Fantasy Football

2019 Fantasy Football Topical Players: The Deep Blue Sea


As we enter that interval between the off-season programs and training camp, it gives us a chance to sort out own cheatsheets and try to find a sweet spot for the problem players. This is the challenge we face with some awkward players in and around the higher tiers of fantasy value. Let us take a look at a handful of these 2019 Fantasy Football Topical Players.

Players returning from injury, suspensions, holdouts, switching teams and systems, etc. – all of this gives us pause for taking on some risk versus the safer alternatives in a fantasy draft. Nobody has a firm answer, except for a best guess on the players in these fluid situations. The bottom line is that no one wants to draft a headache – whether it eventually turns out well or not.

How Soon is Eventually?

That’s a word we don’t like in fantasy – eventually. Time is of the essence; especially in a 16 week NFL fantasy season. Bench spots can only hold so much deadwood for only so long. It took people 13 plus weeks to confidently cut Le’Veon Bell in 2018. You don’t want that.

These are the players that remind me in part of the old song “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea”

I don’t want you but I hate to lose you
You got me in between the devil and the deep blue sea
I forgive you because I can’t forget you
You got me in between the devil and the deep blue sea

I want to cross you off my list
But when you come knocking at my door
Fate seems to give my heart a twist
And I come running back for more

I should hate you but I guess, I love you
You got me in between the devil and the deep blue sea

So, in no particular order, here are a half-dozen players we have cautionary issues with.

2019 Fantasy Football Topical Players

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Antonio Brown, WR, Oakland Raiders

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Issue: New system and unproven chemistry with quarterback.

I thought I’d start with a player among the lighter concerns. It might be better to think of Brown in terms as more of a Michael Crabtree as opposed to a Jordy Nelson.

Amari Cooper stunned everyone in 2018 by turning into a solid stud almost immediately with the Cowboys after the mid-season trade. Players just don’t suddenly improve like that. So we had to ask questions about the Raiders staff, and in particular, Derek Carr.

After his late-season 2016 broken leg injury, Derek Carr seems to have less of an inclination to extend plays as he did before. Therefore, the success of Carr translating well for Brown’s fantasy fortunes will depend on better pass protection. Numbers like the 51 sacks in 2018 just will not do.

Alas, the Raiders continue their contrived bad boy reputation with a patchwork group of league misfits, instead of straightforward team building. For example, signing Richie Incognito on the offensive line. Let’s throw something together and see if it works. They fired Del Rio for attempting to actually implement a five-year plan. The Raiders don’t do it like that.

Another aspect equally important for Antonio Brown is that the team scoring for the Raiders has to rise from the bottom five. Remember that Brown is coming from a team which finished the season at sixth last year. The last time Steelers ended the season outside of the top-ten in scoring was in 2013.

Bright side?

I could nit-pick on other negatives for Brown in Oakland, but there’s plenty of positives going for him.

Targets, for one. Derek Carr has to throw the ball to someone. Antonio Brown should receive a good peppering and has enough talent to challenge all the best corners in the NFL. Okay, it might be a stretch to expect the targets up in the customary stratosphere of the 150s-160s with Big Ben, but we know anything upward of 130 will do just fine.

Antonio Brown may not have an ideal offense fantasy-wise, but the main thing is that he can make a fresh start. One change which may serve him and his fantasy owners well is to stop yapping and stirring the pot on social media.

Summary: Low to medium risk choice in the second round of 12-teamers. Derek Carr and Antonio Brown need to establish a chemistry quickly. I have doubts about the offensive line strength. However, a robust running game with Jacobs and Martin to open up a prolific passing attack seems plausible.

Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams

Issue: Lingering knee problems; arthritic

The fantasy bonanza days of Todd Gurley are over. But are they?

Indicators point that they are. Let’s face it, the Rams ran Gurley beyond his tolerance level in 2017-2018. Some guys can handle a heavy workload pounding and some guys cannot. Although we appreciate the fantasy production, we sacrifice long-term injury problems with talented players. Say what you will about Frank Gore, but in his heyday, he was a solid and unflappable RB1. He’s still playing today in his 36th year (!) and yet remains with some deep fantasy value.

