In the darkest recesses of drafts, a statistical monster sleeps. Every year, a near unanimously overlooked player wakes up and snakes on the competition. When it comes to return on investment, who could be this year’s Deshaun Watson? Our fanalysts weigh in.
Dalton – LAMAR JACKSON (232.06 ADP, QB30). There are sleeper options with higher floors, but none available as late as Jackson possess his upside thanks to his rushing ability. The quarterback ran for 3,172 yards and 39 touchdowns as a sophomore and junior at Louisville over the last two seasons, as his running ability can best be described as special (or if you prefer, Michael Vick 2.0).
Meanwhile since 2013, Joe Flacco has been both the highest paid player in the NFL while also sporting the lowest YPA over that span, which isn’t an ideal combination. It may take some patience, but the Ravens figure to fall out of the playoff race and eventually turn to Jackson, who’ll then face the league’s easiest run defense schedule over the final six weeks. Michael Crabtree is the team’s top wide receiver, so the Ravens shouldn’t hesitate to look toward the future and hand the keys over to a playmaker like Jackson, who doesn’t have to be a great (or even good) passer to make a major fantasy impact because of his legs.
Brad – BAKER MAYFIELD. Not quite the freezing cold poutine Johnny Manziel currently is north of the border, Mayfield is the solution to Cleveland’s long-running QB woes. His mobility, on-the-run strikes, pocket presence and overall command displayed against the New York Giants in the Preseason opener was only a warmup act.
Baker Mania has the Dawg Pound hungry and optimistic, understandably so. Last year with Oklahoma, he routinely threaded needles, setting the pace in almost every adjusted accuracy percentage category according to Pro Football Focus. Deep, underneath, outside the numbers, over-the-middle … Mayfield displayed incredible deftness. Any signs of Tyrod crumbling at the controls and the rookie leapfrogs him on the depth chart. Assuming Josh Gordon returns, he has top-15 upside once gifted the starting gig. Frowns will soon turn upside down inside the Factory of Sadness.
Scott – Eli Manning (174 ADP, QB25). I don’t blame anyone who thinks Manning might be cooked. He’s crashed outside the Top 20 at the position the last two years, and he was shockingly benched for Geno Smith — for one game anyway — last season. And now Manning heads into his age-37 campaign.
But consider all the talent around Manning. Maybe the 2018 G-Men can drag Eli to one more golden season.
Dynamic wideout Odell Beckham is obviously a superstar, and his injury more than anything sunk the Giants last year. Evan Engram is a Top-5 tight end on anyone’s board. Tailback Saquon Barkley went No. 2 in the draft largely because of his pass-catching chops. And Sterling Shepard is snappy as a fourth passing option.
And maybe new head coach Pat Shurmur is a difference maker. He was the Eagles OC when the Nick Foles 27-2 miracle happened in 2013; even if you want to label that a Chip Kelly production, Shurmur had something to do with it. And last year Shurmur turned journeyman QB Case Keenum into a plus quarterback.
Context is mammoth in our fantasy football pursuit. It’s not uncommon to see ordinary talent elevated by a stacked environment (maybe that’s what the Vikings did with Keenum). Perhaps a killer supporting cast and a brainy coach will be Eli Manning’s ultimate deodorant in 2018.