Week 1 saw a handful of guys we picked go off, most notably Lamar Jackson, although we could have done a bit better. Week ones are always unpredictable, so we’ll take it with a grain of salt. Below are our favorite picks, in the format we’ve established from week 1.
$$$: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs ($7,500) – Against what we considered a solid defense, and without his top reciever for much of the contest, Mahomes did MVP like things, hanging 300+ yards and three TD’s against the Jaguars. Oakland should provide just as many opportunities for Mahomes to rack up points.
$$: Tom Brady, New England Patriots ($6,500) – Defy father time yet again? Check… Acquire one of this generations best receiving talents (despite off the field issues)? Check… Draw what may amount to the worst team in the NFL? Check. This week against Miami, Brady should once again look like a legit top 5 QB.
$: Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions ($5,200) – If you’re looking for a discount, Stafford may be your man. The emergence of T.J. Hockenson only solidifies what may be one of the best groups of receiving weapons he’s had since the departure of Calvin Johnson. Given that the Chargers can score with the best of them, it’s likely he’ll be called on to attempt quite a few passes on Sunday.
$$$: Saquon Barkley, New York Giants ($9,200) – Any of the top three options available (including Zeke and Kamara) are solid options, but drawing the Buffalo Bills should provide plenty of opportunities for Barkley to improve on the low volume/high efficiency start he had to the season.
$$: Sony Michel, New England Patriots ($6,200) – The Patriots offense drawing the Miami Dolphins is an obvious feather in his cap, but the news that James White will miss week 2 action following the birth of his child leaves the door wide open for Michel to assume a much larger workload than usual. If the Patriots get ahead early, they could pound the ball late.
$: Chris Thompson, Washington Redskins ($3,900) – The news that Derrius Guice has been placed on IR means the backfield will see a solid dose of Chris Thompson, especially on passing downs. It may be too early to tag Dallas as a top offense, but if they’re scoring, it’ll be Thompson, not Peterson, with the big day.
$$$: Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints ($8,000) – Don’t be scared off by the Rams passing defense after one week, this is a high scoring Saints offense with a lot to prove after having their season ended last year against this very Rams team thanks to an egregious call. Thomas is going to see a ton of targets every week, and while we have concerns about Brees lasting all season at the top of the mountain, we’re confident he’ll be good early on.
$$: Robert Woods, Los Angeles Rams ($6,400) – He may have had a disappointing week last week, with only 15 PPR points, but his 13 targets should set your mind at ease regarding his usage. As mentioned above, this weeks match up should produce one of the more exciting games of the week, and Woods should see another healthy dose of targets as Goff may not have time to find his down the field targets with the Saints defense getting after him.
$: D.J. Chark, Jacksonville Jaguars ($4,500) – They say backups throw to backups, and Gardner Minshew certainly looked Chark’s way several times after Foles left the Jaguars week one matchup with an injury. This is an offense that has never really established a top receiver, so there’s as much of a chance that Chark continues his torrid pace against a Houston team that could force Minshew to throw it a lot all game.
$$$: Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs ($7,300) – I’m not super confident in either Kelce or Kittle to perform consistently this week as both draw defenses that aren’t excellent for fantasy purposes for TE’s, but Kelce should be involved heavily regardless thanks to Hills extended absence. Last week it was Watkins, but it could very easily be Kelce with several TD grabs this week.
$$: Evan Engram, New York Giants ($5,200) – There seems to be a curse on the Giants receiving group, and Engram stands to gain as much as Barkley thanks to a passing game that will continue to siphon through his hands. With Shepard entering concussion protocol, we can’t be certain who will line up beside Barkley and Engram this week.
$: Darren Waller, Oakland Raiders ($3,300) – Waller saw a healthy dose of action in week one thanks to the departure of Antonio Brown, so expecting him to be involved in what should be a game of catch up isn’t hard to imagine. Kansas City is going to put up points, and Carr is going to have to use his athletic tight end if they’re going to hope to keep pace.
$$: Patriots D/ST vs. Miami ($3,700) – Could the Pats lay a dud like they did last year against the Detroit Lions? Sure, but this defense looks legit at all three levels, and Miami is fielding a disgruntled J.V. roster. Pats should win handily, and I expect a few turnovers as well.
