3 Up, 3 Down

With off season programs well underway, we’re finally seeing news trickle in that help us identify players who are trending up and those who are trending down. Of course, the key is to block out the hyperbolic “coach speak” articles posted on team-friendly blogs and websites, and focus only on the stuff that feels genuine. Take it with a grain of salt, but this is what we’re hearing around the league.

Trending Up

Kenny Golladay, WR – DET

kgolladayThe Lions have had an interesting second off season under head coach Matt Patricia. Budding star Kerryon Johnson has proclaimed his desire to feature less as a work horse, Marvin Jones continues to recover slowly from a knee injury that ended his 2018 early, and it was revealed that Matthew Stafford was dealing with a broken back for parts of 2018. The one constant we can point to in this offense is the precense of Golladay as the top passing target this year for the Lions. With Jones not participating still in off season programs, we’re comfortable moving Golladay up in our positional rankings, and re-tiering him into the potential WR1 area. We’re confident that he’ll have an excellent 2019.

Tevin Coleman, RB – SF

When Coleman signed in San Fransisco, we were skeptical of how that backfield would be handled. Shanahan has shown a willingness in the past to using two backs for two very different purposes, and we weren’t sure just how Coleman fit into that picture with McKinnon possessing very good pass catching abilities, and Brieda and Mostert having had some success as well. Now, with the concerns arising with McKinnon’s recovery, and Brieda’s absense at OTA’s, it’s been Coleman that’s assumed the defacto #1 spot. With his history of success under Shanahan, we see a clear path to excellent fantasy production in 2019.

Andrew Luck, QB – IND

It’s hard to trend up when you’re already being considered one of the top three options at the position in fantasy circles for 2019, but with the questions surrounding Hill in KC, Luck is slowly becoming one of the better values in the early rounds for the position. He’s still going earlier than we like for our own selection, but the addition of Funchess, who has been impressing in camp, as well as speedster Parris Campbell in the draft, and you can see how this receiving group could be lethal. Expect Luck to live up to the lofty expectations we’re labeling him for in 2019.

Trending Down

Marqise Lee, WR – JAC

Going into 2018, it looks like Lee was poised to breakout, but a season ending injury cost him the entire season. Considering the success of players like Dede Westbrook, it’s concerning that Lee has been sidelined so far throughout the off season program in Jacksonville. If he’s slower to returning, the likely hood of him returning to fantasy relevance becomes more and more difficult to justify.

Miles Sanders, RB – PHI

Sanders has been sidelined to start OTAs and the news out of Philadelphia is that he’s slowly falling behind the other backs in terms of potential usage. With Doug Pederson’s history of using a committee, Sanders will need a miracle to be anything other than a future asset, as Jordan Howard and company should assume a larger share of the early downs, leaving Sanders as a difficult sell even as the 32nd back off the board on average. We’re never high on rookie RB’s to begin with, but Sanders is going to get the full fade treatment from us until further notice.

Marcus Mariota, QB – TEN

My attention was piqued when I heard Mariota was planning on playing at a weight about 15 pounds heavier than he had previously, leading to concerns that he’d eschew running to stay in the pocket. One of Mariota’s best fantasy attributes has been his ability to mitigate any lack of production through the air by running the ball. With the recent news that the Titans GM suggested the team wants Mariota to run less in general, and it’s becoming clear that this could be a difficult year for Mariota owners. Until he proves he can be successful in the pocket, an immobilized Mariota is a player I’m unlikely to own shares of.

Advertisements

Valuing Tyreek Hill

tyhillWhen we first discussed the Tyreek Hill situation, we were under the impression that Hill’s punishment would be swift and severe. That punishment has been slow in coming, as his outlook for 2019 is even murkier now than it was on day one. Part of the issue is (and ignoring the moral implications of what he was accused of) is that his value has the kind of range among fantasy experts that we haven’t seen since the early days of Josh Gordon’s suspensions.

Unlike former Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt, who’s release from the team was so quick it gave fantasy owners whiplash, Hill’s status, although still “suspended from team activities” is far more difficult to ascertain. Pundits have discussed the possibility of an extension, which may be the most telling detail in all of this.

Assuming you’re willing to undertake the risk that is Tyreek Hill the fantasy football asset, it’s important to note that we expect he’ll be in a Chief’s jersey whenever he does return to the field. With the investigation into the child abuse allegations far more complex than what befell Hunt, it’s unlikely we’re going to see any real resolution, which could lend itself to both the idea that his suspension will drag on, or that he’ll be reinstated until more details emerge.

Either way, we’ve adjusted our own rankings to reflect the idea that Hill will remain with the Chiefs, and thus be an elite fantasy wideout as soon as he returns to the fold. If he misses fewer than 4 games, then his value from the end of last season remains virtually unchanged; he’s an elite player on an elite offense with a focus on exposing secondaries with Hills speed and Mahomes accuracy down the field.

