Thursday, 16 April 2015 00:00

Buy/Sell QB Edition v 2.0: Ryan v. Brees

In my first installment of Buy/Sell I broke down the fantasy value between Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, and the Broncos Peyton Manning. For my second installment, I am going to dissect the fantasy potential of two of the league’s most prolific passers, Saints quarterback Drew Brees, and the Falcons Matt Ryan. 

Buy: Matt Ryan

When Dirk Koetter signed on in 2012 to be the Falcons offensive coordinator one thing was for certain, Matt Ryan was going to throw the ball all over the yard. In the three seasons that Koetter was in charge of play-calling, the Falcons had one of the more pass-happy offenses in the NFL, finishing in the top-10 in passing attempts and passing yards every year.

Despite having one of the best offensive units in football the Falcons were held back by sub-par offensive line play, and arguably the worst defense in football. Due to these deficiencies the Falcons finished the 2014-15 season with a 6-10 record, leading to the dismissal of head coach Mike Smith and the rest of the Falcons coaching staff.

New Coaching Staff

Despite Kyle Shannahan taking over for Dirk Koetter as the Falcons offensive coordinator, I do not expect the Falcons offense to take a step back in the 2015-16 season. 

During Shannahan's 7 seasons as an offensive coordinator in the NFL with the Texans, Redskins, and the Browns, Shannahan has been one of the most pass-happy coaches in the NFL, ranking in the top-10 in 5 out of 7 seasons in total passing attempts. The only two times that Shannahan did not rank in the top-10 in pass attempts was in 2013, one year after Robert Griffin III suffered a torn ACL, and in 2015 in Cleveland when he had to deal with the sub-par quarterback talent of veteran journeyman Brian Hoyer and rookie Johnny "Football" Manziel.

Offensive Weapons 

Aside from having one of the worst offensive lines in football, the Falcons offense is still littered with playmakers that have the potential to make even an average quarterback look like a Joe Montana.

Julio Jones has finally taken over as the focal point as the Falcons passing attack, with Roddy White shifting to more of a possession. Despite ranking third in the NFL in both targets (154) and receptions (103) Jones only found pay-dirt 6 times causing Jones to be an elite PPR asset, and a low WR1 in standard formats. 

Although "Rowdy" Roddy White (as my buddy Paddy refers to him as) is getting closer to the twilight zone of his career he still proved to be a reliable receiver for fantasy owners. Despite missing two games in 2014, White still ranked in the top 20 in targets (122), receptions (80), and touchdown receptions (7), ranking White as the 24th  overall wide receiver (Low WR2) in ESPN standard scoring leagues.

Sell: Drew Brees

Just like with Peyton Manning, I am not telling you that Drew Bress is a player you should completely avoid in fantasy football, but should definitely temper your expectations for the former MVP. After losing Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks and the team investing a large amount of money to stabilize the running game, the Saints could be looking at a shift in offensive philosophy in 2015.

Jimmy Graham Departure

Normally the loss of a tight end would not be something that scares me off from drafting a quarterback in fantasy football, but when that tight end is Jimmy Graham you have to take note. 

As you can see by the table below Graham has been one of the most dangerous pass-catching tight ends over the last three seasons. Last year, in what could be considered a "down year" by the standards that fantasy owners hold Graham to, Graham was still able to post double-digit touchdowns and almost 900 receiving yards, ranking him the no. 3 overall tight end in fantasy football. 

Graham TA Rec. % Ct Yds Yds / Rec. YAC YAC / Rec. LG TD
2012 131 85 64.9 982 11.6 310 3.6 46 9
2013 145 90 62.1 1267 14.1 433 4.8 56 16
2014 121 85 70.2 889 10.5 292 3.4 29 10
  397 260 65.73 3138 12.07 1035 3.98   35

With Graham's departure to Seattle, it leaves a gaping hole in the Saints receiving corps. All-purpose receiver Brandin Cooks showed promise during his rookie season, but would be more effective as a slot receiver than a player that predominantly plays on the boundary. Marques Colston re-structred his contract to stay with the team but is in no way capable of being a no. 1 WR at this point in his career.

Little known second-year tight end Josh Hill will be given the opportunity to fill the void left by Graham in the Saints passing game. Saints head coach Sean Payton has raved about Hill this offseason stating in an interview with ESPN, "This Josh Hill is another player that I love. I love," Payton said "When you look at his runs, jumps, height, weight, speed, you look at his measurable ---- and he didn't go to the Combine, thank God.

