March Madness is now in full swing, and I’m not talking about basketball.
Since the NFL’s “legal tampering” period began on March 11, there has been no shortage of eye-popping moves (via trades and free agency) that feature fresh faces in new places. Some of the fantasy’s best players are Odell Beckham Jr., Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, who have already departed to new squads, among many others. With so many key roster-moves around the league and new roles that must be filled, it’s hard not to be excited for what the 2019 season could have instore for these five individuals. Here are my top five picks for players in fantasy football that will be huge breakouts this year.
My first pick is Evan Engram of the New York Giants. Now that Beckham Jr. is out of the picture, it’ll be Engram’s time to shine. Even with the G-Men’s recent acquisition of veteran wide receiver Golden Tate, Engram will be a target hog this fall. The rangy tight end dealt with some injuries last season but finished as the TE5 during his rookie campaign, where Beckham Jr. missed 11 games. In the 15 games Engram has played with Beckham Jr. sidelined, he’s commanded 7.4 targets per game. That would place him with nearly 120 targets over a 16-game season. He’s a proven vertical weapon that will likely be force fed by quarterback Eli Manning on a rebuilding Giants squad. Make no mistake about it, Engram will return as a top-five in 2019.
Second is Chris Godwin from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After putting together a dominant week 17 performance last season where he secured six catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns, we were all reminded of what Godwin was capable of in an expanded role. For the Penn State alum, the biggest impediment to his development over the past two seasons has been the number of mouths to feed in Tampa. Now with both DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries out of the picture after finding new homes during free agency, Godwin should slide nicely into the role as the No. 2 receiver behind Mike Evans. Both Jackson and Humphries commanded a whopping total of 179 targets last year, showing that Godwin will have plenty of work coming his way in 2019. If new head coach Bruce Arians can help solve the team’s quarterback issues, Godwin will be one of the biggest beneficiaries.
The third pick is Carson Wentz of the Philadelphia Eagles. The former No. 2 overall pick in the draft is reportedly going to be ready for the team’s offseason program, despite the back issue that caused the Eagles to shut him down late last season. As of now, he won’t have to deal with Nick Foles breathing down his neck. After there were questions raised whether or not Wentz would be the team’s starting QB of the future, those skeptics were silenced when the Eagles let Foles walk this offseason. On March 11, Foles agreed to a four-year, $88 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars, handing the reigns over to Wentz for good. It must be remembered that Wentz is just two seasons removed from a 3,300-yard, 33-touchdown campaign, where he remained one of the front-runners for MVP in just 13 games. In the last two seasons, he’s averaged a passer-rating of 102.1, a higher number than either Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers. Add in the new addition of speedster Jackson and Wentz should get back to his usual top-five form in 2019, barring another injury.
Fourth is Vance McDonald from the Pittsburg Steelers. Goodbye Antonio Brown and Jesse James, and hello McDonald. The Steelers will surely need some guys to step up after trading away their top receiver for the past half-decade to the Raiders earlier this month. Along with Brown, James has also found a new home in Detroit. Wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster might have gotten most of the media’s attention heading into 2019, but let’s not forget about McDonald, who seemingly fell victim to a crowded pass-catching corps last season. That won’t be an issue anymore, as McDonald immediately provides QB Ben Roethlisberger a trusted set of hands among a rather-inexperienced group. While he caught just 50 passes for 610 yards and four touchdowns in a timeshare at his position last year, he still finished as a top-12 tight end. At a position starved for impact-players, McDonald will be a fine flier to consider late in drafts.
Last but not least, Nick Chubb from the Cleveland Browns. There’s going to be no shortage of bandwagon Browns fans this fall, and there’s a good reason for that. Since Beckham Jr. was traded to “The Land,” fans have been eerie to see the duo of him and Baker Mayfield in action, but perhaps the biggest winner of the trade is second-year Georgia product, Nick Chubb. According to Pro Football Focus the Browns posses the second-best offensive line in the league. The team parted ways with right guard Kevin Zeitler as part of the OBJ trade, but still boast a strong offensive-front, nonetheless. After taking over as the lead back in 2018, Chubb saw sheer workhorse volume (17.6 rushing-attempts per game from Weeks 7-17) but ran into loaded front-sevens early and often. Without much of a passing attack, teams keyed-in on the young bruiser. OBJ will certainly help hold defenses accountable; giving Chubb the room he needs to run wild. If health permits, the Georgia native will set the fantasy world on fire in 2019.
While these are some of the most notable players impacted by offseason moves, the NFL free agency isn’t over just yet. In the meantime, you can keep tabs on the latest signings with CBS’s Free Agency Tracker.