George Banko

George Banko

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Monday, 24 April 2017 00:00

Fantasy Film Projector: Alvin Kamara

When it comes to identifying traits in running backs that produce immediate fantasy value, proficiency in pass blocking, ball security, route running and receiving ability are often most important. These traits are valuable because they're important when avoiding turnovers, which is often the difference in a rookie running back playing vs. standing on the sideline.

Opportunity is paramount when it comes to fantasy value, and if a player has to leave the game because he can't identify blitz pickups on third downs, he'll likely miss out on plays when his number is called on either a run or pass play. When that happens, potential fantasy points go out the window.

Tennessee running back prospect Alvin Kamara is proficient in a few of these categories, but not enough to make him a running back you should immediately target in your redraft leagues unless he finds himself surrounded by a ton of talented teammates. He has good hands and turned plenty of screen passes into long runs while at Tennessee. You'll see in the clip above how he's able to use his balance to turn a short pass into a touchdown against ranked opponent Georgia.

Kamara has good balance when he runs and decent hands, even though his hand size is below average for NFL running back prospects. His good pad level also allows him to shed defenders once he gets momentum, but one athletic weakness may prevent him from being effective as a receiver at the NFL level. This is illustrated in the clip below.

Overall, there are some likeable traits regarding Kamara's fantasy value. He just doesn't present a trump card ability which makes me uncertain on how he will win at the NFL level. He has decent hands, but lacks breakaway speed and agility to create yards after catch. He has  I'll be avoiding Kamara in redraft fantasy leagues unless he lands in an incredible situation such as Green Bay or Indianapolis.


Thursday, 13 April 2017 00:00

Fantasy Film Projector: James Conner

Editor's note: The Fantasy Film Projector is a process that identifies player traits correlated with fantasy football success. Those traits include receiving ability, route running, (points per reception leagues), play strength (goal line touchdown ability) and explosiveness (long distance touchdown ability). You can read past editions of the Fantasy Film Projector by clicking the links below.

Jeremy McNichols, Boise State RB

Christian McCaffrey, Stanford RB

Samaje Perine, Oklahoma RB

James Conner models his game after Marshawn Lynch, and it's evident when you watch Conner run. He drags defenders like Lynch did and his 6'1, 233lb could give teams seeking an every-down power back plenty to be excited about. 

But despite his size and aggressive run style, there are causes for concern when it comes to his immediate fantasy value, specifically in the measurables department. Per Mockdraftable, the Pittsburgh running back posted a 4.6 40-yard dash time, which ranks in the bottom 24 percent among RBs. While his size is imposing, his strength indicates he still has room to grow as he only turned in 20 bench press reps, ranking him only slightly above the top 50 percent of running backs. For a running back of his stature, you'd like to see closer to 30 reps.

How he can help you in fantasy

Conner's shown potential as a points per reception back. His hand size at 9 7/8 inches tested in the 87th percentile among rookie running backs and he recorded 13 catches in his first four games with Pitt last season. He also possesses good great goal line back potential due to his very good balance, good short area burst, and good pad level.

There's some question marks about his lateral agility and breakaway speed, so he likely won't be a home run hitter type of player that will get you 30 point games. But it's likely he can string together some really solid 20 point efforts if he's utilized as a receiver enough in the offense he finds himself in.

Overall, Conner is unlikely be an immediate impact player in Year 1 but he could be a late-round dynasty addition depending on which team drafts him. He's most suited for a zone-blocking scheme that doesn't utilize a lot of outside runs or a gap scheme. Steer clear of him in redraft leagues for your draft barring injury to a starting RB on the team that drafts him.

Some more background

Conner's a cancer survivor, which in and of itself is incredible and his ability to resurge in 2016 after his cancer diagnosis sidelined him for the majority of the 2015 season was even more incredible. Conner finished with 1,092 yards and 16 touchdowns. He did despite entering the season at 60 percent of what he was capable of, according to him.

To put his 2016 season into NFL context, below is a chart of how Conner fared against the top college defenses last season, many of which are composed of several NFL defensive prospects.

James Conner  Rushing yards/TDs Opponent/defensive ranking
Week 2 117/1 Penn State/37th
Week 8 141/3 Virginia Tech/18th
Week 9 40/1 Miami/20th
Week 10 132/1 Clemson/8th
Total numbers 420/6  
Wednesday, 12 April 2017 00:00

Fantasy Film Projector: Joe Mixon

Editor's note: The Fantasy Film Projector is a process that identifies player traits typically correlated with fantasy football success. Those traits include receiving ability and route running (points per reception leagues), play strength and competitive toughness (goal line, short yardage traits for touchdown-based leagues) and explosiveness (long distance touchdown ability huge ceiling potential). You can read past editions of the Fantasy Film Projector by clicking the links below.

