10 Players the Experts Got Right at Each Position
“They are who we thought they were!” To quote the late Dennis Green, it’s always interesting to look back at preseason predictions to see where everyone was right or wrong. For now, though, let’s focus on the players that the experts knew exactly what to expect from.
There are many factors when evaluating draft rankings at the end of a season. Missed games can definitely factor in. Maybe a player is outperforming his draft position but misses a game or two, impacting his final numbers. This could obviously work the opposite way as well. We all know the “stat collectors” that are okay on a week-to-week basis, but since they played all 16 games, their end-of-year ranking appears more valuable than they actually were week-to-week. And, of course, there are the players that are ranked based upon their potential, should they get an opportunity.
With all that said, this is still a fun exercise. While it’s always easier to look back at things and be critical of the “misses,” for now, let’s look at some of the hits from the expert’s 2019 draft rankings!
Below are the players that finished the closest to their draft ranking in FantasyPros’ 2019 expert consensus rankings (ECR). All rankings and finishing positions are based on PPR scoring. Minor exclusions were made to include more relevant players in a few circumstances.
- Philip Rivers (LAC): Draft Ranking: 17, Final Ranking: 18, Difference: 1
- Jacoby Brissett (IND): Draft Ranking: 22, Final Ranking: 23, Difference: 1
- Andy Dalton (CIN): Draft Ranking: 26, Final Ranking: 25, Difference: 1
- Case Keenum (WAS): Draft Ranking: 32, Final Ranking: 31, Difference: 1
- Deshaun Watson (HOU): Draft Ranking: 2, Final Ranking: 4, Difference: 2
- Carson Wentz (PHI): Draft Ranking: 7, Final Ranking: 10, Difference: 3
- Kirk Cousins (MIN): Draft Ranking: 18, Final Ranking: 15, Difference: 3
- Jameis Winston (TB): Draft Ranking: 9, Final Ranking: 5, Difference: 4
- Sam Darnold (NYJ): Draft Ranking: 23, Final Ranking: 27, Difference: 4
- Joe Flacco (DEN): Draft Ranking: 31, Final Ranking: 35, Difference: 4
Of the 10 players that finished the closest to their 2019 draft ranking, it was interesting that only three were ranked inside the top 12 heading into the season. After all the discussion around the top tier of QBs, especially with the surprise retirement of Andrew Luck, Deshaun Watson was the only quarterback ranked inside the top five who ended up there at the end of the season. Clearly, the injury to Patrick Mahomes impacted his final ranking, but for this exercise, Watson ended up being the most accurate high-end ranking of the season.
Looking at the rest of this list, Jameis Winston and Kirk Cousins were two players that the experts definitely helped fantasy owners with in 2019. Cousins, for example, was coming off a 4,200 yard, 30-touchdown season in his first year with the Vikings, only to see his points per game drop from 18.3 to 16.7 in 2019. The experts were able to see the risk in trusting Cousins with the Vikings’ potential shift in offense philosophy with the change in offensive coordinator. Winston was another example of the experts being ahead of the curve. Although he was coming off a season that saw him benched multiple times, he finished as a top-five quarterback this season. The potential with new head coach Bruce Arians and the lack of a back-up option behind him combined to help Winston put up a fine fantasy season, returning slightly above his draft-day price tag.
- Ezekiel Elliott (DAL): Draft Ranking: 3, Final Ranking: 3, Difference: 0
- Latavius Murray (NO): Draft Ranking: 28, Final Ranking: 28, Difference: 0
- Christian McCaffrey (CAR): Draft Ranking: 2, Final Ranking: 1, Difference: 1
- Nick Chubb (CLE): Draft Ranking: 7, Final Ranking: 8, Difference: 1
- Chris Carson (SEA): Draft Ranking: 13, Final Ranking: 12, Difference: 1
- David Montgomery (CHI): Draft Ranking: 23, Final Ranking: 24, Difference: 1
- Jordan Howard (PHI): Draft Ranking: 42, Final Ranking: 43, Difference: 1
- Giovani Bernard (CIN): Draft Ranking: 59, Final Ranking: 60, Difference: 1
- Malcolm Brown (LAR): Draft Ranking: 66, Final Ranking: 67, Difference: 1
- Joe Mixon (CIN): Draft Ranking: 11, Final Ranking: 13, Difference: 2
As we move onto the running backs, we find two players that the experts hit right on the nose. Ezekiel Elliott continued to produce at a high level despite his receptions dropping a bit from 2018, going from 77 to 54, but he saw positive regression in his touchdown numbers and put up a great 2019. Latavius Murray also finished in the exact spot the experts had him ranked him at, as the experts were expecting more of the 2018 Saints backfield production, rather than the production we saw in 2017. Spot on.
