One of the biggest keys to successful roster construction is balance. It’s important to insure high ceiling players with sold solid floor options. This article isn’t about that though. Instead, I’m playing with possibility. These are guys that could, in my estimation, outperform their current ADPs and close out the year fantasy starters. Behold, my All Upside Team.
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, San Francisco 49ers (ADP 93.1, QB9)
It’s not about how he jogs out of a tunnel or where he clinks glasses with his lady friends, my obsession with Jimmy G stems from his Terminator-like focus and deft ball placement. Completing 67.4 percent of passes and averaging 8.8 yards per attempt, Garoppolo single-handedly revived a flatlining 49ers squad at the end of 2017.
Proving why Midwesterners refer to EIU as the Heartland’s Haverford, the Chicago-area native displayed an impressive understanding of Kyle Shanahan’s notoriously complex offense. Taking on blitzes with aplomb, Garoppolo completed 52.2 percent of pressured attempts (#1), engineered 21 red-zone scoring drives, and strung together five straight wins to close out the season. He also posted QB1 fantasy numbers in three of his five starts. For reference, Matt Ryan managed just five top-twelve finishes in his first sixteen starts under Shanahan (2015). Talk about processing speed.
Detractors will point to Garoppolo’s lack of weapons and reluctance to throw down field. While those are valid concerns, his accuracy and willingness to fit the ball into tight windows (via a receiver target separation rate of 1.13) suggest an ability to elevate the surrounding receiving corps. The fact that he ripped off 11 money throws in 5 starts (compared to Tom Brady’s 13 in sixteen starts) additionally illustrates a level of skill worth the perceived risk. He’s my QB7 heading into September and my most fervent #fantasycrush.
Honorable Mention: MARCUS MARIOTA (ADP 131.2, QB17). If the health and availability of Garoppolo’s pass-catching weapons have you spooked, give Marcus Mariota a look. Having worked under two of the most ascendant offensive minds in the NFL, new OC Matt LaFleur has vowed to improve Mariota’s mechanics while aiming to make the offensive more aggressive. While a turnaround could take more than a season, there’s no doubt Mariota’s stock is trending upwards. My colleague Andy Behrens is bullish on the young signal caller’s QB1 potential, which he explains in detail here.
Ronald Jones, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (ADP 56.3, RB 27)
Dropping balls and playing behind Peyton Barber in the preseason opener, there’s plenty about Jones’ skill-set and situation to make FF enthusiasts nervous. Why rely on an impatient rookie who’s struggled with pass protection, when you could lean on a third-year player who’s flashed? It would make sense for Barber to cut into Jones’ workload, right? Yes… except Dirk Koetter does a lot of things that don’t make any sense.
We’ve seen the Bucs’ HC ride RB after RB (even if they weren’t built to be every-down backs). He did it with Jacquizz Rodgers in 2016 and the start of 2017 (while Doug Martin was suspended). He did it again with the Muscle Hamster until a concussion in Week 12 and subsequent ineffectiveness/disciplinary actions caused him to FINALLY make a change. In each instance, Barber was the after-thought. Having signed to a one-year deal for league-minimum, he’s likely to remain the after-thought.
Tampa Bay used a second-round pick on Jones and they intend to feature the Trojan. An explosive talent who scouts have comped to Jamaal Charles, the 21-year-old knows how to make tacklers miss. He showed off his trademark burst last Thursday night, crossing the goal line with gusto. While he won’t see much work on passing downs initially – that job is (literally) up for grabs – an anticipated 15-17 attempts per game could keep him inside of the top-twenty-five producers at the position. FF: 1,192 scrimmage yards, 7 total TDs
Jamaal Williams, RB, Green Bay Packers (ADP 88.7, RB38)
Two months ago, I was greasing the wheels on the Aaron Jones hype train. But a lot has changed since then. Suspended to start the season and dealing with a hamstring issue, Jones’ stock has started to fall. While I do believe the UTEP product offers more wiggle and softer hands than Williams, his (in)ability to earn reps and stay on the field has me schvitzing.