While it is fair to assume that Hill will see an uptick in production in 2015, I highly doubt that the will come anywhere close to the production Graham posted aside from his 31/356/5 that Graham posted his rookie season. 

With the draft quickly approaching, and the Saints in possession of two first-round picks the Saints could be in line to add wide receiver early in the draft for the second year-in-a-row. 

Photo Courtesy of Football Schedule Flickr Page

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage

The NFL's new year has not even officially begun and fireworks are going off around the league with transactions including some of the premier players in the league. There is no bigger trade than the one being finalized between the Saints and the Seahawks. According to Jay Glazer, the Seattle Seahawks and the New Orleans Saints have agreed in principle to trade Jimmy Graham and a 4th round pick to the Saints in exchange for Max Unger and a 2015 first-round pick. 

This trade certainly came out of left field. If you recall the Saints just agreed to a four-year/$40 million contract extension with Graham last offseason, and Graham was the teams most productive receiving option over the last few seasons.

Seattle Perspective

From the Seahawks perspective they acquire the thing they needed most, a bonafide no. 1 receiving option in their offense, and with the acquisition of Graham they get exactly that.

Over the last three seasons there arguably not been a more dominant player in the NFL than Saints tight end Jimmy Graham. For comparison's sake I wanted to look at the production between the two premier tight ends in the NFL, Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski.

 

Graham

TA

Rec.

% Ct

Yds

Yds / Rec.

YAC

YAC / Rec.

LG

TD

2012

131

85

64.9

982

11.6

310

3.6

46

9

2013

145

90

62.1

1267

14.1

433

4.8

56

16

2014

121

85

70.2

889

10.5

292

3.4

29

10

 

397

260

65.73

3138

12.07

1035

3.98

 

35

Gronkowski

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2012

78

55

70.5

790

14.4

311

5.7

41

11

2013

64

39

60.9

592

15.2

198

5.1

50

4

2014

152

98

64.5

1328

13.6

535

5.5

46

15

 

294

192

65.3

2710

14.11

1044

5.4375

 

30

As you can see by the chart Graham has been an terror for opposing defenses to try and contain. The statistics are skewed slightly towards Graham due to the various injuries Gronkowski has dealt with, something Graham has been able to avoid at this point in his career.

The biggest improvement that Graham will bring to the Seahawks offense is Graham's ability to stretch defenses down the middle of the field. Over the last three seasons Graham has averaged over 12 yards-per-reception, an absurd number for a tight end. 

Looking at the history of the Seahawks wide receivers it is clear that Wilson has never had a receiver with the talent that Graham possesses. Over the last three season the only player on the Seahawks roster to amass 90 targets was Golden Tate, who signed with the Detroit Lions last offseason. 

Graham's playmaking ability in the red zone is not only going to help the Seahawks passing attack, but should help Marshawn Lynch and the running game open. Due to Graham's ability to get up the seam and attack defenses vertically defenses are going to be forced to play a lot of nickel packages (5 DB's) in order to attempt to match up in coverage. The downside of these substitutions for defenses is that the Seahawks offensive line is going to have more space to get up to the linebackers allowing Marshawn Lynch one-on-one match-ups against defensive backs, a match-up Lynch will win more times than not. 

Saints Perspective

It is never easy to replace a talented player that accounted for over 3,100 receiveig yards over the last three season, but it was a move that the Saints needed to make.

Prior to the offseason beginning the Saints cap situation was a mess, as the team needed  to clear $20 million in cap space just to be within the leagues threshold.

By trading Graham the Saints cap space is now in a place where they can make some move too address their needs. With the acquisition of Max Unger the Saints get one of the best young centers in football, but also acquire a first-round pick in the 2015 draft.

It is safe to assume that the Saints offense is going to transition form one of the most pass happy offenses in the leauge, to one that is centered around a strong offensive line and running game. Pro Football Focus has graded Unger as +36.7 over the last three seasons, including a +36.8 rating in the run game.  

In the trade the Saints also acquired the Seahawks first-round pick in the upcoming draft. This may not seem like a lot since the Seahawks are picking 31st overall, for the Saints it is very important.

The Saints currently hold the 13th and 31st overall picks in the 2015 NFL Draft and have several needs to fill along the defensive side of the ball. With two first round picks the Saints would be in position to acquire a pass rusher like Alvin Dupree (Kentucky), a nose tackle like Danny Shelton (Washington), or even a cornerback (Peters, Waynes, Darby). If the Saints were able to land any of these players I mentioned it would go along way towards revamping one of the leagues worst defenses.  

