Fantasy Football Offseason: Recapping AFC and NFC Championship Games
Jamey Eisenberg looks at the AFC and NFC Championship Games to see who improved -- or hurt -- their Fantasy value going into 2019.
Super Bowl LIII is all set, much to the dismay of Chiefs and Saints fans. The Patriots and Rams will meet in Atlanta on Feb. 3, and it's a rematch of Super Bowl XXXVI when New England won 20-17.
That game came after the 2001 season, and it was Tom Brady's first Super Bowl. This will be his ninth (he's won five), and it's the third Super Bowl in a row for the Patriots. It's just an amazing run.
The Rams are trying to win their first Super Bowl since 2000 when they beat the Titans 23-16 in Super Bowl XXXIV, which was also in Atlanta. It's going to be fun to break down this game over the next two weeks.
But we have time for that. Now, let's look back at the AFC and NFC Championship Games to see what happened and how it could impact the Fantasy value for the players involved.
AFC Championship Game
Patriots 37, Chiefs 31 in overtime
- Brady didn't have his best game at Kansas City with 348 passing yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, but he was again clutch when it mattered most. He led an eight-play, 65-yard drive with 2:03 left in the fourth quarter to give the Patriots a 31-28 lead. And then after Harrison Butker tied the game at 31 with eight seconds left in regulation, Brady engineered a 13-play, 75-yard drive in overtime to win the game. At 41, he's already the oldest quarterback to play in a Super Bowl, and whatever happens against the Rams, his Fantasy value likely won't change much in 2019. He'll be a low-end No. 1 quarterback at best, worth drafting with a late-round pick.
- Somewhat quietly, the star for the Patriots in the postseason has been Sony Michel, who had 29 carries for 113 yards and two touchdowns against the Chiefs. In two playoff games, Michel has 53 carries for 242 yards and five touchdowns, along with one catch for 9 yards. He's pushing his Fantasy value for 2019 from the Round 4 range to potentially the end of Round 2, depending on the format. It's hard to draft him that high in PPR since he had only seven catches for 50 yards on 11 targets in the regular season. But in non-PPR leagues he has the potential to be a No. 1 Fantasy running back, and we'll see how he finishes the season against the Rams.
- Rex Burkhead had a productive game against the Chiefs with 12 carries for 41 yards and two touchdowns, along with four catches for 23 yards on four targets. He now has three touchdowns in New England's two playoff games this season, but he only scored a receiving touchdown during the season in the eight games he was able to play due to injury. Burkhead, no matter what happens in Super Bowl LIII, will only be a late-round flier in 2019 unless Michel is dealing with an injury prior to the season.
- James White had a quiet game at Kansas City with six carries for 23 yards, as well as four catches for 49 yards on six targets. He had scored at least 13 PPR points in the previous two games for New England, but Michel and Burkhead led the Patriots backfield against the Chiefs. White is locked into his role for 2019 as the pass-catching complement to Michel. He's a flex play in non-PPR leagues and a No. 2 running back in PPR.
- Julian Edelman had another standout performance against the Chiefs with seven catches for 96 yards on 10 targets, and he's either scored a touchdown or had at least 90 receiving yards in 11 of 14 games this year, including the playoffs. We'll see what the Patriots do to tweak their receiving corps this offseason, but Edelman looks like a quality No. 2 Fantasy receiver in all leagues, with his value higher in PPR.
- The trio of Phillip Dorsett, Chris Hogan and Cordarrelle Patterson combined for eight catches for 92 yards and a touchdown on 14 targets. Dorsett, who had one catch for 29 yards and a touchdown on three targets, has now scored in three games in a row, and he's benefitted the most with Josh Gordon (suspension) out. He's a free agent this offseason, but Dorsett would be an excellent late-round pick in all leagues if he returns to New England and no one of significance is added to this receiving corps.
- Hold off on the retirement party for Rob Gronkowski -- for now. While he might retire after the Super Bowl, at least according to multiple reports, he played well against the Chiefs with six catches for 79 yards on 11 targets. The 11 targets were a season high, and this was just the fourth time this season he had more than four catches and fifth time with more than 60 yards. We'll see what Gronkowski decides to do after the game, but at 29, this might be the last time we see him in the NFL.
- For Patrick Mahomes, it was another quality outing against the Patriots with 295 passing yards and three touchdowns, along with two carries for 11 yards. Including the playoffs, this was the 12th time he passed for at least 295 yards and 11th time he had at least three passing touchdowns. He will easily be the No. 1 Fantasy quarterback in 2019, and it's just a matter of where he will be drafted. Look for his Average Draft Position to be the end of Round 1 or early Round 2. I would only draft him at the end of Round 2, but he will likely be gone by then.
- We'll see if Damien Williams enters 2019 as the starting running back for the Chiefs, but he played well enough in place of Kareem Hunt to earn the job, including the AFC Championship Game with 10 carries for 30 yards and a touchdown, as well as five catches for 66 yards and two touchdowns on eight targets. In his final six games of the season, including the playoffs, Williams had 77 carries for 376 yards and six touchdowns, along with 28 catches for 226 yards and four touchdowns. Over 16 games, that is 205 carries for 1,002 yards and six touchdowns, as well as 74 catches for 603 yards and 11 touchdowns. Williams could be a Round 2 pick in all leagues if he's the starter in 2019. Stay tuned.
- Tyreek Hill didn't end his 2018 season on a high note in the loss against the Patriots with just one catch for 42 yards on three targets, but it was a fantastic campaign overall. He was a third-year breakout with career highs in catches (87), yards (1,479), touchdowns (12) and targets (137), and he also added 22 carries for 151 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Hill is a top 10 Fantasy receiver in 2019, and he will be drafted in Round 2 in all formats.
