2019 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: A six pack of questions on the biggest offseason stories
Our team of analysts takes on six big questions about which offseason storylines matter, which don't, and which we're still waiting on.
Whether you've been drafting in best ball leagues for months or are just dipping your toe back in the water, it's time to get serious about your Fantasy football prep. Training camps are starting, and we're already getting news that may impact the 2019 season — like Julian Edelman's, to start.
We're kicking our draft prep coverage into high gear this week with the return of the Fantasy Football Today video show at noon on CBS Sports HQ, and the Fantasy Football Today podcast is going to five times a week this week too. And, with a new addition to our staff, we'll be churning out more content than ever before right here.
We're starting this week off with a recap of what you might have missed. The offseason is long, and it's possible some stuff might have fallen through the cracks. We're here to make sure you know everything you need to know before you get ready for your draft, with all six of our Fantasy analysts answering six big questions from this offseason. We'll be doing this all week this week, and throughout the offseason, so you'll get every side of the story here.
Here's who you'll be hearing from:
- Jamey Eisenberg, CBS Fantasy Senior Writer
- Dave Richard, CBS Fantasy Senior Writer
- Heath Cummings, CBS Fantasy Senior Writer
- Adam Aizer, Fantasy Football Today host
- Ben Gretch, CBS Fantasy Editor
- Chris Towers, CBS Fantasy Senior Editor
1) What was the most important storyline for Fantasy this offseason?
- Jamey Eisenberg: Todd Gurley's knee situation stands out. He was the best Fantasy running back for the past two seasons, but now it seems like everyone wants to avoid him. His fall on Draft Day could work out great if he's healthy for 16 games — and still the same Gurley.
- Dave Richard: Gurley's knee. If he's healthy, he's arguably the No. 1 pick in every draft. Now? Round 2 or 3.
- Heath Cummings: The Steelers overhaul. The risks associated with Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell in their new homes plus the opportunity for James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster.
- Adam Aizer: Gurley's health was the most important storyline. I'm more optimistic than my colleagues and I think a late second round pick is justifiable for Gurley.
- Ben Gretch: There were several big ones, but the hiring of Kliff Kingsbury is my pick. Spread offenses are great for Fantasy, and 2018 brought us a Cardinals team with one of the worst-run offenses in modern history. There is plenty of talent in Arizona that is way more enticing for Fantasy with Kingsbury running things.
- Chris Towers: All of the coaching changes. Not just the seven new head coaches, but also the nine new play callers around the league. We're sort of numb to this kind of change in the NFL, but we're still talking about a significant portion of the league's coaching staffs coming in fresh. There's a lot of room for surprise breakouts and big-time disappointments given that kind of uncertainty.
2) What was the most overlooked storyline?
- Jamey: The Ravens revamped running back corps. Baltimore had the most rushing plays in 2018, and the team added a significant free agent in Mark Ingram, as well as a quality rookie in Justice Hill. Both of those running backs are worth investing in.
- Dave: I don't think enough people are noticing what's going on in Indianapolis. Andrew Luck has a much-improved receiving corps, an unimproved running corps, and the best or second-best O-line in football. I don't see how he doesn't go bananas.
- Heath: The retooling of the Ravens offense. With Greg Roman calling plays and the addition of Ingram, Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin, Lamar Jackson has a chance to be great.
- Adam: Aaron Rodgers is in a new system after more than a decade under Mike McCarthy. We are putting a lot of stock in the Packers offense, and with good reason, but will there be a learning curve? I'm betting no, but you can't rule out the possibility.
- Ben: Jamison Crowder got $17 million guaranteed from the Jets to presumably be their new slot receiver, a role in Adam Gase's offense that was fruitful for Jarvis Landry. Crowder has languished in mostly bad Washington offenses, but turned 26 in June, and was reasonably effective given his circumstances. If the Jets take a step forward, Crowder could prove to be a profitable PPR flier late in drafts. (Honorable mention: Matt LaCosse's two-year deal in New England has been largely overlooked.)
- Chris: The Eagles' unsettled backfield. Sure, they invested a second-round pick in Miles Sanders, but that was after they traded for Jordan Howard. And before they re-signed Darren Sproles. Will anyone get 200 touches here?
3) Which storyline will end up being most overblown?
- Jamey: Cam Newton's shoulder injury. This doesn't appear to be another Andrew Luck situation, and Newton should be fine for Week 1.
