• Why you should avoid RB's like Derrius Guice in 2019

    If there's one thing you must know about dominating your fantasy draft, it's this. You must extract value in the later rounds.

    Washington Redskins running back Derrius Guice is the kind of player you might think about taking. But his ADP is way too high according to FFCalculator. Here's why you should avoid him in re-draft this season.

    Why is his ADP where it is?

    People's confidence in Guice likely stems from two variables. For one, he's young. At just 21 years of age, he best years are ahead of him. 

    Plus, he's got talent. He was drafted in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. So Washington is invested in him and wants him on the field.

    Both of those are true enough. But if you look closer at Washington's offensive situation, you'll see Guice is drastically overvalued at that price.

    Here are the main reasons Guice should be avoided in re-draft this season.

    No opportunity in the passing game

    First, you don't want to draft a guy with zero receiving floor, and Guice is that guy this year. Chris Thompson is a dynamite screen receiver who's magic in the open field. Thompson will likely see the targets on third and long passing situations, not Guice.

    Receiving ability is how good fantasy backs become great fantasy backs. Here are a few backs with higher ADP's than Guice you could look at here.

    One example is Kareem Hunt, who is 79 overall. Yes, I know he's suspended for a bit and Nick Chubb is there. Still, Cleveland's offense will be much better and Hunt will likely see plenty of red zone receiving opportunities as a result. Plus, running backs who sit out tend to fare better when they actually do get back on the field due to lack of wear and tear. Le'Veon Bell's stats are an example of this.

    Even Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders have better opportunity in Philadelphia's offense. You could draft Howard at 62 or Sanders at 114, respectively. The Eagles have a stout offensive line. They also have an MVP-caliber quarterback returning from injury in Carson Wentz.

    Not only that, Guice is also competing with Adrian Peterson for ground touches. Peterson managed to turn the clock back enough to earn another year with Washington. The Redskins are committed to using him for at least this season.

    Not enough red zone trips

    This piggy backs on argument No. 1. You don't want a running back in a bad offense, and Guice will likely be in one.

    The Redskins are a poop show at the skill positions, particularly quarterback and receiver.

    They'll be trotting out a heavy dose of Case Keenum and Colt McCoy. Both quarterbacks lack big arm strength and Keenum is coming off a poor season with the Denver Broncos. First-round rookie Dwayne Haskins will likely take his lumps at some point as well. Expect plenty of poor field position spots for Washington in 2019.

    At receiver, their current top guy is Josh Doctson, who's entering his third season. Doctson has yet to breakout and has dealt with injuries and consistency issues early in his career.

    Rounding out their receiving core are underwhelming guys like Jehu Chesson, Darvin Kidsy and Brian Quick. Paul Richardson is a speedy slot guy, but it's unlikely he benefits from weak-armed Colt McCoy or Keenum throwing him passes.

    Instead, the Redskins will likely resort to a run-heavy, dink-and-dunk style offense that relies on a bend-don't-break defense to stay in games. Meaning there will not be a lot of high scoring affairs. And Guice's touchdown value will suffer.

    Injury issues

    Then there's the knee issues. Guice is coming off a major knee injury. When I say major, I mean there's a standard ACL tear and the kind of ACL tear that Guice has.

    According to Kareem Copeland of the Washington Post, Guice also got an infection to torn ACL that required 3 additional procedures. This required a catheter in his arm and seven weeks of antibiotics. An ACL tear is a severe enough injury on its own. Adding complications to the problem is an even more troubling sign for longevity at NFL level.

    Who to look at instead

    There's some intriguing rookie running backs to keep an eye on this offseason. Devin Singletary has upside due to Buffalo's upgrades on the offensive line. They may also cut LeSean McCoy to save money. Plus Frank Gore is entering year 7 of his farewell tour in the NFL. It's still a long shot Singletary becomes a starter. Still, you could get him on waivers basically and there's more opportunity for him than Guice.

    Also, I mentioned earlier that Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders are available to take later than Guice. Both those players would be fine dart throws given the strength of their offensive line. Plus, that offense could be money like it was in 2017 if Wentz stays healthy.

    Those are just a few guys that stand out.

    Overall, Guice is somebody who's vastly overvalued at his current ADP. There's better upside backs in the later rounds to look at.

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  • Top 4 potential waiver wire radar receivers in 2019

    It's time to break down some receivers you should keep on your waiver wire radar in 2019.

    These types receivers are so crucial to fantasy success. They're not the big time No. 1 guys, but they produce plenty of fantasy stats at the WR2 and WR3 position. And all those points add up.

    Some of these players might not have huge roles to start. But as we all know, things change on a dime in the NFL. Starters go down with injury. Or they get benched because they're struggling to produce. Rookies developing all offseason get their shot next, and sometimes they flourish. So you better be there to catch them while they're hot.

    It's important to note that these players usually start crushing it AFTER the season gets underway a bit. So don't expect most of them to start producing during Week 1.

    One example of this in 2018 was Atlanta Falcons rookie Calvin Ridley. Ridley took over the spot vacated by Taylor Gabriel and had monster production in Weeks 3 and 4. Catching 7 of 8 targets for 146 yards and 3 touchdowns in Week 3. Followed by 4 catches on 6 targets for 54 yards and 2 touchdowns in Week 4.

    That last part is key. You want a wide receiver who can give you two or three consistent good weeks, as it's hard to predict exactly when a receiver will pop.

    Also, two important things to look at when selecting these receivers.

    No. 1 — Quarterback play. A wide receiver's value is very dependent on the talent of his quarterback. Only the elite wide receivers can still produce good numbers without a great quarterback.

    No. 2 — Targets. There has to be enough targets to go around in the offense for a wide receiver to be successful. Some offenses prefer to spread the ball around. This is especially true if there's a lot of talented receivers on the offense. So it's important to find where the opportunity will be for a wide receiver.

    Here are some players who might not get drafted in your fantasy league worth keeping an eye on later in the season.

    Parris Campbell — Indianapolis Colts

    How he could be fantasy relevant in 2019: Talk about a dream pairing. Campbell is a scorching 4.31 40 receiver who gets Andrew Luck as his quarterback right out of the gate. The Colts were in dire need of a slot receive, so targets will be there for this rookie. Plus, he will make a nasty matchup for slower slot corners and linebackers.

    He's also not your typical frail slot guy. Campbell stands 6'0, 205 lbs and should provide some physicality if he's going over the middle. He was also drafted in Round 2, meaning the Colts will be expecting him to play very soon if not right at Week 1.

     

    Dontrelle Inman — New England Patriots

    How he could be fantasy relevant in 2019: Inman has a slight bounce back year with the Colts last season, catching 3 touchdowns on 39 targets. The Patriots are in a major offensive transition right now. Josh Gordon's year-long status is always a mystery given his past off-the-field struggles. Injuries have derailed DeMaryius Thomas and he might struggle to make the roster. 40+ year old QB Tom Brady is still under center, so there's good touchdown potential there as crazy as that sounds. There's potential for the chips to fall Inman's way, and he could see a substantial role in New England's offense at some point.

