The NFC South
In 2018, the NFC South as a whole, underperformed. The Saints, of course, were the exception and if not for a bad call in the Divisional round of the playoffs, they could be in the Super Bowl. That’s a matter for another person to address though. The rest of the division as I stated above, underperformed when all had high hopes coming in. As all teams must.
Atlanta, two seasons removed from nearly winning the big game and coming off a second straight 10+ win season and a Wild Card victory. Carolina a year removed from tying the Saints for the best record in the division but falling to them in the Wild Card round. Tampa had nowhere to go but up and the Saints, of course, were coming off one of the most heartbreaking Playoff losses imaginable when Stefon Diggs got free after a missed tackle and took it to the house. New Orleans as we know were the only team of the four to make any noise but the ways the other three teams got to where they ended up, were all completely different.
New Orleans Saints (13-3, Division Winner)
2018 started off on the wrong foot for the eventual division champs. A Week 1 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48-40 had many worried about the Saints defense but they would then go on a ten-game winning streak allowing over 23 points twice in that span. They would take down the eventual NFC Super Bowl participant in the Los Angeles Rams and scored over 30 points in nine of their first 11 games. Coming off a Thanksgiving Day, 31-17 victory over division rival Atlanta, they headed into Dallas feeling good.
The Cowboys quickly ended that feeling by getting immense pressure in Drew Brees’ face. The Boys were able to corral the high powered offense and hold them to under 20 points for the first time all season. The Saints would lose two of their last five games only eclipsing 30 points once and scoring less than 15 points three times.
New Orleans headed into the playoffs as the top seed and even though the season ended less than spectacularly but feeling good as they were going to be at home which could have played into their tough stretch to end the year. They played three of their last five games on the road. The Saints would take down the 2017 Super Bowl Champs on a late game INT but were stopped short of the big game when some would say the refs cost them the game. However you look at it, 2018 was a solid year for New Orleans but ended on a sour note as ’17 did.
New Orleans Offense
In 2018 there were three teams that scored more than 30 Points a Game. The Saints finished third on that list with a per Game average of 31.5. They weren’t quite as high on the list when it comes to yards a game but eighth isn’t too shabby (379.2). They failed to score 21 points only three times but unfortunately, all three came at the end of the season between Weeks 13-17 (Week 13/10, 15/12, 17/ 14). In Week 17 they did rest Brees and Kamara though. They weren’t humming like they had been being my point.
New Orleans was a pretty sound team and didn’t shoot themselves in the foot a lot. The O-Line allowed the third fewest Sacks per Game (1.3), a +8 Turnover Ratio (seventh), and they had only 94 total penalties (fifth) all help to prove this point. They had the fifth most First Downs (377) and were the seventh best team at converting Third Downs (44.6%). Second in the league in Fourth Down Conversion Rate (81.3%) and a 69.4% TD Conversion Rate on their Red Zone Attempts (Fourth). None of these is a surprise with the core pieces on the offense we’re going to talk about.
- Points Per Game 2017-2018/ Difference (28.0-31.5/ +3.5)
- Yards Per Game 2017-2018/ Difference (391.2-379.2/ -12)
- First Downs Per Game 2017-2018/ Difference (20.75-23.56/ +2.81)
- Third Down Conversion Rate 2017-2018/ Difference (37.6%-44.6%/ +7.0%)
- Penalties Per Game 2017-2018/ Difference (6.56-5.87-0.69)
- Turnover Ratio 2017-2018/ Difference (7/8/ +1)
2018 Vegas Lines
|G#||Opp||Spread||Over/Under||Result||vs. Line||OU Result|
Results vs. Line: 10-8-0
As Underdog vs. Line: 3-0-0
Favored vs. Line: 7-8-0
Over: 7 Under: 11 Push: 0
Throughout Brees’ 18 years in the league, he has cemented himself in the upper echelon of Quarterbacks all time. Even though 2018 ended a little less productive than the rest of the season, it was still one of his most efficient ever. The Saints QB upped his all-time Completion % from ’17’s 72% to 74.4% in ’18 (Best in the league). This was the third season in a row that he has increased this (’15/ 68.3%, ’16/ 70.0%, ’17/ 72.0%, ’18/ 74.4%). It was, however, his first season since his last in San Diego that he failed to eclipse the 4000-Yard mark.
Certainly, the efficiency was great though! Brees sported a 6.5% TD Rate (Highest since 2011, fourth highest of career) and a 1.0% INT Rate (The lowest of his career). That O-Line that protected him (1.3 Sacks per Game, third) will all be back in ’19 (T. Armstead -2022, L. Warford – 2021, M. Unger – 2020, A. Peat – 2020, R. Ramczyk – 2022) which is good for the offense as a whole.
Brees’ 2018 Season
- QB8, 303.8 Fan Points
- Completed 364/489 Attempts (74.4%)
- 3992 Yards (8.2 Y/A – 11.0 Y/C)
- 32 TDs (6.5% TD Rate) 5 INT (1.0% INT Rate)
- 31 RuAtt, 22 Yards, 4 TD
- Total QBR 81.9 (QB Rate 115.7)
Brees’ season is littered with top-5 rankings in many metrics.
- Red Zone Att. – 93 (Fifth)
- Red Zone Comp. – 72.0% (Fourth)
- Play Action Comp. – 75.0% (Third)
- Deep Ball Comp. – 45.6% (Third)
- Pressured Comp. – 51.6% (Second)
- Money Throws – 33 (Fourth)
- Adjusted Yards per Att. 8.7 (Second)
- Fan Points per Dropback – 0.56 (Second)
- Interceptable Passes – 13 (31st, Only 32 teams in the league but there were a few teams such as Baltimore and Philadelphia that started multiple QBs for a significant period of time).
The Saints QB did all of that while having his receivers average just 1.32 Yards of Separation on average which was 25th in the league. He even added in some extra work on the ground to give him 36 total TDs in ’18.
- QB RuTD – 4 (Fifth)
The Two-Headed Monster At Running Back
*Note: Mark Ingram suspended first four games due to PEDs.
