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Mock Itch – A ZeroRB Mock

While I’ve certainly been a detractor of the ZeroRB strategy, I certainly see the value in loading up on elite talent and a well put together strategy can reward any owner regardless of how they feel.

I’ve been a mocking fool lately (one of my favorite parts of the fantasy football process is the mock season during the run up to the our actual drafts) and I decided I would take some time and really try to hammer out a solid ZeroRB strategy to share with you.

Strategy

Before we discuss how my draft shook out, lets revisit the cardinal rules when adopting a ZeroRB strategy. It’s important to load up on top teir wideouts early in drafts; I suggest not swinging at a QB or TE in the first 3 or 4 rounds unless one of the elite guys falls to you. Once you’ve filled out your starters at WR, QB, and TE is when you throw a whole lot of heat at the RB position in the middle rounds.

The Mock

I used the fantastic Draft Wizard at Fantasypros.com to set up the draft to my preferences, and I started by opting for a straight PPR format with one RB/WR/TE flex position. Standard scoring and 6 bench spots made up the rest of the rules. Randomizing the draft spot I ended up drafting 8th.

  • Round 1. Mike Evans (WR5) – Evans is a stud, but in the first round you get what you pay for.
  • Round 2. Jordy Nelson (WR7) – Nelson could easily finish as a top 3 WR, not bad for a 2nd round pick.
  • Round 3. Demaryius Thomas (WR15) – This one was a bit of a stretch, but with a big run on WR’s in round 3, I had to decide if I wanted Thomas, Alshon Jeffrey, or Jarvis Landry.
  • Round 4. Tom Brady (QB2) – Brady fell to me in round 4 and I felt comfortable with the remaining RB pool to push off my first RB selection to add an elite QB.
  • Round 5. Carlos Hyde (RB17) – For my first RB I grabbed the boring but effective Hyde. Despite the rumblings that Hyde may not be a fit in Shanahan’s offense, at 26 he presents a safe floor in round 5.
  • Round 6. C. J. Anderson (RB19) – For my money, Anderson offers the closest thing to a top 10 RB of the remaining backs. Dalvin Cook was available but throwing a rookie in as my 2nd RB scares me.
  • Round 7. Bilal Powell (RB22) – Drafting Powell in standard leagues is nerve racking, but in PPR (with his ability to catch the football) he’s one of the safer committee backs.
  • Round 8. Eddy Lacy (RB25) – I’ll admit it, this one is a crap shoot. Lacy has turned in two fantastic seasons and two awful ones… which back will show up in Seattle this year? I hope it’s the former.
  • Round 9. Frank Gore (RB35) – I don’t think Gore will ever get the respect he deserves, and in the 9th round I’m giddy that a starting RB on a high scoring offense is still available.
  • Round 10. Zach Ertz (TE10) – Ertz still has some proving to do but his skill set and place in the Eagles offense makes him a safe pick in the 10th round as the tenth TE drafted.
  • Round 11. Jordan Matthews (WR 45) – Adding an impact player in the 11th is difficult, and with Decker and Rishard Matthews as the the next highest ranked WRs it was a no brainer to add Matthews and his 100+ targets.
  • Round 12. Mike Wallace (WR 49) – This is Baltimore’s Mike Wallace, where I consider him a flier after major offensive shakeups leaves hundres of targets up for grabs (even AFTER adding Jeremy Maclin in the off season).
  • Round 13Tyrod Taylor (QB 18) – I could have gone with Blake Bortles here, but Taylor put up top 10 QB numbers for a good portion of the year and I’m not keen on starting Tom Brady without some kind of backup plan in case the 40 year old struggles or goes down to injury.

Overall, the draft went pretty much as planned. I could have Greg Olsen or Jimmy Graham in the 5th round and started my run on RB’s a round later, but that would have left me exchanging a player like Carlos Hyde for someone like Samaje Perine or Jamaal Williams, two players I like but who are no lock to play meaningful snaps.

