This article is part of our East Coast Offense series.Early 2019 Rankings
With the 2018 fantasy season largely in the books, let's take a preliminary look at the top-20 players at each position, heading into next year, pending offseason signings and, of course, the draft:
The top of the QB board should be stronger than ever, especially if Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton have prime seasons left. Lamar Jackson at No. 7 might generate controversy, but with Joe Flacco gone, health is the only concern for me in Year 2, as his rushing stats will set him apart.
Notable omissions: Sam Darnold
Call me a homer, but I'm taking Saquon Barkley No. 1 overall in a PPR, in Year 2 of Pat Shurmur's system. I ranked Ezekiel Elliott over Todd Gurley because Elliott's share in the passing game grew, and Gurley fell apart health-wise down the stretch. One could easily make a case for Christian McCaffrey at No. 1 too given all his receptions, and Alvin Kamara could have the backfield to himself. Le'Veon Bell, Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook and David Johnson are wild cards with top-five upside, but greater likelihood of failure than the top six.
The receivers were tough - DeAndre Hopkins gets the top slot because he's so consistent, but as long as Davante Adams sees 160-plus Aaron Rodgers targets, he's a lock for 100 catches and 10 TDs. Julio Jones is still getting nearly 10 YPT and went on a TD tear in the second half, Odell Beckham is the most talented receiver in his prime, but the QB situation and his durability leave something to be desired. I ranked Robby Anderson aggressively because it looks like Sam Darnold is competent enough for fantasy purposes, irrespective of ceiling, and Anderson is his top look.
Tight end is strong at the top, but once you get to No. 5, it's hard to count on anyone. I put Rob Gronkowski at No. 6, in case he has one near-prime year left, but it feels increaingly like a long shot. Mark Andrews has no floor, but a top-five ceiling. The 15-20 range is almost picked at random.
Notable Omissions: none
Grading My Non-Obvious Predictions
1. Leonard Fournette will be a top-three non-PPR back
Verdict: False for obvious reasons. He got huge workloads in some of the games he was healthy, but he couldn't hold up. (0-1)
2. Christian McCaffrey will get fewer than 200 carries
Verdict: False. Through 15 games, McCaffrey has 215 carries and a record 106 catches. That might not be 25-30 touches per game, but it's a solid 20, with nearly a third of them through the air to go along with 13 TDs. (0-2)
3. Rex Burkhead will not be a top-40 RB.
Verdict: True. He got hurt, but since he's been back he's done an incredible job on special teams. (1-2)
4. Tarik Cohen will be a top-20 PPR running back.
Verdict: True. Cohen was 13th in PPR with 69 catches, 1,137 YFS and seven TDs. (2-2)
5. The Giants will make the playoffs.
Verdict: LOL. (2-3)
6. Jameis Winston will be a top-10 QB on a per-game basis when he returns.
Verdict: Barely False. It looked like it might be the case for a few games, but he faded down the stretch. (Actually Winston was 14th, but a fraction of a PPG out of 11th, and 1.2 points behind Drew Brees who was 10th. Had Winston not been pulled or put back in during two games, he might have have made it.) (2-4)
7. Jarvis Landry will be a top-10 PPR wideout.
Verdict: False. He was tied for seventh (with Michael Thomas) in targets, but his meager per-play production and three TDs sunk him. (2-5)
8. Baker Mayfield will be a top-15 QB for games he starts (minimum 5 starts)
Verdict: True. Overall, he was 17th in PPG, 0.8 PPG behind Philip Rivers who was 15th, but his first game was in relief for Tyrod Taylor. Remove it and his 10 fantasy points, and he averages 22.2 PPG, ahead of Rivers' 22.1. (3-5)
9. Adrian Peterson will score 10 TDs.
Verdict: Likely false. I should have said "rush for 1,000 yards," and I would have won, but he has eight total TDs through 15 games and is obviously a long shot for two more against the Eagles this week. (3-6)
10. One of the following teams make the playoffs: the Jets, Dolphins, Bills, Browns, Raiders, Cardinals, Bears or Buccaneers.
Verdict: True The Bears are in. (4-6)
11. T.Y. Hilton (minimum 14 games) will be top-three in receiving yards.
Verdict: False He's played 13 games and will play in Week 17 against the Titans in a must-win game, but he'd need 209 more yards than Mike Evans to crack the top three. In YPG (which is what I should have predicted), he's fourth with 93.0, only 1.5 YPG below Evans and 2.0 below Hopkins. I bet he gets there. (4-7)
12. JuJu Smith-Schuster will lead the Steelers in receiving TDs
Verdict: False. I should have predicted he'd lead the team in yardage which he did, but league leader Antonio Brown easily outscored him 15 TDs to six. (4-8)
13. Matthew Stafford (minimum 15 games) will finish top-three in passing yards.
Verdict: LOL (4-9)
14. Tom Brady will not be a top-five fantasy quarterback
Verdict True: Brady is in 13th place in total points through Week 16 despite staying healthy. (5-9)
