It is time to get ready for America’s favorite hobby: fantasy football! Every season, some of the top minds in the industry give their Preseason Pro picks for the upcoming year. Below you will find my hand-picked selections as my breakout, sleeper, bust, comeback and stash players of the year!
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Breakout: Baltimore Ravens WR Marquise Brown
Brown was born to play the wide receiver position. Not only did the South Florida native play youth football with his MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson, but he is also related to maybe the greatest fantasy WR in recent memory in Antonio Brown.
Brown, also known as “Hollywood,” is famous for his speed and showed flashes at times last season, but a nagging foot injury kept him from living his best rookie life.
This season Brown will report to camp healthy, which should cause major headaches for opposing defensive backs. He was only targeted 71 times last season, and he had 46 receptions. Despite his limited playing time and production, his seven touchdowns showed how much game-changing ability he has.
The Ravens offense last season under Jackson led the NFL in scoring. A healthy Brown should be the Ravens top passing target behind TE Mark Andrews. Entering his second year, Brown has been working out with Jackson this offseason, and the feedback has been promising. I think he can flirt with high-end WR2 stats, if not WR1.
Sleeper: Washington QB Dwayne Haskins
“The Fantasy Executive is off his rocker!”
I can hear the haters now.
“How can he talk up Dwayne Haskins?!”
Well, everyone in D.C. is talking about Haskins, and they all seem very excited to turn the franchise over to the second-year signal-caller. The majority of last season went poorly for Haskins. Still, much of that can be attributed to Jay Gruden and the coaching staff in place at the time. New head coach Ron Rivera will give Haskins every opportunity to win the job and be the team’s starting quarterback.
Washington brought in former Panthers QB Kyle Allen to compete with Haskins, but it is telling that Rivera didn’t bring in Cam Newton, who won an MVP with Rivera back in Carolina. That was the first sign that Haskins would be their guy this season. Once the coaching change was made, you could immediately see that Haskins was a more comfortable player. In Haskins’ last three starts, he threw five touchdown passes. Washington executive director of player personnel Doug Williams said Haskins was having the game of his career before getting injured. All the offseason news surrounding Haskins has been positive as well.
“There certainly is belief starting to come about, after film evaluation that Dwayne is certainly someone that does not make the same mistake twice and as recently as this morning has been, by Kevin Sheehan, comped to Matt Ryan as his ceiling.”
I would draft Haskins as a high-upside backup QB in redraft and wait for him to pop in 2QB league as a surprise QB2.
Bust: Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry
Henry was the NFL’s leading rusher last season, running for over 1,500 yards as the Titans rode him to the AFC title game. In the offseason, Henry was rewarded with a well-deserved big contract extension. On the surface, he seems to be set up to have another very good season in Tennessee.
However, I just don’t think he is a good asset to build your team around, especially if you play in the points-per-reception (PPR) format. Henry has a top 10 ADP, but I don’t think he will return top-10 value this season. If you look at all the other running backs with first-round ADPs (or even in the second round), they all catch considerably more passes than Henry. What I don’t like about the lack of pass-catching is it puts so much pressure on Henry to score touchdowns to match his peers. Henry does have back-to-back seasons of double-digit touchdowns, but it’s still not a risk I’m willing to take with a first-round draft pick. Also, I take into consideration that many analysts like his teammate, WR A.J. Brown, to have a breakout season.
If there is a piece in the Titans offense I would want for my fantasy team, I would take Brown over Henry because of each player’s ADP price tag.
Comeback: Cleveland Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr.
I will be the first to admit I was overly aggressive when it came to drafting Beckham in 2019. I bought into how Baker Mayfield looked in his rookie season and thought Beckham was the perfect player to join the offense. I was terribly wrong, and it cost me in some of my high-stakes leagues. Beckham didn’t lose any talent. It was Mayfield’s down year and the coaching of Freddie Kitchens that held back OBJ.
Beckham played in all 16 games last year but only caught 71 passes for 951 yards and a lowly three touchdowns. He finished the year as fantasy’s WR30. The Browns’ offensive line was terrible last season, and Baker didn’t play well behind them. Kitchens stubbornly refused to give up play-calling last year, and thus, my Beckham shares went down in flames. This season, new head coach Kevin Stefanski takes over, and his main job is to get the offense on track. Stefanski has a great track record (see his Vikings offense from last season). I think he can turn around the Browns. I’m willing to bet on a Beckham comeback year, especially when he’s the 10th WR drafted and could outproduce that draft position.
Stash – Detroit Lions RB D’Andre Swift
The University of Georgia produces very good NFL running backs. For example, Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb, and Sony Michel are all Bulldogs. For my old heads, I’ll also include Herschel Walker, Rodney Hampton, Terrell Davis, Garrison Hearst, Robert Edwards, and Knowshon Moreno too! This season, another UGA rookie, D’Andre Swift, is set to start his career in Detroit. You need to stash him on your fantasy football benches this year. Swift put up monster numbers his three seasons in Athens. He ran for well over 1,000 yards in his sophomore season and over 1,200 in his junior year while averaging over six yards per carry. Swift only caught 73 passes in his collegiate career, but it is a skill that he possesses. His skill set translates well to a back with three-down talent at the pro level. The Lions drafted Swift in the second round, so I’m expecting him to hit the ground running this year.
Incumbent RB Kerryon Johnson currently leads the Lions backfield, but he has only played 18 games over his first two seasons. Detroit wants to put less pressure on him to carry this backfield, and as Swift develops his knowledge of the playbook, his playing time will grow and grow. Outside of Johnson, the Lions don’t have anybody else of note in their backfield. Johnson will get the first crack to be the lead runner, but I’m confident Swift’s talent coupled with Johnson’s injury history will lead to the rookie taking over sooner rather than later. By midseason, Swift will boost your roster as this year’s must-have stash and cash player.
That was just a taste. Want more Preseason Pro?
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