$: Seahawks D/ST vs. Pittsburgh ($2,900) – Are the Patriots really a top 5 defense this year? Maybe, but there seems to be something wrong with the Pittsburgh offense, and Seattle’s defense isn’t anything to sneeze at either. With their smash mouth, grind you down offense, they’re just as likely to keep that Pittsburgh offense off balance, and hold them to another dud in week 2.
- QB: Matt Stafford
- RB: Sony Michel
- RB: Chris Thompson
- WR: Michael Thomas
- WR: Robert Woods
- WR: D.J. Chark
- TE: Darren Waller
- Flex: Alvin Kamara
- Patriots D/ST
It may be week 1 of the NFL season, but the drama surrounding Antonio Brown has led to what may eventually be the most shocking development of the 2019 season. Shortly after his release from the Oakland Raiders, the divisive star receiver found a new home in the New England Patriots.
Of course, this will obviously cause a ripple affect for both teams, as Antonio Browns presences will surely effect the fantasy prospects of several players on both teams.
With the release of Brown, the Raiders receiving corps suddenly lacks elite talent. It does have a pair of receivers with differing skill sets that could see an uptick in production right away in deep threat Tyrell Williams, and rookie receiver Hunter Renfrow, who could see a lot more action in the slot with Brown out of town. In addition, expect Darren Waller to be targeted a bit more than originally predicted. Of course, none of these guys on their own match the pure talent AB takes with him, but in terms of individual contributions, you can expect Carr to feed each a bit more going forward.
New England Patriots
Of course, the Patriots roster may feel the largest impact, as first round rookie N’Keal Harry’s IR designation left the door open for someone to step into the starting role. Demaryius Thomas looked like the obvious choice, but the Patriots didn’t sign Brown to the contract he was given with no intention of using him. He’ll be heavily targeted, although maybe not to the 160+ target range we’ve come to expect. He and Edelman will continue to be the big targets in this offense, but it certainly hurts the prospects of both Demaryius Thomas as well as Philip Dorsett and the tight ends. Ben Watson was suspended for four games anyhow, but you have to wonder just how many looks there are to go around.
If you own Brown, he’s still a safe bet to be a solid producer, but it remains to be seen with a 42 year old Brady, just how often they’re going to throw in New England.
In this week’s “Can He Be Elite” article, we’re shifting our focus to the New England Patriots and their star slot receiver Julian Edelman. As the season inches closer, it’s becoming more clear that fantasy owners are considering Edelman earlier than ever, and it has piqued our curiosity and has us asking… can Julian Edelman be elite?
To understand Edelman’s consistency, we have to go all the way back to 2013; Edelman’s breakout year. Going into the draft that year, he was more than an after thought. ADP data from the time showed him going mostly in standard leagues, and only in deeper formats. As the 183rd player off the board, no one expected him to turn in a 100 catch performance, but it began us on this journey to properly value him over the next few years.
In 2014, he was going as early as the 7th round in standard leagues and late 5th in PPR formats (WR26 and WR22 respectively) and in 2015 and 2016, he was drafted about a round earlier in each format, coming in at WR24 in standard both years, and around WR20 in PPR formats.
Basically, he was considered a borderline WR2 with a solid PPR bump, and a quick look at his numbers over this time shows why.
While he’s had his share of missed time due to injuries and suspension, Edelman managed to average over 8 targets per game from 2013 to 2018. Of course, he was injured for the entire 2017 season, but his usage was incredibly consistent over that stretch. Did his performances during that time warrant an earlier pick though?
Currently, Edelman is being selected in mock drafts as the 15th receiver off the board in both PPR and Standard formats. This is a bit of a departure from the trend we’d seen over the last 5 years, but one that makes sense given the flux in the Patriots receiving group going into 2019. Still, it’s an interesting question of what his value actually is compared to the perceived value the community puts on him year after year.
Despite playing fewer than 16 games 3 times during this stretch, Edelman managed to finish no worse than WR26 in Standard formats, and as high as WR15 in PPR leagues. Even in 2015, when Edelman only played 9 games, he was WR21 in Standard leagues for points per game production, and WR15 in PPR leagues.
Basically, Edelman almost always performs well compared to his draft day value, which really underlines his consistency at a position that seems in constant flux in New England. But is Edelman really worthy to be drafted at his ceiling in 2019?
With the turnover around him, one can certainly point to his past production and the vacated targets. With Gronkowski, Amendola, and Chris Hogan gone over the last two seasons, and rookies and role players surrounding him now, it seems rather obvious that “check down Tom” will be looking Jules’ way an awful lot this year. The floor should be high for Edelman in 2019, but we’re wary of his ceiling. At WR15, you’re expecting him to perform at his career peak… somewhere in the 150 target range, over 100 receptions, and 6+ TDs.
