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ESPN picks Damien Williams as a breakout player in 2019 fantasy leagues

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The starting running back is picked by one ESPN writer to have an outstanding season

AFC Championship - New England Patriots v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

On Wednesday, ESPN fantasy football writers posted their lists of fantasy sleepers, busts and breakouts for the 2019 season. 11 writers picked sleepers and busts for each offensive skill position and then all 11 picked a breakout player for 2019.

One of them — Field Yates — picked Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams as a breakout player.

Damien Williams, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

Williams assumed a starting role for Kansas City late last season and ascended as the games mattered most. He scored a total of 10 touchdowns in his final six games (playoffs included), showing a better proficiency as a runner (362 rushing yards over his final five games) than we’ve seen previously, along with his solid passing game acumen (28 catches during that five-game stretch). The Chiefs invested in Carlos Hyde in free agency and Darwin Thompson via the draft, but Williams looks entrenched as the starter now. The Chiefs’ offense may not match last season’s historic campaign, but it’s bound to be close to as electric. In 2018, Kansas City reached the red zone on 41.8% of its drives (second-best) and there are scores to be had.

Remember... this is a projection for fantasy football. Yates is saying Williams will be a player “who will leap into or close to the upper echelon of players at his position for the first time because of a dramatic increase in production compared with his previous seasons (or a rookie who will burst onto the scene).”

Yates, to his credit, is one of the few national voices to recognize the significant contributions Williams made to the team during his time as a starter in 2018; most national analysts have looked no further than Williams’ total regular-season statistics or failed to recognize that Williams didn’t become the team’s feature back until two weeks after Kareem Hunt was released.

The fantasy news wasn’t all good for Chiefs players, however. Mike Clay picked Patrick Mahomes as a fantasy bust — that is, a “player who is expected to be a solid starter in standard ESPN leagues but will fail to live up to those expectations this season.”

Patrick Mahomes, QB, Kansas City Chiefs

Look, I’m not crazy; Mahomes is still my top-ranked quarterback. The issue is his current ADP [average draft position], which is 19th overall. There is too much opportunity cost in selecting Mahomes in that range with the likes of Joe Mixon, Keenan Allen, Dalvin Cook, Mike Evans, T.Y. Hilton and Zach Ertz still available.

There hasn’t been a repeat top-scoring fantasy QB since 2004 for a reason: It’s extremely hard to sustain elite production across 32 games. I go into detail in this ESPN+ piece, but in a nutshell, it’s a longshot that Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense will be able to sustain anything close to their historic 2018 pace. Expect another very good season from Mahomes, but not one good enough to warrant a second-round fantasy pick.

Obviously, this is another refrain of “the Chiefs can be expected to regress offensively in 2019,” which based on history is a reasonable assumption. But there’s another argument that Patrick Mahomes just doesn’t care about your statistical models.

Also... three of the writers picked Tom Brady as a fantasy bust in 2019.

Sammy Watkins received no love from the fantasy writers, either. Three of them picked him as a fantasy bust at wide receiver. Eric Karabell explained their reasoning.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

Questions abound about the available weaponry for star quarterback Patrick Mahomes, but I simply cannot consider Watkins a reasonable fantasy starter until he proves any semblance of durability, which he has not done. Talent has rarely been an issue, but Watkins has averaged 11 games, 35 catches and 514 receiving yards the past three seasons as he has fought off injuries to his feet, hamstring and hip. Now he will stay healthy because the quarterback is great? I do not see it. Let someone else waste the pick.

Again — based on the historical precedent — this is a reasonable point of view. But on the other hand, Watkins says he feels great right now.