2019 Fantasy Football Mid-Season Report
With the conclusion of Week 8, we have officially reached the halfway point of most standard fantasy football leagues. The first eight weeks of the season were a true rollercoaster of developments. Multi-week injuries to first-round picks such as Saquon Barkley and Davante Adams may have prematurely ended your playoff hopes, while fantasy superstars such as Lamar Jackson and Christian McCaffrey could have you primed for an early opportunity to clinch one of your league’s few playoff spots. In this column, I will identify several players who have delivered on their 2019-fantasy football hype as well as players who have been wild disappoints thus far in 2019. In the latter, I will exclude players who have been injured for more than half the season so far as I am seeking to identify poor performance, not unfortunate circumstance. To conclude, I will recommend several players who could be on the rise in the second half of the 2019 fantasy season and make your team poised for a deep post-season run. All rankings and scoring referenced are from ESPN’s standard PPR format and current positional rankings are determined by average fantasy points-per-game as not every team has had their bye week. Average Draft Position (ADP) figures are from fantasydata.com as ESPN updates their ADP tracker taking into account in-season drafts.
Players who have exceeded their 2019 Average Draft Position (ADP):
Dalvin Cook (ADP RB9 vs. Actual RB2): As a middle second-round pick in most fantasy drafts, Cook has been an absolute monster this season and has a legitimate chance to be a league-winner this year if you were able to draft him as your second running back. Currently on track for 2,232 scrimmage yards, 18 touchdowns, and an astonishing 395.2 fantasy points, Cook has simply been dominant both on the gridiron and for fantasy owners. Cook’s 24.7 fantasy points per week rank second only to Christian McCaffrey, a consensus top-4 overall pick during draft season. In fact, it is not unlikely that certain teams have both running back superstars. Barring an injury in the final eight weeks, Cook should continue to be a weekly top-5 option at running back as the Vikings offense seems to be operating on all cylinders with the sudden emergence of Kirk Cousins. All Cook owners need to add Alexander Mattison if they have not already done so as the young rookie runner has also looked superb when given his few allotment of touches and is arguably the most valuable handcuff in fantasy.
Austin Ekeler (ADP RB30 vs. RB4): When it was announced that Melvin Gordon would be holding out for the start of the 2019 football season, everyone knew Ekeler would see an uptick in usage and therefore an increase in fantasy production. However, I doubt most fantasy owners expected just how effective he would be without Gordon. During Gordon’s four game absence, Ekeler averaged 26.75 fantasy points per game scoring a ridiculous six touchdowns while averaging 14 carries and six receptions. As unexpected as this level of production was, I even more so doubt that fantasy owners expected it to continue after Gordon announced the end of his holdout. Most Ekeler owners were probably devastated that their number one running back would be relegated to change-of-pace duty but Ekeler has managed to still produce at a high level. Since Gordon’s return in Week Five, Ekeler is still averaging 18.2 points per game thanks to the Chargers’ fantastic ability to constantly be playing from behind. Through the first eight weeks, Ekeler has certainly made his touches count for fantasy owners as his seven total touchdowns are tied for second in the NFL. Although I would say it is highly unlikely for Ekeler to maintain this level of production as the season continues considering the Chargers have begun to give Gordon his traditional touch count, but it wouldn’t be the first time Ekeler has surprised the fantasy community.
Chris Godwin (ADP WR16 vs. WR2): Despite a poor performance in Week Eight against the Titans, Godwin has truly lived up to his pre-season hype as his ADP steadily rose to reach an apex in the late third, early fourth round value. Despite Winston still being a turnover machine and O.J. Howard is all but obsolete in this Tampa offense, at least Godwin has been a massive beneficiary from the Arians system. Through the first seven games, Godwin has exceeded 25-fantasy points in four games and has earned himself every week wide receiver one status. There are those who would argue Godwin’s value has already peaked but in the Bucs’ gun-slinging offense, Godwin’s production should remain elite. Continue to start him with the utmost confidence and enjoy the extra returns on his stellar fantasy year.
DJ Chark (ADP WR95 vs. WR7): Essentially an unknown during draft season, Chark has been the largest beneficiary of the Nick Foles injury and the emergence of Gardner Minshew as the Jaguars’ starting quarterback. If you were one of the fantasy owners who was able to snag Chark off the waiver wire after his Week One explosion against the Chiefs, you should be proud of yourself as you have had a top-ten wide receiver on your team that cost you nothing. Chark seems to continue to defy expectations with his high floor and even higher ceiling in fantasy. Through the first eight weeks, Chark has scored less than ten points only twice while having exceeded 17-points in five out of eight games including a 37.4-point performance against the Panthers in Week Five. Although Chark has been stellar thus far, its hard to imagine this level of production continuing in the future; especially considering Nick Foles is slated for a Week Eleven return. If the Jaguars turn back to their Super Bowl-winning free agent signing, it’s hard to imagine Chark replicating his chemistry that he has shown with Minshew. If you have shares of Chark, I would definitely try and sell high given the uncertainty in the future. Either way, appreciate the production he has given your team as it has been platinum-level thus far.
