Blog Archives

Valuing Tyreek Hill

tyhillWhen we first discussed the Tyreek Hill situation, we were under the impression that Hill’s punishment would be swift and severe. That punishment has been slow in coming, as his outlook for 2019 is even murkier now than it was on day one. Part of the issue is (and ignoring the moral implications of what he was accused of) is that his value has the kind of range among fantasy experts that we haven’t seen since the early days of Josh Gordon’s suspensions.

Unlike former Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt, who’s release from the team was so quick it gave fantasy owners whiplash, Hill’s status, although still “suspended from team activities” is far more difficult to ascertain. Pundits have discussed the possibility of an extension, which may be the most telling detail in all of this.

Assuming you’re willing to undertake the risk that is Tyreek Hill the fantasy football asset, it’s important to note that we expect he’ll be in a Chief’s jersey whenever he does return to the field. With the investigation into the child abuse allegations far more complex than what befell Hunt, it’s unlikely we’re going to see any real resolution, which could lend itself to both the idea that his suspension will drag on, or that he’ll be reinstated until more details emerge.

Either way, we’ve adjusted our own rankings to reflect the idea that Hill will remain with the Chiefs, and thus be an elite fantasy wideout as soon as he returns to the fold. If he misses fewer than 4 games, then his value from the end of last season remains virtually unchanged; he’s an elite player on an elite offense with a focus on exposing secondaries with Hills speed and Mahomes accuracy down the field.

If he misses 4-8 games (which I still expect to be the case) he’s still worth a stash (unlike the aforementioned Hunt who will operate as a 1B at best behind Nick Chubb when he returns) in the middle rounds.

Again, we’re not commenting on the moral quandry that folks may feel when considering Hill on draft day; that’s a topic for a different kind of blog. Instead, we implore you to re-evaluate your overall rankings for Hill, as we did, and monitor the situation to see just how early you feel comfortable drafting Hill.

Our current WR ranking of 30th overall reflects that we expect some missed time, but we’d be comfortable drafting him somewhere in the 4-6 round range, or even higher if we feel he may avoid suspension all together.

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James Conner To Disappoint?

JconnerAccording to an article published in the Athletic, James Conner admitted that he expects the Steelers to employ a committee approach in 2019. Stating he expects the backfield to be “spread pretty evenly” between himself, Benny Snell and Jaylen Samuels, it’s clear that even Conner expects there to be less opportunity in 2019.

The addition of a very talented back in Benny Snell was the first warning sign that Conner may not be expected to emulate the departing Le’Veon Bell this year. What Snell brings to the Steelers is excellent red zone ability (he scored 48 touchdowns in his college career) and his pass catching ability is something that shouldn’t be overlooked in this offense, as he added 16 receiving TD’s across his collegiate career as well.

While I do expect Snell to carve out a nice role for himself, I will still argue that despite a regression in time share, it’s likely that the Steelers, faced with an offense void of Antonio Brown and helmed by an aging QB in Ben Roethlisberger, will run the ball even more in 2019.

Of course, the news isn’t great considering that Conner was already nearing a tier break at the running back position. Expect us to monitor the backfield in Pittsburgh going forward, and Conner’s position in our rankings could shift if our concerns become more than just rumor. 

The Committee Report: Baltimore Ravens

GEdwardsWe’re always searching for trends when we do our fantasy analysis, and in a league where turnover is quick and merciless, both on the field and among the coaching staff, it’s nice to have a lengthy track record to pull from like we do with John Harbaugh’s Baltimore Ravens.

Of course, even though he’s coached the Ravens since 2008, the personel he’s had to work with has been in constant flux. From the three down workload Ray Rice enjoyed for a short time at the end of the aughts, to the three headed monsters of the last few years, it’s been difficult at best to predict the Raven’s backfield for some time now.

2019 looks to be no different as Lamar Miller returns as the incumbent starter in week 1, and last years second half darling Gus Edwards is suddenly joined by former Heisman trophy winner and New Orleans Saints battering ram Mark Ingram, as well as fourth round draft pick from Oklahoma State in Justice Hill.

So where does that leave us as fantasy players? It leaves us trying to determine who’s likely to get what touches, and why.

Starting with the rookie, it’s unlikely that he sees a large number of first and second down work. His size is a bit prohibitive, and while he’s been compared favorably to last years breakout rookie Philip Lindsay, unlike Lindsay, he has capable runners ahead of him in Ingram and Edwards. What he does offer, is excellent open field play as well as a good pace and motor. Does that mean we can pencil him in for the lions share of targets? I don’t think so.

Since 2014, when Ray Rice led the backfield with 72 targets, there hasn’t been any one standout player in the passing game. The closest would have been Buck Allen, who saw 103 targets between 2017 and 2018, but he’s no longer on the club. Dixon’s 41 targets in 2016 were third on the team, but it shows he can be a valuable part of the passing game as well. It’s more likely that there’s a similar breakdown in 2019, with Lamar Jackson showing last year he’d rather run than check too far down on those broken plays.

On the ground, though, it’s a two man race with Ingram and Edwards battling it out for the early downs. It’s got to be particularly frustrating for Edwards owners in keeper or dynasty leagues as well, since he seemed like he’d done enough to win the job in 2019. After coming into the game in week 10 against Cincinatti, Edwards average 17.5 rushing attempts per game, good for 93.5 yards per contest and a 5.25 YPC mark. Those aren’t the kind of numbers that a team highlights as a reason for adding another excellent running back, but here we are.