If he misses 4-8 games (which I still expect to be the case) he’s still worth a stash (unlike the aforementioned Hunt who will operate as a 1B at best behind Nick Chubb when he returns) in the middle rounds.

Again, we’re not commenting on the moral quandry that folks may feel when considering Hill on draft day; that’s a topic for a different kind of blog. Instead, we implore you to re-evaluate your overall rankings for Hill, as we did, and monitor the situation to see just how early you feel comfortable drafting Hill.

Our current WR ranking of 30th overall reflects that we expect some missed time, but we’d be comfortable drafting him somewhere in the 4-6 round range, or even higher if we feel he may avoid suspension all together.

Either Or: Fournette or Marlon Mack?

fournetteWhen it comes to making a decision in a big spot, I generally feel that “going with your gut” is an easy way to avoid overthinking a pick. If you’re drafting late in the third, though, you may want to stop and think for a moment before making your pick.

This particular “Either Or?” Article came about during my research into Leonard Fournette. There has been no shortage of rumblings about the much-maligned former first round pick, and it seems that my opinion on the player is ever changing. With this in mind, I found myself mocking the first four rounds to see how many draft positions would be impacted by Fournette, and I found myself questioning my early fade on the Jacksonville Jaguars running back.

For the sake of argument, I drafted from the 7th spot, and went wide receiver heavy in the first two rounds. This was in part to set up the conversation we’re about to have; who do I target as my RB2 in the fourth round.

I went D. Adams and J. Jones at 1.07 and 2.04, leaving me with a pretty easy decision in the 3rd round to take Kansas City starting RB Damien Williams as my top RB option. I understand there are questions there, but the opportunity he has to be the top back in one of the leagues best offenses makes him a much safer play here than it may seem otherwise.

In the fourth round, I’m presented with the question of the day. Do we take Fournette as our RB2? These are the backs available to me at this point in the draft (4.04):

  • Marlon Mack (RB 14)
  • Leonard Fournette (RB15)
  • Devonta Freeman (RB17)
  • Kerryon Johnson (RB 19)

Considering what I’m trying to do with this draft strategy, I have a pretty good group of backs here to fill out my core. I’ll remove Kerryon from consideration, and this despite my love for the player… his comments about not being a workhorse back and the Lions insistence involving less talented backs in both the rushing game and through the air make me think his ceiling is moderate compared to the others here.

Devonta Freeman

There’s few backs that illicit the kind of love/hate reaction that Devonta Freeman seems to be receiving lately, and that’s simply because of his injury history. Some point to the departure of Tevin Coleman to suggest that Freeman will resume his three down workload, but there’s no evidence that the team is expecting Freeman to carry a huge workload. Ito Smith filled in admirably last year and should be used to spell the aging Freeman in an attempt to keep him healthy. Couple that with the history Dirk Koetters’ offenses have of burying their running backs, and you can see how I’m not convinced that Freeman can bounce back in any capacity in 2019.

That leaves the real decision; Marlon Mack or Leonard Fournette?

Mack, of course, is an interesting case. After being selected in the fourth round in 2017 NFL draft by the Colts, he missed significant portions of his rookie year due to injuries, and continued that trend only playing in 12 games last year (starting 10). Still, he profiled as an above average NFL starter, and his workout metrics painted a picture of a solid running back who’s only knock was his lack of usage in the passing game at UCF. That trend has continued into his NFL career as he’s taken a back seat on passing downs to Nyeim Hines, but that didn’t keep him from rushing for 908 yards on only 195 touches in 2018.

I expect his usage to increase on the ground in 2019, and a rushing total of 250 is a good start. Even slight regression in efficiency leaves me projecting 1,100 yards a 9-11 TDs. He’ll be a valuable fantasy asset despite a low receiving total (think in the 20 reception range), which makes this decision difficult.

Fournette on the other hand, has shown a decided lack of durability since being selected fourth overall in the same 2017 draft. Considered at the time more of a generational talent, Fournette was considered a can’t-miss fantasy prospect, and while he started off strong, he finished with disappointing results. His 3.9 yards per carry number and inability to fight off a lingering injury were the tip of the iceberg.

Off the field issues crept into the picture, and his 2018 was a mess of bad publicity and worse play on the field. He regressed to 3.3 yards per carry, and missed 8 games for a litany of reasons. Still, the pedigree that saw him drafted that high is lurking, and despite having major question marks, feels like a value in the fourth round in 2019.

