According to a study done by Microsoft, the average person’s attention span these days is just eight seconds. I’m not sure when the study was done or any other details about it beyond that — it was just the first thing that popped up when I Googled “average person’s attention span” and after I found that headline I got bored and clicked away. It had been eight seconds.
If you are one of those easily bored, TL;DR, “isn’t there a YouTube video of this or something” types, then this is the column for you. Quickly perused nuggets. Bite-sized infotainment. Just scroll down, see the category and read the names. Bingo, bango, you get it. If you need more, you can read what I wrote beyond the headline, but yeah, this one’s for you, my attention-challenged internet pal. Often imitated, never duplicated, this is the 10th anniversary of this column, so let’s get to this annual preseason favorite.
These are 10 lists … of 10.
List 1: 10 preseason storylines I’m buying
1. The Jets will play with more pace this season
Previously the coaching equivalent of a human rain delay, Adam Gase’s Dolphins played at an insanely slow rate. Gase is changing his ways, however, as the Jets’ first-team offense has been effective so far this preseason and Sam Darnold has looked comfortable in the hurry-up. We’ve heard reports the team was focusing on tempo and running more no-huddle, and both appear to be true, meaning there may be some 2QB-league value for Darnold and there will be more value in the Jets’ skill players beyond Le’Veon Bell than originally thought.
2. Speaking of the Jets, Ty Montgomery is the handcuff you want for Bell
So many people are looking at Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire, but believe it or not, Ty Montgomery is the handcuff you want. And you do want one. Remember, Bell has played all 16 games just once in his career. In fact, NFL Nation Jets reporter Rich Cimini already suggested that Montgomery could share the backfield work with Bell early this season. For his career, Montgomery has recorded at least eight touches on 16 occasions, reaching double-figure fantasy points in 11 of those games and averaging 14.9 points per game.
3. Believe the hype on Chris Godwin
Godwin played every snap that Jameis Winston did this preseason and, with more than 170 targets available from the team, he led the NFL in passing yards last season. It’s worth remembering that sometimes coaches tell the truth. When Bruce Arians says Godwin could catch 100 balls this year, I kind of believe him.
I already had Westbrook as a sleeper heading into the 2019 offseason. He made this year’s “Love” list, and that was before offensive coordinator John DeFilippo called him the “best route runner” he has ever been around. Westbrook then saw seven targets and found the end zone in his first preseason action, further solidifying his connection with Foles. He’s going to thrive out of the slot for the Jaguars this season, and as a 10th-rounder going as WR34 in ESPN leagues, he’s a bargain.
5. Chris Carson will be used more in passing game and is massively undervalued at his current ADP
The ground game usage is obvious. Last season Seattle led the league in rush percentage and Carson ranked third among all RBs in carries per game. And now OC Brian Schottenheimer has come out and said he wants Carson’s targets to be in the 50 range. Related: Tyler Lockett is the only healthy pass-catcher that Seattle has. Carson is an absolute steal at his early-fifth-round ADP right now.
6. James Conner is going to be a bell-cow RB
We heard a lot of reports about the Steelers potentially using more of a running-back-by-committee (RBBC) approach during training camp, but Conner’s usage this preseason has solidified his feature-back status. Jaylen Samuels will have a role, but it’s not going to be at Conner’s expense. I expect Conner to once again see close to 20 touches per game, and he’s a viable option toward the end of Round 1 and the start of Round 2.
7. Damien Williams will be a lead back and the guy you want in the Kansas City backfield
Lots of people are crowing about a RBBC in Kansas City, and there certainly is no shortage of Carlos Hyde truthers yelling for him. Now, I’m not even sure Hyde makes the team. And I’m definitely not buying Andy Reid’s comments about using a committee. Williams’ strong finish to 2018 will get him first crack at lead-back duties on the league’s best offense. Remember, last season in the six games Williams saw 10-plus touches (playoffs included), he averaged 24.4 fantasy points. And if you want some insurance, Darwin Thompson (not Hyde) is the guy you should target late in your drafts.
8. Michael Gallup is ready for a breakout season
All the talk about Ezekiel Elliott‘s holdout and Tony Pollard‘s impressive preseason has caused Gallup to fly completely under the radar. Last season, Gallup was 11th in air yards per target and, including the playoffs, had either a TD or at least seven targets in five of Dallas’ final six games. His target share also jumped from 11% before the Cooper trade to 16% after. Dak Prescott‘s scramble on third-and-12 in the Cowboys’ third preseason game to find Gallup for a touchdown was just one example of the connection between the two. With Amari Cooper already nursing a foot injury, Gallup is ready to make a leap to the next level.