15. Robby Anderson will be a top-15 non-PPR WR on a per-game basis.
Verdict: False He was great in the fantasy playoffs, but injuries, QB issues and a slow start derailed him. (5-10)
16. Dez Bryant won't play a snap in the NFL this year, (or ever again.)
Verdict: True I got bailed out when he tore his Achilles because he might have played for the Saints (though fellow washed-up veteran Brandon Marshall took his place and never played for them, either.) In any event, I'll take the W. (6-10)
17. One of the following teams will miss the playoffs: the Patriots, Vikings, Rams, Saints or Eagles.
Verdict: True None have been eliminated yet, but either the Vikings or Eagles will be next week. (7-10)
18. At least one running back scores 20 times this year. (Most likely Elliott or Fournette.)
Verdict: True. Todd Gurley had 21 TDs despite missing last week's game. (8-10)
19. Alshon Jeffery is a top-15 non-PPR receiver on a per-game basis once he returns from his injury.
Verdict: False Carson Wentz was never himself, and Jeffery was mostly an afterthought in the offense. (8-11)
20. Some of these predictions will turn out to be wrong.
Verdict: True. You might think that last one is cheating, but it comes at a cost: I can never go 20 for 20. Total: (9-11)
Week 17 Trivia
Apropos of McCaffrey setting the all-time receptions mark for running backs, can you name every back who had 85 catches in a season?
Guessing the Lines
|Game||My Line||Guessed Line||Actual Line||ML-AL||O/U||Actual O/U||MO-AO|
|Falcons at Buccaneers||0||1||1||-1||49||51||-2|
|Panthers at Saints||0||2.5||N/A||N/A||40||N/A||N/A|
|Cowboys at Giants||7.5||7||7||0.5||45||N/A||N/A|
|Lions at Packers||9.5||8.5||7.5||2||52||44.5||7.5|
|Jaguars at Texans||8||8.5||7||1||38||40.5||-2.5|
|Dolphins at Bills||4||3.5||3.5||0.5||39||38.5||0.5|
|Jets at Patriots||12||13||13||-1||47||46||1|
|Cardinals at Seahawks||10||9.5||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Bears at Vikings||3||3||5||-2||42||41||1|
|Bengals at Steelers||16.5||14||14||2.5||48||46||2|
|Browns at Ravens||6||7.5||5.5||0.5||45||41||4|
|Chargers at Broncos||-7||-4||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Raiders at Chiefs||17||16.5||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Eagles at Redskins||-8||-7.5||-6.5||-1.5||44||42||2|
|49ers at Rams||13||13.5||9.5||3.5||52||50||2|
|Colts at Titans||-3||2.5||-2.5||-0.5||45||45||0|
A few lines are not yet on the board, but my biggest disparities as of now are the Rams-49ers, the Steelers-Bengals and the Packers-Lions. I'm on the favorites in all three, and in Week 17 division games, that makes me slightly nervous. Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind in Beating the Book.
Week 16 Observations
• Russell Wilson missed a wide open Doug Baldwin for a would-be TD, but he made perfect throws most of the game, scrambled out of trouble and outplayed Patrick Mahomes in an important contest. Not that Mahomes was bad – he made clutch third-down conversions, completing passes from improbable angles and scrambling effectively too – but Wilson was the better QB last night.
• Doug Baldwin has been less than 100 percent for most of the year, but he finally looks like he's back. The Seahawks are already a good running team, and now with Baldwin and Tyler Lockett, they can beat you through the air too. Unfortunately, they'll likely have to play all their playoff games on the road. Chris Carson is a bull, and the Seahawks are likely to get Rashaad Penny, a quicker and more explosive option, back for the playoffs too.
• Damien Williams lost a key fumble, but he looks awfully quick whenever he touches the ball. Odd he never got a real shot in Miami for so long, but the Dolphins are a virtual RB factory with Lamar Miller, Jay Ajayi and Kenyan Drake all doing time there the last few years. The Andy Reid system also makes it easy on backs – Brian Westbrook, LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles and Kareem Hunt all had huge seasons under him – but Williams looks faster than Kareem Hunt or Spencer Ware.
• Antonio Brown (19-14-185-2) was in peak form on the road against a strong defense. JuJu Smith-Schuster (15-11-115) had a more modest output and lost a fumble to seal the game. Of course, it might have gone differently had the Saints not been gifted a TD on a sketchy end-zone PI that occurred on a fourth-down play in the first half. The Steelers would have taken the ball back on downs and instead the Saints got it first-and-goal from the one.
• Ted Ginn's (8-5-74) return is big for the Saints as their non Michael-Thomas/Alvin Kamara targets are bad. Keith Kirkwood (4-2-35) in particular had an inexcusable drop late in the game, and Tre'Quan Smith (1-1-11) doesn't got much work.
• For someone who made the Niners plus four his best bet, that was a frustrating non-cover. The Niners really blew it on their penultimate drive with the interception deep in Bears territory. There was plenty of time for a FG to cut it to 14-12 and lock up the cover before playing out the final seven minutes. Instead, the Niners got the ball back with less than two minutes to play, needing the TD
Of course, they never should have gotten it back, but Allen Robinson, after catching the game-sealing first down, kept running for God knows what reason and fumbled on the play. If he goes to the ground, it's game over. Not to be outdone, Nick Mullens threw an out-of-bounds Hail Mary on 4th-and-5 from midfield rather than run for an easy first down on the sideline, with a full minute left in the game. Either way, the Bears too could get hot and run the table, Mitchell Trubisky's mediocrity notwithstanding.
