This isn't one of those click-bait articles promising you the winning lottery ticket. If it were, the Gut Check would have titled it, "Players Who Will Carry Your Team To A Title."
Then yours truly would quit Footballguys, get cosmetic surgery, buy some tight jeans, move to California, and take acting lessons. After all, if I want to make it in this business, I'd have to audition for the fantasy football sites that are the love child of Entertainment Tonight, the Today Show, and TMZ.
No, Nephew Harmon, this song isn't about you—you're still bringing the goods and there's no intervention scheduled to save you. Anyway, I'm leaning towards Kettlebell Simple and Sinister more than I am a mid-life crisis.
In case any of you were worried.
This week's Gut Check examines players at a variety of ADP slots who possess an extra level of statistical upside that could turbo-boost your team's scoring and transform a good squad into a league-winner. Many of these options could constitute an article title, "Don't Overthink It."
Not all of these players have steady floors that will provide you safe, median value so it's important that you consider the ceiling, median, and floor of each prospect when constructing your teams.
This is not a definitive list. Don't "what about" me.
Boss digs, mailroom in the rearview
The Gut Check is tired of honoring any sense of caution about Chubb this year. It's true that Kareem Hunt is an excellent runner who could usurp Chubb's workload down the stretch but only if Chubb is banged-up. Since Chubb doesn't have chronic injury woes, this is not a legitimate concern.
Despite leaving drafts late in the second round, Chubb is the biggest bargain of the top 50 fantasy players according to ADP because his current value IS his floor. The specter of Hunt and the possibility that Cleveland becomes a pass-crazy offense is depressing Chubb's value.
Chubb earned 1,055 yards and 8 touchdowns on a team with a rookie quarterback and a bickering, dysfunctional soap opera cast of a coaching staff that gave him 2-3 touches per game for the first six weeks fo the year. Although the addition of offensive coach Todd Monken gives us clues about the direction of this offense, head coach Freddie Kitchens is known for his adaptability and showed last year that he will work with his existing talents rather than wedge them into an ill-fitting scheme.
Mayfield had an impressive rookie year, but Chubb's is arguably as good of a showing. He graded out (by far) as the league's best back after contact and is also among the best runners at making opponents miss. He'll carry defensive tackles and also turn a crease into a 90-yard gain.
Despite having more heralded receiving backs on the depth chart, Chubb nearly three targets a game as a receiver. and if Mayfield could have thrown the wheel route with accuracy in 2018, Chubb had at least another 3-5 big-play catches with gains of at least 20-30 yards for each.
Cleveland was in a lot of close games during the dysfunctional portion of last year's schedule. This year's stability and talent could lead to more second-half leads and higher doses of Chubb to close out the game. This is were a projected season of 1,200-1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns can turn into a 1,500-yard campaign and 15-17 total touchdowns.
Hunt is trade bait for 2020 if Chubb stays healthy and no, he's not the better back. And as good as he is, Saquon Barkley might not be the better back, either.
Tyreek Hill is reinstated, Sammy Watkins appears healthier, and Travis Kelce is ready to roll. There are concerns about the cohesiveness with the offensive line now that two of its stalwarts have moved on, but there are reasons for confidence in the replacements. Despite losing Hunt, these three receivers are only some of the factors that make Mahomes a player capable of topping his MVP season of 2018.
Mahomes actually has areas where he can improve. Eight of his twelve interceptions occurred while playing on the Chiefs' side of the field. As quick as his feet are, he can cultivate better stances so that he's in a position to throw in rhythm as he reads the field. As a result, he'll be less reliant on his improvisational skills in situations when there was an in-rhythm route where he could capitalize.
Rapport with his receivers should improve this year. Watkins and Mahomes were learning the offense together last year and it's a voluminous scheme where it can take longer for players to master the structure before they begin fine-tuning the details between them that lead to in-game adjustments within the scheme that can be executed pre-snap at the line of scrimmage.
If you're wondering how Mahomes' production didn't reflect these achievements last year—especially his great work against the blitz and man coverage — consider Peyton Manning's career in Denver. Upon arrival, Manning posted 4,659 yards and 37 touchdowns. During this year, Manning spent a lot of time working with his receivers on route depths, target points, and pre- and post-snap adjustments.
