It’s hard to believe we’re a week away from the NFL regular season. After spending more than four months focusing on every bit of minutiae, every tidbit, every coach’s quote, and adjusting our rankings and projections, accordingly, a lot can change from our original expectations. Here’s a quick look at some of the most important changes from my initial rankings back in early May.
ON SECOND THOUGHT...
Josh Rosen (ARI) won’t be the most productive rookie quarterback
Rosen had a quiet preseason, and Sam Bradford is a proven, steady hand. Neither is compelling in redraft leagues, but it’ll now take a lengthy Cardinals losing streak or a Bradford injury for Rosen to see the field.
Joe Flacco (BAL) isn’t going to be displaced by Lamar Jackson
As a Louisville fan, nothing would please me more than Jackson ascending. It’s not happening anytime soon. Flacco is healthy, the receiving corps is markedly improved, and Jackson has a lot to learn.
Josh Allen (BUF) will start the majority of the season
The Bills have the makings of a bad football team. A very bad football team. While a case could be made for keeping Allen out of the dumpster fire, his play – and AJ McCarron’s injury – point to Allen getting under center quickly to give the fans a reason to show up.
Mitchell Trubisky (CHI) isn’t worth reaching for on draft day
The Matt Nagy honeymoon is over before it started. Call it intuition, call it wisdom, or call it stupidity – but my spider-sense isn’t picking up any excitement from Bears camp. Maybe the coaches are saving it all for the regular season, but Trubisky needs to show it before I’m buying it.
Andy Dalton (CIN) could be a phoenix rising from the ashes
The offensive line is better. The receiving corps is better, particularly if John Ross stays healthy. Dalton isn’t going to win you a fantasy championship, but he can be a productive QB2.
Tyrod Taylor (CLE) will start more games than Baker Mayfield
Call it Hue Jackson’s stubbornness. Call it Tyrod Taylor’s leadership. Whatever you call it, Taylor is too good, and too much a locker room leader, to sit for the hot-headed rookie.
Case Keenum (DEN) is going to turn back into a pumpkin at midnight
And the clock strikes midnight sometime this season. I just can’t get behind Keenum based on one good-not-great season in Minnesota. He was bad for a lot of years in a lot of systems, yet we’re supposed to believe everything clicked last year and he’s plug-and-play now? Hopefully, Chad Kelly is the real deal, and Keenum’s regression doesn’t bring down the entire Broncos offense.
Deshaun Watson (HOU) is healthy, and a bonafide fantasy star
I was skeptical of Watson coming off a torn ACL, not to mention last year’s small sample size. But he’s clearly healthy and even building in a healthy regression in passing efficiency, Watson projects as a top-eight fantasy quarterback with No. 1 upside.
Andrew Luck (IND) is healthy, and a top-5 quarterback
Luck is back. Let’s not forget how good he was before the two-year long shoulder odyssey turned him into a fantasy afterthought. He’s been a full participant in the preseason, is eschewing confidence to reporters, and has an improved coaching staff, system, and offensive line. Frank Reich’s offenses have averaged 600+ passing attempts. If Luck gets 600 attempts, he should vie for top honors.
Pat Mahomes II's (KC) value comes down to your tolerance for volatility
Andy Reid knows quarterbacks. And, Mahomes has made big plays in the preseason. But he’s also been an interception machine in camp. If your league penalizes heavily for turnovers, Mahomes should be off your board. If you can get away with interceptions, he’s the ultimate high risk, high reward selection.
Sam Darnold (NYJ) will be the most productive rookie quarterback
Yes, Josh McCown is a proven veteran and smart enough to be a head coach. Yes, Teddy Bridgewater is healthy and played like a seasoned starter in the preseason. Who cares? The Jets traded Bridgewater to the Saints on Wednesday, and Darnold has looked and acted the part from the first practice. His coaches are pointing to his ability to read defenses, and he’s got the poise required of a rookie starter. He should play 16 games and, as a result, lead all rookie passers in fantasy points.
Carson Wentz (PHI) won’t miss (much) time but is still overvalued
I’m an Eagles season ticket holder, so my disdain for Wentz’s fantasy prospects is anything but personal. His recovery from multiple ligament tears has gone as well as anyone hoped, but his ADP remains elevated given last year’s unsustainable touchdown rate and red-zone efficiency.
Jameis Winston (TB) isn’t a top-10 quarterback
Entering the preseason, I forecast Winston in the Top 10 based on the continued maturation of O.J. Howard and Chris Godwin, the addition of Ronald Jones, and pass-happy game scripts thanks to a suspect Buccaneers defense. Unfortunately, Winston is a knucklehead and got suspended, Jones looks lost, and Mike Evans has been as quiet as Godwin has been enticing.