In recent years I have tried to plant some flags at each position, and at times I’ve used Game of Thrones for inspiration. The hit rate on these efforts—despite my focus on “safe” players—has generally been about 50%. Apparently, football is a violent game. Anyone surprised? At any rate, if you removed injuries from the equation, the hit rate would be much higher. I am aiming for floor here, but we can’t do battle with the injury gods. Here’s a look at the “gold price,” direct from the Game of Thrones wiki:
The iron price is a concept in the culture of the ironborn, and their local religion of the Drowned God. Paying the iron price means seizing something from those one has defeated rather than paying or trading for it. Thus, it is a primary aspect of the “Old Way,” the traditional lifestyle of the ironborn. The opposite of the iron price is “the gold price” - paying for possessions - which is considered shameful for a man to pay.
The last time I penned such an effort, the ironborn were a massive disappointment, save for Asha Greyjoy. However, Theon Greyjoy TOTALLY REDEEMED HIMSELF by saving Sansa and by defending Bran in the Battle for Winterfell. So now I can’t poke fun at ancient ironborn traditions. I can say that Theon allied himself with the Starks before his end came, and that the Starks are a noble and pragmatic lot...a group who would very much say yes to the trading of goods in lieu of killing people to steal their possessions. So we can probably safely assume that Theon would be just fine paying the gold price—I mean, homie was in love with Sansa, so I think it’s a safe assumption.
So with no further ado, here are 10 fantasy football players worth paying up for in 2019. That is, I think you can safely draft them at their respective costs. For easy reference, I’ll include FantasyPros rankings (by position) alongside each player. I’ll try to avoid the top guys at each position, since even the most casual players know those names. I’ll even throw in some honorable mentions, just give you a little more to chew on.
Cam Newton, Panthers (QB7)
You’re just printing money with this pick, honestly. Newton is a top five QB when healthy, and all the mild ankle sprain means to me is that he’s going to play the way we want—getting the ball out of his hands quickly to his superb stable of weapons. Run CMC, Curtis Samuel, D.J. Moore, and Greg Olsen is a force to be reckoned with. And when Cam gets his legs underneath him, he’ll chip in with those rushing yards and scores we are all so used to.
Philip Rivers, Chargers (QB17)
This is a laughable ranking, made even more laughable by the projected absence of Melvin Gordon. The Chargers could be slinging it all over the yard in 2019, to the likes of Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Hunter Henry, and Austin Ekeler. The 29-year-old Travis Benjamin can still take the top off of a defense, too. Rivers is a lock to beat this ranking, be a high-end QB2, and maybe even creep into the lower-end QB1 conversation. I LOVE him as my second QB this year.
Honorable mentions: Ben Roethlisberger (QB15), Tom Brady (QB20)
Chris Carson, Seahawks (RB20)
This is too easy. Carson has low-end RB1 written all over, on a team that wants to play ball control and not let Russell Wilson throw (for some reason). With Mike Davis and his 112 attempts from 2018 now departed for Chicago, there’s enough to go around in Seattle for Carson to deliver and for last year’s Round 1 pick Rashaad Penny to see an increased role. However, Penny’s inefficiency through two preseason games is hardly threatening. I’m trusting the drumbeats out of Seattle on Carson. The Seahawks had 537 rushing plays in the NFL a year ago, tops in the league by a wide margin (the Ravens were next at 495). Carson is Marlon Mack (RB13), except Carson should catch more balls in 2019. And there’s still room for Penny to improve on his 85 attempts from a year ago—remember, 112 vacated Mike Davis carries, too. I think Carson is closer to a low-end RB1 than he is a bottom-end RB2.
Matt Breida, 49ers (RB38)
A strong (and healthy) showing against the Chiefs on Saturday is my impetus for this, as we saw how Breida could produce last year when given an opportunity (and when healthy). Right now this backfield is up for grabs, and when you start making dart throws in the middle rounds you may as well take a stud athlete like Breida, who averaged 5.3 Y/A on his 153 carries a year ago. Breida isn’t a “safe” pick, but he’s one of the guys I keep drafting when the running back rankings get murky. So consider the proverbial flag planted.
Honorable mentions: Josh Jacobs (RB22), Darwin Thompson (RB67)
Tyler Lockett, Seahawks (WR19)
Doug Baldwin’s retirement means that Lockett is now the unquestioned top dog in this offense. David Moore has shown flashes and D.K. Metcalf is a rookie. And while Lockett may flop in the alpha role (i.e. more defensive attention) I am still a sucker for volume. And I love Russell Wilson’s ability to extend plays and keep the ball in his hands waiting on something positive to happen. Lockett has found his way on plenty of my teams in 2019.
Curtis Samuel, Panthers (WR35)
He outplayed D.J. Moore last year and the drumbeats out of Carolina are astounding. He also has the far better ADP, as Moore is currently the WR24 per FantasyPros ADP. I don’t think either wideout is a BAD pick at ADP, but I think Samuel’s lower cost and performance last year make him the far better pick in 2019.
Honorable mentions: Josh Gordon (WR30), John Brown (WR50)
O.J. Howard, Buccaneers (TE4)
Some aren’t giving Howard his due after posting amazing Y/R and aDOT totals so far in his young career. He’s been a mixed bag due to injuries, but if you’re considering upside you should be ranking Howard ahead of Zach Ertz. That’s right...I said it! Tight end is such a cesspool of mediocrity that Howard should be confidently considered elite based on his ability to make splash plays. That, and the Bucs defense is suspect, as is the running game. Jameis Winston flinging it all over the yard? Evans, Howard, AND Godwin should all eat in 2019. It doesn’t take much to be an elite tight end...all Howard needs to do is stay healthy.
Darren Waller, Raiders (TE30)
Some people need to update their rankings! Waller as the TE30 is insane. Waller being ranked out of the top-15 tight ends is also insane. He’s the starting tight end in an offense that made Jared Cook a star a year ago. He may not have the same level of upside since Oakland added some guy named Antonio Brown, but as far as tight end is concerned I don’t see how Waller isn’t a strong TE2 option...at least! And there’s room for more, too.
Honorable mentions: Mark Andrews (TE14), Jordan Reed (TE15)
Buffalo Bills (DST 12)
The Bills open up with the Jets and Giants at home in the first two weeks of the year, and could also be viable in Week 3 against the Bengals (especially if A.J. Green is still out). You’d have to figure out Week 4 (Patriots) but Week 5 also looks nice against the the Titans. If you’re like me and you like to play for right now, the Bills should be on your radar to start the season.
Dallas Cowboys (DST 13)
In my world, we live to stream defenses. A high pick on Baltimore, for instance, seems dicey—especially when they lost plenty on that side of the ball from last year. But the Cowboys open up with the Giants in Week 1, followed by the Redskins in Week 2 and Dolphins in Week 3. Give me all that goodness for my first three weeks. I’ll worry about Week 4 when I get to it, okay? This is a worthy pick to lock down your first three weeks of the season, Zeke or no Zeke (but I think Zeke will be playing). This is the pick you make if you miss out on the Browns, who are also a popular pick due to beginning with the Titans and Jets in the first two weeks.
Honorable mentions: Los Angeles Chargers (DST 6), New England Patriots (DST 11)
Are people too...but this is a list for 10 only, and there would have been no kickers in play, anyway.