Chargers Rookie May Need Surgery

RFrank Zombo, Tyrell Williamseports out of L.A. today point towards a possible season-ending surgery for highly touted rookie WR Mike Williams. While this is certainly a wrench in the gears for a player many expected to make an immediate impact, what it does is open the door for last years suprising success Tyrell Williams to return as the #2 WR on the outside.

I expect Benjamin to remain penciled in as the slot receiver, and if he’s healthy, he’ll take a chunk of the looks Williams was expected to have. But the real winner, assuming Williams misses significant time, is Tyrell Williams.

Last year with Allen and Benjamin missing time, Williams stepped up big time to the tune of 1059 yards on 69 catches, and 7 TDs. Williams has the size (6’4″) to be a big redzone target, but add to that a rise in the depth chart, and you have a recipe for success for the 51st WR being selected.

While he likely won’t repeat last years numbers, it’s still not a sure thing that the wideouts ahead of him on the chart last a full 16 games. Obviously keep an eye on Williams progress, but Williams should still be good for 800 yards and 7-9 TDs.

Mock Itch – A ZeroRB Mock

While I’ve certainly been a detractor of the ZeroRB strategy, I certainly see the value in loading up on elite talent and a well put together strategy can reward any owner regardless of how they feel.

I’ve been a mocking fool lately (one of my favorite parts of the fantasy football process is the mock season during the run up to the our actual drafts) and I decided I would take some time and really try to hammer out a solid ZeroRB strategy to share with you.

Strategy

Before we discuss how my draft shook out, lets revisit the cardinal rules when adopting a ZeroRB strategy. It’s important to load up on top teir wideouts early in drafts; I suggest not swinging at a QB or TE in the first 3 or 4 rounds unless one of the elite guys falls to you. Once you’ve filled out your starters at WR, QB, and TE is when you throw a whole lot of heat at the RB position in the middle rounds.

The Mock

I used the fantastic Draft Wizard at Fantasypros.com to set up the draft to my preferences, and I started by opting for a straight PPR format with one RB/WR/TE flex position. Standard scoring and 6 bench spots made up the rest of the rules. Randomizing the draft spot I ended up drafting 8th.

  • Round 1. Mike Evans (WR5) – Evans is a stud, but in the first round you get what you pay for.
  • Round 2. Jordy Nelson (WR7) – Nelson could easily finish as a top 3 WR, not bad for a 2nd round pick.
  • Round 3. Demaryius Thomas (WR15) – This one was a bit of a stretch, but with a big run on WR’s in round 3, I had to decide if I wanted Thomas, Alshon Jeffrey, or Jarvis Landry.
  • Round 4. Tom Brady (QB2) – Brady fell to me in round 4 and I felt comfortable with the remaining RB pool to push off my first RB selection to add an elite QB.
  • Round 5. Carlos Hyde (RB17) – For my first RB I grabbed the boring but effective Hyde. Despite the rumblings that Hyde may not be a fit in Shanahan’s offense, at 26 he presents a safe floor in round 5.
  • Round 6. C. J. Anderson (RB19) – For my money, Anderson offers the closest thing to a top 10 RB of the remaining backs. Dalvin Cook was available but throwing a rookie in as my 2nd RB scares me.
  • Round 7. Bilal Powell (RB22) – Drafting Powell in standard leagues is nerve racking, but in PPR (with his ability to catch the football) he’s one of the safer committee backs.
  • Round 8. Eddy Lacy (RB25) – I’ll admit it, this one is a crap shoot. Lacy has turned in two fantastic seasons and two awful ones… which back will show up in Seattle this year? I hope it’s the former.
  • Round 9. Frank Gore (RB35) – I don’t think Gore will ever get the respect he deserves, and in the 9th round I’m giddy that a starting RB on a high scoring offense is still available.
  • Round 10. Zach Ertz (TE10) – Ertz still has some proving to do but his skill set and place in the Eagles offense makes him a safe pick in the 10th round as the tenth TE drafted.
  • Round 11. Jordan Matthews (WR 45) – Adding an impact player in the 11th is difficult, and with Decker and Rishard Matthews as the the next highest ranked WRs it was a no brainer to add Matthews and his 100+ targets.
  • Round 12. Mike Wallace (WR 49) – This is Baltimore’s Mike Wallace, where I consider him a flier after major offensive shakeups leaves hundres of targets up for grabs (even AFTER adding Jeremy Maclin in the off season).
  • Round 13Tyrod Taylor (QB 18) – I could have gone with Blake Bortles here, but Taylor put up top 10 QB numbers for a good portion of the year and I’m not keen on starting Tom Brady without some kind of backup plan in case the 40 year old struggles or goes down to injury.

