Fantasy Football Offseason: Recapping wild-card weekend
Jamey Eisenberg looks at all four games from wild-card weekend to see who improved -- or hurt -- their Fantasy value going into 2019.
Wild-card weekend is over, and we had four interesting matchups to kick-start the playoffs. The games weren't exactly great, but there were some fun endings and plenty of things to talk about.
Among the highlights were Cody Parkey missing a 43-yard game-winning field goal for the Bears to keep the magic going for Nick Foles and the Eagles, and the Chargers had a standout game plan on defense to shut down Lamar Jackson and the Ravens. The Colts offensive line was dominant against the Texans, as well as the Indianapolis defense, and the Cowboys had a better run game and defense than the Seahawks, which is what the strength is for Seattle.
Their were plenty of great individual performances as well -- and a few duds -- which is what we're talking about here. And every Monday throughout the playoffs, I'll recap the games to spin it forward from a Fantasy perspective for 2019.
With that in mind, let's dive into wild-card weekend. And hopefully next week's divisional round will have some great games with the Chargers at Patriots, Colts at Chiefs, Cowboys at Rams and Eagles at Saints.
Colts 21, Texans 7
Andrew Luck went for 222 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception, as well as eight carries for 29 yards. He scored 20 Fantasy points for the 13th time this season, and the only question for him in 2019 is will he be the No. 2 or No. 3 quarterback off the board behind Patrick Mahomes? As of now, I have him at No. 3 behind Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers, but that could easily change between now and August, especially if he finishes the playoffs on a high note heading into the divisional round at Kansas City.
Marlon Mack had his best game of the season against the Texans with 24 carries for 148 yards and a touchdown, along with two catches for 6 yards on three targets. He now has a touchdown in five games in a row, and he has at least 119 rushing yards in three of his past four outings. It's doubtful Mack will put himself in position to be a No. 1 running back in most leagues next season, but he is making a case to be a top 15 option. Round 3 or 4 will be a good spot to draft Mack next season.
T.Y. Hilton finished with five catches for 85 yards on 10 targets, and he's now gone seven games in a row without a touchdown. However, he does have at least 85 receiving yards in five of those outings. Hilton will be a No. 1 receiver in all leagues in 2019, and he should be drafted in Round 2.
I liked Dontrelle Inman as a sleeper in this game for DFS purposes, and he delivered with four catches for 53 yards and a touchdown on four targets. He's now scored in three games in a row, and he's set up for another solid outing against the Chiefs in the divisional round. Inman will be a free agent after this season, but he's closing this year as the second-best receiver for the Colts behind Hilton. We'll see if he returns to Indianapolis, which would make him a late-round flier, but where he ends up will ultimately determine his Fantasy value.
Eric Ebron's breakout season continued with another quality outing with three catches for 26 yards and a touchdown on six targets. He should play well against the Chiefs next week, and Ebron will likely be the No. 4 tight end off the board in 2019 behind Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz and George Kittle. Ebron will be someone to target by Round 4 at the latest.
Including this game, Deshaun Watson closed the season with at least 20 Fantasy points in four games in a row. He rebounded nicely from last year's torn ACL with 4,165 passing yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions in the regular season, as well as 551 rushing yards and five touchdowns. He likely will enters next season as the No. 4 quarterback off the board behind Mahomes, Rodgers and Luck, and hopefully the Texans will improve their offensive line this offseason.
Lamar Miller may have played his last game with the Texans in this loss, and he finished with five carries for 18 yards, as well as eight catches for 63 yards on 10 targets. Miller had a respectable season in 14 games with 1,136 total yards and six total touchdowns, and he averaged 4.6 yards per carry, which was his best total since 2014. But the Texans might decide to move on from Miller this offseason, which is a situation to monitor. If he does return to Houston, Miller will be a mid-range No. 2 running back at best, and the earliest he will likely be drafted is Round 5.
DeAndre Hopkins ended 2018 on a low note with five catches for 37 yards on 10 targets. He battled through a shoulder injury against the Colts, but he was a star this season with career highs in catches (115) and yards (1,572). He also scored 11 touchdowns on 163 targets, and he will be either the No. 1 or No. 2 receiver off the board on Draft Day in Round 1.
Keke Coutee ended his rookie season on a high note with 11 catches for 110 yards and a touchdown on 14 targets. He had missed the final five games of the regular season with hamstring problems, and he only appeared in six games because of injuries. But next season, Coutee should be the No. 3 receiver in Houston behind Hopkins and Will Fuller (ACL), as long as Fuller is fully healthy for training camp. Coutee will be a solid late-round flier in all formats.
