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Either Or, Who Do YOU Take?

CKuppAs with everyone of our Either Or series articles, we’ll be drafting in a 12 team format. If you’re not drafting in 12 teams, this article can still be useful in terms of coaching you on your decision making. Knowing what you’re looking for can be a boon when you’re on the clock in the middle rounds and the guys you hoped would be there have been drafted. Up until now, we’d done mostly middle to late picks, but we’ll review what we’d do from the 1st overall pick, but in the 7th round of your draft.

As always, our picks until this point are as follows:

  • Ezekiel Elliott
  • Stefon Diggs
  • Joe Mixon
  • Alex Collins
  • Golden Tate
  • Pierre Garcon

At this point in the draft, with three running backs and three wide receivers, I have the kind of flexibility to draft either need (QB or TE) or value (WR or RB). A quick review of my roster shows that my team is weakest at the WR position, with Diggs being a high end WR2 and the Tate and Garcon pair both being volume dependent WR2s themselves, further presenting a conundrum for the 2nd pick at the turn.

In this mock, the following ten players are the highest ranked on the Dr’s draft board for the 7th round:

  • Emmanuel Sanders, WR – DEN
  • Jamison Crowder, WR – WAS
  • Kyle Rudolph, TE – MIN
  • Robert Woods, WR – LAR
  • Randall Cobb, WR – GB
  • Cooper Kupp, WR – LAR
  • Kirk Cousins, QB – MIN
  • Ronald Jones, RB – TB
  • Duke Johnson, RB – CLE
  • Marquise Goodwin, WR – SF

It’s not hard to see that the value in this round clearly lays with the wide receiver position. With only one TE in Kyle Rudolph, one QB in Kirk Cousins, and one RB in Ronald Jones, there’s very little going on that excites me as I build my roster.

The Case For QB

I’m going to eliminate Kyle Rudolph right out of the gates, as I think I can get some good value in the next few rounds out of guys like Jack Doyle and George Kittle. Instead, I’ll toy with the idea of adding Cousins to establish my QB groups as “above average”. I don’t consider Cousins as an elite option, but pairing him with Diggs is also attractive in my opinion. Some will tell you that it makes your team more inconsistent, although the effects are negligible, but I’ll make the argument that a high end pairing like this makes you more productive week to week.

If I skip Cousins, I’m looking at Matt Stafford, Andrew Luck, and Ben Roethlisberger as my starter; none of whom are particularly exciting at their current draft round. What Cousins provides is steady back end QB1 performances with a chance to surpass that with the weapons he has now. It’s a difficult decision, but one that’s made easier with Diggs on the roster.

The Case For RB

But with the depth so shallow at the running back position, it’d be almost silly to pass up one of the highly touted rookie backs that has seemingly fallen to me in the 7th. While Jones hasn’t impressed all that much in camp so far, he’s a more talented back by far than Peyton Barber, and should assume a lot of the starting role by the end of the regular season. With three capable backs on the roster already, adding a guy who needs some seasoning wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Beyond him are backs that I don’t find myself clamoring to own, with the third-down-triumvirate of Duke Johnson, Tarik Cohen, and Chris Thompson looming as roster albatrosses. Adding ROJO as my fourth back begins to look far more appealing when you consider the alternatives.

The Case for WR

Still, the best value in the round is in the WR position. With so many target hogs available, it seems almost like a no brainer to add one as a depth piece and swing at high upside high risk guys at the other positions later. The argument that having an advantage at one position over your competition is a widely maintained one, and it’s one that we preach here at the Office.

Inside the position, there’s several questions as well. The noise in San Francisco has been that Marquise Goodwin has supplanted Garcon as the top dog in that offense. It’s a bit of a handcuff to select him in hopes that one or the other breaks out as a WR1. Meanwhile, Kupp, Crowder, and Woods all factor in as high volume guys with 90 reception ceilings within reach. None of them should be high yardage guys, and aside from a handful of TDs should largely remain relevant thanks to volume. In a PPR format, a bench guy with 140 targets is a huge value.

The Decision

It’s a difficult one for sure, but with the depth at the QB and TE positions, and the relative lack of depth at the wide receiver position, I’d go with Cooper Kupp at this point. With the noise in LA being that Kupp and Goff have formed a special kind of chemistry, it seems that his team-lead in target share last year was not a fluke. I’m not keen on owning both SF receivers, and Cobb is an injury risk despite his ceiling with Aaron Rodgers at the helm. The most difficult decision was between Kupp and Crowder, as he also looks like his QB’s favorite target. Both should be high volume guys, but Kupp has proven he can do it while Crowder has only shown flashes.

