Welcome to this week's roundtable, where our fearless panel of fantasy pundits discuss strategies for the new Footballguys-FFPC fantasy playoff contest, 2020 rebound-regression candidates, veterans who have nothing left for the future, and our favorite NFL players.
With this in mind, let's examine what we think about these topics as we head into Week 16:
- Strategies for Footballguys-FFPPC's New Playoff Contest
- Regression Proof for 2020
- 2020 Rebound Candidates
- Stick a Fork in Him...
- NFL Faves
Strategies for Footballguys-FFPC's New Playoff Contest
Matt Waldman: Footballguys has a new playoff contest in partnership with the FFPC. What re some strategies you recommend for this contest?
Sean Settle: These types of contests are a lot of fun and takes a different type of strategy. You get to draft 10 players from the 12 playoff teams and can only have one player per team. You have to consider which teams are the most likely to make a deep playoff run and target your top potential scoring from those teams.
You have to make a balanced roster that accurately predicts which teams move on in the playoffs.
If you take Lamar Jackson at quarterback, then you do not want to take a running back with a first-round bye. Spread your points out and use the philosophy of surviving and advancing. Having the most points in the first round may put your team in a bad spot in the later rounds.
Andy Hicks: As always you need to read the rules carefully. One of the key rules that struck me was this rule:
“Each week’s score will be added to your team’s total and the Superbowl will count as DOUBLE the points”
Finding out which two teams are likely to lay an egg in the wild card or divisional round will also help. We can only pick a player from 10 of the 12 teams. Who is going to be one and done?
Drew Davenport: I think the single most important thing with this contest that is somewhat overlooked is predicting who is going to win the games each weekend. It's the NFL and therefore it's tough, but I agree with Sean when he said, "You have to make a balanced roster that accurately predicts which teams move on in the playoffs."
Succinct and accurate. If you aren't predicting the right winners you're pretty much done before you start.
On top of that, you can't get too wrapped up in picking exciting players that aren't playing in the Wild Card round. If you are too heavy on certain teams you won't make it out of the opening rounds. You must go for balance, and as such, you may have to pick some outliers to help your team as you go forward.
One last thing that's critical is something Andy already pointed out: "Each week’s score will be added to your team’s total and the Superbowl will count as DOUBLE the points."
It may sound obvious, but that means that you need to have as much punch in the Super Bowl as you can. If you don't think Lamar Jackson's Ravens can make the big show then it removes luster from the pick. It doesn't mean you can't do it, but having the right players in the Super Bowl week is as critical as almost any other facet of the game.
Matt Waldman: Drew, Sean, and Andy mentioned the main strategic point of selecting as many players as possible that will make it to the Super Bowl as possible. However, this strategy must be balanced with having enough players available for you to produce during the first week of the playoffs while the odds-on favorites to reach the Super Bowl won't play until Week 2 of the playoffs.
When examining the scoring system, here are some position-specific thoughts I'd consider:
Treat quarterbacks like the queen of a chessboard: You can only select 10 players for the length of the contest and there's no bench. Combined with the scoring system, I'd consider quarterbacks like Queens on the chessboard where they're often used as middle- and end-game pieces, because the odds are lower of a wild-card team advancing to the Super Bowl. Counting on the position in the early rounds seems like a waste of resources when the higher seeds will likely have the most productive quarterbacks.
I would go all-in on the quarterback that I think has the best chance of making the Super Bowl. Based on the strength of the teams, I think Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes II are the two best bets in the AFC and have the most difficult quarterbacks to stop—or even limit to a paltry sum. Mahomes gives you a great shot of quality work through the conference championship and a great upside for the Super Bowl. However, Jackson looks well worth the proposition of playing a week without a quarterback.
While the NFC has excellent veteran quarterbacks none of them have been as consistent as Jackson and Mahomes. On a per-game basis, only Jackson has been better than Mahomes and both teams have beaten New England this year. None of the NFL playoff contenders have the defenses to stop either quarterback. Otherwise, I'd consider Russell Wilson because he's among the most skilled at in-game adjustments.