Roster

  • QB – Tom Brady
  • RB1 – Carlos Hyde
  • RB2 – C.J. Anderson
  • WR1 – Mike Evans
  • WR2 – Jordy Nelson
  • WR3 – Demaryius Thomas
  • TE – Zach Ertz
  • Flex – Bilal Powell (RB)
  • D/ST – Houston Texans
  • K – Sebastian Janikowski
  • Bench – Eddie Lacy (RB)
  • Bench – Frank Gore (RB)
  • Bench – Jordan Matthews (WR)
  • Bench – Mike Wallace (WR)
  • Bench – Tyrod Taylor (QB)

 

Draft Board

ZRBMock

UPDATE: QB Rankings

Updated 6/26 (numbers in parenthasis are change in ranking from 6/1 rankings)
  1. Aaron Rodgers, GB (E)
  2. Tom Brady, NE (E)
  3. Drew Brees, NO (E)
  4. Matt Ryan, ATL (E)
  5. Andrew Luck, IND (E)
  6. Jameis Winston, TB (E)
  7. Kirk Cousins, WAS (E)
  8. Dak Prescott, DAL (+1)
  9. Russell Wilson, SEA (-1)
  10. Cam Newton, CAR (E)
  11. Derek Carr, OAK (+1)
  12. Tyrod Taylor, BUF (-1)
  13. Marcus Mariotta, TEN (+2)
  14. Philip Rivers, LAC (E)
  15. Ben Roethlisberger, PIT (-2)
  16. Matthew Stafford, DET (E)
  17. Andy Dalton, CIN (E)
  18. Carson Wentz, PHI (+3)
  19. Eli Manning, NYG (E)
  20. Blake Bortles, JAC (-2)
  21. Ryan Tannehill, MIA (-1)
  22. Joe Flacco, BAL (E)
  23. Sam Bradford, MIN (+2)
  24. Carson Palmer, ARI (-1)
  25. Alex Smith, KC (-1)
  26. Deshaun Watson, HOU (E)
  27. Mike Glennon, CHI (+1)
  28. Paxton Lynch, DEN (+1)
  29. DeShone Kizer, CLE (-2)
  30. Cody Kessler, CLE (E)
  31. Jared Goff, LAR (+1)
  32. Josh McCown, NYJ (-1)
  33. Christian Hackenberg, NYJ (+2)
  34. Brian Hoyer, SF (-1)
  35. Mitch Trubisky, CHI (+3)
  36. Tom Savage, HOU (E)
  37. Trevor Siemian, DEN (-3)
  38. Patrick Mahomes, KC (+3)
  39. Jimmy Garoppolo, NE (+8)
  40. Landry Jones, PIT (+4)
  41. C.J. Beathard, SF (-1)
  42. Cardale Jones, BUF (-3)
  43. AJ McCarron, CIN (E)
  44. Drew Stanton, ARI (+1)
  45. Case Keenum, MIN (+1)
  46. Brock Osweiler, CLE (-9)
  47. Bryce Petty, NYJ (-5)

Sparknotes: AFC East

Over the next few days, we’ll publish a series entitled Sparknotes, each article will take a birds eye view into each NFL division and it’s most important fantasy players. 

Despite Tom Brady’s four game suspension and two games with third string QB Jacoby Brissett, the Pats managed to run away with the AFC East yet again, with a 14-2 record. The Dolphin’s backed into the playoffs at 10-6 and both the Bills (7-9) and the Jets (5-11) finished on the outside.

New Englad Patriots

Notable Fantasy Stars: Tom Brady (QB2), Rob Gronkowski (TE1), Brandon Cooks (WR16), Julien Edelman (WR25), Mike Gillislee (RB27), James White (RB51)

Synopsis: The Patriots were busier than usual this past offseason, adding to a Superbowl winning roster with Brandin Cooks from New Orleans and Stephane Gilmore from Buffalo. Brady and Gronk continue as the Patriots two “sure things” on offense, but Cooks and Edelman (in PPR formats mostly) offer plenty of fantasy power. The Running back situation is murky at best; between Gillislee and White, NE projects to be one of the more fluid week-to-week RB committees again.

