This article is part of our East Coast Offense series.
Grading My Non-Obvious Predictions
1. Rob Gronkowski (ADP TE15) will be a top-10 PPR tight end
The GOAT is only five months older than Travis Kelce, completely healthy, integrated into the offense and still playing with Tom Brady. The last time we saw him play, he caught two touchdowns in the Super Bowl win over the Chiefs.
Verdict: True. He was 12th in overall PPR points, but fourth in PPR points per game. That almost certainly makes him top-10 in value, over players like TE8 Mike Gesicki who scored only 10.3 more points in five more games. (1-0)
2. Justin Herbert (QB8) will be a top-three QB
Herbert reminds me of Dan Marino the way he effortlessly and accurately slings the ball down the field, except that he's also mobile – five rushing TDs in 15 games last year – and his highest snap-count running back (Austin Ekeler) is essentially a wide receiver. And Herbert thrived as a rookie while playing behind one of the league's worst offensive lines. The team has since drafted Rashawn Slater with the 13th pick, signed Pro Bowl center Corey Linsley and gets right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who missed six games, back. It also upgraded its head coach.
3. Jonathan Taylor will finish top three in yards from scrimmage
As I wrote earlier this summer:
Taylor is on a team with bad quarterbacks that's had some injuries to the offensive line. He has to contend with a former 1,000-yard rusher (Marlon Mack) and a third-down back (Nyheim Hines) in his own backfield. But that's mostly noise. The signal is a second-year back at 5-10, 226 who runs a 4.39 40, can catch passes and dominated in last year's second half. Don't overthink it.
Verdict: True. Taylor is far and away No. 1 at 2,076 scrimmage yards. (Cooper Kupp is second at 1,829.) (3-0)
I won't pick between them because they're both such physical freaks, but only Davante Adams should be projected for more touchdowns, and he'll almost certainly face a tougher schedule (his was among the easiest in the league last year.)
Verdict: False. Metcalf scored three in Week 17, but it was way too little too late. (3-1)
5. Diontae Johnson (WR18) will finish top-10 in targets and catches
He had 90 targets and 57 catches over the last eight games, and he caught 11 passes in the team's Wild Card loss to the Browns. Najee Harris will take away some of the short stuff, but Johnson is arguably the quickest receiver in the league, and the Steelers will get him the ball.
Verdict: True. Johnson is fourth in targets with 159 and tied for fifth in catches with 100. (4-1)
6. AJ Dillon will rush for 1,000 yards
The second-round pick should get plenty of work as Jamaal Williams is gone, and Aaron Jones has not been a massive workhorse. Jones got paid last year too, so the Packers could transition him into more of an Alvin Kamara role while Dillon does the dirty work. Dillon also managed 5.3 YPC last year, so he could get to 1,000 with just over 200 carries.
Verdict: False. Dillon has 740 yards through 16 games, and while he could go for 260 in Week 18, I'll take the L. (4-2)
With Jameis Winston winning the job, and Michael Thomas out for at least six games, Kamara should see McCaffrey-like volume in the passing game, while running behind one of the league's top offensive lines. McCaffrey is a great player, but Kamara is the most efficient fantasy back in history.
Verdict: True. This was an easy one with McCaffrey getting hurt again. (5-2)
8. Austin Ekeler will get fewer than 150 carries
Ekeler is a great receiver, but at 5-10, 200, he doesn't have the frame to hold up under a heavy workload, and if the Chargers try to give it to him, there's a good chance he'll get hurt. This might not seem bold, since 136 carries is his career high, but for the RB7, that's pretty light, and in fact his rushing yardage O/U was 825.5 on Draft Kings, meaning his implied total for carries is about 183.
Verdict: False. Ekeler missed only one game and managed 190 carries in 15 games, making him one of the few league-winning first-round picks. (5-3)
9. One of the following second-yard receivers will finish in the top-15 PPR: Henry Ruggs, Bryan Edwards, Van Jefferson, Gabriel Davis, Michael Pittman, Denzel Mims, Marquez Callaway, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Laviska Shenault, Darnell Mooney, Jalen Reagor, Quintez Cephus or Quez Watkins. (I purposely left off top-30 PPR WR: Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, Brandon Aiyuk, Tee Higgins and Chase Claypool.)
Second-year wideouts often pop, and enough of them should see opportunities for one to crack the top-15.
Verdict: False. Michael Pittman came the closest at WR22, 14.2 PPR points off the pace. (5-4)
10. One of the following teams will make the playoffs: Giants, Eagles, Lions, Raiders, Texans, Jaguars and Jets. (Cut me some slack on this one Pianow.)