Mark Ingram, of course, has had his fair share of issues over the years. While he’s been healthy for the last few seasons, he did have a growing list of injuries, from toe, to knee injuries, and even some time on the shelf due to a concussion a few seasons back. Add to that his suspension last year, and you have a player who’s been both excellent and frustrating at the same time.  His last three seasons in New Orleans were excellent considering that Alvin Kamara’s presence had overshadowed Ingrams. He finished with nearly 200 carries a year (skewed slightly due to the suspension) as well as 1,000 yards per and 8 rushing TDs. He was also used more heavily in the passing game than Edwards, this too in spite of Kamara’s role as the pass catching back.

So who is worth drafting?

That’s the million dollar question, and to really answer it we need to look at their current ADPs.

  • Mark Ingram – ADP 44 (RB 24)
  • Gus Edwards – ADP 153 (RB 58)
  • Justice Hill – ADP – 162 (RB 60)
  • Kenneth Dixon – ADP – 214 (RB 70)

It’s interesting to see Ingram being drafted as the defacto starter in that offense. We know what he’s capable of, and in a two headed monster in New Orleans he was productive, but I think folks are ignoring how this offense is preparing to operate. Lamar Jackson was far from the most efficient passer, so I do expect the run game to see a lot of looks. Somewhere in the 450 attempts range. We’ve also seen Baltimore, under Harbaugh, have a split on the ground. A 60/40 split one way or the other is likely as well.

At his current ADP, Ingram is going along side players like Kenyan Drake, David Montgomery, and Tevin Coleman, and I’d argue he has less of an opportunity than any of those backs. Even if he has lions share of the rushing attempts, I don’t see him having the same kind of impact he had in New Orleans; this Baltimore offense won’t give him as many scoring opportunities.

Edwards, on the other hand, is one of the drafts better values, and is a pretty obvious handcuff for Ingram owners. In the 16th round, he costs you next to nothing, but it’s likely he gets at least a 50/50 split early on, especially given that he’s been practicing with the “ones” in camp so far. Ingrams talent may win out in the end, but I doubt that Edwards loses a significant amount of touches.

Hill is the wild card, though, as neither of the guys ahead of him (Ingram or Edwards) are standouts in the passing game. Ingram is a solid pass catcher, but Hill was drafted to contribute, and much like his comparable (Lindsay) worked into the lineup, I expect Hill to become a favorite target of Jackson as the season wears on. While I won’t go so far to suggest he’ll be a top 10 RB in terms of targets, seeing 60-65 targets isn’t out of the question.

Don’t draft Kenneth Dixon (assuming he even makes the roster). That’s as much as I’ll say there.

Predictions

  • Gus Edwards – 170 Ru. Attempts – 825 Yards – 3 TDS
  • Mark Ingram – 160 Ru. Attempts – 750 Yards – 7 TDs – 30 Receptions – 240 Yards – 1 Rec. TD
  • Justice Hill – 40 Ru. Attempts -155 Yards – 0 TD – 49 Receptions – 400 Yards – 3 Re. TDs

 

Can Calvin Ridley Be Elite

CRidleyWe asked the same question of Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams last week, but we shift our attention to a player who has seen both support and been maligned in the fantasy community as of late: Atlanta Falcons second year receiver Calvin Ridley.

Most point to his current ADP as the biggest stumbling block (late 5th – early 6th), coming off the board as a WR2. They say that Atlanta has too many receiving options beyond him for him to see even a marginal uptick in target share in 2019, and I believe that is wrong.

First, we have to analyze how new Head Coach (and former Falcons OC) Dirk Koetter likes to call his offense. In the simplest way, he loves to throw the football. Since 2012, he’s ranked within the top 10 in the league in passing attempts and passing yards, and for two years straight with Tampa Bay, his offenses finished in the top 5. Expecting anything less than 620 or so passing attempts is foolish, and that’s where we start to see the promise.

Of course, there are a lot of capable pass catchers. After all, Mohamed Sanu and Austin Hooper both had about 14% of the target share last year, the same as Ridley. Being only separated by a total of 6 catches, it’s easy to see why some people expect more of the same in 2019. Still, it’s important to really dig deep to understand how both players were utilized in 2018.

Hooper was a year late on his “breakout” as he finally commanded a decent chunk of the offense, but his usage was spotty at best, with nearly 50% of his targets coming over a 4 games stretch, and his output across his 16 game season suggests he’s typically being used as a check down option. We only saw him crest 60 yards three times all season, and his highest total was 77 on 12 targets (9 receptions) against Pittsburgh in week 5.

Sanu, on the other hand, was far more consistent, being targeted 6 or more times in 10 games. Still, with his 94 receptions, he went for 100 once, and until the final two games of the season, saw 9 weeks of fewer than 50 receiving yards.

These are not the caliber of players who should be major obstacles for Calvin Ridley to ascend to the next level in his NFL career.

After all, his 92 targets came across 5 starts (in 16 games) and despite a few lulls in production, had far more impactful weeks than either Sanu or Hooper had. Ridley managed a fantasy score of 14+ points 7 times in 2019, and finished as the WR22 In PPR scoring and WR18 in Standard Scoring. All this while not “starting” a game until week 10.

While projections are never an exact science, we have to believe that Ridley’s upside far outpaces the other receivers on this roster, and while Julio is entrenched as the top target, Ridley shouldn’t be expected to regress in 2019. At his current ADP, he’s in line with what I consider his floor, making him a safe pick. I’ll stop short of suggesting his ceiling is 1,200 and 12, although it may be down the road, but our projections put him around the following:

75 Receptions, 975 Yards, 10 TDS and a WR15 finish.

Bell or Conner… who do YOU take?

JconnerRight out of the gates, you’ll see your draft will likely be RB heavy in the first round. The first tier of backs (Barkley, Zeke, Kamara, and CMC) are unlikely to face any real questions as to their value. Nuke Hopkins and Davante Adams are worthy of a look in the first round as well, but it’s not until the turn that the ADP data suggests we could see our first real quandary of the 2019 season.

James Conner or Le’Veon Bell?

