Fighting Chance Fantasy 2019 NFL/Fantasy Football Predictions

The 2019 NFL season already has one game in the books, and we are just hours away from kickoff of the first Sunday of the season! We always like to have a little fun and try to pick the division winners, the conference championship games, the Super Bowl participants and winners as well as some fantasy award winners! This year we have Allie Fontana (@alliefontana), Gary Haddow (@garyhaddow1), Brian Drake (@drakefantasy), KevinTompkins (@ktompkinsii), Steve Rapin (@fantasygeek37), and last and least me, Ryan Hallam (@fightingchance). Tell us what you think, what you agree with and where we are nuts, but let’s get to our crystal balls…….I mean predictions. That came out wrong.

Allie Fontana (@alliefontana)

AFC North - Pittsburgh Steelers
AFC South - Jacksonville Jaguars
AFC East - New England Patriots
AFC West - Kansas City Chiefs

AFC Wildcard Teams -Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans

AFC Championship Game -Kansas City Chiefs over New England Patriots

NFC North - Minnesota Vikings
NFC South - New Orleans Saints
NFC East - Philadelphia Eagles
NFC West - Los Angeles Rams

NFC Wildcard Teams - Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers

NFC Championship Game - Philadelphia Eagles over New Orleans Saints

Super Bowl - Philadelphia Eagles over Kansas City Chiefs

Fantasy Awards

Fantasy MVP: Carson Wentz, QB, Philadelphia Eagles. “Old enough to remember” that the stars were aligning for Wentz to be fantasy’s MVP (and the NFL’s MVP) in 2017 before a torn ACL cut short his season. His redemption tour hit a snag in 2018 when a lingering back issue derailed his season prematurely. Fast forward to 2019 and Wentz returns to an Eagles offense with arguably the league’s most talented weapons (Chiefs fans may think differently) at his disposal. If he returns anywhere close to his 2017 caliber-form and can stay healthy, Wentz will be well-positioned as the favorite to be the “IT” factor on many fantasy championship winning rosters.

Fantasy Rookie of the Year: Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals. Prior to Packers-Bears Thursday night snooze fest, the easy-peasy answer to this question could have been the preseason’s much-hyped rookie RB David Montgomery. Many fantasy owners are still on full-tilt from Montgomery’s sketchy usage in his regular season debut—so everyone needs to chill as I expect the situation to sort itself out eventually. Raiders RB Josh Jacobs and Eagles RB Miles Sanders are other guys I like here, but since I’ve used Philly and Oakland for three awards, I’ll roll with the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and much hyped-Kyler Murray. He’s the only rookie QB to land a starting job out of the gate, so provided he stays healthy and avoids imploding spectacularly, he’ll have job security. Fantasy owners are enamored with running QBs—which is in Murray’s wheelhouse. He rushed for 1,001 yards and 12 scores during his 2018 season at Oklahoma AND threw for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns as well. An athletic duel-threat in a high-flying Kliff Kingsbury offense tethered to a very “giving” defense to opponents’ sure sounds like fantasy gold to me.

Comeback Player of the Year: Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons. Quarterbacks tend to dominate this award in “real life” and I could easily say “See Fantasy MVP” and be done with it. Instead, I’ll make the case for the fallen-out-of-favor-with-the-fantasy-community Devonta Freeman, whose 2018 season ended after seven snaps. Let’s remember that between 2015-2017, Freeman finished as fantasy’s RB 1, RB6, and RB13 respectively. He’s fully healthy, plays in a high-octane offense, and with Tevin Coleman taking his talents to the City by the Bay, virtually no serious backfield competition threating his role as lead RB. I’ll take that kind of volume and opportunity all-day.  

