Author Archives: Dr. Fantasy
As is being reported all over the place, ESPN Tallahassee host Jeff Cameron reports that the league is close to suspending Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston for a failure to report violation of the CBA stemming from a 2016 incident with an Uber Driver (Story Here)
Here at the Dr.’s Office, we’re more interested in the potential fantasy fallout. As we’ve read, it appears to be likely a 1 game suspension, but at maximum he won’t serve more than 3. Of course, where areas of discipline are concerned, the NFL makes it’s own rules. So we have to take that with a grain of salt.
If Winston only misses one game, it’s not an end of the world situation, should you like him as your starting QB. I’d suggest caution at this point, though.
As Winston has progressed through his NFL career, he’s struggled to shake the idea that he’s a bit of a bad egg. This does nothing to dispel the notion, and a down year in 2017 could spell a bit of a hiccup in the former first over all pick’s career.
Of course, if he were to face a three week suspension, I’d be forced to dock him appropriately in my QB rankings. Until such time he’ll remain where he currently is, as my QB15.
- Todd Gurley, LAR
- Le’Veon Bell, PIT
- David Johnson, ARI
- Despite missing most of last season and getting a new QB, Johnson remains a threat to be the #1 running back in PPR formats.
- Ezekiel Elliott, DAL
- Melvin Gordon, LAC
- Alvin Kamara, NO
- Kareem Hunt, KC
- Leonard Fournette, JAC
- With 1,340 yards on 300 touches, Fournette proved that he can be a three down back in the NFL. Now, after the departure of Hurns and Robinson, he may be asked to do even more.
- Saquon Barkley, NYG
- LeSean McCoy, BUF
- Devonta Freeman, ATL
- Dalvin Cook, MIN
- Joe Mixon, CIN
- The questions surrounding Mixon have nothing to do with his talent, and everything to do with how Cincinnati destroys the value of it’s running backs seemingly every year. I’m cautiously optimistic that Mixon approaches 250 touches this year.
- Jerick McKinnon, SF
- Jordan Howard, CHI
- Christian McCaffrey, CAR
- Alex Collins, BAL
- Derrick Henry, TEN
- Derrius Guice, WAS
- Rashaad Penny, SEA
- The noise out of Seattle is that they’re committed to getting their run game going again. The selection of Penny shows me that they’re serious. He may not have as much room to run behind that OL as other rookie backs, but he should have a large share of the touches.
- Lamar Miller, HOU
- Royce Freeman, DEN
- Kenyan Drake, MIA
- Sony Michel, NE
- Ronald Jones II, TB
- Marlon Mack, IND
- No longer splitting carries with Frank Gore, Marlon Mack is the defacto lead back in this continuously dysfunctional offense. It’s likely he’ll cede passing down touches to Hines, but offers a ton of value at a very low risk pick.
- C. J. Anderson, CAR
- Jay Ajayi, PHI
- Mark Ingram, NO
- Tevin Coleman, ATL
- Marshawn Lynch, OAK
- Carlos Hyde, CLE
- Hyde is the most polished runner on the Cleveland roster, but Chubb should keep him from finishing in the top 20. Don’t expect much work on 3rd down either with Duke Johnson owning that area.
- Isaiah Crowell, NYJ
- Kerryon Johnson, DET
- Aaron Jones, GB
- Chris Thompson, WAS
- Tarik Cohen, CHI
- Dion Lewis, TEN
- Duke Johnson, CLE
- Rex Burkhead, NE
- Just when we thought Burkhead would be the guy in New England, the Pats signed Sony Michel in the first round. Best as a waiver wire pick up or late round stash in deep leagues.
- Jamaal Williams, GB
- Theo Riddick, DET
- Devontae Booker, DEN
- Ty Montgomery, GB
- Doug Martin, OAK
- After finally wearing out his welcome, Martin joins a crowded Oakland backfield with a proven starter ahead of him. His value comes mostly as a handcuff for the aging Marshawn Lynch.
- D’Onta Foreman, HOU
- Chris Carson, SEA
- Bilal Powell, NYJ
- Nick Chubb, CLE
- LeGarrette Blount, DET
- Aaron Rodgers, GB
- Russell Wilson, SEA
- Cam Newton, CAR
- Drew Brees, NO
- A quiet yet efficient season has bred this idea that Brees is no longer elite. Expect a return to the top 5, especially with Ingram missing time.
