Bold Predictions for the 2019 Fantasy Football Season

Matt Camp@TheMattCampFantasy Football Lead WriterAugust 30, 2019

Bold Predictions for the 2019 Fantasy Football Season

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    Playing it safe in fantasy football may be good enough for a third-place or runner-up finish, but it won't be good enough to win. You're here to win, right? Sometimes that means shooting your shot.

    Believing in the narrative that Carson Wentz isn't trustworthy because he can't stay healthy is too easy and, frankly, too lazy. You should instead believe in his ability and the great talent around him. A healthy Wentz can lead your fantasy team and the Philadelphia Eagles to a championship.

    Dalvin Cook is coming off two injury-plagued seasons, and while he isn't being dragged down into the same injury conversations as Wentz, those concerns are keeping him out of the first round. However, Cook is a first-round fantasy talent and might be the focal point of the Minnesota Vikings offense in 2019.

    It's also dangerous to use small sample sizes to pump up players who benefit more from opportunity than talent.

    There's no doubt Damien Williams played well when the Kansas City Chiefs needed him to take on a bigger role last season. It was also the first time in his five-year career that he had been pushed into such a significant spot. Do you trust him to play at that level for an entire season? 

    Derrick Henry may have been the catalyst for your fantasy championship run in 2018. He was the only Tennessee Titans player to even consider using down the stretch, and he came through in a big way. That hasn't been the norm over Henry's three seasons, yet many are willing to ignore his disappointing history and focus on one month.

    The season predictions in this article focus on talent more than opportunity. They are not hot takes. Nor are they outlandish thoughts for the purposes of being outlandish. They're based on what we've seen from these players throughout the majority of their careers.

         

    Still can't figure out your fantasy football lineup for the week? Check out Your Fantasy Fire Drill with Matt Camp, where he answers your questions live. Submit your questions and and tune in every Sunday at 11:30 a.m. ET, only on the B/R app.

Kareem Hunt Will Be on Fantasy Championship Rosters

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    If you believe Nick Chubb is too talented to keep off the field, you're right. 

    Counterpoint: Kareem Hunt is also too talented to keep off the field.

    That's a wonderful problem for the Cleveland Browns during a season in which expectations are high—hotel reservations for February in Miami high.

    The best teams get the most out of their best players. The previous regime in Cleveland felt the need to keep Chubb off the field in favor of Carlos Hyde, and that's why Hue Jackson doesn't coach the Browns anymore. You couldn't defend such foolishness, especially after seeing how well Chubb played once he became the guy in Cleveland's backfield.

    However, it wouldn't be hard to defend using Hunt.

    Over 27 career games, Hunt has racked up 2,151 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns on 453 attempts (4.7 yards per attempt) with 79 receptions for 833 yards and 10 receiving touchdowns. He led the NFL in rushing as a rookie with 1,327 yards in 2017 and was RB4 for fantasy. Through 12 weeks last season, Hunt was RB8 in both total points (230.2) and fantasy points per game (20.9).

    By comparison, Chubb was RB8 in total points (165.2) from Weeks 7-17 when he took over the Browns backfield following the trade of Hyde. However, he was RB11 in fantasy points per game (16.5) among players with at least eight appearances.

    He was excellent, but Hunt had a higher peak.

    The Browns coaching staff doesn't care about your fantasy team. When Hunt is eligible to return from his eight-game suspension following the team's Week 9 matchup against the Denver Broncos, Cleveland would be foolish not to use him. He's a talented player with fresh legs who can give Chubb a breather to keep him playing at a higher level deeper into the season.

    Because of his suspension, it'll be tough to keep Hunt on your roster for nine weeks. In fact, you won't even have to draft him during his recovery from sports hernia surgery, though he should be back in time for Week 10, per the Browns' official Twitter account.

    However, he will likely end up on teams towards the top of the standings that are able to weather the last few weeks of his absence until he can bring a lineup boost to a flex—or maybe even an RB2—spot.

A Healthy Dalvin Cook Winds Up as a Top-5 Fantasy Back

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    The argument against Cook is an injury history that limited him to just 15 games over his first two seasons. He was able to return from a torn ACL suffered as a rookie to open the 2018 regular season, but a hamstring problem plagued him for more than a month before he was able to get back on the field for the second half of the year. 

    Cook enters his third season with no nagging injuries, which puts him in line for a big workload in the Minnesota Vikings offense.

    Last December, the team moved on from offensive coordinator John DeFilippo and made quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski the interim coordinator. Over the final three games of the season, Cook ran 46 times for 248 yards and two touchdowns. That accounted for over 40 percent of his total rushing yards over 11 games. 

    The Vikings took the interim tag off Stefanski, which wasn't surprising considering the success the team had running the ball under his play-calling. Even with Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen comprising one of the best wide receiver duos in the league, head coach Mike Zimmer has been pretty clear about featuring the run.

