The relationship between one’s fantasy football team compared to a person’s favourite franchise is one of conflict. As the 2019 NFL season rapidly rolls in, fans and team owners alike will need to prepare for the heartbreak that inevitably comes for most. For those who see the promised-land, nothing is sweeter.
Over the years the divide between fantasy owners and pure fans of the game has strangely simultaneously grown and shrunk all at once, depending on who you ask. However, with an absurdly busy offseason, there’s so much to keep an eye out for before you assemble your fantasy team.
While the implementation of legal sports gambling and the partition between players and owners are two points of contention that continue to be league-wide topics of discussion, there are lots of other headlines that may affect how to draft for your upcoming fantasy league.
So with the preseason is in full swing, fantasy drafts are to follow. Here are some players to watch out for as well as a handful of affairs to consider leading up to the 2019 season.
The two positions taken highest in every fantasy draft are a wide receiver and running back, and two players who were in the top five in points last year might not lace up their cleats at all: Antonio Brown and Ezekiel Elliot.
Brown was traded to the Oakland Raiders this offseason after the team dynamic in Pittsburgh went from bad to tumultuous on a week to week basis. Looking for a fresh start with the new head coach and quarterback Jon Gruden and Derek Carr, Brown has found himself in numerous arduous situations.
After a late start to training camp, Brown suffered from a disastrous frostbite injury at a cryotherapy clinic in France. Even while his feet recover, he has now threatened to retire if he is unable to wear his old helmet that was recently prohibited from use. The grievance he filed with the league did not go his way, so it is unclear if he will play week one for Oakland.
Then there is the case of Ezekiel Elliot, who earlier this offseason dodged a suspension after a brief incident at a music festival. Now, Elliot is looking for a new contract and has made it clear he will hold out until he is paid.
The Cowboys we’re looking for a drama-free season, yet with Elliot as well as Dak Prescott declining a deal worth upward to $30 million a year, it doesn’t appear they’ll get their way. Prescott himself was a top 10 QB in points last year, so it will be intriguing to see if the contract stranglehold affects his play on the field.
With the Elliot situation coming to a head, fantasy owners shouldn’t be strangers to star running backs sitting out whole seasons. Le’Veon Bell missed all of 2018, which lead to the demise of yet another relationship between the Pittsburgh Steelers and a star player.
While Bell disappointed many fantasy drafters last year, he and new Jet’s teammate Sam Darnold look to be big-time contributors to their team as well as in the points column. With an offensive-minded head in Adam Gase, the QB/RB duo are primed to thrive.
While still talking about the AFC and NFC East, Tom Brady and Carson Wentz are looking to play more 2017 when they battled for MVP.
Brady will be working with a lot of new faces but it will be one of the youngest and most athletic group of playmakers he has worked with in years. Rookie, wide receiver N’Keal Harry could end up as a fantasy sleeper, as well as a dark horse for Rookie of the Year, but it’ll come down to the chemistry he can build with his future hall of fame quarterback.
Wentz, on the other hand, is getting his most diverse and talented group of receivers, tight ends and running backs to date. Of course, it always seems to come down to health with Wentz, but with the additions of Jordan Howard, DeSean Jackson and rookies Miles Sanders and JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Wentz should hit the ground running.
A few more running backs to keep an eye on are Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley. The duo from LA, the Chargers and Rams respectively, each have their own mountains to climb going into 2019. Gurley, who finished third in points in 2018, limped through the entirety of the postseason and some worry about his long term health.
Gordon, like Elliot, is holding out for a new contract and it’s unclear when he will suit up for the Chargers. Draft with caution.
In general, draft with caution this season. The influx of talent the NFL is currently seeing on the offensive side of the ball is unprecedented, which means you should have to reach for players with question marks less.
If Elliot or Gordon’s contract disputes raise some red flags, Saquan Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, James Conner, Joe Mixon and Tarik Cohen are all perfect feature backs for any roster.
Don’t let Antonio Brown flirting with retirement scare you on draft day. Deandre Hopkins, Devante Adams, Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, Adam Thielen and JuJu Smith-Schuster are number one guys ready to fill up the stat-sheet week in and week out.
Lastly, look out for the rookies and second-year QBs to make huge strides in 2019. Kyler Murray, Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Dwayne Haskins and Josh Allen are young players with risk yet high reward factors. Welcome to the 2019 NFL season, it should be something special.
For more NFL and Fantasy content, make sure to keep up with Verge Magazine Online and the Sportheads all season long.