- Carson Wentz, PHI
- Deshaun Watson, HOU
- Tom Brady, NE
- This off season has been difficult for the Patriots as they have faced infighting, suspensions, and denatures. Brady will likely still be elite on the field, but his fantasy prospects take a hit.
- Ben Roethlisberger, PIT
- Kirk Cousins, MIN
- Matthew Stafford, DET
- Philip Rivers, LAC
- Jimmy Garoppolo, SF
- The 5 game stretch to finish the year was impressive, but too many quarter backs have wilted under the pressure after securing the big contract. If reports of Jimmy G’s struggles at camp are correct, caution should be taken.
- Jared Goff, LAR
- Matt Ryan, ATL
- Jameis Winston, TB
- Patrick Mahomes, KC
- The weapons are there in this high powered offense, but the difference between the potential floor and potential ceiling is where the questions begin. As likely as he is a top 10 QB, he’s a bottom tier guy who struggles in his first real action.
- Alex Smith, WAS
- Mitch Trubisky, CHI
- Dak Prescott, DAL
- Marcus Mariota, TEN
- Eli Manning, NYG
- The age is a real concern as Manning turns 38 this year and has tons of mileage on his tires, but his situation has improved immensely. Getting back OBJ and Shephard, receiving better protection, and having an effective run game should have him back in the top 20 conversation.
- Derek Carr, OAK
- Case Keenum, DEN
- Andrew Luck, IND
- This is likely to change as we approach the season and his availability becomes clearer, but for now we have him ranked conservatively, should he start the season on the roster.
- Blake Bortles, JAC
- Andy Dalton, CIN
- Ryan Tannehill, MIA
- Jacoby Brissett, IND
- Joe Flacco, BAL
- I would once have defended Flacco against the haters but I can no longer ignore the writing on the wall. One year older, and an early round addition in Lamar Jackson give Flacco very little room for error.
- Tyrod Taylor, CLE
- Sam Bradford, ARI
- Teddy Bridgewater, NYJ
- Sam Darnold, NYJ
- Josh Rosen, ARI
- Of all the rookie QB’s, Rosen feels like he’s the closest to a starting gig, mainly because Bradford is a safe bet to get injured. If you’re drafting in re-drafts, most of these rookie QB’s aren’t an option, but Rosen may be the best of the bunch.
- Baker Mayfield, CLE
- Nick Foles, PHI
- Josh Allen, BUF
- A.J. McCarron, BUF
- Neither McCarron, nor Allen, excite me much, but it’s likely McCarron’s offense for now. If you need a really deep play – he may be worth a look in the last round of your draft. Ideally he’d be a waiver wire pickup, though.
- Lamar Jackson, BAL
- Josh McCown, NYJ
Every year I run an article where I examine the what I consider to the be the most rewarding same team pairings in fantasy football. The idea, if you’re not familiar, is that by adding high tier quarterbacks with elite wide receivers or running backs you give yourself a larger share of the available points. Of course, this works best with high scoring offenses.
Last year I missed the mark a little bit with my go to; Derek Carr and Amari Cooper, as both disappointed. Luckily I planned well enough that it didn’t impact me too much (I won the league after all), but the same risks exist for any strategy as some guys just don’t show up.
But this year presents a different challenge, as the number of elite quarterbacks have dropped precipitously and the number of sure fire fantasy studs is at a questionable level. Let’s begin:
Earl Round Pairs ( Most Difficult To Manage)
Aaron Rodgers and Devante Adams: Adams is finally getting the respect he deserves, ranking 7th among wide receivers. Pairing the #7 WR with the #1 QB is a healthy strategy regardless of what team they play for, but getting extra point for yards and touchdowns shared has this pairing at the top of list. Still, it’ll cost you two of your first four picks to assemble this pairing.
Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown: While the jury seems to be out on Roethlisberger every year in the off season, Big Ben grinds his way to a top ten finish at the position. What’s NEVER a question is how good Brown will be when he’s on the field. The easy answer is that Brown is the safest pick in fantasy, but it will require you have a top 3 or 4 pick.
Drew Brees and Michael Thomas: Despite still playing at a high level, Brees has sort of slipped behind Thomas and Alvin Kamara as the top targets in the New Orleans offense. That in no way diminishes his ability to produce in fantasy, and I’d argue is a better option than both Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady, but that’s a different article all together. Getting Michael Thomas, though, is the hard part. His ADP of 15 will mean drafting 1-5 will preclude you from drafting him unless you get lucky. If you do get lucky, a 6th or 7th round pick will land you Brees, who’s ADP of 69 is criminally low.