Skipping ROJO means that I’ll have to be smart in adding my 4th and 5th options at RB, but with Kerryon Johnson trending up and Zeke anchoring the position, I’m in a far better spot with the WR pick than going with a RB.

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The Buzz: Friday Edition

CCarsonIt’s football season folks! With the Hall of Fame Game officially behind us, we can confidently welcome you to the heart of draft season, and the most critical time in the preparation process.

Undoubtedly you’ve purchased your magazines or draft kits, and are reviewing the print to find players you’re interested in and players you’re out on. But if we don’t pay close attention to what’s going on in camp, we’ll miss the movers and shakers as they separate themselves from their competition.

Trending Up

Chris Carson| RB – SEAAt this point, the prospect of Rashaad Penny inheriting a three down workload looks slim to none as the team, and it’s beat writers, continue to pound the drum for Chris Carson. Being said to have looked like the “most impressive back” in camp doesn’t mean he’ll be a top 10 RB, but it does lend credence to the idea that he could have far more value than his 16th round ADP would suggest.

Isaiah Crowell | RB – NYJ | Still only 25 years old, it’s strange to me that Isaiah Crowell would be considered an after thought; yet here we are. Currently being drafted around pick 100, Crowell offers a ton of upside for a relatively low risk pick. With a firm grasp on the early down work, and less competition with Elijah McGuire finding himself injured, there’s a relatively high floor for The Crow in 2018.

Marquise Goodwin | WR – SF | Maybe I’m just stubborn, or maybe I’m just a Pierre Garcon truther, but I was surprised to hear that Goodwin has been performing well above expectations as Jimmy Garoppolo’s top target. Reading through the off season hyperbole machines that are the local media can be taxing, but the overwhelming signs are pointing to a monster year for the former Bills cast off. With his blend of speed and route running, Goodwin factors to be a major part of San Francisco’s resurgence in 2018.

Trending Down

Lamar Jackson | QB – BAL | There continues to be this narrative around the fantasy community that Lamar Jackson will be starting sooner rather than later in Baltimore, but after his lackluster performance in Thursday’s Hall of Fame Game, I’m thinking Flacco’s job is safe. He was inefficient, completing only 3 of 10 passes, and did nothing to really excite me with his obvious athleticism. He’s a late round prospect in dynasty leagues, but in redrafts and most keeper formats, he’s not worth drafting.

Doug Baldwin | WR – SEA | It’s not an issue with talent, but with his ongoing injury issues, Baldwin’s prospects of repeating as a WR1 are in jeopardy. As his knee injury lingers, likely costing him all of the preseason, there’s a very real chance Baldwin could stumble out of the gates. At his current draft capital (Rnd 4 as the WR15), he’s a risk that I’m not willing to take without some better assurances.

C.J. Anderson | RB – CAR | This one may feel like I’m grasping at straws here, but the news out of Carolina has been nothing but glowing in terms of Christian McCaffrey and his potential uses. Missing from the headlines is anything to do with newly signed bruiser CJ Anderson. With coach Ron Rivera suggesting he’d like to give McCaffrey 25+ touches per game, it’s becoming clear that they value their 2017 draft pick a little more than drafters are expecting. While I still think Anderson will be involved in the offense, I’m questioning, now, just how heavily.

Beginners Guide to PPR

While you may see the word “beginner” in the title and deem this beneath you, but the truth is that we should always be learning; honing our skills and getting better at the game. The PPR format has exploded in years past, and like any non-standard scoring format, it presents fantasy drafters an extra wrinkle in their quest for greatness.

Of course, it’s important to understand the fundamentals. If you’re a point per reception veteran, skip this section; we’ll see you down below when we highlight some PPR strategies for the 2018 season. For those of you who aren’t familiar, buckle up and we’ll take you on a crash course.

The Rules

PPR leagues differ from standard leagues in one very easy to understand facet; they award points to any player who records a reception. Whether it’s one full point, or a half a point, a player who has a higher volume of receptions becomes far more valuable than his standard league counter parts.

The first thing one should do is adjust your rankings. If you’re using a fantasy football magazine, or printing them off the internet, make sure you’re using PPR rankings. We always suggest doing the research and ranking your own players, but if you neither have the time nor the desire, ensure you’re not using rankings that don’t address your format.

A great example would be Duke Johnson as he’s primarily an after thought in standard, non-PPR leagues; and for a good reason. His highest single season rushing attempts total was 104 in his rookie year. Last year his 83 carries was good for 55th in the NFL, which we shouldn’t have to tell you isn’t enough volume to warrant much excitement.

