Our site's number one goal is simple — to give you valuable fantasy football advice in an entertaining way. Our other important goal is to get your grandma to learn how to use the internet and start her own fantasy football team. So many fantasy football websites are stat-based and don't stress the ultimate purpose of playing fantasy football — which is to have a good time with your friends/family.
When it comes to fantasy football, you can do all the research you want. You can track team offenses, pass-to-run ratios, and amount of plays each time runs. You can assess the talent along the offensive line, at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end.
After you've done as much due diligence as possible, you can start to develop your fantasy football beliefs. Everybody has the players they liek and don't like for whatever reason, and you're no different.
Chip Kelly served as a primary example of that this past offseason, when he routed star running back LeSean McCoy to Buffalo in exchange for a young linebacker coming off a knee surgery in Kiko Alonso. He even picked up the much maligned Tim Tebow and slotted him into the No. 3 QB spot. Lord only knows what Chip has in store.
But what Kelly showed all of us is that you have to go with the players you feel most comfortable with, both in your system and character-wise. If you don't like the Dallas Cowboys for whatever reason, you can still draft a highly successful fantasy football team while avoiding their players. After all, it's no fun rooting for a player to succeed on a team that you hate.
That's why we've decided to talk about a player we strongly believe as we enter the crucial last week in August and most leagues are starting to draft. We believe in this guy like Bill O'Brien believes in the F bomb as an effective motivational tool. A certain quarterback we feel is worth drafting in the first round. Yes, we actually want you to abandon the stigma that you can grab quarterbacks in the later rounds of the draft for this one guy. His name — Andrew Luck.
Why do we want him on our team so bad?
Two words — Peyton Manning. Yes, we've compared Luck's potential in 2015 to that of the Denver Broncos quarterback just two seasons ago. If you remember correctly, Manning lit the fantasy football world on fire week-in and week-out in 2013. He scored over 25 points (standard scoring rules) nine times, that's more than half a season you had your quarterback score you 1/4th of 100 points on his own. It was a huge leg up for any owner.
Luck really started out hot in 2014. In the first month of the season, he went on a three-game tear where he threw for at least three touchdown passes and less than 1 interception per game. In two out of three of those games, he tossed four touchdowns. That's about as good as it gets if you're playing in redraft leagues and need a consistent quarterback.
Playing an important role in your team's success is also key if you expect a player to consistently produce, and Luck is to his team what Manning was to the Colts — they need him to play well to be successful. Unlike New England, a team that changes up its strategy from game to game, the Colts engaged in countless shootouts with other great quarterbacks en route to their first AFC Championship appearance since 2010. Luck finished with 616 passing attempts, trailing only Matt Ryan and Drew Brees.
Plus, with the latest injury to Green Bay Packers star wideout Jordy Nelson, the gap between Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers has widened a bit. Not saying Rodgers still won't be an elite fantasy quarterback, but don't be surprised if the Packers lean on the run more to close out games in the absence of a big-play threat like Nelson. The Packers still have a formidable rushing attack with Eddie Lacy and don't need to rely on the pass as much to win games like the Colts will need to with Luck.
Now, Luck might not toss a record-breaking 55 touchdowns like Manning did, but he's arguably the most talented quarterback in the league. He's in his prime and plays in a souped-up offense with a good mix of young talent (T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Dwayne Allen, Philip Dorsett) and veterans (Andre Johnson and Frank Gore). Luck is also a very durable and hasn't suffered any serious injuries despite playing with a below average offensive line. Rodgers, while relatively durable in his own right, has a history of concussions, suffered a clavicle injury which caused him to miss seven games in 2013 and was hobbled by a leg injury last season that affected him going into the postseason.
Overall, Luck is one of the safest picks in the draft and normally we wouldn't advise to go with a quarterback in Round 1, but he's as close to a guarantee to be the Top 3 in his position as any player in the league this season, which is more than exciting in the sometimes cruel world of fantasy football.
Feel free to do your own mock via Fantasypros.com. Let me know how you did and we can go over where your team's strengths and weaknesses are.
Drafting from the No. 7 spot in a 12-team redraft league presents an interesting dilemma. On one hand, you very likely will end up missing out on the top tier running backs. On the other hand, you have a shot at drafting either a premium receiver, tight end or quarterback. There's plenty of possibilities, but after doing several mock drafts from the No. 7 position using fantasypros.com draft wizard, I've come up with a pretty sound strategy to draft a good team.