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski: Draft Brady at your own risk, but if you’re confident that the off season malaise in New England won’t affect Brady’s ability to perform then have at it. The truth is that Rob Gronkowski could set records this year as the only reliable pair of hands left for Brady to chuck it up to. Sure, Edelman will be back in 4 games and Hogan has shown he can play with Brady, but Gronk should see the end zone 10-15 times this year on top of a ton of yards. Grabbing him in the 3rd round to pair with Brady in the 7th gives plenty of time to add skill players besides.
Middle Round Pairs (Easier To Coordinate)
Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin: This one isn’t as impactful in terms of fantasy because Wilson tends to supplement his passing stats with his legs. Unfortunately for this exercise, his rushing statistics can’t be taken into account. Still, Doug Baldwin is one of the leagues best slot receivers, and as a 4th round pick has a lot of value regardless. Without Jimmy Graham in the red one, he may even see a few more looks there. This one may not be the sexiest pair on the list, but they may be the most effective.
Carson Wentz and Zach Ertz: It may seem strange to see another WR/TE combo, but the fact is Wentz and Ertz seem to share a brain in the red zone, meaning a ton of points are up for grabs between the two of them. While Alshon Jeffrey may be the #1 wide out on the team’s depth chart, the true number one is Ertz. if you miss out on Gronk but you want a stud tight end, pair a 4th round Ertz with a 7th round Wentz and reap the benefits.
Kirk Cousins and Stefon Diggs: Wait, you say. This should be Thielen and Cousins! I’m here to tell you, not so fast. Now, I can see a scenario like in Denver years back with multiple 1,000 yard receivers, but the guy I’m targeting is Diggs in the late 4th round. He was excellent last year even though he wasn’t the top target for the Case Keenum led Vikings. Now, he has Cousins tossing the ball to him. A classic gunslinger, Cousins’ game best fits the strengths Diggs brings to the table. This is one of the least expensive pairings you can get as a 4th and a 10th gets you both players.
Matt Ryan and Julio Jones: You may have to spend a 2nd round pick on Jones, but the wait on Ryan is a bit longer than the other QB’s on this list. As the QB13, he’s being drafted in the 11th round, and I’d argue his value is sky high this year as a bounce back candidate. If you’re like me, and you see more value in grabbing high end skill players to pair with the later round QB, Matt Ryan is a slam dunk. Have him and Julio, and you’ll reap the rewards for all those yards.
Odell Beckham and Eli Manning: If you’re nervous about drafting either of these guys, I’d say you’re hardly alone. Beckham is an otherworldly talent when he’s right, but the combination of recent injury woes and an inability to stay level headed means he may fall towards the end of the first round. What I will say is that if you manage Beckham, Manning is a wonderful pairing if you waited a bit long on your QB. In the 16th round of drafts (current ADP is 152) Manning presents a conundrum. He was awful last year but much of it could be logically blamed on the terrible circumstances around him. With healthy weapons, an upgraded offensive line, and an elite RB to draw the attention, and Manning could be a surprise top 15 QB this year.
Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen: Allen proved last year that when he’s healthy, he’s every bit the stud we thought he was. Rivers remains one of the most under appreciated QB’s in fantasy, and his ADP of 112 presents tons of value. Without Hunter Henry, even more weight will be given to Allen, meaning these two could hook up for a ton of points.
Honorable Mentions: Derek Carr and Amari Cooper (a new coach could help get these two back on track). Jared Goff and Brandin Cooks (it’s a new look for Goff, but Cooks could be his go to early and often). Jameis Winston and Mike Evans (This requires a bounce back year for both, but not guaranteed). Marcus Mariota and Corey Davis (There’s so much talent between these two, it’s hard to imagine both of them laying duds this year).
It’s not always a skill issue, but every year there’s several players that turn into monumental busts. Having one of these guys eating up roster space halfway through the season is demoralizing, but sometimes unavoidable.
Adam Thielen, WR – Minnesotta: It’s funny how fantasy football tends to have fairly predictable ebbs and flows, and after the monster for Thielen (92 catches for 1276 yards) the fantasy community has gone all in on the 27 year old. Currently ranked 11th at his position and 30th overall, I’d argue to exercise caution when selecting Thielen that early.
