George Banko

George Banko

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George and Will discuss Minnesota, Cleveland and New England's crowded backfields and which running backs you should draft or avoid drafting in 2017. They also talk about Josh Gordon's denial for reinstatement into the NFL and why you shouldn't care about it anyway.

When we look to draft a player to our fantasy team, we often seek the most talented players we can find. However, looking at the coaches offensive philosophy and which players best fit their system can be very telling in terms of which players could see the greatest opportunity to see valuable snaps during the season. Sometimes, the player who's the best fit isn't the guy you'd expect, which often leads to them being great value picks in the later rounds of your fantasy draft.

Take Justin Forsett, who back in 2014 finished as a Top 8 fantasy running back with the Baltimore Ravens, for example. A castaway from the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars, Forsett wound up flourishing in Gary Kubiak's zone-blocking rushing attack, an offense that was tailor-made for Forsett's agility and quick decision making. Forsett finished that year with 1,267 yards and eight rushing touchdowns for a total of 201 fantasy points.

Certain coaches often produce great fantasy options at specific positions. For example, Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid employs a west coast offense which emphasizes short, quick throws in addition to screen passes. The perfect match for this offense is a running back that's explosive and can create yards in space off short throws. It's no surprise Jamaal Charles, Brian Westbrook, and LeSean McCoy posted monster fantasy totals during their time playing under Reid. Even backup Spencer Ware was a top 20 fantasy back in Reid's offense last season after Charles couldn't stay healthy.

It's this type of evaluation that makes the 2017 San Francisco 49ers regime interesting. They have a new coach in Kyle Shanahan who's developing an impressive track record of his own when it comes to running back fantasy success. He's coming off a season where he led the Atlanta Falcons to a historically successful offensive season that helped Devonta Freeman finish with 248 fantasy points and his second straight RB1 finish. Backup Tevin Coleman also broke out and made for a very solid RB2 with 159 fantasy points.

Take a deeper look at Shanahan's results on the teams he coached before Atlanta and it's obvious you should look to draft at least one San Francisco running back to your fantasy team in 2017. As offensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins from 2010-2013, Shanhan's offense helped Alfred Morris rush for over 1,000 yards for two straight seasons, including a monstrous 1,606 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2012 which ranked him second to only Adrian Peterson that year.

Even when he joined the Cleveland Browns in 2014, Shanahan found success as his offense helped a trio of running backs Ben Tate, Terrance West and a young Isaiah Crowell rush for over 1,500 yards.

Who could be the next back to benefit from Shanahan's offense in San Francisco?

As of now, the 49ers running back depth chart consists of Carlos Hyde, Tim Hightower, Kapri Bibbs and rookie Joe Williams, who new General Manager John Lynch traded up in the fourth round to draft at No. 121 overall.

Hyde is the clear starter and is now entering his fourth NFL season. The veteran back is coming off a 988-yard performance in 2016 despite playing in only 13 games but his injury issues are starting to pile up. In his first three seasons, Hyde played in just 34 of a possible 48 games. He's yet to play in all 16 games in a season so far in his career. Although he's still a young player at 26 years old, Hyde could easily be on the sidelines at some point in 2017 and the fact that the new regime in San Francisco is already looking at a possible replacement for him isn't a good sign for Hyde's future.

Hightower turns 31 in May and although he had a mini resurgence in New Orleans as a backup to Mark Ingram, it's unlikely he's poised to be the every-down back for an entire season should Hyde go down. Hightower hasn't started more than 5 games since 2011, which doesn't mean he couldn't still be a spot starter for a few games, but it's unlikely he becomes the week to week guy who's going to see 20+ carries a game for a large chunk of a season.

Bibbs is a scat back that had an opportunity in Denver last season when C.J. Anderson went down and rookie Devonate Booker was struggling, but he was inconsistent when getting more touches and suffered a high-ankle sprain which led to the end of his production in 2016. He's an explosive player but unlikely to be anything more than a change of pace back.

This leads us to rookie Joe Williams and why he's one of the better sleeper options this season especially if you're drafting a lot of running backs late. Coming into the NFL from Utah, Williams is the perfect running back for Shanahan's zone-blocking system. Williams has excellent agility and can make quick, decisive cuts in space.

Williams also has the burst which gives him a higher ceiling than the other backups. Per Mockdraftable, Williams tested in the 88th percentile at the NFL Combine with a 4.41 40 time, meaning he'll be able to outrun defenders once he gets into space and give your fantasy team a huge boost with the long touchdown play.

Help at fullback

Behind every great rusher there's usually a great fullback paving the way for him. The 49ers have one of the better fullbacks in Kyle Juszczyk, who they just signed to a record $21 million deal this past offseason. As a four-year player with the Baltimore Ravens, Juszczyk paved the way for several good rushing seasons including Forsett's 2014 season mentioned above. The fullback was a crucial part in Shanahan's Atlanta offense, as Pro Bowler Patrick DiMarco helped Freeman's stats tremendously, and Juszczyk should be a nice help to the starting running back in San Francisco as well.

Verdict

If you draft Hyde, getting Williams as a handcuff is a must due to Hyde's injury history. Williams is also a great dynasty play and should find some type of role in San Francisco sooner rather than later. It's not out of the question he could start stringing together 20 carry, 100+ yard games late in the 2017 season.

On Monday's pod, Adam and George discuss rookie running backs and which ones have the best potential to provide immediate fantasy value for your teams. Overall, there are several key rookies you should looking to draft in your leagues this season.

Adam Inman and Andrew Ferris welcome guest Eliot Crist to the podcast. They talk about why the upcoming quarterback class is being underrated by the media, especially Clemson QB Deshaun Watson. who the best wide receivers are and who you should target in your dynasty, MFL10 and redraft leagues.

Crist is a correspondent for Pro Football Focus, has made over $10,000 playing daily fantasy sports, is a scout for Bleacher Report, and NDT Scouting LLC.

Follow Eliot @EliotCrist.

And if you want to hone your Daily Fantasy skills, sign up for Numberfire.com for free.

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.

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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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