New Reality No.127: Projecting 2019 Uptick Players

Navigating the ever-changing landscape of dynasty fantasy football

Identifying bounce-back or breakout players for the following season is a long-standing strategy to maximizing roster value in the offseason. Here are my favorite bets for a value uptick in 2019:

QUARTERBACKS

Matthew Stafford has plummeted to the finish in production and appeal in 2018 and is poised to be outside the top-18 quarterbacks in dynasty ADP for the offseason. Stafford has hardly had any favors around though with Marvin Jones Jr out with injury, Golden Tate traded, Kerryon Johnson hurt of late, and minimal tight end presence in the offseason. Kenny Golladay looks miscast as a true No.1 receiver and the offseason cannot arrive soon enough for the Lions to get healthy and potentially add a weapon or two around Stafford. Established and proven quarterbacks coming off a down year are some of the best investments in dynasty and Stafford qualifies for 2019.

Andy Dalton finishes the season on injured reserve and another quarterback who had his best weapons taken away by injury (A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert). John Ross has been of minimal impact through two seasons despite his high draft pedigree to add frustration to Dalton's supporting cast. With Eifert and Green both healthy for the opening month of the season, Dalton averaged 25 PPG and a mere 16 PPG over the rest of the season. Dalton is outside the top-25 quarterbacks for early 2019 startup ADP and look for the Bengals to add a tight end in the offseason plus bring back a healthy A.J. Green.

RUNNING BACKS

David Johnson is an easy bounce-back choice for 2019 with the Arizona offense crumbling around him. Josh Rosen worked through the typical rookie struggles and Christian Kirk's midseason injury left an eroding Larry Fitzgerald in the slot and a hodgepodge of NFL fringe weapons at receiver. Johnson was quizzically tempered in his passing game usage before Byron Leftwich took over as the offensive coordinator during the season. Johnson was a constant top-10 selection in startup drafts last offseason and projects to be regularly available in outside the top-15 this season if not the top-20.

Le'Veon Bell's ADP movement over the past 12 months mirrors David Johnson's but for different reasons. Bell's holdout lasted the entire season. Few NFL landing spots are as good as Pittsburgh but Le'Veon Bell's two-way ability fits with any system and a big contract points to high-level usage for Bell in 2019. His age, like David Johnson, begins to crack at the foundation of his dynasty market value, but Bell has not been this affordable in years with a later Round 2 (or potentially Round 3 in some startup drafts) price point in 2019.

Rashaad Penny is gaining steam in recent weeks but still presents a value in 2019 drafts. Penny has prototypical size and athleticism along with his Round 1 NFL Draft pedigree. Backs like Penny project as their NFL team's Week 1 starter early in their career even if there is a sluggish Year 1 start. Penny flirted with Round 3 startup status last summer but is now more in the Round 5-6 range.

D'Onta Foreman was one of the hot names for the closing stretch of 2017 before a late-season Achilles injury. Foreman was pressing Lamar Miller for playing time and, without the injury, could have been the 2018 starter in a best-case scenario. Instead, Foreman has been absent with a lengthy recovery. However, we could see Foreman before Houston's season is over and is a wildcard to be a starter in 2019 depending on Foreman's progress and how Houston feels about Miller's cuttable contract for next season. Either way, Foreman's combination of size and movement (assuming a strong recovery) is difficult to ignore compared to his ADP well outside the top-125.

Kalen Ballage was the ideal high-variance Day 3 NFL Draft pick for the Dolphins and in the mid-to-late second round of 2018 rookie drafts. Ballage has an enviable combination of size, athleticism, and receiving acumen. However, expecting much impact from Ballage was unrealistic with Kenyan Drake entrenched as the receiving-centric option and the timeless Frank Gore playing well even in his mid-30s. With neither Drake or Gore missing time, Ballage has spent his rookie season simmering in the background. However, Ballage has curiously dropped more than 50 ADP spots from the summer and remaining the same high-upside-low-cost proposition for 2019.