Between a new quarterback that seemed to favor the long ball (Kirk Cousins) and an OC in John DeFilippo that has shown a commitment to their down field targets (examples; Travis Benjamin, Jordan Matthews, Alshon Jeffrey) the expectation should be that regression is coming. Now, I’m not suggesting that Thielen falls completely off the map, but expect a far less consistent stat line. A more reasonable expectation would be roughly 1,000 yards and 5 TDs; similar to his 2016 numbers.
T.Y. Hilton, WR – Indianapolis: This one certainly feels like low hanging fruit, but Hilton continues to see an ADP of around 33, good for 13th among wide receivers. What’s disconcerting is that Hilton seems to have enough monster games each year to hide the fact that he’s more likely to bust than he is to boom.
With 9 weeks of 50 or fewer yards and 7 weeks with 30 or fewer, the reality is that Hilton is no better than a flex start. Regardless of how confident you may be at identifying when Hilton is set to go off, it’s still a waste of a pick in the fourth round when you can only reasonably rely on Hilton 25% of the time.
Aaron Rodgers, QB – Green Bay: I’d like to preface this portion of the article by saying I believe Rodgers, pound for pound, is still the best signal caller in the NFL. Still, at 34, and returning from a near-season ending injury, he’ll have the most difficult fantasy schedule among all QBs with 7 of his first 11 games coming against the top 10 stingiest defenses in terms of QB scoring.
While Jimmy Graham should help, there’s also a possibility that he’ll get off to a slow start and an aging Rodgers may resume running for his life. A healthy Aaron Rodgers is a valuable fantasy asset, no matter how you look at it, but in the 2nd rounds of drafts, there’s little chance he pays off in terms of the return on that investment.
Using current ADP and positional ranking data, 6/15
It’s become increasingly clear over the years that NFL clubs are employing their first year backs with greater frequency. In response, the fantasy community has finally gotten over it’s own unwritten rule of ignoring rookie backs, and the practice of uncovering those middle and late round gems has become an important task.
The obvious name that sits on top of the list is Giants first round pick Saquon Barkley (ADP 7) . An otherworldly talent, Barkley is an obvious choice to be first off the board among rookies in fantasy drafts as well. Beyond that, the waters grow murkier.
Derrius Guice – Washington (ADP 41, RB21)
Hailing from LSU, rookie back Derrius Guice fell out of the draft’s first round due to concern surrounding off the field concerns. What isn’t a concern is the talent level of the potential three down back. Of course, navigating the perennial backfield changes in Washington can be difficult, but given how ineffective the run game has been over the past few years, the opportunities on first and second down should be there for Guice. If he can carve out 150-200 touches and goal line responsibilities, it’s not a stretch to see Guice finish in the top 20 at the position.
Rashad Penny – Seattle (ADP 46, RB 23)
Penny, the San Diego State product, falls onto the board right behind Guice at 46th overall. While the talent is certainly there, the major concern surrounding the poor offensive line remains. Some of our fears have been smoothed over after Pete Carroll publicly stated his desire to run the football a ton, but efficiency could be a problem. If Penny can carve out a three down role, he can be a valuable fantasy asset, but if he has trouble finding room, he could be frustrating to own.
Sony Michel – New England (ADP 53, RB 25)
New England surprised everyone by selecting a running back in the first round of this years draft, but boy did they get a good one. A very capable receiver out of the backfield, he fell into an ideal situation in the wake of Dion Lewis’ departure. Further impacting his ability to play meaningful stats is his ability to pass block. Of course, New England could take another approach all together and use him as a change of pace, but not much stands between Michel and the 200 touches vacated by Lewis.
Royce Freeman – Denver (ADP 61, RB 27)
When Denver moved on from productive back C. J. Anderson prior to the draft, the first reaction was that they planned on giving Booker the reigns. That quickly changed when the Broncos added Oregon running back Royce Freeman in the third round. Freeman represents a potential upgrade on early downs, but is currently listed 2nd on the depth chart behind Devontae Booker per CBS Sports. Take that information with a grain of salt as Booker has managed a mere 3.6 YPC across 250 career touches. It’s only a matter of time before Freeman is the lead back in Denver.
Kerryon Johnson – Detroit (ADP 83 – RB 33)
It’s tempting to look at Detroit trading up to select Johnson in the 2nd round and think “where there’s smoke there’s fire” but the truth is that there’s very little security in year one for any of the backs currently rostered by the Lions. A quick prognostication reveals that Theo Riddick, if healthy, is going to dominate passing downs, leaving three capable backs fighting for first and second downs. LeGarrette Blount is as good a short yardage back as there is in the league, but he’s not a bell cow. Neither is Ameer Abdullah, who’s athleticism has kept him relevant in fantasy circles for years now, but isn’t enough to force Johnson further down depth charts. As 9th round flier, there’s still some risk, but Johnson is the kind of back that could erupt into fantasy stardom with an injury to any one of the backs blocking him from extra work.
