Week 4 wasn’t our finest week, but we had a few solid picks and were in the money in one our leagues (nothing major but it keeps us at around .500 for cashes).
- $$$: Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens ($7,100)
- After allowing 20+ points through two weeks, the Pittsburgh defense has played two excellent games against opposing quarterbacks, but we feel that this trend will revert in week 5. Jackson has shown the ability to play within the pocket, while using his legs to supplement a surprising passing game. In this divisional rivalry, I see the Ravens taking it handily, and Jackson performing very well.
- $$: Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($6,200)
- While New Orleans ranks 30th in points allowed to QB’s, it has been a tale of two defenses, with Houston and Seattle balling out in weeks 1 and three, and Goff and Prescott managing less than 25 points combined (with Dak’s 6 points being a low last week). Still, the emergence of Chris Godwin has turned the passing game into a lethal weapon, and Ronald Jones new found efficiency is helping to keep defenses honest. It may not be as high a scoring affair as it would be with Brees, but it should be Winston that benefits from a sub par passing defense.
- $: Teddy Bridgewater, New Orleans Saints ($5,200)
- While he’s been more of a game manager through three games, he’s been efficient regardless, completing over 70% of his passes over the previous two weeks. The Bucs offense has been scoring in bunches, and if it goes to the air (and I believe it will) he has the weapons in Thomas and Kamara to post points without having to do much of the work himself. Considering the Tampa defense has allowed quite a bit of scoring, I expect Bridgewater to be an absolute value in DFS this week.
- $$$: David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals ($7,500)
- Johnson’s volume has saved him from a bit of a difficult start to the season, as he’s drawn three difficult matchups in a row, running to the tune of nearly 3 yards per carry during that time. This week he gets a last place Bengals rushing defense that’s allowed no fewer than 21 points in PPR formats to opposing backs. This could be the turnaround game for the former 2,000 rusher as we expect that volume to remain constant.
- $$: James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers ($6,200)
- Life with Mason Rudolph was one where the ball rarely went down field, and Conner managed to turn a rough day on the ground into a very productive day as a dump off safety value for Rudolph. With Baltimore a very real threat to get up early, Conner could again be a heavy part of the passing game as the Steelers coaching staff didn’t seem comfortable taking the reigns off their back up signal caller
- $: James White, New England Patriots ($5,000)
- The last time we saw the Patriots, it was against a Bills team that bottled them up all day, but coming into a juicy match up against a Colt McCoy led Washington team, the Pats look to bounce back in a big way. Rex Burkhead is out, Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon are dinged up, and Brady is going to have to look White’s way fairly often, making him a solid cheap play on Sunday.
- $$$: Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons ($7,700)
- Remember when Jones was considered a “can’t reach the end zone” receiver? Jones currently has four receiving TD’s through four weeks, and is still the best receiver in a passing attack that should put up points against Houston this week. The volume is there for Jones, who’s target share has been in the 8-12 targets per week. Start him with confidence if you’re looking for an expensive option for your team.
- $$: Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia Eagles ($5,900)
- The Eagles looked off last week, but Wentz tried over and over again to fit the ball to his star receiver. Against a Jets secondary that’s providing solid scoring to opposing fantasy receivers, he should again be a target magnet, and I expect him to have far better success this week.
- $: Dionte Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers ($4,400)
- When the season started, we had high expectations for Donte Moncrief and James Washington, but it looks like rookie receiver Dionte Johnson could be the peanut butter to Juju Smith-Schusters jelly in this offense thanks to an apparent level of comfort with backup made starter Mason Rudolph. As mentioned before, this offense has turned to a check down philosophy, and Johnson looks like he could fit the bill nicely.
- $$: Darren Waller, Oakland Raiders ($5,000)
- The raiders search for receiving weapons has seemed to provide the athletic tight end with extra opportunities so far, and a tough match up against a Bears defense that’s limited pretty much everyone but opposing tight ends from production looks like a solid play here.
