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Five Questions About the NFL Season You Want Answered


Whether you are ramping up, or already completed your fantasy football draft there are questions to be answered. Which of those questions do you wish you knew the answers to today? There has recently been a debate struck up on Twitter about when drafts should be held. There seems to be a growing consensus that drafting earlier favor the more prepared, while later drafts even the playing field. Thus, many who work in the industry or who do a steady amount of research prefer earlier drafts to get a leg up. There is a debate to be had, however, about whether or not this is really true.

You have three types of fantasy football players: Those who do an extensive amount of research, overprepare and are extremely knowledgeable. They can recite random factoids, give you breakdowns of which side of the line running backs are more successful running through, etc. etc. etc. The second group is those who have an average amount of general knowledge. This group will cram right before the draft so they feel somewhat confident heading into the big day. The final group is there just for the fun. God bless them.

No matter what group you fall into, do you really feel one group has more of a leg up than the other, outside of the last? Each group is going to research as much as they choose. Fantasy Football is a choice. You play it because you enjoy it. Your level of involvement is completely up to you. Those who feel they lose an edge by drafting later, simply need to research a little more to find an edge. It is out there. In fact, the stats and facts continue to stream out well after you draft. It seeps into who you pick up on waivers, who you buy low and sell high in trades. There are numerous ways to gain an edge. That being said, as we head full steam into the new season, there are plenty of unanswered questions. Here are five questions about the 2019 season you wish you knew the answer to today.

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Which Injuries Should I Worry About? (AKA Todd Gurley)

You can lump this into one big category. How injured is Player A? Is he really hurt? Will he play the majority of the season? Sure, there are plenty of players that fall under this question mark. The biggest one, however, is Gurley. If the Rams running back had a full bill of health, he would easily be a top-two RB heading into 2019. After last year's postseason, however, who knows? The Rams drafted Darrel Henderson. Malcolm Brown is still there. All signs point to some sort of Lebron James-esque load management with Gurley this year. Not only that, the Rams offense looked anemic without him.

So despite the Rams continuing to say Gurley is fine, I'm not so sure. Right now, the former Georgia running back is being drafted late in the first round or into the middle of the second round. If you want to gamble with him, go for it, but risking a first-round pick is not something advisable. For those who don't have Gurley on their draft board, that is actually a strategy that makes sense given the unknown.

 

What About the Holdouts? (Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon)

This may be the first time in history, two stud running backs, who would easily be drafted in the top half of the first round, may drop significantly because of question marks regarding their contracts.

Reading the tea leaves, it seems Gordon is the riskiest play here. Jerry Jones wants to win. Deep down he knows that this team can not be successful without Zeke in the lineup. He has molded this team to be successful with Elliott as its main back. You don't turn your back on years of draft and free-agent strategy because you don't want to pay a running back a contract that you can terminate at any time anyway. Elliott also has two years left on his contract. If Jones continues to play chicken and Elliott folds, there is no guarantee he won't do the same thing next year, but actually, hold out for a significant amount of time the second time around.

Elliott will get a contract before the season starts.

As for Gordon, given his recent injury history and the Chargers aging quarterback, Philip Rivers, it makes sense that Gordon would view his prime-earning potential as a dwindling light. Before he got injured, Gordon was one of the best running backs in the NFL last year. In fact, you can make the case, when healthy, Gordon is a top-five running back. Unlike Elliott, this is Gordon's last year under his rookie contract.

From CBS Sports:

If Gordon holds out until Week 9, he wouldn't earn 9/17th of his salary, meaning he could potentially lose as much as 13 weeks of pay. Gordon could play basically less than half the year and end up making just $1.318 million and then get hit with the tag again next year.

At this point, this looks like where Gordon and the Chargers are headed.

 

How Much Does Playcalling Matter?

There are many who are very excited about the thought of the Air Raid invading the Red Sea. Negative game scripts plus Kingsbury's penchant for pace could be very enticing.

Can one, however, really trust the Arizona Cardinals--any of them?

