
28. Stefon Diggs
29. Larry Fitzgerald
30. Amari Cooper
31. Adam Thielen
32. Alex Collins
33. Marshawn Lynch: Dude looks fresh in the preseason, and Gruden will run. Up.
34. Lamar Miller: Also up slightly to this RB tier. Foreman likely to start the year on the PUP list.
35. Jay Ajayi
36. Royce Freeman: WAY up. He has a good chance to be the lead back in a good offense.

Depending on where your pick is in this round, grab a RB or WR.  Personally, I'd probably go RB because I feel like WR is way deeper. 

37. Zach Ertz: Decided he wasn't quite worth a 2nd/3rd round pick. Down.
38. Travis Kelce
39. Chris Hogan: Moved up to this WR tier. I believe in his WR1 potential.  
40. JuJu Smith-Schuster
41. Demaryius Thomas
42. Brandin Cooks: Up slightly to this WR tier. Dude got paid for a reason. Will get targets. 
43. Jerick McKinnon: His injury only adds to questions about being a #1 RB. Down.
44. Kenyan Drake: Moved him and Henry back up a RB tier, but not crazy about either.
45. Derrick Henry: This entire RB tier (of 3 guys) is full of question marks...
46. Tyreek Hill
47. Golden Tate: Consistent. Jim Bob Cooter likes to throw. Up a WR tier. 
48. Michael Crabtree

Something tells me Kelce and Ertz won't last until Round 4, but if they do, I'd absolutely draft one of them here.  Otherwise, I'm getting another WR because I likely took another RB in Round 3.

49. Aaron Rodgers: Decided to move him up slightly to be in a QB tier of his own.
50. Rex Burkhead: With Michel missing the preseason with an injury, Burkhead up to this RB tier. 
51. Ronald Jones: Struggling with pass pro in camp, so he's down a RB tier.
52. Sony Michel: Down slightly in this RB tier. Tough for a rookie to miss so much time early on. 
53. Dion Lewis
54. Tevin Coleman  
55. Mark Ingram
56. Corey Davis
57. Marvin Jones
58. Jarvis Landry
59. Allen Robinson
60. Alshon Jeffery: The shoulder is a concern. Might start season on the PUP list. Down.

I'll be honest.  I don't feel great about these tiers of RBs & WRs, and I have a feeling a lot of these guys might move around for me in the next couple of weeks.  That's kind of why I moved Aaron Rodgers up to this round.  At least he feels like a sure thing.  Someone else will likely take Rodgers in the first 3 rounds though, so don't expect him to fall this far in your draft.  Personally, I'm planning to wait a while on QB.  You're probably looking to fill your FLEX spot in this round, so another RB or WR is likely the pick.  However, this round also has several guys who are probably going to start the year injured or suspended, so you might just be drafting a top reserve in Round 5.  Don't worry, you can still find a FLEX guy in the next few rounds if you decide you want to take a guy like Mark Ingram or Alshon Jeffery here.

61. Deshaun Watson
62. Tom Brady
63. Russell Wilson
64. Jimmy Graham
65. Kyle Rudolph 
66. Greg Olsen 
67. Delanie Walker
68. Jamaal Williams: Up to this mini RB tier. Has a good chance to be lead back for the Packers.
69. Rashaad Penny: Injured his hand, and Carson sounds like the starter anyway. Down.
70. Devin Funchess
71. Josh Gordon 
72. Sammy Watkins: Possibly being irrational, but I moved him up a couple of WR tiers.

My first QB tier after Rodgers.  Again, I doubt any of these signal callers will last this long.  Once people start filling their roster with RBs and WRs in the first 3 or 4 rounds, they immediately start considering a quarterback.  So these three will be gone before Round 6.  But people also start considering this group of tight ends after their roster starts to feel more complete.  If any of these TEs are there in this round, I'll likely grab one of them. 