9. The Ravens’ offense is going to be more pass-happy and fantasy-friendly than people think
We know the Ravens will run, but Lamar Jackson recently said he’s expecting to attempt about 30 passes per game. That may not sound like a crazy-high number, but it’s going to make this offense far more exciting and multidimensional. Everything we’ve heard out of Baltimore this year is that its offense will shock those who are expecting last year’s run-and-run-some-more approach. Baltimore is going to play up-tempo and give defenses many different looks. And I love all the young offensive talent this team added in the draft between Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin and Justice Hill.
10. Emmanuel Sanders is not of this Earth
I’m not sure how a 32-year-old wide receiver comes back from a torn Achilles in eight months, but Sanders looks amazing. Normally a top-20 receiver, he was the 11th-best receiver in football before his injury last season. The injury has absolutely crushed his draft stock, but he’s looking fully healthy and is a massive value at his current 10th-round ADP.
List 2: My 10 ‘chicken’ players
Last year, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh told his team not to eat chicken because it’s a “nervous bird.” In fairness, you’d be nervous, too, if you could be fried and eaten at any minute. But I digress. Here’s 10 big-name players I am nervous about, either due to injury, the offense or players around them (QB, offensive line), or something else. All talented players, all ranked where they should be. But as I’ve been drafting, something about them gives me pause and when it comes to the point where they should be picked, I tend to go with a different, similarly ranked player.
1. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Jets: Worse O-line and worse offense than he had in Pittsburgh, hasn’t played football in more than a year and has played all 16 games only once in his NFL career (2014).
2. Tom Brady, QB, Patriots: He’s the GOAT and the return of Josh Gordon certainly helps, but the Patriots had the fifth-highest rush percentage in the NFL last season and Brady was QB18 on a PPG basis. And that was with Gronk and most of Gordon. Everything I see indicates the Pats will continue to run. A lot.
3. Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks: He’s one Tyler Lockett injury away from having to throw to himself.
4. Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars: He looked awesome in his third preseason game, and no doubt there’s volume and talent there for him to be a top-10 RB, but … 11 missed games in two seasons and a whopping 3.7 yards per carry during that stretch makes me nervous. Nick Foles will boost this offense, but Fournette has just one five-catch game on his NFL résumé.
5. Devonta Freeman, RB, Falcons: I’m not actively avoiding Freeman, I just don’t seem to love the roster construction with him. He certainly could be awesome, but Ito Smith probably assumes the Tevin Coleman role this season, or something close to it, and with Freeman coming off of a groin injury that cost him 14 games last season for a team that ranked top five in both overall pass percentage and red zone pass percentage last season, I have my concerns about Freeman’s ceiling. And it is worth noting that a healthy Freeman in 2017 ranked bottom five in yards per carry after first contact among running backs with at least 175 carries.
6. Antonio Brown, WR, Raiders: Feet, helmet and off-the-field stuff aside (for the record, you can’t brush that stuff aside … it’s very possible the Raiders lose five of their first six games and things could get toxic if that’s the case), this could be a clunky fit. Derek Carr ranked dead last in air yards per pass attempt last season. Dead. Last. Was that a function of the talent around him? Of course that played a role, but Big Ben to Carr is a downgrade, no matter how much you grade on a curve. Brown will be fine, but we are talking about a player who has had more than 100 catches with at least eight touchdowns in six straight seasons. I’m not sure he hits either threshold in 2019.
7. Calvin Ridley, WR, Falcons: Talented kid, but he’s being drafted as a fringe starter and that worries me. He had his moments as a rookie, but if you remove the Saints from his 2018 stat line, his per-game production dips by nearly 20%. I’m worried he’s going to be a much better real-life NFL player than consistent fantasy asset.
8. Phillip Lindsay, RB, Broncos: I think the Broncos backfield is much more of a time-share than last season, when Lindsay overachieved. I’m worried a healthy Royce Freeman gets the goal-line work and Theo Riddick will be back to steal some passing-down work at some point. Lindsay is a fine and a talented player, but I much prefer the other running backs going in his area.
9. Jared Cook, TE, Saints: He had a breakout year and now he’s going to New Orleans. I get it on the surface, but even in a monster year last season he still had nine different games with fewer than 35 yards, making him pretty touchdown-dependent. He had six scores last season … and six scores in his previous four years combined. By the way, Cook scored his six touchdowns on a 27.5% red zone target share. Since Jimmy Graham left town following the 2014 season, only once has a Saints tight end seen a red zone target share of better than 14.3% from Drew Brees. By the way, in 2018, the Saints were the fourth-run-heaviest red zone offense and last season was the first in which Cook topped 700 receiving yards since 2011. When you see him going ahead of Hunter Henry and Vance McDonald on ESPN, I’m like … uh, yeah that’s a pass.
