Monthly Archives: May 2019

Friday Mock Review: A Kelce Dilemma

We’re going to try something a little new over here at the Dr’s Office, with a once-a-week mock draft and review. Each week we’ll draft from a different position in the draft and take a look at each major draft strategy to give you an idea of what to expect on draft day. 

I have always preached the merits of waiting on a Quarterback and Tight End, mainly because the value at the top of those positions is hardly worth the draft capital it requires to draft either.

This year, though, Travis Kelce may be the man to buck that trend. His target share alone is enough to consider him in the same territory as the top 5 available WR’s, but his TD upside may make him more valuable than all but a handful of receiving options, and in standard leagues, his value skyrockets with Tyreek Hill potentially missing some, if not all, of the 2019 season.

It’s important to note that currently Kelce’s ADP sits around 15. For the sake of the exercise, we’ll be drafting at the end of the first round to ensure that we have a chance to draft him in the second round. Here is how we’d handle drafting Kelce as early as we can.

Pick 1.7 – Melvin Gordon, RB – Los Angeles Chargers

We know our plan is to land Kelce in the 2nd round, so we’re committed to taking our top RB in the first round. Gordon does have some injury risk but of the available backs, he profiles as a top 5 back the best (James Conner, Le’Veon Bell, and Joe Mixon were the other backs on my radar).

Pick 2.4 – Travis Kelce, TE – Kansas City Chiefs

So this was the plan all along, and considering that my entire top tier of receivers is off the board, it actually feels about right for Kelce. Given his past performances and the turnover in the passing game, I feel that he’ll be the top target in this elite passing offense. 100+ receptions, 1,200-1,400 yards and 10-13 TDs makes him an elite option even among the top WR’s in the game.

Pick 3.7 – T.Y. Hilton, WR – Indianapolis Colts

This pick highlights the obstacles that one must overcome when throwing a dart at the TE position this early. While Keenan Allen was the top option on my board, I’m hesitant to add a 2nd Chargers player with my first three picks, and A.J. Green’s injury history scares me as a top option on my roster. Hilton may not have the ceiling that Green has, but he is in a top tier passing offense, and should see a large number of targets and is surprisingly durable over the course of his career. You could argue that grabbing a second back here is a smart move, but looking at the next tier at the RB position, I’d rather pair Gordon with a player like Kerryon Johnson than passing on a WR for Marlon Mack or Aaron Jones.

Pick 4.4 – Kerryon Johnson, RB – Detroit Lions

As mentioned previously, my aim in the 3rd round was in hopes I could land Johnson in the fourth. With the long turn ahead of us, I was content nailing down one of my favorite targets in 2019. Of course, a case could be made for taking A.J. Green as he was still available at this time. If you’re convinced that he’s got 13-16 games in him this year, then he’s an easy sell in the fourth round. After all, he still manages nearly ten targets per game when he’s on the field, but his health concerns me and I have plenty of other players I like coming up.

Pick 5.7 – Chris Godwin, WR – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2018 saw Godwin pay dividends for owners who targeted him as a potential breakout. Receiving 95 targets despite a crowded wide receiver group, Godwin turned in a solid performance with 850 yards and 7 TDs. Now with Bruce Arians at the helm, and plenty of additional targets vacated by the departing DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries, Godwin suddenly has a WR2 ceiling and a relatively safe floor. There’s always some concern when a player is thrust into a larger role, but I’m confident that Godwin can be a league winner in 2019 at his current value.

Pick 6.4 – Calvin Ridley, WR – Atlanta Falcons

While the sixth round certainly features plenty of interesting names (Tyler Boyd and Sony Michel are two players we like as fantasy contributors this year) but it came down to two young receivers with elite talent and interesting usage numbers; Mike Williams and Calvin Ridley. While Williams does have some usage concerns (only 66 receptions last year and a QB who’s arm strength has waned as he approaches the end of a long career), we’re confident that Calvin Ridley can continue to build on his 2018 season that saw him log 820 yards and 10 TDs. His ceiling may not be as high as Williams (top 10 at the position) his floor is firmly in the WR2 territory in our minds.

Pick 7.7 – Kenyan Drake, RB – Miami Dolphins

While we were certainly not kind to Drake in our rankings last year, that had more to do with our lack of faith in Adam Gase the head coach. When they added Frank Gore in free agency and Kalen Ballage in the draft, it was obvious that they didn’t trust Drake to carry the load, and his usage reflected this fact. Now with Gore gone, it’s Drake’s backfield, and I’d be very surprised if new offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea didn’t lean heavily on him in 2019. Given the PPR nature of this mock league as well, and Drake’s floor becomes far less precarious as he’s likely to haul in 40-60 passes again this year.

Pick 8.4 – Christian Kirk, WR – Arizona Cardinals 

I’m early on Kirk, this I know, but facing that long turn, I decided I’d take a player I believed in regardless of who was available “ahead” of him. Guys like Chris Carson and Tarik Cohen don’t excite me given potential competition for touches from Rashaad Penny and David Montgomery respectively, and neither Marvin Jones or Will Fuller profile as anything other than a mediocre WR3 prospect. Kirk, on the other hand, has significant upside in an offense that can only be better in 2019. As the likely focal point going forward (despite the presence of the ageless Larry Fitzgerald) Kirk could figure into the WR2 discussions this year.

Pick 9.7 – James White, RB – New England Patriots

Given that this mock draft is formatted as a full point PPR, it’s amazing to me to see the RB7 in 2018 available at pick 87. James White is one of the leagues most consistent pass catchers out of the backfield, and with the potential for another 70 receptions in 2019, he’s a player I absolutely want to target in every draft. Even if he regresses, he’s still a solid back end RB2 in most PPR leagues.

Pick 10.3 – Jameis Winston, QB – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

At this point in the draft, you’re left selecting a QB based on one of two things. His upside or his consistency. Instead of selecting a Rivers or Roethlisberger, who we expect will both settle in as a fringe QB1, we went with a player who has all the tools to be a top 5 fantasy QB, but hasn’t had the best track record thanks to off the field issues and turn over problems. With Arians in town, it’s clear that Tampa is trying to overhaul it’s persona, and with the offense in Winston’s hands right from week 1, we’re excited to see what he can do.

Pick 11.7 –  Dion Lewis, RB – Tennessee Titans

There aren’t many better pass catchers at the running back position in the league than Dion Lewis, and despite the buzz surrounding Derrick Henry thanks to a monster month to close out the series, it’s Lewis who has the kind of value that helps make fantasy champions. He’ll continue to be heavily targeted out of the backfield, but don’t discount his ability to run the ball either. He struggled last year, which certainly has depressed his value, but 2018 feels more of an outlier than an ongoing expectation, and I’m thrilled to add Lewis in the 11th round.

Pick 12.3 – Kenny Stills, WR – Miami Dolphins

While it crossed my mind that adding a solid backup to Travis Kelce may be a wiser move here (especially considering that I spent a 2nd round pick at the position) I’m more interested in adding to the depth at my weakest position. I was never really enamored with Kenny Stills, but over the past 5 seasons he’s had 80 or more targets three times, and one could argue his lack of consistency can be attributed to poor coaching and sub par quarterback play. While Ryan Fitzpatrick only represents a modest improvement under center, the truth is that the Stills is probably the best option in a passing game devoid of game breakers. He’s not exciting, but 60 catches for 800 yards isn’t anything to sneeze at out of a fifth receiver, and if he can frequent the end zone, he could be a worth while depth player for byes and injury starts.

