Insider Buzz You Need to Know for 2019 Fantasy Football

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterAugust 29, 2019

Insider Buzz You Need to Know for 2019 Fantasy Football

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    If there's one thing we are almost guaranteed to see this coming fantasy football season, it is an influx of new fantasy stars.

    Yes, some of the usual stars will do lots of their usual star things. Antonio Brown will still be productive in Oakland. Patrick Mahomes will still obliterate defenses. Aaron Rodgers will make a dramatic comeback.

    But this fantasy season could be dominated by names that aren't part of your household yet. Rookie wide receiver DK Metcalf in Seattle and the Packers' second-year wideout Marquez Valdes-Scantling aren't stars yet, but they're on the radar of every fantasy owner.

    And then there are those whose names are not quite so new, like Rams receiver Cooper Kupp, who could elevate his game to near superstar status in his third season with Jared Goff, or Carolina receiver Curtis Samuel, who could energize the Panthers offense and provide Cam Newton a nice weapon.

    So when you're drafting, don't be afraid to take chances on less well-known names.

    This year, they won't stay lesser known for long. So let's hear what scouts are saying about some of the less certain fantasy football talents and what it all means.

           

    Need more help with your fantasy football lineup? Matt Camp answers your Fantasy questions live on B/R Gridiron's new show, Your Fantasy Fire Drill. Download the B/R app now to submit your questions and tune in every Sunday at 11:30 a.m. ET.

Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings

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    Jose Juarez/Associated Press

    AFC scout: "He's one of the most explosive players in the league but just hasn't been able to prove it because he's been hurt. This year we could see the real Dalvin Cook. He'll be one of the top two or three backs in the league."

           

    Indeed, for the first time in two years Dalvin Cook looks physically sound. And while that may be the biggest reason the Vikings back could explode this season, it's not the only one.

    There's also an improved offensive line and another year with Kirk Cousins, who should play better after spending a year in the Minnesota system. That should force defenses to focus less on Cook.

    Want a taste of what Cook might do? This 85-yard touchdown run in the Vikes' third preseason game this year should satisfy.

    Projection: 1,200 yards and 8 rushing touchdowns

Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams

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    Rey Del Rio/Associated Press

    AFC team executive: "Everything points to him taking a significant step back. [From a fantasy standpoint], his numbers will be lower because they're going to protect him. He won't carry as much of the load as the last few years."

           

    Todd Gurley is one of the game's great mysteries, whether it is on an NFL field or in fantasy.

    He's good. Very good. The problem is every indicator points to Gurley being used more sparingly than the Rams ever have. He should still have good numbers, but they just won't be stratospheric, top-of-the-draft ones.

    Projection: 1,050 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns

Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, RBs, Dallas Cowboys

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    AFC team executive: "I expect [Zeke] to miss at least one game. I think the Cowboys and Zeke are both trying to make a statement. Zeke wants to say, 'I should be highest-paid back in the NFL.' Jerry [Jones] wants to say, 'I'm going to prove we can win without you.'"

            

    Jones isn't a dummy. He knows Elliott is special and makes the Cowboys a formidable opponent. Jones is also stubborn. One comparison to consider is the stalemate Emmitt Smith and the Cowboys found themselves in during the 1993 season. Coming off a '92 campaign in which he led the league in rushing, Smith held out the first two regular-season games the following fall. Jones caved after Dallas started 0-2 and handed Smith a new deal.

    With Elliott out, the running back duties will be handled by Tony Pollard, whom rival teams absolutely love. While he's no Elliott, Pollard averaged 6.8 yards per rush in three seasons at Memphis and registered more than 1,000 yards from scrimmage in his final season with the Tigers.

          

    Projections:

    Elliott: 15 games, 1,285 yards and 8 rushing touchdowns

    Pollard: 490 yards and 4 rushing touchdowns

Antonio Brown, WR, Oakland Raiders

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    NFC scout: "You will see zero drop-off. None. He will be the same AB because [Jon] Gruden will get him open despite the weaknesses of [Derek] Carr."

          

    This belief is definitely the minority view. Most believe that: a) Brown will regress because he doesn't have Ben Roethlisberger throwing to him and b) Brown is a massive pain in the ass who will disrupt the locker room and potentially miss games because of a tantrum over something or other.

    The truth is likely somewhere in the middle. It is, however, a safe bet to assume Brown will again do something that will force the Raiders to discipline him by sitting him at least one game, so adjust your expectations.

