32. New York Jets
It’s low hanging fruit to bash on the listless Jets, but the relative lack of fantasy fire power is hardly a surprise to anyone. Aside from deep sleeper lists and waiver wire conquests, the Jets boast a roster devoid of much except late round fliers.
Worth Drafting: Isaiah Crowell (ADP 102), Robby Anderson (ADP 104), Bilal Powell (ADP 169)
While none of these players should be selected with anything but serious flyer considerations, Powell may offer the most upside in PPR leagues only. Crowell, on the other hand, doesn’t project to work much with the passing game, so it all depends on how you think he’ll be used. I expect this team to pass a lot, similar to how last years team found themselves training early. Anderson could out perform the 11th round price tag, but I expect Quincy Enunwa (undrafted in ESPN leagues at this point) to return to some relevance in terms of offensive workload. Every target he steals from Anderson is a massive hit to his fantasy value.
Deep Sleeper: While Sam Darnold has his work cut out for him behind both Bridgewater and McCown in front of him, it’s only natural that the best QB of the bunch get some consideration. He probably won’t play, but in dynasty leagues he’s worth a late round pick, and as waiver wire fodder he should be on your radar until the team finally names it’s starter.
31. Buffalo Bills
This could be even worse, pending the fallout from LeSean McCoy’s domestic violence accusations. Even if he remains on the team, though, I expect a decline across the board as this team is littered with youth and raw future talents. With the pending media firestorm, I’m out on Buffalo unless it’s dealt with sooner than later.
Worth Drafting: LeSean McCoy (ADP 17), Kelvin Benjamin (ADP 91), Charles Clay (ADP 145)
Obviously McCoy’s inclusion on this is difficult, as the ADP data hasn’t caught up to the fall I’m expecting. If he’s found guilty, he’ll be gone from the league post haste, making this team even worse. Unfortunately for Benjamin and Clay, the prospects working with AJ McCarron and Josh Allen are nebulous at best. While Taylor didn’t have as massive a year statistically as we expected last year, this team should struggle to find consistency.
Deep Sleeper: Zay Jones’ rookie year was a disappointment to those, like me, who had him pegged as a high end rookie option. His 10 starts only yielded 27 receptions and 316 yards; not good enough. Still, the talent is there, and Jones is a downfield threat who may work well with Allen’s monster arm. It’s a long shot, and a player I only look at in the deepest of drafts, but Jones could be a contributor by the end of the season.
30. Baltimore Ravens
A common theme among the teams named to this point are the potential quarterback controversies. While I fully expect Flacco to start when healthy, it’s important to note that Lamar Jackson has the potential to unseat Flacco, especially if he’s awful again this year. To combat that, the Ravens brought in free agent receivers Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead, so expect a bit of an uptick in Baltimore’s overall numbers.
Worth Drafting: Alex Collins (ADP 53), Michael Crabtree (ADP 72), Kenneth Dixon (ADP 180)
One of the more interesting competitions is going to be Collins and Dixon in the Baltimore Backfield. Dixon was labelled as the heir apparent last year before an injury ended his season. Collins was fantastic in relief, giving many the impression that the team had moved on. But even after several off the field issues, Baltimore expects Dixon to be a part of it’s offense. The leash will be short, but this may start as a committee and coaches will likely ride the hot hand.
Deep Sleeper: It’s been a while since Willie Snead has popped up on the fantasy radar, but in Baltimore, he’ll have every opportunity to show the talent that flashed in New Orleans. With John Brown no safe bet to see the field, Snead should be heavily involved in the passing game, and Flacco does love to fling it.
29. Miami Dolphins
A team that maybe deserves a bit more respect than they receive annually, the Dolphin’s roster is a who’s who of mediocre players. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is back, so it’s possible he and Davante Parker rekindle the magic that made them both trendy picks a few years ago, but I’m not going to go that far just yet. Likewise, the questions in the run game need to be answered before I invest heavily in a run game that’s actually produced some fantasy relevant backs in recent years. While Kenyan Drake has the inside track, don’t count out Frank Gore as he will likely see a healthy dose of carries early on.
Players Worth Drafting: Kenyan Drake (ADP 41), Devante Parker (ADP 91), Kenny Stills (130), Mike Gesicki (ADP 165), Frank Gore (ADP 172), Albert Wilson (ADP 182)
It was a strange development that saw the Dolphins bring in an aging Frank Gore via free agency, and Kalen Ballage in the draft. If the team believed in Drake, then I’d argue that at least one of them would be elsewhere. As a 5th round pick, that scares the hell out of me, and may force me to look elsewhere. That elsewhere, in this offense, are the 160 targets vacated by Jarvis Landry. While Parker will get his, Albert Wilson is a sneaky pick to slide into the slot. If the Dolphins like his game more than Amendola’s he could be a monster producer out of the 19th round.