     

    JJ Arcega-Whiteside — Philadelphia Eagles

    How he could be fantasy relevant in 2019: The Eagles have plenty of wide receivers already. They brought back DeSean Jackson while also keeping Nelson Agholor. So Arceda-Whiteside likely won't see a ton of targets early on in 2019. However, Alshon Jeffery has battled several injuries since Philly's Super Bowl run two years ago, including a torn rotator cuff. Arcega-Whiteside is a similar type of receiver to Jeffery. He's a big wideout who can go up and get the ball, which plays into Wentz's strengths as a quarterback who likes to take chances and let his receiver go get the ball.

     

    Deebo Samuel — San Francisco 49ers

    How he could be fantasy relevant in 2019: The 49ers had some of the worst wide receiver production of 2019, so there's plenty of room for targets in that offense. They also have a potential Pro Bowl quarterback in Jimmy Garroppolo, who's coming back from an ACL tear. Samuel was drafted in the second round by San Francisco, which is a good indication that they're going to try and play him early. As long as he's not a complete bust, Samuel will be given plenty of opportunity to see targets in 2019.

    So there you have it. Four wide receivers to keep an eye on in 2019.

     

     

     

  • The state of the running game in today's NFL

    Football has always been a young man's game. That notion has never been more true than at the running back position.

    Here, we'll show you one tip when drafting a running back to enhance your team's likelihood of success. This is a simple one.

    Today's NFL is all about preserving the running back.

    Coaches and general managers now have enough data to know a running back typically lasts 4-5 years on average before seeing a drop in production. The best backs can produce into their 30's. But these are rare cases.

    The constant wear and tear at the position causes RB's to get injured over time. This can hurt your fantasy team because you could draft them in one of these down years.

    So how do you use this to your advantage in fantasy?

    Simple. Go young and draft a lot of running backs in the later rounds.

    This will help ensure you get a fresh young back who's ready to produce. It will also give you replacement options in case your back struggles or gets injured. 

    A quick telling stat from last season.

    Eight of the top 10 running backs in rushing attempts in 2018 were under 24 years of age. This brings us to another point.

    Volume is key when it comes to running backs. You want guys who are on the field. And due to many teams opting to go with multiple starting running backs, it's getting harder and harder to find high-volume backs.

    In fact, a running back getting 25 carries per game is unheard of these days. The highest last season was 19 per game from Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.

    Elliott finished with 304 carries for the year. The next closest back was New York Giants Saquon Barkley with 261. Over 40 carries less than Elliott.

    One other thing to note is both these running backs were under 24 years of age. Elliott is 23 and Barkley 21. These running backs were the top 2 rushers in the league in 2018.

    To point out how important youth is, all of the Top 7 rushers in 2018 were under 24 years of age. These include Todd Gurley (24), Joe Mixon (22), Chris Carson (24), Christian McCaffrey (22) and Derrick Henry (24).

    Also, in 2017, the two top rushers (Kareem Hunt and Todd Gurley) were 22 and 23 years old, respectively.

    2017 was a little better for some of the older backs though. LeSean McCoy (29 years old) and Mark Ingram (28 years old) ranked in the Top in rush yards.

    There are always outliers. Last season Adrian Peterson eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark at 33 years old.

    Quite a feat. One caveat though. Peterson hadn't played more than 6 games in a season since 2015. Indicating the rest he got for three years helped him preserve his body a little.

    So as a general rule, it's wise to take several running backs in your draft. Have at least 3 or even 4 on your bench. Still, you should always pay attention to each individual's injury history as well. Beware of young, unproven running backs with knee issues.

    Plus, if you have a choice between a younger back (21-24 years old) and a slightly older back (25-27) and both running backs are getting a similar amount of carries, then best to go with the young back.

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  • Opportunity: Optimal running backs for Week 10

    Editor's note: This is a continuation of our weekly running back piece we've featured throughout this season. We've made some adjustments to this week's edition. As we now know who the good running backs are, we will focus on finding the lesser known gems with good matchups. This way, you can find running backs who have a good chance to outperform value.

    It's now Week 10, and the running back picture (and overall fantasy picture) is just about in clear focus. This is the time where you can start predicting value a bit more accurately, as nine games is a pretty large sample size to draw reasonable conclusions from. 

    For example, we know Le'Veon Bell, Kareem Hunt, Todd Gurley, Jordan Howard and LeSean McCoy are legit RB1s. We don't have to tell you that anymore. However, not as many people would consider Alvin Kamara an RB1, though he's second overall in running back scoring over the last three weeks. This is in standard leagues by the way, not just points per reception. 

    Here's a look at some very good running back options for Week 10.

    Orleans Darkwa vs. San Francisco 49ers

    Why he's a decent option: The Giants veteran back is a solid RB2 candidate this week with upside. The 49ers have allowed over 90 yards to five different running backs this season, and are just coming off a 137-yard game from Adrian Peterson.

    Darkwa has seen his snap count increase to 32 last week, his highest total of the season. He's cracked 20+ carries only once this season, but the Giants should plan to attack the 49ers young and inexperienced run defense.

    It's not out of the question Darkwa cracks 20+ carries this week and nearly 100 yards rushing.

    Alfred Morris vs. Atlanta Falcons 

    Why he's a decent option: Yes, there's some risk here. But if you lost Ezekiel Elliott to suspension, this isn't a terrible matchup for the Cowboys backup RB. The Falcons defense has really struggled, allowing 25 points to the running per game.

    Also, as much as the Cowboys would like to pass more with Elliott out, their team is built to run the ball. The offensive line is still solid, and Morris is fresh after only seeing 14 carries this season. If the offensive line can create big holes for Morris to get downhill — watch out.

    The only worry will be Darren McFadden taking the passing down work, but if Dallas runs effectively than Morris should still put up decent numbers.

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  • Opportunity: Optimal running backs for Week 8

    Editor's note: This season-long series looks to find the best opportunity to score fantasy points at the running back position. It factors targets, goal line and red zone carries, and rushing attempts. This volume probability is predicated on game script, snap counts, and overall talent of the individual player.

    This is Week 8 of this list. You can expect more data as the season goes along and trends emerge. Also, be sure to check out our weekly rankings for complete rankings at every position for Week 8.


    As we head into Week 8 and the 2017 NFL season, we've seen so many weird trends occurring throughout the year.

    For one, Chris Thompson is an RB1 in PPR leagues. Yes, that's right. With 109 points in PPR leagues, he ranks ahead of Jordan Howard, Carlos Hyde and Devonta Freeman. That's not something we ever could've predicted heading into this year.

    Not to be outdone, the rookie running backs have made a huge fantasy impression as well. Kareem Hunt and Leonard Fournette rank among the top 3 RB's in fantasy points with 135 and 114 respectively. Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook and Alvin Kamara all rank within the Top 20 in standard leagues, and that's also despite Cook being injured with a Torn ACL three weeks ago.

    The trends have certainly been interesting. Here's a list of every fantasy relevant running back for Week 8.