With their shifting philosophy, and additional backfield weapons, there may be fewer targets in general to go around. Still, we’re predicting somewhere in the 140 target range, and a bit of a bump in end zone production. Despite his earlier-than-ever draft day cost, we’re confident that Edelman may be a huge producer in 2019. Given that he’s almost always targeted an awful lot, he’s somewhat match up proof, and we think you should draft him with confidence in 2019.
The Verdict: Elite in 2019
When the Browns announced their intentions to release or trade troubled wide out, it was reported that teams around the league had shown some interest. When the dust settled, it was the Patriots sending a 5th round pick for the services of the of the former all pro.
This move comes at a time when the Patriots are starved for production at the wide receiver position. With Julian Edelman still suspended and Kenny Britt, Jordan Matthews, and Malcolm Mitchell all proving they weren’t the answer, Gordon immediately fills this need with plus talent.
Of course, the question is how quickly can he be ready, and can he even stay on the field. With the clause that returns a 7th round pick to New England if Gordon doesn’t play 10 of the final 14 games, it’s clear the Patriots are hedging their bets.
As a fantasy owner of Gordon myself, I’ve been salivating at the potential production of Gordon paired with Brady. With a below average receiver group since the days of Moss and Welker, Brady would be wise to target his new toy early. Gordon, Gronk, and Edelman could elevate one of the most milquetoast receiving groups to one of the most exciting.
Things in New England haven’t gotten much better for a team riding the waves of a turbulent off season with the news that free agent wide out Jordan Matthews has been released.
A hamstring injury recently suffered by the mercurial receiver was deemed “significant” and the Patriots deemed it was time to move on. With lingering injury issues to Malcom Mitchell (knee) and Kenny Britt (hamstring), it’s likely the Patriots consider adding depth to aid a group that’s already without Julian Edelman for four games.
Veteran Eric Decker was recently worked out by the team, and has to be considered one of the better bets as his skill set works with how Brady operates, but it’s a situation to monitor.
In the meantime, the value on Chris Hogan should be bumped slightly as only he and Gronkowski return as reliable passing game targets among the receivers and tight ends group. Rex Burkhead and James White could see a bump in value as well due to their proficiency catching the ball from other areas outside of the backfield.
As usual, the Patriots will go into the preseason with questions fantasy owners would love to have answered.
When New England made Sony Michel their first round draft pick in the 2017 NFL draft, it marked only the 2nd time since 1998 that the Patriots invested that kind of draft capital into the running back position. We all know how the Laurence Maroney experiment turned out, but the bigger question is does Michel’s selection signal the end to another long standing New England past time: the Committee?
After day one of mini camp, the news out of New England was that Michel was involved pretty heavily in the passing game, catching one touchdown pass in 11 on 11 drills that seemed to fire up veteran QB Tom Brady. While it’s important to take this type of thing with a grain of salt, it still speaks to the potential for Michel to see a large number of touches week to week.
It’s been a long time since a New England running back was used heavily, but if Michel can protect the football, it appears that the Patriots will be interested in using him on three downs. With one notable fumble on ball control drills, there’s some reason for concern (Michel fumbled once for ever 54 touches in college, a largely concerning number especially given Bill Belichick’s propensity to sit guys if they can’t protect).
But it’s a process that we’ll have to keep track, especially if one is interested in drafting the Georgia Bulldog. It appears, though, that he’ll be given every chance to take control of a mostly listless backfield, something we predict to be the case early in the season.
Every year we examine the NFL’s most volatile committees in hopes that we can navigate the potential mine field and find the guys that will eventually rise to the top. Of course, this is one of those articles that must be taken with a grain of salt as many of these turn out to be black holes for fantasy contributors, but if you’re stuck drafting from a committee, this should help you decide where to turn.
New England Patriots
It wouldn’t be a committee report without the Patriots firmly at the top of the list. Of course, this year it’s a different look as the Pats selected Sony Michel in the first round (something the Patriots mostly never do). Also present on the roster are pass catching specialist James White, Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillisleee, and Jeremy Hill.
Current ADP rankings show that Pats backs are being selected in this order: Sony Michel (52nd), Rex Burkhead (81st), James White (148th), Jeremy Hill (204th), Mike Gillislee (UN).
