<
>

10 lists of 10: Breakout candidates, sleepers, rookies and the best team names

play
Berry has no issue taking Gronk in mid-to-late 2nd round (1:45)

With Rob Gronkowski being healthy heading into Week 1, Matthew Berry offers his fantasy outlook for the Patriots' All-Pro tight end. (1:45)

I will write about it more later, but I just want to take a moment to thank everyone for their unbelievably kind support, understanding and for reaching out after my last Love/Hate column. I wasn't sure how people were going to react, but the support and kind texts, tweets, DMs, emails and in-person mentions exceeded even my wildest hopes. So wonderful. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I'm nervous but excited about the challenge of doing a new Thursday column this year during the season.

But before we do new things, it's time for an annual preseason tradition. A nod to our short-attention-span, list-loving, slideshow-worshipping, soundbite-craving, everything-must-be-ranked-and-debated culture we currently live in.

It's the 2018 edition of 10 Lists ... of 10.

List 1: 10 players who are currently NOT being drafted as starters in an ESPN standard league but have a good chance of finishing the season as one (top-10 QB/TE or a top-20 RB/WR)

1. Alex Smith, QB, Redskins (ADP: QB18)

Think 2017's QB4 finish was fluky for Smith? Not buying that Smith is going to sling it down field like last season? I'll fight you on that a bit (his air yards per pass attempt has increased in three straight seasons), but whatevs, I understand the skepticism there. You think it's a homer call and you argue that what Washington has is a big downgrade from Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt. I hear you, but what gives me optimism is even without a guy like Hill, Washington ranked fourth in yards after the catch per reception last season (6.1). And that is with Chris Thompson missing six games (he ranked second among 131 qualified players in yards after the catch per reception last season). A more full-time role for Josh Doctson and adding speedster Paul Richardson helps a team that will need to throw to move the ball. Smith is more mobile than he gets credit for (fifth-most QB rushing yards the past three seasons), and he is playing for a team that has the sixth-most QB fantasy points during Jay Gruden's tenure as head coach.

2. Tyrod Taylor, QB, Browns (ADP: QB23)

He just needs to keep the job. As QB12 in both total points and PPG over the past three seasons, he did that in Buffalo, where he hadn't played with an established 1,000-yard receiver until Kelvin Benjamin showed up in the middle of last season (Sammy Watkins had his only 1,000-yard season in Taylor's first season as a starter). His new supporting cast in Cleveland is more accomplished, as he has Jarvis Landry (averaging 1,010 yards per season for his career), Josh Gordon (1,236 yards per 16 games for his career), a nice pass catching back in Duke Johnson and talented young TE David Njoku to throw to. The rushing keeps his floor high -- he and Cam Newton are the only QBs with at least four rushing touchdowns and 80 rush attempts in each of the past three seasons -- and he doesn't turn the ball over. I expect the Browns to stay competitive enough that he keeps the job all season.

3. Rex Burkhead, RB, Patriots (ADP: RB29)

His ADP has risen a lot in the past few weeks, but he's still going in the ninth round. And while I get it on trusting Patriots RBs, he was RB11 from Weeks 12 to 15 (and then his season ended due to a knee injury) and that was for a RB who ranked 36th in touches during that stretch. With Dion Lewis in Tennessee and Sony Michel on the mend (and a rookie), the lion's share of red zone work should go to Burkhead, who can also play the slot and do a bunch of different things in New England's offense. He has Tom Brady's trust, which is no small thing. As soon as I say this, watch Jeremy Hill wind up with 14 touchdowns, but the versatile Burkhead is the Patriots back I want right now.

4. Aaron Jones, RB, Packers (ADP: RB46)

I'm in on Jones as the best back in Green Bay and his explosive potential has me seeing plenty of Lambeau leaps this season. He is part of a committee and the two-game suspension doesn't help, but that's why he costs you only a 14th-round pick. Jones was the eighth-best RB in fantasy Weeks 4-7 last season (the only games in which he got 10-plus carries), but he'll need to earn his way onto the field. Once he does, watch out.