While each one is individually a big underdog, collectively, they are probably favorites.
Verdict: True. The Eagles are already in, and the Raiders are still alive. (6-4)
11. The Giants will have a top-five defense in yards-per-play and a top-10 fantasy defense.
The Giants have one of the top 3-4 defensive linemen in Leonard Williams, emerging 2019 first-rounder Dexter Lawrence on the other side, shutdown corner James Bradberry now playing opposite free-agent signee and 2017 first-round pick Adoree' Jackson. Moreover, they drafted a top edge rusher Azeez Ojulari in the second round and get second round safety prospect Xavier McKinney at full strength after he missed most of 2020 with a foot injury.
Verdict: False. They were 13th in YPP and the 21st fantasy defense. (6-5)
Landry and Boyd are similar players — slowish, reliable possession types who don't make a lot of big plays. But Boyd, who goes in Round 6, has two young stars with whom to contend for targets, while Landry, who goes in Round 9, has only the brittle Odell Beckham and a bunch of bit players.
Verdict: False. While Boyd was indeed third fiddle and Landry top dog, Landry missed five games, and played in a far worse passing environment. (6-6)
Ertz set the record for TE receptions in 2018 with 116, and he had 88 two years ago. He's bought back into the Eagles and is still only 30 years old, late prime for a tight end. Thomas is a 30-year old who came out of nowhere last year and has to adjust to a new quarterback. Thomas has a Gary Barnidge vibe to me.
Verdict: True. Thomas got hurt, but Ertz was TE6 on the year. (7-6)
14. Someone will catch 20 touchdowns this year
Verdict: False. Unless Cooper Kupp catches five TDs against the 49ers Sunday. (7-7)
15. Kadarius Toney will be the most valuable Giants PPR receiver from Weeks 11-18
Kenny Golladay is already nursing a hamstring injury, Darius Slayton is a solid downfield guy, but nothing special, and Sterling Shepard is injury prone. The 20th overall pick in this year's draft, Toney is the team's fastest and quickest receiver, and its best option after the catch.
Verdict: False. He played in only two second-half games, and no one on the Giants broke 500 receiving yards on the entire year. (7-8)
Henderson seems fragile to me, and the Rams actually traded for Michel rather than scooping up a free agent. Michel was a first-round pick and has shown flashes when his arthritic knees weren't bothering him.
Verdict: False. Not by that much, but Henderson was the more productive back overall. (7-9)
17. Robert Woods (WR 13) will not catch more than five touchdowns this year
His career high in receiving touchdowns is only six, he rarely gets used near the goal line – five targets inside the 10 over the last two years – and both Cooper Kupp and Tyler Higbee are better bets to catch Matthew Stafford's TD passes.
Verdict: True, though I got lucky as he got injured after nine games with four TDs, and also scored a rushing TD. (8-9)
Fitzpatrick has played well the last couple years, but he'll turn 39 this fall, and even superstar quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Peyton Manning decline at that age. Heinicke looked good against the Bucs tough defense in their playoff loss, and he's more mobile too.
Verdict: True, though we'll never know whether it would have happened without Fitzpatrick getting hurt. (9-9)
Henry is a great back, but he's coming off 784 carries over the last two seasons (including the playoffs.) Chubb is nearly as good on a per-play basis, is two years younger and runs behind a better offensive line.
Verdict: False. Just as I credited myself with Gronk being a top-10 PPR TE in value, I have to dock myself here. Chubb finished ahead of Henry (barely), but those extra 13.95 PPR points over five more games made him decidedly less valuable/productive. (9-10)
20. Some of these predictions will be wrong.
Verdict: True! (10-10)
I have never come close to .500 on these before, even with the No. 20 layup, so it's not surprising I had one of my better fantasy years.
Week 18 Sporcle
Apropos of Ja'Marr Chase's Week 17 explosion, can you name every WR since 1980 who has had more than 200 yards and three TDs in a single game?