Ronald Jones II, Tampa Bay (ADP 88, RB 37)
It seems that thanks to Doug Martin’s on-again-off-again years of inefficient production has finally soured the world to Tampa Bay running backs, otherwise Ronald Jones would be valued far higher than he is now at 88th overall. Of course, there are concerns about his size, at 5’11” and roughly 200 pounds, but Jones held up just fine with nearly 300 touches his senior year (totally 2000+ yards). Even more telling is that only undrafted Peyton Barber is blocking him from meaningful snaps, and I expect that to be remedied in short order. At his current draft position (in the 9th round) he’s a no-brainer to surpass many that sit higher on this list.
Nick Chubb, Cleveland (ADP 96, RB40)
Unfortunately for Chubb, one of the more highly touted prospects in this draft class, he finds himself lagging behind his contemporaries for opportunities thanks to Cleveland’s depth at running back. Carlos Hyde was impressive with a bad San Fransisco team last year, and Duke Johnson is one of the most proficient pass catching backs in the league, leading many to ask, “where are Chubb’s touches going to come from?” It’s not an easy question to answer. Sadly, barring an injury, Chubb is nothing more than a handcuff. With an offense full of weapons, the odds of him performing well enough to roster are slim to none.
Nyheim Hines, IND (ADP 159, RB 54)
A broad look at Hines’ situation in Indianapolis may lead you away from him as a potential late round steal, but if one takes a closer look things get far more clear. Head Coach Frank Reich has long employed a jack of all spades type back in his offenses, and Hines has the look of a Darren Sproles/Danny Woodhead type contributor. I’ll stop short of saying he can be this year’s Alvin Kamara, but in terms of potential contributions, he’ll be a PPR sleeper for me.
Kalen Ballage, MIA (ADP 214, RB 66)
It’s likely that Ballage will be a total after thought in drafts this summer, but keep in mind that Alvin Kamara wasn’t drafted in many leagues last year either. Ballage is large for a back, and didn’t run the ball nearly as much as the others on this list. In fact, the 157 carries he saw as a Senior at Arizona State was the highest number of his collegiate career. That hardly inspires confidence, but neither Kenyon Drake nor Frank Gore have the passing game ability that Ballage possesses. As a third down option, Ballage will likely earn some looks early on, and his draft stock will depend on what he does with those looks. Either way, he’s a back to flag as a potential dark horse for big passing game contributions.
I’d like to preface this by saying that every player has some kind of value, but the real issue I take with the following players is the value other fantasy players have assigned to them. As always, take these with a grain of salt, as I’ll likely look at any of them if they fall into a round with appreciable value.
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB – San Fransisco: It sure looked like Jimmy G was the real deal as he lead the listless 49ers to 5 straight wins to close out the season. And it certainly helped his stock that he beat three playoff teams in Jacksonville, Tennessee, and the LA Rams. But has he done enough in his brief time as a starter to warrant being drafted as the 9th QB off the board?
Instead of targeting a QB with 7 career starts and expecting a top 10 finish at the position, it’s a far safer proposition to look at the names directly behind him on the list. Matt Stafford, Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger, and Philip Rivers can all be had, and all offer far more consistent value in my opinion. Do I think Jimmy G is a bust candidate? No, not particularly, but with all the buzz surrounding the former heir to the Tom Brady empire, I’ll let someone else overpay for the unknown commodity.
Tom Brady, QB – New England: This may surprise some, especially being a Patriots fan living in Massachusetts, but the news out of New England has been mostly terrifying, yet Brady is still being drafted as the QB4. Between a lack of off season work, his top target from last year being traded, and his former safety net in Julian Edelman facing a 4 game suspension after missing all of last year with a knee injury, and you have a recipe for disaster if you lob and early round pick at Brady.
Of course, he’ll probably prove me wrong, but there’s no way I’m drafting Brady before Brees, Wentz, or Newton – the next three QB’s on the list. If I can get Brady for a discount, I’m comfortable with his superior talent making up for these things, but in the 5th round I’m drafting skill players and snagging someone else several rounds later.