Chargers 23, Ravens 17
Philip Rivers played well against the Ravens, but his statistics didn't show it with 160 passing yards, no touchdowns or interceptions, as well as three carries for 15 yards. We'll see how he does at New England in the divisional round, but Rivers has done enough this season to remain in the discussion as a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback in 2019, especially with Hunter Henry (ACL) coming back. Rivers does, however, have 14 Fantasy points or less in four of his past five games heading into the matchup with the Patriots.
Melvin Gordon battled through a left knee injury against Baltimore to finish with 17 carries for 40 yards and a touchdown, as well as one catch for 3 yards on one target. This is now two knee injuries and an ankle issue since Week 12, but he's played in three games in a row and should be out there against the Patriots. As long as he's fine heading into next season, Gordon is a first-round pick in all formats, and he's worth drafting as early as No. 7 overall.
Austin Ekeler played through a groin injury at Baltimore and finished with 11 carries for 29 yards, along with four catches for 14 yards on four targets. He will remain the No. 2 running back for the Chargers behind Gordon throughout the playoffs, as well as next season as long as everyone is healthy. Keep an eye on how Ekeler does against the Patriots next week, but he's someone to target as a mid-round pick in all leagues.
Keenan Allen will be happy to not play the Ravens again. He's played Baltimore twice in the past three weeks, and he had a combined nine catches for 95 yards and no touchdowns on 14 targets over that span. He should fare better against the Patriots next week, and Allen remains a standout Fantasy receiver, especially in PPR. He's worth a second-round pick in all PPR leagues, and he will be drafted no later than Round 3 in all non-PPR formats.
We'll see how Mike Williams does against the Patriots next week, but he had a quiet game against Baltimore with two catches for 42 yards on five targets, as well as a two-point conversion. Williams will be entering his third year in the NFL in 2019, which could lead to a breakout performance, and he's someone to target in all formats with a mid-round pick.
Lamar Jackson didn't have a great performance overall against the Chargers, but his Fantasy production was good with 194 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception, as well as nine carries for 54 yards with a lost fumble. He looked lost for most of this game before mounting a late comeback, and it might be hard to trust him as a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback in 2019. Now, I still like him as a high-end No. 2 option, and he scored at least 20 Fantasy points in four of eight starts, including the playoffs. Getting an upgraded receiving corps will help Jackson next season.
Gus Edwards did not have a good playoff appearance with eight carries for 23 yards and no catches, and we'll see what happens with him heading into the 2019 season. He will likely compete for the starting job in Baltimore with Kenneth Dixon and potentially Alex Collins, who will be a restricted free agent, but Edwards played well once given an extended look. In the final eight games of the season, including the playoffs, Edwards scored at least 11 PPR points four times. He's limited in the passing game with just two catches on the season, but Edwards could be a No. 2 running back in non-PPR leagues and is worth drafting around Round 5. In PPR, Edwards should be drafted with a mid-round pick as a flex. That's only if he wins the starting job as expected.
Kenneth Dixon was Baltimore's best running back against the Chargers with six carries for 13 yards, along with three catches for 53 yards on three targets. He will return in 2019 to compete for the starting job with Edwards and Collins, but Dixon will likely be No. 2 on the depth chart behind Edwards. That said, he should still get his share of touches, and Dixon scored at least 12 PPR points in two of his final five games, including the playoffs. He has to stay healthy, but I plan to target Dixon in every league with a late-round pick.
Michael Crabtree had the best game of Baltimore's receivers with two catches for 38 yards and two touchdowns on four targets, and Willie Snead added three catches for 50 yards on six targets. It was another bad outing for John Brown (two catches for 14 yards on three targets), and Mark Andrews was the best tight end with three catches for 31 yards on seven targets. This unit needs an upgrade in 2019, and Crabtree could be let go in a cost-cutting move, while Brown is a free agent. Snead should return and is serviceable as the slot receiver, and Andrews seems to be the preferred tight end as of now over Hayden Hurst. We'll see what happens this offseason, but none of the Ravens receiving options are worth drafting with anything more than late-round picks in most leagues.
Cowboys 24, Seahawks 22
Russell Wilson had the best Fantasy performance from any quarterback in the playoffs with 22 points, and he had 233 passing yards and one touchdown to go with 14 rushing yards and a touchdown. Including the playoffs, Wilson failed to score at least 20 Fantasy points just five times. He enters 2019 as a top-10 Fantasy quarterback in all leagues, and he's worth drafting with a mid-round pick. He will likely end up as a tremendous value pick since he has at least 35 total touchdowns in three of the past four seasons.