It’s fitting that the man who replaced Bell would check in just behind him on the consensus ADP rankings, and his 225 points in standard scoring leagues was good for an RB7 finish despite having only played in 13 games.

Bell, of course, refused to take the field for Pittsburgh, burning those bridges before ultimately being shipped to the New York Jets, a franchise starved for identity and in need of a stud running back.

So is either one more valuable?

The argument for Bell, of course, would center on his three down ability. During the bulk of his career, there were very few backs who could claim to have been as productive in both the rushing and passing games as Bell was. He was incredible consistent, averaging nearly 130 total yards per game, while scoring 0.67 TDs per contest and being involved heavily in the passing game. Simply put, he was as secure an early round pick as there was… until last year.

Now he’s been out of the league for a season and finds himself in a situation that unfortunately features far more questions that I’d be comfortable asking about the achor of my football team. Do the Jets use Bell the way he was used in Pittsburgh? Is Adam Gase really stubborn enough to force the ball away from Bell in the name of balance (much like he did to Kenyan Drake in Miami)? What kind of condition can we expect, and can he maintain the kind of passing game presence he had for the Steelers?

It’s important to remember that Bell is still in his prime at 27 years old, but it may be one of the more terrifying first round picks you’ll ever make.

Still, on average, he’s being drafted ahead of the player who replaced him, James Conner, and we’re not sure that makes much sense. Conner was a stud last season in much the same roll Bell vacated, as evidenced by his RB1 finish. In standard formats, he scored 17.3 points per game, good for 6th (only 1 tenth of a point shy of what McCaffrey managed in his amazing season). In PPR formats, he finished 6th among his peers, this despite playing fewer games (13) than the rest of the top 12, aside from Melvin Gordon.

His 21.5 points per game average was better than the likes of Joe Mixon, Kareem Hunt, and David Johnson. Clearly he was up for the challenge. I’d argue that Conner is inline for a similar RB1 workload in 2019. Given that the Mike Tomlin Steelers has been an offense that values its RB’s in it’s passing game for many years, there’s no reason to expect Conner to be used less. While the loss of Antonio Brown may make the offense slightly less efficient as a whole, I don’t see it really impacting Conner in terms of his overall performance.

Who To Chose?

It’s a difficult decision for sure, especially given that we’re really in the dark on what Bell could be in New York. Of course, if you’re drafting simply on ceiling, then Bell is a steal late in the first; he’s far more likely to produce 2,000 total yards and 15+ combined TDs, Especially given the lack of dynamic talent on that Jet’s team, and a young QB who he’ll likely be a safety blanket for. But unlike Conner, who’s floor is as a back end RB1, Bell could completely fall off the map.

Regardless of his age, Le’Veon Bell has the kind of floor I’d aim to avoid in the first round. With an entire season off, and a new coach, system, and QB, there’s far too many moving pieces to be comfortable with any projection. His range of outcomes is enormous.

If tasked with choosing ourselves, James Conner would be the easy selection. We know what his role is in that Steelers offense, and with no reason to expect any real loss in work to the rookie back Snell, we expect a solid RB1 season. Bell is intriguing, but for us he falls just outside of that safe Tier 2 and thus wouldn’t be target unless the safer options were off the board.

Who do you think you’d select? Do you think Bell’s history as one of the leagues premier fantasy assets trumps the unknown of playing for a new team? Tell us in the comments. We’ll be back next week when we examine another interesting “either or” scenario!

 

Mocking The Alternatives: 2 QB Leagues

We’ve covered a few different league types in our weekly Friday Mock Draft reviews, but this week we’re going to do something a little different. With alternative scoring formats becoming a trend, it’s important that we take the time to look at one of the more popular out-of-the-box formats; the 2 Quarterback leagues.

Of course, if you’ve never drafted in a two quarterback league, you’re in for a surprise, as your traditional “don’t draft a QB early” strategy has to be shelved in the interest of building a contender on draft day. That doesn’t mean I’m advocating taking multiple quarterbacks early; in fact I tend to maintain that I will likely be the last roster to add a starting QB, but adjusting one’s expectations is key.

For the sake of this mock, we randomized our spot in a 10 team league and received the third overall pick. Scoring is PPR and the only roster change is the addition of a 2nd starting QB.

Pick 1.03 – Ezekiel Elliott, RB – DAL

At the third overall pick, I’m not even considering taking a QB. I’m exclusively looking RB in the first 5 picks of the draft this year thanks to the drop off at that position. Kamara (okay…) and Barkley went 1 and 2, so this was an easy decision.

Pick 2.08 – James Conner, RB – PIT

Three quarterbacks went off the board between my two picks, Mahomes, Luck, and DeShaun Watson. One of the best things about these two QB and super flex leagues is that players tend to fall a little further into the second and third, and I can’t pass on the chance to own two of the leagues highest volume runners. I did consider taking one of the available WR’s here (Juju Smith-Schuster and Mike Evans were potential available targets) but the short turn softens the blow at the position and lets me maximize my roster by adding a second top 10 RB with my 2nd round pick.

Pick 3.03 – Juju Smith-Schuster, WR – PIT

It always feels strange selecting two players from the same team back to back, but of the available WR’s (Mike Evans and Antonio Brown were still available) I feel best about Smith-Schuster’s ability to produce consistent WR1 numbers. It’s important to note that three more QB’s were selected during the short turn. It does allow me to bulk up at the skill positions, but I’m looking more and more at the pool of QB’s and the time to pull the trigger on our first signal caller is approaching.