It took a year to develop this rapport—ask Demaryius Thomas (or Cecil Lammey) how often Manning corrected receivers throughout 2012. The following year, Manning and the Broncos threw more, gained more, and scored a lot more, earning 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns. Manning also upped his touchdown percentage from 6.3 to 8.3, which is a sign of that increase rapport and understanding of the details that aren't taught during the basic install of the offensive scheme.
Mahomes is in a position to address the finer details of the game with his receivers and, together, become a more efficient offense. Manning's touchdown and yardage records are within reach for Mahomes—especially with the potential for another porous Chiefs defense. And if promising big-play like Darwin Thompson and Byron Pringle emerge, the offense will have even greater weaponry to place opposing defenses into binds.
If the upside scenario doesn't occur, Mahomes' skills under pressure and overall creativity should keep him within the range of the top three quarterbacks in the league. A worst-case scenario is likely the bottom-half of the top five. If that's not boss digs, the Gut Check doesn't know what is.
Chubb was a stud against stacked boxes last year (another reason he's on the list), Beckham will reduce some of that burden with his presence. Beckham gets a lot in return:
- A quarterback suited to his style of play.
- An opportunity to rejoin a teammate on the depth chart who knows Beckham well and is a true locker room leader.
- A balanced and dynamic offense that should give him a real shot at delivering career numbers.
Beckham is every bit as dynamic and versatile as Davante Adams and with Freddie Kitchen calling plays, there's a good chance the flow that Kitchen attained with Cleveland's offense last year remains in place this.
It's difficult to see a scenario where Beckham isn't at least a 1,100-yard, 8-touchdown receiver—production still in the realm of fantasy WR1 results. If that's his downside in Cleveland, he's a no-brainer selection considering that he has the surrounding talent to build on his previous career-year of 1,450 yards and 13 scores.
dizzying Heights, Nausea-Inducing drop
As the Footballguys.com Page for Barkley notes, only Eric Dickerson and Edgerrin James had more yards from scrimmage as rookies. When you invoke pre-injury James, you have the Gut Check's attention.
Barkley's receiving skills give him a higher floor than other first-round considerations because he's both a check-down threat and vertical option in the passing game. Barkley only had two games where his total yardage earned him less than nine fantasy points last year (Weeks 15-16) — and he still scored a touchdown in one of those contests.
If you haven't, let me tell you a little story...
Once upon a time, there was a running back phenom who tore up the west coast collegiate circuit with his versatile, game-breaking play. A struggling NFL team selected him second overall in the NFL Draft and this future Hall of Famer earned over 1,800 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns as a rookie. He then earned over 1,500 total yards and 14 touchdowns in his sophomore follow-up.
It appeared that Marshall Faulk's career would remain on an elite course to Canton. However, if you look at some of Faulk's worst games during this span, you'll notice that quarterback Jim Harbaugh was knocked out of them and the Colts had to work with a backup passer. And if you examine Faulk's sophomore efficiencies, life was getting harder for him in Indianapolis.
Please see my smile as I type this—Harbaugh was no Eli Manning...but, with the exception of Don Majkowski, Harbaugh's backups were capable players. When Harbaugh missed extended time in 1996, Faulk's production plummeted and he missed three games while barely crossing the 1,000-yard mark in yards from scrimmage.
While still a fantasy value, we feared that Faulk was no longer in a situation where he could deliver elite production until he earned 2,000 total yards when Peyton Manning went full Check-Down Charlie during his rookie year. Even then, we wondered about Faulk ever returning to this 2,000-yard upside once Manning progressed in his development.
Of course, we know Faulk had a fairy-tale ending his story after the Rams traded for him and he remained a 2,000-yard producer for another three seasons. Still, this is something that Barkley fans should keep in mind because as great as Barkley is, even Faulk struggled behind a bad offensive line and reserve-grade quarterbacks.
Considering how much the Giants offensive line struggled last year and Barkley still reached Dickerson and James territory, he's absolutely worth a top-three fantasy selection and has even greater upside with an improved unit and better quarterback play. However, if the loss of Odell Beckham Jr allows opponents to respect the passing game less than last year and the line hasn't improved, Barkley isn't so good that he can't have the type of season we saw from Marshall Faulk in 1996—still worthy of fantasy starter status nowhere near his draft value.
If you believe in selecting for upside early, Barkley is a viable candidate with a record-breaking ceiling. If you believe your top picks must have strong floors, Barkley's is a little weaker than his peers.
