Category Archives: Player Articles
After a second straight lackluster performance, Blake Bortles was officially placed on the hot seat after head coach Doug Marrone told interviewers following the game that the Jacksonville starting QB position would be up for grabs.
While most had dropped Bortles in their rankings following a bizarre up and down year for the young signal caller (I have him as my 20th ranked QB), this announcement still comes as a surprise.
Bortles had a very good fantasy year in 2015, throwing for over 4,400 yards and adding another 300 on the ground while contributing to 37 total TD’s (35 passing and 2 rushing) and most of us were salivating over the potential top 10 QB considering the weapons and the Jag’s commitment to adding more weapons around him.
Then the big fall came in 2016 with regression across the board (3,900 yards and 23/18 split for TD/INT). Bortles still managed 350 yards on the ground and 3 rushing TDs (as well as one receiving TD) but the heat was formally turned up in the off season.
The funny thing is that Bortles still finished as the QB8 in standard ESPN leagues last year. We usually say “He’s a good real life QB but not so great for fantasy” but Bortles is proof of the other side of the coin.
If Bortles loses the job, Henne figures to be a bottom tier QB despite the weapons around him. It’d be more an elevation for the running game should he find himself starting. Fournette should already get 15+ touches a game, but keep an eye on the competition for the wideouts as Allen Robinson could find himself over drafted if Bortles doesn’t win the job.
Joe Mixon, RB – CIN: With only one pre-season week in the books, any and all observation must be taken with a grain of salt, but Mixon certainly impressed in his NFL debut, rushing 6 times for 31 yards and hauling in one reception for 11 more. Mixon’s draft position has been slowly climbing as the hype machine gets louder, but a few more performances like this and the fears surrounding Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill’s presence on the roster will lose their weight.
Andrew Luck, QB – IND: The news out of Indianapolis is that Luck will be ready “around” the time of the season opener. This situation is sticky at best, considering that Luck is still being drafted as high as the #4 QB. Forecasting a QB’s effectiveness following his return from a lengthy recovery like Luck’s is difficult but I’ve already dropped Luck to #9 on my QB rankings as I anticipate some rust as he works his way back to game shape. If Luck misses any significant time, it could be even worse for owners who invested in him earlier in the preseason on the promises of Jim Irsay and the Colts front office.
Jordan Matthews, WR – BUF: Newly acquired wide out Jordan Matthews found himself injured following his very first Bills practice with what the team is reporting as a chip fracture in his sternum. At this point, he’s been labelled as week to week which makes for a messy situation as Matthews has to still learn the offense and his new role. While he may return from this injury quickly, it’s important to note that Zay Jones could very likely lead the passing game early on, and can be had for next to nothing at the end of drafts. If you’re high on Matthews in the Bills offense, just understand it could be a while before he pays off on the score sheet.
Alfred Morris, RB – DAL: Most (myself included) looked at Darren McFadden as the obvious stand in for Ezekiel Elliott’s 6 game suspension, but after a fine performance from the once-starter Morris, the waters are certainly muddied. I’m not suggestion that a single pre-season game would change the entire outlook on the Dallas backfield, but it’s far from the realm of possibility that Morris at least steals enough carries from McFadden to render either of them a flex starter at best. If I were forced to bet on either of them getting the bulk of the carries for 6 weeks, it’s still on McFadden, but I’d monitor the situation if you’re a Zeke owner who’s keen on snagging his handcuff.
Jay Cutler signs in Miami: While the consensus is that this was bound to happen, I can’t help but feel that Matt Moore was a better option to run the offense in Tannehill’s absense. Either way, expect this offense to run like Gase has traditionally operated, and his wide receivers should maintain the value they had prior to the Tannehill injury. Cutler himself is a middle of the pack fantasy QB, but don’t be surprised if it takes a few games for him to shake off the rust.
Paxton Lynch struggles in Denver: Despite the only competition comes in the form of former 7th round pick (and incumbent starter) Trevor Seimian, Paxton Lynch continues to fall short of the expectations set forth when Denver spent a first round pick on him in 2016. While it’s far from over in terms of being labelled a bust, Lynch has shown very little spark in practices and will need a huge turnaround or a Seimian injury to win the starting job,
Quarterback Battle in Houston: There seems to be some contention surrounding the quarterback competition in Houston. There are reports that both Savage and Watson are playing far above their head in terms of the on-the-field stuff, but it’s being reported that Savage has the resect of his teammates while Watson is still getting acclimated to the NFL. Assuming Savage wins the starting gig, it’ll be a difficult road to keeping it with games against Jacksonville and New England presenting elite secondaries.