Consider your tight end as a middle and end-game piece: You have six players to consider at these three positions and the 1.5 PPR rule for tight ends elevates them to end-game pieces nearly on-par with the prolific quarterback—especially with double points during the Super Bowl. Because I'm a believer in the Ravens and Chiefs offenses and view the Patriots are a weaker squad lacking the personnel to go all the way,
It seems wise to consider Travis Kelce and/or Mark Andrews as my options. I would likely roll with Andrews, Kelce, or George Kittle as two of my tight ends, depending on my quarterback. Kelce is likely playing the Wild Card Round and I think the Chiefs have the best chance of the Wild Card teams to advance to the Super Bowl.
The downside of this approach is that, at best, you only get one of those options in the Super Bowl whereas rolling with Andrews and Kittle could compound your upside but you have one less payer in the early phase of the contest and could prevent you from getting far enough to utilize these end -game pieces. A compromise might be Kelce-Kittle where you bet on the Chiefs as the best team to buck the odds and hope this pair faces off at the very end.
Use two of your remaining five spots at running backs and wide receivers with your odds-on favorite divisional playoff teams: If you roll with a runner and receiver from a divisional-playoff team then it means you're starting the contest with no more than 60 percent of your roster. However, I like the idea of having at least three high-volume options on Super Bowl Sunday.
When betting on a running back from one divisional playoff team and I want strong offensive line play as a significant factor in my decision, which means the Ravens, 49ers, and Packers as my primary choices. Mark Ingram II is my first choice but Aaron Jones and Raheem Mostert are also worthwhile if you want to diversify just enough so you're not all-in with Baltimore.
I'd also consider one receiver from a divisional playoff team. Davante Adams, Emmanuel Sanders, and Julian Edelman are my top choices, but I'd also look into Deebo Samuel. I'm choosing based on volume and rapport and in Samuel's case, the 49ers ability to scheme creatively with Samuel, a rookie who may not fully grasp the gravity of the playoffs and play loose.
Use the final three running back/receiver spots with the wild card teams you believe have the best chance to advance deep into the playoffs: Kansas City, New Orleans, Seattle are those three teams on my list of eight that I like the most. Tyreek Hill, Michael Thomas, and Tyler Lockett are on my short-list because they are capable of volume and/or explosive plays and they're paired with battle-tested and/or incredibly talented quarterbacks.
Based on the rules, I'd prefer tight ends and quarterbacks as my priority picks for teams that I think have the best chance of making the Super Bowl and reserve running backs and receivers for the remaining teams. The Saints are tough at home but if they win, they face the Packers on the road and New Orleans has a history of struggling outdoors and on grass stadiums. Lockett earns a great matchup against the Eagles and Russell Wilson matches up well against the 49ers or Packers in the divisional round. Because I'd roll with the teams that have the best ground games
While there's compelling value to the idea that if you're betting on the Chiefs to take one of their backs, I'd prefer a team that leans hard on the ground game and has a strong enough offensive line and play-action complement. The Vikings would be appealing if you could trust Kirk Cousins to show up in big games and even reach the playoffs ahead of Dallas. He hasn't proven it but Wilson, Brees, and Mahomes have. Of this trio, Alvin Kamara is the most appealing figurehead of the three teams' ground games. Marshawn Lynch offers massive risk-reward while Derrick Henry and Dalvin Cook are safe for one game but may only have one game of life.
Either take a kicker from a wild card team and a defense from a divisional team or take both from a divisional team: The divisional teams have the best defenses and have a greater chance of facing a wild card team that will be prone to mistakes. However, I'd rather make non-kickers a higher priority.
Regression-Proof for 2020
Waldman: Pick a top starter from 2019 (QB1, RB1, WR1, or top-five TE) that you'd bet against regressing in 2020.
Adam Harstad: This is a timely question because I just wrote an abbreviated history of players who I had been told at one point or another were regression-proof. (They weren't.)
Regression to the mean is a basic mathematical fact and will come for 100 percent of the players in the NFL. Every single player, no matter who they are or how they performed, will tend to regress to their "true mean" going forward.
