Week 4 wasn’t our finest week, but we had a few solid picks and were in the money in one our leagues (nothing major but it keeps us at around .500 for cashes).
- $$$: Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens ($7,100)
- After allowing 20+ points through two weeks, the Pittsburgh defense has played two excellent games against opposing quarterbacks, but we feel that this trend will revert in week 5. Jackson has shown the ability to play within the pocket, while using his legs to supplement a surprising passing game. In this divisional rivalry, I see the Ravens taking it handily, and Jackson performing very well.
- $$: Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($6,200)
- While New Orleans ranks 30th in points allowed to QB’s, it has been a tale of two defenses, with Houston and Seattle balling out in weeks 1 and three, and Goff and Prescott managing less than 25 points combined (with Dak’s 6 points being a low last week). Still, the emergence of Chris Godwin has turned the passing game into a lethal weapon, and Ronald Jones new found efficiency is helping to keep defenses honest. It may not be as high a scoring affair as it would be with Brees, but it should be Winston that benefits from a sub par passing defense.
- $: Teddy Bridgewater, New Orleans Saints ($5,200)
- While he’s been more of a game manager through three games, he’s been efficient regardless, completing over 70% of his passes over the previous two weeks. The Bucs offense has been scoring in bunches, and if it goes to the air (and I believe it will) he has the weapons in Thomas and Kamara to post points without having to do much of the work himself. Considering the Tampa defense has allowed quite a bit of scoring, I expect Bridgewater to be an absolute value in DFS this week.
- $$$: David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals ($7,500)
- Johnson’s volume has saved him from a bit of a difficult start to the season, as he’s drawn three difficult matchups in a row, running to the tune of nearly 3 yards per carry during that time. This week he gets a last place Bengals rushing defense that’s allowed no fewer than 21 points in PPR formats to opposing backs. This could be the turnaround game for the former 2,000 rusher as we expect that volume to remain constant.
- $$: James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers ($6,200)
- Life with Mason Rudolph was one where the ball rarely went down field, and Conner managed to turn a rough day on the ground into a very productive day as a dump off safety value for Rudolph. With Baltimore a very real threat to get up early, Conner could again be a heavy part of the passing game as the Steelers coaching staff didn’t seem comfortable taking the reigns off their back up signal caller
- $: James White, New England Patriots ($5,000)
- The last time we saw the Patriots, it was against a Bills team that bottled them up all day, but coming into a juicy match up against a Colt McCoy led Washington team, the Pats look to bounce back in a big way. Rex Burkhead is out, Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon are dinged up, and Brady is going to have to look White’s way fairly often, making him a solid cheap play on Sunday.
- $$$: Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons ($7,700)
- Remember when Jones was considered a “can’t reach the end zone” receiver? Jones currently has four receiving TD’s through four weeks, and is still the best receiver in a passing attack that should put up points against Houston this week. The volume is there for Jones, who’s target share has been in the 8-12 targets per week. Start him with confidence if you’re looking for an expensive option for your team.
- $$: Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia Eagles ($5,900)
- The Eagles looked off last week, but Wentz tried over and over again to fit the ball to his star receiver. Against a Jets secondary that’s providing solid scoring to opposing fantasy receivers, he should again be a target magnet, and I expect him to have far better success this week.
- $: Dionte Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers ($4,400)
- When the season started, we had high expectations for Donte Moncrief and James Washington, but it looks like rookie receiver Dionte Johnson could be the peanut butter to Juju Smith-Schusters jelly in this offense thanks to an apparent level of comfort with backup made starter Mason Rudolph. As mentioned before, this offense has turned to a check down philosophy, and Johnson looks like he could fit the bill nicely.
- $$: Darren Waller, Oakland Raiders ($5,000)
- The raiders search for receiving weapons has seemed to provide the athletic tight end with extra opportunities so far, and a tough match up against a Bears defense that’s limited pretty much everyone but opposing tight ends from production looks like a solid play here.
- $: Tyler Eifert, Cincinatti Bengals ($3,300)
- Predicting anything in fantasy is difficult, but Arizona seems to love allowing opposing Tight Ends to score. While he’s been an afterthought through much of the season, a trip or two to the end zone shouldn’t be out of the question for the oft-injured tight end.
