One of the most common mistakes I see people making in fantasy football is...
Getting too emotional.
Here's one thing you you shouldn't say when drafting a fantasy player.
'He burned me last year so I'm not drafting him this year.'
This is one of the more common things I hear from fantasy players. They get salty about a guy they were really high on who didn't pan out during a particular season.
For example, you're looking to draft the best quarterback possible in your fantasy draft. You immediately come across a guy like Andrew Luck.
Now, Luck is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the league. But you drafted him back in 2015 and he finished as a QB27.
As he comes across your draft board, your subconscious tells you...
'No, not taking him. I can't trust him.'
To that I say... Woah. Slow down there.
Ok, you don't want to draft Luck. I get it.
But just because he burned you four years ago is not a good reason to avoid taking him this year.
Ask yourself these questions about Luck for this season.
— Does he have good receivers to throw to?
— Is he one of the most talented at his position?
— Is his offensive line blocking well for him?
— Is his defense so bad he will be forced to throw the team back into games?
— Does he have a coach with the right system to maximize his talent?
— Does he have an easy schedule?
— Is he healthy?
— Is he in his prime?
If he checks all those boxes, then get over him burning you in 2015.
If you don't want to take Luck because you'd rather draft a different position at that point in your draft, that's fine. Just make sure you avoid drafting someone for the right reasons.
Not drafting a player because 'he burned you one time' is never a good excuse.
I use Luck as an example because he's a quarterback on the verge of perhaps his best ever season in 2019. The Colts were the hottest team in the league down the stretch in 2018.
Their coach, Frank Reicht, is one of the more effective quarterback coaches in the league. He turned Nick Foles into a Philadelphia legend for life. A guy who was almost out of the league before 2017.
Now, Reicht will be using Luck in a way that maximizes his talent. Which involves him throwing the ball a ton.
It's not out of the question to think Luck could lead the league in passing attempts in 2019.
Even Blake Bortles finished as a QB3 when he passed the ball on a ton.
Imagine what would happen if a talented quarterback like Luck leads the league in passing attempts. In an offense with big-time weapons like T.Y. Hilton.
There's a real chance we see the best version of Luck ever in 2019.
Ok, so this was partly an Andrew Luck hype piece and a partial philosophy piece on not letting your emotions get in the way in fantasy football.
So there you have it.
Stay rational out there.
In this pod, George spitballs about the Eagles tight end situation and why Zach Ertz might be overpriced at his current ADP.
Ertz was only consistent part of Eagles offense last season. He was the definition of Wentz's safety blanket. Wentz targeted Ertz a ton.
Zach Ertz finished 2018 with 116 receptions, 1,163 yards, 8 touchdowns.
While it was his most prolific season for catches, Ertz averaged just 10 yards per catch which is the lowest in his career.
The Eagles offense was inconsistent throughout 2018, and Ertz was more of a safety blanket. The Eagles also blew a lot of leads because they were one dimensional on offense at times and struggled late in games.
Eagles also couldn't run the ball much, and with Wentz coming off that ACL tear and not being able to use his legs as much to escape pressure, he likely targeted Ertz more out of necessity.
That will likely change this season. The Eagles replenished their backfield adding Jordan Howard and drafting Penn State rookie Miles Sanders. They also recently signed Darren Sproles to a one-year deal.
Don't think the Eagles are going to want to target Ertz as much as they did. Pederson will want to spread the ball around more, similar to the way the Eagles won the 2017 Super Bowl.
There was a stat in there that shows teams that operate out of that two-tight end set should actually pass the ball more because it's more effective. And the Eagles have probably the best tight end duo in the league right now. So if they heed Sharp's advice and start passing the ball more, we could see like an Aaron Hernandez/Rob Gronkowski situation.
Hernandez and Gronkowksi had their best statistical season in 2011 when they combined for over 2,200 yards receiving.
Per Football Focus, they ranked third and first in fantasy points scored at their positions, respectively. But aside from that, no TE2 has ranked Top 10 at his position since 2000. And only five times in that span has a TE2 ranked inside the Top 15.
