Five Bold Takes: Haskins to finish as a QB1

July 3, 2020
by Michael Sicoli

Who doesn’t love some hot takes? Fantasy football provides twists and turns each and every year. Players like Michael Gallup and Courtland Sutton were being drafted as the WR46 and WR49, but finished as WR22 and WR19, respectively. There are always trends to follow that offer some foresight before these breakout seasons or shocking statistics occur.

Prepare yourself for some spicy takes, and let’s dive into it!

  1. Anthony Miller finishes as a WR2.

The Chicago Bears offense is nothing special, so don’t hear what I’m not saying. No. 1 wide receiver Allen Robinson will still see his usual workload and be an asset for your fantasy roster, but it’s important to not forget his partner-in-crime Miller. The 25-year-old wide receiver suffered numerous injuries during the 2019 season, either keeping him off the field or barely on it. He struggled to start the year, but this was also when Taylor Gabriel was sharing the workload and playing fairly well. Miller eclipsed 65% of snaps just twice prior to Week 11. But from Week 11-16, Miller was the WR19, averaging 85% snaps and 12.1 fantasy points per game. That includes a Week 16 stinker when the mentally defeated Bears scored just three points, with quarterback Mitch Trubisky completing just 18 of 34 passes for 157 yards. Remove that game, and Miller was the WR9 over that stretch.

This leads into the second point for Miller’s potential emergence. The Bears, for better or worse, traded for Jacksonville’s Nick Foles to challenge Trubisky under center. While the team may be holding out hope for Trubisky, they will soon accept the reality that the player they traded up to select No. 2 overall in the 2017 NFL draft is a colossal bust. Foles should play the majority of the season, and that’s a huge improvement under center regardless of your opinion on the 2018 Super Bowl MVP. While the team will remain run-heavy, attempting to grind the clock and win on defense, I predict the Bears lose more games than they win, creating a game script that would benefit the passing game. The aforementioned Gabriel has since been cut and replaced with 35-year-old wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. who isn’t being paid to be anything more than depth (one-year, $1.2 million). Miller enters his third season, a popular breakout year for wide receivers, and is currently being drafted as the WR51 according to Fantasy Football Calculator. Take the value.

Jackson outscored the QB2 by 72.9 fantasy points in 15 games.

2. Lamar Jackson lives up to his ADP and repeats as the QB1.

Regression hits MVPs like a brick, and most analysts will tell you to avoid paying the price that comes with being such a league-winner. His touchdown rate per attempt of 9% by far led the league and doubled the league average of 4.5%. He led the league in passing touchdowns despite ranking 26th in passing attempts. Former MVP’s all dropped significantly in touchdown efficiency the following season; Patrick Mahomes dropped 3.2%, Matt Ryan dropped 3.3%, Cam Newton dropped 3.4%, each of them cutting their MVP rate in half. Even on the ground, setting the single season rushing record for quarterbacks isn’t something that gets set every year. He is currently being drafted as the QB1 at the top of the second round, and supporters of the late-round quarterback strategy like myself would tell you that’s ridiculously high.

But I’m going to tell you the exact opposite. I’m telling you to draft him in the second round.

The rushing yards won’t dip much — the Ravens know that this offense goes as far as Jackson takes them, and that requires his cat-like agility. RPO’s and designed runs for Jackson will remain a staple of this offense, and as his efficiency dips, I expect his passing volume to rise. The Ravens had 99 more carries as a team than the second closest team, the San Francisco 49ers. The team will still be up there in attempts due to Jackson and the very talented backfield consisting of veteran Mark Ingram, second-round rookie J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, a career 5.3 yards-per-carry guy, but all this will continue to aid Jackson’s ability to sell RPO’s. As some of those rushing plays inevitably dip Jackson will counter through the air to a now-healthy Marquise Brown and star tight end Mark Andrews. The team also added promising rookie Devin Duvernay in the draft and No. 2 wide receiver Myles Boykin will continue to develop. Jackson can still crack 1,000 rushing yards, something none of those former MVPs could do, and be a steady passer with more attempts, albeit less touchdowns.