First pick, 1.7 overall — Marshawn Lynch
Reasoning: While it can be tempting to go with a Dez Bryant or Julio Jones, you have to remember that you will be getting the fifth pick in the second round and the likelihood of a good receiver still being there is high. It's not so much the case with running backs.
Second pick, 2.6 overall — Calvin Johnson
Reasoning: And there you have it. A premium receiver like Johnson is still available in round 2. With so much hype surrounding Antonio Brown, Dez Bryant and Odell Beckham Jr., you end up with the best receiver of his generation slipping through the cracks. A.J. Green was also available at this point in the draft as well.
Third pick, 3.7 overall — Jimmy Graham
Reasoning: Rob Gronkowski is going in the first round, and I've always thought using a first-round pick on an injury-prone tight end is very risky, no matter how big the payoff. Graham is the second-best tight end in this class and is only behind Gronk because he was inconsistent last year. He's now on a Seattle team that lacks a sexy wide receiver and will love to use him in the red zone. Graham led the Saints in red zone targets last year with 21. He could very likely put up 12 touchdowns this season. Great value in third round.
Warning*: The experts seem to be very high on Frank Gore but I wouldn't want to utilize a third-round pick on him. He'll likely see a committee backfield and be used more as a PPR back than an every-down rusher.
Fourth pick, 4.6 overall — Alfred Morris
Reasoning: Rounding out the running back core, Morris managed to record 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons. While I'm not as high on him as most due to the wear and tear he's accumulated after running the ball so much (he has the second most carries of any running back over a three-season period) he's still great value at this point in the draft. Just have to hope the offensive line improves and there's some hope that will happen with first-round pick Brandon Scherff taking over the tackle position.
Fifth pick, 5.7 overall — Latavius Murray
Reasoning: Murray has looked very good in preseason and his cutting ability has been compared to (gasp) Adrian Peterson. While a comparison like that is something that could easily be an exaggeration, Murray is an exciting player who is finally getting the keys to the Raiders' rushing game handed to him.
Sixth pick. 6.6 overall — Cam Newton
Reasoning: With wide receivers boiled down to guys like Vincent Jackson (playing with a rookie quarterback), Allen Robinson (playing with a sophomore quarterback that struggled as a rookie in a potentially bad offense) plus a slew of rookies at running back (Todd Gurley, T.J. Yeldon, Duke Johnson) I decided to go with a quarterback here. Probably a little earlier than I usually would but based on the value of who was available I think this is the best choice. Newton's ability to run with the football gives him a very nice edge among all the later-round quarterbacks. Though those later-round QBs such as Tony Romo, Eli Manning and Philip Rivers are still very strong and I will look to target them as backups later on in this draft.
Seventh pick, 7.7 overall — C.J. Spiller
Reasoning: Allen Robinson was still available but there's plenty of receivers I like that I can get in the later rounds. Spiller is a unique player that can make big plays both in the run and passing game. He's finally around an offensive guru in Sean Payton, a guy who can maximize his talents like he has with Darren Sproles in the past. A great flex guy to have.
Eight pick, 8.6 overall — Buffalo defense
Reasoning: Always like to reach up for a defense a round or two earlier. Buffalo will get after the quarterback like crazy with their defensive front and should come close to leading all teams in sacks. Sacks always lead to rushed throws by the quarterback which creates opportunity for turnovers.
Ninth pick, 9.7 overall — Eric Decker
Reasoning: You will definitely think my receivers are weak but Decker has more value this year than last. He's playing under a more offensive-friendly coach, he has a quarterback who arguably was better than the former starter, and he has a much better receiver in Brandon Marshall to take the pressure off him. The Jets offense has the potential to surprise in 2015.
Tenth pick, 10.6 overall — Philip Rivers
Reasoning: Always love when Rivers goes this late. He's put together back-to-back 30 touchdown seasons and nobody seems to ever want him as their fantasy quarterback. A fantastic backup.
Eleventh pick, 11.7 overall — John Brown
Reasoning: Here comes to receiver stockpile sequence. All guys I think have great potential but could also bust as well. The last picks are listed below.
