So it begins.
We've gone through the long dark night of the NFL offseason. Past the breathless analysis of Combine drills. Past the euphoric jubilation of the NFL Draft and even past the educated prognosticating that comes with mini-camps and OTAs. The light at the end of the tunnel is the oncoming rush of training camp. That means it's time to re-evaluate rosters and depth charts and figure out what it means for some of your upcoming draft strategy.
Check back. This piece will be updated when teams begin releasing depth charts.
Outlook: The main players in the Broncos offense remain mostly the same from last season, with one big exception. Denver signed veteran quarterback Joe Flacco to take over a passing attack that has floundered since the end of Peyton Manning's career. If Flacco can regain a portion of the form that saw him throw for more than 4,000 yards in 2016, it'll do wonders for Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton, a pair of young players that have fantasy managers excited. Of course, one wonders where Emmanuel Sanders fits into this. The veteran is aiming for a Week 1 return after an Achilles injury but will he look like the Sanders of old? In the backfield, it remains a two-horse attack with last season's rookie sensation Phillip Lindsay (coming off wrist surgery) and Royce Freeman expected to handle most of the load. It's worth keeping an eye on tight end Noah Fant. Flacco has tended to favor throwing to tight ends and the rookie has the skills to be an impact player if given the chance.
Outlook: After an MVP season in 2018, it's no surprise that Patrick Mahomes has rocketed to the top of everyone's fantasy QB list. It's also no surprise that you hear the word "regression" whenever someone mentions his name. The question is how much of that regression he can avoid in a quest to repeat his 50-touchdown season. He will have some help now that Tyreek Hill has avoided suspension and appears on track to be available Week 1. Hill's availability also helps Sammy Watkins, who excelled last season in a secondary role. Travis Kelce continues to be the TE1 on most fantasy draft boards and has occasionally snuck into the first round in some drafts. Damien Williams took over in the backfield to great effect last season after the Chiefs released Kareem Hunt and is expected to hold court in that position yet again this year. Kansas City added Carlos Hyde but the veteran appears to be little more than an insurance policy with minimal fantasy appeal.
Outlook: The Chargers offense continues to be one of the most consistently productive units in the NFL and fantasy. Keenan Allen still has WR1 vibes while Mike Williams could have an even bigger role since Tyrell Williams departed for the Raiders. Philip Rivers has become the new patron saint of The Church of Waiting on a Quarterback and should be a fringe QB1 yet again. The biggest question mark as training camp opens is ... whither Melvin Gordon? The running back has made his demands for a new contract known, saying he will hold out if the team doesn't offer him a new deal. That would drastically change the fantasy outlooks for both Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson. The return of Hunter Henry from an ACL injury is reason for optimism that fantasy tight end won't be nearly as shallow as it was in 2018.
Outlook: The Raiders made arguably the biggest splash of the offseason when they sealed a trade to land Antonio Brown from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Combine that with the free agent addition of Tyrell Williams and the Silver and Black has a receiving corps worth paying attention to. It also means this is a make-or-break year for Derek Carr, who has merely been adequate over the past couple of seasons. One more reason for excitement in the Oakland offense is rookie running back Josh Jacobs. The former Alabama standout was considered the top running back prospect in the April draft and walks into a situation loaded with opportunity.
Outlook:Josh Allen opened a lot of eyes last season, though it was more about his rushing ability than what he did with his arm. To help him in that latter area, the Bills added receiver talent in the form of John Brown and Cole Beasley. Combine that with Robert Foster and Zay Jones and Allen has become an intriguing best ball option for 2019. If only we had such optimism for the Bills backfield. After a dismal 2018, LeSean McCoy has company in the form of the ageless Frank Gore as well as T.J. Yeldon and rookie Devin Singletary. With no clear indication of how any of those players will be used this season, this backfield has become one to avoid if possible.
Outlook: All signs point to the Dolphins going through a roster rebuild under new head coach Brian Flores but that doesn't mean there are no fantasy pieces worth considering. Kenyan Drake's talent makes him interesting as a third running back option in many formats. Kalen Ballage has home run potential that gives him value in best ball formats. Kenny Stills continues to be worth a late round dart throw. And stop me if you've heard this one ... but DeVante Parker is turning heads in practice. Then there's the quarterback position. Josh Rosen might be the future in Miami but Ryan Fitzpatrick is the present and if there's one thing we know about #FitzMagic, it's that he's liable to put up a couple of bonkers fantasy weeks. Good luck figuring out which ones.
Outlook: It's hard to imagine a world in which Tom Brady isn't in high fantasy demand but such is the world we currently inhabit. TB12 might be great on the field, but this is an offense that ran through its running backs last season and the early draft returns are reflecting that fact. It also has a ripple effect on the Patriots pass-catchers. Julian Edelman still inspires confidence but few know what to expect from rookie N'Keal Harry or the rest of the receiving corps. By the way, did I mention that Rob Gronkowski is no longer an option? Yep. In case you've been under a rock for months, Gronk called it quits in the offseason. Ben Watson ostensibly takes over the position on the roster but it's a fool's errand to think he can replace Gronk's level of production. As for the aforementioned running game, Sony Michel is expected to remain in the lead role but he enters camp coming off arthroscopic knee surgery. That opens the door for James White and rookie Damien Harris to battle for more touches. Belitricks could be on once again.
