FANTASY PLAYS: Winston, Darnold could be sleepers in drafts
By Joe Gallina
Per consensus ADP Winston is QB15, but there’s reason for optimism. New Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians has helped develop QBs such as Peyton Manning. Winston has excellent options in WRs Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and TE O.J. Howard who is expected to have his long-awaited breakout season.
Sam Darnold, Jets
Darnold was QB31 for 2018, but improved as the season wore on. He was QB17 the last five weeks of the season. Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa are underrated receivers and TE Chris Herndon (four-game suspension) is another reliable receiver. Le’Veon Bell will not only act as Darnold’s pass-catching safety valve, but he’ll also help in pass protection and support the Jets’ offensive line.
Drew Brees, Saints
Brees is a better real life than fantasy quarterback at this stage of his career. He was QB26 for the last five weeks of the 2018 regular season, averaging 206 passing yards per game. The Saints won four of those five games proving they no longer need Brees to post huge passing stats. That’s bad news for Brees’ QB7 ADP and overall fantasy value.
Kyler Murray, Cardinals
The Cardinals’ offense will be fun to watch but it’s a work in progress. Murray will be running a fast-paced offense, but he’ll be limited by a porous Cardinals offensive line. Murray’s fantasy value will increase as the season progresses but for now, his QB12 ranking is too high.
Baker Mayfield, Browns
Mayfield shouldn’t be a QB4. He has immense talent and a very good supporting cast, but opposing defensive linemen probably can’t wait for their chance to play the Browns and have the opportunity to sack the second-year QB.
Dalvin Cook, Vikings
RB11 is too low for a RB of Cook’s caliber. With Ezekiel Elliott’s holdout potentially costing him games and David Johnson playing behind a porous offensive line again, a healthy Cook could sneak into the top five.
Derrick Henry, Titans
Henry ended his 2018 season with 625 rushing yards and eight TDs in his last five games. The Titans executed the second-highest percentage of run plays last season and will again be a run-first team. Henry will have the opportunity to get off to a quick start and out produce his RB20 ADP.
Derrius Guice, Redskins
Big things were expected from Guice before he tore his ACL last preseason. A hamstring injury has slowed him this preseason, but he’s expected to be ready for Week 1. If Guice remains healthy, he could slowly steal carries from veteran back Adrian Peterson, and eventually claim lead back status.
Johnson is being drafted as RB5 this preseason. He was an RB11 in points per reception scoring last season. Not enough has changed to warrant such a high ranking in 2019. Look for Johnson to post another top-12 finish.
Damien Williams, Chiefs
With just 183 total carries in his NFL career, it’s hard to imagine Williams can be an effective RB when asked to carry the ball 200 to 250 times as the Chiefs’ lead back. Also fellow RBs Darwin Thompson and Carlos Hyde looked good during Williams’ absence.
Todd Gurley, Rams
Consensus ADP has Gurley as RB8 and the overall 10th pick. Gurley’s troublesome knee will cause his playing time to be managed. When he’s on the field he’ll deliver first-round type production, but he might not play enough snaps to out produce RBs such as Joe Mixon and Dalvin Cook whose consensus ADPs are behind Gurley’s.
Sterling Shepard, Giants
Shepard fractured his thumb this preseason but should be ready Week 1. With the Giants trading Odell Beckham Jr., and Golden Tate’s four-game suspension, Shepard will be the team’s leading WR. Shepard could potentially record 75-plus catches and eclipse his WR37 ADP.
Mike Williams, Chargers
Williams drew the second-highest percentage of the Chargers’ red zone targets last season and led the team’s WRs with 10 TDs. Injuries have been a concern, but he’s a big-play receiver who knows his way around the end zone.
James Washington, Steelers
Antonio Brown took 168 targets with him to Oakland and with the way Washington has been playing this preseason, he’s ready to pick up a big chunk of them. Washington looks like the next in a long line of top fantasy WRs developed by the Steelers.
Antonio Brown, Raiders
Brown has the talent to be a top-five fantasy receiver but between his frostbitten feet, preoccupation with the type of football helmet he has to wear and the fact that his current QB is not nearly as good as his former QB, there’s a good chance that he performs below his WR9 ADP.
Odell Beckham Jr., Browns
Beckham has played in 59 of 80 games in his NFL career. Like Antonio Brown, he is one of the best receivers in the game, but he can be a distraction. History tells us that he won’t play 16 games and that will make it extremely difficult for him to play up to his WR5 ADP.
Jack Doyle, Colts
Doyle is being disrespected as TE22 and his overall 184 ADP has him being drafted in the 16th round of 12-team drafts. When healthy his 77.2% catch rate makes him the Colts TE to own in PPR scoring leagues.
Greg Olsen, Panthers
Even if Olsen manages to stay healthy this season, between D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel and Christian McCaffrey he’s going to have a hard time catching enough balls to make him fantasy relevant this season.
This column was provided to The Associated Press by SportsGrid Inc., www.sportsgrid.com