Thursday, 14 May 2015 00:00

Episode 64: Wide receiver guessing game

On Thursday's edition of Treatment, the Helpers play a game where one person reads off the stats of a wide receiver and the other one guesses who the receiver is. They then give fantasy value to that receiver and talk about any potential pitfalls that may inhibit his production.

 

Published in Podcasts
Wednesday, 13 May 2015 00:00

Episode 63: Kevin White's potential

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On Wednesday's edition of Treatment, the Helpers wrap up deflategate talk (because it's getting kind of old already) and then discuss rookie WR Kevin White's potential with the Chicago Bears in Year 1.

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Published in Podcasts
Thursday, 07 May 2015 00:00

Episode 61: Draft recap (WRs)

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On Thursday's episode of the Treatment podcast, Reception Perception creator Matt Harmon stops by to talk about rookie wide receivers and which rookie wideouts in particular have the best potential for 2015. He also talks about certain qualities he looks for in good receivers, how mentality plays a role and how he feels about some of the younger wideouts in the league such as Odell Beckham Jr. and Allen Robinson. We wrap things up with Harmon's lukewarm feelings on the mexican food chain known as Chipotle.

View Matt Harmon's work at Football Guys, Backyard Banter, and also follow him on twitter @MattHarmon_BYB

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Published in Podcasts

No limit Texas Hold em' is the Cadillac of poker. In fantasy football, the hand a player is dealt can play a big role in his value — at least in the short term.  After all the individual analysis of the rookies throughout the offseason. After all yelling and throwing popcorn at the TV during draft day, both the teams and most sought after rookies were finally dealt their hands after Day 1. Several players were dealt better hands than others, including two receivers who you'll likely want to throw your chips into the center of the table on for 2015. One wideout is a sure-fire draftee in redraft and dynasty leagues, the other is stepping into a good situation where he will likely be making an impact a little further down the road as a rookie.

Breshad Perriman , WR (Baltimore Ravens)

Quality of Fantasy hand dealt: Pocket Aces

Why he's fantasy worthy in Year 1: No wide receiver is stepping into a better fantasy situation in Year 1 than the speedy WR out of UCF. The Ravens are in dire need of his services and the franchise has a long history of stability which should help Perriman develop without unnecessary drama getting in the way. Perriman will play on a Baltimore team that emphasizes balance which should keep him and also a canon-armed quarterback in Joe Flacco that can take advantage of his 4.2 speed.

This past offseason, the Ravens lost deep threat Torrey Smith to San Francisco. Smith accrued 93 targets last season, so it's not out of the question that Perriman sees at least 80 looks from quarterback Joe Flacco. Smith saw 95 targets and wound up with 841 yards and 7 touchdowns in his first season with Baltimore, and he was only competing with Anquan Boldin for targets. Perriman, like Smith, will also be competing with veteran Steve Smith Sr. for targets, but he's still an instant WR2/3 candidate in 2015 due to the amount of the targets that will be available to him.

Now, you can have all the targets in the world but if you can't catch a cold than your fantasy value will be rendered useless. Also, it's funny how a team can end up drafting a clones of the player they let go of in the offseason. Perriman, like Smith, is a speedster who also struggles to catch easy passes from time to time. We'll ere on the side of optimism and say he'll make up for it because of his speed.

Fantasy advice: Perriman is a no brainer draft selection if you're drafting in redraft and dynasty leagues. He's got the best possible starting hand of anybody.

Nelson Agholor , WR (Philadelphia Eagles)

Quality of Fantasy hand dealt: Ace-Queen

Why he's fantasy worthy in Year 1: The Eagles now have a job opening that reads '143 targets available' and the resume of rookie Nelson Agholor out of USC is as good a bet as any to fill the team's No. 2 void at wide receiver. At 6'0, 198 lbs, Agholor has drawn comparisons to former Eagle Jeremy Maclin and rightfully so considering Maclin was also 6'0, 198 lbs. Both possess 4.4 speed with Agholor being a bit more explosive out of his breaks than Maclin.

The one thing I've noticed as a difference between the two is their demeanor. Agholor is a much more cerebral player than Maclin, even Chip Kelly has used the term 'growth minset' to describe Agholor's approach to the game. if you watch some of his interviews, Agholor often stresses constantly improving and getting better, but he goes further than that and actually gives concrete examples on how he has improved his game every step of the way. It's impressive to see somebody at his age who can articulate what he's doing on the field to that of a technician, and that's what Agholor brings to the table that we didn't quite see from Maclin.