#BSOHL reports should be taken with a grain of salt… but there’s no denying the Packers’ other 2017 draft pick (fourth round) has bulked up. I met the 23-year-old at the National Fantasy Football Convention in July and can verify that he’s put on at least ten pounds. In fact, my DEVY savvy friend Katie Flower — who scouted Williams at the Senior Bowl — believes the BYU product is now up to 225 pounds. A between the tackles grinder, the extra muscle should increase Williams’ power and ability to withstand big hits.
Additionally, he may not have Jones’ creativity, but Williams is a far superior pass blocker. That alone should keep him on the field for early downs and goal line work, especially with Aaron Rodgers coming off of a collarbone fracture. It’s also important to mention that Williams didn’t benefit from the bevvy of light fronts that having Rodgers under center brings. He was running behind Ty Montgomery to start the season and didn’t see more than four totes until Week 10, when Brett Hundley was the team’s signal caller.
Williams may be a plodder. But he’s a plodder who’s likely to kick off September as Green Bay’s RB1. That alone should be enough to capture RB2 numbers. It’s possible he could – once again – lose his job to Jones, but his current price tag is reduced enough to shoulder the risk. Best to win now and worry later.
Corey Davis, WR, Tennessee Titans (ADP 63.2, WR28)
While his rookie campaign underwhelmed, it’s important to remember that Davis missed precious preseason reps due to a hamstring injury and then spent much of the season struggling to stay healthy. It wasn’t until the second week of the postseason that the Western Michigan alum flashed, converting 5 of 8 targets for 63 yards and 2 TDs.
The wellspring of platitudes that have erupted throughout the spring and summer suggest that he’s building on the momentum that began in January. With a full offseason under his belt, and a new coaching staff installed, Davis is primed for a sophomore breakout… assuming, of course, that he can stay healthy. He’s the Yahoo Fantasy consensus WR24 heading into draft season.
Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers (ADP 125.0, WR49)
After being selected in the first round by the Los Angeles Chargers, the seventh overall pick promptly herniated a disc in his lower back during the first practice of minicamp. He eventually made it onto the field by Week 6 (converting his lone target for 15 yards), but then hurt his knee (bone bruise) heading into Week 12 and missed another two games. The coveted rookie closed out his first professional campaign with an 11-95-0 stat line.
Heading into 2018, however, Williams has a chance to turn things around. At 6-foot-4 and nearly 220 pounds, the 23-year-old is large and in charge. He has a massive wingspan and formidably sized hands, both of which help him win contested catches and dominate in the red area of the field… which is exactly where the Chargers need help.
Last year, Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry made up over 32 percent of the team’s red zone targets. With Gates still not rostered and Henry lost for the season (ACL), L.A.’s second-favorite squad is expected to run more three-wide sets with Williams heavily involved near the end zone. Still behind Keenan Allen and Tyrell Williams on the depth chart, the Clemson product may not see an abundance of looks. The balls sent his way, however, figure to be high-value targets… which makes a 6 TD season well within the second-year player’s massive reach.
Mike Gesicki, TE, Miami Dolphins (ADP 155.1, TE16)
Miami’s HC Adam Gase knows how to utilize big bodies that can box out in the red area of the field. Sure, it’s been a minute since Julius Thomas dominated the end zone in Denver, but that doesn’t change Gase’s affinity for the position. The fact that he went after the most athletic tight end in this year’s draft is telling.
Gesicki is a former basketball and volleyball stand out who crushed the Combine. He offers oodles of point producing potential via strong hands and an uncanny ability to win at the catch point. While the Penn State product has struggled in pass protection, his talent as a pass-catcher has been lauded throughout the summer. In fact, recent buzz out of Dolphins’ camp suggests Gesicki is quickly becoming one of Ryan Tannehill’s favorite targets, particularly in the red zone. It may take a minute for the rookie to get his sea legs, but the upside is there. He will finish the season a top-twelve producer.
Who are your upside targets? Share them with Liz on Twitter @LizLoza_FF.