- Dave: James Conner didn't plow through defenses last year just to enter a 50-50 timeshare with Jaylen Samuels. Pittsburgh needs help sorting out their passing game; they're not going to reconfigure their run game at the same time!
- Heath: Newton's shoulder injury.
- Adam: Kareem Hunt's impact on the Browns backfield. I suspect that Nick Chubb will thrive during Hunt's 8-game suspension, and Chubb will remain a stud when Hunt returns in a secondary role.
- Ben: The impact of Brown's departure on JuJu Smith-Schuster. I'm fully on board with Smith-Schuster being more than capable of stepping into a No. 1 role, and see very little cause for concern about increased double teams when we're talking about a 22-year-old stud who already saw 166 targets last year with AB on the roster and could legitimately lead the NFL in targets in 2019.
- Chris: Gurley's knee. I don't want to downplay the issue too much, but 40% of NFL players deal with knee arthritis during their careers, and it is especially common following surgery. If he had just sat out the end of last season rather than playing through the injury, we'd probably be taking him in the first round again.
4) Which coaching change will make the biggest impact for Fantasy in 2019?
- Jamey: Kingsbury going to Arizona. The Cardinals suddenly have a plethora of playmakers, and Kingsbury could make things fun in Arizona once again.
- Dave: Kingsbury will be everyone's answer, but it's the right answer. His scheme will be tough to beat because of Kyler Murray. And David Johnson.
- Heath: Greg Roman in Baltimore.
- Adam: Kingsbury inherits the lowest scoring offense and will certainly improve the Fantasy forecasts for David Johnson and the rest of the Cardinals. By the way, the last team to score fewer points than the 2018 Cardinals was the 2016 Rams, and they led the NFL in scoring the following year after hiring Sean McVay. And Kingsbury is friends with McVay!
- Ben: I noted Kingsbury as my most important storyline for the offseason, and it's pretty clearly him for me, especially considering what we saw from Arizona in 2018. It's fair to hope for a Jeff Fisher-to-Sean McVay type of impact.
- Chris: Roman in Baltimore; Heath convinced me. His offenses have finished top-12 in scoring in five of six seasons as a coordinator, largely on the strength of a creative rushing game and limiting mistakes at QB. If you were looking to design an offense around Lamar Jackson, that's what it would look like.
5) Who has a better chance of playing 16 games this season: Melvin Gordon or Todd Gurley?
- Jamey: I'll give a slight nod to Gurley. Gordon has played 16 games just once in four years and now might hold out. Gurley is expected to play, but his workload will be managed. As much as Gurley seems to be the more fragile running back now, he's still the one to bet on in this scenario.
- Dave: The one who doesn't have arthritis.
- Heath: I'll say Gurley right now, though I still think Gordon has the best chance of getting 300 touches.
- Adam: Todd Gurley. Forget about the holdout potential, Melvin Gordon is more injury-prone than Gurley.
- Ben: Gordon. Gurley seems destined for a couple maintenance games in a best-case scenario, while there's a solid chance Gordon will return even without a new deal.
- Chris: I'm going to go with Gurley. Yes, he has arthritis in his knee. That's bad. But Gordon has suffered two different season-ending knee injuries — you just might not remember because both happened late in the year. He also missed three games with another knee injury last season.
6) Will the Browns live up to expectations this season?
- Jamey: No. But not because they won't be good, it's just the expectations that are out of whack. As a team, let's see the Browns win a playoff game first before crowning them as Super Bowl champions. And for Fantasy, don't overvalue all their guys because of a perceived super team.
- Dave: They sure will. But it's not because of Odell Beckham or Jarvis Landry or John Dorsey or an improved defense. It's because they have a gem in Baker Mayfield.
- Heath: I think they may very well win that division, but I'll say no in Fantasy. I'm not sure Mayfield, Beckham or Landry can live up to their ADP.
- Adam: I think they will! They have an inexperienced head coach and some big personalities to manage, but the talent is impressive and they'll be a playoff team.
- Ben: It depends what your expectations are, but Mayfield is real, Beckham has blowup potential now that he's no longer tied to Eli Manning, and there is a ton of depth across the roster. The only expectations they might not hit are the absolute loftiest — like comparisons to the 2018 Chiefs — but overall they will be more than worth the Fantasy investment.
- Chris: It depends on where you set those expectations. Top-five offense? This year's Chiefs? Probably not. But they should have top-10 options at WR and QB, and a borderline one at RB. They'll be very good, if not elite just yet.
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