The difference between good regression-based analysis and bad regression-based analysis isn't determining when regression will apply and when it won't (it will always apply), it's in determining what a player's "true mean" is.
Last year, Patrick Mahomes II threw a touchdown on 8.6 percent of his passes. That value was so high that there was absolutely no way it could represent his true mean. The highest career rates by any quarterback with 2000 attempts since the merger are Aaron Rodgers at 6.1 percent, Russell Wilson at 6.0 percent, Bob Griese at 5.9 percent, and Peyton Manning / Tony Romo at 5.7 percent.
This year, Mahomes threw a touchdown on 5.4percent, which is probably a lot closer to his "true mean". He regressed, and he regressed hard. He was still one of the best fantasy quarterbacks in the league because his "true mean" was so high that even regressed-to-the-mean Patrick Mahomes II is a total boss.
Similarly, Lamar Jackson is averaging 80 rushing yards per game this year. We've seen enough stellar running quarterbacks that I feel quite confident his "true mean" is lower than that and he will regress in 2020. But even if his "true mean" is 60 rushing yards per game he's still a top-2 fantasy quarterback.
Jeff Haseley: Mahomes was supposed to regress from 50 touchdowns last year, and he did. However, I think it's safe to say that he is not a fluke and that he will once again rise to prominence in 2020. He may not reach 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns like 2018, but he has cemented himself as a quarterback who can be relied upon and trusted to put forth solid production year in and year out.
Settle: We all saw Aaron Jones go off on Monday Night Football against the Vikings and it made me take a deeper look at his stats. Jones should finish the season with 1,000 yards, which isn’t unusual, but the most eye-popping stat that will change is touchdowns.
Jones may very well finish the season with 20 or more total touchdowns and that is a number that will certainly regress. Predicting rushing attempts and targets is a little easier for running backs, but touchdowns are nearly impossible.
Coaches can line anyone up on the one-yard line from the fullback to a quarterback sneak and take away potential touchdowns. Jones has benefitted from a down year by Aaron Rodgers. We will most likely see his touchdown total cut in half next year. He will still be a very productive back in that offense, but he will not approach 20 total touchdowns again.
Harstad: One tool I like to use to easily identify touchdown over- or underperformers is the ratio of a player's yards to his touchdowns. There's a lot of variation in this ratio. Some players have more of a "nose for the end zone" while others are more yardage-monsters (think: Dez Bryant vs. Andre Johnson).
But pretty much all of that variation happens between 100 and 200 yards per touchdown in the long term. Some career values of notable players:
- 98.2 - Rob Gronkowski
- 99.0 - Randy Moss
- 102.2 - Dez Bryant
- 103.0 - Antonio Gates
- 105.8 - Todd Gurley
- 113.7 - Jerry Rice
- 113.8 - LaDainian Tomlinson
- 118.5 - Priest Holmes
- 118.6 - Davante Adams
- 122.6 - Marcus Allen
Jones is currently averaging 74.5 yards per touchdown this year and 88.1 yards per touchdown for his career. Even if he's a touchdown threat on par with LaDainian Tomlinson or Priest Holmes, in the long run, that's probably going to be more in the 115 yards per touchdown range.
If Jones had the same yardage total this year with a ratio of 115, he would have SEVEN fewer touchdowns (12 instead of 19), 42 fewer fantasy points, and would fall from RB2 overall down to RB8 overall. Still, a great season, no doubt, but doesn't jump off the page quite as much.
If he had a ratio of around 150 (which is around league average), his touchdown total would be cut in half.
Hicks: The obvious answer is the guys so far at the top of their positions they are likely to be easy choices, such as Lamar Jackson, Christian McCaffrey and Michael Thomas. Instead, I will take the player considered the consensus RB1 at the start of the season in Saquon Barkley. He missed four games, had to struggle with a rookie quarterback, poor offensive line play, questionable coaching and the receiver position decimated by injuries. He still is a fantasy RB1 as of right now. Next year he doesn’t need much improvement anywhere to be a top-six running back.
