Monthly Archives: August 2019

Andrew Luck to Retire

luckIt’s been a roller coaster career for the former top overall selection, but all the peaks and valley’s were nothing compared to the news today that at 30 years old, Andrew Luck is set to retire from the NFL.

The news certainly comes as a shock, and if you spent on Indianapolis in your early fantasy drafts, it complicates things. Of course, while the entire offense can expect to feel the effects of his retirement, it impacts the receivers group the most.

T.Y. Hilton will likely continue to be a top target, likely for Jacoby Brissett, but rookie Parris Campell and Devin Funchess are larger question marks as the offense will certainly take on a different feel.

I’ve been cautioning regression for Ebron all offseason, so it should come as no surprise that I still think you should avoid him, even at a discount. Doyle’s value is still somewhat there, but temper your expectations for any of Indianapolis’ offensive stars, including Mack and Hines, who should still be used similarly, but likely to lesser effect.

Good luck to those who’ve found their teams in shambles before the season has even started; take solace in knowing the meme’s should be glorious.

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Panic Time: Trouble With AB In Oakland

AnBrownIt’s a popular term of endearment when referring to NFL wide receivers: Diva. Antonio Brown is proving to be one of the leagues bigger ones during his first preseason in Oakland by a far margin.

First it was the issue with his feet; frost bite earned in a largely unproven cryo-technology, due especially to his neglecting to wear proper protective gear.

Then it was the disappearance at camp that had everyone wondering where Antonio Brown went, even his coaching staff.

But most recently, and in the end most importantly, is the fight between AB and the league over the use of his old helmet. Brown has threatened to “retire” if he’s not allowed to wear the helmet he’s worn prior to this season, going so far as to threaten litigation for injury incurred while wearing the league approved helmet.

In response, the league has re-iterated it’s policy regarding approved equipment. Suffice it to say, if Brown is serious about holding out, the NFL isn’t interested in negotiating.

So where does that leave the fantasy community? Already, mock draft results are reflecting his potential hold out/retirement. At this very moment, he’s being drafted in the middle of the third round, and falling. If I had to make a decision in that spot, I’d personally pass. There’s been far too many red flags over the last few months for me to trust him. But does he become a value at that point?

If you think there’s more smoke than fire here, AB in the third round, regardless of the jersey he’s wearing, is a steal. The Raiders brought him in to be the alpha in that offense, and he’s expected to soak up a large percentage of the teams targets. A quick look at the depth chart reinforces that idea.

  • Tyrell Williams
  • J.J. Nelson
  • Ryan Grant
  • Hunter Renfrow
  • Marcell Atemane
  • Darren Waller

There’s not a superstar in waiting behind him that can step in and be the guy. There’s a who’s who of role players, brought in to compliment what the Raiders expected would be one of the leagues best receivers in 2019.

If Brown does hold out, I certainly see a bit of a bump for Josh Jacobs, who may be asked to shoulder a larger role. In the passing game, I’ve been a big fan of Renfrow from the beginning, and with Brown out, his brand of over-the-middle slot work may be used to remedy they situation some what.

I expect to know more as we inch toward the season, but draft Antonio Brown at your own peril. The man seems hell bent on proving a point, much like former teammate Le’Veon Bell, and I’m not going to hitch my wagon to his whims, and nor should you.

Re-Ranking The Rookies: Running Backs

Miles SandersOur initial evaluation of the NFL’s rookie class could be considered, at best, incomplete. After all, our only exposure to the players was through their college accolades and the evaluation of their NFL situation. With camp well underway, and preseason games on the docket for this week, we now have some usable information to help re-evaluate those same exciting rookies.

With the running backs, we’ve seen the number of fantasy relevant contributors rise over the past few years, and we’re always on the lookout for the next great rookie value. While there’s little movement at the top of our rookie rankings, there have been a few players we like emerging from those middle to late rounds, and a few that we feel are being over hyped going into drafts.

