Call it whatever you want, underperformers, duds, losers, buy low’s – it’s all the same. However, ‘redemption candidates’ has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Every season in fantasy football you have those players – you know, the ones you drafted fairly high but have left you frustrated with lack of production… or maybe the opposite? One of your sleepers may still be sleeping over the last 4 weeks and is currently seemingly burning a spot on your bench. Either way, I’m going to walk you through a few players who fit these molds, break down what you might find heading into the last three-quarters of the fantasy season and find some players that may well redeem themselves from a poor start.
Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans – QB 29
Mariota entered the 2018 season as a ‘sleeper candidate’ for many fantasy analysts. So far though, the return has been minimal – not even close to being fantasy relevant. Sure, missing week 2 through an elbow injury didn’t help, and he wasn’t awe-inspiring when taking over from backup Blaine Gabbert in week 3 in Jacksonville during the first quarter either.
But week 4 showed us that Tennessee has developed their identity. With Rishard Matthews leaving the team, that has paved the way for young receivers Tajae Sharpe and Taywan Taylor to step up and prove themselves worthy of a WR2 tag, whilst Corey Davis has that WR1 role cemented after his 161 yard, 1 TD display. It feels as if the Titans offense is going to simmer away nicely from week to week from now on.
This was the turning point for Tennessee in my opinion. They know they are going to have to keep up with divisional rivals Jacksonville in order to see back to back playoff campaigns, and that could prove to be the fire under Mariota’s backside to step up and produce to a level that was expected of him when drafted 2nd overall in the 2015 draft.
With a superb 344 yards for 2 TD passing performance against a well-rounded Superbowl winning Philadelphia Eagles defense, this may well prove to be the kick-start he needed to get in gear for the season. Expect more of the same from Mariota and his young receiving corps in the coming weeks with tasty matchups against the Bills and Chargers before their week 8 bye.
Rest of Season Prediction: Top 12 QB
Honorable Mentions: Aaron Rodgers (QB 13), Russell Wilson (QB 20)
Ronald Jones II, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – RB 87
RoJo finds himself amidst the bizarre and unpredictable coaching philosophy of Dirk Koetter. I like Tampa Bay as a football team, I like their talent on both offense and defense, and I think if they had a coach who knows how to…well, coach, they could be a legitimate playoff contender. I believe it’s only a matter of time before ‘Coach’ Koetter realizes that a) current starter Peyton Barber is no good at running the ball and b) RoJo is!
Jones hails from a top Div I College at USC, where he rushed 1,550 yards last season with an impressive 19 rushing touchdowns – both of which outperformed first RB off the board in the 2018 draft, Saquon Barkley – and ranked him 8th in yards, 5th in TD’s throughout the entire NCAA program. So, why does Koetter insist on leaving him behind Peyton Barber and Jacquizz Rodgers on the depth chart when they’ve only managed to put up 794 and 827 yards respectively in the last 3 seasons for the Bucs? Head scratcher, isn’t it?
It’s only a matter of time before that changes. As starter so far this season, Barber has managed a measly 3.0 yards per carry average and is yet to find the end zone. That’s clearly not good enough for a team that does possess a high volume offense.
Things are looking up for RoJo. Koetter finally gave him a game in week 4 against Chicago, but unfortunately, the highly rated Bears defense proved to be a tough debut outing and kept him to just 29 yards off 10 carries. Don’t judge Jones on that performance – negative game script and a formidable Bears defensive line that will likely keep elite running backs quiet throughout the remainder of the season.
The Bucs have a bye in week 5 – a perfect opportunity for them to develop the talent of Ronald Jones and integrate him properly into their offense. Pair that with the return of Jameis Winston as the starting Quarterback and all of a sudden, the Bucs may well be a tough team to break down offensively for the rest of the season; with Ronald Jones as their main rushing threat.
Rest of Season Prediction: Top 30 RB
Honorable Mentions: Duke Johnson (RB 51), Jordan Howard (RB 28)
Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers – WR32
There is no one more disappointed with Keenan Allen’s start to the season that I am, trust me. I spent the entire off-season telling people Allen was going to be the WR1 in fantasy football this season. So far my tail is well and truly between my legs as I remain silent on this matter.
However, there is a glimmer of hope. After all, he did this last season if you remember. Up until their week 9 bye in 2017, Allen averaged 5 receptions for 68 yards per game and had only 1 touchdown. After the bye – 8 receptions, 88 yards per game with 5 touchdowns. He ended the season as the WR3 accumulating the 3rd most receiving yards in the NFL only behind Antonio Brown and Julio Jones – basically, he was on fire for the second half of last season.
The reason behind last season’s rollercoaster was likely down to a tough first half of the season where he faced tough secondaries in Denver (twice), New England, Kansas City (Marcus Peters and co.) and Philly; whereas the second half of the season saw a much easier schedule. A similar tale may ring true for Allen this season too, and, in a similar way to last season, the toughest defenses are out of the way (namely the Rams in week 3). The upcoming weeks sees an easier schedule with 2 games against a poor Oakland secondary, a non-existent Seahawks ‘Legion of Boom’ and a winless Arizona Cardinals all coming up within the Chargers’ next 8 games.
It won’t be long before Philip Rivers is able to re-ignite that magical connection with his go-to guy and I still fully expect to see a resurgence from the PPR machine that is Keenan Allen.
Rest Of Season Projection: Top 5 WR
Honorable Mentions: Josh Gordon (WR 103), Allen Robinson (WR 43)
David Njoku, Cleveland Browns – TE 22
Did someone say ‘Baker Mania’? I think they did, and it’s true. Baker Mayfield opens up the Cleveland Browns’ passing attack so much more than what it offered when Tyrod Taylor was under center. I’m not going to bash Tyrod, honestly, I don’t think he is a bad Quarterback at all. But Mayfield is special, really special.
Almost instantaneously when Baker set foot into the game against the Jets in week 3, it seemed the Browns found another gear. Despite not throwing a TD in that game, the passing figures got an immediate uptick. In his 1 3/4 games, he has thrown 496 yards, automatically improving the fantasy value of all of the receiving corps in Cleveland.
Njoku will be one of the main beneficiaries to this resurgence, especially with the bizarre saga around Josh Gordon coming to an abrupt end when traded away to the New England Patriots. Every game so far in this new season, Njoku has seen his numbers improve. From just 13 yards off 3 receptions in week one to 52 from 5 in last week’s nail-biter in Oakland.
Not only are these changes beneficial for Njoku, but he also has a dream stretch coming up which could see the sophomore tight end shoot up the scoring leader charts. From weeks 7 to 10, the Browns will face Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Kansas City and Atlanta. I am deeming this stretch ‘shootout central’. None of these teams have shown any signs that they can defend the pass, and providing Njoku can link up with Mayfield like they did in the preseason, valuable fantasy points could well be on offer.
The Tight End market is also scary as things stand. Greg Olsen, Delanie Walker, Will Dissly and Tyler Eifert are all out for a long period of time with Evan Engram, Jack Doyle and O.J Howard each expected to miss multiple weeks. Expect to see Njoku become a hot commodity over the next few weeks in fantasy football… now might be the time to invest.
Rest Of Season Projection: Top 7 TE
Honorable Mentions: Jordan Reed (TE 15), Austin Seferian-Jenkins (TE 23)
by Rob Grimwood – @FFBritBaller