My best friend gave up on football.
After a lifetime of supporting the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs (and Rams when they resided in his hometown of St. Louis) and following his beloved Florida State Seminoles, he had had enough.
College football is big business, and yet the players who are worth millions to the schools aren’t paid. Please don’t try to tell him their degree is worth millions of dollars.
The NFL has become a gaffe machine in his eyes. How the league has handled concussions, the CTE epidemic and the health care of past players is an embarrassment to him.
He’s quick to tell you how out of touch with reality Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL’s owners are when it comes to the rules of the game, disciplining players or even supporting players when it comes to their flag protests and their work in the various communities they represent.
Speaking of disciplining players, my wife is trying really hard not to quit the NFL. But it’s really hard.
It’s clear The League is conflicted on how to deal with domestic violence committed by its players against women, even extending to violence committed against their own children.
I can’t say I disagree with my wife or best friend.
If it weren’t for fantasy sports, I’d likely be in the same boat.
Has there been a more successful populist movement in the 21st century? Over 60 million people in North America play fantasy sports.
That’s a lot of folks who “hacked” into an already established game to create their own. It’s a social network, moonlighting as a competitive outlet. Or maybe it’s gambling, moonlighting as a social network and just happens to be a competitive outlet.
It’s many things to many people, and that’s the point. It’s ours now.
We’re not beholden to our favorite teams anymore. If you don’t like the way it’s run (or it happens to pack its bags and moves away from you), you can create your own.
The NFL doesn’t make sense to you anymore or the commissioner is too inept? Make your own league. Choose a commissioner you can trust.
Of course, I understand all of this still benefits the “real” leagues. I admit I’m having a hard time reconciling the two.
Maybe that’s why it’s called fantasy.
The Preamble: The foundation of great preparation for your fantasy football season is determining the players you can draft later and yet still reap a solid value (sleepers) and/or the players you shouldn’t draft at all (busts).
Being able to discern between the two will make all the difference in establishing a championship DNA for your fantasy squad.
Here are my sleepers and busts for the 2019 fantasy football season:
Sleeper: Andy Isabella, WR
The speedster (he has 4.31 speed) is the perfect fit for head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense and has already shown great chemistry with QB Kyler Murray. He could be a difference maker in point per reception leagues.
Bust: Christian Kirk, WR
The concern this season is owners are drafting him as a WR3. He will certainly outplay that some weeks, but I don’t expect much consistency with this high-octane system year one.
Sleeper: Ito Smith, RB
Even when Devonta Freeman is healthy, he is considered week-to-week. Smith has a nose for the end zone.
Bust: Calvin Ridley, WR
If you swap his numbers (92 targets, 64 receptions, 821 yards and the 10 scores) for Mohamed Sanu’s (94-66-838-4), you’d likely hear a collective “meh” from the fantasy community.
Sleeper: Lamar Jackson, QB
His rushing stats alone, extrapolated over 16 games, would make him worthy of your attention: 272 carries, 1,271 yards and nine touchdowns. There’s no way the Ravens would run him that much, but a 1,000-yard season and double-digit scores on the ground are in play.
Bust: Marquise Brown, WR
Brown is still recovering from Lisfranc surgery and while I’m sure a healthy “Hollywood” will be his usual dynamic self, this offense isn’t prepared to produce anything more than a flex option at wide receiver.
Sleeper: Zay Jones, WR
Jones scored five of his seven TDs over the final five games of 2018, solidifying chemistry with Josh Allen.
Bust: LeSean McCoy, RB
Three touchdowns and a 3.2 yards per carry average aren’t worth your time. He turned 31 in July.
Sleeper: Curtis Samuel, WR
If you extrapolate Samuel’s play from Week 10 of last season over a 16-game campaign: 62 receptions (112 targets), 846 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Do the same thing for D.J. Moore and you end up with 73 receptions (117 targets), 1,077 receiving yards and two TDs. They’re essentially the same outside of Samuel’s obvious nose for the end zone, which is to say Samuel might actually be better and he’s currently being drafted around the 10th round (Moore is going in the sixth round).
Bust: D.J. Moore, WR
See Samuel, Curtis (sleeper).