Miami Dolphins

Notable Fantasy Stars: Jay Ajayi (RB9), Ryan Tannehill (QB20), Jarvis Landry (WR22), Julius Thomas (TE20), Devante Parker (WR40)

Synopsis: After a brutal finish to the season, Tannehill returns with the blessings of head coach Adam Gase. He’ll lead a passing attack that returns high-volume slot man Jarvis Landry and the buzzy Devante Parker, in addition to Gase’s former elite TE in Denver, Julius Thomas. In the backfield, Jay Ajayi will start the year no longer buried behind now-retired Arian Foster. Will he continue to dominate in short stretches? Half of his yards came in three games, so look for more conistency out of the second year back.

Buffalo Bills

Notable Fantasy Stars: LeSean McCoy (RB4), Tyrod Taylor (QB11), Sammy Watkins (WR15), Charles Clay (TE26), Zay Jones (WR65), Jonathan Williams (RB69)

Synopsis: Buffalo may not be any closer to unseating New England in real life football, but this team has a wealth of young fantasy studs. McCoy should continue to see a ton of touches, but Jonathan Williams is quietly earning buzz as a deep sleeper thanks to the departure of Mike Gillislee. One assume if Sammy Watkins is healthy, he’ll be dominant, and the addition of Zay Jones in this years draft means less double teams for Watkins and more weapons for Taylor to use.

New York Jets

Notable Fantasy Stars: Bilal Powell (RB29), Josh McCown (QB30), Matt Forte (RB39), Quincy Enunwa (WR62), Robby Anderson (WR68)

Synopsis: Sorry Jets fans, but this is gonna be a long year. A conservative guess would have this team winning 3 games this year, but a byproduct of being behind in most games means that someone is going to score some garbage time points. All signs point to Bilal Powell (assuming he wrangles a larger chunk of touches from Forte) being the breakout fantasy star, but Quincy Enunwa should get a lot of attention from McCown now that Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker are out of town. Robby Anderson is a nice little reciever but likely nothing more than a waiver wire pick up if things go well for him early.

 

Top 10 (Quarterbacks)

In preperation for my personal position rankings, I’ll be taking a look at the top of the list at each offensive fantasy position.

  1. Cam Newton – Newton was a Fantasy stud last year, owning the feild with his arm as well as his legs. Adding a top teir WR back into the fold with the returning Kelvin Benjamin
    will mean good things for Super Cam this year.
  2. Aaron Rodgers – His 60% completion percentage was his career low as a starter, and much of that can be attributed to a lackluster run game and losing his number 1 receiver in Jordy Nelson for the entire year. He still managed nearly 4,000 yards and 30+ TDs in 15 games. If Nelson is ready to go and Lacy is even remotely the player he has been in the past, expect a wilsonreturn to greatness.
  3. Russell Wilson – If you believe the loss of Marshawn Lynch will make this offense a bit too one dimensional, then you’d be wrong. When he’s called on to make plays, all Wilson does is produce. He may not break records, but his ability to add 500-800 yards on the ground make him elite in terms of Fantasy.
  4. Drew Brees – A model of consistency, Brees again led the league in yards while completing nearly 70% of his passes. Another year with animproving O-line and 4 capable receivers means Brees can be counted on again to win Fantasy games.
  5. Andrew Luck – It’s not secret that Luck struggled mightily last year, missing significant time due to a plethora of injuries. Still, Luck has the goods – and the weapons – to produce at a high level. If they can keep him healthy, theres no reason to believe he’ll return to the elite signal caller we know he is.
  6. Ben Roethlisberger – The ceiling was raised a few years ago, and with Antonio Brown lining up to catch passes, you can’t expect too sharp a decline even as father time inches up behind Big Ben. He’s fallen a bit on my list with the news that Bryant will miss the entire season and his saftey blank in Le’Veon Bell will miss 4 games, and he may fall farther still.
  7. Carson Palmer – Old age seems to be an antiquated reason to skip on NFL QB’s in your fantasy leagues as Carson Palmer returns to the top 10 as a 36 year old. He’s got three fantasic receivers, a very good line, and a running game to help take off the pressure. Did we mention he takes care of the football? He may not be a flashy name, but he’ll get the job done.
  8. Philip Rivers – Rivers seems to never get the love that he deserves, but in the end he’ll throw the ball a ton which will mitigate any issues that may surround this offense. They’ll likely continue to easy Melvin Gordon into a larger roll, so expect games with 35+ attempts early on.
  9. Blake Bortles – I hear that we shouldn’t expect a repeat of the fantastic year we saw out of Bortles last year. I disagree. Hurns and Robinson are both great weapons and adding a successful down hill running in Chris Ivory will free up some plays over the middle. His legs can help him add another 250+ yards to what will likely be a 4,000 yard 30 TD campaign.
  10. Eli Manning – I’ll preface my inclusion in my top ten by saying I don’t really like Eli Manning. Not in the least, but he manages to find a way to put up fantasy numbers even while he’s managing ways to lose real NFL games. OBJ is Elite, Cruz (even at 50% of what he was) will attract some of the defense, and the kid they drafted, Sterling Shephard should give him more weapons to work with.