In 2018 the Saints ran the ball the fifth most times in the league (29.4 per Game) and in the first four weeks of the season, we saw the full capability of Alvin Kamara with a full workload. The second-year back hit the ground running… and receiving. He averaged 14 RuAtt for 68.8 Yards and 1.3 TDs and caught 8.8/11.8 Targets for 84 Yards and 0.3 Tds per Game. There was a game with 20 Targets and 15 receptions and another that produced his lone 100+ Yard performance in this stretch. Many thought this production would make Mark Ingram somewhat irrelevant coming off his suspension but we know Sean Payton better than that. In Week 5 Ingram came in and right off the bat he received 18 Touches and gained 73 Yards while scoring twice.
From that Point on, Kamara would still be the top RB in the backfield but Ingram definitely had his role back. Now to think that the Saints were going to produce two top-six RBs from this point on as they did for the entire season last year is expecting a little much. Or a lot. Kamara held up his part of the deal but Ingram, although still an RB2, not the beast he was last season.
Snap And Touch Breakdown
- Weeks 1-4 279 Total (Weekly % – 81%, 77%, 85%, 84%) Average Touches/ Opportunities per Game – 22.8/ 25.8 (34.0 Points per Game, RB1)
- Weeks 5-17 427 Total (Weekly % – 47%, BYE, 55%, 72%, 58%, 45%, 63%, 65%, 67%, 64%, 64%, 61%, Didn’t Play) Average Touches/ Opportunities per Game – 16.7/ 17.8 (19.8 Points per Game/ -14.2 Points per Game, RB5/ -4 in the rankings)
- Weeks 5-17 350 Total (Weekly % – 55%, Bye, 49%, 43%, 48%, 41%, 43%, 47%, 40%, 45%, 45%, 48%, 37%) Average Touches/ Opportunities per Game – 13.3/ 13.8 (11.9 Points per Game, RB20)
In many ways, Kamara was better than Ingram but the elder statesmen did outperform the younger back in a few areas.
- Points per Oppo. – AK (1.16, 20th) x MI (0.86, 62nd)
- Points per Game – AK (23.2, Fourth) x MI (11.9, 26th)
- Yard per Touch – AK (5.8, 10th) x MI (5.1, 27th)
- Breakaway Run Rate – AK (5.2%, 22nd) x MI (5.1%, 23rd)
- Juke Rate – AK (26.9%, 24th) MI (28.9%, 17th) x
- Yards Created per Rush – AK (1.07, 40th) MI (1.62, Fourth) x
The fact that Kamara faced an average of 6.9 men in the box and a stacked front on 20.1% of his RuAtt could have resulted in Ingram slightly outperforming Kamara in a couple areas. In contrast, both are slightly higher than Ingram faced (6.7, 16.7).
Kamara’s 2018 Season
- RB4, 273.2 Fan Points
- 194 RuAtt (12.9 AttP/G), 883 Yards (58.9 YdP/G), 1 100 Yard Game
- Caught 81/105 Targets, 709 Yards (8.8 Y/R)
- 14 RuTD, 4 ReTD (18 Total)
- 275 Touches, 1,592 Yards (5.8 Y/T)
Ingram’s 2018 Season
- RB28, 121.5 Fan Points
- 138 RuAtt (11.5 AttP/G), 645 Yards (53.8 YdP/G), 2 100 Yard Games
- Caught 21/27 Targets, 170 Yards (8.1 Y/R)
- 6 RuTD, 1 ReTD (7 Total)
- 159 Touches, 815 Yards (5.1 Y/T)
This situation is going to be interesting this offseason as the Saints love Ingram and he loves the Saints but he is a free agent and if the team doesn’t choose to resign the RB, Kamara could be in for a monster season. He saw 72 Red Zone Touches (Second) and he could see an increase here if Ingram isn’t in the picture. They will likely sign or draft another back to spell AK but he should still get the vast majority of the work.
*Note: Ingram is a Free Agent.
Michael Thomas And The Rest Of The Receivers
Thomas has now caught 321 passes in his first three seasons as a pro. That’s 33 more receptions than any other Wide Receiver… Ever… To say that Michael Thomas was efficient In 2018 is a bit of an understatement (Slightly more in PPR).
Thomas had several big weeks but most noteworthy Week 1 (Caught 16/17 Targets, 180 Yards, 1 TD) and Week 9 (Caught 12/15 Targets, 211 Yards, 1 TD). Ingram’s future with the team could be important to Thomas’ value as well.
Thomas Season Split
- Weeks 1-4 – Caught 10.5/11 Targets, 111.3 Yards, 0.8 TDs
- Weeks 5-17 – Caught 6.9/8.6 Targets, 80.0 Yards, 0.5 TDs
Despite the falloff, Thomas was still able to put together an incredible year. The Target hog had seven double-digit target games and three with 15+. He led the league in Receptions (125), Red Zone Receptions (24), Catch Rate (85.0%), ninth in Targets (147), seventh in AirYards (928), third in Yards After the Catch (477), Fourth in Target Share (28.8%), ninth in Red Zone Target Share (30.5%), sixth in Yards per Route Ran (2.89), and had a 30.5% Dominator Rating (Ninth).
As a result, the third year WR scored nine times (Eighth), had 1,405 Yards (sixth), scored 19.7 Points per Game (Sixth), 0.65 Points per Route Ran (Fourth), and 2.15 Points per Target. What a great season!
Furthermore, it’s even more impressive when you consider that Thomas ranked 60th in End Zone Target Share (18.2%), 80th in Yard per Reception (11.2), 19th in Yard per Target (9.6), 96th in Avg Target Distance (8.0), and 47th in Avg Target Separation (1.47 Yards). It’s a good thing he led the league in Contested Catch Rate (73.9%) and received the highest percent of Catchable Passes (95.2%). Thomas is just so reliable and I feel has more to give still. Brees didn’t show any real signs of a fall-off so we will get at least one more year of the two together. Hopefully five.
Thomas’ 2018 Season
- WR8, 190.5 Fan Points
- Caught 125/147 Targets (87.8%) 7.8 P/G
- 1,405 Yards (12.0 Y/R, 9.55 Y/T) 5 100 Yard games
- 9 TDs
The rest of the receiving corps had some moments. Tre’Quan Smith showed something but really only in home games. His season highlight came in Week 11 when he had 10 Receptions for 157 Yards and scored once. Cameron Meredith was expected to take over a fairly large workload but lost much of his season to injury (Knee, IR on 11/11/18). Ted Ginn Jr wasn’t able to carry over last seasons success (2017 WR35, 2018 WR159) because he as well missed most of the season with a knee injury as well (IR 10/8/18). Then there was a revolving door of UDFA’s that each had moments (Tommy Lee Lewis, Austin Carr, Keith Kirkwood).