Pick 13.7 – Jared Goff, QB – Los Angeles Rams

I could have taken Austin Ekeler as a handcuff for my first round pick Melvin Gordon, but truthfully I would hope the backs already on my roster would be a better option to plug into the starting lineup should I need an injury replacement. Goff, on the other hand, is the type of consistent fantasy asset that mitigates any downside to betting on Winston. If Jameis loses his job or fails to bounce back, I would be comfortable that Goff could keep me from missing a beat.

Pick 14.4 – Trey Burton, TE – Chicago Bears

He was a popular breakout pick last year, but the season didn’t really go Burton’s way despite a few flashes here and there. Does that mean he suddenly doesn’t possess the pass catching ability that saw him sign in Chicago in the first place? Of course not. He’s still the best option at TE on a team that’s still finding it’s identity on offense, and his coaching staff has a history of highlighting the tight end position as a heavily targeted part of the passing game. While I don’t expect him to be Kittle 2.0, I’m more than happy to stash him in the event of a Kelce injury or for trade bait should they both play well.

Pick 15.7 – D’Onta Foreman, RB – Houston Texans

We expected Foreman to struggle to return from a devastating ankle injury, so last season’s performance wasn’t much of a shock. This is the year that we’re targeting him as a flier, knowing that it won’t take much to steal a healthy chunk of rushes from the aging Lamar Miller in Houston. As a far more explosive player, Foreman is a low risk high reward type draft pick who’s roster spot isn’t secured but makes for an interesting stash in PPR formats.

Pick 16.4 – Devante Parker, WR – Miami Dolphins

As my final bench player, Parker is the kind of late round pick that I can live with. With the kind of buzz he received over the previous few seasons, it’s surprising to me that no one is willing to admit that maybe the issue was with the coaching staff and quarterback play. While I still expect Stills to be the top option in that passing game, I’m willing to take a swing at Parker and see if the athletic ability that made him popular a few years back can finally show through in his play on the field.

Pick 17.7 – Cleveland Browns D/ST 

I stream defenses anyhow, but the Browns added a lot of excellent pieces in the off season and look to be improved all over in 2019.

Pick 18.4 – Stephen Gostkowski, K – New England Patriots

Gostkowski continues to be one of the more consistent fantasy kickers. If he regresses, who cares… it’s just the kicker.

Final Roster 

  • QB: Jameis Winston, Jared Goff
  • RB: Melvin Gordon, Kerryon Johnson, James White, Kenyan Drake, Dion Lewis, D’Onta Foreman
  • WR: T.Y. Hilton, Chris Godwin, Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk, Kenny Stills, Devante Parker
  • TE: Travis Kelce, Trey Burton

Final Thoughts

I ran the roster through both Fantasy Pro’s analysis and footballguys.com Rate My Team tool, and it stood out that the roster was a little lacking at the top, but was excellent in terms of depth. This is the sacrifice that you make to take Kelce in the second round. If I hit on a few of those middle round guys, this team could be a wagon, but the rub is that if any of my top guys go down early, I could be in a world of hurt.

Of course, I could have gone WR in the first round instead of Gordon, pairing a player like DeAndre Hopkins or Devante Adams with Kelce and rolling with back to back selections at RB in rounds 3 and 4 (a quick mock returned Hopkins, Kelce, Fournette, and Marlon Mack in the first 4 rounds). That core has it’s own questions but if you value having two elite players, then maybe that’s a route you could take.

All in all, targeting Kelce presents a scenario where you have to be comfortable adding players in the middle rounds that you may otherwise avoid. As evidenced in my draft, adding several pass catching backs to take advantage of the format was how I planned to combat the lack of excitement my starters generated. While we do like Kelce, remember that you’re passing up on a top 12 RB or top 5 WR to get him. This is impactful, and while Kelce could be a league winner in 2019, a poor performance or injury will completely torpedo your roster.

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The Committee Report: Tennessee Titans

Carolina Panthers v Tennessee TitansWhile many of our RBBC teams tend to raise more questions than have answers, we look at the 2019 Tennessee Titans as one of the easier two headed backfields to predict. The reason? The backfield in Tennessee has two very clearly defined roles between the elite pass catcher Dion Lewis and the downhill bruiser Derrick Henry.

Derrick Henry

There weren’t many better redemption stories than the one authored by former Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry. After a disappointing first half of the season, he broke out in a massive way in week 14, posting excellent numbers to finish the season and propelling many fantasy teams to championships. The evidence was there, though, as early as week 9. Before the bye week, Henry was averaging a paltry 39 yards per contest, good for 3.25 YPC, and a single TD, but following the bye, his efficiency immediately improved with a four game stretch that saw him nearly double his season total and increase his efficiency to 4.5 yards per carry.

Then week 14 happened. The 238 yard, 4 TD performance against a reeling Jacksonville defense kicked off a four week stretch where he had no fewer than 84 yards on the ground and nearly a TD each week. It’s important to take the monster performance with a grain of salt, but the peripheral numbers showed he seemed to figure out a few things.

Dion Lewis

Henry’s counterpart in the Titans offense, Lewis was actually given the Lions share of touches early on, recording 12.2 rushing attempts per game on top of 41 targets through week 10. Unfortunately for Lewis, he struggled in the run game, averaging less than 3.5 yards per carry, and ceding early down touches to Henry at a time that he was heating up. He maintained a stranglehold on the passing downs, but that was much as we expected. Lewis’ bottom line of 155 touches and 517 yards was far from dominant, and is probably where we’d caution that regression is coming. Don’t expect that kind of share of the attempts in 2019.

But can we expect a similar output in the passing game? I think health is his only enemy in terms of target share. As one of the better passing  game targets on the roster (only slightly behind perennial disappointment Corey Davis and the oft injured Delanie Walker) we can expect a similar number of targets (65-80) and his elite catch percentage means he’ll be a PPR gem in the 13th round (his current mock draft ADP).

2019 Outlook

Our biggest concern for this backfield is where Henry ultimately ends up being drafted. Currently going in the 4th round, he offers very little PPR upside, so he’s the kind of boom-or-bust back who’s TD dependency makes him a scary lead back in fantasy. While we do expect him to handle 250-300 touches, he may post a few duds as players of his ilk tend to do. In the 13th round, Dion Lewis is the real target in this offense. With a history of performances that make me think 2018 was a bit of an outlier, he’s still a threat to steal touches if Henry reverts to the sub 4YPC runner he’d been over the bulk of his career. If his ADP advances too far, then his value takes a hit, but both of these backs should prove to be fantasy producers in 2019.