Twelfth pick — John Brown
Thirteenth pick — Eddie Royal
Fourteenth pick — Stevie Johnson
Fifteenth pick — Stevie Johnson
Sixteenth pick — Kenny Stills
Seventeenth pick — Dan Bailey (kicker)
And there you have it. Drafting from the seventh spot. Like my team? Hate it? Think I'm awful or good. Feel free to comment or mock yourself and we can see how you fare from this spot.
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Finding a great tight end to anchor your fantasy football team is like discovering a rare white elk, a tiger mixed with a lion or a way to escape DeflateGate coverage. There are really only two sure-fire fantasy tight ends (Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham) plus a consistently solid option (Greg Olsen) and a potential phenom who might still break a ton of hearts (Travis Kelce) due to his benign offense and deep-ball-impaired quarterback.
So when looking for a quality fantasy football tight end, there are several factors you should consider when drafting one.
First, he needs to be in an offense that scores a lot. That may sound simple, but you'd be surprised how many people draft talented tight ends on bad teams. Kelce is an example of that, as the Chiefs were not a very high-powered offense last season.
Kelce saw just 13 total targets in the red zone, which were more than any receiver in Kansas City. Kelce finished with 67 receptions on 862 yards and 5 touchdowns. Kansas City finished as the 24th most prolific passing offense in the league last season. While Kelce posted decent receiving numbers, you have to figure he could've been even better if in a pass-heavy offense.
The Chargers, on the other hand, were the 13th most prolific passing offense last season. Tight end Antonio Gates saw 19 total red zone targets and he made the most out of them, converting 12 of them into touchdowns, which served as the second-highest total of his career.
A team that scores a lot also has a chance to do damage in the red zone, a place where tight ends often thrive the most. They sneak underneath coverage and use their big bodies to shield defenders and make crucial catches on the most important part of the field — the end zone. It's no surprise Broncos tight end Julius Thomas racked up an immense amount of touchdowns due to the fact that he played in an offense with one of the best red zone quarterbacks of all time — Peyton Manning.
But when you can find a tight end that not only has the right situation, but is also one of the premier athletes at his position, then you have something unique. San Diego Chargers tight end Ladarius Green has fitted the bill ever since he got paid bills in 2012 when the Chargers drafted him out of Louisiana-Lafayette.
Green saw very little time on the field during his rookie year, as is common with most tight ends. But he made some waves in 2013, catching 17 passes on 30 targets for an eye-popping 376 yards. That's 22 yards per catch. Now, that's a small sample size and you expecting him to extrapolate his yards per catch numbers over say, 90 targets, would be unreasonable. Still, it gave us a glimpse of what Green could do if ever given a prominent role in the Chargers' offense. His slant touchdown reception in particular was a memorable one.
Downhill slope with light at the tunnel
Green's hype train blew off some steam in 2014, as he finished with a paltry 19 catches for 226 yards and zero touchdowns. Snap count played a large role. Green only saw 27 percent of the teams total snaps while Antonio Gates surprised most by proving his tank wasn't empty, and he wound up stealing the spotlight from Green by playing in 72 percent of the team's snaps. A noticeable discrepancy.
Now, some more consider Green's lack of ability to upend Gates on the depth chart as a slight against him. But I don't see it that way. Gates is one of the greatest tight ends of his generation. Even if you are a great tight end in your own right, Gates earned the option to play as long as he's still halfway decent and he showed he still was in 2014.
Luckily for Green, snap count likely won't be an issue in 2015. Gates is out for the first four games due to suspension for performance enhancing drugs. Green currently sits comfortably atop the tight end depth chart and should see the majority of the snaps in the beginning of the season. He truly is being thrown into the fray for the first time in his career. Expectations have never been greater for him.
A fourth-round pick by San Diego in 2012, Green was always considered the successor to future Hall of Fame tight end Antonio Gates. At just 25 years old, Green is a monster of an athlete. He stands at 6'6 and weighs 238 lbs, not too many tight ends outside of Gronkowski and Graham have his kind of size. Package that with 4.5 speed and you have a player who can break away from most linebackers and even beat out corners and safeties if he gets a step.
We mentioned earlier how much a quarterback means to his receivers' fantasy value, and Green is blessed with one of the better ones. Philip Rivers is coming off his second straight 30-touchdown season and the 12-year quarterback has thrown for at least 25 touchdowns in his last seven seasons. Rivers will add plenty of value to Green as long as Green is on the field.