    Whether you agree with that philosophy doesn't matter. It's about recognizing what a team wants to do and who will benefit as a result.

    If you can look past Cook's unfortunate injury luck, you'll see a player who deserves to be featured as a three-down back on a team that wants to make him the focal point of the offense. If you extrapolate Cook's final three games under Stefanski to a full season, he'd have 245 carries for 1,322 yards and 10 touchdowns. Include the receiving numbers for those last three games and he'd add about 43 receptions for 443 yards.

    Obviously, that's a small sample size. But even if you scale it back just a bit, Cook should be in line for a busy season both on the ground and through the air. If healthy, he will outplay his ADP and wind up as a top-five running back in fantasy.

Damien Williams Won't Live Up to His High ADP

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    In 2018, Damien Williams proved vigilance on the waiver wire can win you a championship even if you lose one of your foundational players. However, he could hurt your chances of winning a title in 2019. 

    Over the first 11 games of 2018, Williams logged three carries for one yard and three receptions for 18 yards. He was nowhere near the fantasy radar until the Kansas City Chiefs cut Kareem Hunt. During the final five games, he rushed 47 times for 255 yards and four touchdowns with 20 receptions for 142 yards and two more touchdowns. That was good enough to be RB9 from Weeks 12-17. 

    To his credit, Williams played well in two playoff games with 159 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries in addition to 10 receptions on 14 targets for 91 yards and two more scores. When the Chiefs called his number, he responded. Including the postseason, he was an impactful player in both fantasy and reality for seven games. 

    Williams enters 2019 on top of the Chiefs' depth chart, and he deserves to be there. But he also has little competition.

    Carlos Hyde is the only other back with real experience, and he could be on the chopping block in the coming days, per Adam Teicher of ESPN. The rest of the backfield has a combined career total of 13 carries for 44 yards and three receptions for 27 yards, all of which comes from Darrel Williams. 

    Given the lack of experience in this backfield, the Chiefs would be wise to bring in another option with a longer track record. Perhaps head coach Andy Reid would be interested in a reunion with LeSean McCoy if the veteran doesn't stick with the Buffalo Bills?

    That's a tempting option when you consider Damien Williams' career. In five seasons, he's never logged more than 50 carries or 23 receptions. 

    On one hand, he hasn't been overworked. But on the other, he's likely looking at a massive jump in total touches, which is wear and tear to which his body isn't accustomed. Even though he played in the team's third preseason game, Williams already missed time in August with a hamstring injury.  

    While he was impressive last season, playing a lead role for the entire season is a big ask, even if this is an ideal situation in a great offense. Sitting at an average draft position (ADP) of 25 (RB12), he has major bust potential considering the investment you must make to get him.

Tevin Coleman Ends the Season as a Top-20 Fantasy Back

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    The Coleman bandwagon is starting to get crowded, but there's still time for you to jump on board.

    Even though the San Francisco 49ers came into the 2019 offseason with a backfield depth chart that included Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson, they still gave Coleman a two-year deal worth $8.5 million ($5.25 million guaranteed). According to Spotrac, he has the 16th-highest average salary for 2019. 

    So why would the 49ers shell out that type of cash when they already boasted a solid group of backs?

    Head coach Kyle Shanahan has a positive history with Coleman that likely precipitated the deal. When he played under the then-Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator in 2016, he finished as RB19 while sharing the backfield with Devonta Freeman, who was RB6.

    Since Shanahan left Atlanta for San Francisco, Coleman posted finishes of RB22 and RB18 the last two seasons. Now that the two are reunited with the 49ers, his run of strong seasons should continue, especially with the team's backfield likely clearing up a bit due to McKinnon's ongoing knee issues.

    According to Eric Branch of San Francisco Chronicle, general manager John Lynch indicated McKinnon had another setback in his attempt to return from the torn ACL suffered almost a year ago. While the injury is unfortunate for McKinnon, it clears Coleman's path to a big role in this backfield.

    Breida's presence can't be ignored, but we've seen Coleman post top-20 numbers in a shared situation before. He could lead the way this time, which makes another top-20 finish a real possibility.

Carson Wentz Will Wind Up as a Top-3 QB

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    Much like Dalvin Cook, it's hard to have much of a conversation about Wentz before his injuries are brought up as detriments to his fantasy value. But you shouldn't worry about the quarterback's injuries since he's healthy now.

    Less than two years ago, Wentz was playing at a top-two level through 13 games until he suffered a torn ACL against the Los Angeles Rams. Last season never really got rolling as he started on the sidelines before making his debut in Week 3. He posted five 300-yard efforts and 21 touchdowns to seven interceptions in 11 games before a back issue ended his season just two weeks into December.

    Wentz has been fully cleared without any restrictions for the start of training camp, which was not the case last year. Alshon Jeffery also missed time at the beginning of last season because of a shoulder injury, and he similarly enters this season at 100 percent. The wideout played at a WR17 level from his Week 4 debut until the end of the season.