Predictions

  • Derrick Henry | 265 Ru. Attempts, 1190 Ru. Yards, 10 TDs, 15 Rec. and 100 Receiving Yards.
  • Dion Lewis | 120 Ru. Attempts, 45 Ru. Yards, 1 TD, 60 Rec, 360 Rec. Yards, 3 Rec. TDs

 

Early Rankings – Top 10 TE

It’s early in the off season, and these rankings will likely take on a different form as we approach the start of the NFL season, but in an effort to map the journey, we’ll take a few days to give you a look at the top of each position and who we think is rising and who we think is falling. If you’re looking for overall rankings, our initial rankings will be posted at the links in the header this week as well. 
  1. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs – There shouldn’t be any question to who the top tight end is, and if Tyreek Hill is forced to miss time, then Kelce could be even more valuable as the primary passing target for one of the leagues best quarterbacks.
  2. George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers – When Jimmy G went down, us Kittle fans took a deep breath, and held it as he just charged on ahead as one of the top tight ends week in and week out. With Jimmy G back, it’s unlikely to change as Kittle has proven to be one of the most gifted pass catching TE’s in the league. Even a bit of regression doesn’t knock him out of my top 2.
  3. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles – Ertz saw his target share increase nearly 40% in 2019, from 110 to 156, and while there have been some notable additions to the offense, I expect Ertz to return as Carson Wentz top target most weeks. While he won’t get in the end zone more than 8-10 times, the sheer volume make him not only an excellent choice, but provides a top 3 floor nearly every week.
  4. Jared Cook, New Orleans Saints – Cook has long been the subject of sleeper lists and breakout articles, but last season he finally saw enough volume to produce along the lines we expected all along. Extremely athletic, Cook brings his talents to a much more amicable environment in New Orleans, and should step into the offense as a favorite target of Drew Brees. While I won’t suggest he’s the second coming of Jimmy Graham, I do expect him to managed the 100 target mark, and push a career high in TD’s.
  5. David Njoku, Cleveland Browns – All of the focus this offseason has been surrounding the addition of Odell Beckham to the Browns offense, and rightfully so, but don’t expect Njoku to take a step back in 2019. Just the contrary, as a solid route runner and excellent pass catcher, Njoku should find even more room to run, and in the red zone he’ll be a high volume target. His pedigree and skill set alone give him an outrageously high ceiling, and an improved offense in Cleveland should provide plenty of scoring opportunities.
  6. O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – This is the point in the TE rankings where the range of outcomes enters the risky territory. Howard presents an interesting case, as he’s expected to assume the lions share of targets from teammate Cameron Brate, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll see the kind of opportunity that could push him higher on this list. I think a safer assumption is that Howard will be a bit of a roller coaster this year, but there will be more good than bad.
  7. Eric Ebron, Indianapolis Colts – Maybe it’s my continued prejudices against the former Detroit Lion, or maybe it’s my concern that Jack Doyle is going to chew into the target share, but the truth is that Ebron silenced doubters with a strong 2018 campaign. A perfect example of a player just needing a change of scenery, Ebron smashed through his career highs, and could replicate those in 2019 given how often Andrew Luck has thrown to his tight ends over his career. I do expect a bit of regression, and injuries are a concern, but Ebron is worthy of a top 10 desigantion.
  8. Evan Engram, New York Giants – Engram regressed much how we expected in 2018 after his historic rookie season, but the main reason for that regression (the return of Odell Beckham) is no longer a concern. Sure, the Giants added Golden Tate to the offense, but Engram proved he can be an excellent contributor, and there is evidence to suggest that Eli Manning performs measurably better without OBJ on the field. Expecting 100 targets in 16 games may be too much to ask, but if he plays 14 or so, a 90 target, 65 reception season (and a lot of red zone work) is reasonable.
  9. Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers – Last year was supposed to be the year Henry finally emerged from the shadow of future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates, but his season was quickly lost to injury, derailing a sure hype train. Though slowed, it was never really derailed, and many outlets are viewing Henry as a top 5 scoring Tight End, but I’m not convinced it will be a smooth transition. After all, Mike Williams and Keenan Allen are one of the leagues better one two punches, and Melvin Gordon is as impactful as either of those two names. As the fourth option, I have a hard time investing in Henry as a top 5 pick, but at the back end of the TE1 range, his upside becomes intriguing.
  10. Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans – There aren’t many tight ends in the league right now with the kind of track record for solid fantasy contributions, but Walker ranks near the top of those. His most dynamic days are surely behind him, but despite a lost 2018, I’m not ready to write him off as a bounce back candidate. With Arthur Smith moving from the Tight Ends coach to the Offensive Coordinator, I’m expecting Matt LaFluer’s TE heavy approach to continue, and Walker should be in the mix nearly every week.

Friday Mock Review: 12 Team League

We’re going to try something a little new over here at the Dr’s Office, with a once-a-week mock draft and review. Each week we’ll draft from a different position in the draft and take a look at each major draft strategy to give you an idea of what to expect on draft day. 

With two 10 team Mock drafts under out belt, we’re going to expand our sights today to 12 team leagues. These drafts require a great deal more focus on those middle rounds, and we’ll be the first to admit that our data at this point is lacking. As we get closer to the season, we’ll revisit each of these and compare our findings. In an effort to give a variety of strategies, we randomly generated our draft spot and will be selecting 10 of 12.

1.10 – David Johnson, RB – Arizona Cardinals: With seven backs coming off the board, I’m surprised to see David Johnson sitting here. I understand the concerns remained after Johnson failed to return to his pre-injury form in 2018, but he’s still one of the safest first round backs thanks to guaranteed volume. I considered going with Davante Adams here to secure a top 3 WR, but I’m willing to roll the dice on who comes back around to me to ensure I’m starting with a potential top 5 player.

2.3 – Juju Smith-Schuster, WR – Pittsburgh Steelers: You could argue taking a second running back here is the wise move, especially given the larger pool of impact receivers, but in a twelve team league I’d rather have balance than risk it. Davante Adams and Michael Thomas went just before my pick, but I’m pleased to see Juju on the board here. With Antonio Brown vacating a large number of targets, and Smith-Schuster becoming the most dynamic play maker in that Steeler’s offense, and I’m confident that he’ll contribute consistently, and at a WR1 level most weeks.

3.10 – Stefon Diggs, WR – Minnesota Vikings: I do like a few of the names at the top of the RB list, most notable Marlon Mack and Aaron Jones, but the current tier of receivers leaves a lot to be desired. With that in mind, I see Diggs as the lone name left with the potential to really put up WR1 numbers. After all, his floor is the 100 catch, 1,000 yard, 6-8 TD range, and compared to the potential for disappointment with available players like Amari Cooper and Robert Woods, I’m comfortable with Diggs as my WR2.

4.3 – Kerryon Johnson, RB – Detroit Lions: Not given a fair shake until he put 100 yards up on the Patriots on September 23rd, Johnson quietly averaged over 70 yards per game to go with 24 receptions and 170 yards in the passing game during the stretch of games following before being shut down in week 11 of the season. With the Lions likely to commit a good portion of the backfield to Kerryon in 2019, I’m more than comfortable with his floor to add him as a solid RB2.

5.10 – Mike Williams, WR – Los Angeles Chargers: If you’re overly concerned about bye weeks, then this pick may look sketchy to you, but my goal is to assemble the best roster I can regardless of bye weeks, and work around them as the season progresses. With Mike Williams, I get a player who’s got the pedigree and skill set to be an elite receiver in this league, and while he’s a very solid WR3 while Keenan Allen is on the field, he becomes a coveted player if (when) Allen gets dinged up.

6.3 – Kenyan Drake, RB – Miami Dolphins: It was inexplicable the way Adam Gase refused to let shoulder the load last season in Miami, and with both Gase and Frank Gore gone, I see Drake as the undisputed top back in this offense. With excellent open field skills, above average pass catching skills, and the inside track for all three downs, I don’t expect Drake to be overlooked in the Brian Flores/Chad O’Shea coached Miami Dolphins offense.

7.10 – Sterling Shepard, WR – New York Giants: I’m reaching the point where I need to begin considering a QB, but with Shepard available, I can see a player who’s got an excellent chance to eat up many of Odell Beckham’s abandoned targets. Of course, with Eli Manning, you never really know how the offense is going to run, but with a little better protection, and an offense that runs through Saquon Barkley, Shepard is a low risk WR1 who could see a large number of targets in 2019.

