What We Learned in 2019: Team Breakdown

The most important lesson learned about each team in 2019 fantasy leagues

We remember a season as a whole, but sometimes the salient takeaways are best viewed when we look back on each team’s year as an atomic unit with its own internal logic and consistency. The 2020 offseason will pen the next chapter in each one of these stories, but before we start to digest whatever that brings, let’s take time to reflect on the most important takeaway for each in team.

AFC East

Buffalo

Devin Singletary is coming

Singletary was an instant hit in 2019, but an early hamstring injury slowed his fantasy impact and Frank Gore’s presence capped his weekly upside. Gore is likely gone and there will be a race to get Singletaryin the second or third round among the most optimistic fantasy players. If they’re right, he’ll soon be a fantasy RB1.

Miami

Ryan Fitzpatrick is the funnest

Fitzpatrick created fantasy value of his own, rewarding anyone who put faith in him during the fantasy playoffs, and also fostered growth from Devante Parker and Mike Gesicki. The team went out and assembled an offensive staff that had a lot in common with his strong stretch for the Jets, so expect him to be a top notch fantasy caretaker for this offense while a 2020 first-round pick gets ready to take the reins.

New England

The Patriots offense isn’t fertile for fantasy anymore

Blame Tom Brady. Blame the offensive line injuries. Blame Antonio Brown and Josh Gordon. No matter who you decide to point the finger at, the broader striking realization of 2019 was that the Patriots aren’t going to create fantasy overachievers any longer. Even the sole “hit” Julian Edelman produced below his 2018 points per game. Will Brady be back? Will the team acquire additional weapons for him? Does it matter with Dante Scarnecchia retiring again? In one year the Patriots have gone from a reason to take a fantasy player to a reason to avoid him.

New York Jets

Adam Gase is King Midas In Reverse

Gase’s former players were heartwarming stories of careers blossoming and fantasy teams profited from their flourishing. Le'Veon Bell and the players Gase coached in 2019 were fantasy headaches and disappointments despite blips and bloops of moments of excellence from the offense. Sorry Jets fans.

AFC South

Houston

Carlos Hyde is Duke Johnson Jr’s nemesis

GM/Head coach Bill O Brien gave up much more for Johnson than he did for Hyde in preseason trades, but when it came time to lace em up, Hyde got the majority of the touches and Johnson was once again relegated to the fantasy junk drawer. Hyde actually played better than expected and came through a few times in a pinch for fantasy teams, but this was mostly fantasy quicksand for running back value. We miss you Arian Foster.

Indianapolis

Andrew Luck Matters

The fantasy football market reacted to Luck’s environment by fading the Colts offensive players, and it was mostly correct. Jacoby Brissett was better than expected as a passer at first, Marlon Mack had a 174 yard game to open the season, TY Hilton gobbled up short targets to make an early impact, but Brissett regressed, Mack only had two 100-yard games for the rest of the season and Hilton got hurt. Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle never even got out of the driveway for fantasy teams and no Colt passcatcher ended up being a remotely reliable option

Jacksonville

It Wasn’t All Blake Bortles’ Fault

Ok, a lot of it was Blake Bortles fault. Gardner Minshew gave us our “what a difference a quarterback makes, even a late round rookie quarterback with limited tools” moment, but eventually the Jaguars offense bogged down. DJ Chark was a revelation at times, Leonard Fournette was a competent if unexciting pass catcher, and well that was about it in this offense. Jay Gruden is a good offensive coordinator, so here’s hoping for a better 2020.

Tennessee

It Was All Marcus Mariota’s Fault

Mariota gets benched six weeks into the season and y’all know the rest. Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry are going to get paid now, AJ Brown would go #1 in some 2019 rookie draft redos, and the Titans had a memorable postseason run. Soon we’ll learn which team decides to make Mariota a reclamation project for 2020.

AFC North

Baltimore

Lamar Jackson is a good passer and he’s not going to slow down as a runner

Jackson broke records as a runner and he was hyperefficient as a passer with one of the worst groups of passcatchers in the league. Early round quarterback drafting is out of vogue, but Jackson can easily return first round value in 2020.

Cincinnati

Joe Mixon is good but not good enough to overcome the Bengals

Mixon looked like one of the best five backs in the league at the end of 2018, and he was probably playing that well in December of 2019 too, but the Bengals putrescence as an offense still rendered him a bust at his 2019 ADP. The visions of a Todd Gurley role in the passing game never materialized as Zac Taylor’s offense missed AJ Green and had extended offensive line woes. 2020 will bring Joe Burrow (unless the Bengals shock the world and go with Justin Herbert), and maybe a long term deal for Mixon? He won’t fall far in fantasy drafts in any event.

Cleveland

Any hope around the Browns is just a cruel joke on the fans

We all knew the hype was getting ahead of itself in the 2019 offseason, but it was too enjoyable to ponder the Browns as a relevant team, and besides look what Todd Monken did for the Bucs offense in 2018! Nick Chubb was a running back’s running back and good enough for fantasy, but Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr and the Browns faceplanted throughout the season. The front office and coaching staff are in alignment (finally) so the ship should get turned around in 2020 (really!)