The Decision: Leonard Fournette

Marlon Mack is a fine player, and we’d be happy with him here if that’s how the draft shook out, but in the fourth round, a player like Leonard Fournette could win you your league. Despite T.J. Yeldon being the primary pass catcher, Fournette managed nearly 3.5 targets per game. Already we’re hearing Jaguars beat writers suggesting that Fournette may be more involved in the passing game in 2019. Even if he has a modest uptick in targets, you’re talking 60-70 targets in a full season. That’s a ceiling that even Mack can’t match. If the reports are true and a motivated Fournette is looking for make up for lost time, he may be an absolute steal at his current ADP, and if you’re trying to fill out your starting RB group after going WR heavy early on, Fournette may be worth a gamble.

James Conner To Disappoint?

JconnerAccording to an article published in the Athletic, James Conner admitted that he expects the Steelers to employ a committee approach in 2019. Stating he expects the backfield to be “spread pretty evenly” between himself, Benny Snell and Jaylen Samuels, it’s clear that even Conner expects there to be less opportunity in 2019.

The addition of a very talented back in Benny Snell was the first warning sign that Conner may not be expected to emulate the departing Le’Veon Bell this year. What Snell brings to the Steelers is excellent red zone ability (he scored 48 touchdowns in his college career) and his pass catching ability is something that shouldn’t be overlooked in this offense, as he added 16 receiving TD’s across his collegiate career as well.

While I do expect Snell to carve out a nice role for himself, I will still argue that despite a regression in time share, it’s likely that the Steelers, faced with an offense void of Antonio Brown and helmed by an aging QB in Ben Roethlisberger, will run the ball even more in 2019.

Of course, the news isn’t great considering that Conner was already nearing a tier break at the running back position. Expect us to monitor the backfield in Pittsburgh going forward, and Conner’s position in our rankings could shift if our concerns become more than just rumor. 

The Committee Report: Baltimore Ravens

GEdwardsWe’re always searching for trends when we do our fantasy analysis, and in a league where turnover is quick and merciless, both on the field and among the coaching staff, it’s nice to have a lengthy track record to pull from like we do with John Harbaugh’s Baltimore Ravens.

Of course, even though he’s coached the Ravens since 2008, the personel he’s had to work with has been in constant flux. From the three down workload Ray Rice enjoyed for a short time at the end of the aughts, to the three headed monsters of the last few years, it’s been difficult at best to predict the Raven’s backfield for some time now.

2019 looks to be no different as Lamar Miller returns as the incumbent starter in week 1, and last years second half darling Gus Edwards is suddenly joined by former Heisman trophy winner and New Orleans Saints battering ram Mark Ingram, as well as fourth round draft pick from Oklahoma State in Justice Hill.

So where does that leave us as fantasy players? It leaves us trying to determine who’s likely to get what touches, and why.

Starting with the rookie, it’s unlikely that he sees a large number of first and second down work. His size is a bit prohibitive, and while he’s been compared favorably to last years breakout rookie Philip Lindsay, unlike Lindsay, he has capable runners ahead of him in Ingram and Edwards. What he does offer, is excellent open field play as well as a good pace and motor. Does that mean we can pencil him in for the lions share of targets? I don’t think so.

Since 2014, when Ray Rice led the backfield with 72 targets, there hasn’t been any one standout player in the passing game. The closest would have been Buck Allen, who saw 103 targets between 2017 and 2018, but he’s no longer on the club. Dixon’s 41 targets in 2016 were third on the team, but it shows he can be a valuable part of the passing game as well. It’s more likely that there’s a similar breakdown in 2019, with Lamar Jackson showing last year he’d rather run than check too far down on those broken plays.

On the ground, though, it’s a two man race with Ingram and Edwards battling it out for the early downs. It’s got to be particularly frustrating for Edwards owners in keeper or dynasty leagues as well, since he seemed like he’d done enough to win the job in 2019. After coming into the game in week 10 against Cincinatti, Edwards average 17.5 rushing attempts per game, good for 93.5 yards per contest and a 5.25 YPC mark. Those aren’t the kind of numbers that a team highlights as a reason for adding another excellent running back, but here we are.

Mark Ingram, of course, has had his fair share of issues over the years. While he’s been healthy for the last few seasons, he did have a growing list of injuries, from toe, to knee injuries, and even some time on the shelf due to a concussion a few seasons back. Add to that his suspension last year, and you have a player who’s been both excellent and frustrating at the same time.  His last three seasons in New Orleans were excellent considering that Alvin Kamara’s presence had overshadowed Ingrams. He finished with nearly 200 carries a year (skewed slightly due to the suspension) as well as 1,000 yards per and 8 rushing TDs. He was also used more heavily in the passing game than Edwards, this too in spite of Kamara’s role as the pass catching back.

So who is worth drafting?

That’s the million dollar question, and to really answer it we need to look at their current ADPs.