  1. Josh Jacobs, Oakland Raiders
    • I’ve been highly critical of the perception of Jacobs, as my concern is he’s being drafted as a bell cow simply because he was the first back off the board, but the truth is I don’t dislike Jacobs as an NFL running back. I think he has a nice blend of size and skill, and it sounds like Oakland wants to involve him in all three phases of the game. His passing game contributions are likely to be suppressed with Jalen Richard still on the roster, but don’t be surprised if he’s a solid fantasy asset in 2019.
  2. David Montgomery, Chicago Bears
    • Much like Jacobs, Montgomery finds himself in a solid situation on an ascending Bears offense that expects Montgomery to fill the early down role vacated by Jordan Howard. Also like Jacobs, Montgomery may contribute some in the passing game, but Tarik Cohen should shoulder the load there, and Mike Davis may poach some short yardage work.
  3. Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles
    • A lot has been made of Doug Pederson’s history with running backs by committee, but by all accounts Sanders is separating himself quickly from the other backs on the Eagles roster. There’s a bit more of an obstacle to achieving bell cow workloads, but talent wise, he may be the best of the bunch.
  4. Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills
    • Originally I was down on Singletary in his rookie campaign, after all… the Bills have two of the most consistent backs of the last decade on the roster in Frank Gore and LeSean McCoy, but much like Sanders, he’s shown a lot of explosiveness in practices and may carve out a solid role in that offense. With a lack of a passing game, there’s a chance all three are involved, but it’s Singletary’s upside I like.
  5. Darrell Henderson, Los Angeles Rams
    • Henderson may very well be the best rookie back in this class, but he still has Todd Gurley standing between he and a meaningful workload. Of course, with Gurley’s recent knee issues looming, Henderson doesn’t have to look very far for an opportunity. Expect his talent to force him on the field in some capacity, though, even if Gurley stays relatively healthy.
  6. Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings
    • There is a potential injury situation to monitor in Minnesota, as Mattison isn’t guaranteed to play in the first preseason game for the Vikings, but all reports to this point is that he’s been very impressive in the backfield. With the likelihood of more missed time for lead back Dalvin Cook, the third round rookie out of Boise State figures to be a contributor sooner than later.
  7. Justice Hill, Baltimore Ravens
    • I have some major concerns regarding Hills ability to contribute right away, but it has nothing to do with the player himself. Hill profiles similarly to players like Tarik Cohen or Chris Thompson, and meshes well with Mark Ingram in terms of usage. If Lamar Jackson can stay in the pocket a little more, and utilize his new weapon, Hill could be a poor man’s Alvin Kamara in 2019.
  8. Damien Harris, New England Patriots
    • I’m souring on Harris a bit in the wake of Sony Michel’s return from a knee scope, but there’s hope that the talented Alabama product can force his way on the field regardless. With the Patriots shifting their philosophy to a more balanced attack, the running game will benefit from having depth behind the oft injured Michel. As a flyer, Harris could pay off in spades if Michel’s knee flairs up and costs him several games.
  9. Benny Snell, Jr, Pittsburgh Steelers
    • I like James Conner, but there were some questions toward the end of last year regarding his ability to stay on the field when faced with a Le’Veon Bell like workload. With the Steeler’s staff suggesting Snell could see meaningful time on the field in 2019, it sounds like they may share similar concerns. Of course, Conner should be the workhorse in this offense, but Snell would step in and be a borderline RB2 in his own right should Conner go down.
  10. Ryquell Armstead, Jacksonville Jaguars
    • Armstead was brought in to backup the oft injured, and much maligned, former first round pick Leonard Fournette, and there’s obviously a clear path to touches here. Still, I’m higher on Fournette as a three down horse this year than most, and see Armstead as a long shot to contribute this year and beyond.

 

Trade Alert: Browns Trade Duke Johnson to Texans

duke

It was a long time coming, but the Cleveland Browns have finally moved on from disgruntled running back Duke Johnson. The trade (for what could potentially become a 3rd rounder) opens the door for Nick Chubb to contribute even more heavily in the passing game, at least for the first 8 games, while it also puts Johnson in a position to resume passing down duties with a greater window to early down work.

Of course, Houston still employs Lamar Miller as their lead back, so there are obstacles in the way for Johnson to become more than a flex play, but if Miller stumbles or finds himself injured, then Johnson could finally get the chance to shine as a teams lead back.

 

Moving The Scales: 3 Up and 3 Down

With the Hall of Fame Game in the rear view and the rest of the preseason looming, it’s time to start evaluating the performances of key players in camp. Sometimes the news is purely hyperbolic, and we’ll avoid over analyzing the kind of coach speak that typically amounts to nothing. As always, take everything with a grain of salt, but here is your first taste of our Moving The Scales series.

