Tue Jan 28 12:31pm ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer
Kittle should see more targets
It is hard to believe but the last game of the season is here. The Super Bowl is this weekend, ending the football season. It is sad to see another season come to an end, but the 2020 fantasy season will be here before you know it.
Now for my random thoughts for the week. . . . .
First off, enjoy the game this weekend. Super Bowl Sunday is always a great day of the year, so enjoy it. I know I’m looking forward to it, spending time with family, friends while eating some good food. Hopefully, the game is a good one, making things even better.
Here is my prediction for the big game. I really think it is a tossup with the way both teams are playing right now. But for me, I think the Chiefs win the game 31-27. I just think the Chiefs offense is too much right now even against a very good 49ers defense. Kansas City is just clicking on all cylinders right now. I think the speed at receiver for the Chiefs might be the difference in this game, making some big plays. Plus, the Chiefs defense has made big strides since the start of the year, making big plays at crucial times. This should be a great matchup, but in the end, I think the Chiefs will prevail and win the Super Bowl.
I think Gary Kubiak taking over as the offensive coordinator for the Vikings is a solid move for that offense. Kubiak should employ a similar approach to this past year, getting the most out of Dalvin Cook and Kirk Cousins. I don’t expect much of a drop off in production - if any - with Kubiak calling plays. He knows what he is doing and has produced some big offenses as the primary play caller.
This should be a very interesting offseason for quarterbacks. Several big-name quarterbacks are free agents this year. This might be the most movement at the quarterback spot we have ever seen in the NFL during an offseason. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Jameis Winston, Dak Prescott, Ryan Tannehill and Teddy Bridgewater are the headliner quarterback free agents. Now some of these players are expected to re-sign or get tagged by their current team, but many could be moving on to other teams this offseason. It is going to be interesting to watch. These guys moving around will really impact the fantasy world.
Kareem Hunt had another off the field incident. He was pulled over for speeding but the officer also found marijuana in the car. He was not charged with anything but speeding, though. The NFL is likely going to look into this incident, which is not great news for Hunt. Remember, he was suspended the first half of this past season. This is a situation to monitor if you have hopes of Hunt being fantasy relevant this coming season.
So I’m not proud to admit this, but I’m a little intrigued by the XFL. My city (St. Louis) has a team and some buzz has being going around town a little. The last time the XFL was around there was some excitement with the league before it went belly up. The rules are kind of interesting and the faster paced game could make for some good entertainment. We’ll see. It will be hard to have staying power with the NFL being so strong, but you never know.
As always, don’t forget to check out my weekly rankings here: Super Bowl Rankings.
George Kittle, TE, 49ers. With the 49ers having huge success running the ball during the playoffs, Kittle has gotten little usage. He has four receptions for 35 yards in two playoff games. We think he can get back to his old ways this week with the 49ers trying to keep up with the Chiefs high-powered offense. Remember, Kittle had at least five receptions five of his last six regular season games. He also has a favorable matchup against a Chiefs defines that allowed the sixth most fantasy points to tight ends during the regular season.
Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs. Hill had multiple touchdowns his last time out, catching five passes for 67 yards and two touchdowns. This was his third multiple touchdown game of the season. Hill has a chance to break off some big plays against a 49ers secondary that lacks a little top-end speed. It would not surprise to see Hill find the end zone again and get a few big plays in this game.
Damien Williams, RB, Chiefs. Williams has touchdowns each of the Chiefs playoff games, but failed to top 50-rushing yards in either of those games. He will get some catches even if he doesn’t pile up the rushing yards, but Williams has never topped 50-receiving yards in a game this year. Williams is going to be a touchdown dependent player, making him a risky fantasy play. The 49ers allowed just 10-rushing touchdowns all season and gave up the second fewest fantasy points to running backs.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, 49ers. Sanders has two receptions for 33 yards in the 49ers two playoffs games. He didn't even catch a pass his last game and has been targeted just three times the entire playoffs. Sanders has fewer than 50 yards eight of 10 games. The Chiefs also are a tough opponent for Sanders, allowing the second fewest fantasy points to receivers during the regular season. Sanders isn’t wroth the risk.
Mecole Hardman, WR, Chiefs. There always seems to be a player that surprises in the big game, so put Hardman on your radar. His speed could be a tough matchup for the 49ers secondary. Hardman found the end zone six times during the season, proving he is capable of the big play in this offense. The Chiefs could find ways to get this playmaker the ball, especially if the 49ers key on other Chiefs players in the game.