    Minnesota at Cleveland

    Total points expected: 37.5 (Minnesota favored by 8)

    Minnesota RB's: Since Cook's injury back in Week 4, Jerrick McKinnon has led the Vikes in snap counts each week, but Latavius Murray is creeping in. Last week, Murray surpassed McKinnon in carries for the first time all season, as the veteran back saw 18 carries for 113 yards and a touchdown. McKinnon still saw 14 carries of his own, but the trend keeps pointing up for Murray. Though their record is abysmal, the Browns have been decent against the run this season as they haven't given up more than 66 yards to an RB1. However, they haven't played many true stud backs aside from Le'Veon Bell and that was in Week 1 when Bell was still getting his feet under him after holding out in the offseason.

    Cleveland RB's: The Browns backfield continues to struggle as they rank 25th in rush yards per game. Neither Isaiah Crowell or Duke Johnson Jr. has rushed for more than 60 yards in a game. Johnson remains an intriguing PPR back and is coming off a six-catch game against Tennessee. Still, the Vikings have gobbled up RB's all season and they recently shutdown Buck Allen and Alex Collins last week, allowing just 50 rush yards between the two backs.

    Chicago at New Orleans

    Total points expected: 48 (New Orleans favored by 8.5)

    Chicago RB's: The Bears have run the ball an astonishing 69 percent of the time this season and Jordan Howard's volume has been insane. Since Week 3, Howard is averaging 23 carries per game and ranks third overall in rush attempts. After seeing at least five carries in every game this season, Tarik Cohen did not record a carry in last week's win over Carolina. Game script favors more passes for Chicago this week but Howard has seen his fair share of targets as well, making Cohen a risky play. The Saints defense has really gained momentum over the past three weeks. Though Aaron Jones ran all over them last week, the Saints kept Jay Ajayi, Jonathan Stewart and Ameer Abdullah all in check.

    New Orleans RB's: This backfield has been a fun one to watch and could get better as the season goes along. With Adrian Peterson out of the picture, Mark Ingram has had back-to-back 100-yard efforts and three touchdowns to go along with 9 catches for 41 yards. He has RB1 potential every week and is an underrated receiver. Rookie Alvin Kamara has been lethal in the passing game, catching for 19 passes over the last three games and he's getting the volume as his 39 targets ranks second on the team behind Michael Thomas. Drew Brees has thrown for multiple touchdowns in each home game this season, giving Kamara some potential scoring value. The Bears have been decent against the run, but rookie Mitchell Tribusky's growing pains has stifled their offensive output, meaning there will be added pressure on them this week.

    Atlanta at N.Y. Jets

    Total points expected: 46.5 (Atlanta favored by 7)

    Atlanta RB's: The Falcons have been reeling with three straight losses and this is the perfect rebound game for them. Devonta Freeman hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 4, but he's out-targeted Tevin Coleman 7-2 over the last two games. He's also outsnapped Coleman by at least 20 snaps each week since Week 4. There's a good chance Freeman sees 15-20 carries this week. The Jets have been decent against the run this season, allowing just one rushing touchdown over their last five games. Still, Atlanta is a better team than they've shown and had plenty of chances to score against New England last week but failed to finish drives. Freeman has great RB1 potential here.

    N.Y. Jets RB's: The combination of Matt Forte, Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire is an atom bomb to fantasy point potential. With Forte and Powell both healthy, the snap count has been close to an even split and neither running back rushed for more than 43 yards last week. The Falcons have struggled against the run as of late, giving up 130 yards to Jay Ajayi in Week 6 and over 150 to the New England backfield last week. Still, Powell and Forte are being used too evenly to warrant any more than flex value.

    Carolina at Tampa Bay

    Total points expected: 44 (Tampa Bay favored by 2.5)

    Carolina RB's: Christian McCaffrey remains the favorite back but his inability between the tackles is all too real. The rookie is averaging a meager 2.5 yards per carry but he's still an RB19 thanks to 329 receiving yards, which ranks second among running backs behind Chris Thompson. Jonathan Stewart has 99 carries without a rushing touchdown, only Jay Ajayi has more attempts without a score. This is a plus matchup for Stewart though, as the Bucs allowed a 100+ game from Adrian Peterson last week and a 91-yard performance from LeSean McCoy. Not a crazy idea to start Stewart at the flex spot.

    Tampa Bay RB's: Doug Martin cracked 20 carries for the first time last week and although it was his worst fantasy day of the year, it's still promising to see him in a prominent role. Carolina has been very good against the run this year as they have yet to allow a 100-yard rusher, but Martin should still provide value for fantasy owners given his workload. Charles Sims was an intriguing PPR option, but his targets have decreased over the last three games. He's not fantasy relevant as of now.

    San Francisco at Philadelphia

    Total points expected: (Philadelphia favored by 11.5)

    San Francisco RB's: The 49ers rush attack looks like its back to normal with Carlos Hyde dominating the snap count 107-32 over the last two weeks. Hyde also saw a season-high eight targets last week against Dallas, which came mostly due to San Francisco trailing Dallas by a wide margin. That could be the gamescript again this week, as there's arguably no team in football hotter than Philadelphia right now. On the flip side, Philadelphia has been stout against the run this season, but they have been gashed by receiving backs. They surrendered 10 catches to Christian McCaffrey two weeks ago and allowed a touchdown to Chris Thompson last week. Their line backing core is also banged up, so they might be easier to run on this week.

    Philadelphia RB's: The 49ers have easily been the worst run defense in the NFL over the last two seasons. This is great for LeGarrette Blount owners. The 49ers surrendered a monster game to Ezekiel Elliott last week, allowing over 140 rush yards and two scores to go along with one 72-yard receiving touchdown. Blount hasn't had a true monster fantasy effort yet, but he's cracked 100+ yards before and could be the clock control guy if Philly gets a lead early. He's an RB1 guy this week. Wendall Smallwood also has darkhorse intrigue as a flex due to his similar snap count to Blount.

    Oakland at Buffalo

    Total points expected: 45

    Oakland RB's: Marshawn Lynch is out, but Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington have been seeing an even snap count which limits their fantasy value. The Bills are very good against the run, allowing just 19 points to fantasy running backs per game. Both Washington and Richard have been used equally in the passing game as well. Both are risky plays this week.

    Buffalo RB's: The Raiders have struggled against the run, allowing a rushing touchdown in two of the last three games. Though they haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher this season, four running backs have finished with 73 or more yards. It's likely LeSean McCoy comes close to becoming that first 100-yard rusher. Shady has seen at least 19 carries in the last three straight games and is averaging close to seven targets per game. This is a solid matchup for him.

    Indianapolis at Cincinnati

    Total points expected: 41 (Cincinnati favored by 9.5)

    Indianapolis RB's: Things are trending up for Marlon Mack. Last week, the rookie saw more snaps than fellow veteran back Frank Gore for the first time this season. While Mack only saw five carries, which were four less than Gore, he made up for it with four catches for 40 yards on six targets. While this game might not be a shootout, Mack has potential to be a decent flex/RB2 option as his role continues to expand.

