Each week, our fantasy analysts unveil their boldest predictions for the action ahead. With it being the halfway mark between the start of the season and fantasy title games, we figured we’d mix things up. Here are our boldest predictions for the second half:
Sam Darnold, top-12 QB for the second half
Yeah, sure, OK. I know what you're thinking. Seven interceptions over two games is ... not ideal. Darnold has perhaps not yet mastered the quarterback position. But I'm still a believer in Darnold's receiving corps and his ability to take advantage of a friendly matchup. And wow do the matchups get friendly for New York in the second half of the season. The next six weeks look plenty appealing: at Miami, vs. NYG, at Washington, vs. Oakland, at Cincinnati, vs. Miami. As disappointing as Darnold has been in recent weeks, rest assured — he's about to binge. - Andy Behrens
Le’Veon Bell, top-15 RB for the back half of 2019
Bell’s year has been brutal. From Adam Gase’s astonishing lack of subtlety to #LukeFalkSZN to working behind an injury-riddled offensive line that Football Outsiders ranks 31st in run-blocking, 2019 is feeling much longer than a New York minute for the former Steeler. While it’s been deemed poison, however, I’ve still got hope.
Bell’s schedule lightens up significantly beginning in Week 9 (@MIA, vs NYG, @WAS, vs OAK, @CIN, vs MIA, @BAL, vs PIT), with five of his next eight matchups taking place against the league’s most generous run defenses. Rushers facing the Dolphins, Bengals, and Giants are all averaging OVER 30 attempts and 4.0 YPC per contest. Factor in Lev’s usage in the passing game (5 catches per contest), and that volume more than makes up for his YPC struggles. It won’t be pretty, but it should be productive. The back-half of the season could net at least five 100+ yard outings and top-fifteen fantasy finishes for the New Jersey transplant. - Liz Loza
The Raiders help bring home fantasy titles
Jon Gruden hasn’t received enough credit for the job he’s done as the Raiders head coach. He’s a cartoon character and a good butt of a joke but he’s definitely done well to retool the Oakland offense to his design. It’s also not some painfully conservative attack, even if they want to build around a strong running game.
With the Raiders offense starting to establish itself, we shouldn’t rule out that these guys can help you win a fantasy title. Tyrell Williams has scored in every game he’s played and can be a week-tilting WR2. Darren Waller has been one of the few metronomes at the tight end position and is fifth among that group in targets with a catch rate of nearly 80 percent. Josh Jacobs has emerged as a true bell-cow back, ranking 13th in the NFL in touches and 12th in yards from scrimmage. All this intersects back to Derek Carr, who is well protected behind a better offensive line than many expected. Even Carr should be able to crush a pillow-soft schedule that includes the Lions, Chargers twice (once in Week 16), Bengals, Jets, and Chiefs. The Raiders winning fake football championships; not bad for $10-million per year. - Matt Harmon
George Kittle returns first-round fantasy value
He’s been a fantasy disappointment through the season’s first seven games, but Kittle has had at least five touchdowns called back by penalty, leads all tight ends in WOPR, and there are only five wide receivers with a higher target share (26%) and just two who’ve gotten more yards per route run. The 49ers have been winning with a defense too good not to regress some and a rushing attack that easily leads the league in attempts per game thanks in part to a soft schedule that’s about to get tougher, so the team should have to start passing more (and two of their next three games are against the TE-friendly Cardinals). Kittle has so far failed to match last season's breakout, but expect a scoring binge and first-round fantasy value from the tight end over the rest of the year. - Dalton Del Don
David Montgomery realizes full potential, finishes as a rock-solid RB2 rest of season
Just a few weeks ago, this president of the Montgomery Enthusiasts Club had one cheek off the bandwagon. Monty’s abysmal usage, suspect secondary profile and general under-performance fell miserably short of my "MANDATORY!" musings. However, after a breakthrough 31-touch, 147-yard effort against the Chargers, my buried affections have resurfaced. His elusiveness. (25.8 missed tackle%), power and versatility were clearly on display.
His Week 9 matchup (at PHI) is very unfavorable, but with the third-easiest schedule remaining for a fantasy RB, he's easily a top-20 rusher down the homestretch. This, of course, assumes "Zero-Thought" Matt Nagy continues to feed his young beast. - Brad Evans
Mark Walton joins the Circle of Trust
Any compliment addressed to the Dolphins tends to be damning with faint praise. Miami isn’t even the worst winless team in football right now. But let’s accept some facts: Shifting from Josh Rosen to Ryan Fitzpatrick is an upgrade, and the schedule does soften up. Specifically, the Dolphins get the Jets, Giants, and Bengals (yo ho ho) in the fantasy playoffs. The New England rematch is tucked into the safe space of Week 17.
Mark Walton now has projectable volume — with Kenyon Drake long gone — and that’s fantasy currency. Walton has collected 29 touches the last two games, and that’s likely his floor (14-15 touches a week) going forward. Heck, I can also consider DeVante Parker and Preston Williams through bye-week season, then we can reevaluate. At least Miami’s usage tree is fairly narrow; there isn’t a ton of production to be had here, but it will be distributed to a small collection of players.
Walton’s rushing efficiency has been fine. He’s not a zero in the passing game. As usual, the running back landscape is a mess, so we need to be open-minded. Walton is unlikely to be a fantasy home run, but he can at least get on base. - Scott Pianowski