Fantasy Football Offseason: Josh Allen, Jimmy Garoppolo among early sleepers for 2019
Jamey Eisenberg gives you his Sleepers 1.0 for 2019, which includes guys like Josh Allen, Jimmy Garoppolo, Carlos Hyde and Geronimo Allison, among others.
Every year before the NFL Draft, I like to do at least one version of sleepers, breakouts and busts. Yes, it's early, and the draft will change many rosters. But that doesn't matter.
We have content to produce.
The idea is to get you thinking about players now for your Fantasy leagues. And you can see what players I like now, in case you also want to invest in them on Draft Day.
We will adjust these lists following the NFL Draft -- I do at least two more versions of these columns between now and the end of training camp -- but here's where I stand on certain guys after free agency.
Barring anything drastic, I will be targeting many of these players for my Fantasy teams this season.
It's doubtful anyone expected Allen to be the best running quarterback in 2018, but that's exactly what happened in his rookie campaign. He was second in rushing yards (631) behind Lamar Jackson (695), but he led all quarterbacks with at least 20 attempts in yards per carry (7.1) and rushing touchdowns (eight). We'll see if that continues, but his rushing prowess helped Allen score at least 21 Fantasy points in four of his final six outings, including three games with at least 27 points. He ran for at least 95 yards in four games over that span, as well as scoring five rushing touchdowns. The Bills gave him three new weapons this offseason with John Brown, Cole Beasley and Tyler Kroft, and hopefully Allen will improve as a passer. You will likely need a second quarterback to pair with Allen, but he has a high ceiling. I plan to draft him with a late-round pick in all leagues.
Garoppolo was a breakout candidate last season, and he was off to a good start before suffering a torn ACL in Week 3. If you project his stats over those three games -- and he scored at least 20 Fantasy points in two of those outings -- he would have finished with 3,829 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 16 interceptions and 176 rushing yards. While that might not sound exciting, keep in mind that C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens combined for seven games with at least 20 Fantasy points in the 13 games without Garoppolo. I'm looking forward to seeing Garoppolo play in Kyle Shanahan's offense for 16 games, and he's on track to return for training camp. He was touted as a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback in 2018, and he could finish in that range this season. Look for him with a late-round pick on Draft Day.
The Bears have to replace 250 carries, over 1,000 total yards and nine touchdowns from a season ago with Jordan Howard now in Philadelphia, and Davis should get the majority of that workload. He will work in tandem with Tarik Cohen, but Davis is someone to target in all formats with a mid-round pick. Last year with Seattle, Davis had some positive moments while working as the No. 3 running back behind Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny. Davis had five games with double digits in carries, and he scored at least 14 PPR points in four of them. He also should be an upgrade as a receiver over Howard, who never had 30 catches in a season with the Bears. Davis had four games last season with at least four catches. I would not be surprised to see Davis finish as a top 20 Fantasy running back this year.
The Chiefs can still add a rusher in the NFL Draft, but right now Hyde projects as their No. 2 running back behind Damien Williams. And I plan to pass on Williams if he's drafted anywhere in the first 30 overall picks in most Fantasy leagues and wait for Hyde with a mid-round selection. While Williams was awesome last season to close the year in Kansas City once Kareem Hunt was suspended, he's never had more than 50 carries in a season. Hyde was a quality running back with the 49ers in 2016 and 2017, and he was serviceable with the Browns last season before being traded to the Jaguars. In his first four games with Cleveland, Hyde averaged 15.3 PPR points a game. He's also underrated as a receiver, having caught 59 passes with San Francisco in 2017. Hyde could be the best running back in Kansas City this year, and that's someone you want on your Fantasy team.
With Tevin Coleman gone to San Francisco, it's likely that Smith will be No. 2 on the depth chart in Atlanta behind Devonta Freeman. And that could lead to plenty of work. Freeman missed 14 games in 2018 due to a groin injury, and Smith could have several games with a hefty workload. But even if Smith just replaces Coleman with Freeman staying healthy, we've seen Coleman have at least 900 total yards and eight touchdowns three seasons in a row for the Falcons. Coach Dan Quinn is excited about Smith's skill set, and he could emerge as a solid Fantasy asset in all leagues. Keep an eye on the Falcons to see if they add another running back for depth, but if Smith is the backup for Freeman, draft him with a mid-round selection in all leagues.
