The 2018 Fantasy Season is finally almost here! If you take fantasy football seriously you are most likely already mock drafting and identifying those impact players that you really want on your squad this season. This posting is based on PPR scoring, leagues of 12 or greater, and having the guts to draft the players you see as differentiators!
When preparing for drafts I prefer to tier players at positions and then select per tier which players I see as targets. Targets are based on few variables such as volume, health/injury history, age, schedule, and raw athletic ability. Looking at the top tier Wide Receivers for the 2018 season, my top five include Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham Jr, Keenan Allen and Michael Thomas.
I can hear all the “NO JULIO!?” chants as I write this and after rostering him in multiple leagues last season I am officially on team #NeverJulio despite his target monster status. The addition of Calvin Ridley coupled with Matt Ryan’s inability to get him the ball in the red-zone has me steering clear unless he falls considerably from his current ADP.
2018 PPR 12-Team Mock Scenario
Let’s say we had 1.04 pick with Lev Bell, Todd Gurley and David Johnson off the board. I would be considering Zeke Elliott, Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, and Saquon Barkley (no specific order there) going forward. In all honesty, I’m not a big fan of Elliott in PPR and his schedule this season. As a huge Giants fan, I even have reservations drafting Barkley this high with the new scheme and being a rookie. Not to mention playing in the harshest market in sports, the schedule, and the stupid signing of Jonathan Stewart to steal some goal-line work!
After those assessments, we come to Brown vs. Hopkins. I love Brown and have rostered him as much as possible to date. Honestly, he is probably the safest play at this point, but safest plays do not usually win championships. I understand the argument that you DO NOT get cute in the first round. However, taking a guy that you believe will outperform the others is a rational move. So if this scenario unfolded I’d take Hopkins at 1.04 and here’s why.
Volume Regardless of QB Play
Hopkin’s Career Stats per Pro Football Reference:
Those are career averages of 147 targets, 83 receptions, 1173 yards and 7 Tds. Those are pretty solid numbers for a guy that is only 26 years old and has 5 NFL seasons under his belt. Oh, and you all have heard that phrase “There is nothing better than availability” right? Over the last five seasons he has missed just one game. That game was last season with a toe injury. The larger issue has been the rotation of sub-par talent at Quarterback for the Texans since drafting Hopkins.
Take a look at who has taken a meaningful snap during each season of Hopkins career.
|2013||Matt Schaub||Case Keenum||N/A|
|2014||Ryan Fitzpatrick||Case Keenum||Ryan Mallett|
|2015||Bryan Hoyer||Ryan Mallett||T.J.Yates/Brandon Weeden|
|2016||Brock Osweiler||Tom Savage||N/A|
|2017||Tom Savage||Deshaun Watson||T.J.Yates|
With the exception of Fitzpatrick, Hoyer (maybe), and the savior of the Houston Texans, Deshaun Watson they all SUCK! Watson definitely resurrected the Texans offense when he took over in Week 2 of last season. Unfortunately, every Watson owner from last season can still feel the fantasy production pain when he tore his ACL in practice. That was right after they went into Seattle and played one of my personal favorite regular season contests of the 2017 season. So we have a sample, albeit it could be considered small, of what expectations we can make for the Hopkins/Watson connection in 2018.
Watson to Hopkins 2017 Statistics
With Watson under center, let’s take a look at Hopkins outputs from Weeks 2 – 8.
Ok sure, he didn’t have a great game against the Browns but he got in the end-zone. Sure, he didn’t get in the end-zone versus the Bengals or Patriots, but he did have 7 receptions for 70+ yards in both of those contest. This represents a super solid floor, something Julio lacked in my opinion last season. Hopkins ceiling with Watson running the offense is very high. It is just as high and potentially higher than that of Brown (also an opinion). So if we were to extrapolate these stats out over a 16 games season he would have a stat line of:
I do think this is high on touchdowns and I would project closer to 12-14 which would take his PPR total down 12-24 points. So lets now take a look at the top 10 fantasy wideouts from ESPN PPR leagues in 2017 and how he compares.
Hopkins finished less than one point behind Brown last season!
I have absolutely zero problems with taking Antonio Brown over DeAndre Hopkins. However, I think based on the data we have gone over above, there is a legitimate chance that barring injury of either player that Hopkins can produce the stats to finish as the WR1 in the 2018 fantasy football season. You don’t usually win your league sticking to the status quo and this is one player that can put up the numbers you need from your first pick week in and week out.