Well, it’s that time of year again. No, not the start of ACC conference play, not the beginning of the NBA Playoffs. Not even the beginning of any regular season at all. No, this is mid-August, which means that millions of red-blooded Americans are in the process of talking themselves into shelling out another $50 in league dues to reconnect with their college friends via lopsided trade offers and heated waiver wire feuds. Yes, this is Fantasy Football season.
As one who has a dim view of the current status of the NFL, I often use this time to cast about in an attempt to find some added incentive to invest body and soul in yet another season of bumper brains overseen by Roger Goodell and his inept cabal of minions. Also, as with much of the things in my life, I turn to hallowed grounds of Chapel Hill. Rooting on Tar Heels alums never did anyone any harm, did it? (Unless you’re a Detroit Lions fan. More on that later.)
On that note, here are the Fantasy Football rankings for the 2018 season, featuring the honored alumni of the University of North Carolina.
Note: Fantasy Football drafts are for skill position players on offense. Were that not the case, this list would be Julius Peppers, a chasm the size of the Marianas Trench, then everyone else.
#1 - Mitch Trubisky, QB, Chicago Bears
UNC’s crown jewel in last year’s draft, Trubisky was given literally nothing to do but hand the ball off last year by a spiteful (and fired) John Fox, who was not consulted before the Bears traded up to draft Mitch. One year later, Trubisky has a new head coach, a new system, a new #1 receiver in Allen Robinson, and has read a plethora of books on team leadership. We’re about to see what Mitchell Trubisky is all about.
#2 - Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Since he entered the league as a Bengal in 2013, Gio has ranked second only to AJ Green in yards from scrimmage. Even an ACL injury in 2016 couldn’t knock him out of the Bengals’ plans. In his six years as their #2 back, Gio has been versatile, professional, and consistent. Don’t look for that to change in 2018.
#3 - Eric Ebron, TE, Indianapolis Colts
So, life didn’t quite go as planned for Ebron in the Motor City. After being taken in the first round in 2014, Ebron eventually developed into Public Enemy #1 in Detroit, due to to his struggles on the field and questionable social media game. But now, after being waived in the offseason, Ebron might very well be set up in the perfect situation in Indy. Frank Reich and Co. favor a a tight end-heavy offense and Andrew Luck is back and healthy. The Colts already have a solid TE in Jack Doyle, but they did also with Coby Fleener and that didn’t stop Dwayne Allen (a big, physical TE like Ebron) from flourishing as a red zone target with Luck.
#4 - Mack Hollins, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Talk about falling on your feet. The Tar Heel WR finished his first NFL Season with a Lombardi Trophy. A strong presence on special teams last year, Hollins may see an expanded role with the defending champs this season. A lethal deep threat who scored 20 TDs on 81 catches in Chapel Hill, Hollins may find favor now that Carson Wentz (who’s not afraid to launch the deep ball) is back at starter. He still is behind Alshon Jeffrey, Nelson Agholor, and Mike Wallace on the depth chart, but Mack’s deep threat will be hard to ignore.
#5 - Ryan Switzer - WR, Oakland Raiders
The best return man in UNC history made a splash in Dallas last year as one of the better punt/kickoff returners in the league. Now, as a Raider, he may see more opportunities as a receiver, a role he didn’t see much of in Dallas. In his first preseason game in Oakland last week, Switzer hauled in a touchdown from backup Connor Cook. If he can establish himself as a sure-handed pass catcher, possibly in the slot, he may be seeing a bigger role this year. Also, as always, he’s a threat to break one on a kickoff return.
#6 - Austin Proehl - WR, Buffalo Bills
The solid UNC receiver and son of former Super Bowl hero Ricky Proehl had a difficult end to his Tar Heel career, falling to injury six weeks into the season. Despite the abrupt end to his college career, he has a solid opportunity in Buffalo, which is in desperate need of speed at the WR position (their #1 is slow-as-molasses Kelvin Benjamin and Sammy Watkins is gone). Proehl reportedly had a strong minicamp and if he can bring his strong route-running abilities to the table, he may see a consistent role every Sunday.
#7 - Bug Howard - WR, Carolina Panthers
He of the immortal nickname and classic Pitt catch has found his way to the familiar confines of Charlotte as a member of the Carolina Panthers. Cam Newton has always favored big receivers (look at how he’s looked for Devin Funchess as of late) and the aforementioned Kelvin Benjamin has headed north. Bug has already spoken about his connection with Cam; if that can translate on the field, we may see another Carolina alum thriving in front of a friendly crowd.
#8 - Brandon Tate - WR, New Orleans Saints
The ten-year veteran is now a Saint and will be clamoring to find a roster spot catching from the mighty Drew Brees. Unfortunately for Tate, the Saints are loaded despite the departure of Brandin Cooks, so he’ll be looking at an uphill battle. However, Tate has always found a way onto a roster throughout his career, despite never reeling in more than 21 receptions in a season. Is anyone betting on him missing out this time?
#9 - Elijah Hood - RB, Carolina Panthers
Here is Part 1 of our UNC RB combo. Hood spent most of last year’s rookie campaign on the Oakland practice squad before being waived. He was picked up by Carolina in the offseason and last week scored a receiving touchdown in preseason. However, he only tallied 7 rushing yards and is looking at a few names ahead of him on the depth chart. A final roster spot is unlikely.
#10 - TJ Logan - RB, Arizona Cardinals
Which brings us to Part 2. Logan had his rookie campaign in Arizona derailed by a wrist injury and spent it jogging alongside David Johnson, who also lost his season to a hand injury. Johnson expressed admiration for Logan’s work ethic, but Logan will need that and more to find his way onto the field or even on the roster with the Cardinals. Besides Johnson, Logan is battling DJ Foster and Chase Edmonds on the depth chart.