Murray will replace the departed Mark Ingram (Baltimore) in New Orleans, and he's expected to share touches with Alvin Kamara. We hope Kamara takes on an even bigger workload for the Saints, but don't discount Murray as an afterthought. With the Vikings last season, he had eight games with double digits in carries, and he scored at least 11 PPR points in five of them. Ingram had double digits in carries in nine of the 12 games he was active after serving a four-game suspension to open the year. We doubt the Saints will view Murray in the same light as Ingram, but coach Sean Payton also doesn't want to overwork Kamara, which should give Murray enough quality touches in this explosive offense. And should Kamara get hurt, Murray could be a standout Fantasy running back. In 2017, after Dalvin Cook suffered a torn ACL in Week 4 with the Vikings, Murray had seven games with at least 12 PPR points in his final 10 outings. He's worth drafting with a mid-round pick in all leagues.
Under the circumstances of the Cardinals poor offense in 2018, it was a pleasant surprise to see Kirk perform adequately as a rookie and help Fantasy players before suffering a foot injury in Week 13. He missed the final four games of the season, but he's expected to be fine in time for OTAs. And now he should be in line for improvement as a sophomore. We still don't know who the Cardinals quarterback will be this season -- Josh Rosen or rookie Kyler Murray -- but it shouldn't matter much for Kirk. The addition of new coach Kliff Kingsbury will be good for Kirk -- and potentially great. He will start opposite Larry Fitzgerald, and Kirk can play outside or in the slot. While other sophomore receivers like Calvin Ridley, DJ Moore and Dante Pettis will get plenty of hype, Kirk could be just as good but at a cheaper price. Look for him with a mid-round pick in all leagues.
Allison was really only healthy for the first four games of the season in 2018 because of a groin injury, and he had 19 catches for 289 yards and two touchdowns on 29 targets over that span. Over 16 games, that would be 76 catches for 1,156 yards and eight touchdowns, and he has that kind of upside playing with Aaron Rodgers and opposite Davante Adams. With Randall Cobb (Dallas) gone, playing time shouldn't be an issue for Allison, even with Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown vying for targets. I was high on Allison in 2018, and I'll be targeting him in all leagues again this season with a mid-round pick. Hopefully, we can see Allison healthy for 16 games this year.
In 2018, the Colts took a disappointing tight end in Eric Ebron and turned him into a standout Fantasy option who scored 14 total touchdowns. The hope is coach Frank Reich and quarterback Andrew Luck can do the same with Funchess, and Reich is excited to work with the former Carolina receiver. He is expected to start opposite T.Y. Hilton, and hopefully he gets a quality amount of targets on a weekly basis. Over the past two seasons, Funchess has 16 games with at least seven targets, and he's scored at least 12 PPR points in 11 of them. And while Cam Newton has been a good quarterback for Funchess, Luck should be an upgrade. I don't expect Funchess to have the same success as Ebron, but I also expect Funchess to surprise Fantasy players, and he's worth drafting with a mid-round pick.
Hamilton got the chance to showcase his skills as a rookie in 2018 when Emmanuel Sanders (Achilles) was hurt prior to Week 14. In those final four games, Hamilton averaged 13.3 PPR points, including two games with at least 16 PPR points. He saw at least eight targets per game over that span, operating primarily in the slot. We don't know when Sanders will return, and the Broncos have a new quarterback in Joe Flacco. But it's hard to imagine Hamilton not being part of Denver's top trio of receivers with Sanders and Courtland Sutton. Depending on Sanders' health, Hamilton could emerge as the Broncos' No. 1 receiver this season. He's worth a look in all leagues with a mid-round pick, with his value higher in PPR.
The Steelers have to replace a lot of production from last year with Antonio Brown (168 targets for 104 catches, 1,297 yards and 15 touchdowns) and Jesse James (39 targets for 30 catches, 423 yards and two touchdowns) gone. That's a combined 207 targets for 134 catches, 1,720 yards and 17 touchdowns. The Steelers signed Donte Moncrief this offseason, and James Washington should take a bigger leap in his sophomore campaign. And obviously there's JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner, as well as the team still likely to add another weapon. But McDonald should have a bigger role as well, and he could end up as a top 10 Fantasy tight end this year. It has already reported that McDonald will take a leap in production, and Fantasy players should buy in with a late-round pick.
Reed had a rough year in 2018 as he fought through toe and foot problems, and he eventually landed on injured reserve for the final three games of the season. Injuries have plagued Reed his entire career, and he's never played 16 games in a season. Coach Jay Gruden said at the NFL's annual league meetings about Reed's health that he "is going to be just fine. I promise you." Maybe I'm falling for that line. Or maybe I'm still chasing Reed's big season from 2015 when he had 87 catches for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns on 114 targets. He has that kind of upside, and Washington is desperate for playmakers in the passing game with a receiving corps led by Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson and Trey Quinn. Case Keenum is most likely the starter at quarterback, and he should lean on Reed if he's healthy. For now, that appears to be the case, and he's excellent tight end to target with a late-round pick.
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