Fantasy Football: Five Players Who Will Take the Next Step

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With the fantasy football season upon us, I’ve listed 5 players who you should pick both early and late in your drafts.

Kerryon Johnson (ESPN ADP 38)

Kerryon Johnson has the potential to be a top ten running back this season. He was by far the best runner on the Detroit Lions in 2018, however, due to some poor decision making by Detroit, Kerryon was in a timeshare for most of the season. He did start to take a more sizable workload a few weeks into the year but eventually was injured and didn’t play past week 10.

The Lions have shown they want to be a run-first football team. Not retaining LeGarrette Blount opens not only an increased workload but also goal-line work. Kerryon Johnson was one of the least used backs around the goal line. I’d expect that to shift with Blount gone. Johnson has shown the NFL that he is a stud with not only the ability to run but also possesses the skill to catch footballs. Kerryon saw an increased target share in the last four games of the season and even more importantly, Theo Riddick has been released. Riddick’s departure opens up over 70 targets in this offense. I doubt the Lions will give newcomer C.J. Anderson many of these as he’s never been known as much of a pass-catcher, so I’d expect Kerryon Johnson to double last year’s receptions.

Chris Godwin (ESPN ADP 66)

Godwin is entering his third season in the NFL and was much more productive in 2018 compared to 2017. However, he was still very inconsistent and was a WR3 or better just a third of the time as a Buccaneer.  A big reason for this was his lack of snap counts as Godwin rarely played more than 70% of snaps in his career. This made it extremely difficult for Godwin especially when you consider he’s fighting for targets with Mike Evans, O.J. Howard, Adam Humphries, and Cameron Brate.

However, now Adam Humphries has departed, and I expect to see Cameron Brate’s usage decrease. The biggest factor to a Chris Godwin breakout is newly appointed Head Coach, Bruce Arians. Arians is a very impressive offensive play-caller who has improved every offense he’s handled. Arians has also given Godwin very high praise since he joined the team and has even explained that Godwin can line up anywhere on the field. Godwin now being the obvious #2 receiver option means he won’t come off the field at all next season which could bode well for his volume. If Arians can help Jameis Winston rein it in a bit, this could be a big breakout season for Chris Godwin.

Curtis Samuel (ESPN ADP 133) 

Curtis Samuel seems to be everyone’s breakout projection for the 2019 season. He’s already very clearly at worst the WR2 on the Carolina Panthers, and with Cam Newton returning healthy, it should bode well for Samuel to build off his production from last season. Last season, Samuel was a WR2 in four out of his ten games which were more than his counterpart, D.J. Moore who played in all 16. Samuel has also been getting plenty of praise in camp, making spectacular catches and even called “the player that has taken the biggest step in camp.”

Lamar Jackson (ESPN ADP 146)

This might seem obvious, but what makes Lamar Jackson a great fantasy pick is his legs. Despite not playing until Week 11, he had the most rushing attempts ever by a quarterback in a single season. When asked about if we should expect Jackson to get more carries than Cam Newton’s career-high of 139 in 2017, Ravens’ coach, John Harbaugh said, “I’d bet the over on that one, I’d bet the over for sure.” Jackson’s passing left a lot to be desired but in college, he was able to progress as a thrower each season. Even if Jackson doesn’t become a fantastic passer, the floor as a fantasy value is still high and safe due to his ability to run.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling (ESPN ADP 150)

MVS was thrown into the center of the Aaron Rodgers v. Mike McCarthy mayhem last season. Now that McCarthy is gone and Rodgers is healthy, MVS should slide into the second receiver role across from Davante Adams. The only real competition that should be an issue is Geronimo Allison. That will be a battle to watch for as a new coach, Matt LaFleur used more 12-personnel than all but three teams last season. If Valdes-Scantling can beat out Allison, like Godwin, he’ll never come off the field.

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