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2018 Projections: Barkley, Elliott, and Beckham are Monsters and Alex Smith is a QB1

This series focuses on projecting players that are expected to be fantasy relevant for all 32 NFL teams. The included projections were built using the Excel Projection Machine which is included in the FFDRAFTPREP package.

Though projections are more meaningful when used to explore player’s ranges of outcomes, those presented represent “best guesses.” Please note that the RB3 and WR4 included for each team have been allocated a percentage of rushing or passing attempts that brings the team’s total to 100 percent. As a result, the stat lines and point totals included for these players may be somewhat inflated. Projected point totals are based on PPR scoring. In an effort to cover all teams as expediently as possible, we will be reviewing the projections on a divisional basis. Key assumptions and notes have been included in bulleted lists.

How good can Jay Ajayi be as the Eagles’ lead back? Is Ezekiel Elliot the RB1? Can Alex Smith prosper in Washington? Let’s take a look at the NFC East and see if we can answer these questions!

Philadelphia Eagles

RUSHING AND TARGET ALLOCATION

PHI Alloc

  • The defending champions will remain one of the most competitive teams in the league and will significantly outpace league average play volume.
  • The projection assumes that Carson Wentz is in the lineup Week 1.
    • While there would be some impact on the projection, if Wentz missed the first month or so of the season, it would not render the projections assigned to positional players as meaningless.
  • Ajayi projects as the dominant force in the team’s running game.
    • Despite claims that Darren Sproles will be heavily involved, it’s hard to project, at his age coming off of an ACL tear, that he is able to reprise a major role in the Eagles’ offense.
  • Alshon Jeffery will be the biggest threat in the receiving game but Nelson Agholor is expected to continue to make strides and along with Zach Ertz will be an integral part of the team’s passing game.
  • While Mike Wallace could see approximately 80 targets, he figures to be the WR3.

Fantasy Projections

PHI Proj

  • The projection places the Eagles with a total of 43 touchdowns.
    • While a decrease of 10 from the prior year, 43 is one of the highest totals I’ve arrived at during this process.
  • With 30 throws for scores and a pair of rushing touchdowns, Wentz looks like a top-tier QB.
    • His projection includes a decrease of four percent to his passing touchdown percentage.
    • He could regress even further and still finish in the top eight of QB rankings.
  • Ajayi is being overlooked by drafters, given the workload that he should see.
  • Jeffery, Agholor, and Ertz are forecasted with modest efficiency for their WR1, WR2, and TE1 roles.
    • While I could see one of them producing an efficient season, their historical production coupled with the performance from the prior season didn’t give me a reason to be aggressive while formulating their projections.

Washington Redskins

RUSHING AND TARGET ALLOCATION

I finished my Washington projection Thursday afternoon. Derrius Guice was projected with a rushing share of 62 percent and target share of eight percent. This equated to 205 points. Given the unfortunate ACL tear he suffered against New England, Guice enthusiasts such as myself will need to wait until 2019 for his NFL breakout.

WAS ALLOC 2

  • Washington will post a below average play volume and will need to lean toward the pass.
  • Alex Smith averaged a total of 15% of team carries while in Kansas City.1
    • A similar percentage is expected in Washington.
  • With Guice unavailable, Samaje Perine will be the lead RB.2 Rob Kelley will be his backup.
    • Neither back has displayed anything above replacement-level talent in the NFL, and both have been projected with poor efficiency.
  • Chris Thompson may not be at full health to start the season.
    • As a result, his rushing share has been held to under 20 percent and his target share is depressed. The team will need him to be involved in 2018, but it’s never a good sign when a player is pessimistic about his physical condition.
  • Jamison Crowder is the clear-cut WR1 and Paul Richardson is expected to outplay Josh Docston for the role of field stretcher and WR2.
  • The projection assumes that Jordan Reed misses approximately three games.3
    • In a full season, he could realistically challenge Crowder for Washington’s target crown.