Conclusion

Despite the big price tag for each team I consider the trade a win-win for each team. For Seattle, they fill a serious need at the tight end position, as well as a player that can step in and be the focal point of their passing game.

For the Saints the impact that Max Unger has may not show up directly in the box score, but trust me it will be major. Since being drafted Unger has consistently been graded as one of the best centers in football. There is injury concern with Unger, but in my opinion the risk is well worth the reward.

For Seattle not only do they fill a serious need in tight end, but they also get a player that can step in and be the focal point of their passing game. It is no secret that the Seahawks receivers are a below-average unit, and the addition of Graham should not only help improve their offense between the 20’s, but their red zone efficiency as well.

Like I said earlier this trade looks like a win-win for both sides. The Seahawks finally have a guy they can gameplan there passing game around, and the Saints gain assets while repair one of the worst cap situations in recent memory.

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Saturday, 29 November 2014 00:00

Sleepers and busts for Week 13

I’d like to wish a Happy Thanksgiving weekend to all the readers and families of readers out there.  Thanksgiving is far and away my favorite holiday of the year.  The holiday encompasses my two favorite activities, eating (hopefully) really good food and watching football. It’s that simple.  There are no gifts I need to worry about buying, there’s no religious aspect to the holiday, there’s no costumes and people ringing my doorbell all day long, and as much as I love kids, there’s no Thanksgiving fictional character that I have to worry about blurting out isn’t real.  It’s really just “Hey, come over we’ll watch football, we’ll eat really good food and then we’ll watch a little more football.”  What a holiday!  I’m sure the attendees at the 1st Thanksgiving did not incorporate football into the plans for how the tradition would carry on, but I’d like to say thanks on this Thanksgiving to the pilgrim who invented this holiday, I thank you sir/madam.  Whoever you are/were, you started what became the perfect day, a national holiday solely based around food and football.  Ok I do admit the holiday gets me thinking about how thankful I am for my beautiful wife, the rest of my wonderful  family, and all my friends, and it even gets me thinking about how thankful I am for my freedom and about how incredible our soldiers are. So in summary, football, delicious food, more football, family time, and ignoring the bad momentarily while accentuating all the good things in life to be thankful for…..it’s the perfect holiday.

This is the last week of many regular seasons. Do or die, make or break, or in my case division title and first round bye, or monumental collapse.  Use these sleepers and busts to jockey for playoff position and to ensure that this will not be your last week. 

Happy Thanksgiving once again to you all.  I’m also thankful for each and every one of you out there giving this article a read.

Without further ado, your week 13 Sleepers and Busts: 

DISCLAIMER:A sleeper is not a must start and a bust is not a must bench, they are merely indications that a player will have a better or worse game this week than they normally do. It all really depends on your alternatives. I will give an example of a few players for whom I personally would start the sleeper over or bench the bust for.These players are simply there as an indication of how good or bad I think the sleepers/busts will perform so you have a comparison in mind when applying it to your actual lineup. For example if I am comparing a QB to a stud like Andrew Luck, I am not necessarily saying you need to start him over Luck (even if I would) but it will imply that I feel really good about him. 

Sleeper QB:

Matt Ryan v. Arizona

Is Arizona a very good defense?  Sure.  Is this matchup ideal for Matt Ryan?  Probably not.  But Ryan is at home against a team who we know for a fact will not allow the opposition to run the ball.  Ryan is ranked as the number 20 or so QB on most popular sites and if he did perform that poorly it would just mean the Falcons would get totally shut down completely at home. I refuse to believe this will happen.  In 4 home games (they’ve had 1 neutral game in London which I am not counting) Matt Ryan has thrown 9 TDs while only committing 3 turnovers.  Also, the Cardinals, while they are one of the elite NFL defenses, have allowed the 8th most passing yards per game this season.  He’s not a must start QB1 but Ryan historically performs significantly better at home than he does on the road, and even if the Falcons lose this game handily, he’ll still have a good amount of yards and a couple of TDs to show for it.