- Patriots D/ST ($4,300)
- Daily fantasy sites are starting to catch up to the Pats dominance against weak opponents, but against a third string QB and a Washington team that offers very little talent on offense, this could be another dominating performance for a defense that’s strung together several to start the season
- Titans D/ST ($3,000)
- If you’re looking for a cheaper option, the Titans defense has been excellent this year as well, and draws a Buffalo team that may not be 100% on Sunday. With Josh Allen having been knocked out of last Sunday’s contest, it should be interesting to see how he handles pressure this week.
The Dr’s DFS Team
- QB: Jameis Winston
- RB: James Conner
- RB: James White
- WR: Chris Godwin
- WR: Alshon Jeffery
- WR: Dionte Johnson
- TE: Darren Waller
- Flex: Sterling Shepard
- DST: Patriots D/ST
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).
As in the past, we’ll provide our analysis at each position based on tier. With a DraftKings salary of $50,000 for standard daily leagues (I don’t play on FanDuel so we’ll use the DK salaries as a baseline), you have around $5,500 per player, which means we have to be judicious with our signings.
$$$: Jameis Winston ($6,600): Of the higher priced QB’s, I like Winston’s chances of turning in a good week against a sub par 49er’s defense. Their offense feels like a pass first group led by an excellent tandem at WR in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, and while HC Bruce Arians has been complimentary of his backfield, I don’t feel Barber and Jones are good enough to keep Winston from having to throw it often in week 1.
$$: Lamar Jackson ($6,000): Despite my cautions surrounding Jackson in season long leagues, I like him in week one to revert to running the ball, especially facing a solid secondary in Miami. If he calls his own number 12 or so times, he’s a lock for 6-10 points just from ground yards, plus whatever he manages to put in the end zone.
$: Nick Foles ($5,300): The Jags are likely to have a top 5 defense again this year, but that may not matter as they drew the short straw with a week one match up against a Kansas City offense that’s going to be tough to stop for anyone. With the potential for big points on the other side of the field, Foles is going to be called on to make plays early and often in this one. Garbage time points still count the same as clutch time points in fantasy.
$$$: Saquon Barkley ($9,000): The Cowboys represent one of the worst rushing defenses in the league, and with a receiver corps that’s going to be limited early in the season, Barkley is going to be called on to do a lot in week one. I expect a ton of touches in the backfield, and he’ll be used heavily in the passing game as well. At $9,000, he’s one of the more expensive adds, but he’s just too good to ignore even at that price.
$$: Chris Carson ($5,700): If one thing is true this year, it’s that the Seahawks are going to run the ball a ton. Carson may not be the defacto bell-cow he was last year as Rashaad Penny matures, but Cincinnati represents the kind of opponent that should play to Seattle’s strengths, and in particular, that of Chris Carson. With a receiving corps in Seattle that’s more questions than answers, and a defense facing them that’s ranked in the bottom half of the league, expect Carson to put up decent numbers and maybe find the end zone once or twice.
$: Matt Brieda ($4,000): Currently sitting atop the depth chart, Brieda is one of the better values in daily fantasy in week one. If the game stays close, Brieda showed he’s efficient enough to do damage with limited touches, especially against a poor rushing defense, but if the game goes to the air, I feel he could contribute regardless. With little risk but a ton of reward, he’s a guy I’m targeting for a lot of lineups this week.
$$$: Tyreek Hill ($7,600): Despite the Jaguar’s defense ranking in the top 5 against receivers, I like Hill to have a big week as his blend of speed and Mahomes big arm is too much for any defense to contain for 4 quarters. If the rest of the offense get’s bottled up, it’s the kind of down the field play that Hill is known for that tends to pop up in the game plan. Even if the Jaguars keep the rest of the Chiefs weapons from being efficient, Hill only needs a few looks to turn plays into home runs.
$$: Chris Godwin ($6,200): I’d consider Mike Evans as well, but Godwin is cheap considering he should see a large volume of the teams targets nearly every week. Unlike Evans who’s a home run hitter with high YPC numbers, Godwin could very well approach 10-15 targets any given week, and against a poor secondary, he’s a lock to have heavy volume early on.
