Fantasy Football: Checking in on NFL summer storylines starting with Antonio Brown in Oakland
Now that minicamps have wrapped up, the NFL goes dark until camps open in mid-July. Here are some of the stories still out there.
In our recent non-PPR draft, Antonio Brown was the first pick in Round 3. Yes, Round 3. The skepticism is more based on AB going from Big Ben in Pittsburgh and the high-powered system there to Derek Carr in Oakland -- moving from the NFL's No. 6 offense of 2018 that scored 428 points to the No. 28 offense that scored 290.
Our experts have Carr ranked Nos. 22, 23, 24 at quarterback. If Carr plays to that ranking, no, Brown won't be the top-three wideout he's been for years now. But a second year working with reputed QB whisperer Jon Gruden and fine new weapons like Brown, Tyrell Williams and Josh Jacobs, plus a new $66 million tackle in Trent Brown, give Carr a chance to have his biggest season since 2015. He threw for 4,049 yards but only 19 touchdowns last season as the Raiders finished 4-12.
Brown had a league-best 15 touchdown catches himself last season amid all sorts of diva drama. Our guys currently have him ranked 9, 7, 9 among wideouts in PPR.
Some of us will still draft Brown -- who turns 31 next month -- much higher than those rankings, and watching this spunky video from minicamp only fuels our fire.
Heath Cummings' Take: There is an upside with Brown that makes passing on him in the second round look silly, but I don't believe it is first-round upside in Oakland. Carr is a mediocre quarterback who did not want to throw the ball downfield last year. I'm expecting a downgrade in targets and efficiency for Brown this season. I also think you have to weigh the downside of a blowup between Brown and his new quarterback or coach.
Coming off a surprisingly mediocre 9-7 season and second-round playoff exit, the Eagles are brimming with confidence.
"There's a lot of expectations internally with us," Zach Ertz told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Obviously, it's early ... but you look around the locker room, in terms of talent, I've never been on a team like this."
Coming off a sensational season, Ertz earned praise for the way he worked through OTAs and minicamp while part of him was elsewhere. Ertz quickly headed to Paris last week to watch his wife Julie Ertz and the USWNT team defeat Chile in the Women's World Cup, and plans to stay through the July 7 final. But fear not, Eagles fans: He told the Inquirer he has already arranged for places to work out in Paris. For the record, the U.S. women play Sweden on Thursday.
One of the Eagles who most impressed in the offseason was wideout J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who was drafted No. 57 overall in April out of Stanford. He could further complicate Philly's receiver position for Fantasy managers but only add to the fun for Carson Wentz.
Heath Cummings' Take: The Eagles should be confident. They have a surplus of offensive talent and a very good coach who knows how to keep defenses guessing. That's great for real football, but not the best for Fantasy. Ertz is the only weapon in this offense that I feel confident in his target share. The receivers will battle over his scraps while Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard and others fight for carries. It's a great thing for Carson Wentz, but I don't plan on reaching for many Eagles.
Not sure how this is possible given that he'll be sharing the field (maybe) with target monsters Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry, plus still rising tight end David Njoku, but Antonio Callaway says he's targeting a 1,000-yard receiving season. We can all be digging that positivity, not to mention that the Browns have so thoroughly left behind the scarred land of the inept and boring.
Heath Cummings' Take: I like Callaway quite a bit as a late-round best ball option because I do expect a couple of monster games. But if he tops 1,000 yards, someone is going to be hurt or complaining about their targets. I've projected Baker Mayfield for nearly 4,400 yards this season, but only 611 of them are going to Callaway.
The crew starts the show with an impromptu Kyler Murray discussion, which leads us to our QB strategy. Can you spend two late-round picks on QBs with upside? Or do they need to have a certain level of safety? ... Answering your questions (12:45) about Ezekiel Elliott's workload, Carson Wentz, Robby Anderson, a fun league format and the potential secret to winning your league (20:51)! ... A quick round of news and notes (26:00) before we tell you about our 12-team, PPR SuperFlex draft (31:00). In this league, QBs can be used at the SuperFlex position, meaning it's basically a 2-QB league. We compare teams that invested heavily in QB to teams that waited a long time to draft that position. Also, do you need to roster three QBs? How much do tiers matter in this format?
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The Falcons apparently go out of their way to give high-character players chances to make the roster. Such is the case with Qadree Ollison, a candidate to be the bigger back the Falcons have long been seeking. Jeff Schultz told Ollison's story at The Athletic before it was re-told by thefalcoholic.com. The former Pitt back apparently has a real opportunity in Atlanta's thin backfield after being drafted No. 152 overall in April.
Heath Cummings' Take: Ollison has some work to do, but it's not hard to see how he finds the field. Devonta Freeman has battled through a litany of injuries over his career, playing just 16 games in the past two seasons combined. Even if Freeman stays healthy, Ito Smith was mostly terrible from an efficiency standpoint, averaging 3.5 yards per carry and 5.6 yards per reception. If the rookie Ollison pops in the preseason, he'll become a late-round darling.
The name Joe Flacco immediately puts Fantasy managers to sleep, which is understandable. Though a Super Bowl MVP in 2012 and often effective leader for the Ravens, we never really knew if it was Flacco or the Ravens' system that kept his stats at such somnolent levels. Only in his best statistical season, 2014, did he reach 27 TD passes.
Since most of us are still operating under the assumption that John Elway knows a good bit more about quarterbacking than most mere mortals, we might get to see if Flacco has some real production left in him after getting pushed aside last season in Baltimore. For the record, the Denver Post reported that Flacco quickly felt comfortable with the Broncos, and also that the team is confident in its very young receiving corps.
Flacco is still only 34, so it's possible he'll be more that a two-QB league fallback plan in 2019 ... zzzzzzzzzzzz
Heath Cummings' Take: Offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello comes from the Shanahan coaching tree. So does Gary Kubiak, who was the offensive coordinator for Flacco's most recent success. So it makes sense that Flacco is comfortable. Scangarello has also called Flacco the perfect fit for his offense, which might make you wonder about the offense. I don't have any hope that Flacco can be Fantasy relevant again, we just have to hope he connects with Courtland Sutton, their young receiver with the most upside.
So who needs camp and all those preseason games? Not northjersey.com, which projects the Jets' 53-man roster starting with Sam Darnold and Trevor Siemian, including the three tight ends who will hold down the tight-end fort while Chris Herndon (DUI) is suspended as expected. Whether Herndon is still worth drafting will be a later-round question now.
Heath Cummings' Take: Herndon was a borderline top-12 tight end before the suspension. He has an unfavorable schedule after the suspension, and I'd suspect you'll have an opportunity to add him off the waiver wire in most leagues. Unless your league is best ball, includes at least 16 teams, or has tight end bonuses, I'd avoid him on draft day.
So what 2019 Fantasy Football sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which RB2 can you wait on until late? Visit SportsLine now to get 2019 Fantasy Football cheat sheets from the model that called Andrew Luck's huge season, and find out.
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