73. Tarik Cohen
74. Chris Thompson: With Guice done for the year :( , Thompson's value goes up. 
75. Isaiah Crowell: Back up a handful of spots because I think he'll be the lead back for the Jets.
76. Cam Newton
77. Andrew Luck
78. Carson Wentz
79. Drew Brees
80. Marquise Goodwin: Looking good in camp. Moved him into Garcon's spot/tier.
81. Randall Cobb
82. Will Fuller: Up a WR tier. I don't want to wait too long on his huge potential.
83. Sterling Shepard: Down a WR tier. He's just going way later in drafts. Can probably wait.
84. Allen Hurns

If I don't have a QB by now, I'll try to snag one here in Round 7.  All of these guys could easily be top-5 fantasy quarterbacks, which is why I like to wait on this position.  If for some reason they're all gone, I'll scoop up one of these WRs with high upside.

85. Marlon Mack: Already hurt in preseason and down a RB tier.
86. Aaron Jones: Up a bit to form this RB tier with Mack/others.
87. Kerryon Johnson
88. Chris Carson: Up a few RB tiers. Looks to be the Week 1 starter.
89. C.J. Anderson: Down a RB tier, but still could have good role in offense.
90. Kelvin Benjamin
91. DeVante Parker: A broken finger could cause him to miss a couple of games. Down. 
92. Robert Woods
93. Pierre Garcon: Jimmy G seems to favor Goodwin. Garcon down a WR tier.
94. Robby Anderson
95. Emmanuel Sanders
96. Jordan Reed: He's up slightly to be in a risky TE tier of his own.

At this point in the draft I'm stocking up on backup RBs and WRs.  Any one of these guys could be a good FLEX play as early as Week 1 (except for the case of Aaron Jones...Week 3).  If I've had a couple of beers, I might get crazy and reach for the rarely-healthy Jordan Reed.

97. Kirk Cousins
98. Matthew Stafford 
99. Philip Rivers 
100. Julian Edelman
101. D.J. Moore
102. Jamison Crowder: Moved him up a WR tier. Could be go-to guy for Alex Smith.
103. Marqise Lee
104. Nelson Agholor: The injury to Alshon could provide him more opportunities. Up.
105. Evan Engram: Down even more. I think he could finish outside of the top-10 TEs.
106. Carlos Hyde: Moved him up and Chubb down. Hyde is the starter.  
107. Bilal Powell: Up a RB tier with Elijah McGuire likely to miss a few games. 
108. Devontae Booker: Down a bit to this RB tier. I'm starting to think Royce will be the guy.

Round 9 is more of the same as with Round 8.  If for some reason I don't have a QB at this point in the draft, I feel comfortable with one of these guys.  Every one of them find themselves in the top-10 more often than not.  The rest of this group is kind of all over the place, so I'll just listen to my gut at this point in the draft.

109. Cooper Kupp
110. Kenny Stills
111. Mike Williams
112. Rishard Matthews: Hasn't been healthy in camp. Down.
113. Josh Doctson
114. Michael Gallup
115. Peyton Barber: Up a couple of RB tiers. Sounds like he could be the Week 1 starter.
116. Rob Kelley: Looking like the lead back with Guice out and Perine now with an ankle injury. 
117. Nick Chubb: Too many RBs in Cleveland. Down a couple of RB tiers.
118. Giovani Bernard
119. Matt Breida
120. Trey Burton

I'd say by Round 10 I will have had enough beers to try to draft someone who was already drafted a couple of  rounds earlier.  This is usually the time I try to stick to my rankings because in the back of my mind, I know there's a reason I ranked Peyton Barber and Rob Kelley this highly.  Oh right.  They'll probably both be starting running backs who get goal line carries Week 1. 

121. Tyler Lockett: Baldwin ailing. Lockett in a contract year. Targets to go around. Up a WR tier. 
122. Kenny Golladay
123. Jordy Nelson: Another rankings update and Jordy down another WR tier.
124. John Ross: Got him into the rankings with Brandon LaFell released.  HIGH upside.
125. Ryan Grant: Up even more with the injury to Cain. Grant likely to be Luck's #2 WR.
126. Paul Richardson 
127. Geronimo Allison
128. Calvin Ridley
129. Duke Johnson
130. Kenneth Dixon
131. Corey Clement
132. D'Onta Foreman: Likely to begin season on the PUP, so down a couple of RB tiers.