Jeremy McNichols, Boise State RB

Christian McCaffrey, Stanford RB

Samaje Perine, Oklahoma RB

Mixon notes

Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon compares a lot to Larry Johnson, the former Kansas City Chief running back.

Things that stand out most with Mixon is ability to change direction at difficult angles but not lose speed through the transition which causes defenders to lose their angle. He's a very decisive runner who can tempo his running down to set up blocks, similar to what Le'Veon Bell does in Pittsburgh. He's a good receiver out of the backfield that transitions from the catch smoothly to get upfield and create more positive yardage.

Not an overly explosive player in terms of breakaway. You wonder if he's going to have a lot of long runs in the NFL. But there are plenty of great running backs who weren't crazy explosive that possessed the kind of cutting ability, vision, receiving ability and decisiveness that Mixon has and were very effective fantasy running backs. Plus, the way he sets running backs up with his cutting ability should allow him to create more space without having to outrun fast NFL defenders. 

Could be a very steady player that consistently gets 100-yard games, much like Larry Johnson did in Kansas City.

Mixon recorded 28 and 37 catches in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Had 538 yards and five touchdowns in 2016.

Mixon ranked 31st in total rush yards in 2016, but a lot of that had to do with sharing the carry load with teammate Samaje Perine.

Mixon has a great jump cut and shows patience when setting up blocks. He's an ideal fit for a zone-blocking scheme. Makes good decisions in the open field. Doesn't try to do too much with runs.

Mixon has the prototypical size and strength you like out of a running back, standing 6'0, 228 lbs.

He didn't participate in the combine, with all his measurables coming from his Pro Day.

Mixon performed very well at his Pro Day, running a 4.5 40 which landed him in the 67th percentile among running backs.

Mixon has some baggage, stemming from an altercation in 2014 where he punched a woman in a nightclub.

Adam Inman, George Banko, Andy Ferris and special guest Dominick Petrillo debate who's currently being overdrafted and underdrafted according to various Mock Draft sites. They tell who you should think about drafting and who you should steer clear of heading into the early stages of the 2017 season.

For more fantasy football insight, follow the Helpers staff @adaminman @AndyFerrisFF, @gbankoffhelpers, and @Envisionff.

Adam Inman, George Banko, Andy Ferris and special guest Dominick Petrillo debate who's currently being overdrafted and underdrafted according to various Mock Draft sites. They tell who you should think about drafting and who you should steer clear of heading into the early stages of the 2017 season.

For more fantasy football insight, follow the Helpers staff @adaminman @AndyFerrisFF, @gbankoffhelpers, and @Envisionff.

Sunday, 02 April 2017 00:00

Fantasy Film Projector: Samaje Perine

Editor's note: The Fantasy Film Projector is a process that identifies player traits typically correlated with fantasy football success. Those traits include receiving ability, route running, (points per reception leagues), play strength (goal line touchdown ability) and explosiveness (long distance touchdown ability). You can read past editions of the Fantasy Film Projector by clicking the links below.

Jeremy McNichols, Boise State RB

Christian McCaffrey, Stanford RB

When it comes to goal line backs, we often think of famous touchdown snipers like John Kuhn, Michael Bush, Brandon Jacobs and, most recently, LeGarrette Blount and Latavius Murray. These backs aren't usually the star players on your fantasy teams, but they're every bit as reliable and can make for great RB2's or flex plays depending on how many teams are in your league. For example, Murray scored five touchdowns in his first four games last season. That's the kind of stability a goal line back can bring to your fantasy lineup.

Blount and Murray possessed a few traits that made them effective goal line backs last season. With Blount weighing 250 lbs and Murray coming in at 230 lbs, both delivered a serious punch when facing contact from multiple defenders near the end zone. Both running backs were also very sure-handed, with only 2 fumbles lost between their 494 total attempts in 2016.

Blount and Murray's effectiveness when absorbing contact in short yardage situations translated to the scoring sheet as well. They finished in the Top 14 for fantasy scoring among running backs, with Blount finishing as a clear RB1 (218 points) and Murray hovering around RB1/2 status (164 points). They each scored more than 10 touchdowns (Blount 18, Murray 12) and were featured in successful offenses that ranked in the Top 6 for points per game (New England 27.6, Oakland 26).

Touchdowns often make the difference between an average fantasy performance and a great one, which is why it's important to find those guys early and draft them to your team. In this edition of the Fantasy Film Projector, we take a look at an upcoming rookie who's likely to be equally menacing as a goal line back, and that player is none other than Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine.

When it comes to measurables, Perine has everything you'd want out of a goal line back. Per Mockdraftable, Perine tested in the 98th percentile for strength (30 bench press reps), the 92nd percentile for weight (233 lbs). Both Murray and Blount were decent goal line options and both of those running backs ranked in the 74th percentile or above for weight when they came out.