There were a few more high-end running backs that showed up on this list compared to the quarterback position. McCaffrey, Chubb, Carson, and Mixon were all ranked inside the top 13 and produced well in 2019. This was a good representation of the position as this season saw 58% (7/12) of the RBs ranked inside the top 12, finishing as a top-12 running back by the end of the year. If you expand that just a bit, 83% (10/12) finished inside the top 16 on the year.
Of the remaining players, David Montgomery was one of the biggest hits, as he was projected as a low-end RB2 and finished as such. Playing all 16 games assisted in the rookie’s end of year finish, but just over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns wasn’t a complete disappointment. Lastly, Jordan Howard was one of those players who, while he outperformed his draft position at times, ended up right where the experts had him ranked. Howard did have a seven-game stretch in the middle of the season that saw him post 14.3 points per game, but his inability to return from injury after Week 9 hurt his final numbers.
- Julio Jones (ATL): Draft Ranking: 3, Final Ranking: 3, Difference: 0
- Robert Woods (LAR): Draft Ranking: 14, Final Ranking: 14, Difference: 0
- Christian Kirk (ARI): Draft Ranking: 38, Final Ranking: 38, Difference: 0
- Amari Cooper (DAL): Draft Ranking: 11, Final Ranking: 10, Difference: 1
- James Washington (PIT): Draft Ranking: 55, Final Ranking: 54, Difference: 1
- Calvin Ridley (ATL): Draft Ranking: 25, Final Ranking: 27, Difference: 2
- Tyrell Williams (OAK): Draft Ranking: 45, Final Ranking: 47, Difference: 2
- Mohamed Sanu (NE): Draft Ranking: 60, Final Ranking: 58, Difference: 2
- DeAndre Hopkins (HOU): Draft Ranking: 2, Final Ranking: 5, Difference: 3
- Michael Thomas (NO): Draft Ranking: 4, Final Ranking: 1, Difference: 3
This year was an interesting one for wide receivers. It appeared to be a “changing of the guard” of sorts based on a few breakout performances. While three of the top four wideouts in the draft rankings ended up returning that value, the position outside of them was a little harder to predict this season. Based on the consensus top 12, only 42% (5/12) ended up finishing as top-12 receiving options. If we expand that a bit, as we did for the running backs, we only saw 50% (6/12) finish inside the top 15. Now, injuries definitely played a factor for guys like Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill, who were both top-12 options in points per game, as well as JuJu Smith-Schuster, who missed games and lost his quarterback to injury. For the purposes of this exercise, however, the experts had the edge at running back.
Looking at the rest of the list, Julio Jones, Robert Woods, and Christian Kirk were three players that the experts hit on exactly in 2019. It was interesting as well that technically the experts hit all three Atlanta Falcons wide receivers: Jones, Ridley, and Sanu all finished right around where they were ranked heading into the season.
- Travis Kelce (KC): Draft Ranking: 1, Final Ranking: 1, Difference: 0
- George Kittle (SF): Draft Ranking: 2, Final Ranking: 2, Difference: 0
- Zach Ertz (PHI): Draft Ranking: 3, Final Ranking: 4, Difference: 1
- Jared Cook (NO): Draft Ranking: 8, Final Ranking: 7, Difference: 1
- Irv Smith Jr. (MIN): Draft Ranking: 34, Final Ranking: 33, Difference: 1
- Gerald Everett (LAR): Draft Ranking: 27, Final Ranking: 25, Difference: 2
- Hunter Henry (LAC): Draft Ranking: 6, Final Ranking: 9, Difference: 3
- Will Dissly (SEA): Draft Ranking: 33, Final Ranking: 37, Difference: 4
- Austin Hooper (ATL): Draft Ranking: 10, Final Ranking: 6, Difference: 4
- Cameron Brate (TB): Draft Ranking: 28, Final Ranking: 24, Difference: 4
Similarly to the quarterback position, tight end is a little easier to “hit” on when comparing the draft ranking to the final finishing position. However, don’t overlook the fact that Kelce, Kittle, and Ertz all finished as top-4 tight ends after being ranked accordingly. If you recall, one of the biggest draft days decisions that fantasy owners had to make heading into 2019 was whether or not to pay up for an elite tight end in the early rounds of drafts. And yes, while all three had down years compared to their spectacular 2018 seasons, they still produced at the highest level for the position, giving you an edge on a weekly basis against the majority of your opponents.
While looking at the rest of the list, Jared Cook, Hunter Henry, and Austin Hooper jump out as players that helped fantasy owners. They were actually the only other three tight ends that were ranked inside the top 12 that finished as a TE1. Will Dissly is probably the only “false positive” on the tight end list. While he finished close to his draft day ranking, he could have had a better season — he ranked third in points per game through the first five weeks before suffering a season-ending injury. It’s clearly a small sample size, but he more than likely would have outperformed his 2019 ranking.