Sleeper: Allen Robinson, WR
Robinson is almost two years removed from tearing his ACL and still maintains elite talent (he had 10 receptions, 143 yards and a score in the Bears’ wild-card loss to the Eagles). A borderline WR1 currently has the average draft position of 75.
Bust: Mitchell Trubisky, QB
Trubisky only produced five touchdown passes against five interceptions and zero rushing scores his final five weeks of last season. The Bears will rein him in if his struggles persist because the last thing their elite defense needs is a turnover-happy quarterback at the helm.
Sleeper: John Ross, WR
We saw a glimpse of Ross’ potential last season (seven touchdowns on only 21 receptions). New head coach Zac Taylor’s system is very wideout-friendly.
Bust: Tyler Eifert, TE
Health is an issue and the system limits his upside if he is capable of staying on the field (which he isn’t).
Sleeper: Antonio Callaway, WR
If this offense makes the leap most of us believe it can, Callaway will be a big upside flex option most weeks.
Bust: Jarvis Landry, WR
His borderline elite status was owed to a high volume of targets (which O’Dell Beckham Jr. will gobble up).
Sleeper: Randall Cobb, WR
Cole Beasley averaged almost 60 receptions for 606 yards and four touchdowns over the last three seasons as Dak Prescott’s primary slot receiver. Cobb is younger, more talented and can be had for next to nothing in your fantasy draft.
Bust: Dak Prescott, QB
Prescott is good for 3,500-4,000 passing yards, 20-25 passing touchdowns, 300-plus rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns. Not bad, but there are plenty of QBs with higher ceilings in fantasy.
Sleeper: Courtland Sutton, WR
Joe Flacco’s deep ball was tailor-made for Sutton. He’s currently being drafted as a WR4, but has WR2 upside.
Bust: Phillip Lindsay, RB
Four of his 10 touchdowns as a rookie came from 25 yards or farther so there’s some regression on the horizon.
Sleeper: C.J. Anderson, RB
There’s real potential here for Anderson to be a touchdown vulture extraordinaire, at the very least.
Bust: Kerryon Johnson, RB
I expect Matt Patricia to re-create the type of backfield strategy he witnessed in New England. Which means frustrated fantasy owners.
Green Bay Packers
Sleeper: Geronimo Allison, WR
If you extrapolate his first four games (before his injury) over an entire season, you’ll get 1,156 yards on 76 receptions and eight touchdowns.
Bust: Davante Adams, WR
I still believe Adams will be a WR1, but is he worthy of a top-10 pick (his current ADP is 8)? His ascension to elite status was due to a spike in targets (a whopping 169 last season). A more dynamic run game led by Aaron Jones, a healthy Allison, the addition of Jace Sternberger (not to mention Jimmy Graham and a bunch of other young, athletic receivers) and a better play-caller (Matt LaFleur) likely will conspire to shave some targets from that total.
Sleeper: Will Fuller, WR
Health is obviously a concern, but Fuller is the perfect complement to DeAndre Hopkins and has developed significant chemistry with Deshaun Watson in limited time over the past two seasons.
Bust: Deshaun Watson, QB
Unfortunately, I don’t believe his OL will improve much this season and his ADP (40) is simply too expensive with that question mark.
Sleeper: Marlon Mack, RB
There’s a talented team left in the wake of Andrew Luck’s retirement, especially the offensive line. Mack now becomes the Colts most useful weapon. Most will discount him. You can reap the rewards.
Bust: Andrew Luck, QB
I’m using Mr. Early Retirement to illustrate why you should never draft earlier than the weekend before the season starts (if at all possible).
Sleeper: Dede Westbrook, WR
Nick Foles’ efficiency and new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo’s system should finally lead to a Westbrook breakout.
Bust: Jaguars D/ST
This elite unit is my bust to remind you not to reach for it, or any defense for that matter.
Kansas City Chiefs
Sleeper: Mecole Hardman, WR
I would advise you against simply forgetting about Hardman because Tyreek Hill avoided suspension. Draft him as a flex lottery ticket in the later rounds. He could be so much more.