Jordan Matthews also brought a similar 'get better' mentality throughout his rookie season that really generated buzz during the team's training camp in July and August. reports out of camp were glowing so bright you'd think Matthews would be the best rookie wide receiver of 2014. It didn't quite turn out that way, but Matthews caught at least one pass in 15 out of 16 games as a rookie and finished with a more than respectable 872 yards and 8 touchdowns.

The two downsides to Agholor's potential as a instant fantasy player is the quarterback situation in Philadelphia and his undersized frame. As of right now, it appears Sam Bradford will be their No. 1 quarterback heading into camp. Bradford didn't play a single regular season snap in 2014 and will be learning a new system under Chip Kelly. His reputation for injury (seven games played over last two seasons) has resulted in a 'wait and see' attitude for most and it'll be tough to invest in a guy like Agholor if there's nobody around to throw him the ball. Yes, I know, Tim Tebow is there. Stymie yourselves!

Also at just 6'0, 198, Agholor will likely struggle against bigger corners. We saw how Jeremy Maclin could get shut down at times by Richard Sherman-type corners and Agholor might have a similar problem.

Fantasy advice: You'll need to monitor the quarterback situation in camp and Agholor is more undersized than Perriman which will likely result in some bad games against bigger, more physical cornerbacks. Still, Agholor has big-play ability and is stepping into a situation with plenty of targets available. He's worth a very late-round flier as a bench guy in redraft leagues.

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Published in Fantasy Coverage

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Today's podcast on running backs is a continuation of our Draft series pods. You can find Part I here. On part II, we discuss the top running backs in the 2015 NFL Draft class including Jay Ajayi, Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon. And that list was in no particular order.

Jay Ajayi

Enough RB's come with enough, enough stylee. But when Ajayi busts a run we all know it's wicked and wiley. That's a lyric from the band sublime off 40 oz to freedom on a song called DJ's. Great song, and when I see Ajayi run he in fact does run wicked and wiley. He's my favorite running back in this draft Josh. You can check out an earlier article i wrote about Ajayi back in March here.

The one thing you immediately notice when you see Ajayi run is his sense of purpose. He runs with a supercharged burst of energy and he also catches the ball well out of the backfield. There have been ongoing concerns with a knee injury which has been discussed in greater detail on many other blogs. But let's just assume for a second that it's not a big deal which all reports are currently indicating it isn't.

Ajayi has incredible feet. He was a former soccer player and he loves to initiate contact. He might be the most aggressive runner in this draft. You'd be hard-pressed to find another runner with more heart than Ajayi. That being said, that same heart can also be a weakness. He sometimes stretches plays out for too long when he should just take a 3-yard gain. He's also had fumbling issues that will have to be taken care of if he expects to stay out of coaches' doghouses. But Ajayi has great size at 6'0 221lbs. He's your prototypical NFL running back. If the knee is not an issue, I really think he's a top 3 running back of this class and I would put him just behind Todd Gurley.

Todd Gurley

In a league where you constantly hear reports that running backs are no longer valued, in walks a potential Top 10 pick at the position. It goes to show you that the draft is never about position aside from kickers and punters, it's all about value at a certain position. Sure, a running back likely will never go No. 1 overall, but any RB going in the Top 10 really says something about the potential Gurley has.

Josh you've delved into Gurley a bit more than I have. I know you mentioned his off field issues with autographs but that can't possibly be a huge deal in the NFL can it? I mean, he's going to get showered with love for signing autographs and instead of shunned for it because of the out-of-touch NCAA rules.

Below you'll see a highlight tape of Gurley. The biggest thing I've noticed about Gurley is his deadly combination of elusiveness and explosiveness through contact. Unlike Ajayi, who twists and turns and runs a little bit out of control at times, Gurley doesn't waste any motion when he runs. He's a slippery as they come in terms of shedding tackles, and he does it without making it look like he just poured out half a glass of his energy. There's also a smoothness to the way he's able to simply change direction slightly when he reaches the second level and run past the safety en route to the end zone. People have been calling out for everybody to slow their roll when it comes to comparing Gurley to the potential great runners and while I see their point, because he's not quite as explosive as say an Adrian Peterson. But there are runs where he looks a lot like Peterson. Peterson who take a hit and keep his legs churning then two or three more guys would jump on him and he'd be able to still create forward motion despite all those guys trying to push him into the opposite direction. Gurley shows that at times. You have to get really excited at the prospect of having this guy on your team.

