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Early Draft Targets - 2019 Fantasy Football


I know, the 2018 season is not quite over yet. But really, what is more important, the Super Bowl or getting a jump on the 2019 fantasy football season? Well, if you are a fan of either the Patriots or Rams, the answer might be the Super Bowl. But for the rest of you, it should be the impending fantasy season.

For this reason, we are going to give you a list of some players to target in drafts, whether it be due to a breakout, a re-emergent season on the horizon, or because they are being under-drafted and could awaken to a major role on your roster.

Everyone knows fantasy football doesn’t stop. Much like all major sports leagues, there is no offseason. There are months where preparation is the name of the game. So, let’s find you some winners for the upcoming season so you can start now!

Editor's Note: Get any full-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive In-Season Lineup Tools, Lineup Optimizer and over 150 days of Premium DFS Research. Sign Up Now!

 

QB Draft Targets

Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Bucs

Did he have a good 2018? Not exactly, as he began with a suspension and then was benched due to poor play. But it is hard for anyone to have a good season when you don’t know from week to week, or even half to half if you are going to be the starter. Add to this the dreadful run game led by disappointing rookie Ronald Jones and it is not hard to see why the Buccaneers finished last in the NFC South and fired their head coach.

With the firing of Dirk Koetter comes the return of Bruce Arians and the entrance of Byron Leftwich as offensive coordinator - a duo which resurrected the career of Carson Palmer in Arizona. Yes, the Cardinals had an elite running back in David Johnson, but with the offensive acumen of Arians and Leftwich, the thought has to be that they will figure it out with the backs in Tampa Bay or possibly with a free agent signing to bring life to this part of the offense. Either way, Bruce Arians is a quarterback-friendly head coach meaning Jameis Winston should finally be back in the sunlight of the Sunshine State. It should be noted that he did finish strong last season, posting a 13/4 TD/INT rate over the last six games, so there might not be too much work to do.

Immaturity both on and off the field have held him back and if he wants a contract extension for the Buccaneers, he is going to have to stay on the straight and narrow and ball out. Both of these realizations will bode well for his fantasy performances in 2019 as he goes for the contract extension he so badly wants. This means despite being drafted as a back-end QB1 in fantasy drafts, he will have a real chance to finish as a top-five player at the position with weapons like Mike Evans, Adam Humphries and Chris Goodwin. Not to mention the return of O.J. Howard who was the TE4 in 2018 before heading to injured reserve to finish the season.

Waiting on quarterback is the right thing to do in most instances. If you wait and get Jameis Winston you will be very happy with the return on investment.

 

RB Draft Targets

David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals

At least we found one thing Mike McCoy accomplished. He used David Johnson and the rest of the offense so poorly it has made him a sleeper for next season. One of the top three players selected in many 2018 drafts, Johnson was a real disappointment as it pertains to his value over the entirety of the season. He finished as the RB10 in fantasy scoring, averaging 12.3 points per game. On a dismal offense with the worst performing rookie quarterback in the NFL this is actually quite impressive. With new blood in with the hiring of Kliff Kingsbury as new head coach, there should be a lot of value and resurgence from Johnson whom will now be taken at the end of the first round or the start of the second round rather than the start of the draft.

If this is the case, he should be a strong selection over other players who may be in consideration at this point. Have we learned nothing about taking quarterbacks or tight ends in the first coupel of rounds? Please don’t take Travis Kelce or Patrick Mahomes so early, even if you really want to.

A top running back is much harder to find and one who can stay healthy is even harder to find. Owning Johnson, who played in all 16 games last season, is a true blessing over players like Melvin Gordon or James Conner, who while they may have better talent surrounding them, are more prone to missing a game or two leaving you stranded mid-season for a replacement.

Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns

Imagine how good the Browns could have been if Hue Jackson knew how to evaluate talent and actually got Nick Chubb on the field at the beginning of the season. Maybe they could have beaten the Steelers in Week 1 and made the playoffs. Well, let’s be fair, if they had won in Week 1, he may have lasted longer as the coach and the season would have completely crumbled. But it is still fun to think about things like what if he were even a competent coach.

Despite his very limited usage to start the season, Chubb still finished with 192 rushes for 996 yards and eight touchdowns while being the leader of the backfield after the trade of Carlos Hyde to the Jaguars for a fifth-round draft pick. Coming into 2019, he will be the clear go-to back with Duke Johnson Jr. providing some passing-down work and a presence as a possible breather to Chubb after a drive of heavy usage.

With a young gun like Baker Mayfield behind center, it will be important for Chubb to pick up on his pass blocking, but if he is able to accomplish this over the offseason he will become even more of an asset. He needs to be as good as advertised since he will cost a second-round pick in most drafts. At this price, he is going to be drafted at his ceiling due to his hype. But, in this case, I think he should live up to the hype and reach his ceiling, making this a fair draft price to pay for him.

 

WR Draft Targets

Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears

Coming off his ACL injury in 2017, Allen Robinson took quite a while to fit into the Bears offense. He did not have a great season overall, but his close to the season left a lot to look forward to heading into 2019. Not only did he take a major step forward throughout the season but so did quarterback Mitch Trubisky, making this a quarterback/wide receiver duo which could run roughshod over the NFC North for the better part of the next decade much like Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson did in the past decade.

55 receptions for 754 yards and four touchdowns are not the stats wanted or even needed out of your number one receiver, even in only 13 games played. With the offense being what it is in Chicago, which is to say run-based with Tarik Cohen as well as leaning heavily on the tight end position, these numbers are good for the system. They are comparable to another top wideout in former Bear Alshon Jeffery in his 2017 season, which saw him be the number one receiver for the Super Bowl-winning Philadelphia Eagles.

As Trubisky gains more confidence in the Matt Nagy offense and the offense becomes more well rounded in the second season, these numbers should rise to a level more suited to a true number one. Look for a line closer to 85 receptions for 1,100 yards and 8-10 touchdowns.

These expected numbers are why he is a clear target in the fourth or fifth round of fantasy drafts and also why he holds a spot in the top 20 wide receiver rankings going into 2019.

 

TE Draft Targets

David Njoku, Cleveland Browns

Finishing the 2018 season as the eighth-ranked tight end in a season of mediocre tight end play may not seem like a good thing for David Njoku. Entering what will be his third NFL season, however, he has a few things going for him which should allow him to thrive in the pivotal third season for a tight end.

First of all, he will not have Hue Jackson as his head coach, and this is good for anyone on a team, not just a tight end. Being handcuffed in his first two seasons in this manner, Njoku was still able to be a solid contributor and with a full offseasonn to work with Baker Mayfield and the rest of the offense, he should gain even more of a comfort level in the offense being introduced by Freddie Kitchens and offensive coordinator Todd Monken.

Monken, who in 2018 was the offensive coordinator in Tampa Bay where O.J. Howard finished as the TE10 despite only playing in 10 games, will bring a tight end-friendly offense to Cleveland which also saw Cameron Brate finish in the top 20 at the position in 2018 for the Buccaneers. This will allow Njoku to continue his upward trajectory into the top five tight ends.

With players like Jared Cook and Eric Ebron, who finished ahead of him this season, likely to regress, he will have an easier time moving up than he will moving down. He can be taken late in drafts, especially when compared to players like Zach Ertz, Travis Kelce and George Kittle, making him a tremendous value. Even players like the above-mentioned Eric Ebron and O.J. Howard will be taken ahead of Njoku even though the ceiling for the Browns as a team and for Njoku as a player are higher than either of them.

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