The best value may belong to James White in the 15th round. With his 90 targets last year, his value is equal to that of a decent WR3, yet he’s being selected in the “flier rounds” as teams look to fill in the bottom of their benches. Burkhead has shown promise before, but his role is so undefined that I’m loath to put a pick towards him in the 9th round.
This is the kind of committee that won’t be resolved at all this year, so over paying for a back like Sony Michel could be a sure fire way to torpedo your draft. I won’t suggest he won’t be valuable in fantasy terms, but understanding how the Patriots operate leads me to believe that ball control and inexperience should prohibit him from turning in a top 20 season in 2018.
Another team that’s been devoid of a true number one for a decade or more, the Lions did little to clear up it’s perennial committee by signing LeGarette Blount and drafting Kerryon Johnson to further muddy the future. With Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah still floating around, it’s going to be difficult for anyone to separate themselves from the pack in this backfield.
Current ADP draft data shows the following selection information: Kerryon Johnson (78th), LeGarette Blount (111th), Ameer Abdullah (114th), Theo Riddick (UN)
What concerns me is that Detroit has typically been a pass first team, and I don’t expect them to pound the ball with any great frequency this year either. The last time a Lions team had more than 400 attempts as a team was in 2014, and Reggie Bush and Joique Bell had about a 60/40 split.
Considering the consistency of this committee, expecting anything more than 200 carries for either Johnson or Blount is a pipe dream. My prediction is that Blount leads the team in carries with around 170, while Johnson sees 150 and Riddick/Abdullah/Zenner combine for around 30. If Riddick wasn’t as capable a passing down back, one could make an argument for Johnson to contribute in other ways, but as currently constituted, I’m not touching this backfield.
In typical Cleveland fashion, the Browns front office drafted Nick Chubb despite the hefty contract handed out in free agency to Carlos Hyde. Already on the roster is pass catching back Duke Johnson, who figures to remain involved as well. So what does this mean for the fantasy prospects of each back above? It means we have no real idea.
Here is the ADP data for the Cleveland backfield: Carlos Hyde (68th), Nick Chubb (93rd), Duke Johnson (123rd).
The ADP values above represent how difficult it is to value these Cleveland running backs. Of course, part of the problem is that the fantasy community is so in love with rookie running backs that it’s ignoring how much value Carlos Hyde has as a starter. Chubb, on the other hand, doesn’t factor into the passing game, and his draft profile suggests that a lack of game breaking skills and inability to break tackles makes him a distant second in terms of attempts.
What this does mean, is that Carlos Hyde is being seriously undervalued in the 7th round. Of the teams roughly 380 carries, I expect him to handle 240 or so, with Chubb and Johnson splitting the remaining 140. The passing game should shift mostly to Johnson, but don’t discount Hyde’s ability to play in the passing game either; he should have a healthy number of targets, even if Duke Johnson leads the way in the category.
The Dolphins don’t want to be a committee, but this time every year we seem to have the same conversation. Is the guy they picked really the guy to draft? Kenyan Drake had a nice little run at the end of the season, getting three games in with more than 15 rushes and a healthy dose of targets in the passing game. Unfortunately for him, the team brought in veteran Frank Gore and rookie Kalen Ballage to make his RB2 status look worse and worse by the day.
The draft values for these guys look as follows: Kenyan Drake (45th), Kalen Ballage (172), and Frank Gore (177th).
You may think, looking at those numbers, that Drake is a safe bet, but in my gut it feels that these two other backs are here for a reason. With no real track record prior to week 12, the success he had may be no more than a mirage. With two games against Buffalo, a game against New England, and one against Denver, it seems he may have benefited from mediocre opponents. Gore should be given a healthy portion of touches; just enough to hurt Drake’s prospects but not enough to make him draftable.
The more intriguing guy is Kalen Ballage. Miami has enjoyed using it’s backs in the passing game for years and while many of Jarvis Landry’s targets should go to Parker/Amendola/Stills, he stands out as the most capable pass catcher of the trio. If he can pass block, and it sounds like he won’t have a problem, he could see a larger time share than we expect. At 45th overall, I’m not touching Drake without some kind of assurance from HC Adam Gase on his usage. At this point, I’m willing to take a flyer on Ballage, but not much more.
