Fantasy Football Offseason Notebook: QB Storylines
Free agency in the NFL is starting to wind down. Some Quarterbacks have found new homes, and we need to see how they will fit in on their new offenses. Also, some injury updates have come in on big name QBs that are working their way to be back for Week 1.
Andrew Luck still on the mend
This is a first step for Andrew Luck after missing all of the 2017 season due to his shoulder injury. He is not throwing a regulation ball yet, but if he can continue to progress and be ready for the opening of the season, he has the opportunity to return to Fantasy stardom. Health will still be a concern for Luck, but you should be able to get him at a discount in fantasy drafts. In the last two seasons when Luck played at least 15 games, he has finished QB4 and QB1. Also, Luck will have a shiny new toy in Eric Ebron, who should contribute to Luck’s fantasy numbers. In 2014, which was Luck’s monster 40 TD year, tight end Coby Fleener was a big target for him. Fleener racked up 774 yards and eight touchdowns, and Ebron has the potential to be an even better version of Fleener with his skill set and abilities that got him drafted in the first round in 2014. Fleener has looked lost on the Saints without Luck, so Luck could make Ebron look like Antonio Gates. At Ebron’s current rank of TE12 by FantasyPros, he could be a value at that cost if he remains there come fantasy drafts.
Kirk Cousins readying to be purple
The prized possession of the free agency class found his way to Minnesota this offseason. It wasn’t a bad choice either, as the Vikings are loaded with offensive talent with the likes of Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Kyle Rudolph, and Dalvin Cook. Case Keenum who was an afterthought heading into 2017, finished 14th among QBs in fantasy scoring in the Vikings offense. Keenum was solid in his stint with the Vikings last year but doesn’t nearly have the talent and upside that Cousins has and has shown over the last two seasons. The biggest issue for Cousins last year was the drop-off in his deep passing ability. He led the NFL in deep passing (20+ yard throws) with 1,359 yards in 2016 but dropped down to only 825 yards on such throws in 2017. The loss of DeSean Jackson was a big factor in that drop-off, but Diggs can fill that role in 2018. Diggs was tied for eighth among WRs with 12 receptions of 20+ yards. With the deep passing more accessible for Cousins, don’t be surprised to see him surpass his career high of 4,917 yards from 2016.
Tyrod Taylor part of the big Cleveland haul
It is a busy offseason for the Browns, and Tyrod Taylor being traded to Cleveland is just one of many moves. Luckily for Taylor, there have been much worse times to be the Quarterback for the Browns. On paper, they have some solid pieces to make Taylor relevant in Fantasy. Josh Gordon, newly acquired Jarvis Landry, and Corey Coleman is a nice trio at Wide Receiver, and David Njoku, could progress in his second year as a pro. The receiving options are a major upgrade from what Taylor was working with last season. The top target for Taylor last year was his running back, LeSean McCoy, with 77 targets. On top of that, the Browns already have Duke Johnson as a receiving RB, and he graded out as the third best receiving back last season (PFF), so the argument can be made he has an upgrade at RB for passing downs. Furthermore, the Browns have been often linked to Saquon Barkley, another great receiving back.
With so many mouths to feed in the receiving game, Taylor will set his career high in passing yards if he is the starting QB all year. Another benefactor of being on the Browns is he will be in good situations to rack up Fantasy points. The assumption can be made that Taylor will be working from behind in games a lot more this year. With the Bills having a solid defense and being 9-7 last year it allowed them to run early and often. They finished second in rushing attempts per game. The added opportunities to Taylor’s passing game is a new layer to his Fantasy upside, and he still has the ability to take off and run with his great speed. The one thing looming in his way is if the Browns wind up drafting a QB. The concerns can be settled a little with Browns Coach Hue Jackson saying he doesn't view Tyrod as a "bridge quarterback." Nevertheless, you won’t have to invest much for Tyrod in Fantasy and he should be a good streamer option at QB in the beginning of the season.
Deshaun Watson ahead of schedule in ACL recovery
Deshaun Watson caught the fantasy world by storm last year. In the seven games that Watson played, he averaged 24.1 Fantasy points per game, best at the position. The second highest was nearly three points lower, Carson Wentz at 21.8 Fantasy points per game. There is room for regression in those gaudy numbers, but don’t temper expectations too much as the Texans should be one of the top scoring offenses in the NFL. With Watson ahead of schedule in ACL recovery, he should be ready for Week 1. The concern with Watson off his injury is his poor offensive line play last year. They did add a solid Guard with Zach Fulton from the Chiefs. If you pass up Watson in your Fantasy draft it would be a wise decision to target him in a trade if he does struggle at the beginning of the season.
What will @deshaunwatson do in year two?
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) April 3, 2018
Dak Prescott gets a new target
A suspension to Ezekiel Elliott, along with a less effective run game, and Dez Bryant’s struggles, made Dak Prescott regress from QB6 in 2016 to QB10 in 2017. Just watching the Cowboys’ offense, you could see they desperately needed a Wide Receiver. The answer was Allen Hurns from the Jaguars, who can be a great intermediate weapon for Dak. Hurns was the forgotten man in the Jaguars offense last year, but has shown promise throughout his career, especially in 2015, when he had 1,031 yards and six touchdowns. For Bryant, the signs of decline can be seen in the numbers with Dez having his lowest yards per catch average (12.1). On top of that, rumors are swirling that Bryant might be cut from the Cowboys to save money. His production of 838 yards and six touchdowns is not worth a $16.5 million cap hit. This could be a positive or negative move for Prescott depending on who the Cowboys end up replacing him with. It would most likely be a rookie WR, and there are some guys in the draft that could create more separation than Bryant. The move to Hurns and a potential rookie WR will give Prescott a boost in his passing numbers, but the offense won’t be back to the form it was in 2016 quite yet.
Jared Goff’s new playmaker
Jared Goff has a new deep threat to throw to in Brandin Cooks. Based on what we have seen from both Sammy Watkins and Cooks over the past couple of seasons, it is an upgrade for Goff. In Cooks’ last three seasons, he has gone over 1,000 yards and seven+ TDs. Watkins was only able to rack up 593 yards last season but did manage eight TDs. The move is a positive for Goff’s Fantasy stock and a negative for Cooks. The problem for Cooks is that the offense had four key pass-catchers last season as Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and Todd Gurley all saw over 70 targets, and Kupp led the way with only 95. Comparatively, Cooks has seen 129, 117, and 114 targets the last three seasons. Cooks has even voiced frustration in the past when he was on the Saints after getting no catches in a win. The Rams are obviously aware of Cooks saying that, so maybe they plan on using him as a go-to receiver this season, but Woods, Kupp, and Gurley most likely will limit him to a regression. The Cooks move does signal an attempt to take another step with Goff in his development. He should be given more opportunities to throw the ball, increasing his passing yards this season. Also, defenses might choose to focus on stopping Gurley on the ground, and make Goff beat them through the air. Goff appeared on the Fantasy Football map last season, particularly in the second half of the season where he ranked sixth among QBs from Week 8 to Week 16. With the addition of Cooks into the Rams’ offense, Goff might be getting overlooked at his current rank of QB13.
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