Pittsburgh

Ben Roethlisberger was the only thing keeping the offense afloat

Yes, the offense lost Antonio Brown, but the offensive line and perceived talent level on the offense should have been able to keep them viable enough to support sustained fantasy value. When Roethlisberger went down with an elbow injury, the Steelers offense became one of the most difficult to watch in the league,drifting without even baseline backup level play at quarterback and playcalling and design that was more an obstacle than an aide. The wide receiver group did take steps forward, so a triumphant return by Roethlisberger could create a lot of value in 2020.

AFC West

Denver

Courtland Sutton is a full-grown WR1

Sutton didn’t seem up to the task of being the lead receiver after Emmanuel Sanders went down in 2018, but maybe we were asking too much of him. He was a steady rudder in the passing game as the Broncos went through three quarterbacks in 2019 and after losing Sanders once again, this time to trade. With a full offseason to develop alongside Drew Lock, Sutton’s best football is yet to come and he should be drafted with a lot of optimism in 2020.

Kansas City

Sammy Watkins is shrinking

Watkins bust out in Week 1 while Tyreek Hill was on the sidelines, which rekindled hopes of Watkins returning to the burgeoning WR1 status he had early in his career. Week 1 was one of the all-time meanest teases in fantasy history as Watkins failed to have a big impact on a game or fantasy lineups until the Super Bowl. He might be back with a paycut in 2020, but Mecole Hardman is waiting in the wings and would become more prominent if Watkins is released.

Los Angeles Chargers

Austin Ekeler is as good or better than Melvin Gordon III

Ekeler was surprisingly productive in a #2 back role in 2018 and actually did worse when Melvin Gordon III was out, but that didn’t stop folks from pushing him up into the sixth round as Gordon’s holdout threatened to go well into the season. It lasted four weeks and Ekeler was unleashed, putting up elite RB1 numbers while Gordon was out and solid RB1/strong RB2 numbers while Gordon was in.

Oakland

Darren Waller is a baller

Waller is a great comeback story from both a football and personal perspective, and we had a ton of foreshadowing with consistent positive buzz pieces that indicated Waller had improved by leaps and bounds and would be given as large a role as he could earn, but it was still surprising when he ended up being a top six fantasy tight end with a big play ceiling to match anyone at the position. He was rewarded with an extension and appears to be here to stay.

NFC East

Dallas

Dak Prescott deserves a market value extension

The Cowboys put off the decision of whether to secure Prescott’s services for the long haul at the same time that fantasy drafters were putting off the decision of whether to make Prescott their QB1, letting him fall out of the top 10. While fantasy drafters who decided to commit to Prescott were handsomely rewarded with his most productive season to date, the Cowboys are still waiting for something (a sign?) to lock up their starting quarterback.

New York Giants

Daniel Jones is no joke

Eli Manning lasted about as long as expected - two games. Jones’ first start was eagerly awaited, especially by a segment of the football world that believed the Giants (read: Dave Gettleman) reached for Daniel Jones at the sixth pick. Jones was spectacular in his debut, a comeback win at Tampa. His fantasy fortunes were up and down, which was better than expected, and Jones should benefit from the addition of quarterback whisperer Jerry Schulpinski (ask Jimmy Garoppolo) to the Giants staff this offseason.

Philadelphia

Miles Sanders is an RBBC destroyer

The Eagles drafted a feature back in the second round, but they also traded for Jordan Howard and brought back Darren Sproles. By the end of the season Sproles and Howard were injured and Sanders was demonstrating that they weren’t needed anyway. Taking Sanders at ADP didn’t yield much for fantasy teams until December, but the rookie helped put a championship under the tree for many teams and he should be a second round pick that encourages fantasy players to reach for their favorite rookie back again in 2020.

Washington

Terry McLaurin needs a nickname

Even Washington has acknowledged that their #1 receiver needs a new nickname. He lit the fantasy world up in Week 1 and while a hamstring injury and quarterback churn for the team slowed him down until he finished strong again, no one should doubt that 2020 will be even better for one of the biggest surprises of the season.

NFC North

Chicago

Mitchell Trubisky is… limited. Allen Robinson is only limited by Trubisky.

The tone around Trubisky in the 2019 offseason was mostly negative and by the preseason the team seemed defensive about their quarterback and even felt a need to defend him. When the curtain was pulled up on the season, Trubisky’s play was indefensible and most everyone around him seemed to lose confidence in the third year quarterback. He played in the second half of the season and a shoulder injury limited his running, but 2020 will be a do or die year for Trubisky. Allen Robinson looked like an elite WR1 in his prime two years removed from ACL surgery with only Trubisky’s accuracy and field vision issues keeping him from hitting his ceiling.