10. Derrick Henry, RB, Titans: In games in which the Titans lost last season, Henry averaged seven points per game. Since he’s not used in the passing game (zero or one catch in 11 of 16 games in 2018), it’s worth noting our friends at Caesars Palace have the Titans over-under win total at 7.5. In the 16 games prior to Henry’s Week 14-17 explosion he averaged 3.29 yards per carry. Too small a sample size of elite success, so he’s going too high for me.
List 3: 10 ‘unsexy’ players who are being undervalued
These players have no hype or buzz. When you draft them, no one will say, “Ooh, wow, great pick” or “Arggh, man!” … But they will outperform their depressed ADPs.
2. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers: Last year’s third-best QB in fantasy lost Antonio Brown from last season, and that’s a hit. … But all the way to QB12 in the 11th round on ESPN?
3. Latavius Murray, RB, Saints: The Saints have led the NFL in rushing TDs for two straight years and he’s going to be Mark Ingram (18 TDs the past two years) in this offense. He’s also the most valuable handcuff this side of Tony Pollard. Going in the 12th.
5. Mike Evans, WR, Buccaneers: All the buzz is on Chris Godwin (which I get and support), but no one is talking about Evans. He is being drafted as a WR2-type in the mid-third and, given this offense, his skill set and a little touchdown luck, he could easily be a top-three WR. I prefer him to Antonio Brown, who is being drafted ahead of him.
6. Robert Woods, WR, Rams: Last year’s WR11 is going as WR17 despite being back with the same offense, same QB and same coach who has given him a 24% target share the past two seasons.
7. Delanie Walker, TE, Titans: Three straight years as a top-five fantasy tight end prior to last season. He’s now fully healthy and, if you punt the position, he’s dirt cheap.
8. Jack Doyle, TE, Colts: He was the No. 7 fantasy tight end with Jacoby Brissett under center in 2017 and actually had more routes run and more targets than Eric Ebron when both were healthy last season. He’s going as TE20. Not a typo.
9. Greg Olsen, TE, Panthers: Yes, he’s a serious injury risk, but that risk is baked into an ADP of TE13 for a guy that was TE8 when healthy last season and TE7 or better for five straight years prior to 2017.
10. Darren Waller, TE, Raiders: I’ve been screaming this guy’s name since the NFL combine when Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson told me on our podcast to watch out for Waller — that the team really feels like it found something with him. A 6-foot-6, 256 pound converted wide receiver who ran a 4.46 40 at the combine, Waller is the new starting tight end for the Raiders. You know, that same Raiders team that was top seven in both overall tight end targets and red zone tight end targets on their way to making Jared Cook a thing last season. Waller was being completely undrafted and I like to take some credit for getting his ADP up to TE22 in the 17th round. ESPN standard leagues have only 16 rounds, though. Sigh. Most people in your draft will be like “who?” when you take him, but they’ll know soon enough who he is. I have him as TE13 and I’m probably not high enough. I want all the Waller this year.
List 4: The 10 best fantasy team names (that I can print) from users on The Fantasy Life App
1. Je Ne Saquon (App user: albert295)
2. Josh Jacobs Jingleheimer Schmidt (thememe)
3. One Nation Under Todd (jo47)
4. Shrimp Fried Guice (squeaks20)
5. Consummate Edelman (magicmephit5120)
6. Sting Like A.B. (beast24mode)
7. Our Gordon Savior (bpat)
8. Smoked Brissett (maintdawg)
9. Kelce Kapowski (jdepuy24)
10. Cohen The Distance (labrat)
List 5: 10 preseason narratives or theories I’m NOT buying
1. Andrew Luck’s retirement will sink the value of the Colts’ skill position players
Sure, I’m less excited about drafting Devin Funchess and Parris Campbell, but this doesn’t hurt the value of Marlon Mack or T.Y. Hilton nearly as much as you might think. Jacoby Brissett, while not Luck, will be decent. He has been in the system for a while now, and has a great offensive line, play-caller and offensive talent around him. Hilton’s fantasy points per target with Brissett are only .05 lower than with Luck, and again, I expect Brissett to be better than he was in 2017. Whatever efficiency is lost with the offense without Luck should be made up for in volume, as I’d expect Indy to run more with Mack. Hilton and Mack still take a hit, but I have both as top-20ish players at their respective positions. And as mentioned in List 3, Jack Doyle’s value actually goes up (he had a team-high 23% target share and led all Colts pass-catchers in both targets and receptions per route run in 2017 with Brissett as the starter for 15 games).