This is going to be an interesting upcoming season as literally only one WR (Tre’Quan Smith) is signed passed 2020. Thomas will for sure be resigned but the rest of the receiving corps is kind of up in the air. They don’t exactly have a lot of Cap Space with less than 1.5 million.
The biggest story at Tight End this season when ’18 started was the future retirement of Benjamin Watson… The story to end the season is still the retirement of Watson. The Saints haven’t seen reliable TE production since the Jimmy Graham days.
- B. Watson – Caught 35/46 Targets, 400 Yards, 2 TDs (16 Games)
- J. Hill – Caught 16/24 Targets, 185 Yards, 1 TD (16 Games)
- D. Arnold – Caught 12/19 Targets, 150 Yards, 1 TD (10 Games)
2018 Fantasy Relevant Draftees
91st Overall, WR Tre’Quan Smith
- Caught 28/44 Targets, 427 Yards
201st Overall, RB Boston Scott
- Cut by New Orleans on Sep 6th, Signed by Philadelphia on Dec 11th. 4 Returns, 96 Yards
With The 30th Overall Pick In The 2019 NFL Draft, The Green Bay Packers Select…
Yes, the Packers have their pick.
Saints 2018 Injuries
Moving Into 2019
Cap Space $1,467,541
The Saints 2018 season couldn’t have finished on a more controversial note and there are a few questions moving into next season. What are they going to do with Ingram? Will they look to add receiving pieces to the attack? Drew Brees will be a year older and he did slow a bit towards the end of the season. We’ve seen the fall off for all time great QBs be steep.
The whole O-Line will though return as I stated above which should help a top-five rushing attack in terms of RuAtt and help to keep Brees’ jersey clean and allow him to continue to complete a very high percentage of passes. They won’t have a first round pick unless a move is made to get them back into the Day 1 conversation. They were a controversial no-call away from a potential Super Bowl appearance and much of the team will be back. I wouldn’t worry too much about your Saints in 2019.
Atlanta Falcons (7-9)
Atlanta, as we all know fell victim to Tom Brady in the 2016 season but were somewhat able to avoid the hangover last season finishing 10-6. They started 3-3 but finished strong winning seven of their last 10 games and taking down the Rams in the Wild Card round before losing to the ’17 Super Bowl champ in Philly. Even with this loss, the outlook for the future was bright.
Due to many reasons, the feeling would soon fade as Atlanta would lose four of their first five games to start ’18 including two losses where they put up 36+ points. A Dan Quinn defense should be more solid than this but injury hit the Falcons hard on the defense early. In Week 1 ATL LB Deion Jones (Foot) and FS Keanu Neal (Knee), two very important pieces for their defense were both lost to injury. Jones till Week 13 and Neal for the year. Even the sixth-ranked offense in terms of yards couldn’t overcome the losses.
The season was made up of streaks. They had two three-game winning streaks but paired those with a three and five-game losing streak which ultimately, are what doomed their season. A 7-9 season after back to back double digit win seasons left a lot of questions moving forward.
The Falcons came up just shy of 26 Points per Game in the 2018 season (25.9, 10th) and were one of seven teams to average more than 380 yards a game (389.1, sixth). They weren’t the most consistent offense, a little boom or bust even with six games scoring fewer than 20 points and seven games above 30. They lost Devanta Freeman (Knee), which left the running game far from consistent and Julio was Julio but the rest of the passing game was up and down. Austin Hooper took a jump which gave Matt Ryan a reliable safety valve.
The offensive line play left something to be desired as they gave up almost a full Sack (0.9) more per Game than last season which tied for 13th most in the league. Losing Andy Levitre (Triceps, Free Agent) and Brandon Fusco (Ankle) off the O-Line didn’t help. Also, they gave away the ball about as much as they took it away (+1). Atlanta, however, converted the 10th most First Downs (352) and their 45.3% Third Down Conversion Rate ranked fourth in the league. They were tied for the 10th fewest penalties. There was about as much bad as good.
- Points Per Game 2017-2018/ Difference (22.1-25.9/ +3.8)
- Yards Per Game 2017-2018/ Difference (364.8-389.1/ +24.3)
- First Downs Per Game 2017-2018/ Difference (20.62-22.0/ +1.38)
- Third Down Conversion Rate 2017-2018/ Difference (44.7%-45.3%/ +0.6%)
- Penalties Per Game 2017-2018/ Difference (6.37-6.31/ -0.06)
- Turnover Ratio 2017-2018/ Difference (-2/1/+3)
2018 Vegas Lines
|G#||Opp||Spread||Over/Under||Result||vs. Line||OU Result|
Results vs. Line: 5-11-0
As Underdog vs. Line: 1-4-0
Favored vs. Line: 4-7-0
Over: 9 Under: 7 Push: 0
The offense will welcome back a familiar face in Dirk Koetter as he will take over the Offensive Coordinator role for a second time.
Matt Ryan just had the best fantasy season of his career in 2018 highlighted by eight 300+ yard passing games and six 3+ TD games. The Falcons QB attempted the third most Passes (608), Yards (4,924), and TDs (35) in the league. He had the fewest INTs (7) and the lowest INT Rate (1.2) of his career. The second most Completions (422), Yards (See Above), TDs (See Above), Y/A (8.1), Y/G (307.8), and the second highest Comp % (69.4%), QB Rate (108.1), and TD Rate (5.8). Also the third highest Total QBR (70.1). Ryan’s 2016 season has some better numbers but as you can see below he slightly outscored that season in ’18. You can also see below that his fantasy finishes were higher on average than the rest of his career and didn’t have any performances below a QB2.
Ryan was able to do this all despite having a rushing offense that is one of only six to average less than 100 yards a game (98.3, 27th), being sacked the second most times (42), and having the highest sack rate of his career. Losing their starting running back in the first week of the season surely played into all off that and the amount of PaAtts. When you can’t run the ball, teams won’t fear it and you have to pass more. When you pass more there is just more opportunity for the defense to get pressure. Add in the O-Line injuries I mentioned above and it’s not exactly a recipe for success. Ryan though had the sixth highest Pressured Completion % at 47.0%.