 

 View cityofglendale's Flickr page here.

 

Published in Podcasts

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With the NFL Draft just four days away, the Helpers start their first of four NFL Draft podcasts talking about quarterbacks including Jameis Winston, Brett Hundley, Marcus Mariota and Chris Bonner. They also go over some daily fantasy news and talk discuss the implications of the latest transgressions.

Jameis Winston

The Helpers first start discussing Jameis Winston, the quarterback for Florida State who's likely going to be taken first overall in the 2015 NFL Draft. A former Heisman winner and National Champion, Winston fits the mold of a pocket passer who can make quick decisions, throw receivers open even if they're not, possesses above-average arm strength to make big plays down the field and also possesses the kind of athleticism that will allow him to create plays when the blocking breaks down.

Of course, with any top pick, there's going to be nitpicking into every facet of his game both on and off the field. Most people already know about Winston's issues off the field. If you don't, a quick google search should solve that problem for you.

While Winston possesses a great deal of potential as a franchise quarterback, the main concern for the Helpers is the team he goes to. The Buccaneers are an organization that's never had a true franchise quarterback. Josh Freeman, Mike Glennon and Bruce Gradkowski have all come through Tampa's doors and have all either left or failed to become a prominent starter within the franchise or both. When Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl back in 2002, they trotted out Brad Johnson while relying on a strong run game and one of the best defenses of the decade.

There's no indication Tampa has improved when it comes to developing quarterbacks. Their offense was anemic last season despite some very strong performances from rookie Mike Evans. Evans strung together three straight games of over 100 yards receiving and multiple touchdowns, becoming the first rookie to have multiple 100 yard games and at least one touchdown since Randy Moss. Still, the Buccaneers coaching staff consists of Lovie Smith, a guy who couldn't mold Rex Grossman into a reliable starter. Smith also coached Brian Griese and Kyle Orton, two players largely considered backup caliber throughout the majority of their careers.

We've seen young quarterbacks get thrown into tough situations almost immediately and flounder. Geno Smith was dealt a tough situation with the Jets, where Rex Ryan favored running the ball and playing defense over Sanchez slinging the ball all over the field. Smith has yet to throw for more than 13 touchdowns in a season and has nine more interceptions than touchdowns in his career. Granted, he had a lot worse weapons than Winston would start out with considering Tampa has two prominent receivers in Evans and Vincent Jackson to go along with a receiving threat at tight end in Austin Sefarian Jenkins.

The Buccaneers are bringing in offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, who helped the Atlanta Falcons to one of the best passing offenses in the league. Koetter's Falcon teams threw the ball a ton, and there's reason to expect him to dull the offense down a bit throwing-wise to adjust to Winston's proficiency within the offensive system if the Bucs do in fact draft Winston.

Mentally, Winston definitely has a charm about him. He has the charisma, optimism and the gleam in his eyes of a confident player. I know, sounds like I'm in love with him. But it's evident there's a bit of an 'it' factor when he talks. He may not actually go out and be the guy who will be one of the greats of all time, but you certainly believe he can when you hear him talk.

 

Marcus Mariota

One of the most confusing prospects in the draft I can remember when it comes to where he will end up playing. So many rumors running through the mill that we could power a small town with the various teams interested in potentially trading up to get the Oregon prospect and 2014 Heisman winner. The most popular destinations for Mariota include Tennessee, San Diego, Washington and of course, Philadelphia. Eric Stoner's piece on Mariota pointed out some interesting things about Mariota's game and the style of offense he plays in.

One of the big overall messages of the piece was how Mariota's thought process can be likened to a guy at a grocery store with a check list in his hand. Mariota has a set amount of things he can do, and rarely deviates from those things. When the play breaks down, he hangs on to his list of tasks until the bitter end instead of creating something different based on what the defense is giving him. It's not something that would make or break him as a quarterback per se, but it can be a huge detriment if the defense has got Mariota's decision making figured out.

This is why I think Philadelphia has the greatest chance to mold Mariota into a fantasy impact guy immediately. The offense is geared to take advantage of Mariota's strengths as a task-oriented quarterback and his running ability will be a huge asset to it as well. We saw in early 2013 how Michael Vick was used in the offense and while Vick's injuries got the best of him, he did rush for 54, 34, 99, 41, and 79 yards in six games with the Eagles in early 2013. Mariota would likely hover around those rushing numbers if he did in fact sign with Philadelphia, which would make him an instant fantasy QB2. He might be the only rookie that would be a fantasy impact guy in 2015. Sort of like RG3 in 2012.

