Hopkins on 2019 … “Last year was tough, not just physically but mentally. It’s the most banged up I’ve ever been playing football. I was dealing with serious injuries a lot of people would have sat down for. But we had a good team that depended on me, and I never gave a thought to not playing unless the doctors told me I couldn’t.”
Those comments from Hopkins caught us off guard a bit as his stat-line told a different tale. Hopkins punched 2019 in the throat across 16 Games with 115 Receptions on 163 Targets, 1,572 Receiving Yards and 11 TDs. With 98.6 YPG to his name last season, Hopkins ranked 5th in Targets and 3rd in Receptions with a 70.6% Catch Rate amongst WRs. Additionally, Hopkins landed “7” Top 10 Fantasy WR outings. It was such an impressive balancing act for Hopkins last season that even in weeks of low yardage, he seemed to stabilize his stat-line with a touchdown to save the day for fantasy owners. The Texans ranked 11th in PPG with 25.1 and we don’t expect much to change in 2019 for Hopkins and the Texans!
“He’s that open. We’ve got to keep finding ways to get him the ball” … When Aaron Rodgers is saying that kind of stuff about you, it’s a good day to be Davante Adams. It’s tough to imagine that Adams will grow his 169 Target Total of 2018 (2nd in the League), but without any additions on offense, it’s also pretty doubtful that the number will drop that much also. Packers new HC Matt LaFleur is expected to utilize Adams in the slot much more in 2019. “I think that’s something that Matt is definitely looking forward to having me do,” Adams said. “If that will take their No. 1 off me, and I can get some mismatches maybe on the backer or the safety or anybody else, I think that is beneficial.”
According to Pro Football Focus, Adams ran around 20% of his routes from the slot last season and was highly successful when he did. Adams is coming off of 3 consecutive seasons with double-digit TDs. Consider him a lock for another potent year in Green Bay!
Put Michael Thomas on New Orleans 5-7 years ago when Brees was a lock for 650 Passing Attempts, 5,000 Yards and +35 TDs and we have a much different story, but Brees has dialed it back over the past three seasons across the board. Passing Attempts have dwindled downward from 673 (2016), 536 (2017), 489 (2018) with yardage following that same trend and a very scary 23 TDs in 2017. New Orleans is more balanced than they have ever been and this isn’t to downplay Thomas in any way, it’s just a warning shot to explain why this guy isn’t hitting Megatron-Like numbers. Thomas is a stud, he’s efficient and consider him reaching the Top 5 at the position a layup in 2019. Last season, Thomas netted the highest “Catch Percentage” at an astounding 85% or 125 Receptions via 147 Targets! Thomas tied JuJu for the 2nd most RedZone Targets in 2018, but the number may also take a hit with the acquisition of TE Jared Cook.
Odell Beckham Jr.
Until we see chemistry develop with Beckham and Mayfield, it’s hard to trot OBJ above names like Jones and Thomas on our list. Cleveland has a strong defense and is balanced on both sides of the offense, making top tier upside for OBJ an unknown at this point. Again, no significant reason to drop him down in rankings, but also just a bit hesitant to take him over the four WRs above.
Jones hasn’t notched a double-digit TD season since since 2012 … Whew! He also saw an underwhelming 17 RedZone Targets, ranking 22nd in the NFL. That said, Jones feasts on yardage and last year was a career best for the now 30-Year-Old WR with 1,677 Yards and “10” +100 Yard Games! Jones also led the NFL last season with 170 Targets. This guy has been a model of consistency for years and doesn’t give us any reason to doubt him in 2019!
Smith-Schuster tallied 1,426 Receiving Yards and 7 TDs with 111 Receptions on 166 Targets in 2018, ranking 8th in Fantasy Points amongst WRs. Last season, Ben Roethlisberger set “Career Highs” in Passing Completions (452), Passing Attempts (675 – NFL Leader), Passing Yards (5,129) and TDs (34). With AB in Oakland, it’s naive to assume the Steelers will keep up at this same pace, however Smith-Schuster has made the leap into Top 10 territory with little competition taking volume from the 3rd Year WR. All of this being said, life could look a lot different playing as the WR2 alongside AB compared to running the show now in 2019. JuJu saw the 2nd most RedZone Targets (29) in 2018. It’s highly likely that he leads the league in that stat in 2019.
As a rookie, Hill finished as the WR19 in Fantasy. His 2nd year in the NFL, he finished as the WR8. Last season, he finished as the WR1 in his first season with QB Pat Mahomes. Hill’s 12 TDs ranked 3rd in the NFL behind Antonio Brown and Davante Adams and his 16 RedZone Targets ranked 25th. His ability to defy the expected regression bias year after year should be noted. Despite ranking as the WR1 in 2018, he still lacks the consistency of the guys above. That being said, he will single-handedly win you weeks.