Deep Sleeper: I should probably stop screaming his name from the rooftops if I want to secure him in the later rounds, but Kalen Ballage is an intriguing player in that he possesses all the skills necessary to become a 3 down back in the league. Possessing impressive speed for his size, and above average hands in the passing game, Ballage could easily see his timeshare expand to a level that supports a roster spot.
28. Denver Broncos
The addition of Case Keenum elevates this team from dead last, to near last. That’s not to say there’s no one worth drafting, because I do like some of the talent on this roster, but the days of Denver popping out top 30 players is in the past. While Demaryius Thomas still possesses the skill to overcome sub-par quarterback play, the question is can Case Keenum’s arm support multiple fantasy receivers in Denver like it did in Minnesota? Given the age of guys like Emmanuel Sanders, and the inexperience at TE and in the backfield, and I’m cautious when drafting a Denver player.
Players Worth Drafting: Demaryius Thomas (ADP 38), Royce Freeman (ADP 58), Emmanuel Sanders (ADP 68), Devontae Booker (ADP 151), Case Keenum (ADP 157)
Case Keenum went from draft bust to hero last year as he brought the Vikings to within one game of the superbowl. Cashing in on that success, he’s slated to take over the starting gig and I’m not so sure that he’s the franchise cornerstone that last years performances convinced Denver he was. If he reverts back to the player he was before, and I’d argue it’s far more likely that he does, then this offense could continue to struggle beyond Demaryious Thomas.
Deep Sleeper: 2nd Round pick Courtland Sutton has a steep hill to climb with fantasy stalwarts ahead of him in Thomas and Sanders. Expect him to be up to the task. With Sanders coming to the end of a sparkling career, Sutton may see enough of the field to warrant a roster spot after a few weeks.
27. Dallas Cowboys
Oh how the mighty have fallen. I’m sure there’s plenty of Dallas fans shaking their head at the ranking, but the bottom line is that aside from Ezekiel Elliott, their roster is middle of the road at best. When you consider the talent that walked out the door in Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, it’s easy to see why this roster doesn’t inspire much confidence in the fantasy community.
Worth Drafting: Ezekiel Elliott (ADP 4), Dak Prescott (ADP 122), Allen Hurns (ADP 128), Michael Gallup (ADP 164)
A whole lot of mediocre pretty accurately describes the Dallas passing game. While the bulk of the offense is going to run through the run game, it’s a burning question as to where the passing game will trend. It’s clear that fantasy players are out of Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley, the two incumbent receivers of note, but I think Hurns isn’t talent enough to be a true number one receiver. At his current cost, he’s a low risk option, but I’d ignore him at any steeper a price.
Deep Sleeper: I doubt it will be this way when drafts come along, but Gallup is the best chance Dallas has to replace Dez Bryant with a player on it’s roster. He’s not as talented as Bryant in his prime, but Gallup has all the tools to eat up a ton of targets. It might not happen right away, but he has #1 written all over him.
26. Indianapolis Colts
It’s amazing how poorly a franchise can manage it’s star players, but the job the Colts did last year with Andrew Luck’s injured shoulder takes the cake. By not properly handling the injury, they set back the franchise years and forced fantasy owners to look elsewhere for production. The Jacoby Brissett experiment wasn’t all bad, but it didn’t produce much in the way of fantasy points.
Worth Drafting: T.Y. Hilton (ADP 31), Andrew Luck (ADP 91), Jack Doyle (ADP 97), Marlon Mack (ADP 98), Jordan Wilkins (ADP 185), Eric Ebron (ADP 191), Nyheim Hines (ADP 193)
It’s got to say something for how important you are as a player when the success of everyone on this list comes down to if you play or not. For Andrew Luck, that scenario is very real, and could affect who and when you draft. With Hilton especially, the cost is so high that any doubt you have that Andrew Luck is healthy should dissuade you from drafting him. With half of his yards in only 2 games, he’s a massive bust candidate with Brissett under center.
Deep Sleeper: Ryan Grant may not be a sexy name, but the disregard may work in your favor if Luck is back on the field. A healthy Luck is a safe bet for 550 attempts and someone other than Hilton is going to get involved. Grant is likely to be that guy as the tight ends and depth receivers aren’t great options.
First and foremost, the allegations are serious and while innocent until proven guilty is basic tenement of Law in this country, we in no way are making light of the situation with this post. Our aim is not to discuss the crime itself of its alleged perpetrators, but instead to dissect the potential fallout in Fantasy terms.
What To Expect
With as much traction as the news has gotten, it wouldn’t surprise me for there to be some kind of discipline early on, so it’s important to monitor the situation accordingly if you’re planning on adding McCoy to your fantasy teams. This kind of thing presents no “best case scenario” if the player is found guilty, as his career should be over at that point.
Of course, even prior to the allegations McCoy’s fantasy standing had begun to wane, as I had him ranked 9th and other outlets even further down. With the allegations swirling, I’ve dropped him to 18th on my list, pending the results of the investigation of course. That leads us to another question, one that may become more important as the season approaches.
