Welcome to 5 to Thrive, 5 to Dive. This will be a weekly write-up and it’s my baby. What we do here is this: we look at FantasyPros ranks and I’ll predict who will outperform (Thrives) and who will underperform (Dives) their respective rank for the week. Since it’s before the season, I’ll be looking at this through the scope of the whole season. These are meant to be pretty bold calls so I hope you’ll enjoy!
Carson Wentz QB Philadelphia Eagles
(FantasyPros Rank: 6)
Yeah, I know he only played 11 games last year. And yeah, I know he left the previous season early with injury as well. But here’s something that I also know: I don’t give a fuck. I’m all in on Carson Wentz. The talented 4th year QB from North Dakota State is surrounded by a bevy of weapons in Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor and Dallas Goedert. And that doesn’t include the running backs with rookie Miles Sanders and newly acquired Jordan Howard. Yeah, the injuries are a concern. I get it. But what also benefits Wentz besides the skill positions is his offensive line which ranks 1st overall according to Pro Football Focus. They should be able to keep him upright as he runs the man with the biggest balls in the world, Doug Pederson’s offense (still can’t believe the Philly Special). Before Wentz went down in 2017, he was on his way to an MVP season. I don’t think that’s out of the realm of possibility this year.
Matt Breida, RB San Francisco 49ers
(FantasyPros Rank: 37)
Oh look, another guy with injury concerns! And yet here I am, not giving a shit. Breida can ball, man. Despite playing in only 14 games last year while leaving others early, the diminutive running back still finished at RB25 while splitting snaps with a wide variety of other backs in San Francisco. He’ll split work again this year with newly acquired Tevin Coleman. But, I think that can help Breida. He’s not a big dude for a back, so getting about 40% of the touches in man rocket Kyle Shanahan’s offense actually isn’t that much of a problem. It should be able to keep him healthy while giving him enough work both in the rushing and passing game to make him a viable option most weeks. If he can come somewhere near his 180 touches from last season, Breida should be an incredible value for the season.
Malcolm Brown, RB Los Angeles Rams
(FantasyPros Rank: 65)
I’m not normally someone to love a player based on situation alone, but Brown might fall into that category. Playing with the Rams behind Todd Gurley and his let’s just call it a suspect knee could prove to be beneficial for Brown and fantasy owners. LA drafted Darrell Henderson in the 3rd round of the NFL Draft this past offseason and he’ll play a role in the offense, but I wouldn’t expect him to play the Gurley role. He’s not built for it. That’ll belong to Brown if anything were to go awry for TG30. He’s built similarly to Gurley (TG: 6’1, 231, MB: 6’0, 225) and has proven in limited work to be able to contribute in (speaking of man rockets) Sean McVay’s offense. Last season, Gurley had 64 carries in the red zone. 64! If anything were to go wrong with Gurley, Brown would immediately vault into RB2 status.
Josh Gordon, WR New England Patriots
(FantasyPros Rank: 31)
If you can’t tell by now, I’m not really that afraid of guys who come with risk. And if you haven’t been able to see that yet, you definitely should now. Josh Gordon is the ultimate risk/reward pick. He could play 4 games and get suspended again, he could play 16 and be one of Brady’s favorite weapons. I’m betting on the 2nd option there. In games where Rob Gronkowski didn’t play and Josh Gordon did last season, Gordon’s stat lines looked like this:
Donte Moncrief, WR Pittsburgh Steelers
(FantasyPros Rank: 49)
With Gordon, I reference vacated targets. Well you might’ve heard that there used to be this receiver for the Steelers that’s not there anymore. Mr. Big Chest/Blonde Mustache/Team Cancer/Drama Queen/Antonio Brown was targeted 168 times in 2018. And while the Steelers probably won’t pass as much as they did last season, there’s still a significant portion of the passing game to be sorted out in Pittsburgh. Enter Donte Moncrief. Crief hasn’t played with a talented QB since his days in Indy with Andrew Luck (RIP) but now he’ll get to play with future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger (if you don’t think Big Ben is a future HOF’er, then FOH). Moncrief is a different type of WR the Steelers have had in recent years and he’s one that Roethlisberger has wanted for a while. The Ole Miss product stands in at 6’2 and 220 pounds with good speed. He’ll be a vertical threat and an option in the red zone. The Steelers won’t be as good as an offense as in the past, but their demise has been overblown. Moncrief could find his way into low-end WR2 value by season’s end. Plus, I want to see the dude scored TD’s so he can do this:
Jameis Winston, QB Tampa Bay Buccaneers
(FantasyPros Rank: 11)
If I were an owner of an NFL team, I would not trust Jameis Winston at all. If I were an owner of a fantasy football team, I would not trust Jameis Winston. If I were an owner of a Joe’s Crab Shack, I would not trust Jameis Winston. Here's my point: DON’T TRUST JAMEIS WINSTON. Despite only starting 9 games last year and appearing in 2 others, the former number one overall pick threw 14 interceptions while being benched for Ryan Fitzpatrick on more than one occasion. Yeah, that Ryan Fitzpatrick. And I get why there’s excitement for Winston. He has huge weapons with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and OJ Howard as well as now being coached by Bruce Arians. In a Bruce Arians system, the QB is expected to hold onto the ball and take deep drops and deeper shots down the field. But I’m not sure Tampa’s O-line can hold up to the drops and time Winston will need. The Bucs’ line ranks 24th coming into the season according to PFF. If there’s pressure, Winston has shown on numerous occasions of making poor decisions. Poor decisions lead to interceptions and stealing crabs. Interceptions could lead to Winston being benched in his contract year. He’s a big risk. And a risk that I’m not willing to take. I don’t see him as a 'scrong' option at QB.
