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Players to Be Thankful for in 2019 (Fantasy Football)

by Paul Ghiglieri | @FantasyEvolves | Featured Writer
Nov 28, 2019

D.J. Chark deserves our gratitude for being a waiver-wire pickup who evolved into a WR1

Thanksgiving is a unique holiday in American history. Its purpose has been somewhat obscured over the years, so much so that separating fact from fiction can be almost as complicated as separating the turkey and half a dozen side dishes from each other on one plate. Inevitably, there is bound to be overlap.

Textbooks and children’s books that continue to propagate myths add even more distance from the truth. You didn’t come here for a history lesson, but if you’re interested in cleaning up the distortion surrounding this national holiday, you can find some truth here and here.

I bring this up because we can easily forget the truth behind some of our favorite Thanksgiving traditions, like why do the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions always play on this day? After all, few would argue against watching football on Thanksgiving as one of the best traditions of the holiday.

For most people, Thanksgiving has been simplified to represent a gathering of family and/or friends, the enjoyment of good company, and arguably the biggest meal you’ll devour all year. Most importantly, it’s a time to reflect on what you’re most thankful for in life. Growing up, I spent most Thanksgivings together with both my immediate family and much of my extended family. It was a large gathering in the San Francisco Bay Area and at the center of it was always football.

My father worshipped at Joe Montana’s throne and he spent the early morning playing in a football game with many of his childhood buddies and coworkers. He had me at a young age, so I was just old enough to remember him leaving for these tackle football extravaganzas in the morning and coming home with stained jerseys and dirt all over his hands in his late 20s and early 30s.

I live in Los Angeles now with my wife and young children. We have no family in the area, and when my wife and I were just dating, we spent every Thanksgiving with fellow friends here in LA who also had no family in town — a “Friendsgiving” we called it. It was a raucous and hilarious good time with football always on in the background.

These days, Thanksgiving is a much quieter affair, but football remains at the heart of it. I have taken my father’s tradition and made it my own, organizing a friendly football game with fellow dads and buddies every year around Thanksgiving.

Admittedly, our game is of the flag football variety, but we’re also in our late 30s and 40s and we’re already risking a pulled hammy or MCL sprain as it is. We don’t need to add concussions and broken bones to the list. Not when there will be turkey, cranberry, broccoli casserole, stuffing, and all the traditional delectable fixings again this year to enjoy.

I will reflect on being thankful for my family and friends, both new and old. As always, the one constant will be football. With that, here are the players we should all be most thankful for in 2019.

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Lamar Jackson (QB – BAL)
Could there be anyone else at quarterback? Lamar Jackson has become a veritable cheat code at the position, posting RB2 rushing numbers while setting new standards for efficiency and explosiveness as a passer. The man can do with 20 passes and a dozen rushing attempts what no other quarterback since perhaps Michael Vick has done, and Jackson’s high character, humility, and aggressive nature on the football field put him in a tier of his own when coupled with his physical talents.

Jackson joins Russell Wilson as arguably the most exciting players in the game to watch each week. Jackson has 30 combined passing and rushing touchdowns. He’s on pace for more than 1,200 yards rushing…as a quarterback! He will almost certainly set a new record for the most fantasy points ever scored by a quarterback, outshining even Patrick Mahomes‘ electric 2018 season. Most impressively, Jackson holds a 111.4 passer rating (third highest in the NFL) and a league-leading QBR of 82.2.

Dalvin Cook (RB – MIN)
An argument can be made for Christian McCaffrey here since he’s been the most valuable running back in fantasy football this season. However, CMC already won many folks a fantasy title last year and he was a top two or three pick in almost every league this year. He has delivered what his owners expected, whereas Dalvin Cook had yet to play a full season, let alone deliver on his promise until now. We have waited three years to see Cook start more than 10 games in a season. Hopefully, he finishes the season healthy since he has been almost as valuable a commodity as McCaffrey despite being taken in the second round of many drafts.

This year marks the first year Cook has rushed for over 1,000 yards and he’s currently on pace for over 660 yards receiving, making him one of the premier dual-threat runners in fantasy. It’s almost a lock that he eclipses over 2,000 combined rushing and receiving yards this season. With 11 touchdowns on the ground so far, Cook continues to be the elusive engine that makes Minnesota’s explosive offense run. His footwork, balance, and burst make him one of the most electric talents to watch every Sunday.

