FANTASY 5IVE (II) – ROOKIE MOVERS AND SHAKERS

Ok, I admit preseason games are rarely an indicator of future success for a rookie. With the vast majority of veteran players not participating until the regular season, those receiving regular reps are rarely tested against the very best the league has to offer. Nevertheless, these games do give FF owners an opportunity to unearth potential game changing additions to their rosters, additions that could ultimately make the difference when one of your star players inevitably goes down with injury and/or suspension. Subsequently, with the second round of preseason fixtures now complete — here I take a look at 5 offensive rookies who have a real shot of contributing to their respective teams this season.

1. Jakobi Meyers, WR (New England Patriots)

As the de facto GM of the New England Patriots Bill Belichick has rarely landed talent at WR during each of his last 20 NFL drafts. The last great success was Malcolm Mitchell (who had is career cruelly cut short due to a chronic knee injury). Yet he might have unearthed another diamond in the rough. Enter Jakobi Meyers. Despite going undrafted, the 6’2″ former NC State QB/WR had a great college career in what is widely considered an ultra competitive ACC. Having received rave reviews during training camp Meyers has excelled in each of his first 2 preseason games despite limited game time; posting 12 catches, 151 yards, 2 TD’s as well as hauling a two-point conversion. Despite Josh Gordon’s reinstatement, at this rate Meyers will not only make the Patriots active roster — he could very well start alongside Tom Brady and co. week 1 of the NFL regular season. Draft him while you still can.

2. Jalen Hurd, WR (San Francisco 49ers)

Who better than Kyle Shanahan to unlock the potential of a 6’5″ former RB transitioning to WR? Selected with the 67th pick, the former Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year has everything to be a future success in the NFL. Starting opposite fellow rookie WR Deebo Samuel against the Cowboys in week 1 of this years preseason, Hurd caught each of his three targets — with two resulting in TD’s. Subsequently, the 49ers could very well have shown their hand with how they wish to utilise Hurd long term. Rarely does a player have both the size and speed to be a genuine red zone threat in the pros and he has significant experience running the ball. Because of this I expect Hurd to see meaningful game time in 2019. Additionally, due to said size and athleticism, I really would not be surprised to see him line up as a flex TE against some of the more weaker offensive lines too, thus allowing the 49ers to look for a potential mismatch that George kittle can exploit.

3. Mecole Hardman, WR (Kansas City Chiefs)

According to Draft Wizard Mecole Hardman’s current ADP is down to #161. Of course this is likely where one would expect a rookie wide receiver who was selected in the second round to fall. Nevertheless, despite his elite speed and exceptional college career, what makes Hardman such an intriguing prospect is the organisation to which he was drafted. With Tyreek Hill facing indefinite suspension amid allegations of child abuse, Hardman was largely considered to be Patrick Mahomes insurance policy heading into 2019. However, with the NFL reinstating Hill due to a perceived lack of evidence the Chiefs suddenly find themselves having to incorporate both players into what is already considered to be the NFL’s most explosive offence. With Mahomes, Hill, Watkins and Kelce drawing significant attention, Hardman could legitimately wreak havoc across the league. Additionally, as a special team specialist Hardman will likely take the field as the Chiefs primary kick/punt returner — much needed points that are often disregarded by FF owners.

4. Devin Singletary, RB (Buffalo Bills)

With a backfield consisting of veterans LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore, the Bills were always going to add a much younger, cheaper option at RB during the 2019 off-season. However, many across the league gasped when the Bills took a shot on Devin Singletary with the 74th overall pick having played for a relatively unknown college program at FAU. However, during his last 2 seasons Singletary would lead all Division I FBS RB’s with 54 combined rushing TD’s. Despite said risk, production like that was obviously too hard for the Bills to turn down and Singletary could potentially pay dividends. Add to this rumours of the Bills waiting to release McCoy before the regular season and with Gore turning 36 years old, it would come as no great surprise to see Singletary move up the depth chart as the season progresses. Additionally, as inclement weather inevitably approaches, expect Brian Daboll to run the ball as much as he possibly can — making Singletary a prime target for any FF owner between weeks 10 and 16.

5. Ryan Finley, QB (Cincinnati Bengals)

Ok, having observed the first 2 weeks of preseason Ryan Finley is somewhat of a wildcard. Nevertheless, question marks remain over Andy Dalton’s fitness as well as his ability to perform at the highest level — having thrown for just 1 TD and being picked off 6 times in 4 postseason games (all losses). Additionally, two of Cincinnati’s AFC North rivals (Baltimore and Cleveland) have their QB’s set for the foreseeable future and it won’t be long until Pittsburgh have to find Big Ben’s successor. Put simply, the Bengals are not expected to win in the short term and could very well give significant game time to a player former Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner believes to be “the most impressive rookie QB” in this years draft class. Yes it may take some time, but I fully expect the Bengals to be out of the playoff picture by week 10 and Finley could very well stand to benefit from any further decline in Dalton’s game. Will he post huge numbers? Probably not. But if you want to be your FF league’s Jedi Master and like to gamble, then stash Finley away and hope he gets the call from Zac Taylor when Dalton inevitably fails to impress. J

Notable mentions: Hunter Renfrow, Preston Williams, Jarrett Stidham

FANTASY 5IVE

With the 2020 NFL regular season fast approaching and with many of our readers ready to join family, friends and colleagues in Fantasy Football leagues across the country, here we begin our weekly series of FF tips designed to highlight the traps you will want to avoid, as well as the moves that you will need to make to ensure FF domination from week 1.