The height and weight measurables show you how much force Perrine could generate when coming into contact with bigger defenders on the goal line, but hand size is a factor as well. Perine tested in the 91st percentile for hand size (10").

You might think hand size might not matter for goal line backs, but it makes a big difference when it comes to not fumbling, which is often one of the quickest ways a young running back can find himself benched. Turnovers are one of the most costly stats when it comes to loss of points, and fumbling was not an issue in college for Samaje Perine as he only coughed up the ball 6 times in 725 career attempts.

When it comes to an ideal offensive fit for Perine, I'd look for an offensive team that already has an established offensive line, runs a gap scheme to take advantage of Perrine's downhill running style, and has an offense that scores consistently.

It's easy to look back at what a player once was and talk yourself into him drafting him with hopes he'll exude greatness once again. When it comes to Baltimore Ravens RB Danny Woodhead, the potential to reclaim past success is definitely intriguing.

Just two seasons ago with the San Diego Chargers at the ripe age of 30, Woodhead was a PPR (points per reception) monster who piled up over 100 targets en route to 80 catches for 755 yards and six touchdowns. He finished 3rd overall in PPR scoring among running backs, behind only Devonta Freeman and Adrian Peterson.

Throughout his career, Woodhead flourished when he played in all 16 games with the Chargers (a feat he only accomplished in two of four seasons with the team). In 2013, he racked up 605 yards on 76 catches and six touchdowns which ranked him 12th overall in PPR leagues.

Good situations

Woodhead's been blessed with prominent quarterbacks during his time in the NFL. Woodhead played along the likes of Tom Brady (2010-2012) and Philip Rivers (2013-2016), both Pro Bowl quarterbacks. Both also helped Woodhead string together several seasons of 30+ catches, with Rivers favoring Woodhead the most after targeting the small running back over 190 times in 2013 and 2015.

Now, Woodhead is again thrust into a potentially good situation playing alongside Pro Bowl quarterback Joe Flacco in Baltimore. When it comes to his potential for opportunity with the Ravens, Woodhead fantasy owners have plenty to be excited about.

What we like about him now

Top RB Kenneth Dixon is expected to miss the first four games of the season after violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. Dixon accrued 41 total targets last season with the Ravens, and the coaching staff is still very high on him so don't expect Woodhead to stay the top back all season, but it does bold well for his short-term value.

A gifted receiver, Woodhead possesess a skill proven to age like fine wine. Just look at how players like Fred Jackson and Larry Fitzgerald have extended their careers despite their age due to their catching ability. At age 32, Jackson ranked 11th overall in PPR scoring in 2013 for running backs. Fitzgerald ranked 11th overall in PPR scoring in 2016 at age 33. There's no reason to believe age could limit Woodhead as a receiver in Baltimore.

The Ravens are also a very pass-oriented team, especially to the running back position. Last season, the 3-headed monster of Terrance West, Kenneth Dixon and Kyle Juszczyk combined for 125 targets. It's not out of the question that Woodhead sees 10+ targets in Week 1.

The current depth chart among receivers in Baltimore should only help Woodhead's cause to be involved in the passing game. With top target hogs Steve Smith now gone and also WR4 Kamar Aiken, the Ravens receivers consist of an aging one-trick pony in Mike Wallace, underachieving and injury-prone Breshad Perriman, and a host of lesser-known names Michael Campanaro, Vince Mayle, Chris Moore and Kenny Bell. While the draft could obviously change things, it looks like Woodhead will see a prominent passing role at least early on this season.

Woodhead's current average draft position is in the eighth round, right near players like Dion Lewis, C.J. Prosise, and Giovani Bernard. With the Bengals likely to add another running back in the draft, Lewis becoming less of a factor as the Patriots added several RBs, and Prosise playing behind Eddie Lacy, no running back in that group has a more clearly defined role than Woodhead.

Causes for concern

The biggest worry one might have about drafting Woodhead is his injury history. He's coming off his second ACL tear and is now 32 years old. While age isn't a concern when it comes to receiving ability, injuries at that age tend to heal slower and you'll have to wonder if his route running will be affected.

Overall verdict

Woodhead is a good value for PPR leagues in the eighth round. Draft him if you have a chance. At the very least, he'll be good for four weeks before Dixon comes on and may still have a role since the Ravens planned on signing him even before the Dixon suspension.

Nathan Rupert/Flickr

Editor's note: This is the second installment of the Fantasy Film Projector series for 2017. The goal of the Fantasy Film Projector is to help you identify traits from college players that will translate to points for your fantasy team if you decide to draft them. It's not meant to be a predictor of NFL success since that largely depends on the team that drafts them, what their scheme is and what opportunity that player will have in the offense.