We know Gurley is supposed to see a lighter workload as the Rams incorporate rookie Darrell Henderson into the offense as an Alvin Kamara-like complement. Things get interesting if Henderson gets hurt because there is no option on the depth chart like the rookie. Unless the Rams think Duke Johnson Jr offers this element and trade for him, Los Angeles either searches the waiver wire for an option and hopes it gets lucky or it reverts to the previous iteration of the offense.
If Gurley's knee is truly healthy enough that the arthritis is more long-term concern than an immediate issue, then you know that Rams will toss aside all plans of using Gurley less if it means maximizing this roster's window of contention. It means Gurley still has his ceiling of seasons past.
However, it's a more remote likelihood with Henderson in the fold. Although yours truly doesn't believe Gurley's knees are in Jay Ajayi-Eagles territory (yet), the potential for this to be the case is notable when you consider that Gurley decided to cut six pounds from his frame, the Rams drafted a speedy complement and retained the rights to the steady Malcolm Brown.
Gurley may not longer warrant a top-five pick but his ceiling is still in this range. Unfortunately, his floor also got lower and there's a potential production drop that could take us back to the worst of the Jeff Fisher regime.
Produced like a rising star, but moved to a new department—Is it the right one?
The consensus idea is that Smith-Schuster will remain a fantasy WR1 and even build on his production without Antonio Brown. Ryan Hester touts this idea with age, surrounding talent, and volume as his supporting arguments. Yours truly has written about this before, but it's worth delving into greater detail because Smith-Schuster is an expensive player and better fulfill your expectations.
I'm a big fan of Hester's in-season Trendspotting article that examines tendencies. It's a must-read.
Today we're going to play devil's advocate with Hester's article on Smith-Schuster and the devil isn't always as friendly. There's no correlation between age and production. There are too many variables embedded with the results to give this argument serious weight, so let's get that noise out of here.
That's the devil talking trash because we shouldn't disrespect Hester's deeper point of raising the age issue: Smith-Schuster's career is still on the ascent and may not have reached his peak as a player. This may be true.
He could improve as a route runner. However, he's not going to get any faster and mentioning Randy Moss and Josh Gordon in the same sentence as Smith-Schuster may work when looking at the numbers but in the context of playing styles? Apples and Aardvarks. Both players were primary targets in their offenses and marked men—even when Moss had the incredible Cris Carter working alongside him.
One thing that is absolutely up for debate is Hester's statement, "Players who aren't capable of beating any coverage by any corner aren't this productive at such a tender age -- even as a WR2 on their team."
Let's slow down, there. Whether you're looking at Smith-Schuster's college Reception Perception data where he wasn't successful against any coverage by any corner or Harmon's later work on success rates and deployment dating back to 2014, Hester's moving a little too fast to a conclusion.
These WRs might as well be playing different positions. From their 2018 #ReceptionPerception samples...— Matt Harmon (@MattHarmon_BYB) March 3, 2019
- 76.5% of snaps outside
- 76.3% of snaps on the line
- 55.6% of snaps in the slot
- 59.7% of snaps off the line
Coverages they faced: pic.twitter.com/4gqzMTk24X
The game is about accruing production - yards beget points, points beget wins, etc. - but it's important to contextualize it. These players' assignments are so different.— Matt Harmon (@MattHarmon_BYB) March 3, 2019
How things change if they trade AB is a fascinating subject.
Deployment is huge:https://t.co/QhPkyzqv0r
unless James Washington is about to take a galactic leap, that passing offense is in trouble without AB.
— Matt Harmon (@MattHarmon_BYB) March 3, 2019
Why could the passing offense be in trouble without Brown? The opportunity to take away Schuster and make players much less than Brown beat them is the answer. This is what the Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, and Dallas Cowboys did to render Michael Thomas into a minimal threat during four of the last six weeks of 2018.
Here's a video excerpt from an article on the subject at my site that shows how the lowly Falcons defense achieved this feat:
It was easier for Smith-Schuster to be more efficient than Antonio Brown the past two years because Smith-Schuster benefited from Brown earning double-teams as well as additional coverage attention slanted towards Brown. Smith-Schuster's slot work earned him a lot of two-way goes, which are harder to cover one-on-one and will usually raise the efficiency of the receiver running them.
A two-and-a-half game sample of Smith-Schuster producing without Brown (as a rookie when teams are less apt to even respect Smith-Schuster's game yet) is not a supporting argument worth putting out there. The only way he could show that he was a reliable top target is if he could overcome a variety of brackets, zones, and coverage against top cornerbacks.