Pick 4.08 – Cam Newton, QB – CAR

The idea that middle of the pack QB’s are still the best value doesn’t entirely go out of the window in a 2 QB league, but making sure you’re not leaving yourself deficient at the position is important to. I’ll wait to pair Newton with a 2nd QB, but I didn’t want to hitch my wagon to Winston or Goff, so Newton it is. A bit of opinion here though… having an early pick seems to be the easiest way to navigate this format, since the short turn from 2nd to 3rd round gave me a great team core, and gives me the ability to come back from this QB pick and still have a decent selection available in the 5th round.

Pick 5.03 – Julian Edelman, WR – NE

There was a moment here when I considered taking a third RB as both Damien Williams and Aaron Jones were available, but knowing I’ll have to invest in a second QB within the next 6 picks meant I was uncomfortable with waiting too long for my second WR. Among the top remaining WRs (Brandin Cooks, Kenny Golladay, Cooper Kupp, and Robert Woods), Edelman represented the safest floor thanks to the PPR format. I don’t expect him to put up too many monster weeks, but he’ll be a safe play from week one to the championship rounds.

Pick 6.08 – Cooper Kupp, WR – LAR

I really wanted to ignore the bye week issue and take one of my favorite breakout candidates in Chris Godwin, but with 66% of my roster already off on week 7, I went with my second option in Cooper Kupp. While I was critical of him a few seasons back, I’m convinced that the connection he and Goff shares is something special. He was his top target for most weeks he was healthy last year, and while Woods and Cooks are still there, Kupps ability to find the end zone on top of that makes him the WR to own in the Rams offense.

Pick 7.03 – Kenyan Drake, RB – MIA

I’ve been singing his praises for the better part of a month, so I won’t dig too deep. His talent, and ability to catch the football, make him a perfect fit for a likely Patriots-esque offense that uses it’s backs on third downs. Available backs like Sony Michel and Philip Lindsay would be solid gets here, but competition in both offenses could cap the ceilings of both players while Drake only has Kalen Ballage to fend off for ownership of all three downs. The QB runs have certainly slowed down as well as Kyler Murray’s selection at the top of the 6th round marks the last one taken. I can feel a run coming.

Pick 8.08 – Mike Williams, WR – LAC

I wasn’t far off as the 7th and 8th rounds saw Winston, Brady, Rivers, Garoppolo, and Lamar Jackson come off the board. That also means potential top 25 WR Mike Williams falls to me at pick 83. I love Williams combination of size, speed, and opportunity. Rivers connected with Williams on 11 TD throws, and Williams managed to put up a stellar season despite not seeing 100 targets. As an ascending player, he’ll likely see an uptick in targets, and could be a real league winner in 2019. The danger, though, is that that the QB position is beginning to thin and I’m not sure I’m going to lose a few targets in the next couple of picks.

Pick 9.03 – Dak Prescott, QB – DAL

In the ninth round, I’ve reached my limit on pushing the position off and decide to take Prescott, who represents one of the better sleeper values at the QB position in my opinion. After a 5 week stretch to start the season saw his value plummet, Prescott turned in a pretty solid conclusion to the 2018 season, going over 20 points 6 times, and scoring less than 15 twice. With Amari Cooper still in the fold, it’s safe to assume that Prescotts second half is far closer to what we can expect.

Pick 10.08 – Latavius Murray, RB – NO

I was tempted to add Hunter Henry here to fill out my starting roster, but I’m not keen on having 6 players from three offenses anchoring my core. So I turned my attention to the running back position, which features a who’s who of committee backs and PPR specialists. While there’s a lack of upside for many of these names, we know how New Orleans likes to work their ground game, and Murray represents legitimate flex upside considering how Mark Ingram managed excellent numbers despite Kamara being the focal point. If Kamara goes down, too, then Murray’s upside skyrockets.

Pick 11.03 – Rashaad Penny, RB – SEA

I’m not jazzed about the available WRs, especially given that I’m moderatly confident I can land a solid player in the rounds to come. What I want to do is add a potential work horse back in Penny who’s rookie season has many convinced he wasn’t worthy of the first round pick the Seahawks spent on him. I’d argue the opposite, and given that Mike Davis is gone, and Carson’s knee was acting up, this may be the cheapest you’ll get a potential lead back. Seattle wants to run the football, and Penny is going to see a healthy number of touches regardless of Carson’s status, but his ceiling is far too high to pass up in favor of bench players like Emmanuel Sanders and James Washington.

Pick 12.08 – Larry Fitzgerald, WR – ARI

He’s not an exciting player at this point in his career, but what manages to do year in and year out is stay healthy and in the game plan. Hakeem Butler and Christian Kirk at the future at the receiver position in Arizona, but Fitzy is going to be heavily involved regardless. With much of his time spent in the slot, he’ll be a solid contributor to Kyler Murray’s development, and as a WR5, I’m more than comfortable adding him to my bench. I could have taken David Njoku here, but there’s some good value at the TE position in the next few rounds, and I’d rather secure a wide out who’s a safe bet for 100 targets in the 12th round.

Pick 13.03 – Vance McDonald, TE – PIT

While McDonald doesn’t really generate much excitement, he’s an interesting case considering over 200 targets vacated the Steelers offense when Antonio Brown and Jesse James left. With McDonald having the starting gig to himself, he’s got potential to be a solid fantasy contributor, although unexciting. We’ll have to pair him with a high upside guy later in the draft though if we’re going to be comfortable with our roster. There are a few interesting names available, notably Ronald Jones Jr, who I’m high on as a bounce back candidate, but with a similar player in Penny on the roster, I’d rather add starters.

Pick 14.08 – Adam Humphries, WR – TEN

If it feels like I’m reaching here, it’s because I am. With only four bench spots left and a plan to add one of each of the skill position players as well as a third QB, I’m going to be reaching on the next few picks. I love the potential with Humphries, given that Chris Davis’ star is slowly waning, and Mariota needs someone to throw to. AJ Brown may steal some targets, but despite the concerns I may have surrounding his ceiling, I’m comfortable with the 80-110 targets I expect him to see in Tennessee.