• Speaking of which McCaffrey set the record for running back receptions with 106 to go along with 1,080 rushing yards and 13 total TDs. I don't like to "take the L" on players, but there's no hiding from this one.
• TD machine Julio Jones scored for the seventh time in his last eight games.
• Nick Foles (471 yards, 9.6 YPA, four TDs, one pick, one sack, one fumble) has resurrected the Eagles 2017 offense by taking shots down the field. Foles had an 83-yard TD to Nelson Agholor and a 52-yard pass to Alshon Jeffery en route to 32 points and a win over the Texans, keeping the Eagles playoff hopes alive. If the Bears (who are still playing for a first-round bye) beat the Vikings, and the Eagles beat the Redskins, the Eagles get in. I'm pretty sure it's still Carson Wentz' job next year, but if Foles were to make a deep playoff run, it would be a harder sell.
• Deshaun Watson (339 yards, 8.5 YPA, two TDs, no picks, four sacks, one fumble, 49 rushing yards two rushing TDs) is a wizard, but he takes too many sacks. DeAndre Hopkins (12-9-104) has the highest floor in the league right now. You'd think a team with those two, J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney would have a puncher's chance in a wide-open playoffs, but if the Colts beat the Titans next week, I'd rank Houston 12 out of 12 among the qualifiers. And I'd take the Steelers and Eagles (both underdogs to qualify) over them too. That said, the Texans look about as good as the 2007 or 2011 Giants did at this point, and the top teams those years were much tougher.
• Aaron Rodgers (442 passing yards, two TDs, no picks, four sacks, 32 rushing yards, two rushing TDs, one 2-pt conversion run) had a fantasy game for the ages, likely sealing fifth place for you. No matter what the sixth-place finisher, who might not have set a lineup, says, you own that loser.
• Davante Adams (18-11-71-1) caught the game-winning TD in overtime, but he worked awfully hard for his 71 yards. There's no doubt he's a top-three fantasy receiver but for real life, I maintain he's outside the top 10.
• Robby Anderson (13-9-140-1) finished strong with 312 yards and three TDs over his last three games. It doesn't surprise me – I drafted (and cut) him everywhere.
• Sam Darnold (341 yards, 9.7 YPA, three TDs, no picks, two sacks) had his second straight strong game. The season totals (7.0 YPA, 17 TDs, 15 picks) are mediocre, but he's the youngest QB in the league, and he got better as the season went on. There's plenty to be hopeful about if you're a Jets fan and a little to be nervous about if you're a Jets-hating Giants fan mocking people for saying the Giants should have taken him over Saquon Barkley. (For the record, I'd still rather have Barkley, but as long as Darnold shows even a glimmer of potential greatness, you have to concerned.) And no, it's not possible to root for both players to do well.
• The Patriots are smart, only have to beat the Jets to lock up the No. 2 seed in the AFC and nasty at home. But with Rob Gronkowski looking 68 and Josh Gordon gone, they're woefully thin on playmakers. As for the Bills game itself, I'll just say that backdoor cover (I laid the 12.5) really chapped my hide.
• The Jaguars-Dolphins game isn't worth the ink on which this sentence is printed, and the ink is virtual.
• I caught some of the Giants-Colts, including the game-ending pick thrown by Eli Manning (309 yards, 9.4 YPA, one TD, one pick, one rushing TD and no sacks.) Manning's numbers were otherwise strong, which bodes badly for the Giants if they push them toward keeping him another year. Teams need a QB who is excellent in the pocket, rarely makes mistakes and/or whose mobility allows him to extend plays. Manning is none of those.
• Andrew Luck rallied the Colts for the win. They still have to beat the Titans on the road, but Indy is the far more interesting team should they get there.
• What an abominable year for Matthew Stafford. He's now down to 6.7 YPA in the most inflated QB environment the league has ever seen. Don't get excited about Kirk Cousins' 9.0 YPA and three TDs either – the Kyle Rudolph Hail Mary at the end of the first half was a big part of it. If the Vikings win at home against the Bears, they're in the playoffs, but assuming the Bears go all out for the two seed (they need the Rams to lose at home to the 49ers), that's far from a layup. And their competition, the Eagles, have a fairly easy game at Washington.
• How did the Buccaneers go from the most exciting team in the league to its most boring in half a season? With the win, the Cowboys are locked into the No. 4 seed. I suspect they'll sit some players next week, no matter what Jerry Jones says.
• What a backdoor push by the Bengals! Honestly, one of the greatest of all time.
• I'd love to see Breshad Perriman (4-2-76) have an NFL career. No one in the world at 6-2, 215 runs a 4.24 40.
• Baker Mayfield is up to 7.5 YPA and 24 TDs vs. 11 picks in 12.5 games, with terrible receivers and Hue Jackson as his coach for half the year. He's already a top-10-ish NFL QB.