Movin’ Up

Sony Michel, RB – New England Patriots: When we last left our Michel analysis, there was some concern surrounding his recently scoped knee, but following his return, the feedback at camp has been mostly positive. Recent reports by the Athletic’s Jeff Howe highlights Michel’s contributions in the passing game, something that he failed to provide his owners last year. While we take these particular reports with that same grain of salt (Jordan Howard anyone?) it’s encouraging in terms of his health to see him used so widely in practices. If he can add some pass catching to his repertoire, then Michel could end up being a value on draft day.

T.J. Hockenson, TE – Detroit Lions: I’ve been clear in my assertion that rookie TE’s typically fail to reward fantasy owners, and the history has shown this to be true. Of course, over the past decade there have been exceptions to this rule, and this year we may see Hockenson buck the trend as well. Reports out of joint practices with the Patriots is that Hockenson and Stafford have developed some nice chemistry, with Hockenson’s targets rarely resulting in drops. If Stafford comes to rely on Hockenson as a check down saftey-blanket, then he could have a nice season.

Miles Sanders, RB – Philadelphia Eagles: While there have also been rumblings that Jordan Howard has been contributing in the passing game, the more telling reports have been in regards to Sanders explosiveness and open-field ability. The praise is coming quickly as the hype train gets rolling, so there’s concern that an over-hyped Sanders may lose some of his value, but with less-than-exciting options around him and practice tape that seems to support the reports, Sanders is slowly becoming one of my favorite rookie running backs in 2019.

Movin’ Down

Mike Gesicki, TE – Miami Dolphins: I was beating the drum for Gesicki early in the preseason, after all – he profiled as the perfect post hype sleeper. Excellent athlete who failed to impress in his first season who suddenly found himself in a much better offense with a coaching staff that has a history of using its TE’s. Yes, that was a mouthful, but now the words we’re hearing are suggesting Gesicki hasn’t been able to put much together in his year 2 camp. With a new QB and coaching group, one has to wonder how much rope he’ll be given early on. Unless the buzz flips, we’re viewing Gesicki as a long shot to contribute at this point.

Antonio Brown, WR – Oakland Raiders: In one of the more bizarre stories from the 2019 off season, new reports are suggesting the heel issue plaguing Brown this preseason is actually a case of frostbite. The use of a cryotherapy machine with improper footwear may be the culprit, but it certainly puts his preseason in jeopardy, and only creates larger questions for the former top fantasy receiver. While there hasn’t been any suggestions that he’s in danger of missing regular season snaps, it doesn’t help that he’s on a new team with a new QB and system, and he’s missing valuable reps while he recovers.

Ezekiel Elliott, RB – Dallas Cowboys: I’ve read that the Cowboys may have made an “attractive” offer to Zeke, and Jerry Jones has been very public in his comments regarding the contract negotiations, but the truth is that until Zeke signs on the dotted line, a very real chance for a holdout looms. His camp has noted that Elliott will not play in 2019 unless he receives a new contract, and considering the money others have received, Zeke is expecting a big pay raise. Keep an eye on the situation, but if your drafting prior to a resolution, you’re playing with fire by drafting Zeke.

Draft Day Decisions: ZeroRB

We’re on record as saying the current state of the running back position in the NFL may not be the most conducive to a ZeroRB strategy, but if you’re committed to it, there are ways to navigate your draft to give yourself the best chance at success. Of course, it’s important to nail your first 5 rounds, as any major misses at the other core positions could spell disaster for your season.

We’ve gone ahead and mocked out our first five rounds; the below is our roster sans running back.

  • 1.08: Davante Adams, WR – GB
  • 2.05: Mike Evans, WR – TB
  • 3.08: Amari Cooper, WR – DAL
  • 4.05: Deshaun Watson, QB – HOU
  • 5.08: Evan Engram, TE – NYG

Overall I’m pleased with the depth at WR, especially with Cooper as my WR3. While Adams is one of the most consistently excellent fantasy producers in the game, Evans and Cooper are potential top 10 receivers that will help off set any potential let downs at the RB position. Securing a top 5 QB and TE (and guys I expect to be closer to the top 3) is a win as well.

