Monthly Archives: July 2018
When healthy, Michael Crabtree is one of the NFL’s most underrated goal line threats, and if his current ADP is any indication, he’s not getting nearly enough respect after signing with the Ravens in the off season. Since 2012, Crabtree is one of only four players with four seasons over 8 TDs; Antonio Brown, A.J. Green, Michael Crabtree, and Brandon Marshall.
Aside from Marshall (who’s not worth drafting after he proved last year he’s washed up), Green and Brown are consensus top 10 players at the position while Crabtree is being selected way down in the 8th round. Is it because the recency bias has us down on the Ravens as a passing attack? Is it because he was shipped out of San Fransisco early in his career with the too-soon label of draft bust?
Whatever the reason, it’s safe to say he’s been getting the Rodney Dangerfield treatment pretty much all off season. Going into 2018, Crabtree is the undisputed #1 receiver in an offense that is looking to improve all over the field. With pressure from having Lamar Jackson in the fold, reports out of Baltimore is that Flacco looks as good as he’s ever looked, and that he’s targeting Crabtree heavily in the red zone already.
If you’re looking for your low risk WR3 who has massive upside, look no further than Crabtree in the 8th. Currently going around 77th overall, expect him to far out perform those around him. With a lack of proven performers around him, Crabtree should factor in heavily in targets; I expect him to hit the 120 mark, collecting around 70 receptions and 750 yards while seeing the end-zone around 9-11 times. If he can carve out the 140 target range, he’s a high end WR2 with a very manageable floor.
We’ve been pounding the Devante Parker drum pretty loudly in the debate between Parker or Stills, but overlooked in all of this is that someone is going to play in the slot, and its not likely to be either of those players. Albert Wilson was our early favorite to absorb a lot of the targets Landry vacated from that position, especially given the contract he was handed in the off season (3 years, 24 million). Now, it’s looking like that may not be the case.
In a recent article by Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, there are signs that Albert Wilson isn’t getting the kind of attention with the starters that many of us expected he would. Currently, Danny Amendola has been playing with the team’s ones in the slot, adding fuel to the fire that he may somehow usurp the starting gig from Wilson.
How Miami intends to use it’s 4 wide outs remains a mystery, and with the money they handed out for both guys, it’s an interesting camp battle to watch. While we still think Wilson is the guy to target late in drafts, don’t sleep on Amendola as a potential break out.
Whoever wins that job out of camp is in line for 100+ targets, and that’s nothing to sneeze at as late as both guys are going.
It’s rare that a player with as much talent as John Brown has struggles as much as he has to stick with an NFL team. Of course, it can largely be attributed to his ongoing health issues as he continues to deal with a sickle-cell trait. But what John Brown provides this year is a prime example of a post hype breakout candidate.
The news out of Baltimore is mostly positive, as explained most recently in a tweet by The Athletic-Baltimore senior writer Jeff Zrebic in a tweet on Saturday 7/28.
Breshad Perriman also had a nice practice. Beat Humphrey deep on one play. Made several other plays. John Brown continues to stand out among WRS.
— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) July 28, 2018
While every off season program has it’s fair share of pump-the-tires hyperbole, it’s far from surprising given the flashes we’ve seen from Brown in the past. It wasn’t long ago that the former Cardinals receiver posted 65 receptions on 101 targets for over 1,000 yards and 7 TDs. The fantasy community was ready to pounce in 2016, with his ADP at the time creeping into the late stages of the 7th round.
Unfortunately, the breakout never came, and after two sub-par seasons in Arizona, Brown was jettisoned as a lost cause. Clearly he’s making a case to be one of Baltimore’s top wide outs as Joe Flacco’s weapons seem to be restocked in a way they weren’t in years past. If he does earn himself a starting spot, a healthy Brown opposite Michael Crabtree could be a tough match up for defenses.
In fantasy terms, aside from staying on the field, his ceiling is incredibly high considering he’s not even being drafted in most mock drafts. Of course we don’t advocate taking a swing at him early, but in the last few rounds you could do worse than a wide out who’s already got one 1,000 yard season under his belt. While Michael Crabtree will get all the attention from fantasy owners, keep Brown in your back pocket as the season creeps on.
One of the more surprising break out running backs in 2017 was Baltimore back Alex Collins. A former 5th round pick for the Seattle Seahawks, it seemed Collins was destined to be Kenneth Dixon’s backup until a torn meniscus cost Dixon the entire 2017 season. Even with less competition for carries, Collins didn’t get the chance to showcase his skills fully until he was given 12 touches in week 4. From there, he never looked back, racking up 767 yards over a 12 week stretch.