Ryan’s 2018 Season
- QB2, 354.0 Fan Points
- Completed 422/608 Attempts (69.4%)
- 4924 Yards (8.1 Y/A – 11.7 Y/C)
- 35 TDs (5.8% TD Rate) 7 INT (1.2% INT Rate)
- 33 RuAtt, 125 Yards, 3 TD
- Total QBR 70.6 (QB Rate 108.1)
His weapons helped and hurt him at the same time. They gave him the seventh most Yards of Separation per Route (1.66). That’s the good. The bad? The bad is the 31 Dropped Passes (Fifth) they had. Age has been kind to Atlanta’s QB like Brees above. His two best season have come in the last three seasons. There doesn’t seem to be any signs of slowing either. He had the most AirYards (2,876), fifth-most AirYards per Att (4.5), seventh most Deep Att (73), and was able to overcome and come through to produce the QB2 season.
With Freeman getting injured (Knee) in Week 1, Tevin Coleman would seemingly have a chance to prove himself to either the Falcons or another team as he is now a Free Agent. I think he showed in his performance that he is better suited for the role the Falcons had been using him in as the third down, change of pace back. He did finish inside the top-20 but that is due in large part to the nine TDs he scored.
Coleman’s 2018 Season
- RB18, 161.6 Fan Points
- 167 RuAtt (10.4 AttP/G), 800 Yards (50.0 YdP/G), 2 100 Yard Games
- Caught 32/44 Targets, 276 Yards (8.6 Y/R)
- 4 RuTD, 5 ReTD (9 Total)
- 199 Touches, 1,076 Yards (5.4 Y/T)
Coleman may not be the most shifty RB as demonstrated by his 21.6 % Juke Rate (38th) and his 43 Evaded Tackles (31st) but he is fast and can run through an open hole. He finished the season seventh in total Breakaway Runs (13) and Break Away Run Rate (7.8%).
Ito Smith, The Falcons rookie RB had some moments in the backup role. He had a stretch from Week 4-9 when he scored four TDs but despite seeing double-digit touches in six games in the backup role, Smith only eclipsed 55 Yards twice in 15 games. If Coleman and the Falcons part ways Smith would likely be in for the same role when Freeman returns.
Julio And The Rest Of The Receivers
As a result of the lack of rushing production, the receivers got the benefit of a ton of volume. Julio Jones did what Julio does (The WR5). The Falcons stud Wide Receiver led the league in Yards (1,677), Targets (170), second in AirYards (1,227), and was third in Receptions (113) which were a result of his 28.1% Target Share (Sixth). Jones had the 15th highest Dominator Rate (28.1%) which isn’t bad at all but it should have been better for a receiver that had 10 100+ Yard games. Jones had the sixth most Drops (8) and had the same number of TDs which all came between Week 9 and 17. The Falcons had their BYE during Week 8. The Drops aren’t exactly great but he did make up for it some with his 45.2% Contested Catch Rate (16th).
Jones” 2018 Season
- WR5, 212.8 Fan Points
- Caught 113/170 Targets (66.5%) 7.1 P/G
- 1,677 Yards (14.8 Y/R, 9.8 Y/T) 10 100 Yard games
- 8 TDs
- Week 1-7 Avg – Caught 7.6/11.6 Targets, 116 Yards, 0.0 TD
- Week 9-17 Avg – Caught 6.7/9.9 Targets, 96.1 Yards, 0.9 TDs – Difference (-0.9 Receptions, -1.7 Targets, -19.1 Yards, +0.9 TDs)
As you see above, Jones’ Targets, Receptions, and Yards all took a hit but he started scoring so I think everyone should be ok with the shift. He saw three Red Zone Targets come his way in Week 1 and then didn’t see another until Week 10.
- Week 1-9 Red Zone Targets (3)
- Week 10-17 RZT (14)
He turned those Targets into 10 Red Zone Receptions (12th). There should have been no reason Jones didn’t get the work inside the 20 except that… Well, he just didn’t. Despite his “none use” during the first half of the season, Jones’s eight TDs were still tied for the second most in his career to go with the Receptions, Targets, and Yards that also were the second most of his career. Atlanta produced a second top-20 WR as well and he has a little to do with Jones’ lack of early season TDs.
Ridley’s 2018 Season
- WR18, 142.8 Fan Points
- Caught 64/92 Targets (69.6%) 4.0 P/G
- 821 Yards (12.8 Y/R, 8.9 Y/T) 1 100 Yard games
- 10 TDs
Calvin Ridley’s season couldn’t have started off with less of a bang when in Week 1 when he scored 0.0 Fantasy Points and caught zero passes on two Targets. Over the next three weeks, he would go on a pretty impressive run. From Week 2-4, Ridley averaged five Receptions on 6.3 Targets and two TDs a game with five Red Zone Targets. His biggest game of the season coming in Week 3 against the New Orleans Saints star Corner Back Marshawn Lattimore primarily when he hauled in seven of eight Targets for 146 Yards and three TDs.
In fact, Ridley kind of has Lattimore’s number so far in their early battles. In Week 12, Atlanta faced the Saints for the second time and the young WR saw 13 Targets and had eight Receptions for 93 Yards and another TD. The early season success would never be matched as Julio took over the Red Zone role (Jones RZ Tgt 17/ Ridley RZ Tgt 9) and Mohamed Sanu took on a larger role.
Sanu’s Season Split
- Week 1-7 Avg – Caught 3.4/5.0 Targets, 46.3 Yards, 0.4 TDs
- Week 9-17 Avg – Caught 4.7/6.6 Targets, 57.1 Yards, 0.1 TDs – Difference (+1.1 Receptions, +1.6 Targets, +10.8 Yards, -0.3 TDs) – 1 RuTD (WK 17)
Sanu did score three times between Weeks 3-6 but was only seeing five Targets on average through the first half of the season. Sanu wouldn’t see another TD until Week 16 as Jones seemed to take all the work there but there was an increase in every other area as you see above.
*Note: Justin Hardy and Marvin Hall are both Free Agents.
Tight Ends often take some time to really hit in fantasy and for real life for that matter as it’s one of the toughest to transfer from college to the pros. Certainly, in 2018, Austin Hooper took some steps forward.