Guessing The Lines
|My Line||Guessed line||Real line||Net||My O/U||Real O/U||Net|
|Chiefs at Broncos||-8||-8.5||-9.5||-1.5||47||44||-3|
|Cowboys at Eagles||-2.5||0||-7||-4.5||48||42.5||-5.5|
|Packers at Lions||-3||-3||-2.5||0.5||46||44.5||-1.5|
|Colts at Jaguars||-8.5||-9.5||-15.5||-7||44||44.5||0.5|
|Team at Giants||-6.5||-5.5||-6.5||0||38||38.5||0.5|
|Bears at Vikings||5.5||6||2.5||-3||46||44.5||-1.5|
|Titans at Texans||-8||-8||-10.5||-2.5||48||43||-5|
|Steelers at Ravens||1.5||-3||-4||-5.5||47||42||-5|
|Bengals at Browns||3||-3||3||0||45||43||-2|
|49ers at Rams||0||3||5.5||5.5||49||44.5||-4.5|
|Panthers at Buccaners||14.5||15||8||-6.5||48||42.5||-5.5|
|Seahawks at Cardinals||5.5||7||6.5||1||48||48||0|
|Patriots at Dolphins||0||-3||-6.5||-6.5||44||40||-4|
|Saints at Falcons||-3||-3||-4.5||-1.5||45||40||-5|
|Jets at Bills||12.5||13||17||4.5||43||43.5||0.5|
|Chargers at Raiders||0||-3||-3||-3||47||48.5||1.5|
I'm way off on some of these, but that's to be expected early Tuesday morning on a volatile Week 18 slate. At first glance, I love the Jaguars, Eagles, Steelers, 49ers, Buccaneers, Dolphins and Jets. Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind in Beating The Book.
Week 17 Observations
- The Kirk Cousins-less Vikings were not worth the 40-minute re-watch.
- Aaron Rodgers has 35 TDs and four picks. He's fumbled three times, lost none. His team has won 13 games for the third year in a row, is the No. 1 seed for the second straight year and the Packers haven't drafted or signed a receiver of note over that span. Either he's the MVP, or voters punish him for immunization-gate and pick Tom Brady or Cooper Kupp. I got comments last week saying Rodgers is a lock, but never underestimate the pettiness of awards voters.
- Forget Coach of the Year, Dan Campbell should win Coach of the Decade for getting his team to battle for 60 minutes in a blowout with Tim Boyle at quarterback.
- Amon-Ra St. Brown (2-23-1, 11-8-111-1) has been a league winner during the fantasy playoffs. I'm curious to see his ADP next year – fifth-round too early?
- The other league winner in that game was Rashaad Penny (25-170-2, 3-2-15-0.) Don't forget Penny was the 27th overall pick in 2018, and this is the first time he's stayed healthy and gotten an extended chance.
- Speaking as someone who was in on DK Metcalf (9-6-63-3) this year, oh, now you decide to score three touchdowns in a game? One of my teams that barely missed the playoffs – sixth seed on won-loss record but fewer points than a lower team (though more points than the four seed!) – had Penny, Metcalf, Devin Singletary and Rex Beasthead, i.e., might have won the title had I made it.
- Sam Darnold trying to mount a final drive against the Saints was more doomed than David Koresh's cult.
- I laid the wood with the Cowboys, even though I knew in my heart of hearts it was wrong. Dak Prescott actually scrambled well but was off with his throws for most of the game. The Cowboys have the best personnel in the league, but they're missing something. Recall what modest returns Mike McCarthy got out of Aaron Rodgers during his final three years in Green Bay too.
- Kyler Murray played well against a tough Dallas defense, reversing his slide the last few weeks. He's got his mobility back too.
- Trey Lance looked lost in the first half, but got it together in the second. Jimmy Garoppolo should be back next week, and if he plays well both then and in the playoffs, I imagine Lance would sit again next year, as Garoppolo is still under contract for 2022.
- Deebo Samuel (7-19-0, 6-3-63-1) was quiet until a 45-yard TD reception in the fourth quarter. He was a difference maker all year, one of most common players on league-winning rosters.
- Elijah Mitchell (21-119-0, 2-2-11-1) got healthy just in time to matter. Durability, not ability, is the only issue for him. He should be a third or fourth-rounder next year.
- The Chargers crushed the Broncos after losing to the Texans because that's what they do.
- Cooper Kupp (7-6-95-1) had a modest day for him, but it was his NFL-record 12th straight 90-yard receiving game. Moreover, his 1,829 yards leave him 135 shy of Calvin Johnson's record, and his 138 receptions 11 shy of Michael Thomas' 149. The Rams play the pass-defense-challenged 49ers in Week 18, so Kupp has a decent chance to break one or both and possibly nab the MVP in the process, should enough voters opt to send Rodgers a message.
- Odell Beckham, who scored the game-winning TD, is second fiddle, but the Rams were awfully lucky to snag him on the cheap once Robert Woods went down.