Bust: Damien Williams, RB
Williams was a hero during last season’s fantasy playoffs, but he’s never handled a large workload in his career (even at Oklahoma). Not only could LeSean McCoy challenge for touches, Williams is already feeling the heat from rookie Darwin Thompson.
Sleeper: Justin Jackson, RB
There’s a significant difference between Austin Ekeler and Jackson’s ADP (77 to 171). If Melvin Gordon misses any time, there will be a committee, with Jackson getting a majority of the short-yardage work.
Bust: Melvin Gordon, RB
Gordon will definitely play this season. He doesn’t have the leverage Le’Veon Bell had last season with the franchise tag. The issue here is the Chargers feel like they’d be fine competing with Ekeler and Jackson. They really have no motivation to up the reportedly $10 million per year they’ve offered the Pro Bowler. If Gordon doesn’t recognize this, he’s likely going to continue his holdout into the regular season. Factor in the durability concerns (he’s only played a full 16 games once in his four-year career) and it’s better to stay away as a fantasy owner until all of this is resolved.
Sleeper: Jared Goff, QB
I’m not completely on board with Goff as a championship-level quarterback, but I am locked in with his supporting cast and coaching staff. This means you have a signal-caller who has tossed 60 touchdowns against only 19 interceptions the past two seasons, who is usually available in the eighth round and might have to pass even more than usual this year if things go south for Todd Gurley.
Bust: Cooper Kupp, WR
Kupp is one of my favorite players in all of football, but his ADP (49) is way too high considering the major injury he sustained midway through last season. There will be rust.
Sleeper: Preston Williams, WR
Williams went undrafted because of injuries and off-the-field issues, but there’s no denying his production or playmaking ability at Colorado State (he had 1,345 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2018). He was a standout at OTAs for the Dolphins and the wide receiver depth chart isn’t exactly stacked with talent.
Bust: Devante Parker, WR
According to local beat reporters, guess who dominated mini-camp? It was Parker. Guess who isn’t taking the bait this time around? Me, and you shouldn’t either.
Sleeper: Kirk Cousins, QB
He finished the season with almost 4,300 passing yards and 30 touchdowns, good enough to rank 13th in fantasy (a borderline weekly starter) after finishing in the top eight the previous three seasons. And this was behind a subpar offensive line. He’s currently the 19th QB off the board (ADP: 144).
Bust: Adam Thielen, WR
The emergence of Dalvin Cook will take away from Thielen. Offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski clearly favors a more balanced attack.
New England Patriots
Sleeper: Damien Harris, RB
The Patriots didn’t draft Harris in the third round for him to sit on the bench and collect dust. It isn’t like his backfield mates are the most durable anyway. Consider him a priority handcuff.
Bust: Tom Brady, QB
I’m not throwing shade at Brady (though skin protection should be a priority for someone dealing with advanced age). I’m merely conveying everything he is doing is unprecedented. He’ll be 42 when the season kicks off. It’s fair to say he’s capable of being a borderline top-10 quarterback in fantasy still, but it would also make sense if his skills begin to erode exponentially as well.
New Orleans Saints
Sleeper: Tre’Quan Smith, WR
Opportunity shouldn’t be a problem for Smith this season considering Ted Ginn Jr. is 34 and an unrestricted free agent in 2020.
Bust: Jared Cook, TE
Cook has been maddingly inconsistent over his 10 seasons and you’re essentially paying for a career season (he set career highs in targets, receptions, yards and touchdowns).
Sleeper: Sterling Shepard, WR
Eli Manning’s familiarity with Shepard will give him the edge over Golden Tate. I expect a career year (his career highs: 66 receptions, 872 yards and eight touchdowns).
Bust: Golden Tate, WR
The former slot machine isn’t here to replace ODB. The 31-year old will do his best to challenge Shepard, who will have more responsibilities, when he returns from suspension.
Sleeper: Chris Herndon, TE
He’ll serve a four-game suspension after pleading guilty in January to driving while intoxicated, but I expect him and Sam Darnold to pick up where they left off after he returns. Consider him a potential waiver wire gem.