8.03 – Jameis Winston, QB – Tampa Bay Buccaneers: He’s had a tumultuous few seasons in the NFL, but there’s never been doubt surrounding his ability. Now he has a veteran coach with an excellent offensive mind in Bruce Arians, and no QB controversy to speak of as Ryan Fitzpatrick has traveled across the state to Miami. I could have waited on a QB, and I would have been okay with a Jared Goff or Dak Prescott several rounds from now, but Winston intrigues me this season, and I’m not sold on the skill position players available (David Njoku, Chris Carson, Lamar Miller, Keke Coutee, and Dede Westbrook are all at the top of their positions).

9.10 – Rashaad Penny, RB – Seattle Seahawks: Drafting a RB here is akin to taking a flyer, after all, names like Jerick McKinnon, Rashaad Penny, Latavius Murray, and Dion Lewis don’t exactly inspire confidence. What Penny offers, though, is the closest thing to a three down back out of the lot of them. Chris Carson has a nice season for Seattle, but the fact remains that the Seahawks invested a high pick in Penny for a reason, and it’d be insane if they didn’t give him an opportunity to take some of those snaps. With Mike Davis gone as well, he could siphon some of the goal line touches to make up for any time share split.

10.3 – Nyheim Hines, RB – Indianapolis Colts: I feel that Hines isn’t getting nearly the respect he deserves in PPR leagues this season. I do have a few wide outs I’m targeting in the late rounds, so going back to back on running backs feels like a safer investment. Similar to backs like James White and Tarik Cohen, Hines profiles as a third down specialist, and his 63 receptions as a rookie were eye opening. Andrew Luck is going to throw the ball a ton this year, and while Marlon Mack will occupy the early downs, Hines could see 100 targets, and in the third 10th round that’s a steal.

11.10 – Trey Burton, TE – Chicago Bears: Not only does Trey Burton fill a need, as I waited on TE as long as I felt comfortable, he also represents the last great value at the position. The reasons we expected him to break out last year are still present, with a coaching staff that’s had success with pass catching tight ends in the past, and an ascending offense with a young but improving QB, and I see no reason not to bet on Burton in 2019 as a sneaky top 7 TE.

12.03 – Adam Humprhies, WR – Tennessee Titans: There is no other team in the NFL that’s done less with it’s talent (in my opinion) than the Tennessee Titans over the last few years. Whether it’s the lack of health at the QB position, or the lack of depth at the WR position, there’s no denying that this offense never really seems to live up to the hype. This off season they added slick slot receiver Adam Humphries in an effort to diversify on offense, and give Mariota another excellent pass catching weapon. There’s always the chance he goes the way of Rishard Matthews, but the potential for 100 targets makes him a very good WR5 in my eyes.

13.10 – D’Onta Foreman, RB – Houston Texans: With plenty of distance between now and his season ending Achilles injury, I expect Foreman to become a big part of Houston’s plans going forward. Lamar Miller has been a good soldier, grinding out success despite a lack of explosive ability, but his age and injury history leave the door wide open for Foreman to work into the offense. While there’s concern that the injury will limit him going forward, this is a low risk chance to steal a top 25 back late in the draft.

14.03 – Delanie Walker, TE – Tennessee Titans: I’ve got two wideouts on my radar that I expect to be there at the end of the draft, and with six backs on my roster, I’m looking to shore up the tight end position given that I don’t have an elite option on my roster. Delanie Walker is an injury risk every year, but if Burton goes down or fails to pan out, Walker is one of the best plan B’s one could hope for at the TE position.

15.10 – Mitch Trubisky, QB – Chicago Bears: Again, I’m comfortable waiting on my last bench receiver, and as I mentioned before, I think Mitch Trubisky is close to breaking out in his own right. In a ten team league I may punt on a second QB, but with so many hands in the pot, I’m cautious in the draft and would rather target my second QB in the draft rather than waiting on the waiver wire.

16.03 – J’Mon Moore, WR – Green Bay Packers: Of all the receivers Green Bay selected last year, Moore is probably the most talented. Still, he had issues last year with his routes and his hands, and will need to fix those issues if he’s going to take the next step. Still, the Packers believed in him enough to draft him ahead of both Equinemous St. Brown and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. As a final bench player, his leash won’t be long, but if he can put the pieces of the puzzle together, he can be a monster weapon in Aaron Rodgers arsenal.

17.10 – Greg Zuerlein, K – I stream defenses anyways, so the chance to get the top kicker makes too much sense.

18.03 – Cowboy’s D/ST: Again, I don’t over commit to a defense early, instead I’ll stream if Dallas doesn’t pop early.

Final Roster

  • QB – Jameis Winston, Mitch Trubisky
  • RB – David Johnson, Kerryon Johnson, Kenyan Drake, Rashaad Penny, Nyheim Hines, D’Onta Foreman
  • WR – Juju Smith-Schuster, Stefon Diggs, Mike Williams, Sterling Shepard, Adam Humphries, J’Mon Moore
  • TE – Trey Burton, Delanie Walker

Final Thoughts

As expected, our running back group is easily the weakest of the bunch, but I’m pleased with the diversity we have, especially given that this was a PPR format on the mock. With Johnson, Drake, and Hines all in line for 50-70 receptions, I can make this roster work even if both Penny and Foreman continue to fall short of their earlier expectations.

At the wide receiver position, we’re strong at the top, with the kind of depth that can cover up for any injuries or inconsistencies at the top. I love Shepard and Humphries as WR4 and WR5, and have plenty of ammo should I need to swing a trade for a RB later in the campaign.

Of course, I could have skipped the back up QB and TE to add another RB and WR to the group, but as mentioned above, I like to pick my backups in 12 team formats rather than hoping they’re there on waivers when I need them. I love Trubisky as a backup QB, and there’s a chance he pushes into the back end of the QB1 range, further giving me trade bate as the season wears on.

As I mentioned before, it’s important to be flexible during your draft, and I had to walk a tight rope in this one to ensure I had enough guys to start while also snagging a few high upside sleepers in players like Foreman and Moore. While they’re the easiest to cut if someone flashes as a free agent, there’s a chance either one could be a big time contributor if the planets align.

 

Early Rankings – Top 10 WR

It’s early in the off season, and these rankings will likely take on a different form as we approach the start of the NFL season, but in an effort to map the journey, we’ll take a few days to give you a look at the top of each position and who we think is rising and who we think is falling. If you’re looking for overall rankings, our initial rankings will be posted at the links in the header this week as well. 

 