$: Trey Quinn ($3,400): It’s not the kind of offense you’d want to over invest in, but against the worst ranked passing defense, and with no real top receiving option, we defer to the teams unofficial depth chart which lists Quinn as a starter. With the ball needing to go somewhere, we like Quinn’s chances of being a target hog this week. I don’t expect the ceiling to be immense, but he’s a safe floor if you need an ultra cheap option to fit a player like Barkley into your lineup.
$$$: George Kittle ($6,600): There may seem like there’s a lot of mouths to feed in San Fransisco, but with Jimmy G just returning from season ending injury and Dante Pettis nicked up, the 49ers would be wise to use their elite receiving TE early and often in week 1. This game could easily turn into a shootout, and Kittle is going to be fed his fair share of targets.
$$: Evan Engram ($4,800): His career has been a roller coaster, but we’ve seen how well he performs when he becomes the focal point of the passing game. OBJ is gone, Tate is suspended, Shepard is returning from injury, and the rest of the bunch are just too unproven to be leaned on too heavily. While Saquon will shoulder the burden, Engram is a safe bet to outperform most of his predictions, at least until Tate returns in week 5.
$: C.J. Uzomah ($2,600): Strangely enough, it’s not Tyler Eifert that’s listed as the starter at TE according to the Bengals unofficial depth chart. It’s Uzomah, who is one of the least expensive “starters” on draft kings. We’ve mentioned previously how the Bengal’s offense may look a little different early on with the absence of AJ Green. I’m not confident in John Ross as a leading man, so behind Boyd and Mixon, Uzomah might get more work than you’d think, especially in the red zone. Eifert may be used as well, but I find it telling that he’s no longer listed as their starter on their on website.
D/ST: Los Angeles Chargers ($3,000): There’s no advantage to saving on your D/ST since most of them are around the $3,000 mark. Still, it’s clear that the DK algorithm hasn’t account for Andrew Luck’s retirement, as the Chargers are listed 10th. Not only do they have an excellent defense, but that front seven will be facing Jacoby Brissett, who has had precious little time to prepare as the starter. It’s unlikely that you’ll see a D/ST value like this for the rest of the year.
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.
Justice has been served like a plate of cold crab legs as the NFL announced it’s suspension of Jameis Winston for an altercation with an Uber driver a few years past. In his stead, Ryan Fitzpatrick will start under center.
Winston should drop down draft boards a bit, as the three games represents about 20% of the season, but what about it’s affect on the skill positions around him?
Mike Evans: Evans played three games with Fitzpatrick in which he threw for more than 20 passes, and he averaged 4.7 catches on 10 targets for 265 total yards and 1 TD. While the efficiency could have improved, the proof is in the pudding. Don’t drop Evans down your board on account of the change under center.
DeSean Jackson: Jackson, on the other hand, was inconsistent but still targeted fairly regularly with two games over 10 targets. It’s safe to say that the wide receiver group is going to be healthy across those three games.
Cameron Brate/OJ Howard: Brate was the forgotten man in the four games that Fitzy played. His four catches in those four games was disappointing, especially when you consider that Howard did see an uptick in production with 100 yards between the two final games. Neither one is exciting for the first two weeks, but the more athletic Howard should produce a bit more for Fitzpatrick.
Running Backs: I firmly believe this is Ronald Jones’ backfield, but don’t expect more than a handful of targets in the passing game as Fitzpatrick only looked his backs way 12 times total over the 4 games he started. Still, he should see a fair amount of touches as the offense looks to remain balanced with the aging QB starting the first three games.
Tampa Bay’s offense sputtered last year, and one would be justified in expecting some of the same this year after the suspension was made official. Expect a bit of a slow start for the running game, and for Winston himself, but draft the wide outs with confidence.
As is being reported all over the place, ESPN Tallahassee host Jeff Cameron reports that the league is close to suspending Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston for a failure to report violation of the CBA stemming from a 2016 incident with an Uber Driver (Story Here)
Here at the Dr.’s Office, we’re more interested in the potential fantasy fallout. As we’ve read, it appears to be likely a 1 game suspension, but at maximum he won’t serve more than 3. Of course, where areas of discipline are concerned, the NFL makes it’s own rules. So we have to take that with a grain of salt.