His per game numbers were solid, averaging nearly 63 yards per game and reaching the end zone in 5 of his final 7 games. Interestingly enough, his performance in the passing game steadily improved as well as he received 4 or more targets in 4 of those 7 games. Going into 2018 the feeling is that Collins did enough last year to own the starting gig out of training camp.
I’d be inclined to agree… except that Kenneth Dixon is still on the roster.
Despite the suspensions and injuries, Baltimore refused to cut bait with Dixon, leading many to believe (myself included) that he’ll be a large part of this Baltimore offense. That’s not to suggest Collins won’t get much work, because the truth is that until he cedes the touches, he’s likely to maintain the top spot. What it does mean, is that expecting Collins to rush the football more than 200 times may be a bit of a stretch.
I’m not a huge advocate of handcuffing your backs, but in leagues with deep enough benches, Dixon is the kind of back worth handcuffing. If Collins gets hurt or is ineffective, Dixon has the talent to produce with a full workload. His current ADP (per Fantasy Football Calculators’ data) is around the 150 mark (16th round). If you can’t swing him as a depth player, or someone snags him early, just know Collins is one of the more volatile “starting” running backs, and may end up losing touches early if he’s just not as good in 2018.
Back when I started playing Fantasy Football in the early aughts, the landscape was very different. With bell cow running backs being the crowning jewels of fantasy championships everywhere, it was important to secure a handcuff or two lest you be left with a dreaded committee back.
Flash forward 15 years and the fantasy community rarely discusses the “hand cuff” anymore.
I like to write an article every year about my thoughts on selecting a handcuff or skipping one all together. The thought process behind the decision is an interesting one, and it’s worth discussing with drafts firmly on the horizon.
An Argument Against
If you’re new to the Dr. Fantasy blog, I’d first like to welcome you, and second like to let you in on a little secret: I never handcuff.
While that statement may “scream” hyperbole, it’s mostly true. Unless a player provides me with more value than other players in a particular tier, then I don’t see the value in drafting said player. Targeting the handcuff for Todd Gurley (John Kelly), Le’Veon Bell (James Conner), David Johnson (Chase Edwards), or Zeke Elliott (Rod Smith) is a wasted pick in my opinion.
Last year’s injury to David Johnson shines a light on why this strategy doesn’t typically work. Chris Johnson and Kerwynn Williams were popular handcuff/adds but following Johnson’s injury, the Cardinals went out and acquired Adrian Peterson to infuse some life into a backfield that was suddenly struggling. By the end of the year, no one proved to be worth a roster spot for more than a week or two at a time. Instead, that roster spot would have been better spent on a back who already owned a share of it’s backfield like James White or Chris Thompson.
An Argument For
Now this may seem like a thin argument, but there are a few scenarios in which I could see myself targeting a handcuff. In most cases it’s a reaction to the draft, as being forced to draft Lamar Miller makes it easy to lock up D’Onta Foreman later in the draft.
Of course, as a cop out, he’s one of my break out targets to begin with, but this strategy works with a lot of middle tier backs. Selecting Kenneth Dixon to pair with Alex Collins, or Corey Clement to go with Jay Ajayi are low risk plays that mitigate the effects of a starter losing his job due to inefficiency rather than injury.
Don’t discount what a player like Chris Thompson or Dion Lewis can do as well given how many time’s they’ll touch the football regardless of whether the “lead back” is healthy. If adding one of them means having a 3 down back should an injury occur, then this method of handcuffing I can get behind.
If you’re going to handcuff, don’t just throw darts at guys you wouldn’t roster even if they won the job. Like Chris Johnson last year showed; getting playing time doesn’t automatically make a player worth owning.
I’d rather use the waiver to fill the bottom of my roster than hoping Rod Smith gets a chance to touch the football 20 times a game; it’s far more conducive to a successful squad.
It seems that lately, all anyone wants to talk about is the incoming class of rookie backs and what their fantasy contributions may be. While I agree that the topic is a hot button debate, there still exists a narrative surrounding second year starter Mitch Trubisky, and what he’s capable of with Matt Nagy as his head coach.
While the offensive Coordinator for Kansas City, Nagy took a career “game manager” in Alex Smith and improved on his down the field passing game. From 2016 to 2017, Smith improved from QB15 (15.5 points per game) to QB3 (19.9 points per game). Using data over at PlayerProfiler.com it’s easy to see the transformation just by looking at the numbers.