  1. DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans – The man they call “Nuke” has one of the most diverse skill sets in the league. He has the kind of speed / size combinations that defenses fear, and his ability to make difficult, timely catches, is second to none. Even double teamed, and with no name backups  throwing him the ball, Hopkins is consistently at the top of the wide receiver rankings. He’s the top dog and it’s not even particularly close.
  2. Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints – Thomas proclaimed that he was uncoverable last year in one of the more memorable moments of the 2019 season, and judging by how often he was open for future hall of famer Drew Brees, it would seem he was correct. The thing that gives Thomas an “elite” label is his consistent production; he seems to put up points nearly every week. While Drew Brees historic career is waning, he and Thomas are still one of the best QB/WR tandems in the entire league.
  3. Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers – Last year, Adams began to creep into some of the industry experts top 5, but it still felt like his skills were being undersold. He’s be called TD dependent, or feast-or-famine, and any number of other things that would suggest he’s a product of his environment. I’ll tell you that’s just patently wrong. While he certainly gets a boost for being one of the leagues best red zone weapons for a QB who has the ability to find him on any given play, he also benefits from being immensely talented on a pass first team.
  4. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons – With the whole world seemingly against Jones as an elite fantasy receiver, he quietly went out there and put to bed the idea that he can’t score touchdowns. We discussed it last year how it was incredibly unlikely he continued to be held out of the endzone, and true to form, we expect another excellent season out of Julio. The emergence of Calvin Ridley as a solid #2 only makes things easier for the uber-talented Julio.
  5. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Mike Evans quietly produced one of his finest seasons in the NFL, finishing with more than 1,500 receiving yards and 8 TDs. His 17.7 yards per catch mark was the best of his career, and somehow he still feels overlooked on many rankings lists. Now, Tampa has a competent coaching staff and no foreseeable quarterback controversy, and I expect Evans to pick up right where he left off. While the 1,500 yards is his ceiling, expecting double digit touchdowns could produce top 3 season if the planets align.
  6. Juju Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers – With the departure of Antonio Brown, Juju becomes the top target in a passing attack that seems to churn out elite wideouts year in and year. Of course, there’s always the fear that without insulation, Smith-Schuster may fold a bit, but I’m confident that he’ll step up and partially fill the shoes left behind by Brown. I’m not ready to put him in the elite class yet, but the sheer number of targets he can expect should help overcome any growing pains.
  7. Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings – I admit that I was wrong in expecting Thielen to regress. Despite a new offense and quarterback, Thielen hardly missed a beat, compiling a career best stat line, aided by a monster target share that led to 158 targets. There has been nothing to suggest he can expect less than the 25% or so target share he saw last year, so even a slight regression in attempted passes shouldn’t impact his ability to produce. With a solid catch rate of between 65-70% there’s a good chance Thielen sees in excess of 100 catches again in 2019, and another top 10 finish on his resume.
  8. Antonio Brown, Oakland Raiders – While I’m certainly concerned about his landing spot, I’m not ready to declare him unsuitable for a WR1 spot. It’s certainly obvious that the Raiders have plenty of dysfunction, and the transformation of Amari Cooper was something to behold, but even that Oakland coaching staff has to recognize Brown’s skill as being tantamount to any success. Expect a top 5 finish in targets, but maybe a bit less of an efficient stat line in the end. Selecting Brown any earlier than this is a crap shoot, and I’ll probably avoid him myself, but I won’t suggest that being in Black and Silver will have any impact on how great a receiver Brown is.
  9. Odell Beckham, Cleveland Browns – Much like Brown, our concerns over OBJ have little to do with his skills and more to do with his specific situation. He’ll immediately leapfrog the receiving corp to become the top option in that Cleveland offense, but it’s fair to admit that Baker Mayfield plays a very different type of football than Eli Manning did. I don’t expect him to spend as much time forcing the football to Odell, and with an elite slot guy in Jarvis Landry, and an excellent red zone weapon in TE David Njoku, I can see Beckham’s bottom line taking a pretty sizable hit. He’ll still finish as a top 10 WR most weeks, but don’t expect him to challenge for the top spot like he’d done in previous seasons.
  10. Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings – Much like his battery-mate Adam Thielen, Diggs put up a career year in 2019, and that was in spite of nagging injuries that cost him a game and slowed him down late in the year. While we’re concerned about Diggs ability to stay healthy, the track record shows Diggs can expect nearly 10 targets per game (his career average) and that alone is good enough to include him on this list. Given that he and Thielen have been able to coexist as elite fantasy receivers for years, and that Diggs has managed to score 7-9 TDs a year despite not playing a full 16 games yet, and you see how Diggs deserves the lofty place among the top 10. We fully expect another 100 receptions, 1,100 yards, and a potential 10 TDs to help the Minnesota tandem achieve what very few offenses can; two top ten finishes.

Committee Report: Denver Broncos

We’re going to take a little different approach to the Committee Report this year. Instead of one giant article covering each team, we’re going to do a Monday Committee Report that focuses on a different NFL team expected to employee a Running Back By Committee approach in 2019. 

plindsayIf you take a look at the early ADP data being collected from mock drafts being done as we speak, you can see a clear favorite in the Bronco’s backfield when it comes to Fantasy drafters. Currently, Phillip Lindsay is being drafted around the end of the third round, while Royce Freeman is going closer to the 10th round, and Booker isn’t being selected in most drafts.

You may infer from this that any controversy over snaps is null and void, but I’d caution that outlook.

First, we know that Lindsay is returning from a pretty brutal wrist injury in 2018, and his availability during training camps is going to be up in the air. While that doesn’t automatically mean he’ll lose the touches he earned last season, it does leave the door open both on early down (to the much bigger Freeman) and on the passing downs (to Booker… who led the team in RB targets last season).

Second, we have plenty of history to use to determine how running backs fared in Joe Flacco led offenses. There’s always a chance he doesn’t play well enough to retain the starting gig, but at this time, we have to use what data is available to us. In this persuit, we’ve looked at he and his backs production from 2010 to 2017 (ignoring an incomplete 2018 affair) and found some interesting things.

On average, Flacco targeted his running backs a total of 137 times per season, siphoning about 72 of those to his top target. That amounts to roughly 24% of his passes travelling to a player out of the backfield (and almost 13% going directly to his top passing option). The numbers we saw in Denver last season were a little more spread out than that, as the lion’s share of the 128 or so targets were more evenly distributed between Booker (51 targets) and Lindsay (47 targets) with Booker being marginally more efficient with a half a yard (give or take) per reception better than Lindsay. The 20 targets Freeman saw can be thrown out for this conversation.

Now, I’d argue that some of the numbers in Baltimore were skewed, as Ray Rice had a four year run where he averaged 80+ targets per season. In recent years, it’s been a larger number of contributors (less than 10% of his attempts were to his top back from 2015-2017) but the overall target total remained about 25% to running backs. This suggests Lindsay and Booker could continue to share about 50 / 50 the passing downs. Freeman, again, is a bit of a throw away in passing situations, as he can be expected between 15-20 targets; not enough to make it worthy of discussion.

So how does this affect the overall usage in 2019?

Well for starters, I expect Lindsay to pass Booker as the top target getter. He’s a far more dangerous runner, meaning he’s more valuable from a play calling standpoint. Still, I don’t see the number of attempts rising from 2018. In fact, I think the 190 attempts mark is a difficult ceiling to attain. With Freeman the more violent runner, he’ll be utilized more heavily if the defense improves as we expect. Short yardage and clock management situations should see almost a 50/50 split emerge in these terms.

Sadly, our predictions show that value is going to be a difficult thing to squeeze out of this backfield. Lindsay being selected as a top 15 back is expecting him to perform at his absolute peak and overcome a pretty difficult injury early on. Freeman on the other hand offers little upside in the passing game, even if Lindsay suffers a set back in his recovery. Each back presents a bit of upside, but it will be difficult to envision any of them on my roster at their current draft prices.