I know what you're thinking..."It's Round 11. My team is basically complete.  I should be drafting a defense, right?"  Yeah, maybe.  Someone will have already drafted the Jags like three rounds ago, and then someone else panicked and drafted the Rams when it got to be their turn again.  Relax.  You still have 30 defenses to choose from.  If you really like the Chargers D (like I do), go ahead and take them a round or two "early".  But I'll probably wait until the last round for defense and instead grab what could be a lottery ticket in this round.  I'm sticking with depth and likely picking another WR in Round 11.

133. Dez Bryant
134. Eric Decker: Replaced Jordan Matthews (IR) with him, but he's down a WR tier.
135. Tyrell Williams
136. John Brown: If healthy, he provides a nice deep threat for Flacco. Added to top-156.
137. Mike Wallace: Added here, but only really viable if Alshon starts the year on the PUP.
138. Cameron Meredith: Dealing with some injuries in camp. Down.
139. Frank Gore: Not sure I still believe in the old man. Down to the last RB tier.
140. Jordan Wilkins: With Hines struggling and Mack injured, Wilkins becomes interesting.
141. Jared Goff
142. Marcus Mariota
143. Charles Clay
144. George Kittle

What's up, Round 12?  Do I really want any of these guys?  Not really.  But I have to make a pick, so I throw a dart and listen to my gut once again.  Which, at this point, is probably full of nachos.

145. Chargers DEFENSE
146. Broncos DEFENSE
147. Jaguars DEFENSE
148. Ravens DEFENSE
149. Rams DEFENSE
150. Saints DEFENSE
151. Eagles DEFENSE
152. Vikings DEFENSE
153. Steelers DEFENSE
154. Lions DEFENSE
155. Patriots DEFENSE
156. Titans DEFENSE

Did you make it to the last round without drafting a defense?  If so, give yourself a pat on the back.  There are likely still about 20 to choose from, and I guarantee one of these 12 is still available.  And don't worry that the Lions weren't a top-10 fantasy defense last year...wait...they WERE a top-10 fantasy defense last year?!?  And they're at home facing the Jets in Week 1?!?  Sign me up!

That's it for the preseason rankings, but here are some more guys to consider on my Watch List:

Jimmy Garoppolo
Patrick Mahomes
Matt Ryan
Alex Smith
Ben Roethlisberger
Dak Prescott
Samaje Perine
Ty Montgomery
Spencer Ware: Down to the watch list. Hopefully just a handcuff for Hunt.
Latavius Murray
Nyheim Hines: Not looking great so far. Down to the watch list.
James White
Jeremy Hill
Theo Riddick: Down to the watch list. Too many RBs in Detroit, man!
LeGarrette Blount
Ameer Abdullah
Chris Ivory
Doug Martin
T.J. Yeldon
Kalen Ballage
Charles Sims
Austin Ekeler
Alfred Morris: With half of their RBs already banged up, the 49ers signed him. Added to the list.

Chris Godwin
Mohamed Sanu
Kenny Britt
Cordarrelle Patterson: Looking good with Brady now throwing to him. Added to the watch list.
Phillip Dorsett: Added him back too. Might need to rank another Pats WR. Just not sure who yet.
Willie Snead
Danny Amendola: Back on the watch list, as he could (sorta) replace Landry in this offense.
Albert Wilson
Ted Ginn
Jaron Brown
Chester Rogers
James Washington
Anthony Miller
Donte Moncrief
Keelan Cole
J'Mon Moore
Corey Coleman: Added back to the watch list with the move to Buffalo.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins: I only wanted 12 TEs in my top-156, so he's down to the watch list.
Hayden Hurst
Mike Gesicki
Tyler Eifert
David Njoku
Benjamin Watson
Jack Doyle
O.J. Howard
Cameron Brate
Ricky Seals-Jones
Antonio Gates

Friday, August 10, 2018

2018 Catch-All Preseason Article...Spectacular!

If you've read my blog in recent years, you know how this works.  I've combined what used to be multiple articles into a gigantic piece that I call my Catch-All Preseason Article...Spectacular!  The format has turned into mostly a Q&A where I sneak in some of my picks for "sleeper", "bust", "long shot", etc.  I'll also give you a list of guys I probably won't draft and some real football predictions at the end, including one storyline I think might happen in each division.  I'll throw in my picks for who will make the playoffs and ultimately win the Super Bowl.

