Veteran QB & TE Targets for 2019 Dynasty Contenders (Fantasy Football)
You’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase “age is just a number.” You’ll find that quote in any LinkedIn article about a late-life career change or even a newspaper profile of an elderly person doing anything.
I call shenanigans. When I turned 30 my body immediately started breaking down. I get sore from watching too much Netflix. Hangovers are an all-day affair. I’ve been injured exercising on an elliptical machine. Aging is real.
In dynasty leagues, however, it tends to be overrated. Playing to win now is usually the right approach, but older players with seemingly just a year or two of productivity left tend to get short shrift. Veterans are especially important if you’ve got any conceivable chance of making the playoffs. In this article, I’m going to highlight a few veteran quarterbacks and tight ends that I think can help you in dynasty leagues if you’re contending for 2019.
Note: I’m not going to be talking about guys like Aaron Rodgers, who is both a veteran and already highly ranked for 2019. You don’t need me to tell you stud players are good.
Philip Rivers (LAC)
Eli Manning is beyond done. Ben Roethlisberger may be closer than we realize. Fellow 2004 classmate Philip Rivers, on the other hand, seems primed for a big 2019. Rivers has settled in as a low-upside, borderline QB1 option in recent years, finishing as QB12, QB11, QB14, QB8, and QB11 over the last five seasons. Given this string of forgettable performances and entering his age-38 season, it’d be easy to write off Rivers in dynasty leagues.
That would be a mistake. Rivers showed no signs of aging in 2018, posting his highest completion percentage and yards per attempt since finishing as QB6 in 2013. He surpassed 30 touchdowns for the fourth time in six years. The only thing holding him back was volume: his 31.8 attempts per game in 2018 ranked just 26th in the league. Rivers also figures to have his strongest supporting cast in years.
Keenan Allen stayed healthy in 2018 and solidified his status as a top wide receiver. Former first-rounder Mike Williams started to find his footing late in the season. Soon-to-be-stud Hunter Henry will be back healthy. Even the Chargers’ line, long a weakness, jumped from bottom tier to pretty good in 2018. Rivers may only have a year or two left, but the supporting cast and his ageless game have him set up to make those years very productive.
Matthew Stafford (DET)
Dynasty players love upside. Just think of how many times Christine Michael has been picked up in your league. And you know come August he’s going to break a run in the preseason, and someone’s going to roster him again, just in case this is the year (Ok, fine…me. That someone is me. I have a problem).
Entering his age-31 season, Matthew Stafford has no upside. He hasn’t topped 4,500 yards in five years and has thrown 30 touchdowns just once in that span. He hasn’t won anyone a fantasy league since his monster 5,000-yard season all the way back in 2011.
Remember when Kim Kardashian married Kris Humphies for a few minutes? That was in 2011. It was a long time ago. Stafford is not a popular dynasty asset. And yet, her are Stafford’s fantasy finishes since 2011 – QB5, QB11, QB7, QB15, QB9, QB7, QB7, QB20.
So of course, recency bias being what it is, he’s currently sitting at QB20 in 2019 ECR. Outside of last year’s disastrous season and a dip in 2014, Stafford has never fallen that low. He’s been a solid, albeit unexciting top-12 fantasy option.
I don’t think the drop is warranted. His 2018 completion percentage was in line with recent play. His yards per attempt dipped, but didn’t crater (6.8 in 2018 versus 7.1 for his career). His touchdown percentage (3.8) was way down, suggesting he should see progression in 2019. And perhaps most importantly, he has a new offensive coordinator.
Former OC Jim Bob Cooter’s success always seemed more about having a cool name than putting together an exciting offense. Under the “Notorious JBC,”rive Stafford was shackled with a slow-paced, horizontal offense. He finished just 20th in pass attempt distance last season (per PlayerProfiler.com), which seems like a bad plan considering he has a cannon arm and two receivers adept at winning downfield. Detroit’s new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell doesn’t exactly inspire enthusiasm, but his offenses did finish 11th or better in points in five of his last six seasons and he always let Russell Wilson sling it downfield.
Stafford is as boring as it gets for dynasty, but I like him to rebound back to borderline QB1 value in 2019. If you’re going cheap at quarterback, he can be part of a successful streaming platoon.