Green Bay Packers
This is a pass first team, so trying to target the running back to own is like trying to decide which warm bottle of water to take quench your thirst with. It’s been years now since Eddie Lacy was a top tier fantasy back, and every year someone else has inhabited the collective minds of fantasy football, and every year we seem to be wrong. Last year it was Ty Montgomery who was the draft season darling; I cautioned you against using a high pick on him. He proved me right.
This year, it’s Jamal Williams who has the “inside track” to the bulk of the carries, but what does that even mean in this offense?
Here are the draft positions for this particular backfield: Jamaal Williams (87th), Aaron Jones (91st), Ty Montgomery (101nd).
Green Bay, not surprisingly, doesn’t run the ball as often as it’s opponents. Of it’s 386 attempts, only 326 of them went to the running backs groups. Ty Montgomery isn’t likely to have more than 40-60 attempts, but that still only leaves around 250-275 rushes for two backs that had, at one point in 2017, held the starter role for this team.
While Williams will have the first stab at the job thanks to Aaron Jones’ suspension, it’s important to note that he was uninspiring with the touches he did get. His 556 yards on 153 carries was good for an underwhelming 3.6 yards per carry. While it was in a smaller sample size, Aaron Jones 5.5 yards per carry looked a lot better from a fantasy perspective.
Drafting any of these backs is a crap shoot, but my breakdown is thus: target Montgomery as a late round flier in PPR leagues, and target Jones in the 9-11th round as a stash. His 2 game suspension shouldn’t prohibit him from wining the job as he was the best suited for 3 downs last year.
The Eagles haven’t had a legit lead back since it shipped LeSean McCoy out years ago during the Chip Kelley debacle. Instead, they’ve been one of the most predictable committees in the NFL. Since McCoy’s final season in Philly (2014), the highest attempts total was DeMarco Murray’s 193 the season after. Since then, it’s been names like Ryan Matthews and LeGarrette Blount leading the committee.
While it’s unlikely to change dramatically in 2018, the addition of Jay Ajayi may clear things up a little bit. We do expect Darren Sproles to handle a lot of the passing downs when healthy, but of the remaining backs, Ajayi represents the teams best chance at stability with Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood not profiling as a three down back.
A quick at the draft positions for these backs looks like this: Jay Ajayi (32nd), Corey Clement (114th), Darren Sproles (UN)
Still, expecting Ajayi to have 200+ carries is a bit optimistic. It’s hard to qualify head coach Doug Pederson’s track record with running backs because Jamal Charles was hurt every year but one when he was the OC in Kansas City, but when he played, the Chiefs gave the football to Charles a lot. Could that be a sign of things to come with Ajayi representing the best talent he’s had to work with in Philly?
I’d argue at his current draft position, Ajayi is far more stable than some of the rookie backs ahead of him. I don’t expect an RB1 finish, but he’s a solid candidate for RB2 numbers. Likewise, I’m not touching Clement unless it’s as a cuff in deep leagues. Sproles offers a little value in PPR formats, but his health and age don’t inspire confidence that he’ll finish the year healthy.
The Big Finish
While these backs will cost you far less draft capital than some of their contemporaries, it’s important to stay grounded. Overvaluing players because of the research your doing now can cost you big time if you hold on to them too long. These are the perfect players to throw darts at because you can drop them pretty quick. As always, adjust your rankings accordingly (maybe with a few of these guys highlighted), and happy drafting!
4. Green Bay Packers
The only thing this team is missing to be in the top three is a viable run game, but the mere presence of the best quarter back in the league helps elevate the entire passing game. Add to his arsenal an elite red zone weapon in tight end Jimmy Graham, and you have a recipe for success for one of the leagues best passing attacks.
Players Worth Drafting: Davante Adams (ADP 22), Aaron Rodgers (ADP 23), Jimmy Graham (ADP 61), Randall Cobb (ADP 88), Jamaal Williams (ADP 105), Aaron Jones (ADP 124), Ty Montgomery (ADP 131)
The real question becomes “is there anyone who can handle the rushing duties?” It feels like forever ago that Eddie Lacy was a first round pick, and after last years three back committee failed to churn out more than a spot start here and there, the hunt is on as all three return in some capacity. While Aaron Jones looked more impressive in his opportunities, it looks like Williams will get the first crack at the job.
Deep Sleeper: Last year I tore into the idea that Ty Montgomery was a viable three down back, and following an injury, it seemed that I was right. Still, neither Jamaal Williams nor Aaron Jones did enough to erase the memories of Montgomery shredding defenses in the passing game. When healthy, and by all accounts he is, he’ll handle the passing downs, and in the 15th round, he’s got far too high a ceiling to not be a target.
