July and August are the best time of the year for fantasy football. We all start to formulate strategies, plant our flags, and decide who we will yell at on TV for the rest of the year. That’s right, it’s fantasy football draft season! One key to winning your leagues is zeroing in on the right talent who will outperform their draft stock. Avoiding busts is equally, if not more important. With that in mind, and as a quick hitter, we here at Football Absurdity would like to prime you with the players to target, and the players to avoid, in your fantasy football drafts, team-by-team. What’s the difference between a sleeper and a breakout, you ask? I don’t know, why don’t you tell me, tough guy? You seem to have all the answers.
Sleeper – Alexander Mattison, Running Back (Expert Consensus Rank: RB72, 234 overall)
Since entering the league, Vikings running back Dalvin Cook has been one of the most efficient and explosive running backs in the NFL… when healthy. Over the last two seasons, Dalvin Cook has missed eighteen games (or over half the games). That makes his backup an extremely valuable fantasy football commodity. The Vikings agreed with the sentiment that he needed a quality backup and spent a third-round pick on Mattison in the draft after Latavius Murray ended up in New Orleans in free agency. I already talked about Mattison’s profile here, but his usage is another question.
Mattison is unlikely to have much independent value outside of vulturing touchdowns here-and-there, as the Vikings commit to a healthy Dalvin Cook. Cook had at least 19 targets + rushes in four-of-five games down the stretch when he returned from injury. Murray never topped 15 in the same stretch and was under seven combined targets and rushes in three of the five games. The Vikes want to lean on Cook if they can, which means that for fantasy football purposes, Mattison is a high-end handcuff. However, he’s a handcuff for a guy who has already missed more than half his games in the NFL, so he has a large chance of contributing this season for fantasy football.
Breakout – Kirk Cousins, Quarterback (Expert Consensus Rank: QB20, 121 overall)
This isn’t really a breakout, it’s more of a “look guys please cool it on the insane Kirk Cousins slander.” Kirk Cousins is QB20 off the board, and if you add up his rankings in his two lowest-ranked seasons over the last four years (2015, and 2018), and then ranked him at that number, then he’d be QB21. His worst performance over the last four seasons is QB11, and he has two wide receivers going in the top-fifteen in fantasy football drafts his year. Where is this coming from? I have no idea. He threw for 4,298 yards, 30 touchdowns, and just 10 interceptions last year, and it’s not like it was unsustainable. His TD rate was a TD on 5% of his passes, and his career average is 4.8%.
Last season was just Kirk Cousins doing Kirk Cousins things, and a universal decision that the Vikings will somehow give Cook & Mattison enough runs to crater Captain Kirk’s value is just wishcrafting. Michelle Magdziuk of the Ball Blast Podcast did an amazing job of breaking down why people think the Vikes went more run-heavy with their new OC, and why that may not be exactly, 100%, accurate:
Bust – Kyle Rudolph, Tight End (Expert Consensus Rank: TE19, 153 overall)
It’s nearing the end of the line for Kyle Rudolph, as things are starting to trend downward for the reliable fantasy football asset. His fantasy points have trended downward each of the last three seasons, and it’s been good enough for him to stay inside the top-ten at tight end. He peaked in 2016, garnering 132 targets, before the breakouts of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen.
In 2016, and 2017, Kyle Rudolph finished as a top-twelve tight end nineteen times, and top-five nine times. 59% of the time, you could slot him into your lineup and he would be a startable asset that you could rely on for fantasy football production. Last season, those numbers flipped. He was outside the top-twelve eleven times, 69% of the time. In fact, he wasn’t just bad, he was an active detriment to your squad more times than he was useful. Rudolph ended up twentieth or worse in eight-of-sixteen games last season. This came with a corresponding drop in ten-zone targets, with Rudolph receiving just eight targets within the ten-yard line last year. He’s been muscled out of the offense, and as such, his role as a valuable fantasy football tight end is coming to an end.