2. The death of Dante Pettis‘ fantasy value
I was not as big a fan of Pettis as a lot of others coming into this season, but the pendulum has swung too far in the wrong direction. While the Niners have George Kittle, they don’t have a lot of experience at wideout and my belief is that the preseason talk of Pettis losing his starting job was just talk: A coach trying to motivate a player having an inconsistent camp. Pettis has dropped all the way to WR45 on ESPN and is certainly worth a flier in Round 14.
Kliff Kingsbury’s offenses at Texas Tech always got the ball out quickly, and Murray’s mobility will help him buy more time. Murray is a special player — read more about my thoughts on him in Love/Hate — and as for Johnson, much of my excitement about him this season has to do with his increased role in the passing game. He could catch 100 balls in this offense. Basically, Arizona’s O-line struggles will hurt the team’s overall success much more than it will the fantasy production of Murray and Johnson.
4. George Kittle and Zach Ertz are worth a pick in the first three rounds
They’re great, but neither is likely to repeat the truly historic seasons they had last year. I expect volume to decrease for both, especially Ertz with more talented pass-catchers in Philly. And Kittle is unlikely to have three different plays of 70-plus yards this season (the last TE to have three gains of 70-plus yards in a CAREER was Marcus Pollard, who played 14 seasons from 1995 to 2008, and Kittle did it in one year). Drafting them in the second or third is paying full price for last year’s production, and I much prefer the running backs and wide receivers available at that point in the draft.
5. Miles Sanders is the only Eagles RB you want this year
Make no mistake, Sanders is a talented rookie and I like him at his current ADP, but I also really like Jordan Howard at his current ESPN ADP of RB38 (13th round). Last season, the Eagles ranked eighth in red zone rush percentage and Howard has at least nine rushing TDs in each of the past two seasons. Doug Pederson has used multiple backs every year he has been with Philadelphia and I don’t expect that to change. If Howard stays healthy, he’s going to have a weekly fantasy-viable role.
In the four games Beckham missed last season, Barkley averaged 20.5 fantasy points. Yes, his efficiency took a hit, but the sheer volume and receiving usage will negate that. The Giants’ offensive line is also much better, and though Eli Manning is terrible, if he’s any worse than he was last season we’re going to see Daniel Jones. Barkley should be the first player drafted in every league.
7. You should avoid Patriots RBs
To be fair that’s a standard storyline in every preseason. But this year more than ever, I’m in on the Patriots’ run game. New England had the fifth-highest run percentage in the NFL last season and that was before Rob Gronkowski retired. James White was the seventh-best RB in fantasy last season and is going as RB23 in a year where the Pats have fewer pass-catching competition. Sony Michel has looked healthy this preseason for a team that has been a top-two team in goal-to-go carries in each of the past three years. Michel, currently going as RB24 in the sixth round, has a legit chance to lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns this season. And Damien Harris makes for a fine late-round flier, too.
8. Tarik Cohen‘s role increases now that Jordan Howard is in Philly
Not only will Cohen’s role NOT increase, it’s will actually decrease this year. Don’t believe me? Fine. Will you believe head coach Matt Nagy? Nagy recently told the Chicago Sun-Times, “We moved [Cohen] around a lot last year, and I do feel like there was a time — where we probably gave him a little bit too much.”
9. There’s no value in Washington’s offense
People forget the Redskins were 6-4 and in first place in the NFC East when Alex Smith got hurt last season. They got there by running the hell out of the ball, not turning it over and playing good defense. That’s exactly what the Skins will do this year and Derrius Guice, who looked awesome in his preseason debut, will get a majority of the work and remains a steal at his ninth-round ADP.
10. There’s no value in the Bills’ passing game
Look, we know Josh Allen likes to chuck it deep. So how about John Brown as a late flier? Brown’s career average of 15 yards per catch is 18th best among 113 qualified wideouts. Remember, in nine weeks with Joe Flacco as his QB last season, Brown was the 22nd-best WR in fantasy in total points (WR31 on a PPG basis). He’s going as WR60 right now.