Obviously, the first name that comes to mind is David Johnson. Last year, the Cardinals were terrible, yet Johnson was able to carve out the ninth-best running back season in PPR formats. He was able to generate so many points because he also handled an NFL-high 48.3% of his team's touches. Johnson also accounted for 41.6% of the team's total touchdowns and 77.7% of the team's rushing touchdowns. Just an ungodly majority. Can he repeat such a dominant role in a team's offense?

Johnson's backfield mate Kyler Murray has a lot of work to do as well. Anyone who witnessed his preseason debut could tell you that. The one thing he has going for him is the precedent set by Baker Mayfield last year. Mayfield tied the rookie record, throwing for 27 touchdowns in 13 games. Murray followed his footsteps at Oklahoma, winning the Heisman. Can he do it again in Arizona? Murray was one of only two FBS players to throw for over 4,000 and run for over 1,000 yards. He also completed 69% of his passes. (Nice)

The main wildcard is Kingsbury. Can a below-average college football head coach translate that into success in the NFL?

That truly is the question.

 

Which RB Outlier Will End as an RB1?

2018: James Conner, James White, Phillip Lindsay, Tarik Cohen

2017: Alvin Kamara, Duke Johnson

2016: Legarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi

It doesn't matter how much you study. It doesn't matter how much you crunch the numbers. Every year, like clockwork, there is a running back that will sneak into the top 12--that no one predicted.

Who is that guy(s) this year?

There are two names to keep an eye on in the middle and end of the draft. The first is Miles Sanders.

Sanders comes into an enviable position as the back with the best offensive line in the league. According to Pro Football Focus, Philadelphia has earned top-ten team pass- and run-blocking grades in each of the last three seasons. The Eagles also added DeSean Jackson to the passing game to keep defensive backfields honest and Jordan Howard to spell Sanders in the run game. There is no reason to suggest Sanders won't succeed, even with Howard in the backfield. While the Eagles do take a running back by committee approach, there is more than enough opportunity for both to be successful. Howard's yard per carry has continued to drop, giving Sanders the opportunity to gain control of the starting job midway through the season and possibly carry an RB1 ranking by the playoffs. Show patience.

The second running back is Devin Singletary. Another rookie running back, Singletary possesses all the tools to be an every-down back for a team in desperate need of an identity outside of second-year quarterback Josh Allen. While LeSean McCoy is the presumed starter, there has long been rumblings of his demise in Buffalo. Typically when you spend a third-round pick, you expect them to play right away. Singletary has proven to be a dynamic back and would be a great compliment for Allen and his running ability.

 

Is Regression Imminent for Stud Tight Ends Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Zach Ertz?

No.

This is not the first go-around for Kelce and Ertz. Kelce has been the top-ranked tight end in the last three seasons. Even with the emergence of Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Kareem Hunt/Damien Williams, Kelce continues to perform at an unparalleled level. Head Coach Andy Reid continues to create opportunities for Kelce to get the ball in space and it has been highly successful. Why would that stop now?

The same can be said for Ertz. The Eagles have been busy this offseason improving their offense. Nothing, however, can imitate Ertz's ability and chemistry with Wentz. While expecting another 100-plus catch, 1,000-yard season may be a lot, it is not out the realm of possibility for a tight end who has been targeted over 100 times each of the last four seasons. Ertz was targeted 44 times more than his previous high, and it accounted for 38 more receptions than his previous high. Even if his targets dip, he should be able to amass over 1,000 yards and maybe even find the end zone more than eight times--his current career-high.

With Kittle, you don't need to look at numbers or incoming 49ers. Last year, the former Iowa Hawkeye totaled over 1,300 yards with the likes of Nick Mullens, C.J. Beathard and very briefly Jimmy Garoppolo throwing the ball. A healthy Garoppolo and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan designing plays to get the ball to its best receiver could see a bigger increase in receptions.

All three should be targeted in the first three rounds.

Then again, we don't really know. We won't really know answers about the 2019 season we wish you knew the answer to until the season is over. At the end of the day, how lucky do you feel?

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