First and foremost, Happy New Year! This is my first DFF article in 2019, and hopefully the first of many. 2018 was an exciting year for me personally, particularly since I began writing for the Dynasty Football Factory, and it culminated in an incredible Christmas. I hope your holiday season was equally as enjoyable.
Now, enough of the pleasantries – let’s get to why you are here.
Following the holidays, we are often inundated with retail sales, bargains, and discounts encouraging us to spend all of the cash and gift vouchers we were fortunate to receive (even if Grandma still thinks that $5 is a lot of money).
Much like the post-holiday shopping season, the fantasy offseason brings its own type of bargains as owners look towards the NFL and rookie drafts with stars in their eyes. Hype and highlight videos have every college prospect looking like a slam dunk, whilst forgotten veterans are left on the scrap heap – especially those who were injured in the previous season.
This article looks at five players who suffered injuries in the 2018 season which hampered their production to some degree.
The Falcons running back has struggled with injuries in recent seasons, which isn’t good for a running back. However, Freeman is still relatively young and will play the 2019 season at the age of 27 years old.
Freeman’s contract also means that he will almost certainly be in Atlanta in 2019, and unlikely that impending free agent Tevin Coleman will sign a contract extension (per Spotrac):
Should Coleman leave town as expected, it leaves 2018 rookie Ito Smith as the other significant running back on the roster to challenge Freeman for touches. Not to worry, however, as Freeman has shown he can be a fantasy stud, even with the presence of another back on the roster. In his worst full season as a starter (2017), Freeman totaled 1,182 scrimmage yards and 8 touchdowns finishing as the RB13 despite Coleman gaining 183 total touches.
I’m not the only writer at DFF who likes Freeman for 2019. Jerry Sinclair wrote this piece a few weeks ago and correctly pointed out that Freeman’s other seasons as a starter have been immense, finishing as the RB1 in 2015, and the RB6 in 2016. Over this period he led the NFL in total yards from scrimmage (3,175) and came 2nd only to David Johnson with 22 total touchdowns.
In August 2018, his ADP was 25 overall which has now dropped 40 spots to 65 overall. With the influx of young talent to the position, it’s not surprising to see Freeman’s stock drop but I expect him to return solid RB2 figures, ahead of his current ADP of RB24. He’s a cheaper bridge option to vaunted 2020 RB class, particularly if you missed the boat on any of the 2018 rookies (or made the mistake of drafting Ronald Jones).
The 2018 preseason hype for Jerick McKinnon was truly out of control. His ADP skyrocketed from outside the top 200 and peaked at 30 overall. He’s currently sat at RB36 and 96 overall, a far more reasonable price tag. One that takes into account the fact that he, unfortunately, tore his ACL in preseason practice forcing him to miss the entire 2018 season.
Fortunately for McKinnon, the heralded Kyle Shanahan running game was again in full effect in 2018 despite missing a collection of offensive pieces, including franchise QB Jimmy Garoppolo.
Using a motley crew of running backs, San Francisco managed to finish 13th in the NFL in rushing yards per game (118.9), but 28th in points scored against per game (27.2). Despite finding themselves in sub-optimal rushing situations, Shanahan was able to patch together a committee comprised of three UDFAs (Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert, and Jeff Wilson) and 7-year veteran Alfred Morris who was signed off the street.
Whilst there is no guarantee that McKinnon will be in Santa Clara in 2019, it would be surprising to see the 49ers absorb a $6 million cap hit for a player Shanahan was so effusive in his praise for following his signing. If he is, in fact, a 49er, McKinnon would immediately be the best pass-catching back on the roster, who was starting to build a rapport with Jimmy G prior to his injury.
McKinnon has the potential to have a significant workload in one of the most running back friendly schemes in football, and he’s available in the 8th round of start-up drafts. Buy him now before the offseason hype and workout videos start to drive his price up again.
At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, Will Fuller might be one of the best deep threats in the NFL. Unfortunately, he has struggled with injuries the past two seasons, but there is no doubting his rapport with Deshaun Watson. In 7 games in the 2018 season, Fuller totaled 503 yards and 4 touchdowns on 32 receptions with an impressive catch rate of 71.1%, including three games with over 100 yards receiving.
His presence on the field elevates the whole Texans offense, and improves the fantasy output of both Watson and DeAndre Hopkins:
Fuller is just 24 years old and has shown his remarkable deep ball tracking and efficiency in two separate seasons. It’s no fluke. He’s also almost always going to see favorable coverages since DeAndre Hopkins requires so much defensive attention.
