It’s Week 17 of the NFL season, and 95 percent of fantasy football leagues have been wrapped up. Fantasy football should not be played in Week 17 for a variety of reasons. When an elite NFL team (like New Orleans) has already locked up the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage in its respective conference, the coaching staff typically sits star players in Week 17 to avoid injury in a meaningless game or to rest up for the postseason. You should never have to find another quarterback to start in your fantasy lineup in the most important matchup of the season because your starting quarterback (Drew Brees for example) will likely sit out the second half of Week 17. In no way, shape or form should that ever have to happen. Anyway, for this week’s “Bold Predictions” article I wanted to talk about some very preliminary bold predictions for the 2019 season. Without further ado, let’s get to it!
Andrew Luck will finish as the best fantasy quarterback in 2019.
My thinking: Andrew Luck is back, baby! After missing the entire 2017 season due to injury, the seventh-year quarterback out of Stanford has had a remarkable bounce-back season and looks primed to continue to be a force next season. Heading into Week 17, Luck has thrown for 4,308 yards (sixth), 36 passing touchdowns (second), and has averaged an impressive 21.2 fantasy points per game (tied-5th). Health is a significant factor when looking at Luck’s fantasy outlook for next season, that’s obvious. However, his upside is hard to ignore, especially if Indianapolis adds another wide receiver in the offseason to give Luck another option behind T.Y. Hilton in the passing game. The emergence of Eric Ebron as a viable target in the passing game, a healthy Jack Doyle for (hopefully) a full season, a new and improved running game led by Marlon Mack and a competent head coach in Frank Reich have resulted in an above-average offensive football team in Indianapolis. Luck will be drafted at a significantly higher price in your 2019 draft than he was this season, but quarterbacks with a high weekly floor and a high weekly ceiling are few and far between in today’s NFL. Expect another elite fantasy season from Luck in 2019.
Seven running backs will finish in the Top 15 among all positions in point per reception (PPR) formats.
My thinking: In the last three seasons (2016-18), five running backs have finished in the Top 15 of PPR scoring in each season. This year, those five running backs were Todd Gurley, Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott and Alvin Kamara. Had Melvin Gordon and James Conner stayed healthy, and Kareem Hunt did not get suspended, all three of them would have been well on their way or darn near close to finishing in the Top 15. The point is, the running back position is as ripe with top-end talent as it has been in quite some time. You have those eight running backs listed above, and then the likes of David Johnson, Joe Mixon, Phillip Lindsay, Nick Chubb, Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette and Kerryon Johnson. Every single one of the running backs listed here has a shot at finishing in the Top 15 of PPR scoring, so expect at least seven of them to finish as such in 2019.
Dalvin Cook will play a full 16-game season and accumulate 2,000 total yards, 14 total touchdowns and finish as a Top 5 fantasy running back in PPR formats.
My thinking: It’s going to happen. We all know how talented of a runner Dalvin Cook is; all he has to do is stay on the field. Since returning to action in Week 9 of this season, Cook has averaged 92 total yards per game and has scored four touchdowns. If you extrapolate those 92 yards per game to a full 16-game season (I know, just bear with me), that’s 1,472 total yards. His usage as a receiver out of the backfield cannot be ignored, either. Cook has averaged 4.5 targets and 3.8 receptions per game in his last seven games. Extrapolated to a full 16-game season (I know, almost done), that’s 61 receptions on 72 targets. He has all the tools required to be a workhorse running back and will continue to be an integral part of the Minnesota offense next season. The Minnesota offense is an elite unit and a highly friendly one for fantasy football purposes, so it’s not unreasonable to expect Cook to live up to all of his high expectations in 2019. His draft day cost next year will be relatively cheaper (3rd-4th round) than it was this year (2nd round), which makes him an incredible value pick at that point in your draft. Keep Cook on your short list of players to target in 2019 and be prepared for an offensive explosion from the former Florida State running back.
Mike Williams will have 70 receptions, 1,000 receiving yards, 14 touchdowns and finish as a Top 15 wide receiver in PPR formats.
My thinking: When you really think about it, Mike Williams had a fine rookie season in the NFL in 2018. Yes, 2018 was technically his second season in the NFL, but let me remind you that Williams suffered a significant back injury in training camp of his rookie season in 2017 and was mostly a non-factor in the 10 games he did play in that season. Chalk that up as a lost season for the talented receiver out of Clemson. Anyway, entering Week 17, Williams has 38 receptions (on 60 targets) for 599 yards and a whopping nine touchdowns. He’s also accumulated 39 rushing yards on six carries and has a rushing touchdown to his credit. He’s averaged 10.9 PPR points per game through 15 games, which ranks tied-31st among receivers. Williams is second on the Los Angeles Chargers in red zone targets (14) behind Keenan Allen (16) and has converted six of those 14 targets into touchdowns. He has a knack for scoring touchdowns and will continue to improve and evolve as a player in 2019. The return (and presence) of Hunter Henry will open up more space down the field and in the red zone for Williams. Expect him to solidify himself as the No. 2 wide receiver in the Los Angeles offense and have a breakout season in 2019.
David Njoku will have 70 receptions, 1,100 receiving yards, 10 touchdowns and finish as a Top 5 tight end in PPR formats.
My thinking: Entering Week 17, David Njoku ranks ninth in targets among tight ends (81), ninth in receptions (53), 10th in receiving yards (577), and tied-eighth in receiving touchdowns (4). His 81 targets are second behind Jarvis Landry (141) among all Cleveland pass-catchers, and three of his four touchdowns have come while in the red zone. He has seen at least four targets in 12-of-15 games this season and has averaged nine PPR points per game in 15 games, which ranks ninth among tight ends. We all know how much of a dumpster fire the tight end position has been this season, but overall, Njoku has been a viable, low-end TE1 for the bulk of this season. With an up-and-coming star (yes, star!) in Baker Mayfield throwing him the football, Njoku is poised to set career highs across the board and have a breakout season in 2019. By the end of next season, Njoku will have solidified himself as an elite, Top 5 fantasy tight end. You heard it here first.