What do King Tut’s tomb, the Madden video game series, the Chargers organization as a whole and this nincompoop have in common?
Virtually everything we encounter/touch/promote gets cursed.
Over the years, dozens of players tagged “All-Man-Crush” drowned in an inescapable wake, victims of unforeseen, sinister wrath. Yes, some unrestrained infatuations circumvented disaster. Brandon Jacobs, Rashard Mendenhall, Pierre Thomas, Arian Foster, Le’Veon Bell, Melvin Gordon, Tyreek Hill, and Patrick Mahomes were a few lustfully pursued names who panned out.
Others, however, left hearts broken and rosters in squalor. Ameer Abdullah, Felix Jones, Ryan Mathews, and Terrelle Pryor were just a few.
So many failures. So many fantasy obituaries.
Last season’s list increased the carnage. Everyone featured — seriously, everyone — failed to profit or even return on their original ADP investment. After bottoming out, there’s only one direction to go …
As any fantasy manager can surely attest, individual players are often idolized in this obsessive little game. Professed infatuations commonly lead to lopsided trades, arm-tendon tears, and empty pockets. A few years back I shelled out the approximate street value of one kidney for Montee Ball. Yep, that catastrophe.
In honor of fantasy fixations everywhere, here is the Noise’s 2019 All-Man-Crush team — your must-avoid list to many — obnoxious adjectives and hyperbole included:
Quarterback: Cardinals’ Kyler Murray
Quick-twitched, speedy and knee-high to a grasshopper — Murray is the Kevin Hart of the NFL. Laugh heartily at his skills or situation and you’ll likely be the punchline. After Arizona’s disastrous Preseason Week 2 performance, many within the community chuckled loudly. The Cardinals offensive line, projected to be one of the NFL’s worst, was swallowed whole by Paul Guenther’s blitz barrage. As a result, Murray was off-center, uncharacteristically air-mailing intermediate throws while occasionally surrendering to pressure. His 3.7 yards per attempt (6.6 aDOT) through two games have some saying, “Avoid at all costs.”
However, this is still the preseason and when asked by Lisa Salters about Arizona’s pitiful efforts versus Oakland, he responded wryly with, “We’re really vanilla.” As Murray implied, Kliff Kingsbury hasn’t shown a card in his hand. O-line issues aside, the former Heisman winner should fly high in the desert. He’s remarkably accurate, blazing fast and a virtuoso in his understanding of the “Air Raid” system. With solid weapons around him (Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald, and David Johnson) and an un-supportive defense, he’s going to sizzle in the Sonoran starting Week 1 versus Detroit. Stated previously, he, like RG3 and Cam Newton before him, will steal the spotlight in his career opening act.
Fearless Forecast: 3,778 pass yards, 20 pass TDs, 698 rush yards, 5 rushing TDs, 15 Interceptions
Running Back: Bears’ David Montgomery
Similar to a broken record, mothers nagging single sons/daughters about their dating life and Antonio Brown’s ongoing helmet drama, my outward declarations about Montgomery have flowed constantly. Many of you have tuned out the hyperbole, but all signs point to the rookie exploding onto the fantasy scene.
Monty possesses the necessary tools and environment to blast box scores starting Week 1 against Green Bay. Powerful, versatile, balanced and elusive, he’s the only RB in the advanced analytics era to accumulate 100 missed tackles in a college season, according to Pro Football Focus. And he did it twice behind a pair of questionable Iowa St. lines. His 0.37 missed tackles forced per touch outpaced Saquon Barkley and Kareem Hunt. Suffice it to say, he embarrasses defenders at the point of attack, leaving them grasping at a ghost. Also an accomplished receiver, he’s a legit three-down back with a similar athletic profile as Hunt, who recall exploded under Nagy’s tutelage in Kansas City.
Ignore the naysayers who steadfastly claim Mike Davis poses a meaningful threat or Tarik Cohen will limit Montgomery to early down-only work. On 270 touches last season, a far less talented Jordan Howard finished RB20 in .5 PPR. The youngster’s superior skills will dwarf Howard’s lackluster efficiency, likely on 15-plus touches per game. Toss in Chicago’s solid offensive line and positive game scripts due to an elite defense, and the sky’s the limit. Grabbing him in Round 4, or even Round 3 of deeper leagues, isn’t an overreach. His ceiling is top-10.
Fearless Forecast: 248 carries, 1,073 rush yards, 31 receptions, 258 receiving yards, 9 total touchdowns
Running Back: Titans’ Derrick Henry
Down the homestretch last season, Henry ran with the ferocity of a war rhino from “Black Panther.” Finally, he resembled the impossible-to-tackle Heisman winner during his dominant Alabama days. As the lion’s share rusher Weeks 14-17, he amassed 606 total yards, seven touchdowns and a pace-setting 26.1 fantasy points per game. On the year, only Nick Chubb compiled more yards after contact per attempt (Chubb: 4.47; Henry: 4.21). Overall, an absurd 72.2 percent of his yards were generated after initial contact. B-E-A-S-T!
Head coach Mike Vrabel and offensive coordinator Arthur Smith have talked up Henry this offseason, boasting that he will be the centerpiece of the offense. It’s believable knowing the rusher is entering the last year of his contract. If adhered to, he should toe the line of the top 10 working behind a Tennessee line that ranked No. 9 in run-blocking efficiency last fall. He’ll need to cross the chalk consistently to overcome deficiencies as a pass-catcher. It’s also important that Marcus Mariota not throw pineapples into the ground. Henry saw a stacked front 32.1% of the time last year. But if everything comes together, he’s bound to annihilate his perceived worth (39.3 ADP, RB20). Saddle up. Oh, and lay a little action down on him at 10/1 to win the rushing title.