Missed the Cut

Tom Brady (his supension moved him from the top 10), Matt Ryan (so much hate for no reason. Has a top 3 WR catching the football), David Carr (close, but not there yet. Another up year in Oakland and he’ll be tough to deny), Tony Romo (he’s Eli Manning if Eli Manning got hurt every year. He’ll put up massive numbers when he’s healthy… which is likely less than 12 games).

 

How long is too long? A Keeper Conundrum

bellCasual fantasy fans be damned, the most fun you can have playing fantasy sports (in this humble bloggers opinion) is by building your team not just for this year, but for years to come. Dynasty and Keeper leagues are becoming more popular every year even as daily fantasy sports like Draft Kings and Fan Duel are soaking up the spot light.

But what’s the right way to do it?

Now, for those of you who haven’t experienced the joy of keeping the top ranked RB in the 6th round, a keeper league (or dynasty league) is simply put: A fantasy league that you keep a certain amount of players. I’m not hear to discuss the best way to run one of these, instead we’re going to decide when it’s time to throw a player back.

I play in a competative Keeper league that allows a limited number of years on a players “contract”. After said time they are thrown back into the draft pool and will find their way to a new home (unless your Lamar Miller… then I’ll draft you every single year). Some people don’t put limits, while others have a sliding scale that moves the pick closer and closer to the top of the draft as the years tick by.

It’s all well and good in year two when you have to decide who to keep and who to throw back, but when you’ve had a player for several years and they haven’t quite reached the promise of the first campaign, you face a difficult choice.

How long is too long?

I’ve had Le’Veon Bell since year one, and I’ve enjoyed every minute he’s been on the field for my squad (sure… it’s been rough going the last two years but still). But our format only allows me to keep him for one more year. The value is right even with the suspension (I have him currently in the 6th round). But do I sacrifice one of the three keeper spots for a player I’ll have for 10-12 more weeks? Or do I dump him and commit that to a player for a longer term?

Now, the beauty of fantasy sports is this: It’s all up to you! Rankings be damned, if you love a player and think he’ll help your team, draft em when you want em. (You think the buddy of mine who drafted Brady/Moss in 2007 remembered the ball busting by the end of the year?) The same concept applies here. For a reference, I decided against keeping Bell. Not because the player I traded him for was better, but because I’d rather have Latavius Murray late in the draft for the next 3 years than 3/4 of a season out of Bell.

My suggestion to you is don’t hold onto players too long. They may have helped you last year, or the year before, but don’t get too caught up in what they did instead think about what they can do in the future.

Quick Hits (We’re Baaack!)

ezekielWell the NFL Season is right around the corner and The Dr. is in the house! I apologize for my late arrival, but the world around us never ceases. Alas, here we are!

To ease us into the new Fantasy year, we’ll come back with 3 quick hits ( a veritable Fantasy 3 and out, if you will ).

1) Ezekial Elliot, worth the hype?

I wrote this article last year when the Todd Gurley train was a-rolling. I still feel very much the same way about rookie RB’s. Let them be the other guys mistake! Now, I conceed that Elliot is in a fantastic position to provide hefty fantasy dividends, and I’ll also admit that he looks like he’ll be a solid NFL pro at some point, but for every Gurley or Peterson, there are more still of the Bishop Sankey/Felix Jones’ of the world.