Predictions

  • Phillip Lindsay: 170 Attempts, 815 Yards, 6 Ru. TDs, 50 Receptions, 350 Yards, 2 Rec. TDs
  • Royce Freeman: 170 Attempts, 715 Yards, 6 Ru. TDs, 20 Receptions, 95 Yards
  • Devonte Booker: 30 Attempts, 140 Yards, 1 Ru. TD, 38 Receptions, 270 Yards, 1 Rec. TD

 

Early Rankings – Top 10 RB

It’s early in the off season, and these rankings will likely take on a different form as we approach the start of the NFL season, but in an effort to map the journey, we’ll take a few days to give you a look at the top of each position and who we think is rising and who we think is falling. If you’re looking for overall rankings, our initial rankings will be posted at the links in the header this week as well. 
  1. Saquon Barkley, New York Giants – Considered a can’t-miss prospect, Barkley turned in an all time great rookie season in 2018 with 2,000 total yards, 91 receptions, and 15 total TDs. Considering that he did that behind a pourous offensive line and without much protection from an inept passing  game, it’s fairly obvious that even minor improvements should allow Barkley to maintain his frantic pace. With Odell Beckham gone, there are some (myself included) that expect this Giants offense to run a bit more efficiently, and I expect a similar output to the generational talent in 2019.
  2. Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys – Zeke fought through some rough weeks to start the season but really came on down the stretch, giving the owners of the #1 overall pick something to think about. While the Cowboys feature a better offensive line, Zeke does present a few questions given that his usage in the passing game is far less impactful than Barkley. Also, keep an eye on any discipline that may come of an off season run in with security at an event. I doubt he’ll see discipline, but any missed time may impact his standings.
  3. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers – When you look at sheer opportunity, McCaffrey’s snap share should relieve any concerns about his ability to repeat as a top 3 option in 2019. He’ll continue to be a target hog in the passing game, and his ability to run the ball was entirely overlooked when he came into the league. Don’t expect folks to make the same mistake in 2019, as McCaffrey is an elite option at the RB position and should go early in the first round.
  4. Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints – While Latavius Murray was brought in to replace the exiting Mark Ingram, it’s still Alvin Kamara’s offense when it comes to the running back position. He’s a trusted weapon for the Drew Brees led passing game, as evidenced by his 162 receptions in his two seasons in New Orleans, and he was excellent running the football despite the obvious regression we expected in terms of efficiency. Even if his trips to the endzone dip slightly from the 14 he had last year, he’s still a safe bet for 1,500-1,700 total yards and monster PPR weeks.
  5. Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers – If Gordon could stay healthy, he’d be higher on this list, but as it stands, he’s a high volume back with a propensity to miss games. Still, it was encouraging to see him take the next step last year with a 5.1 yard per carry mark, and 10 TDs in only 12 games. If you miss out on the sure-thing backs that come just ahead of him, Gordon is an excellent consolation prize, just be sure to have a back up plan if he misses a few weeks during the season.
  6. David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals – It certainly feels like David Johnson has been in the league a long time, but the truth is he’s still well within his prime as an NFL running back, and should be healthy coming into 2019; something we haven’t seen from Johnson since he suffered a season ending injury in 2017. As the season wore on, we saw glimpses of the DJ that convinced us he was the top overall option in fantasy. With a new head coach and quarterback combo that should keep defenses a little more honest, and additional weapons at the receiver position, there could be a little more room to run for Johnson, which should help him get back to his A game. 2,000 yards may be a bit of a lofty goal, but he’s a threat to the top 5 regardless.
  7. James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers – I know that others are a little higher on Conner as a stud fantasy running back, but the truth is he’s not Le’Veon Bell, and the Steelers off season saw plenty of turmoil that will make it difficult to come out of the gates firing. Expecting a bit of regression still provides for a valuable fantasy season, but don’t be surprised if/when Conner disappears for a few weeks. Fatigue was a definite factor last year, and with no Antonio Brown to help pull defenders from the line, we’re going to get a good look early on how well Conner runs against heavier fronts.
  8. Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams – Gurley is proving to be a special case in 2019. We know how good he is when he’s healthy, and we also know how health so often evades him in his NFL career. With what’s being dubbed a “chronic knee issue” we have fears that Gurley won’t be as effective in 2019 as he was early in the season last year. When the Rams drafted the dynamic RB Darrel Henderson, it certainly looked like they were concerned too. My guess is that even a healthy Gurley sees far fewer touches in 2019. The Rams would be wise to give their stud running back a little rest during the season, otherwise they’re bound to be missing him in big games again this year.
  9. Le’Veon Bell, New York Jets – Relocating to the Jets wasn’t necessarily the most ideal landing place for a perennial top 3 pick. The money may have been right, but there’s certainly going to be some growing pains as Bell acclimates to an Adam Gase offense that has to be digested by a handful of young players, including second year starter Sam Darnold. Could that be a recipe for success though? It’s not difficult to see Bell having a huge impact in the passing game, so don’t expect him to completely fall off the map. My big concern is simply a wide range of outcomes. These are the Jets were talking about here, and Gase has a history of misusing his running backs (and wasn’t keen on Bell in the first place). He could have a huge season as the teams focal point, or he could have a complete dud if they struggle on offense again in 2019.
  10. Joe Mixon – Cincinnati Bengals – This is about the point in the draft that the running back position becomes a crap-shoot. I do love Mixon’s skill set, and he was excellent during stretches last season, but injuries derailed a promising season for the second year pro. With the end of the season leaving a sour taste in the front offices mouth, they added two running backs in the draft, which may impact Mixon’s ability to garner top 5 snap share, but top ten is a solid prediction. I don’t expect him to feature as heavily in the passing game as the backs ahead of him, but a 1,500 yard (total) season and double digit TDs are very reasonable predictions for Mixon if he sees 14-16 starts.

Friday Mock Review – ZeroRB

We’re going to try something a little new over here at the Dr’s Office, with a once-a-week mock draft and review. Each week we’ll draft from a different position in the draft and take a look at each major draft strategy to give you an idea of what to expect on draft day. 

Last season, we fully embraced the idea that ZeroRB could be a viable draft strategy for the current fantasy landscape, especially given how many leagues have converted to half point and full point PPR formats.

We still think a full ZeroRB strategy is a risky proposition, especially in standard leagues, so really do your research before committing to it. We find that the current trend of workhorse backs returning to the early first round, ZeroRB really shines with a pick later in the draft. We randomized our draft position and received the 6th overall pick out of 10. Here’s how things went.

1.06 – Davante Adams, WR – GB

I was hoping DeAndre Hopkins would fall to me at six, but I’m not lamenting starting my draft with one of the most consistent receivers over the last few years. With Antonio Brown off to Oakland, Adams offers both the highest floor and highest ceiling of any receiver not named Hopkins. He’s a safe bet for 150 targets, 100 or so receptions, and his usual 10+ TD receptions.

2.05 – Mike Evans, WR – TB

Antonio Brown was available here, but I’m not convinced he’ll have the same consistency with Carr and Gruden leading the offense in Oakland. Instead, I went with the safer pick of Mike Evans. I’m actually surprised that Evans isn’t getting enough credit for being one of the top options at the position. His 2018 was his best year yet despite the flux at the QB position. With Winston under center from day 1 and less double teams thanks to emerging talent elsewhere on the offense, his floor is far safer than the other options surrounding him, which is one of my concerns when drafting for a ZeroRB roster. I don’t like to have too many down weeks from my studs, and the Adams/Evans combo is a lethal one.

3.06 – Adam Thielen, WR – MIN

I could take George Kittle here and pair my top 3 WR with a top 3 TE, but I’m going to stick to my guns and take the guy who fits my ZeroRB draft strategy the best. While boom or bust candidates like A.J. Green, Keenan Allen, and Amari Cooper may sit on most expert rankings ahead of Thielen, it’s the Minnesota product that really offers through the roof value in the third round. His first half last year was one of the best stretches for any receiver in the league, and even when things started to go sideways on the Vikings, Thielen managed to stay productive. As a WR3, I’m stocked to have him.