Chris Warren III III was one of the hot dynasty names of the preseason, lighting up defenses before sustaining a knee injury and missing his rookie season. Warren has the ideal combination of size, movement, and power to keep a starting job in the NFL. With Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin both question marks for the Raiders heading into the offseason, Warren is poised to be a buzz name even if Oakland brings in a starter on paper if Warren can secure the backup job. Warren costs nothing more than a late dynasty startup pick to secure to start the 2019 offseason.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Corey Davis has surged to life with flash moments in 2018, including two games of at least 125 yards and three touchdowns (and counting) during the second half of the season only. Davis remains affordable for a wide receiver of his stature (prototypical traits, pedigree, size, athleticism) and is tempered in market value and appeal solely due to a still-struggling Tennessee offense. Davis peaked last offense in the mid-Round 2 of startups, but projects in the Round 3 range for 2019 drafts (stock PPR formats). Davis is the type of metric prospect to continue betting on as once the situation improves he will be a full-go for production upside.

Will Fuller V has six games of at least 20 PPR points over his last 20 games played (2017-18). The problem with Fuller has been durability with two shortened seasons by injury. On the plus side, Deshaun Watson has been a quality distributor of fantasy production for the Houston tandem of receivers with plenty of upside for Fuller as the Robin to Hopkins' Batman role. Fuller has elite speed and has shown significant progress with his hands and intermediate routes since his up-and-down rookie season in 2016. After peaking as high as Round 3 in-season for dynasty startup ADP, he is back down to Round 5-6 as an ideal WR3 for initial team building.

Sammy Watkins' recent ADP history looks like a ride at a water park - straight down. The once Round 1 dynasty start pick is on his third NFL team and missed almost as many games as he played this year with Kansas City. Watkins was paid like a WR1 contract-wise and his first two seasons of production in the NFL were historically strong (more than 2,000 yards and 15 touchdowns) before the 'lost years' of 2016-18 where he barely surpassed 1,500 combined with a mere 13 touchdowns. Watkins, when healthy, can push for WR1 fantasy status and Tyreek Hill is far from a traditional No.1 receiver in NFL terms, lining up plenty in the slot and being a moveable chess piece weapon more than a dominant outside option. Watkins is at a career-low ADP in Round 4-5 of startups and is a strong buy considering his pedigree and ideal environment to bounce back in 2019 with the Chiefs.

TIGHT ENDS

Hunter Henry is an obvious choice with a missed 2018 season due to injury. Antonio Gates returned to the Chargers as a stopgap option, but 2019 looks to be Henry's best opportunity to-date for a full-fledged breakout. One concern for Henry is the sheer volume of strong options vying for targets between Keenan Allen, an emerging Mike Williams, and Melvin Gordon III along with Henry added back to the mix. Tyrell Williams is a notable free agent and it would be a surprise if Antonio Gates is back. Henry has dropped a round of dynasty startup ADP since last January and was an even better value during the 2018 season. Outside of the top tier of tight ends, Henry will be one of the trendy elite upside options touted during the summer of 2019.

Ian Thomas flamed out in his first starting opportunity with Greg Olsen out and returned to invisible status midseason as Olsen played through his most recent injury. However, Thomas is making much better use of his expanded opportunity late in the season with games of 5-46-0 and 9-77-0 in December. Thomas has been primarily used near the line of scrimmage but possesses the ability to stretch the seam. Olsen is a question mark at best to return for 2019 as he has already explored his after-the-NFL options as a broadcaster and analyst which could tip him in the direction of retirement considering his age and injury status. Thomas has seen a recent hike in dynasty startup ADP but is still solidly outside the top-150.

Gerald Everett has begun to see more usage in the Rams' spread-it-around offense, including as a split-out receiver. Everett was a top-50 pick in the historic 2017 tight end class and will be entering Year 3 for 2019. Everett's combination of Athleticism and Production scores as a prospect are both in the top-10% since 2000 and while Everett is rising in the past month or two, is poised to be available outside the top-20 tight ends next offseason.