The 2019 NFL season is tentatively expected to kickoff Thursday evening, September 5th in the home stadium of the Super Bowl LIII champion. As of Monday, December 24th, that’s exactly 256 days away…
Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland
Life without “the great” Hue Jackson hasn’t been too bad for Mayfield. From Week 9 through Week 16 – that’s seven games played with Freddie Kitchens calling the plays – Mayfield was the fantasy QB12, averaging 268.3 passing yards and 2.7 touchdown strikes per contest with only five picks. Lacking a true No. 1 wideout, Mayfield has been spreading his passes around, which is something that you don’t see very many rookie quarterbacks do. Finding a lead wideout should be high on the Cleveland Browns’ offseason shopping list. We could see a coaching staff shakeup, too, but Mayfield is clearly the rise and will be a popular backup option.
Sam Darnold, QB, N.Y. Jets
Although Darnold’s late-season run hasn’t been as impressive statistically as what we’ve seen from Baker Mayfield, it looks like the New York Jets have found their franchise quarterback. Since Darnold returned from a foot injury in Week 14, he has passed for 764 yards and six touchdowns against only one interception in his three starts, which qualified as fantasy QB7 numbers (Week 14 through Week 16). He has developed some nice chemistry with Robby Anderson, who has scored in all three of Darnold’s recent starts, and Chris Herndon. Even though the Jets are expected to overhaul their coaching staff during the offseason, Darnold will be the heart and soul of the offense.
Kerryon Johnson, RB, Detroit
Fellow rookies Phillip Lindsay and Nick Chubb likely will finish among the top-20 fantasy running backs, and Johnson should join them in the top 20 in 2019. From Week 3 through Week 11, Johnson was the fantasy RB13 in one-point PPR leagues. He quietly averaged 18 combo touches per contest and hit pay dirt three times in three games played prior to going down with a knee injury (Week 11). A healthy Johnson should take command of the Detroit Lions backfield again in 2019 with only plodder LeGarrette Blount and pass-catching specialist Theo Riddick as competition.
Damien Williams, RB, Kansas City
Does anybody else think Williams is a better fit for the Kansas City Chiefs offense than Spencer Ware? Williams, making two straight starts in Ware’s place, has compiled 263 total yards and three touchdowns on 36 combo touches. It’ll be interesting to see whether the Chiefs add some talent at the running back position, but I think they have what they need in Williams.
Robby Anderson, WR, N.Y. Jets
Many fantasy owners apparently thought Anderson’s 2017 emergence was a mirage, simply a product of catching passes from capable backup Josh McCown for a good part of the season. That’s not the case. The speedy and tall (6-foot-3) Anderson is an underrated deep threat, and the third-year pro has developed some chemistry with Sam Darnold. During Darnold’s last three starts, Anderson has compiled receiving lines of 4-76-1 (seven targets), 7-96-1 (11 targets) and 9-140-1 (13 targets), respectively. The Darnold-to-Anderson connection will sizzle in 2019.
Chris Herndon, TE, N.Y. Jets
Granted, he lacked week-to-week consistency – most rookie tight ends do – but Herndon showed notable flashes of ability and some chemistry with Sam Darnold. Earlier in the season, the duo hooked up on touchdown passes in three straight outings (Week 6 through Week 8), and Herndon either scored or racked up 50-plus receiving yards in three of his last five. In addition, Herndon averaged 44.1 receiving yards per outing since Week 6. With Robby Anderson stretching the field, Herndon has a chance to emerge as a solid target in the middle of the field.