DRAFT: QBs and TEs to Target (2019 Fantasy Football)
In-season fantasy can be extremely frustrating. I’ve benched 4o point scorers, cut handcuffs right before the starter gets injured, and lost games by margins less than Dave Gettleman’s IQ. That’s an acute pain — sharp, intense, and short-term.
Best ball frustration is an entirely different animal. Inevitably, come August you’ll look back at these early-season drafts and wonder how that guy could’ve possibly been going in that round. Whether you jumped on a guy way too early (hello, Sammy Watkins) or let a boring player slip to the double-digit rounds, these early-season drafts can make you feel downright silly in hindsight.
Because early-season drafts are laden with mistakes, they offer a ton of value. In this article, I’m going to highlight a few of the quarterbacks and tight ends I’m targeting at their current average draft positions in DRAFT best ball leagues. Hopefully, we’ll feel less stupid come August.
Cam Newton (CAR): ADP – 108
Obviously the only way Newton is falling to the 10th round is because folks are scared off by his shoulder injury. Yes, it’s the same injury that cost Andrew Luck a season. And yes, there’s a chance Newton misses some or all of the 2019 season, and this is a wasted pick.
The thing is, you don’t need to win every best ball league you enter. You should be taking some calculated risks along the way, and Newton is a perfect pick to get you to the top spot. He already has five seasons as a top-four fantasy quarterback and finished eighth in points per game last season (20.2) even though he could barely throw by the end of the year.
After years of Greg Olsen and not much else, he now has some of the most exciting playmakers in the league with Christian McCaffrey, Curtis Samuel, and D.J. Moore. Newton’s game is also tailor made for best ball scoring — few quarterbacks can put up the spike weeks like Newton (eight games of 25+ fantasy points over the last two seasons). Newton’s the type of player who could be going three to four rounds earlier by August.
Josh Allen (BUF): ADP – 115.2
Allen went full on “Rowengartner” in 2018, as an elbow injury spurred an absolutely scorching stretch run in his rookie season. Allen averaged 24.2 fantasy points per game after returning from that injury in Week 12, with only one game below 18 points. Sure, the passing remains a work in progress. He completed just 52% of his passes for 6.86 yards per attempt with eight touchdowns to seven interceptions during that hot streak, and had the worst completion percentage in the league.
Optimists would point to the natural second-year jump in efficiency many quarterbacks experience and hope that his offensive line and receiving corps-among the worst in the league on both counts-improve in 2019. I’m not really banking on any of that. I don’t think Allen will develop as a passer, as he was inaccurate and inconsistent in college as well.
I just don’t think it matters, because even if Allen has the best fastball in the NFL, his real value is in his rushing. Allen topped 90 rushing yards in four of his last six contests while finding the end zone five times, adding 13 points per game on the ground. He’s a good athlete, and big enough to take the pounding that most failed rushing quarterbacks couldn’t. That, plus his big arm, will give Allen enough spike weeks to make him well worth his current 10th-round price tag.
Carson Wentz (PHI): ADP – 117
How quickly we forget. Wentz was fantasy’s QB1 and real life’s MVP frontrunner in 2017 before tearing his ACL late in the season. That injury lingered into 2018, Wentz got off to a slow start, and Philly stumbled through a massive Super Bowl hangover. Then Wentz got hurt again in Week 14, Nick Foles rallied the Eagles back to the playoffs, and the narrative on Wentz took a dark turn.
Just one problem: Wentz was actually really good last season. Compared to his breakout 2017, Wentz’s completion percentage and yards per attempt dropped…not at all. His completion percentage actually jumped almost 10 points in 2018, while he showed slight improvement in yards per attempt. The only major dropoff was in touchdowns, where his unsustainable 7.5% TD rate from 2017 fell to a still strong 5.2% in 2018.