D.J. Chark (WR – JAC)
It’s hard not to go with Michael Thomas here since he remains on pace to break the NFL record for most receptions in a season or Chris Godwin, who has emerged as a bonafide WR1 as many predicted he would. However, how can we not be most thankful for a player like Chark who came out of nowhere to give sustainable WR1 production to owners who plucked him off the waiver wire earlier this year? After watching talents like Justin Blackmon, Marqise Lee, and Allen Robinson struggle to fill Jimmy Smith’s shoes in Jacksonville, the Jaguars might finally have a true number one wideout for years to come in Chark.

The former second-round pick out of LSU was plagued with inconsistency during his rookie campaign last year, securing just 14 receptions for 174 yards and zero touchdowns in 11 games while starting none of them. In 2019, Chark already has 56 receptions for 834 yards (14.9 Yds/Rec) and eight touchdowns. He’s on pace for over 80 catches, 1,200+ yards receiving, and 11 touchdowns. If you spent your number one waiver pick after Week 1 on Chark, he has delivered in spades. What has led to this dramatic turnaround after a lackluster rookie campaign in 2018? Apparently, sleep does a body good.

George Kittle (TE – SF)
Without question, there are many others at the tight end position that should also make fantasy owners and lovers of football grateful. Austin Hooper has been one of the great surprises of the year at tight end, though his injury hurts his owners trying to make a playoff push. Darren Waller’s redemption story is one of the best in football and is a front-runner for Comeback Player of the Year, even if he’s been rather quiet the last five weeks. However, George Kittle, the same man who played with a bone chip in his ankle, has posted top-10 numbers at the position despite missing two weeks to injury.

While Kittle may not reach the same lofty and record-setting statistical heights he did last season, he looks poised to finish strong when his owners need him most. Kittle remains on pace to finish with over 1,000 yards receiving and might actually surpass last year’s rather modest career-high in touchdowns (five) seeing as he already has three and still has five games left to play. Plus, the joy and character he brings to the game might be unmatched.

Now for those who play in IDP leagues…

Chandler Jones (DL – ARI)
Chandler Jones has been a dominant force on the line, leading the NFL with 12.5 sacks and all defensive linemen with five forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. His 635 snaps are the eighth-most among all eligible defensive lineman, so he rarely leaves the field. Put simply, he has been fantasy gold in IDP leagues. As a two-time Pro Bowler, former All-Pro, and Super Bowl champion, could Jones add yet another accolade to his already storied career?

The fact that he will sneak up on a divisional rival at a supermarket and pretend to be an adoring fan is just the gravy on the turkey for why we should be grateful for Chandler Jones.

Shaquil Barrett (LB – TB)
Did you know Shaquil Barrett has not gone more than two games this year without a sack? In fact, Barrett’s 12.5 sacks are tied with Chandler Jones for the most in the NFL. He has also forced five fumbles and intercepted a pass to boot. Add in the 11 hurries and 32 pressures and Barrett is in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year as arguably the most disruptive force in the game this season.

Despite playing on a struggling team at age 27, he looks to be blossoming, especially when you consider he had not recorded more than 5.5 sacks in any season prior to this one. Much like Chark, we should always be grateful when players seemingly come out of nowhere to make a name for themselves in the NFL. It’s part of what makes the game so unpredictable and enjoyable to watch.

Jamal Adams (DB – NYJ)
Jamal Adams did not take kindly to the possibility that he might have been on the trade block earlier this month. It’s understandable given how Adams has quickly emerged as one of the best defensive backs in all of football. Currently, he has 63 tackles, 6.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, an interception, and two touchdowns. If his season ended today, Adams would still have a case for the Pro Bowl with so many contributions on defense. He is the definition of a playmaker.

While not usually a fantasy stat, Adams already has four more quarterback hits than last year and nearly as many tackles for loss. What we’re seeing is a great player evolving into a star in Year Three of his career.

So…which players are you grateful for? Feel free to comment or join the discussion on Twitter by hitting me up @FantasyGhigs. I hope you all have a splendid holiday this year. Enjoy the games!

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Paul Ghiglieri is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Paul, check out his archive and follow him @FantasyGhigs.

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