  • Mark Ingram – ADP 44 (RB 24)
  • Gus Edwards – ADP 153 (RB 58)
  • Justice Hill – ADP – 162 (RB 60)
  • Kenneth Dixon – ADP – 214 (RB 70)

It’s interesting to see Ingram being drafted as the defacto starter in that offense. We know what he’s capable of, and in a two headed monster in New Orleans he was productive, but I think folks are ignoring how this offense is preparing to operate. Lamar Jackson was far from the most efficient passer, so I do expect the run game to see a lot of looks. Somewhere in the 450 attempts range. We’ve also seen Baltimore, under Harbaugh, have a split on the ground. A 60/40 split one way or the other is likely as well.

At his current ADP, Ingram is going along side players like Kenyan Drake, David Montgomery, and Tevin Coleman, and I’d argue he has less of an opportunity than any of those backs. Even if he has lions share of the rushing attempts, I don’t see him having the same kind of impact he had in New Orleans; this Baltimore offense won’t give him as many scoring opportunities.

Edwards, on the other hand, is one of the drafts better values, and is a pretty obvious handcuff for Ingram owners. In the 16th round, he costs you next to nothing, but it’s likely he gets at least a 50/50 split early on, especially given that he’s been practicing with the “ones” in camp so far. Ingrams talent may win out in the end, but I doubt that Edwards loses a significant amount of touches.

Hill is the wild card, though, as neither of the guys ahead of him (Ingram or Edwards) are standouts in the passing game. Ingram is a solid pass catcher, but Hill was drafted to contribute, and much like his comparable (Lindsay) worked into the lineup, I expect Hill to become a favorite target of Jackson as the season wears on. While I won’t go so far to suggest he’ll be a top 10 RB in terms of targets, seeing 60-65 targets isn’t out of the question.

Don’t draft Kenneth Dixon (assuming he even makes the roster). That’s as much as I’ll say there.

Predictions

  • Gus Edwards – 170 Ru. Attempts – 825 Yards – 3 TDS
  • Mark Ingram – 160 Ru. Attempts – 750 Yards – 7 TDs – 30 Receptions – 240 Yards – 1 Rec. TD
  • Justice Hill – 40 Ru. Attempts -155 Yards – 0 TD – 49 Receptions – 400 Yards – 3 Re. TDs

 

Can Calvin Ridley Be Elite

CRidleyWe asked the same question of Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams last week, but we shift our attention to a player who has seen both support and been maligned in the fantasy community as of late: Atlanta Falcons second year receiver Calvin Ridley.

Most point to his current ADP as the biggest stumbling block (late 5th – early 6th), coming off the board as a WR2. They say that Atlanta has too many receiving options beyond him for him to see even a marginal uptick in target share in 2019, and I believe that is wrong.

First, we have to analyze how new Head Coach (and former Falcons OC) Dirk Koetter likes to call his offense. In the simplest way, he loves to throw the football. Since 2012, he’s ranked within the top 10 in the league in passing attempts and passing yards, and for two years straight with Tampa Bay, his offenses finished in the top 5. Expecting anything less than 620 or so passing attempts is foolish, and that’s where we start to see the promise.

Of course, there are a lot of capable pass catchers. After all, Mohamed Sanu and Austin Hooper both had about 14% of the target share last year, the same as Ridley. Being only separated by a total of 6 catches, it’s easy to see why some people expect more of the same in 2019. Still, it’s important to really dig deep to understand how both players were utilized in 2018.

Hooper was a year late on his “breakout” as he finally commanded a decent chunk of the offense, but his usage was spotty at best, with nearly 50% of his targets coming over a 4 games stretch, and his output across his 16 game season suggests he’s typically being used as a check down option. We only saw him crest 60 yards three times all season, and his highest total was 77 on 12 targets (9 receptions) against Pittsburgh in week 5.

Sanu, on the other hand, was far more consistent, being targeted 6 or more times in 10 games. Still, with his 94 receptions, he went for 100 once, and until the final two games of the season, saw 9 weeks of fewer than 50 receiving yards.

These are not the caliber of players who should be major obstacles for Calvin Ridley to ascend to the next level in his NFL career.

After all, his 92 targets came across 5 starts (in 16 games) and despite a few lulls in production, had far more impactful weeks than either Sanu or Hooper had. Ridley managed a fantasy score of 14+ points 7 times in 2019, and finished as the WR22 In PPR scoring and WR18 in Standard Scoring. All this while not “starting” a game until week 10.

While projections are never an exact science, we have to believe that Ridley’s upside far outpaces the other receivers on this roster, and while Julio is entrenched as the top target, Ridley shouldn’t be expected to regress in 2019. At his current ADP, he’s in line with what I consider his floor, making him a safe pick. I’ll stop short of suggesting his ceiling is 1,200 and 12, although it may be down the road, but our projections put him around the following:

75 Receptions, 975 Yards, 10 TDS and a WR15 finish.

Bell or Conner… who do YOU take?