    Cincinnati RB's: Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard continue to split snaps, making this a tough backfield to rely on. Still, Mixon has improved from Weeks 5-7, averaging 4.5 yards per carry in his last two games. The Colts are atrocious against the run, allowing 27.5 points to running backs. Mixon could creep into the RB1 picture this week, even though it's still a long shot.

    Los Angeles Chargers at New England

    Total points expected: 49.5 (New England favored by 5.5)

    Los Angeles RB's: Melvin Gordon is coming off a down week against a tough Denver defense. The last time he performed that poorly was against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4. Both defenses rank among the top in rushing yards allowed, so this bodes well for the possibility of bounce back performance from Gordon. The Chargers are surging with three straight wins and this could be a shootout game. Gordon is averaging about 21 carries per game over the last three weeks and is averaging eight targets per game. The Patriots held the Falcons in check last week scoring-wise, but they still gave up 72 rush yards to Devonta Freeman on just 12 carries. Gordon could be in for a big week.

    New England RB's: The Patriots backfield is messy, like REAL messy. Last week, three running backs saw 20+ snaps and two more seeing more than 10. That was also the same case in Week 5. Still, there's some minor fantasy value to be had. Dion Lewis is currently the leader in carries over the last few weeks with 24. James White continues to be the passing game with seven targets per game over the last three weeks, and Mike Gillislee is still getting some of the goal line work. Basically, the Pats have a back for every possible scenario, making it very difficult to predict which one will pop. Right now, Lewis is your best bet. The Chargers are a middle-of-the-road rush defense, allowing 23 points per game to running backs.

    Houston at Seattle

    Total points expected: 42.5 (Seattle favored by 6)

    Houston RB's: DOnta Foreman crept back into the picture last week, seeing 12 carries to starter Lamar Miller's 15. The Seahawks are a very good run defense, allowing just 19 points to the running back this season. This is a matchup to stay away from unless you have to start Miller.

    Seattle RB's: With Chris Carson out for the year, this is still a very confusing backfield. Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls both saw 11 carries last week, with J.D. McKissic seeing a small role in the passing game. Houston's run defense is even better than Seattle's right now, allowing just 17 points per game to the running back. Stay away from this backfield this week.

    Dallas at Washington

    Dallas RB's: Ezekiel Elliott's 40-point fantasy performance last week was the second highest of the year next to Kareem Hunt's massive 42-point outburst in Week 1. Elliott and the Cowboys need to keep pace with the Eagles, so this is a big game for them. Expect Elliott to see 20-25 carries and inch close to 100-yards. The Redskins have been decent against the run, but they've surrendered 100-yard games to stud RB1's, most notably Kareem Hunt in Week 4.

    Washington RB's: Chris Thompson remains the reliable fantasy back for Washington, as he's registered at least 100 receiving yards or a touchdown in all but one game this season. He's an RB7 overall in PPR leagues and one of the biggest surprises this season. The Cowboys have been weak against the run overall this season, allowing three 100-yard games to RB1's. Don't be surprised if Samaje Perine has a decent day against this rush defense as well. The only issue is the Redskins offensive line, which is currently banged up with Brandon Scherff gone and Trent Williams battling a knee injury.

    Pittsburgh at Detroit

    Total points expected: 45 (Pittsburgh favored by 3)

    Pittsburgh RB's: Le'Veon Bell has cracked 30+ carries in three out of the last four games this season, and has over 100 yards in each of those games. Pittsburgh has also won each game where Bell sees 30+ carries, meaning there's a vested interest in getting him the ball that much. Bell is locked in as an RB1 this week, and gets a plus matchup against a Detroit defense allowing over 25 points each week to running backs.

    Detroit RB's: Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick saw similar snap counts last week, with Riddick seeing the passing down work in the form of seven targets to Abdullah's two. While Adbullah is getting the most carries, he's only cracked 20+ once this season. Although the Steelers were dismantled by Leonard Fournette and Jordan Howard, their defense is starting to find its rhythm. They held Kareem Hunt to a season-low 21 rush yards and Joe Mixon to 48 yards last week. This is a backfield to avoid in Week 8.

    Denver at Kansas City

    Total points expected: 44

    Denver RB's: C.J. Anderson is still the clear top back in terms of snap count, as the vet saw a team-high 38 snaps in the last two weeks. Still, the Broncos have really struggled to run the ball. They haven't had a 100-yard rushing effort from one back since Week 2 when Anderson ran for 118 yards against Dallas. The Chiefs are coming off two straight losses and are due for a rebound game at home. They've only allowed one 100-yard effort so far and that was Le'Veon Bell in a loss two weeks ago. Avoid this backfield if you can in Week 8.

    Kansas City RB's: Kareem Hunt has tapered off a bit as of late, but he's still locked in as an RB1 despite a tough matchup. Aside from a puzzling week where they allowed over 110 rush yards to Orleans Darwka of the Giants, Denver has been lights out in the run game. They're allowing just 15 points to fantasy backs per game this season, which is best in the league. Hunt is still getting enough volume to be good in redraft and PPR leagues, but this could be one of his less productive fantasy games.


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  • Opportunity: Optimal running backs for Week 6

    Editor's note: This season-long series looks to find the best opportunity to score fantasy points at the running back position. It factors targets, goal line and red zone carries, and rushing attempts. This volume probability is predicated on game script, snap counts, and overall talent of the individual player.

    This is Week 6 of this list. You can expect more data as the season goes along and trends emerge. Also, be sure to check out our weekly rankings for complete rankings at every position for Week 6.


    As we head into Week 6 and the 2017 NFL season, the fantasy running back picture becomes more and more clear. Backs like Leonard Fournette, Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, Devonta Freeman, Le'Veon Bell have all established themselves as clear RB1's.

    This is also the time of year when injuries crop up and younger backs get their chance. We saw that with Aaron Jones in Green Bay, Elijah McGuire in New York and Matt Breida in San Francisco. This is the time where managing your waiver wire is crucial, as the changing of the guard between starters and second-string running backs can often lead to a new fantasy front runner for the remainder of the season.

    Here's every fantasy relevant running back for Week 6.

    Cleveland at Houston

    Total points expected: 44 (Houston favored by 12)

    Cleveland RB's: Over the past two weeks, Duke Johnson has more fantasy points (26) than Kareem Hunt (24). The Houston Texans are still a strong defense, even without JJ Watt, but Johnson's versatility keeps him on the RB1 radar this week. While Johnson saw just three targets last week, he turned them into three catches for 63 yards and a score. The Browns are switching quarterbacks, starting Kevin Hogan in replacement of DeShone Kizer. Hogan is a game manager quarterback, which could lead to more check-down throws to Johnson especially with Houston's pass rush forcing his hand. Last week, Isaiah Crowell saw his biggest volume total since Week 1 with 16 carries, but Houston's defense is only allowing 21 points to running backs this year. Best to throw Johnson in as a flex option and bench Crowell.

