A Defense can be one of the biggest conundrums in fantasy year in and year out. People tend to go with popular Defensive choices like the Seattle Seahawks or Carolina Panthers rather early in drafts. Just because it’s Round 10 doesn’t mean choose a defense. There are still valuable players and handcuffs to acquire during the latter rounds of a draft.
Going by the finishing statistics of 2016, only one defense finished in the top five as their projection at the beginning of the season. According to ESPN Scoring, Denver Broncos D/ST had an average ADP of pick 67 which is asinine and only scored 152 points in 2016. That’s mid-fifth round in 12-team leagues and mid-sixth round in 10-team leagues. Let me ask you a question would you rather have Broncos Defense or future 2016-17 MVP Matt Ryan whose ADP was pick 114.
Think smart on average defenses can score you 150 to 180 points in a good year depending on your league scoring. Every other position eclipses those numbers by mid-season. Kickers score more than Defenses do on average per year, and they get chosen as flier picks in the last round of every draft. Last season, the Atlanta Falcons Kicker Matt Bryant scored a whopping 212 points outscoring the highest Defense by 46 points, that’s astonishing for a position we thought was worthless.
It’s time to implore a new philosophy of choosing Defenses last in drafts instead of Kickers. Don’t panic when you see four or five Defenses already off the board here a few tips to finding the Defensive Gems of 2017. Choose a Defensive Unit with one of these qualities:
· D/ST VS Consistent Bad QB Play
o Look for a D/ST that goes up against a lot of inexperienced QBs like Brock Osweiler, any Cleveland Browns QB, or Blake Borltes. Zeroing in on a defenses schedule will help you find the gems you need that will help you succeed during the regular season.
o Bad QB Play turns into natural points either sacks or turnovers. Rookie QB’s have a tendency of struggling against any defense, so look for those type of matchups as well.
o For instance, the Chiefs was the No. 1 D/ST of 2016. They took advantage of games where they faced QBs like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Trevor Semian (twice), Jameis Winston, Brock Osweiler, and Blake Bortles. All of which are either young or turnover prone.
· D/ST That Creates Turnovers
o Teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or San Diego Chargers were barely drafted but were some of the top turnover leaders. Tampa Bay led the league with four interceptions returned for touchdowns, which is a huge boost to any roster.
o Overall Arizona Cardinals high ranked defense lived up to expectation by creating a league-high 25 forced fumbles and 48 sacks.
· D/ST With a Lethal Special Teams Unit
o Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings, and Philadelphia Eagles are teams that boast lethal Special Team units. Cordarrelle Patterson, Ty ”Freak” Hill and Darren Sproles are one of a kind talents that can take any kickoff return to the house.
All of these qualities are pertinent to selecting a Defense that will be beneficial to your team and draft position. I learned to wait on this position and collect value at others in 2016. So, try philosophy in 2017 and see if you can come out more dominant rosters from top to bottom. It always feels good to get bailed out from somewhere you least expected it.
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A young, big-body receiver who'll be expected to step into a much bigger role in 2015, Broncos wideout Cody Latimer is creeping onto the fantasy radar as a potential dark horse. As part of a prolific offense headed by still-great-but-aging Peyton Manning, Latimer is giving off good value with an ADP of 172 overall according to Fantasypros. That means he's going later than guys like Terrance Williams, Pierre Garcon and Devante Parker. There's plenty of potential value to be had if fantasy owners take the leap and draft Latimer.
As a 2014 second-round pick, Latimer got lost in the shuffle due to lack of snaps last season. He finished his rookie year with a paltry two catches for 23 yards and saw only 3.7 percent of the team's overall snaps, falling victim to the adage that former Denver coach John Fox doesn't play rookie wide receivers much. But is that the only reason Latimer wasn't getting time on the field?
It appears there was more to it than that. Broncos.com reported Latimer wasn't buying in to the team's philosophy and 'mentally checked out' down the stretch of last season. It's not a good sign that a player couldn't make any noise in one of the league's most potent offenses much less a team that can contend for the Super Bowl. You would think a player would relish the opportunity to make such a big impact in his first season.