Darren Waller (ADP TE18 vs. TE2): The hype around Waller seemed to build following his featured appearance on HBO’s Hard Knocks, yet his ADP prior to the start of the season was still as the tight end 18. Then the Antonio Brown saga ran its course and everyone was seemingly pouncing on the waiver wire to add Waller, and rightfully so as the former college wide receiver has been an absolute machine for fantasy owners filling in as the Raiders’ new and improved Jared Cook. Prior to Week Seven, Waller had yet to score a touchdown despite seeing a monster target share and usage in the Raiders’ shallow offensive scheme. But at the halfway point, Waller now has three touchdowns to go along with an astounding 46 receptions and 496 receiving yards. He is tracking for 105 receptions and 1,133 yards on the season. Fresh off a brand new extension keeping him with the Raiders until 2023, Waller has a legitimate chance to be a league winner especially considering how shallow the tight end position is in fantasy this year. Waller is an every-week top-three tight end in my opinion and should continue to wreak havoc for fantasy teams in the second half of the season.
New England Defense (ADP D/ST11 vs. D/ST1): The simple fact that a defense is being written about in this column should tell you just how dominant the Patriots defense has been this season. Not only has this unit scored more touchdowns than they’ve allowed, but they have scored 165 points in eight games which means they are averaging over 20-points a week and are currently the 10th highest scorer on the season! With 25 takeaways and 31 sacks, the fantasy community is truly witnessing something special with this unit. To put in perspective how dominant this unit is, last year’s number one overall fantasy defense, the Chicago Bears, “only” scored 188 points all season and the Patriots are only 23 points behind them at the halfway point. Granted, the Patriots have greatly benefited from a weak schedule but that shouldn’t take away from how fantastic this unit has been for fantasy owners. Even with a harder slate of games following their Week Ten bye, this historic run by New England’s defense has them squarely in the conversation for the 2019 Fantasy Football MVP.
Players who have let down their ADP thus far in 2019:
Joe Mixon (ADP RB11 vs. RB31): There really is no way to disguise how disappointing of a season it has been so far for Joe Mixon. Coming off a season where he rushed for over 1,100 yards, scored nine total touchdowns and finished as the fantasy RB10, Mixon has failed to both capitalize on his 2018 momentum and live up to his second round draft value in 2019. To be fair, the Cincinnati Bengals have been one of the two worst team in football thus far and Mixon’s offensive line is not making things much easier for him. Mixon is currently averaging only 3.2 yards per carry (YPC) and has failed to score a rushing touchdown this season which is why his 10.0-fantasy points per game is far off from his 17.7 in 2018. The Bengals do have some easier games coming down the pipeline as they play the Raiders, Jets, and Dolphins in Weeks 11, 13, and 16 respectively but the recent decision to bench Andy Dalton probably hurts Mixon’s outlook more than it helps it. Despite his high draft pedigree, Mixon is no more than a touchdown-dependent flex play for the rest of the season.
Odell Beckham Jr. (ADP WR7 vs. WR37): The off-season hype train that followed Beckham to the Browns has been off the rails for weeks now as the entire team seems to be in disarray. Every fantasy relevant player has greatly underperformed through the first eight weeks except for star running back Nick Chubb. Odell has particularly disappointed fantasy owners as he entered the 2019 season as a consensus top-8 wide receiver and his 13.0 fantasy points per game currently rank him outside the top-35. Those are his fewest fantasy points per game since he first entered the league in 2014. Beckham has shown flashes of his usual self this season as his 29.1-point performance against the Jets was business as usual but his floor has been significantly lower posting outings of 4.0 and 5.0-points consecutively in Weeks Four and Five ironically. Although Baker Mayfield’s sophomore slump is somewhat to blame for Beckham’s poor performance, the wide receiver certainly has not done much to improve his new team in 2019. Perhaps the arrival of Kareem Hunt will reinvigorate this highly-talented offense and elevate Mayfield and Beckham’s floor, but fantasy owners will need to wait until Week Ten to see if that is true. Odell possesses the ability to post league-leading fantasy numbers on any given week but with Mayfield playing as poorly as he is, I do not believe Beckham can be trusted as more than a wide receiver two. For now, take solace in the fact that Odell will have blow-up potential against Miami in Week 12, and the Bengals in the first week of the fantasy playoffs.
