2019 Way Too Early Fantasy Football Top 15 (PPR)by Prime Time Sports Talk February 6, 2019 8 comments
Now that the 2018 NFL season has come to an end, it is time to start discussing the top fantasy options in 2019. Before the debate begins, here are three notable league-wide nuggets:
Four running backs (Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, Todd Gurley, and Alvin Kamara topped 350 PPR points in 2018. In 2015, that number was zero, 2016 saw one, and 2017 had two. The same four players had over 80 catches in 2018. Three players had 80 plus catches in 2017, one player had 80 plus catches in 2016, and two players had exactly 80 catches in 2016.
From 2012-2015, 10 receivers saw over 180 targets, with two seeing over 200. From 2016-2018, zero receivers saw over 180 targets, with the high mark over that three year period being Deandre Hopkins’ 174 targets in 2017.
The following are PPR points scored by each position averaged and separated by the top six at the position followed by the next six:
TEs 1-6: 235.4 points, TEs 7-12: 139.5 points, a difference of 95.9 points
RBs 1-6: 351.1 points, RBs 7-12: 251.1, a difference of 100 points
WRs 1-6: 326 points, WRs 7-12: 280.1 points, a difference of 45.9 points
QBs 1-6: 347.3 points, QBs 7-12: 294.3, a difference of 53 points
While keeping these facts in mind, let’s move on to a 2019 PPR way-too-early top 15.
1. Saquon Barkley
Barkley finished as the RB1, topping Christian McCaffrey by 0.3 PPR points and he starts off this list as the number one overall player. Barkley’s passing game production is as good as it gets from a running back standpoint and people forget that he ran behind a mediocre offensive line. Even if his passing game usage takes a step back, a slight offensive line improvement will help him break even more explosive runs. He had seven runs of 40 plus yards in 2018 finishing first in the league. Nick Chubb was second with four.
2. Todd Gurley II
C.J. Anderson aside, through the first half of the 2018 season, Todd Gurley was on a LaDainian Tomlinson-type tear until getting banged up at the end of the year. He is still a top-tier fantasy option considering his passing game usage and efficiency. As long as the Rams offensive line continues to be one of the better run-blocking lines in the league, Gurley remains a top-three fantasy player.
3. Ezekiel Elliott
Everybody knows Zeke is a great player but what is encouraging is how the Cowboys utilized him in the passing game in the second half of the season. In the first seven games of the season, Zeke caught 25 passes. In the last eight, that number jumped up to 52. Another stat that will undoubtedly be mentioned this offseason: Zeke had the most rushing attempts in the league with 304 but only scored six rushing touchdowns after scoring 15 in 2016 and seven in 10 games in 2017.
4. Christian McCaffrey
McCaffrey had an all-time season catching the ball out of the backfield, setting a new single-season running back receptions record with 107 catches. While McCaffrey is definitely a premier receiving option out of the backfield, it would have been interesting to see what this number would have been should Cam Newton have been able to throw the ball more than ten yards. However, McCaffrey still averaged an impressive five yards-per-carry so it will be difficult to drop him out of the top five.
5. Alvin Kamara
Assuming Mark Ingram is back, Alvin Kamara rounds out the top five. Kamara is an above average runner and an elite pass catcher playing behind one of the best offensive lines in the league. He is the most explosive option in a perennial top-five offense and he has scored 32 touchdowns in 31 career regular season games.
6. Melvin Gordon
Gordon had a very similar 2018 campaign to Todd Gurley, racking up fantasy points in every way possible before getting banged up toward the end of the season. Gordon’s receptions per game have been rising since he came into the league in 2015 (2.4, 3.2, 3.6, 4.2) while his yards per attempt finally took a leap to 5.1 (averaged 3.8 first three seasons). The Chargers’ offensive line had been poor for some time but was considered to be on the rise before turning in mixed reviews for the 2018 season. All five starters are under contract for 2019 so there is certainly room for improvement.
7. James Conner
Conner did not disappoint as the Steelers’ feature back in 2018. Appropriately, Conner finished seventh in points per game among running backs and assuming the Steelers do nothing to address the running back position in the offseason, Conner will be poised for another bell-cow season in an elite offense with a top ten offensive line.