4.05 – Andrew Luck, QB – IND

It’s around this time that I begin plotting out my RB selections, and knowing that I have a three receiver group that should be well ahead of the competition, I’m willing to wait on TE and grab a player who could very well finish as the top QB in the league this year. Mahomes is the clear number one at this point, but unlike the situation in KC, Indianapolis has given a now-healthy Luck even more weapons to work with. With my plan to select a RB in round 6, I’d rather get a sure thing QB here than select another wide out and hope a top 5 QB I liked was available in round 5.

5.06 – Tyler Boyd, WR – CIN

This one is a bit off the board, but with the ZeroRB strategy, you need to make sure you’re taking the guys you want, and not just the guys at the top of the current ADP or rankings. With my commitment to the strategy, I’ll be selecting a handful of backs over the next few rounds, and I really like Boyd to repeat last years breakout season. With A.J. Green on the field, he was electric, and with this particular mock taking place in a PPR universe, his value is even greater considering the volume I expect him to see. As a fourth WR, you can’t do much better than a player who’s floor is padded thanks to his target share.

6.05 – Derrick Henry, RB – TEN

There were a few names I was hoping would drop to me, namely Kerryon Johnson, but alas he and Sony Michel went in the few picks leading up to mine in the sixth round. Still, I’m okay with beginning my RB hunt with a guy who, at one point, was as buzzy a prospect as we’d seen in some time. The former Heisman trophy winner was electric down the stretch, and it seemed at the time that the offense was being handed over to him in a more workhorse role. His skill set certainly supports the idea that in 2019 he’s going to be more of a bell cow, and I’m intrigued by his upside. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of shares of Henry in the coming season.

7.06 – Tarik Cohen, RB – CHI

Knowing the league format is always important, and grabbing a guy like Cohen as your RB2 is a dangerous proposition unless you’re in a full point PPR league. Given that Jordan Howard was sent packing and Devin Singletary doesn’t really profile as a pass catching back, the third downs safely belong to Cohen. Only Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel had a larger share of targets last season, and by a short margin at that. Cohen is a lock for 90 or so targets, and the prospect of additional work on the ground makes him an interesting ZeroRB target who could really return on that investment.

8.05 – James White, RB – NE

This is the point in the draft where many running back decisions come down to opportunity vs. upside. Guys like Chris Carson and Lamar Miller were solid, middle of the road backs last season, but both have young talent pushing them for touches. Likewise, guys like Derrius Guice and Jerick McKinnon saw promising seasons go down in the pre-season and are no guarantee to win back the starting gig with new backs in both systems. Getting White here was a bit of a cop out, as I’m not committing to any of those scenarios. Much like Cohen, White is entrenched as the pass catching back in New England, and with 90-100 target potential, especially in the face of Rob Gronkowski’s departure, and he’s a viable third option and flex starter during the season.

9.06 – David Njoku, TE – CLE

While Hunter Henry was still on the board, I’m not convinced that he’ll ever be more than a mid-tier fantasy producer. Instead, I went with the freak athlete on an ascending team in Cleveland’s Njoku. I don’t believe Odell Beckham’s arrival spells disaster for Njoku’s outlook either, as his roll as one of Baker Mayfields middle of the field safety blanket remains in tact. In fact, I expect him to see an even larger share of red zone targets this year than last year, as his 10 targets were half of Landry’s but converted to the most Red Zone TDs on the team.

10.05 – Jerick McKinnon, RB – SF

It was a terrible injury that felled McKinnon last pre-season, but he’s expected to be back healthy, and has already been suggested by coach Kyle Shanahan as the teams RB1 out of the gates. That could certainly change as the season approaches, but given the contract he signed, it’s likely that the team wants to see what McKinnon can do for them before moving on to Brieda or Coleman as the lead back. However, I don’t expect him to handle a ton of passing downs with, so his ceiling is relatively low for a guy who should be a starter on his team. Any earlier in the draft, and I’d be ignoring him as an option, but in the tenth I’ll take the chance, and keep the leash short.

11.06 – Rashaad Penny, RB – SEA

I was critical of Penny last year, but it wasn’t because he’s lacking talent. What Penny had to overcome was a lack of conditioning and a stranglehold on the starting gig by the milquetoast Chris Carson. Down the stretch, however, we saw how his talent may trump Carson’s incumbency, as he showed flashes of brilliance late in the year. This is purely an upside pick, and with as many pass catching backs, I felt comfortable taking Penny here over my other target of Nyheim Hines.

12.05 – Michael Gallup, WR – DAL

Given his pedigree, it makes sense that Amari Cooper is the big name being targeted in that Dallas passing game, but I’d caution that overlooking Gallup could be a mistake. After all, Cooper did most of his damage over a three week stretch, putting up 47% of his yardage and 71% of his TD production during that time. That leaves the door open for Gallup, who saw his targets increase after the bye, and his production improve with the arrival of Cooper as well. He’ll need to improve his catch rate, but I feel a good amount of that stems from Prescott airing it out to Gallup. There’s definitely a chance he busts, but in the 12th round, he has excellent upside for a flier pick.

13.06 – Ronald Jones, RB – TB

At this point in the draft, my strategy is to take the guy I think has the best chance to overcome whatever cons have him being drafted so late. The buzz surrounding Rojo last preseason was pure hyperbole, after all it was argued he was the next Jamaal Charles. This year, he’s a bit of an afterthought despite a major change with the coaching staff, and Bruce Arians arriving to help fix the mess that was last years Buccaneers. With his propensity to use his RB’s in the passing game, and Peyton Barbers tenuous hold on the starting job as it is, Ronald Jones could see himself on the field far more this season, and his pedigree is enticing at this point in the draft.

14.05 – Delanie Walker, TE – TEN

While I’m fairly convinced that Njoku will be productive in Cleveland, it doesn’t hurt to add a consistent weapon to your bench. Walker is an injury waiting to happen, but in the event that Njoku goes down or becomes ineffective, Walker is a very solid option to replace the production I expect from Njoku. I could have taken a swing here at Trey Burton as well, but he profiles much along the lines of Njoku, and I’m not willing to put too many eggs in the upside basket when it comes to my tight ends.

15.06 – DeaSean Hamilton, WR – DEN

I was a DeaSean owner last year, and I really liked how he played for a Denver team that struggled to throw the football all season. While Joe Flacco isn’t a major improvement for the Broncos, he’s an improvement nonetheless, and the second year receiver stands to gain a lot from his arrival. Given that Emmanuel Sanders is still recovering from an achilles injury, Hamilton figures to be used pretty heavily at times in the Bronco’s offense, and if the flashes he showed last year are any indication, there’s few names at this point in the draft with WR2 upside like Hamilton possesses.

16.05 – Dak Prescott, QB – DAL

As a backup QB, there’s not many options in this portion of the draft that has the kind of upside that Prescott has. With an elite O-line, a run game that keeps him protected, and an expanded cast at the receiver position, Prescott’s late season success is very easily transferable to the 2019 season. If Luck misses time, I’m comfortable rolling Prescott out there in his stead.

17.06 – Greg Zuerlien, K – LAR

I won’t get too into it, but when I’m drafting my Kicker and D/ST last, I tend to take the most “sure thing” contributor between the top options at both. In the event that I can get the top kicker, I’m more than comfortable taking a stab at a D/ST and streaming in the likely event that the selection isn’t elite.

18.05 – New Orleans Saints D/ST

They’ll do in a pinch, but I’m planning on streaming a defense anyways, so this is a throw away pick at best.