From a fantasy perspective, his “down” season involved at least 18 fantasy points in eight of his 11 starts. To the extent there were struggles last season, they felt more like a team-wide issue, as the Eagles dealt with the loss of their offensive coordinator, multiple injuries to wide receivers, and the failed Golden Tate experiment. The team seemed to right the ship by the end of the season, averaging 27.4 points per game in December. I expect a big bounce-back from Wentz in 2019. Diversification is usually the right strategy in best ball, but I’ll take Wentz every time at his current ADP.
- Matt Ryan (ATL): ADP – 89.4 — With so many great options later there’s no need to grab a quarterback before the ninth or 10th round, but the perception that Ryan had a down year makes him a value. He was actually the QB2 in points per game last season.
- Mitch Trubisky (CHI): ADP – 124.4 — Why is last year’s QB11 going as the QB18? Why did the Temple Guards from Legends of the Hidden Temple treat a half pendant the same as a full pendant? I don’t know, but these are questions you should be asking (While we’re on the subject, could Trubisky figure out the Monkey Shrine statue? I don’t think he has the processing speed).
- Kirk Cousins (MIN): ADP – 131.5 — It never seemed to click in his first year in Minnesota, but a new offensive coordinator plus Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are reasons for optimism.
David Njoku (CLE): ADP – 65.9
The middle rounds offer a number of intriguing tight end options. Eric Ebron, O.J. Howard, and Hunter Henry are all good bets to post strong TE1 numbers, but none of them scream “value” in the fifth round.
I’d rather wait a round and scoop up Njoku. The 2017 first-rounder has had a slow start to his career, but most tight ends do, especially ones as young as Njoku (20 years old when drafted). Plus, could you blame him for underperforming with Hue Jackson? In eight games under new head coach Freddie Kitchens, Njoku was on pace for 50 catches and 684 yards (13.7 yards per catch); very solid numbers for a young tight end.
The timing is also perfect, as target-hog Odell Beckham Jr.’s arrival will probably push Njoku down even further. I have zero concerns about Njoku’s volume-Kitchens and new offensive coordinator Todd Monken both love three things: throwing, going vertical, and using tight ends. The uber-athletic Njoku is a great fit for this offense. He’s my favorite bet for a breakout season.
Vance McDonald (PIT): ADP – 101
After a massive 16-target, 10-catch performance in the 2017 AFC Divisional Round, Vance McDonald seemed primed for his long-awaited breakout. Then he missed all of preseason with a foot injury, came back to a timeshare, and never really carved out a consistent role in the offense. There were flashes-most notably ending Chris Conte in the middle of a 75-yard touchdown catch-but he finished just 15th among tight ends in points per game. It just never fully clicked for McDonald, which has kind of been the story of his career.
Even so, 50 catches for 610 yards and four touchdowns is not a bad line. The talent has always been there. With a little more volume, McDonald could pretty easily become a consistent top-12 tight end and double his touchdown count. With Jesse James moving to Detroit and Antonio Brown exiled to
Siberia the Raiders, McDonald should see a big bump in playing time and targets in 2019. If he can just stay healthy-an issue throughout his career-this could be the year he finally fulfills the promise he’s teased since being drafted in the second round of the 2013 Draft.
Trey Burton (CHI): ADP – 106.2
Burton was inconsistent in his first season as a full-time starter. After his monster Week 6 (nine catches, 126 yards, one touchdown), he didn’t top 40 yards in a game for the rest of the season. Still, the ninth round is a pretty good value for an athletic tight end with a locked-in role on one of the better offenses in the league. Trubisky’s inconsistency as a passer may render Burton a permanent headache in season-long leagues, but we obviously don’t have to worry about that in best ball formats. He should at least repeat last year’s TE12 finish, but there’s room for growth.
- Jordan Reed (WAS): ADP – 138.5 — His usage in 2018 was just odd…at least he stayed (relatively) healthy. I’ll place another bet on his talent with the discounted 12th round price.
- Mike Gesicki (MIA): ADP – 183.1 — He’s an elite athlete without a lot of competition for targets, and I think moving on from Ryan Tannehill and Adam Gase can only help.