No quarterback who finished as the QB1 has repeated as the QB1 since the 2005 season. Jackson will buck that trend with his unique skill set.

3. DeAndre Hopkins isn’t a WR1.

It’s OK to buy into the Arizona Cardinals’ offense and simultaneously fade Hopkins, which is exactly what’s happening here. Offensive Rookie of the Year Kyler Murray is a budding star and head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid offense showed some real promise in its first year.

But Hopkins thrived on volume in Houston. Don’t get me wrong; Hopkins is among the most talented wide receivers in the league. But there are a lot of mouths to feed in Arizona, something he has never dealt with before. Legendary wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald still led the team in receiving yards at age 36, and Christian Kirk can thrive as a secondary or tertiary option. This is to speak nothing of the three wide receivers drafted in 2019, Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler and KeeSean Johnson. Hell, even tight end Dan Arnold flashed in his brief three game stint just like he did in New Orleans.

Hopkins has had at least 150 targets in each of his last five seasons, and that likely won’t continue with this change of scenery. Unless he scores double digit touchdowns, Hopkins is going to disappoint fantasy owners who are currently drafting him as the WR3.

Haskins finished as the QB35 in 2019

Wikipedia
Haskins finished as the QB35 in 2019.

4. Dwayne Haskins Jr. is a QB1.

Talk about an underwhelming rookie year. Haskins finished the year with 1,365 passing yards, seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. He kicked off his career with a three-interception horror show… while playing just 65% of the snaps. But the important thing is that he showed some growth toward the end of the year. He threw just one interception over his last four starts compared to five touchdowns. Haskins will enter the 2020 season as the starter, with a scheme ready to match his skill set. While the team failed to add any proven weapons, his current situation isn’t as bad as some may think. No. 1 wide receiver Terry McLaurin is a true star, slot receiver Steven Simms was the WR9 from Weeks 14-17, rookies Antonio Gibson and Antonio Gandy-Golden provide some upside and depth while Kelvin Harmon attempts to make a second-year leap. It’s a young group, as all those names are second-year players at most, but there’s a lot to like about the group.

Haskins also finished with 101 rushing yards while starting seven games, and while that’s nothing special it offers a boost to his baseline. He had just one season as a college starter at Ohio State and is just 23 years old. Rookie struggles under those circumstances makes perfect sense — in fact it should’ve been expected. As the weapons around Haskins continue to develop so will the sophomore quarterback, and he can creep in as a backend QB1.

5. Hayden Hurst emerges as a top five tight end.

Hurst is the late-round tight end I want on all of my fantasy rosters this season. Tight end is a position I like to take a late shot on rather than paying up early. Teams won championships last year with guys like Dallas Goedert, Austin Hooper and Mark Andrews, all of which were drafted in the double-digit rounds or not at all. In 2018, George Kittle and Austin Hooper both finished as top six options despite them both being drafted as TE2s.

A first-round pick in 2018, tight ends often take time to break out. Just because Hurst was stuck behind Andrews in Baltimore doesn’t diminish the talent of the former Raven. Atlanta traded a second-round pick and a fifth-round pick for Hurst and a fourth-round pick before the NFL Draft. That’s significant value for a tight end with 43 career receptions, and there’s clearly a hole to fill for the Falcons.

The aforementioned Hooper finished as the TE6 for two years in a row while missing three games in 2019, and is now in Cleveland after receiving a four-year, $44 million deal from the Browns. That’s 97 targets out the door, and while Hurst may not absorb that entire role, he has the athleticism to be more efficient than Hooper was. Hurst ranked seventh in yards per target, sixth in yards per route run and sixth in true catch rate. Those are all metrics that support the narrative that Hurst can be a rare big-play tight end who now may be seeing immense volume from Matt Ryan, a quarterback who has always utilized the right end position when there’s talent to utilize. Look no further than his 61-yard touchdown against the Buffalo Bills in Week 14 when he eclipsed 20 miles-per-hour. The team believes in him, he believes in himself and fantasy owners should too.

Hurst wanted more playing time, and now he’s got it. He won’t disappoint fantasy owners in 2020.