** UPDATE **
It’s official, today’s MRI revealed a torn ACL and the news that McKinnon will be out of the entirety of the 2018 season. This is a certain blow to fantasy teams that invested an early round pick on the back in hopes that Kyle Shanahan could turn him into the PPR monster that he’d become known for forming. Alfred Morris should handle early round work and Matt Brieda becomes a PPR target with some upside should he have the chance to work early downs.
It hasn’t been long since we’ve typed a similar headline, but during Saturday’s practice McKinnon suffered what some are saying looked like a season ending knee injury. While cutting, McKinnon was not contacted and went down in an awkward way. At this point, we’ll have to wait on the results of the MRI but newly added Alfred Morris looks like the obvious choice to take early downs while Matt Brieda gets a bump as his usage should increase as well.
We’ll update you as soon as more is known.
What was once merely a crowded backfield is now akin to a clown car, as former Redskins and Cowboys bell cow back Alfred Morris has been added to the fold. It is easy to connect the dots following a Jerick McKinnon injury scare and this signing, so forgive me if my wavering opinion of McKinnon as a three down back takes yet another shot.
The issue becomes what do the 49ers trust McKinnon to do? With Breida on the roster, we have to cap his passing game output, and this addition puts a cap on his touchdowns as Morris is a much better red zone back. What McKinnon then becomes is a between the twenties guy who can’t be expected to have the 15-20 touches a game we were hoping for.
Of course, the chance is always there for McKinnon to surprise us as we’ve never really seen him with an uncontested workload, but it’ll take a lot of impressing to hold off the stable of backs behind him. Even Joe Williams should be in line for some work, so temper your expectations when drafting McKinnon. At this point, he’s in a bit of a slide in the Dr’s rankings, and he should be moving down your draft boards as well.
First and foremost, the allegations are serious and while innocent until proven guilty is basic tenement of Law in this country, we in no way are making light of the situation with this post. Our aim is not to discuss the crime itself of its alleged perpetrators, but instead to dissect the potential fallout in Fantasy terms.
What To Expect
With as much traction as the news has gotten, it wouldn’t surprise me for there to be some kind of discipline early on, so it’s important to monitor the situation accordingly if you’re planning on adding McCoy to your fantasy teams. This kind of thing presents no “best case scenario” if the player is found guilty, as his career should be over at that point.
Of course, even prior to the allegations McCoy’s fantasy standing had begun to wane, as I had him ranked 9th and other outlets even further down. With the allegations swirling, I’ve dropped him to 18th on my list, pending the results of the investigation of course. That leads us to another question, one that may become more important as the season approaches.
Who Else To Target?
A quick glance at the Bills depth chart reveals a real hole at the position behind McCoy. Unlike last year when there was significant buzz on the backups in the system, this year shows that the team had confidence in McCoy to stay on the field.
A) Chris Ivory – At 30 years old and 2 years removed from the only season in which he rushed for 1,000 yards, it seems that Ivory’s best seasons are behind him. His average of 3.4 yards per carry last year in Jacksonville prove he’s no more than a goal line back who’d plod for mediocre numbers. Behind an O-line that’s lost some of its core guys this offseason, Ivory is likely to disappoint even if no one overtakes him on the roster.
B) Tavaris Cadet – The veteran pass catcher and special teams man has never received more than 22 rushes in a single season, and while his ability to play third downs is intriguing considering how involved Bills backs are in the passing game, I don’t think he has the profile to play a large number of downs.
C) Marcus Murphy – I wouldn’t get excited about the diminutive back, but he’s got the tools to help in limited work. At 5’8”, he’s not big enough to be leaned on for between the tackles plays, but his acumen as a pass catcher could see him leapfrog some of these names.
D) Keith Ford – A former five star recruit at Oklahoma, Ford’s collegiate career was marred by team suspensions and a lack of overall work. His scouting profile suggests that he’s lacking vision and elusiveness but his measurable show he can be an NFL back. As intriguing as this is, it’s likely that he’d be a short yardage options while the team works out kinks in his game. As a gamble, he may offer the most upside of any of these backs, but he’d be a waiver wire add at best, assuming he can even make the roster.
E) A Back Not On The Roster – There’s a handful of names ranging from high profile to sneaky upside that have yet to find an NFL home. DeMarco Murray probably fits the profile the best of all the remaining backs, as his ability to play three downs in previous years could be attractive. Likewise, Alfred Morris and Orleans Darkwa have started, and recently, and could provide an upgrade over the current roster. It’d be a long shot to expect Adrian Peterson or Eddie Lacy to sign on there, but they remain free agents as well.
Where there is smoke, there is almost always fire, and with the NFL adopting a zero tolerance policy on domestic violence, there’s a very good chance we’ve seen the last of McCoy in the NFL. If McCoy is no longer available to the Bills, the best case scenario would be a player not currently on the roster. Chris Ivory isn’t the type of player who can replace McCoy, especially given the struggles expected with that offensive line. The rest of the roster features rookies who are too raw or gadget/special teamers who offer little upside.