List 6: 10 later-round RBs to target
1. Tony Pollard, Cowboys
2. Darrell Henderson, Rams
3. Kalen Ballage, Dolphins
4. Devin Singletary, Bills
5. Darwin Thompson, Chiefs
6. Alexander Mattison, Vikings
7. Ty Montgomery, Jets
8. Justice Hill, Ravens
9. Malcolm Brown, Rams
10. Justin Jackson, Chargers
List 7: 10 more of the best fantasy football team names (that I can print!) from those who follow me on Twitter @MatthewBerryTMR
1. Cobra Kyler (@jarrodkwilliams)
2. Saquonomatopoeia (@erichorvath_)
3. James White Claw (@gcohen)
4. Now I know my ADP’s (@shockmeparasite)
5. Tenacious D/ST (@cupajoek)
6. N’Keal Patrick Harry (@2locksports)
7. Bell Biv Deebo (@Flyingsmores)
8. The Island of Foster Moreau (@MattWi77iams)
9. Raiders of the Lost Helmet (@davidehhorn)
10. Hand Over the Case, Stark (This may appeal to me only — from @duanestephenson)
List 8: Just for fun, here are 10 blind resumes
1. Player A: 98 catches, 1,540 receiving yards, 1.8% drop rate and eight games with at least 17 points
Player B: 96 catches, 1,661 receiving yards, 5.9% drop rate and seven games with at least 17 points
(Player A is Kenny Golladay‘s first 26 career games. Player B is Calvin Johnson’s first 26 career games.)
2. Player C: 63.8% completion rate, 12.02 yards/completion, 5.6% TD rate, threw 20 TDs and 0 INTs in the red zone
Player D: 63.6% completion rate, 11.84 yards/completion, 5.2% TD rate, threw 19 TDs and 0 INTs in the red zone
3. Player E: 20.77 fantasy PPG, 298.0 passing yards, 3.2 TD/INT
Player F: 20.73 fantasy PPG, 260.3 passing yards, 2.9 TD/INT
4. Player G: 20+ points in 42.9% of games, 14.3% of carries gained 10+ yards and 4.93 yards per carry
Player H: 20+ points in 40% of games, 13.5% of carries gained 10+ yards and 4.72 yards per carry
(Player G is Joe Mixon in 2018. Player H is Ezekiel Elliott in 2018..)
5. Player I: 41 carries gaining 5+ yards, 527 rushing yards and 7 rushing TDs
Player J: 27 carries gaining 5+ yards, 549 rushing yards and 4 rushing TDs
(Player I is the final 100 carries of 2018 for Aaron Jones. Player J is the final 100 carries of 2018 for Saquon Barkley. Free Aaron Jones!)
6. Player K: 86 catches (one drop) for 1,219 yards and 6 TDs on 130 targets
Player L: 77 catches (three drops) for 1,052 yards and 6 TDs on 124 targets
(Player K is Robert Woods in 2018. Player L is Odell Beckham Jr. in 2018.)
7. Player M: There were only seven QB games with 315 passing yards and 45 rushing yards in 2018. This player was responsible for three of them and was QB5 on a per-game basis from Week 4 on.
Answer: Mitchell Trubisky
8. Player N: 229.7 points, 13 games with 5-plus catches and 13 red zone targets.
Player O: 250.6 points, 12 games with 5-plus catches and 14 red zone targets.
9. Player P: 1.30 red zone targets per game and has caught a TD pass in 43.5% of games.
Player Q: 1.22 red zone targets per game and has caught a TD pass in 37.5% of games.
(Player P is my little Cooper Kupp from 2017-18. Player Q is Michael Thomas from 2017-18.)
10. Player R: At least 3 catches in 81.8% of games with 12.8% of his carries gaining 10-plus yards
Player S: At least 3 catches in 80% of games with 10.3% of his carries gaining 10-plus yards
List 9: 10 later-round pass-catchers to target
1. Donte Moncrief, Steelers
2. Geronimo Allison, Packers
3. Anthony Miller, Bears
4. Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Packers
5. Jamison Crowder, Jets
6. Michael Gallup, Cowboys
7. Marquise Brown, Ravens
8. Rashard Higgins, Browns
9. Deebo Samuel, 49ers
10. Trey Quinn, Redskins
List 10: 10 of the best Kalen Ballage-inspired fantasy team names (I can print) inspired by this column
1. Kalen Me Smalls (many)
2. I Kalen Like a Wrecking Ball (many)
3. Ballage Don’t Lie (@06010recap)
4. Big Ballage Brand (many)
5. Ballage Barrage (me)
6. A Ballage a Trois (many)
7. Ballage Mahal (me)
8. Ballagin’ on a budget (@FAMoranjr)
9. Kato Kalen living at the Ballag-eo
10. Hate the Drake
Matthew Berry, The Talented Mr. Roto, couldn’t find a stat-based list to fit Josh Jacobs on, but he remains his ride or die for 2019.