He is being drafted in mock drafts as the 32nd WR off the board, and 62nd overall. Whilst he was flying high during the season, his ADP rose to 34 overall. Take advantage of this injury discount before his price starts to climb back up again.
I was really excited for Baldwin last season. A truckload of targets left the Seattle passing game in the offseason, leaving Dougie Fresh as the ostensible beneficiary. Unfortunately, due to a series of knee injuries, Baldwin was limited to 13 full games, and he wasn’t 100% healthy for many of those either. Not only that, new OC Brian Schottenheimer said the Hawks were going to run the football, and boy, they ran the football. Russell Wilson threw at a league-low rate of 47%, which is also the lowest in the NFL over the past three seasons (per Sharp Football Stats).
Unfortunately for the Seahawks, this addiction to the run saw them bounced out of the playoffs in the Wild Card Round and it was in part due to this very stubborn and predictable play calling:
The #Seahawks attempted "Run-Run" on six different sets of downs versus the Cowboys. They only converted on ONE of their third downs after starting the set of downs like this!
— Samuel Gold (@SamuelRGold) January 7, 2019
Whether there will be any changes in Seattle based on this result is yet to be seen, but if there is a change in play caller in Seattle, Baldwin could benefit. He is a risky buy right now, but with such a proven production history, it could prove a shrewd move if Wilson is called upon to throw the ball with a little more regularity.
From 2015 – 2017, Baldwin’s production was elite. Here’s the company he shared:
Baldwin’s ADP has never accurately reflected this production, and in August 2018 it was about 42 overall. He now sits at 75, and my guess is that it will be even lower once January ADP has been collected. I do not suggest that he will return to his level of production noted above, but since he has ng only recently turned 30, and playing over 62% of his snaps from the slot (Player Profiler), Baldwin has the ability to produce low-end WR2 or high-end WR3 numbers for several more seasons yet.
After a disappointing 2018, Baldwin is an ideal player to target this offseason especially if there are rumblings about a change at OC.
The TE position was an absolute trash heap last season. It was to fantasy football, as the Arizona Cardinals are to real football. Graham Barfield points out just how bad the position was:
Tight end fantasy scoring has hit eight-year lows in back to back seasons. In 2018, TEs saw their lowest cumulative target total in 10 years: pic.twitter.com/WWehKE2BAR
— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) January 3, 2019
Obviously, there are many reasons why the position suffered, but injury to quality TEs is one of them. Jack Doyle can count himself among that number, as he played in only 6 games with a variety of rib and internal organ injuries. Eric Ebron is the hot name in Indianapolis right now, and rightly so. ‘Hands of Stone’ revived his career with a change of team, finishing with 14 total touchdowns which was 2nd in the NFL behind only Steelers want away wideout, Antonio Brown.
Both Doyle ($5.65 million) and Ebron ($6.75 million) can be cut without any dead cap implications after the 2018 season (Spotrac), but I don’t believe that either of them will be leaving town. Firstly, the Colts will have an estimated $123.8 million in cap space in 2019 (OverTheCap), which means they are under no financial pressure to cut them. Secondly, the Colts targeted the TE position on 27% of their passes (Sharp Football Stats) in 2018. They also ran “12 personnel” having 2 TEs on the field, 19% of the time which is above the league average of 17%.
Having both Ebron and Doyle on the roster does not concern me for Doyle’s fantasy outlook. With the exception of the game against Miami in which he suffered his kidney injury, Doyle was a consistent presence on the field for the Colts. He logged a minimum of 73.1% of snaps in his 5 other games at an average of 86.6%. In those same games, Ebron failed to log more than 45.1% of the Colts offensive snaps.
Outside of TY Hilton, the Colts have a thin pass-catching corps. A healthy Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron can form an excellent tandem in 2019 to take this offense to the next level. However, Ebron has a current ADP of 77 (TE8), and Doyle’s ADP is 185 (TE 25). I know which Colts TE I will be targeting this offseason.
The ADP of all of these players had dropped since the early part of the 2018 season. Fantasy players are fickle and impatient, and more often than not fall victim to recency bias. Get out there, make some trades, and take advantage of these preseason sales whilst prices are still slashed.
NB – all fantasy football statistics in this article come from ffstatistics.com and unless otherwise stated. Shout out to its creator Addison Hayes (@_amazehayes), and ADP data comes from his website which can be found here. Other stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.