    Houston RB's: Lamar Miller has completely dominated the snap count as of late and is benefiting from a white-hot Deshaun Watson. Over the past two games, Miller saw nine looks in the red zone and is averaging 75 rush yards per game. He's not a prolific receiver at the RB spot, but he's averaging close to three targets per game. If Houston jumps out to an early lead, this could be a game where Miller cracks 20 carries. The Browns have been a very good run defense, not allowing a running back to rush for over 70 yards all season. Miller has some appeal because of volume, but that's about it. He hasn't established himself as a big play back, with just 52 yards coming on runs of 15 yards or more.

    New England at New York Jets

    Total points expected: 47 (New England favored by 9.5)

    New England RB's: The New England running back narrative of 'you can't trust anybody' was dashed last season with LeGarrette Blount's 18 scores. But this season it looks like it's difficult to trust anybody. Last week, four Patriot running backs saw 13+ snaps. Dion Lewis saw a season-high seven carries, which took away some of Mike Gillislee's value. The one constant seems to be James White in the passing game. White has 21 targets in the last two games and 17 catches total. The Jets have struggled against the run overall, but have bottled up top backs Jay Ajayi and Leonard Fournette. Gillislee is a risky start in that regard and Lewis should see more snaps going forward.

    New York Jets RB's: Matt Forte returns this week, Bilal Powell is likely sidelined and Elijah McGuire should see time as the second back. The matchup is a great one, with New England giving up a league-worst 38 points per game to running backs. This game has sneaky shootout potential, and both backs have dark horse RB1 upside due to their versatility in the pass game.

    Miami at Atlanta

    Total points expected: 47 (Atlanta favored by 9.5)

    Miami RB's: It's been a rough start for Jay Ajayi, who's yet to score a touchdown despite 76 carries. Only LeSean McCoy and Jonathan Stewart have more carries without a touchdown. Ajay's offensive line hasn't helped much, as the Dolphins rank in the bottom 6 in yards blocked per contact according to Pro Football Focus. The Falcons have been solid against the run this season, not allowing a 100-yard rusher. They've been weak against pass-catching backs though, giving up at least three catches to every RB1 this season. Ajayi isn't a prolific receiver, but he could find himself getting more receiving yards in this one. He's still an RB1 given his high volume of carries per game.

    Atlanta RB's: The Falcons come off the bye week at home where they will face one of the toughest run defenses in the league. The Dolphins have only allowed one running back to crack 50+ yards and that was DeMarco Murray last week. Expect Atlanta to favor the pass in this one, which could make Tevin Coleman the better back to go with. Coleman is averaging close to five targets per game and the Falcons receiving core is banged up. Mohamed Sanu is out and Miami will devote a lot of attention to Julio Jones.

    Detroit at New Orleans

    Total points expected: 51 (New Orleans favored by 4)

    Detroit RB's: The Detroit backfield remains dicey with three running backs getting valuable snaps. Ameer Abdullah is the clear No. 1 in terms of carries, but Theo Riddick continues to see plenty of targets and Zach Zenner is also getting looks in the red zone. New Orleans has been solid against the run this season, only allowing one 100-yard rusher and that was back in Week 1. They've been vulnerable to pass-catching backs though, as they were gashed by Christian McCaffrey and James White 17 catches and 186 yards combined. The game script in this game favors Riddick among all Detroit backs.

    New Orleans RB's: it will be New Orleans first game without Adrian Peterson, who was traded to the Arizona Cardinals earlier this week. This is great news for Mark Ingram owners, as Peterson was taking away about seven carries per game from Marky Mark. Ingram saw a season-high 46 snaps last week and that number could creep into the 50's with Peterson gone. Expect anywhere from 15-to-20 carries this week for Ingram. Alvin Kamara has been one of the most prolific rookie pass catchers this season with 26 grabs so far. Only Christian McCaffrey and Tarik Cohen have more. The Lions have been decent against the run this season, only giving up one 100-yard game this season. Still, New Orleans is a different team at home and should fare well in potentially high-scoring game.

    Green Bay at Minnesota

    Total points expected: 47 (Green Bay favored by 3.5)

    Green Bay RB's: Ty Montgomery practiced this week and is listed as 'questionable.' He'll have his work cut out for him against a Minnesota defense that's one of the best against the run. The Vikings have held Jordan Howard, Mark Ingram and Le'Veon Bell all in check this season, and this could be a game where passing ends up being the way to go for Green Bay. Aaron Jones was fantastic in replacement of Montgomery last week, rushing for 125 yards and score. Obviously, his value is curbed if Montgomery plays. Both runners are risky options given the strength of Minnesota's defense.

    Minnesota RB's: Jerick McKinnon was dominant last Monday against Chicago, and might be the lead back going forward after out-snapping Latavius Murray 47-to-22. McKinnon was also very efficient in the pass game, catching all six of his targets for 51 yards. Murray struggled to gain yards after contact and finished with just 31 yards on 12 carries. The Packers struggled against Ezekiel Elliott last week, but they've been a solid run defense overall. Still, McKinnon's versatility and volume gives him RB1 potential each week.

    Chicago at Baltimore

    Total points expected: 41.5 (Baltimore favored by 7)

    Chicago RB's: Jordan Howard has reasserted himself as the team's lead back after Tarik Cohen's hot start lead many to believe this would be a split backfield. Howard fared well on Monday night against a tough Vikings defense, rushing for 76 yards on 19 carries. He gets another test this week against a Baltimore group that held Leonard Fournette to just 59 yards and completely shutdown Marshawn Lynch last week. Howard is an RB1 in redraft given his volume and role as an every-down back.

    Baltimore RB's: The Bears have given up a rushing touchdown to every RB1 they've faced this season. This is good news for Javorius Allen, who's coming off a solid outing against Oakland where rushed for 73 yards and a score while catching four of five targets. Allen is a solid RB2 with RB1 upside in this one. Expect Alex Collins to be in the mix as well, as he saw 12 carries last week and nine in each of the past two games. Still, Collins upside is limited since he doesn't see many targets.

    San Francisco at Washington

    Total points expected: 46.5 (Washington favored by 9)

    San Francisco RB's: After a solid start where he rushed for over 250 yards in his first three games, Carlos Hyde is starting to see less usage in San Francisco. He saw just eight carries against Indianapolis while backup Matt Breida had 10 and looked much more efficient with 49 rush yards. Washington has become very good defense overall this season. Against the run, they're giving up just 22 points per game to running backs. Perhaps even more impressive is the Redskins have put up those numbers after facing both Kareem Hunt and Todd Gurley this season. This is a tough week to start any San Francisco running back.

    Washington RB's: The Washington offensive line has been a Top 5 unit this season, getting 2.26 yards of contact blocked according to Pro Football Focus. It's just too bad they haven't found a clear lead running back to make the most of those yards. Rookie Samaje Perine hasn't rushed for more than 67 yards despite two games of 19+ carries. Rob Kelley haven't rushed for more than 78 yards and he's struggled to stay healthy this season. Speaking of his health, Kelley likely won't play this week as he's listed as doubtful with a ankle injury. San Francisco isn't as bad a run defense as they were last season thanks to some promising rookie play for DeForest Buckner. Still, they're giving up over 35 points to the running back position this year. Perine is risky but there is some upside to this matchup.

