My despise for Preseason along with Five Fantasy Busts and Five Fantasy Sleepers for the 2018 Season
July. The final month without football. I have been waiting 174 days, 2 hours and 41 minutes for the moment that football comes back. Every year I get so antsy for the Hall of Fame Game realizing football is back! I know it’s preseason, but still! FOOTBALL IS BACK. Unfortunately, every year I am gravely disappointed with the lack of stars that actually DO play in the game. I believe the games would be more interesting if they had the retire-ies play in the game. I’d love to see Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher suit up again. Those two men could, most likely, start on the atrocious Miami Dolphins defense. But even though the preseason games continue to disappoint, and many other players fall to the cursed injury bug going around, fantasy football on the ESPN app starts early. I certainly am not questioning the incredible accuracy of ESPN insiders because they are almost always spot on (sarcasm). There are plenty of straight out BUSTS in the fantasy football. Players last season such as Dez Bryant, Martavius Bryant, Spencer Ware and those poor fellas who drafted Adrian Petersen thinking he would run away with the running back job in New Orleans. I am here to warn you about those who are looking to run your team into the ground. I will also inform you on those who you should look for in the later rounds to help save you from completely humiliating yourself in your fantasy football league.
QB Sleeper: Philip Rivers
2 years ago, Philip Rivers helped push my team towards victory, and even though he threw a league high 21 interceptions, he still finished as QB6 in standard leagues. But last year, I believe he was more efficient than in 2016. Finishing at QB8 for the season, Rivers showed tremendous maturity and has become smarter with football. With his favorite target Keenan Allen returning, Rivers lead the NFL in passing yards in 2017 while putting on a show on Thanksgiving Day. Rivers also has been spoiled by playing secondaries such as the Seahawks, the Steelers, the Ravens, the Bengals, the Chiefs twice and the Raiders twice. Saying Rivers is in for a big year, would be an understatement. Currently ranked as QB13 behind the likes of Jameis Winston (off the field issues) and Andrew Luck (has not thrown in over a year), it is safe to say Rivers is dangerously slept on in ESPN standard scoring leagues. If you are in a standard scoring league, or a league that adds bonuses to long touchdown passes, Rivers is a solid QB1 option that you can draft as late as round 6 (unless you have 16 people in your league).
QB Bust: Dak Prescott
Against all odds, Dak Prescott enters 2018 with one of the most depleted receiving corps in the NFL. Although I did like the signing of Allen Hurns, he is not considered a reliable number one receiver. Prescott started off 2017 hot, but quickly trailed off due to the suspension of Ezekiel Elliot. The loss of the 2nd year starters best friend resulted in 9 interceptions thrown in the final 8 games opposed to 8 touchdowns being thrown. His completion percentage was lower than 68% every game of the year besides the thanksgiving game in which he got his behind whooped and he threw for under 200 yards in every game without “Zeke” besides 2 games. The loss of red zone threat Dez Bryant and longtime Dallas Jehovah Jason Witten, shadows a glim season for Dak Prescott. The QB18 this year is supposedly ranked higher than Matt Ryan, Jared Goff and is slightly lower than Marcus Mariota. Looking at the potential upside for all three, I would certainly take those three over Dak in any league. Dak has a very small ceiling due to the fact that he has no receiving threat and we have seen how his perfect pocket comes crumbling down late in the season.
RB Sleeper: Alex Collins
There was no one who I rooted for, more than Alex Collins. Coming off of being released by Seattle, Collins made his debut once both Kenneth Dixon and Terrence West were out. Among starting running backs last season, Collins only trailed Alvin Kamara (6.1), Kareem Hunt (4.9) and Todd Gurley (4.6) in yards per carry last year. Collins also had the 15th most touches in the NFL, despite only starting 12 games. With practically zero competition in the backfield, a feisty QB controversy and an offensive line as experienced as they come, all signs point to Alex Collins putting up high RB2 numbers. Ranked behind the likes of Rashaad Penny, Derrius Guice, Sony Michael and Kenyan Drake, Collins is continued to be slept on throughout the fantasy community as he is placed at RB24. Way too low for someone as efficient as Collins was last season. Look to grab him late 5th round if you are in need of a RB2 with major upside.
RB Bust: Saquon Barkley
Are you kidding me? Saquon Barkley! Did you not see him in college? Obviously I did. Anyone who ever watched 2 seconds of ESPN knows who he is. Besides LeBron and Serena Williams all they talk about is Saquon. Ezekiel Elliot in his rookie season, behind THE BEST offensive line in the league, was ranked 13th in ESPNs top 200. But Saquon Barkley is ranked number 6 behind an offensive line that was ranked 23rd last year (According to Pro-Football Focus). Of course he will get plenty of carries, but you only get carries when your team is up in garbage time. The New York Giants will not be leading very many games with a defense that let up 373 yards/game and 24.2 points per game. Saquon is certainly a good flex option, but I would not take him anywhere near the first round. Waste of a quality pick for a player with A LOT of risk.