Good ADP value
Green is currently listed as a TE24 according to Fantasypros.com. He's being lumped into the same group as guys like Larry Donnell, Jordan Reed and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. You could snag him as a TE2 with good value in the 12-15th rounds.
There's a lot to like about Green this season, but the biggest positive going for him is his increased snap count. The Chargers have waited for the right time to unveil him and this season is the perfect time to do it given Gates' suspension. According to the experts at Fantasypros, 61 percent say Green is better than his current ADP and I stand to agree. Draft him as a high-upside TE2.
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When it comes to finding a premium RB1 to lead your team, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better situation than Cincinnati. Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson loves to run like Blake Bortles loves to throw to Allen Robinson. Last season, the Bengals averaged 30 rushing attempts per game, which ranked sixth overall among NFL teams. Only the quarterback-challenged Texans, Rex Ryan's Jets, run-heavy Seattle, Carolina and the DeMarco Murray-led Cowboys ran the ball more.
Of course, you can't have a good running game without a talented running back and the Bengals found a gem with rookie Jeremy Hill. A second-round pick out of LSU in 2014, Hill blew the doors off any tempered expectations in his rookie season, finishing with 1,124 yards and nine touchdowns on 5.1 yards per carry.
Hill saved his best for the final stretch of the season, amassing nearly 400 yards over his last three games while averaging about 24 attempts per game to go along with 3 of his 9 total touchdowns. It's always important to notice how young players finish out the season as it can serve as a tell-tale sign of what's in store for the following year.
In terms of ADP, Hill is currently being drafted as the 10th overall running back, a great value considering he's going just after LeSean McCoy, a player not a lot of people are high on this season.
A healthy RB is a good RB
When the season finally ended, Hill answered several questions a fantasy owner would have when drafting a potential RB1 and one of the most important was his durability. With no injuries at all in 2014 and nothing lingering from his college days either, Hill embodied the kind of reliability we love to see among younger running backs at a position that's one of the hardest to stay healthy at.
Stellar supporting cast
Hill also has the benefit of running behind one of the better offensive lines in the league, with left tackle Andrew Whitworth putting together one of his best seasons ever. The line suffered a little bit due to fellow tackle Andre Smith missing time, but he's back now and should help solidify what was already a stout run-blocking group.
The receivers in Cincinnati aren't too shabs either, with Top 5 wideout A.J. Green helping to keep defenses honest. Green was sidelined last season with turf toe and missed two games. Turf toe is an injury that can linger, so he might be at risk to aggravate it in 2015. Still, he's among the most talented of wideouts when he's healthy, and Hill can only benefit.
How Hill got where he is and what you should look for in matchups
Hill's first big game came as a result of opportunity (like most great fantasy performances do). When then-starter Bernard injured his hip in Week 8, causing him to leave the game and miss the next three contests, Hill stepped up and flourished.
In his first true start as a Bengal, Hill feasted on a great matchup against an offensively inept Jacksonville team and took off. It's always a good idea to start a running back going against a team that struggles to score since it often leads to more rushing opportunities for the winning team. Hill finished with 154 yards on what was a season-high 24 carries for him up to that point in addition to 2 touchdowns. He solidified his role in Jackson's offense with that performance and would go on to have four more 100-yard games and maintained his role as the team's top back even when Bernard returned.
Bernard still a factor
While it might be apparent Hill is the top gun, backup Giovani Bernard still poses a threat to steal touches even after a dominant season from Hill. Bernard averaged a solid 4.0 yards per carry on 680 yards and five touchdowns of his own in 2014. More importantly, Bernard caught 43 passes for 349 yards. His ability to get up the field after the catch is very good and will likely keep him relevant in Cincinnati's offense. Of the total running back workload, Hill finished with 222 carries to Gio's 168, which isn't a huge discrepancy considering Bernard missed three game.
One factor working against Bernard is injury risk. He already has one surgically repaired knee dating back to his college days in North Carolina to go along with a hip injury last season which caused him to miss time. While he still managed to turn in a solid season, Bernard remains a high-risk player due to his inability to stay healthy.
Knowing when to use Hill in DFS
If you play daily fantasy, knowing which particular game a running back will cash in is key. One variable that factored into the Bengals success running the ball was home field advantage. The Bengals ran with a 31.9 attempts per game average in the old jungle, which makes sense considering they tended to get out to quick leads at home.