5. Devin Funchess, WR, Panthers (ADP: WR34)

Say what you will about Cam Newton, but the man has thrown at least seven touchdown passes to his WR1 in four straight seasons. Funchess was a top-20 WR from Week 9 on last season (the week after Kelvin Benjamin was traded), and he profiles as a perfect WR for a Norv Turner offense. At 6-foot-4, he's a nice big target for Newton's, ahem, accuracy. Just 24 years old, Funchess enters this season knowing he's the No. 1 and exactly what his role is in the offense, something he was learning on the fly last season after Benjamin was dealt.

6. Corey Davis, WR, Titans (ADP: WR32)

A trendy sleeper pick this season, the fifth overall pick of the 2017 draft saw a team-high 23.1 percent target share during the postseason, giving us a glimpse of what could be. Davis fits the profile of a traditional No. 1 WR as Rishard Matthews continues to struggle with his health and Taywan Taylor strikes me as a nice, but complementary player. Davis is big and fast and the real deal talent-wise, and Marcus Mariota is (hopefully?) better than he showed last season (more interceptions than touchdown passes? C'mon!).

7. Chris Hogan, WR, Patriots (ADP: WR25)

Another guy whose ADP has risen quite a bit recently thanks to every other Patriots WR getting cut, suspended or retiring. But I'll say that he's got a real shot at a top-10 season, not just top 20. Last season, Hogan averaged 1.33 red zone targets per game, sixth best among players who appeared in at least eight games (only Jimmy Graham, Davante Adams, Jarvis Landry, Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski were better). He is New England's No. 1 WR to start the season, and that's a good role to have: The Patriots rank first in the number of red zone drives during the past three seasons and they rank second in the percentage of red zone drives that end in six points (62.8 percent). In his past 16 games with at least four catches, Hogan has racked up 237.7 fantasy points. That would have ranked as WR10 last season. Since 2011, the Patriots average two pass catchers per season with at least 64 catches (four catches per game for 16 games). It's tough to think that Hogan won't rank first or second on this team in receptions. He was a top-10 WR last season before getting hurt, so give me Hogan over Edelman, even when both are healthy, all day every day.

8. Cooper Kupp, WR, Rams (ADP: WR38)

My little Cooper Kupp (his official name) seems to be forgotten this year, as everyone argues about Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods. While they will be competing for targets on the outside, Kupp has the middle all to himself. Did I say middle? I meant red zone. Kupp's 20 red zone target last season tied for fourth in the NFL, with Dez Bryant and Davante Adams -- and were more than any two of his teammates combined. I don't believe that changes. Of the 79 players with at least 200 targets during the past three seasons, Cooks has seen the 10th-lowest percentage of his looks in the red zone (8.4 percent). Kupp is a second-year player ready to take the next step in Sean McVay's offense, and he's practically free in the 10th round of PPR leagues.

9. George Kittle, TE, 49ers (ADP: TE19)

It's a small sample for sure, but Kittle was the third-best tight end in football during the final three weeks of last season and I can tell you the 49ers think there really is something here. Kittle is a 250-pounder who flirts with a 4.5 40. I'm high on the entire San Francisco offense this season and any QB coming from the New England system knows the importance of a tight end.

10. Dustin Hopkins, K, Redskins (ADP of K19)

In each of the past two seasons, seven of the top 10 kickers played in an offense that ranked inside the top 10 in completion percentage. Alex Smith (67.3 percent) ranks second in completion percentage among qualified QBs in those two seasons.

List 2: My 10 "chicken" players

Earlier this year, it was revealed that University of 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 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, when it comes to the point where they should be picked, I tend to go to a different, similarly ranked player.

1. Kirk Cousins, QB, Vikings (ADP: QB8): Traditionally a slow starter. Those offensive line issues and the lack of a need to get into shootouts because of the Vikings' superior defense make me nervous.

2. Dalvin Cook, RB, Vikings (ADP: RB9): I swear, I'm not picking on the Vikings. But coming off the ACL, the offensive line issues and a potential time-share with, or even just getting vultured by, Latavius Murray (third-most red zone rushing TDs in the past three seasons) makes me wary at his ADP.

3. LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills (ADP: RB13): Speaking of bad offensive lines. And bad offenses. And being on the wrong side of 30. And that's before the off-the-field stuff. At what price volume?