This alleged lack of motivation prevented Latimer from taking snaps away from veteran Andre Caldwell. Caldwell saw 54 percent of the team's snaps in Week 1 compared to Latimer's zero and Caldwell ended up seeing 16% percent of the teams overall snaps for the year, more than 4 times as much as Latimer. It just shows Latimer will need to adjust his mental approach to the game if he expects to play more in 2015.
While Latimer's subpar rookie year is a slight concern, there's still plenty of optimism to be had. Several wide receivers have bounced back after poor rookie showings. Most recently, Alshon Jeffery finished with just 24 catches in his rookie year before going on to post back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons in 2013 and 2014.
What kind of player is he?
A quick receiver (4.4 speed) with average size hands and very good strength and vertical ability, Latimer compares to receivers like Braylon Edwards and Legedu Naanee, with the former having gone on to post a 15+ touchdown season in 2007 with the Cleveland Browns. Latimer finished his junior season with a 72/1,096/9 line while at Indiana, ranking 32nd in yards among all Division-I receivers. His numbers went up each year after his freshman season.
Standing at 6'3 with a thick 215 lb frame, Latimer possesses the strength (23 bench press reps) most receivers envy. His burst off the line isn't crazy explosive, but he runs routes fluidly and shows good ability to get in and out of his break on shorter routes. He has the mental awareness to find open pockets in the middle of the field and. is at his best when the ball is in the air.
He tracks balls well and can position his body in the right place where only he can make the catch. He shows very good body control when turning around on deeper routes down the sideline and his combination of strength and size allows him to box out defenders much like Mike Evans. He makes the transition from the catch to positive yardage quickly and his style of play fits perfectly with Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, a QB that practically makes his living throwing the feathery deep fade down the sideline.
Overall, Latimer has the versatility to make an impact in the deep and short passing game.
Latimer is currently listed as a No. 4 wide receiver behind Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Andre Caldwell. With Caldwell now 30 years old and given the investment the Broncos have made in Latimer as a second-round pick, it's likely Latimer finishes out as the No. 3 wide receiver after camp. This makes him a prime candidate for targets if he establishes some rapport with Manning.
To get an idea of how many targets Latimer could see, we can look at former Denver No. 3 receiver Wes Welker. Welker saw 64 targets last season and finished with 464 yards and two touchdowns. Another departed player who was a key component in the Bronco offense was tight end Julius Thomas. Thomas accounted for 60 targets, 489 yards and most importantly, 12 touchdowns. We've talked before about how Latimer can excel in the red zone, and no quarterback is better in the red zone than Peyton Manning. It's through this potential for touchdowns that we could see Latimer make his biggest leap. It's not out of the realm of possibility Latimer finishes with 6-8 scores this season and around 600 receiving yards with 60-70 targets.
It goes deeper. While the $70M Thomas is firmly cemented as the No. 1 guy, Latimer might start to eat into the workload of No. 2 WR Sanders. A wideout coming off his first-ever 1,000-yard season, Sanders is expected to see more time in the slot, making Latimer a candidate for outside duties. Sanders' ability to stretch the field via the deep ball is his greatest asset, but he lacks improvisational skills and tackle breaking ability. Despite finishing in the Top 5 in receiving yards last season, Sanders ranked 30th in yards after the catch (370). No receiver inside the Top 15 ranked lower.
Sanders' style of play meshes well with Manning due to Manning's arm strength. But with Manning likely on his last limb and the Broncos looking to the future, Sanders becomes less intriguing and the Broncos might start to look for a more versatile receiver to carry them into the next phase of the franchise. It would make sense for the Broncos to start slowly implementing their second-round pick into the offense a little more in 2015.
The current salary cap setup in Denver also benefits Latimer. Sanders is only owed a little less than $10 million over the next two seasons before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2017. Latimer is still on his rookie contract until 2017 and the Broncos would benefit hugely if they can develop him into a quality starter given his smaller deal.
