Category Archives: Team Previews
In what has become a bit of a running joke, the Thursday Night Football game promises to be a dud more often than not. What does that mean for your fantasy prospects? We’ll take a look in this weeks Thursday Night Preview.
The Teams – Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last week wasn’t kind to these two teams, as only Christian McCaffrey turned in a worth-while fantasy performance (128 rushing yards, 10 receptions for 81 yards, and two rushing TDs). Cam Newton, Mike Evans, Jamies Winston, and Greg Olsen were all duds, while Chris Godwin and D.J. Moore had solid PPR days, but left a lot on the table. Carolina’s defense did allow 166 rushing yards to RB’s on only 28 total carries, but Tampa Bay features a far less exciting stable of backs than the Rams do.
Conversely, the 49ers offense wasn’t nearly as efficient despite hanging 31 points on the Bucs. Cam Newton will have to improve on his week one performance is the passing game is going to get back on track against a defense that allowed a meager 166 yards through the air to Jimmy Garoppolo.
Jameis Winston: Facing a Carolina defense that held Jared Goff and the prolific Rams passing offense to under 200 yards passing, Winston could have another tough go of it in week 2.
Mike Evans: While I still believe in Evans in year long leagues, I’m concerned about the Bucs offense providing Winston with enough time to find Evans down the field. I could see a game script that’s more run heavy with a lot of short to intermediate passing plays; something that doesn’t help a guy like Evans.
Curtis Samuel: Moore and McCaffrey shared the bulk of the targets, and considering how well Tampa defended San Francisco, it could be more of the same in week 2. Moore is clearly the top target, and if Newton has to lean as heavily on the run game in week 2, the opportunities aren’t going tot be there for Samuel to be a safe play.
Christian McCaffrey: Don’t read too much into the lack of success San Francisco had in week 1; their backfield was thrown into turmoil early on with the loss of Tevin Coleman. CMC is on a different level, and even thought we can’t expect nearly a 7 yard per carry mark every week, he’ll have one of the safest weekly volumes, and is clutch in the red zone.
Chris Godwin: Evans is likely to be the focal point of the Bucs defense, meaning Godwin will have more opportunities to be targeted. If Carolina scores early and often, it’s Godwin, and not Evans, that I’m targeting in daily for week 2.
Thoughts on The Game
I don’t think this will be your prototypical 13-10 Thursday night game, but I expect fatigue to become a factor for the teams playing on the first short week of the season. Of course, these two teams look like they’re continue to filter the ball through it’s best play makers, so feel confident starting most of the top guys in these offenses, but be wary of the Thursday Night curse (low scoring duds).
It may be week 1 of the NFL season, but the drama surrounding Antonio Brown has led to what may eventually be the most shocking development of the 2019 season. Shortly after his release from the Oakland Raiders, the divisive star receiver found a new home in the New England Patriots.
Of course, this will obviously cause a ripple affect for both teams, as Antonio Browns presences will surely effect the fantasy prospects of several players on both teams.
With the release of Brown, the Raiders receiving corps suddenly lacks elite talent. It does have a pair of receivers with differing skill sets that could see an uptick in production right away in deep threat Tyrell Williams, and rookie receiver Hunter Renfrow, who could see a lot more action in the slot with Brown out of town. In addition, expect Darren Waller to be targeted a bit more than originally predicted. Of course, none of these guys on their own match the pure talent AB takes with him, but in terms of individual contributions, you can expect Carr to feed each a bit more going forward.
New England Patriots
Of course, the Patriots roster may feel the largest impact, as first round rookie N’Keal Harry’s IR designation left the door open for someone to step into the starting role. Demaryius Thomas looked like the obvious choice, but the Patriots didn’t sign Brown to the contract he was given with no intention of using him. He’ll be heavily targeted, although maybe not to the 160+ target range we’ve come to expect. He and Edelman will continue to be the big targets in this offense, but it certainly hurts the prospects of both Demaryius Thomas as well as Philip Dorsett and the tight ends. Ben Watson was suspended for four games anyhow, but you have to wonder just how many looks there are to go around.
If you own Brown, he’s still a safe bet to be a solid producer, but it remains to be seen with a 42 year old Brady, just how often they’re going to throw in New England.