If Winston only misses one game, it’s not an end of the world situation, should you like him as your starting QB. I’d suggest caution at this point, though.
As Winston has progressed through his NFL career, he’s struggled to shake the idea that he’s a bit of a bad egg. This does nothing to dispel the notion, and a down year in 2017 could spell a bit of a hiccup in the former first over all pick’s career.
Of course, if he were to face a three week suspension, I’d be forced to dock him appropriately in my QB rankings. Until such time he’ll remain where he currently is, as my QB15.
Every year I run an article where I examine the what I consider to the be the most rewarding same team pairings in fantasy football. The idea, if you’re not familiar, is that by adding high tier quarterbacks with elite wide receivers or running backs you give yourself a larger share of the available points. Of course, this works best with high scoring offenses.
Last year I missed the mark a little bit with my go to; Derek Carr and Amari Cooper, as both disappointed. Luckily I planned well enough that it didn’t impact me too much (I won the league after all), but the same risks exist for any strategy as some guys just don’t show up.
But this year presents a different challenge, as the number of elite quarterbacks have dropped precipitously and the number of sure fire fantasy studs is at a questionable level. Let’s begin:
Earl Round Pairs ( Most Difficult To Manage)
Aaron Rodgers and Devante Adams: Adams is finally getting the respect he deserves, ranking 7th among wide receivers. Pairing the #7 WR with the #1 QB is a healthy strategy regardless of what team they play for, but getting extra point for yards and touchdowns shared has this pairing at the top of list. Still, it’ll cost you two of your first four picks to assemble this pairing.
Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown: While the jury seems to be out on Roethlisberger every year in the off season, Big Ben grinds his way to a top ten finish at the position. What’s NEVER a question is how good Brown will be when he’s on the field. The easy answer is that Brown is the safest pick in fantasy, but it will require you have a top 3 or 4 pick.
Drew Brees and Michael Thomas: Despite still playing at a high level, Brees has sort of slipped behind Thomas and Alvin Kamara as the top targets in the New Orleans offense. That in no way diminishes his ability to produce in fantasy, and I’d argue is a better option than both Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady, but that’s a different article all together. Getting Michael Thomas, though, is the hard part. His ADP of 15 will mean drafting 1-5 will preclude you from drafting him unless you get lucky. If you do get lucky, a 6th or 7th round pick will land you Brees, who’s ADP of 69 is criminally low.
Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski: Draft Brady at your own risk, but if you’re confident that the off season malaise in New England won’t affect Brady’s ability to perform then have at it. The truth is that Rob Gronkowski could set records this year as the only reliable pair of hands left for Brady to chuck it up to. Sure, Edelman will be back in 4 games and Hogan has shown he can play with Brady, but Gronk should see the end zone 10-15 times this year on top of a ton of yards. Grabbing him in the 3rd round to pair with Brady in the 7th gives plenty of time to add skill players besides.
Middle Round Pairs (Easier To Coordinate)
Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin: This one isn’t as impactful in terms of fantasy because Wilson tends to supplement his passing stats with his legs. Unfortunately for this exercise, his rushing statistics can’t be taken into account. Still, Doug Baldwin is one of the leagues best slot receivers, and as a 4th round pick has a lot of value regardless. Without Jimmy Graham in the red one, he may even see a few more looks there. This one may not be the sexiest pair on the list, but they may be the most effective.
Carson Wentz and Zach Ertz: It may seem strange to see another WR/TE combo, but the fact is Wentz and Ertz seem to share a brain in the red zone, meaning a ton of points are up for grabs between the two of them. While Alshon Jeffrey may be the #1 wide out on the team’s depth chart, the true number one is Ertz. if you miss out on Gronk but you want a stud tight end, pair a 4th round Ertz with a 7th round Wentz and reap the benefits.