His quarterback and his offense
There have been concerns about Manning at the quarterback position heading into 2015 given that he posted a 3:6 TD-to-INT ratio over the last four games before getting bounced out of the playoffs by Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. Never one to divulge any information on his health, rumors swirled that Manning was dealing with a quadriceps injury that hampered him down the stretch. If you believe that Manning wasn't 100 percent, then you're probably more inclined to draft him this season than others are.
Plus, all signs point to you being correct. New coach Gary Kubiak has said Manning is still in terrific shape and his health doesn't appear to be an issue. At this stage of his career, Manning deserves the benefit of the doubt having gone through several neck surgeries and still going on to throw for career numbers just two seasons later.
When it comes to the offense, Manning will be taking more snaps under center than he did last season, which will put extra pressure on the offensive line to protect and also force Manning to relearn his footwork on 3 and 5-step drops. This should make Latimer a more valuable receiver since he excels in the shorter passing game.
Manning also has a history of spreading the ball around. In his last full season with the Colts back in 2010, No.3 receiver Austin Collie led the team in touchdowns with 8, two more than Pierre Garcon and Reggie Wayne. Collie also finished with 649 yards, a respectable total for someone who only started six games.
+ Catching passes from a future Hall of fame quarterback that is one of the best ever when throwing in the red zone
+ Plenty of scoring opportunities with the loss of scoring threat Julius Thomas
+ Good size and strength will help him be a valuable possession receiver
— Got beat out by Andre Caldwell during his rookie season, leaving some to question his mental toughness
— Little opportunity for big yards with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders playing over him
— Questions regarding the health of his quarterback
When you're drafting Latimer, you're looking at a player with a ceiling of 52/850/9 and a floor of 30/400/3. Latimer is what you would call a 'high variance' player at this stage of his career so he carries some risk. But with mental toughness concerns aside, his ADP value is still solid and the opportunity is there for him to make plays. He's a good value pickup late in drafts.
It's funny how players come out of the woodwork. One day an NFL running back is playing behind two running backs and chances are slim he'll see a lick of playing time. Most people only know him as a blip on the depth chart, a player who might come on in the event of a catastrophic turn of events for the starters and even if you do get his shot, he'll likely only end up posting mediocre numbers before the starters return from whatever caused them to come off the field.
We always have that notion when we watch the NFL, but time and time again a backup will come onto the scene and show us skills that we never thought a backup would have. We ask ourselves questions like 'how did this guy slip through the cracks?' 'Does he do this in practice?' 'Why does that one guy in our league always get to the waiver wire before me? He must have no life.'
The guy we asked those questions about last year was Broncos' C.J. Anderson, as we enjoyed the roller coaster ride that took us down another surprising turn into the 'who we consider an elite fantasy running back' category. Anderson dazzled those who only heard of the other famous C.J. (2K) before him. Anderson showed quick feet in getting up to the line, a decisive explosion when cutting upfield (perhaps his best trait) and added a eye-opening desire to break tackles through his elite balance and lack of fear when engaging defenders in the open field. It was because of these traits (and several more that we'll mention later in this piece) that led Anderson to become the hottest running back down the stretch of 2014. Considering he only started seven games, it was quite an impression.
Disclaimer: When identifying a very good fantasy running back, you can simplify everything down to two basic traits before you get into specifics. These are the two basic idea of what a fantasy running back should have.
2. Potential for high volume of carries
Of course, there are many more details to extrapolate from those scenarios, but those are the two overarching traits you must understand while drafting a quality fantasy running back.
On paper, Anderson doesn't exactly rattle nerves of defenders. He stands at a fun-sized 5'8, 224lbs. His 4.60 speed won't blow the lid of defenses. His one calling card was the 20-yard shuttle, which he posted a combine-high 4.12 seconds for that particular year.
He doesn't have a breathtaking open field running style like the LeSean McCoy's or Adrian Peterson's of the world. He doesn't even have a nickname yet, as CJ2K has already been taken. Maybe CJ1.5K plus 500 yards receiving would be a reasonable expectation at this point.
But he offers so much in so many other areas that the idea of him not being a burner almost seems like an afterthought when you watch him play.