Overall, the draft went pretty much as planned. I could have Greg Olsen or Jimmy Graham in the 5th round and started my run on RB’s a round later, but that would have left me exchanging a player like Carlos Hyde for someone like Samaje Perine or Jamaal Williams, two players I like but who are no lock to play meaningful snaps.

Roster

  • QB – Tom Brady
  • RB1 – Carlos Hyde
  • RB2 – C.J. Anderson
  • WR1 – Mike Evans
  • WR2 – Jordy Nelson
  • WR3 – Demaryius Thomas
  • TE – Zach Ertz
  • Flex – Bilal Powell (RB)
  • D/ST – Houston Texans
  • K – Sebastian Janikowski
  • Bench – Eddie Lacy (RB)
  • Bench – Frank Gore (RB)
  • Bench – Jordan Matthews (WR)
  • Bench – Mike Wallace (WR)
  • Bench – Tyrod Taylor (QB)

 

Draft Board

ZRBMock

Bad Luck in Indy

With the Hall of Fame Game set to kick off the pre-season in just over three weeks, we still have very little information regarding the status of Andrew Lucks rehab from offseason shoulder surgery.

LuckThe most obvious fallout from this is with Luck himself, where my previous QB rankings had him still in the top five despite the lingering issues. At this point, with as little information as we have, I have dropped Luck in my postitional rankings from 5 to 9, falling behind Kirk Cousins, Jameis Winston, Russell Wilson, and Dak Prescott.

Beyond that, we have to consider what life without Luck would be like for the first few weeks. Hilton is a safer pick as he’ll likely be the focal point of the passing game. Frank Gore is a safe bet at his current ADP as well since it’s unlikely they’ll use him more or less regardless.

I’m not the biggest Moncrief fan in the world and depending on how much time Luck misses, he falls on my board, but I’m intrigued about Jack Doyle and his potential contributions. While there’s not enough statistics to provide answers for the young TE, it stands to reason that beyond Hilton, he’d be a likely saftey net for a young QB filling in for Luck. Don’t adjust your rankings on him.

Despite all this planning, we could hear in the next few days that Luck is a pillar of health and his rehab is progressing nicely. By all accounts, the Colts front office expects Luck to be ready for week one, but in the absence of solid evidence, it makes sense to prepare for the worst.

UPDATED: Top 50 WR Rankings

2017 Wide Receiver Rankings

Updated June 8th, 2017

Antonio Brown, PIT (E)
Julio Jones, ATL (E)
Mike Evans, TB (E)
Odell Beckham Jr, NYG (E)
Jordy Nelson, GB (+1)
A.J. Green, CIN (+1)
T.Y. Hilton, IND (-2)
Michael Thomas, NO (E)
Amari Cooper, OAK (+1)
Doug Baldwin, SEA (+1)
Dez Bryant, DAL (-2)
Alshon Jeffrey, PHI (+1)
Sammy Watkins, BUF (+2)
Allen Robinson, JAC (E)
DeAndre Hopkins, HOU (-3)
Brandon Cooks, NE (E)
Demaryius Thomas, DEN (E)
Keenan Allen, LAC (E)
Michael Crabtree, OAK (+2)
Davante Adams, GB (-2)
Jarvis Landry, MIA (+1)
Golden Tate, DET (+2)
Terrelle Pryor, CLE (-3)
Julian Edelman, NE (+1)
Larry Fitzgerald, ARI (+1)
Tyreek Hill, KC (+3)
Stefon Diggs, MIN (+1)
Kelvin Benjamin, CAR (+3)
Emmanuel Sanders, DEN (-6)
DeSean Jackson, TB (E)
Jamison Crowder, WAS (+1)
Willie Snead, NO (+4)
Eric Decker, TEN (+2)
Brandon Marshall, NYG (E)
Martavis Bryant, PIT (-2)
Pierre Garcon, SF (+3)
Donte Moncrief, IND (-10)
Corey Davis, TEN (-1)
Devante Parker, MIA (+2)
Rishard Matthews, TEN (-2)
Cameron Mereditch, CHI (+1)
Kenny Britt, CLE (+1)
Randall Cobb, GB (+1)
Jordan Matthews, PHI (+1)
Adam Thielen, MIN (+1)
Corey Coleman, CLE (-5)
Jeremy Maclin, BAL (+4)
John Brown, ARI (E)
Mike Wallace, BAL (-2)
Marvin Jones, DET (+2)
Josh Doctson, WAS (+4)
Kevin White, CHI (+5)
Sterling Shepard, NYG (+1)
Mike Williams, LAC (-1)
John Ross, CIN (+3)
Robert Woods, LAR (+4)
Quincy Enunwa, NYJ (+5)
Taylor Gabriel, ATL (+6)
Kenny Stills, MIA (+2)
Tyrell Williams, LAC (-11)

