The NFL regular season doesn’t start until Thursday night, leaving plenty of time for you and your cohorts to complete your fantasy football drafts.
Not a lot changed over the holiday weekend, but there are some new pitfalls you need to be aware of, as well as some hidden value among this year’s running backs and quarterbacks.
Here is some last-minute advice to get your fantasy season off to a strong start.
Avoid Kansas City Chiefs running backs
LeSean McCoy was cut by Buffalo Bills and signed shortly thereafter by the Kansas City Chiefs, reuniting McCoy with Coach Andy Reid. The 31-year-old veteran joins a crowded backfield that already featured Damien Williams and Darwin Thompson, making it difficult to suss out who will get the majority of the workload.
Williams was the favorite to get the most opportunities in 2019 — he carried the ball 34 times for 203 yards and three touchdowns in his three games as the team’s starting running back last year, adding 14 catches on 14 targets for 119 yards and one touchdown out of the backfield — and is a second-round pick in most mock drafts. Thompson was also expected to be featured prominently. Per the game charters at Pro Football Focus, the rookie out of Utah State ranked fourth in forced missed tackles per touch (0.35) and second in yards-after-contact per touch (6.9) among the 210 FBS backs with 100 or more touches in 2018.
Now, it’s unclear who will be at the top of the Kansas City depth chart. With Williams still likely to go early, it’s a situation worth avoiding.
“I’ve done this before where I’ve done it by committee. Most of my time in Philadelphia that’s what I did,” Reid told NFL.com. “They all had success and it worked out pretty well for them. We have the ability to play everybody if we go that route.''
Austin Ekeler’s potential value is soaring
The Los Angeles Chargers gave Melvin Gordon’s representatives permission to seek out a trade over the weekend, right before General Manager Tom Telesco said during a conference call the team will not negotiate a new deal for the running back until after the season. Gordon is set to earn $5.6 million on the final year of his rookie deal and has been holding out in hopes of earning a new contract and more money.
That puts Austin Ekeler, on average a sixth-round fantasy pick, front and center as the team’s potential starting running back for Week 1. (And he’s in our Week 1 start/sit advice, as well.)
In a limited role, Ekeler touched the ball 145 times for the Chargers last year, producing 958 total yards from scrimmage with six touchdowns (three rushing and three receiving). His 3.6 yards per carry after contact was the highest on the team, per Pro Football Focus, and the third-highest in the NFL among running backs getting at least 25 percent of their team’s carries. Only Nick Chubb (a late-first-round fantasy pick in 2019) and Derrick Henry (a fourth-round pick) were better than Ekeler at grinding the ball through contact in 2018.
There is plenty of value in late-round quarterbacks
Patrick Mahomes is the first quarterback taken in most fantasy football drafts, with the next one, Deshaun Watson, selected two rounds later, followed by Aaron Rodgers (fifth round), Baker Mayfield (sixth round) and Matt Ryan (sixth round). No surprises here: Those are also the top five quarterbacks in our next-level rankings, which take into account production and strength of schedule.
But then our projections favor Carson Wentz (seventh round), Cam Newton (ninth round) and Russell Wilson (eighth round) over Jared Goff and Drew Brees, both of whom are taken, on average, in the seventh round. Furthermore, Jameis Winston (ninth round), rookie Kyler Murray (10th round) and second-year pro Lamar Jackson (ninth round) are also estimated to have similar production to that of Goff and Brees (within a point per game), allowing you to wait another round or two to bolster other positions like running back and wide receiver.
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