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Bold is Beautiful: Predictions for an Unpredictable Season – AFC & NFC East

By Brendan Taffe

AFC East

Buffalo Bills: No Skill Players Finish In The Top-24 At Their Position   

Much like the Ravens, the Bills added a dynamic new piece to their offense this offseason. In a trade that is looked at as a rare “win-win”, the Bills received Stefon Diggs in exchange for their first-round pick and change. The twenty-six-year-old can win at every level of the field and will immediately make what was one of the weakest receiver groups, one of the strongest. Diggs, who finished last year as 0.5 PPR’s WR21, joins John Brown (WR20) and Cole Beasley (WR34). Similar reasoning as the Dobbins addition to the Ravens backfield applies to Diggs’ arrival in Buffalo. Diggs has averaged 121 targets over the last two seasons, and for an offense that centers around it’s ground game, it isn’t easy to see any of these receivers scoring enough weekly.  

Although Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll will focus on the run, neither Singletary nor Moss figures to finish as an RB2. Devin Singletary ended the season as RB32 in 0.5 PPR formats as a hamstring injury limited him to 12 games. Rookie Zack Moss will take over the Frank Gore role from 2019. Gore played a full season but only recorded 700 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. Both Moss and Singletary’s ceilings are capped with how much Josh Allen likes to run, especially in the red zone.             

New York Jets: Denzel Mims Has The Best Rookie WR Season

Mims is one of my favorite receivers of this year’s class. My view of him is slightly different from that of NFL scouts because twelve other receivers heard their name get called before Denzel’s on draft day. His slide to the end of the second round can partly be attributed to a hand injury he played through all of last year. His playing power was minimal due to this injury, and he dropped more passes than one would like. Every year, talented players fall in the draft because scouts are short-sighted and cannot get over a prior injury. Mims has incredible workout metrics, scoring in the 95th percentile or better in the 40-yard dash, speed score, catch radius, and a 90th percentile burst score. He does not run the most expansive route tree but is a big play waiting to happen. Mims reminds me of one receiver from last year’s draft that also had a college injury, runs a limited route tree, and is a big play waiting to happen. So far, things are going alright for D.K. Metcalf.  

Talent is a huge part of fantasy football success. Without enough opportunity, though, that talent can go to waste. Mims joins the Jets as their immediate WR3. Jamison Crowder is a reliable slot receiver, and Breshad Perriman is a serviceable field stretcher. It will not take long for Mims’ talent to shine through. Unlike other rookie receivers, Mims lands on one of the worst teams in the NFL. They are rebuilding their entire team, and they traded their best defender for future draft picks. Mims will get plenty of opportunity in this offense, and I envision tons of garbage points in his near future.   

New England Patriots: Cam Newton Is Not A Top-24 QB

3rd, 4th, 3rd, 17th, 1st, 17th, 2nd, 13th. Those are Cam’s fantasy finishes from his rookie year in 2011 through his last full season in 2018. In five of his eight years in the league, he has finished in the top 4 of all fantasy quarterbacks, so he should be a lock to finish inside the top 24, right? Not so fast. Those years only go through 2018 because Cam was limited to only two games last year due to a Lisfranc sprain that required surgery. In 2018 when he finished as fantasy’s QB13, he injured his shoulder, which required surgery. When he finished as QB17 in 2016, he needed surgery for a torn rotator cuff, and when he finished as QB17 for the first time in 2014, he required surgery for a torn ligament in his ankle. A chest rib fracture, back vertebral fracture, knee strain, and concussion are also among his injuries. As a now-31 year old with an injury history as long as a CVS receipt, it would be unwise to rely on Cam to anchor your QB2 position for the entire year.  

A large part of what made Cam so incredible to watch, and so beneficial for your fantasy team was his physicality. At six foot five with a 4.59 40, Cam was a lock to be the Panthers’ #1 draft pick nearly a decade ago. It did not matter that his best receiver in 2017 was Devin Funchess because Cam made up for his teammate’s limitations by turning into a real Superman on the field. This year, Cam does not get a Steve Smith, a Greg Olsen, or a Christian McCaffrey. His best receiver is a thirty-four-year-old slot receiver who has never made a Pro Bowl. His best running back is 28 and is best known for his receiving skills, and has also never made a Pro Bowl. His best tight ends are a pair of third-round rookies. After so many injuries, I doubt that Cam will be able to make up for the lack of star power around him. 

