The Gut Check No.473: The 10 Toughest Picks of 2019

Matt Waldman profiles 10 players with a combination of positives and negatives that make them his toughest fantasy picks of 2019.

Tough picks generate ambivalence within a fantasy owner. At the sight of their name, you can imagine the glorious heights of their ceilings and the dark and dank floors of their basements — and with little clarity about the direction that they're headed.

Here were my 10 Toughest Picks for 2018:

  1. Kirk Cousins: At the time of the article, Cousins was ADP 98, QB9. He finished the season QB9. Yours truly recommended Philip Rivers, Jared Goff, Matt Ryan, and Patrick Mahomes II as players with equal or greater upside to Cousins. The only quarterback on this list to finish below Cousins of that list was Rivers.
  2. Joe Mixon: Mixon had an ADP of 31 as the RB16 on the board and the verdict was to take Mixon ahead of ADP peers Jordan Howard, Kenyan Drake, Derrick Henry, and Alex Collins.
  3. Josh Gordon: With an ADP of 42 as the WR20, the Gut Check recommended Gordon as a fourth-round value and fourth receiver for your Upside Down Drafts where DeAndre Hopkins or Julio Jones would be your WR1; A.J. Green, Davante Adams, or Mike Evans would be your WR2; and Adam Thielen, Larry Fitzgerald, Amari Cooper, or Stefon Diggs would be your WR3. Yours truly also recommended Christian McCaffrey or Devonta Freeman as a second-round option and Gordon in the third round. While a selection of Fitzgerald and Freeman along with Gordon would have been tough to fix, most of these recommendations were strong combinations that would have mitigated the loss of Gordon, who once again appeared and disappeared from the fantasy scene.
  4. Leonard Fournette: Last year's RB9 in July with an ADP of 13, yours truly recommended conservative drafters to stay away choose two receivers with your opening picks. Fournette disappointed due to injury, which was the reason the Gut Check didn't love the pick last year.
  5. Jordan Reed: The TE9 of July 2018, Reed's injury issues made him at best, a speculative pick. Yours truly recommended George Kittle as the better value.
  6. Ronald Jones II II: It's crazy that Jones had an ADP of 63 as the RB26 at this time last year, isn't it? The Gut Check said that Jones was a more dangerous proposition than it appeared.
  7. Tarik Cohen: Last July, Cohen had a value of RB30 with an ADP of 70. The Gut Check liked him as part of an Upside Down Strategy. When taking another draft path, Yours truly recommended weighing the risks of not getting Royce Freeman, Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Drew Brees, or Delanie Walker. If you took Woods or Brees, you probably felt ok about not having Cohen. Otherwise, the Gut Check worried too much about Cohen.
  8. Deshaun Watson: Last year's QB2 in July with an ADP of 50, the Gut Check didn't like the value and didn't recommend taking him ahead of a list of 15 players. Watson finished as 2018's QB4 and the only two players who offered remotely good starter value within that range of the draft were Sony Michel and Lamar Miller. Passing on Watson was a miss—more for the players he was valued among than taking a quarterback this early — considering that Mahomes, Ryan, and Ben Roethlisberger had lower ADPs and better production.
  9. Carson Wentz: Yours truly believed Watson was a better risk than Wentz's July value of QB6. Yours truly also liked Robert Woods, Emmanuel Sanders, Delanie Walker, and Royce Freeman more. This was mostly wrong, but Wentz has QB23 by year's end didn't make it an egregious error.
  10. LeSean McCoy: Just a year ago, McCoy was RB13 with an ADP of 22. The Gut Check recommended you to shy away and go with other options. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce were far and away, the best of the five alternatives mentioned, although Doug Baldwin and Rob Gronkowski's end-of-year-value also were on part with McCoy's totals. Verdict: Good call to avoid.

Overall, the Gut Check steered you right on about 7-9 of these picks, depending on the how finely you followed the advice. Here are my 10 toughest picks heading into 2019 drafts. Yours will surely differ, but you may find that your picks share similar reasons as mine.

10. Curtis Samuel (ADP 118, WR47)

There's growing love for Samuel as a breakout candidate after he scored 7 times on 48 touches. However, a majority of his targets came after Week 10. Footballguys' Curtis Samuel Player Page states that this period of Samuel's strong production was "coincidentally at the same time Cam Newton was struggling with his shoulder injury.

While enticing to extrapolate Samuel's peak target period to a 121-target, 71-catch season, is it wise to think Samuel replaces Devin Funchess and becomes the "sneaky good" pick? Our player page lists D.J. Moore as the trendy pick and implies that Samuel might be the better value.

The problem with Samuel is that he's a 'tweener on his own team. It's true that he and Moore are both explosive players in the open field. However, Moore is a far more powerful runner with similar, if not greater explosion. Samuel played running back at Ohio State, but it was in a cameo role on the same level of Saturday Night Live asking Cam Newton to play a flight attendant for a seven-minute skit—enjoyable, but Newton won't be making a career change.

New arrival, Chris Hogan is also a more versatile route runner than Samuel. It's hard to imagine Carolina finding other ways to use Samuel beyond that of a short-range gadget. Unless Moore gets hurt, Samuel's game either equates to specialized usage at lesser volume or a redundancy plan for Moore.

Verdict: The Gut Check projections for Samuel lands him at WR48—nearly identical to his average positional ADP in late June. A player with a similar style but a more refined game in an offense with greater passing upside is Keke Coutee as WR45 and an ADP of 112.

D.K. Metcalf is a massive, boom-bust proposition at 111. Even so, the Gut Check prefers taking a chance on Metcalf's touchdown and big-play upside at the mid-point of fantasy drafts. Samuel needs more things to happen in his favor than Metcalf to earn high-upside opportunities.

Yours truly is letting the Curtis Samuel train leave the station—even if he doesn't catch the early-arriving Metcalf and Coutee routes. After all, DeSean Jackson will be around at ADP 126 if seeking big-play upside and Anthony Miller at 134 is also a more refined version of Samuel.

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