Who Else To Target?
A quick glance at the Bills depth chart reveals a real hole at the position behind McCoy. Unlike last year when there was significant buzz on the backups in the system, this year shows that the team had confidence in McCoy to stay on the field.
A) Chris Ivory – At 30 years old and 2 years removed from the only season in which he rushed for 1,000 yards, it seems that Ivory’s best seasons are behind him. His average of 3.4 yards per carry last year in Jacksonville prove he’s no more than a goal line back who’d plod for mediocre numbers. Behind an O-line that’s lost some of its core guys this offseason, Ivory is likely to disappoint even if no one overtakes him on the roster.
B) Tavaris Cadet – The veteran pass catcher and special teams man has never received more than 22 rushes in a single season, and while his ability to play third downs is intriguing considering how involved Bills backs are in the passing game, I don’t think he has the profile to play a large number of downs.
C) Marcus Murphy – I wouldn’t get excited about the diminutive back, but he’s got the tools to help in limited work. At 5’8”, he’s not big enough to be leaned on for between the tackles plays, but his acumen as a pass catcher could see him leapfrog some of these names.
D) Keith Ford – A former five star recruit at Oklahoma, Ford’s collegiate career was marred by team suspensions and a lack of overall work. His scouting profile suggests that he’s lacking vision and elusiveness but his measurable show he can be an NFL back. As intriguing as this is, it’s likely that he’d be a short yardage options while the team works out kinks in his game. As a gamble, he may offer the most upside of any of these backs, but he’d be a waiver wire add at best, assuming he can even make the roster.
E) A Back Not On The Roster – There’s a handful of names ranging from high profile to sneaky upside that have yet to find an NFL home. DeMarco Murray probably fits the profile the best of all the remaining backs, as his ability to play three downs in previous years could be attractive. Likewise, Alfred Morris and Orleans Darkwa have started, and recently, and could provide an upgrade over the current roster. It’d be a long shot to expect Adrian Peterson or Eddie Lacy to sign on there, but they remain free agents as well.
Where there is smoke, there is almost always fire, and with the NFL adopting a zero tolerance policy on domestic violence, there’s a very good chance we’ve seen the last of McCoy in the NFL. If McCoy is no longer available to the Bills, the best case scenario would be a player not currently on the roster. Chris Ivory isn’t the type of player who can replace McCoy, especially given the struggles expected with that offensive line. The rest of the roster features rookies who are too raw or gadget/special teamers who offer little upside.
DeMarco Murray may be a perfect fit, but the timing of any discipline will impact the team’s ability to get a player like that in and acclimated. If the case drags on and McCoy’s punishment arrives during the season, only Chris Ivory has the experience to start for this team. In such a case, Ivory would handle the first and second downs and Cadet would inherit the third down role. Either way, neither player is worth drafting, at least not as a starter.
Of course Keith Ford could surprise us all and show a level of improvement that forces the young back into the conversation. His situation is worth monitoring as he has the size and speed to be a difference maker if the Bills can help him avoid becoming a head down type of runner. As a player on your radar, just remind yourself that he’s a third or fourth option for the Bills at this time, and a lot would have to go right for him to be worth a roster spot.
- Todd Gurley, LAR
- Le’Veon Bell, PIT
- David Johnson, ARI
- Despite missing most of last season and getting a new QB, Johnson remains a threat to be the #1 running back in PPR formats.
- Ezekiel Elliott, DAL
- Melvin Gordon, LAC
- Alvin Kamara, NO
- Kareem Hunt, KC
- Leonard Fournette, JAC
- With 1,340 yards on 300 touches, Fournette proved that he can be a three down back in the NFL. Now, after the departure of Hurns and Robinson, he may be asked to do even more.
- Saquon Barkley, NYG
- LeSean McCoy, BUF
- Devonta Freeman, ATL
- Dalvin Cook, MIN
- Joe Mixon, CIN
- The questions surrounding Mixon have nothing to do with his talent, and everything to do with how Cincinnati destroys the value of it’s running backs seemingly every year. I’m cautiously optimistic that Mixon approaches 250 touches this year.
- Jerick McKinnon, SF
- Jordan Howard, CHI
- Christian McCaffrey, CAR
- Alex Collins, BAL
- Derrick Henry, TEN
- Derrius Guice, WAS
- Rashaad Penny, SEA
- The noise out of Seattle is that they’re committed to getting their run game going again. The selection of Penny shows me that they’re serious. He may not have as much room to run behind that OL as other rookie backs, but he should have a large share of the touches.
- Lamar Miller, HOU
- Royce Freeman, DEN
- Kenyan Drake, MIA
- Sony Michel, NE
- Ronald Jones II, TB
- Marlon Mack, IND
- No longer splitting carries with Frank Gore, Marlon Mack is the defacto lead back in this continuously dysfunctional offense. It’s likely he’ll cede passing down touches to Hines, but offers a ton of value at a very low risk pick.