Fearless Forecast: 283 attempts, 1,253 rushing yards, 19 receptions, 106 receiving yards, 11 total touchdowns
Receiver: Patriots’ Josh Gordon
Roughly three tequilas in at a random bar in Columbus, Ohio, last Friday, an intoxicating elation instantly seized my mind and body. The news leapt off the wire. Roger Goodell officially reinstated Josh Gordon. A heaping plate of nachos was promptly sacrificed to the fantasy football gods. He hath risen!
Critics will contend Gordon is one puff or sip away from a permanent exile. The risks are unavoidable. Still, his path to 22-24% of New England’s targets is clear. Rookie N’Keal Harry isn’t healthy and has struggled to acclimate. Retired Rob Gronkowski is no doubt partying on a random luxury yacht somewhere. And, outside preseason sensation Jakobi Meyers, no one else has really looked starter-ready. Julian Edelman, James White, and Gordon are Tom Brady’s most reliable weapons.
Recall last year, when Gordon played on at least 79% of the team snaps, a stretch of nine games, the wideout posted the 23rd-most valuable line in .5 PPR. He also averaged an appreciable 11.0 yards per target. The man knows the system, is still in the physical prime of his career at 28 and has the trust of No. 12. There’s a real possibility he finishes inside the position’s top-20 if he stays on the field. Burn me once. Burn me thrice. Burn me however many times, I’m going back to the well. The upside is too alluring at his 79.8 ADP (WR36).
Fearless Forecast: 68 receptions, 1,112 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns
Receiver: Buccaneers’ Chris Godwin
Many in the fantasy community are gaga for Godwin, and rightfully so. The #ReceptionPerception darling was a master of efficiency in 2018, posting gaudy success rates nearly across the board. Reliable in traffic and equally tough outside the numbers, he’ll crack the position’s top-20 if his target percentage surges into the 19-21 range (15.6% in ‘18). Arians’ bold claims that Godwin could flirt with 100 catches only accelerates the needle push. This isn’t a C.J. Spiller-is-going-to-touch-the-rock-until-he-pukes remark. Working primarily in the slot, the receiver is going to play a ton of snaps.
What’s most attractive about the WR’s otherworldly potential is the environment around him. The Bucs defense will resemble a unit hammered on rum. It’s in the running for worst in the league. Negative game scripts will be common, boosting Godwin’s target potential. So will Tampa’s absent ground game. With Mike Evans and O.J. Howard in the fold to alleviate pressure and Jameis Winston no longer looking over his shoulder at the glorious beard of Ryan Fitzpatrick, the stage is set for the third-year weapon to detonate. The hype is warranted. Buy into it.
Fearless Forecast: 91 receptions, 1,283 receiving yards, 8 receiving touchdowns
Tight End: Ravens’ Mark Andrews
Similar to the buildup in 90s Weezer rocker “Only in Dreams,” Andrews’ ADP has slowly crept toward the crescendo. Nearly every day, beat writers enter the Twitter scroll to report another dynamite Andrews grab. He repeatedly beats defenders downfield, strengthening the chemistry established between him and Lamar Jackson when the QB took over full-time last year.
Before you ask, yes, the Ravens’ offense is sure to remain largely conservative. They ran the ball a NFL-high 34.2 times per game in 2018. But Jackson has the look of a passer poised to catapult forward. His confidence in Greg Roman’s system is visible. More importantly, his passes, often wobbly last year, are tighter, crisper, and more accurate. Without a go-to WR, it’s the 6-foot-5 Andrews who could be his main flame. And, no, I’m not worried about his limited action in preseason games. Expect the TE’s target share to skyrocket from 2018’s 9.3%. At his 135.3 ADP (TE14), you won’t find a better bargain buy.
Fearless Forecast: 48 receptions, 673 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns
FLEX: Broncos’ Royce Freeman
Late last year, the amount of rotten cabbage hurled in my general direction over my Royce top-15 love rivaled the scene in “Braveheart” when a shackled William Wallace was paraded in front of a hostile crowd just before his execution. Freeman didn’t pan out. From the shadows, undrafted Phillip Lindsay, and not the more ballyhooed Freeman, rose to the occasion, tossing my original prediction into the nearest latrine. I was wrong. However, if you know anything about “The Big Noise,” I rarely abandon talent. It’s time to double down on the Rolls Royce.
Local reports have indicated a 1A, 1B scenario is likely to unfold between the sophomore backs. Advantage, Freeman. Underneath the surface, Lindsay’s secondary numbers from 2018 left much to be desired. Even benefiting from light fronts (14.1 stack%), he ranked outside the RB top-50 in yards after contact per attempt (2.35) and missed tackle percentage (9.7). The bulkier complement, meanwhile, checked in with a 3.22 YAC/att and the third-best broken tackle percentage (23.8) while seeing the most eight-plus men fronts of ANY rusher in the AFC (36.2% of the time).
Under a new coaching regime and functioning behind what should be a top-10 offensive line, Royce, who’s seen more action in the pass game throughout the summer, is likely to generate 12-14 touches per game. He far and away possesses more profit potential when compared to Lindsay, who is going roughly four rounds higher in 12-team settings. Freeman is silly affordable at his 86.7 ADP (RB38).
Fearless Forecast: 201 carries, 862 rushing yards, 22 receptions, 174 receiving yards, 8 total touchdowns