Dion Lewis, RB – Tennessee: Every year the final running back rankings reveal a few surprises, and Dion Lewis’ 203 points (RB13) was certainly the stand out name to me. But now a member of the Titans, Lewis’s name keeps popping up on watch lists as a name to watch, something I just can’t get behind.
While he’s undoubtedly an electric player when healthy, 2017 was the first time Lewis turned in 16 games in his career, and betting on anything more than 7 games is a crap shoot with the diminutive back. Also against him is his role in the Tennessee offense, as he slides in neatly on the depth chart as the 3rd down back behind elite runner Derrick Henry. Sadly, no team targeted their backs less than the Titans 66 total RB targets. The ceiling is so low in Tennessee with a healthy Henry on the roster that I’m staying away from Lewis at all costs.
Kenyon Drake, RB – Miami: On the surface, Drake seems like a logical name to take the “next step” into fantasy relevance, especially after he dominated the touches for the Dolphins down the stretch, turning 91 touches into 444 yards and 2 TDs from week 13 on. How did the Dolphin front office repay him? By bringing in Frank Gore via free agency and adding Kalen Ballage in the draft.
We’ve seen similar situations before, and I’d argue caution when investing in the Miami backfield. Much like the Spencer Ware/Kareem Hunt situation last year, there is likely very little room for error when it comes to touches for Drake. Of course, staying healthy should see him resume the roll of the top dog, but touches will be limited, and his prospects of turning in a top 20 RB season are slim in my estimation.
T.Y. Hilton, WR – IND: It’s easy to look at the bottom line and say “but Hilton was productive” while ignoring the deficiencies playing in Indianapolis’ offense creates. The news on Andrew Luck has been mostly positive, but it still doesn’t look like he’ll be returning any time soon, yet fantasy drafters haven’t seem to given up on Hilton as an elite WR.
A closer look reveals how inconsistent Hilton was with Jacoby Brissette throwing him the ball. More than half of his yards (966 on the season) came in only three games (505) which in this case can’t be offset by the threat of scoring, as his 4 TDs is about what you can expect for the smaller receiver. If he continues on the pace he’s at, he’s a flex start at best, which is something that you can’t afford out of a 4th round pick.
Tyreek Hill, WR – KC: This one may sound strange, as I was a big fan of Hill’s going into last season, even going out of my way to own him in several leagues, but every year we must re-evaluate each players value and leave the past love in past when ranking players. Hill is currently the 10th WR coming off the board, but presents many of the same problems highlighted above with T.Y. Hilton.
Similarly, his final stat line is a bit of a mirage as the 75 catches for 1,183 yards only represents half of the story. Aside from four big games (552 yards and 3 of his 7 TDs), Hill failed consistently to hit 5 catches or 100 yards. Add to the roster a WR the caliber of Sammy Watkins, and he’s now relying on the big play to score, further damaging his fantasy value. While I can see a similar 100 targets, the effects of additional receiving weapons, an elite run game, and a first year starter are too much to overcome when drafting a player as early as Hill needs to be drafted.
Evan Engram, TE – NYG: Another player I preached judiciously last year, Engram turned in one of the finest fantasy seasons for a rookie TE ever, and is being rewarded for it by being the 5th TE off the board in 2018. As a TE being drafted in the 6th round, you’d like to be relatively sure that his production will remain consistent, but that’s where the problem begins.
Last year, as we all know, was a perfect storm for Engram, as the receiving corps for the Giants was decimated all year, leaving Engram as the only reliable starter capable of catching the ball. Now, he’ll be fighting for targets with a healthy Odell Beckham and Sterling Shephard, and he’ll see far less usage in the red zone as the Giants drafted Saquon Barkley, the best RB prospect for Big Blue in years. Could he surprise, sure, but will be finish as the TE5? Not a chance.
If you hadn’t heard, Julian Edelman of the New England Patriots is facing a four game suspension for testing positive for some kind of P.E.D. The details have not yet been released, but it’s a safe bet that the Patriots will be without their star slot receiver until week 5 of the season.
What does that mean in terms of fantasy?
There are two major factors when determining where to rank Edelman. First, is that he’s coming off a major knee injury. At 32 years old, and a year removed from meaningful football, Edelman is already behind the proverbial 8 ball. Second, he’ll be missing 25% of the fantasy schedule even if he DOES stay healthy for the year. My projections have him hovering around the WR50 mark, which would plant him in the 14th round.
But who is going to assume the production early on (and possibly ingratiate themselves to Brady)?