Kirk Cousins and Stefon Diggs: Wait, you say. This should be Thielen and Cousins! I’m here to tell you, not so fast. Now, I can see a scenario like in Denver years back with multiple 1,000 yard receivers, but the guy I’m targeting is Diggs in the late 4th round. He was excellent last year even though he wasn’t the top target for the Case Keenum led Vikings. Now, he has Cousins tossing the ball to him. A classic gunslinger, Cousins’ game best fits the strengths Diggs brings to the table. This is one of the least expensive pairings you can get as a 4th and a 10th gets you both players.
Matt Ryan and Julio Jones: You may have to spend a 2nd round pick on Jones, but the wait on Ryan is a bit longer than the other QB’s on this list. As the QB13, he’s being drafted in the 11th round, and I’d argue his value is sky high this year as a bounce back candidate. If you’re like me, and you see more value in grabbing high end skill players to pair with the later round QB, Matt Ryan is a slam dunk. Have him and Julio, and you’ll reap the rewards for all those yards.
Odell Beckham and Eli Manning: If you’re nervous about drafting either of these guys, I’d say you’re hardly alone. Beckham is an otherworldly talent when he’s right, but the combination of recent injury woes and an inability to stay level headed means he may fall towards the end of the first round. What I will say is that if you manage Beckham, Manning is a wonderful pairing if you waited a bit long on your QB. In the 16th round of drafts (current ADP is 152) Manning presents a conundrum. He was awful last year but much of it could be logically blamed on the terrible circumstances around him. With healthy weapons, an upgraded offensive line, and an elite RB to draw the attention, and Manning could be a surprise top 15 QB this year.
Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen: Allen proved last year that when he’s healthy, he’s every bit the stud we thought he was. Rivers remains one of the most under appreciated QB’s in fantasy, and his ADP of 112 presents tons of value. Without Hunter Henry, even more weight will be given to Allen, meaning these two could hook up for a ton of points.
Honorable Mentions: Derek Carr and Amari Cooper (a new coach could help get these two back on track). Jared Goff and Brandin Cooks (it’s a new look for Goff, but Cooks could be his go to early and often). Jameis Winston and Mike Evans (This requires a bounce back year for both, but not guaranteed). Marcus Mariota and Corey Davis (There’s so much talent between these two, it’s hard to imagine both of them laying duds this year).
Eli Manning, QB – NYG: Currently ranked 186th by Fantasy Pro’s consensus rankings, Eli Manning appears to be little more than an afterthought going into his 14th professional season. Part of the problem for fantasy owners is that, at 37, his performance last year is as easily attributed to his age, as it is to the circumstances surrounding the Giants roster upheaval. I’d say they’re wrong.
This offseason, the Giants have tried adding help to both the backfield and the offensive line, two maligned personnel groups that managed to cost Manning valuable time in the pocket. With a stronger run game, a healthy wide receiver corps, and a cleaner jersey thanks to a capable left tackle, Manning should have a much more favorable fantasy season. Do I expect him to finish in the top 5? Hell no, he is 37 after all, but 4,000 yards and 28 TD’s is a reasonable expectation, and one that will give you excellent value in the 19th round of your draft.
Derek Carr, QB – OAK: With all of the noise surrounding the Oakland Raiders and it’s young stud quarterback going into last season, it’s no surprise that the team seemed to shrink from the pressure. Carr turned in some duds early on and suffered a broken vertibrae midway through the season, Amari Cooper showed up for a handful of games at best, and the run game was a mess when Marshawn Lynch got dinged up. This year, expectations should be more in line with what this team is capable of; a wildcard playoff run and maybe a round or two in the playoffs.
With a shiny new weapon in Jordy Nelson, and a likely bounce back candidate himself in Amari Cooper, Carr should turn in a season much closer to what we saw from him in 2016. If he competes hard and reaches his ceiling, he’s a top 10 fantasy QB without a doubt.
Matt Ryan, QB – ATL: The Super Bowl hangover strikes again, as 2016’s break out star and MVP Matt Ryan turned in a stinker after being drafted far earlier than necessary in drafts last year. Ryan finished 15th amongst quarterbacks last year, which was shockingly worse than Blake Bortles, Jared Goff, and Case Keenum.