But no other team in the league has another Pro Bowl talent like Dallas Goedert at tight end. So it's not out of the question that maybe Goedert pushes for more snaps, Ertz sees less targets as a result, and Goedert squeezes into the Top 15.
Even so, there are better tight ends to target in redraft and barring an injury to Ertz, Goedert has little TE1 upside.
Ertz will probably still regress given his volume was insane and the Eagles have a much more talented, healthier roster heading into 2019. This could lead to Ertz having less than 1,000 yards receiving (which he's not really known as being a 1,000-yard guy anyway). But he'll still hover around 800-900 yards and 5-6 touchdowns.
Plus, there really isn't any considerable upside TE worth drafting behind Ertz. He's the safest TE before there's a big dropoff where you have unproven guys like O.J. Howard, Evan Engram and Hunter Henry going after him.
So think of it this way when drafting Ertz, he's probably not going to blow the doors off again this year, so avoid him if you want to go get another position and save your TE for some steady late guy. I'll be avoiding him for that reason. But he's not a bad pick at that spot and will definitely give you some solid production without a huge regression.
When it comes to drafting running backs late, you want to find a guy with upside.
There's no exact science to upside. But you want a reasonably talented back who could see opportunity. You also want him in an offense that can maximize his skill set.
The New England Patriots are a team that maximizes running back value as good as any in the NFL. It's also looking like they will be doing much more of that in 2019.
Last season's success
The Patriots ran the ball a lot more in 2018.
They used a combination of James White and Sony Michel and the results were solid.
Both running backs finished in the Top 25 overall. Only the Chicago Bears achieved the same feat with Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard.
In Week 4, White and Michel combined for over 40 fantasy points.
The reason this worked was because Michel was the ground guy, rushing for 112 yards and a touchdown. White finished with eight catches for 68 yards and a touchdown. So he was the clear receiving back.
But things got messy when Michel went down with an injury. In Week 13, backup running back James Develin sniped 2 touchdowns on 4 carries.
This Patriots offense has a clear system with running backs that works. This is why backup Damien Harris could become a major fantasy asset this season.
Why the Patriots offense is good for running backs
The Patriots are a SMART team. There's a reason they've won as 6 Super Bowls despite being in a league where it's hard to stay on top.
This is because they follow the analytics. One of those analytics is rushing attempts inside the 5.
The Patriots ran the ball a lot on the goal line. Michel had 12 carries inside the 5 last season, tied for fifth most in the NFL.
Harris is a power back who would be an ideal goal line guy for New England.
Two, they throw the ball to running backs on first down a lot. This is the new way to get first downs in the modern game. It also leads to more scoring opportunities.
2019 offensive outlook for New England
The Patriots are going to be one of the more run-heavy teams in the league again this season. This is largely because they don't have much at receiver this year. They lost Rob Gronkowski to retirement. There have been reports that rookie N'Keal Harry has struggled with drops in camp. Josh Gordon's status for reinstatement is still up in the air and Phillip Dorsett is just a guy. As of now, Julian Edelman is the only sure thing they have. But he's only a slot receiver.
Why Harris is a good selection
The biggest reason Harris is a good selection is Michel's injury status. There's a lot of concern that Michel's knee injury is worse than most of its kind. It's likely he could be held out the entire preseason. This is giving Harris valuable reps to get up to speed faster.
Plus, Harris is a power back who will fill Michel's role nicely. His ball security and pass protection ability are both excellent for a rookie. He should instill trust in coach Bill Bellichick right out of the gate. He's a threat to take carries away from Michel at some point during the season.
Great ADP value
As of now, Harris is going off draft boards as an RB44. He's behind other backup running backs like Ronald Jones II and Latavius Murray.
Harris is probably a better choice than both of those backs. His offensive line is better. His skill set fits perfectly for his specific role. Plus he will also have plenty of red zone running opportunities.
Now, all of Harris's fantasy value rests on the health of Michel. So if Michel turns out to be fine, then Harris won't matter. But there's enough question marks on Michel to make Harris worth the risk. If you even want to call it that considering there isn't much else to draft at that spot.
So buy as much Harris stock as you can in 2019. You'll be glad you did.