- 2016 Avg – Caught 1.4/1.9 Targets, 19.4 Yards, 0.2 TDs (14.26 Y/R, 10.04 Y/T)
- 2017 Avg – Caught 3.1/4.1 Targets, 32.9 Yards, 0.2 TDs (10.73 Y/R, 8.09 Y/T)
- 2018 Avg – Caught 4.4/5.5 Targets, 41.3 Yards, 0.3 TDs (9.3 Y/R, 7.5 Y/T)
The drop in his Y/R and Y/T in my opinion of his use increasing as a whole in the offense, not just as a change of pace field stretching TE. Hooper had the highest Catch Rate (80.7%) and the fourth most Avg Yards of Separation per Target (1.91) among TEs which helped him total the seventh most Yards (660), AirYards (452), and the fourth most Receptions (71) at the position. All adding up to the TE7 finish.
Hooper’s 2018 Season
- TE7, 92.0 Fan Points
- Caught 71/88 Targets (80.7%) 4.4 P/G
- 660 Yards (9.3 Y/R, 7.5 Y/T)
- 4 TDs
His role could even further increase with the hiring of Koetter at OC as we have seen previous success in multiple seasons at the TE position especially with Hall Of Famer Tony Gonzalez in his last stint with the Falcons.
2018 Fantasy Relevant Draftees
26th Overall, WR Calvin Ridley
- Caught 64/92 Targets, 821 Yards, 10 TDs, 6 RuAtt/27 Yards
126th Overall, RB Ito Smith
- 117 Touches, 367 Yards, 4 TD
194th Overall, WR Russell Gage
- Caught 6/10 Targets, 63 Yards
With The 14th Overall Pick In The 2019 NFL Draft, The Atlanta Falcons Select…
The Falcons could look to help out that offensive line that allowed Ryan to be sacked at the highest rate of his career or they could look to defense early as a little help there wouldn’t hurt either.
2018 Falcons Injuries
Moving Into 2019
Cap Space $4,666,533
Heading into next season the running back situation should be ironed out with Coleman likely not in the picture anymore as Smith is going into his second year and Freeman was signed to a deal through 2023. His injury history and size might mean Atlanta looks to add a piece through the draft or a cheaper piece in Free Agency.
Most of the O-Line is under contract which will help the run game as well as Matt Ryan but they should probably look to strengthen it. With Koetter returning though and coming off a season where his team led the league in passing. Normally Ryan takes a season to adjust to a new system but due to the fact he has run this system in years past, the transition should be quicker. Julio and the rest I’m sure can’t wait and Ryan isn’t nearly as turnover prone as Winston in Tampa Bay.
Carolina Panthers (7-9)
The Panthers season started off in a good way. A Week 1 victory over Dallas followed by winning five of their next seven games had them sitting at 6-2 and looking like they’re well on their way to a playoff appearance. Cam Newton’s shoulder had other thoughts. The Panthers Quarterback suffered a shoulder injury that would never really heal. It completely changed the way the Carolina played offense and sealed the end of their season essentially.
Without any real threat of a downfield passing game, teams were able to pretty much eliminate everything but the short passing game which is not going to get you very far. Yes, Christian McCaffrey broke the Running Back reception record, but death by a thousand cuts is not a viable strategy in today’s NFL. The Panthers would lose all but their last game of the season while scoring over 21 points just once after eclipsing the 21 point threshold in five of their first eight games. They watched their playoff hopes lessen and lessen as Newton’s Yard per Attempt did. Many questions now for the Panthers leave some uncertainty moving into next season. The most important being the Health of their starting QB but we will get into that in a bit.
Considering the Panthers averaged the seventh fewest yards in the league (310.8), averaging 23.5 Points per Game which ranked 15th isn’t too bad. After a slow start against what would eventually be a playoff defense in Dallas, Carolina would score 21+ points in eight out of their next 10 games before going on a four-game streak of 20 or fewer Points per Game. They would finish on a good note taking down the division champs with an Undrafted Free Agent (UDFA) in Kyle Allen and putting up 33 but that was way too late for anything to happen playoff wise.
They had a Running Back break the all-time reception record which is a big part of them having the ninth most First Downs (356), Ninth best Third Down Conversion Rate at 41.6%, and seventh fewest Sacks per Game (2.0). Carolina was also second from the top in fewest penalties (92) in the league but an injury to their starting Quarterback (and backup QB) ultimately led to their downfall after a hot start to the season. They improved on the Turnover Ratio from ’17 (’17/ -1, ’18/ +1)but not by that significant of a margin. They also converted on just 62.1% of their Red Zone trips. This was 12th in the league but far less than what they allowed their opponents (70.2%, sixth highest).
- Points Per Game 2017-2018/ Difference (22.7-23.5/ +0.8)
- Yards Per Game 2017-2018/ Difference (323.7-373.7/ +49.6)
- First Downs Per Game 2017-2018/ Difference (20.0-22.25/ +2.25)
- Third Down Conversion Rate 2017-2018/ Difference (41.9%-41.6%/ -0.3%%)
- Penalties Per Game 2017-2018/ Difference (5.18-5.75/ +0.57)
- Turnover Ratio 2017-2018/ Difference (-1/1/+2)
2018 Vegas Lines
|G#||Opp||Spread||Over/Under||Result||vs. Line||OU Result|
Results vs. Line: 7-9-0
As Underdog vs. Line: 4-3-0
Favored vs. Line: 3-6-0
Over: 8 Under: 8 Push: 0
Even though his season was cut short and overall limited because of a shoulder injury, In many ways, 2019 was one of Cam Newton’s best in the pros. First of all, he just Completed the most passes (320) on the second fewest Att of his career (471). This resulted in the highest Completion % (67.9%) the QB has produced. The offensive philosophy though has gone through a change right in front of our eyes.
10.6 is the lowest Yard per Completion of Newton’s career. The name of the game, especially after Cam’s shoulder injury, was safety. So much so that “River Boat Ron” would bring in backup Taylor Heinicke to throw any end of half Hail Mary’s after Cam’s shoulder got banged up. The biggest beneficiary of Newton’s fifth-ranked Red Zone Comp %, Pressured Comp %, and top-ranked Play Action Comp % had to have been Christian McCaffrey, who I will cover below. Those are more than likely helped out by his rank of 22nd or lower in Adjusted Yards per Att (6.6, 22nd), AirYards per Att (3.6, 27th), total AirYards (1,698, 22nd), and Deep Ball Comp % (31.7%, 24th). Newton averaged 242.5 Yards per Game in ’18 and only 50.02% of that was AirYards (121.3). The rest was all Yards After the Catch.
