By Alex Kurpeski
Just a couple weeks away from Super Bowl LIV, we here in the fantasy football community sit in a bit of a standstill, with little to cover besides playoff DFS content. As we reach for content, the concept of reflection is the easiest theme to default to, during this lull. After a multi-week break from fantasy coverage, your favorite 3cosports contributor is back with one last article, reflecting upon the overlooked fantasy stars from this past season.
With the never-ending shuffle of sleepers, breakout stars, and one-week wonders, it’s easy to overlook a lot of incredible fantasy campaigns when reflecting back at season’s end. While we are all aware of the record-setting campaigns by Panthers’ RB Christian McCaffrey, Saints’ WR Mike Thomas, and — for better or worse — Bucs’ QB Jameis Winston, there were a ton of players who — we felt — slipped through the cracks, at least in the hearts and minds of many mainstream fantasy football players. So without further adieu, let’s talk about the most underappreciated players at each position from this past season.
QB Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
Wentz was an MVP favorite heading into the season, with many experts anticipating a return to his 2017 form, that saw him throw for 33 touchdowns in just 13 games. With a receiving core composed of rock-solid TE Zach Ertz, veteran wideouts Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson, and promising young pass-catchers like Nelson Agholor (hey he’s only 26), J.J Arcega-Whiteside, and Dallas Goedert, many expected to see a huge season out of Wentz.
Unfortunately, these lofty projections fell short, as the Eagles were left extremely short-handed on offense due to injuries. While many experts have written off Wentz’s season as an utter disappointment, he finished the season as the QB9 in fantasy, wedged between Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers. Considering the tough circumstances he faced, Wentz performed admirably this season, tallying 4,039 passing yards without an individual receiver breaking the 500 yard mark. With a TD to INT ratio of 27:7, Wentz was an extremely underrated fantasy performer in 2019. As we look towards 2020, a breakout campaign is still in the cards for the North Dakota State product, especially if the team can surround him with more pass-catching talent.
RB Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers
We’ve been singing the praises of Ekeler all season long, as the former undrafted free agent stepped up in a big way for LA in the absence of Melvin Gordon. In the four games that Gordon missed as part of his holdout, Ekeler was a PPR machine, averaging 26.75 fantasy points per game. Ekeler had just one game without double-digit scoring — a brutal Week 6 clash with the inspired Steelers defense — often out-pacing Gordon in snaps (56.51% snap share compared to Gordon’s 40.28%) despite being out-touched by a margin of around 3 touches per-game.
Ekeler’s finish as the RB4 in PPR formats was incredibly impressive for a player whom many had written off as “just a third-down back”, and with Gordon’s impending free agency, the road is paved for another RB1 campaign out of Ekeler. In a year where Alvin Kamara struggled with injuries and inconsistency, Ekeler was the glorified third-down back to own in fantasy (not counting do-it all weapon Christian McCaffrey) as his receiving numbers were on-par with those of Browns’ WR Jarvis Landry, while also doing heavy-lifting as a rusher.
TGTs Rec Yards Avg TD 1D Lng R/G Y/G Catch %
RB Philip Lindsey, Denver Broncos
It was supposed to be Royce Freeman’s year, as many experts had Philip Lindsey pegged as a dead man walking in the Broncos’ backfield. While many owners jumped ship on Lindsey early in the season (myself included), he was able to sustain his performance from 2018, once again rushing for over 1,000 yards. Finishing as the RB19 in PPR, Lindsey’s ceiling as a RB2 is firmly cemented, despite his mediocre receiving numbers. Lindsey’s touchdown numbers declined in 2019, down from 10 to 7, an expected regression considering how un-sticky touchdown stats have proved to be. What you see is what you get with the 25 year-old Lindsey, the unquestioned lead-back for a Denver offense on the rise. Until further notice we can consider Lindsey to be a stable starting RB option, thanks to his consistent track record of success on the ground.
WR Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears
As a team, the Chicago Bears finished in the bottom quadrant of virtually every offensive category on the board. With terrible play-calling and extremely mediocre quarterback play, many fantasy owners steered clear of this offense due to its low-upside. Fortunately, there was one player who was able to overcome this team’s struggles on offense, as WR Allen Robinson was able to finish as a top-10 player at his position. Four years removed from a season that saw him tally 1,400 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns, many had written off Robinson as a legitimate starting option before the start of 2019. Robinson responded to his doubters in a big way, finishing just two catches shy of the century mark, while once again tallying over 1,000 yards. A-Rob overcame Chicago’s terrible situation on offense, delivering a legit WR1 campaign that should put many fantasy football enthusiasts on notice for 2020.
WR Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks
Prior to suffering a devastating leg contusion, Seahawks’ receiver Tyler Lockett was among the elite fantasy options at his position, tallying 170.9 of his 235.2 fantasy points during this stretch. Even with the emergence of D.K Metcalf, Lockett was the number one option in the passing game for Seattle, regularly dominating opposing cornerbacks with his crisp route-running. Were it not for the injury he suffered in Week 10 against San Francisco (he was clearly hampered by this for the rest of the season, often acting as a decoy on offense), Lockett would have likely finished out near the top-five at his position. It appears as though Lockett is poised to fill the shoes of Doug Baldwin as the Seahawks continue to rebuild and retool their passing offense.
TE Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers
The injury prone Henry looked poised to lose yet another year to the effects of a lower body ailment, suffering a knee injury in week one that put him on the shelf for over a month. While many fantasy owners were prepared to give up on Henry altogether following his latest brush with the injury bug. However, Henry redeemed himself in a huge way, with seven double-digit fantasy performances following his return from the injury, finishing the season as the TE9 in PPR formats. If Henry is ever able to play a full slate of games, he could very well be a top-five finisher at the position sooner rather than later.
K Zane Gonzalez, Arizona Cardinals
While he’s far from a household name, Gonzalez was nearly an elite kicking option in fantasy this past season, averaging around 8.2 fantasy points per game. Gonzalez missed just four field goals all season long, while hitting a couple of 50+ yarders. While he’s no Justin Tucker, Gonzalez could be a very valuable fantasy asset at the position, assuming the Kliff Kingsbury-led Cardinals can sustain their offensive momentum in 2020, setting him up for even more scoring opportunities.