Anderson possesses several highly valuable traits at the NFL level, one of which is elite balance while running through the hole. As Anderson takes a handoff, he shows the kind of burst needed to get to the line of scrimmage quickly enough before the defenders diagnose what hole he's running to. It's not an elite burst, but it's still very good.
Once at the line of scrimmage, he changes his footwork from long strides into short, choppy steps in order to change direction quickly. This is just before he shows us why he's an elite running back at the NFL level.
Right before he hits the hole, he shows a very impressive cut upfield which allows him to accelerate through the hole. He lacks a third gear which prevents him from maybe splitting the two deeper defenders, but he still gets a very positive gain on the play.
Notice how he ramps up his acceleration after putting his foot in the ground and cutting upfield. His balance allows that shift to be a smooth, seamless transition, which is a valuable quality when it comes to gaining a speed advantage on the defense.
In this second clip, you'll see how his balance and running style allows him to slip past defenders.
Notice how his pad level stays low which forces defenders to tackle him at the waist or risk being too high which would give the smaller Anderson a momentum advantage. Anderson stays on an even plane for the entire length of the run aside from when he breaks out of a tackle. His feet are always moving, which allows him to break through arm tackles. His toughness is also on display as he avoids running out of bounds and instead cuts it back and looks to take on more defenders. That's the sign of a true workhorse back.
In this third clip, you'll see his running style directly translate to points on the field. Watch for the same characteristics I noted above.
Another trait Anderson possesses is a high level of mental toughness. He processes a play very quickly which allows him to be one step ahead of the defense mentally at times. Here we see an example of it after the catch.
One of the backs who I've noticed execute a similar type of elusiveness is Eagles' RB Darren Sproles. Though Sproles is more of a burner and and an explosive back, his low pad level and small frame creates a similar effect on the defender as you'll see below.
Vision is another key quality to look for. Pay attention to the clip at the bottom of the article and notice how the offensive line is moving to the right, and watch how Anderson has to quickly make the decision to squeeze through a moving hole. Think of it like trying to jump through a hula hoop that's moving to the right and is about 2 inches off the ground. You have to time it just right and keep your feet high enough so you don't trip. Anderson executes it as well as you possibly could. Once Anderson breaks through the first level, his elite acceleration that we mentioned earlier allows him to change gears quickly and get to the outside.
Whether or not Anderson will get the correct situation is still a mystery. Montee Ball will likely get another shot at some point due the Broncos being so invested in the Wisconsin product. So if Anderson slips up at all, expect there to be a cosmic change in the Broncos' lineup. But as of now, he's the guy. And his talent is second to few in the NFL. He's worth a first-round pick in 2015 due to talent alone.
Entering the 2014 fantasy draft, Montee Ball was being scooped up early by fantasy owners who thought they had found the next big thing. Those that expected RB1 numbers from Ball were sadly mistaken, as a season of injuries and the emergence of CJ Anderson caused him to finish as the 90th RB overall in standard scoring behind teammates CJ Anderson (11th overall) and Ronnie Hillman (41 overall). To put how disappointing Ball's season was into perspective, Ball finished with only 27.4 fantasy points on the season in 5 games played. These beyond disappointing numbers in 2014 killed many owners fantasy seasons, but now the hopefuls are looking to the future... and the future's name is CJ Anderson. Entering 2015, Anderson is going in current mocks between the late first to second round, eerily similar to Ball's ADP entering 2014. Could this spell disaster for Anderson next season? This analyst thinks that the clear answer is a resounding 'no.' Let's take a look at both backs in order to find proof that Anderson is not doomed to repeat the failures of Montee Ball.
Evidence vs. Speculation
In 2013, Knowshon Moreno finished as the #5 fantasy running back with Ball (next big thing) showing flashes of greatness. When Moreno left the Broncos after the 2013 season, the fantasy world was abuzz that Ball would be the workhorse back and repeat Moreno's numbers in 2014. This was pure speculation. In his entire rookie season, Ball never had more than 15 carries per game and averaged only 7.5. In other words, Ball was never the bell cow in the Broncos' 2013 offense so to expect him to just take that role in 2014 was nothing but a hopeful prediction. Additionally, Ball only had a single 100+ yard game (13 carries for 117 yards) and in that game had a single rush for 45 yards. Remove that rush and Ball had 12 carries for 72 yards, which while still impressive is not RB1 material. Finally, even though Ball showed some flashes of being a viable fantasy starter in 2015, there was one glaring statistic that should have made people realize he couldn't be the workhorse back in 2014. In his rookie season, on rushing attempts 11-20 Ball averaged only 3.4 yards per carry. In other words, when Ball was given more than 10 carries per game, his stats dropped significantly.