The least impact should be to the Patriots newest receiver, Jordan Matthews. While he may be the most talented receiver on the board in terms of athletic ability, he’s had very little time to work with his new QB, as Brady continues to avoid the Patriots practice facilities.
Rob Gronkowski, meanwhile, should benefit only slightly, as he was likely in line for the lions share of targets anyhow even before the suspension. I expect that the Pats would rather involve other supporting cast rather than dump more on the oft-injured TE.
This leaves Chris Hogan as the receiver with the most to gain. We know Brady and Hogan have a bit of a rapport already, and with added expectation thanks to the Brandin Cooks trade, Hogan should slide in as the WR1 right out of the gates, and should see a more consistent usage in the passing game.
Of course, expect the running backs to see ample usage early on. Sony Michel, the Patriots first round draft pick, is a trendy name already but James White or Rex Burkhead should be more valuable considering where they are being drafted.
As always, keep an eye on the situation as things may change.
While the season still sits firmly on the horizon, fantasy nerds like myself help prop up the early season ADP data by grinding mock drafts despite having very little information to work with. While I’ll still examine each position with the “hidden gem” feature articles later in the summer, we’re going to provide sleeper updates on a monthly basis until the season begins.
Ryan Tannehill, MIA: Don’t confuse his inclusion on this list as a suggestion that the Dolphins are a team on the rise; because they’re not. What he is, though, is a potential top 15 fantasy quarterback available in the last few rounds of your draft. Ignoring last season, Tannehill has finished 13th (2013), 7th (2014), and 15th (2015), and turned in a dud in 2016 as the QB25 (he did miss 3 games). Those aren’t world beater numbers, but considering the relatively easy schedule he’ll face, and his ability to generate surprising yards on the ground (he averages around 200 yards per season) his floor is well above what we may expect from a player being drafted currently in the 21st round of deep drafts. As a bench player, he costs very little draft capital, but provides more upside than the other QB’s being drafted in a similar spot.
Matt Ryan, ATL: A massive drop off from his QB2 finish in 2016, Ryan’s 2017 has scared off potential suitors and saw him drop to the QB16 spot per current consensus ADP data. No longer playing with the pressures of the QB who blew the biggest super bowl lead, Ryan is poised to bounce back. Atlanta returns it’s superstar backfield, still has Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, and added Calvin Ridley at the draft, marking a very clear focus on surrounding Matty Ice with weapons. A return to the high flying offensive numbers of 2016 may be a stretch, but I’d find it hard to believe if Ryan turns in another dud this year. I fully expect a top 10 QB finish, and one that can be added in the 11th round of your draft.
Ty Montgomery, GB: I know I was derisive of Montgomery last year, but in spite of that, his current ranking (RB59, ADP – 100) is criminally low for a back that many viewed as a top 20 back last year before injuries derailed his season. While he remains an injury risk, a health Montgomery should resume his lead back role in 2018, especially in the passing game. It doesn’t hurt that he’ll be catching passes from the best QB in the game right now. If you need to add depth at the RB position, or punted on early round backs, Montgomery may help bail out a roster.
Marlon Mack, IND: While Mack was a trendy sleeper pick last year behind the aging Frank Gore, his performance over the season left a lot to be desired. In 16 games Mack garnered double digit touches only twice (in week 1 and week 8) otherwise he was an after thought in a terrible Colts offense. Now, he’s in line to be the lead back with Gore leaving for Miami, and the news that he’s fully recovered from surgery to repair a torn labrum he played the season with further cements his “sleeper” status in my mind. Even if Andrew Luck remains on the shelf, in the 8th round of drafts (ADP of 77th overall), Mack provides a solid floor while presenting plenty of upside.
Devante Parker, MIA: Last year, Parker was drafted with the expectation that he’d take a leap into the positions top 20; instead he was saddled with horrendous quarterback play and inconsistent targets following the season ending ACL injury suffered by Ryan Tannehill. While Tannehill doesn’t present much of an upgrade over Jay Cutler and co in terms of real football, he does have a great rapport with Parker. Coupled with a relatively easy schedule, an Parker is a steal at 104 overall.
Cole Beasley, DAL: Another tumultuous offseason for the Cowboys saw franchise corner stone Dez Bryant leave via free agency and Jason Witten retired. Despite the addition of Allen Hurns, the player who stands to gain the most from the absence should be Cole Beasley. After leading the team in targets in 2016, Beasley felt the effects of the Elliott suspension hard as the season saw him finish with only 36 catches on 63 targets. Let’s not forget, though, that the diminutive slot man led the team in targets in 2016 and saw a healthy 75 targets the year before. Expecting 80+ targets shouldn’t be too difficult a prediction considering that Dak Prescott has to throw to somebody and Beasely represents the best option for slot work on a run first team. Basically an afterthought in drafts so far, Beasley can be had for the low low price of nothing.