UPDATED: Top 50 Running Backs

2017 Running Back Rankings

Updated June 27th, 2017

Not much changed in the top 10 with only minor changes coming as a result of some consistency research. I’ve added 10 more to the list to even out the rankings as a top 50. We’ll add more next time.

  1. David Johnson, ARI (E)
  2. Le’Veon Bell, PIT (E)
  3. Ezekiel Elliott, DAL (E)
  4. LeSean McCoy, BUF (E)
  5. Jordan Howard, CHI (+1)
  6. Devonta Freeman, ATL (-1)
  7. Melvin Gordon, LAC (+1)
  8. DeMarco Murray, TEN (-1)
  9. Jay Ajayi, MIA (E)
  10. Todd Gurley, LAR (E)
  11. Lamar Miller, HOU (E)
  12. Carlos Hyde, SF (E)
  13. Leonard Fournette, JAC (E)
  14. Marshawn Lynch, OAK (+1)
  15. Isaiah Crowell, CLE (-1)
  16. C.J. Anderson, DEN (+1)
  17. Spencer Ware, KC (+2)
  18. Christian McCaffrey, CAR (-2)
  19. Mark Ingram, NO (-1)
  20. Joe Mixon, CIN (+1)
  21. Ameer Abdullah, DET (+3)
  22. Eddie Lacy, SEA (-2)
  23. Frank Gore, IND (+2)
  24. Tevin Coleman, ATL (-2)
  25. Ty Montgomery, GB (-2)
  26. LeGarrette Blount, PHI (+2)
  27. Dalvin Cook, MIN (-1)
  28. Mike Gillislee, NE (-1)
  29. Paul Perkins, NYG (+1)
  30. Doug Martin, TB (+3)
  31. Robert Kelley, WAS (E)
  32. Bilal Powell, NYJ (-3)
  33. Samaje Perine, WAS (+2)
  34. Danny Woodhead, BAL (-2)
  35. Theo Riddick, DET (+2)
  36. Matt Forte, NYJ (+3)
  37. Adrian Peterson, NO (+3)
  38. Latavius Murray, MIN (-2)
  39. Duke Johnson, CLE (+5)
  40. Jonathan Stewart, CAR (-6)
  41. Jeremy Hill, CIN (+5)
  42. C.J. Prosise, SEA (-1)
  43. Jamaal Charles, DEN (+2)
  44. Kenneth Dixon, BAL (-2)
  45. Terrance West, BAL (+4)
  46. Derrick Henry, TEN (-8)
  47. Jamaal Williams, GB (+5)
  48. Kareem Hunt, KC (-5)
  49. James White, NE (+2)
  50. Ryan Mathews, PHI (+6)

