It’s hard to believe we’re a week away from the NFL regular season. After spending more than four months focusing on every bit of minutiae, every tidbit, every coach’s quote, and adjusting our rankings and projections, accordingly, a lot can change from our original expectations. Here’s a quick look at some of the most significant changes from my initial thoughts back in early May.
On Second Thought…
Josh Allen (BUF) is the riskiest of the top-10 consensus quarterbacks
Allen finished QB8 last year and has a better supporting cast plus another year of experience. While that sounds like a recipe for success, Allen’s fantasy value hinges on over 1,100 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns, yet he says he’s planning on running less. Given his inaccuracy, any drop in rushing value means he’ll fall short of ADP.
Joe Burrow (CIN) has the broadest range of expected outcomes in football
We all want Joe Burrow to set the league on fire. He looks the part. He sounds the part. And he may be the part. But he also could be stuck on a team with an unproven play-caller in Zac Taylor and a bad offensive line, with his best receiver already banged up. I won’t be shocked if Burrow is a fantasy darling or a fantasy dud.
Dak Prescott (DAL) has MVP potential
The Cowboys are set up for greatness. On paper, the team doesn’t have a weakness, and Prescott will take the field with – by far – the most explosive set of skill players he’s had career-to-date.
Drew Lock (DEN) might be Denver’s Achilles heel
Jerry Jeudy looks like a home run draft pick. Courtland Sutton was better in camp than he was last year in his breakout campaign. Noah Fant seems more committed to being an every-down tight end. Both Phillip Lindsay and Melvin Gordon III are hungry to be the bell cow. But where were the Drew Lock touts? The lack of touts in a pandemic preseason should be interpreted as a red flag.
Gardner Minshew (JAX) is not the answer to the test
Stop the madness. The Jaguars front office summarily dismantled the team, jettisoning anyone with Pro Bowl or All-Pro ability, and a bunch of other starting-caliber players, too. Outside of DJ Chark, this team has no weapons. And there’s a fallacy that bad teams throw enough for garbage time to be a fantasy savior. Yet, Jay Gruden’s teams have averaged 19th in pass attempt in his nine seasons as play-caller. Don’t believe the hype. Sometimes a bad team is just that, a bad team.
Tyrod Taylor (LAC) could start for most of the season
I thought the Chargers would look to push Justin Herbert under center as soon as possible since they’re likely not playoff contenders anyway. But, Herbert has a lot to learn after playing in the shotgun at Oregon, and neither Taylor nor Herbert nor the coaches seem ready to concede the season.
Derek Carr (LV) deserves more credit than we give him
Carr’s ADP puts him down with quarterbacks we think can’t keep their job for the full season. Yet, he completed 70% of his passes last year, Marcus Mariota looks awful, and every skill position improved its depth and breadth. He could be a late-round gem.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (MIA) will be in the huddle for a lot longer than we’d hoped
Most expected Fitzpatrick to start Week 1 because Tua Tagovailoa was coming off hip surgery and is a rookie. But in a year of exuberant camp reports, the beat writers couldn’t stop saying how bad Tagovailoa looked. He’s been outplayed by Josh Rosen. It’s not damning for his long-term future, but it eradicates his redraft value.
Kirk Cousins (MIN) is going to return to top-10 form
Cousins was a perennial top-10 fantasy quarterback in Washington but has become the highest-paid game manager in history in Minnesota. Yet, he’s looking to run in the red zone again (he scored 13 rushing touchdowns in three seasons in D.C.), and too many people forget that play-caller Gary Kubiak’s offenses have averaged 580 attempts per season.
Cam Newton (NE) will be the starter, but not because he earned it
When Newton signed in New England, I was the wet blanket, pointing out that he signed a one-year deal at backup quarterback prices. But Jarrett Stidham was beyond bad in the summer, and Newton is poised to start by default.
Carson Wentz (PHI) and the Eagles can’t break up with the training room
Wentz was having a terrific camp until a “lower-body injury” kept him out of the last week-plus of practice. Two offensive linemen are already on injured reserve. His star running back is week-to-week. And his stud rookie receiver has a dislocated shoulder. It’s more of the same, and that caps Wentz’ upside.
Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) is the last of quarterbacks I’m happy to have as my QB1
Roethlisberger is healthy, in shape, and pain-free. He hasn’t been those things in 15 years. With a chip on his shoulder, a closing window for another Super Bowl push, and a dynamic supporting cast, Roethlisberger can easily produce every-week fantasy value at a QB2 price.