Tyreek Hill gains Chemistry with Smith: The opportunity will be there regardless for Hill in the absense left by Maclin’s depature, but his budding chemistry is good news for Hill fans. Experts are speculating a 70-80 catch season which would put Hill solidly in the WR2 camp with a potential to push top billing as the #1 in Kansas City.
By now you’ve heard that Ryan Tannehill had to leave Dolphins practice on Thursday, and the news out of Miami is that potential season-ending surgery is on the table. Maybe you weren’t planning on drafting Tannehill anyhow, but his absense certainly will affect fantasy targets around him.
Matt Moore – QB: The most obvious first-domino would be who steps in under center. Despite rumblings that Jay Cutler may be interested in the gig due to his ties to Adam Gase and his offense, my money is on Matt Moore. Moore performed admirably against all three AFC east teams last year posting 240 yards per game with 8 TDs against 3 INT’s in his three starts. If Moore does start, a reasonable expectation would be around 3,500 yards and 20-22 TDs but the turnovers could rise a bit. He’s a late round flyer at best.
Jay Ajayi – RB: Stacked boxes could mean a change of fortunes for a back many considered to be a top 10 talent. If last seasons disparity between his three 200 yard efforts and the rest of the season is any indication, consistency may be an issue for Ajayi. Draft data suggests that people are already tempering expectations following the Tannehill injury as he’s fallen into the 2nd round on average. In the first round he’s a bit of a gamble but if you can get him in the 2nd or even the third he could be a steal as he’s unlike to relinquish many touches regardless.
Jarvis Landry – WR: While you may find yourself concerned with Landry’s outlook with Moore under center, it’s important to remember that as primarily the slot receiver, he’ll likely be targeted with a similar frequency. In the three games Moore started, Landry had two very good fantasy performances (9 catches on 12 targets for 76 yards and a TD in New England – and 4 catches for 108 yards and a TD against the Jets). If I were to bet on his usage, I would expect him to be a saftey blanket for Moore, leaving his value mostly untouched despite Tannehills absense.
DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills – WR: It’d be wise to bump both of these players down a bit in your rankings, but neither was an after thought in the three games Moore started last year. Parker has a bit more upside and his size makes him a redzone threat, but if the Dolphins find themselves throwing late in games (playing teams like New England will do that to ya) then both have potential to shine.
The bottom line is Tannehill could very well rehab and return, or he could opt for surgery and miss the year. While most teams would notice a massive step back without their starting QB, Moore has proven to be more than servicable as a starter and with Adam Gase coaching the team you can expect some fireworks from the passing game. Obviously playing in the AFC East presents a few challenges, but the Dolphins should still produce a few fantasy stars; provided you can get them at a reasonable draft price.
Reports out of L.A. today point towards a possible season-ending surgery for highly touted rookie WR Mike Williams. While this is certainly a wrench in the gears for a player many expected to make an immediate impact, what it does is open the door for last years suprising success Tyrell Williams to return as the #2 WR on the outside.
I expect Benjamin to remain penciled in as the slot receiver, and if he’s healthy, he’ll take a chunk of the looks Williams was expected to have. But the real winner, assuming Williams misses significant time, is Tyrell Williams.
Last year with Allen and Benjamin missing time, Williams stepped up big time to the tune of 1059 yards on 69 catches, and 7 TDs. Williams has the size (6’4″) to be a big redzone target, but add to that a rise in the depth chart, and you have a recipe for success for the 51st WR being selected.
While he likely won’t repeat last years numbers, it’s still not a sure thing that the wideouts ahead of him on the chart last a full 16 games. Obviously keep an eye on Williams progress, but Williams should still be good for 800 yards and 7-9 TDs.
With the Hall of Fame Game set to kick off the pre-season in just over three weeks, we still have very little information regarding the status of Andrew Lucks rehab from offseason shoulder surgery.
The most obvious fallout from this is with Luck himself, where my previous QB rankings had him still in the top five despite the lingering issues. At this point, with as little information as we have, I have dropped Luck in my postitional rankings from 5 to 9, falling behind Kirk Cousins, Jameis Winston, Russell Wilson, and Dak Prescott.
Beyond that, we have to consider what life without Luck would be like for the first few weeks. Hilton is a safer pick as he’ll likely be the focal point of the passing game. Frank Gore is a safe bet at his current ADP as well since it’s unlikely they’ll use him more or less regardless.
I’m not the biggest Moncrief fan in the world and depending on how much time Luck misses, he falls on my board, but I’m intrigued about Jack Doyle and his potential contributions. While there’s not enough statistics to provide answers for the young TE, it stands to reason that beyond Hilton, he’d be a likely saftey net for a young QB filling in for Luck. Don’t adjust your rankings on him.