Miami Dolphins: Mike Gesicki Is A Top-5 TE

Last year’s TE11 makes the jump. Gesicki is an uber-athletic player for his position. He scored at least in the 95th percentile for the 40-yard dash, speed score, burst score, and agility score. He also has a 100th percentile catch radius because he stands at six foot six and weighs 247. When you consider those measurements, his metrics seem even more impressive. Just being athletic is not enough for a top-five fantasy finish, though. He will combine his athleticism with his sure hands this season to jump up into that next tier. As a rookie, Gesicki was one of only two tight ends in the league with at least thirty targets to grab 100% of his catchable balls. His goals nearly tripled in his second year as he received 89. That number certainly has room to grow.  

There is one other main factor besides Gesicki himself that will help get into the top 5. The Dolphins have the third most difficult schedule in the entire league. They play the Bills and Patriots twice, but the 49ers, Broncos, Chargers, and Chiefs defenses are also on their schedule. What looks to be a daunting schedule may be beneficial for Gesicki. A large part of what makes the great defensive teams elite is their shutdown corners. Stephon Gilmore, Tre White, Richard Sherman, AJ Bouye, Casey Hayward, and Chris Harris are among the CBs on those opposing teams. None will be covering Gesicki. Davante Parker, last year’s WR8, and Preston Williams, an exciting sophomore, will both require more attention from defenses. As they work outside of the slash marks, Gesicki will have the middle of the field. He will provide rookie Tua Tagovailoa with a safety net in the intermediate areas of the field. If you are looking for a potential league winner at a reasonable price, look no further than the guy down in South Beach.

NFC East 

Washington Football Team: Antonio Gibson Has A Top-5 Rookie RB Season

I have said it before, and I will say it again: talent and opportunity are the keys to fantasy football success. We do not know yet if Antonio Gibson has the talent to play in the NFL. It is harder to predict how Gibson will play than most other rookies who come into the league. He played only five games in his junior year and then fourteen his senior year. In his final amateur season, he was only able to account for 71 touches. For comparison, J.K. Dobbins, AJ Dillon, and Jonathan Taylor, three backs drafted a round before Gibson, all had at least 300 carries. Although the volume was not there, Gibson made the most of his opportunities. He turned 38 receptions into 735 yards and 8 touchdowns, and 33 carries into 369 yards and 4 touchdowns. 19.3 yards per catch and 11.2 yards per rush, with a touchdown on 17% of his touches are incredibly impressive numbers. He very well may not have been that efficient if he was a more significant part of the offense, but Ron Rivera will have to figure that out.

To be a top-five rookie running back, he will have to get enough opportunity within the offense. Derrius Guice getting cut certainly helps Gibson’s chances. Adrian Peterson and Bryce Love are seemingly the only ones who stand in the rookie’s way of a significant workload. Peterson is now 35 years old, and Bryce Love has yet to debut after tearing his ACL back in 2018. Currently, Gibson is going as the 10th rookie running back. There is a clear top five of Edwards-Helaire, Taylor, Swift, Dobbins, and Akers. Then, fantasy owners must decide between Vaughn, Moss, Dillon, Evans, and Gibson. Dillon and Evans are stuck behind Aaron Jones and Derrick Henry, respectively. Moss will have to fight for rushing chances between Devin Singletary and Josh Allen. Vaughn will start the year behind Ronald Jones, and Bruce Arians has always favored the passing game to a ground attack. Of the top five, only CEH is penciled in as the Week 1 starter for his team. If Gibson gets enough opportunity to showcase his skills, the sky’s the limit for a guy getting drafted much lower than he should.    

Dallas Cowboys: 2nd Team Ever With Three 1000 yard WRs and a 1500 yard RB

I did a little research, and there have only been five teams in NFL history that have had a trio of 1000 yard receivers in the same year. Of those five teams, only one had a running back who amassed 1500 rushing yards. The 2020 Dallas Cowboys will be the second. The first thing they have going for them is their schedule. The Giants, Eagles, and Washington were three teams opposing offenses looked forward to playing against last year, and this year is no different. The Cardinals, Bengals, and Falcons are also on this year’s schedule, and each of those teams has easily exploitable defenses. According to PFF, the Cowboys have the third easiest schedule in the entire league. Another advantage of this schedule is that they play multiple teams with new head coaches. Although Mike McCarthy is in his first year with Dallas, their Offensive Coordinator, Kellen Moore, has returned.  

Getting an easy schedule will be helpful, but the Cowboys may have accomplished this feat while playing more challenging teams. Jerry Jones has to be given credit for putting together an offense that was sixth in the league in points per game last year, and they look to be even better this year. Dak Prescott, a former fourth-round pick, was 100 yards shy of 5000 and accounted for 33 touchdowns between his arm and legs. He finished as the QB2. Ezekiel Elliot was drafted the same weekend as Dak, just three rounds earlier. Although the decision to draft a running back fourth overall can be debated, Zeke has undoubtedly lived up to the hype. In all three years, he was able to play at least 15 games, and he rushed for at least 1350 yards. He was the RB2 last year.