UPDATE: QB Rankings

Updated 6/26 (numbers in parenthasis are change in ranking from 6/1 rankings)
  1. Aaron Rodgers, GB (E)
  2. Tom Brady, NE (E)
  3. Drew Brees, NO (E)
  4. Matt Ryan, ATL (E)
  5. Andrew Luck, IND (E)
  6. Jameis Winston, TB (E)
  7. Kirk Cousins, WAS (E)
  8. Dak Prescott, DAL (+1)
  9. Russell Wilson, SEA (-1)
  10. Cam Newton, CAR (E)
  11. Derek Carr, OAK (+1)
  12. Tyrod Taylor, BUF (-1)
  13. Marcus Mariotta, TEN (+2)
  14. Philip Rivers, LAC (E)
  15. Ben Roethlisberger, PIT (-2)
  16. Matthew Stafford, DET (E)
  17. Andy Dalton, CIN (E)
  18. Carson Wentz, PHI (+3)
  19. Eli Manning, NYG (E)
  20. Blake Bortles, JAC (-2)
  21. Ryan Tannehill, MIA (-1)
  22. Joe Flacco, BAL (E)
  23. Sam Bradford, MIN (+2)
  24. Carson Palmer, ARI (-1)
  25. Alex Smith, KC (-1)
  26. Deshaun Watson, HOU (E)
  27. Mike Glennon, CHI (+1)
  28. Paxton Lynch, DEN (+1)
  29. DeShone Kizer, CLE (-2)
  30. Cody Kessler, CLE (E)
  31. Jared Goff, LAR (+1)
  32. Josh McCown, NYJ (-1)
  33. Christian Hackenberg, NYJ (+2)
  34. Brian Hoyer, SF (-1)
  35. Mitch Trubisky, CHI (+3)
  36. Tom Savage, HOU (E)
  37. Trevor Siemian, DEN (-3)
  38. Patrick Mahomes, KC (+3)
  39. Jimmy Garoppolo, NE (+8)
  40. Landry Jones, PIT (+4)
  41. C.J. Beathard, SF (-1)
  42. Cardale Jones, BUF (-3)
  43. AJ McCarron, CIN (E)
  44. Drew Stanton, ARI (+1)
  45. Case Keenum, MIN (+1)
  46. Brock Osweiler, CLE (-9)
  47. Bryce Petty, NYJ (-5)

The Aging Running Back

They tell you that NFL Running Backs last only a couple of years, that after 30 they fall off the proverbial cliff. While I subscribe to that notion in general, it’s clear that every few years we’re presented with an “exception to the rule” and it’s our job as drafters to identify who can be trusted and who should be thrown in the “Do Not Draft” category.

Colts Vikings Football

This year, there are several starting NFL running backs that fall under that umbrella, and a few more still that figure to take up a large chunk of their offenses plays from the backfield. So who should you draft and who should you skip?

  1. Marshawn Lynch – 31 Years Old: Beast Mode is back, and the expectation in Oakland is that following Latavius Murray’s exit it will be Lynch in the backfield for all three downs. The situation is perfect for a renaissance, as the odometer on Lynch is still relatively low for a career starter in his 30’s. Expect a solid year with fantastic upside in the high powered Oakland offense.
  2. Danny Woodhead – 32 Years Old: Woodhead may fall into the “over 30” club but his tires have very little wear on them compared to backs who’ve started their whole careers. As a pass catching specialist in an offense that historically targets their backs, Woodhead’s only real danger is on the injury front. When he’s on the field, he’s dynamic and his age can be ignored.
  3. Frank Gore – 34 Years Old: Long ago I gave up on trying to figure out when Gore was going to slow down. A back who relies on vision and scheme to be effective, Gore continues to impress even as the he nears the end of a storied career. Indianapolis is going to pass first, which only helps to keep the defense from committing to stoping Gore. Expect another 1,000 yards and 4 YPC from the ageless one.
  4. Adrian Peterson – 32 Years Old: It’s clear that he won’t be the top dog in New Orleans but the Saints seem to favor a general split to keep Ingram healthy so you can expect a reasonably large workload for a back being drafted later in drafts than he should be. All reports point towards Peterson running with a chip on his shoulder, so the potential for him to steal 200+ carries exists, but there’s no telling how effective he’ll be following a lost season.
  5. Matt Forte – 31 Years Old: Forte has shown all the tell-tale signs of slowing down over the last few years and one expects that even if he gets off to a quick start that age will drag him down again. After a slow finish last year, the consensus was that Bilal Powell may take over for the bulk of the carries, but New York insists that Forte is their guy. So for the time being, he’ll have the lion’s share of touches, but be aware that drafting Forte is likely committing a pick for a guy who’s effectiveness has pretty clearly been proven to drop off after a few weeks.
  6. Jamaal Charles – 30 Years Old: I have faith that Charles has plenty left in the tank, but the fact remains that after being the 3 down horse in Kansas City for so long, there is serious concern that Charles can return to form. Denver can use him even if he’s primarily a pass catching back but the landing spot won’t do him any favors if he’s slowed down any. With Paxton Lynch or Trevor Semein as your starting QB, he’s likely to face plenty of stacked boxes. As a late round flier he’s worth a look but he may just be done as a fantasy option
  7. Jonathan Stewart – 30 Years Old: It’s not fair to Jonathan Stewart that he’s never been given the reigns to the Carolina offense, but even when his backfield competition left and he played well in an expanded role, the Panthers brought in other backs to take over. Queue the McCaffrey pick and you can see why Stewart is at the bottom of my list. Expect the rookie to dominate touches early, and with Cam Newton calling his own number more than most QB’s the writing is on the wall for the aging vet. Drafting Stewart is a crap shoot that’s likely to blow up in your face.