Still, the Atlanta offense remains one of the most high powered in the league, and Ryan still owns the keys to the car. With Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu being one of the rangier WR duo’s in the league, and two pass catching backs in Coleman and Freeman still on the roster, it’d be a surprise to me if he didn’t bounce back in a big way. His floor is around the QB12 mark, but with his ranking sitting around the 12th round, I’m all in on Matty Ice.
Honorable Mentions: A revamped offense in Cleveland means Tyrod Taylor has the best receiver corps he’s ever had the privilage of throwing to. In the 18th round (ranked 175) he’s a steal. Likewise, Jameis Winston managed to play himself out of the position’s top 10 rankings thanks to a down year. Expect the Winston to Evans magic to resume early as he finishes in the top 10 again.
The NFC South has produced two Superbowl teams in the last two years, and looks to be a competative division again with four strong football teams. As usual, the South should be strong in the fantasy representation as well, with high flying offenses and high ranking individuals.
Notable Fantasy Stars: Julio Jones (WR2), Matt Ryan (QB4), Devonta Freeman (RB5), Austin Hooper (TE20), Tevin Coleman (RB22), Taylor Gabriel (WR64), Mohamed Sanu (WR75)
Synopsis – Some may be concerned with where this team is mentally after blowing a monster lead in the Superbowl, but I’d argue that the talent trumps any kind of hangover. The offense is led by the triumverate of elite players in Julio Jones, Matt Ryan, and Devonta Freeman, and they all look to offer early round values. Coleman and Sanu are likely to carve out minor fantasy roles with Austin Hooper being the likely breakout candidate following Jacob Tamme’s departure. Expect fireworks in Atlanta again this year.
Notable Fantasy Stars: Greg Olsen (TE3), Cam Newton (QB10), Christian McCaffrey (RB16), Kevlin Benjamin (WR31), Jonathan Stewart (RB34), Devin Funchess (WR72)
Synopsis – Cam Newton suffered a litany of minor injuries and his stats suffered as a result. His expectations have been adjusted but with the addition of Christian McCaffrey, fans are hopeful we’ll see more plays from the pocket and less vicious hits at the end of short runs. A healthy Kelvin Benjamin looks to rebound, and Jonathan Stewart returns to his role as underdog, and figures to excel despite the precipitous drop in the rankings. Ole reliable Greg Olsen returns as my TE3, and could quietly finish as the top TE considering his role in this offense.
New Orleans Saints
Notable Fantasy Stars: Drew Brees (QB3), Michael Thomas (WR8), Mark Ingram (RB18), Willie Snead (WR36), Adrian Peterson (RB40), Ted Ginn (WR56), Coby Fleener (TE14)
Synopsis – It was an interesting offseason by the Saints as they traded former first round WR Brandin Cooks to the Patriots, and signed 32 year old Adrian Peterson to fill out what they hope to be a more balanced offensive attack. Mark Ingram may suffer slightly if AP is more than advertised, but considering the lower number of touches last year, one can expect a RB2 finish regardless. Michael Thomas slides into the WR1 spot but Willie Sneed and Coby Fleener should be the big winner as their targets should rise significantly as Brees is still likely to throw the ball 600 times.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Notable Fantasy Stars: Mike Evans (WR3), Jameis Winston (QB6) ,O.J. Howard (TE17), Cameron Brate (TE22), Doug Martin (RB33), Charles Sims (RB57), DeSean Jackson (WR30)
Synopsis – The Bucs are a tough team to get a handle on, but Mike Evans and Jameis Winston no longer qualify as both guys should finish in the top ten at their positions. Doug Martin and Charles Sims should split time (again) with the Muscle Hamster tackling the early downs and Sims cleaning up the passing situations. Beyond Evans, the Bucs have two young TE’s (OJ Howard is likely the most valuable in a fantasy sense) that should be heavy in the passing game, and DeSean Jackson seems to find his way onto the fantasy radar despite his WR3 ranking.
As the NFL’s dog days settle in, we long for the hooplah that surrounded the draft. We pray to the football gods that a wacky Chip Kelley roster move falls in our laps. We ask that we never have to hear the words “deflated football” again in our lives. Instead we’re left reading reports of how every disappointing player is wowing in whatever camp is being participated in or how backup quarterbacks everywhere are competing to take the starting gig.