Newton’s 2018 Season
- QB12, 282.6 Fan Points
- Completed 320/470 Attempts (67.9%)
- 3395 Yards (7.2 Y/A – 10.6 Y/C)
- 24 TDs (5.1% TD Rate) 13 INT (2.8% INT Rate)
- 101 RuAtt, 488 Yards, 4 TD
- Total QBR 57.4 (QB Rate 94.2)
He still added in some work on the ground. Even though not to the effect he had in previous years, compared to the rest of the league, and considering age and health, Newton was still solid for you. He ranked top-five in RuAtt (Total/ per Game), Red Zone RuAtt (Total/ per Game), and Yards (Total/ per Game).
Note: Taylor Heinicke (Elbow) was put on IR prior to Week 17. UDFA Kyle Allen would start the last game and win against New Orleans (w/o Brees and Kamara) Completing 16 of his 27 Attempts for 228 Yards and two TDs plus another TD on the ground.
As you can see (Above/ Below – Newton/ McCaffrey – Weekly Metric Plot), There was a clear tipping point for the switch in production. Week 8-9)
CMC Or Bust
After signing a deal back in May of ’18, CJ Anderson was never a threat to the workload of CMC and was released by the team on Nov 13th but he is okay with that at this point I would think. Also, I think we know at this point Cameron Artis-Payne poses little threat either. McCaffrey, as I’m sure you’ve heard, broke the all-time RB Reception record (107). The Panther’s though lost seven of the last eight games as teams just said: “Okay, we will let you go down the field six Yards at a time.”
*Here’s a Link to a piece I wrote a few weeks ago that features CMC – https://www.ffstatistics.com/2018/12/19/ffstatistics-fantasy-trend-setters/
Here are some statistical updates as I wrote the article following Week 15 (Includes Week 17’s five Touch, 40 Yard, 10 Snap performance. Only game under 85% of snaps played). Also Newtons future in 2019 can play big into this as we saw in Week 16 without Cam playing. CMC touched the ball a season-high 33 times.
McCaffrey’s 2018 Season
- RB3, 278.5 Fan Points
- 219 RuAtt (13.7 AttP/G), 1098 Yards (68.6 YdP/G), 4 100 Yard Games
- Caught 107/124 Targets, 867 Yards (8.1 Y/R)
- 7 RuTD, 6 ReTD (13 Total)
- 326 Touches, 1,136 Yards (6.0 Y/T)
- First: Snap Share (94.5%), Targets (124), Receptions (107),Receiving Yards (867)
- Second: Fan Points per Game (24.1), Catch Rate (86.3%)
- Fourth: Opportunity Share (82.5%), Red Zone Touches (60)
- Sixth: RuYards (1,098),Total TDs (13)
- Seventh: Yard per Touch (6.0)
- Ninth: (Dominator Rate (30.3%)
A Young Wide Receiving Corps
No Panthers Wide Receiver in 2018 had more than 82 Targets, 55 Receptions, 788 Yards, or four TDs. all of which were less than CMC produced. DJ Moore led the team in Targets, Receptions, Yards, and Devin Funchess led the receiving Corps in TDs. Funchess will likely not be with the team moving forward (Free Agent, as well as Damiere Byrd and Jamaal Jones). Funchess played a role with the team as the injury to Greg Olson took away the big-bodied end zone guy Cam trusts and Funchess did an admirable job filling in for the short term but will likely be looking for another team soon.
DJ Moore showed that he has the athleticism and explosiveness to be the top target for the Panthers but due to the QB injuries, his upside was limited. Moore ranked 45th in the league in targets (82), 42nd in receptions (55), 60th in AirYards (382), 32nd in Yards per Reception (14.3), 33rd in Yards per Route Ran (2.12), 86th in Avg Target Distance (9.1), 96th Avg Yards of Separation per Target (1.06), and 40th in Catchable Target Rate (79.3%). It’s amazing he was able to put up the 31st most Receiving Yards (788). Moore got there by having the 13th most Yard After the Catch in 2018 (406). Also, Moore had only eight Red Zone Targets this season but all of them came from Week 11 on.
Moore’s 2018 Season
- WR38, 102.0 Fan Points
- Caught 55/82 Targets (67.1%) 3.4 P/G
- 788 Yards (14.3 Y/R, 9.6 Y/T) 1 100 Yard Game
- 2 TDs
- 13 RuAtt/ 172 RuYD
Curtis Samuel took some steps forward as well and was highly efficient with the opportunity he received. Samuel did it different than Moore as his game was all AirYards (494 Receiving Yards, 69Th/ 402 AirYards, 52nd/ Samuel AirYd Rate 81.4%, Moore AirYd Rate 48.5%). Samuel Ranked below 50th in the league in Yards, Yards After the Catch, Targets, and Receptions but he did work with the limited Opportunity.
- Fan Points per Pass Route – 0.55 (14th)
- Fan Points per Target – 2.10 (16th)
- Total TDs – 7 (13th)
Both Moore and Samuel were also used in the running and return game which gives them just a little more upside.
In the 2018 Draft, the Panthers selected the potential Greg Olsen replacement and I think we saw that it was a wise choice as Olsen spent much of ’18 banged up and finished his season being put on the IR (Foot, missed seven total games).
- Olsen/ 9 Starts – Totals Caught 27/38 Targets, 291 Yards, 4 TDs (10.78 Y/R, 7.66 Y/R)
- Thomas/ 6 Starts – Totals Caught 36/49 Targets, 333 Yards, 2 TDs (9.55 Y/R, 6.8 Y/T)
As you can see above, Thomas was a little more productive than Olsen outside of the TDs. For TEs those are kind of the most important thing for their fantasy value, as so few are target monsters. To give some context though, when the Panthers veteran TE missed time early in the season, It was Funchess and not Thomas that saw the majority of the Red Zone Targets (Week 2-4 Thomas/ two RZ Tgt, Funchess/ four RZ Tgt). With Funchess likely out, the injury concern moving forward, and Olsen under contract until 2021, Thomas can be eased into the role as Olsen is eased out of it. The 33-year-old likely won’t be back with the team after his contract expires. It wouldn’t be very cost effective.
