Have you ever frantically added certain players to watch list prior to the start of a fantasy football draft? These are players with each of your opponent’s draft picks that you hope are available for you to select. In this article, I will share one running back, wide receiver, tight end and quarterback I am already sold on for 2018 and why you should feel the same way.
Leonard Fournette (RB – JAC)
Fournette is currently the RB11 according to our consensus ADP (average draft position). He finished last season as RB9 in PPR formats. The Jaguars led the NFL in rushing attempts (33.1) and rushing yards (141.2). Fournette averaged 20.6 rushing attempts, 80 rushing yards, and 0.7 rushing touchdowns per games in 13 games played. The only running back with more rushing attempts per game who finished with more fantasy points than Fournette was Le’Veon Bell (21.4). He touched the football or was targeted on 56 percent of his 564 snaps played last season. Fournette is only 23 years old. Age can help us make knowledgeable predictions as to when an RB will improve or regress. History suggests we could see multiple 230 or more PPR fantasy point seasons from Fournette in upcoming seasons. One area that could improve in order to help this come to fruition is Fournette’s usage as a receiver out of the backfield. He only averaged 3.7 targets, 2.8 receptions, and 23.2 receiving yards per game last season. Fournette’s injury probability and history could also derail his productivity. Sports Injury Predictor classified him as a medium risk heading into the 2017 season. Fournette missed three preseason and two regular season games due to injuries.
The Jaguars signing of guard Andrew Norwell, one of Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded offensive guards, to a $66.5 million contract reinforces the team’s commitment to the running game in 2018 and beyond. The Jaguars have a quality center and tackles, but this signing will help them course correct the poor play at guard. The offensive line ranked 13th in Adjusted Line Yards and seventh in Open Field Yards according to Football Outsiders. This suggests the Jaguars were heavily dependent on the RBs breaking long runs to make the running game work last season.
Allen Robinson (WR – CHI)
The Norwell signing and the Jaguars commitment to the running game allowed the Bears to sign Robinson to a three-year, $42 million contract which includes $25 million guaranteed. Money talks in the NFL and this contract suggests the team’s passing game will revolve around him. General manager Ryan Pace and new coach Matt Nagy brought Robinson in to be a game changer for their offense. Kendall Wright was the only Bears wide receiver last season to have 50 receptions. Former first-round draft pick Kevin White has been a bust up to this point in his career. The opportunity is there for the taking in Chicago if Robinson is fully recovered from his torn ACL.
Robinson averaged 9.4 targets, 4.8 receptions, 71.3 receiving yards, and 0.6 touchdowns per game from 2015 to 2016. He led the NFL with 4,219 air yards over that span. Robinson will turn 25 in August and the peak of a wide receiver’s career is from 25 to 29 years old. Nagy brings enthusiasm to the Bears organization. He is an innovative and aggressive play-caller with the ability to mold Mitchell Trubisky into a starting NFL quarterback. This was something the team was lacking in former head coach John Fox in 2017. Could Trubisky become this year’s Jared Goff? I believe he can and Robinson will play a huge part in that. He is currently being drafted as a WR2 but has the upside to finish as a WR1.
George Kittle (TE – SF)
Did you know that three of Kittle’s five highest receiving yards totals of the 2017 season came in the season’s final three games with Jimmy Garoppolo under center? He was targeted 14 times and had totals of 100, 52, and 42 receiving yards. Kittle’s rookie season was impacted by injuries to his ankle, back, calf, chest, elbow, hamstring, and hip. He played in 15 games last season despite the multiple injuries. The 49ers have not added any wide receivers during free agency. Garoppolo also heavily targeted the tight ends in his five starts last season. Kittle and Garrett Celek combined for 31 targets, 23 receptions, 412 receiving yards, and three touchdowns during that time frame. Kittle only played 54 percent of the 49ers’ offensive snaps. He can be viewed a TE2 with upside if he opens up training camp as the starter.
Matt Ryan (QB – ATL)
Ryan left a bad taste in the mouth of fantasy owners with his statistical production last season. He finished as the QB15 averaging 33.06 pass attempts, 255.9 passing yards, 1.2 touchdowns, and 0.75 interceptions per game. Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian has not coached in the NFL since 2005 and it showed. The offense regressed from the previous season in numerous statistical categories including yards per game and points per game. Can Sarkisian make a big leap from year one to year two in running the offense? The addition of new quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp and running backs coach Bernie Parmalee will help this offense dramatically behind the scenes. Ryan is in his physical prime and still the quarterback who averaged 37 pass attempts, 296.4 passing yards, 1.8 passing touchdowns, and 0.77 interceptions per game from 2014 to 2016. He has an elite wide receiver in Julio Jones and running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Ryan is currently being criminally undervalued based on his ADP.
There are a number of other players I am already sold on heading in 2018 that I will mention briefly.
Christian McCaffrey is in a great position with new Panthers offensive coordinator Norv Turner. I do not envision him as the team’s workhorse, but Turner will put him in position to be successful. McCaffrey is most effective running to the outside and as a receiver out of the backfield. Turner enjoys creating mismatches by having his backs run routes against linebackers and safeties. McCaffrey will be a PPR dynamo in 2018.
Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas is in a prime position to bounce back with new Broncos quarterback Case Keenum. He has averaged 9.7 targets per game over the last 96 games. Now that Thomas has a competent quarterback under center he is a great position to bounce back in 2018.
Tight end Jimmy Graham is coming off his first double-digit touchdown season since 2014. He is not the athlete he once was, but the Packers tight ends only caught five touchdowns since 2016. Graham could outperform his ADP with future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers under center.
Do you agree or disagree? What did you find most useful? Please leave a comment below or better yet reach out via Twitter @EricNMoody.
Until next time!