8. Davante Adams
Davante Adams checks in as the first receiver on the list at number eight overall. No matter who the quarterback is, Adams has produced, leading the league with 22 points per game in 2018. Though feature running backs are becoming more and more valuable, Adams’ value with Aaron Rodgers and an offensive-minded head coach in Matt Lafleur is too good to pass up. It is noteworthy that Adams is the only receiver to catch double-digit touchdowns in the last three seasons.
9. Le’Veon Bell
No matter what team decides to pay Le’Veon Bell this offseason, his receiving prowess out of the backfield cannot be ignored. Similar to the Giants passing on a quarterback and taking Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick in the 2018 draft, Bell’s new team will likely feel pressure to manufacture touches for him, thus landing him in the top ten. Volume is king in PPR, and Bell had an entire year to rest up and prepare for a workhorse role. It will be interesting to see how Bell performs behind an offensive line likely worse than the Steelers and if he is in football shape after being out of the game for so long.
10. David Johnson
Some may look at Johnson’s 2018 season as a disappointment and while he did not live up to his ADP, he finished as the RB9 overall and RB11 in points per game. Johnson’s usage was slightly down from his stellar 2016 campaign, but he still finished third in the league in attempts. It was disappointing to see the Cardinals not utilize Johnson to the best of his ability catching the ball out of the backfield, but new head coach Cliff Kingsbury should fix that up in no time. Similar to Barkley, the injury-riddled offensive line of the Cardinals could not have been much worse last season, so it is reasonable to predict Johnson having more room to work with next season. One last note on Johnson: anyone questioning him as an elite fantasy option should remind themselves of Todd Gurley’s RB15 finish in 2016 under Jeff Fisher before rocketing up to RB1 under Sean Mcvay.
11. Deandre Hopkins
Rock-solid at number 11, Deandre Hopkins will command lots of targets as the number one option in the Houston Texans’ offense as well as being the premier red-zone threat in the offense. A few concerns about Hopkins include the Texans’ tendency to be a run-first offense in some games in the second half of the season in addition to the return of Will Fuller and the emergence of explosive slot Keke Coutee. However, when a receiver has 115 catches without dropping a single pass, concerns seem a little nit-picky.
12. Nick Chubb
Nick Chubb checks a lot of boxes when considering his case among the top fantasy running backs for 2019. He plays in a decent offense that is on the rise, runs behind a solid offensive line, and has an offensive-minded head coach. He faced eight or more defenders in the box on 34.38 percent of his runs in 2018 which was the fourth highest in the league and still averaged over five yards per carry. Chubb will be a player to watch in the 2019 season considering how he will hold up over a full 16-game schedule as one of the focal points of the Browns’ offense.
13. Travis Kelce
Kelce deserves to be this high on the list due to the scarcity of other quality tight ends. More explosive than Zach Ertz and more reliable than George Kittle, Kelce averaged 18.4 points per game, which would have been tenth among wide receivers. Instead of settling for Trey Burton or Austin Hooper, draft Kelce in the late first or early second round to lock in a top-three fantasy tight end in 2019.
14. Michael Thomas
Michael Thomas comes in at number 14 as the number one receiver in a Saints offense, that should easily rank within the top five offenses in the league. Thomas caught 85 percent of his targets in 2018 which was a three-year league-high and led the league in receptions en route to a WR6 finish. Given his incredible efficiency, if Thomas can take another step and secure 15-20 more targets per year or catch double-digit touchdowns, he can definitely contend for WR1.
15. Tyreek Hill
The most lethal option on perhaps the most lethal offense in the NFL, Tyreek Hill rounds out this list at number 15. Perhaps a better real-life football player than fantasy football player, Hill’s speed and quickness is unmatched across the NFL and there is no defender who can cover him one-on-one. Though Julio Jones, Dalvin Cook, and Joe Mixon make compelling arguments for spots on this list, Hill’s ability to single-handedly win a fantasy matchup earns him the last spot on this list.