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After not talking since week 16 of the 2016 NFL season Jaben and Will continue to give thoughts on a few more rookies, but most importantly how the draft will effect the fantasy value of NFL veterans. From the Los Angeles Chargers to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the 30 minute drill duo breaks down the upcoming season's fantasy implications and the NFL Draft. 

The band is back together as the boys from the 30 minute drill are back to give 10 rookies they are looking at as the offseason concludes. Jaben and Will give their thoughts on these rookies' landing spots and their potential for the fantasy season. Be sure to come back tomorrow for the second half of the episode where Will and Jaben give some takes on NFL veterans and how their stock has either been raised or lowered due to the NFL draft. 

On today's episode Adam and Ferris go through some news from the NFL including the Denver Broncos signing of Jamaal Charles to go along with some of the fifth year rookie options that are being accepted and declined. After news the duo looks ahead to the fantasy quarterback landscape and then welcome Dominick on to speak and discuss his quarterback tiers following the NFL draft. 

 George and Jaben are here to break down some of the running backs that are eligible for the 2017 NFL Draft. The two begin with a lesser talked about player in Samaje Perine and talk about his best fit for the NFL and his fantasy value. They continue to roll through George's fantasy film projector series, giving their thoughts on each player's potential fantasy value and best fits for NFL teams. Before the two finish George gives some names to watch as the later rounds of the NFL draft approach. 

The Fantasy Football Helpers and Rumford Johnny finish out the ten most intriguing teams as we round out free agency and look forward to the draft. Rummy joins Jaben for the second half of the podcast, be sure to listen to the first half that was posted Tuesday. Huge shout out to Rumford Johnny for joining us, you can follow him on twitter @RumfordJohnny he's a great follow as draft season quickly approaches. 

Rumford Johnny joins the Fantasy Football Helpers to break down 10 of the most intriguing teams after the moves in free agency and we take look ahead at the draft. We lead the show talking about the most active team in free agency the New England Patriots. Not only did the Patriots lead the show but they seemed to be a focal point, as the show rolls along New England seems to be intertwined in every team we speak about, including the Green Bay Packers. Rummy also brings up some great value players for best ball leagues as we fill the fantasy void with MFL10s. This is the first half of my interview with Rummy as he was gracious enough to spend an hour with me, be on the look out for part two coming later this week! If for some reason you aren't following Rummy on twitter, you can find him @RumfordJohnny and he is one of the best follows on all of twitter. 

Friday, 27 January 2017 00:00

Lessons Learned From 2016: Tight Ends

Opportunity is a bigger factor than talent in some cases. 

The 2016 season was a disaster for the tight end position. According to fantasyfootballcalculator.com Rob Gronkowski and Jordan Reed were the no. 1 and 2 TEs taken in drafts. Gronk’s average draft position (ADP) was 2.02 and was taken as high as the 2nd overall pick. Injuries plagued him throughout the year and he finished as TE21 in standard scoring leagues.

Reed was taken as the TE2 this season after being undrafted in 2015 but, as with Gronk, injuries limited his availability and he was just able to squeak in the top 10 TEs for the season. Drafting a tight end early is never a certainty even as we look to the 2015 season where Jimmy Graham was drafted as TE2 with an ADP of 3.08, but finished as TE17.

The Top 3 tight ends for the 2016 season finished as 3 of the 6 TEs to eclipse the 100 target mark. Travis Kelce and Greg Olsen were the only tight ends to go over 1,000 yards for the year, on 85 and 80 receptions respectively. The knock on these players is the lack of touchdown production from a position usually known for scoring.

In fact, 5 of the 6 previous seasons the TE1 has amassed at least 9 touchdowns, while Kelce and Olsen only combined to score 7. Gronkowski returning, Jimmy Graham becoming more involved in the Seattle offense and the random bursts of touchdowns from the Jack Doyles, Cameron Brates, and Hunter Henrys the tight end position is due for positive touchdown regression.

Undrafted Players Making an Impact

In standard scoring leagues, 4 of the top 12 tight ends for 2016 were not drafted. Kyle Rudolph finished the season as TE3 and led all tight ends with 132 targets and finished third in receptions with 83. Rudolph was the perfect example of waiting for a tight end late and also having tremendous opportunity. In 8 of his 15 games played with Sam Bradford at quarterback, Rudolph posted at least one touchdown and only saw fewer than 5 targets 5 times. Rudolph posted a career high in targets, receptions, and yardage.

