Your Guide For Drafting Nittany Lions To Your 2019 Fantasy Football Team
When it comes to drafting your fantasy football team, it’s always best to be prepared. There’s nothing worse than entering a draft lobby, winging it with your strategy, and winding up with a poorly constructed team destined for the basement of your fantasy league.
With seemingly more Penn State products in the NFL than ever, there’s no better time to draft some Nittany Lions to your fantasy teams. To help you add a little Blue and White to your rosters, we’ve laid out our thoughts on Penn State’s top fantasy football hopefuls currently in the NFL.
After an incredible rookie season, Saquon Barkley is slated to be fantasy football’s unanimous No. 1 draft pick this year.
The former No. 2 overall pick in the real NFL Draft racked up 261 carries (second-most among running backs) and 119 targets in the passing game (third-most) in 2018 while leading the position in routes (458) and scrimmage yards (2,028). Barkley finished worse than 13th at the position in fantasy points in only two weeks of the entire 2018 season.
He was on the field for 83 percent of the Giants’ offensive snaps and shared 21 percent of the team’s targets, which certainly gives him a boost in point per reception (PPR) leagues. With New York’s quarterback situation still up in the air and the loss of star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., Barkley’s dominance in the Giants’ run-heavy offense will likely remain unchanged in 2019. Running backs are the life and blood of a fantasy team, and there’s no better option out there than No. 26.
Miles Sanders joins fellow newcomer Jordan Howard atop the Philadelphia Eagles’ depth chart at running back. A shifty and agile runner, Sanders should have little problem finding work in Philadelphia’s offense.
His knack for evading defenders in the open field should prove fruitful thanks to the Eagles’ talented offensive line, and his pass-catching abilities should give him an extra boost in PPR leagues. His trouble with fumbles (five with Penn State in 2019) could lessen his value, though.
Although he’ll likely split carries with Howard to start the season, Sanders could certainly wind up as a top 25 running back in 2019 once the fantasy season is all said and done.
Robbie Gould, one of the NFL’s most productive kickers, is slated for another successful season with the San Francisco 49ers after signing a new contract with the team this past offseason.
The 49ers’ franchise kicker went 33-for-34 on field-goal tries last season, and he successfully converted two from 50+ yards. The former Penn State kicker also converted 27 of 29 attempted extra points for San Francisco. Kicker should be the last position you focus on in your draft, but 36-year-old Gould remains one of the best options in the game once you reach the final few rounds.
Chris Godwin has already had a productive NFL career so far, but he’s poised to increase in productivity now that he’s likely moving to the slot in Bruce Arians’ new-look Buccaneer offense.
Godwin averaged 9.1 targets per game when he lined up next to DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries in the past two years. With both of those players gone, there’s really nowhere to go but up for Godwin. He’s still Tampa Bay’s second receiving option after Mike Evans, but he’ll get his fair share of action in the Bucs’ pass-heavy offense.
His 842 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in 2018 rank him as a top 20 wide receiver, and there’s reason to suspect he’ll put up similar numbers in 2019. Godwin is definitely worth a fourth-round selection on your team, especially in PPR leagues thanks to his large target share.
After a disappointing debut season with the Chicago Bears, Allen Robinson is still a promising choice in later rounds of your fantasy draft.
The former Jaguar missed three games due to injury and was held to four touchdowns, but he did enjoy a healthy 23 percent target share with the Bears. Dating back a few years, Robinson ranked seventh at the position in targets (297) and fourth in touchdowns (20) during the 2015-16 seasons.
The former Penn State wideout still has plenty of potential as a starting fantasy wide receiver, but his health makes him a risky option in the early rounds.
Although he’s not a Penn State football alum, Chris Hogan did play lacrosse for the Nittany Lions from 2007 to 2009 before appearing on the gridiron at Monmouth University. The former Patriots receiver and Super Bowl champion signed a contract with the Carolina Panthers earlier this year and is slated to be the team’s third-choice wideout.
He’ll still see his fair share of targets and offensive snaps, but there isn’t much upside for him thanks to Panthers running back Christan McCaffrey, who remains a focal point in Carolina’s passing game. Hogan may be worth a late-round selection, but I’d save your draft pick and pick him up on the waiver wire down the road if his production increases.
Tight end is arguably the most shallow position in all of fantasy football. Outside of Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, and George Kittle, there aren’t many viable options worth rostering. That being said, I still wouldn’t use a draft pick on Mike Gesicki this year unless you’re in a particularly deep league.
The former Penn State sensation had a rough rookie season, as he failed to score more than seven PPR points in any game. Gesicki caught just 22 passes for 202 yards on 32 targets with Miami last year. The tight end won’t get much help from is quarterbacks this year either, as he’ll be catching passes from NFL journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick and second-year signal-caller Josh Rosen.
As much as it may hurt Penn State fans, Gesicki should be skipped in practically every draft. There is a chance that he has a bit of a renaissance because of head coach Adam Gase’s departure, but even then, you’d be better off claiming him off waivers if and when his production spikes.
Jesse James signed a four-year, $22.6 million contract with the Detroit Lions this offseason and is finally poised to evolve into a fantasy-viable tight end in 2019.
Despite the Lions selecting star Iowa tight end TJ Hockenson in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, James is expected to remain in the starting role for now. He caught 30 passes for 423 yards and two touchdowns as the Steelers’ backup in 2018, so expect a decent increase in production with Detroit.
In addition to being in the starting role, James’ health offers some serious upside. He hasn’t missed a game in three years, which is nothing to scoff at in the NFL. Although he’s certainly not in the upper echelon of fantasy tight ends, James is worth a late-round flyer if you’re feeling particularly bold.
DaeSean Hamilton has some sneaky fantasy value heading into 2019. He’s currently Denver’s third option at wide receiver, but he could move into a bigger role to start the season if star wideout Emmanuel Sanders needs time to rest before returning from a torn Achilles.
Hamilton played sparingly while Sanders was active in 2018, but the Penn Stater averaged more than 13 PPR points per game after Sanders went down in week 14. His value may decrease once he’s demoted back to WR3, but he just might be worth a draft pick in the eighth or ninth rounds of your fantasy drafts.
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