 

Brett Hundley

My personal favorite quarterback of this class. i got a chance to watch Hundley live when UCLA came to Charlottesville to play UVa in the 2014 season opener last year, and Hundley impressed me with his ability to make tough throws when the defense was about to hit him. UVa had a very formidable defense last year, led by defensive end Eli Harold who anchored the pass rush, Hundley and the Bruins offensive line did not have an easy time dealing with the Cavaliers and nearly lost the game in the waning moments had Hundley not come through.

View Mike McBride's page here.

 

Published in Podcasts

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The instant impact rookie running back. Seemingly every year, one or two rookies are gifted with an opportunity to see a significant workload at a certain point in the season. Some are scheduled to be their team's starter form the get go (think Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch in 2007) while others benefit from a stroke of luck due to an injury to the starting guy or the starting guy is struggling (Branden Oliver, Jeremy Hill in 2014).

As the NFL Draft nears, it's important to look at these situations so you can identify them and play them to your advantage. It's also important to look at past examples so you can hopefully spot a similar situation in the future.

What can the draft tell us about fantasy?

When it comes to identifying what round a player is more likely to have a higher probability of immediately producing at, it can vary by position. One obvious trend is that quarterbacks taken in Rounds 1-3 typically do better. Current top fantasy quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck, Ben Reothlisberger and Aaron Rodgers were all drafted in the first two rounds in their respective drafts.

When you look at the wide receiver position, DeMaryius Thomas was a first-rounder as was Odell Beckham Jr. and Dez Bryant. Jordy Nelson was a second-round pick in 2008. Top 2014 fantasy wideout Antonio Brown was one exception to the rule. Brown was selected in the sixth round of the 2010 draft.

Running backs are a different story

Even though there's been some late-round gems at the quarterback and wide receiver position, the running back position is place where you'll find perhaps the highest probability quality fantasy players. More frequently than you'd think, you'll find top fantasy running backs who were drafted in the later rounds or even went undrafted.

There's a lot of variables that play into running backs not getting drafted as high as they used to be, and we could list 1,000 more words telling you why that is, but for the sake of this argument lets just say the NFL is a copy cat league and selecting a running back later on is just the trend right now. Even the 2015 running back class, which is being hyped as the best in years, will still likely only draw two first rounders (Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon). So with a running back class as good as this one, which has many draftniks claiming it could be as good as 14 quality starters deep, it's important to look at how late-round running backs have come to the forefront in the past and made an impact on fantasy teams. Let's take a look at last year's impact fantasy running backs who were rookies.

Case study #1 — Branden Oliver, San Diego Chargers (undrafted)

Oliver was ranked in the Top 40 among fantasy backs in fantasy points in 2014, which wasn't bad for a 5'8 undrafted rookie out of SUNY Buffalo. Oliver got his chance when starter Ryan Mathews went down with an MCL sprain. Of course, nobody saw Oliver's start coming after Mathews was scheduled to sit out the following week. Everybody had Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown pegged as the backups most likely to benefit, myself included. It goes to show you — always look all the way down on the depth chart before picking somebody up off the waiver wire. You never know what can happen.

Well, a stroke of luck happened and Oliver took off against the New York Jets. After Brown went out with a concussion early on and with Mathews already sidelined, Oliver feasted on the weak Jets passing defense and caught four balls for 68 yards and 1 touchdown. He also rushed for over 100 yards and finished with 29 fantasy points. 

Watching that game, Oliver's ability in the passing game no doubt helped keep the defense and honest and led to him being more effective on the ground. Oliver also benefitted from Brown leaving the first half of that game with a concussion, which opened up the doors for him within the offense.

He didn't slow down afterward that game either. The Chargers leaned heavily on him the following week and Oliver made a nice second impression with a 101-yard effort against the Oakland Raiders and one touchdown. While those numbers were impressive, it's worth noting Oliver averaged just 3.9 yards a clip on 26 carries against one of the worst rushing defenses in the league, so it was no surprise that Oliver's production eventually dropped off.

While he turned out to be a nice addition off the waiver wire for a brief stretch, Oliver's fantasy value hit a snag after he ran into some tough defenses that started with a 36-yard performance against Denver on Thursday night. He tossed in six more equally ineffective games before finishing with 582 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns for the year, with half of his fantasy points coming in those two games against Oakland and New York.