Image result for carson wentz injuryLast year was my worst ever with the real football picks, as I only got two out of eight division winners right (yikes!).  We'll see if I can do better this year.  As for my fantasy picks, I nailed a couple by telling you Carson Wentz would take a huge leap forward and Matt Ryan would take a big step back.  I must say I really enjoyed being down on Matt Ryan versus the ESPN experts in all of my weekly rankings last year...and being right virtually every time.  I also talked up Carlos Hyde (which proved to be right) and Austin Sefarian-Jenkins (which did not).  It ends up being a mixed bag, but that's how it goes with fantasy football predictions.

Let's see what we have in store for the 2018 season.  Grab a cup of coffee (or another beer) because it's a long one...

Q: Who is this year's Alfred Morris (2012), Zac Stacy (2013), Tre Mason (2014), David Johnson (2015), Jordan Howard (2016), or Alvin Kamara (2017)?
[Description: A rookie NOT taken in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft who is UNDRAFTED in virtually all fantasy leagues.  He's not expected to be the Week 1 starter, but he could really help your fantasy squad by mid-year.]

A: Kalen Ballage
There were 7 RBs drafted in the first 2 rounds this year, so that eliminates a lot of guys from this conversation.  But as you can see, this has happened every year since I've been writing about it, so I have to throw a guess out there.  Someone already beat me to the punch in projecting Ballage as this year's Kamara, and the article can be found here.  Well, I happen to agree with Mr. Mathyk.  While most everyone is expecting Kenyan Drake to take over in Miami, I felt like when they brought in Frank Gore this offseason, that spoke volumes to the contrary.  Gore is going to take touches away from Drake and likely vulture a lot of touchdowns.  And Kalen Ballage might just have the talent to surpass them both.  Outside of a couple of big games last season, Drake just wasn't that good.  And if Gore finally breaks down at the age of 35 and/or the Dolphins struggle out of the gate, I think they could give Ballage a shot to become the guy in Miami.  He may not have a clear path right now, but neither did Kamara or any of those other guys I listed all the way back to 2012.

Honorable Mention: Jordan Wilkins

Q: Who is this year's Knowshon Moreno (2013), Mark Ingram (2014), Darren McFadden (2015), or Carlos Hyde (2017)?
[Description: Former early round NFL draft pick, career plagued by injuries, but finally finds himself as the feature running back and scores a TON of fantasy points.]

A: Ameer Abdullah
So here's where I'm giving you a serious long shot, but Abdullah fits the same mold as guys like Knowshon and McFadden (who were longshots too).  Abdullah was a Doak Walker Award finalist in 2014 (top college running back), and that award ended up going to Melvin Gordon.  Ameer rushed for over 1600 yards in each of his last two seasons at Nebraska, and he had 22 total touchdowns his senior season.  He's obviously had a rough start to his NFL career, which included only playing in 2 games his second year due to injury.  Now he finds himself playing on the last year of his rookie contract and likely behind others on the depth chart.  The Lions brought in LeGarrette Blount and traded up to draft Kerryon Johnson in the 2nd round, hence why Abdullah is such a long shot to fit this category.  But Detroit also revamped their coaching staff, and who knows who they'll feature in the run game this year?  Ameer could definitely use an injury to someone else or potentially even a preseason trade to another team, but it's certainly possible he could find his mojo again.  The talent is there...somewhere.

Honorable Mention: Doug Martin

Q: Who is this year's Danny Woodhead (2013), Darren Sproles (2014), Danny Woodhead (2015), Theo Riddick (2016), or Chris Thompson (2017)?
[Description: Shifty veteran who sneakily finishes in the top-20 overall fantasy RBs.]