In PPR leagues however, his 74 receptions was the 26th highest total in the NFL, and 4th highest among running backs. When you consider that he finished as the 11th highest scoring running back despite his average draft position of 97th overall in PPR leagues last year (data courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator.com) then it’s painfully clear that recognizing these pass catching backs can be fantasy gold in the right format.

Of course, that’s not to discount how it affects the wide receiver position either. Most of the elite players (regardless of position) are elite in either format. Volume and opportunity trump much of what you can dredge up in an argument, but in those middle rounds there’s plenty of players who have higher floors thanks to a larger share of targets.

Last year, Jarvis Landry was being ranking as the WR27 and was selected with the 78th pick on average. The value there was undeniable, especially considering that his 260 PPR points finished for 5th most at the WR position and 12th overall among skill position players. While his situation may require re-evaluation of his opportunity, the example rings true nonetheless. These players, who many discount because they build their rankings based off of the wrong data, are the targets that will help you win your league.

Players to Target

As always, we’ll use the ADP data compiled over at Fantasy Football Calculator to make our analysis. Finding these PPR gems isn’t as easy as it seems, though. Simply targeting player A because he led the position in receptions last year doesn’t ensure success this year. There is far more subtly when highlighting players to target in the middle and late rounds.

Running Backs

In the early rounds, you’ll ignore PPR vs. Standard debates; Jordan Howard and Melvin Gordon are still elite fantasy commodities even if they don’t catch the ball a ton. It’s in the middle rounds we can start the shopping list.

Fallers

  • Kareem Hunt (ADP 11): Unlike the Gordon/Howard example, Hunt has legitimate regression concerns after a monster rookie season. With Spencer Ware returning and pass catching specialist Charcandarick West still on the roster, there’s going to be fewer opportunities for the game breaker. While he’ll still be valuable, I don’t expect him to factor into the passing game as much this season, damaging his ability to be the top 10 player he’s being projected as.
  • Derrick Henry (ADP 36): While Henry has never been the most adept pass catcher, the signing of Dion Lewis pretty much relegates him to a 1st and 2nd down role. Without the benefit of the passing game, Henry’s 200 carries won’t do much to support a RB2 finish, and with his talent, drafters are still betting that he’ll break out. While Lewis certainly is an injury risk, he’s also good enough between the tackles to keep Henry from being elite.
  • Jay Ajayi (ADP 45): I really like Ajayi’s talent, but I don’t like his situation in Philly. With Darren Sproles returning, and Corey Clement still on the  roster, the idea that he’ll continue to the be the bell cow is a bit misleading. He will likely lead the team in rushes, but his involvement in the passing game will be minimal barring any major injuries.
  • Kenyan Drake (ADP 47): There is a lot of buzz after Drake finished 2017 strong, but Frank Gore should eat into his carries, and rookie Kalen Ballage is a far superior pass catching back who should eat targets up early an often. While he’s a safe bet for him to finish at the top of the committee for rushes, like Ajayi, he’ll figure into the scoring far less than his ADP provides for.
  • Duke Johnson (ADP 97): Mentioned above, Johnson still figures to make an impact in the passing game, but with Carlos Hyde also a capable pass catcher (88 targets last year were only 5 fewer than Johnson), there’s reason to be concerned that the volume could dip. His ADP is beginning to represent this, but don’t swing early on Johnson and expect 70+ catches again.

Risers

  • Dion Lewis (ADP 61): I’m not predicting him to completely overtake Henry in the rushing game, but his floor his immensely high. In the 7th round, he’s the kind of back that can secure you 50 receptions and 1,000 total yards without impacting the incumbent start too much. His ceiling is far better than that, creating a wonderful target to return heavily on his investment.
  • Chris Thompson (ADP 81): Not to discount the effect that Derrius Guice will have on the Washington Backfield, but Thompson was on pace for 1,200 total yards, 60+ receptions, and 9 TDs last year before missing the final 6 games due to a broken leg. Even given a reasonable amount of regression, he figures to be one of the most valuable 3rd down backs in fantasy.
  • Ty Montgomery (ADP 111): He’s not going to impress anyone on the ground, but the converted wide receiver has the pass catching ability to provide plenty of value; especially in the 12th round. Prior to his injury, Montgomery was targeted heavily in the passing game, averaging nearly 8 targets and 6 receptions a game. Expect a return to the third down role for the sure handed Montgomery, and reap the rewards this late in the draft.
  • James White (ADP 165): The forgotten man in New England, White continues to fly under the radar despite securing 90 targets and 56 receptions last year in an over crowded backfield. With Sony Michel still a rookie, and Dion Lewis leaving for  greener pastures, Tom Brady’s safety blanket is in line for another big year in terms of PPR production. At 165, I’ll take the chance that the 26 year old continues to produce in the passing game for one of the best QB’s of all time.
  • Kalen Ballage (ADP 213): I’ll continue beating my drum for Ballage who enters the season firmly behind Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore on the depth chart. But the speedy big man possesses the kind of silky smooth mitts that coaches game plan around, and while Drake was effective down the stretch in 2017, the moves made in the off season scream of available opportunity for the guys they brought in. If he carves out a portions of first and second downs, Ballage could be a monster for basically a waiver wire stab.