Lessons learned

Oliver proved (at least in his rookie season) to be more of a scat, receiving type back. He's not a guy that can beat you with 20 carries per game. He's more of a Darren Sproles type player who will beat you out of the backfield. But in the right matchup against a weak passing defense, he proved he could produce for at least a few weeks.

One of the takeaways you can use from Oliver is to considers drafting backup running backs where the starter has an injury history. Now, this doesn't always work out. DeMarco Murray was injured almost every season but managed to finish 2014 without any major injuries to speak of. He did suffer a hand injury at one point, but it didn't slow him up much to create a ton of value for the backup running back on Dallas.

In the case of Oliver, starting RB Ryan Mathews also had a long injury history. So keep an eye out for running backs (especially the rookies in this draft) who get drafted to a team with a No. 1 back who is prone to sitting out games.

Next, always be keen on matchups. Oliver benefited from two easy defenses (New York Jets weak passing defense and Oakland's weak rushing defense) when he put up his best numbers.

Lastly, always make sure to scope out the entire depth chart of a team. Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown were the top backups but Oliver was also on the depth chart as well.

View Nathan Rupert's Flickr page here.

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Wednesday, 22 April 2015 00:00

Prospect: RB Michael Dyer

Sometimes the most interesting prospects are those who get lost in the shuffle due to issues off the field. Isaiah Crowell was a good example of that last season with Cleveland. Plus, if you look at the trends of good running backs going undrafted (Branden Oliver last season and Arian Foster in 2009) or late in the draft (Alfred Morris, Alfred Blue, Andre Williams) you'll find there's always fantasy value to be found in nearly every round of the draft. So you can't sleep on anybody. Let's take a look at a running back who may end up fitting all that criteria listed above and analyze how his skills could translate to the next level. That running back is Louisville product and former Auburn running back Michael Dyer.

An undisclosed violation of team rules led him to being kicked off the Auburn Tigers in 2011, but Dyer left a mark while he was there. Dyer rushed for 1,093 yards on 182 carries and five touchdowns as a freshman in 2010 and helped the Auburn Tigers to a National Championship victory over the Oregon Ducks that same year. In that game, Dyer rushed for 143 yards on 22 carries and was named the offensive player of the game. 

Most of the draftniks out there have already shelved Dyer because of his off field issues. After leaving Auburn immediately following a sophomore season where he rushed for 1,242 yards and 10 touchdowns, Dyer went off to Arkansas State. But off the field troubles reared their ugly head again, as Dyer was eventually kicked off the team in 2012 after a traffic stop lead to police finding a gun and marijuana in his car. Charges weren't filed at the time of the stop, but newspapers later dug deeper and found information that the officer never charged Dyer.

Dyer's next stop was Louisville in 2013. Then a junior, Dyer struggled with injuries and started one game while appearing in eight. While none of the games were really notable and his 44 carries were a small sample size for the season, Dyer posted a respectable 5.1 yards per carry average and finished with 223 total rushing yards.

His senior season was a bit more memorable. In 2014, he finished with 481 yards and 5 touchdowns on 4.4 yards per carry. Dyer showed very little in the receiving game, with just eight total catches across four seasons.

While Dyer was never arrested for anything, you have to admit his reputation as he enters the professional ranks is dubious at best.

His make up

Dyer's a bit undersized at 5'9 but can pack a punch at 219 lbs and possesses decent straight line speed with a 4.58 40 time. When he gets a step in the open field, he can outrun most linebackers but will likely get chased down by defensive backs at times. His main strength is his power. He set combine marks in the bench press with 26 reps, and when he gets running down hill after his linemen open up a huge hole, he can look scary to tackle. His power and small size also allows him to keep a low center of gravity and not get jacked backwards by bigger defenders. It was actually very difficult to find film of him while at Auburn, and the only video I could find was this 2014 Draft Breakdown video against Clemson. This was from Dyer's best season as a sophomore. He ended up rushing for 151 yards on 16 carries (9.2 ypc) and two touchdowns in this game. His biggest gains came on this stretch play where he ran to the right side. Click the play button the video below to see Dyer at his best. Watch the first play of the clip where Dyer scores a touchdown and see the analysis below.