Since his Rookie Season in 2014, Evans has exceeded +1,000 Yards and has ranged from 123-173 Targets Per Season. His TD Rate has been volatile throughout his career, however Evans provides plenty of potential to finish within the Top 5 at the position. TB decided to wave goodbye to both DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries to create more opportunity for both Chris Godwin and OJ Howard. The ripple effect will likely give Evans an uptick in Yardage, Targets and Red Zone looks in 2019. Evans has seen a dip in RedZone Targets over the following 3 seasons: 20, 19, 14. With the emergence of O.J. Howard and Chris Godwin we expect a similar mid-teen amount of RedZone targets in 2019. The Godwin Hype Train is steady rolling, allowing Evans to unexpectedly fly under the radar.
Hilton had a strong and consistent 2nd Half to the season in 2018, but can still be considered a volatile option from week-to-week going forward. Hilton has more competition for targets in 2019 in Indi, but he still remains the favorite and longest tenured option for Andrew Luck. Of Hilton’s 17 RedZone Targets in 2018, he caught 7, scoring 6 TDs. Throughout his career, Hilton has locked in a trend of around 6 TDs Per Season, but has also punched his ticket for an average of +1,200 Yards Per Season. TEs Ebron (13 TDs) & Doyle (2 TDs) absorbed 15 of Andrew Luck’s 39 TDs in 2018, which you can expect to be nearly impossible to duplicate. There is plenty of opportunity for Hilton and upside exists in volume, yardage and touchdown rates.
After the trade from Oakland, Cooper yielded 725 Yards and 6 TDs in 9 Games. Prescott’s volume across the board has consistently been on the rise since his rookie season. With Cooper on board, we only expect that number to increase for a fourth consecutive season. We’ve never really seen what Cooper’s top end numbers look like, but since joining Dallas last season, he finished as the WR7. Cooper has been dealing with a plantar fascia issue on his left foot, something he also dealt with at Alabama. The issue is reportedly a “small irritation,” and should be no issue heading into Week 1. A full season in Dallas has us looking forward to his volume potential and production.
The narrative holds here … Solid upside coupled with health concerns. Allen played only 8 Games in 2015, 1 Game in 2016 and followed that up with 2 full 16 Game Seasons in 2017 and 2018 (including a Week 15 early 1st Quarter injury that put him out the entire game.) Last season marked a streaky season for Allen, going on a series of runs. Week 1 kicked off with a TD, but he then went 7 scoreless weeks. Following that drought, Allen scored in 5 consecutive games, then closed out the final 3 weeks of the season without a touchdown. I guess it’s like blackjack … You have to stick with the runs to capitalize on the upside. With Tyrell Williams gone, but Hunter Henry back, the 15 RedZone Targets may take a hit in 2019.
Of Jared Goff’s 32 Passing TDs in 2018, Cooks recorded only 5 TDs and was challenged by … Todd Gurley (4 “Receiving” TDs), Cooper Kupp (6 TDs in 8 Games), Robert Woods (6 TDs), Josh Reynolds (5 TDs), Gerald Everett (3 TDs) and Tyler Higbee (2 TDs). Had Cooper Kupp not went down with a season-ending knee injury, LA would have likely yielded “3” +1,000 Yard WRs in 2018. Expect a balanced effort from Cooks in 2019 in both yardage and touchdowns, however due to the vast amount of surrounding talent, it limits his overall top-line upside.
Thielen was white hot last season to kick off the year, piling up 8 consecutive +100 Yard Games from Week 1 through 8. Additionally, he also totaled touchdowns in 6 consecutive games and amassed 9 TDs in 16 Games on the season. Thielen and Diggs have shown that they can co-exist with comparable production on offense as Thielen exceeded Diggs by only 4 Targets on the Season (153 – 149) and both netted 9 TDs. Kirk Cousins quietly finished as the Fantasy QB12 last season in his first year in Minnesota with unexpected shaky play from Dalvin Cook. We expect an overall upgrade in all Viking skill players in 2019.
Diggs’ complete body of work on the season looks nice, but from game-to-game he can be streaky. For example, in 2018 Diggs had 8 Games under 50 Yards. Targets took a dramatic leap last season, jumping from 95 to 149 along with a modest uptick in overall numbers. Diggs has been on a solid trend upward and we expect both Thielen and Diggs to even out in 2019. Diggs is a lock to improve on his overall WR14 in 2018.
Photo via Rotoworld.com (Statistic Table)
According to PFF, 2 of the 3 highest single-season deep-passing accuracy rates belong to Derek Carr. In 2018 (52.3%) and in 2016 (51.1%). That being said, the combination of chemistry, quarterback play and the overall offensive system takes time to build and when you add an inferior quarterback into the equation, it throws up some red flags. We aren’t discounting AB’s talent, it’s the surrounding cast, diva-personality, helmet ultimatum and crave-for-attention that will likely cause those stat-lines from years past to be in the rear-view mirror.