This is unknown. Again, yours truly is playing devil's advocate here and has Smith-Schuster earning significant volume—which is the best argument that Hester makes here. However, his volume will get stunted as target efficiency dwindles. This can happen when a team forces a slower, big-slot receiver to work deeper downfield against coverage focused on taking him away early and making the quarterback wait longer on his primary read to come open.
Ben Roethlisberger is arguably still better at creating off-script than Drew Brees and there's the idea that his playing style is more conducive to forcing the football to his favorite receiver. If he tries and succeeds with this strategy, Hester and others will be correct that volume will make Smith-Schuster a top fantasy option.
However, it's unlikely that Roethlisberger force-feeding Smith-Schuster will actually on 2018's production because efficiencies will drop and mistakes will rise. The best key to predicting strong play from Smith-Schuster will be the performance of James Washington, Diontae Johnson, and/or Donte Moncrief. Some combination of this trio must be good enough that opponents cannot overcompensate towards Smith-Schuster.
Considering that Dallas, Atlanta, and Carolina were often willing to let Alvin Kamara have the ball in space on routes of similar depth as Thomas' patterns so they could take away Thomas is a telling indication that opponents may give up space for big plays elsewhere because they're counting on Pittsburgh to fail in the red zone—and this is where Brown's absence leaves a definite void.
Yours truly fears that the fantasy community is giving Smith-Schuster a promotion based on a misplaced understanding of the work. It's as if Smith-Schuster was the operations director without any marketing experience or education and was made vice president of marketing.
Happens all the time, right? And who lives the resulting nightmare? Smith-Schuster is an excellent big-slot receiver. There are legitimate questions whether the Smith-Schuster can be an excellent primary option or if the Steelers can scheme him open if he's not.
If the support is there and Smith-Schuster assumes Brown's role in the red zone last year (11 TDs to Smith-Schuster's 5), the elite fantasy upside at the position is there to be taken. Easier said than done and there is a legitimate trap door to Smith-Schuster's season.
The explosive Vikings runner has been a versatile threat during this first 15 games as a pro. Unfortunately, he's missed more than half of his eligible starts due to injury.
The good news is that he earned nearly 1,000 yards from scrimmage on the heels of an ACL rehab in 2018, catching 40 passes in the process, and the Vikings stated a commitment to run the ball more this year. Combine these factors with another year of health to regain full confidence in the knee and Cook appears poised for a breakout, right?
The offense has the potential for balance and Cook's big-play ability are enticing reasons to believe this is true. He'll need to up last year's 15.6-touch-per-game average to make it happen. Simply extrapolating last year's production only gets Cook to 251 touches, 1,337 total yards, and 6 touchdowns.
It's nice work, but it's not even RB1 fantasy production. The most likely path of growth will be touchdowns or touches because his yardage efficiencies were already strong and troublesome to project any higher.
Increasing Cook's touches per game seem realistic on the surface until you listen to Cook tell the media after the NFL Draft that he expects to remain in part of a committee—now with rookie Alexander Mattison. A versatile runner with excellent vision, good footwork, and contact balance, Mattison earned his share of top-50 pre-draft visits from teams—including the Chicago Bears. Mattison had 340 touches last year at Boise State and earned 1,588 total yards and 17 touchdowns.
Do the Vikings really want to increase Cook's workload? The addition of Mattison in the third-round makes this a legitimate question. If Mattison can acclimate as a pass protector during camp, he will likely earn the No.2 spot and coach Kennedy Polamalu told Vikings.com that Mattison is improving with every rep and expects Mattison to make an impact based on the rookie's film and current trajectory with the team.
Last year is a good indication that Mike Zimmer wants to run the ball more. The Vikings only ran the ball 298 times last year. In 2017, the offense ran it 448 times and 342 times in 2016 when the offensive line was a mess and Sam Bradford was the emergency starter in place of Teddy Bridgewater. The lead back earned 46 to 48 percent of the carries in 2016-17 and Cook earned 44.6 percent of the attempts last year while only starting 11 games.
If the Vikings return to 2017's volume, we can project Cook for 211 attempts, which only amounts to one additional carry per game. If history holds true, Minnesota may want to run more, but does it want to use Cook more?
With Mattison in the fold, it's another compelling reason that the answer is no.