- C. J. Anderson, CAR
- Jay Ajayi, PHI
- Mark Ingram, NO
- Tevin Coleman, ATL
- Marshawn Lynch, OAK
- Carlos Hyde, CLE
- Hyde is the most polished runner on the Cleveland roster, but Chubb should keep him from finishing in the top 20. Don’t expect much work on 3rd down either with Duke Johnson owning that area.
- Isaiah Crowell, NYJ
- Kerryon Johnson, DET
- Aaron Jones, GB
- Chris Thompson, WAS
- Tarik Cohen, CHI
- Dion Lewis, TEN
- Duke Johnson, CLE
- Rex Burkhead, NE
- Just when we thought Burkhead would be the guy in New England, the Pats signed Sony Michel in the first round. Best as a waiver wire pick up or late round stash in deep leagues.
- Jamaal Williams, GB
- Theo Riddick, DET
- Devontae Booker, DEN
- Ty Montgomery, GB
- Doug Martin, OAK
- After finally wearing out his welcome, Martin joins a crowded Oakland backfield with a proven starter ahead of him. His value comes mostly as a handcuff for the aging Marshawn Lynch.
- D’Onta Foreman, HOU
- Chris Carson, SEA
- Bilal Powell, NYJ
- Nick Chubb, CLE
- LeGarrette Blount, DET
Over the next few days, we here at Dr. Fantasy will take a closer look at each skill position and where the best value is as you prepare for your drafts.
While the classic RB / RB draft strategy has long since gone the way of the dodo, this year is a perfect example of how snagging an elite back early will save you headaches down the road as the questions surrounding the mid tier backs all come with some concern. (these tiers are mostly applicable for re-draft leagues so don’t freak when you see a suspended player far below their actual value)
Elite Tier (1)
- David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals
- Le’Veon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers
- LeSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills
The role of three down back in the NFL has become increasingly rare, and these three guys will be called upon to lead their respective teams on both the ground and through the air. While standard scoring formats may close the gap, these three guys should be the first three RB’s picked.
Very Good Tier (2)
- Devonta Freeman – Atlanta Falcons
- Jordan Howard – Chicago Bears
- Melvin Gordon – Los Angeles Chargers
- DeMarco Murray – Tennessee Titans
- Todd Gurley – Los Angeles Rams
- Jay Ajayi – Miami Dolphins
Any one of these guys could elevate their game to Elite status but a few questions remain for each of them. Most of them suffer from a lack of sample size. I’d bet Todd Gurley falls in drafts this year due to his dismal 2016 campaign and I’d argue he may be the best value in the rounds 3-5 depending on your league. Jay Ajayi on the other hand is riding high on the back of his 2016 statistics despite the evidence that he’s a boom or bust player who’s three 200 yard games masked lengthy stretches of inefficiency.
Decent Tier (3)
- Leonard Fournette – Jacksonville Jaguars
- Ezekiel Elliott – Dallas Cowboys
- Lamar Miller – Houston Texans
- Isaiah Crowell – Cleveland Browns
- Carlos Hyde – San Fransisco 49ers
- Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers
- Marshawn Lynch – Oakland Raiders
- Spencer Ware – Kansas City
- Joe Mixon – Cincinnati Bengals
- C.J. Anderson – Denver Broncos
- Mark Ingram – New Orleans Saints
- Dalvin Cook – Minnesotta Vikings
- Tevin Coleman – Atlanta Falcons
- Eddie Lacy – Seattle Seahawks
While you may not enjoy drafting in this tier, the fact remains that getting the guy who’ll dominate touches is never a bad thing. Even for rookies like Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook the question is only how effective will they be with the ball because they were drafted to be workhorses. Ezekiel Elliott certainly an elite talent in this league, but he’s slated to miss 6 games due to suspension and with the bye week coming in week 6, Elliott won’t suit up until week 8 effectively costing you 50% of the fantasy season – in re-draft leagues I don’t touch Elliott until round 4 or later (assuming he’s there at all)
Make a Prayer Tier (4)
- Frank Gore – Indianapolis Colts
- Ameer Abdullah – Detroit Lions
- Bilal Powell – New York Jets
- Paul Perkins – New York Giants
- Ty Montgomery – Green Bay Packers
- Doug Martin – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- LeGarrette Blount – Philadelphia Eagles
- Theo Riddick – Detroit Lions
- Danny Woodhead – Baltimore Ravens
- Samaje Perine – Washington Redskins
- Terrence West – Baltimore Ravens
- Adrian Peterson – New Orleans Saints
- Mike Gillislee, New England Patriots
- Robert Kelley – Washington Redskins
- Matt Forte – New York Jets
- Derrick Henry – Tennessee Titans
Here is your reward for drafting with a ZeroRB strategy… a combination of backs from this tier. I’m not hitching my wagon to any of these players as a RB2 yet you’ll likely see at least one or two teams you draft with end up here. Sure, if you ignore injury histories, Ameer Abdullah and Danny Woodhead offer fantastic value as odds on favorites to contribute significantly (albeit in very different ways) to their offenses. But the questions surrounding backs like Ty Montgomery who had only two games with 15 touches, are enough to force me into drafting backs early.