Detroit

Matthew Stafford is still very good

Stafford’s season ended abruptly when the team discovered that a back injury was much less innocuous than believed, and with that his outstanding play and production in 2019 was obscured in our memories. The Lions barely lost to eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City in Week 4 and still sat a very respectable 2-1-1. A disgusting blown lead to the Packers put the season in a tailspin, which overshadowed Stafford putting up numbers at a pace close to his 2011 career highs and much more efficiently. The team has the #3 pick in a draft with three top prospects but should trade down and continue to build around Stafford.

Green Bay

The Packers got better but not because of Aaron Rodgers

Rodgers seemed to be in better moods with Mike McCarthy no longer on the sidelines, but except when the team faced the worst defenses, he was a fantasy dud. Certainly the lack of viable targets and more balanced offense both play into this story, but it appears Rodgers was vastly overrated in fantasy circles, which probably won’t happen again.

Minnesota

The Vikings meant it when they went run heavy at the end of 2018

Kirk Cousins was a proven fantasy quarterback, so seeing him fall to around QB20 in drafts seemed suspect unless you put a lot of stock in the offense getting run happy after John DeFilippo was fired before Week 15 in 2018. Cousins only threw the ball about 30 times a game in 2019 and was indeed a fantasy dud, underperforming along with his top two receivers, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. The big winner here was Dalvin Cook, who fit in the Kubiak/Dennison run scheme like a hand in a glove.

NFC South

Atlanta

Devonta Freeman is an old 27

Freeman had a blissfully uneventful offseason after two injury-riddled years and expectations were high that he could resume the form that made him a near-elite fantasy running back before his body started breaking down. His body held up for the most part, but the Falcons line didn’t do him any favors, and it was clear from Week 1 that he would never regain his pre-injury burst and juice. Freeman’s involvement in the passing game helped salvage some fantasy relevance and he was a surprise Week 16 stud, but Freeman is still an offseason cut candidate as he adds little value as a runner now.

Carolina

DJ Moore is quarterback-proof

It would be easy to put “Christian McCaffrey is a fantasy deity” here, but that’s just too obvious. While Kyle Allen was deteriorating on a weekly basis and Curtis Samuel was waiting for a bus that never arrived in the downfield passing game, Moore took a step forward and amassed strong season-long numbers while being a consistent presence in an offense that was held back by quarterback play all season.

New Orleans

Jared Cook was a good free agent signing

It would also be easy to put “It’s Michael Thomas’s world and we’re just living in it” here, so let’s highlight Cook. He started to come alive with Teddy Bridgewater, posting back-to-back games with touchdowns before missing two weeks with an ankle injury. After Cook returned to an offense led by Drew Brees, he really hit his peak with six scores in the last seven games and a few that he should have caught just to make it a season that fit in with his career narrative of underachieving. No matter who is quarterback for the Saints, Cook is probably going to be underrated in 2020 drafts.

Tampa Bay

Bruce Arians is a swashbuckler at heart

The beginning of the 2019 season seemed to reveal a re-engineered Bucs team, with a vastly improved defense under Todd Bowles and a much shorter leash for Jameis Winston, who only threw 25 passes in a Week 2 win over Carolina after his three picks in Week 1 were part of why the team lost to the 49ers. Winston had nine games with at least 40 attempts after that. His volume and boldness as a downfield passer fueled both Chris Godwin and Mike Evans to WR1 (if inconsistent) seasons before injuries ended their seasons in December.

NFC West

Arizona

Kenyan Drake was wrongfully neglected in Miami

Drake set the fantasy world ablaze in December 2017 only to not get a chance to run as a lead back in 2018 and then even being relegated to being behind Kalen Ballage at times under a new Gase-less regime. The Cardinals got him just as David Johnson’s age seemed to double overnight and he debuted with a massive game against the previously impenetrable 49ers run defense. He finished with week-winning performances in Week 15 and Week 16 to once again write his name in the fantasy football annals.

Los Angeles Rams

The league is catching up to Sean McVay

At the end of the year none of Todd Gurley, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, or Jared Goff looked like colossal busts on paper, but the year-end numbers hid a season that had the Rams offense go ice cold, even for weeks at a time, and undermine our confidence in starting any of their options through the entire month of November, when Goff failed to throw a touchdown pass. McVay has his work cut out for him heading into 2020, but appears to be more focused on the defense as an area of improvement.

San Francisco

The best back on the roster is Raheem Mostert

There were signs in 2018 when Mostert was as productive as any 49ers back before he broke his forearm, but in the 2019 offseason Kyle Shanahan reunited with Tevin Coleman in free agency and Matt Breida was healthy and building momentum. Mostert opened the season as the third back and only active for his special teams contributions. He ran for four scores in the NFC Championship game and should be the most valuable 49ers back in 2020 drafts.

Seattle

The Seahawks will find a way to ruin Russell Wilson’s value

Through six weeks, Russell Wilson had accounted for at least three scores in four games, and even better, he had thrown more than 35 passes in a game only once. He accounted for three or more scores only once the rest of the way, and he was a fantasy liability as often as he was an adequate performer, with only a five-touchdown game against Tampa providing an advantage over your competition from Week 7 on. The good news is that Wilson is openly advocating for a more inventive, up tempo, and dangerous pass offense this year.


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