*Taps on microphone* Hello? Is anybody out there listening? Welcome to “3-2-1, Surprise,” a fantasy football column for the Worcester Sports Scene having to do with, you guessed it, fantasy football.
That’s right, I am now your fantasy football waiver-wire savior on the Sabbath every week for the rest of the season. 3-2-1, Surprise (321S), will highlight three “stud” players in that week’s fantasy match-ups, two “duds” to avoid when setting your rosters, one player that is worthy of a waiver wire pickup, as well a “surprise” player that has the ability to outperform themselves that week. With the preseason wrapping up, the focus will be on some overall studs, duds, a waiver wire pickup, as well as a surprise player. With that being said, let us look at a few stud players:
3. Studliest of Studs
James Conner (RB-PIT)
Over the course of this past off-season, Pittsburgh has effectively shed two of the biggest personalities in the NFL, and more importantly, in their locker room, with the trading of LeVeon Bell and Antonio Brown. With veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger still going strong and putting up consistent fantasy numbers, Conner has the potential to end the season as a top 3 RB. Although I am not in love with Conner’s ADP (currently round 1) as Conner is a high-end RB2 as of now, he has a high ceiling and is looking to pick up where he left off before he went down with an injury last season. When healthy, Conner was touching the ball almost 17 times a game on the ground, with an additional five to six looks through the air. With Brown’s exit, Conner will see a slight uptick in targets as well as (hopefully) get a full 16-game season, which should lead to a better stat line. Although he may lose some production to Jaylen Samuels due to “garbage time” points, Conner will be the bell cow running back this coming season for the Steelers and will get the lion’s share of the carries.
DeAndre Hopkins (WR-HOU)
When I think of consistency, I think of a few dudes including arguably the best WR in the league, DeAndre Hopkins. This fantasy giant has the makeup to again be a top 3 WR in 2019. Last season, D-Hop commanded 163 total targets and snagged 115 of them, yielding almost 1,600 yards and 11 trips to the end zone. The combination of a healthy DeShaun Watson, a hurt receiving corps in Keke (no “I don’t love you”) Coutee, Will Fuller, and a hurt RB who occasionally caught out of the backfield in Lamar Miller, Hopkins has the potential to put up even better numbers this coming year, which is scary to think about. Although I suspect he will be drawing double team coverage, which is nothing new, Hopkins is locked in and loaded as a true stud WR and should be played on a weekly basis.
Baker Mayfield (QB-CLE)
Being one of the more exciting stories of the NFL off-season, the Browns may finally be ready to shed the “ugly stepchild” of the NFL persona they have taken on for so long. With a shiny new coach in Freddie Kitchens, as well as an arsenal of weapons in Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, and Nick Chubb, Mayfield may be in line for a huge fantasy year. Having put up 3,700 yards with 27 end zone heaves last season, Mayfield’s fantasy ceiling has gotten even higher with the acquisition OBJ and Tyreek Hill (eh). However, all eyes will be on the offensive line as they try to keep Mayfield healthy and not looking up to the skies after being flattened after every play. With the departure of Kevin Zeitler, who was a top-tier guard last year, the Browns still feature pro-bowler Joel Bitonio and J.C. Tretter, who provide a good enough base to keep Mayfield safe from the likes of T.J. Watt and Geno Atkins in the AFC North. Currently, Mayfield is projected to be a late fourth-round pick in standard 12 team fantasy leagues (ADP 57), and in my opinion, may be worth reaching for a bit earlier. Although with only a limited sample size to go by to gauge how Mayfield may perform this coming season, I am ready to jump on the Mayfield wagon.
2. Dudliest of Duds
Joe Mixon (RB-CIN)
Despite Mixon’s high projected draft position – that being in the late first round or early second round, I am not in love with this running back, at all. When healthy last year, he put up a solid stat line notching 1,168 yards and eight red zone trips on 178 carries. However, one thing I am not in love with is his “revolving door” offensive line, which has most recently lost highly-regarded guard Jonah Williams to a torn labrum and the ever-steady Clint Boling to retirement. Not to mention Andy Dalton is still the guy at the helm throwing the ball for the Cincinnati offense – something I will not get into. Although his 55 targets out of the backfield is tempting for any PPR league team owner, I do think teams are going to be more apt to load the box versus an AJ Green – less receiving corps which will naturally put Mixon on pass rush-coverage duties more often and lead to less draw play opportunities. Being projected as a late first rounder/early second rounder, I would much rather take my chances on the Dalvin Cooks of the world.
Antonio Brown (WR-OAK)
Despite a great 2018 campaign, accumulating almost 1,300 yards on 168 targets (third most in his career) Antonio Brown’s off-the field antics are something to take note of when drafting your fantasy team this year. Regardless of his raw ability to beat coverage downfield and overpower CBs regularly, Brown does not have a Hall-Of-Fame quarterback throwing to him anymore in Ben Roethlisberger, but a battered Derek Carr behind a middle-of-the-pack and unproven offensive line. Being the first option ahead of Tyrell Williams and J.J. Nelson, if Brown manages to stay on the field and keep his head in the game, he will command most of the looks by Carr, provided he gets that initial separation from the defender. With an average ADP of 23, I would stand clear. That’s not to say that if Brown drops and is able to be picked up in the late second or early fourth rounds, I would not take a flier on him, because I most certainly would. Brown will have the potential to be a 1,200=plus-yard WR1 this year; however, will he keep his drama off the field and out of the locker room? Time will tell.
1. Waiver Wire Player to Die For
Michael Gallup (WR-DAL)
Owned in 57 percent of leagues on Yahoo. With the Cowboy’s WR1 Amari Cooper’s status up in the air for Week 1, Michael Gallup would certainly be a waiver wire pick-up that could prove to be not just a possible five to six reception WR in Week 1, but also a fantasy cuff for Cooper, who is currently recovering from his nasty plantar fasciitis. Gallup has shown flashes of brilliance, posting a little over 500 yards last season with a pair of touchdowns on 68 targets, including a six-reception effort for 119-yard game in the playoffs last year. With Cooper (possibly) on the shelf for Week 1, or at least getting limited reps, Gallup is worth an add to act as the important “fantasy band-aid” Cooper owners needed.
Chris Godwin (WR-TB)
Chris Godwin is a budding WR2 seemingly hanging onto a thin thread made up by the very fibers of a low-end WR1. Being on the receiving end of the arm of Jamies “king crab” Winston, the media’s favorite proverbial punching bag, as well as playing behind a solid WR1 in Mike Evans, Godwin certainly has a great chance to reach triple-digit targets this season. Having notched 59 total receptions in 2018, Godwin was third on the Bucs behind Adam Humphries (105) and Evans (138) with 95 total targets. With the departure of DeSean Jackson this past off-season, Godwin will get an uptick in targets, which boosts his overall value. Seemingly acting as Winston’s preseason “security blanket” out of the slot, Godwin is projected to be a solid WR2 who may just surprise fantasy owners with low-end WR1 output. Will Godwin put up unbelievable numbers? No. However, can Godwin give you decent flex numbers and the potential for WR2 production? Yes.