Worth a Flyer
- Duke Johnson Jr – Cleveland Browns
- C.J. Prosise – Seattle Seahawks
- James White – New England Patriots
- Jeremy Hill – Cincinatti Bengals
- Jonathan Stewart – Carolina Panthers
- Jamaal Williams – Green Bay Packers
- Kareem Hunt – Kansas City Chiefs
- Alvin Kamara – New Orleans Saints
- Joe Williams – San Fransisco 49ers
- Jamaal Charles – Denver Broncos
- Rex Burkhead – New England Patriot
If you do wait on backs, there’s several in this tier who offer fantastic upside at a very low cost. Jamaal Williams will have every chance to steal the job from Ty Montgomery this off season, and if the Packers value his pass blocking skills (which in that offense I can’t see how they won’t) I could see Williams stealing significant time share in that backfield. Rex Burkhead is another intriguing back that can be had at the end of drafts as he’s closing in on Mike Gillislee for early down work due to the later’s inability to get on the field. James white will dominate 3rd downs so it’s a committee to watch going into the season.
While some will argue that there is great value in loading up on WR’s early in the draft, I’d say it’s just the opposite after reviewing the RB tiers. There’s questions swirling in each tier beyond the top and I’d argue grabbing your favorite low risk RB as early as you dare.
After 14 productive NFL seasons, veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin has announced his retirement from football. As frequent fantasy owners of Boldin’s services, Dr. Fantasy wishes him nothing but the best with his humanitarian efforts he’s voiced his interest in pursuing.
What does this mean for your fantasy draft? The truth is not much. Maybe you were targeting Boldin as a late round TD-vulture type flier. You can officially cross him off your list.
While Jordan Matthews heals from his sternum injury, Zay Jones is the trendy target in this offense as Taylor will need someone to throw to. He was productive in his preseason snaps and should see a lot of time on the field early on so there should be little to no gap in acclimation.
Aside from the passing game, LeSean McCoy and Jonathan Williams should both receive a bit of love for what looks like another season at the top of the NFL in terms of attempts. McCoy is a no-brainer in the first round at this point, but Williams is a smart handcuff for owners and should be targeted late in drafts along with Alvin Kamara and Jamaal Williams as potential sleepers.
2017 Running Back Rankings
Updated June 27th, 2017
Not much changed in the top 10 with only minor changes coming as a result of some consistency research. I’ve added 10 more to the list to even out the rankings as a top 50. We’ll add more next time.
- David Johnson, ARI (E)
- Le’Veon Bell, PIT (E)
- Ezekiel Elliott, DAL (E)
- LeSean McCoy, BUF (E)
- Jordan Howard, CHI (+1)
- Devonta Freeman, ATL (-1)
- Melvin Gordon, LAC (+1)
- DeMarco Murray, TEN (-1)
- Jay Ajayi, MIA (E)
- Todd Gurley, LAR (E)
- Lamar Miller, HOU (E)
- Carlos Hyde, SF (E)
- Leonard Fournette, JAC (E)
- Marshawn Lynch, OAK (+1)
- Isaiah Crowell, CLE (-1)
- C.J. Anderson, DEN (+1)
- Spencer Ware, KC (+2)
- Christian McCaffrey, CAR (-2)
- Mark Ingram, NO (-1)
- Joe Mixon, CIN (+1)
- Ameer Abdullah, DET (+3)
- Eddie Lacy, SEA (-2)
- Frank Gore, IND (+2)
- Tevin Coleman, ATL (-2)
- Ty Montgomery, GB (-2)
- LeGarrette Blount, PHI (+2)
- Dalvin Cook, MIN (-1)
- Mike Gillislee, NE (-1)
- Paul Perkins, NYG (+1)
- Doug Martin, TB (+3)
- Robert Kelley, WAS (E)
- Bilal Powell, NYJ (-3)
- Samaje Perine, WAS (+2)
- Danny Woodhead, BAL (-2)
- Theo Riddick, DET (+2)
- Matt Forte, NYJ (+3)
- Adrian Peterson, NO (+3)
- Latavius Murray, MIN (-2)
- Duke Johnson, CLE (+5)
- Jonathan Stewart, CAR (-6)
- Jeremy Hill, CIN (+5)
- C.J. Prosise, SEA (-1)
- Jamaal Charles, DEN (+2)
- Kenneth Dixon, BAL (-2)
- Terrance West, BAL (+4)
- Derrick Henry, TEN (-8)
- Jamaal Williams, GB (+5)
- Kareem Hunt, KC (-5)
- James White, NE (+2)
- Ryan Mathews, PHI (+6)
- Adrian Peterson – Peterson is still the king and will be until the numbers say otherwise. 1700 total yars and 11 TD’s and enough in the passing game to plant him at the top even in PPR leagues, he’s the most likely of the top 10 to finish the season atop the most volitile position in Fantasy Football.