1. Avoid drafting from New England

I understand the temptation to draft players from New England. After all, they, more than other franchise, put their players in positions to succeed. Yet you would be best served to resist drafting players from the reigning Super Bowl Champions. No one plays the field week to week better than Bill Belichick. Those who have fallen foul in recent years will know that sinking feeling of drafting Rob Gronkowski, believing he would grab a pair of TD’s and 100+ yards when playing against the 32nd ranked pass defence in the league that week — only to find out New England ran the ball down their throats all day. Similar scenarios have appeared when drafting Julian Edelman, James White or Sony Michel (we would know). Said players can of course have impressive FF numbers at times, but guessing when that player will be utilised to do so remains almost impossible whilst BB is in charge.

2. Take a RB early

Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara, Melvin Gordon, Todd Gurley (if fit), and Le’veon Bell (once game ready). Concerns notwithstanding, these are the players to target in the first 2 rounds of your draft. All have been tremendous value for Fantasy Football owners in the past and will likely continue to churn out huge numbers this season. However, if you fail to draft one of these tier 1 backs, or have to wait until your pick gets back to form or full fitness, then ensure you take one of these backs — David Johnson (due a rebound year), James Connors (who will get plenty of touches for an effective yet predictable Steelers offence), Christian McCaffrey (a back who will see even more of the ball due to his QB’s injury worries), and Nick Chubb (the motor behind the Browns resurgent offence). Sleeper hit? Josh Jacobs of the Oakland Raiders.

3. Don’t underestimate weekly NFL schedule

One mistake every FF ‘noob’ undoubtedly makes is going into his/her weekly matchup believing they are playing their opponent. No. You are playing the NFL schedule, the betting lines, and everything in between. You will need to make calculated decisions as to who your star players are playing each week, how banged up the secondary/defensive line is that your WR’s/RB’s will be going against, whether your players are carrying injuries that will likely limit their production, how bad the weather will be in Buffalo in week 14, or whether one of your QB’s gets to play inside a dome against one of the league’s worst pass rush/pass defence teams. All of the above will matter, and will be the difference between finishing in playoff contention, or having to play against your 12 year old nephew; who regularly torches you at Madden, in a meaningless end of season dead rubber matchup.

4. Wait it out for your QB

Not even the most seasoned of FF players could have anticipated Patrick Mahomes having a 50 TD/12 INT/5000+ yard season. Why? Because this type of season has only been witnessed a handful of times in NFL History, with Marino in ’84, Brady in ’07, Rodgers in ’11 and Peyton Manning in both ’04 and ’13 being the other notable QB’s to have ripped up the stat sheet. Nevertheless, try to wait until the 2nd, or even 3rd round to draft your QB, because said seasons are rare, and there are many ‘face of the franchise’ QB’s who will post incredibly similar numbers over the course of a regular season. Indeed outside of Mahomes, Luck, Rodgers and Watson, who will all likely get the keys to their respective offences in 2019, there is some real value in the next tier. Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson and Baker Mayfield will all air the ball out a bunch, and players such as Carson Wentz, Cam Newton and Derek Carr are all due comeback seasons. However, if Jimmy Garoppolo is healthy, and he is able to sing from Kyle Shanahan’s hymn sheet, ensure you take him, even if you have drafted your starting QB. This leads us to………

5. Get a ‘backup’ for your star player(s)

Once again you must remember you are playing against the league, not your weekly opponent. This means you will have to contend with multiple bye weeks that could ultimately wreck your chances of winning, and winning well. Avoid taking multiple kickers, multiple defences and TE’s. Instead secure yourself a top 5 statistically ranked RB, WR and QB, if given the chance, then ensure you draft ‘backups’ that play for teams that rely heavy on that player’s particular skill set. This will do one of two things. First, it will give you options — again you play against the league, the schedule and everything in between. Second, although all starting calibre players are prone to a bad day, it reduces the risk of having a significant drop in points from one week to another. Subsequently, one or perhaps two, of your regular starters will pick up the slack that ensures yet another weekly FF win — helping get you into your end of season championship round. J

Benny Given Sunday will post weekly ‘Fantasy 5ive’ Football tips as the NFL regular season approaches. Additionally, we will also be hosting our own FF league this year and if you or anyone you know would like to be a part of it please get in touch by emailing us at bennygivensunday@outlook.com