On this episode of the Fantasy Football Helpers Podcast, George goes over an NFL trend regarding running backs and how you can use it to increase your fantasy score. This is especially effective in PPR leagues.
So, the NFL has always been going towards more of a passing-based game. But now that's becoming even more true on first down. Teams used to consider first down a run play. But now teams are noticing that passing on first down is leading to a better success rate (gains of at least 4 yards) which is leading to more second and short situations.
Second and short situations are key when it comes to moving the ball consistently down the field. The teams that face a lot of second and long and third and longs typically end up punting more than the other teams. So being able to get those first four yards on first down is vital to any offense.
Teams are now realizing that passing the ball on first down actually increases their odds of getting more second and short situations.
Not only that, receiving running backs are becoming more and more utilized on first down. The days of the bruiser running back getting the first and second down carries only for the receiving back to come in on third and long are going by the wayside. Teams are now using the pass catching back as a receiver on first down and not just third down.
Teams that use this in practice include the Carolina Panthers (Christian McCaffrey is the perfect back for this type of style) and Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints.
The New England Patriots have been ahead of the curve on this for years as well. They've opted to go with more of a committee approach with backs like James White, Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel.
The NFL is a trendy league, and other coaches will start taking notice of this and start targeting running backs out of the backfield on first down more.
So how do you use this to your advantage in fantasy?
Well, if you're in a PPR league, you're going to want to study the news and see which running backs on other teams are coaches looking to target in the passing game. For example, Taylor Jenkins of the PewterReport.com recently said that Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Peyton Barber could see 45 targets in 2019. That's quite an increase from his 29 last season. That's somebody you could maybe keep an eye on in the later rounds of your draft.
Obviously, this strategy won't work for every team. There are still some teams that won't target running backs on first down nearly as much as they should. Not everybody adapts to the new norm. Some teams will even try and go counter to the norm in hopes of gaining an advantage.
Still, I'll be looking to target running backs used in the passing game a lot more because of this trend.
Don't get sucked into that recency bias thought pattern. You often miss out on drafting a great player when you do that.
Sure, Seattle Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny burned you last season. But while you're stewing over his dismal rookie campaign, somebody else is about to draft a gem.
We can call a spade a spade here. Penny is coming off a disappointing rookie season. He rushed for just 419 yards and two touchdowns.
But hold the phone, Penny did a lot of things well in 2018. Plus, things are shaping for him to have a major impact in 2019.
One of the traits that sticks out about Penny is his ability to make big plays. Penny had two rushes of 30 yards or more in 2018. He also had nine rushes for over 15+ yards.
Not only that, Penny got better as the season went along. After Week 4, he averaged 5.8 yards per carry and that number stuck for the rest of the season.
Sure he started off slow, but many great NFL running backs plodded out of the gate. Shaun Alexander, another great Seattle back, rushed for 313 yards his rookie year. Alexander did just fine after that, rushing for over 9,000 total career yards.
Excellent ADP value
There's a lot of potential for Penny to blow the doors off his ADP in 2019.
If you like to squeeze as much value out of the later rounds of your fantasy draft, Penny is a top flight option. He's going off at No. 67 overall according to Fantasy Football Calculator.
When you look at the backs going ahead of him, No. 67 is a tremendous value. Penny is going behind Lamar Miller, a running back who's rushed for over 1,000 yards just twice in five seasons. Miller has also never cracked higher than 1,073 yards. He's the ultimate 'safe' pick if you even want to call him that.
Penny is also going behind Derrius Guice. Guice is a running back we've already written about as a potential disappointment. But even recently he tweaked his hamstring and may miss the start of training camp. Guice also has a ton of competition behind him with Adrian Peterson, Samaje Perine, Chris Thompson and Bryce Love in the backfield. While Guice has a lot of talent, he just can't catch a break right now. If we had the choice between Guice and Penny, Penny is the obvious choice.
Opportunity... it's there
Penny has a serious chance to see a lot more carries in 2019.
For one, he just has to beat out one guy for the starting job, and that's Chris Carson. The Seahawks let Mike Davis go in free agency, so you won't have to worry about that gross 3-headed monster attack.