- $: Tyler Eifert, Cincinatti Bengals ($3,300)
- Predicting anything in fantasy is difficult, but Arizona seems to love allowing opposing Tight Ends to score. While he’s been an afterthought through much of the season, a trip or two to the end zone shouldn’t be out of the question for the oft-injured tight end.
- Patriots D/ST ($4,300)
- Daily fantasy sites are starting to catch up to the Pats dominance against weak opponents, but against a third string QB and a Washington team that offers very little talent on offense, this could be another dominating performance for a defense that’s strung together several to start the season
- Titans D/ST ($3,000)
- If you’re looking for a cheaper option, the Titans defense has been excellent this year as well, and draws a Buffalo team that may not be 100% on Sunday. With Josh Allen having been knocked out of last Sunday’s contest, it should be interesting to see how he handles pressure this week.
The Dr’s DFS Team
- QB: Jameis Winston
- RB: James Conner
- RB: James White
- WR: Chris Godwin
- WR: Alshon Jeffery
- WR: Dionte Johnson
- TE: Darren Waller
- Flex: Sterling Shepard
- DST: Patriots D/ST
We were indisposed for our week 3 recap, but we had a solid week with some of our picks. We managed to win a few bucks in our own Daily lineup, so this week we’re hoping to really hit some home runs.
- $$$ – Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs ($7,500)
- Considering that Mahomes may be the easiest player to project this week against the 29th ranked Detroit Lions secondary, being at only $7,500 makes him an absolute value the position if you don’t mind spending the capital on a QB.
- $$ – Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks ($6,100)
- Only two players are scoring more points per week than Russell Wilson in 2019… Mahomes and Jackson. Unlike Jackson, who plays an underrated Browns secondary, Wilson is less expensive, and is facing the Arizona Cardinals (ranked 31st in the league against QB’s in fantasy). Wilson is a must start this week.
- $ – Daniel Jones, New York Giants ($5,300)
- Jones looked solid last week, and draws and even easier match-up in week 4 with the 30th ranked Washington Redskins coming to town. With the Giants feeling good about themselves for the first time in a long time, and a rushing attack that’s headlined by Wayne Gallman, it could be another surprising performance for the rookie from Duke.
- $$$ – Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers ($8,000)
- The news that Melvin Gordon is ending his hold out makes Ekeler a precarious roster player in season long leagues, but drawing a Miami defense that’s even worse against the run than it is against the pass means that Ekeler’s last week at the top of the teams depth chart should be a good one. Given his usage in the passing game, he’s fairly insulated against shifting game plans in the case of a blow out.
- $$ – Mark Ingram, Baltimore Ravens ($6,600)
- The buzz in Baltimore has centered on Lamar Jackson for much of the first quarter of the season, but that doesn’t mean teammate Mark Ingram hasn’t emerged as a bonafide RB1. Unlike their top 5 passing defense, Cleveland boasts the 29th worst defense against opposing running backs. Mark Ingram could be in for a monster week if the gameplan shifts towards the ground game, and we expect it should.
- $ – James White, New England Patriots ($4,900)
- He’s been pretty solid but tough to predict in his NFL career, but he’ll be featured more prominently against a tough divisional opponent thanks to injuries on the Patriots offensive line and Sony Michel’s early struggles. If Julian Edelman is out or limited, he could find himself as Brady’s third down safety blanket, and a dozen targets with a few in the red zone are a safe bet for the value.
- $$$ – Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers ($7,600)
- If it sounds like I’m all in on the Chargers this week, you’re right. The Miami connection is obvious, but it’s also important to note that Mike Williams is out this week, further forcing the Chargers to rely on their elite slot man. Allen could see a season high in targets this week, making him a value despite his cost.