Cook will likely need to earn at least another five touches per game and get the red-zone duty to even approach a breakout year. A smaller back than Mattison or Mike Boone, Cook could see one of those two options take over in the Latavius Murray role. Murray earned six rushing touchdowns last year and four of them came in the red zone. Cook only earned three touchdowns in the red zone and none of them came inside the five (known as the Green Zone).
If we avoid the Assumption of Rational Coaching and stick with what the team has been doing, Cook is not a breakout candidate. The best shot Cook has towards a breakout year is if Mike Zimmer views Cook as a feature back.
When Zimmer had Adrian Peterson, the veteran earned 357 touches, 1,716 yards, and 11 touchdowns in 2015. This is the crux of the situation: Is Dalvin Cook about to earn a promotion to a new role as the feature back or at least the red-zone option, or is he being counted on to earn more production because the team expects him to stay healthy?
If you believe the former, he's an emerging RB1. If you don't, avoid the trap-door.
Tevin Coleman is gone and Dirk Koetter returns, which likely means Freeman will earn a bigger role in the passing game and even more red-zone touches. Koetter never had a healthy offensive line in Atlanta during his tenure and left to coach the Buccaneers the year that Freeman took over the starting role for the Falcons and broke out.
However, When Koetter had a player capable of carrying the load, he didn't make it a committee. Ask Maurice Jones-Drew from 2007-11 and a healthy Doug Martin in 2016. Martin and Jones-Drew had six combined fantasy RB1 seasons under Koetter and three of them equated to top-three production at the position.
When Freeman played at least 15 games as the starter, he's had 11 rushing touchdowns in each of those seasons as well as 2-3 receiving scores and no less than 1,500 yards from scrimmage. From the owner to the coach to the player, the expectation is for Freeman to carry the load this year and a committee of Brian Hill, Qadree Ollison, and Ito Smith to spell him. In other words, look out for Ito Smith but not in the way he's occasionally touted—more like an open manhole cover.
Sigmund Bloom and I caught up recently and one of his thoughts that I agree with is the potential for Seattle to get drawn into shootouts early in the year because of the losses to the Seahawks defense. Wilson was extraordinarily efficient last year despite the offense adopting a ground-and-pound mindset.
Move Tyler Lockett to the slot where he earns targets that Smith-Schuster had in previous years (and one day, yearning for again...), and scare opponents with its perimeter speedsters David Moore, Jaron Brown, and D.K. Metcalf (kind of like the Exorcist, Exorcist II, and Exorcist III--the first was scary but despite not having well-crafted plot, III had the scariest moments), and Wilson could return to past elite production despite the team hoping he only has to work as efficient distributor.
In some ways, this parallels the Steelers situation. If Pittsburgh's defense falters and Ben Roethlisberger is consistently playing in catch-up mode, opposing defenses may be more apt to give Smith-Schuster the short and intermediate work and it will make the receiver a high-end volume compiler with the help of garbage time.
In this sense, Bloom believes Wilson could wind up a highly productive, fantasy sanitation worker. Considering he's efficient enough to deliver top-12 production in a run-heavy offense, drafting Wilson for high-yardage potential is a good idea with little downside—unless you're not at the turn and can't take Wilson and Dante Pettis back-to-back.
"Aw, Mom, ya know I'm not like the other guys..."
Pettis' rate of a touchdown every nine targets as a rookie was notable. It's not because this rate of scoring will translate to 2019's production on the basis of the stat alone. The sample size is too small.
It's that Pettis earned multiple scores with multiple quarterbacks in multiple ways that demonstrate the versatility of his game. He can play three different positions, he wins fade routes, he gets deep, and he wins after the catch. Pettis is a mix of Marvin Jones Jr, Brandon Lloyd, and Odell Beckham Jr, Jr. in an offense where he should be the primary target among the wide receivers.
Expecting no worse than fantasy WR3 production is almost a given with Pettis this year. However, there is an upside scenario that could vault him into the top-10 producers at the position. Fellow Footballguy Dwain McFarland and I discuss this in our ongoing team projection podcast series.
Get Pettis for the WR3 floor. Be excited about getting Pettis for the WR1 upside.
As mentioned here last year, Kupp is the red-zone option of choice for Jared Goff. And prior to tearing his ACL, Kupp scored six touchdowns in eight games—half of them in the red zone. The year before, all five of his touchdowns were red-zone scores.