    The Eagles still have Wentz's top target in Zach Ertz and another luxury tight end in Dallas Goedert. The selection of J.J. Arcega-Whiteside provides both insurance for Jeffery and a big red-zone target for Wentz.

    DeSean Jackson returns as a deep threat who can be more than that to this offense. And while he has a broken ring finger, it's not expected to keep him out of the opener, per Eagles insider Dave Spadaro.

    An enhanced rushing attack featuring Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard should provide additional help for Wentz. Plus, he's playing behind arguably the best offensive line in the league. Throw in head coach Doug Pederson, who's two seasons removed from a Super Bowl, and everything is set up well for Wentz to regain a spot in the elite-quarterback echelon.

Chris Carson Will Finish as an RB1

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    The No. 1 rushing offense in 2018 saw Doug Baldwin retire during the offseason.

    Carson led that backfield and finished as RB15 despite missing two games. So why is he going in the opposite direction with an ADP of 41 (RB21)? He should be moving up in the fantasy world.

    Last year, the Seahawks were second in rushing attempts (534) and tied for fifth in yards per carry (4.8) while leading the league with 160 rushing yards per game. That means Seattle had a busy, productive and efficient rushing attack.

    The way it approached the passing game was different.

    The Seahawks ranked last in pass attempts per game (26.7), so there wasn't any real effort to achieve balance in the offense. In fact, the Tennessee Titans were the only other team to average more rush attempts than pass attempts. However, Seattle still managed to place sixth in yards per attempt (8.1) and tied for fifth with 35 touchdowns through the air. 

    Repeating that efficiency would be tough for any team, but losing a top target like Baldwin makes it even tougher. Rookie DK Metcalf is recovering from a knee procedure, and David Moore is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury.

    Russell Wilson is an excellent quarterback, but he's lacking targets, which should put Carson in the spotlight during his third season. 

    Carson comes off a 2018 season in which he accounted for a 46.3 percent carry share (247 carries) and 1,151 yards with nine rushing touchdowns. Mike Davis vacates a 21 percent carry share (112 carries) while Rashaad Penny made up just 15.9 percent of the team's total (85 carries). 

    An expanded role for Penny is likely coming as the clear No. 2, but Carson is still the unquestioned lead back for the Seahawks. When you factor in the loss of Baldwin (team-high 18.3 percent target share) and the injuries to the wide receiver corps, he should see an uptick from the 20 receptions he had last season. 

    Carson's ADP has been on the rise throughout August, yet it still hasn't reached last year's finish despite all signs pointing to him entering the biggest role of his career. Enjoy the discount on a player who will enter the RB1 conversation this season.

Derrick Henry Will Be a Fantasy Bust

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    How you view Derrick Henry probably depends on when he was on your fantasy roster.

    If you watched him not get enough touches in a tandem with DeMarco Murray in 2017, you may have kept some faith that he would do more in 2018. That faith was severely tested and likely lost if you tried to stick by him for the first three months last season.

    Then December happened.

    The final four games of the season saw the Tennessee Titans basically turn their entire offense over to Henry. After logging 13-plus carries just twice in the first 12 games, he had at least 16 carries in each of the final four contests. During that time, he rushed 87 times for 585 yards and seven touchdowns, which made him the top fantasy back.

    Those are hard numbers to replicate, especially when it comes to scoring chances on a team that doesn't project as anything more than an average offense with quarterback issues.

    Rostering Henry during that fantastic finish may have won you a fantasy championship, but you likely positioned yourself for success without his help. He may have been sitting on the waiver wire due to his unreliability during the first 13 weeks.

    He scored just 95.5 fantasy points through Week 13, which put him at RB39. Even though he found the endzone five times in those 12 games, he never ran for more than 58 yards and topped 50 just four times. You needed him to score to be worthy of your starting lineup.

    Does a hot month really change Henry's perception? According to his ADP, the answer is yes. Despite missing time in August with a calf injury, he remains inside the top 20 running backs at RB19 and finds himself on the cusp of the third round at 37.4. He was RB22 in fantasy points per game last season. 

    Because Henry has a minimal role in the passing game (18 targets in 2018, 50 in three seasons), his ceiling is lower than most backs. 

    It might be easier to believe in him on a better overall team. Good teams provide more scoring opportunities, and playing with the lead usually results in more carries. In 2018, the Titans ranked 25th in yards per game and 27th in points.

    Adding Adam Humphries and A.J. Brown, as well as the return of Delanie Walker, might boost them to the middle of the pack, but that's only if either Marcus Mariota or Ryan Tannehill can be more than just a serviceable quarterback. 

    Investing a top-40 pick in Henry as a solid RB2 is a risk you can avoid.

    All average draft position (ADP) data and fantasy stats used to calculate finishes from FantasyPros. All advanced stats calculated using data from Pro Football Reference. All stats are based on PPR formats.

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