Drafting a QB / RB Combo

 

So you’re willing to get creative to produce a roster that maximizes the plays on the field. Drafting a valuable QB/RB combo is one of the easiest ways to ensure that every point is wrung from the towel that is fantasy scoring. Carr Cooper

Skip the Early Rounds

I’d argue that drafting a duo over the first four rounds is foolhardy, as it requires you to either reach for a player to ensure you get them, or overlook a player who may be much more valuable. Pairs like Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson are a perfect example as they’re both being drafted in the 2nd round. Do you really want to spend a first round pick on either of them? The same goes for Brady and Gronk; it’s just too hard to organize your targets to ensure you get them both.

I’m not saying that if they fall to you don’t take them; hell you’d be insane not to take advantage. But you’re playing a game of chicken that you’ll lose more often than not.

First Round WRs

Looking at current draft data, it appears that the easiest way to secure a potent duo is to select a stud WR in the first round. Here’s the first round receivers and their corresponding QB.

  • Antonio Brown, PIT (Ben Roethlisburger, ADP 89)
  • Julio Jones, ATL (Matt Ryan, ADP 45)
  • Odell Beckham Jr, NYG (Eli Manning, ADP 130)
  • A.J. Green, CIN (Andy Dalton, ADP 148)
  • Mike Evans, TB (Jameis Winston, ADP 93)

As you can see, all five projected first round WR’s can be paired with their starting QB without much effort. Of course, maybe one of these duo’s features a player you loathe, or maybe you draft at the end of the first and you feel that you missed your chance. I’d argue that the real value of the strategy is in the meat of the draft

Middle Round Finds

If you’re like me, you see a draft with maybe a dozen safe backs and a wealth of top end talent at WR. So you want to draft a RB in the first and piece together your roster later? Not a problem, there’s even more valuable combinations to be had outside of the first round.

Amari Cooper – OAK, ADP 24 – So you drafted to RB’s and you’re looking to add a WR. Amari Cooper is one of those young, high volume WR’s that commands the ball. Having him on your roster is a boon, especially considering that Derek Carr is being drafted currently in the 9th round. Sure, you may have to stab a bit early, but with his upside, there’s very little risk and the reward could be fantastic.

Doug Baldwin – SEA, ADP 30 – Now we’re in the fourth round and you find yourself drafting the under valued Baldwin… great, he’s a wonderful fantasy asset. So is his starting QB. Russell Wilson is being drafted criminally late; current ADP data shows him going in the 8th round. Not bad when every catch counts double for your team.

Terrell Pryor – WAS, ADP 48 – There’s some questions surrounding the former QB, but his athleticism and ability to read a defense makes him an intriguing WR1 for the Washington Redskins. Kirk Cousins seems to be perpetually in a contract year so drafting him between rounds 8-10 serves up some serious upside when these two are clicking. Expect some huge weeks.

Golden Tate – DET, ADP 54 – Tate continues to be viewed with skeptisism even after he proved when he’s on the field he’s every bit the number one receiver Detroit envisioned when Calvin Johnson retired. He’s also a great option if you like to wait on your QB’s considering that, despite off-season praise from owners and coaches, Matt Stafford (and his 600+ attempts) are being drafted as late as the 12-13th rounds!

I’d caution against hitching your wagon to QB/WR combo’s for teams that don’t consistently produce through the air. While the options above feature offenses built around their respective stars, there are several teams that don’t offer much in terms of added value. Chicago, the Jets, Houston, or Cleveland are all obvious choices to avoid.