JconnerRight out of the gates, you’ll see your draft will likely be RB heavy in the first round. The first tier of backs (Barkley, Zeke, Kamara, and CMC) are unlikely to face any real questions as to their value. Nuke Hopkins and Davante Adams are worthy of a look in the first round as well, but it’s not until the turn that the ADP data suggests we could see our first real quandary of the 2019 season.

James Conner or Le’Veon Bell?

It’s fitting that the man who replaced Bell would check in just behind him on the consensus ADP rankings, and his 225 points in standard scoring leagues was good for an RB7 finish despite having only played in 13 games.

Bell, of course, refused to take the field for Pittsburgh, burning those bridges before ultimately being shipped to the New York Jets, a franchise starved for identity and in need of a stud running back.

So is either one more valuable?

The argument for Bell, of course, would center on his three down ability. During the bulk of his career, there were very few backs who could claim to have been as productive in both the rushing and passing games as Bell was. He was incredible consistent, averaging nearly 130 total yards per game, while scoring 0.67 TDs per contest and being involved heavily in the passing game. Simply put, he was as secure an early round pick as there was… until last year.

Now he’s been out of the league for a season and finds himself in a situation that unfortunately features far more questions that I’d be comfortable asking about the achor of my football team. Do the Jets use Bell the way he was used in Pittsburgh? Is Adam Gase really stubborn enough to force the ball away from Bell in the name of balance (much like he did to Kenyan Drake in Miami)? What kind of condition can we expect, and can he maintain the kind of passing game presence he had for the Steelers?

It’s important to remember that Bell is still in his prime at 27 years old, but it may be one of the more terrifying first round picks you’ll ever make.

Still, on average, he’s being drafted ahead of the player who replaced him, James Conner, and we’re not sure that makes much sense. Conner was a stud last season in much the same roll Bell vacated, as evidenced by his RB1 finish. In standard formats, he scored 17.3 points per game, good for 6th (only 1 tenth of a point shy of what McCaffrey managed in his amazing season). In PPR formats, he finished 6th among his peers, this despite playing fewer games (13) than the rest of the top 12, aside from Melvin Gordon.

His 21.5 points per game average was better than the likes of Joe Mixon, Kareem Hunt, and David Johnson. Clearly he was up for the challenge. I’d argue that Conner is inline for a similar RB1 workload in 2019. Given that the Mike Tomlin Steelers has been an offense that values its RB’s in it’s passing game for many years, there’s no reason to expect Conner to be used less. While the loss of Antonio Brown may make the offense slightly less efficient as a whole, I don’t see it really impacting Conner in terms of his overall performance.

Who To Chose?

It’s a difficult decision for sure, especially given that we’re really in the dark on what Bell could be in New York. Of course, if you’re drafting simply on ceiling, then Bell is a steal late in the first; he’s far more likely to produce 2,000 total yards and 15+ combined TDs, Especially given the lack of dynamic talent on that Jet’s team, and a young QB who he’ll likely be a safety blanket for. But unlike Conner, who’s floor is as a back end RB1, Bell could completely fall off the map.

Regardless of his age, Le’Veon Bell has the kind of floor I’d aim to avoid in the first round. With an entire season off, and a new coach, system, and QB, there’s far too many moving pieces to be comfortable with any projection. His range of outcomes is enormous.

If tasked with choosing ourselves, James Conner would be the easy selection. We know what his role is in that Steelers offense, and with no reason to expect any real loss in work to the rookie back Snell, we expect a solid RB1 season. Bell is intriguing, but for us he falls just outside of that safe Tier 2 and thus wouldn’t be target unless the safer options were off the board.

Who do you think you’d select? Do you think Bell’s history as one of the leagues premier fantasy assets trumps the unknown of playing for a new team? Tell us in the comments. We’ll be back next week when we examine another interesting “either or” scenario!

 

Mocking The Alternatives: 2 QB Leagues

We’ve covered a few different league types in our weekly Friday Mock Draft reviews, but this week we’re going to do something a little different. With alternative scoring formats becoming a trend, it’s important that we take the time to look at one of the more popular out-of-the-box formats; the 2 Quarterback leagues.

Of course, if you’ve never drafted in a two quarterback league, you’re in for a surprise, as your traditional “don’t draft a QB early” strategy has to be shelved in the interest of building a contender on draft day. That doesn’t mean I’m advocating taking multiple quarterbacks early; in fact I tend to maintain that I will likely be the last roster to add a starting QB, but adjusting one’s expectations is key.

For the sake of this mock, we randomized our spot in a 10 team league and received the third overall pick. Scoring is PPR and the only roster change is the addition of a 2nd starting QB.

Pick 1.03 – Ezekiel Elliott, RB – DAL

At the third overall pick, I’m not even considering taking a QB. I’m exclusively looking RB in the first 5 picks of the draft this year thanks to the drop off at that position. Kamara (okay…) and Barkley went 1 and 2, so this was an easy decision.

