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Four and Out: Fantasy Outlooks for Divisional Round Losers

For the four teams that were eliminated in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs, the offseason has begun. For many fantasy football owners, the days have already started counting down to next season. Owners in dynasty leagues have started to mull over their decisions. 

How some guys perform in the playoffs can certainly alter perceptions about how they are viewed in the fantasy world. The postseason is the highest level of competition possible, and how players respond when the games are at their most intense and competitive levels can indicate whether or not we can raise expectations on them for the following season.

Here are some important fantasy storylines to consider on the four teams who saw their seasons end this past weekend.  

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Wide Open Opportunities

Earlier this week, I outlined how Lamar Jackson’s performance against the Titans may have put a slight dent in his fantasy appeal for next season. He certainly is not going to approach last year’s production if the Ravens do not improve a very shaky WR corps with a significant move.

My one major concern for the Ravens entering the postseason was that they simply were not equipped in the passing game to play from behind. And of course, when Tennessee built a healthy lead over the Ravens, they did not have the playmakers to help them get back into the game. Marquise Brown posted quality totals, but he should not be anything more than a No. 2 WR for Baltimore at this point in his career. If Baltimore acquires a truly impactful WR in the offseason, Brown’s second-year outlook should get a boost.

The Ravens are towards the bottom part of the league in terms of cap space as the offseason opens, but finding an established WR should be a priority. They are not going to find an immediately outstanding contributor in the NFL Draft. There have already been published reports affixing A.J. Green to the Ravens, and Emmanuel Sanders would be an even better fit as a reliable and sometimes explosive WR1 for Jackson. 

Baltimore tried to patch its receiving holes with rookies and journeymen types last offseason. They need to make a bigger splash this offseason to help Jackson more in the passing game. Such a move can only help ensure a strong outlook for him in 2020. 


Pieces Needed in Houston

There is no doubt that DeAndre Hopkins will be a first-round pick in fantasy football next season, and he remains a prime keeper. Deshaun Watson will be one of the top-four QBs taken in most drafts. But the Texans have other offensive needs to address that definitely should be monitored by fantasy players. 

First and foremost, the Texans need to bolster their running game to make a deeper playoff run. They have not been able to effectively address the situation for a long time now. The Texans have not provided us with a truly dependable and highly productive RB since Arian Foster was in his prime. The combination of Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson was adequate at best and mediocre overall. 

Houston is top-12 in available cap money, so they can likely afford to address the situation in free agency. Melvin Gordon may be the biggest name to hit the market, but we have seen the Texans veer away from competing for star types. Kenyan Drake would make more sense financially, and his speed would be a welcome element. But the Texans already do have a receiving RB in Johnson, so maybe they could elect to pair him with a purer physical runner and someone more dynamic than Hyde via a trade or through the draft. However they do it, the Texans would be wise to feature a new RB when the new season opens. 

Houston is also more potent on offense when Will Fuller is healthy, but that never seems to be the case for long enough. Kenny Stills was acquired as downfield insurance but didn’t step up as hoped often enough when Fuller was out. We could see a new No. 2/3 WR in Houston as well. Free-agent Robby Anderson would be an ideal fit. 

By the time the summer rolls around, Watson could have a new pass-catcher that might only elevate his fantasy appeal for 2020, and the Texans may be a quality source of run production for the first time in a long time. There’s hope for offensive improvement and better fantasy production here. 


Two WR2s in Seattle

The Seahawks top two wide receivers delivered big performances in the postseason, with a historic outing from D.K. Metcalf against Philadelphia preceding Tyler Lockett’s quality game against Green Bay. Both guys will be drafted as fantasy WR2s next season. Metcalf finally started showing he can make plays on contested catches during the postseason, a feat he had trouble with for much of the regular season. Metcalf looked even more complete as a pass-catcher during the postseason and he should have a true breakout campaign in 2020.

Lockett was very unreliable down the stretch in the regular season as opponents made a strong effort to take him away and see if other Seattle pass-catchers could beat them. The approach finally proved to be a failure in the Wild Card game. Now that Metcalf has shown he commands more defensive respect, that can only help Lockett more throughout the next season. We already saw the results of extra defensive attention devoted to Metcalf in the Green Bay game. Lockett caught nine passes for 136 yards and a TD. He should be more reliable throughout the 2020 season and consider him a second keeper. Metcalf should be a third keeper. 


When Should We Start Cooking?

The Vikings seem to have their prime playmakers in place for 2020. Plus, they are one of the teams with the lowest cap space available heading into the offseason. They could try to add a bit of WR depth, but if Irv Smith Jr. continues to improve, he could emerge as a third option in the passing game. 

So the only big fantasy questions are when should you draft Dalvin Cook in 2019, and is he a slam-dunk No. 1 keeper? 

When he was healthy this year, Cook seemed to be the only RB that could truly rival the all-around production of Christian McCaffrey. He played his most games ever, but we still lost him down the stretch and he missed fantasy Super Bowl week. Whether it’s a major or minor issue, injuries will always seem to be a concern for Cook. 

So I am definitely not taking him ahead of Christian McCaffrey, Derrick Henry, Saquon Barkley or Alvin Kamara. At best, he would be my fifth RB off the board, and I will certainly take at least three or four WRs ahead of Cook. In the most optimistic scenario, he would be a late first-rounder for me. 

From keeper perspectives, Cook would not be my first choice if I had another superstar player to consider who is more reliable health-wise. He is always going to battle nagging issues because of his previous health history. If I am keeping Cook, I would actually consider retaining Alexander Mattison, too. He looked like one of the best backup RBs in the NFL as a rookie. 

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