2) Suspensions Galore!

One of the most difficult things to gauge is how a player is impacted by a suspension (or even injuries). The offseason so two elite Fantasy players in Tom Brady and Le’Veon Bell find themselves with 4 games suspensions, and leave drafters wondering what their value is. Truthfully, I think both players will provide elite fantasy production down the stretch, and their draft positions will likely reflect that. You’ll have to go earlier than you probably would like to get them, so make sure you’re prepared with a good plan to suppliment their numbers in the middle rounds, otherwise skip on them all together.

3) The continued fall of the RB.

Last year we saw more leagues than ever load up on QB and WR early and take swings at middling RB’s in the hopes that they turned into gold. I was one of the unlucky ones who retained Bell’s services and felt the egg as it hit my face simultanious to his knee injury. Owners of Eddie Lacy, Jamaal Charles, DeMarco Murray, and other top of the draft RB’s who didn’t live up to expectations can attest to that now. Remember, RB is no longer the easiest position to draft, there’s too many committees and offenses that run through the air. Your best bet? Draft elite WR’s first, they’ve shown to be more consistent over the past few years.

 

Updated: QB Rankings (7/7/15)

Updated 6/16

  1. Andrew Luck
  2. Aaron Rodgers
  3. Russell Wilson
  4. Ben Roethlisburger
  5. Peyton Manning
  6. Drew Brees
  7. Matt Ryan
  8. Tony Romo
  9. Eli Manning
  10. Tom Brady
  11. Ryan Tannehill
  12. Matthew Stafford
  13. Cam Newton
  14. Phillip Rivers
  15. Colin Kaepernick
  16. Joe Flacco
  17. Carson Palmer
  18. Derek Carr
  19. Jay Cutler
  20. Alex Smith
  21. Teddy Bridgewater
  22. Andy Dalton
  23. Blake Bortles
  24. Sam Bradford
  25. Marcus Mariota
  26. Jameis Winston
  27. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  28. Brian Hoyer
  29. Geno Smith
  30. Josh McCown
  31. Robert Griffin
  32. Matt Cassel
  33. Nick Foles

3 Up

Colin Kaepernick – Reports of the discontent in San Fransisco are overshadowing the progress that Kaep has made in the pocket as a passer. Despite a tumbling ADP, Kaepernick continues to rise on my board, especially considering his ability to make plays with his legs. It may not always be pretty but he’ll finish as a top 15 QB you can get at a discount.

Derek Carr – The hype train was slightly derailed recently when fears surround the injury sustained to his finger had many wondering if he’d be ready for week 1 of the season. Back at practice and getting to work with his new #1 in Amari Cooper, Carr’s injury won’t be an impact, and he has the tools and weapons to find himself in the top 15 QB’s.

Marcus Mariota –  He may end up over valued by inexperienced drafters due to the buzz surrounding Mariota, but he’s already impressed coaches and team mates with his ability and work ethic. He’s jumping up on my board, and I’m beginning to feel he’s what Cam Newton was expected to be in the NFL,

3 Down

Tom Brady – In spite of his performances after similar issues (see his 2007 stats after spy gate for an example) Brady’s attention may be too focused on his legacy as he fights the 4 game suspension from the deflated football… thing. I’m not insinuating he’ll be terrible, but he could begin to fall down draft boards with fears that he won’t be elite for all 12 of the games he’s availbale for.

Jay Cutler – They added Kevin White, he still has Alshon Jeffrey and Matt Forte, and you’re wondering why I think he’s a down? Jeffrey is a great athlete, but he’s a throw and go type WR who’s strength is pull down a jump ball. White may have more upside in the long run, but this team will hurt for a route runner early and Cutler struggles when he throws into coverage. I expect an rough season for Cutler without Marshall on the roster.

Andy Dalton – This offense isn’t any better than the previous year when Dalton was expected to jump into the conversation for top teir QB’s. Instead, he constantly disappointed, and this team didn’t do enough in the off season to mask his deficiencies. They will likely lean heavily on the run with two solid backs, so Dalton is unlikely to show much more than last year.