- In 2016, Smith was the QB15 with 15.5 points per game. This was a result of a lack of dynamic play calling; he was 21st in attempts (489), 15th in red zone attempts (70), and 26th in deep balls attempted (46).
- In 2017, he was 3rd in points per game at 19.9. He finished 9th in red zone attempts (68), 6th in deep ball attempts (68), and 2nd in deep ball completion percentage at around 45%
Now, this kind of growth can’t be expected to just pop up in Trubisky’s game despite the talk that it will. Trubisky was QB29 in points per game last year, and many of his metrics graded out even more poorly than Smiths’ 2016 season. While I do expect him to creep out of the basement in terms of down the field passing (he was 32nd among qualifying QB’s with on 30 passes over 20 yards last year), it may be a bit extreme to expect this team to pass the ball with enough consistency to produce a player worth starting every week.
Last year the Bears finished 29th in Passing Play Percentage (data provided by teamrankings.com) with 52%. With Jordan Howard a safe bet to collect 275 carries, it’s reasonable to expect Trubisky to have somewhere in the 475 attempts range. Our prediction for a full season is as follows:
- Passing: 470 attempts, 290 completions, 3450 yards, 24 TDs and 15 INTs
- Rushing: 50 rushes, 315 yards, 2 TDs
Overall, the Dr. expects about a QB14 finish, but with any young QB the range of outcomes is somewhat severe. If he regresses with a new scheme, we could be cutting bait with him early. Still, at an average draft day price of about 18th round, he’s likely your back up QB, and if he pans out as we expect him to here, then he’s a steal at that current price.
When New England made Sony Michel their first round draft pick in the 2017 NFL draft, it marked only the 2nd time since 1998 that the Patriots invested that kind of draft capital into the running back position. We all know how the Laurence Maroney experiment turned out, but the bigger question is does Michel’s selection signal the end to another long standing New England past time: the Committee?
After day one of mini camp, the news out of New England was that Michel was involved pretty heavily in the passing game, catching one touchdown pass in 11 on 11 drills that seemed to fire up veteran QB Tom Brady. While it’s important to take this type of thing with a grain of salt, it still speaks to the potential for Michel to see a large number of touches week to week.
It’s been a long time since a New England running back was used heavily, but if Michel can protect the football, it appears that the Patriots will be interested in using him on three downs. With one notable fumble on ball control drills, there’s some reason for concern (Michel fumbled once for ever 54 touches in college, a largely concerning number especially given Bill Belichick’s propensity to sit guys if they can’t protect).
But it’s a process that we’ll have to keep track, especially if one is interested in drafting the Georgia Bulldog. It appears, though, that he’ll be given every chance to take control of a mostly listless backfield, something we predict to be the case early in the season.
Every year we examine the NFL’s most volatile committees in hopes that we can navigate the potential mine field and find the guys that will eventually rise to the top. Of course, this is one of those articles that must be taken with a grain of salt as many of these turn out to be black holes for fantasy contributors, but if you’re stuck drafting from a committee, this should help you decide where to turn.
New England Patriots
It wouldn’t be a committee report without the Patriots firmly at the top of the list. Of course, this year it’s a different look as the Pats selected Sony Michel in the first round (something the Patriots mostly never do). Also present on the roster are pass catching specialist James White, Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillisleee, and Jeremy Hill.
Current ADP rankings show that Pats backs are being selected in this order: Sony Michel (52nd), Rex Burkhead (81st), James White (148th), Jeremy Hill (204th), Mike Gillislee (UN).
The best value may belong to James White in the 15th round. With his 90 targets last year, his value is equal to that of a decent WR3, yet he’s being selected in the “flier rounds” as teams look to fill in the bottom of their benches. Burkhead has shown promise before, but his role is so undefined that I’m loath to put a pick towards him in the 9th round.
This is the kind of committee that won’t be resolved at all this year, so over paying for a back like Sony Michel could be a sure fire way to torpedo your draft. I won’t suggest he won’t be valuable in fantasy terms, but understanding how the Patriots operate leads me to believe that ball control and inexperience should prohibit him from turning in a top 20 season in 2018.
Another team that’s been devoid of a true number one for a decade or more, the Lions did little to clear up it’s perennial committee by signing LeGarette Blount and drafting Kerryon Johnson to further muddy the future. With Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah still floating around, it’s going to be difficult for anyone to separate themselves from the pack in this backfield.
Current ADP draft data shows the following selection information: Kerryon Johnson (78th), LeGarette Blount (111th), Ameer Abdullah (114th), Theo Riddick (UN)
What concerns me is that Detroit has typically been a pass first team, and I don’t expect them to pound the ball with any great frequency this year either. The last time a Lions team had more than 400 attempts as a team was in 2014, and Reggie Bush and Joique Bell had about a 60/40 split.