    Los Angeles Rams at Jacksonville

    Total points expected: 43.5 (Jacksonville favored by 2.5)

    Los Angeles Rams RB's: Todd Gurley is coming off his worst performance of the year, rushing for 43 yards on 14 carries against Seattle. He should be in for a bounce back game against a Jacksonville defense that's giving up 30 points per game to running backs. The Jaguars are a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde team this year. They gave up 250+ yards to Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire, then they held Le'Veon Bell to just 47 yards and DeMarco Murray to just 25 yards. Expect Gurley to have be better than last week, but this Jaguars team might be sneaky good. They seem to get up for the big-name backs and Gurley is a big name.

    Jacksonville RB's: The Jaguars are living up to the identity of a run-first team. Leonard Fournette is the league leader in carries with 109. His five touchdowns are tied with Devonta Freeman for the most in the league. The Rams are giving up 35 points per game to running backs this season, but have been better in recent weeks after holding Seattle's backfield to just 39 rush yards. Still, this is a great matchup for Fournette and his volume makes him one of the most reliable rushers so far this season.

    Tampa Bay at Arizona

    Total points expected: 44.5 (Arizona favored by 1)

    Tampa Bay RB's: Doug Martin burst back onto the scene following his four game suspension, finishing as an RB7 with 74 yards and a touchdown against a struggling Patriots defense. He'll get a tougher test against the Arizona Cardinals this week, a team that hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher and has only surrendered two rushing touchdowns this season. Still, the Cardinals offense has struggled to score points which wears on a defense as the season goes along. The Cardinals rank 26th in points per game and will have to hope Adrian Peterson breathes some life into one of the worst rushing offenses in the league. If they continue to struggle on offense, it means a more favorable game script for Martin.

    Arizona RB's: Peterson will get his first start against a Tampa Bay defense that's giving up 30 points per game to running backs. It's difficult to say how he'll fare, especially since Tampa Bay has struggled more against passing backs than every-down rushers. The Bucs have given up at least five catches to pass-catching backs in three of their four games, making this a solid matchup for Arizona's Andre Ellington. Ellington has 24 targets over the last two games and the Cardinals will continue to pass due to injuries on their offensive line.

    Pittsburgh at Kansas City

    Total points expected: 47 (Kansas City favored by 3)

    Pittsburgh RB's: Le'Veon Bell saw a season-high 73 snaps last week to go along with 10 catches on 10 targets. There isn't a back in the league with more opportunity than Bell right now, and Pittsburgh will lean on him once again to take down an undefeated Kansas City team. Kansas City is giving up only 23.4 points per game to running backs this season, so this could be a tougher matchup for Bell. But of course, you're starting him each week barring injury. 

    Kansas City RB's: Kareem Hunt rushed for over 100 yards in his third straight game last week, but Charcandrick West sniped two receiving touchdowns from him. Still, you shouldn't worry much if you have Hunt, as he'll see plenty of volume against a Pittsburgh defense that's sneaky bad against the run. The Steelers have gotten smoked by RB1's so far this year, giving up 100+ yards to Jordan Howard, Leonard Fournette. Both running backs also had multiple touchdowns in those games. Hunt is a great play this week in all formats.

    Los Angeles Chargers at Oakland

    Los Angeles Chargers RB's: Melvin Gordon is coming off his best performance of the season against the Giants, where he rushed for over 100 yards and had two receiving touchdowns. His 65 snaps were also a season-high for him that season. The Raiders are average against the run and this should be another solid game for the third-year running back.

    Oakland RB's: Marshawn Lynch's status as an RB1 might be over if he can't dominate this matchup. The Chargers have allowed three running backs to rush for over 100 yards against them so far this season. They've also given up over 100 yards to every backfield they've faced this year. Jalen Richard is also a good sneaky play in deeper leagues as he only saw two less snaps and three less carries than Lynch.

    N.Y. Giants at Denver (Monday Night)

    Total points expected: 40.5 (Denver favored by 9.5)

    New York Giants RB's: Wayne Gallman looks like the best option for New York at this point. But this is a terrible matchup for New York and injuries at the wide receiver position will likely cost them in the run game. The Broncos have shut down RB1's this season and they've faced some studs, some of which include LeSean McCoy and Ezekiel Elliott. 

    Denver RB's: C.J. Anderson is the clear No. 1 back in this offense and has seen three games of 20+ carries. The Giants have given up at least 80 yards to every RB1 they've faced this season, and game script could help Anderson's cause if New York can't score. Jamaal Charles is a sneaky good start as well if Denver jumps out to a big halftime lead.


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    Link to original photo

     

     

Podcasts

Episode 201: Who's the top RB for 2019?

Saturday, 25 May 2019 00:00
Click here to join numberfire.com, a premium sports analytics site to help you dominate your fantasy league. Use the promo code 'FFHelpers' for a discount. On this episode of the Fantasy Football Helpers pod, George and Sco
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Episode 200: 2019 rookie RBs, and Giants hoopla

Saturday, 27 April 2019 00:00
On this episode of the Fantasy Football Helpers podcast, George and Scott break down the 2019 rookie RBs. Scott states why he likes David Montgomery in Chicago. George gushes about Miles Sanders in Philadelphia. Plus reaction
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Episode 199: Walls of Jerick(ho)

Tuesday, 20 March 2018 00:00
On their first episode of the 2018 offseason, the Helpers discuss free agency signings and which ones have the best chance to generate tons of fantasy points. Want to win more money in Daily Fantasy sports? It's time to embr
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Episode 198: Sweet streams are made of these

Wednesday, 27 December 2017 00:00
On the final 2017 episode, the Helpers dole out their awards for the 2017 Fantasy playoffs. This year's titles include the '11th hour,' the 'we can't complain to that guy on Twitter anymore,' the 'where did that guy come from
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Episode 197: Playoffs are here

Saturday, 09 December 2017 00:00
On this week's episode, we help you understand that the playoffs are here. Then we tell you what will happen. Listen to us. Also, check out DRAFT, a daily fantasy website that you can actually win money on unlike DraftKings
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Episode 196: Finding out who we can trust

Tuesday, 14 November 2017 00:00
On the fantasy pod, Scott and George discuss waiver QBs, why there's no reason to not pickup Jamaal Williams, and why this season is still whack.  Link to original photo.
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Waiver Wire

PPR back watch: RB David Montgomery's pass catching ability

Saturday, 20 April 2019 00:00
Editor's note: Landing spot and age are the two most important variables when it comes to drafting a fantasy running back in our opinion. However, talent matters as well. This series aims to show you what a running back could
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What This Rookie Can Do For You: RB Devin Singletary

Saturday, 13 April 2019 00:00
Editor's note: Do running backs matter in the NFL anymore? The short answer is 'yes.' But they don't matter nearly as much as their landing spot. This series shows you what a running back does well. That's all. So this what y
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What This Rookie Can Do For You: RB Justice Hill

