Five Dynasty Questions Keeping Me Up At Night – Part 3

1. Will Chris Carson or Rashaad Penny be the better fantasy running back this year?

If the Seahawks surprisingly successful season and eventual capitulation to the Cowboys in the playoffs taught us one thing it’s that they intend to test, to oblivion, the theory that you can still win in the NFL with a run based offence.

Last season the offence, led by Offensive Co-ordinator Brian Schottenheimer, threw the ball 427 times and ran it on 534 occasions, bucking the trend and direction that the league has been trending in for many years. It also marked a return to the philosophy that has served Pete Carroll best in Seattle. Play good defence, run the ball a lot and rely on Russell Wilson to step up in critical moments.

The formula was successful last year and there is little reason to expect it to shift dramatically next. The 534 carries were split between Chris Carson, Mike Davis and Rashaad Penny with Carson picking up the biggest share with 247, a workload he leveraged into 1151 yards and 9 touchdowns.

A second year as impressive as Carson’s would normally be enough to cement him as the team’s lead back but the picture is complicated by Rashaad Penny the running back the team spent the 27th overall pick on in 2017.

Penny’s rookie season was largely a disappointment. He showed a few sparks but he never came close to unseating Carson as the lead. More worryingly he was never able to shake off Mike Davis for the number 2 position. With Davis now in Chicago, Penny is now Carson’s back-up on the depth chart but with a year under his belt in the offence it’ll be a disappointment to team and player if he can’t at least turn this into a two headed backfield.

The draft capital spent on Penny means he’ll get chances, even in Seattle who, more than any team in the league adhere to the idea of survival of the fittest at every position. The issue he continues to face is that his talent doesn’t seem to match the production he had at San Diego State where he largely ran through enormous holes to rack up yardage.

My expectation is that Penny will improve in his second season. He’ll pick up a big chunk of the workload left by Davis and establish himself as the teams number two rusher with more upside if Carson can’t avoid injury but that’s the limit I can see for him. For now Carson will be the team’s lead back and the better fantasy option.

2. Who are your top 5 bust candidates for the 2019 season?

I’m never quite sure what qualifies as a bust so I’ll answer this with five players who I’m lower on than the consensus. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be a complete failure but they won’t fulfil the offseason hopes that the fantasy community dreaming of.

Firstly, as I’ve written before, I don’t think Mike Williams is in line for the breakout season that many expect. A combination of a tough numbers game on the Chargers depth chart, the unsustainable nature of his touchdown to target ratio and the return of Hunter Henry eating into his redzone targets will leave him mired somewhere around WR 28.

Le’Veon Bell is the second player that I have reservations about. In many rankings he breaks the top five overall but I’m struggling to reconcile Adam Gase, the Jets O-line and Bell as a force for the league to fear in 2019. I think Bell’s year out will mean that he takes longer to get back to speed than many expect. Couple that with the chances that Jets are playing catch-up a lot I think he’ll fall out of the top 10.

Bell’s successor in Pittsburgh James Connor is another I think will underperform his draft position. The loss of Mike Munchak is, to me, a bigger threat to the teams future outlook than the loss of Bell or Antonio Brown. Munchak is one of the best, if not the very best o-line coach in the league and his proficiency in the role has played a key role in allowing the Steelers lead running back to be high productive. Bell, DeAngelo Williams, James Connor; all of them have been highly efficient behind this offensive line. Even Jaylon Samuels was a useable fantasy asset when Connor went down last year. Without Munchak I’m not convinced that will remain the case.

As much as it pains me, I think Eagles TE Zach Ertz may see himself slip back to the pack somewhat this season and struggle to justify his lofty draft position. His 116 catches last season is likely to regress somewhat and presumably a fully fit Carson Wentz won’t lock onto Ertz a exclusively as he did while he returned from injury last year. Ertz will also be impacted by the return DeSean Jackson who will dramatically improve the teams deep passing game and reduce the reliance on Ertz and the intermediate game. The biggest threat to the former Stanford tight end will come from second year tight-end Dallas Goedert who promises to take a much larger role in the offence. Ertz will remain Wentz’ favourite target but I expect the gap between him and Travis Kelce to grow fairly significantly.

Finally, I have grave concerns about Aaron Jones as the Packers shift from Mike McCarthy to Matt LeFleur. I suspect Aaron Rodgers will still be the biggest decision maker on the offence but that will mean they will throw about 65% of the time. Jones needs to split the remaining 35% with Jamaal Williams and rookie Dexter Williams – I think next season will be another one spent wondering why Jones hasn’t broken out. With the exception of one reasonable year from Eddie Lacy, The Packers haven’t produced a fantasy relevant running back in a season that Rodgers played every game since Ryan Grant. Ryan. Grant. If you’re relying on Jones to be your RB1 you’re in for a disappointing year.

3. Could Mike Evans end the season as a top 3 WR?

Bruce Arians arrival has catapulted Tampa Bay from a directionless, if talented offence to one of the most enticing, potential breakout units in the entire league. If you don’t enjoy the phrase “no risk it, no biscuit” I would steer clear of Bucs games in 2019 and whilst it’ll be repetitive by week 1 of pre-season at the latest it does at least reinforce the fact that Arians will be taking shots down the field at every opportunity. The passing game will dominate the Bucs offence and Evans will dominate the targets in that offence.

The case against Evans as a top 3 receiver is that it’s tricky to see how he improves on his production from last year. 138 targets, 86 catches, 1524 yards and 8 touchdowns are impressive numbers but were only enough to be WR 6 in standard and WR 9 in PPR. His 63% catch efficiency was the best of his career, so unless he can shift that up significantly he’ll stay in the top 10 but not come close to disturbing the top 3.

In Evans favour there are more targets to be had. Adam Humphries left 100 targets and DeSean Jackson another 74. Evans could see a return to his career high 173 targets from 2016, if he does and can add 3 or 4 more touchdowns he may have a shot.

So, yes, Evans could find his way into the top 3. Unfortunately to do that DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham, Davante Adams and Julio Jones will all have to under deliver, so injuries aside I’d expect Evans to end up in the WR5 or 6 range.

4. Is Zay Jones the breakout receiver from the 2017 class?

There is growing optimism that 2019 might finally be the year that the Bills take a step towards relevance. Head Coach Sean McDermott and General Manager Brandon Beane seem to have the roster moving in the right direction. Adding Ed Oliver to an already impressive defence gives the Buffalo faithful a lot of reason for hope.

On the offensive side of the ball much depends on second year Quarterback Josh Allen making the leap. The team made moves to boost receiving options for Allen adding John Brown and Cole Beasley but Allen’s success may rest on developing the burgeoning connection with third year receiver Zay Jones. The former ECU stand-out ended last season with strong performances against New England and Miami seems to have a growing understanding with the former Wyoming QB.

For all the talk surrounding Chris Godwin and Mike Williams none of the 2017 class has a better opportunity to establish themselves as the their teams number one receiver than Jones. If Allen can improve his accuracy by even a small amount Jones could be set for a big year.

5. Could Tim Patrick be the Broncos number 1 receiver in 2019?

No.

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