All-Upside fantasy football team: Leonard Fournette among 2019 headliners

One of the biggest keys to successful roster construction is balance. It’s important to ensure high ceiling players with solid floor options. This article isn’t about that though.

Instead, I’m playing with possibility. These are guys that could, in my estimation, outperform their current ADPs and close out the year as great fantasy starters.

Behold, my All-Upside Team.

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Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Setting aside feelings about how many chances Winston deserves, the fact of the matter is he’s getting another one. Despite being Dirk Koetter’s on-again-off-again starter in 2018, the four-year vet is set to work as Tampa’s franchise QB this fall. Playing under Bruce Arians — who came out of retirement to coach the Bucs — Winston has been gifted with a massive opportunity. In a BA-designed scheme built upon a “no risk it, no biscuit” philosophy, Winston’s proclivity to pushing the ball downfield should pay dividends.

A player that averaged the most air yards per game (186), Winston posted QB1 fantasy numbers in five of nine starts last year. While his decision-making skills have always been suspect, the 25 year old managed a pressured completion percentage of over 57 percent (QB7). Arians has publicly addressed Winston’s turnover issues and the signal-caller recently shared a commitment to checking down on a more regular basis.

Whether or not that happens, there’s no denying that Tampa has surrounded the could-be star with an incredible trio (maybe quartet?) of pass-catchers. Mike Evans is a consistent producer (surpassing 1,000 yards for five consecutive seasons) and red-zone weapon. Chris Godwin is on the precipice of a third-year breakout, in possession of excellent route technique (87th percentile SRVC per #receptionperception) and vice-like hands (top-fifteen contested catch rate). O.J. Howard similarly appears ready to shine, flashing enviable explosiveness and speed that allowed him to rack up an average of nearly 23 YAC per contest. Heck, even slot-man Scott Miller was receiving loads of Adam Humphries-lite buzz before pulling his hammy in early August.

Given the Bucs waifish defense, Winston figures to be throwing a bunch. Factor in the aforementioned cast of surrounding talent in tandem with Bruce Arians’ quarterback whispering abilities … and Jameis might finally be famous for all the right reasons. He’s my QB11 heading into the fall.

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Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

As someone who was #burnt by Fournette last year, I understand the trepidation around rostering him. At a certain point, however, value begins to outweigh recency bias. Hampered by a hamstring injury for much of 2018, the LSU product averaged a paltry 3.3 YPC. Yet, his volume remained enviable as he touched the ball 20 times per contest.

Heading into 2019, Fournette’s workload figures to remain robust. Like parents in couples’ therapy, the organization appears committed to making things work for the betterment of their favorite child. After letting T.J. Yeldon and Carlos Hyde walk in free agency, Jacksonville did little to beef up their backfield. Adding perennial back-up Alfred Blue (who has averaged under 4.0 YPC in four of his five seasons as a pro) from the Texans and using a fifth-round pick to add Temple product Ryquell Armstead, Fournette’s role as the team’s workhorse remains unchallenged.

While Jacksonville's defense regressed last year, they were still a solid unit, allowing the fifth-fewest total yards per game. I anticipate an improvement in 2019, but even if the squad’s numbers plateau, their overall ability will provide the offense with the luxury of establishing the run. Furthermore, the upgrade in quarterback from Blake Bortles to Nick Foles should at least keep the D from being gassed on the regular. There’s no denying that, when healthy, Fournette is one of the most powerful backs in the biz while playing one of the best situations in the NFL. With top-12 potential in this range of possible outcomes, he’s a risky but tempting ceiling-play who is available at an RB2 cost.

Many were burned by drafting Leonard Fournette last season, but don't let that keep you from taking another look at the Jaguars running back. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Many were burned by drafting Leonard Fournette last season, but don't let that keep you from taking another look at the Jaguars running back. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Dion Lewis, RB, Tennessee Titans

The Titans may not be concerned about Derrick Henry’s calf strain, but when a top-20-ranked RB is in a walking boot, I’m thinking about alternatives. If Henry were to be limited this season, Lewis would obviously see an expanded role. An explosive talent with the ability to rush inside and excel as a receiver, Lewis evaded 62 tackles (3.9/game) in 2018 while also managing a catch rate of 88 percent (RB1).