After taking a look at the numbers, it seems that there's a bit more evidence supporting Anderson's case. In the first nine weeks of 2014 Anderson tallied only 17 carries. In week 10, he began to take the reins and rushed for 90 yards on 13 carries (6.9 yards per carry). Fully taking over the backfield in week 12, he averaged 23 carries per game (140 carries in 6 weeks) and 4.6 yards per carry (648 yards on 140 carries) for the remainder of the season. This is the definition of a workhorse back, a role that Montee Ball never actually achieved in 2013. And remember that glaring statistic of Montee Ball only averaging 3.4 yards per carry after 10 rushes? It doesn't seem like Anderson has that problem. On carries 11-20, Anderson averages 4.3 yards per carry, and on carries 21-30, he averages 4.9 yards per carry. These are the type of numbers required from a workhorse back and should continue in 2015.
Wear and Tear
Montee Ball and CJ Anderson are both only 24 years old, and should have good long careers ahead of them right? While they could both have long careers ahead of them, the level of wear and tear of Ball is MUCH higher than that of Anderson. Now, I understand that CJ Anderson has 186 career carries in the NFL while Ball has only 175, but this goes beyond the NFL. In his 4 year college career, Ball rushed 924 times for an impressive 5140 yards (5.6 avg) while in Anderson's short career rushed only 198 times for 1135 yards (5.7 avg). A lot of people forget that rookies entering the NFL don't have equal levels of wear and tear. While you can't say that Ball's injury in 2014 was directly caused by his heavy workload in college, it certainly didn't help. Likewise Anderson, even with his heavy workload in 2014, remained injury free and doesn't show any signs of slowing down. This could be a testament to his build and the toughness he has. Measuring in at 5'8" and 224 lbs, Anderson is simply a more durable back compared to the 5'10" 216 lbs Montee Ball. And even as a shorter and heavier back, Anderson has a bit more top speed than Ball. In fact, in addition to speed Anderson slights Ball in a few categories. Let's take a look at their combine results...
|* = Top Performer||40 Yard Dash||Bench Press||Vertical Jump||Broad Jump||3 Cone Drill||20 Yard Shuttle|
|17 reps||32"||119"||7.15 sec||4.12 sec*|
|Montee Ball||4.66 sec||15 reps||32"||118"||6.88 sec||4.40 sec|
Now I know these numbers are extremely close (too close to call really) but with how similar they are it makes you wonder why Ball was drafted in the second round while Anderson went undrafted.
Where to Target CJ Anderson in 2015
After crunching the numbers, it is clear that CJ Anderson has solidified himself as a workhorse-capable back. He is entering the 2015 season as the Broncos #1 back and with an expected reduced workload from Peyton Manning, Anderson looks like one of the best backs (situationally) for 2015. Additionally, with Gary Kubiak returning to the Broncos (this time as their head coach) I expect even more emphasis on the running game. In my opinion, if Kubiak (as offensive coordinator) was able to turn the journeyman, Justin Forsett into a viable fantasy starter, I can only imagine what he can do with a gem like CJ Anderson. Because Ball's ADP in 2014 was based on speculation and assumed potential, he failed to live up to the hype. In Anderson's case the hype is real! I expect Anderson to finish in the top 10 for RBs easily and could push the top 5. Look to scoop up Anderson in the back end of the first round or the very early second round.
Every season I like to put fantasy players into two different categories. The first category is a player that I BUY, or that I believe is going to possess above average fantasy value for the 2015 season. One the other hand, a player that I SELL is deemed as a player that I feel is either going to be a bust, or fall to live up to the expectations of their draft slot.