Pick 2.08 – James Conner, RB – PIT

Three quarterbacks went off the board between my two picks, Mahomes, Luck, and DeShaun Watson. One of the best things about these two QB and super flex leagues is that players tend to fall a little further into the second and third, and I can’t pass on the chance to own two of the leagues highest volume runners. I did consider taking one of the available WR’s here (Juju Smith-Schuster and Mike Evans were potential available targets) but the short turn softens the blow at the position and lets me maximize my roster by adding a second top 10 RB with my 2nd round pick.

Pick 3.03 – Juju Smith-Schuster, WR – PIT

It always feels strange selecting two players from the same team back to back, but of the available WR’s (Mike Evans and Antonio Brown were still available) I feel best about Smith-Schuster’s ability to produce consistent WR1 numbers. It’s important to note that three more QB’s were selected during the short turn. It does allow me to bulk up at the skill positions, but I’m looking more and more at the pool of QB’s and the time to pull the trigger on our first signal caller is approaching.

Pick 4.08 – Cam Newton, QB – CAR

The idea that middle of the pack QB’s are still the best value doesn’t entirely go out of the window in a 2 QB league, but making sure you’re not leaving yourself deficient at the position is important to. I’ll wait to pair Newton with a 2nd QB, but I didn’t want to hitch my wagon to Winston or Goff, so Newton it is. A bit of opinion here though… having an early pick seems to be the easiest way to navigate this format, since the short turn from 2nd to 3rd round gave me a great team core, and gives me the ability to come back from this QB pick and still have a decent selection available in the 5th round.

Pick 5.03 – Julian Edelman, WR – NE

There was a moment here when I considered taking a third RB as both Damien Williams and Aaron Jones were available, but knowing I’ll have to invest in a second QB within the next 6 picks meant I was uncomfortable with waiting too long for my second WR. Among the top remaining WRs (Brandin Cooks, Kenny Golladay, Cooper Kupp, and Robert Woods), Edelman represented the safest floor thanks to the PPR format. I don’t expect him to put up too many monster weeks, but he’ll be a safe play from week one to the championship rounds.

Pick 6.08 – Cooper Kupp, WR – LAR

I really wanted to ignore the bye week issue and take one of my favorite breakout candidates in Chris Godwin, but with 66% of my roster already off on week 7, I went with my second option in Cooper Kupp. While I was critical of him a few seasons back, I’m convinced that the connection he and Goff shares is something special. He was his top target for most weeks he was healthy last year, and while Woods and Cooks are still there, Kupps ability to find the end zone on top of that makes him the WR to own in the Rams offense.

Pick 7.03 – Kenyan Drake, RB – MIA

I’ve been singing his praises for the better part of a month, so I won’t dig too deep. His talent, and ability to catch the football, make him a perfect fit for a likely Patriots-esque offense that uses it’s backs on third downs. Available backs like Sony Michel and Philip Lindsay would be solid gets here, but competition in both offenses could cap the ceilings of both players while Drake only has Kalen Ballage to fend off for ownership of all three downs. The QB runs have certainly slowed down as well as Kyler Murray’s selection at the top of the 6th round marks the last one taken. I can feel a run coming.

Pick 8.08 – Mike Williams, WR – LAC

I wasn’t far off as the 7th and 8th rounds saw Winston, Brady, Rivers, Garoppolo, and Lamar Jackson come off the board. That also means potential top 25 WR Mike Williams falls to me at pick 83. I love Williams combination of size, speed, and opportunity. Rivers connected with Williams on 11 TD throws, and Williams managed to put up a stellar season despite not seeing 100 targets. As an ascending player, he’ll likely see an uptick in targets, and could be a real league winner in 2019. The danger, though, is that that the QB position is beginning to thin and I’m not sure I’m going to lose a few targets in the next couple of picks.

Pick 9.03 – Dak Prescott, QB – DAL

In the ninth round, I’ve reached my limit on pushing the position off and decide to take Prescott, who represents one of the better sleeper values at the QB position in my opinion. After a 5 week stretch to start the season saw his value plummet, Prescott turned in a pretty solid conclusion to the 2018 season, going over 20 points 6 times, and scoring less than 15 twice. With Amari Cooper still in the fold, it’s safe to assume that Prescotts second half is far closer to what we can expect.

Pick 10.08 – Latavius Murray, RB – NO

I was tempted to add Hunter Henry here to fill out my starting roster, but I’m not keen on having 6 players from three offenses anchoring my core. So I turned my attention to the running back position, which features a who’s who of committee backs and PPR specialists. While there’s a lack of upside for many of these names, we know how New Orleans likes to work their ground game, and Murray represents legitimate flex upside considering how Mark Ingram managed excellent numbers despite Kamara being the focal point. If Kamara goes down, too, then Murray’s upside skyrockets.