- Todd Gurley – He average more per touch than anyone not named Doug Martin (that carried the ball a significant amount). With a new QB in rookie Jared Goff, it will be interesting to see what he’ll do with more informed defensive schemes. I expect he’ll be just fine, but don’t be surprised if he has stretches where he disappears.
- Jamaal Charles – Every year he could be number one, but his injury history isn’t promising. If there was ever a handcuff candidate, it’s the ultra talented Jamaal Charles.
- Lamar Miller – I’m firmly on the hype bandwagon surrounding Millers move to Houston. A team that knows how to run the football will use him as their bellcow… a rarity in the NFL these days. It’s not a stretch to see him approach the league lead in combined yards by the end of the year.
- David Johnson – Carson Palmer was healthy all last year, and Johnson emerged as the Cardinals lead back. Now he has to prove it as the starter that it wasn’t just flash and smoke. If healthy, he’ll be a top 5 back.
- Le’Veon Bell – The only back in the Gurly/Peterson level of fantasy production, Bell did his owners a disservice by being suspended to start the year a second season in a row. Even missing 4 games, he’s nearly a top 5 RB.
- Mark Ingram – Will he be 100% to start the season? Who knows, but the New Orleans offense will put up points, and Ingram has proven that he can do what the coaches ask of him in both the run and the pass game.
- LeSean McCoy – Is Reggie bush an insurance policy or motivation? There’s some question marks with McCoy, and adding Bush to the backfield added just one more to consider when making that late 2nd round RB pick.
- Doug Martin – I feel like I’m being a bit harsh with the “Muscle Hamster” – after all he put up a top 3 season last year. But he’s always been mercurial and he’s just as likely to return to earth as he is to continue at the top of the position.
- Eddie Lacy – I haven’t seen a lot of lists that have Lacy in their top ten, and I can say honestly that I’m excited about getting him later in drafts than he should be going. Lacy clearly heard the chatter surrounding his awful season last year, and he’s put the work in over the offseaon to come into camp ready to go. If it’s one thing Mike McCarthy is, he’s loyal to the players who do what the team asks. Green Bay is still a top 5 offense, and Lacy is likely to get the bulk of the work early on to see if he’s indeed the same player they thought he was when they drafted him.
Missed the cut
Ezekial Elliott (I don’t care that Dallas has the best O-line in football, he’s done nothing at the NFL level to justify a top 10 pick), Devonta Freeman (Whether or not he’ll put it together for 16 strong games remain to be seen. Freeman is gifted and could be a steal if he gets it together), Latavius Murray (A monster, Murray touched the football more than all but a handful of NFL backs. He’s likely to get even better as the youthful offense in Oakland gels) Thomas Rawls (This is a player I’m intrigued by. He’s quietly accepted the mantel from the departing Beast Mode, and we all know how stubborn Pete Carroll is. They’ll run the ball a ton and he’ll have a chance to put up huge numbers if he can run the offense beside Russell Wilson).
As we finish up team minicamps, we’re left to sift through copious homerisms about players beat writers love, and buzz killer articles for players they love to hate. How much of this information is useful? That is open to interpretation, but it it makes sense to keep an ear open for pre-season movers; otherwise how can we know who’s positioned themselves to be the next Arian Foster?
Speaking of Arian Foster, his old coach Gary Kubiak has made comments leading Denver Post’s Troy Renck to declare that the battle for RB touches in the Bronco’s backfield is all but over. Kubiak sounds like he’ll go with one feature back regardless of who is on the depth chart, preferening to avoid a committee. This is music to C.J. Anderson fan’s ears. I’ve been highly critical of the 3rd year back, choosing to take the under without knowing what he’s capable of over a full 16 games, but if he sticks and stays healthy, Anderson could finish at the top of the league in RB points.
This has less to do with anything McCoy has done in training camps or OTA’s and more to do with how awful the Bills QB situation has become. Matt Cassel has “look like the worst QB at Bill minicamps” according to sources, and this opens the door for perenial disappointment E.J. Manuel to win back the reigns. In the end, this offense will funnel entirely through McCoy, Rex Ryan tends to field a smash mouth running team anyhow. I expect that even if McCoy doesn’t put up the gaudy 5 YPC type numbers he’s capable of, 300+ touches is a given.
I doubt that going into the offseason anyone would have pegging Robinson as an early riser. The Jacksonville offense was anemic to say the least, but with Marqise Lee proving he’s not a legitamite #1 and with Justin Blackmon suspended (again), Robinson has seemingly run away with the starting gig, and his performance so far has people applauding the young receiver. If he wins the favor of strong armed QB Blake Bortles, Robinson should see a ton of targets and will likely still be a value pick come draft day.
