Joe Mixon (RB – CIN)
To say Mixon’s rookie year was a disappointment would be an understatement. If not for character concerns, he would have been drafted in the 1st round of the 2017 draft. But part of a 3 man committee, combined with the fact of the Bengals lost two key members of the offensive line, and it was a recipe for disaster. Mixon had flashes of brilliance last year, but nowhere near expectation. The Bengals improved the offensive line this off-season by trading for Cordy Glenn and drafting Ohio State University center Billy Price. Jeremy Hill is no longer on the team, and Gio Bernard is not a feature back. Bernard will take away some catches and passing-down work from Mixon, but the stars are aligning for Mixon to have a breakout sophomore year.
Matt Ryan (QB – ATL)
There isn’t a player in recent memory whose value has changed more in the past few years than Matty Ice. From fringe starter to MVP and back again, Ryan has been frustrating to own, but there is plenty of reason for optimism. It took a full season under Kyle Shanahan before it started to click for the Falcons offense in 2016. While Steve Sarkisian is no Shanahan, a full regular season paired with a second off-season, Ryan has had time to soak in Sarkisian’s offense. I considered Ryan a buy-low even before the draft, throw in the top WR on most draft boards falling to the Falcons, and Ryan has a truly dynamic weapon to pair with Julio Jones. Don’t forget he still has the 1-2 punch of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman in the backfield, as well as Mohamed Sanu. Ryan is only 33, right in the middle of his prime with tons of weapons. Get him before this offense explodes.
Alvin Kamara (RB – NO)
One of the best rookie RB seasons in the past 25 years came out of New Orleans last year, compliments of Alvin Karama. He had 9 yards of production per touch, which happens to be more than any other RB during that period, and the highest production-per-touch in NFL history (for a player with more than touches 200 in a season). With a season like that under his belt, and being a rookie, dynasty league owners are salivating at the idea of having him for a long and productive career. A few things to consider though. Kamara is being valued as an RB1 (rightfully so), but it’s much harder to consistently produce when you’re splitting carries. Fantasy production from the RB position hinges so much on volume these days. Running backs who consistently stay at the top of year-end rankings are those who have the backfield mostly to themselves. The chances of Kamara repeating those insane stats while splitting reps in the backfield is highly unlikely. Even though Mark Ingram is suspended 4 games, the Saints have already said his touches won’t increase. This isn’t to say that Kamara won’t have a great fantasy season, but his value as a trade chip may never be higher.
Evan Engram (TE – NYG)
It was the perfect storm last year for Engram to produce one of the best rookie TE seasons since Rob Gronkowski. It’s not that I don’t like Engram, I think he has a great career ahead of him, but it will be difficult for him to match his production from last year. Those banking on another season like 2017 (or better) fail to realize a few things. Odell Beckham Jr and Brandon Marshall went down early with injuries, so the only weapons Eli Manning had left were Sterling Shepard (who missed time as well) and Engram. Beckham will be back. Poof, roughly 100 catches gone. Secondly, someone better than Tavaris King or Roger Lewis will line up opposite of Beckham, more targets gone. Right now it’s Cody Latimer, although they may still be in the market for another WR (Dez?) to pair with OBJ. Throw in the fact that a running game that has nowhere to go but up, and the Giants didn’t use the #2 pick on arguably the best player in the draft, Saquon Barkley, to not use him. It all adds up to Engram not living up to the hype. A sophomore slump is on the way for Engram, not due to lack of talent, due to lack of opportunity.
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