Field Generals: Impact on Recievers

IEmmanuel Sanders recently read an article about Emmanuel Sanders and the concerns about his production with Gary Kubiak at the helm. While these questions often arrise in the off season, the biggest factor for Sander’s production has less to do with Kubiak and more to do with Peyton Manning.

They often refer to players of his ilk as “Field Generals”. Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers… they call their own number more often than not, meaning it doesn’t matter if it’s Gary Kubiak, or Jack Del Rio, or John Madden coaching the team.

I’d like to argue going into your draft to expect recievers for the top 5 or so QB’s to generally repeat their numbers unless huge shakeups occur on offense.  Feel confident that Emmanuel Sanders is going to see enough targets for 1100 yards and 5 TD’s, and that Brandon LaFell will continue to grow as a Patriot and find Brady looking his way just as often as last year. Don’t read too heavily into who is the head coach, because they aren’t the ones throwing the ball to them

Team Rankings 23-13

Our previous exercise continues as we look at our teams in the middle. You may not agree with all of my rankings, but each of these teams pair good to great fantasy options with other question marks on offense.

23. Kansas City Chiefs

I know what you’re thinking, “they have Jamaal Charles!” That alone does not elevate this team higher on my list. Alex Smith is a fine game manager, but his deep ball is lacking and if the numbers from the WR’s last season indicate anything, this team doesn’t have a lick of consistency. Jeremy Maclin is an upgrade over Dwayne Bowe, but even this is speculative as Maclin could be the next WR to disappear from relevance. Travis Kelce has elite talent but had several brutal weeks to go with his successful ones. Worth drafting: Jamaal Charles is going to go in the first round, for good reason, but to expect 16 healthy games is unrealistic, Knile Davis is a fine handcuff. Travis Kelce finished near the top of TE’s but had some really bad weeks; draft with cautious optimism that he can be even better. Alex Smith is a QB2 or bench depth at best; he’ll never be a top 10 QB.

22. Oakland Raiders

Young, skilled, and unpredictable. This team could very well surprise and finish with several high profile fantasy heroes. Derek Carr showed flashes of brilliance last year, and the addition-by-subtraction move to let Darren McFadden go means the talented Latavius Murray will get the start in the backfield. Add Amari Cooper into the mix and you have the makings of a solid offensive team. Worth Drafting: Latavius Murray is a popular pick to elevate his game, especially after reports indicated they’ll be tailoring the offense to Murray’s strengths. Cooper will likely be valued a little high on draft day so you may be disappointed in year one. Carr showed he has what it takes to make it in the NFL, I expect him to elevate his game even more.

21. Minnesotta Vikings

There’s a lot of distraction with the Adrian Peterson saga still unfolding, but I’m operating under the assumption that he starts in week one for the Vikes. Even still, expect them to ease him back into the line up, lightening the load early. Teddy Bridgwater is in the same boat as Carr; a ton of talent but still has to prove how to use it. His WR’s are a bit of a question mark. Charles Johnson seems like he might be a breakout candidate, but Mike Wallace is an over the top receiver with little upside compared to his contemporaries. I’d love for Kyle Rudolph to bring it all together, as he has elite TE talent, but can’t stay on the field. Worth Drafting: Adrian Peterson could still be the AP of old, and many will bet that he is. At worst he’s still a RB1. Bridgewater has to do it with less weapons than the other youngsters in the league, so I figure he’ll struggle to find his stride early, but could suprise; a good upside QB 2 with no threat to his job. Maybe I just don’t like Mike Wallace, but I don’t think he’s as much of a difference maker going forward as I think they’ll look to involve Johnson and Patterson a bit more, both of whom are worth a look later in drafts. Kyle Rudolph will be less expensive than he has been in the past, I’d bet on the production if healthy.

20.  Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton is only 26 years old, so the feeling that he’s past his prime is just wrong. He’s matured and should be healthy heading into the year. Top 5 finish isn’t out of the question, but a conservative view has him around 10 in my rankings. Jonathan Stewart has the pieces, but the health elludes him. He’ll be good when he’s on the field but I’d rather go elsewhere in the first 3 rounds. Kelvin Benjamin should benefit the most from Newton’s presence, and should be a top 10WR target. Worth Drafting: Newton and Benjamin need each other for success, as the other pieces are lacking. Stewart is a fine back but I’d bet it’s more probable than not that he misses time. Cotchery in PPR leagues could be worth a look in the middle rounds, or a late flier in non-PPR.

