We still have a few more weeks of the NRL season in front of us and for those of you within striking distance of glory, it will, and should, be your sole focus. For the rest of us, there’s not long left until the first ball of the NFL season is thrown and I thought it about time to get a preseason chat going.
The first official game of the season is on September 5th and we’ll see traditional NFC North rivals Green Bay and Chicago going to battle. That game will give us NFL fantasy studs Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams coming face-to-face with the 2018 NFL best Chicago Bear defence. It also sees the very anticipated debut of Bears running back David Montgomery. It’s a great way to open the year. I can’t wait.
As is always the case with the NFL, there are a myriad of story lines that are of interest heading into week 1 and beyond. Some of the big ones I’ll be keeping a close eye on include:
- Everything that is the enigma of Antonio Brown;
- How reigning MVP Pat Mahomes responds from his breakout season (and battles the dreaded Madden Curse);
- The holdouts, and potential trading, of Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon;
- The debut of number 1 pick, Kyler Murray in Arizona, as well as other notable rookies;
- Old fantasy faces in new places – like Le’Veon Bell in New York (Jets), Odell Beckham Jr in Cleveland, Brown in Oakland, Jordan Howard in Philly (plus more);
- Injury returns of Jimmy Garropolo, Carson Wentz (again), Derrius Guice, Devonta Freeman and Hunter Henry (plus more);
- The 5-star QB battle of Eli Manning and Daniel Jones – aaaaahahahahahahahahahahaha.
I could keep going. It’s always an exciting time of the year and because of that, you can get overloaded with information from “experts”. It’s easy to get overrun by it all. Fortunately for you guys, we are here to try to streamline it all for you.
Now I say “we” because this is a collaborative effort between myself and Craig. Some of you might remember Craig (user: Nomilktoday) from his introductory and positional write ups around this time last year. He’s a huge fantasy NFL fan, playing the game for about 11 years and is in 14 dynasty leagues. I honestly don’t know how he does it. Craig has got a great knowledge of all things NFL, plus a love of college football so he will be able to steer you in the right direction with this years rookies. This guy knows his stuff and has provided some great bits on some sleeper picks and guys to avoid this year. Not only is this invaluable draft season info, but it will also help with your NFL Dream Team selections.
For those that are unaware of the format, NFL Dream Team is a salary cap style fantasy game provided by Sportsdeck. It’s played just like the Supercoach game we all know intricately and love and the game has just opened during the week at Sportsdeck.com. So head on over there and sign up. It’s good fun.
We’ll update this a bit more over the next few days but here’s just a couple of guys I have my eye on for the 2019 season.
Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders
Really? REALLY? I can’t even believe I’m falling into the Carr hype again, but it’s happening. He had his most accurate season in 2018 (68.9%) and career high 4,049 yards (the first time he’s broken the 4k mark) while playing behind the 28th ranked offensive line and throwing passes to (checks notes) Jordy Nelson, Seth Roberts, Dwayne Harris, Brandon LaFell and Martavius Bryant.
And now, Carr has a (predicted) improved o-line and receivers named Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams. Do I need to say too much more?
Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
Did you know, Matt Stafford (supposedly) played some of last season with a broken back. That makes him Batman-esque, only Batman took time out to fix that issue. It makes sense then that he had a down year, throwing for under 4k yards for the first time since his sophomore year.
Stafford isn’t going to be a flashy pick, nor a season winner, but he can be a late round pick up that will bring some stability to your team.
Kalen Ballage, RB, Miami Dolphins
After a strong end to 2018, the name on everyone’s lips heading into this year was Kenyan Drake. However, a lower leg injury has seen him missing a fair chunk of the preseason camps. This has gifted Kalen Ballage his shot and the kid is turning heads. With Frank Gore gone and more experience under the belt, the second-year pro was always going to see an uptick in usage. But Ballage has made the most of the preseason opportunities and now has some experts predicting he’ll start as RB1 on the Dolphins depth chart.
Josh Jacobs, RB, Oakland Raiders
It’s hard to dub a rookie as a breakout candidate, but Jacobs landed in the ideal fantasy spot after the draft. Marshawn Lynch retired (again) and Doug Martin, well the muscle hamster is trash. Jacobs is the lead back now and potential 3-down workhorse. In his preseason game against the Cardinals, JJ rushed 4 times for 21 yards. An impressive 5.25 yards per carry. If he gets the 250-300 carries a true RB1 does, he’s in for a very big rookie season.
Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bruce Arians (former coach of the Arizona Cardinals), is now in charge of Jameis Winston and crew. In the 2016 and 2017 seasons, his passing offences finished top 5 in the league. Godwin spent about 65% of snaps on field last year, and finished with 59 receptions, 842 yards and 7 TD’s. With DeSean Jackson now in Philly, there’s potential for that to rise further.
Christian Kirk, WR, Arizona Cardinals
Kirk spent his rookie season playing under Steven Wilks, being thrown to by Josh Rosen, and playing just 12 games. He still hauled in 43 catches on 68 targets, 590 yards and 3 TD’s. Extrapolate that to 16 games and it’s roughly 57/787/4. That’s before you factor in the change of quarterback, coach and added years experience. Kingsbury is an offensive minded coach who’s offence at Texas Tech was dubbed “the Air Raid offense”. Kyler is the reigning Heisman trophy winner who ran for over 1,000 yards and threw more than 4,300 yards. It’s all a huge improvement for a team that finished dead last offensively in 2018.
Hunter Henry, TE, Los Angeles Chargers
Henry spent last year recovering from a torn ACL suffered in the preseason. Those injuries are always tough to bounce back from but after a year on the sidelines scoring nothing, Henry shapes as a breakout candidate. He finished the 2017 season with 45 catches for 579 yards and 4 TD’s and comes back into an offence without Tyrell Williams and his 65-ish targets. And he’s not entirely underdone. Henry played some time in the AFC championship loss to the Pats so his knee should be in good shape.
Evan Engram, TE, New York Giants
Similar to above, there are a whole bunch of targets being left on the field thanks to OBJ’s departure. The last time Engram played without OBJ, he finished as the TE5 in fantasy with 64 catches, 115 targets, 722 yards and 6 TD’s. As a rookie. Then last year those numbers dropped as he had to share the load a lot more. He saw just 64 targets in his second season. But now with OBJ and his 124 targets gone, Engram is a major bounce back candidate.
One of the best parts of any season is the new creative team names. Every year, we get to see some new puns rolled out to suit the current trends and new rookie class, and they’re always incredible. Below is a list of some of the better names I’ve seen bandied about this year. Feel free to steal them and let me know some of the better ones you’ve heard floating around too. Here they are in no particular order.
- Mayfield of Dreams – Fitting as Baker carried so many teams in 2018 and looks likely again. For the GOT fans, there’s also “Baker of Chains”.
- Cobra Kyler – Sweep the leg Murray, I mean, Johnny.
- No shoes. Noah Fants. No service! – C’mon. That’s clever.
- Hot Chubb Time Machine – The movie was ok, but the pun is great.
- Once Bitten, Guice Shy – For those that had the Washington running back last year too. I also like “Miami Guice” although he doesn’t play there.
- A Night in Parris – For the Colts rookie wide receiver, and….the other thing.
- Yippee Ki Yay Justin Tucker – Imagine naming your team after a kicker though. Eww.
- Ballage A Trois – Kalen Ballage looks to be getting RB1 reps through the Miami training camp.
- DJ Chark, doodoodoodoodoodoo – Parents will understand, and hate, this reference.
- D. Montgomery Burns – If it’s a Simpsons reference, I’m all for it. Besides, Check out the rooks training camp and preseason highlights. Impressive.
- Death Cab for Coutee – the Texans 2nd year receiver had a decent, albeit injury affected debut year. The bands “BlueEP” is out on the 6th of September.
- Snells Like Team Spirit – taken in the 4th round of last years draft, Benny Snell Jr likely sits behind James Connor and Jaylen Samuels on the Steelers depth chart. But his name is perfect for a fantasy pun.
NRLSCTalk Fantasy League
Finally, I’m putting together a redraft (i.e. one year) cash league this season for members of the site to participate. Here are some of the basic details:
- We’ll run the league on the Sleeper app (https://sleeper.app/). It’s a great little app that’s easy to register for and use
- Draft will more than likely be held on Sunday night, the 25th of August, a little over a week out from season kickoff
- Buy in of $25 – Payouts for Champion, Runner Up and potentially Highest total point scorer
- League size will be in the range of 12-16 players preferably
- Standard positions and PPR scoring
- Myself and Wenin will be a part of it (I’ll let you decide if this is a drawcard or not)
If you’re interested, let me know in the comments. The size of the league will depend on interest but it’s “first come, first served”, so if you are keen, be quick.
If not, just use this forum to discuss all things NFL with other tragics on the site. And feel free to hit up Craig or myself through here if you want to talk about anything, advice or otherwise. We’re always happy to chat about the game. I am suitably pumped that the season is starting up again. Go Birds!