According to a statement released by the NFL, Tyreek Hill will not face a suspension in 2019 for the alleged child abuse that we discussed previously. We will not discuss the moral implications of said news, but we did have to adjust our Chief’s projections following the news.
Hill gets an immediate boost, finding himself in our top 5 at the position, only lagging behind players like Julio and Michael Thomas because of how difficult it is to predict which weeks he’ll boom and which week’s he’ll bust. Regardless of his lack of elite consistency, 16 games of Hill should result in some pretty spectacular numbers.
Kelce’s outlook doesn’t change much, and I expect the backfield to remain fairly constant, but the impact on Sammy Watkins, and especially popular rookie target Mecole Hardman is a bit more painful.
We expected Watkins to see an uptick in targets during the assumed suspension, so his new outlook drops him into the WR3 range in our projections, and Mecole Hardman will have a very difficult time being worth of a roster spot. With too many excellent receiving options in front of him, I can only see him being deployed on certain passing downs, and even then, he’ll likely be a down the field target who may see fewer than 20-25 catches on the season.
In the wake of this news, we implore you to bump Hill up into the top ten at your position, but also caution you to remember that even if his final stat line bests that of players like Michael Thomas and Julio Jones, he’ll have far less consistent production than either player, so rank him accordingly.
First, I’d like to preface this entire article by saying it’s a far better strategy to wait in your draft to select your D/ST. As we’ve seen over the years, there’s very little value in paying above value for an “elite” D/ST. Whether it was last years Bears, the prior years Jaguars, or the Rams, Saints, or Cardinals defense before them, prevailing wisdom says your just as likely to get a top D/ST off the waivers as you are in the middle rounds of your draft.
So why even focus on Defenses and Special Teams? Because we want to try and find next years Bears defense in the late rounds.
Of course, with defenses there’s far more volatility in terms of scoring as there are at the skill positions. Any time your relying on an entire unit and its game plan to secure you points, there’s a large degree of uncertainty going into the year. This is true of all D/ST’s – including the top ones.
So who are we going to see at the end of my draft? Let’s be clear – unless your playing in an experts league, there’s no way to provide truly accurate D/ST information. In friends and family leagues, there’s always a strange run on defenses far to early, so we tend to ignore the top 7 or so D/ST’s in our research. That means we’re ignoring the following teams:
Chicago Bears (ADP: 91), Los Angeles Rams (ADP: 106), Jacksonville Jaguars (ADP: 124), Baltimore Ravens (ADP: 128), Los Angeles Chargers (ADP 131), Minnesota Vikings (ADP: 140), Houston Texans (ADP: 149).
Cleveland Browns (ADP: 152)
The first team we’d expect to fall late in the draft (assuming your league doesn’t have 9 guys drafting defenses early) would be the Cleveland Browns. Their current ADP is 8th among D/STs and may be one of the better values at the “position” in 2019. In addition to bolstering an ascending offense, they added several key pieces to their defense via Free Agency and the Draft.
Olivier Vernon and Sheldon Richardson were added to a D-Line that already featured elite pass rusher Miles Garrett. This unit will be a headache for opposing coordinators from the jump, and the drafting of Greedy Williams adds depth to a defensive backs group that still features the services of T.J. Ward. Expecting this defense to perform above expectations isn’t a difficult stretch, and I like the Browns D/ST to provide pretty solid value with a pretty excellent ceiling.
Denver Broncos (ADP: 169)
Ranked 8th among D/ST’s in season long scoring last year, Denver is currently going in the 17th round of drafts, and aside from a few losses in free agency, returns a very similar lineup in 2019. Once a popular early selection, it seems that the fantasy community has soured on the Bronco’s for one reason or another, and we’re just not with it.
Of course, we could be wrong, but basically getting a team with a good defensive pedigree, who added one of the leagues best corner backs in Kareem Jackson, and who added a little depth on the D-Line and the line backing corps during the draft, may prove to be a steal on draft day. Of course having to play the Chiefs and Chargers twice each hurts their overall value, but from a potential perspective they’re a low risk high reward selection.
Seattle Seahawks (ADP: 224)
Tied last year with the Denver Broncos, the Seattle Seahawk defense is being completely disrespected with their 21st round average draft position. The big concern was the Seahawk’s inability against the run, finishing 17th against the run last year. But they still have plenty of talent, and Pete Carroll has put a quality group on the field (in terms of fantasy production) for nearly his entire tenure.