Final Roster

  • QB: Andrew Luck, Dak Prescott
  • RB: Derrick Henry, Tarik Cohen, James White, Jerick McKinnon, Rashaad Penny, Ronald Jones
  • WR: Davante Adams, Mike Evans, Adam Thielen, Tyler Boyd, Michael Gallup, DeaSean Hamilton
  • TE: David Njoku, Delanie Walker
  • K: Greg Zurlein
  • D/ST: New Orleans Saints

Final Thoughts

The strength of this team obviously resides at the wide receiver position. Having a potential top 25 guy as my WR4 means I can mitigate any effects that may arise from waiting as long as I did on backs. If I only have to start two of my backs most weeks, I’m in a much better position to succeed given the PPR format I drafted for.

Of course, you can take this strategy and adopt a slightly different variation. I know some folks wait even later in the draft, stockpiling pass catchers for trade and depth purposes, and I’ve seen some ZeroRB strategies that can be best described as hybrid strategies.

For example, I could have skipped the Tyler Boyd pick, and taken a back in the 5th round and landed either Philip Lindsay or Kerryon Johnson, players who went in the few picks following the selection of Boyd. There’s no real rule that says if you’re starting with a ZeroRB focus you can’t go off script to grab a player you really love.

As I’ve said in the past, this isn’t a strategy for folks uncomfortable with the deeper options at the back position. Being flexible and malleable week to week depending on matchups can be instrumental to success. It will require a great commitment to keeping tabs on your team and on the free agent pool, but the success of ZeroRB rosters can be through the roof if done properly.

Tyler Lockett, Favor or Fade?

tlockettWith the news that Doug Baldwin is retiring from the NFL, our focus shifts to expected top wide out Tyler Lockett, and what we can reasonably expect from him in 2019. With Baldwin’s departure (and to a lesser extent Brandon Marshall’s) there are 96 abandoned targets from last year. With only rookie receiver D.K. Metcalf and mediocre contributors Jaron Brown and David Moore as competition, it seems on the surface that Lockett is poised for a break out.

It’s interesting to note, though, that under Russell Wilson, the Seahawks have never had a receiver finish with more than 125 targets, that being Doug Baldwin in 2016. For the bulk of his career there, Wilson has spread the ball around pretty well. Even last year, with Baldwin hobbled by injuries and missing a handful of games, he managed the lions share of targets (73 to Lockett’s 70). 

So first, we’d caution any Lockett “truthers” that expecting more than 90-110 targets may be foolhardy. Given that experts believe he’ll shift into that slot receiver role vacated by Baldwin, we do feel the 100 target mark is reasonable. What concerns me more than that, though, is that his career catch rate prior to last season was in the mid 60’s so expecting him to remain as efficient (81.4%) may be a bit premature as well.

So how do we view Lockett this year as a fantasy asset?

We fully expect the Seahawks to throw a bit more this year, given that they’d averaged nearly 500 attempts over the previous three seasons before falling to 427 last year. This is due in large part to the success of the running game behind Chris Carson, as well as the plan to preserve a oft-hit Russell Wilson. Still, even with this philosophy in place, I expect somewhere in the 460-480 attempts range. 

Using past performances as a gauge, Lockett projects, for us anyways, near the high end of the top target mark, somewhere in the 115 range. Again, expect a bit of regression on the catch rate, but that’s still enough of a target boost to produce around 75 receptions. Given the similarities between Baldwin and Locket’s air yards and yards after catch numbers, I do see some regression in terms of yards per catch, as Locket’s 16.9 last year are unlikely to repeat from the slot. With a similar profile, those 75 receptions should translate to around 950 yards. 

The big subtraction may be in the red zone, where D.K. Metcalf’s size may lead him to assume a number of red zone targets. Expecting Lockett to approach the 10 TD mark again this year is something we’d caution against. 

Early Projections – Tyler Lockett: 118 Targets, 77 receptions, 955 yards, 5 TDs.

As usual, we’ll suggest waiting until the pre-season approaches before really nailing down your positional rankings, but we’re still expecting slight regression due to a loss of end zone looks. We could be dead wrong, and we still consider Lockett to have a WR1 ceiling, but until we see Lockett in the slot receiver role, I’m not willing to suggest a boom season out of the 27 year old receiver.

Early Rankings – Top 10 QB

It’s early in the off season, and these rankings will likely take on a different form as we approach the start of the NFL season, but in an effort to map the journey, we’ll take a few days to give you a look at the top of each position and who we think is rising and who we think is falling. If you’re looking for overall rankings, our initial rankings will be posted at the links in the header this week as well. 
  1. Patrick Mahomes, KC – Even without Tyreek Hill, Mahomes has earned the benefit of the doubt after his monster sophomore season. Some regression should be expected, but the bottom line is his arm, his smarts, and Andy Reid’s ability to put him in position to succeed mean another big year for the big armed Mahomes.
  2. Aaron Rodgers, GB – It wasn’t his best year, but I’m not ready to move Rodgers out of my 1B position just yet. He still has one of the most dominant receivers in the game in Davante Adams, and he’ll be far more comfortable with Mike McCarthy no longer holding him back.
  3. Deshaun Watson, HOU – I was concerned about how quickly Watson would bounce back last season, but with a very solid campaign between us and his season ending injury, its safe to admit that Watson is the real deal. With the yards on the ground to go with excellent numbers through the air, he’s a safe bet for QB1 production most weeks.
  4. Andrew Luck, IND – Another injury concern going into 2018, Luck dispelled those with a fantastic season. Now he has better weapons and a full off season to work with. Expect his numbers to remain the same, and if there’s a dark horse to overtake Mahomes at the top of this list by seasons end, it’s Luck.
  5. Russel Wilson, SEA – Wilson represents the cut off line from the first tier. At times he looks like he belongs in that top group, but with lack of consistency around him, and now the loss of one of his favorite weapons in Doug Baldwin, this season could be a bit of a nail biter for Wilson owners. We still like his smarts and ability to create plays, but he’s far from the surefire bet he was in years past.
  6. Drew Brees, NO – He’s getting close to the end, but Brees continues to be a force, especially early in the season. If he has his full repertoire of weapons to work with, as well, then we can expect another blazing start, and hopefully a better finish from one of the leagues most consistent gunslingers.
  7. Matt Ryan, ATL – Last season Ryan defied the masses, bouncing back after a horrendous 2017 season and putting up excellent numbers in the process. One reason was a revamped offense, and the arrival of Calvin Ridley. Expect much of the same from the veteran QB.
  8. Cam Newton, CAR – I can’t remember a time when Newton was healthy for a lengthy stretch, so it’s a gamble selecting him in the top 10 at the position, but when he’s right, he’s a potential top 5 guy. The offense is morphing around him, so there may be continued reliance on the backfield for production, but if Newton can avoid major issues, he’s a solid consolation if you miss out on the earlier signal callers.
  9. Jared Goff, LAR – The Rams had an ugly finish to the season, and Goff seemed out of his depth down the stretch, so there’s a little cause for concern. Still, that Rams team is loaded with weapons at the receiver position, and he may be relied upon more this year than previously with Gurley suffering from a nagging knee injury. I doubt he’ll push the top 5 guys for dominance, but I expect consistent production.
  10. Philip Rivers, LAC – Rivers sits atop the third tier of QBs, many of whom feature major talent but also major question marks. Rivers may be an exception to the rule, but any time your drafting a 37 year old quarter back, the chance he falls off a cliff is omnipresent. His final two games to finish the year and his playoff performances don’t help the concerns, but he’s still one of the best of his generation, and should be solid again in 2019.

If you’re interested in seeing how the rest of our rankings shake out, visit the QB Rankings page. We’re holding off on breaking down our tiers for the time being, but when we’ve had enough time to digest everything going on in off season programs, we’ll update that information.