It’s that ability to work as a safety valve in the passing game that’s particularly interesting, especially with rookie A.J. Brown missing precious reps and with questions surrounding the health of Delanie Walker. Furthermore, the uncertainty of the Titans’ o-line in tandem with Marcus Mariota’s proclivity towards injury make it seem likely that Arthur Smith would encourage the fifth-year QB to get the ball out quickly, which could translate into a high number of check-downs to Lewis. With an ADP of 146.5 (RB57, 13.02), the former Patriot is well worth the speculation.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR, Green Bay Packers

Expected to work opposite Davante Adams as the Packers’ No. 2 WR, MVS is poised to break out. Selected in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, the USF product flashed solid hands and excellent speed (4.37) as a rookie. In an attempt to become a more consistent playmaker, the 24 year old spent the summer training with similarly built HOF wideout, Randy Moss. Working with the six-time Pro Bowler appears to be paying off, as Aaron Rodgers has been talking up the youngster.

Arguably the most athletic WR on the Packers’ roster, MVS also boasts versatility. Working both inside and out last year, the then-rookie converted 23-of-28 catchable targets via the slot while also bringing down 14-of-17 balls when working wide. Heading into 2019, he’s expected to line up opposite Davante Adams while the older and less explosive Geronimo Allison mans the slot. With 61 targets freed up via Randall Cobb’s departure, some fantasy heads appear convinced GMo will emerge as the second most productive receiving threat in Green Bay’s offense. Nah, fam. That’s some tired plug-and-play nonsense.

Allison — a 6-foot-3, 196-pound player — has notched fewer starts (8) over a three-year career than MVS managed during his entire rookie effort (10). He’s also only spent upwards of 12% of his time in the slot in back-to-back seasons. Meanwhile, Valdes-Scantling is a man who can do both. He’s also going off of draft boards after GMo. The upside clearly belongs to the blazer who has earned his QB’s trust and is being prioritized by the coaching staff.

Donte Moncrief, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers need a big body who can high-point and work as a legit red zone threat. That is what Moncrief does best. Heck, it may be all he does. Throw away last year in Jacksonville. Throw away his final year with the Colts, but without Andrew Luck. Remember the 7-TD season he had in 2016 when T.Y. Hilton was doing the dirty work in the slot. Earning praise from Big Ben and looking like a “slam-dunk No. 2 receiver” the buzz surrounding Moncrief has been mounting since June.

Antonio Brown’s departure has freed up over 160 targets in Pittsburgh. Even with James Washington performing well in preseason action, Moncrief remains the favorite for the No. 2 WR gig. In fact, after missing time due to a finger injury, the Ole Miss product returned to camp and wowed by reeling in three TD passes from Big Ben, which elicited praise from Mike Tomlin. An 81st-percentile SPARQ athlete, Moncrief has the physical tools to impress ... and with the Steelers he’s in a position to ROI, especially given his late-round (9.12) draft capital. He’s my WR37 heading into 2019.

Mark Andrews, TE, Baltimore Ravens

I’m leaning into the Mark Andrews hype … and hoping it doesn’t get much louder. Currently available in the 13th round of 12-team exercises, the Ravens second-year TE has been one of the buzziest camp names. Numerous beat writers have noted his rapport with Lamar Jackson as well as his playmaking prowess.

Baker Mayfield’s favorite target at Oklahoma, Andrews is a former receiver who wins in contested situations and has experience bailing out an emerging QB. Flashing at various points throughout his rookie effort, the Arizona native demonstrated his big-play potential with two grabs over 60 yards last year. In an epically shallow receiving corps, he has the chance to work as one of Lamar Jackson’s primary security blankets and to command a solid target share ... even in a run-focused offense. FF: 53-678-5

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