Wide Receivers

Fallers

  • Adam Thielen (ADP 29): With an upgrade at QB, you’d think Thielen is in line for the same kind of statline that saw him win leagues in 2017, but think again. History shows that Cousin’s is a bit of a gunslinger, and while Thielen will probably continue to be a contributor, he’s primed for regression yet being drafted as though he’s regression proof.
  • Golden Tate (ADP 48): You may look at the bottom line and suggest that he’s a PPR gold mine; after all he’s recorded 90 receptions for 4 straight years. I’d implore you to dig a little deeper. Aside from the emergence of Marvin Jones, it’s important to note that Tate was wildly inconsistent last year. In 6 games last year, Tate failed to record more than 4 receptions, and in four of those games he had less than 6 PPR point. That amounts to nearly 40% of the season that Tate is a bust player.
  • Brandin Cooks (ADP 53): Don’t get me wrong, Cooks is a nice little player. The issue is that with the Rams being a run first team, there’s about 10% or more opportunity lost in targets (550 pass attempts in LA to 600 in New England). Cooks is a deep threat that won’t command the kind of target share that other elite PPR receivers will. With Robert Woods returning as the slot man, Cooks is in line for major regression, especially in the PPR format.
  • Jarvis Landry (ADP 59): This isn’t a knock on Landry the player, but expecting the kind of volume that he had in Miami is to ignore the fact that he’s not the most talented receiver on his current team. With Josh Gordon figuring to command the highest percentage of targets, Landry’s expectations should be limited, even if his ADP suggests otherwise.
  • Julian Edelman (ADP 69): It pains me to include the New England slot receiver, but the reasons for his inclusion here are fairly straight forward. On top of missing 25% of the season due to suspension, he’s 32 years old and coming off a major knee injury that cost him the entirety of last season. With real competition for the slot position, it’ll be very difficult for Edelman to be more than a spot start, and at his current price, there’s a ton of other guys I’d rather have.

Risers

  • Cooper Kupp (ADP 94): I was wrong about Kupp last year, and while I think Cooks and Woods eat up a lot of targets, it’s important to note that Kupp quietly led the Rams in targets last year with 94. With a floor around 60 catches and 800 yards (tack on around 5 TDs), and you’re looking at fantastic value in the 10th round.
  • Marquise Goodwin (ADP 104): Goodwin looked great in the five games that Garoppolo started, averaging nearly 9 targets a game. With Jimmy G as the every day starter, I expect Goodwin to continue to elevate his game, and a WR2 ceiling (65 receptions, 1,000 yards, and 4 TDs) is well within reach.
  • Kenny Stills (ADP 148): Many expect Danny Amendola to fill the role vacated by Jarvis Landry, but I find myself coming back to Stills as the perfect candidate to inherit those targets. Already one of the Dolphins most targeted receivers, his familiarity with the system and quarter back Ryan Tannehill are great catalysts for an increase in production. Perennially Stills has inhabited the 80-100 target mark, so bumping him to 130-150 feels right, and puts him firmly in the break out column on draft day.
  • Keelan Cole (ADP 174): I don’t typically get excited about guys with as small a sample size as Cole has, but the 25 year old out of Louisville was impressive when called upon late in the season, and seems to continue to be overlooked with Marqise Lee and Donte Moncreif sitting above him in the depth chart. Neither of those players has done anything over their careers to keep Cole from taking their jobs, and with a solid rapport developing between he and Bortles, he’s a breakout candidate you can have for pennies on the dollar.
  • Michael Gallup (ADP 212): I don’t expect Gallup to come out of the gate blazing, but with a mediocre group of receivers ahead of him, he’ll likely carve out a large share of the targets in Dallas. With much of the buzz surrounding him positive, I expect 100+ targets for the rookie, and a floor that most players in the 200’s don’t have.

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