Pick 11.03 – Rashaad Penny, RB – SEA

I’m not jazzed about the available WRs, especially given that I’m moderatly confident I can land a solid player in the rounds to come. What I want to do is add a potential work horse back in Penny who’s rookie season has many convinced he wasn’t worthy of the first round pick the Seahawks spent on him. I’d argue the opposite, and given that Mike Davis is gone, and Carson’s knee was acting up, this may be the cheapest you’ll get a potential lead back. Seattle wants to run the football, and Penny is going to see a healthy number of touches regardless of Carson’s status, but his ceiling is far too high to pass up in favor of bench players like Emmanuel Sanders and James Washington.

Pick 12.08 – Larry Fitzgerald, WR – ARI

He’s not an exciting player at this point in his career, but what manages to do year in and year out is stay healthy and in the game plan. Hakeem Butler and Christian Kirk at the future at the receiver position in Arizona, but Fitzy is going to be heavily involved regardless. With much of his time spent in the slot, he’ll be a solid contributor to Kyler Murray’s development, and as a WR5, I’m more than comfortable adding him to my bench. I could have taken David Njoku here, but there’s some good value at the TE position in the next few rounds, and I’d rather secure a wide out who’s a safe bet for 100 targets in the 12th round.

Pick 13.03 – Vance McDonald, TE – PIT

While McDonald doesn’t really generate much excitement, he’s an interesting case considering over 200 targets vacated the Steelers offense when Antonio Brown and Jesse James left. With McDonald having the starting gig to himself, he’s got potential to be a solid fantasy contributor, although unexciting. We’ll have to pair him with a high upside guy later in the draft though if we’re going to be comfortable with our roster. There are a few interesting names available, notably Ronald Jones Jr, who I’m high on as a bounce back candidate, but with a similar player in Penny on the roster, I’d rather add starters.

Pick 14.08 – Adam Humphries, WR – TEN

If it feels like I’m reaching here, it’s because I am. With only four bench spots left and a plan to add one of each of the skill position players as well as a third QB, I’m going to be reaching on the next few picks. I love the potential with Humphries, given that Chris Davis’ star is slowly waning, and Mariota needs someone to throw to. AJ Brown may steal some targets, but despite the concerns I may have surrounding his ceiling, I’m comfortable with the 80-110 targets I expect him to see in Tennessee.

Pick 15.03 – Delanie Walker, TE – TEN

While many seem to think Walkers days as a fantasy contributor are over, I think he’s the perfect target to pair with a player like Vance McDonald. Walker has only seen fewer than 100 targets one time in his Titans career, and that was his first year on the team when he saw 86. Even if he regresses following his lost 2018. I expect 80+ targets and borderline TE1 numbers. If McDonald stumbles, you could do way worse than Walker as your back up.

Pick 16.08 – Nick Foles, QB – JAC

We’ve ignored the QB position for a good chunk of the draft to this point, but with so many being rostered, it’s wise to consider spending a bench spot on a third QB. Foles is the type of QB I target in 2 QB drafts ever year, as his change of scenery scares off suitors, but the same coaching staff that helped Blake Bortles turn in some decent fantasy outputs should help Foles do the same. He’s a bye week/injury fill in only, but considering that players like Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco, and Josh Rosen are the names he’s being drafted around, I feel pretty good about it.

Pick 17.03 – Damien Harris, RB – NE

I’m not sure how much stock I put in the fact that Harris beat out Josh Jacobs for his college starting gig, but the truth remains that he’s an immensely talented runner, and he was drafted by one of the leagues most innovative offenses in New England. With their 41 year old QB Tom Brady showing signs of decline, the Pats rushed the football nearly 500 times in 2018. With concerns surrounding Sony Michel’s knee, and a willingness to use the best player, there’s a possibility that Harris could be this years surprise breakout. If he doesn’t contribute, he’ll be an easy waiver cut. Very low risk despite the potential for decent reward.

Pick 18.08 – Cleveland Browns DST

I love the Browns as a late round DST… I stream 99% of the time so it’s no sweat off my back if they don’t perform.

Pick 19.03 – Generic Kicker, They’re All The Same

Final Roster

  • QB: Cam Newton, Dak Prescott, Nick Foles
  • RB: Zeke Elliott, James Conner, Kenyan Drake, Latavius Murray, Rashaad Penny, Damien Harris
  • WR: Juju Smith-Schuster, Julian Edelman, Cooper Kupp, Mike Williams, Larry Fitzgerald, Adam Humphries
  • TE: Vance McDonald, Delanie Walker

Final Thoughts

One of the biggest advantages a 2QB league offers is the ability to add a few extra high value pieces. While players like Pat Mahomes and Andrew Luck become far more valuable, seeing ADPs approaching first round valuation, there’s still too much value later in the draft to over draft the QB position. We suggest taking your first QB in the 4-6th round range, but doing it when you have the shorter turn is always a good idea.