Buy: Teddy Bridgewater QB/Minnesota Vikings
If you follow me at all on twitter (@JoshMenschNFL) you will know that I am a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan, but I promise you my love for the fantasy potential of second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is not just a case of myself drinking the purple cool-aid. Going into the 2014 NFL Draft, a lot of people questioned Bridgewater from a number of ridiculous aspects including his preference to wear gloves, his "skinny knees" or my personal favorite — that he wasn't tough enough to play QB in the NFL (Played with a two severely sprained ankles and a broken wrist in college).
Bridgewater came out scorching hot in his first career start as he picked apart the Falcons defense for 317 yards passing and a rushing touchdown, a performance good enough to win him Pepsi's Rookie of the Week. In the next 7 weeks, Bridgwater definitely had the look of a rookie adjusting to the pace of the NFL game, sporting a worrisome 3:5 TD:INT as well as ranking in the bottom 10 in the NFL in yards-per-attempt (6.6).
With those numbers some of you may be wondering why someone with numbers like this would be a quarterback that you would want as a QB1 in fantasy football. In the second half of the season Bridgewater looked like a quarterback that was finally becoming comfortable running an NFL offense. In weeks 11-17 Pro Football Focus graded Bridgewater as the no. 3 quarterback in all of football (9.6), trailing just Drew Brees (13.6) and Aaron Rodgers (17.3), posting a much improved 11:7 TD:INT and a quarterback rating of 95.2.
Going into his sophomore season Bridgewater has a chance to take a major step forward, for a fraction of the price of some of the premier quarterbacks in fantasy football. Disgruntled running back Adrian Peterson's status is still unknown, but if he is still in a Vikings uniform that will no doubt relieve some pressure off of the young quarterback. Besides the charades that have been going on with Peterson the Vikings have been very active adding potential playmakers to the offensive side of the football this offseason. The Vikings acquired Mike Wallace and a 7th round pick from the Dolphins in exchange for a fifth round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft. Although Walace was not able to match the production in Miami that he did in Pittsburgh, Wallace is still a legitimate deep threat and should benefit from the downfield passing game Vikings' offensive coordinator Norv Turner likes to employ.
According to Fantasy Football Calculator's average draft position chart, Bridgewater is currently being drafted in the middle of round 10. At this position Bridgewater is being drafted after players like Colin Kaepernick and Ryan Tannehill. Not to say Kaepernick or Tannehill cannot be successful fantasy options, but they do not possess the natural passing abilities, or offensive weapons Bridgewater does.
Sell: Peyton Manning QB/Denver Broncos
Now before anyone rips my head off for telling you to SELL Peyton Manning I just want to let it be known that I am not telling you not too draft the soon to be first-ballot Hall of Famer. What I am telling you fantasy owners is too proceed with caution with the soon-to-be 40 year-old quarterback for two reasons.
1. Gary Kubiak Offense
Anyone that has followed Gary Kubiak's career knows that there are a couple of things his teams features on offense. The first is a running back that possesses the ability to be successful in a zone-blocking system, and with C.J. Anderson they definitely have that.
Due to the presence of a strong rushing attack, Kubiak has not been one to feature a quarterback that puts up gaudy passing numbers. Just for comparison's sake, while Matt Schaub played under Kubiak in Houston he only surpassed 4,000 passing yards three times, a number that Manning has reached in all but two of his 17-year-career.
The second aspect Kubiak likes to feature is a mobile quarterback that has the ability to make plays outside the pocket on bootlegs and roll-outs. I think it is safe to say that Manning is not going to make many plays on such plays.
Despite posting the second-highest yardage total in his career in 2014, Manning saw his average yards-per-attempt drop below 8.0 for the first time in three seasons. In an offense that will be predicated on short throws that rely on the receivers ability to make plays after the catch Manning could see that average continue to slide.
2. Departure of Julius Thomas
I expect Julius Thomas' departure to Jacksonville to have major impact on the Broncos offense next season. When healthy, Thomas was one of the most productive tight ends in the NFL, posting a 108/1,277/24 line over the last two seasons.