Image result for bilal powell
A: Bilal Powell
Every year one of these little guys finds himself around the top-20.  The last couple of years, Riddick and Thompson more or less fit the category if not for injuries.  They still finished right there despite missing several games, so we're counting both.  Standing at 5' 8" and entering is 7th season in the league, Dion Lewis almost fit this category.  But he's being drafted in the 25-30 range among RBs, so it's not a stretch to say he'll sneak into the top-20.  However, Bilal Powell is currently being drafted as the #55 RB off the board based on combined ADP from the major fantasy sites.  You probably didn't notice, but Powell finished as the #21 RB in standard leagues in 2016, and he was the #26 RB last year.  His averages in those two seasons are over 1000 total yards and 5 TDs.  Not too shabby!  The Jets brought in Isaiah Crowell this offseason, and he'll definitely get a lot of work.  But there will be plenty of touches for Powell too, and Elijah McGuire's broken foot only helps Bilal's chances of getting more work early on.  Assuming the Jets will be losing in many (if not most) of their games this season, Powell will benefit from that negative gameflow.  As a guy who has nearly been a top-20 fantasy RB as recent as two seasons ago, I don't think it's unrealistic to think he could sneak into that territory in 2018.

Honorable Mention: Giovani Bernard

Q: Who is this year's Keenan Allen (2013), Odell Beckham, Jr. (2014), Tyreek Hill (2016), or JuJu Smith-Schuster (2017)?
[Description: Rookie WR with playmaking ability and a solid QB, who is a late-round fantasy pick or even undrafted in most leagues but ends up being a top-20 fantasy WR.]

A: D.J. Moore
Here's another trend that happens nearly every year, so which rookie fits the profile in 2018?  I think it's D.J. Moore.  This seems like a no-brainer because he was the first WR selected in this year's draft, right?  Well, keep in mind that OBJ was taken even higher in the first round and wasn't getting drafted in fantasy leagues his rookie year (mostly due to a severe hamstring injury that kept him out of the first four games of that rookie season).  Moore's ADP has risen from 160 to around 130 in the last couple of months, but that still qualifies him as a late-round pick to undrafted status.  The Panthers brought in Norv Turner to run the offense this season, and that makes me think of 2013 when a big time playmaker had a pretty good season under Norv (ahem, Josh Gordon).  Now I have no idea if D.J. Moore has half the talent as Gordon, but I think it's possible he has more talent than Funchess or any of the other Panther receivers.  Moore didn't have consistency at the QB position while at Maryland, but he has a solid veteran in Cam Newton throwing him the ball now.  As long as he can pick up the offense quickly and Norv gets the ball in his hands, Moore will make some plays.

Honorable Mention: Michael Gallup

Q: Who is this year's Andrew Luck (2013), Russell Wilson (2014), Derek Carr (2015), Kirk Cousins (2016), or Carson Wentz (2017)?
[Description: A young starting QB ready to jump to the next fantasy QB tier.]

A: Marcus Mariota

Image result for marcus mariotaI considered a lot of different quarterbacks in this category.  First I thought about Jared Goff, but he was a top-10 fantasy QB last season, and I don't think he makes a leap into the top-5.  I also considered Deshaun Watson, but he's already being drafted like a top-5 fantasy QB.  Then there are the second year guys Trubisky and Mahomes, but both really have no where to go but up. 

Instead, I went slightly off the radar with Marcus Mariota.  Everyone was talking him up along with Jameis Winston last preseason, but both finished right around the 20th-best fantasy QB.  However, both are still only in their fourth years as starters, and both could make a leap into that QB1 territory this year.  But with Winston serving a 3 game suspension to start the year, my money is on Mariota.  His new offensive coordinator worked under Sean McVay and made Jared Goff and that offense really click last year.  In fact, in addition to Goff, other QBs like RGIII and Matt Ryan also had career best seasons under new OC Matt LeFleur.  Could he get similar results with Mariota in Tennessee?  Well, Marcus was a top-12 fantasy QB in 2016, so what would a career year look like for him?  I'd say 3500 passing yards, 350 rushing yards, and 30 total TDs.  Those are basically Dak Prescott's numbers last year, and he finished as the #11 fantasy QB (right behind Jared Goff).  I think Mariota could find himself in the top-10 this season if LeFleur sparks some life into this offense.

Honorable Mention: Jimmy Garoppolo

Q: Who is this year's Cam Newton & Andy Dalton (2013-2014), Ben Roethlisberger (2014-2015), Carson Palmer & Cam Newton (2015-2016), or Matt Ryan (2016-2017)?
[Description: A top-5 fantasy QB who finishes outside of the top-15 the following year, and not due to a serious injury that season.]