WR Sleeper: Golden Tate
The Detroit Lions are a team that everyone is picking to be the dark horse team this year. Personally, coming from a Detroiter, this is not their year. However, the tough schedule and high possibility of garbage time throws brings upside to receivers such as Golden Tate. Not only do the Lions pass the second most in the league, but Golden Tate is targeted the most on his team and continues to rack up the most receptions on his team. He has yet to miss a game since 2012, and has caught 64% of his passes, or better since 2012. He is being ranked in Non-PPR leagues as WR22, but personally I’d draft him as a top 15 receiver this year in any league.
WR Bust: Brandon Cooks
The amazing fantasy WRs are the ones that receive a majority of the teams total targets. Antonio Brown (2017) 29.1% of teams targets. Julio Jones (2017) 28% of teams total targets. But the Rams, do not target a single player. Their offense is designed to distribute the ball to everyone on the offense. Cooper Kupp lead the team in targets with only 94 targets. That is 20% of the teams target share, yet he finished as WR27 in non-PPR leagues. Many are valuing Cooks as a WR1 in deeper leagues just as they have last season. But Jared Goff, at least right now, is no Tom Brady. And the LA offense simply is not as pass heavy as the New England air attack. Though Cooks should be valued as a WR2 at best, I suggest taking the likes of Michael Crabtree, Julian Edelman (depending on his suspension) or even his fellow teammate Cooper Kupp. Though Cooks is ranked as WR28, his ADP has him as WR21 ahead of Alshon Jefferey, Jarvis Laundry and even Chris Hogan. Since LA, I presume, will be ahead most of the time this season, the volume will not be there for The Archer. Look elsewhere.
TE Sleeper: Jordan Reed
I hate the tight end position in football. You either have a stud tight-end, or you’re left scavenging the waiver wire for that sleeper tight end (who happens to be playing the Browns). But Jordan Reed is a top 5 tight end this year, and should be taken in the top 50. With Alex Smith popping into the scene, Jordan Reed must be crying tears of joy. 24% of Smith’s attempts went to Travis Kelce and Vernon Davis was targeted 27% of the time with Alex Smith at QB. In total, Smith targets his stud tight ends 22% of his attempts. With almost 0 goal-line help from his running backs, 2015 Jordan Reed seems prime to return. Being ranked as TE8 and being drafted outside the top 80, the former Florida tight end needs to be in your lineup.
TE Bust: Zach Ertz
In fantasy football, it is sort of an oxymoron when you have a player on a great NFL team. If you have a receiver who performs and helps his team gets ahead, then the team will either run the clock or take the receiver out completely. That is usually why running backs are supposed to be valued over receivers. I’m not telling you to NOT draft Ertz, that’d be stupid of me, but the current odds are stacked against him. The loss of offensive coordinator Frank Reich and the emergence of Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement could see the Eagles change game plans. I expect the Eagles to control the clock in every game this year, so I don’t see Carson Wentz getting 450+ passing attempts this year. New Eagles offensive coordinator Michael Groh has had a personal connection with Alshon Jeffery since their times in Chicago, and is growing into a Nelson Agholor super fan (as am I). So already Ertz does not meet the requirements to being a tight end you can count on week in and week out. Remember, if you’re in a 10 team standard league, and Ertz is left in the 4th round, take him! But nothing earlier than round 4. He is ranked on ESPNs top 300 list as number 32, but I wouldn’t draft him inside the top 40. Especially if Kyle Rudolph and Delanie Walker are still there. I’m going to wait on drafting a tight end.
D/ST Sleeper: Atlanta Falcons Defense
Last year the Falcons allowed the 9th fewest points and the 8th fewest points per game. But they were 3rd worst in interceptions and 6th worst in the league in forcing fumbles. These numbers don’t seem promising, but the return of Desmond Trufant at corner and their very easy schedule prove for some strong upside for the team. A key to having a defense be successful, is controlling the clock, which is what helped the Saints and Ravens soar to defensive power. Devontae Freeman and Telvin Coleman should be able to run the clock and keep the defense off the field long enough to rest stars Deion Jones and Vic Beasley. The schedule is very promising as well, facing the Bengals, Buccaneers (twice), Giants, Browns, Cowboys, Ravens and Cardinals should lead to some very superfluous results. Although the Saints and the Panthers might bring some trouble for the defense, they should have no problem keeping out of the negative numbers. They are currently the 18th ranked defense on ESPNs top 300 list, but I would take them top 15 if you’re the type of person to wait on a defense.
D/ST Bust: Denver Broncos Defense
I hate to root against a group of players I love so much, but I am gonna have to. The Broncos underperformed BIG TIME last year, and that was mostly due to the departure of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. I do like the addition of Bradley Chubb to bring back that Malik-Jackson-esk, but besides him, Von Miller and Chris Harris Jr., there isn’t much left. They lost Danny Trevathon a year ago (which proved fatal in the run game), Malik Jackson as well, Demarcus Ware to retirement and now veteran presence Aquib Talib who really pieced that defense apart and gave them a gritty attitude. Denver has some gaping holes, and teams like the Chargers, Chiefs and Rams are ready to take advantage of those holes. They are ranked the 9th best fantasy defense, but I don’t see them in the top 10 going into the year. Find a more consistent defense to ride with.