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.
- Michael Floyd – WR / Arizona Cardinals (Hand) – I expect Floyd to be ready for week one, but it’s clear the door is open for John Brown to ascend to push Floyd further down on our rankings. Unless he gets meaningful preseason reps, I’d expect him to open as the WR3 in Arizona.
- Kevin White – WR / Chicago Bears (Shin) – 6 weeks minimum is the expected time missed for the rookie as his shin injury required surgery. He could be on the shelf longer, but even when he returns it’s unlikely he’ll provide much fantasy help. Eddie Royal is looking like gold right now…
- Darren McFadden – RB / Dallas (Hamstring) – Although it’s not nearly as severe as the other injuries on this list, the mere mention of yet another injury in the long litany of them DMC has suffered should give owners pause. Draft with extreme caution, primarily as the cuff to Joseph Randle who now owns the keys to the kingdom.
- Joique Bell – RB / Detroit Lions (Knee) – Bell is working hard to find his way back on to the field, but it may be too little too late for the ageing veteran. Ameer Abdullah’s hype train seems unstoppable at this point, and while Bell won’t be kicked to the curb completely, it’s hard to expect him to handle a larger portion of the snaps.
- Arian Foster – RB / Houston (Groin) – It’s looking like half the season or more after groin surgery to repair the most recent injury to Foster. I argued to look past the injury history with Foster earlier in the off season, but it’s hard to ignore the facts; Foster is an injury waiting to happen, and as such needs to be handled with kid gloves. The fear with Foster is that even when he does play it’ll be a wait and see approach if he’s even worth starting. More of a last round flier than anything else with his history.
- Devante Parker – WR / Miami (Foot) – He showed flashes earlier in the off season and looked to fill a role on a team with several diminutive possession receivers. He should be ready for week one, but it may take him some time to get going, and Miami has a lot of mouths to feed. Be mindful he won’t be impact-full for several weeks at best to start the season.
- Brandon LaFell – WR / New England Patriots (Foot) – What exactly does his injury report mean? Not much considering that New England is the masters at giving just enough information to seem forthcoming but really say nothing. He may be hobbled to a bit to start the season, but without Brady, his numbers should be stunted anyways.
- CJ Spiller – RB / New Orleans Saints (Knee) – Spiller’s injury likely won’t cost him regular season playing time but it’s worth noting that Spiller has had troubles staying healthy in the past. When he’s on the field he’s electric, and his ability to play 3rd and passing downs makes him a valuable asset, but keep a close eye on his health going into your drafts, and have a backup plan for if (when) he becomes injured.
- Zach Ertz – TE / Philadelphia Eagles (Torso) – Ertz had a relatively minor surgery on his core, so expect him to be ready for week one. Not nearly as concerning as a head, knee, or foot injury, I’d ignore this one as a real threat to his ascension into the elite ranks of TE’s. Expect him utilized early and often in Chip Kelly’s uptempo offense.
- Niles Paul – TE / Washington Redskins (Ankle) – At one point, the question of which Washington TE would get the bulk of looks was a real one. Now we know it won’t be Paul. The out-of-no-where contributor will be on the shelf for the 2015 season after breaking his ankle in the preseason. If Jordan Reed is healthy ( and they’re a concern there as well ) he could be worthy of a later round flier.
We’ve examined the top of the RB draft class earlier in the week, but this year featured another above average WR class. Several of the top players were drafted early in the first round, so lets take a look at the guys who may get snagged on Fantasy Draft day. For the purpose of the article, I’ll seperate the WR’s from the TE’s
Amari Cooper / Oakland Raiders: Being the first WR off the board at the third overall pick, Cooper finds himself as the defacto day one WR1 in an improved Oakland offense. With the emergence of Derek Carr, Cooper finds himself in an enviable position to produce from day one. His ability to run most routes and quickness to beat DB’s, Cooper will be leaned on heavily to produce for the Raiders.