A: Carson Wentz

There's a trend in the list above, and if it holds true, it could mean Cam Newton is due for another fall from grace this year.  But I'm not buying that.  I warned you last year about Matty Ice, and I'm warning you this year about...Carson Wentz?!?  That's right.  You thought I would go with the obvious answer in Alex Smith, but I'm not.  I actually think Smith has a good chance to finish inside the top-15 again (definitely not top-5), but I have real concerns about Wentz.  Keep in mind last year Matt Ryan lost his offensive coordinator, and Wentz lost his this offseason.  Carson is also coming back from a serious knee injury, and the Eagles have every reason not to rush him back.  They kept Nick Foles for a reason, and I think he'll be the starter Week 1.  I don't think we'll have an Andrew Luck situation like last year, but I do think it's possible that Wentz doesn't see game action until Week 4 or 5.  And If Wentz misses a handful of games, it'll be that much harder for him to finish as a top-15 fantasy QB this season. 

If you look at Big Ben's top-5 finish in 2014, part of the reason he finished well outside of the top-15 the following year was due to missing 4 games.  Tom Brady almost fit this category from 2015-2016 because he started 2016 with the 4 game deflategate suspension.  He finished right at #15 on the season, so he'll stay off this list, but he was damn close.  All of that being said, it doesn't mean Wentz won't be a top-10 fantasy QB in the games he does play this season.  I'm just a little concerned his season might not start until October.

Honorable Mention: Alex Smith

Q: Who is this year's Joique Bell (2013), Giovani Bernard (2014), Devonta Freeman (2015), Tevin Coleman (2016), or Alex Collins (2017)?
[Description: A second year running back (mid to late-round draft pick) who is likely the #2 in a timeshare situation but will still find himself as a top-20 fantasy RB in 2017.]

Image result for tarik cohenA: Tarik Cohen
Hey look - another trend that happens every year!  So which second year RB will finish in the top-20?  Well, the Green Bay backfield is as clear as mud, so I'm staying away from Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams.  D'Onta Foreman would be a good choice if he was 100% healthy, but he looks like he could start the season on the PUP list.  Then there're Tarik Cohen, who is drawing comparisons to Tyreek Hill (head slowly turns...).  And it makes sense because Cohen's new head coach did wonders for Tyreek in KC.  Why couldn't Cohen get more touches this year and break off a bunch of big plays?!  I don't see why he couldn't.  I'm hoping Jordan Howard still has the main role in this offense because he's one of my keepers in my money league, but all signs point to the possibility of Tarik being the new Tyreek in 2018.

Honorable Mention: Aaron Jones

Q: Who is this year's Julius Thomas (2013), Antonio Gates (2014), Gary Barnidge (2015), Kyle Rudolph (2016), or Evan Engram (2017)?
[Description: A tight end who is virtually undrafted in fantasy leagues and ends up being a top-5 TE.]

A: Hayden Hurst
I know it's hard to believe (outside of Barnidge) that all of those tight ends went undrafted in fantasy leagues during their top-5 seasons, but they all did.  This year I considered going back to the well and picking Austin Sefarian-Jenkins again (he was my pick last year), but I wanted to pick someone different.  I also considered George Kittle in this spot, but he's in most people's top-12 to 15, so he's not a sleeper.  So what's the benchmark for this impossible-to-predict top-5 TE out of nowhere?  Depending on the year, I'd say around 800 yards and 8 touchdowns.  Who can hit those numbers?  Ben Watson nearly did it with New Orleans in 2015, but he's like 100 in NFL years and I don't trust him to stay healthy.  Could Charles Clay set a career high for TDs and end up in the top-5?  It's possible (considering Buffalo's lack of receiving options), but I'm not going to count on it (considering Buffalo's QB options). 