Breakout Player of the Year: Jameis Winston, QB Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The first overall pick of the 2015 NFL draft has been inconsistent as a pro (21-33 over 54 starts), but he’ll have plenty of opportunities to course correct under the guidance of new head coach Bruce Arians. When Winston returned from his midseason benching last season, he looked like a different QB from the one that had been pushed aside for Ryan Fitzpatrick. Winston threw 13 touchdowns to four interceptions, gained 7.8 yards per pass, and posted a 100.1 passer rating over seven games. Arians’ pass happy system, plus the emergence of wide receiver Chris Godwin and tight end OJ Howard (both breakout candidates in their own rights) along with the always productive Mike Evans provide Winston with a lot of talent to work with. Also helping the cause is what looks to be a less than stellar defense that should have the Bucs playing catchup most weeks. Who doesn’t love the smell of garbage-time production in the afternoon? Winston may not be the franchise quarterback the Bucs wanted and have tried to make him be, but he’ll be well-positioned to deliver fantasy QB1 numbers if he can play smarter not harder—and most importantly, control his propensity for turnovers. Lots of “ifs” but that’s what predictions are all about.   

Biggest Bust: Antonio Brown, WR, Oakland Raiders. I don’t like to kick a man when he’s down (and now out)—but from a strictly fantasy perspective--it’s hard to look at this situation as anything other than BIG BUST. Brown was the WR9/23 overall pick according to FantasyPro’s Consensus ADP and that’s a huge loss of production for any fantasy owner to make up. To make matters worse, in anything other than a very shallow league, we’re sort of forced to hang onto him and ride out the next month or so at least to see if he signs elsewhere. Even then, there is no guarantee that he’ll return anything close to his draft capital. Trading him isn’t really an option either. Rock meet hard place. UPDATE: Since I wrote this piece about Brown, it has been reported that he signed a one-year $15M deal with the New England Patriots. If your tolerance for risk isn’t up for dealing with the full-blown Antonio Brown Experience, then good news--you have a window of time (which could be as short as the next hour to the day he steps on the field in in a Pats uniform to his next Instagram post) to trade him to a league mate enamored with his new landing spot. Sell high! Otherwise, strap yourself in because for better or worse—whether Oakland or New England—Brown’s fantasy owners are in for a bumpy ride. 

Waiver Wire Add of the Year: Darren Waller, TE, Oakland Raiders. Tight end is a maddening position in fantasy with most guys outside of the top six or seven being week-to-week propositions. With Jared Cook exchanging the silver and black for gold and black, the athletic Waller enjoyed some preseason buzz as a potential sleeper or breakout candidate among industry experts. He really didn’t garner much attention from the fantasy community writ large until the Antonio Brown situation went from bad to bizarre to worse to completely off the rails. Following the Amari Cooper trade to Dallas last season, QB Derek Carr leaned heavily on Cook in the absence of a true WR1. While receivers Tyrell Williams and rookie Hunter Renfrow get slight bumps from Brown’s dismissal, Waller could be the real beneficiary of available targets. So run, don’t walk to the waiver wire and add Waller if he’s available in your league.

Steve Rapin (@fantasygeek37)

AFC East – New England Patriots
AFC West – Kansas City Chiefs
AFC North – Baltimore Ravens
AFC South – Houston Texans

AFC Wild Cards – Jacksonville Jaguars, Los Angeles Chargers

AFC Championship Game – Houston Texans over Kansas City Chiefs 

NFC East – Philadelphia Eagles
NFC West – Los Angeles Rams
NFC North  - Chicago Bears
NFC South – Atlanta Falcons

NFC Wild Cards – Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys

NFC Championship Game – Los Angeles Rams over Philadelphia Eagles

Super Bowl – Los Angeles Rams over Houston Texans

Fantasy Awards

Fantasy MVP – Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams. I’m thinking this knee issue may be a bit blown out of proportion. If that’s true, you could have drafted the number one overall fantasy player in the second round of some leagues. 

Fantasy Rookie of the Year – Josh Jacobs, RB, Oakland Raiders. He will be called upon a lot this season with Antonio Brown now in danger of not playing for this team. He could be the most talented running back in this year’s rookie class and could also be the back with the least competition for touches…sign me up!