If you're drafting in the 7-10 range in your redraft league, Hill is definitely among the top running backs available. He's in a better situation than LeSean McCoy and DeMarco Murray, and will likely eat up chunks of yardage due to the offense he's in and the talented offensive line blocking for him.
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North Carolina, come on and raise up, take your DeAngelo Williams shirts off, spin it around your head and then toss them in the closet just in case Williams ends up coming back to Carolina in the twilight of his career. After you're done putting them in a dark space, grab a Jonathan Stewart shirt because this is one of the best seasons to draft the veteran Carolina Panthers running back to your fantasy team.
When looking for value at running back, there are always places to find good RB2-level players that punch the clock week-in and week-out to give you the blue-collar production. These guys aren't going to get promoted to the CEO of your company anytime soon, but what they do is valuable none the less. They aren't the reason you win, but they're not the reason you lose either. Based on his performance last season and a few other variables, Stewart has the potential to be a solid, consistent RB2 in 2015.
Where he can still win
Stewart, who is entering his 8th season with the Panthers, ushered in a comeback of sorts in 2014. His 175 carries were the most he's had since 2010. His 4.6 yards per carry average marked his best since 2011 and he even added a 69-yard run which served as the longest of his career. At 28 years old, his battery is more green than red and he still possesses many of the athletic gifts that he came into the league with back in 2008.
Stewart still shows good burst when getting up to the line of scrimmage after taking the handoff and has always possessed the vision required to read inside blocks. His lateral jump cuts are still very good which allow him to separate from the defense and although he's not the best when trying to beat defenders to the edge, he can still beat slower defenders with his straight line speed off tackle.
Where he excels most is on inside runs. Stewart has the size to knock defenders backward upon contact, keeps his feet moving even if it's in another direction after the hit and loves to employ the spin move to shed tackles. In fact, on one of his best touchdown runs of 2014, you'll see him spin out of two tackles all while keeping his feet moving. He's also a fundamentally sound pass blocker, which keeps him in on valuable third downs.
Stewart's style of running doesn't lend itself to durability. He creates yardage through contact by using size, churning legs and thick frame to break arm tackles. It's no wonder his ground and pound style caused him to miss more than half a season in 2013 and seven games in 2012. But there's still reason for optimism regarding Stewart as a high-end RB2 this season.
He's now the guy
Longtime Panther DeAngelo Williams has departed for Pittsburgh, leaving Stewart as the lone feature back for the first time in his career. Stewart's biggest workload came in 2009 with Carolina. With a career-high 221 attempts that season, Stewart rushed for 1,133 yards, 10 touchdowns and averaged 5.1 yards per carry. While it's unlikely Stewart given the ball that many times in 2015, it's not impossible that he sees close to 200 carries. When you extrapolate his yards per carry with his potential attempts, you're looking at a potential 1,000-yard season for Stewart.
It's not like there's anybody behind him that's really clamoring for carries either. The backfield of Carolina currently consists of Fozzy Whittaker, Jordan Todman, and Auburn rookie Cameron Artis-Payne. Whittaker flashed some potential at times last season after struggling with Cleveland as a rookie. He's a bit more of a lateral shaker than Stewart, a guy who can occasionally get past the defense in the open field, something Stewart has lost the ability to do entirely at this point in his career.
Of the remaining players, fifth-round pick Artis-Payne is likely the only Carolina RB to see time as a starter if Stewart gets injured. Artis-Payne led the SEC in rushing last season and the 5'11, 209 lb back is already 25 years old. Like Stewart, Artis-Payne isn't overly flashy either and he instead wins with his competitiveness. While Artis-Payne definitely has potential, he'll likely only see significant carries if Stewart sees a severe drop in production.
The other problem with drafting Stewart is you might see some dropoff in the touchdown category. The Panthers are known for using Cam Newton around the goal line but that might change with so much money now invested in their quarterback. The Panthers will want to preserve Newton as much as possible, so goal line rushes might be fewer and far between in 2015.
Down with his ADP
According to fantasypros.com, Stewart is being drafted as an RB21, putting him barely inside RB2 value. Other running backs going in similar spots include Andre Ellington, Latavius Murray and Todd Gurley. Murray and Gurley both have question marks since one is playing on a bad Oakland offense with an unproven quarterback while the other is coming off ACL surgery and is expected to be eased into the fold. Ellington, who we've mentioned earlier as a probable injury risk, is probably the best option other than Stewart out of those three.