- $$ – Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks ($6,300)
- Lockett has been excellent in PPR formats, so this is probably a better play in leagues that reward those extra points, but as the center piece of the Seahawks offense, and Russell Wilson’s resurgence, he could be in for a big day against a pretty average against opposing receivers.
- $ – D.J. Chark, Jacksonville Jaguars ($5,100)
- All aboard the Chark Train for at least one more week. Denver hasn’t been kind to opposing receivers, but the Minshew to Chark connection is a real one, and with the gunslinger mentality on full display last week, we expect the Jaguars to look down field a lot, which is Chark’s specialty. Until he slows down, there’s no reason to ignore him at the value he’s given most weeks.
- $$ – Darren Waller, Oakland Raiders ($5,200)
- Waller has been the Raiders most consistent passing game weapon, and against an Indy team that should be able to score against their defense, should be called on again to be an integral part of their game plan. The best part? He’s their best red zone weapon in the passing game, and I can see another handful of targets in the redzone, giving him an excellent chance to score in week 4.
- $ –Will Dissly, Seattle Seahawks ($3,600)
- The Seahawks look like the found an excellent pass catching tight end in Dissly, and he should be involved all day in week 4 again. While we do like Lockett to lead the team in targets, an TD or two isn’t out of the question against the worst team in the league against the TE position in Arizona.
- Patriots D/ST ($3,700) – A pick 6 and a muffed punt cost the Patriots a second straight shutout in week 3, and they draw a Buffalo team with an inexperienced signal caller and lack of depth at the skill positions. Averaging nearly 20 points at $3,700 is the kind of every-week decision that can’t be ignored.
- Jaguars D/ST ($3,700) – There’s not a lot of easy plays for D/ST’s this week, but the Jaguars secondary looked revitalized last week despite the Jalen Ramsey drama. With a Joe Flacco led offense that really hasn’t performed well, there’s a potential for multiple turnovers in this one.
The Doctor’s Team
- QB: Daniel Jones
- RB: Mark Ingram
- RB: James White
- WR: Keenan Allen
- WR: Tyler Lockett
- WR: D.J. Chark
- TE: Will Dissly
- Flex: Kenny Golladay
- D/ST: Patriots D/ST
Thoughts: The toughest choice was choosing between Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler, but the slightly lower cost and the potential return of Melvin Gordon have me leaning toward the high volume receiver here. That left me with a moderate amount for my flex, and I decided playing the down-field option on the team facing Kansas City is a fairly safe play despite Golladay’s up and down season so far. One could have made an argument for T.J. Hockenson against that KC defense that’s allowed a solid amount of points to tight ends, but I felt better with this lineup.
Last week we had a few solid picks but game scripts and injuries kept us from really hitting big. We aim to do better as the year wears on. Of course, it’s important to understand the purpose of this exercise. There are plenty of players we like on different teams, but our aim is to provide value at each tier, to help fill out the last few roster spots that you may have trouble with. Every roster will feature players from each; these are just the guys we like the most this week.
$$$: Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens ($7,000): I’m not too concerned about Mahomes failing to produce this week even against Baltimore’s D, but getting Jackson, who’s nearly kept pace with Mahomes as it is, is a better value this week. This one should turn into a shootout, so getting one of these guys as your “expensive” pick should pay dividends.
$$: Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons ($5,700): Inside, Matt Ryan has played his best football, and while they’re on the road, he draws a favorable match up against an Indy team that should allow him to score some points. I feel that Jacoby Brissett should be half way decent this week (more on that bellow), so both teams may be forced to score.