Comeback Player of the Year – Le’Veon Bell, RB, New York Jets. He held out all last year because he wanted to get paid, and the Jets decided to do just that and give him the big bucks. He should get all the volume he can handle as the Jets will be forced to use their best offensive weapon early and often. (Honorable Mention goes to Devonta Freeman)

Breakout Player of the year – Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons. Calvin Ridley is a super talented wide receiver who will be lined up opposite Julio Jones. As Julio draws top defensive coverage, Ridley will be able to feast in this high-octane offense. (Honorable Mention goes to Baker Mayfield)

Biggest Bust – Duke Johnson Jr., RB, Houston Texans. After Lamar Miller went down for the season, Duke Johnson’s ADP sky-rocketed up to the fourth or fifth round. If you paid that high of a price, I fear you will be disappointed as I don’t see him being an every-down back in the NFL. 

Waiver Wire add of the year – Hunter Renfrow, WR, Oakland Raiders. I think Refrow was going to have a role in the Raiders’ offense now with Brown gone. This slot receiver could see a huge bump in targets and be a huge fantasy asset, particularly in PPR leagues with Brown finally running himself out of town.

Kevin Tompkins (@ktompkinsii)

AFC East – New England Patriots
AFC North - Pittsburgh Steelers
AFC South - Houston Texans
AFC West – Kansas City Chiefs

AFC Wild Cards – Los Angeles Chargers, Cleveland Browns

AFC Championship Game – Kansas City Chiefs over New England Patriots

NFC East – Philadelphia Eagles
NFC North – Green Bay Packers
NFC South – Atlanta Falcons
NFC West – Los Angeles Rams

NFC Wild Cards – New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers

NFC Championship Game – Philadelphia Eagles over Los Angeles Rams

Super Bowl - Kansas City Chiefs vs. Philadelphia Eagles, Chiefs win

Fantasy Awards

Fantasy MVP - Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens. Now, now. I’m not basing this off of how many points he scores, but value to your team versus where he was drafted. Jackson had just a shade under 700 yards rushing last season and barring injury, there should be no reason why he can’t replicate that or more in a full season while improving his passing. 7 of 8 quarterbacks who had 700+ rushing yards finished in the top 5 among fantasy quarterbacks and you’re getting him in the 8th/9th round. Easy. 

Fantasy Rookie of the Year - David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears. Mike Davis will cede touches to Montgomery as the season progresses. Monty clearly passes the eye test with his ability to break tackles and passing game chops. He offers so much versatility and the Bears won’t be able to keep him off the field. He’s going to reward owners for sticking with him to provide high-end RB2 upside.

Comeback Player of the Year - Delanie Walker, TE, Tennessee Titans. TE4 in fantasy only two seasons ago, Walker went down early with a fractured ankle in Week 1 and went on IR. He’s had almost a full 12 months since then and even at 35 years old, should be a dynamic safety valve for whoever is at quarterback for the Titans, and a dynamic value at TE for your fantasy team at a thin position. One of my favorite late round targets and he should pay dividends.

Breakout Player of the year - Kerryon Johnson. RB, Detroit Lions. The lead back in a Darrell Bevell offense, Johnson asserted himself in the 2nd half of last season and the offense should be tailored to him on the ground with some more contributions in the passing game as well. He should be a legitimate 3rd down back and carry teams to titles assuming all goes well with his health. I love his upward trajectory in this offense.

Biggest Bust - Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans. Much has been said about his last quarter of the 2018 season where over half of his yards came in that stretch of the season. He’s always been a notorious slow starter, non-existent usage in the pass game, and with the Titans slated to be a borderline contender, there will be many games where he won’t be a factor as the team gets into garbage time. No thanks to his 3rd/4th round price tag for that.