Chris Carson was a disappointment against the Cowboys with just 13 carries for 20 yards, as well as two catches for minus-1 yard on three targets. This outing snapped a seven-game streak where he scored at least 12 PPR points with either a touchdown or 100 total yards in each contest. This offseason, we'll find out if Carson or Rashaad Penny will be the primary rusher for the Seahawks in 2019, and it could be a frustrating backfield for Fantasy owners, especially if Mike Davis is brought back as a free agent. I still expect Carson to remain in the lead role, but he should not be drafted before Round 4 in non-PPR leagues and Round 5 in PPR.
Penny had four carries for 29 yards, as he played in a secondary role behind Carson. His goal now will be to beat out Carson for the starting job in 2019, and you know the Seahawks will give him every opportunity to earn that spot. I still expect Carson to open the season as the starter, but Penny will get his share of the touches. And he definitely has the upside to be a starting Fantasy option should he emerge as the No. 1 guy on the depth chart during the season. As of now, he's someone to target in Round 8 in most leagues.
Doug Baldwin finished 2018 like it started -- on a down note. He had just three catches for 32 yards on six targets, and he scored double digits in PPR in only six games for the season, including the playoffs. He missed three games due to injury, but he was banged up throughout the season. Hopefully, he will be healthy in 2019, and he'll be primed for a bounce-back year at 31. He's a great low-end No. 2/high-end No. 3 receiver to target in Round 5 in most leagues.
Tyler Lockett ended his breakout campaign on a high note against the Cowboys. He had four catches for 120 yards on six targets, and he finished the season with at least 12 PPR points in 12 games, including the playoffs. He also scored single digits in PPR just twice. He has more value in non-PPR leagues since he had 11 games with four catches or less, including the playoffs, but his big-play ability was on display throughout the year. I would draft Lockett in Round 5 in non-PPR leagues and Round 6 in PPR.
Dak Prescott scored 21 Fantasy points against the Seahawks with 226 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception, along with six carries for 29 yards and a touchdown. He's now played 10 games with Amari Cooper, including the playoffs, and he's averaging 21.5 Fantasy points a game over that span. That would have made him the No. 14 quarterback based on weekly scoring in 2018, and it was better than the weekly average for Carson Wentz (20.7), Kirk Cousins (20.6), Tom Brady (20.6) and Baker Mayfield (20.3), among others. Prescott won't be drafted as a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback in 2019, but he won't disappoint you if you settle for him on Draft Day.
I'm so torn on Ezekiel Elliott vs. Saquon Barkley as the No. 2 overall pick in 2019, and Elliott is making a strong case to be selected in that spot behind Todd Gurley. Elliott had 26 carries for 137 yards and a touchdown, along with four catches for 32 yards on five targets against Seattle. He is averaging 24.7 PPR points in his past nine games since the Cowboys got Cooper prior to Week 9, and that weekly average would be No. 2 behind only Gurley (25.7) -- ahead of Barkley (23.4). I will likely go back and forth between Elliott and Barkley all offseason, but I expect Elliott's touchdowns to rise (nine total in the regular season) and his offensive line to improve if center Travis Frederick (illness) is healthy as expected. Let's see how Elliott does going head-to-head with Gurley in the divisional round.
Just give Cooper at least eight targets per game. That's all. It's worked pretty well throughout his career and during his short tenure with the Cowboys. Dez Bryant averaged about eight targets per game in Dallas in 2017, and I expected Cooper to get about that same total when he joined the Cowboys prior to Week 9. In 10 games, including the playoffs, Cooper had seven games with at least eight targets, and he scored at least 13 PPR points in six of them, including against Seattle when he had seven catches for 106 yards on nine targets. The only game where he failed to score at least 13 PPR points was Week 17 at the Giants when he had five catches for 31 yards on 11 targets. Cooper is making a strong case to be a low-end No. 1 Fantasy receiver in 2019, and we'll see how he finishes this playoff run, which continues next week at the Rams.
Michael Gallup had two catches for 18 yards and a touchdown on six targets against Seattle, and he's making a case to be a solid late-round flier in all leagues in 2019. He will be the No. 2 receiver in Dallas behind Cooper, and he heads into the divisional round against the Rams with two touchdowns in his past three games.