Considering the consistency of this committee, expecting anything more than 200 carries for either Johnson or Blount is a pipe dream. My prediction is that Blount leads the team in carries with around 170, while Johnson sees 150 and Riddick/Abdullah/Zenner combine for around 30. If Riddick wasn’t as capable a passing down back, one could make an argument for Johnson to contribute in other ways, but as currently constituted, I’m not touching this backfield.
In typical Cleveland fashion, the Browns front office drafted Nick Chubb despite the hefty contract handed out in free agency to Carlos Hyde. Already on the roster is pass catching back Duke Johnson, who figures to remain involved as well. So what does this mean for the fantasy prospects of each back above? It means we have no real idea.
Here is the ADP data for the Cleveland backfield: Carlos Hyde (68th), Nick Chubb (93rd), Duke Johnson (123rd).
The ADP values above represent how difficult it is to value these Cleveland running backs. Of course, part of the problem is that the fantasy community is so in love with rookie running backs that it’s ignoring how much value Carlos Hyde has as a starter. Chubb, on the other hand, doesn’t factor into the passing game, and his draft profile suggests that a lack of game breaking skills and inability to break tackles makes him a distant second in terms of attempts.
What this does mean, is that Carlos Hyde is being seriously undervalued in the 7th round. Of the teams roughly 380 carries, I expect him to handle 240 or so, with Chubb and Johnson splitting the remaining 140. The passing game should shift mostly to Johnson, but don’t discount Hyde’s ability to play in the passing game either; he should have a healthy number of targets, even if Duke Johnson leads the way in the category.
The Dolphins don’t want to be a committee, but this time every year we seem to have the same conversation. Is the guy they picked really the guy to draft? Kenyan Drake had a nice little run at the end of the season, getting three games in with more than 15 rushes and a healthy dose of targets in the passing game. Unfortunately for him, the team brought in veteran Frank Gore and rookie Kalen Ballage to make his RB2 status look worse and worse by the day.
The draft values for these guys look as follows: Kenyan Drake (45th), Kalen Ballage (172), and Frank Gore (177th).
You may think, looking at those numbers, that Drake is a safe bet, but in my gut it feels that these two other backs are here for a reason. With no real track record prior to week 12, the success he had may be no more than a mirage. With two games against Buffalo, a game against New England, and one against Denver, it seems he may have benefited from mediocre opponents. Gore should be given a healthy portion of touches; just enough to hurt Drake’s prospects but not enough to make him draftable.
The more intriguing guy is Kalen Ballage. Miami has enjoyed using it’s backs in the passing game for years and while many of Jarvis Landry’s targets should go to Parker/Amendola/Stills, he stands out as the most capable pass catcher of the trio. If he can pass block, and it sounds like he won’t have a problem, he could see a larger time share than we expect. At 45th overall, I’m not touching Drake without some kind of assurance from HC Adam Gase on his usage. At this point, I’m willing to take a flyer on Ballage, but not much more.
Green Bay Packers
This is a pass first team, so trying to target the running back to own is like trying to decide which warm bottle of water to take quench your thirst with. It’s been years now since Eddie Lacy was a top tier fantasy back, and every year someone else has inhabited the collective minds of fantasy football, and every year we seem to be wrong. Last year it was Ty Montgomery who was the draft season darling; I cautioned you against using a high pick on him. He proved me right.
This year, it’s Jamal Williams who has the “inside track” to the bulk of the carries, but what does that even mean in this offense?
Here are the draft positions for this particular backfield: Jamaal Williams (87th), Aaron Jones (91st), Ty Montgomery (101nd).
Green Bay, not surprisingly, doesn’t run the ball as often as it’s opponents. Of it’s 386 attempts, only 326 of them went to the running backs groups. Ty Montgomery isn’t likely to have more than 40-60 attempts, but that still only leaves around 250-275 rushes for two backs that had, at one point in 2017, held the starter role for this team.
While Williams will have the first stab at the job thanks to Aaron Jones’ suspension, it’s important to note that he was uninspiring with the touches he did get. His 556 yards on 153 carries was good for an underwhelming 3.6 yards per carry. While it was in a smaller sample size, Aaron Jones 5.5 yards per carry looked a lot better from a fantasy perspective.