4. Kenyan Drake, RB, Dolphins (ADP: RB17): An ADP this high and not able to beat out Frank Gore? You may think that's nuts and he has looked good this preseason, but I just don't believe the Dolphins want him handling a full workload, regardless of whether he actually can or not.

5. Jerick McKinnon, RB, 49ers (ADP: RB16): I like his talent and I am a believer in the San Fran offense. He even made the "others receiving votes" part of my "Love" section in Love/Hate. But the Matt Breida/Alfred Morris talk (more on that later) makes me real nervous when you're talking about a top-16 RB pick, you know?

6. Julio Jones, WR, Falcons (ADP: WR2): I have him as my WR5 and I get all the positive regression arguments. No way he scores three touchdowns again after a 6 percent TD rate on his 18 red zone targets (NFL average is 27 percent). He'll improve. Logically that makes a ton of sense and his talent is unquestioned. But for all his talent, he has six touchdowns or fewer in four of the past five seasons, he had just five weeks as a top-20 WR last season and he has one top-five WR season in his career. That's your WR2? He could truly "blow the roof off the doors," but, man, he makes me nervous as WR2 ahead of Hopkins, Beckham and Thomas. Are we sure Falcons aren't a nervous bird?

7. A.J. Green, WR, Bengals (ADP: WR7): He has played all 16 games just twice in the past four years, he's on the wrong side of 30, he had just three games of 85-plus yards last season and is coming off the lowest reception rate of his career. Also, you know, Andy Dalton.

8. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Eagles (ADP: WR26): It already feels like the Eagles might be snakebitten after their magical run last season. Jeffrey feels like when you continue to play well into a losing streak instead of walking away from the blackjack table when you're up. Jeffrey is already banged up, Philly has so many weapons and I don't know. It just feels like you'll be waiting to see if he plays every Sunday morning.

9. Brandin Cooks, WR, Rams (ADP: WR21): You know I love Sean McVay. If anyone can get a huge season out of Cooks, it's him. But this is Cooks' third team in three years, he's going to a place where, at the moment, he's the fourth offensive option. It feels like he'll have four huge games and otherwise be very pedestrian. ... And you'll have no idea when those blow-up games are coming.

10. Evan Engram, TE, Giants (ADP: TE 7): If he loses just nine catches, 100 yards (or about 7 yards a game) and two touchdowns from last season, he's TE10 instead of TE5. Engram is a talented player, but with Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard back healthy, along with the addition of Saquon Barkley, you have to expect a lower target share. Plus, 85.7 percent of his red zone catches resulted in a TD (the TE average last season was 56.3 percent).

List 3: 10 Unsexy players who have no hype or buzz, and when you draft them no one will get angry or go "Oooh, wow, great pick" ... but they are being undervalued and will outperform their depressed ADP (because of their unsexiness)

1. Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers (ADP: QB16): He's the only QB to throw for 4,200 yards and 28 TDs in each of the past two seasons ... and he has done it in five straight seasons.

2. Lamar Miller, RB, Texans (ADP: RB23): He averaged more than 15 points a game in the six games Deshaun Watson started last season, and he currently has no real competition.

3. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Raiders (ADP: RB21): He was RB13 during the second half of last season and might as well be the poster child for Jon Gruden's "Turn Back the Clock" philosophy.

4. Isaiah Crowell, RB, Jets (ADP: RB30): I expect he will be the early-down and goal-line back on a solid (not great, but better than you think) Jets offense.

5. LeGarrette Blount, RB, Lions (ADP: RB47): Could be a total nonfactor, but also a non-zero chance he falls into double-digit touchdowns. And if he flames out, all he cost you was a 14th-round pick.

6. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals (ADP: WR13): He's coming off three straight seasons finishing 11th or better at the position and has a QB (either Sam Bradford or Josh Rosen) who likes to throw short. Target monster.

7. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos (ADP: WR29): He's being used a lot more in the slot this preseason, and you might remember Case Keenum's primary slot WR last year, Mr. Thielen? As long as Sanders is healthy, there's no way he doesn't earn his ADP, with a good chance of beating it.