Eagles 16, Bears 15
Foles continues to make magic for the Eagles. He's now 4-0 since taking over for the injured Wentz (back) this season and 4-0 in the postseason going back to last year's Super Bowl run. We'll see what happens in the divisional round at New Orleans, and the Saints destroyed the Eagles 48-7 at home in Week 11 with Wentz under center. But Foles, who had 266 passing yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions against Chicago, continues to put himself in a great spot for 2019. If he leaves Philadelphia as expected, he could make for an interesting Fantasy option in two-quarterback leagues if he ends up with the right team.
The run game was really non-existent for the Eagles against the Bears, as Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood and Josh Adams combined for just 22 carries for 43 yards and no touchdowns. And the running backs also had only four catches for 34 yards on six targets. Adams' performance was puzzling with just one carry for 2 yards and no catches. He came into the game with at least 11 carries in each of his past three outings, and no injury was reported prior to or during the game. We'll see if he was punished for something or simply benched, but this is something to monitor heading into the matchup at New Orleans next week. Adams had seven carries for 53 yards and a touchdown, as well as three catches for 19 yards against the Saints in Week 11.
Alshon Jeffery led the Eagles with six catches for 82 yards on nine targets against Chicago. He now has at least 11 PPR points in each of the past four games with Foles under center, scoring a touchdown or gaining at least 82 receiving yards in each outing over that span. He had four catches for 33 yards on five targets at New Orleans in the first meeting.
Golden Tate paid big dividends in this game for the Eagles, who traded for him from Detroit prior to Week 10. He had five catches for 46 yards and the game-winning touchdown on eight targets, and it was just the second time he's scored double digits in PPR since coming to Philadelphia. He's a free agent after this season, so we'll see how he finishes his tenure with the Eagles, and he had five catches for 48 yards on eight targets against the Saints in Week 11.
Zach Ertz had five catches for 52 yards on seven targets against the Bears, but he lost a touchdown to Dallas Goedert, who finished with two catches for 20 yards and the score on four targets. I'm not worried about Goedert taking too much away from Ertz in 2019 if Wentz is back as expected for the Eagles. Ertz just hasn't played as well with Foles, and Ertz has 10 PPR points or less in three of four starts with Foles. Hopefully, Ertz will close the season on a high note against the Saints, but he had just two catches for 15 yards on three targets at New Orleans in Week 11.
Mitchell Trubisky had the most passing yards of any quarterback in the wild-card round with 303 to go with one touchdown, and he added three carries for 9 yards. He scored 18 Fantasy points, and he ended the season with 18 points or less in five of his final six games, including the playoffs. His 2018 campaign was very up and down, scoring more than 22 Fantasy points six times, while scoring 18 or less in nine other outings. I hope he will be more consistent with his better outings, but I would only draft Trubisky with a late-round pick as a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback in 2019.
Jordan Howard came into the wild-card round against the Eagles with a four-game streak of either 100 rushing yards or a touchdown, but that ended in disappointing fashion with 10 carries for 35 yards and no catches. He should return in his same role in 2019 as the main rusher for the Bears, working in tandem with Tarik Cohen, and Howard ended the regular season with over 1,000 total yards and nine touchdowns. His role is limited in the passing game with 20 catches on the season, so he's better in non-PPR leagues, where he should be drafted by Round 5. But he can also be a low-end starter in PPR as well, and I would look for him in that format after Round 6.
Tarik Cohen was also a disappointment against the Eagles with one carry for no yards, as well as three catches for 27 yards on five targets. He closed the season with 10 PPR points or less in three games in a row, including the playoffs, but he still had a standout 2018 campaign with more than 1,150 total yards and eight total touchdowns. And his 71 receptions were sixth among running backs, behind only Christian McCaffrey (107), Barkley (91), James White (87), Alvin Kamara (81) and Elliott (77). Cohen is someone to target in Round 5 in PPR leagues and Round 6 or later in non-PPR formats.
Where was this Allen Robinson all season? Against the Eagles, Robinson had 10 catches for 143 yards and a touchdown on 13 targets. He matched his season high in receptions and set a new season high in yards, and this was just his fifth touchdown of the year. He had a disappointing regular season with 55 receptions for 754 yards and four touchdowns on 94 targets, but hopefully this game can be a springboard for his performance in 2019. I would look for Robinson in Round 5 in all leagues on Draft Day.
We'll see what happens with Taylor Gabriel (four catches for 37 yards on nine targets, as well as two carries for 20 yards against Philadelphia) and Anthony Miller (three catches for 34 yards on five targets against the Eagles) heading into next season. I still like Miller's upside, but both of these guys are just late-round picks in most leagues. And Trey Burton (groin) was unable to play in this game, but he remains a low-end starting option heading into 2019.
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