Kevin White / Chicago Bears: You can’t teach size, or at least that’s what I’ve heard. Kevin White is a big, physical reciever with 4.3 speed who will terrorize DB’s with Jay Cutlers big arm. His ability to adjust to the ball and catch at it’s highest point will be invaluable to an offense that often times relies on it’s recievers to make plays for their QB. On day one will be a red zone threat, and with Alshon demanding the double teams, expect White to breakout early.
DeVante Parker / Miami Dolphins: What the Dolphins were lacking was a sizable reciever to be a redzone threat, and that’s exactly what they got when they drafted Parker in the first round. He will pair well with the current stable of receivers, offering a different look for Ryan Tannehill when looking down field. Depending on how often he’s used in the endzone, Parker’s value could fluctuate from week to week in this offense.
Nelson Agholor / Philadelphia Eagles: A much improved Eagles offense snagged Agholor toward the end of the first round. With a huge buzz building heading into the draft, Agholor presents a wonderful weapon to an offense that has plenty. His ability to run crisp routes and play both inside and outside will be a boon for a Sam Bradford lead offense, but temper your expectations as DeMarco Murray should dominate the touches early on as they work toward offensive balance.
Breshad Perriman / Baltimore Ravens: This pick makes a ton of sense for the Baltimore Ravens. With Torrey Smith gone, they needed a speedy WR to pair with Flacco’s monster arm. In Perriman they got a kid that ran a 4.2 at the combine and impressed scouts and experts with his ability to make plays on third and fourth down. As we’ve seen in the past Baltimore will attempt to balance their offense but with new OC Mark Trestman, they may throw the ball more than ever. This will certainly help Perriman offer better value to Fantasy owners.
Phillip Dorsett / Indianapolis Colts: Dorsett is a fine player with a ton of speed and ability, the problem I have with this pick from a fantasy perspective is that he’s going to be buried on a Colts roster featuring TY Hilton and Andre Johnson. If there is an injury to either of those players, Dorsett’s value sky rockets, so keep tabs on how he’s used to see when if at all you should draft him.
Devin Smith / New York Jets: A good all around WR, Smiths fantasy value takes a hit just being in Jets’ green. With as questionable the QB position is I wouldn’t expect Smith to produce, at least not early in the year with Decker and Marshall ahead of him on the Depth Chart.
Dorial Green-Beckham / Tennessee Titans: One of the most contriversial skill players in the draft, Beckham may have the best set of tools in the draft for WR’s. Pairing him with Marcus Mariota may mean some inconsistency early, but if he continues to be a beast on the field, he could put up monster numbers for fantasy owners brave enough to ignore his off the field issues.
Jaelen Strong / Houston Texans: Not your typical deep threat despite good size, Strong has been knocked for being “too raw” as he seems to still be finding his stride as a wideout. With questions at QB and DeAndre Hopkins and Cecil Shorts being the go to’s, strong may be a project for Houston, and should be viewed as a draft and stash in keeper and dynasty leagues rather than a contributor this year.
Maxx Williams / Baltimore Ravens: Last year the TE position was in such flux and left so many questions, Baltimore went out and grabbed the top TE in this years class. Williams should be a day 1 starter, and given Baltimores use of TE’s in past season with Joe Flacco, I expect there to be a fairly good return on investment with this player.
Clive Walford / Oakland Raiders: Lauded as a young combo TE, Walford has some work to do if he wants to steal the starting gig from Mychal Rivera. A sizable TE with good catch radius, may be worth watching in camp if he can win some playing time.
The TE class is really light this year. Several other players graded in the same range but may not have the ability to contribute this year and as thus will not be spotlighted.
There are plenty of players on the above list that will appear on championship teams come the end of this years Fantasy leagues, but the question is who and how do you get them. Will a player like Dorial Green-Beckham explode like we hope he will? Will Phillip Dorsett let down owners who are enamored with his 4.2 speed because he can’t crack the roster? Only time will tell.