FANTASY RISERS ON THE WAY UP IN 2018
Jarvis Landry, WR, Cleveland Browns
Perhaps the only person who was less appreciated by their former employer more than Landry is now his quarterback in Cleveland — Tyrod Taylor. These two guys are out to prove that not only do they deserve the money that they just landed but should be given more down the line. The good thing for Landry is that if Taylor doesn’t meet expectations, he has the 2018 number one overall pick waiting in the wing in Baker Mayfield. Either way the quarterback situation in Cleveland shakes out, Landry will still be sitting pretty. He may see a decrease in overall target share versus what he saw in Miami, but he’ll also have a proven number one on the outside to ease defensive attention. With Josh Gordon pulling the top cornerback and the safety over the top, Landry will see more third corner and linebacker coverage. Miami undervalued him and he’s out to prove that he belongs with the upper echelon of wide receivers in the league. We fully expect his age to factor into his improved motivation as he can very well earn one more massive payday before he calls it a career.
David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals’ running back had one of the most beneficial off-seasons out of any player in the league and no one has taken notice. Well, we’re here to set the record straight: David Johnson had one of the most beneficial off-seasons out of all eligible fantasy players. Let me explain.. for starters, things could have been ugly on paper to start at quarterback. After Carson Palmer retired, the slated starter at quarterback was none other than Blaine Gabbert. While we’re no cheerleader of Sam Bradford, at least he’s not Blaine Gabbert. Arizona addressed the quarterback issue by adding Bradford who can at least keep defenses honest. But with all of his durability concerns, it was only a matter of time until Gabbert got his shot. That’s until the Cardinals selected Josh Rosen in the first round. Now, we have two bridges to cross before defenses can completely zone in on the running game.
Outside of placing two guys ahead of Blaine Gabbert‘s chances of seeing the field, we also have what could be a sneaky Top 12 line in the league. Not only will incumbent lineman Mike Iupati return to the starting lineup, but the team made a double dip splash in free agency landing both tackle Andre Smith and guard Justin Pugh. This has the personnel of an offensive line that can outperform any expectations anyone is currently forecasting. Until now, that is.
Jimmy Graham, TE, Green Bay Packers
At the end of the day, the Jimmy Graham experiment in Seattle was a bust. It wasn’t his fault as he was able to remain healthy and fairly productive, but he was not the centerpiece that one would have expected. He really didn’t get fully going until Russell Wilson heard that he was being looked at by the Texans. In a last ditch effort to prevent himself from losing a weapon, he made it a point to get Graham more involved. Well, it apparently wasn’t enough for the front office to change their minds that they would be better off without their tight end but the Jimmy Graham experiment isn’t the only failed tight end in recent memory that we need to be aware of. The Packers haven’t been able to establish anyone as a weapon at tight end for Aaron Rodgers. The Martellus Bennett situation was more of a fiasco than an experiment, but it was a failure none the less. Graham is in a great situation with the best quarterback in the league as he should immediately become the red zone favorite given his size versus that of the wide receiving core. The release of Jordy Nelson leaves 80-plus catches up for literal grabs so we’d like to think that both of the former failed experiments turn into a Manhattan Project type of boom in Green Bay.
Case Keenum did have a great season in 2017, you can’t take anything away from him. But in what was no doubt his absolute ceiling, Keenum finished the regular season with 3,500 passing yards and 22 touchdowns. In what would largely be considered a basement type of season from Kirk Cousins, he still managed to break 4,000 yards passing with 27 touchdowns. Keenum’s numbers were inflated a bit thanks to the crew of Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph. Cousins’ totals were deflated (No Patriots’ jokes!) thanks to Terrelle Pryor, no Jordan Reed, and Josh Doctson treating the regular season like OTAs where he was working on his drop issues. The player set for a regression would be Thielen in that you’d be hard pressed to say that Cousins will lean on him as heavily as Keenum did but the talent and production are still enough to cement him in WR1 rankings. Both Diggs and Thielen should see over 1,000 yards with at least 6-7 scores as long as they’re healthy.
If the previous mentioning of Case Keenum was viewed as negative, we’re here to reassure you that it’s not. Though Cousins is an upgrade over Keenum in Minnesota, Keenum is a bigger upgrade over Trevor Siemian in Denver. While this is in fact football, we’re using the 3 strikes and your out mentality and applying it to head of football operations John Elway. After Peyton Manning threw his arm off his body, Elway was smart enough to let Brock Osweiler walk away. That was a great decision as a stand alone roster move, but it did lead to drafting Paxton Lynch and starting Trevor Siemian where two wrongs did not make a right. Elway needs to be right with Keenum here or he could be out of a job. Keenum is, at the very least, a starting worthy option in the league, which could not be said about either Siemian or Lynch. He should see the success with Thomas and Sanders that he did with Diggs and Thielen. In fact, as a collective talent, Denver offers more upside than the Vikings’ receivers. Look for Thomas to reemerge as an elite receiver and touchdown producer while Sanders reinvents himself over the top with impressive yards after the catch.