Waiver Wire add of the year - Albert Wilson, WR, Miami Dolphins. Somebody has to catch passes. Will it be a rejuvenated DeVante Parker? Unlikely. Wilson likely went very late or undrafted in good amount of leagues and should be a slot maven for a bad Dolphins team that will be playing from behind a ton. Whether it’s Fitzpatrick or Rosen, both should target him and he’s the clubhouse leader to lead the team in targets, catches, and be a sneaky add  in the vein of Tyler Boyd last season.

Brian Drake (@drakefantasy) 

AFC East - New England Patriots
AFC North- Pittsburgh Steelers
AFC South - Houston Texans
AFC West- Kansas City Chiefs

AFC Wild Cards – Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills

AFC Championship Game - Kansas City Chiefs over Pittsburgh Steelers 

NFC East- Philadelphia Eagles
NFC North- Green Bay Packers
NFC South- New Orleans Saints
NFC West- Seattle Seahawks

NFC Wild Cards - Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings

NFC Championship Game - Philadelphia Eagles over New Orleans Saints

Super Bowl - Philadelphia Eagles over Kansas City Chiefs

Fantasy Awards

Fantasy MVP - Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings. Finally staying healthy he leads the NFL in rushing and the Vikings to the playoffs. Kubiak will make him a superstar.

Fantasy Rookie of the Year - DK Metcalf, WR, Seattle Seahawks.  Seattle is light on passing targets but Metcalf perfectly fits what they do which is go up and catch bombs.  He's going to score 10+ TD's.

Comeback Player of the Year - Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals. Not that he was hurt or anything but this new "Air Raid" offense is going to revitalize Larry and remind everyone how good he is.

Breakout Player of the year - Matt Breida, RB, San Francisco 49ers. The bionic back outshines Tevin Coleman and his dual threat skillset leaps him into the backend RB1 category.

Biggest Bust - Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys. Without camp Zeke is going to be constantly battling soft tissue injuries.  He's in and out of the lineup and doesn't return RB1 value.

Waiver Wire Add of the Year - Darren Waller, TE, Oakland Raiders. Waller is an athletic freak who will pickup where Jared Cook left off, and will get even more targets with AB out of town.

Gary Haddow (@garyhaddow1)

AFC West – Kansas City Chiefs
AFC East – New England Patriots
AFC North - Cleveland Browns
AFC South - Houston Texans

AFC Wild Cards - Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Chargers

AFC Championship Game - Kansas City Chiefs over New England Patriots

NFC South – New Orleans Saints
NFC East – Philadelphia Eagles
NFC West – Los Angeles Rams
NFC North – Green Bay Packers

NFC Wild Cards - Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta Falcons

NFC Championship Game - New Orleans Saints over Atlanta Falcons|

Super Bowl - Kansas City Chiefs over New Orleans Saints

Fantasy Awards

Fantasy MVP - Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens. Based on ADP Lamar will be a steal with his top 5 (3?) QB finish due to a rushing floor that is so high that he is a higher end RB, but his dual threat is passing for 3000+ yards and 25+ touchdowns. Getting that second year QB bump as his awareness of defensive looks grows will allow Lamar to get better as a passer, oh and the additions of Hollywood Brown and Miles Boykin to complement Mark Andrews will make a drastic improvement over last year’s pass catchers. (Close 2nd is Devonta Freeman, highest odds to be the overall RB1 that was not drafted as a top 10RB). 

Fantasy Rookie of the Year - Kyle Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals. Murray is the necessary pick. Being the QB to turn around the atrociously awful Cardinals offense will make him a lock for ROY. My concern is his ADP, but as stated above with Lamar, using your legs as a QB catapults you up Fantasy scoreboards.

Comeback Player of the Year -  Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams. A lot has been made of Goff’s second half decline last season, and I attribute a lot of that to the loss of his RedZone safety blanket. Kupp was the OVERALL WR2 last year before injury, and if he can get back to being a top 10 WR then not only is he the Comeback Player of the Year, but also, in talks for Fantasy MVP.

