My first projections cut took nearly 60 hours and I have likely invested another 20 hours per week at a minimum keeping this set where I think they represent the most likely outcomes of the players. Distilling data to one set of numbers does not do justice to some of these players who have terrific talent, opportunity, etc. I am penning this article to provide some perspective to guys I like or hate and some thoughts circling my brain that might have gotten lost in a dataset that reflects my best guess at all of the possible outcomes a player can have.
Players listed alphabetically by their last name and by position.
Kirk Cousins - He is being drafted as a top ten quarterback, but is now playing on a team that finished 22nd in pass attempts. Matt Bitonti, our offensive line expert, ranks their pass-blocking unit as a C-. Kirk Cousins might have landed the great contract in free agency, but I suspect he struggles to have the same success he had last year in Washington.
Jimmy Garoppolo - Maybe it's him dating a porn star in the offseason, or introducing the San Jose Sharks when they were playing the Boston Bruins, but this guy exudes the IT factor. I saw it last year in spades. The 49ers believed they could win with him in the huddle and did just that in every game he started. Everyone is thinking...he can't keep up these statistics throwing to Marquise Goodwin and Trent Taylor, right? This player just defies logic. I usually pass at his current ADP, but I won't be surprised when he is among the league leaders at quarterback in 2018.
Andrew Luck - He's back. And he still doesn't have a defense, an offensive line, or a running game. He was a clear buy to me early in the preseason, but as news of his health spread, his ADP has now priced him correctly to his corresponding risk. But here is another guy with that IT factor and when you have someone as talented as T.Y Hilton catching your passes, good things tend to happen. The Colts defense is so bad this year that Luck could benefit from nearly always playing from behind.
Eli Manning - I trust my eyes a lot while making projections. And by the middle of last season, my eyes told me the game has passed up Eli Manning. Erratic throws, different arm angles, weird footwork, no sense of the rush. Name it and he made that mistake. Admittedly, Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall were hurt and he now was playing with sub-par weapons, but even quarterbacks with bad receivers can have proper mechanics. It's a new season. Perhaps Eli will regain his lost youth. Me, I am passing until I see the improvement on Sundays.
Aaron Rodgers - I never like drafting early quarterbacks and this year is no exception. Most of Rodgers' upside is already baked into his most likely outcome and there are a few reasons to think he could regress in 2018. First, Randall Cobb is hobbled with an ankle injury. Second, Rodgers go-to wide receiver of the last few years (Jordy Nelson) is now starting in Oakland. I am not suggesting Rodgers will be bad in 2018 as he sits atop my quarterback list like everyone else, but using a high pick represents neutral value at best. You will field a better team by simply letting someone else grab him.
Alex Smith - He inherits a team that catapulted Kirk Cousins to a top-five finish in 2017. Alex Smith is never a sexy pick due to the dink/dunk nature of his passes, but he rarely makes mistakes. He is being drafted around QB16 and has a lock on the starting job unless he gets hurt. I can't see too many scenarios where he doesn't equal or beat this average draft position. He is the reason it's so easy to wait at quarterback. Getting "stuck" with Alex Smith after locking down all the other skill positions likely puts you in a position to compete for the title.
Tyrod Taylor - Having arguably the worst pass catchers in the league last season, Tyrod Taylor had the Bills competing each and every week. I suspect a lot of NFL teams are going to regret passing on Taylor in free agency. Discount the Baker Mayfield hype. The Browns are paying $16M this season to have Tyrod Taylor show this team how to win. He is a leader in every sense of the word. This Browns offense could have some teeth, especially if Josh Gordon can stay on the field. He is getting drafted at a point below his likely floor but offers upside with the best players at the position.
Deshaun Watson - He certainly passed the eye test last season before getting injured, but can he continue the high yards per attempt and touchdown rate? This is his second ACL tear in just 3 years and that should give everyone pause. I have him ranked as the 4th best option based on what he was able to do in limited snaps last season, but I am avoiding drafting him anywhere near that price.
Russell Wilson - Tight end Jimmy Graham and wide receiver Paul Richardson Jr have left. The offensive line has improved, but it still is worse than average. Seattle's premier defense is a shell of its former self. So what do all these moving parts say about Russell Wilson in 2018? I project him high because he is Russell Wilson, but I think he could greatly disappoint near his draft position. That defense gave Wilson short fields, extra clock, more possessions.
Carson Wentz - I think he is ready to play now, but the Eagles decided to pay Nick Foles a whopping $13.6 million insurance policy this offseason in case Carson was not ready to go by the start of the season. This same management could decide to play Foles until they really need Wentz making his worth a bit sketchy if he does not take the field in Week 1. It's a dicey proposition, but as bad as Foles has played this offseason, I suspect the Eagles roll with Carson Wentz under center from the start. He likely won't be as mobile as he was last season but still should be a solid producer in this offense.
Jay Ajayi - I don't trust Jay Ajayi to stay healthy and/or be consistent at the position. In 2017, he logged just two games over 100 yards rushing and only one touchdown all season as he battled knee issues. He flashed moments of greatness in 2016 with three two-hundred yard rushing games, yet ended the year with only 1,272 rushing yards. As I write this, he again is nicked up fighting an unknown lower-body ailment. I am avoiding him in all formats.
Peyton Barber- He has outplayed Ronald Jones in camp and is the projected Week 1 starter. Charles Sims to the injured reserve list further cements a big role for Barber. He is massively undervalued in drafts right now.
Saquon Barkley - The rookie enters the year with explosive skills and a combine to remember. And although I can see a point in time where Barkley deserves first-round consideration, I am hesitant to draft him near his ADP this season. The Giants offensive line is putrid and quarterback Eli Manning was so inconsistent with his throws, I would suspect defenses will load up the box to stop Barkley at all costs. He faces a murderer's row to start the season on defense (Jaguars, Cowboys, Texans, Saints, and Panthers). If you really want Saquon Barkley in 2018, trade for him after Week 5.
Giovani Bernard - The Bengals are projected to win just 6.5 games so I suspect we will see a lot of Bernard as the team plays from behind. In PPR, he remains a very safe selection near his ADP. Conversely, I am avoiding Joe Mixon at his ADP, because I think he will be pulled when the Bengals are playing catch-up football.
Rex Burkhead - The Patriots have scored a whopping 35 rushing touchdowns over the last two seasons. Unfortunately, that production is usually scattered across a bunch of players. This is the player who I think could actually get a big piece of this pie this season. He is a value play in the fifth round or later.
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