Kupp is an excellent runner of zone routes and because he possesses elite acceleration, he's deceptively difficult to cover once the Rams get inside the opponent's 40 yard-line where L.A. can feature Kupp one-on-one on intermediate passes that don't always qualify as 'the vertical game' but have that role in these situations. Kupp didn't go on the PUP list to begin training camp, which is a great sign that he will be ready to take the field for the season opener.
The biggest hurdle for Kupp will be the psychological block that most players have when going full-tilt on the rehabbed knee. He'll need to overcome it to capture his absolute yardage ceiling in the intermediate and vertical game, but he won't need to lean on it as much against zone coverage in the red zone where he has double-digit touchdown upside as a scorer.
We're talking about top-12 upside at the position if he can get within shouting distance of 1,000 yards and reach that double-digit total in the red zone.
It feels risky to take Kupp as one of the top 25 receivers on the board, but the role, the supporting cast, and continuous positive signs about his rehab are reasons to do so. It's beginning to appear that Kupp's floor is getting closer to his current value—and that's another good indicator that he's worth your attention.
These players could vastly outplay their value. Get 2-3 of them and hit on your early picks and you're flying.
Anthony Miller: A versatile and technically-proficient receiver, Miller played all year with a bad shoulder. Despite most slot options earning a high share of two-way-go situations that are easier than their perimeter counterparts, Miller faced physical coverage from the slot that you don't always see and fared well. While there's a good reason to pine for Allen Robinson, Miller might be the real future of this scheme and the next hybrid-slot option to earn top-15 production at the position.
Royce Freeman: Most people drafting in fantasy leagues aren't thinking of Freeman as the Devonta Freeman to Phillip Lindsay's Tevin Coleman. If they understood the coaching tendencies of this new staff and the scheme that's being implemented, Freeman would not be outside the top-35 backs drafted in any format. This backfield will likely offer a good 1-2 punch for fantasy players. Then there's the upside the could come with another Lindsay injury because Devontae Booker is not a good match for a lot of zone running that Denver will do. Freeman could wind up the feature back with RB1 upside.
Austin Hooper: If Dirk Koetter helps Atlanta gain the red-zone efficiency that he earned with Tampa's tight ends, Hooper could earn double-digit scores and become a top-five fantasy option.
Keke Coutee: Yours truly is more concerned with Will Fuller V's ACL than Kupp's because of the way Fuller wins in the NFL. Coutee is now healthy and in a position to earn more targets as a field-stretcher up the seams where many defenses are vulnerable. Coutee has a WR3 floor in PPR leagues but WR1 upside if counted on as a high-volume option. Before re-injuring his gimpy leg that robbed him of his vertical speed, Houston did exactly this with Coutee last year. This year, Coutee's upside is volume and big plays. Buy.
Greg Olsen: Every year, fantasy players decide tight ends are done because they look at the player's age after reading about a recent injury. Older players at the position may lose some athletic ability to stretch the field but they routinely gain craft at getting separation against zone or underneath man-to-man coverage. Antonio Gates, Jason Witten, and Tony Gonzalez are three prime examples. Olsen is a steal in the second half of drafts with top-five upside and a much higher floor than his current value.
Darwin Thompson: This one's a stretch, but there's talk that the rookie could overtake Carlos Hyde for the No.2 spot behind Damien Williams. Thompson reminds yours truly of a stronger Brian Westbrook. Andy Reid had no problem leaning on Westbrook as a primary back. Thompson has much to prove as a pass protector before we go this far with his upside as a rookie, but the fact we're hearing the phrase 'playmaker' from camp this early and Hyde's role is potentially in jeopardy puts Thompson on this list.
Justin Jackson: The Gut Check has talked about him enough. If Gordon holds out and Austin Ekeler gets hurt, Jackson could be the lead back—even if the team trades for another player or adds a veteran with big-back skills off the waiver wire.
Darren Waller: Big, fast, sudden, and technically-sound with his hands, if Jon Gruden isn't blowing smoke, Waller could approach Jared Cook's production at an insane bargain.
A.J. Brown: Most football analysts are unhappy with Brown's landing spot, but he has earned praise repeatedly during spring camp. He could be the best receiver on the team and that's not a slight to Corey Davis. He should also see enough of a split between flanker and slot that his target profile might look a lot like Rishard Matthews when Marcus Mariota was in-tune with the big slot option. Brown is one of three rookies this writer will place his chip on as a candidate as a top first-year producer.