QB Jameis Winston – Over this seasons in the NFL, Winston has an 18-27 record. He missed three games in 2017 with a shoulder issue, which cost him a third season with over 4,000 yards passing. Over 45 games in his career, Jameis averaged 259 passing yards per game while tossing 69 TDs with 44 Ints. Last season he set a career high in yards per pass attempt (7.9) even with his top WR having a down season. Winston scored six TDs on the ground in his rookie season, but his value as a runner declined in 2016 (53/165/1) and 2017 (33/135/1). In his 12 full games last year, Jameis passed for over 300 yards six games while delivering three TDs in three games. This season he’ll start the year on the bench for three games after his three-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. When on the field, Winston should average at least 250 passes yards per game with a slight edge over the league average in TDs. His receiving core didn’t get better in the offseason, which will limit his upside. Overall, Jameis had a high scoring lead WR and developing TE. Only a backup option for me in 2018.
Update: Winston has been suspended for the first three games of the season, lowering his value even more while Ryan Fitzpatrick will get a chance to lead the offense to begin the season. Winston could provide value later in the season but for now, he shouldn’t be drafted in most 12-team leagues.
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RB Dalvin Cook – There’s a lot to like in Cook’s resume at Florida State. He rushed for 4,464 yards on 687 carries over three seasons while scoring 48 TDs. Dalvin even chipped in with 79 catches for 935 yards. His looked more explosive rushing the ball in 2015 (7.4 yards per rush), but he gained an amazing 14.8 yards per catch last season. His running style has something in common with Devonta Freeman who also went to FSU. The key for his upside will breaking free at the second level of the defense where his vision and his open field quickness will create huge plays. Cook will make plenty of yards after contact due to his strength and ability to break arms tackles. Dalvin will be a massive threat in the passing game, but he needs to improve his technique and toughness in pass protection. In 2017, Cook blew out his ACL in his left knee. I’m never a fan of a player coming off an injury as too much could go wrong in his recovery. Last season the Vikings’ RBs finished with 457 rushes for 1,803 yards and 14 TDs plus 84 catches for another 681 yards and two more TDs. With repeated success, Minnesota will once again have a special run game, but their offensive line will rank at the backend of the league. Of all the backs on the Vikings in 2017, Cook was by far the most dynamic with three down value. In his four games, he had 95 touches for 444 yards with two TDs and 11 catches. His skill set points to 50+ catches at the minimum with a floor of 275 rushes. Possible 1,300+ yards with six to eight TDs and 40+ catches with the best value coming late in the season.
WR Kelvin Benjamin – Over his first eight games in 2017, Benjamin had 32 catches for 475 yards and two TDs on 51 targets with the Panthers. His pace was still in range to beat his best season in 2014 (73/1008/9) with a few more chances. Unfortunately for him and Fantasy owners, Kelvin was shipped to the Canadian border to start for the Bills. He battled a knee issue for most of the year leading to three missed games with Buffalo. Benjamin only caught 16 of 27 targets over six games with the Bills for 217 yards and one TD. In the offseason, he tried to get in better shape to prepare for 2018. Last year Buffalo only attempted 476 passes with WRs catching a league-low 115 of 224 targets for 1,475 yards and nine TDs. The change at QB should lead to a minimum of ten percent growth in passing attempts. Benjamin should be the top receiving option on the roster, but his opportunity can’t be much higher than a WR4 Fantasy option in PPR leagues. Possible 60 catches for 900 yards with five to seven TDs seems like a fair evaluation heading into 2018. Benjamin has scoring ability in the red zone, but he tends to struggle to get open deep on the outside leaving him in many jump ball situations.
RB Chris Thompson – Thompson played well in 2016 (705 combined yards with 49 catches and five TDs) while being on a higher path last year (704 combined yards with 39 catches and six TDs). A broken leg in Week 11 led to six missed games. Chris doesn’t have the skill to be an early down back, but he can hit on a long run while being electric in the passing game. His best success in the passing game in 2017 came in Week 3 (6/150/1), Week 6 (4/105), and Week 8 (8/76) with each game coming at home. He even hit on a long run in Week 2 vs. the Rams, which led to 106 combined yards with two TDs and three catches. The Redskins’ RBs caught 86 passes for 885 yards and six TDs on 111 targets in 2017. Thompson will see between five to seven touches per game on early downs while having a chance at about four catches per game. Possible 900 combined yards with a handful of TDs and about 65 catches with a full season of games.
K Graham Gano – Last year Gano led the NFL in success rate (96.7) while making 29 of his 30 field goals. Over his last four years with the Panthers, Graham made 118 of 139 FGs (84.9 percent) and 155 of 164 extra points. In 2017, he missed more extra points (3) than field goals (1). In his NFL career, Gano is 17-for-31 from 50 yards or longer, but he only had one chance in 2017 which he missed. His field attempts (35 per year over the last four seasons) ranks in the top ten in the league, but Carolina did struggle in the TD department in 2016 (40) and 2017 (40) after scoring 59 in 2015. Viable top 12 kicker with matchup value. I expect the Panther to score more in 2018, but it may result in a bump in TDs.
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