Outlook: Changes are afoot in the Big Apple. Adam Gase flew north from Miami to take the head coaching job while Le'Veon Bell chose to land on the Jets' runway after five seasons with the Steelers. His usage will be something to watch after reports that Gase may not have been thrilled with the running back's signing. Nonetheless, it ups the stakes for Sam Darnold, looking for big things after a rookie season that showed promise. Adding Jamison Crowder to the receiving corps didn't make the same level of headlines but he adds depth to an interesting group of pass-catchers.
Outlook: The Ravens went against the grain in 2018 as one of the run-heaviest offenses in the league, led by rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson. Things figure to remain status quo this season, though Baltimore hopes to keep Jackson out of harm's way a little more. To that end, the team added free agent Mark Ingram from the New Orleans Saints to a crowded backfield that includes speedy rookie Justice Hill. The receiving corps might not get a lot of people fired up but if offensive coordinator Greg Roman can sharpen Jackson's passing skills, guys like rookie Marquise Brown and Willie Snead could end up being fantasy draft gems. I'd say the same about Baltimore's tight ends but that group has been hard to decipher in recent years with a number of players seeing opportunity at the position.
Outlook: How much you believe in the ability of new head coach Zac Taylor to work some Sean McVay-type magic in Cincinnati could impact where you draft some of his players this season. Joe Mixon is poised to be a workhorse who can post another RB1 season. A.J. Green (back from a toe injury) is still a top 10 fantasy wideout in most drafts and Tyler Boyd offers plenty of upside in the middle rounds. Beyond that, nearly everyone else on this roster is either a dart throw or worth avoiding altogether.
Outlook: No team enters the 2019 season with as much hype as the Cleveland Browns. Freddie Kitchens' elevation to offensive coordinator took the Browns offense to a new level. Now that Kitchens has taken over as head coach, the expectations are that Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, and Jarvis Landry should continue to ascend. Oh yeah, Cleveland also traded for Odell Beckham, Jr. from the Giants. That might have a little to do with some of the excitement along the southern shores of Lake Erie. Not to be ignored, tight end David Njoku is getting quite a bump in fantasy drafts as a serious pass-catching option in the offense. It makes you wonder if there's going to be enough opportunity for everyone here. And this is before mentioning that the Browns will have Kareem Hunt later in the season after the running back serves and eight-game suspension. Saying this offense is crowded might be a gross understatement.
Outlook: No Antonio Brown. No Le'Veon Bell. What will become of Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense in 2019? If last year was an indication, things should be in good hands. James Conner and Jaylen Samuels proved to be effective in Bell's absence last season. Similarly, JuJu Smith-Schuster exploded for more than 1,400 yards in just his second season, with some of his bigger games coming with Brown on the sidelines. The question, however, is which receiver moves up to become Pittsburgh's WR2 in 2019? Initially, James Washington seemed to be the obvious answer but Donte Moncrief has forced his way into the conversation during minicamps. In the meantime, Vance McDonald has very quietly become an interesting tight end option in an offense that relied very heavily on throwing the ball last season.
Outlook: With his devastating combination of arm strength and blazing speed, Deshaun Watson is a popular pick to end the season atop the fantasy quarterback scoring rankings. However, it would be nice if the Texans could protect him better than they did last season when he was sacked a league-high 62 times. Regardless, he was still able to get the ball to his targets plenty -- enough that DeAndre Hopkins has taken over as the consensus WR1 this season. It's also the reason that Will Fuller is a solid mid-round value with outsized best ball potential. Lamar Miller isn't the type of fantasy running back that will excite a lot of people but he performed well when this offense was fully healthy and functioning at its best.
Outlook: If Deshaun Watson is considered one name to dethrone Patrick Mahomes atop the quaterback rankings, Andrew Luck has to be another. After missing a season with shoulder issues, Luck returned in 2018 and picked up where he left off with more than 4,500 yards and 39 touchdowns. This season, Indy has added weapons at receiver with free agent pickup Devin Funchess and speedy rookie Parris Campbell. Marlon Mack has sleeper potential after posting more than 1,000 scrimmage yards and 10 total touchdowns last season, though he'll need to be more consistent week-to-week if fantasy managers are going to trust him in their lineup. Eric Ebron had a career season (14 total touchdowns) in 2018 that screams regression in 2019 but even a mild step back should still land him squarely in the TE1 range.
Outlook: The Jaguars finally cut ties with Blake Bortles in the offseason and opened the wallet to bring in former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. Yet this is still an offense that's likely to run through Leonard Fournette. As long as the bruising back can stay healthy, he'll see a very heavy workload in 2019. Still, the hope is that Foles can inject life into a passing game that went nowhere last season. That would be good news for fantasy managers. The bad news is that it would force us to make choices among a wide receiver corps that has yet to truly establish anyone as a go-to player. Dede Westbrook seems to be the preferred wideout but there are plenty of others who could chip into his opportunity.
Outlook: For years, the Titans offense has underwhelmed. This year, Arthur Smith takes over as offensive coordinator, hoping to light a fire under this group -- particularly quarterback Marcus Mariota. The dynamic quarterback has just one 20-touchdown season to his name and has a receiver group that is long on potential but short on production. This is the year that decides if Mariota can be a franchise (and top-line fantasy) quarterback. It should help having a healthy Delanie Walker back on the field. Look for Derrick Henry to get plenty of chances to run the football. The big back had some big games down the stretch last season when given enough opportunities. If he succeeds, it could make Dion Lewis irrelevant.