Pick 15.03 – Delanie Walker, TE – TEN

While many seem to think Walkers days as a fantasy contributor are over, I think he’s the perfect target to pair with a player like Vance McDonald. Walker has only seen fewer than 100 targets one time in his Titans career, and that was his first year on the team when he saw 86. Even if he regresses following his lost 2018. I expect 80+ targets and borderline TE1 numbers. If McDonald stumbles, you could do way worse than Walker as your back up.

Pick 16.08 – Nick Foles, QB – JAC

We’ve ignored the QB position for a good chunk of the draft to this point, but with so many being rostered, it’s wise to consider spending a bench spot on a third QB. Foles is the type of QB I target in 2 QB drafts ever year, as his change of scenery scares off suitors, but the same coaching staff that helped Blake Bortles turn in some decent fantasy outputs should help Foles do the same. He’s a bye week/injury fill in only, but considering that players like Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco, and Josh Rosen are the names he’s being drafted around, I feel pretty good about it.

Pick 17.03 – Damien Harris, RB – NE

I’m not sure how much stock I put in the fact that Harris beat out Josh Jacobs for his college starting gig, but the truth remains that he’s an immensely talented runner, and he was drafted by one of the leagues most innovative offenses in New England. With their 41 year old QB Tom Brady showing signs of decline, the Pats rushed the football nearly 500 times in 2018. With concerns surrounding Sony Michel’s knee, and a willingness to use the best player, there’s a possibility that Harris could be this years surprise breakout. If he doesn’t contribute, he’ll be an easy waiver cut. Very low risk despite the potential for decent reward.

Pick 18.08 – Cleveland Browns DST

I love the Browns as a late round DST… I stream 99% of the time so it’s no sweat off my back if they don’t perform.

Pick 19.03 – Generic Kicker, They’re All The Same

Final Roster

  • QB: Cam Newton, Dak Prescott, Nick Foles
  • RB: Zeke Elliott, James Conner, Kenyan Drake, Latavius Murray, Rashaad Penny, Damien Harris
  • WR: Juju Smith-Schuster, Julian Edelman, Cooper Kupp, Mike Williams, Larry Fitzgerald, Adam Humphries
  • TE: Vance McDonald, Delanie Walker

Final Thoughts

One of the biggest advantages a 2QB league offers is the ability to add a few extra high value pieces. While players like Pat Mahomes and Andrew Luck become far more valuable, seeing ADPs approaching first round valuation, there’s still too much value later in the draft to over draft the QB position. We suggest taking your first QB in the 4-6th round range, but doing it when you have the shorter turn is always a good idea.

The basic advice we offer every year really applies two fold here as well. The rounds may shift forward, but you shouldn’t be among the first ones to draft that QB or TE for your team. With the knowledge that your going to add a third QB and a second TE, try and maximize your value up front. I’d rather have a roster like the one above, with an elite RB group and a versatile, high volume WR group and sacrifice slightly at the other positions than be forced to play catch up in the middle rounds while wiser drafters sit back and build strategically.

Superflex and 2QB leagues are fun, and they do provide you with a few different angles to the draft, but as always, have a plan but be flexible, and don’t let early runs dictate how you draft!

 

 

Can Damien Williams Be Elite?

DaWilliamsWhile we always say opportunity + talent = success, the math required to get to the desired answer isn’t always a simple request. Aside from the leagues top running backs, there are always a long list of questions that inevitably cast doubt on a players ability to enter the ranks of Fantasy’s Elite RBs.

One of this off season’s loudest hype-trains currently belongs to Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Williams. The former Dolphin has gone from complete afterthought to must-have asset in the matter of a few weeks after comments from Chief’s Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy.

“Damien Williams is our starter.”

While that admission alone isn’t the reason fantasy pundits are discussing Williams as a potential RB1 next year, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Playing for one of the leagues best offenses is really the reason for optimism here, and I’m not sure that it’s enough to sell me.

In 2018, after Williams joined the Chiefs crowded backfield, he was a complete afterthought. Not even listed on ADP data, it’s clear that Williams wasn’t being drafted even as a handcuff to Kareem Hunt. When Kareem Hunt was served his walking papers, it was Spencer Ware that saw the first crack, and even after Ware got hurt, Williams wasn’t given the kind of volume we’d expect of a top 12 running back.

In three games, he saw 10, 13, and 11 attempts respectively. His 5.1 yards per carry was a career high, but it was his application in the passing game that had owners licking their lips. With the exception of week 17, which we’ll discount as the Chief’s were locked in and resting players going into the playoffs, Williams finished the season with a three week stretch where he saw 5 or more targets per game, and caught all but one of them.

Now, with his ADP approaching late second round (currently the RB13) it’s becoming clear that the fantasy community believes he’s got the skill to pay off on that opportunity. Being drafted ahead of Leonard Fournette, Aaron Jones, and Marlon Mack, it’s an interesting risk drafting him that high. With the volume alone, he could be a solid fantasy contributor, but is there really anything in his history to suggest he deserves that kind of attention?

Undrafted in 2014 after being dismissed from the Oklahoma program for violations of team rules, Williams was added to the Dolphins backfield to compliment Lamar Miller, but he never really found a foothold. Between his inefficient running (3.5 yards per carry in three years in Miami) and his modest passing game contributions, it was no wonder that Williams wasn’t considered a threat to Hunt or Ware in terms of snap share last year.