So, inspite of my fears that this is far to early to look at the NFL’s fantasy landscap, I’ll begin breaking down the pieces each NFL franchise may showcase come your very own Fantasy draft day. We’ll examine each teams skill positions and rank them from 32 to 1.
Without further adue… drum roll please!
32. Cleveland Browns
No other franchise in the NFL has swung and missed on a QB more than the Cleveland Browns. The most important position on the field, QB is the one position every NFL team focuses on, but Cleveland has a depth chart that has 35 year old journey man Josh McCown on top of their failed experiment of Johnny “football” Manziel. On top of that, Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline were brought in to bolster a dismal WR corps, but achieved nothing but making them more mediocre. Despite having a solid stable of RB’s on the roster, this offense is so disfunctional I’d be surprised if they had room to run. Worth Drafting: Dwayne Bowe is a risky pick, but at least he’s his teams #1 option. Isaiah Crowell should be a top 20 back unless Duke Johnson impresses early. I wouldn’t waste a pick in the first 5 rounds on this team.
31. New York Jets
In a similar fashion to Cleveland, the Jets experimented with Geno Smith, and decided that Ryan Fitzpatrick would give them the best chance to win. No fantasy owner would agree. Brandon Marshall is a marquee name, and Fitzpatrick didn’t kill Andre Johnson’s value in Hou, so he may still be worth a pick, but beyond him Decker and Kerley should prove to be inconsistent. Chris Ivory is a steady back but with the addition of Ridley and Zac Stacy, who knows which guy will lead the team. Worth Drafting: I’m sure someone in your league will draft Ryan Fitzpatrick; don’t be that guy. Marshall is an intriguing pick as the Jets haven’t had a goal line guy for a while and they may lean heavily on him, not a WR1 but could have value if he falls. Ivory quietly put together a decent season last year, so I’d think he’ll come out of the gates on top, but I wouldn’t waste and early pick. Ridley and Stacy are both risky, and may only be valuable as a handcuff if it becomes more clear before the season starts who is the #2.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville is a team on the rise, but will still suffer short term as Blake Bortles and his young WR’s become aclimated to the league. Bortles has the tools to be a good NFL quarterback, but as young as this offense is, he’ll struggle with consistency. TJ Yeldon will likely carry the torch at RB, and should be worth a middle round pick, especially in keeper formats. At WR things are a little murky. There won’t be a huge number of passes to go around, so a big week followed by a zero could have fantasy owners screaming. Julius Thomas should still be a top 10 TE even in this offense. Worth Drafting: Bortles is a project and should be drafted with this in mind. Yeldon has a chance to come out and put up good fantasy numbers, watch carefully as the team may announce him starting over Gerhart before the season starts. Marquise Lee has the most upside of the WR corps but it’s Julius Thomas as a saftey blanket for the young QB who warrants the highest value.
29. St. Louis Rams
Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think Nick Foles is going to be able to handle the lack of protection that St. Louis has been famous for. He won’t have Chip Kelly’s schemes to protect him either, so I have very little faith that Foles will return to a top 15 QB. Todd Gurley looks to be a generational talent, but inuries should limit him in year one, and Tre Mason is a solid but unspectacular RB for fantasy purposes. WR is a soft spot here with Tavon Austin and Kenny Britt being marginal at best atop the depth charts. Jared Cook could be the one fantasy expection with nearly 700 yards last year. At a shallow TE position, he could be worth a pick. Worth Drafting: Foles was average in Philadelphia’s offense, so I expect him to be worth a late round QB2 or bench spot pick. Todd Gurley should be drafted with the understanding he won’t contribute early, and likely valued too high in keeper leagues. Kenny Britt as a depth WR or Tavon Austin as a hold your breath flier would be later rounds and Jared Cook could be cheap points at the TE position.