David Njoku, Cle: Coming out of college Njoku seemed like a lock to contribute right out of the gates, but as we so often find out, rookies are a crap shoot in fantasy. Now, the word is that targets are going to be scarce for the talented tight end, thanks to three very good receivers and two capable pass catching backs on the roster. I’d argue that with Tyrod Taylor’s propensity to scramble with the football, Njoku could be a nice target for owners looking to add TE depth late in drafts. While he likely won’t finish in the top 15 at the position, he’ll probably see a healthy number of targets in the red zone, giving him value regardless.
Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, Jac: One of these days my Sefarian-Jenkins take is going to pay off in spades, and this year looks like it’s the year. Uber talented, Sefarian-Jenkins toiled away on a Jets team that couldn’t get consistency on offense no matter how hard it tried. It was recently revealed that ASJ suffered from substance abuse issues that he’s since sought help for and claims that he’s sober and focused on football for the first time as a pro. Color me intrigued as an involved Sefarian-Jenkins could be a monster in fantasy, especially given the lack of top tier weapons in Jacksonville following Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns departures. A late round target, he’ll cost you next to nothing to acquire but could be a massive piece of a championship run.
In the interest of avoiding plucking at low hanging fruit, we’ll ignore players who were duds due to injury, and instead focus on players who underperformed enough that you may have soured on owning them in your leagues.
Jay Ajayi, RB – Phi: Before the season, I cautioned anyone planning on using a first or second round pick on Ajayi to reconsider. His numbers were a mirage propped up on the back of three 200 yard games. Through 7 weeks my point was proven as the listless Dolphins managed to trot out a Jay Cutler led offense that struggled to move the football for long stretch. Ajayi managed a paltry 3.3 yards per game for the Dolphins, prompting the trade that would bring him a championship ring.
Following the trade, Ajayi started running harder. Was it simply a change of scenery or was it because the offense had talent around him? Whatever the case may be, Ajayi managed 408 yards on 70 attempts, good for a 5.8 yard per carry mark. Now, with LeGarrette Blount gone to Detroit, this backfield is his for the taking. While he won’t average 5.8 YPC with an expanded role, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t approach the 1,000 yard mark with 6-8 TD’s.
Samaje Perine, RB – WAS: Before the season, one of the trendiest sleeper picks was rookie RB Samaje Perine, only to see his stock drop precipitously following a disastrous pre-season. Rob Kelley did nothing to dispel the rumors of his impending take over, though, and midway through the season Perine was seeing regular touches. Unfortunately for owners, aside from a two week stretch that saw him amass 47 rushes and over 200 yards, he was uninspiring.
With Alex Smith now under center in Washington, I’d place my bets on this team moving to a more run heavy attack, and that will only benefit the 2nd year Perine. With no one but Rob Kelley in his way for the bulk of carries, there’s little doubt in my mind that he’ll be atop the depth chart when the season starts. Currently ranked 49th at his position by Matthew Berry’s early rankings, that is the kind of value I want out of my late round picks.
Bilal Powell, RB – NYJ: The Jets backfield experienced major upheaval as Matt Forte retired and Isaiah Crowell and Thomas Rawls were both brought in to fill the gap. What does this mean for Powell? I’d argue not much. The Jets were a dumpster fire last year, and the lack of talent on offense kept Powell from rewarding owners who expected massive PPR points from the capable pass catcher.
Despite the addition of these two other backs, Powell should return with a virtual lock on third down work, and with even a slight improvement of the talent around him, Powell should return to the 10+ points per week contributor many expected. While his value in standard (non PPR) leagues is much less grandiose, being ranked 36th at his position is a criminal undervalue.
Honorable Mentions: Jeremy Hill has a lot to prove if he wants to make the roster in New England, but at only 25 years old, and a few years removed from elite performances, he has a chance to return to glory as a Patriot. Likewise, LeGarrett Blount finds himself moving from one crowded backfield in Philly, to another in Detroit. The difference is that the Lions haven’t been able to find a healthy back to carry the load and they hope Blount is that guy. As always, he’ll lack in the catches stat, but should have plenty of opportunity in the red zone with very little competition for those carries on the roster.