So with my core settled, it’s time to switch my focus to the running back position. With much of the starters gone, and a long turn, my strategy is to secure a back I feel has the highest floor rather than a boom or bust candidate. Here is who is available (ranked by ADP).

  • James White, NE
  • Kenyan Drake, MIA
  • Lamar Miller, HOU
  • Tevin Coleman, SF
  • Latavius Murray, NO
  • Rashaad Penny, SEA
  • Derrius Guice, WAS
  • Miles Sanders, PHI

Ultimately, I’d like to secure two names off this list, but there are a few I’m not really interested in as my RB 1. James White and Latavius Murray both have monster upside in their respective offenses, but with White, his RB7 finish last year doesn’t tell the full story of a RB who’s usage is impossible to predict. He and Murray are not exactly set it and forget it type backs, so I’m not going with them.

Ultimately, I’ve paired my decision down to Lamar Miller, Rashaad Penny, and Derrius Guice.

Miller, while seemingly the least exciting starting RB in the league, has a pretty solid grasp on all three downs. Given the release of D’Onta Foreman, and the lack of an impact backup, I’m confident he’ll get volume, even if the big plays aren’t there.

Penny and Guice, on the other hand, offer much higher ceilings than Miller, but have more crowded backfields to navigate if they’re going to receive the lions share of their teams touches. Between the two, Penny feels safer to me given how often Seattle projects to run the ball. Even if Chris Carson continues to hold off Penny for the top roster designation, I expect Penny to see a healthy number of touches in 2019.

The Decision

We admit he’s not exciting, but Lamar Miller is perfect for a ZeroRB target. He’s got all three downs to himself, and while he’ll likely plod along around 4YPC, he can be more safely relied upon than the other names on this list. With a chance I can land a player like Guice or Sanders in the next round, I’m comfortable with Miller as my top RB in a ZeroRB draft.

Bonus Round

The one nice thing about selecting your starting backs in this range is that fewer teams are drafting backs at this point. Both Guice and Penny fell to the 7th round, further reinforcing the selection of Miller who’s a solid anchor in this strategy.

Bust Watch: TE

Qualifying a players’ season as a bust is a challenge, as the application of the term is entirely subjective. As with any predictive activity, these can and should be taken with a grain of salt. The players highlighted below represent risk that we either think is too great to invest in, or enough regression is expected to make their draft position too rich for their potential backslide.

O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (ADP 56 – TE 4)

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans SaintsI’m a staunch believer that investing an early pick in a tight end is almost always a mistake. Aside from Kelce, who’s ceiling is as a top 10 fantasy player, the prices for a player like Howard are far too rich for my tastes. Currently being drafted in the 6th round, Howard is going to have a hard time providing value compared to the guys going around him. I’d rather spend a 6th round pick on a player like Mike Williams, D.J. Moore, Tevin Coleman, or Derrius Guice, all players going after him.

We say it every year, and this one is no different. With the drop off from Howard at four to a player like Vance McDonald or Austin Hooper doesn’t justify the early selection here. You’re better skipping Howard and investing in a breakout candidate later in the draft.

Eric Ebron, Indianapolis Colts (ADP 72 – TE 8)

Four years in Detroit saw Ebron flash potential, but he never fully put it together following the massive hype when he was drafted. Last year the stars aligned, however, and Ebron had his finest season as a pro. Of course, the lack of passing options and injuries to Jack Doyle provided a perfect storm I’m concerned won’t exist in 2019.

A closer look shows just how Jack Doyle’s presence affected his numbers. When both players were on the field, Ebron saw a measly 22 targets, a far cry from the nearly 9 per game he saw when he was out. With Doyle returning to the field, as well as the presence of Devin Funchess, an excellent red zone target in his own right, there’s very little chance Ebron repeats in 2019. There’s too much value behind him in the rankings to target a player who will almost certainly disappoint in 2019.

David Njoku, Cleveland Browns (ADP 91 – TE 10)

Including Njoku here is depressing, considering that going into the off season Njoku looked like he’d be one of my top targets. Then the Odell Beckham trade happened, and a whole lot of targets disappeared from Njoku’s range of outcomes. While he’s still an excellent red zone option, Njoku’s ceiling has taken a massive hit, and his ability to perform consistently is something I call into question.