- Sammy Watkins had a solid outing against Kansas City with four catches for 114 yards on eight targets. It was the most yards he had in 2018, but he only appeared in 10 games due to injury. That will always be the knock on Watkins, who will return to the Chiefs in 2019 as the No. 2 receiver opposite Hill. Still, based on his upside -- he scored at least 11 PPR points in eight of 12 games, including the playoffs -- he will be drafted as a No. 3 Fantasy receiver with a mid-round pick in all leagues.
- Travis Kelce had three catches for 23 yards and a touchdown on five targets against the Patriots, and there's not much to say about him that you don't know already. He's the No. 1 Fantasy tight end heading into 2019, and he should be drafted no later than No. 20 overall in most formats.
NFC Championship Game
Rams 26, Saints 23 in overtime
- Jared Goff had 297 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception at New Orleans, as well as three carries for 10 yards. We'll see how he does against the Patriots in Atlanta, but he averaged 15.5 Fantasy points on the road in the regular season and scored just 16 points in the NFC Championship Game. Goff will enter 2019 as a low-end No. 1 Fantasy quarterback in most leagues.
- Todd Gurley did not play well against the Saints with four carries for 10 yards and a touchdown, as well as one catch for 3 yards on three targets. After the game, Gurley said he's healthy, which has come into question after he missed the final two games of the regular season with a knee injury. Gurley just said he wasn't playing well, so he let C.J. Anderson continue to take away touches. "I was sorry as hell today," Gurley said after the game. "I was sorry. So, C.J. did his thing and the whole team did its thing." We'll see how Gurley does against the Patriots, and hopefully he's 100 percent going into the offseason. We'll also have to see if the Rams keep Anderson or add another running back to compete for touches. But Gurley could slip from the potential No. 1 overall pick in all leagues to closer to No. 5 overall behind guys like Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara. As of now, I still have Gurley at No. 1.
- Anderson wasn't great at New Orleans with 16 carries for 44 yards and one catch for 5 yards on one target. It ended his three-game streak of rushing for at least 123 yards, and he scored four touchdowns over that span. We'll see what happens against the Patriots, but where Anderson plays in 2019 will determine his Fantasy value. In the right role, Anderson could become a flex option worth a mid-round pick. If he returns to the Rams in a complementary role behind Gurley, Anderson would only be worth a late-round pick.
- The Brandin Cooks revenge game tour is in full swing, and he took care of Part 1 against the Saints, who drafted him in 2014, with seven catches for 107 yards on eight targets. Next up is the Patriots, and he played for New England in 2017 before being traded to the Rams. Cooks didn't fare well in Super Bowl LII last year against the Eagles because he was knocked out in the first half with a concussion, and he had just one catch for 23 yards on two targets. He should hopefully perform better in Super Bowl LIII, and Cooks is a No. 2 Fantasy receiver in all leagues for 2019.
- Robert Woods only had six catches for 33 yards on 10 targets against the Saints, and it's just the third time this season he scored single digits in PPR, including the playoffs. Woods should bounce back against the Patriots, and he led the Rams in targets against the Saints. Woods, like Cooks, will be a No. 2 Fantasy receiver in all leagues for 2019.
- The rest of the Rams' receiving corps played well with Josh Reynolds, Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett combining for 10 catches for 149 yards and a touchdown on 15 targets. With Cooper Kupp (ACL) out, Goff has leaned on this trio down the stretch, and we'll see what happens with Kupp this offseason based on his return to the field. In his absence, Reynolds has played like a No. 3 Fantasy receiver, which would be his value to start in 2019 if Kupp isn't ready for Week 1.
- Thankfully, Drew Brees has said he will return in 2019. He recently turned 40, and his season ended with 249 passing yards, two touchdowns and an interception against the Rams. He finished the season as the No. 8 Fantasy quarterback, and he will likely be drafted in that range in 2019. He's not the elite Fantasy quarterback he was, but he should still deliver top-10 production next season.
- Kamara didn't do well on the ground with eight carries for 15 yards against the Rams, but he did plenty of damage through the air with 11 catches for 96 yards on 13 targets. With Mark Ingram headed to free agency, Kamara could be even more of a star if Ingram doesn't return or another running back of note isn't added. He was the No. 4 running back in PPR in 2018 with more than 1,500 total yards and 18 total touchdowns. He will likely be a top five overall pick in all leagues.
- We'll see where Ingram, 29, plays in 2019, but he could return to Fantasy prominence in the right scenario. He ended 2018 with nine carries for 31 yards and no catches against the Rams, and it was a choppy year for him, including a four-game suspension to open the season. He only had six games with double digits in PPR points, including the playoffs, but keep an eye on his location in 2019 to determine his Fantasy value. A return to New Orleans isn't out of the question, and if that happens, Ingram would be worth drafting around Round 6.
- Michael Thomas did not have a good game against the Rams with four catches for 36 yards on seven targets, and it was just the second home game with Brees in nine tries where he failed to score at least 11 PPR points, including the playoffs. Thomas was a third-year breakout in 2018 with career highs in catches (125) and yards (1,405), and he tied his career high in touchdowns (nine) on 147 targets. He will be in consideration as a top three overall receiver in all formats with Davante Adams and DeAndre Hopkins, and Thomas will be drafted in the first 15 overall picks.
- The other Saints of note in this game were Ted Ginn and Tre'Quan Smith, and they combined for four catches for 68 yards on eight targets. Ginn is expected to return to New Orleans in 2019, which would limit the upside for Smith next season. Keep an eye on what develops, but if Ginn remains in New Orleans then both receivers are just late-round fliers in most leagues.
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