I'm going to say a rookie fits this category for the second year in a row.  And while the Mike Gesicki hype train is gaining steam in Miami, I'll say it's Hayden Hurst instead.  Sure, Baltimore hasn't produced a top-10 fantasy TE since Dennis Pitta finished 7th in 2012, but Joe Flacco LOVES throwing to his tight ends.  Guys like Dallas Clark and Owen Daniels just weren't great options for Joe, but first round pick Hayden Hurst is a nice target.  He's actually an old rookie at the age of 25 (his birthday is August 24th, so he's almost 25...I'm rounding up).  I think that maturity only helps his chances of starting immediately.  He didn't put up monster stats in college, but that doesn't mean he won't get heavily involved in this offense right away.  In fact, he caught a touchdown pass in the Hall of Fame Game, so I'd say he's already off to a good start.

Honorable Mention: Charles Clay

Q: Who are this year's "guys I probably won't be drafting on my fantasy teams"?
[Description: A list of players who for one reason or another likely won't end up on my rosters.]

1. Aaron Rodgers: I'm not going to draft a QB in the first two rounds, and someone else probably will.  I absolutely think Rodgers will finish as a top-5 fantasy QB.  I'm just not willing to draft him before I get a couple of RBs and a WR on my squad.

2. Allen Robinson: He's being valued as a top-10 to 15 WR right now, and I have him more in the 20-25 range.  There's no way he makes it on my fantasy team this season, unless it's via a trade later on.

3. Tyreek Hill: He has a new QB and OC, and he now has Sammy Watkins to share targets with in addition to Kelce and Kareem Hunt.  He has great playmaking ability, but I don't think he'll be anywhere near a top-12 WR this season. 

Image result for evan engram4. Evan Engram: If I don't get Gronk, Ertz, or Kelce, I'm probably going to wait a while on TE.  Others may do the same, but I think someone else will jump on Engram way earlier than I will based on his rookie season stats.  I think that's a mistake.  With more of a focus on the running game (Saquon) and OBJ/Shepard both healthy, I expect Engram's targets to go way down.

5. Jimmy Garoppolo: Why does everyone have him as a top-10 fantasy QB this year?!?  I understand he finished strong last year and won every game he started for the 49ers.  But take a look at his stats!  While he did average over 300 passing yards in those 5 games, he also only averaged 1.4 TDs and 1 INT.  If you extrapolate those stats over 16 games, he easily finishes outside of the top-12.  I understand the upside, but put me down for guys like Stafford or Rivers over Jimmy G all day.

6. DeSean Jackson: The bonehead speedster is way over the hill, but he's still being ranked in the top-100 fantasy players for most experts.  Not me though.  Mike Evans and Ronald Jones are just about the only Bucs I'd draft right now, and I'd draft Godwin over DeSean in a deep league.

7. Martavis Bryant: He's in the top-150 for most, but I'm having a hard time buying into a guy who is one mistake away from a lifetime ban from the NFL.  The same could be said for Josh Gordon I suppose, but he has way more upside and is likely the #1 option for the Browns.  Martavis is the third option at best and more realistically the 5th or so option after Marshawn, Cooper, Jordy, and even Jared Cook!  No thanks.

8. Any Jags WR (probably): With Allen Robinson now in Chicago and Allen Hurns in Dallas, the Jaguars have a ton of guys competing for targets.  They paid Marqise Lee a lot of money to stick around, so I assume he'll be the #1 guy and I'd consider drafting him in the middle to late rounds.  But after that, these other guys are all on rookie or short term contracts: Dede Westbrook, Donte Moncrief, Keelan Cole, and D.J. Chark just to name a few.  Oh, and there's Austin Seferian-Jenkins to suck up targets from the tight end position.  Good luck figuring out who will score fantasy points in this offense other than Leonard Fournette.  After Marqise Lee, the only other guy who is kind of intriguing to me is Keelan Cole, but there are just too many options here.  I'm likely not hanging my hat on any of those guys.

Image result for seattle legion of boom
9. Seattle Defense: No Richard Sherman. No Kam Chancellor.  Earl Thomas wants out.  The Legion of Boom is done.  This is a defense that is going to give up a lot more points this season, and their schedule isn't very forgiving.  I think they'll finish in the bottom-10 rather than top-10 fantasy defenses this year.

10. Any kicker whatsoever: My money league voted to get rid of kickers this season, so I don't have to draft one!  I'm so excited!!!


Before the first game of the NFL season, I like to take a few minutes to do my own simulation of every game on the schedule and use that to predict division winners, conference champs, and who's taking home the Lombardi trophy.