Justin Howe: I think that if Kenny Golladay can produce 10.0 yards per target and score on 10 percent of them with such uneven quarterbacking, he can do it whenever he wants to. The big-bodied speedster is officially a draft gem, having scorched past his original third-round value.
Golladay excels deep, underneath, and on contested throws in the end zone, so it’s no surprise he put up WR1 efficiency throughout the season. In 2020, he’ll resume catching balls from Matthew Stafford, who put on a career-best show (9.1 adjusted yards per attempt, 6.5 percent touchdown rate) before bowing out of this lost Lions season.
There’s a small chance the Lions will opt to save $6.5 million and move on from Marvin Jones Jr, which would only boost Golladay’s profile as the clear No. 1. Over a full, injury-free 2020, he’d probably project to a line around 75-1,250-12.
Jason Wood: Let me start by saying a hearty A-MEN to Adam for pointing out the inescapability of mean regression. To his point, the best way to figure out a player's true mean is to have multiple years of starting snaps to examine, so I'm going to cast a side-eye at anyone who cites a player that's had one meaningful season.
I'm with Andy in choosing Saquon Barkley. He was the consensus No. 1 pick in most leagues and fell well short of that mark. But a late-season surge has him back solidly in RB1 territory for the year. Many fantasy enthusiasts failed to make their playoffs in part because of Barkley's struggles, but if you managed to squeak into the playoffs in spite of his mid-season failures, he rewarded you with a strong push for a league title.
Barkley has displayed an ability to produce, when healthy, in spite of game script or supporting cast. There's reason to feel better about the Giants offense in 2020 as they probably move on from Pat Shurmur (or at least bring in a new offensive coordinator) and benefit from Daniel Jones' natural second-year progression.
Davenport: I think Leonard Fournette fits the bill nicely here as a player who can stave off regression in 2020. After 16 weeks of football, Fournette sits as the No.6 PPR running back overall. He's been an absolute workhorse, hasn't missed time from injury, and it appears the chatter about him having turned things around in his personal life and his approach to the game were right on point.
He's managed to average 17.3 PPR points per game on the strength of 100 targets and 76 receptions all while scoring just THREE touchdowns! He has touched the ball 341 times but managed pitifully few scores. Obviously part of the problem is the Jaguars offense, but it's also just plain bad luck as well.
The one caveat to Fournette would be whether John De Filippo is back as the offensive coordinator. If he leaves it may also take some of the targets from Fournette.
But even so, it feels like Fournette is set up to deliver big for people who realize what a few extra touchdowns will do for his bottom line. Even slashing off 25 receptions could easily be made up with a couple more scores, but if he continues the passing game work and he adds the goal line success we are talking about a Top 3 option.
I think Fournette might be having one of the quietest Top 6 seasons in recent memory. I'm betting this sets him up well for next year's drafts.
2020 Rebound candidates
Waldman: Pick a player who was healthy this year but didn't perform to starter expectations in a 12-team 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE format that you expect to rebound in 2020.
Davenport: I'm gonna cheat a little bit and give you two: Robert Woods and Robby Anderson.
Woods is a pretty simple argument and it goes back to the same touchdown regression argument I used with Fournette. He's caught 83 passes this year and yet managed to score just ONE receiving touchdown. Will he ever be a 10 touchdown guy consistently? No! But 4-6 scores is very reasonable. Sign me up for a guy averaging 15 PPR points per game this year with just 2 total touchdowns under his belt.
Robby Anderson is a bit more tricky, but I think it's obvious what he can do in the right situations. When his quarterback Sam Darnold got it together near the end of the 2018 season Anderson was on fire. Likewise this year he's struggled mightily at times, but turned it on late again with 4 touchdowns in his last 6 games, and going over 66 yards in 4 of 6 as well.
It doesn't take a strong imagination to see the Jets moving on from Anderson after this season and if he ends up with a team that has some offensive chops I think he's gonna be really fun to have on a team. If he comes back to New York I'm not as excited, but I still believe the Jets season was derailed until about Week 8 when they had passed the games against New England and Darnold's bout with mono. I'm watching for a rebound from Anderson in 2020.