At receiver, Amari Cooper is a route running tactician with first-round pedigree, and Michael Gallup took a huge step and was Dak’s favorite target last year. Both players finished inside the top 15 in points per game. Amari and Gallup get to be joined by CeeDee Lamb this year, another first-round pick who already looks the part of a future star. In one of the more loaded wide receiver classes in a long time, Lamb was many people’s favorite. Dak certainly can get Amari, Gallup, and Lamb 1K each. The threat of each of them will open up the run game to allow Zeke to rush for 1500 again. With a very welcoming schedule, all of these milestones are possible.  

New York Giants: Daniel Jones Is A High-End QB2

I am brave enough to admit when I am wrong, and I will be the first to say that Daniel Jones proved me a little bit wrong about him last year. Like many people, I disagreed with the Giants’ decision to select him sixth overall. What surprised me most, and what proved to be beneficial for his fantasy output, was rushing ability. Over his 13 games, Jones rushed 45 times for 279 yards, good for a 6.2 YPA. Of those 45 attempts, 21 resulted in a first down, and two saw him reach the end zone. Because he did not play a full season, Jones finished as QB23. In terms of points per game, though, he was 15th among quarterbacks. Playing behind an offensive line that left a lot to be desired, that is a significant accomplishment. 

Jones’ rookie season is even more impressive when you consider just how many of their offensive weapons missed time. The Giants saw Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, Golden Tate, and Saquon Barkley, miss games last year. Not having a single safety blanket there for every game made his learning curve even steeper. Injuries are difficult to predict, but if their injury woes regress to the mean, Jones should have a lot more help this year. His teammates are not the only ones who will help make this prediction correct, though. Because they play in the same division, the Giants and Cowboys have a very similar schedule. As a result, only six NFL teams will face tougher competition in 2020 than NYG. Over Jones’ first six games last year, he threw six touchdowns to sevens interceptions. In the last seven games of the season, he threw eighteen touchdowns to only five picks. With an easy schedule, and a lot more continuity and help around him, the second half of 2019 is just a stepping stone for his 2020 season.     

Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz Will Be The Worst NFC East QB        

Well, this is last but certainly not least as I saved possibly my hottest take for the final one of this series. Before we get to Wentz himself, let’s go over his division competitors. Dak is the easy one. He was last year’s QB2 and should firmly remain in the top 5. Jerry Jones drafted promising rookie receiver CeeDee Lamb in the first round to surround Dak with talent in every direction he looks. Next, we have Daniel Jones. Jones was QB23 as a rookie last year. He averaged 17.46 points per game, but only played 13 games. By comparison, Wentz averaged 17.68 points per game but played a full 16. Every single starting offensive skill player missed time last year. If Jones plays a full 16 with a healthy squad around him, he should make up the half a point Wentz had on him. Finally, Dwayne Haskins. This is the biggest wild card of the three, but there is a lot of reason for optimism. Josh Rosen might beg to differ, but it could be argued that Haskins was drafted to the worst situation possible. With Ron Rivera running the show, a brand new group of rookie weapons, and a full year as the unquestioned starter, Haskins has all the tools to make a sophomore jump.  

The Eagles’ trusty guard Brandon Brooks is now out for the season and will be replaced by Jason Peters, who has never played the position. That is bad news for the quarterback who has more fumbles than anyone else since he debuted. Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert are arguably the best tight end duo in the league, and Miles Sanders looks promising. Outside of them, though, there are a lot of question marks. Alshon Jeffery is now 30 and has been hurt the past two seasons. Desean Jackson is 33 and has missed more time than Jeffery. Jalen Reagor is a rookie and only managed 611 yards with 5 touchdowns in his final season in the Big 12. A lot of fans blamed many of Wentz’s 2019 issues on his poor supporting cast, but it looks like this year will not be much different.   

Now onto the man himself, Carson Wentz. I am not going to say he is injury prone. However, I will say he has gotten hurt in all four years he has been in the league. In 2016 he fractured his ribs. In 2017 he tore his ACL and LCL and missed their entire Super Bowl run. In 2018 he fractured his back and missed both playoff games. Last year, he was finally healthy enough to start their playoff game! Unfortunately, he could only complete one of four passes for three yards before suffering a concussion. The Eagles have seen first-hand how important it is to have a capable QB behind Wentz. They selected Jalen Hurts 53rd overall for a reason. Don’t be surprised if Carson Wentz is at the bottom looking up at the other NFC East QBs in 2020.  

Brendan Taffe – Dynasty/Podcast
Ride or Dynasty
Twitter: @BCTAFFE

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