The basic advice we offer every year really applies two fold here as well. The rounds may shift forward, but you shouldn’t be among the first ones to draft that QB or TE for your team. With the knowledge that your going to add a third QB and a second TE, try and maximize your value up front. I’d rather have a roster like the one above, with an elite RB group and a versatile, high volume WR group and sacrifice slightly at the other positions than be forced to play catch up in the middle rounds while wiser drafters sit back and build strategically.

Superflex and 2QB leagues are fun, and they do provide you with a few different angles to the draft, but as always, have a plan but be flexible, and don’t let early runs dictate how you draft!

 

 

Can Damien Williams Be Elite?

DaWilliamsWhile we always say opportunity + talent = success, the math required to get to the desired answer isn’t always a simple request. Aside from the leagues top running backs, there are always a long list of questions that inevitably cast doubt on a players ability to enter the ranks of Fantasy’s Elite RBs.

One of this off season’s loudest hype-trains currently belongs to Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams. The former Dolphin has gone from complete afterthought to must-have asset in the matter of a few weeks after comments from Chief’s Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy.

“Damien Williams is our starter.”

While that admission alone isn’t the reason fantasy pundits are discussing Williams as a potential RB1 next year, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Playing for one of the leagues best offenses is really the reason for optimism here, and I’m not sure that it’s enough to sell me.

In 2018, after Williams joined the Chiefs crowded backfield, he was a complete afterthought. Not even listed on ADP data, it’s clear that Williams wasn’t being drafted even as a handcuff to Kareem Hunt. When Kareem Hunt was served his walking papers, it was Spencer Ware that saw the first crack, and even after Ware got hurt, Williams wasn’t given the kind of volume we’d expect of a top 12 running back.

In three games, he saw 10, 13, and 11 attempts respectively. His 5.1 yards per carry was a career high, but it was his application in the passing game that had owners licking their lips. With the exception of week 17, which we’ll discount as the Chief’s were locked in and resting players going into the playoffs, Williams finished the season with a three week stretch where he saw 5 or more targets per game, and caught all but one of them.

Now, with his ADP approaching late second round (currently the RB13) it’s becoming clear that the fantasy community believes he’s got the skill to pay off on that opportunity. Being drafted ahead of Leonard Fournette, Aaron Jones, and Marlon Mack, it’s an interesting risk drafting him that high. With the volume alone, he could be a solid fantasy contributor, but is there really anything in his history to suggest he deserves that kind of attention?

Undrafted in 2014 after being dismissed from the Oklahoma program for violations of team rules, Williams was added to the Dolphins backfield to compliment Lamar Miller, but he never really found a foothold. Between his inefficient running (3.5 yards per carry in three years in Miami) and his modest passing game contributions, it was no wonder that Williams wasn’t considered a threat to Hunt or Ware in terms of snap share last year.

Of course, talent aside, there is the fact that the OC in Kansas City is publicly backing the newly minted lead back. If the opportunity is there, as we expect it would be for any Chief’s starter, then he’ll be a valuable fantasy contributor. Still, our concerns are mostly around his ceiling. With players behind him having as more talent as well as the opportunity, we’d caution anyone who’s considering Williams to be a can’t miss fantasy asset. With Carlos Hyde lurking, and some regression expected for a Kansas City team that’s in danger of losing it’s best field-stretcher, I think I’d rather own shares of Jones or Mack before I’d bet on Williams putting up big numbers in 2019.

 

Panic In LA; Todd Gurley Edition

tgurleyAfter a career year in Los Angeles last season, Todd Gurley saw a knee injury interrupt a march to the Superbowl, and his lack of touches in the big game led to rampant speculation that something just wasn’t right about the all-pro running back.

In an interview on The Sedano Show on ESPN, Rams General Manager Les Snead poured more fuel on the fire.

“We’re not going to run him at all during OTA’s,” Snead said, later commenting that they don’t plan on using him at all in the pre-season.

While these comments aren’t entirely shocking on their own (Gurley was held out of of pre-season action last year as part of Sean McVay’s plan to preserve his starters) but given his recent performances and off season buzz, and the fact that the Rams selected Darrell Henderson out of Memphis in the third round, and a bleak picture begins to present itself to fantasy players.

Currently, the price on Gurley is still a first round draft pick, but we expect to see that shift as the season approaches. Our rankings have already been adjusted to reflect our concerns, and Henderson has been bumped a handful of spots as we expect him to assume a larger chunk of the touches for the Rams in 2019.

If you’re not convinced that Gurley’s injury is as impactful as many are saying, then you can likely get him in the 2nd round at a major discount, but we’re not going to own many shares of Gurley in 2019.