Wood: I take umbrage with the question because there's a good chance that a player we expected to be starters and failed were dealing with injuries, even if they played through them. In the coming months, we'll be regaled with stories of players dealing with seemingly massive injuries, many that will require surgery, that we had little to no knowledge of during the season.
Waldman: Wood, see my index finger rubbing my thumb? That's not Johnny Manziel celebrating but the world's smallest violin playing just for you...Seriously, I phrased this question to avoid the obvious and potentially lazy answers when citing players with season-ending injuries but didn't consider the walking wounded. Still, at this time, we don't know about these injuries so we must presume they are healthy.
Wood: I'll give you two young receivers to whet your appetite. Deebo Samuel ranks WR36 through Week 16 but went from a non-factor to the team's impact playmaker in the second half of the season. He'll be the team's No. 1 next year and should see the requisite target share to deliver the first of many Top-24 seasons. The other is Diontae Johnson, who ranks 41st currently. My excitement for Johnson hinges on Ben Roethlisberger returning for the 2020 season. If Big Ben is back, Johnson showed enough this year with a revolving door of quarterbacks to be excited about a 2020 breakout.
Howe: I firmly believe that the Joe Mixon we’ve seen since his Week 9 bye is the real Joe Mixon: big, lightning-quick, durable, versatile, and capable of transcending even the worst Bengals offense. Mixon has been the Bengals’ engine for the past two months and excelled, and he’ll enter the offseason feeling great about himself.
Besides, positive regression often gets overlooked, and Mixon has only found the end zone on 3 of his 252 rushes (1.2 percent). That rate should double under typical circumstances, and another season around 1,400 scrimmage yards and at least 8 touchdowns would be fantastic. On a macro scale, his slow start to the year and the Bengals’ ineptitude could prove a good thing in terms of 2020 ADP. He likely won’t get much of a draft bump from this year’s despite closing the season as a high-yield RB1.
Hicks: This has to be Odell Beckham Jr Jr for me. It doesn’t matter if he is with the Browns or elsewhere. The coaching staff has not played to his strengths, his chemistry with Baker Mayfield is still developing and he has had injury issues. He has still played every game though and is theoretically in the prime of his career.
Despite all the problems, he should crack the 1,000-yard mark, but the lack of touchdowns has been a significant concern. It would be relatively easy for the Browns to move Beckham on should they choose to do so, but he is still an elite receiver so barring a moribund passing attack in Cleveland or elsewhere optimism should be restored.
Settle: We saw some flashes of it down the stretch, but Mixon was a major disappointment for the majority of the season this year. He was often pegged as a second running back for most teams in the first two rounds of a standard draft. On five occasions this season he had 50 yards or fewer, and if we move that number to 70 yards, he only broke that plateau in potentially half of his games.
The Bengals are a bad team right now and they were without A.J. Green and could not figure out what they wanted to do at quarterback. They have officially locked up the No.1 overall pick and that team can only get better. With his tear down the stretch, Mixon has a chance to go over 1,000 yards for the season, but he was wildly inconsistent and did not live up to the high draft billing in most leagues. Look for a big rebound next year and way more than the three rushing touchdowns he had this year.
Haseley: My gut says T.J. Hockenson will perform better in year two. Normally we see a slow start out of the gate from rookie tight ends and Hockenson was no different.
There were several examples where Hockenson had scoring chances but the ball just bounced off his fingertips, or it was deflected in the end zone or a penalty negated a score. He should continue to see scoring chances in 2020 and he'll have a healthy Matthew Stafford at his disposal. Hockenson has a productive pedigree and should continue to develop as an up and coming tight end in the league.
Waldman: I second Haseley's thoughts on Hockenson, word-for-word.
Stick a Fork in Them...
Matt Waldman: Pick a player, who has delivered multiple years of starter production that you think is most likely at the end of his career as an NFL starter.
The Chiefs signed McCoy in early September after he was released by Buffalo in August. The move was to bolster a weak running game, however, McCoy's highest snap count game was only 32 snaps (Week 4). Kansas City did not have a strong running game in 2019, and it may be the reason why they won't seal the deal in the 2019 postseason.