2018 Fantasy Relevant Draftees
24th Overall, WR DJ Moore
- Caught 55/82 Targets, 788 Yards, 2 TDs, 13 RuAtt/172 Yards
101st Overall, TE Ian Thomas
- Caught 33/49 Targets, 333 Yards, 2 TD
With The 16th Overall Pick In The 2019 NFL Draft, The Carolina Panthers Select…
I would expect the Panthers to try and bolster their O-Line in a similar fashion to what Dallas did as Tony Romo aged. Cam takes a beating and they would be wise to give him some help staying upright. They have already gotten younger at the skill positions the last few years through the Draft. They have some O-Lineman (Starters C Ryan Kalil, LT Chris Clark, and three backups, LT Marshall Newhouse, RT Daryl Williams IR, G Amini Silatolu) that are all Free Agents.
2018 Panthers Injuries
Moving Into 2019
Cap Space $-3,321,461
Quarter Back is clearly the most important question the Panthers need to answer moving into 2019. There have been rumors circulating that he could miss all of 2019 but since the successful shoulder surgery he had recently, that talk has lessened, but not gone away. The O-Line situation needs to be addressed with multiple Free Agents. I think we saw early in the season when Cam was healthy, the Panthers were winning.
CMC’s fantasy owners are fine with how things turned out but I doubt the Carolina higher-ups are too happy with seven straight losses. Newton was sacked the fewest times of his career, but part of that is getting rid of the ball quickly. Dump off after dump off is not an effective way to win football games. They have a young group of WRs that can do more than we saw from them. If Carolina can address the O-Line issues and Newton can rehab that shoulder to avoid the Andrew Luck scenario, this offense could be very good in ’19.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11)
Not much went right this year went right for the Bucs this year after their Week 1 48-40 victory over the eventual division champions Saints and their Week2 27-21 victory over the future Wild Card Eagles. First of all, the Quarterback position at times was a revolving door, the running game didn’t start to click until late in the year, they lost their stud Tight End to injury (OJ Howard, Ankle), and the defense… Oh, the defense was, to say the least, atrocious. The receiving game though flourished throughout the year.
Unfortunately, the top passing game in the league didn’t result in wins and was probably due in large part to the fact there was little running game and the defense was so bad. They won their second game and then it was a whole lot of bad from there on out. they would lose 11 of their final 14 games including losing streaks of three and twice a four-game streak. Changes had to be made.
The coaching staff has been turned over with the hire of Bruce Arians at the top and there is a new buzz for next year. A coaching change doesn’t always mean an instant success of course because for the change to happen there first had to be a reason. Furthermore, the uncertainty at Quarterback needs to be addressed as well as the defense but there are pieces here to work with.
Tampa Bay Offense
Having the third-best Total offense and best Passing Offense (415.5/ 320.3 per Game) translated into points (24.8, 12th) but not enough to overcome one of only two defenses to allow 29+ Points per Game. They scored 24+ points in 11 games in ’18 but when you allow 23+ in 11 games it tends to nullify the good the offense does. They were right in the middle of the pack allowing 2.6 Sacks per Game which isn’t great but when your running game is one of six that doesn’t exceed 100 Yards per Game (95.2, 29th), teams can wait on the pass and pin their ears back so to speak.
This all still wouldn’t be that bad, especially when you add in three fantasy-relevant Wide Receivers, 2 Tight Ends and a Quarter Back combo that would have finished second overall. They finished second in Total First Downs and third in Third Down Conversion Rate (388, 46.0%). Finally, what did them in ultimately? A -18 Turnover Ration has to have at least… oh I don’t know, 65% of the blame. The other 35% can be split amongst coaching, key injuries to an already suspect defense, variance, and two gunslinging Quarterbacks.
- Points Per Game 2017-2018/ Difference (20.9-24.8/ +3.9)
- Yards Per Game 2017-2018/ Difference (323.7-415.5/ +52)
- First Downs Per Game 2017-2018/ Difference (22.0-24.25/ +2.25)
- Third Down Conversion Rate 2017-2018/ Difference (43.4%-46.0%/ +2.6%)
- Penalties Per Game 2017-2018/ Difference (6.5-7.31/ +0.81)
- Turnover Ratio 2017-2018/ Difference (-1/-18/-17)
2018 Vegas Lines
|G#||Opp||Spread||Over/Under||Result||vs. Line||OU Result|
Results vs. Line: 8-7-1
As Underdog vs. Line: 7-4-1
Favored vs. Line: 1-3-0
Over: 9 Under: 7 Push: 0
*Note: Jameis Winston was suspended for Week 1-3 due to a violation of the league’s Personal Conduct Policy.
If your a streamer of Quarter Backs, then in 2018, you might have come across these two at some point in time. Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick both had some pretty great moments in 2018. So much so that anytime one of the two made a few mistakes, the other was brought in to clean up the mess. For the most part, they didn’t do you wrong, but if you were someone like myself that rolled back and forth between the two of them, you took some really bad shots to the chin.
Two quarterbacks may be something that works in small spots but you need to have one guy. Ultimately, Fitz-magic would turn into Fitz-tragic and Winston would be handed the keys for the end of the year to try and determine if the Bucs were going to keep trying with the talented, yet slightly troubled QB. That’s the end goal in a real-life QB competition as well as streaming in fantasy. You want to find one to rely on. When you take the two fantasy seasons together, if you were able to survive the few land mines they left, the tandem was the QB2.