              

    Projection: 1,100 yards and 9 touchdowns

Curtis Samuel, WR, Carolina Panthers

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    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    AFC scout: "This is the year that Curtis Samuel becomes a star."

             

    Quarterback Cam Newton recently almost caused the Panthers a collective heart attack when he injured his foot in a preseason game against the Patriots. Turns out he's fine and should still be on track to engineer a sort of pseudo-renaissance. The reason why is Curtis Samuel.

    The third-year pro out of Ohio State caught four of his five receiving scores in the final nine weeks last season. And in December, he produced his best month as a pro, catching 20 passes for 298 yards in five games. Still, he isn't likely to generate much double coverage (at least initially), but opposing DBs will find he's not easy to track.

    An excellent short-route runner, Samuel's emergence could pull some targets away from Christian McCaffrey. That shouldn't stop anyone from drafting McCaffrey, but it is a possibility that could dampen his value a bit.

             

    Projection: 72 catches and 8 touchdowns

Josh Gordon, WR, New England Patriots

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    NFC assistant coach: "Josh is the greatest wild card in the league. He's worth the risk, but he is a huge risk."

              

    Before receiver Josh Gordon stepped away from football in December, he had 40 catches for 720 yards and three touchdowns in just 11 games with the Patriots.

    In a perfect universe, we wouldn't discuss substance and mental health issues in this kind of forum, but this is fantasy football and the bottom line is this:

    If you draft Gordon, he will produce. He will win you games. He will churn out catches and yards because that's what he's always done as a player.

    Yet he could also play for five games and then leave football. Or fail a drug test. This is the cold part of fantasy (and life), but it's reality. Draft him, but it's impossible to do so with confidence that he will be around for 16 games.

             

    Projection: 60 catches and 5 touchdowns

Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard, RBs, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    AFC scout: "The bet is that [Sanders] will start, but it doesn't really matter."

                 

    Miles Sanders is the rookie out of Penn State who ran for 1,274 yards and nine touchdowns in his final college season. He'll be competing for carries with Jordan Howard, who once starred for the Bears before he began losing touches to Tarik Cohen last season and was eventually shipped to Philly over the offseason for a draft pick. Both are good players, and it's likely the Eagles will use both almost equally. In other words, the Eagles are about to employ what may be the four worst words in fantasy: running back by committee.

    In real life, the Eagles' running back situation is fantastic. They are deep and talented. In fantasy? Stay the hell away.

                           

    Projections:

    Sanders: 510 yards and 4 touchdowns

    Howard: 470 yards and 3 touchdowns

DK Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    NFC assistant coach: "The thing about Russell Wilson is he makes everyone around him significantly better. He does that as well as any quarterback in the league not named Brady. He'll do the same with [Metcalf].

                   

    The general consensus I get from teams is that the explosiveness of the Seahawks will surprise people, and DK Metcalf is a reason why. Metcalf had a limited route tree when he was drafted out of Mississippi this past spring, but that's changed as his abilities have broadened over the summer.

    While a knee surgery the Seahawks termed as "minimal" may keep him out Week 1, when Metcalf returns expect the Seahawks to take advantage of his physical skills by taking advantage of Wilson's underrated ability to throw with great accuracy, especially on deep passes.

                     

    Projection: 45 catches and 4 touchdowns

Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams

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    Bill Feig/Associated Press

    AFC scout: "I wouldn't be shocked if he finished the year top five in receptions."

               

    This isn't totally far-fetched. Before Cooper Kupp tore his ACL last season, he had 40 catches for 566 yards and six touchdowns in eight games.

    The Rams offense is still loaded, and Kupp will get his share of targets (he ranked fourth on the Rams in the category in 2018 despite missing half the season).

    True, this is an offense with a lot of mouths to feed, but underestimating Kupp's role in it would be a mistake. He's that good.

                   

    Projection: 70 catches and 9 touchdowns

Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR, Green Bay Packers

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    NFC assistant coach: "Aaron Rodgers will have a huge comeback this season, and I think his biggest target will be [Valdes-Scantling]."

                   

    If Rodgers does return to Superman form, the biggest beneficiary could indeed be Valdes-Scantling, who is a solid No. 2 receiver and on some rosters would be a No. 1. He's developed good chemistry with Rodgers (he ranked third on the team last season in both targets and receiving yards) and should become a bigger part of the Packers offense in his second season.

                  

    Projection: 48 catches and 4 touchdowns

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