Despite all this planning, we could hear in the next few days that Luck is a pillar of health and his rehab is progressing nicely. By all accounts, the Colts front office expects Luck to be ready for week one, but in the absence of solid evidence, it makes sense to prepare for the worst.
They tell you that NFL Running Backs last only a couple of years, that after 30 they fall off the proverbial cliff. While I subscribe to that notion in general, it’s clear that every few years we’re presented with an “exception to the rule” and it’s our job as drafters to identify who can be trusted and who should be thrown in the “Do Not Draft” category.
This year, there are several starting NFL running backs that fall under that umbrella, and a few more still that figure to take up a large chunk of their offenses plays from the backfield. So who should you draft and who should you skip?
- Marshawn Lynch – 31 Years Old: Beast Mode is back, and the expectation in Oakland is that following Latavius Murray’s exit it will be Lynch in the backfield for all three downs. The situation is perfect for a renaissance, as the odometer on Lynch is still relatively low for a career starter in his 30’s. Expect a solid year with fantastic upside in the high powered Oakland offense.
- Danny Woodhead – 32 Years Old: Woodhead may fall into the “over 30” club but his tires have very little wear on them compared to backs who’ve started their whole careers. As a pass catching specialist in an offense that historically targets their backs, Woodhead’s only real danger is on the injury front. When he’s on the field, he’s dynamic and his age can be ignored.
- Frank Gore – 34 Years Old: Long ago I gave up on trying to figure out when Gore was going to slow down. A back who relies on vision and scheme to be effective, Gore continues to impress even as the he nears the end of a storied career. Indianapolis is going to pass first, which only helps to keep the defense from committing to stoping Gore. Expect another 1,000 yards and 4 YPC from the ageless one.
- Adrian Peterson – 32 Years Old: It’s clear that he won’t be the top dog in New Orleans but the Saints seem to favor a general split to keep Ingram healthy so you can expect a reasonably large workload for a back being drafted later in drafts than he should be. All reports point towards Peterson running with a chip on his shoulder, so the potential for him to steal 200+ carries exists, but there’s no telling how effective he’ll be following a lost season.
- Matt Forte – 31 Years Old: Forte has shown all the tell-tale signs of slowing down over the last few years and one expects that even if he gets off to a quick start that age will drag him down again. After a slow finish last year, the consensus was that Bilal Powell may take over for the bulk of the carries, but New York insists that Forte is their guy. So for the time being, he’ll have the lion’s share of touches, but be aware that drafting Forte is likely committing a pick for a guy who’s effectiveness has pretty clearly been proven to drop off after a few weeks.
- Jamaal Charles – 30 Years Old: I have faith that Charles has plenty left in the tank, but the fact remains that after being the 3 down horse in Kansas City for so long, there is serious concern that Charles can return to form. Denver can use him even if he’s primarily a pass catching back but the landing spot won’t do him any favors if he’s slowed down any. With Paxton Lynch or Trevor Semein as your starting QB, he’s likely to face plenty of stacked boxes. As a late round flier he’s worth a look but he may just be done as a fantasy option
- Jonathan Stewart – 30 Years Old: It’s not fair to Jonathan Stewart that he’s never been given the reigns to the Carolina offense, but even when his backfield competition left and he played well in an expanded role, the Panthers brought in other backs to take over. Queue the McCaffrey pick and you can see why Stewart is at the bottom of my list. Expect the rookie to dominate touches early, and with Cam Newton calling his own number more than most QB’s the writing is on the wall for the aging vet. Drafting Stewart is a crap shoot that’s likely to blow up in your face.
So maybe I’ve beaten a dead horse a bit on the bounce back and sleeper picks for QB’s… after all how many are really going to get drafted? Still, there has to be a line in the sand for elite QB1 options and the rest of the group. Who (aside from Joe Flacco… who I will refrain from including in this article) has the potential for a breakout, top 10 season?
Least Risk: Philip Rivers – Los Angelas Chargers – Rivers slots in on my ranks around the 14th spot, meaning he only has to leap four of the QB’s ahead of him. While age is certainly a concern amongst gunslinger type QB’s like Rivers, there’s little evidence that he’s slowing down. It’s clear that, despite the return of Keenan Allen and excpected return of Travis Benjami, LA is committed to giving Rivers more weapons as they drafted one of the best wide outs in the 2017 draft in Mike Williams. Coupled with a capable run game, Rivers is locked and loaded for a massive year.
A Little Risk: Marcus Mariota – Tennessee Titans – If you’re convinced that the Titans are going to ease Mariota back into the playbook following his season ending injury, then by all means, pass on the talented QB. Adding Corey Davis doesn’t seem like they’re committed fully to a run-first scheme, although they certainly want to remain balanced. The upside through the air is modest at best as Mariota still conforms to the NFL game, but his ability to make yards on the ground keep defenses honest and give him space to work. Don’t be alarmed if he starts slow, he’ll be well worth the pick by the end of the season.