Of course, talent aside, there is the fact that the OC in Kansas City is publicly backing the newly minted lead back. If the opportunity is there, as we expect it would be for any Chief’s starter, then he’ll be a valuable fantasy contributor. Still, our concerns are mostly around his ceiling. With players behind him having as more talent as well as the opportunity, we’d caution anyone who’s considering Williams to be a can’t miss fantasy asset. With Carlos Hyde lurking, and some regression expected for a Kansas City team that’s in danger of losing it’s best field-stretcher, I think I’d rather own shares of Jones or Mack before I’d bet on Williams putting up big numbers in 2019.

 

Panic In LA; Todd Gurley Edition

tgurleyAfter a career year in Los Angeles last season, Todd Gurley saw a knee injury interrupt a march to the Superbowl, and his lack of touches in the big game led to rampant speculation that something just wasn’t right about the all-pro running back.

In an interview on The Sedano Show on ESPN, Rams General Manager Les Snead poured more fuel on the fire.

“We’re not going to run him at all during OTA’s,” Snead said, later commenting that they don’t plan on using him at all in the pre-season.

While these comments aren’t entirely shocking on their own (Gurley was held out of of pre-season action last year as part of Sean McVay’s plan to preserve his starters) but given his recent performances and off season buzz, and the fact that the Rams selected Darrell Henderson out of Memphis in the third round, and a bleak picture begins to present itself to fantasy players.

Currently, the price on Gurley is still a first round draft pick, but we expect to see that shift as the season approaches. Our rankings have already been adjusted to reflect our concerns, and Henderson has been bumped a handful of spots as we expect him to assume a larger chunk of the touches for the Rams in 2019.

If you’re not convinced that Gurley’s injury is as impactful as many are saying, then you can likely get him in the 2nd round at a major discount, but we’re not going to own many shares of Gurley in 2019.

Friday Mock Review: A Kelce Dilemma

We’re going to try something a little new over here at the Dr’s Office, with a once-a-week mock draft and review. Each week we’ll draft from a different position in the draft and take a look at each major draft strategy to give you an idea of what to expect on draft day. 

I have always preached the merits of waiting on a Quarterback and Tight End, mainly because the value at the top of those positions is hardly worth the draft capital it requires to draft either.

This year, though, Travis Kelce may be the man to buck that trend. His target share alone is enough to consider him in the same territory as the top 5 available WR’s, but his TD upside may make him more valuable than all but a handful of receiving options, and in standard leagues, his value skyrockets with Tyreek Hill potentially missing some, if not all, of the 2019 season.

It’s important to note that currently Kelce’s ADP sits around 15. For the sake of the exercise, we’ll be drafting at the end of the first round to ensure that we have a chance to draft him in the second round. Here is how we’d handle drafting Kelce as early as we can.

Pick 1.7 – Melvin Gordon, RB – Los Angeles Chargers

We know our plan is to land Kelce in the 2nd round, so we’re committed to taking our top RB in the first round. Gordon does have some injury risk but of the available backs, he profiles as a top 5 back the best (James Conner, Le’Veon Bell, and Joe Mixon were the other backs on my radar).

Pick 2.4 – Travis Kelce, TE – Kansas City Chiefs

So this was the plan all along, and considering that my entire top tier of receivers is off the board, it actually feels about right for Kelce. Given his past performances and the turnover in the passing game, I feel that he’ll be the top target in this elite passing offense. 100+ receptions, 1,200-1,400 yards and 10-13 TDs makes him an elite option even among the top WR’s in the game.

Pick 3.7 – T.Y. Hilton, WR – Indianapolis Colts

This pick highlights the obstacles that one must overcome when throwing a dart at the TE position this early. While Keenan Allen was the top option on my board, I’m hesitant to add a 2nd Chargers player with my first three picks, and A.J. Green’s injury history scares me as a top option on my roster. Hilton may not have the ceiling that Green has, but he is in a top tier passing offense, and should see a large number of targets and is surprisingly durable over the course of his career. You could argue that grabbing a second back here is a smart move, but looking at the next tier at the RB position, I’d rather pair Gordon with a player like Kerryon Johnson than passing on a WR for Marlon Mack or Aaron Jones.

Pick 4.4 – Kerryon Johnson, RB – Detroit Lions

As mentioned previously, my aim in the 3rd round was in hopes I could land Johnson in the fourth. With the long turn ahead of us, I was content nailing down one of my favorite targets in 2019. Of course, a case could be made for taking A.J. Green as he was still available at this time. If you’re convinced that he’s got 13-16 games in him this year, then he’s an easy sell in the fourth round. After all, he still manages nearly ten targets per game when he’s on the field, but his health concerns me and I have plenty of other players I like coming up.

Pick 5.7 – Chris Godwin, WR – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2018 saw Godwin pay dividends for owners who targeted him as a potential breakout. Receiving 95 targets despite a crowded wide receiver group, Godwin turned in a solid performance with 850 yards and 7 TDs. Now with Bruce Arians at the helm, and plenty of additional targets vacated by the departing DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries, Godwin suddenly has a WR2 ceiling and a relatively safe floor. There’s always some concern when a player is thrust into a larger role, but I’m confident that Godwin can be a league winner in 2019 at his current value.

Pick 6.4 – Calvin Ridley, WR – Atlanta Falcons

While the sixth round certainly features plenty of interesting names (Tyler Boyd and Sony Michel are two players we like as fantasy contributors this year) but it came down to two young receivers with elite talent and interesting usage numbers; Mike Williams and Calvin Ridley. While Williams does have some usage concerns (only 66 receptions last year and a QB who’s arm strength has waned as he approaches the end of a long career), we’re confident that Calvin Ridley can continue to build on his 2018 season that saw him log 820 yards and 10 TDs. His ceiling may not be as high as Williams (top 10 at the position) his floor is firmly in the WR2 territory in our minds.