I’d Start Matt Ryan over: Eli Manning, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Zach Mettenberger,

Bust QB:

Cam Newton at Minnesota

Newton is coming off a bye week so maybe he’s been able to heal, but he clearly hasn’t been playing healthy.  He’s no longer the threat he used to be running the ball.  He’s also reverted back to his poor decision making ways with only 4 TD and 10 turnovers in his last 4 weeks. Minnesota is at home and is coming off an impressive showing against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.  They lost the game but they put pressure on ARod and limited the Pack to 24 points, not an easy feat.  The strength of the Vikings defense lies in their secondary where Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith lead the way, limiting teams to the 7th fewest passing yards per game.  They’re also a top 5 defense against opposing TEs, the position of most strength in the Panthers passing attack.   Newton is being ranked as a matchup QB option, in the 13-16 range but I see him as a borderline QB2 and maybe even a non-start in 2 QB leagues. 

I’d Start the following players over Cam Newton: Andy Dalton, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Zach Mettenberger, Kyle Orton,

Sleeper RB:

Dan Herron v. Washington

Herron was a surprise starter last week, even to fellow Colts RB Trent Richardson.  There was a fairly even time share between he and Richardson, but Herron out touched him and out gained him and most importantly he racked up five receptions while playing on 3rd downs.  The Colts will miss Ahmad Bradshaw but it’s nice to see that they have a better talent than Richardson in Herron that they can use when killing clock.  Clock killing is exactly what the Colts will be doing this week at home against the hapless Redskins.  The Skins will be going into Indianapolis start Colt McCoy.  This seems like a total mismatch, one that will heavily favor the Colts.  Look for Herron to once again out touch Trent Richardson and approach 100 yards while getting in the endzone at least once.  Herron is a high RB2 this week. 

I’d start Dan Herron over: Isaiah Crowell, LeGarrette Blount, Giovanni Bernard, Fred Jackson

Bust RB:

Isaiah Crowell at Buffalo

Isaiah Crowell is a great talent that much is clear.  His future in this league is bright.  The Georgia alum was able to break out last week, ripping apart the Falcons in a homecoming game for him in Atlanta.  However, I do not think he’s matchup proof and is not a must start.  Buffalo is ranked 5th against fantasy RBs in .5PPR leagues.  At home they’ve limited their opponents and have only allowed the Patriots to put up more than 22 points. This game has cold weather low scoring game written all over it. The Bills defense is fast at LB on the edges and match up with Crowell’s skill set.  Despite Josh Gordon’s return to the lineup, the Browns will not have success moving up and down the field, and the opportunities for redzone touches and scores will not be there for the Crow. Crowell is a flex option this week but I would not trust him in leagues that start only 2 RBs.

I’d start the following players over Isaiah Crowell: Dan Herron, Tre Mason, Alfred Morris

Sleeper WR:

Charles Johnson v. Carolina 

Charles Johnson was a much hyped up rookie coming into the season but had not been a factor until week 10.  In the last two weeks his catches, targets, yards and playing time have all skyrocketed. This past week it was apparent that he was the Vikings number 1 WR, playing 67/69 snaps and receiving 11 targets.  He only turned those targets into 3 catches for 52 yards but he did score a TD and was open on several other occasions.  The last two weeks have resulted in 9 catches for 139 yards and a TD.  Carolina comes to town sporting the 26th ranked defense against fantasy WRs.  CB Captain Munnerlyn and safety Mike Mitchell have been major losses in the secondary from a once dominant defense. Perhaps an even bigger factor has been the suspension of All Pro defensive end Greg Hardy.  Hardy’s absence has all but eliminated the Panthers pass rush and QBs and WRs are having a field day against the new Panthers defense.  Look for Teddy Bridgewater to have one of his best days as a pro passer and for his new number 1 target, Charles Johnson, to be the major beneficiary.  Johnson can be started in many 3 WR leagues.

I’d Start Charles Johnson over: Kenny Stills, Michael Floyd, John Brown, Steve Smith, Julian Edelman

Bust WR:

Kenny Stills at Pittsburgh

Kenny Stills was expected to step up after Brandin Cooks went down with a broken thumb, and he did not disappoint.  Stills caught 8 balls for 98 yards in his new role, however this week he and his teammates at WR could be in for a down game.  The Saints, a disappointing offense, travels to Pittsburgh. The Steelers sustained early season injuries and after weeks of being decimated on defense return 3 key starters in Ike Taylor, Troy Polumalu and Ryan Shazier. The defense has been able to remain effective ranking 16th in passing yards against and 9th against fantasy WRs despite these key losses. Now with the defense back at full strength the Steelers should be able to once again become a viable defense, especially at home.  Other than Jimmy Graham there is no sure thing in this difficult road matchup.