With guys like Trey Burton and Vance McDonald available at a cheaper cost (yet a similar ceiling in 2019) I can’t justify the cost to acquire Njoku, even if it is in the 10th round. This year, with questionable depth at the RB position, guys like Njoku should be ignored while building up a stable of potential studs, and then targeting a TE or two with little risk and all kinds of upside.

Honorable Mention – T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions (ADP 141 – TE 15) You may look at Hockenson’s ADP of 141 and argue there’s no risk here, but the truth is that rookie TE’s almost always disappoint. Players like Mike Gesicki, Hayden Hurst, and Maxx Williams are the kind of cautionary tale that should convince you it’s not worth rostering a player like Hockenson unless he falls until the last few rounds of your draft. Even still, I’d rather target the aforementioned Gesicki, who’s one of my favorite post-hype breakout candidates, and stream the position should he stumble again in Miami.

Camp Quick Hits: 2nd Edition

As we inch closer to our draft days, the Doctor is aiming to make sense of all the training camp news we’ve seen drop in the last few days. While this past weekend hasn’t given us as much high profile news as the last, there’s plenty here to unpack on a Monday.

Antonio Brown Day to Day

AnBrownOriginally, I wasn’t too concerned when I’d heard Antonio Brown missed practice with a heel ailment. After all, this early in the year teams are doing their best to mitigate causing injury to their big off season acquisitions. My concern grew slightly when news became available reporting that Brown sought the advice of a specialist for the lingering issue.

While the news isn’t exactly damning at this point, it’s something we should really keep an eye on as Brown is on the wrong side of 30 and has been one of the leagues most heavily involved receivers for the last five seasons. I don’t anticipate we’ll get resolution on this right away, so bear this in mind if you draft early in August.

Damien Williams Out with Hamstring Issue

One of the more polarizing RB1 candidates this off season, Williams is expected to be the lead back in a Kansas City offense that has churned out league winners at an alarming rate. Now, after missing a handful of practices with a hamstring injury, the headlines are beginning to read favorably for newcomer Carlos Hyde.

At this point, I’m only mildly concerned, as Carlos Hyde has been anything but impressive during his most recent stops in Jacksonville and Cleveland. He profiles as a fantastic handcuff, but until I hear Williams’ injury is serious, I’m not changing my outlook on his three down workload. Of course, if you own Williams, Hyde is worth reaching a bit in order to mitigate any potential disasters.

D’Onta Foreman Placed On Waivers By Texans

A long time breakout candidate, Foreman apparently has worn out his welcome in Houston. Coming about a week after Texans’ Head Coach Bill O’Brien praised Foreman for bouncing back from his injury, this release comes as a bit of a surprise. The motivating factor seems to be Foreman’s work ethic, but the truth could be anything at this point.

Where Foreman will end up is anyone’s guess, but the former third round pick should find a home sooner than later. More interesting is the move’s affect on the Houston backfield. Lamar Miller’s grasp on the starting gig seems all but secure at this point, with a shallow roster filled with fliers and low ceiling role players. While Miller’s own ceiling remains far lower than other NFL lead backs, he can be drafted with more confidence following this move.

Andrew Luck’s Calf Injury Lingering

Any time you read Andrew Luck’s name and the word “injury” in the same sentence, it’s sure to send your stomach in knots. The truth is, we’re not sure exactly how severe the injury is, as Luck and the team are maintaining that his absence in practice is more precautionary.

Still, there’s a lesson to be learned here. We’ve experienced the “will be ready for week 1” line before with this team and player specifically. While I haven’t heard anything that makes me worried he’ll miss a sizable amount of time, there is a chance that Luck isn’t 100% right out of the gates. I’m not considering moving him down in my rankings just yet, but similar to AB’s situation in Oakland, this is one to consider on draft day, especially early August drafts.

Honorable Mention – Kalen Ballage Playing With The Ones: The albatross that was Adam Gase is no longer on hand as an excuse for Kenyan Drakes lack of support. At this point, we have to seriously consider that Drake may not be suited for lead back work. Ballage certainly profiled more as a pass catching back following his college career, but with Drake’s proficiency in that area, this current backfield usage is anyone’s guess. I’ll be avoiding both of them at this point, but if I was forced to chose between the two, I’ll take Ballage at his current draft price vs. the price for Drake.