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers. Garoppolo has done next to nothing in the playoffs because the 49ers have been so run heavy. He has not been needed to air it out. That could change in the Super Bowl. It would not surprise to see the 49ers having to play catchup against a high-powered Chiefs offense. He should get more chances to throw the ball. He had plenty of big games during the regular season, so Garoppolo is more than capable of producing for fantasy teams. He probably needs to have a big showing if he 49ers hope to win this game.
High/Low Scoring Games
Each week we will take a look at some of the high and low scoring games for the coming week. In high scoring affairs, get your marginal players on those teams in your lineup to take advantage of the possible points barrage. And in the low scoring games, keep those marginal players on the bench and make sure to have your defenses involved in those contests.
High Scoring Games: Chiefs/49ers.
Low Scoring Games: None.
Jeff Paur is a two-time finalist for FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and won the FSWA award for Best Fantasy Football Article on the Web in 2011. He also was the most accurate expert in 2012, winning the FSTA Fantasy Football Accuracy Award. If you have any questions for Jeff, email him at email@example.com. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.
June 5th: Best Ball Strategy
Kansas City Chiefs free safety Tyrann Mathieu's average separation yards of 3.4 leaves something to be desired in coverage, and so does his catch rate allowed below expectation (minus-7.5), but he was crucial in the Chiefs Super Bowl run from a year ago. He had a passer rating allowed of 57.6, but his ballhawk rate of 17.1 percent is an indication of how effective he is in KC's secondary. The Honey Badger compiled 75 tackles (63 solo), two sacks, four interceptions and 12 passes defensed on his way to his second first-team All-Pro selection in his seven seasons in the league. Mathieu may not have the best numbers from a pure analytical perspective, but he gets it done nevertheless and is a fringe starter at defensive back in IDP leagues.
Seattle Seahawks strong safety Bradley McDougald comes in at No. 8 on NFL.com's Nick Shook's top-10 coverage men from the 2019 season. His coverage success rate of 62 percent really stands out. Only three other players on Shook's list -- Justin Simmons (65.9 percent), J.C. Jackson (65.5) and Eddie Jackson (62.8) had better success rates than McDougald last year. He also allowed a passer rating of just 54.4 when targeted and a tight-window percentage of 12. The 29-year-old has really started to come on the last two years with Seattle. McDougald had 70 tackles (52 solo), two interceptions, half a sack and a fumble recovery in 2019. He won't be an every-week starter in IDP leagues, but he might be worth a look when you need a bye-week replacement.
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has stuck by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo through all the criticism and believes the signal-caller has the ability to become an all-time great at the position. Garoppolo does have an advantage this offseason because he's not rehabbing an injury like he was before 2019. He ranked in the top five in touchdown passes (27), completion percentage (69.1) and yards per attempt (8.4) during his first full regular season last year, helping the team to a Super Bowl appearance. However, the 49ers are a team that leans more on the run and defense, making Garoppolo a glorified game manager. The 28-year-old has a low ceiling as a QB2 in Shanahan's current offense.
New England Patriots quarterback Jarrett Stidham and a group of six teammates recently gathered at a private football field to work out together. Stidham has been the catalyst for the throwing sessions, according to sources. Veteran QB Brian Hoyer has been at the throwing sessions, as have been wide receivers Julian Edelman, Damiere Byrd and Gunner Olszewski. Stidham, a fourth-round pick last year, looks to be the team's starting solution in the post-Tom Brady era entering the 2020 season. Head coach Bill Belichick seems totally comfortable rolling with the unknown 23-year-old, and we wouldn't bet against Belichick. So if Stidham is indeed the starter under center in Week 1, he'll be a midrange QB2 for fantasy owners.
Cleveland Browns cornerback Denzel Ward faced a high target rate of 22.4 percent in 2019, and on top of that he posted a coverage success rate of 61 percent and had a ballhawk rate of 14.3 percent, all while operating in a tight-window rate of 28.6 percent. His 77 targets accounted for nearly a quarter of his coverage snaps, so not only are opposing quarterbacks throwing his way, but Ward is shutting most of those targets down. If the 23-year-old former fourth overall pick can stay healthy -- he's played in just 25 games in his first two seasons -- he could break out in 2020 for a Browns Defense that could become streamable at some point during the year.
