This article is part of our East Coast Offense series.
East Coast Offense Year 14
It's odd contemplating how long the column has run because it was actually the "new" column I conceived in 2006 for Yahoo Sports, in contrast to Beating the Book which I had been writing since 1999 and Staff Picks, since 2000. But time flies when you're miserable thinking of stuff to write every week, so here we are. Actually, I've made it easier by reprising the same format for Weeks 1, 16 and 17 every year, and I promise to take more shortcuts this season when I can. For the remainder, I'm forced to trust in the league itself to generate material beyond the nuts and bolts fantasy analysis so many people on the site already so competently provide. Usually, it obliges, though if you see a spread-sheet-generated analytics graph, it means I got stumped. (It happens a few times a year, and it's not the end of the world to get my hands dirty once in a while.) Otherwise, there's no roadmap to what's in these pages, other than this week (bold predictions), Week 16 (the team I wish I had drafted) and Week 17 (grading those predictions.) I'm also keeping the Sporcle quizzes (new feature last year) not because anyone other than commenter alphago likes them, but because I'd love it if other people created NFL trivia for me.
This Week's Trivia
The NFL has become a dink and dunk league, with teams throwing to backs more than ever. Can you name the 16 RBs with 50 or more catches last year?
Players I Don't Own
I'm only in five leagues this year, not including my League Of Leagues team (three sports). You can see them here.
Here's who I don't have on any of them:
Alvin Kamara, DeAndre Hopkins, David Johnson, Michael Thomas, Julio Jones, James Conner, Le'Veon Bell, Dalvin Cook, Odell Beckham, Tyreek Hill, Todd Gurley, Joe Mixon, Antonio Brown, Keenan Allen, Adam Thielen, Kerryon Johnson, Aaron Jones, Damien Williams, Devonta Freeman, Stefon Diggs, Amari Cooper, Zach Ertz, Chris Carson, Josh Jacobs, Julian Edelman, Brandin Cooks, David Montgomery, Derrick Henry, Tyler Lockett, T.Y. Hilton, Robert Woods, Kenny Golladay, Mark Ingram or Mike Williams.
How is it possible none of these players landed on any of my five teams? They fall into two categories: (1) Players I didn't get due to draft/auction circumstances; and (2) Players of whom I wanted no part at their ADPs.
The first category of players are: Hopkins, Jones, Connor, Bell, Cook, Beckham, Hill, Mixon, Brown, Thielen, Jones, Jacobs, Cooks, Montgomery, Woods, Ingram and Williams.
But David Johnson hasn't been good since 2016 and still has a bad offensive line, Thomas gets fewer targets than the other top WR and rarely makes big plays, Gurley might be a ticking time bomb, Allen is a poor man's Thomas, Kerryon Johnson is slight for his height and could split carries like last year, Williams was probably in a time-share even before the Chiefs signed LeSean McCoy, Freeman has probably exceeded his lifetime allotment for concussions, Diggs is a poor man's Allen, Cooper already has a foot problem, Ertz is likely to give back some targets, Carson's running style makes him an especially high injury risk, and I'm dubious about the pass-catching, Edelman is 33 and has a long history of injuries including concussions, Henry is almost a total zero as a receiver, Lockett will be lucky to get 100 targets in that system, while Hilton isn't a high-volume WR, and now he's SOL.
20 Non-Obvious Predictions for 2019
I've done this each of the last few seasons with mixed success. That's another way of saying success mixed with failure or just mixed failure. Here are last year's (probably my best ever) for point of reference. Remember these are non-obvious, and no amount of mixed failure will deter me from making them in 2020, either.
1. Saquon Barkley will threaten the NFL record for Yards From Scrimmage
"Threaten" is vague, so I'll say "come within 100 yards of Chris Johnson's 2,509, set in 2009." The only two players to surpass even 2,400 YFS are Johnson and Marshall Faulk (1999), so this would be no mean feat. But the Giants offensive line is much better this year, their receiving corps is thin, and Barkley, arguably the most physically gifted all-purpose back in NFL history, should see a ton of work in Year 2.
2. Patrick Mahomes will have 45 passing TDs,
This would make him the first QB in NFL history to do so in back to back seasons. (Drew Brees had back to back 40-TD seasons from 2011-12.) Given Mahomes' unique talent, the Chiefs system and blazing fast weapons, the regression police are the ones due for regression this year.