While Tennessee struggles to nail down a deal with 2nd overall pick Marcus Mariota, Cobb has quietly positioned himself to steal the lions share of carries from incumbent starter Bishop Sankey. Despite that this team invested heavily in the passing game with Mariota and Green-Beckham, this will remain a run first team and Cobb should be the guy that eats up the yards. As far as rookies go, he’ll fly well under the radar, and I expect him to be worth far more than several of his contemporaries.
The news being leaked about the Bronco’s shopping Manning prior to his pay cut can’t be helpful when evaluating how much Manning has left in the tank. While the team attempts to become more balanced, and try and replace the quality receiver in Julius Thomas that it lost, expectations for Manning continue to fall. At his current ADP (34.4) he’s a huge risk, and the reward is likely to be in the QB2 range.
The man being asked to fill Jimmy Graham’s shoes after his departure has shown very little so far in mini camps. It’s led to speculation that veteran TE Ben Watson may actually find himself on the field a great deal more. As this team prepares to hand a larger role over to RB’s Mark Ingram and CJ Spiller, expect Hill to be a huge bust.
Another NO “starter” finds himself on my falling list. The reports out of New Orleans is that CJ Spiller has looked electric, and will find himself on the feild in most passing situations, severly limiting Ingram’s value if the Saints D looks as bad or nearly as last year. Couple that with the fact that Ingram has shown very little prior to last year in the way of staying healthy, he could be a huge mistake on draft day if injuries of Spiller keep him from repeating a solid season.
Steady Freddy may find himself without an NFL team come the end of minicamps, and he’s echo’d as much himself. Although I find it hard to believe that he’ll be cut after his history with Buffalo, it’s clear the writing is on the wall. While he’s managed to stay fantasy relevant, this could be the year he falls off the radar completely. With McCoy in the fold and capable of 300 touches across all three downs, Jackson is a handcuff only pick.
The frustration is real as fantasy owner when a player you invest heavily in doesn’t return that investment. We see it every year, and subsiquently that players value drops, leaving him falling on draft day. Are you an owner who likes to grab a previously touted player in hopes that he’ll bounce back and pay off in spades in the later rounds? If you are, and I’d gamble most of us are, then keep reading for a list of bounce back candidates.
QB – Robert Griffin III : Injuries that derailed his electric rookie seaon can be pointed to as the cause for the mental issues that have since plauged the outlandishly athletic Griffin in seasons since. It’s gotten so bad that at the conclusion of this last season, Jay Gruden alluded to the fact that he no longer believed in his QB and speculation that he’d be dealt or demoted ran rampant. Fast forward to the post-draft news and we see that RG3 is back again in the drivers seat for the QB job in Washington, and I’m confident that a new Griffin will be taking the field this year. Time to adjust to the game and to his injury history should allow Griffin to return to a semblance of the player we saw his rookie year: a rocket arm, good decision making, and the ability to make something out of nothing. Although he won’t finish as a top 10 QB, I expect him to bounce back as a solid QB2 worth a late round pick if you’re in need.
QB – Sam Bradford : Another highly touted prospect coming out of college, Bradford has shown glimses in his brief career, but a hefty injury history has left him on the scrap heap come draft day as owners have grown weary of the letdown. Shifting from St. Louis to Philadelphia should work wonders for Bradford on the field. He finally has weapons around him and a running game to keep defenses honest. He may be an in vogue pick come draft day, but if he starts the year healthy (and this is always an if with Bradford) I expect a much better year than he’s given in the past.
RB – Doug Martin : A lot of owners watched their ships go down in flames when they invested a top 5 pick in Martin a few years ago. Last year, Tampa Bay was the worst team in the league, securing the #1 overall pick and finally shoring up a QB position that features Mike Glennon as the top guy. I’d argue it’s tough to find running room when your team can’t complete more than 10 passes in a game. Still the top option in Tampa Bay, Martin should find more success after finding himself under 100 fantasy points last year. He could likely be had as a 4th RB, and should far outperform this ranking.
RB – LeSean McCoy : McCoy had 175-180 points in PPR formats last year, but was disappointing in terms of consistency. He touched the ball more than 300 times but struggled to return the top 3 pick spent on him. He’ll likely still be drafted early but has the pedigree and the situation to replicate the 1500-2000 total yard years that we’d become accostumed to out of McCoy.
WR – Larry Fitzgerald : For some, this was just the writing on the wall as Fitzgerald found himself scoring at or under 10 points per week for the first time in his career. The problem was that after Carson Palmer went down, John Skelton and company couldn’t keep the offense clicking, and Fitzgerald suffered. A Healthy Palmer creates more opportunities for Fitzy and inside the 20’s he’s the go to guy, and I expect him to crack to finish inside the top 25 WR’s this year.