You could certainly talk somebody into drafting Ellington given the improvements made along the Cardinals' offensive line and also the return of Carson Palmer. Still, Ellington's injury woes have been a constant problem throughout his early NFL career.
Even when Ellington played last season, he lost a good deal of explosiveness due to a foot injury. While he's healthy now, Ellington also struggles as an inside runner due to his smaller frame and lack of agility when cutting up field, both skills that Stewart excels at. When it comes to Stewart vs. Ellington at a similar ADP, we would rather have Stewart due to his steadiness and proven ability to run consistently between the tackles.
Stewart's own health
You could definitely argue Stewart's injury rap sheet is a cause for concern. He tore his MCL twice between 2013 and 2014 which kept him sidelined for a total of six games. He also had ankle surgery in the 2013 offseason which kept him out for the team's season opener. Given his age at 28 years old in combination to the bigger role he will see in 2015, an injury is definitely not out of the question and perhaps even likely. Because of this, we urge you to draft rookie Artis-Payne as a handcuff if you end up drafting Stewart.
Still, Stewart's workload has been relatively light over the last three seasons, making him a bit younger for his age. From 2012-13, he only carried the ball 141 times, so he's got less wear and tear than many think. His last two injuries haven't required any major surgery and he's coming off a resurgent 2014 season despite missing three games. If there was any year to draft Stewart, it's 2015.
The Panthers offensive line
Carolina struggled to get consistent blocking in 2014 and finished 22nd overall according to Pro Football Focus. Their pass blocking fared worse as they came in at 27th overall with their run blocking faring better at 15th overall.
The Panthers offensive line has since been revamped, with Kalil and right guard Trai Turner the full-time starters coming back from last season. They replaced struggling left tackle Byron Bell with another struggling tackle in Michael Oher. Oher gave up 93 combined pressures in 27 starts over the past two seasons, which is not what you want out of your most important pass blocker. Oher will have to improve if he excepts to keep his job given the team's $103.8 million investment at the quarterback position. You just can't give up that many sacks.
The team added some better pieces late last season with the additions of Andrew Norwell at left guard and Mike Remmers at right tackle. A three-year player out of Oregon State that was signed by the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent in 2012, Remmers played in all five of the Panthers remaining games including their two playoff games.
Norwell was signed by the Panthers as an undrafted free agent in 2014 and cracked the starting lineup by Week 7 and the results were eye opening. Stewart rushed for over 100 yards twice in the last four games of the season, including a 155-yard effort against the New Orleans Saints where he averaged a whopping 7.8 yards per carry. With Norwell back, the rushing offense in Carolina appears in good hands.
Stewart comes with some injury risk, but he's finally the feature back and the Panthers will look to use him as the bell cow for the foreseeable future. He also still has the talent to play at the NFL level and the offensive line has improved with several key additions in the later stages of 2014. He's a rock solid RB2 in 2015 with potential to approach 1,000 yards rushing.
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Duke Ellington famously said 'it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing.' For fans of Arizona Cardinals running back Andre Ellington, drafting the Clemson product doesn't mean a thing if it's just a fling.
That's right. Ellington has long teased fantasy football owners who've drafted him expecting a feature back who can deliver consistent production throughout an entire season. While Ellington is no doubt a talented receiver and runner to the outside, his lack of size and durability throughout his early career leaves questions regarding his status as a true RB1 in fantasy football.
The biggest knock on Ellington isn't so much his talent, but his struggle to remain on the field and at 100 percent. Ellington's name frequented the injury reports last season after pulling a muscle in his lower leg known as the peroneous longus, which is a muscle that controls movement in the foot. The injury was enough to keep Ellington operating at less than 100 percent for the entire 2014 season until a hip pointer in Week 13 finally sealed his fate and landed him on the I.R. for the rest of the year.
When it comes to predicting injuries, it's always important to notice the trends rather than a few chance occurrences. Anybody can get hurt on any play in a contact sport, but noticing players with a consistent injury history can be a good indicator of future issues, and Ellington's injury history is definitely cause for concern.
Since college, Ellington suffered a torn ligament in his foot which required surgery in 2010 to go along with a sprained ankle that required surgery in 2011. Since entering the NFL, he's dealt with a concussion and a pulled hamstring in 2013 which kept him out of one game during the regular season and also caused him to miss the 2013 Combine. When you factor this was a player drafted as an RB1 in 2014, you're officially taking a big risk.