DeMarco Murray may be a perfect fit, but the timing of any discipline will impact the team’s ability to get a player like that in and acclimated. If the case drags on and McCoy’s punishment arrives during the season, only Chris Ivory has the experience to start for this team. In such a case, Ivory would handle the first and second downs and Cadet would inherit the third down role. Either way, neither player is worth drafting, at least not as a starter.
Of course Keith Ford could surprise us all and show a level of improvement that forces the young back into the conversation. His situation is worth monitoring as he has the size and speed to be a difference maker if the Bills can help him avoid becoming a head down type of runner. As a player on your radar, just remind yourself that he’s a third or fourth option for the Bills at this time, and a lot would have to go right for him to be worth a roster spot.
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.
Every year we spend our fantasy prep time pouring through periodicals and compiling statistics based off of “expert” analysis. And while this information is invaluable, we often times ignore the most important players to a championship team: The Bench.
Finding these hidden gems can be difficult but rewarding when your first and second round picks start experiencing the injuries that come with playing as often as elite NFL players do. We’ll examine who from the bargain barrel section of the drafts can help you when they inevitably enter the fray.
Surest Thing – Isaiah Crowell: With an ADP around the 10th round, Crowell (at this point in the offseason) is due the largest workload of any RB behind him. Despite the noise surrounding his boneheaded internet presence this summer, he’s still in line for at least half of clevelands touches. Duke Johnson averaged slightly fewer yards per carry and had 80 fewer touches. If you think it goes closer to 50/50, you can still expect 130 touches and 600 yards and the lions share of goal line touches. If Johnson gets hurt or fades? Crowell could be a steal in round 10.
Highest Risk Reward – Alfred Morris: The whole world seems to be sold on Ezekiel Elliot in Dallas, and where there’s smoke there’s fire. If he struggles early, veteran RB Alfred Morris stands to gain the most. Running behind that line, and with his ability to help on 3 downs, Morris only needs the door to open to have some big games. His ADP of around 150 means he’s a handcuff or at best a late round flier, but one that could be gold if he gets the touches.
Big Ole’ Bust – Justin Forsett: Entering his age 30 season, Forsett is likely in for a big drop off. Added to the mix is Kenneth Dixon, the fourth round pick in this years NFL draft. There’s some chatter out of Baltimore that he’s pushing for some playing time. As Forsett continues to wain, he’s likely to find himself out of a starters spot by the end of the year.
Bonus – Jay Ajayi: For a while after Lamar Millers departure, it looks like Ajayi would find all three downs to himself. The addition of Arian Foster dulls his prospects for the 2016/17 season, but don’t let it disuade you from stashing him in the later rounds. Foster hasn’t been healthy in years, and Ajayi is a dynamic runner who can help in the passing game, and he should be viewed with a decent amount of upside for this year.
It’s late in the draft and you’re looking for potential high reward fliers at the running back position. This stratagy is nothing new and you’ve done your research: you’re looking for the next Priest Holmes. We’re going to ignore backs that are the small head in a two headed RB by committee monster; these backs are solid backups that given the chance to start and carry a heavy work load have the goods to be fantasy studs (think C.J. Anderson). Below are 5 backs you may be able to get very late in your draft that could turn into fantasy gold without a lot of risk.
Jerick McKinnon – Solidly behind returning starter Adrian Peterson, McKinnon took some time to hit his stride last year while Peterson was on the shelf, but his freak athletesism had begun to shine through. A shorter, more compact back (5’10” and 210 pounds) McKinnon is agressive but can make you miss in the open field. Although when Peterson is healthy he may not see more than 5-7 touches per week, if Peterson misses any significant time (he is 30 and coming off of a severe injury) McKinnon immediately becomes a RB2.
Knile Davis – Another back sitting behind an incumbent RB1, Davis is a bruiser whose surprising burst makes for a good plus yardage back when given enough opportunity. Charles is a safe bet to miss some time, and Davis is poised to make good on
Andre Williams – It’s a good bet that Williams sees some time on the field this year regardless of if Rashad Jennings misses any time. Although Williams had a hard time with tearing off big runs, it’s not surprising given his skill set is more to bash the football down your throat. At 230 pounds, he’s a red zone beast, and his 7 touchdowns in limited time (217 touches) was a revelation. Given regular time, he’ll put up solid numbers between the 20’s but the red zone prowess is where he’ll excel.
Matt Jones – Alfred Morris has done little to impress since his breakout year in 2012. He’s a solid yet unspectacular back who runs well between the tackles and finds pay dirt regularly. Still, the Redskins invested a third round pick in Matt Jones from Florida, a big physical runner who’s burst and open field skills are unusual for a man his size (6’2, 230lbs). If Morris finds himself on the bench or IR for any length of time, Matt Jones could run away with the job; literally. In this crop of excellent rookie RB’s, Jones may be overlooked and fall deep into drafts.
Cameron Artis-Payne – Artis-Paynce is a name that’s beginning to pop up on sleeper lists left and right, and rightfully so. In a Carolina backfield that features exciting if not made-of-glass RB Jonathan Stewart, it’s suggested that Artis-Payne would see the bulk of the carries if an injury occured. He isn’t a home run hitter, he’s a between the tackles runner, but has a much better 3 down skill set than Whitaker, and could make the most of it for a Carolina team that will run the ball a lot