If only Gurley were as durable. The Rams are frustratingly evasive about Gurley’s condition and how they plan to ease his workload. No one really knows. This is why everyone in the fantasy analyst sphere does not particularly enjoy speculating about Gurley. He’s a hot topic we wish would go away. However, the Gurley concern is too large a fantasy matter to ignore.

The Workload Taken Away

C.J. Anderson essentially replaced Gurley as the feature back right around fantasy playoff time in 2018. I know, disgusting, right? It’s always the guys that get you there who let you down when it really counts.

Although the Rams are slow to show evidence of their ideas for the 2019 backfield, we did get a peek under the hood during the 2019 draft. Darrell Henderson, running back out of Memphis, was a trade-up pick for the Rams in the 3rd round. With Malcolm Brown re-signed and a sparsely tested John Kelly still in strong contention for a roster spot, the Rams certainly have the time-share option on the table.

Summary: Training camp reports cannot come soon enough to help us figure out what’s going on. For those in way-early drafts, your best choice is to avoid Gurley. Until we get some training camp insider witnesses to give their take, Gurley stands as a medium-high risk player to draft in an early round. I doubt he goes below a medium risk even in a best-case scenario as we move into August. It may take all the way to the dress rehearsal preseason game in the 3rd week (Broncos-Rams), to finalize our decisions of where Gurley stands.

Tyreek Hill, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

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Issue: Pending league suspension for domestic abuse

We do not look beyond these serious matters and in the case of Adrian Peterson in 2014, we just as carefully and seriously disengage our passions of fantasy football then as now for the people affected. This is an unfortunate part of fantasy which perhaps makes our community appear coldly detached from the reality of humankind.

Bearing this in mind within a judicious balance of respect, we still need to look at the latest concerning Tyreek Hill and a likely suspension for fantasy purposes. Prior to the end of June, the Tyreek Hill child abuse case, involving he and his partner, was looking dire from a fantasy perspective.

Hill and his partner avoided charges. Although this is positive and possibly saves Hill from a Commissioner Exemption, a maximum four-game suspension is the presumptive penalty he faces according to sources. That said, predicting what the league hands down after their own investigation; with everything of Hill’s history on the matter taken into account, is really guesswork.

Hill to Report for Camp

Indications are that Hill will participate in training camp, which gives optimism for a brief suspension. However, that isn’t necessarily a given, and as stated above, the league weighs matters very differently than a court. Players are league employees and not league citizens.

Nevertheless, the latest news throws Tyreek Hill back into the fantasy fray. If you have written him out of your early cheatsheet, put him back in or around your nominal level of ‘push-pull’ value among wide receivers.

Summary: The best case scenario is not the length of Hill’s suspension, but the timeframe for the league to decide. Earlier the better of course. If Hill receives a short suspension, then his value remains almost as it would had no incident occurred. However, the next question after the league decision is what the Chiefs themselves will do in the aftermath. All this requires close monitoring. Right now, Hill is looking at better value than a low to medium risk prospect, something we did not see happening in early June.

Kareem Hunt, RB, Cleveland Browns

Issue: Eight game suspension; prominent role doubtful

If you want a refresher on the Kareem Hunt case, just click the emoji balloon next to his name for the player card and follow some links. I have no interest in recapping it for you. I just don’t.

We lost a sensational fantasy asset who would likely be among the top five backs in 2019. The best Hunt gets after his eight-game suspension is a sub-par timeshare with Nick Chubb. That’s a longshot too. The only thing that puts Kareem Hunt on the field with any fantasy alacrity is a Chubb injury.

Hunt is a tainted bargain player. In a similar way from a long list of guys like Martavis Bryant.

Summary: There is no risk of drafting Hunt because of his deeper ADP, but there’s little chance of reward. If you are in a deep league, he might have to come off the board by compulsion among other fringe picks. I’m not drafting him, but as with Joe Mixon, eventually his deeds will fade. When it happens, his fantasy value will revive. Just not this season.