Tyrod Taylor (FA)
It was a rough year for Taylor. Brought in to hold court until Baker Mayfield was ready, Taylor only made it two and a half games before getting pulled. His final 2018 numbers were 42/85 (49.4%), 473 yards (5.6 yards per attempt), two touchdowns, and two interceptions.
Taylor calls to mind another quarterback who struggled last season. This guy went 113/200 (56.6%) for 1,270 yards (6.35 yards per attempt), eight touchdowns, and six interceptions. That’s better than Taylor, but still pretty poor. I’m talking, of course, about Baker Mayfield in his five starts under Hue Jackson and Todd Haley.
That coaching staff made the Abducted in Plain Sight parents look vigilant. It’s not a full excuse for Taylor; he unequivocally stunk last season. But so did the situation, and so did Mayfield until Freddie Kitchens took over the offense midseason. And in his worst season, Taylor was still a fantasy asset, scoring 23.6 and 14.4 fantasy points in his two complete games. Rushing cures all fantasy ills at quarterback, and Taylor can run.
He’s flawed as a passer and unlikely to enter the year starting, but we’ve already seen him complete multiple years as a viable NFL starter. He’s a dirt cheap option who can produce good fantasy value if he lands in the right spot and finds the field in 2019. That’s a good piece to have on your bench.
Tyler Eifert (FA)
I know…Eifert is injury prone. Until he isn’t, of course, which may be as soon as this year. That’s always how these seem to go. Last year, Eifert’s season ended when a linebacker rolled up on his leg, snapping his ankle.
That’s bad luck. Anyone’s ankle would’ve snapped on that play. For sure, he’s had a lot of bad luck to start his career, but I’m happy to bet on Eifert’s fortunes turning around in 2019.
When healthy, Eifert has been one of the premiere red zone threats in the league, converting 10% of his targets into touchdowns throughout his career. With touchdowns being king in fantasy, and especially important for tight ends, that’s kind of a big deal. He’s done all of this catching passes from Andy Dalton, which makes this a good time to mention he’s a free agent and likely headed elsewhere on a one-year prove it deal.
There aren’t a lot of difference-makers at tight end. Given the dearth of options, getting the Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, George Kittle types is going to cost an arm and a leg. That’s if their owners are even willing to deal them at all. Eifert is the name that stands out as cheap, gettable, and with an outside chance to join that tier in 2019.
Jared Cook (OAK)
If someone is selling Cook as a one-year wonder, buy him. At age 32, Cook’s surprising 2018 obviously can’t be viewed as a breakout. However, he’s always been an intriguing talent who just couldn’t seem to find the right situation.
The 2018 Raiders weren’t the right situation for just about anything, but they were for Cook. The uber-athletic tight end gobbled up volume at the top of a depleted roster, leading the team in targets with 101. With Amari Cooper gone, Jordy Nelson AARP-eligible, Martavis Bryant always in trouble, and…I think they still have that the guy who always steals touchdowns from the players we care about? Seth Roberts, you still there?
The point is, whether it’s Derek Carr, a free agent retread, or some poor rookie under center, the Oakland quarterback’s most reliable target will be Jared Cook. Cook finished as the TE5 last season with 88 catches, 896 yards, and six touchdowns. He probably won’t hit those numbers again, but he can be a solid mid-range TE1 who doesn’t need a touchdown to matter in a given week. At TE11 in ECR for this season, he looks like a bargain for teams needing a tight end upgrade for 2019.
Delanie Walker (TEN)
Walker only played one game in 2018, but it was a pretty good one. He had four catches on seven targets for 52 yards. More importantly, in the four years prior to last season, Walker was good for at least 100 targets and 800 yards.
In his age-35 season and coming off a fractured ankle, it’s hard to say what Walker has left in the tank. Plus, he did drop to 10.9 yards per reception in his last healthy season, the lowest since his first year in Tennessee. That could easily have been the first sign of decline.
Then again, he’s never really relied on elite athleticism in ascending to one of the most solid tight ends in fantasy. Especially since joining Tennessee, Walker’s game has been consistency, grinding out four-catch games and six touchdown seasons. He was a top-eight fantasy tight end in his last four healthy seasons, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to see him get there again. Jonnu Smith didn’t exactly run away with the job in Walker’s absence, and Corey Davis once again struggled with consistency as Tennessee’s top option. As long as Walker can still move, he has a path to 100 targets, making him a solid 2019 option.