Every year there are a handful of players that can elevate a fantasy team to the championship or sink them to the depths of the standings. All players are unique in their skill sets, team context, and career trajectory but some profiles do line up. 

As we get into draft season, we’re all searching for value. However value alone rarely wins fantasy championships! What is needed is a shooting star who not only outperforms their ADP but gives elite fantasy production even in a vacuum. To put it simply, outliers win titles. So while I frequently don’t plan on unsustainable efficiency when selecting players, I understand that we should pick guys who have a path to explode. 

So who will be this year’s all NEXT team?

Lamar Jacksonyoung quarterback who becomes a weekly star

Joe Burrow – ADP QB18, 166 overall

To be honest, there is no one like Jackson. Not only is his running talent unmatched, there is also no offense that will sell out their scheme to support his game the way the Ravens have. However Burrow will walk into an offense with a good supporting cast and a bad defense. He had the most efficient college season ever and that bodes well for a quick transition to the NFL. Burrow is likely to challenge Baker Mayfield’s rookie touchdown record and can chip in 20 yards on the ground every week which adds up. 

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What wide receiver stats really matter? If you scroll through Twitter on any given day you will see a plethora of numbers backing up sleepers, busts and “league winners” among other things. For WRs you’ve got YAC stans, yards/target pushers, market share aficionados and everywhere in between. It’s easy to get excited when you see that a certain player had 25 yards/reception and is in line for increased targets the next year!

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Fresh off their record setting Monday Night Showcase, the New Orleans Saints head east to take on the red hot Tennessee Titans. Despite the cloudy narrative surrounding Drew Brees’ production outside of the Mercedes-Benz Dome, Brees is 5-1 in road games this season and scored 27.1 fantasy points in his one full game in an open air stadium (wk 11 @ TB). Drew Brees is a bet on hall-of-fame talent and experience QB1 play in week 16’s tied-for-highest projected point total.

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It seems like every season there is a player that was heavily dropped during the regular season that comes back during the weeks of the fantasy football playoffs with an absolute vengeance. Last year, it was was Derrick Henry and the tear that he went on in weeks 14-16, including that unforgettable 99-yard touchdown run that seemed to take an entire quarter to complete and then forgive my long-term memory, you’ll have to let me know what guy that was in the previous seasons.

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So you’ve made it to the penultimate checkpoint before glory. Set up camp, rest your joints and have a good night’s sleep. Things only get more difficult from here. The rations are all used up, we’re all running on pocket lint and snow, and no one feels bad for your FLEX options. It’s the playoffs, kill or be killed, there is no tomorrow, survive and advance and all that.

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The running back stash/wheel of death continues this week; I’m sensing a trend, maybe you’ve noticed? Early weeks, wide receivers were the dominant adds; now, its survival of the fittest running backs. So there are three wideouts I’d bid on this week and a bunch of RBs that may or may not help. Some should’ve been added prior weeks. There are even a couple of Tight Ends, which if you’ve been reading has been really tough to pin down which TE will hit each week.

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So I was out of town this past weekend and I was flying back Sunday in the late morning. As much as airports suck and flying in general can be a real drag, I’ve always enjoyed watching football while waiting for a flight. If I’m by myself I can enjoy my overpriced beer served by an antipathetic server while I overhear the most ridiculous conversations of the nearby tables. When I’m with a friend, it’s just like being at a real bar, where shit talking reigns and wildly outrageous proclamations are never verified via cellphone. Watching football is one of the only saving graces of airports, and I for one, am thankful for it.

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I know the climb has been brutal for you, as it has for us all. This past Sunday my eyes froze over as I watched many of my teams drop under .500 for the first time. As I write this, I am enduring Jason Witten hand me a loss one excruciating 3 yard catch after another. This section of the season is the darkest grind when the post-draft excitement has long worn off but the playoffs are still far away. Injuries and bye massacres come for us all, but it’s how we respond that defines us.

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