3. New England Patriots
Yes, I’m concerned about the Patriots ability to return to the Super Bowl given the on going off season drama, but I’m not concerned about the elite players turning in elite fantasy seasons. Tom Brady may take a bit of a step back this year due to age and unfamiliar pieces, but even a Tom Brady at 90% is better than most in a league that values decision making and smarts. It’s the run game that could potentially produce the biggest surprises in New England this year.
Players Worth Drafting: Rob Gronkowski (ADP 19), Tom Brady (ADP 31), Sony Michel (ADP 51), Chris Hogan (ADP 69), Julian Edelman (ADP 80), Rex Burkhead (ADP 114), James White (ADP 145), Jordan Matthews (ADP 188)
With 1st round back Sony Michel the first NE back coming off the board, it sure seems like the public believes the Patriots are going to do what every other NFL franchise does when it drafts a player that high. I’ll go out on a limb and say that, while Michel is a nice player, it’s Rex Burkhead that’s the Patriot to own at running back. His versatility and rapport with Brady is undeniable, and with less time to prepare thanks to his off season hold out, Brady will need to lean on Hogan and Burkhead to get the offense going.
Deep Sleeper: I may be a bit higher on Jordan Matthews than most, but I see a low risk pick that has the chance to start the season as the top slot option in a passing attack that targets it’s slot receivers at a higher rate than most of the league. With Edelman missing 4 games and over a year removed from playing football, there’s a very good chance that this is Matthews best chance to showcase his skills.
2. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles are a team on the rise. With a capable backup quarter back, even a delay in the return of franchise QB Carson Wentz isn’t a death sentence for the elite players this roster boasts. Zach Ertz is a no doubt TE in any format, as he continues to be the top target in the red zone. Alshon Jeffrey and Nelson Agholor return as a fantasic complimentary duo, with both players a threat to his 800-1000 yards.
Players Worth Drafting: Zach Ertz (ADP 32), Jay Ajayi (ADP 43), Alshon Jeffrey (ADP 46), Carson Wentz (ADP 53), Nelson Agholor (ADP 117), Corey Clement (ADP 181)
Targeting a running back here could get tricky. You may be tempted to jump early at Ajayi after he posted some pretty impressive numbers in an Eagles uniform. I’d caution against it. While he certainly has the skills, he’s in an unenviable position of being type cast in the early down role with Darren Sproles handling the passing downs and Corey Clement chewing into red zone touches.
Deep Sleeper: Currently falling into the “undrafted” category, Darren Sproles returns as the primary pass catcher for the Eagles. While the diminutive scat-back certainly has the injury history to make one squeamish, he also has the skills to haul in 50+ balls from the waiver wire.
1. Minnesota Vikings
It may surprise you to see the Vikings here, but after paying big money to bring in Kirk Cousins, the offense in Minnesota now features a top 20 player at every counting position, and several top 10 candidates. Kirk Cousins’ big arm should only help Diggs close the game with Thielen (if not pass him) and a Dalvin Cook/Latavius Murray backfield should scare defensive coordinators who want to abandon the box to stop the down the field passing.
Players Worth Drafting: Dalvin Cook (ADP 14), Adam Thielen (ADP 25), Stefon Diggs (ADP 35), Kirk Cousins (ADP 76), Kyle Rudolph (ADP 84), Latavius Murray (ADP 155)
You may be wondering why Cook is being valued as high as he is after only playing 4 games as a rookie before suffering a big time injury. The truth is that, while he could certainly return a different player, it’s expected he’ll return healthy and continue to receive a three down workload. In those 4 games he averaged over 5 receptions and 100 combined yards, further supporting Minnesota’s intentions to use him even on passing downs.
Deep Sleeper: Allow me to talk out of the other side of my mouth for a moment and plug Latavius Murray as one of my favorite deep sleepers of the year. With Cook’s return imminent, his draft value continues to fall, making the former Raider a fantastic value given how well he played in Cooks absence last year. I’ve sung his praises in years past, and the freak athleticism he possesses should help him see the field regardless of Cooks’ effectiveness upon his return.
If you hadn’t heard, Julian Edelman of the New England Patriots is facing a four game suspension for testing positive for some kind of P.E.D. The details have not yet been released, but it’s a safe bet that the Patriots will be without their star slot receiver until week 5 of the season.