8. Kenny Stills, WR, Dolphins (ADP: WR45): Last season's WR28 sees Jarvis Landry leave and is still left for dead. How scared are we of Danny Amendola, DeVante Parker or Albert Wilson? (By the way, Amendola also qualifies for this list. As long as he is healthy he'll greatly outperform his ADP of WR55 in PPR leagues).

9. Jack Doyle, TE, Colts (ADP: TE10, 11th round): You guys aren't really scared of Eric Ebron, are you? Come on. Doyle was last season's TE7 and we think what? Andrew Luck being back is going to hurt Doyle? OK.

10. Matthew Berry

List 4: 10 best fantasy team names (that I can print!) that were posted in the free Fantasy Life App that I'm part of (and the screen name of who posted it)

By the way, it's a great fantasy football community and they absolutely crush it on the alerts. Come on, it's free. Try it. If you hate it, just delete it. Here we go:

1. Settlers of Saquon (wbutler210)
2. Rushin Collusion (drakkan)
3. Goodwin Hunting (fantasy_fb)
4. Sexual Thielen (chicanofire)
5. Keep Calm and Kerryon (osubuckeyes21)
6. Flaccaroni n Cheese (chysell)
7. Voodoo Mama JuJu (nbay3)
8. Ertz-Rent-A-Star (chuck45)
9. Low Fat Greek Goedert (sycr218)
10. Trey Burton Ernie (jp5733)

List 5: 10 leftover facts from my "100 Facts You Need to Know Before You Draft" column

1. Jon Gruden has had a 1,000-yard receiver all 11 years he has been a head coach. Amari Cooper is just one of seven WRs with five-plus TD catches in each of the past three seasons. Michael Crabtree, now with Baltimore, ranked eighth in total targets and third in end zone targets the past three years.

2. In 2015, John Brown was WR26, posting 1,003 yards and seven touchdowns. Since 2015, Brown has the seventh-highest air yards per target in the NFL. Since 2011, Joe Flacco has the second-most pass attempts at least 30 yards downfield. Brown is fully healthy and has a current ADP of WR67.

3. Over the final five games last season, Peyton Barber was 15th in total rushing yards.

4. Last season, the Washington Redskins ran the ball 55 percent of the time in goal-to-go situations, 10th most in the NFL, despite an injury-ravaged offensive line. Washington just signed Adrian Peterson.

5. When Kenny Golladay was out last season, Marvin Jones Jr. averaged 10.2 targets per game. When Golladay was active, Jones averaged 5.1 targets. Jones caught a touchdown every 6.8 receptions (the second-highest rate among WRs with at least 40 receptions). The season prior to his nine-TD season, he had four scores.

6. In the past three seasons, no QB has targeted tight ends more than Alex Smith.

7. Over the past eight seasons, the top pass catcher for the Packers has averaged 11.8 touchdown receptions.

8. In the two seasons that Dak Prescott has been the Cowboys' starting QB, Dallas ranks just 20th in plays run and 31st in pass attempts. And that was with Dez Bryant and Jason Witten.

9. Mark Ingram II scored on 27.3 percent of his red zone carries last season. His career rate prior to 2017 was 17 percent.

10. Kyle Rudolph has played all 16 games for three straight years. New Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo comes from an Eagles offense that has led the NFL in tight end receptions the past two seasons when he was there.

List 6: 10 lineup-setting tips from the sports gambling world

1. Last season, the quarterback on the betting favorite averaged 18 percent more fantasy PPG than the underdog.

2. Last season, the running backs on the betting favorite averaged 17.5 percent more fantasy PPG than the underdog.

3. Last season, the wide receivers on the betting favorite averaged 15.3 percent more fantasy PPG than the underdog.

4. Last season, the tight ends on the betting favorite averaged 30.4 percent more fantasy PPG than the underdog.

5. Last season, the kicker on the betting favorite averaged 30.2 percent more fantasy PPG than the underdog.

6. Last season, the defense/special teams unit of the betting favorite averaged 74.6 percent more fantasy PPG than the underdog.

7. Running back holds the greatest correlation over the past five seasons in terms of game outcomes and fantasy point total. Team RBs averaged 18.9 PPG in games in which they lost by at least 10 points, 21 PPG in losses by seven to nine points, 21.1 PPG in losses by four to six points, 22.2 PPG in losses by one to three point losses, 23.3 PPG in wins by one to three points, 23.8 PPG in wins by four to six points, 25.6 PPG in wins by seven to nine points, and 28.4 PPG in wins by at least 10 points.

