To figure out which players are up against the easiest strength of schedules for the first eight weeks of the 2019 season, I projected each player’s fantasy points in point-per-reception, or PPR, leagues, and then adjusted for opponent. Those adjustments also take into account how well the opposing defenses are expected to perform against individual positions. One key metric used was expected points per 100 snaps, which takes into account the down, distance and field position of each play and compares it to the league average.
By this method, the Arizona Cardinals face some of the easiest passing defenses in the first half of the season. The Baltimore Ravens, on the other hand, should have a relatively easy time running the ball against their first eight opponents.
Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals, QB (8.06 ADP)
The Cardinals brought in former Texas Tech coach and Air Raid specialist Kliff Kingsbury as their head coach and shipped off starting quarterback Josh Rosen to Miami, paving the way for Murray, the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL draft, to take snaps under center in Week 1.
Relying on a rookie quarterback isn’t ideal, but the Cardinals face one of the easiest schedules in the league this year, particularity when it comes to opposing cornerbacks. The Carolina Panthers (Week 3), Seattle Seahawks (Week 4) and New York Giants (Week 7) don’t feature many high-profile cover cornerbacks, and those opponents who do (the Baltimore Ravens, New Orleans Saints and Detroit Lions) might not have enough to contend with Kingsbury’s four-wide receiver sets spread from sideline to sideline.
In addition, seven of Arizona’s eight first-half opponents in 2019 finished in the bottom third of the league in expected points allowed against the pass in 2018, meaning they allowed more points than expected per 100 snaps after taking into account the down, distance and field position of each throw. That’s why you should also consider David Johnson with the No. 4 overall pick.
Mark Ingram, Baltimore Ravens, RB (4.06 ADP)
NFL teams run the ball more when playing with a lead (51 percent of plays over the last five years) than they do when trailing (33 percent), so it pays to look at the expected team strength of opponents in the coming season. One easy way to do this is by win totals — after all, the oddsmakers put real money on the line with these estimates, giving us a decent barometer.
According to Sharp Football Stats, the Ravens have the fifth-easiest schedule in the first half based on 2019 season win totals, in addition to the second easiest projected schedule in rushing efficiency, the fifth easiest in explosive rush defense and fourth easiest in running back pass defense. That’s great news for Ingram, who touched the ball 159 times for 815 yards and seven touchdowns with the Saints last season, including catching 21 of 27 targets out of the backfield.
Los Angeles Rams WR: Robert Woods (4.06 ADP), Brandin Cooks (4.04 ADP) and Cooper Kupp (5.01 ADP)
The Rams scored 2.7 points per drive last season, the third-most in the NFL, so their offensive potential is not a surprise. It won’t be in 2019, either, as their wideouts don’t face stiff opposition in the first half of 2019.
Only one of their first half opponents, the Cleveland Browns, ranked in the top half of the league for expected points allowed via the pass in 2018, with six of the other seven ranking among the worst pass defenses.
Plus, according to ESPN’s Mike Clay, the Rams receivers will face the “second easiest overall schedule, the third easiest for No. 1 receivers and the second easiest for slot targets” in terms of cornerbacks faced. Both Cooks and Woods appear in our lazy person’s guide to fantasy drafts.
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