Cameron Brate (TE6) and Hunter Henry (TE11) both finished with 8 touchdowns which led the position. Brate entered the season battling Austin Sefarian-Jenkins for the starting spot and after ASJ was released Brate was clearly the better option. 2016 was only his third season out of Harvard but he was able to compile 57 receptions on 81 targets. Henry was a rookie entering the season with a Hall of Fame predecessor, in Antonio Gates.

While Gates served his suspension in weeks 2 and 3, Hunter Henry began his breakout posting 9 receptions and 133 receiving yards along with a touchdown. Antonio Gates announced he will be returning for the upcoming 2017 season, meaning Henry will fall in drafts and could be a late round flier or even possibly an early waiver addition to your team.

To top all of the undrafted lists among tight ends however is Jack Doyle finishing as TE12. Dwayne Allen’s ADP was 12.06 so cutting ties with him was not painful, but after Coby Fleener left for New Orleans Allen seemed primed for a Top 12 season only to be out targeted by Doyle by 30 targets. Doyle is a free agent as we head into the off season, so this may be a one year outlier. What it does show however is, due to Allen’s injury history and concern the second tight end in Indianapolis will have value.

Late Round Steals in 2016

Personal experience leads me to suggest on waiting until at least round 9 before drafting a tight end, and for the 2016 season you would have ended up with players such as Zach Ertz, Antonio Gates, or Jimmy Graham. Ertz seems to be an end of the season monster, with back to back years of not scoring a touchdown until at least week 11 and in each of his first

4 seasons his best game has come in the second -half of the year. The average draft position for Ertz has never been higher than TE11, yet he has yet to finish outside of the top 20 for TEs each year. Gates, as mentioned before, has an heir apparent looming over his shoulder. Even with the constant threat of Hunter Henry, Gates still managed to haul in at least 7 touchdowns for the 11th time in his illustrious career. Antonio Gates finished the season tied with Tony Gonzalez with 111 career touchdowns, and has stated he will be returning in 2017 to break the record.

An ADP of 9.07 in 2016 bodes well for players looking to find a starting caliber tight end late in drafts. The player drafted latest of the trio was Jimmy Graham with an ADP of 11.04. Graham entered the season with huge injury questions, but throughout the season he proved he was back to being his normal self. As Seattle moves toward a more pass heavy approach with the questions in their backfield, look for Graham to become the touchdown machine he was in New Orleans.

What to Do Moving Forward

Only twice since 2011 has the tight end drafted first for the position finished as the no. 1 tight end on the year. Every year however there is a player that was either drafted late or not drafted at all who has finished at least in the top 5 for tight ends. It is best for fantasy rosters to stock up on skill position players in the earlier rounds and grab a tight end later in drafts, or even stream the position week to week. 

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.

 

In 2014 fantasy owners in every league invested heavily in Andre Ellington with the hopes that he would have a breakout sophomore year.  Unfortunately, Ellington experienced what can only be considered a sophomore slump.  His previous 5.5 yard per carry average plummeted in 2014 to 3.3, and he was only able to rack up 8 more rushing yards in 2014 (650) than in his freshman season (642), on 83 more carries.  These numbers are disheartening for fantasy owners, but on the bright side he was struggling with injuries throughout the year that could be considered the primary cause for his decline.  Whatever the reason, fantasy owners are looking ahead and trying to decide whether or not Ellington will be worth an investment in 2015.  In this article, we will look at the factors affecting his value in 2015 and try to figure out just where to draft this boom or bust candidate.

Can Ellington be a lead back in today's NFL?