It’s also important to note that this team ran a TON last year, and should figure to do the same in 2019. If the offense can help the defense by keeping them off the field, it should be another solid top 10 finish for the D/ST in 2019.
Honorable Mention: I don’t think I can advocate anyone to draft the Jets D/ST but given the improvements they’ve made through the draft and off season moves, and the addition of Gregg Williams to coach the defense, they are one of the defenses on my radar for waiver-watch. I will admit that Williams last 3 or 4 years hasn’t been up to the standard he had prior to bounty-gate, but his weapons here (names like Leonard Williams, rookie Quinnen Williams, C.J. Mosley, and Trumaine Johnson stand out) could help them compete against two perennially underachievers in Miami and Buffalo twice a year, and a New England team that seems content to win lower scoring run-first games these days.
As we know intimately here at the Dr’s Office, hitting on a depth player is one of the best feelings in fantasy. Whether it was a middle round pick who supplanted a starter, or a late round flier who steps up due to injury, there’s a handful of these occurrences seemingly every week. When it happens before the season starts… that’s when it can be confusing.
Jaguars list Keelan Cole and Donte Moncrief as their starters
For a time it seemed as though 2017 fourth round pick Dede Westbrook was carving out a nice little role for himself, but when the preseason games rolled around he didn’t do enough to claim one of the starting roles. With Marquise Lee down for the season, it seems as though last years playoff hero Keelan Cole (ADP 130) will be asked to slot in opposite former Colts third round pick Donte Moncrief (ADP 200). Both options are fantastic value considering where they are going, but Cole may be one of the drafts best sleeper picks at this point. With the proven rapport with Bortles and recent fantasy results, the 14th round is still too late.
DeVante Parker may not be ready for the season opener
This one is an ongoing situation that bears observation, but the talented youngster still has to prove that he’s more than just combine measurables. A quick look at his Player Profiler page shows the story of a player who hasn’t figured out how to play the position against NFL caliber defenses. His target shares are average between the 20s but he struggles to gain separation (98th among qualified WRs) and doesn’t factor into red zone plays enough to be a difference maker. With the lingering finger issue, Parker could be ready for week 1 and I’d be fading him hard. With Amendola and/or Albert Wilson inhabiting the slot and chewing up a good portion of Landry’s vacated targets, and Kenny Stills presence in the red zone, Parker is going to have a tough time overcoming these deficiencies. .
New England Backfield is still a mess
While the colors may look different, this Patriots Backfield is the same difficult to analyze painting of an NFL backfield every season. Between additions (Jeremy Hill, Sony Michel) and departures (Mike Gillislee, Brandon Bolden), there seems to be a never ending carousel of backs in the drivers seat. According to the Patriots depth chart, both James White and Rex Burkhead are listed as starters, further muddying the waters if you were trying to cash in on New England’s odd but excellent running back usage. In PPR leagues, James White’s value at an ADP of around 120 is excellent value.
With Edelman missing 4 games due to suspension and a litany of wide receiver issues, injuries, and departures, White should factor in heavily early on. Still, it’s Burkhead who figures to make the most of his increased usage as he’ll dominate red zone touches and should see a healthy amount of work on the ground. Both are great values despite the concerns over who will see the most touches.
Carlos Hyde listed as Cleveland Browns starting RB
Much like Frank Gore before him, former 49ers running back Carlos Hyde continues to get disrespected in the fantasy world, as his ADP of 75 is outrageous considering how well he’s played to this point in his career. Many would point to the crowded backfield and presence of Duke Johnson as reasons why he can’t repeat as a top 20 back, but I’d tell you they are wrong. The Browns are a much improved offensive unit and Hyde looked fantastic in his limited action in the preseason. With Chubb figuring as the future of the franchise, there’s no reason for Cleveland to not pound the rock with Hyde. I don’t anticipate him pushing into the top 10, but he’s one of the easiest targets in the 8th round to justify.