Drafting any of these backs is a crap shoot, but my breakdown is thus: target Montgomery as a late round flier in PPR leagues, and target Jones in the 9-11th round as a stash. His 2 game suspension shouldn’t prohibit him from wining the job as he was the best suited for 3 downs last year.
The Eagles haven’t had a legit lead back since it shipped LeSean McCoy out years ago during the Chip Kelley debacle. Instead, they’ve been one of the most predictable committees in the NFL. Since McCoy’s final season in Philly (2014), the highest attempts total was DeMarco Murray’s 193 the season after. Since then, it’s been names like Ryan Matthews and LeGarrette Blount leading the committee.
While it’s unlikely to change dramatically in 2018, the addition of Jay Ajayi may clear things up a little bit. We do expect Darren Sproles to handle a lot of the passing downs when healthy, but of the remaining backs, Ajayi represents the teams best chance at stability with Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood not profiling as a three down back.
A quick at the draft positions for these backs looks like this: Jay Ajayi (32nd), Corey Clement (114th), Darren Sproles (UN)
Still, expecting Ajayi to have 200+ carries is a bit optimistic. It’s hard to qualify head coach Doug Pederson’s track record with running backs because Jamal Charles was hurt every year but one when he was the OC in Kansas City, but when he played, the Chiefs gave the football to Charles a lot. Could that be a sign of things to come with Ajayi representing the best talent he’s had to work with in Philly?
I’d argue at his current draft position, Ajayi is far more stable than some of the rookie backs ahead of him. I don’t expect an RB1 finish, but he’s a solid candidate for RB2 numbers. Likewise, I’m not touching Clement unless it’s as a cuff in deep leagues. Sproles offers a little value in PPR formats, but his health and age don’t inspire confidence that he’ll finish the year healthy.
The Big Finish
While these backs will cost you far less draft capital than some of their contemporaries, it’s important to stay grounded. Overvaluing players because of the research your doing now can cost you big time if you hold on to them too long. These are the perfect players to throw darts at because you can drop them pretty quick. As always, adjust your rankings accordingly (maybe with a few of these guys highlighted), and happy drafting!
When Jason Witten announced his retirement prior to the draft this year, it signaled the end of an era in Dallas. Gone is his steady fantasy production, and instead, Dallas is left with a massive void that has yet to be shored up.
So who should we look at in the late rounds as his potential replacement?
The fact is that this team is devoid of any real obvious choices. For a time, converted basketball player Rico Gathers was garnering attention for his size and athleticism. Likewise, Geoff Swaim, the longest serving member of Dallas’ tight end group, has generated some buzz for his ability to stay on the field as an above average run blocker.
But do any of the incumbents have what it takes to be fantasy relevant?
It’s important to note that the group of players vying for “starter” minutes is about 4 deep. Early depth charts list Swaim as the first option, but from there things get interesting. CBS Sports lists 24 year old former Alabama TE Blake Jarwin ahead of rookie Dalton Schultz and the aforementioned Gathers, despite playing only 3 snaps as an undrafted free agent.
A recent article published at Dallas News made light of the fact that it’s been Jarwin, not Swaim or Gathers, that has been targeted the most in the pre-season by Prescott. Does this kind of chemistry trump the intangibles that Swaim brings to the table in the run game?
While I fully expect Swaim to be the first choice thanks to his acumen in the rushing game, I’ll be keeping an eye on Jarwin to be the kind of player who can step into that safety net roll Witten inhabited for years. Clearly, if the off season reports are to be believed, Jarwin’s rapport with Prescott has impressed already. I wouldn’t suggest drafting him, except maybe in the deepest leagues, but I do suggest monitoring this group as Dallas continues to try and replace the production it lost when Witten retired.
According to reports out of Cincinnati, Tyler Eifert has been placed on the PUP list and wil
l, at the very least, miss the start of training camp with his lingering back injury. Taking his snaps will be fourth year man Tyler Kroft.
The injury for Eifert is just one of many as he’s currently missed 42 games over the last 4 years. Forced to start, Kroft proved to be a reliable source of TE2 numbers – his 42 receptions for 404 yards and 7 TDs were good for 15th at the position last year.
If you’re thinking about drafting either player, temper your expectations. While Eifert’s history suggests he’ll miss a sizable portion of the season, it’s important to note that Kroft won’t contribute much while Eifert is healthy. At this point, we won’t suggest drafting either player, but we do think it’s a situation worth monitoring.
Currently, we have Eifert and Kroft ranked 28th and 29th at the position respectively. At this point, too many variables are in play for us to feel comfortable drafting them. If you do, make them a late round flier at best but be prepared to cut bait if they become injured or under perform.