The biggest downside of Thomas' game lies in his ability to stay healthy for an entire season. In the three games that Thomas missed last season Manning and the Broncos offense took a step back in terms of productivity. In the three games that Thomas missed in 2014 Manning averaged only 203 yards-per-game, and two touchdown passes a game, equating to about 14 fantasy points-per-game with Thomas sidelined. While some of the struggles could be attributed to the quad injury Manning suffered, it was clear that he missed his safety blanket in the middle of the field.
Obviously Peyton Manning is going to cost a premium pick in fantasy football drafts, but I urge fantasy owners (Who are not in 2QB leagues), to wait too address arguably the deepest talent pool in fantasy football.
Like I said earlier I am not telling you guys that Manning is a player who will bust, but I do think that he is line for a dip from his normal production. Manning is currently being drafted as the third quarterback of the board in fantasy football behind Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers, coming of the board at the end of round 3. While there are still plenty of weapons on the Broncos offense to think they will be one of the top-10 units in football next season, I think there are better values at the quarterback position in fantasy football.
Photo Courtesty of Jeffrey Beall's Flickr Page
On Friday's episode of Treatment, the Fantasy Football Helpers discuss the recent signings at offensive coordinator including Greg Olson in Jacksonville and Adam Gase in Chicago. They also talk about Gary Kubiak and how Broncos' RB C.J. Anderson could be in for a historic season if the chips fall right.
The Helpers start off the podcast by talking about the recent hiring of Gary Kubiak on the Denver Broncos. Kubiak has a long history of churning out 1,000 yard rushers in his zone run blocking scheme. Most recently, he turned around a Baltimore Ravens offense that had been struggling with their run game dating back to Ray Rice's lowest yards per carry average of his career in 2013.
All Kubiak did was take a castaway running back in Justin Forsett and turned him into a Pro Bowler. Forsett rushed for more than 1,200 yards and scored eight touchdowns. Kubiak also became famous for his zone run blocking scheme in Houston, where future All-Pro running back Arian Foster compiled three straight 1,000-plus yard seasons.
With Kubiak now back in Denver, a place where he also helped Terrell Davis become one of the best of all time, the Broncos will shift their focus to current starting running back C.J. Anderson. Anderson had one of the best finishes to a season of any running back in recent memory, as we talked about a few weeks earlier on our recap podcast. It's not out of the question that an aging Peyton Manning combined with a good offensive line and Kubiak's run system could lend itself to a more run-heavy offense in 2014. If that's the case, C.J. Anderson is a bonafide RB1 in redraft leagues.
The next coach the Helpers talk about is offensive coordinator Adam Gase, a guy who was recently signed by the Chicago Bears. Gase led the 2013 Denver Broncos to a record 606 points, making them one of the greatest offenses in the history of the league. Gase will not have the kind of talent to work with that he had in Denver, but it's worth noting that he did managed to squeeze a playoff victory out of then-Broncos quarterback Tim Teebow in 2011. So Gase has proven he can be successful with a quarterback not named Manning.
Gase will be faced with the seemingly impossible task of getting Jay Cutler to play up to his potential. Cutler finished as the 14th best fantasy quarterback in 2014, which put his fantasy value as a boarderline QB1/QB2. The Bears definitely have the weapons at the receiver position with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. They also have the running back in Matt Forte. The real problem for the Bears since Cutler arrived has always been their offensive line. It'll be interesting to see how Gase works with Cutler and if they can get him some better pass protection. He's not unlike Tony Romo in that he has Pro Bowl level ability, but hasn't always had the best protection in the world which is a big reason why he battled injuries throughout his career.
View Karen's Flickr page here.
Start of the week:
LeSean McCoy @ Green Bay Packers — #4 in weekly rankings
It's tough to plug McCoy as an RB1 these days, and that's mainly because it's tough to really pin him down this year in general. He was strong the last four weeks (two 100-yard games to go along with two 80-yard games) before tossing up a dud against Carolina despite a 45 point effort by the Eagles' offense.