8. NFL favorites scored 30.5 percent more PPG than underdogs last season.

9. NFL favorites averaged 8.7 percent more PPG when at home than when on the road last season.

10. The Packers, Titans and Rams are the only three teams that opened as favorites in all four games from Week 13-16 (Week 17 lines are impossible to forecast at this point).

List 7: More fantasy football team names (that I can print) that were posted in the Fantasy Life App

1. Hey Darnold (bolson56)
2. The Rosen Ones (bwarrick)
3. MMM...Gurley Fries (rwill4ecu)
4. Thielen and Dealin' (nickrome)
5. No place like Mahomes (cardinalsfan4life)
6. Kamara chameleon (dbrent58)
7. 50 Shades of Green Bay (durrzack)
8. Carson Wentz the Bed (carsonwentzthebed)
9. Gordons of the Galaxy (goronron)
10. Ansah To Your Prayers (jj_pung)

List 8: 10 RBs going in Round 10 or later that are worth fliers, especially if you go with the "Zero RB" strategy

1. Sony Michel, Patriots (ADP: 12th round)
2. Adrian Peterson, Redskins (ADP: 12th round)
3. Latavius Murray, Vikings (ADP: 14th round)
4. Marlon Mack (ADP: 13th round) and Jordan Wilkins (15th), Colts
5. Corey Clement, Eagles (undrafted)
6. Matt Breida and Alfred Morris, 49ers (undrafted)
7. John Kelly, Rams (undrafted)
8. James Conner, Steelers (undrafted)
9. Chase Edmonds, Cardinals (undrafted)
10. Rod Smith, Cowboys (undrafted)

Note: I would have put Kalen Ballage on this list, but I feel like I've talked about him way too much already this summer.

List 9: 10 trends I have seen in limited preseason action that I am buying (and a shout out to Adam Levitan, Graham Barfield and Scott Barrett, all people I enjoy following on Twitter, and all of whom do a great job charting first-team preseason snap percentages)

1. Christian McCaffrey being used as a true workhorse. He already has been on the Love list and been ranked as a top-10 guy for me for a long time. Monster year coming.

2. James White is going to have much more of a significant role, at least early on, than people realize.

3. I want Tyreek Hill. I've been correct to fade Sammy Watkins in preseason rankings and articles.

4. Royce Freeman is a star and it's only a matter of time before the full-time job is his. Devontae Booker is just a guy.

5. Carlos Hyde is going to be a legit starting RB in 12-team leagues, with upside for more.

6. Matt Nagy is telling the truth when he says Jordan Howard is going to be used on third down.

7. Alfred Morris is not just RB depth for the 49ers. He can still play and people forget he was a top-nine RB in the two years under Kyle Shanahan in Washington. It remains to be seen how much, but he'll have a role this season.

8. I mentioned these two in Love/Hate as well, but after George Kittle, Ricky Seals-Jones is my favorite late-round deeper-league TE.

9. I'm in on Andrew Luck this season, especially at his ADP, how deep the position is if something happens, and even more especially after seeing how Indy can't run the ball. And I'm not impressed with their defense, either.

10. John Brown is gonna be a real thing this year. Actually, Baltimore's entire offense will be.

List 10: More fantasy team names, this time suggested by my followers on Twitter

1. Lights Kamara Action (@TACanevari)
2. Post Mahomes (@MachaJohn)
3. Cam Ju Digg It (@C_Hira24)
4. Hot Chubb Time Machine (@21_Cuse)
5. Girl You Know It's Trubisky (@juliedawngordon)
6. The Wrath of Quon (@steelerdaddy)
7. Lambeau Calrissian (@VincentNarducci)
8. Every Kiss Begins with Trey (@Hexrivera)
9. You've got to B McKinnon Me (@jeremy_Ramsey11)
10. Per Sources (@adamschefter)

Matthew Berry, The Talented Mr. Roto, is ready for the season. He is the creator of RotoPass.com and one of the owners of the Fantasy Life app and FantasyLife.com.