2019 Fantasy Football Strength of Schedule: James Conner, Mark Ingram Positioned to Thrive
Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: James Conner
- The NFL released the 2019 regular season schedule at 8 p.m. ET on April 17.
- Ian Hartitz breaks down the schedule from a fantasy perspective and highlights the players who could have notably easy or difficult stretches this year.
The NFL offseason has reached it’s latest milestone thanks to the league’s decision to release the full 2019-20 regular season schedule.
While this new information allows fans to begin planning their tailgates, the true beneficiaries are fantasy football players: We can finally start estimating which teams and position groups might have an especially easy beginning, middle and end of the season.
Let’s start by looking at what the 2019 schedule means for the various defenses.
2019 NFL Defenses & Year-Over-Year Changes
Of course, next season’s defenses won’t exactly resemble what fans saw during the 2018-19 season.
Nine teams hired new defensive coordinators. Those squads are the Cardinals (ex-Broncos HC Vance Joseph), Bears (ex-Colts HC Chuck Pagano), Bengals (ex-Giants DB coach Lou Anarumo), Browns (ex-Cardinals HC Steve Wilks), Broncos (ex-Bears DB coach Ed Donatell), Chiefs (ex-Giants DC Steve Spagnuolo), Dolphins (ex-Packers LB coach Patrick Graham), Jets (ex-Browns DC Gregg Williams) and Bucs (ex-Jets HC Todd Bowles).
And the NFL has eliminated blindside blocks. Specifically, a blindside block “is a foul if a player initiates a block in which he is moving toward or parallel to his own end line and makes forcible contact to his opponent with his helmet, forearm, or shoulder.”
This rule could theoretically lead to better defensive performance thanks to the defender’s easier path to tracking down ball carries.
There are still a number of defensive playmakers unsigned, particularly on the defensive line. Former Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, Rams defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, Chiefs safety Eric Bery, Browns linebacker Jamie Collins and Eagles defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan highlight the league’s remaining pool of viable defensive free agents.
Several teams made defensive splash signings that could change their unit’s outlook next season.
My top-five marquee signings in no particular order are the Lions inking former Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers, the Jets scooping up former Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley, the Redskins signing former Giants safety Landon Collins, the Ravens signing former Seahawks safety Earl Thomas and the Raiders picking up former Rams safety LaMarcus Joyner.
Keep in mind that certain defenses have historically thrived inside the friendly confines of their own stadiums, so it’ll be important to consider home/away splits in addition to matchups throughout the season.
With all that in mind we can now take a look at the easiest and hardest schedules for each position group to identify potential early-season targets as well as waiver wire adds who could blow up in the playoffs.
The following charts feature each team’s respective remaining opponents’ rank in fantasy points allowed (DraftKings scoring) to that position per game during the 2018 season.
Fantasy Football Strength of Schedule for Quarterbacks
Jared Goff, Jimmy Garoppolo, Dak Prescott, Josh Allen and Ben Roethlisberger have the easiest first month of matchups among all quarterbacks.
Dak Prescott in particular is an intriguing fantasy option in 2019, as he’s demonstrated high-level consistency thanks to his elite rushing ability in the Cowboys’ ever-evolving passing offense.
Carson Wentz, Jameis Winston, Lamar Jackson and Russell Wilson are also set up fairly well during the first month of the season, while Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers and Ryan Fitzpatrick stand out as the quarterbacks with the toughest opening stretch.
The middle of the season (Weeks 5-13) shapes up a bit differently. Overall, the Cardinals eventual starting quarterback (Kyler Murray?) as well as Nick Foles in Jacksonville, Cam Newton, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan look like the league’s best bets to find themselves in plus matchups during October and November.
Meanwhile, Eli Manning’s remains, Matthew Stafford, Joe Flacco in Denver and Patrick Mahomes appear to have the toughest mid-season stretch. (Future Mahomes fantasy owners can disregard this warning.)
We have a while till the fantasy playoffs roll around, but Andrew Luck, Jimmy GQ, Fitzpatrick, Manning’s body, Marcus Mariota and Andy Dalton appear to have the most advantageous schedules for Weeks 14-16.
But Derek Carr, Aaron Rodgers and Mahomes have the toughest schedules for the fantasy playoffs. Again, this probably isn’t anything to worry about for Mahomes or Rodgers. Also, it seems unlikely that fantasy teams built around Carr will have much to worry about in December.
The Saints and Raiders are the league’s only defenses that are bottom-12 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks in each of the past five seasons. The Browns and 49ers are the only other defenses to rank bottom-12 in each of the past three years.
Last year’s five worst fantasy defenses against quarterbacks (in order): Falcons, Saints, Buccaneers, Bengals and Chiefs.