$: Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis Colts ($5,200): It seemed like all was lost when Andrew Luck announced his retirement, but Brissett has looked capable in his last few starts. While the red zone efficiency is likely going to come back to earth, this week against a high scoring Falcons team, he’ll be asked to do even more with injuries hampering his backfield.
$$$: Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints ($8,000): I entertained CMC here, but of the two elite backs who are operating without their QB’s, I trust the Teddy Bridewater to get Kamara the ball better than the situation in Carolina. Seattle’s defense has looked solid to this point, but Kamara is the kind of backfield asset who, outside of extenuating circumstances (last week anyone?) nearly always turns in fantasy performances.
$$: Mark Ingram, Baltimore Ravens ($5,700): While we may have expected Justice Hill to have a larger role in the Baltimore offense, it’s been largely the Mark Ingram show, and with a trip to Kansas City in the docket, he could be asked to play a larger role in the passing game. I’m not always keen on highlighting several players like this, but I expect Baltimore to surprise some folks today on offense.
$: Darwin Thompson, Kansas City Chiefs ($3,000): There was a point over the weekend when we weren’t sure if even LeSean McCoy would play, but even if McCoy is on the field, his lingering ankle issue should open the door for Darwin Thompson to see a real valuable role, if just for one week. If Baltimore can keep pace with Kansas City, then expect a high scoring game for this backfield, one way or another.
$$$: Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys ($7,500): Amari Cooper has continued to show us that he’s a far better receiver than his time in Oakland led us to believe. This week, he’ll shoulder a larger burden with Michael Gallup dinged up, and the Miami Defense has yielded a ton of points to opposing teams.
$$: Tyler Boyd, Cincinatti Bengals ($6,500): Speaking of volume, Tyler Boyd has been a target vacuum, seeing a ton in his usual role in the short and intermediate passing game. Buffalo’s defense is a bit better than they get credit for, but with John Ross showing he can take the top off, I like Boyd to see a ton of targets again on Sunday.
$: D.K. Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks ($4,700): Metcalf has looked every bit of the downfield specialist we thought he’d be when he was drafted early by the Seahawks. While Tyler Lockett remains the teams top target, down the field and in the end zone, Metcalf will feature heavily. At that price point, I feel confident that a trip the end zone and a big catch or two is going to give us plenty of value.
$$: Evan Engram, New York Giants ($5,200): The guy has been one of the two or three best TE’s in terms of fantasy scoring (as we expected) and I don’t see that slowing down any time soon. While you may feel concerned with Daniel Jones under center this week, I expect him to be at least replacement level for Eli Manning, and if he plays even a modicum better, then Engram could have another monster week.
$: Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers ($3,700): The news that Cam Newton is going to miss Sunday’s game certainly put damper on the receivers group, but of all the Panther’s pass catchers, Olsen should lose the least amount of work with the backup QB. Arizona ranks dead last in the NFL this season in allowing points to tight ends, and while Olsen carries a question mark of health into Sunday’s match up, if he plays, I like him to produce despite Kyle Allen starting under center.
$$: Patriots D/ST ($3,800): Playing Dallas’ D/ST against the Dolphins may sound like a no brainer, but with an elite Patriots defense costing about $500 of your balance less, and facing off against a third string QB for the Jets, I have to go with the Pats defense in week 3.
$: San Francisco 49ers D/ST ($3,000): There’s a lot of value with D/ST’s as they all inhabit the same airspace in terms of cost, but the 9er’s defense has been scoring with regularity to this point in the season, and draws a banged up Steeler’s offense at home. With Mason Rudolph under center and the health of running back Jame’s Conner up in the air, there’s a chance that the San Fran D could be one of the most valuable starts this week.
The Doctor’s Lineup
- QB: Matt Ryan
- RB: Mark Ingram
- RB: Darwin Thompson
- WR: Marquise Brown
- WR: Amari Cooper
- WR: D.K. Metcalf
- TE: Evan Engram
- Flex: Alvin Kamara
- D/ST: Patriots D/ST
Notes: I had to make a few adjustments just to fit the roster under the cap. I do like Marquise Brown this week against KC’s defense, especially if KC can put up points. While there’s some risk in playing Darwin Thompson this week, his price is basically free and in that potential high scoring match up, that’s the kind of risk that can pay off in spades in Daily contests.
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!