19. San Fransisco 49ers

Every year there’s a QB that I think is going to elevate to the top teir. Last year it was Ben Roethlisber, this year it’s Colin Kaepernick. He struggle last year trying to adjust to a pocket passing role. In the off season he’s worked tirelessly to improve his efficiency and I expect hiim to see a spike in fantasy production. Carlos Hyde will likely get drafted far to early, and I caution against over hyping a player that has never been a full time starter. Adding Torrey Smith means more room for Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin to run. Both should continue to see good production, and Smith should benefit from Kaep’s strong arm down the feild. Worth Drafting: My bold prediction is Kaepernick finishes inside the top 10 at his position. Boldin is a machine and should produce, and Vernon Davis will bounce back. Carlos Hyde will look good for stretches but I don’t want him as my RB1.

18. New England Patriots

At this time, Brady is expected to miss 4 games, meaning a quarter of the season will feature backup Jimmy Garoppolo. Despite that the experts think he’s still the best QB in the division, I sense a down tick in production for each of New Englands big guns. Edeleman relies on Brady’s accuracy and LaFell is usually a later option. Can Garoppolo read the D like Brady and involve all of his weapons? Brady could beat his suspension which would likely rank this offense higher. Worth Drafting: Tom Brady has a chip on his shoulder, if you can survive 4 weeks with a backup QB, he’s worth a pick. I don’t draft a Patriots RB ever, for reason that should be obvious. Blount is not an elite NFL running back. Gronk shouldn’t see too much of a dip in production, but LaFell and Edeleman may struggle for a few weeks.

17. Cincinnatti Bengals

Andy Dalton has been the most frustrating of NFL quarterbacks in terms of fantasy. He produces for a time, then he kills you for a time. AJ Green is a stud, even if his numbers took a hit with Dalton’s struggles last year. The big question is does the team invest in surprise starter Jeremy Hill or does it go back to Gio Bernard? Worth Drafting: Dalton has shown he can be a low end QB starter, but you’re asking a lot from a player that struggled at times. A.J. Green is a safe pick, he’s as elite as any in the league. Despite Jeremy Hill’s success on the field, he put up similar numbers to Gio Bernard when he started, I feel a committee coming on.

16. New Orleans Saints

If you’re convinced Mark Ingram finally hit his stride, that could spell disaster for Drew Brees as he’s tumbling down draft boards with managements admittance that they’d like to balance the offense. No more will Brees attempt 650 passes, and this hurts them across the board. Brandin Cooks is a great WR and should do well taking over for Colston as the #1, but Ingram is the big question mark. An underwhelming start to his career was instantly wiped out of the minds of fantsy owners after a solid, if unspectacular year. Worth Drafting: Despite the reports, I’m not convinced Ingram can carry the load, and if Brees falls due to the buzz, I wouldn’t hesitate to draft him in the 3rd or 4th round. Ingram isn’t going to hit a lot of home runs but he should avg around 4 YPC and have a handful of TD’s. The fear is injuries or regression. Cooks is a stud in the making, and Brees will be looking to him often. Colston is another player who may fall beyond their value in your draft. PS. Josh Hill is not Jimmy Graham, so don’t mistake the two come draft day.

15. Baltimore Ravens

When Torrey Smith left, I was worried that Flacco lost his deep threat, but Breshad Perriman could prove to be an even better reciever than Smith. Steve Smith Sr. will likely prove his doubters wrong, and Justin Forsett finally provides stability in the backfield even with Taliefaro lurking in the wings. Worth Drafting: As always, Flacco takes a hit due to the scheme Baltimore runs, but his up weeks are great, solid back up or QB 2 in two quartback leagues. In ways that I don’t with other backs, I believe Forsett can run the football well enough to be a fantasy contributor. Steve Smith will be good again, and Perriman should be one of the rookies to perform in the top 20 of his position.