Over the course of the season, several backs saw offensive snaps with various ailments over a healthy McCoy. That was the writing on the wall as an indicator that his time with the team is limited, and it may be limited in the league forthcoming.
McCoy is 31 years old and has logged over 2,900 touches over his 11 years in the league, which is 22nd all-time and third-most among active running backs (Frank Gore, Adrian Peterson). It would not be a surprise to see McCoy released before the 2020 season, which will probably be the end of his illustrious career.
Settle: Father time is catching up to several players this season. A rash of injuries and a team trying to go in a new direction has me thinking Greg Olsen is nearing the end of his career as a fantasy starter.
Ian Thomas is waiting in the wings, the offense has Christian McCaffery and D.J Moore leading the way, and they have no idea what they are going to do at quarterback and head coach next season. Olsen has had his moments over the course of his career, but the writing appears to be on the wall and this next class of young and athletic tight ends is ready to take over..
Hicks: The other guys have answered this well, so I will approach it from a different angle. I am looking at players who are at the top of the tree but will begin the slide down. It may be a gradual descent or a rapid decline. Time will tell, but my theory is to jump off players a year too early rather than a year too late.
Two players, I would be looking at with great concern in 2020 would be Travis Kelce and Mark Ingram II. Once a Tight End gets past 30 their fantasy consistency is all over the place, except another former Chief in Tony Gonzalez. Sure a guy can have a good year in their 30s, but in the case of other greats such as Antonio Gates, Shannon Sharpe, Wesley Walls, Greg Olsen, and Jason Witten it is surrounded by less productive years.
Kelce has a lot going for him and may still have a great year in 2020, but history is often a great guide. In the case of Mark Ingram II, if we look at the top 18 fantasy running backs, they are all 25 years old or younger, except for Ingram. It’s a young man's position and Ingram has benefitted greatly from situation and health. Again he should be in a great position to succeed in 2020, but father time isn’t a 30-year-old running backs best friend.
Waldman: Thank you for taking a bold approach to this question, Andy.
Howe: This has to be the end of the line for the great Larry Fitzgerald. He opened the Air Raid Era on a tear, but it’s been hard to watch him fade into near-invisibility down the stretch (just 37 yards a game since Week 7). He hasn’t topped 10.6 yards per catch or 6 touchdowns in a season since 2015. Even if he returns for 2020, it’ll be hard to find the floor in investing a pick, even in PPR leagues.
Wood: Very few players ping-pong up and down the fantasy charts. Once you start falling, even if there are rational explanations for the fall, it's rare to bounce back to every-week star status.
So I'll start with a pair of veteran, multi-purpose running backs — David Johnson and Le'Veon Bell. They took different paths to the scrap heap, but they're both looking at compaction.
The fantasy community overrated Johnson from the start — and I'm guilty of that. He benefitted from an obscene workload and an explosive rookie year, which clouded our analysis of the plodder he really is, particularly as a runner.
It's been three years since he touched 4.0 yards per carry. He remains a dynamic receiver and would be best suited as a 3rd-down back paired with a two-down workhorse. But given his contract, it's hard to envision Johnson getting a prominent role elsewhere.
Bell is a simple case of an overworked stud being dragged down by a combination of poor surroundings and Father Time. Bell went from arguably the best run-blocking line in football to one of the worst, and from a coaching staff committed to using him as the focal point in all game scripts, to a staff known for irrational misuse of their lead runners.
Davenport: I believe we are seeing the end of Devonta Freeman right now. He isn't terribly old, but he will turn 28 before the season starts and embark on his eighth year in the league. This is right on the line for when we start to see a dip in production for non-elite running backs.
I think this especially applies to Freeman after watching him go through a spate of injuries in recent years. As a fantasy player who had a lot of shares of the Falcons offense this year, it didn't look to me like Freeman had the same explosiveness he possessed when he was making his rise to fantasy prominence.