Pick 7.7 – Kenyan Drake, RB – Miami Dolphins

While we were certainly not kind to Drake in our rankings last year, that had more to do with our lack of faith in Adam Gase the head coach. When they added Frank Gore in free agency and Kalen Ballage in the draft, it was obvious that they didn’t trust Drake to carry the load, and his usage reflected this fact. Now with Gore gone, it’s Drake’s backfield, and I’d be very surprised if new offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea didn’t lean heavily on him in 2019. Given the PPR nature of this mock league as well, and Drake’s floor becomes far less precarious as he’s likely to haul in 40-60 passes again this year.

Pick 8.4 – Christian Kirk, WR – Arizona Cardinals 

I’m early on Kirk, this I know, but facing that long turn, I decided I’d take a player I believed in regardless of who was available “ahead” of him. Guys like Chris Carson and Tarik Cohen don’t excite me given potential competition for touches from Rashaad Penny and David Montgomery respectively, and neither Marvin Jones or Will Fuller profile as anything other than a mediocre WR3 prospect. Kirk, on the other hand, has significant upside in an offense that can only be better in 2019. As the likely focal point going forward (despite the presence of the ageless Larry Fitzgerald) Kirk could figure into the WR2 discussions this year.

Pick 9.7 – James White, RB – New England Patriots

Given that this mock draft is formatted as a full point PPR, it’s amazing to me to see the RB7 in 2018 available at pick 87. James White is one of the leagues most consistent pass catchers out of the backfield, and with the potential for another 70 receptions in 2019, he’s a player I absolutely want to target in every draft. Even if he regresses, he’s still a solid back end RB2 in most PPR leagues.

Pick 10.3 – Jameis Winston, QB – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

At this point in the draft, you’re left selecting a QB based on one of two things. His upside or his consistency. Instead of selecting a Rivers or Roethlisberger, who we expect will both settle in as a fringe QB1, we went with a player who has all the tools to be a top 5 fantasy QB, but hasn’t had the best track record thanks to off the field issues and turn over problems. With Arians in town, it’s clear that Tampa is trying to overhaul it’s persona, and with the offense in Winston’s hands right from week 1, we’re excited to see what he can do.

Pick 11.7 –  Dion Lewis, RB – Tennessee Titans

There aren’t many better pass catchers at the running back position in the league than Dion Lewis, and despite the buzz surrounding Derrick Henry thanks to a monster month to close out the series, it’s Lewis who has the kind of value that helps make fantasy champions. He’ll continue to be heavily targeted out of the backfield, but don’t discount his ability to run the ball either. He struggled last year, which certainly has depressed his value, but 2018 feels more of an outlier than an ongoing expectation, and I’m thrilled to add Lewis in the 11th round.

Pick 12.3 – Kenny Stills, WR – Miami Dolphins

While it crossed my mind that adding a solid backup to Travis Kelce may be a wiser move here (especially considering that I spent a 2nd round pick at the position) I’m more interested in adding to the depth at my weakest position. I was never really enamored with Kenny Stills, but over the past 5 seasons he’s had 80 or more targets three times, and one could argue his lack of consistency can be attributed to poor coaching and sub par quarterback play. While Ryan Fitzpatrick only represents a modest improvement under center, the truth is that the Stills is probably the best option in a passing game devoid of game breakers. He’s not exciting, but 60 catches for 800 yards isn’t anything to sneeze at out of a fifth receiver, and if he can frequent the end zone, he could be a worth while depth player for byes and injury starts.

Pick 13.7 – Jared Goff, QB – Los Angeles Rams

I could have taken Austin Ekeler as a handcuff for my first round pick Melvin Gordon, but truthfully I would hope the backs already on my roster would be a better option to plug into the starting lineup should I need an injury replacement. Goff, on the other hand, is the type of consistent fantasy asset that mitigates any downside to betting on Winston. If Jameis loses his job or fails to bounce back, I would be comfortable that Goff could keep me from missing a beat.

Pick 14.4 – Trey Burton, TE – Chicago Bears

He was a popular breakout pick last year, but the season didn’t really go Burton’s way despite a few flashes here and there. Does that mean he suddenly doesn’t possess the pass catching ability that saw him sign in Chicago in the first place? Of course not. He’s still the best option at TE on a team that’s still finding it’s identity on offense, and his coaching staff has a history of highlighting the tight end position as a heavily targeted part of the passing game. While I don’t expect him to be Kittle 2.0, I’m more than happy to stash him in the event of a Kelce injury or for trade bait should they both play well.

Pick 15.7 – D’Onta Foreman, RB – Houston Texans

We expected Foreman to struggle to return from a devastating ankle injury, so last season’s performance wasn’t much of a shock. This is the year that we’re targeting him as a flier, knowing that it won’t take much to steal a healthy chunk of rushes from the aging Lamar Miller in Houston. As a far more explosive player, Foreman is a low risk high reward type draft pick who’s roster spot isn’t secured but makes for an interesting stash in PPR formats.

Pick 16.4 – Devante Parker, WR – Miami Dolphins

As my final bench player, Parker is the kind of late round pick that I can live with. With the kind of buzz he received over the previous few seasons, it’s surprising to me that no one is willing to admit that maybe the issue was with the coaching staff and quarterback play. While I still expect Stills to be the top option in that passing game, I’m willing to take a swing at Parker and see if the athletic ability that made him popular a few years back can finally show through in his play on the field.

Pick 17.7 – Cleveland Browns D/ST 

I stream defenses anyhow, but the Browns added a lot of excellent pieces in the off season and look to be improved all over in 2019.

Pick 18.4 – Stephen Gostkowski, K – New England Patriots

Gostkowski continues to be one of the more consistent fantasy kickers. If he regresses, who cares… it’s just the kicker.