Derrick Henry listed atop the RB depth chart in Tennessee
While all the attention was paid to the off season signing of former Patriot Dion Lewis, Henry quietly went about his job, continuing to work towards a larger work load in 2018. While we don’t expect him to handle much of the passing downs, the truth is that he’s the better runner of the two, despite what the experts would have you think. Dion Lewis’ season last year was a bit of an aberration, and continued health concerns and the lack of a track record for high touch totals means Henry should be involved from week 1.
LeGarrette Blount to start over Kerryon Johnson in Week 1
We take this one with a grain of salt, but it’s hardly surprising to see the recently acquired veteran starting at the pole over the exciting rookie. Johnson looked like the most talented back on the roster all preseason, so we don’t think it will be long before he’s seeing meaningful touches, but Blount should be the primary goal line back. If Johnson can vulture some touches inside the 20s or some of the passing downs, he figures to be a much better option long term than any other back on the Lions roster.
In a pair of rookie QB related decisions in the AFC East yesterday, the New York Jets confirmed that first round pick Sam Darnold will start for Gang Green on Sunday while his counterpart in Buffalo, Josh Allen, will not.
While it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given how well Darnold has commanded the Jets offense, there’s still the stench of failed rookie quarterbacks in New York that could have easily seen Josh McCown back under center. As a fantasy commodity, Darnold is an interesting case, as he’s seemed willing and able to sling the ball around. While we’d expect a slow start to his career in terms of fantasy production, in deep formats and keeper leagues he’s worth a late round pick.
Meanwhile, the New York team no one wants to admit exists has elected to start last years interception meme Nathan Peterman over rookie Josh Allen. While you may remember the five interceptions in one half of football, the truth is that Allen’s big arm isn’t enough to support a winning football club. That’s not to suggest Peterman is much better an option, but in the face of ruining your rookies confidence, I’d make a similar move. With the raw arm strength, Allen is an intriguing prospect, but he’s still some time away from figuring out the efficiency problems that’s plagued him since college. There’s little fantasy upside for the rookie at this point.
In what ended up being a pretty milquetoast preseason game, the Colts vs Ravens game featured several off season story lines that we’ve had our eye on all along.
The most important of those being whether Andrew Luck can return to form following an injury filled two year stretch that has seen his value go from a top 3 QB to a middle round prayer. In limited action, Luck failed to impress as his 6 for 13 line with only 50 yards and one INT was hardly reminiscent of the gun slinger he was early in his career. Still, seeing him on the field is encouraging nonetheless.
Catching passes primarily from last years starter Jacoby Brissett, the receiving corps was paced by the tight ends as Eric Ebron secured the highest catch total (4) and Jack Doyle brought in his two receptions for 32 yards. The landscape for the Colts will surely look different when the season starts, but this is a TE position battle that may be one to monitor if Ebron can eat enough into Doyles production to keep him from being fantasy relevant.
The Colts run game wasn’t very impressive, but the Ravens’ Kenneth Dixon flashed the talent that has many wondering how much of a leash Alex Collins will have. His 5.3 yards per carry mark (32 yards on only 6 carries) and team leading 3 receptions for 24 yards is the kind of production that had many targeting Dixon last year in drafts. While Collins job is secure for now, Dixon is a name to watch if he continues to play with the kind of burst and efficiency we saw last night.
Aside from Dixon, the passing game was a color by numbers performance as 14 Colts players secured at least one pass. While John Brown has remained the buzziest player in Ravens practices, it appears that percentage share is going to be an issue for any Raven’s receivers. Consider the value when drafting a Ravens’ receiver as you’ll likely see inconsistent production regardless of who you draft.
Russell Wilson got an extended look as he attempted 21 passes in preseason game #2, completing 13 of them for 193 yards. Secure in his role as a top 5 fantasy QB going into 2018, there’s little to be concern about despite only 1 rushing attempt.
The running back battle that was skewed with a Rashaad Penny injury seems to be centered firmly on Chris Carson as he took his 9 carries for 34 yards, a 3.8 yard per carry mark. While the sentiment is that he’ll be the starter come week one, he’ll need to improve slightly on his efficiency if he’s going to hold off the first round pick.
The receiving game looked a bit off as well as the Seahawks continue to play without injured WR Doug Baldwin. While he was seen doing sprints, it’s likely going to be a showcase for the depth receivers as guys like Jaron Brown try to ingratiate themselves to Wilson and the offensive coaches. Taking 2 receptions for 74 yards certainly doesn’t hurt his case for being a starter, especially considering how cheap he can be had on draft day (likely for free as a waiver add).
