2019 Fantasy Football Preview

New Threads: 8 Players In New Homes

by Jon Helmkamp (@JCWHelmkamp)

I can’t recall a season where this many top-tier fantasy players changed teams. Understanding the moving pieces of an NFL offseason can be vital to fantasy football success. Here are eight fantasy-relevant players that will be donning new jerseys this coming season.

Odell Beckham Jr.   ::   NYG -> CLE

It’s incredibly rare that one of the top wide receivers in the league changes teams in the middle of his prime, and I can’t think of a better place for OBJ to go than to the Cleveland Browns. (Side note: If I read this line three years ago I would have laughed hysterically.) Leaving the Giants and an aging Eli Manning behind, OBJ connects with one of the most electric young quarterbacks in the league – Baker Mayfield. On passes over 15 yards down the field, Manning had a passer rating of 87.1 last season. In the second half of the season, on the same throws, Mayfield had a passer rating of 107.4. Baker also had an average pass attempt distance of 9.5 yards to Eli’s 7.6.

Baker is better at throwing the deep ball, more accurate than Eli, and OBJ is now on a stacked offense where defenses can’t simply key in on him on passing downs. We are watching the superhero origin story of the next elite QB/WR duo unfolding. OBJ has the upside to be the WR1 in all formats this year. 

Le’Veon Bell   ::   PIT -> NYJ

Bell was arguably the best running back in the league in 2017 before his whole contract dispute led him to decide to hold out for the entirety of last season. His numbers were absurd – 1,946 scrimmage yards, 85 receptions, 11 TDs, which equates to 299.1 fantasy points in half-PPR leagues. That would have been RB5 last year, coming in five points ahead of Ezekiel Elliot, and only 19 yards behind Christian McCaffrey’s 1,965 scrimmage yards. 

Granted, he’s been away from the league for a full year, is in a new scheme with a second-year quarterback, and a significantly less talented offensive line, but the volume alone should return top-tier points. I see him as a back-end RB1 that might get off to a bit of a slow start, but will finish strong.

Antonio Brown   ::   PIT -> OAK

Bell’s former partner in crime in Pittsburgh also left, heading to the Bay area to join the Raiders. Brown is 31 years old, doesn’t have blazing speed, is in a new system – and I don’t care about any of that. He’s one of the greatest route runners in the history of this game, and doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon. He was WR4 in half-PPR leagues last year with 1297 yards, 104 catches and 15 TDS. The 15 scores might sound unsustainable, but over the last five years, he has scored double digit TDs in all but one campaign, averaging 11.8 TDs per year. 

Currently coming off the board as the WR8 at an ADP of 2.09, I would take value in a heartbeat. He has every opportunity to be a league-winner again and will command a huge target share in the Oakland offense.

Mark Ingram   ::   NO -> BAL

The first three names on the list are all no-doubt, blue chip talents in the league that should remain steady and elite stalwarts in fantasy football, and will likely be taken within the first 20 picks. After those three, it gets interesting, and starts with Mark Ingram. 

Ingram still has some tread on the tires and slots in as the starting RB in an offense that ran the ball ridiculously well last season, averaging 152.6 rushing yards per game, second best in the league. The depth chart behind him is underwhelming at best – Alex Collins and Javorious Allen are no longer in the picture – and should leave a lion’s share of the carries for Ingram to handle. If he sees north of 200 carries, which I suspect that he will, coupled with his contributions in the passing game, I don’t see why 1,000 scrimmage yards and 6-8 TDs is unreasonable. With an ADP of 4.01, fantasy owners will have to pay a pretty hefty price to roster him.

Tevin Coleman   ::   ATL -> SF

I don’t think there is a team in the NFL this year with a wider range of outcomes, both in reality and in fantasy, than the 49ers. The backfield is a bit unsettled with Coleman at ADP 5.05, Jerrick McKinnon at ADP 11.03 (coming off an ACL tear), and Matt Breida at ADP 12.05. Clearly the general population sees Coleman leading the backfield, and I agree. Coach Kyle Shanahan, who was with Coleman in Atlanta three years ago, made it a priority to go and sign his guy as soon as he was a free agent. That connection and confidence shouldn’t be ignored. Coleman also has the potential to be involved in the passing attack, which is great for his value.

I believe this will be his job to lose. Looking at the other players around his current ADP, he looks like the last potential 3-down back coming off the board. I would monitor this backfield closely, but at this stage I feel good about a 5th round price tag on Coleman – although I would love to see him a round or two later.

Latavius Murray   ::   MIN -> NO

Murray had great moments of success in Minnesota as a complementary piece to Dalvin Cook, as well as filling in when he was injured, and I expect him to have an even larger role with the Saints. Alvin Kamara is the unquestioned lead dog, but coach Sean Payton thoroughly enjoyed the 1-2 punch when he had Ingram at his disposal. Ingram had 138 rush attempts last year in only 12 games, with Kamara seeing 194 attempts. Murray should see similar numbers in this system, and is essentially free at his 10.04 ADP.

In terms of a late round dart throw, and especially as a handcuff if you have Kamara, he is one of my favorite values. 

Jordan Howard   ::   CHI -> PHI

Howard, who was a 5th round pick in 2016 out of Indiana, is now battling incoming rookie Miles Sanders in the Philly backfield. I’ll be straight up with you – I am not touching Howard. The name value is appealing to many, but Sanders is a very talented running back that almost inevitably will take over this backfield at some point. Howard’s ADP is currently 12.09, but his value is trending the wrong way.

When I’m drafting in the late round picks, I’m looking for upside and for players that could step in and thrive. I don’t see Howard as fitting that criteria. On the flip side, I am all in on Sanders, even as high as the 7th round. 

DeSean Jackson   ::   TB -> PHI

I can’t wait to see D-Jax back in a Philly uniform. It just feels so… right. He is an elite deep threat that immediately opens the field for the rest of the offense to thrive in, and he lead the league in yards per catch last year at 18.9. “Oh but Jackson is getting older now” is dumb – clearly he still has the wheels to get deep. He’s a home run hitter and all reports are saying that he and Carson Wentz are building great chemistry.

Whether or not he can be consistent over the course of the season remains to be seen, but at an ADP of 10.07 and the WR 46, he’s essentially free and worth the gamble. Remember, at this stage of the draft, you’re looking for upside – and he has it in spades. He is one of my favorite WRs to grab late.  

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