Chris Carson is coming off an excellent 2018 season, but his health is a concern. Carson recently 'had some work done' on his knee this past offseason. Details are vague and it could be nothing, but Carson already has some other injuries under his belt after two seasons. Plus, with a team looking to run the ball as much as Seattle is, you can expect even more wear and tear on Carson as the season goes along.
Seattle's run heavy approach
The Seahawks were the only team to run the ball more than they passed in 2018. And offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is doubling down on that approach in 2019.
The one minor knock on Penny's opportunity is Pete Carroll's unpredictable approach. Seahawks.com reporter John Boyle reports Carroll wants to adopt a 'hot-hand' approach. This usually translates to 'who knows I am going to just run some plays and see what works best.' This is often frustrating for fantasy players. But again, with Carson's injury history and Penny's ADP, it's well worth the risk for what you're paying.
Work ethic getting better
We always hear about players 'being in the best shape of their lives' knowing it's player speak. It's still good to see someone taking his game seriously. Penny is doing that in 2019.
He hired a nutritionist in 2019, so he's taking better care of his body. He also met with Marshall Faulk twice a week in the offseason to study film.
Are these game-changers for his fantasy value in 2019? Of course not. Most players study film and take good care of their bodies. But it's still good to see he's not exactly going off the rails like some players seem to always do. See Josh Gordon.
Probability of outplaying ADP: Very high
Penny is one of the best value picks in 2019. He plays in a run heavy offense. The starting back in Seattle has some injury history already and will likely need to take some snaps off. Plus he's got the versatility to make big plays in the passing game. You should be looking to draft him in as many leagues as possible.
George discusses his latest food binge on this podcast. Plus gives one simple tip on how to avoid drafting busts.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie running back Miles Sanders has the swiss army knife potential you'd like out of a fantasy running back. But is he worth drafting at his current ADP?
Right now Sanders is getting drafted at No. 85 overall according to Fantasy Football Calculator. Just behind guys like Kareem Hunt and Lamar Miller and just ahead of Jordan Howard and Ronald Jones II.
Why he's intriguing as an immediate fantasy contributor
One of the biggest factors Sanders has going for him early on is his draft capital. The Eagles invested a 2nd round pick in him. The last time they drafted a running back that high was LeSean McCoy in the second round 10 years ago. McCoy went on to put up some spectacular numbers with Philadelphia. Including a 17 touchdown campaign in 2011 and he won the rushing title in 2013.
Plus, the offense in Philly is built for Sanders. Doug Pederson and backs like Sanders go together like lamb and tuna fish. Pederson likes to run quick hitting plays out of the shotgun to get running backs in space so they can make guys miss. Guys like Darren Sproles and Corey Clement have thrived in that set up so far.
Sanders should be no different. Per Pro Football Focus, Sanders ranked in the Top 10 in missed tackles (47), yards after contact (845) and runs resulting in a first down or touchdown (38) while at Penn State. He has great potential to be a great PPR back.
Not only that, Sanders is also thick-bodied at 5'11, 215 lbs. So he has the size to be an every down back and run inside as well.
Why he's not that intriguing
One early knock on Sanders being not worth his ADP is his health. He's been nursing a hamstring injury. While it's not considered serious, he's been out of team activities for a few weeks and you wonder if losing valuable reps might hurt his chances of being ready with the offense come September.
There's also the fumbling. Sanders coughed up the ball 10 times in three seasons at Penn State and lost seven of them. While fumbling is something players can improve on, it's still a 'wait and see' type of thing with rookies.
But perhaps the biggest concern is his place on the roster. Jordan Howard will likely be the No. 1 running back out of the gate. Though he's coming off an injury, Howard has the proven pedigree. He got two 1,000+ yards seasons in his three-year career plus one Pro Bowl nod. He's only 24 years old. Plus he's also an underrated pass catcher in his own right. He's also been fairly durable in those three seasons, starting 44 of 47 games.
Is he worth drafting?
While Sanders has a chance to see more opportunity towards the middle of the season, he's too big of a risk to draft right now based on his current ADP. Howard is the proven back and he'll likely make an immediate impact to start. You can draft him later than Sanders as he's going at RB90 overall.