Minnesota Vikings free safety Harrison Smith was targeted just 40 times in pass coverage in 2019, but he comes in at No. 6 on NFL.com's Nick Shook's top-10 coverage men in the league. He forced tight windows 20 percent of the time and allowed a passer rating of just 50.3 when targeted. Fellow safety Anthony Harris was a standout in his own right in Minnesota, but Smith is the more fear safety for the Vikings. The 31-year-old has made the Pro Bowl each of the last five seasons and was an All-Pro in 2017. Smith had 85 tackles (65 solo), one sack, three interceptions, 11 passes defensed and two fumble recoveries last year. Because he's also a threat against the run, Smith is a top-10 fantasy defensive back in IDP leagues.
The Carolina Panthers hired former seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker Luke Kuechly as a pro scout on Thursday. His new role will require plenty of film watching and advance scouting. Kuechly, who was also a five-time first-team All-Pro, retired after the 2019 season mainly because of multiple head injuries suffered throughout his career. He posted 100-plus combined tackles in every single one of his eight seasons in the NFL and also had 12.5 sacks, 18 interceptions and 66 passes defensed. In his prime, Kuechly was one of the best sideline-to-sideline linebackers. He turned 29 years old this past April. It's a shame we didn't get to see more of Captain America on the football field, but he should be a tremendous asset to Carolina's scouting team.
Cincinnati Bengals cornerback William Jackson III (shoulder) played with a torn labrum in his shoulder the entire season in 2019. "I don't know how I did it, but I did it. It was painful every game. I'm fully healthy and ready to go," Jackson said. The 27-year-old gutted it out through 14 games to record 37 tackles (26 solo), one interception and three passes defensed. It sounds like Jackson has recovered well and should be ready for the start of the regular season this fall. He could have a bounce-back year in 2020 if he's fully healthy, but Jackson hasn't ever been fantasy relevant in IDP leagues with just two career interceptions in 45 games for Cincy.
Chicago Bears free safety Eddie Jackson wasn't targeted all that much in 2019 (43 times) and his ballhawk rate (9.3 percent) won't turn many heads, but he allowed a passer rating of just 49.9 and a catch rate allowed below expectation of minus-20.9 percent. He had only two interceptions last season, but he's demonstrated a nose for the football in the past, as evidenced by his career-high six picks in 2018. A fourth-round selection by Chicago in 2017, Jackson has been a Pro Bowler each of the last two years and was a first-team All-Pro selection in 2018. He might be useful as a bye-week filler in deeper IDP leagues, but he's not an every-week starter. The Bears Defense, on the other hand, is a top-five fantasy unit that should rebound after a down season in 2019.
Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White has become one of the league's best cover corners after being taken in the first round in 2017. He faced 84 targets last season and had six interceptions, 17 passes defensed, allowed a passer rating of (38.9) and a catch rate allowed below expectation (minus-8.4 percent). White had a tight-window percentage of 28.6 despite playing press coverage on opposing wideouts at a low rate. His ballhawk rate of 20.2 percent is close to that of Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who came in at No. 1 on NFL.com's Nick Shook's top-10 coverage men in 2019. Like Gilmore, White isn't much of an IDP star because QBs often avoid him, but Buffalo's defense overall should be seen as a top-five fantasy unit.
Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt has been impressed by quarterback Baker Mayfield's leadership during the offseason virtual program. Hes done everything Id expect from him as a starting quarterback," Van Pelt said. Mayfield also hosted a throwing session for around nine teammates in Austin, Texas. Van Pelt said that Mayfield has quickly grasped the new offense and is making strides with new West Coast footwork. Van Pelt has Mayfield leading with his left foot in the shotgun and is streamlining his footwork under center. He's also removing a big stagger step from his dropbacks. Mayfield was talked up prior to the 2019 season, too, and he disappointed in his second season. But the third-year signal-caller does have everything in place for a rebound and is in an offense that should cater more to his strengths, making him a value QB2 with upside for QB1 status by season's end.