When it comes to versatility among fantasy running backs, there might not be a better candidate than Stanford prospect Christian McCaffrey. Blending vision, agility, route running, catching ability and a hint of breakaway speed, McCaffrey brings a skill set ripe with fantasy potential if he lands with the right team. Overall, he's one of the more intriguing running backs in the 2017 class.

What we know he can do

McCaffrey was one of the most dynamic college players ever at Stanford. He showed competency  as a kickoff returner and even broke Barry Sanders NCAA single-season record for all-purpose yardage (3,250) in the Pac-12 Championship game. He also displayed enough speed to break off long touchdown runs in the open field.

McCaffrey's measurables at the combine this past month backed up his stats in college. Per Mockdraftable, he tested in the 97th percentile in the 3-cone-drill, showing elite agility potential. His 4.48 40-time was also above average and eased worry that he might not be able to outrun defenders at the NFL level. His only big knock is his play strength, as he managed only 10 bench press reps which makes you question his ability to roll his hips and drive forward after initial contact. To put it into context, Dalvin Cook of Florida State had 22 while Samaje Perine posted 30.

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How McCaffrey helps you in fantasy

Based on his traits, McCaffrey would fit best in a west coast offense that uses screen passes, option, and wheel routes out of the backfield. McCaffrey is smooth in and out of his break, which will be a matchup nightmare for linebackers trying to cover him in the open field.

Teams that could utilize him most effectively on paper include the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers. In terms of potential for immediate playing time, the New York Giants are the top candidate since they currently have no clear No. 1 running back. Philadelphia might also be a great landing spot for immediate playing time as well since current starter Ryan Mathews has dealt with injuries consistently throughout his career.

In terms of scoring, McCaffrey should benefit your team immediately in the return game if coaches choose to use him that way. He will also be effective in points per reception leagues depending on the offense he's drafted into.

While you might not ever get to see McCaffrey as an every down back since his lack of strength may prevent him from being a strong insider runner, McCaffrey will make up for it with his catching and agility to elude defenders and gain extra yardage. Overall, he's low risk because he clearly has the ball skills required to play at the NFL level, and if he surprises every one and plays stronger than his measurables indicate, then he could be an every-down back and give you incredible value.

Previous Fantasy Film Projector installments: Jeremy McNichols


On this edition of the pod, Will Pendleton and George Banko discuss Latavius Murray's fantasy value going forward, if any rookie quarterbacks will be fantasy relevant in 2017 and why Christian McCaffrey is one of the most fascinating running back prospects in awhile.


Thursday, 23 February 2017 00:00

Fantasy film projector: Jeremy McNichols

On this edition of the Fantasy Film Projector, we discuss Boise State running back Jeremy McNichols and where his skill set fits into the NFL fantasy picture as a rookie in 2017.


McNichols played 3 seasons at Boise State and recorded 55 total touchdowns combined rushing and receiving. His 2,255 all-purpose yards were the second-most in a season in Boise State history. A high volume RB, McNichols carried the ball 314 times in 2016, tied for fourth most among all NCAA FBS running backs.

At 5'9, 212 lbs, McNichols is a bit undersized but plays strong, showing the desire to bull over defenders by initiating contact first. A lot of draftniks are worried about McNichols size and lack of elite athletic ability at the pro level, but by getting caught up in that, they miss the overall scope of McNichols' ability.

The most intriguing aspect to McNichols game in terms of fantasy value is what he can do as a the receiver out of the backfield. McNichols has the cutting, vision and catching skill set reminiscent of players like Atlanta Falcons RB Devonta Freeman. His vision allows him to see lanes the after the catch and decisively move to the correct spot. He's at identifying cut back lanes which him helps elude defenders and his good balance allows him to string multiple moves together as you'll see in the video above.

Durability is one of the main concerns surrounding McNichols draft stock. He's expected to undergo surgery on his labrum this coming offseason. The former Bronco has dealt with shoulder issues throughout the past season.

How he could help you in fantasy

Overall, while McNichols doesn't possess overwhelming size at 5'9, there are plenty of running backs who have his skill set that have been great fantasy options. For example, Devonta Freeman stands 5'8, 206 lbs and has been a top 10 fantasy RB for two seasons now. Great coaches and franchises maximize talent, and McNichols has the receiving skills and vision that can be maximized in the right offensive scheme with the right coach.

If you're looking to draft him to your dynasty team, you can expect him to be selected in the mid to late rounds of the draft and if he lands in a good situation, he'll bring some good fantasy value as a backup RB that could see some increased playing time if the starter goes down.




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We believe Fantasy Football success comes down to two things — opportunity and talent. You will have Fantasy Football mastered once you understand how good a player is and how good of an opportunity he has to gain yards and score touchdowns. The thing is, you'll never master Fantasy Football. But you can get pretty darn good at it when you have even a slightly better understanding of opportunity and talent than the average Joe. That's what Fantasy Football Helpers is dedicated to doing.

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