Either age is catching up to him or he's suffering from injury more than we know. It likely doesn't matter too much which one is true though as Freeman's dead cap hit drops precipitously in 2020 and it wouldn't be surprising to see him cut or traded. He's certainly not done in the NFL, but this looks like a situation where he'll get a deal from a team to play in a timeshare and his days of being "the" starter are over.
Waldman: Regardless of fantasy value, who was your favorite NFL player to watch this year?
Davenport: Derrick Henry is that player for me. I know it's a bit of a boring answer because he's seen as a grinder, but I find the combination of his size, speed, and elusiveness to be mesmerizing.
When he grabs a screen in the flat and turns upfield with a few yards to get moving it is truly a spectacle. In a PPR heavy world, he has just 18 receptions this year yet is ranked RB7 overall despite missing the Week 16 game against New Orleans. That says something about what a special runner he is, and it's been truly fun to watch him step into the elite conversation this year with his performance: 1,328 yards rushing, 15 total touchdowns, and over 1,500 total yards. I can't wait to watch him next year.
Wood: As an Eagles homer, having seen every snap of the season, the answer is Miles Sanders. I wasn't sure he would be fantasy relevant given the Eagles propensity for a committee, but I've been thrilled by his progression.
It took a Jordan Howard injury to give Sanders the snaps, but he's answered the call. His ability to let a play develop, to show patience at the point of attack, and to find the soft spots in zones as a receiver, have all grown by leaps and bounds in the last four months.
He's gone from a talented kid I felt hurt the team when he was on the field, to the team's best offensive player. It's a treat to watch and it has me excited for 2020 and beyond.
Hicks: This question begins and ends with Lamar Jackson. One of the most pleasing developments is an experienced head coach in John Harbaugh being totally invested in changing his whole thinking in regards to team style and offense and finding the right coaching group to get the best out of that player.
So often we see coaches trying to fit square pegs in round holes by thinking a player with a certain skill set will fit their system. Michael Vick, Randall Cunningham, and others may have had a similar ability to Lamar Jackson, but they were always fighting coaches in utilizing their talents. Lamar Jackson is an NFL quality passer, we have seen enough in 2019 to make that a fact. His running, however, transcends any other player in NFL history with the combination of arms and legs and it took a head coach willing to risk utter humiliation and failure to seek a new direction in the NFL.
Settle: My favorite player to watch this season has been Shaquem Griffin. He has fantasy value in IDP formats, but this post goes beyond fantasy football. I have followed his story since his time at UCF and have enjoyed watching him turn into a starter in the NFL.
The majority of his playing time has come on special teams and he does not have a single sack this year, but he continues to push and make the most of his playing time. He has three quarterback hits and is getting closer and closer to a sack. The Seahawks will make the playoffs and it will be fun to see what kind of impact he can make as they go on a playoff run.
Haseley: For me, it was Christian McCaffrey. The Panthers leaned on him heavily for the second year in a row and he did not disappoint.
While it's not a good decision to utilize him so much, it was fun to watch. He was able to accomplish so much before the bottom fell out of the Panthers 2019 season.
McCaffrey's ability to make defenders miss in space is among the best in the league. He's also an outstanding route runner who can get separation with ease.
A more adept quarterback who can read the field better would do wonders for McCaffrey's game. As good as he was, there were countless opportunities where he could've done more, so much more. McCaffrey's conditioning is top-notch, which allows him to make good on the high number of touches that he receives week in and week out. At some point though, it will reach a point where his abilities will diminish. I expect Carolina and their new coaching staff to realize this in 2020 and assign some of the load to another back. If they don't I fear McCaffrey's career could be shortened.
Waldman: Nick Chubb. The Browns offensive line has one quality player, left guard Joel Bitonio and the rest of the unit has been banged up and/or underperforming. Despite this issue as well as the staff having difficulties realizing that Chubb is the best offensive player to showcase rather than Baker Mayfield, Chubb is among the leading rushers in the league and most productive after contact. He's a quiet, get-it-done back with elite power, balance, vision, and top-end speed.
Saquon Barkley is an excellent back. However, as was the case heading into the 2018 NFL Draft, I like Chubb just a little bit more.