Denver Broncos free safety Justin Simmons was only targeted 44 times in 2019, but he was very effective when he was the nearest defender on a target. His 34.1 percent ballhawk rate -- the percentage of targets where the nearest defender made a play on the football -- was the best among those meeting NFL.com's Nick Shook's criteria by more than six percentage points. Simmons' catch rate allowed below expectation wasn't all that impressive at minus-6.7 percent, but his tight-window percentage of 34.1 helped him allow a low 34.7 passer rating. The Broncos slapped the franchise tag on the 26-year-old and hope to iron out a long-term extension before July 15. Simmons is the strength of Denver's secondary now and is a fringe defensive back starter in IDP leagues.
New England Patriots defensive back J.C. Jackson posted excellent coverage numbers in 2019 despite starting only six games. His overall numbers were slightly better than teammate Stephon Gilmore, but Gilmore had almost twice as many targets (96 versus Jackson's 58). Jackson allowed the lowest passer rating (21.8) as the nearest defender in coverage among all defenders who qualified and the second-lowest completion percentage allowed. He allowed a passer rating of just 8.1 in press coverage and recorded all five of his interceptions while in press. And finally, Jackson had a perfect passer rating of 0.0 as the nearest defender on deep targets. He should see a much bigger role in 2020 for a Patriots Defense/special teams that is a top-10 fantasy unit.
New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore earned the top spot as the best defensive back in coverage in 2019, according to NFL.com's Nick Shook. He was the only player who faced 85 or more targets and didn't allow a single touchdown, and he also picked off six passes. Gilmore allowed the lowest passer rating (38) as the nearest defender in coverage among cornerbacks. His catch rate allowed below expectation (minus-11.8) was also the lowest among cornerbacks with a minimum of 300 coverage snaps. But like most elite corners, Gilmore lacks fantasy appeal because opposing quarterbacks often shy away from his side of the field. New England's strength will be on D again in 2020, though, and their defense/special teams unit is a top-10 fantasy option.
Philadelphia Eagles DE Josh Sweat could receive a bigger role in the defense this upcoming season after he had a solid 2019 season.
Philadelphia Eagles DE Genard Avery may only be used on special teams and as a pass rush specialist this upcoming season, in the opinion of The Philadelphia Inquirer's Les Bowen.
Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson used his explosiveness to shed defenders and turn upfield in 2019. He had 50 15-plus mph runs and averaged 4.3 yards gained after a defender closed within one yard of him last season. It helped him gain 1,230 yards on the ground despite not playing a full season because of injuries. Carson is coming off a season-ending hip injury, but although he's expected to be ready for Week 1, his explosiveness as a runner is tempered by the fact that he continues to struggle with injuries. If the 25-year-old can remain on the field for a full season, he should easily be an RB1, but you're much better off taking him as an RB2 and keeping your fingers crossed.
Free-agent RB Devonta Freeman (Falcons) would receive interest from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers if he lowered his asking price, according to head coach Bruce Arians.
Fantasy Spin: Freeman rejected an offer that would have paid him $4 million, so he may have to wait longer if he is looking for more than that salary. He would be part of a committee if he signed with Tampa but could lead the team in carries in that situation. Fantasy players should continue to monitor his status.
Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey comes in ranked ninth on NFL.com's Nick Shook's top-10 explosive runners of 2019, but he'll still be the No. 1 player selected in the vast majority of 2020 fantasy drafts. He reached 15-plus mph on 96 touches last season, which was the most in the NFL, with 52 of those touches coming on rushing attempts. McCaffrey had a 15-plus mph rate of 18.1 percent and was able to gain 10-plus yards on 31 of his rushes in 2019. The fact that he touched the ball so much brings his 15-plus mph percentage down on this list. But McCaffrey's superior abilities as both a runner and receiver make him stand out above the rest of the competition by a landslide.
Atlanta Falcons running back Todd Gurley II had a down year by his standards in 2019 with the Rams, but he still placed No. 8 on NFL.com's Nick Shook's top-10 explosive runners of last season. Only one of his 10 fastest touches over the last two years came in 2019, but he still reached or exceeded 15 mph on almost 20 percent of his 223 carries. Gurley's knee issues in recent seasons have sapped some of his explosiveness, but he still had 21 runs of 10-plus yards last year. Don't ignore Gurley simply because he's no longer in play for the overall RB1 in fantasy. He'll have a better offensive line to work behind in a strong Falcons offense and should see plenty of carries. Draft him as a high-end RB2 with the ability to finish as a top-10 back.