Combined QB Finish
- QB1 417.0 FF Points Patrick Mahomes
- QB2, 361.8 FF Points (Winston 196.0/ Fitzpatrick 165.8)
- QB3(2), 354 FF Points Matt Ryan
Winstons’s 2018 Season
- QB21, 196.0 Fan Points
- Completed 244/378 Attempts (64.6%)
- 2992 Yards (7.9 Y/A – 12.3 Y/C)
- 19 TDs (5.0% TD Rate) 14 INT (3.7% INT Rate)
- 49 RuAtt, 281 Yards, 1 TD
- Total QBR 71.8 (QB Rate 90.2)
Fitzpatrick’s 2018 Season
- QB27, 165.8 Fan Points
- Completed 164/246 Attempts (66.7%)
- 2366 Yards (9.6 Y/A – 14.4 Y/C)
- 17 TDs (6.9% TD Rate) 12 INT (4.9% INT Rate)
- 36 RuAtt, 152 Yards, 2 TD
- Total QBR 64.4 (QB Rate 100.4)
You can see (Left) which positions the two QBs target most and how frequently. Above that, which receivers they have the highest QB Rate when targeting. With Bruce Arians taking over for Dirk Koetter, this has been a big topic of discussion. Arians has helped produce some great offenses in his days with the Steelers, Colts, and Cardinals. He likes a big-time passing attack with lots of downfield throws and a running back that doesn’t need to come off the field in any scenario as we saw with David Johnson. Ronald Jones, Peyton Barber, and Jacquizz Rodgers aren’t exactly his blueprint. Jones though has the draft capital so the team may want to give him a chance.
The Running Game
In the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Bucs selected Ronald Jones with expectations that he could take over the lead role in the backfield. For the first season at least, they were wrong. Jones was never able to get any type of a hold on a role in the offense. There were originally some questions about the pick and those didn’t go away following a less than spectacular, 30 Touch, 77 Yard, one TD season. Jones averaged just 2.6 Yards per Touch, had no breakaway runs, and only four evaded tackles. You’d think if you were facing a light front on 78.3% of your RuAtt, you would be able to do a little more on the ground. Jones has some things to prove especially with a new coach that likes guys that can do it all. Jones had just 32 Receptions in his three years at USC.
The back that carried the majority of the work in ’18 was Peyton Barber. The undrafted RB did all he could do in the situation he was in.
- Opportunity share – 68.5% (Ninth)
- RuAtt – 234 (Ninth)
- Evaded Tackles – 62 (10th)
- Yards Created – 304 (16th)
- Goal Line RuAtt – 9 (13th)
Barber’s 2018 Season
- RB26, 130.3 Fan Points
- 234 RuAtt (14.6 AttP/G), 871 Yards (54.4 YdP/G), 1 100 Yard Game
- Caught 20/29 Targets, 92 Yards (4.6 Y/R)
- 5 RuTD, 1 ReTD (6 Total)
- 255 Touches, 963 Yards (3.8 Y/T)
Both Barber and fellow backfield mate Jacquizz Rodgers are free agents and with a whole new coaching staff, this could go many ways. Bruce Arians just took over in Tampa and if history tells us anything, it’s that he likes a workhorse back that can catch the ball. Jones as I mentioned above, only had 32 Receptions in his three years at USC and in his JR year, four total RBs (Including Jones) caught passes. If he had 32 Receptions but nobody else received any work either, this would be less concerning.
*Note: Jacquizz Rodgers – Free Agent
*Note: Has been discussed as a possible landing spot for Lev Bell.
Mike Evans And The Rest Of The Wide Receivers
Tampa Bay produce a rarity in the fantasy game. Three fantasy relevant Wide Receivers who all had long periods of sustained success in ’18. Mike Evans as a WR1, Chris Godwin just outside of the WR2 range and Adam Humphries and a solid WR3 of FLEX. Even a fourth in DeSean Jackson put up multiple fantasy relevant weeks. Those all came with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center. Arians has expressed his desire for Jackson to be a Buccaneer moving forward. Humpries is a free agent and a decision will need to be made on letting him walk or bringing him back.
Evans’ 2018 Season
- WR6, 198.4 Fan Points
- Caught 86/138 Targets (62.3%) 5.4 P/G
- 1,524 Yards (17.7 Y/R, 11.04 Y/T) 8 100 Yard games
- 8 TDs
Evans had a fantastic season in ’18. He saw an abundance of Contested Targets (61.3% Contested Catch Rate) as the two quarterbacks were not shy about throwing it up to the fifth year WR. Evans finished third in Receiving Yards (1,524), fourth in Yards per Reception (17.7), fifth in Yards per Target (11.0), and first in AirYards (1,256). He was not given many chances to do things with the ball in his hands (268 Yards After the Catch, 33rd). The 1.28 Avg Yards of Separation (79th) could be a decent chunk of the reason he had to make so many Contested Catches. Evans’ season was slightly less effective once Winston took over for good. I feel that is due to Winston getting more weapons involved and he was trying to protect his job. There were fewer risks taken than when Fitz was under center.
Godwin’s 2018 Season
- WR25, 126.2 Fan Points
- Caught 59/95 Targets (62.1%) 3.7 P/G
- 842 Yards (14.3 Y/R, 8.8 Y/T) 3 100 Yard games
- 2 TDs
Humphries’ 2018 Season
- WR31, 112.7 Fan Points
- Caught 76/105 Targets (72.4%) 4.8 P/G
- 816 Yards (10.7 Y/R, 7.7 Y/T)
- 5 TDs
*Note: Humphries is a Free Agent so this situation should be monitored.
Two Playable Tight Ends?
The Bucs had OJ Howard looked like he might have been on his way to a top-five TE season. He finished as a top-10 TE despite missing the final six games following a bad Ankle injury that forced him to the IR for the second straight year. There was also a three Target, no Reception game early in the season.
Howard’s 2018 Season
- TE10, 86.5 Fan Points
- Caught 34/48 Targets (70.8%) 3.4 P/G
- 565 Yards (16.6 Y/R, 11.7 Y/T)
- 5 TDs
Cameron Brate is one of the favorite Red Zone targets on the team and is under contract until 2024. He put up a solid Fantasy TE season but Tampa Bay really only uses him near the goal line. There is no reason Howard can’t be that same guy if he can return fully from his ankle injury. We’ve seen he is a pretty fast healer. In my 0pinion, depending on the Howards injury, Tampa should look to move Brate to a TE needy team. They may just choose to hold as they do like him near the Goal-Line and Howard could be a little injury prone.
2018 Fantasy Relevant Draftees
38th Overall, RB Ronald Jones
- 30 Touches, 77 Yards, 1 TD
103rd Overall, WR Justin Watson
- Caught 1/3 Targets, 5 Yards
With The 5th Overall Pick In The 2019 NFL Draft, The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Select…
The Bucs should look at the defense, especially in the passing game. Greedy Williams anyone? Teams can always stand to add O-Line. Tampa Bay allowed 2.6 Sacks per Game in ’18 (Tied w/ three teams for the eighth most Sacks per Game).