The NFL today is a completely different animal than it once was.  The days of a a single RB racking up 300+ carries on any given team are over, typically being replaced by RBBC's.  The fact is that the league has evolved into a faster, pass-heavy style of play where individual backs serve different purposes such as pass catching, pass blocking, rushing between the tackles, and edge rushing.  While this fact doesn't only have an effect on Ellington, it hurts him as much and possibly more than other backs because of his size.  Measuring in at 5'9" and only 195 lbs, many believe that Ellington doesn't have the size and durability to be a lead back in today's NFL.  Think Giovani Bernard minus 10 lbs.  Like Bernard, don't be surprised if Arizona looks to add a bruiser at running back to take 1st and 2nd down carries, while spelling Ellington to 3rd down duties.  Now, this isn't to say that Ellington can't be a lead back, but unless he can bulk up in the off season like the Cardinals want, expect another RB to enter Arizona leaving fantasy owners everywhere with another headache.

Can Ellington stay healthy in 2015?

In 2014 Ellington was plagued with a series of injuries that made it seem like he was made of glass.  A week before the season started, Ellington tore a tendon in his left foot and then dealt with a hip flexor issue.  Finally, Ellington's season was ended by a sports related hernia which required surgery that sidelined him for the remainder of 2014.  Because Ellington has proven to be so injury prone, the need for Arizona to add not only a bigger, but also a more durable back is only more dire.  Because of his injuries, Ellington was limited in his carries this season and failed to record a single 100 yard game.  

Where to target Ellington entering 2015

When looking at Ellington's current situation, we really find nothing but question marks.  Can Ellington bulk up in the off season?  Can he stay healthy in 2015?  Will the Cardinals bring in another back to compliment Ellington?  The questions go on and on.  The only certainty entering 2015, is that the Cardinals will have improved run blocking in the form of elite run blocking guard, Mike Iupati.  Unfortunately, even the addition of Iupati isn't enough to sell me on Ellington.  Currently, Ellington is being drafted as an RB2 in most standard mocks due to the Cardinal's lack of depth at the RB position.  However, the question marks surrounding Ellington are too much to ignore, and it's likely that the Cardinals will look to add a big back in either free agency (fingers crossed for Adrian Peterson) or the draft.  Either way, any decent addition to the Cardinals backfield will only further hurt Ellington's value.  I wouldn't reach for Ellington come draft day, but as a true boom or bust candidate I wouldn't mind taking him as my third or fourth RB. Nothing earlier.

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Now, before you all go and gather your pitchforks, hear me out... I know that many fantasy owners have been burned by Eli in the past, and it's impossible to ignore the fact that just two seasons ago, Manning threw for just a mere 18 TDs and a pathetic 27 INTs and finished as the 21st QB overall.  A lot of people like to hate on Manning because of these numbers but if you watch the film, a large chunk of those interceptions were on passes that bounced off of his receivers' hands.  Additionally, Manning was stuck behind an abysmal offensive line and in the system of mediocre offensive coordinator, Kevin Gilbride.  Manning turned those numbers around in 2014, throwing for over 4400 yards, 30 TDs and a respectable 14 INTs, finishing as the #10 QB in standard scoring.  What's even more impressive than his turnaround was his ability to post these numbers in the first year of a completely different offensive system that was orchestrated by ex-Packers QB coach Ben McAdoo. Going into 2015, Manning has more potential than ever to be a top Fantasy QB.  Why, you ask?  Let's take a look.

X's and O's: Gaining familiarity with the McAdoo offense

When Ben McAdoo became the Giants offensive coordinator last year, fans were ecstatic that they were finally free from the Kevin "Shotgun Draw on 3rd and 20" Gilbride system.  Hopes were high that Eli would immediately become a stud.  However, as any quarterback can tell you,  learning a new offensive system always involves a learning curve. Always.  For Manning, it took the entire preseason and the first three weeks of the regular season until he finally began to adjust to the new system, throwing for 300 yards and 4 TDs in Week 4, finishing with 32.1 points as the #1 QB that week.  About half way through the season, Manning looked like he finally had acclimated to McAdoo's offense.  A lot of people wonder why it took him so long. I mean he was just learning a new playbook, right?  Wrong.  From changing his drop back, to his reads and his release, Manning completely changed the way he played the quarterback position.  With an entire season and another off-season of experience under his belt, Eli's knowledge and execution of the Giants' new offensive system will only improve.