Most Risk: Andy Dalton – Cincinnatti Bengals – We’ve heard this one before; Andy Dalton is poised to break out. It certainly doesn’t help having to play fantastic defenses in the ACF North but with John Ross and AJ Green, Dalton has two exceptional burners, and newly aquired RB (via the draft) Joe Mixon rounds out an already formidable backfield capable of catching passes. It may be a bit of a stretch as we can expect a boring, balanced offense in Cincy, but I won’t be surprised if he catches lightning in a bottle to push that top 10 group.
Every year there is significant turnover amongst Fantasy’s top 10 Running Backs, and drafters spend numerous hours pouring over data and stats to find the next guy who’ll slot in where others have failed.
It’s a grueling process, but when a gut pick is right, the feeling of success is second to none. The Running back position is especially volatile due to the injurious nature of the position.
There’s a reason why Backs tend to retire young.
So who can you target outside of the first 10-20 picks that may return first round value?
Least Risk: Lamar Miller, RB – HOU
While it sure feels like Miller has been in the league a long time, the fact is that when the season starts he’ll still only be 26 years old. Houston may not have improved much in terms of the QB situation, but Miller still managed to average over 11 points per week in standard formats, and his 160 points were good for 17th amongst RB despite only playing 14 games and often being limited due to injury. Miller is being drafted currently at 22nd over all (3rd round) as the 13th back off the board, but his ceiling is firmly in the top 10 and possibly as a top 5 back.
A little Risk: Carlos Hyde, RB – SF
Workload has never been an issue for running backs in San Fransisco, but the prevailing question about who’s lining up around him continues to be a cause for concern. In 13 games last year Carlos Hyde average 12.7 points per game (standard scoring) which was good for 10th amongst RBs. But it’s a look at his game log that reminds one just how consistent he is. Over the season Hyde averaged 70 or more yards on the ground 8 out of 13 weeks, while sprinkling in at least one TD in more than half of the games he started. In the 3rd round, Hyde provides a monster ceiling as the only real weapon in San Fran’s offense.
Most Risk: Isaiah Crowell, RB – CLE
The Crow, as he’s affectionately referred to by fans, has the dubious distinction of being the best offensive player on a pretty awful offensive team. This is the main reason his numbers last year were so wildly inconsistent. Despite averaging 4.8 yards per carry, Crowell finished 7 weeks with less than 40 yards on the ground. This is a testament to how ineffective the offense was last year. If the offense around him can improve even slightly, there’s reason to believe Crowell can crack the top 10 and push even further.
As the NFL transitioned in the 2000’s to the made-for-tv passing attacks that led to high flying offenses around the league, it became clear that wide receivers are the new “must haves” in the early rounds of fantasy drafts. Consistency is the key, and with so many targets to go around, it’s unlikely that stud wide outs fall from grace unless injuries to themselves or their quarterbacks derail their season.
Still, the NFL is an ever changing landscape and the wide receiver pool features new names every year. Who can you count on to make the leap into the top 10?
Least Risk: Dez Bryant, WR – DAL
If you want an in depth look into Dez Bryant and his prospects this year, check out this fantastic article at FantasyPros.com, the data is pretty clear; Bryant isn’t done. A combination of injuries, ineffective play, and the emergence of Ezekiel Elliott as the catalyst for the Dallas offence led Bryan to finish as the WR 29, far below the expectations levied on him in the preseason. He’s still being selected as early as the end of the 2nd round, but the truth is that as his rapport with Prescott improved, Bryant quietly returned to his effective self, setting up a likely return to the top 10 of WR’s and the potential to push into the top 5.
A Little Risk: Tyreek Hill, WR – KC
Hill has gone from a sleeper pick to rocketing up draft boards following the release of WR Jeremy Maclin. As of the writing of this article, his ADP is in the 6th round but climbing. He presents a difficult assesment because the young receiver has never been tested as his teams #1 so regression is a potential concern as defenses cue up on him much more. Still, aside from Kelce, Hill offers strong upside as one of the most likely targets between the 20’s. Despite the unknowns, his ability and Kansas City’s committment to him as their guy should propel him up the standings by the time the season ends.
Most Risk: DeSean Jackson, WR – TB
While you may think Jackson in the top 10 is a stretch, remember that he’s sliding into the number two spot on Tampa’s Targets list and he’s protected from defenses thanks to the otherworldly ability of Mike Evans. With Jackson’s ability to stretch the field and get behind defenders firmly in tact (Jackson’s 17.9 YPC led all receivers with more than 25 receptions) expect Winston to look his way early and often and a career year could be in the cards for the crafty veteran.