There are other proven backs you can get in that area as well. Adrian Peterson is another back getting drafted in that spot. He proved he still has something left in the tank. Even a rookie like Damian Harris with New England has some considerable intrigue given the volatility of that offense in New England. You can get him at RB123.
In short, you're better off taking a handful of decent upside backs and letting Sanders go.
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On this pod, the Helpers do a quick Mock Draft and analyze the first few rounds for value.
Here are some of their takeaways.
Round 1: Don't get cute. You can't win a draft in the first round, but you can certainly lose one. So take your stud running back or stud wide receiver and be good with that.
Also, if you're drafting in the first 4 picks, you really have 4 perfect options at running back to choose from. Alvin Kamara, Christian McCaffery, Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott. There's no wrong answer there.
Rounds 2-4: There's some interesting value to be had in these rounds, especially at WR. A.J. Green is going off at WR11, that means he's a boarderline WR2. If you can draft a stud wide receiver like a Michael Thomas or DeAndre Hopkins AND also get A.J. Green, you're sitting pretty. This scenario would likely work out in a snake draft in you're drafting around pick 6-12 in a 12-team league.
Some other notes on players...
T.Y. Hilton (WR Indianapolis Colts) — A must-get this season as far as we're concerned. Andrew Luck and the Colts were one of the hottest teams to close out the 2018 season. That offense is going to score points and T.Y. Hilton will be on the receiving end of many of them. If you can't get T.Y. Hilton, be sure to pick up Paris Campbell or Eric Ebron in the later rounds.
Tarik Cohen (RB Chicago Bears) — A lock to get 70 catches this season in that creative Bears offense. Cohen is the only proven back in that group. David Montgomery is a rookie and will have to earn his spot, and Mike Davis could be just a guy.
Amari Cooper (WR Dallas Cowboys) — A bit of disagreement here on Cooper. Scott was high on him while George wasn't. There are some concerns with Dallas not being a great passing offense. Plus Cooper's numbers waned down the stretch last season. Scott is confident Cooper will still be a force in that offense, which he probably will be. I just think there might be better options there.
Marquez Valdez-Scantling (WR Green Bay Packers) — MVS got a lot of separation last season and has blazing speed. He could be the No. 2 behind Davante Adams in Green Bay this season. Definitely want to get a piece of that offense with Aaron Rodgers. George was kinda kicking himself not taking him.
Josh Jacobs (RB Oakland Raiders) — Big fan of young running backs getting early opportunities, and Jacobs has that in Oakland. He also has some Frank Gore qualities, which hopefully means he'll be as durable as Frank Gore was. Overall, he's a potential stud at his current ADP and we're pretty high on him.
Drafting players who exceed their value in average draft position often separates the good teams from the truly great ones.
So how do you give yourself the best chance of finding talent in the later rounds at the running back position? You have to find one that fits several categories.
One guy with the potential is Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II.
So what do we like about this second-year back out of USC?
Steady producer in college
When it comes to predicting success, there's no greater indicator than college film. Specifically consistent, strong production over several years at the Division-I level.
Jones has this quality in spades. He burst onto the scene hard as a freshman at USC, averaging 6.5 yards per carry and 987 rush yards. He finished 2016 with 1,082 yards and 12 touchdowns that year. He finished strong in 2017, rushing for 1,550 yards and 19 touchdowns. And this was despite USC being a pass-heavy offense.
I know it seems like an obvious strategy, but a lot of people end up reaching on an unproven back early because he has 'talent.' Sure, you're throwing some darts in the later rounds and not every player is going to fill every possible hole. But why not draft a guy who has talent but also showed he could produce at the college level?
Not much competition to deal with
The Buccaneers went extremely defensive heavy in the draft. They didn't take a running back and didn't even draft a skill position player until the sixth round, taking WR Scott Miller out of Bowling Green.
Because of this, all Jones is competing with is ho-hum back Peyton Barber. Barber only averaged 3.7 yards per carry last season, so he didn't exactly blow the doors off the place. Plus he's on a one-year deal for a little over $2 million, so it's not like the Bucs are heavily invested in him.