- I don't have much to say about the Team-Eagles game except that I had the Team +3.5.
- Real Man Antonio Brown pulled a "Slapshot" and left the game before halftime. Bruce Arians purported to cut Brown after the game, but you can't fire a man who has already quit.
- Tom Brady led an epic drive with no timeouts and a depleted WR corps to beat the Jets. With nearly 5,000 yards and 40 TDs, he'll get some MVP consideration too, but his 12 picks, three lost fumbles and 7.3 YPA make it hard to give him the nod over Rodgers without making it obvious. (Though the more obvious the snub, the clearer the message.)
- Le'Veon Bell led the Bucs in snaps Sunday (h/t Mike Clay). If Leonard Fournette can't make it back from a hamstring injury for the playoffs, Bell would have a significant role.
- Damien Harris (9-35-2, 1-1-12-0) appeared to aggravate his hamstring injury against the Jaguars, so Rhamondre Stevenson (19-107-2) took over in the second half and had a huge game.
- Jonathan Taylor (20-108-1, 2-1-6-0) had another good game, but the Colts lost, and his MVP chances are probably dead on a 9-7 team that needs to win to get in this week. For some reason the Colts have gone away from him in the passing game too.
- The Raiders have a shot at the playoffs despite (a) having their coach get cancelled early in the year; (b) losing last year's No. 12 overall pick to a tragic drunk driving incident; and (c) being the Raiders. I hope they beat the Chargers next week and get in.
- So much for the scrappy Dolphins' seven-game win streak. The Titans now have the inside track for the No. 1 seed and Mike Vrabel Coach of the Year – all they have to do is avenge a loss to the Texans.
- Joe Burrow, who has 971 yards and eight TDs over the last two games, wound up being the QB to own this year when you include draft cost and the playoffs. Hopefully his knee is okay, but it would be so Bengals to win the division and lose Burrow.
- Ja'Marr Chase (12-11-266-3) finished the season where he started it – with a nuclear attack. He's up to 79-1,429-13 on the year, and the only question is whether he goes in the late first or early second next year.
- The Chiefs got out to a big lead over the Bengals but could not close the deal in the second half, a letdown with potentially big consequences for them as it costs them the No. 1 seed (and the only bye) should the Titans win in Houston next week.
- Tyreek Hill (10-6-40-0) has 110 catches through 16 games, but his per-play numbers (11.5 YPC, 7.9 YPT) cratered this year.
- Saquon Barkley (21-102-0) looks healthy again, but the Mike Glennon Giants are not an NFL offense. I'll still take Barkley late second round next year if he has a clean bill of health, and the Giants make some credible upgrades.
- Now that the Chiefs likely coughed up the No. 1 seed, the Bills have as good a claim as anyone to favorite status in the AFC. I've never seen a conference this wide open.
- Ben Roethlisberger managed 2.7 YPA in his final Heinz Field game, but he looked like he was having fun at least. He'll finish his career next week, fifth all-time in passing yards and eighth in passing touchdowns.
- Najee Harris (28-188-1, 3-3-18-0) finally got some blocking and showed what he could do with it. His run-out-the-clock TD was shades of Emmitt Smith or Terrell Davis, the knife in the back of anyone facing them in fantasy. Harris will be a top-five overall pick next year.
- Diontae Johnson (15-8-31-1) scored a TD, but 31 yards has to be some kind of record low for 15 targets. He could be a second-round fantasy pick next year, depending on the Steelers QB situation.
- Pat Freiermuth (6-5-22-0) is a player. Even on short passes where he was met immediately, he dragged defenders for a few extra yards. He was the rare useful rookie TE, and should be borderline top-five next year.
- Baker Mayfield took nine sacks and threw two picks, but bizarrely looked better to me than he had in recent weeks. His passes had some zip, and he moved better than earlier in the year. His first pick was egregious though as he passed up a wide open target underneath and forced the ball into coverage. Mayfield is a decent QB, but his biggest impediment to being good is not realizing his limitations.
- Nick Chubb (12-58-0, 1-0-0-0) doesn't get enough snaps or touches and is almost never used in the passing game, even with Kareem Hunt out. Are the Browns so sure he can't handle those duties? Is he such a bad pass protector it was too risky to use him in a meaningless game where the team still gave up nine sacks? Chubb's stock fell this year because unless the Browns have a change of heart, his upside is more limited than I thought.
- The Steelers defense showed up big this week after not getting off the plane last week. I count on the motivators like Mike Tomlin in these spots.