I’d start the following players over Kenny Stills:  Charles Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Wallace, Steve Smith, Sammy Watkins

Sleeper TE:

Charles Clay at. New York Jets

Charles Clay was a top 10 TE last season and he has built fine chemistry in the redzone with Ryan Tannehill.  This season he hasn’t had as much success playing in a new offense and dealing with injuries, but he’s shown to be able to produce in the right matchups.  Coming off a groin injury, he returns just in time for the 3rd worst team against TEs the New York Jets.  The Jets have allowed a mind boggling 12 TDs to TEs and this past week allowed one to Bills TE Scott Chandler.  Outside of my top 6 TEs this week (Graham, Gronk, Julius Thomas, Greg Olsen, Delanie Walker) it has not been easy to find consistent TE play so it’s important to play the matchups.  I’d start Clay over anyone who isn’t those 6 guys in this game. 

I’d start Charles Clay over: Antonio Gates, Coby Fleener, Larry Donnell, Travis Kelce

Bust TE:

Antonio Gates at Baltimore 

Antonio Gates was the reason why many fantasy teams got off to a great start with his surge of TDs in the first half of the season.  Recently he’s been the reason why fantasy teams may be going through an epic collapse to end the season.  Gates has combined for only 74 yards the last three weeks.  He’s only had 10 targets in that stretch and he hasn’t had more than 61 receiving yards in a game since week 2.   He’s TD dependent and is on the road against a defense in Baltimore that has allowed slightly over 10 points per game in five home games.  TD opportunities may not be available against this stingy defense.  I’d play the matchups and look elsewhere at TE this week.

I’d start the following players over Antonio Gates: Travis Kelce, Delanie Walker, Coby Fleener, Charles Clay, Tim Wright

That’ll be it for this week.  Happy Thanksgiving weekend.  Good luck and see you in the playoffs!

View Keith Allison's Flickr page here.

 

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage

When the Saints come marching in, defenses shudder.

That’s been the case ever since Drew Brees and Sean Payton formed an alliance that’s brought one Super Bowl championship and countless fantasy titles to owners across the globe. The combination of a Hall of Fame quarterback and one of the shrewdest offensive minds in the game has proven to be a fantasy owner’s delight, often without elite skill players.

This year will be no different for Brees and Co. Both George and Stephen see Brees as the favorite to be the No. 1 QB in fantasy. He’s a few years younger than Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, has been extremely durable and plays inside a dome. Combined with a great supporting cast that now features rookie Brandin Cooks, Brees should easily finish as a top-three QB.

New Orleans’ running back situation is solid in real-life, but from a fantasy perspective it’s a mess. Former first-round pick Mark Ingram is the biggest name, but he has yet to establish himself as a full-time player. The former Heisman Trophy winner had one breakout performance in 2013 against the Cowboys—but who didn’t? Take away his 145-yard performance against Dallas and Ingram averaged just 3.8 yards per carry. George and Stephen are steering clear of the first-round disappointment. 

On the other hand, Stephen sees value in Pierre Thomas for PPR league owners. Thomas led all running backs with 77 receptions in 2013 and figures to see plenty of passing-down duties with Darren Sproles gone. He’s a solid flex option.

Though Khiry Robinson possesses NFL-caliber skills, his poor preseason production has George questioning his fantasy relevance. Stephen agrees and doesn’t see Robinson as a draftable asset.

Moving to the receivers, George and Stephen differ in their views of Marques Colston and Kenny Stills. While George still sees Colston as a rock-solid WR3, Stephen is skeptical that New Orleans’ No. 1 receiver can rebound from a down year. However, Stephen sees big things ahead for Stills, who led the NFL with a 20-yards-per-catch average as a rookie. George disagrees that Stills will out-produce his veteran counterpart. 

Brandin Cooks is the real wild card and should catch between 60-80 passes. He’s tailor-made to play indoors, where his ridiculous speed and quickness will be maximized. Both of our fantasy experts see him as a solid flex option with WR3 upside.

Of course, we couldn’t talk about the Saints’ fantasy prospects without mentioning the king of the tight end/receiver/hybrid position: Jimmy Graham. Unquestionably the best pass-catching tight end in football, Graham is poised for another big season and shouldn’t have any trouble finishing atop his position. Even with Rob Gronkowski coming back, Graham is simply too athletic and too involved to not be the No. 1 fantasy tight end.

It’s clear the Saints know what they’re doing on offense. Don’t be afraid to spend early-rounds picks on Brees or Graham and position yourself for a fantasy championship!

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