When it comes to finding running backs who will produce fantasy points, you want to find a guy who the coach likes and will look to get the ball to. Volume is one of the most effective ways of predicting fantasy success. Even a mediocre running back getting 25 carries a game is better than a great running back getting 12 carries a game.
Has the speed for big plays
There's a lot of speed here with Jones. He's an explosive player. He was one of the faster guys at the 2018 combine, running a 4.48 40. He can stretch the field with his speed.
When it comes to running backs, talent isn't the most important thing, volume is. However, the ability to rip off big runs at the second level is still very helpful. Often times a big 56-run will mitigate 10 runs of 3 yards or less. You want a running back with the capability of hitting a home run, and Jones has that.
He's a dual threat
Jones is a good route runner, has soft hands and catches the ball well. He wasn't asked to catch the ball a ton at USC, but he made the most of it when he did.
Key tip: Receiving running backs are deadly. If you look at the top running backs from last season like Christian McCaffery, Alvin Kamara and Saquon Barkley, they all racked up a ton of targets.
His current ADP is juicy
Jones is going in the 9th-10th round in most fantasy drafts. Meaning you can get him at a steal. He's going around the likes of Adrian Peterson and Austin Ekeler. Now, his ADP will likely rise, especially if he shows out during preseason.
Overall, Jones is a worthy dart throw running back this season because of his speed and opportunity.
Todd Gurley has some issues, and people should be getting excited for rookie Darrel Henderson in 2019.
ESPN's Lisa Thiry reported earlier that Todd Gurley will miss the entire preseason.
While many weren't too concerned about Gurley's knee, it's definitely starting to look like there could be some issues now.
If that's the case, it's important to adapt to the situation as a fantasy owner. That's why we look to the next guy up. Darrell Henderson.
Why it matters for fantasy
Gurley battled injury woes down the stretch last year, and he was the worst kind of fantasy player because of it.
You didn't know what you were going to get with Gurley. But it was tough to bench him because he was such a stud.
Also, we saw how good a backup running back can be behind the Rams potent offensive line.
Running back C.J. Anderson had three games of 100+ yards in the playoffs last season, and was by the far the Rams best back in that stretch. With Anderson gone now, there's now more room in the offense for volume.
Why you should be excited about Henderson's immediate fantasy potential
Henderson is by far the most explosive back coming out of the draft this season. He was also one of the most efficient running backs in college football history. You can read more about his stats and traits in our 'Talent Evaluation' section here.
Also, the Rams traded up to get Henderson in the third round. Draft capital investment is often a good indicator of how soon a rookie sees the field. This shows that even if Gurley is healthy, the Rams are likely going to use Henderson anyway, making him valuable in deeper leagues.
To top it off, you can currently get Henderson in the 8th round according to FFCalculator. Making him an absolute steal there.
Is Malcolm Brown a problem?
While Henderson has some opportunity, Malcolm Brown is still in the mix. The Rams hung on to him in the offseason and he's a talented enough back that could be a starter on several other teams.
But should we get worried about Brown stealing touches?
There's definitely some cause to worry. Brown is definitely going to get a shot as well. So he's a welcome dart throw as well.
The current state of the Rams as a team
The Rams burst out of the gate last season as one of the best offenses in the league. But many factors contributed to their team's slow decline near the end of the season.
They had injuries to their key players, including key wide receiver Cooper Kupp. Plus Gurley's play declined as the season went along. Defenses also started to figure out Sean McVay's style, which lead to more teams beating them in the playoffs.
But despite that, the Rams are still a very good offense heading into 2019. They'll have Kupp back. Sean McVay will also have to evolve his play style once again to counter other coaches counters. But he's proven to be a smart enough guy where I'm confident he'll do that.
Overall, Henderson has the potential to be a league winner for fantasy teams in 2019. The Rams offense will be among the best in the league. There's opportunity for high volume with Gurley's knee issues. The Rams showed a lot of interest trading up to get him in the third round.
Lastly, Henderson is one of the most explosive rookie backs this season. Draft him in as many leagues as you can.