The doors are closing, the whistle is blowing, and the wheels are starting to turn. The 2018 Hype Train is about to leave the station!
It’s the start of August, which means training camps are wrapping up, preseason games are about to take over our TVs, and coaches are praising every player on their roster. Every rookie “picks up the playbook so quickly”, every fringe roster player “shows the fire” needed to make the team, and every veteran returning from an injury “looks better than they’ve ever been”. It’s easy to make mountains out of mole hills with comments like, “He’s in the best shape of his career!” and “He’s showing the same burst he had in his early years!”
When we’ve been deprived of football for six months, we tend to latch onto every quote that we can find and dissect it. We search for meaning in every interception thrown by a quarterback in practice, every juke by a running back that leads to a touchdown, and every miraculous catch made by a wide receiver. It can be overwhelming at times, but here are a few situations where the hype is real. This hype train will be making one stop at each of the four skill positions, and we’ll be picking up players that you will want to acquire for your fantasy roster. Come along for the ride!
First, we’re heading to Indianapolis. Many of you may already be on the Luck hype train, but for those who aren’t yet believing in Luck’s renewed fantasy potential, now is the time to buy because his stock will steadily rise with every throw that he makes in camp and every snap that he takes in the preseason. This is likely the last chance you’ll have to take advantage of buying a quarterback who threw for 4,761 yards and 40 touchdowns during his career year just four seasons ago, and he’s discounted only because the last time he took a snap in an NFL game was almost two years ago.
Some of you may be wary of his injury history, and I can’t blame you, but I’m buying in on all the hype coming out of the Colts camp right now. Reports so far are that Luck is throwing the ball with the same confidence and zip that he had before his shoulder issues. Luck was too good for too long to ignore what he is doing in camp right now. Plus, you give him a new, offensive-minded coach like Frank Reich, and the recipe for success is too good to ignore. In case you forgot, Reich is coming from a Philadelphia Eagles team that just won the Super Bowl with him as offensive coordinator, and under his play-calling, Carson Wentz averaged the second-most fantasy points per game last year.
Obviously, the real test will be how Luck’s shoulder holds up week-in and week-out playing in NFL games while not wearing a red non-contact jersey. But it’s not far fetched to imagine him finishing 2018 with over 4,000 passing yards and 30 touchdowns given the state of the offense and defense around him.
The next stop is sunny, balmy Miami. The signing of the ageless Frank Gore is giving some people the idea that Drake isn’t “the guy” in Miami. Let them keep thinking that. Don’t get me wrong, I love Gore as a person, as a football player, and as a player on my fantasy roster. I really do. You just can’t deny that Drake is the best offensive play maker on this team. Yes, I said it to all you DeVante Parker truthers out there.
It’s likely that the Dolphins will be trailing in a lot of games, which will lead to them throwing the ball more. But the fact of the matter is, talent wins out more times than not, and Drake will be used plenty on the ground as well as through the air. In his nine games last season after Miami traded Jay Ajayi to Philadelphia, Drake carried the ball 123 times for 619 yards, averaging a very good 5.0 yards per carry. He also had 29 catches for 232 yards, which comes out to 8.0 yards per reception. When you factor in his four total touchdowns scored, Drake has the potential to be an RB1 in PPR assuming he’s the lead back, and I think his talent all but guarantees that.
Even if the Dolphins are pass-heavy while trailing in the second half of games this year, I still think Drake will see plenty of short dump-off passes over the likes of Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson and over the aforementioned Gore and Parker. I wouldn’t be surprised if Adam Gase has plenty of play calls ready to get Drake in space every Sunday this fall.
We’re picking up the rookie wide receiver from the Windy City next. I’m not sure any offense in the league improved more this offseason than Chicago. Going into 2018, they have so many mouths to feed that it’s going to be difficult to figure out on a week-by-week basis who the top-scoring player will be for fantasy purposes. It’s a good problem to have if you’re the Bears. It’s not so good if you’re trying to decide on which Bears player to invest in for your dynasty team.
The top scorer any given week could be the elusive runner Jordan Howard, the explosive pass-catching back Tarik Cohen, the dynamic Allen Robinson finally free of Blake Bortles, the speedster Taylor Gabriel, or the red-zone nightmare Trey Burton. Or…it could very well be the rookie dynamo they have in Miller.
He’s projected to play in the slot, which suits Miller’s skill set well, and he has the ability to create yards after the catch. This Chicago offense looks stacked for the near-term, but in the long run, Miller will pay off. And in dynasty, the long-term picture matters a lot. We might only see flashes of Miller in 2018, but with his ability to make catches over the middle and the talent to make incredible plays after the catch, I wouldn’t be surprised if the duo of Robinson and Miller eventually overshadows their division rivals in the motor city, Marvin Jones and Golden Tate, perhaps even as soon as 2019.
“He’s lost a step or two over time.”
“He’s not who he was earlier in his career with the Saints.”
“He’s become touchdown-dependent.”
I don’t necessarily disagree with any of those statements, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t still want Graham on my roster for the next couple of years. Our final stop is the cheese capital of the United States, Green Bay. No, most players entering their ninth NFL season aren’t the same players that they were at the beginning of their career. Sometimes that’s a good thing, and sometimes that’s a bad thing. As a result of Graham’s hot start to his career in New Orleans, he’s being looked through a negative lens right now because he wasn’t able to keep producing the same numbers while playing in Seattle.
That said, here’s a little reminder that in three seasons with the Seahawks from 2015 to 2017, Graham finished as the fantasy TE17, TE2, and TE4, respectively. His terrible 2015 finish was largely as a result of only playing in 11 games due to injury. Had he played a full season that year, Graham was on pace to finish as the TE9 in fantasy. The tight end position in fantasy has become increasingly volatile over the last few years, but not when it comes to Graham. Don’t buy the negative hype around a player whose only two finishes outside the top four at his position were in his rookie season and during a 2015 season lost to injury. Graham is still as elite as you can get outside of Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, and Zach Ertz.
Oh, and one last note on why Graham can still produce elite fantasy tight end numbers in 2018: Aaron Rodgers.