14. Arizona Cardinals

The team didn’t replace Ellington in the draft, meaning they think he can still perform. Maybe they’re not ready to say that a healthy Carson Palmer will make things different across the board. The stable of WR’s in Arizona are deep and talented, and they should create mismatches across the field. Worth Drafting: Palmer when healthy has the tools around him to be a top 15QB. Fitzgerald is a safe bet to be a top 10 WR and between Michael Floyd and John Brown, defenses will have a hard time adjusting. All of these players will be in play come draft day. Andre Ellington will either play well or be pushed out by the talented David Johnson, who I’d look at as a sleeper in the late rounds. Either way, there should be more consistency the backfield to open up the passing game.

13. Philadelphia Eagles

I personally think all things being equal, Sam Bradford is a superior quarterback to Nick Foles. Add in DeMarco Murray and you have the makings of a good to great offense. Jordan Matthews is only 22 but has big play ability and Chip Kelly has excelled with speedy talented players. The biggest boon for this team was the addition of DeMarco Murray. If LeSean McCoy’s troubles were less about running lanes and more about the runner, Murray should be in for another good year with a ton of touches. Worth Drafting: DeMarco Murray is still a top 5 back, and in Chip Kelly’s offense has a chance to finish at the top of the league again. Bradford will be a sexy pick on draft day, but try to maximize value at the QB position and he may not be that guy. Cooper should continue to see targets on intermediate routes and Matthews was a beast as a 21 year old, but Nelson Agholor could eat into his touches just a bit. Speaking of Agholor, he’s a quality sleeper candidate on a good offensive team. Look at him later in drafts.

Tom Brady’s 4 Game Suspension

garoppoloSo our fears were realized as Tom Brady received his punishment from the NFL for his alleged role in deflategate. Now understand that this could very well be lightened to 1-2 games, but for now we’ll operate under the assumption that Brady will miss weeks 1-4.

What this means for Brady:

Brady becomes the biggest guess in the draft at this point. Some will point to his historic (at the time) season in 2007 after Spygate. This becomes instantly relevant as you hear the news of how angry Patriots front office members are. Often you see a QB hand off up 25 points in the 4th… not a league-scorned Patriots team.  Could Brady be worth his pre-suspension ADP considering this?

I wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger on Brady if he fell into the Joe Flacco / Colin Kaepernick range. I’m assuming Brady’s appeal will be met with some push back, so even if it stands at 4 games, I’ll take an angry Brady for the final 12 weeks knowing that he’ll be a stud in the playoffs.

What this means for Jimmy Garoppolo:

The man slated to take snaps under center in Brady’s absense is Jimmy Garoppolo. There’s an argument here that the Patriots are masters at hiding a QB’s deficiencies and planning to their strengths. When Matt Cassel stepped in for Brady in 2008, his regular season stats were Brady-esque despite not having nearly the football aqumen of the man he replaced.

A good way to look at Garoppolo is that he’s able to extend plays with his legs in a way that Brady can’t. He has plenty of sure-handed saftey blankets in Rob Gronkowski and Julien Edeleman, so I expect him to put up middle of the pack fantasy numbers. His legs may net you a good game or two ealy, but I’d caution drafting him unless your handcuffing for a Brady pick.

What this means for the rest of the team:

LeGarrett Blount (suspended one game himself) should have a good chance to carry the ball a lot in weeks 2-4. He’s the type of runner that gets better with volume, so having a Blount that’s rolling could help when Brady returns.

Rob Gronkowski shouldn’t suffer too much as they will likely scheme to him a great deal due to his size and ability to match up in the middle. Garoppolo attempted a ton of his passes Gronk’s way in the preaseason last year and I expect that to stay the same.

Julien Edelman is a volume receiver and he takes a bit of a hit if Garoppolo struggles. I expect them to use a lot of short and intermediate plays early so he shouldn’t suffer much.

Brandon LaFell is the player that sufferes the most on offense. Garoppolo threw a few nice deep balls last year, and LaFell showed he isn’t afraid to run and stick to his routes and take a hit. Still, I expect him to be too deep on the check down list to be of much impact until Brady returns.

What do you think about the fallout from the Brady Suspension?