What does that mean in terms of fantasy?
There are two major factors when determining where to rank Edelman. First, is that he’s coming off a major knee injury. At 32 years old, and a year removed from meaningful football, Edelman is already behind the proverbial 8 ball. Second, he’ll be missing 25% of the fantasy schedule even if he DOES stay healthy for the year. My projections have him hovering around the WR50 mark, which would plant him in the 14th round.
But who is going to assume the production early on (and possibly ingratiate themselves to Brady)?
The least impact should be to the Patriots newest receiver, Jordan Matthews. While he may be the most talented receiver on the board in terms of athletic ability, he’s had very little time to work with his new QB, as Brady continues to avoid the Patriots practice facilities.
Rob Gronkowski, meanwhile, should benefit only slightly, as he was likely in line for the lions share of targets anyhow even before the suspension. I expect that the Pats would rather involve other supporting cast rather than dump more on the oft-injured TE.
This leaves Chris Hogan as the receiver with the most to gain. We know Brady and Hogan have a bit of a rapport already, and with added expectation thanks to the Brandin Cooks trade, Hogan should slide in as the WR1 right out of the gates, and should see a more consistent usage in the passing game.
Of course, expect the running backs to see ample usage early on. Sony Michel, the Patriots first round draft pick, is a trendy name already but James White or Rex Burkhead should be more valuable considering where they are being drafted.
As always, keep an eye on the situation as things may change.
In the interest of avoiding plucking at low hanging fruit, we’ll ignore players who were duds due to injury, and instead focus on players who underperformed enough that you may have soured on owning them in your leagues.
Jay Ajayi, RB – Phi: Before the season, I cautioned anyone planning on using a first or second round pick on Ajayi to reconsider. His numbers were a mirage propped up on the back of three 200 yard games. Through 7 weeks my point was proven as the listless Dolphins managed to trot out a Jay Cutler led offense that struggled to move the football for long stretch. Ajayi managed a paltry 3.3 yards per game for the Dolphins, prompting the trade that would bring him a championship ring.
Following the trade, Ajayi started running harder. Was it simply a change of scenery or was it because the offense had talent around him? Whatever the case may be, Ajayi managed 408 yards on 70 attempts, good for a 5.8 yard per carry mark. Now, with LeGarrette Blount gone to Detroit, this backfield is his for the taking. While he won’t average 5.8 YPC with an expanded role, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t approach the 1,000 yard mark with 6-8 TD’s.
Samaje Perine, RB – WAS: Before the season, one of the trendiest sleeper picks was rookie RB Samaje Perine, only to see his stock drop precipitously following a disastrous pre-season. Rob Kelley did nothing to dispel the rumors of his impending take over, though, and midway through the season Perine was seeing regular touches. Unfortunately for owners, aside from a two week stretch that saw him amass 47 rushes and over 200 yards, he was uninspiring.
With Alex Smith now under center in Washington, I’d place my bets on this team moving to a more run heavy attack, and that will only benefit the 2nd year Perine. With no one but Rob Kelley in his way for the bulk of carries, there’s little doubt in my mind that he’ll be atop the depth chart when the season starts. Currently ranked 49th at his position by Matthew Berry’s early rankings, that is the kind of value I want out of my late round picks.
Bilal Powell, RB – NYJ: The Jets backfield experienced major upheaval as Matt Forte retired and Isaiah Crowell and Thomas Rawls were both brought in to fill the gap. What does this mean for Powell? I’d argue not much. The Jets were a dumpster fire last year, and the lack of talent on offense kept Powell from rewarding owners who expected massive PPR points from the capable pass catcher.
Despite the addition of these two other backs, Powell should return with a virtual lock on third down work, and with even a slight improvement of the talent around him, Powell should return to the 10+ points per week contributor many expected. While his value in standard (non PPR) leagues is much less grandiose, being ranked 36th at his position is a criminal undervalue.
Honorable Mentions: Jeremy Hill has a lot to prove if he wants to make the roster in New England, but at only 25 years old, and a few years removed from elite performances, he has a chance to return to glory as a Patriot. Likewise, LeGarrett Blount finds himself moving from one crowded backfield in Philly, to another in Detroit. The difference is that the Lions haven’t been able to find a healthy back to carry the load and they hope Blount is that guy. As always, he’ll lack in the catches stat, but should have plenty of opportunity in the red zone with very little competition for those carries on the roster.