Juju Smith-Schuster (ADP WR5 vs. WR35): Unlike Beckham, Smith-Schuster’s incredibly disappointing year is largely a factor of Ben Roethlisberger’s season-ending elbow injury all the way back in Week One against New England. Juju has even had to play a game with third string quarterback Devlin Hodges in a game where Juju only had one reception for seven yards. However, fantasy football does not take circumstances into account and the unfortunate injury to Big Ben has seriously dampened a usually formidable passing offense and led to Juju averaging a mere 13.0-points per week. However, there is some room for hope as Juju posted his best game of the season Monday night with the return of Mason Rudolph to the Steelers’ lineup. Juju had five receptions on nine targets and successfully broke 100-yards receiving for the first time all-season. Despite the immense talent he possesses, I would not count Smith-Schuster as more than a fringe wide receiver two until he demonstrates more consistency with Rudolph under center.
Zach Ertz (ADP TE3 vs. TE9): Entering the season as a consensus top three tight end with Travis Kelce and George Kittle, Ertz has also been a player to tremendously let down the fantasy community in 2019. In the past two weeks, Ertz has managed a total of four receptions for a mere 58-yards despite exceeding 54-yards in every game prior to Week Seven. With the emergence of Dallas Goedert, who out-targeted Ertz in five to four in Week Eight, the future fantasy outlook for Ertz in the second half of 2019 is even more grim. Of course you are going to start Ertz each and every week he is active but a fantasy team who spent a third or fourth round pick on him could be feeling the pain right now; especially watching players dominate who cost teams much less draft capital such as Darren Waller and Austin Hooper. Considering the recent returns of Evan Engram and Hunter Henry, I would say Ertz places outside my top seven at the tight end position for the remainder of 2019.
Players who have promise entering the second half of 2019:
James White (ADP RB25 vs. RB23): Through seven games (He missed Week Three due to the birth of his child), James White has yet to score below 11.9 fantasy points in a given week, but he has also yet to exceed 14 points. Despite his minimal usage in the rushing game, White’s floor this season has been impressive as he continues to be a highly valuable passing option in Brady’s circle of trust. As most fantasy experts predicted coming into the season, White was sure to regress following his 12-touchdown campaign in 2018. However, with only one touchdown through the first eight weeks, the second half should be kind to White as the he is surely due for some positive regression in that category. Additionally, the Patriots will be facing a much more difficult slate of competition in the second half of 2019; a development that should translate into even more passing work for White and therefore more fantasy points.
Corey Davis (ADP WR45 vs. WR69): Following the benching of Marcus Mariota, Davis gave his fantasy owners some hope for consistent as he played six fantastic quarters of football with Tannehill under center. This included his 20-point performance in the Titans Week Seven win against the Chargers. However, Davis seemed to regress to his former in Week Eight as he posted a pedestrian 2.9 fantasy points in what many experts predicted was a potential breakout spot for him against the abysmal Buccaneers’ secondary. Although the box score is ugly, Davis did pace the Titans in air yards with 138 implying his day should have been much, much bigger. Setting Week Eight aside, Tannehill offers Davis and the rest of the Titans’ receiving corps a major upgrade as the Titans are now on a two-game win streak. Davis should see an upward trajectory in the final eight weeks of the fantasy season.
Robby Anderson (ADP WR31 vs. WR70): A paradigm weekly boom-or-bust candidate, Robby Anderson’s 2019 fantasy season has been significantly more bust than boom as he has only exceeded 20.0-points once in Week Six and has scored below 10.0-points in five of seven games. However, consider who the Jets have played thus far into the season: Jacksonville, Buffalo, and New England twice! Not to mention Sam Darnold missed three games due to Mono and he might as well have been missing for four games so far considering his absolute stinker against New England in Week Seven. Anderson was a frequent target of speculation leading up to Tuesday’s trade deadline but 4:00PM came and went and Anderson is still a part of Gang Green. Before you count out Anderson due to Darnold’s inability to consistently make plays downfield, take a look at the Jets’ schedule over the next six weeks of the season. From Week Nine through Week 14 they play at Miami, home against the Giants, at Washington, home against Oakland, at Cincinnati, and home against Miami again. Not only do the Jets have a legitimate chance at winning each of these games, but Anderson has the potential to post some truly monstrous fantasy numbers as each of these defenses rank in the bottom half of the league in receiving yards per game. Anderson has legitimate wide receiver three value moving forward into this stretch and he can certainly help you win your first playoff matchup in Week 14.