3. JuJu Smith-Schuster will finish top-three in catches and receiving yards.
Antonio Brown vacated 168 targets and Jesse James 39 more. I'm dubious Donte Moncrief and James Washington will pick up all the slack. And keep in mind Smith-Schuster had 166 targets even with Brown around.
4. Baker Mayfield will throw 35-plus TD passes this year.
He had 27 last year in 13.5 games, and that was with Jarvis Landry miscast as a No. 1 receiver and Hue Jackson miscast as a head coach for half the year. Now Mayfield has a full season, Odell Beckham and Freddie Kitchens.
5. Duke Johnson (NFFC RB 28) will be a top-15 PPR back
The Texans brought in Carlos Hyde's carcass, but Johnson is the better back on all three downs, and if he catches even 50 passes to go along with 150-odd carries, he'll approach that range in this offense. If he catches 60 or 70, we could be looking at top-10.
6. The Giants will win at least seven games in 2019
The defense is in shambles after losing Olivier Vernon and Landon Collins, while no one is inspired by Eli Manning or Reach of the Draft, Daniel Jones (despite his strong preseason.) But Pat Shurmur's offenses are usually decent, the offensive line should be a top-10 unit, Barkley is going to keep the defense fresh, and Manning/Jones will be low-end competent with time to throw and good run-after-the-catch targets.
7. Drew Brees (NFFC QB 8) will not be a top-15 fantasy QB
His volume is down, he's 40 years old, the Saints were the fifth-most run-heavy team in the NFL last year, and he gets virtually no rushing yards (though he is good for a couple sneaks at the goal line.)
8. At least one among the Giants, Redskins, Lions, Cardinals, Raiders, Bengals, Bills and Dolphins will make the playoffs this year.
While individually each team is a major dog, collectively they might even be a favorite.
9. The Colts will make the playoffs in 2019.
10. Sterling Shepard (NFFC WR 37, minimum 14 games) will be a top-20 PPR receiver.
Odell Beckham is gone, Golden Tate is suspended for four games and now Shepard is the only outside threat in town. He'll get at least 120 targets, and that should translate into 75-plus catches and 1,000 yards.
11. Mike Williams will score 10 touchdowns.
He had 10 last year on 66 targets, and while that rate isn't sustainable, it's not random a 6-4, 220-pound wideout with a giant wingspan was so good at catching TDs. He'll have 100-plus targets this year, a disproportionate number of which will be in the end zone.
12. Todd Gurley will see fewer than 225 carries.
Even if his knee holds up well, the Rams have no reason to work him as hard as they did in the past, and to that end, they re-signed Malcolm Brown and drafted Darrell Henderson in the third round. And there's obviously a decent chance the knee - which limited him severely in the playoffs despite a three-week layoff - could be a significant problem as the season goes on.
13. Greg Olsen (NFFC TE 22, minimum 13 games) will be a top-10 PPR fantasy tight end.
The game minimum is a huge caveat in his case, but from Weeks 6-10 last year, he had at least four catches and 48 yards in four of five games while scoring three times over that span. The Panthers aren't deep at receiver, and Olsen is still one of Cam Newton's favorite targets.
14. Tyler Boyd will be a top-15 PPR fantasy WR.
He's in his prime, A.J. Green is already hurt, and Boyd produced even when Green was healthy. It's hard not to see 80 catches and 1,000 yards just for showing up.
15. Tyler Lockett (NFFC WR 17) will not be a top-25 PPR WR
Unless he has another season for the ages (13.8 YPT last year), he'll need 120 targets to earn his current ADP, something that's unlikely given he saw only 70 last year. And I'd be surprised if he got anywhere near 10 TDs again even if he did get the workload, given his small frame and modest red-zone use.
16. One of the following second-year wideouts will crack the top-12 in PPR: Dante Pettis, Christian Kirk, Robert Foster, D.J Moore, Calvin Ridley, Michael Gallup, Courtland Sutton, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Keke Coutee, D.J. Chark, Tre'Quan Smith or James Washington.
Last year, Juju Smith-Schuster did it, and Year 2 is often when wideouts break out.
18. Odell Beckham (NFFC WR 6, minimum 14 games) finishes the year as a top-three PPR WR.
If we take health off the table, I'd have made Beckham my WR 1 or 2 with Baker Mayfield as his QB.
The two are similar players, only Landry is six and a half years younger and has never missed a game in his career.
20. Some of these predictions will be wrong.
Hopefully, it's only No. 20.