FANTASY PLAYS: Prospects for QBs, plus LeBron hooping in LA
This could be the year that quarterbacks Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger reach fantasy mortality.
The 39-year-old Saints passer Brees saw his touchdown production drop by 38 percent in 2017, his 23 TDs the first time since 2007 he's failed to throw at least 30. He still hit 4,000 yards for the 12th straight season but his 4,334 yards passing was his lowest since a Super Bowl run in the 2009 season.
Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram (once Ingram returns from a four-game suspension) are to blame for the potential fall. The duo accounted for 1,852 yards rushing last season while averaging a combined 5.2 yards per carry and 20 rushing touchdowns. The Saints have become a more balanced offense, which takes the weekly volume pressure off Brees. He attempted fewer than 600 passes for the first time since 2009 with 536 in 2017.
Brees isn't going to fall into the scrap heap, but a balanced Saints team doesn't bode well for his fantasy outlook. Drafting Brees between the 10th and 12th round in one-quarterback leagues this year makes more sense compared to the years when he was usually one of the top three quarterbacks off the board.
In the case of Roethlisberger, time is creeping up like a safety blitz. Although Big Ben threw 28 touchdowns last season, he has been something of an overrated fantasy commodity. Last year's 10th place finish among quarterbacks was only the second time this decade Roethlisberger ranked in the top 10. The loss of offensive coordinator Todd Haley will also work against him along with the unnerving split between his work at home and on the road.
Roethlisberger will go earlier than expected and still merits value for those who selected Antonio Brown. However, this is the year to double down with a more consistent passer who can be plugged into the lineup when the Steelers are on the road.
NEW COLORS, SAME KING
Don't expect the production from LeBron James to dip now that he's donning a Lakers uniform. James finished sixth among all players in fantasy hoops this past season and will continue to maintain that pace. He also finished sixth in usage percentage at 31.6 percent, marking the 13th straight season he has been above 30 percent.
The pieces aren't all together (yet), so there's no clear winner when it comes to which Lakers player benefits most from James' arrival, although a healthy Brandon Ingram stands a chance to evolve into a fantasy-relevant player.
THE KID WILL BE ALRIGHT
Astros outfielder Kyle Tucker was the latest elite prospect to be called up, recording his first hit and RBI during his debut last week. Look for Tucker to begin laying the foundation toward becoming a fantasy star in the next year or two. His upside compares highly with fellow rookie outfielders Ronald Acuna Jr. (Braves) and Juan Soto (Nationals), as he projects to evolve into a .320 batting average with 25-30 homers, 100 RBIs and 20-25 steals, numbers that would make him a first-round pick in any format.
This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com