NFL training camps are on the not-so-distant horizon, which means fantasy football is just around the corner.
Our fantasy nuts Steven Ruiz and Charles Curtis are already knee-deep in analysis for the 2018 season even though it’s too early. So throughout July, they’ll be sharing their early thoughts. They started with sleepers, now it’s potential busts.
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1. DeShaun Watson, QB Texans
Steven: I’m down on Watson for several reasons: (1) His 2017 tape was way too erratic, (2) a lot of his production came on downfield throws to covered receivers, which will be hard to replicate consistently and (3) we don’t know how healthy he’ll be in 2018. I’d pass on the Texans quarterback this year. Let him go out and prove last year wasn’t a fluke before making him your QB1.
Second opinion: I get it. I’m not one to draft quarterbacks high (see below), and I get the feeling he’ll be taken earlier than his ADP. I’ll wait and roll the dice on some of the later QBs and hope to unearth a sleeper with my backup.
2. Le’Veon Bell, RB Steelers
Charles: It’s not a question of talent. It’s the fact that he carried the ball 321 times last year AND caught 85 balls. That’d be great if those were his numbers this season. But we’re now in Year 6 with Bell and that’s a ton of usage. Will the wheels fall off? It’s a risk with any highly rated RB, but I’m not willing to spend a top-3 pick to find out.
Second opinion: I share the same concern. He’s touched the ball a lot over his five-year career, and his unorthodox running style requires burst that his legs will eventually lose if his workload doesn’t get cut. This could be the year all those touches catch up to him.
(AP Photo/Jim Mone)
3. Dalvin Cook, RB Vikings
Steven: Cook was fantastic as a rookie, but you have to be concerned about a guy who already didn’t have great athleticism tearing up his knee. Hopefully I’m wrong and Cook looks like the player he did early in 2017, but I wouldn’t risk a first-round pick on that being the case.
Second opinion: It’s not just the injury, which is a concern. It’s also the presence of Latavius Murray, who took a bunch of carries away from Jerick McKinnon. If Cook was 100% healthy, there would be less of a timeshare. But he’s not.
4. Christian McCaffrey, RB Panthers
Charles: Remember how aggravated you were that Jonathan Stewart was on the field a lot, taking away touches from this scintillating rookie who – in spite of Stewart’s presence – caught 80 balls last year? Well, now you’ll have to deal with C.J. Anderson coming in from the Denver Broncos. McCaffrey’s skill set isn’t in doubt. But at 26th overall, per Fantasy Pros? I’d rather take a surer thing.
Second opinion: I’m going to disagree with Charles here. McCaffrey proved when he was put in the right position he was capable of being a fantasy star. I have to imagine trading Mike Shula for Norv Turner as offensive coordinator will give McCaffrey, and the Panthers offense as a whole, a significant boost. Plus Carolina now has a receiving corps defenses have to respect. That wasn’t the case a year ago.
(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
5. Julio Jones, WR Falcons
Steven: This really has nothing to do with Jones, and everything to do with Steve Sarkisian being the offensive coordinator in Atlanta. I just don’t think he has the creativity to get the most out of Jones in the red zone, where the star receiver hasn’t been much of a threat throughout his career as it is. And you have to imagine Calvin Ridley’s presence could cut into his targets.
Second opinion: I can’t decide if Jones’ 2017 red zone numbers were a red zone regression or just a reminder that he’s more valuable between the 20s. It’s probably the latter … but is that so bad when he’s got the potential for an explosive game every time he steps on to the field? I’m not sure I agree with Steven here.
6. Leonard Fournette, RB Jaguars
Charles: He’ll be a fringe first-rounder. But his quarterback is still Blake Bortles and he averaged under 4 yards per carry last year. Although he’s lost a little weight to speed him up a little, there’s nothing he can do about who’s under center. And for someone who’s supposed to be a sure thing on a fantasy team, he’s going to face a lot of defenders in the box this year.
Second opinion: While I wouldn’t be happy if I ended up with Fournette as my top pick, I’m not as down on him as Charles is. He’ll be a better player in Year 2 and he’ll also get to run behind an All-Pro left guard in free agent acquisition Andrew Norwell.
7. Adam Thielen, WR Vikings
Steven: Thielen is one of the better deep threats in the league, and in order for him to reach his fantasy ceiling he’ll need to get good service on those deep routes. I’m not sure Kirk Cousins is capable of providing that significantly. Cousins is better in the short and intermediate game, where Stefon Diggs’ run-after-catch ability will make him the favorite target in Minnesota.
Second opinion: You know what’s going to happen, right? You’re going to debate for weeks about Thielen vs. Stefon Diggs. And whoever you choose to be Cousins’ favorite option will turn out to be the opposite. That’s life. But I’m more on the Thielen bandwagon simply because he’ll have more receptions. And more receptions means more opportunities.
8. Mike Evans, WR Buccaneers
Charles: I’ll admit: If he was WR13 or 14, I’d feel a lot better. But at WR9 – per FantasyPros – I just can’t. Last year, he was targeted 136 times, caught 71 balls and barely got over the 1,000-yard mark. He’ll have Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing him the ball to start the season, but the stat I can’t get away from is this: He had one – one! – 100-yard game in 2017. Fantasy kryptonite for me.
Second opinion: I see what Charles is saying, but as long as Jameis Winston remains healthy after serving his three-game suspension, I’m expecting big things for Evans in 2018. He’s been paid and his quarterback is primed to take the next step in his development after a sneaky good 2017 season.
(AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
9. Tyreek Hill, WR Chiefs
Steven: Sammy Watkins is the better all-around player and one of the more dangerous deep threats when healthy. I could see him cutting into to those deep targets Hill thrived on in 2017. And I could also see Andy Reid dialing back on the pass attempts with a green QB behind center, making Hill more of a boom-or-bust player than he already was in 2017.
Second opinion: Couldn’t agree more. Watkins will turn Hill into the role that will keep him healthier – a big play threat. His usage will drop, and even if he turns into a threat to score a touchdown on a few touches a game, the risk for him to be bust in some weeks looms.
10. Any of the top-5 quarterbacks
Charles: I have no doubt Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and the rest will be great. But I also have no doubt that the 2018 versions of Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, and Deshaun Watson will emerge from the backups drafted in your league.
Second opinion: No arguments here. You can get some ultra-productive quarterbacks outside of the top-5. You can wait for guys like Matt Stafford, Cam Newton and Philip Rivers and get 95% of the production you get from the elite names.
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