How he was used in 2014
A true feature back, Ellington saw his snap count go from 51 percent in Week 1 to 86 percent by Week 5. Only Matt Forte and DeMarco Murray were on the field more in Week 5. Ellington saw 74 percent of the snaps the following week, which ranked among the Top 10, 64 percent in Week 7, 76 percent in Week 8, 67 percent in Week 9, 80 percent in Week 10, 74 percent in Week 11, and 72 percent in Week 12, which was the last week he was able to play before suffering a hip pointer in Week 13 against Atlanta. He had been struggling in the Atlanta game prior to injury as well, as he also racked up 12 yards on five rushing attempts against arguably the worst run defense in the league.
Ellington totaled 201 rushing attempts in 2014, nearly double his 118 during his rookie year. But despite his high usage at times, Ellington's snap count didn't translate to great fantasy production. He finished with 122 points in standard rule leagues, which ranked him 20th overall. Even if you extrapolate his 7.4 point average over the last four weeks of the season to make up for his injury, he still only finishes with 150 points which would put him at 16th overall. Not the best sign for a running back used so much in an offense.
The team around him
Ellington's value could've been helped by a better quarterback situation. The Cardinals lost Carson Palmer to an ACL tear last season. Keep in mind, Palmer's injury occurred in Week 10, which wasn't too far off from Ellington's Week 13 injury that ended his season. So for those who think the loss of Palmer was a huge detriment to Ellington's value are probably exaggerating just a little bit.
Still, in Ellington's numbers were abysmal in his last three games without Palmer under center. He averaged 2.3 yards per carry in that span, but two of his three opponents featured the Detroit Lions, a team that ranked in the top 5 in rushing yards allowed, and the Seattle Seahawks, a defense that struggled early but found their groove late.
With Palmer back, expect Ellington's value to increase slightly but not overly so. Palmer is an accurate passer who's deep ball has slowly become less effective as his career enters its twilight stage.
In terms of other offseason additions, guard Mike Iupati revamps the offensive line and gives it more of a run-edge. There's a lot to like about the move, but Ellington struggled as an inside runner last season, even though his line last season wasn't so bad either.
What to watch for when you want to see Ellington do well
if you invest in Ellington as a fantasy option this season, you should know his core traits and which of those traits are the good ones. Ellington played a big role in the Arizona offense last season. The Cardinals used him in a variety of ways, including on inside runs, stretch plays to the edge, passes over the middle, passes down the sideline via the wheel route and occasionally split him out wide. He excelled the most after the catch, as he's one of the best in the league at catching the ball in traffic and turning upfield as you'll see here.
Ellington also excelled at runs to the edge of the field. He's one of the better straight-line rushers in the league and his speed toward the sideline causes defenders to take shorter angles which leads to a lot of missed tackles. His ability to run the outside is what makes him an effective running back, as you'll see in the video below.
Where he struggles
Ellington's 3.3 yards per carry average last season was the result of a lot of stuffed inside runs. He struggles to break tackles due to lack of size and he hasn't figured out how to consistently gain positive yardage after contact. He also struggles to cut up field on inside runs, often taking too many skip steps before he makes his transition.
His pass blocking remains one of the biggest weaknesses in his game, as he often lacks the mental processing to diagnose where the blitz is coming from and hasn't shown enough desire to engage bigger defenders. His lack of size hurts him in this area as well, as he often gets knocked back by bigger defenders rushing at him. These are all causes for concern if you're considering Ellington be an RB1 in redraft leagues this season.
David Johnson stand up
Another potential problem for Ellington's value is the addition of running back Dustin Johnson. Drafted out of Northern Iowa in the third round, Johnson is a big (6'1, 224 lbs) running back who shows just as impressive a pass catcher as Ellington. He also has the same inside running problems as Ellington does due to lack of breakaway speed and an inability to create yards after contact. In short, he's projecting to be a bigger version of Ellington.
But unlike Ellington, Johnson hasn't had any significant injuries while in college. So, if I had to put my money on one guy, I'd go with Johnson primarily because of his size and the greater potential he's not a huge injury risk. Johnson will likely see a third-down role early on, so it's best to not draft him in redraft leagues but keep an eye on him throughout the season and get ready to snag him a week or two early in Ellington hits the injury report list again.