Here's what Bart's prediction machine spat out this season...  

AFC East AFC North AFC South AFC West
NE12-4 CIN 4-12HOU10-6 KC 8-8
BUF 5-11 PIT12-4 IND 7-9 DEN10-6
NYJ 5-11 BAL 8-8JAX9-7 OAK 7-9
MIA 3-13 CLE 5-11 TEN 8-8LAC9-7
NFC East NFC North NFC South NFC West
WAS 7-9 GB10-6 CAR 8-8 ARI 8-8
NYG 8-8 MIN10-6 NO9-7 SEA 7-9
DAL 8-8DET10-6ATL9-7 LAR10-6
PHI10-6 CHI 7-9 TB 6-10 SF 8-8

Here is some commentary on my predicted standings and one BOLD prediction for each division. 

AFC East
Prediction: The Patriots easily win the division again (BOOOORING!), and the other teams all compete for the #1 pick in next year's draft.
BOLD Prediction: The Dolphins, Bills, and Jets fail to combine for more wins than the Patriots.

AFC North
Image result for jarvis landry hard knocksPrediction: The Steelers are the only team out of the North to make the playoffs. Sorry, Baltimore.
BOLD Prediction: Last year I said the Bengals would miss the playoffs for the second year in a row (I was right), and Marvin Lewis would lose his job after 15 seasons and zero playoff wins (I was wrong). This year I think the Bengals will finish last in the division (NOT Cleveland).  As for whether or not Marvin Lewis keeps his job?  Who knows with this team?!?

AFC South
Prediction: The Jags will regress slightly, and part of that will be due to Indy and Houston being better.  In fact, I think Watson will lead the Texans to the division title, and Jacksonville will get a wild card.  These two teams play each other in Week 17, and I hope that game decides the division.
BOLD Prediction: All 4 QBs in this division will finish the season in the top-15 in fantasy.

AFC West
Prediction: Denver goes from last to first in the division, clinching it with a win over the Chargers in Week 17.  However, the Bolts still secure the second wild card spot with 9 wins and a tiebreaker over the Chiefs.
BOLD Prediction: Mahomes is good but not great, and Travis Kelce finishes outside of the top-5 fantasy tight ends.

NFC East
Prediction: I was so wrong about the Giants last year, but I do think they'll be better this season.  Most of this division will be pretty average though, and the Eagles will win the NFC East again.
BOLD prediction: Ezekiel Elliot rushes for over 2000 yards.

NFC North
Prediction: I think this is going to be the best division in football this year, and the Vikings will win the North while the Bears continue to improve. 
BOLD Prediction: Like the NFC South last year, three teams will make the playoffs in this division.

NFC South
Prediction: This division had three teams with 10 or more wins last year, but I don't see that happening again.  In fact, I think just the Falcons make the playoffs out of the NFC South in 2018.
BOLD Prediction: The Saints defense/special teams finishes as a top-5 fantasy unit, but they don't make the playoffs.  I know, that seems impossible.  That's why it's a BOLD prediction!

NFC West
Prediction: The Rams will continue to do well in this division, and I think the 49ers will finish 2nd but miss the playoffs.  This feels like a one bid least for another year.
BOLD Prediction: In what is thought to be one of the best home field advantages in professional sports, the Seahawks will finish with a losing record at CenturyLink Field.

Here's what I predict for 2018:

AFC East: New England Patriots
AFC North: Pittsburgh Steelers
AFC South: Houston Texans
AFC West: Denver Broncos
AFC Wild Card1: Jacksonville Jaguars
AFC Wild Card2: LA Chargers
[Patriots over Steelers in AFC Championship Game]

NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles
NFC North: Minnesota Vikings
NFC South: Atlanta Falcons
NFC West: LA Rams
NFC Wild Card1: Green Bay Packers
NFC Wild Card2: Detroit Lions
[Rams over Falcons in NFC Championship Game]

Super Bowl Prediction: Patriots over Rams

Image result for brady patriots
If you've made it this far, congratulations.  I know it was a long one.  I'll get one more rankings update out there before Labor Day Weekend (when I'll be hosting my money league draft).

Until then, try to enjoy some preseason football!