Final Roster 

  • QB: Jameis Winston, Jared Goff
  • RB: Melvin Gordon, Kerryon Johnson, James White, Kenyan Drake, Dion Lewis, D’Onta Foreman
  • WR: T.Y. Hilton, Chris Godwin, Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk, Kenny Stills, Devante Parker
  • TE: Travis Kelce, Trey Burton

Final Thoughts

I ran the roster through both Fantasy Pro’s analysis and footballguys.com Rate My Team tool, and it stood out that the roster was a little lacking at the top, but was excellent in terms of depth. This is the sacrifice that you make to take Kelce in the second round. If I hit on a few of those middle round guys, this team could be a wagon, but the rub is that if any of my top guys go down early, I could be in a world of hurt.

Of course, I could have gone WR in the first round instead of Gordon, pairing a player like DeAndre Hopkins or Devante Adams with Kelce and rolling with back to back selections at RB in rounds 3 and 4 (a quick mock returned Hopkins, Kelce, Fournette, and Marlon Mack in the first 4 rounds). That core has it’s own questions but if you value having two elite players, then maybe that’s a route you could take.

All in all, targeting Kelce presents a scenario where you have to be comfortable adding players in the middle rounds that you may otherwise avoid. As evidenced in my draft, adding several pass catching backs to take advantage of the format was how I planned to combat the lack of excitement my starters generated. While we do like Kelce, remember that you’re passing up on a top 12 RB or top 5 WR to get him. This is impactful, and while Kelce could be a league winner in 2019, a poor performance or injury will completely torpedo your roster.

Early Rankings – Top 10 TE

It’s early in the off season, and these rankings will likely take on a different form as we approach the start of the NFL season, but in an effort to map the journey, we’ll take a few days to give you a look at the top of each position and who we think is rising and who we think is falling. If you’re looking for overall rankings, our initial rankings will be posted at the links in the header this week as well. 
  1. Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs – There shouldn’t be any question to who the top tight end is, and if Tyreek Hill is forced to miss time, then Kelce could be even more valuable as the primary passing target for one of the leagues best quarterbacks.
  2. George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers – When Jimmy G went down, us Kittle fans took a deep breath, and held it as he just charged on ahead as one of the top tight ends week in and week out. With Jimmy G back, it’s unlikely to change as Kittle has proven to be one of the most gifted pass catching TE’s in the league. Even a bit of regression doesn’t knock him out of my top 2.
  3. Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles – Ertz saw his target share increase nearly 40% in 2019, from 110 to 156, and while there have been some notable additions to the offense, I expect Ertz to return as Carson Wentz top target most weeks. While he won’t get in the end zone more than 8-10 times, the sheer volume make him not only an excellent choice, but provides a top 3 floor nearly every week.
  4. Jared Cook, New Orleans Saints – Cook has long been the subject of sleeper lists and breakout articles, but last season he finally saw enough volume to produce along the lines we expected all along. Extremely athletic, Cook brings his talents to a much more amicable environment in New Orleans, and should step into the offense as a favorite target of Drew Brees. While I won’t suggest he’s the second coming of Jimmy Graham, I do expect him to managed the 100 target mark, and push a career high in TD’s.
  5. David Njoku, Cleveland Browns – All of the focus this offseason has been surrounding the addition of Odell Beckham to the Browns offense, and rightfully so, but don’t expect Njoku to take a step back in 2019. Just the contrary, as a solid route runner and excellent pass catcher, Njoku should find even more room to run, and in the red zone he’ll be a high volume target. His pedigree and skill set alone give him an outrageously high ceiling, and an improved offense in Cleveland should provide plenty of scoring opportunities.
  6. O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – This is the point in the TE rankings where the range of outcomes enters the risky territory. Howard presents an interesting case, as he’s expected to assume the lions share of targets from teammate Cameron Brate, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll see the kind of opportunity that could push him higher on this list. I think a safer assumption is that Howard will be a bit of a roller coaster this year, but there will be more good than bad.
  7. Eric Ebron, Indianapolis Colts – Maybe it’s my continued prejudices against the former Detroit Lion, or maybe it’s my concern that Jack Doyle is going to chew into the target share, but the truth is that Ebron silenced doubters with a strong 2018 campaign. A perfect example of a player just needing a change of scenery, Ebron smashed through his career highs, and could replicate those in 2019 given how often Andrew Luck has thrown to his tight ends over his career. I do expect a bit of regression, and injuries are a concern, but Ebron is worthy of a top 10 desigantion.
  8. Evan Engram, New York Giants – Engram regressed much how we expected in 2018 after his historic rookie season, but the main reason for that regression (the return of Odell Beckham) is no longer a concern. Sure, the Giants added Golden Tate to the offense, but Engram proved he can be an excellent contributor, and there is evidence to suggest that Eli Manning performs measurably better without OBJ on the field. Expecting 100 targets in 16 games may be too much to ask, but if he plays 14 or so, a 90 target, 65 reception season (and a lot of red zone work) is reasonable.
  9. Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers – Last year was supposed to be the year Henry finally emerged from the shadow of future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates, but his season was quickly lost to injury, derailing a sure hype train. Though slowed, it was never really derailed, and many outlets are viewing Henry as a top 5 scoring Tight End, but I’m not convinced it will be a smooth transition. After all, Mike Williams and Keenan Allen are one of the leagues better one two punches, and Melvin Gordon is as impactful as either of those two names. As the fourth option, I have a hard time investing in Henry as a top 5 pick, but at the back end of the TE1 range, his upside becomes intriguing.
  10. Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans – There aren’t many tight ends in the league right now with the kind of track record for solid fantasy contributions, but Walker ranks near the top of those. His most dynamic days are surely behind him, but despite a lost 2018, I’m not ready to write him off as a bounce back candidate. With Arthur Smith moving from the Tight Ends coach to the Offensive Coordinator, I’m expecting Matt LaFluer’s TE heavy approach to continue, and Walker should be in the mix nearly every week.