Derrick Henry, RB Tennessee Titans
(FantasyPros Rank: 19)
First off, this man is frighteningly large. 6’3, 247 pounds and lots of speed to go with it. You couldn’t pay me to try and tackle him. Well, you could. But you’d have to guarantee me that I’d spend my life married to Margot Robbie and a lot of money to go with it. And despite this, I’m not touching Henry this year in fantasy. Last season, Henry rushed for over 1,000 yards and 12 TD’s. 585 yards and 7 of those TD’s came in the last 4 games of the season: meaning that he didn’t do shit at the beginning of the year. There’s just too many concerns for me with the former Heisman winner. He only had 15 receptions last year and is game script dependent. He’ll cede work to Dion Lewis if the Titans are losing. He’s been banged up all camp with a strained calf. Star left tackle Taylor Lewan is suspended the first 4 games of the season. I’m not going anywhere near Henry at his current value. I’m sorry, Derrick. Please don’t eat me.
Phillip Lindsay, RB Denver Broncos
(FantasyPros Rank: 25)
What a rookie season the undrafted back out of Colorado had last year. 1,300 total yards, 10 TD’s and a Pro Bowl trip is a hell of a way to enter the league. And him coming in on the Dives list has more to do with his frame and whether or not he can hold up again over a whole season. I have my concerns there. I also have my concerns with how the Broncos will split their backfield up. Royce Freeman should play more of a role and for some reason, Denver is insistent on using either Devontae Booker or Theo Riddick in the passing game over Lindsay. Their coaching staff is taking living in the Mile High City literally. Ultimately my biggest concern with Lindsay is his usage in the red zone. Freeman is built better to take the pounding in close and was more efficient with his carries inside the 20 last year. I love Lindsay as a player, but I’m avoiding him in drafts this season.
Antonio Brown, WR Oakland Raiders
(FantasyPros Rank: 10)
This fuckin’ guy. What an absolute shitshow he’s been since demanding a trade from the Steelers. The blonde mustache, weird nicknames, frostbitten feet and his weird obsession with his helmet have all contributed to Twitter having an absolute field day with him. All of those reasons aren’t exactly why he finds his way onto the Dives list though. I hate his situation. He’s still a terrific receiver, even if he is losing a step or two (NFL NextGenStats has his separation at catch at 2.6 yards which is about in the middle of the pack for WR’s and TE’s). Last season for the Steelers, AB had 1,300 yards and led the league in TD catches with 15. But, he’s about to find out he’s not in Pittsburgh anymore. AB has loved to hate on Big Ben lately, but he’s going to find out just how much of a drop it is to go to Derek Carr at QB. Side note: why does Derek Carr try so hard to be cool on Hard Knocks? Like just stop, dude. You’re boring, it’s fine. Anyways, Carr hasn’t exactly shown a propensity for pushing the ball down the field and coach Jon Gruden loves to have a balance in his offense. Despite going 4-12, Oakland was still 16th in rushing attempts in the league. Business might still be good, but it won’t be boomin’.If things don’t go well quickly, Carr and Gruden are about to find out the AB stands for Always Bitching.
T.Y. Hilton, WR Indianapolis Colts
(FantasyPros Rank: 20)
Is this cheating? This feels like cheating. With Andrew Luck’s abrupt retirement, every Colts player gets knocked down the ranks in fantasy. But the player who will probably feel it the most is T.Y. Hilton. His connection with Luck was undeniable. I actually don’t think Jacoby Brisset will be terrible for Indy, but he’s no Luck. The Colts aren’t going to score as much, they won’t move the ball as much and should probably trust Marlon Mack a little bit more than they were going to. Volume and chemistry is important. And with Luck’s career ending, Hilton’s status as a high upside WR2 has as well.
Hank Mardukus is the Blitzed Fantasy columnist. You can complain to him on Twitter here.