Fantasy Projections

WAS PROJ 2

  • The projection assumes a slight decrease in touchdown output when compared to the prior season.
  • Smith should repeat as a QB1. His forecasted touchdown percentage is 0.01 percent lower than his five-year average and assumes a decrease of more than one percent from 2017 levels.
    • Smith is expected to continue to expand his game beyond short throws and continue to look downfield. However, his yards per attempt work out to levels similar to his five-year average.
    • While this is an impressive line, and 2017 was very likely an outlier, this projection is not as aggressive as it may seem. It’s important to recognize that Smith’s rushing production contributes to his strong forecast — this moves him ahead of a number of similar QB options.
  • Despite the available workload for Perine, or Kelley if he is able to overtake him, neither player should be considered targets.
  • Thompson’s usage in the receiving game will certainly increase if he’s healthier than expected.
    • However, he still forecasts with a strong projection thanks to four receiving touchdowns. Given the injury to Guice he could easily see a major increase in work.
  • All WRs and TEs were projected conservatively to account for any challenges in developing a rapport with Smith.
    • Reed is an exception to the above, as he is forecasted with a strong reception percentage.
      • Reed has consistently converted more than 75 percent of targets into receptions.
    • In what has become an obligatory statement, if healthy, Reed has tremendous upside.

Dallas Cowboys

RUSHING AND TARGET ALLOCATION

DALL Alloc

  • The Cowboys project as a middle of the road team and will see average total play volume but significant rushing totals.
  • Ezekiel Elliot will dominate the Cowboys’ backfield opportunity as one of the most utilized players in the league.
    • Rod Smith could be a league winner if Elliot misses time.
  • Allen Hurns is the only Cowboys receiver with a 10-touchdown or 1,000-yard season on his resume.
    • As a result, he will be the team’s most heavily targeted player to start the season.
    • Michael Gallup is likely the best receiver in Dallas and will become more involved as the season progresses potentially overtaking Hurns as the first option by the end of the season.
  • Cole Beasley will slightly edge out Terrance Williams in targets, but both are expected to see between 75 to 85 looks.4
  • Regardless of who wins the TE1 role, Dallas will not produce a fantasy relevant TE.

Fantasy Projections

DAL PROJ

  • Dak Prescott projects with a disappointing line. Despite anticipated production as a rusher, his passing yardage and lack of touchdowns position him outside of QB1 consideration.
    • He’s projected with 6.9 yards per attempt. He threw for 7.0 yards per attempt last season and 8.0 as a rookie.
      • The departures of Dez Bryant and Jason Witten and the ensuing lack of a true WR1 contribute to the pessimism.
  •  While Elliott looks like a surefire top-six back, given his tremendous workload, he would need to see increased utilization as a receiver to finish as the RB1.
    • The projection assumes 36 team touchdowns, of which Elliott is responsible for a third.
      • He could pick up handful of touchdowns in a fantastic season, but catching up to a healthy Le’Veon Bell will be a gargantuan task.5
  • Hurns could be a WR3, but avoid being overly enticed by his status as his team’s WR1.
    • If Gallup hits, he could challenge Hurns for this role. Further, it’s hard to project Hurns with a significant increase in volume.
  • As you’d expect, given the similar projections for Beasley, Williams, and Gallup, the smart drafter will default to targeting the rookie if they’re looking to obtain some ownership in the Dallas passing game.

New York Giants

RUSHING AND TARGET ALLOCATION

NYG Alloc

  • The Giants won just three games last season but somehow managed to run 26 more plays than the league average.
  • The team is expected to improve in 2018 and should hover around league average play volume.
  • Saquon Barkley will immediately become a bell-cow and one of the most targeted players on the team.
  • Odell Beckham Jr. will see a target share 10 percent higher than any other player.
    • His presence will decrease the volumes enjoyed by Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram in 2017.

Fantasy Projections

NYG Proj

  • The team’s projection forecasts an increase of seven touchdowns from the prior year.
  • Despite 27 passing touchdowns, Eli Manning projects poorly as he is not able to make up for a lack or rushing production.
  • Barkley could very realistically finish as a top-3 RB and his projection forecasts only 4.0 yards per carry.
    • I believe this total to be somewhat low, but it demonstrates how significant his expected volume is.
  • Beckham is projected with strong efficiency and Shepard forecasts as a fringe WR3.
  • Despite the return of Beckham and the addition of Barkley, Engram still merits consideration as a TE1.
    • Given his forecasted workload, an efficient season for a TE1 is not required for Engram to be a fantasy starter.

  1. That average is based on the last five seasons.  (back)
  2. That assumes that the team doesn’t make a move to acquire another back — which would be a mistake.  (back)
  3. In general, I try to avoid projecting missed games. Reed is the exception given his history of concussions and other injuries.  (back)
  4. I assigned a larger share to Beasley as I expect him to be placed in situations that will make him an easier receiver to target than Williams.  (back)
  5. I’ve yet to project Arizona. It’s possible that the same could be said for David Johnson.  (back)
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