Still, it was the Chargers in the end who won the game on the effort of it’s run game. Not one signal caller ended the game with more than 8 passing attempts, as each Geno Smith and Philip Rivers only threw one incomplete pass. Instead it was Detrez Newsome who put on a clinic with 78 yards on 19 carries. While it was certainly impressive, there’s no real threat to Melvin Gordon’s starting gig as he turned his 10 rushes into 35 yards and a TD.
Despite his continued poor efficiency, Melvin Gordon made good in the passing game with 2 receptions for 18 yards. It’ll be something to consider at the end of the first as Gordon has put up decent receiving numbers despite being pegged as a standard league only option.
While the rest of the receiving game was surpressed due to the lack of attempts, it’s interesting to see Virgil Green excelling, as this Chargers offense should continue to use it’s TE’s in the passing game. With Hunter Henry out for the year, Green could be a late round target with plenty of value in redraft leagues.
The story line for both of these teams has been somewhat consistent as the focus on first year starter Mitch Trubisky and free agent price Case Keenum has dominated for each team.
Mitch Trubisky continued to look improved as he completed nearly 65% of his passes for 90 yards and a TD and INT a piece. It wasn’t a world beater stat line for sure, but against a stout Bronco’s defense and without is top wide out Allen Robinson, it was a solid showing for the young QB.
Likewise, both Trey Burton and Anthony Miller looked the part as they each were used early in roles that should see them succeed. Burton’s 4 catches for 45 yards and a TD is the kind of stat line that has fantasy owners buzzing about his potential. While Miller didn’t see the endzone on any of his three catches, the young slot receiver should continue to see his usage upped as the season approaches.
On the other side of the field, Trubiski’s counterpart Case Keenum was efficient as well, throwing only 13 passes for 78 total yards. Still, the lack of depth at QB shows how secure his job is in Denver, as Chad Kelly is a solid depth piece at best and Paxton Lynch is no lock to make it to the season on a roster.
The receiving game was a bit underwhelming as the offense spread the ball around to 16 different players, no one seeing more than Emmanuel Sanders 3 for 27. Demaryius Thomas’ wrist injury opens up space for buzzy youngster Courtland Sutton to impress. While he only had the one catch for a 16 yard TD, he’s a player to target in the later rounds.
Neither teams rushing game was impressive, though, as Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen’s roles are secured in the bears offense, and Royce Freeman continues to be the back most used on rushing downs. It’ll be a question as to how much use Freeman will get across three downs with Booker still there to leach passing downs, but he’s distanced himself from some of the other rookie backs as he inches ever closer to the starting job in Denver.
It was a busy weekend with NFL action featuring several story lines that may or may not make your life easy as you prepare for your drafts. As we continue to inch towards D-day, we’ll continue to review the position battles and injury updates to help you navigate the potential pitfalls.
Tampa Bay vs Tennesee Titans
Suspended Jameis Winston showed why he’s still the best quarterback on the roster with his 13 for 18 performance, putting up a stout 226 yards and 2 TDs. DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans both saw down the field targets as their 4 combined cathes went for over 100 yards.
On a more concerning note, rookie running back Ronald Jones continues to lose ground to incumbent starter Peyton Barber as he managed only 2 yards on 4 carries. It’s been a bit of a slow start to his NFL career as he continues to make headlines for a lack of pass protection and efficiency. Peyton Barber is seeming like a more consistent weapon in the backfield. At their current ADP, you should be targeting Barber in redraft leagues.
On the other side of the football, Mariota wasn’t asked to do as much, but his 80 yards on 4 completions wasn’t too shabby.
In the absence of Corey Davis and Rishard Matthews, it was Taywan Taylor that garnered all the attention as he took his 4 receptions for 95 yards and a TD. If Matthews is forced to miss time, Taylor could be a nice deep sleeper target, or waiver wire add if you drafted early.
Unfortunately, not much headway was made in the running game as both Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry were ineffectual again with neither one doing much on the ground. While it’s mostly a blip on the radar, it’s a backfield I have highlighted as one to avoid. Aside from Lewis in PPR leagues, this backfield is one that I’m not keen to take a chance on at their current ADPs.