Fantasy Football: 3 “Bold” Takes for 2018

Matt Hicks
@Top2Matt

I’ve just finished my first round of dynasty rankings for the 2018 season and while sifting through seemingly endless piles of stats, a few players jumped out to me as grossly misvalued. I highlight some of the most undervalued and overrated players in this article and show you why you need to dig past ADP and common narratives to find the players that will lead you to fantasy glory. These picks may be “bold”, but when you break them down-they really shouldn’t be.

Dak Prescott is a Top 10 Dynasty Quarterback

Since entering the league in 2016, the manager of the Dallas offense has thrown for 6,991 yards and 45 touchdowns while rushing for 639 yards and 13 touchdowns. Prescott’s 58 total touchdowns in the last two seasons are more than Jameis Winston (49 total touchdowns), Carson Wentz (51 total touchdowns), and just 1 fewer than Russell Wilson (59 total touchdowns). Yet, Prescott is being seen as a QB2 below both Winston and Ryan. He is currently ranked 17th in FantasyPros consensus rankings and is being drafted as the 15th quarterback off the board, according to Fantasy Football Calculator ADP. This ranking is despite Prescott finishing as QB 6 overall in his rookie year and QB11 overall in fantasy in 2017.

Prescott played significantly better with Zeke last season. With Zeke, he averaged 217.8 passing yards and 23.2 rushing yards per game and threw for 17 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Without him, he averaged just 191 passing yards and 20.8 rushing yards per game while throwing for just 5 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. With Zeke, he averaged 19 fantasy points per week, without him that number dropped to 11.7 points per week.

In addition to his star running back, Prescott also gains much-needed depth on his offensive line and a slew of receiving options, who despite the lack of name recognition fit his play style much better than Bryant ever did. Even with Bryant, Prescott never had a WR 2; yet he has finished as QB1 18 times and as a QB2 8 times in his short career. His 18 finishes as a QB1 is the same as Russell Wilson, 4 more than Drew Brees, 2 more than Kirk Cousins and Matt Ryan, and 4 more than Ben Roethlisberger.

Prescott has proved he can consistently perform as a QB1 without significant weapons in his receiving corps. That, and the return of the arguably best running back in the game and an improved offensive line make Prescott a solid lock to be a top 10 quarterback for years to come. It shouldn’t be a bold take that Prescott will be a top 10 quarterback but apparently, it is, and I’m all in on him.

Alex Collins will outperform Jerrick McKinnon in 2018

This may be my boldest take but I’m not sold on McKinnon, at all. McKinnon, currently ranked 16th by ADP in redraft and 18th in dynasty by Fantasy Pros rankings, has seen his stock skyrocket since moving into the lead back role in San Francisco. He comes with a lot of question marks, however, including both his ability to get and produce with volume. McKinnon had 150 attempts in 2017 and has averaged just 118 attempts per season in his four-year career in which he has started just 14 games. Just 4 running backs finished as an RB 2 with 150 or fewer attempts last season, and McKinnon’s playmaking ability is far from Kamara (120 attempts) and Christian McCaffery (117 attempts). In those 150 attempts in 2017, McKinnon rushed for just 3.8 yards per carry, which was 33rd amongst all running backs.

His upside comes from his pass catching ability, but even that has flaws. McKinnon had just 6 games in 2017 with more than 3 receptions and had just 2 games with more than 50 receiving yards. He had just 3 games in 2017 with more than 100 combined rushing and receiving yards and totaled just 5 touchdowns, which is his career high.

Alex Collins quietly broke out last season in Baltimore, rushing for 6 touchdowns in his sophomore season and rushing for 973 yards on 212 attempts. Collins rushed for 4.6 yards per carry (9th among all running backs), just behind Todd Gurley (4.7 yards per carry) and ahead of Devonte Freeman (4.4 yards per carry), Ezekiel Elliot (4.1 yards per carry), and Le’Veon Bell (4.0 yards per carry). Collins won the job outright in Baltimore, seeing his workload increase from 11.4 attempts per game in weeks 1-8 to 16.5 attempts per game in weeks 9-16. I expect Collins to only build upon his momentum in 2018, which is why I’m surprised he’s being taken 14 picks (4 running backs) behind the unproven McKinnon even though he’s going to have a larger role in his offense than McKinnon has proven he can sustain.

Spending your second round pick on McKinnon (current ADP of 2.11) has the potential to sink your fantasy roster. Collins, however, offers you championship level fantasy value in the 4th round. I’m taking Collins over McKinnon in each and every draft this season.

Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr. are the best WR Combo in the NFC North

Marvin Jones and Golden Tate finished as WR 11 and 12 respectively in 2017, for very different reasons. Jones made his impact by pulling in 9 touchdowns from Matthew Stafford, tied for 3rd most last season with Antonio Brown, Jarvis Landry, and Alshon Jeffery. Jones Jr. proved to be a lethal deep threat; pulling in in 1101 yards on 61 receptions for 18 yards per reception; which was the most among any wide receiver who caught more than 18 receptions. Tate was the perfect possession style compliment to Jones Jr., catching 92 passes on 120 targets, a 76.7% reception rate (most among all wide receivers with more than 27 targets). Tate also pulled in 5 touchdowns and over 1,000 receiving yards for the 3rd time in the last five years.

Without Jordy Nelson in Green Bay, the closest competition to Tate and Jones Jr. in the NFC North is Adam Thielen and Stephon Diggs. Although I like both of these guys (especially Thielen) their value is inflated this season; following a breakout season for the Minnesota offense. Thielen finished as WR8, three spots above Tate, primarily because he caught 1,276 yards (273 more than Tate). Thielen, however, was also targeted 23 more times and caught 13.1% less of his targets than Tate. Thielen was also less consistent than Tate; finishing as a fantasy WR2 or higher 7 times in 2017, compared to Tate’s 9 WR2 or higher finishes. Diggs finished as WR 19, in part because he missed two games in 2017. Diggs, however, has missed at least 2 games in all three of his seasons as a professional; suggesting that using his 2017 numbers is an accurate way to show his ability to perform.  Compared to Jones Jr., Diggs caught 152 fewer yards, 1 less touchdown and had 4.7 fewer yards per reception in 2017.

The real difference maker for Jones Jr. and Tate is Matthew Stafford. Stafford shows a tremendous ability to support fantasy wideouts; Detroit has had at least one WR1 in 6 of Stafford’s 7 seasons as a starter. Since Cousins became a starting QB in 2015, his statistics have been similar to Stafford: he has thrown for 13,176 yards (131 more than Stafford) and 82 touchdowns (3 less than Stafford). Cousins, however, has never supported a WR1; his top fantasy receivers have been Pierre Garcon (31st in 2015, 23rd in 2016) and Jamison Crowder (33rdt in 2017).

Picking two players from one roster is always risky, but Tate and Jones Jr. offer a safe floor with huge upside and significant value as mid-round picks. Although Diggs and Thielen will perform well this season, they don’t compliment each other nearly as well as the these two Lion wideouts.

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