Breakout Player of the Year - Tyler Lockett, WR, Seattle Seahawks. Lockett kind of already broke out, but this was based on historical efficiency rates that everyone knew was destined to regress. Then Doug Baldwin retired and the WR2 on the team is now a speedy rookie in DK Metcalf. Wilson will rely on Lockett as his old faithful, and if he jumps from 70 targets to above 110 then Lockett will Breakout and jump a few tiers.

Biggest Bust: James White, RB, New England Patriots. This pick was Antonio Brown, but with the Patriots signing of AB there is no way that he is a bust anymore (probably now a value?). However, with this signing the biggest loser is James White. The Patriots should keep strong leads all season with Edels, Gordon, and AB leading their receiving corps. That''s less targets for White, and more ground and pound with Michel. Combined with the potential of Damien Harris and Rex Burkhead, James White will lose those valuable catch up targets.

Waiver Wire Add of the Year - Dare Ogunbawale, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  I prefer to think of this award from a non-injury perspective and along those lines I give you Ogunbawale. He seems to be most poised to go from offseason irrelevance to third down back to primary back on a high octane offense (Rojo sucks and Barber is vanilla). (Close second, Darren Waller, TE Oakland, because who else does Carr have to throw to when AB quits? But let’s be honest, he is a tight end, so it’s hard to actually have him be the official selection here.) 

Ryan Hallam (@fightingchance)

AFC East – New England Patriots
AFC North – Cleveland Browns
AFC South – Houston Texans
AFC West – Los Angeles Chargers

AFC Wild Cards – Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs

AFC Championship Game – New England Patriots over Cleveland Browns

NFC East – Dallas Cowboys
NFC North – Chicago Bears
NFC South – New Orleans Saints
NFC West – Los Angeles Rams

NFC Wild Cards – San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles

NFC Championship Game – Los Angeles Rams over New Orleans Saints

Super Bowl – Los Angeles Rams over New England Patriots

Fantasy Awards

Fantasy MVP – Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams. It sucks being a 49ers fan and loving a team in the division so much, but I love the Rams. Goff is amazing, Gurley is legendary, and their receivers are All-World. Goff has a chance to throw 40 touchdowns and could be a top five fantasy quarterback. I think this kid is still getting better and I couldn’t be more excited for him in 2019.

Fantasy Rookie of the Year – David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears. Sure he didn’t get the majority of carries on Thursday, but the Packers defense is pretty decent and there are still 15 more games to go. There is plenty of time and Montgomery should take more of a role each week. He was BY FAR the best rusher on the team and is great at making tacklers miss. Don’t panic after one game, the kid is the real deal.

Fantasy Comeback Player of the Year – Donte Moncrief, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers. Can someone be a comeback if they never really had an awesome year? Well, Moncrief is in an awesome place as the Steelers second receiver and should be in for a career year. He might not fit this category exactly, but he did have that seven touchdown season so get off my back!

Fantasy Breakout Player of the Year – Derrius Guice, RB, Washington Redskins. He is healthy coming into the season, he looked good in limited preseason action, and the head coach has said that the offense will run through him. Sure the line isn’t very good and the passing game isn’t much threat to the defense, but I still think Guice is going to have a big year. A thousand yards and eight touchdowns are very realistic goals.

Biggest Bust of the Year – Duke Johnson, RB, Houston Texans. I understand that the Texans only brought in Carlos Hyde who kinda sucks after Lamar Miller went down, but I don’t see this huge jump for Johnson into the RB2 category. When in Cleveland he never got regular carries and his only competition there was the “great” Isaiah Crowell. The Texans line is pretty awful, and they will pass more than run. Johnson has more value in PPR leagues, but I don’t see him being anywhere near an RB2.

Waiver Wire Add of the Year – KeeSean Johnson, WR, Arizona Cardinals. The Air Raid offense should be bringing lots of targets to lots of receivers. Larry Fitzgerald is going to get his, but Christian Kirk fits better in the slot than on the outside. Johnson on the other hand is a natural outside receiver and should thrive in a starting role. I see this kid having a shot at seven to ten touchdowns in 2019.

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