Bodyguards: An improved offensive line

When free agency rolled around a couple of weeks ago, many analysts and Giants fans had figured that due to their offensive line troubles, the G-Men would target at least one of the top offensive linemen available in Mike Iupati, Orlando Franklin or Bryan Beluga.  Nope.  Instead, the Giants picked up former Bengal, Marshall Newhouse (an average offensive lineman at best).  Additionally, the Giants went outside the box to improve ther line situation by turning to our neighbors to the north.  This off-season, the Giants picked up the Canadian Football League's best offensive lineman in Brett Jones.  Jones, 23, was voted the CFL's top rookie in 2013 and will add some much needed depth to the Giants offensive line.  Aside from free agency, we cannot forget about this year's NFL draft.  Many NFL analysts believe the Giants will take an offensive lineman (Brandon Scherff or Andrus Peat) with the ninth pick of the draft.  Regardless of whether they decide to take a lineman in the first round or not, it is an absolute certainty that the Giants will look to bolster their pass protection at some point in the draft, and it will most likely be earlier rather than later.  Finally, with Geoff Schwartz returning from injured reserve (along with 19 other Giants), Eli Manning will undoubtedly have more time in the pocket next year.

Weapons Galore: A bolstered receiving corps

Last year Manning had one of the most productive seasons of his career, completing 63.1% of his passes (highest completion percentage of his career) for 4410 yards, 30 TDs and only 15 INTs.  What makes these stats even more impressive is that Eli was able to accomplish these numbers in a new offensive system, missing his favorite receiver in Victor Cruz since week 6.  Before being injured, Cruz was on pace for another 1000+ yard season.  Fortunately, the loss set the stage for rookie receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to have a record breaking rookie season, solidifying him as one of the most elite receivers in the NFL.  Eli will look forward to having Cruz, his favorite receiver, back in 2015 and if all goes according to plan, he will return 100% healthy.  However, things rarely go according to plan after such a major injury (torn patellar tendon).  The top concern entering 2015 is that Cruz won't be able to regain his elite speed and route running ability.  However, a sigh of relief may be in store for the Giants entering the draft.  Recently, more and more buzz has been revolving around the idea that if Amari Cooper falls to the Giants in the draft, he may become the newest member of Big Blue.  Now, while many people argue that the Giants don't need to take a receiver in the first round, GM Jerry Reese is notoriously known for picking the best available player on the board, regardless of team need.  Either way, expect the Giants to have a better wide receiver corps in 2015.

Additionally, the Giants gave Eli another weapon through free agency in the form of pass-catching specialist running back, Shane Vereen.  In 2014, Manning completed 379 passes on 601 attempts (63.1%).  Of his 379 completions, only 62 (16.5%) were caught by running backs.  Enter Shane Vereen.  In 2014, Vereen hauled in 52 passes from former teammate Tom Brady for 447 yards and 3 TDs.  The year before, he caught 47 passes for 427 yards and 3 TDs.  Without a doubt, Vereen has solidified himself as one of the most reliable pass catching backs in the NFL.  In fact, last year only a handful of RBs had more receptions than Vereen, most of them being workhorse backs (Matt Forte, Le'veon Bell, Demarco Murray, and Fred Jackson).  Expect Vereen's numbers to increase even further in 2015 under McAdoo's quick pass system, becoming Manning's number one check down option.  Additionally with TE Larry Donnell proving that he is an unrefined but talented pass catcher and WR Rueben Randle finally showing flashes of greatness at the end of the season, it is easy to say that the Giants will have one of the most dangerous receiving corps in the NFL.

Conclusion: What to expect from Manning in 2015

Coming off one of the best seasons of his career (1st in completion percentage, 2nd in yards, 2nd in TDs, and 2nd in INTs), in a brand new system, missing his favorite receiver, Manning's fantasy potential has never been higher than it is entering 2015.  A bolstered offensive line, the return of all-pro wideout Victor Cruz, and the addition of Shane Vereen means that the Giants look to be a pass first team next year under McAdoo's quick pass offense.  Add all of those with the fact that Manning will finally have a full season of experience in McAdoo's system and you're left with a top 5 QB.  What makes Eli even more enticing for 2015 is the fact that his name is Eli "27 Interceptions" Manning.  This means that Manning will outlast most other QB1s in the draft, further increasing his value.

2015 Projection: #4 QB Overall Standard Scoring

-4900 yards

-38 TDs

-14 INTs

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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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