28. Tennessee Titans
Marcus Mariota has some great tools, but he’s still a bit raw when it comes to the NFL game. I don’t expect him to have much fantasy impact early. Bishop Sankey disappointed his NFL owners along with the fantasy world, so they went out and got David Cobb in the draft. Cobb should eat into Sankey’s carries early, but there’s no garuntee that either will see much success. A ton of talent at WR, it’s a crap shoot with who to pick. Kendall Wright should put up solid numbers but with a rookie QB inconsistency could hurt his value, but I’m a firm believer in Delanie Walker and expect him to repeat with a top 10 TE season. Worth Drafting: Mariota should be drafted as a bench QB only. Walker is a safe bet to put up good numbers, and Dorial Green-Beckham as a flier pick could reap huge rewards with his freakish athleticism. Delanie Walker has a lot of value in the red zone, and should be counted on as a top TE in a shallow field.
27. Buffalo Bills
Matt Cassell is a slight upgrade on paper over E.J. Manuel, but he’s not good enough to elevate the offense into the middle of the pack. The biggest question in this offense is LeSean McCoy. He had a ton of touches last year for Philadelphia and could’t put together a season worthy of being a top pick last year. Now he’s wearing a bills logo and things should only be tougher for him. Sammy Watkins is a stud, but opposing teams will be focused on the talented wideout even more now. I’m intrigued by Charles Clay as well. The converted back has tools to make him a mismatch, but Cassell can’t be counted on to keep his numbers up either. Worth Drafting: I’d stay away from either QB unless in a 2QB format league. LeSean McCoy should be counted on to touch the ball 15-20 times a game, but is a huge risk at his current ADP. Sammy Watkins is a no brainer, but Charles Clay is the toughest to put your finger on. In the later rounds sure, if overvalued due to his success in Miami last year, I’d look elsewhere.
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jameis Winston is a fine talent, but he’s young and he’s taking over for a team that allowed 52 sacks last season. Mike Evans was a revelation and Vincent Jackson is still a deep threat, but Doug Martin is still a question mark. If the team can’t use him to spell Winston, there could be some growing pains early. I’m not convinced that Austin Sefarian-Jenkins failure to turn into a fantasy option was a result of a terrible passing game. Winston may help revive his prospects. Worth Drafting: Mike Evans will be an early pick based on his athletisism and high ceiling. Vincent Jackson is going to regress eventually, but he’s still worth a WR3. Winston should outperform Mariota in terms of fantasy, but he’s a project that may not reach his hype. Sefarian Jenkins could fall to late in the draft and I’d say he’s a steal there.
25. Washington Redskins
What a mess this organization has become as Dan Snyder wants nothing more than to torment the fans of his storied franchise. Robert Griffin may not have the backing of his Head Coach but ownership has ensure he’ll get the first crack at the job this year. His talent is undeniable, his mental toughness is. If he’s playing his game, defenses can’t defend all of the areas he can attack, adding value to their small but quick recievers. Garcon is a valuable volume reciever when the football is in the air, and DeSean Jackson can still torch a secondary. Two talented TE’s in Jordan Reed and Paul Niles provide nice targets for Griffin but damage each others value significantly if both are healthy. Worth Drafting: Despite not passing the eyeball test, Griffin had a few solid performances down the stretch that show he might be able to turn this thing around. He may be worth a flier if you think so to. Alfred Morris is as boring a pick as they come, but he’s a safe bet to touch the ball 15 times a game. Garcon may have more value in PPR leagues, but DeSean Jackson has shown he can be a difference maker regardless of who is throwing the ball. Injuries derailed Reed’s season and allowed Niles Paul to showcase his skills, but Reed is the more complete fantasy player and warrants a TE2 pick.
24. Houston Texans
Sure, they have Arian Foster who when healthy is among the best at his position. But they lost Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins is being asked to step into his shoes. Last year he was a stud, compiling WR1 numbers with an anemic passing offense. Adding Brian Hoyer may give them a better chance to win, but he’s not going to light up the score board, and this could hurt the WR’s. Jaelen Strong could be a sneaky pick if teams take Hopkins out of games as Cecil Shorts is really only there to stretch the feild. Worth Drafting: Arian Foster should still be considered one of the best in the game, but age and injury concerns could hamstring a fantasy team. DeAndre Hopkins is buzzing now that he occupies the number one spot, but I’m not sure that he’s ready to be the man yet. Jaelen Strong as a rookie has the tools to outperform a flier pick if your filling out your bench.