Bust: Le’Veon Bell, RB
He’s only 27 and hasn’t carried or caught a football since 2017 (positive). He averaged over 300 touches in his previous five seasons though (negative). He averaged almost 1,600 total yards each of those seasons (positive), but only eight touchdowns (negative). That’s not a lot considering his production and how often he touched the ball. The Jets will use him differently, which means his counting stats should take a dip. If you value him inside the top 10, you’re likely to be disappointed.
Sleeper: Darren Waller, TE
You probably haven’t heard of the former sixth-round pick (drafted by Baltimore in 2015) since he’s spent more time violating the league’s substance-abuse policy than playing football. He’s 6-foot-6, 255 pounds and can run like the wind (he clocked a 4.46 40-yard dash at the 2015 combine). Al Davis would be proud.
Bust: Antonio Brown, WR
All of his other antics aside, the frostbitten feet are concerning. Wide receivers need healthy feet. I believe I can confidently predict he won’t catch 100-plus balls for the seventh consecutive season and I have my doubts about him surpassing double-digit touchdowns.
Sleeper: Jordan Howard, RB
Howard scored 24 rushing touchdowns (nine in each of the past two years) playing in a mediocre offense over three seasons.
Bust: Alshon Jeffery, WR
Many may believe they’re drafting the top receiver in an elite offense, but they’re not. Zach Ertz is the top target here. DeSean Jackson is the deep threat. JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Dallas Goedert deserve red-zone opportunities. There’s more mouths to feed than an Avengers: Endgame wrap party.
Sleeper: Vance McDonald, TE
This late bloomer finally cracks the top 10 at his position this season.
Bust: James Conner, RB
There are health concerns, talented competition for carries (Jaylen Samuels and rookie Benny Snell Jr.) and it’s clear he hit the proverbial wall last season.
San Francisco 49ers
Sleeper: Deebo Samuel, WR
He’s like a running back after he makes the reception, which makes him dangerous 20-to-20. He also dominated in the red zone during Senior Bowl practices.
Bust: Dante Pettis, WR
Owners are drafting him like he’s an established WR3. He still has some growing to do (as does this offense with all of its pieces finally healthy).
Sleeper: Rashaad Penny, RB
I’m probably one of the few people who expected Penny to struggle during his rookie season, but I don’t expect those growing pains to continue this year. He’s had time to adjust (he’s actually in shape this time around) and ex-teammate Mike Davis now resides in Chicago, freeing up 146 touches.
Bust: Chris Carson, RB
Carson’s physical style of play isn’t conducive to remaining healthy for a full 16 games. Indeed, he “had a little work done” on his knee in the offseason.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sleeper: Ronald Jones, RB
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more disappointing rookie season. But you’d also be wise not to completely decide a player’s fate after just 30 touches. The Bucs didn’t add a big name in free agency or draft a running back. This tells me new head coach Bruce Arians is willing to give Jones a shot at redemption (and Peyton Barber isn’t good enough to stop him). It’s worth a flier.
Bust: Mike Evans, WR
Am I saying Evans won’t reach his career averages of 79 receptions, 1,221 yards and eight touchdowns? Not exactly. I’m saying he’ll almost definitely meet the first two, but I’m concerned by the third. Evans has been a fairly inconsistent touchdown scorer (he scored more than half his career total in two seasons). If he drops another three in that department (like he did in 2015), he isn’t worth a second-round pick, where most owners are taking him likely because he’s the last “elite” receiver on the board.
Sleeper: Delanie Walker, TE
Pounce if he looks recovered in the preseason because he has never finished lower than TE8 in his previous four seasons before the injury.
Bust: Corey Davis, WR
Davis has four TDs in 27 games and just four performances with over 70 yards (two with over 100). This is because Tennessee employs a conservative, run-oriented scheme.
Sleeper: Jordan Reed, TE
Talent and production has never been the issue. Health has. Now you can get him cheap, so it’s worth the risk. The cost is officially negligible.
Bust: Josh Doctson, WR
Don’t be the last one off Doctson’s bandwagon. He’s had plenty of opportunities to break out. There is plenty of other upside I’d rather invest in (on just this team alone).
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