Saturday, 06 April 2019 00:00
Editor's note: This is not direct advice telling you to draft this particular player. The 'What Can This Rookie Do For You' series aims to show you the traits of each running back. What scheme could lead to the most fantasy p
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What This Rookie Can Do For You: Miles Sanders

Saturday, 30 March 2019 00:00
Editor's note: This is a quick post on Penn State running back Miles Sanders. Sanders is coming out for the 2019 NFL Draft this season, so we though it'd be a good idea to discuss what can do if you draft to him to your fan
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What This Rookie Can Do For You: Josh Jacobs

Saturday, 23 March 2019 00:00
Editor's note: This series is meant to explain what rookie running backs can do for your fantasy team. A good running back also requires a good head coach, offensive line and quarterback to be successful in NFL. But these art
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What This Rookie Can Do For You: Rodney Anderson

Saturday, 16 March 2019 00:00
Editor's note: In this series, we dissect how upcoming NFL rookies can help your fantasy football team. This is meant to show you what kind of stats he can pile up for you if you draft him. Of course, scheme fit, coaching p
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Saturday, 28 January 2017 00:00

Lesson's Learned From 2016: D/ST

A Defense can be one of the biggest conundrums in fantasy year in and year out. People tend to go with popular Defensive choices like the Seattle Seahawks or Carolina Panthers rather early in drafts. Just because it’s Round 10 doesn’t mean choose a defense. There are still valuable players and handcuffs to acquire during the latter rounds of a draft.

Going by the finishing statistics of 2016, only one defense finished in the top five as their projection at the beginning of the season. According to ESPN Scoring, Denver Broncos D/ST had an average ADP of pick 67 which is asinine and only scored 152 points in 2016. That’s mid-fifth round in 12-team leagues and mid-sixth round in 10-team leagues. Let me ask you a question would you rather have Broncos Defense or future 2016-17 MVP Matt Ryan whose ADP was pick 114.

Think smart on average defenses can score you 150 to 180 points in a good year depending on your league scoring. Every other position eclipses those numbers by mid-season. Kickers score more than Defenses do on average per year, and they get chosen as flier picks in the last round of every draft. Last season, the Atlanta Falcons Kicker Matt Bryant scored a whopping 212 points outscoring the highest Defense by 46 points, that’s astonishing for a position we thought was worthless.

It’s time to implore a new philosophy of choosing Defenses last in drafts instead of Kickers.  Don’t panic when you see four or five Defenses already off the board here a few tips to finding the Defensive Gems of 2017. Choose a Defensive Unit with one of these qualities:

·         D/ST VS Consistent Bad QB Play

o   Look for a D/ST that goes up against a lot of inexperienced QBs like Brock Osweiler, any Cleveland Browns QB, or Blake Borltes. Zeroing in on a defenses schedule will help you find the gems you need that will help you succeed during the regular season.

o   Bad QB Play turns into natural points either sacks or turnovers. Rookie QB’s have a tendency of struggling against any defense, so look for those type of matchups as well.  

o   For instance, the Chiefs was the No. 1 D/ST of 2016. They took advantage of games where they faced QBs like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Trevor Semian (twice), Jameis Winston, Brock Osweiler, and Blake Bortles. All of which are either young or turnover prone.

·         D/ST That Creates Turnovers

o   Teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or San Diego Chargers were barely drafted but were some of the top turnover leaders. Tampa Bay led the league with four interceptions returned for touchdowns, which is a huge boost to any roster.

o   Overall Arizona Cardinals high ranked defense lived up to expectation by creating a league-high 25 forced fumbles and 48 sacks.

·         D/ST With a Lethal Special Teams Unit

o   Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings, and Philadelphia Eagles are teams that boast lethal Special Team units. Cordarrelle Patterson, Ty ”Freak” Hill and Darren Sproles are one of a kind talents that can take any kickoff return to the house.

All of these qualities are pertinent to selecting a Defense that will be beneficial to your team and draft position. I learned to wait on this position and collect value at others in 2016. So, try philosophy in 2017 and see if you can come out more dominant rosters from top to bottom. It always feels good to get bailed out from somewhere you least expected it. 

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Wednesday, 07 October 2015 00:00

Notes on Falcons RB Devonta Freeman

These are a series of notes on why Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman has had such a breakout season midway through 2015. One of the reasons why we love football is for its parity, and Freeman is a classic example of a breakout RB nobody saw coming. Here I look at the Redskins/Falcons game where Freeman posted high quality stats and see where he was successful and try to point out why.

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At age 23, Freeman is in his second season and has an NFL-leading 9 touchdowns at the running back position. With three games of over 100 yards through seven weeks to go along with two 3-touchdown efforts, Freeman has been by far the biggest breakout fantasy running back of the season so far.

Notes from game vs. Washington Redskins

Freeman's stats in that one: 27 carries for 153 yards, 1 touchdown, 7 receptions for 44 yards

Some of the things I've noticed when watching Freeman run in this game was his ability to place his hand on the ground to re-establish his balance after contact with a defender. By doing this, he managed to turn a negative gain into a positive one in the first quarter. It happened on zone stretch play off the right side. The Redskins defensive tackle got off his block quickly and penetrated the backfield. The DT got his arm on Freeman as he ran through the hole.

While most running backs would've got tripped out for a loss, Freeman stumbled but used his off-hand and kept his knee from hitting the ground all while keeping his feet moving for a positive gain. It may not seem like much, but running backs who can create positive yardage even when their blocking isn't ideal can instill a lot of confidence in both the player, coaching staff and overall team. This kind of gain comes from a competitive drive within the runner to finish the play and get the most yardage possible. It can become contagious and lead to bigger gains as the game progresses due to the defense tiring out and also from the confidence within the entire team which I mentioned earlier.

Another thing I've noticed is Freeman's speed doesn't change throughout his run. His initial burst is very quick and he maintains that speed to the outside. He's patient when setting up his blocks where he has to cut off a blocker. This makes it difficult for defenders to react quick enough even if they get off their blocks since Freeman has typically already moved past them by that time.

Freeman is also a smart runner in terms of vision. When I say 'smart,' I mean he knows how to use the blockers in front of him and choose the correct lane to run in. When there's not a clear lane, Freeman can make one by framing blocks. When I say 'frame,' I mean he'll run right behind a lineman's butt and then cut off him so as to keep the defender from guessing which way he's going to cut and making it more difficult for the lineman to maintain his block. This also causes other defenders to get sucked into the lineman's block as well since Freeman is so close to his blocker, which sometimes results in both defenders knocking into each other and effectively cancel each other. I saw a lot of that when I looked at C.J. Anderson's tape from last season. Another running back who's very good at being patient at this is Le'Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Anderson was very good at reading the blocks that were in front of him and he clearly had the utmost trust those blocks would be there. and Freeman has proven no different, and sometimes success at the running back position is as simple as not trying to do too much and just hitting the hole with decisiveness. It's an instinctual reaction to what's in front of you, and how quickly you make up your mind and decide which hole to run through and whether or not it's the correct decision makes all the difference.

