PLAY or STAY AWAY?
The grass is greener, flowers smell better, coffee tastes better, and Fantasy Football players are just in a downright better freakin mood! Football is back baby! That’s right, I am talking real football and fake football alike! We are not talking about hypotheticals anymore – your newly drafted Fantasy Football rosters will score a grip of points this weekend (for some of you, not so much).
Now is the blissful moment we should take some time to appreciate the roller coaster of an offseason we just had. Power dynamic shifts in the NFL led to the Steelers trading Antonio Brown, first to the Bills and then seriously to the Raiders. We saw the Giants trade phenom and under-contract superstar Odell Beckham Jr. to the quickly becoming star-studded Cleveland Browns. We saw both star running backs Melvin Gordon and Ezekiel Elliott holdout for new contracts, one more successful than the other. And maybe in the most shocking turn of events this offseason, we saw Andrew Luck at the “ripe old age” of 29 retire from the game he had been playing since he was a toddler. These moves and many others sent shockwaves through the Fantasy Football ecosystem and honestly made Fantasy Football so much fun to cover this offseason. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t absolutely geeked for Fantasy Football to return.
And I am pumped for both sides of the Fantasy Football coin. That means I have to be ready for the devastating injuries, the wrong takes, the overhyped players and of course for me to get my weekly “play” and “stay away” picks just absolutely wrong. Last year, I urged you countless times to not start Jared Goff and I was wrong nearly every time. But if I have learned one thing from playing and covering Fantasy Football over the years it is this: This game is meant to be fun. It was created for us to experience something above just watching and below actually playing football. I had my down moments last year that may or may not have led you into some wrong lineup choices (my bad), and I know that if you read last year’s weekly piece we had some great weekly booms as well. So I hope you will lean in to the third F of Fantasy Football: FUN. I promise to keep having fun writing this for you if you keep having fun reading it. Whisper Nation, buckle up, 2019 is here and there’s no going back!
As always the concept of this article to steer you to or away from players who may be causing you to teeter on the fence. Allow me to push you off the fence. Let us hope it’s the side of the fence with rainbows and clouds and not the side with bear traps and barbed wire.
By now you have heard the tale as old as time, song as old rhyme. Kyler Murray’s beauty of an athletic profile now plays behind the beast of the Cardinals offensive line and much like Beast in the Disney classic, this line is not pretty! The argument against Murray does have some merit, he will face an improved Lion’s defensive line containing Damon Harrison, Trey Flowers, Da’Shawn Hand, and Mike Daniels. The flip side is that we are witnessing maybe the best dual threat QB prospect since Michael Vick and a offensive/defensive line mismatch should tilt in favor of Murray’s escability. I am extremely excited for Murray’s Fantasy Football prospects this year and it starts this week versus Detroit.
Man oh man, has that Texan’s backfield been a game of musical chairs or what? But here you are having drafted Duke Johnson and watching Houston trade for Carlos Hyde from the Chiefs. We will get to Hyde, but the Texans didn’t stop at acquiring the pine-riding RB, they also traded for former gasmask enthusiast and 1st round pick, Laremy Tunsil. By all accounts, Houston looks determined to protect their franchise QB Deshaun Watson with both line help and a strong running game. Duke Johsnon will get flack for not being a “bell-cow” running back but he has never really gotten the opportunity, in the NFL, that is. In college at Miami, Duke ran the ball 526 times in 3 years for over 3,500 yards and 26 rushing touchdowns. Are we really worried about Carlos Hyde who is now on his 5th team in less than 3 years? Besides Duke is an elite pass catcher who is playing in a game that Vegas sees as the highest scoring contest for this week.
Moore has had a weird offseason. He started the year as the darling of the Carolina WR corps in the eyes of the Fantasy Football community and quickly was playing second fiddle to Curtis Samule who received an ungodly amount of praise and puff pieces out of camp this Summer. I am here to ask for all the Moore hate to stop. All D.J. did last year was consistently put up numbers when given the opportunity and prior to Cam’s late season injury, Moore was thriving. Now in his second year and likely facing a risk taker in Marcus Peters at CB for the Rams, I am fond of Moore to potentially grab a slant and use his elite YAC ability to burn Peters for paydirt.
I know you are booing me now and yelling “homer!” but hear me out, ok? Jimmy Graham only scored two touchdowns in 2018. Am I winning you over yet? When we look at the fact that Aaron Rodgers had a career low in TD rate and that the Packers had a sporadic and uninspiring running game last year, we have to think that positive regression is coming for Rodgers, the Packers, and maybe that means for Jimmy. Jimmy will face a tough Bears D on Thursday night but this is a Bears D that lost their prolific Defensive Coordinator and safety Adrian Amos. Jimmy could be set up for a big night in the Season opener.
This one hurts my heart. Big Ben is often disrespected by our industry and I usually hate being on this end of it but I cannot give a vote of confidence for Ben this week. In his career, he has not put up stellar numbers against the hoodie, especially when in Foxborough. In 9 career games against the Pats, Ben barely saw 2 touchdowns, and an interception per game. You may have drafted Ben really late in your draft and if so, I think streaming the likes of Jimmy G against Tampa is the better bet this week.
I said it already, this offseason was wild. The Kansas City backfield was no exception. Last year, Kareem Hunt was suspended, then cut by the Chiefs. After his exit and in the final 7 games for the Chiefs including the playoffs, Damien Williams scored 10 total touchdowns. Double digit touchdowns are nothing to turn our heads at and thus, Williams was being consistently drafted in the second round of Fantasy Football drafts this year. A hamstring injury in the middle of the summer may have spooked HC Andy Reid who talked up his newly drafted rookie Darwin Thompson for a week or so, then traded away Carlos Hyde, only before signing his former RB1 LeSean McCoy after he was cut by the Bills. Woof. So here we are a fortnight after watching Williams torch the 49ers in the preseason dress rehearsal to the tune of 74 yards and a magnificent touchdown. My concern with him this week has so many levels. The matchup versus Jacksonville is not good as only 7 teams gave up fewer rushing yards to RBs than the Jags last year. Furthermore the Chiefs have done some mind boggling things and I am just urging WhisperNation to wait and see with this backfield. If you can afford to sit Williams I would highly consider it.
Similar to my take on Williams, I actually like Allen Robinson for the 2019 season and his upside is still there in a Bears offense that will be in its second year under Matt Nagy. My concern comes with this matchup. Week 1 against a much improved Packers defense whose secondary includes 2nd year stud in the making Jaire Alexander and newly acquired safety Adrian Amos. Green Bay also added some pieces on the defensive line and I have a feeling Mitch Trubisky and this Bears passing offense could be in for a long night.
Greg Olsen has had a rough last couple years battling back and forth between recurring foot injuries and watching his QB go down with his own shoulder injury. As Olsen returns for 2019 and ditches the broadcasting booth, he sees a new look Panthers squad that has plenty of mouths to feed for pass catchers including CMC, D.J. Moore, and Curtis Samuel. I would like to see how this target distribution ends up working out before I am ready to crown Olsen as the focal point of the offense that he used to be when his peak Fantasy Football scoring days were plentiful.