But despite a lackluster performance on the stat sheet as of late and only two touchdowns on the season overall by the RB, the Eagles currently sit atop the NFC and Chip Kelly has found a way to consistently utilize McCoy without relying on him to score the football to win games. Even with his not-so-amazing stats, there's still plenty of reason to get excited about his fantasy value in Week 11.
McCoy finds himself in a great matchup against a weak run defense in Green Bay. The Packers have surrendered a 30th-worst 142 rushing yards per game. McCoy will also be playing in the frigid cold of Lambeau Field, where the temperature is expected to be around 30 degrees before kickoff at 4 p.m. The Eagles had the luxury of not playing in too many cold games last season, but McCoy rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns against a bad Chicago defense in Chicago during the winter weather in 2013. McCoy also torched Green Bay for 155 yards when the two teams played in Green Bay last season.Though past efforts aren't necessarily an indication of future efforts, it's just worth noting that McCoy has been successful in the cold in past games.
When it comes to how well the offense has been playing, the Eagles offensive line continues to get stronger as they get healthier. They protected quarterback Mark Sanchez extremely well last week against Carolina, and while Julius Peppers may be a bit tougher to contain, the presence of Jason Kelce and Evan Mathis should help keep the Green Bay front four in check. If you remember, the Eagles offensive line did a good job containing J.J. Watt when they played the Texans a few weeks ago, as they held one of the best defensive ends in football to just one tackle for a loss.
Weather conditions may also come into play here, as Sanchez will be having to deal with throwing a frozen ball which could mean the Eagles may opt to go more run heavy. Aside from his 12 attempts last week in a lopsided game, McCoy had rushed for 24, 21, 22 and 24 in his previous efforts. There's a good chance he does that again given the conditions in Green Bay.
Montee Ball @ St. Louis — #26 in weekly rankings
Currently listed as probable, expect Ball to be eased back into the lineup opposite C.J. Anderson. But with Ronnie Hillman out, there's a good chance Ball sees some carries and maybe snags a goal line touchdown or two. The Rams are allowing a little over 124 rushing yards per game (25th worst) but they held Andre Ellington to just 1.3 yards per carry last week and haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher since Russell Wilson in Week 7.
Don't expect Ball to light the world on fire since he hasn't been the most explosive option even when he's been healthy (only averaged 3.1 yards per carry in his four starts), but the situation calls for him getting a little bit of action and sometimes all a player needs is a little opportunity.
Ball is a good flex play if you're in a deep league. He could vulture a touchdown on the goal line which is all you need in that spot. Just to be clear — Ball is not likely to go off this week at all, but there's potential for him to see enough of a workload to warrant a productive day.
Shane Vereen @ Indianapolis— #25 in weekly rankings
Vereen (and the entire Patriots' backfield for that matter) remain difficult to predict in fantasy football thanks to the chess-like mind of Pats' coach Bill Belichick. It's almost as if Belichick hates fantasy football and trots out the running back who hasn't scored much lately and gives him the most carries. Jonas Gray, Stevan Ridley, insert-next-running-back-who-will-now-be-a-household-name-here.
Despite the wonky RB favoritism, there's a lot of potential for Vereen this week. The Colts and Patriots will likely be a shootout between two premier quarterbacks in Andrew Luck and Tom Brady. The game will also be played under the comfortable dome conditions of Lucas Oil Stadium, so there's no cold interfering with the stats.
As for Vereen, he caught 13 passes over the last five games, so he's been on a PPR roll. The Patriots are coming off their bye week, so they're rested. Overall, Vereen remains the best fantasy back among the Patriots due to his versatility.
Marshawn Lynch @ Kansas City— #2 in weekly rankings
It's tough to say, but consider benching Lynch this week against Kansas City. He's banged up, and is going against a strong Kansas City defense that kept the Bills run game largely in check last week. Lynch posted his best effort of the season last week against the New York Giants, where he ran for 140 yards and four touchdowns. It was the first time Lynch eclipsed the 100-yard mark since Week 1 against Green Bay. Expect him to revert back to the more subdued version of beast mode against Kansas City, and likely finish with 67 yards and maybe a touchdown.