WR – Dwayne Bowe : A supremely talented wideout, Bowe has never had a great QB throwing him the football, and that won’t change this coming year. But being a number 1 on an offense that managed to coax good to great seasons out of Josh Gordon, Jordan Cameron and Andrew Hawkins will help Bowe regain some of that swagger he had before Alex Smith got to KC. He won’t challenge for the top spot, but Bowe is an afterthought in leagues but should provide some scoring punch from the bench, for byes and in case of injuries.
TE – Vernon Davis : A freak of nature, Davis has the skills at the TE position to dominate his competition. This wasn’t the case this year as Kaepernick struggled to find consistency. If offseason reports of improved pocket pressence and throwing motion are true, Kaep could bounce back and this would impact Davis the most. Expect the consistency to continue to frustrate, but he’ll jump back in to the top 15 TE’s.
TE – Kyle Rudolph : He may have all the tools to be the best TE in football, but he’s rarely put it all together. Another year of Teddy Bridgewater and the return of AP makes this Minnesotta offense formidible for the first time in a long time. Without a proven #1 wide receiver, a healthy Rudolph could be asked to do more than he has. I think this is the year we finally see Rudolph ascend to an elite TE.
Face it, we all look at our favorite storied franchise with rose colored glasses. Open any local team news resource and it’ll be spelled out plainly through the biased coverage. “Our team rules, your team drools!” But only one team can win the big one, and only so many teams even compete. There’s always a team sliding backwards, so lets examine who’s moving in which direction with this weeks Turnover on Downs.
Oakland Raiders – We’ve been here before, and this team seems to make “positive” strides every year. But for every step forward, there seems to be a Jamarcus Russell sized step backwards. This year feels different. Adding a difference maker to each side of the ball in wideout Amari Cooper and defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. will go a long way towards stabalizing overall balance. More importantly this team cut fat by parting ways with mecurial RB Darren McFadden and moving forward with Latavius Murray. As Derek Carr enters his second year under center, the Raiders look poised to leap frog some of the teams they’ve long been behind.
Buffalo Bills – Another team known for its smoke and mirrors, Buffalo has teased us before, but never to the extent that we’ve seen this offseason. An already elite defense gets a great defensive coach in Rex Ryan, a slight upgrade with Matt Cassell at QB, and a premier RB in LeSean McCoy to be the focal point of a run first team. This team has shades of the Rex Ryan coached Jets teams that made it to the AFC Championship in spite of Mark Sanchez’s obvious short comings. They still play in a division with the Patriots, so in the end it may be a moot point, but this team on paper has improved significantly.
Minnesota Vikings – Teddy Bridgewater should keep pace with his second year counterpart in Oakland thanks to the probably return of Adrian Peterson and an upgraded WR corps that sees Mike Wallace enter a young and exciting receiving group. On defense, youth and talent will be injected through the draft and free agency, the only obstical now is the same as above; a tough division to play in.
Indianapolis Colts – Deflated footballs aside, this team felt the sting of defeat in a lopsided AFC Championship game and decided they were going to load up. Adding Andre Johnson and Frank Gore during free agency and drafting speedy WR Phillip Dorsett makes them the premier offense in the AFC. Bolstering defensive depth through both the draft and free agency will be the biggest question mark going into the year, but Andrew Luck and company should be able to outscore anyone on any given night.
New York Jets – While everyone in the division got a little better, the Jets did very little in the offseason to correct it’s biggest deficiencies. Sure, there formidable front 7 on defense got better with the addition of Leonard Williams, but until they have someone other than Geno Smith or the newly acquired journey man Ryan Fitzpatrick, this team won’t be able to keep up with the Patriots or Dolphins offensively, and Sexy Rexy has a better version of the blueprint in New York. With aging WR’s and no playmakers in the backfield, this could be another long season for the J – E – T – S Jets.
New Orleans Saints – After losing Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills, this once formidable Saints offense will have to rely on RB Mark Ingram more than ever, and I’d argue that’s a terrifying prospect. Sure, he had a good season last year, but we’ve seen this story before, and I’m not convinced that Josh Hill or Marquese Colston are good enough to step into the shoes vacated by Graham and Stills.
Cleveland Browns – Defensively, this team falls middle of the pack, but they did not make strides on either side of the ball in free agency or the draft to fill the voids that caused them to stumble last year. Quarterback in Orange and Brown is a black hole as the team added 36 year old Josh McCown and sent Johnny Manziel to rehab. Josh Gordon is being replaced at WR1 by Dwayne Bowe, who had a solid season in KC but could’t break the plane in the endzone. Coupled with a few “Meh” receivers and an uncertain log jam at RB, this team could be looking at a top 5 pick.
St. Louis Rams – Nick Foles is still an unknown quantity, but my opinion is that he’s not good enough to carry a team in the NFL. He’ll face a new challenge in St. Louis as the talent around him dips as well. Todd Gurley will be a great player, but he’ll be slowed this season by an ACL injury, and Kenny Britt cannot be counted on to be a number one. This team will probably flirt with .500 early, but they’re trending down until they find a QB that makes sense.