 

Dyer gets a lot of great blocking in this game from his line on this play which led to a 50+ yard touchdown. Dyer nearly took it to the house again the second time Auburn ran the exact same play later on Watching the clip on both times Auburn runs the play, Dyer shows great patience and allows his blocks to set up before he decisively hits the hole. There's no slowing down once he gets to the second level, and in the first clip you'll notice the Clemson safety take a bad angle and ends up watching Dyer blow right by him for the touchdown. He doesn't make that same mistake again on the next try and tackles Dyer after what ended up still being a big gain.

Dyer is not the most agile back. His cuts are slow and deliberate, which makes you wonder if the speed of the NFL game will lead to him getting swallowed up by quicker defenders due to his below average acceleration through the hole. You'll see an example of his inability to make guys miss in this clip here.

 

Notice how he tries unsuccessfully to shake the defenders with his juke. He lacks the explosiveness to make cuts on a dime which will likely keep him from stringing together big gains between the tackles. He clearly wants to shed the tacklers, but lacks the physical tools to do so effectively. Once he's bottled up, there's not much of a chance he'll be able to create space with his maneuverability.

Lack of versatility

We're not saying Dyer can't catch at the pro level, there's just no evidence he can do it at the college level. You'd be hard-pressed to find a clip of him catching the ball and with an increased demand on running backs to be reliable receivers out of the backfield at the NFL level, you have to doubt many teams will be willing to take that chance when there are so many talented running backs in this class.

Final verdict

Dyer's straight line speed, intelligence and power is intriguing. If he can get the right opportunity with the right team, there's a chance he can make an impact. He's a good late dynasty pickup at the tail end of your draft.

View Parker Anderson's Flickr page here.

 

Published in Waiver Wire

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
CJ Anderson

4.60 sec

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.

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Tuesday, 14 April 2015 00:00

Episode 53: Debunking cliches

On Tuesday's episode of Treatment, the Helpers welcome back Scott Sergent, who has climbed out of his long winter bourbon hibernation that was spurred from the Lions' controversial defeat in the 2014 playoffs. They discuss Michael Crabtree's recent signing with the Oakland Raiders, what Scott has been up to in offseason and cap it off with and appearance from 'fantasy cliche man.'

The Helpers start off discussing the Michael Crabtree signing. Crabtree, formely of the San Francisco 49ers, recently signed with the Oakland Raiders for $3 million with $2 million in incentives according to Adam Schefter via Twitter.

Crabtree has dealt with leg issues since 2012 and hasn't had a 1,000-yard season since that time. He goes to an Oakland Raiders team that's chock full of uncertainty. Derek Carr played well at times at quarterback as a rookie but he's still a work in progress while Oakland hasn't churned out a 1,000 yard rusher since Darren McFadden in 2010. They haven't turned out a 1,000-yard receiver since Randy Moss in 2005. There's plenty of doubt regarding Crabtree's status an anything more than a WR3 in a potentially bad offense. Plus, wide receivers Andre Holmes and James Jones have proven more reliable in the years past. The Helpers advise to steer clear of Crabtree in all redraft leagues aside from a bench spot.

Talking cliches

The Helpers then welcome special guest 'fantasy cliche man' who comes on to give people advice on how to draft their team this year. He first advises everyone to draft a rookie quarterback as either their QB2 or QB3 in hopes of hitting big on a rushing quarterback like Robert Griffin III IN 2012 or a Cam Newton in 2011.

While there's some truth to the fact that rookie quarterbacks are scoring more fantasy points. This phenomenon is largely due to the 'win now' mentality of franchises which has forced coaches to adjust the style of their offense to suit the quarterback's strengths rather than have the quarterback wait two to three years and learn the coach's style of offense. Still, most, if not all, rookie quarterbacks struggle and even Andrew Luck threw plenty of interceptions and had plenty of mediocre fantasy outputs as a rookie in 2012. Many gambled on Johnny Manziel last season and that turned out to be a disaster. Overall, drafting a rookie quarterback is a huge risk so watch out for that cliche during your draft.

The next cliche brought up was the idea of drafting rookie wide receivers. For the first time ever last season, three rookie WRs caught for more than 1,000 yards. Before that, no more than one rookie ever accomplished that feat in a given season. So now, there's some hype being centered around rookie WRs and possible WR2/3 options in 12-to-14 team redraft leagues. Cliche man brings this up, but he doesn't mention that there have been 8 rookies in the last 20 years who've had 1,000 receiving seasons before 2014. It's a big gamble to take the top WR in the draft as anything more than a WR3, if that. You're still better off going with some established WRs in your top 3 and then using a bench spot on a rookie.  

View Keith Allison's Flickr page here.

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