As always, do your research and think as abstractly as you can; it’s important to adjust on the fly and not be too dialed into any strategy going into the draft. Do you agree with our pairs above or have a different strategy that’s worked for you? Well feel free to let us know; leave a comment or send us an e-mail. As always, happy drafting!

 

Cracking the Top 10: Quarter Backs

DaltonSo maybe I’ve beaten a dead horse a bit on the bounce back and sleeper picks for QB’s… after all how many are really going to get drafted? Still, there has to be a line in the sand for elite QB1 options and the rest of the group. Who (aside from Joe Flacco… who I will refrain from including in this article) has the potential for a breakout, top 10 season?

Least Risk: Philip Rivers – Los Angelas Chargers – Rivers slots in on my ranks around the 14th spot, meaning he only has to leap four of the QB’s ahead of him. While age is certainly a concern amongst gunslinger type QB’s like Rivers, there’s little evidence that he’s slowing down. It’s clear that, despite the return of Keenan Allen and excpected return of Travis Benjami, LA is committed to giving Rivers more weapons as they drafted one of the best wide outs in the 2017 draft in Mike Williams. Coupled with a capable run game, Rivers is locked and loaded for a massive year.

A Little RiskMarcus Mariota – Tennessee Titans – If you’re convinced that the Titans are going to ease Mariota back into the playbook following his season ending injury, then by all means, pass on the talented QB. Adding Corey Davis doesn’t seem like they’re committed fully to a run-first scheme, although they certainly want to remain balanced. The upside through the air is modest at best as Mariota still conforms to the NFL game, but his ability to make yards on the ground keep defenses honest and give him space to work. Don’t be alarmed if he starts slow, he’ll be well worth the pick by the end of the season.

Most Risk: Andy Dalton – Cincinnatti Bengals – We’ve heard this one before; Andy Dalton is poised to break out. It certainly doesn’t help having to play fantastic defenses in the ACF North but with John Ross and AJ Green, Dalton has two exceptional burners, and newly aquired RB (via the draft) Joe Mixon rounds out an already formidable backfield capable of catching passes. It may be a bit of a stretch as we can expect a boring, balanced offense in Cincy, but I won’t be surprised if he catches lightning in a bottle to push that top 10 group.

Cracking the Top 10: Running Backs

080714-carlos-thumbEvery year there is significant turnover amongst Fantasy’s top 10 Running Backs, and drafters spend numerous hours pouring over data and stats to find the next guy who’ll slot in where others have failed.

It’s a grueling process, but when a gut pick is right, the feeling of success is second to none. The Running back position is especially volatile due to the injurious nature of the position.

There’s a reason why Backs tend to retire young.

So who can you target outside of the first 10-20 picks that may return first round value?

Least Risk: Lamar Miller, RB – HOU

While it sure feels like Miller has been in the league a long time, the fact is that when the season starts he’ll still only be 26 years old. Houston may not have improved much in terms of the QB situation, but Miller still managed to average over 11 points per week in standard formats, and his 160 points were good for 17th amongst RB despite only playing 14 games and often being limited due to injury. Miller is being drafted currently at 22nd over all (3rd round) as the 13th back off the board, but his ceiling is firmly in the top 10 and possibly as a top 5 back.

A little Risk: Carlos Hyde, RB – SF

Workload has never been an issue for running backs in San Fransisco, but the prevailing question about who’s lining up around him continues to be a cause for concern. In 13 games last year Carlos Hyde average 12.7 points per game (standard scoring) which was good for 10th amongst RBs. But it’s a look at his game log that reminds one just how consistent he is. Over the season Hyde averaged 70 or more yards on the ground 8 out of 13 weeks, while sprinkling in at least one TD in more than half of the games he started. In the 3rd round, Hyde provides a monster ceiling as the only real weapon in San Fran’s offense.

Most Risk: Isaiah Crowell, RB – CLE

The Crow, as he’s affectionately referred to by fans, has the dubious distinction of being the best offensive player on a pretty awful offensive team. This is the main reason his numbers last year were so wildly inconsistent. Despite averaging 4.8 yards per carry, Crowell finished 7 weeks with less than 40 yards on the ground. This is a testament to how ineffective the offense was last year. If the offense around him can improve even slightly, there’s reason to believe Crowell can crack the top 10 and push even further.