Le’Veon Bell, RB, New York Jets

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Issue: New team with poor run-blocking offensive line projections

Bell did a lot of damage to the reputation of redraft fantasy last season. The twitter anger went white hot in disgust over league fantasy. His long holdout in 2018 wasted an early draft pick for enthusiasts, while DFS people simply walked happily in the sunshine.

Fortunately, we got over it. As we always do. Fresh starts can often pay benefits.

I’d say Bell could do worse than ending up on the Jets… yes I’d say that if there were more than 32 teams in the league. That’s right. The Jets are dead last according to Football Outsiders in projected run blocking. Their stuff rate is abysmal at 26.1% – the league worst. If a typical defense stuffs Bell one in every four carries, it means in a 16 touch game Bell will have just 12 carries to produce positive yardage. That said, good running backs can still play well without a good offensive line, but it sure helps.

Volume Helps

A major factor going for Bell is that he’ll get the volume if the Jets don’t fall behind too often. Elijah McGuire should sink into a relief role, so this looks like Bell’s offense.

That is “looks like” Bell’s offense. It’s actually Adam Gase’s offense – doesn’t that make you jump for joy?

Gase left plenty on the table in Miami and his once-lauded credentials with offensive smarts from his time in Denver continued to droop. Fortunately, Gase really has no recourse but to use Bell exclusively because the talent depth pretty much ends after McGuire.

Summary: Bell is in the straight-up medium band of risk. He is just 27 and holds the workhorse role on the Jets. However, the Jets’ offensive line is no minor concern and a severe bust remains a distinct possibility. If Bell can overcome these difficulties and work well within the Gase scheme, then he’ll provide enough RB1 fantasy point averages to satisfy every owner.

Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

Issue: Injury prone; attitude

During a late-season game against the Bills, Fournette had a dust-up with Shaq Lawson ending with a one-game suspension. Fournette had no business being anywhere near the end zone after Donte Moncrief‘s touchdown. Now I don’t want to make a lot out of Fournette’s tantrums because several other players have clashed with opponents. Marshawn Lynch comes to mind.

That said, this sort of stuff reveals character. And character matters with our fantasy players. Fournette was put under arrest in April for speeding and violating a license suspension. We don’t need this sort of thing. Take it as a cautionary tale. Fournette wants to move on from this stuff, but talk is cheap.

Fournette has every advantage to become a rushing leader with just Alfred Blue and Ryquell Armstead as part of the change of pace backfield. The touches are all there for the taking – we think.

Yet, Fournette hovers in the mid-teens of ADP and ECR when a back of his opportunity really belongs in the top ten. But Fournette remains a carrier of injury risk. Although his 2017 was relatively injury free, since then he has yet to prove he can play a string of games without a hamstring pull or other malady. This is why fantasy bloggers are consensus driven on Fournette and lean toward bust.

The Jaguars Need Fournette

Nick Foles could make good use of Fournette’s abilities to open up a passing attack; which went anemic during the tenure of Blake Bortles. There are indications Fournette could have an expanded role in pass receiving as well.

Other problems persist. The Jaguars voided his guarantees following the incident with Shaq Lawson mentioned above. This irritant already drives a wedge between Fournette and the organization. Solve this equation: (unhappy bunny + derelict attitude + hamstring problems) = x; where x equals the ratio of time and tolerance.

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Summary: Fournette is above medium-high risk; almost touching the upper red. Yet, if he indeed shapes up and gets on with his job, he also comes with high reward; almost touching the upper green. However, he’ll have to also improve on a 3.3 yard average in his abbreviated 2018 season. I can fairly give some grace and erase that because Fournette made those stats coming off an injury. Just the same, extra work required in body and mind for Leonard Fournette in 2019.

Get prepared for the 2019 Fantasy Football season by checking out the rest of our Fantasy Football content.

About Richard Savill

Richard is a NFL Fantasy Football Senior Writer and Editor of Fantasy Six Pack. Host of The Fantasy Edge Podcast. FantasyPros Contributor. Member of the FSWA. Richard is known for his "outside the box" insight into NFL fantasy football. He ranked 6th in draft rankings on Fantasy Pros in 2020.

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