The zone stretch play to the left side was absolute money for Atlanta in this game. In fact, all of Freeman's biggest gains on a late fourth quarter drive came on left side runs. The Falcons offensive line did an exceptional job blocking and Freeman was decisive on all of those runs.

 

Link to original photo

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Thursday, 16 April 2015 00:00

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

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

Buy: Matt Ryan

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

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

New Coaching Staff

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

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

Offensive Weapons 

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

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

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

Sell: Drew Brees

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

Jimmy Graham Departure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Courtesy of Football Schedule Flickr Page

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage

Strength of schedule is always one of the hottest topic in the offseason and the debate regarding whether or not strength of schedule matters is always a controversial one. One of the most important things to remember is that it's February, so we're early in the offseason and you have expect each team's strength of schedule to slightly shift with every free agency acquisition/departure, every draft pick, every retirement announcement and every current player becoming just one year older. All these transactions affect the team's chemistry as a whole and when you play in a league with such a small margin for error like the NFL, then one small change can make a big difference.

So while you may be deciding many things about your fantasy team such as which player to keep or which player you should get rid of, just remember that you really want to take your potential keepers strength of schedule into consideration when deciding if you should keep him. You should also base your decision on several other factors as well such as his age, the talent surrounding him and his team's offensive system. But for now, let's take a look at which players stand to benefit most from the 2015 NFL schedule released by CBS earlier this week.

1. Matt Ryan/Julio Jones

The Atlanta Falcons have the easiest schedule on paper in 2015 with a combined opponent record of 104-150-2. They lead off the first three weeks with New Orleans, Cincinnati and Tampa Bay. Of those three opponents, the Buccaneers ranked 3rd worst against wide receivers, averaging 24.7 fantasy points per game. The Saints weren't far behind, giving up 23.3 points per game to wideouts as well. The Bengals fared better against the pass but ranked in the bottom five in fantasy points allowed to running backs. They surrendered 19.4 points per game on average to RBs in 2014. Keep in mind, this is just the first three games.

But with strength of schedule, you always have to look at the opponents during the money weeks (usually Weeks 14,15 and 16 in most leagues). In that span, the Falcons get Green Bay in Week 14, Pittsburgh in Week 15 and New Orleans in Week 16. Both the Saints and Steelers were in the bottom six for fantasy points allowed against quarterbacks.

Julio Jones came a little over 100 receiving yards shy of winning his first receiving title in 2014. Had he not been injured over the final stretch of the season, he probably would've gotten it as he really caught fire in the waning games with 613 total yards in his last four contests. Unless some of the Falcons' opponents really revamp their defenses in the offseason, Julio could easily kick off 2015 on a similar note. If you want to go with Ryan and Jones as a combo in 2015, this is the year to do it.

2. Andrew Luck

The Colts are a team on the rise. Since Luck entered the picture as the team's franchise quarterback in 2012, Indy has been passing its checkpoints with flying colors and hasn't shown any hitches in the process. Make the playoffs in your first year? Check. Make the playoffs in your second year and win in impressive comeback fashion? Check. Make the playoffs your third year and advance all the way to the AFC Championship game? Check.

To top it off, the Colts will have the second easiest schedule on paper in 2015 with a combined opponent record of 106-149-1. The Colts play in the weak AFC South, a division where two of its teams will be picking in the top 3 come the 2015 draft. They also get the benefit of playing tougher opponents like New England at home in their cozy dome as opposed to the often unforgiving cold weather in New England. The Colts are 19-5 at home since Luck took over and they haven't lost more than two games at Lucas Oil Stadium since then as well.

3. DeAndre Hopkins

The Texans announced Ryan Mallet as their likely 2015 starter at quarterback earlier this week and his performance will definitely play a huge role in Hopkins' further development. Good news for him and his fellow wide receiver Hopkins that he'll have a relatively easy slate to work with in 2015. Like Indy, the Texans will feast on the defensive backfields of Tennessee and Jacksonville twice. They will also play three of the worst fantasy defenses against wide receiver teams in New Orleans, Tampa Bay and the New York Jets. All those games are home games as well.

Hopkins is coming off a solid 76/1,210/6 season and posted a monster game against Tennessee where he compiled nine catches for 238 yards and two touchdowns. Mallet's big arm complements Hopkins speed perfectly. Hopkins is a big play receiver, as evidenced by 15.9 yards per catch average which ranked eighth overall in 2014. That, plus a weak division and three additional shaky secondaries makes Hopkins a high upside WR2 in 2015.

4. Cam Newton

The Carolina Panthers finished strong in 2014 despite a banged up defense and an unfortunate car accident that sidelined quarterback Cam Newton for a game with two back fractures. Even with that, the Panthers found their run game thanks to a resurrected Jonathan Stewart and rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin showed much promise as a red zone jump ball threat.

The Panthers have one of the top 5 best schedules in 2015 with a combined opponent record of 111-145 (.434) and hopefully their bad injury luck will be a thing of the past. They play in the weak NFC South which was full of terrible defenses last year and they also get (I can see you're sensing a theme here) the AFC South as their out of conference opponents.

5. Tom Brady

Coming off his first Super Bowl victory in over a decade, Brady and the Patriots will have the luxury of a not-so-difficult path on their way to repeating as champions. They play Philadelphia at home, a team that gave up more fantasy points to wide receivers than any other team in the league last year. The team right behind Philadelphia in that category was the Washington Redskins, a team New England will also play at home. New England also plays AFC South punching bags Tennessee and Jacksonville. Consider Brady and all his receivers including Brandon LaFell, Julian Edelman and of course, Rob Gronkowski as viable fantasy options in 2015 once again.

 

View Mark Runyon's Flickr page here.

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Friday, 06 February 2015 00:00

Episode 45: Potential goldmines

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On Friday's episode of Treatment, the Helpers discuss potential situations where future fantasy stars could emerge at various positions. They mention Atlanta's current hole at tight end in addition to Tennessee's questionable backfield and San Diego's inconsistency with Ryan Mathews.

Potential fantasy value situation No. 1 — TE for Atlanta Falcons

Why it's valuable:  Levine Toilolo didn't exactly make a splash in replacement of future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez. Toilolo finished with just two touchdowns in 2014, a disappointing number considering the Falcons passed the ball 628 times which was the second most in the league behind New Orleans. This is an offense that has plenty of ball to go around, and guys like Harry Douglas and Jacquizz Rogers shouldn't be seeing nearly as many targets as they have been. Toilolo ended up seeing 54 targets, that's not good enough for this kind of offense. Overall, he established himself as more of a blocker than receiver. We've seen blocking tight ends blossom into dominant receivers before (ex: Julius Thomas in 2013) but it doesn't look like Toilolo will be following in those footsteps.

So with so much opportunity, there's some serious fantasy value to be had at the position should the Falcons sign someone. Jordan Cameron of the Cleveland Browns immediately comes to mind. Cameron set franchise records in touchdowns in 2013 when he was healthy for the first time and reportedly wants out of Cleveland. Should he leave and somehow end up on Atlanta, he would immediately catapult his value to TE1 status despite his injury-prone past.

Potential fantasy value situation No. 2 — RB for Tennessee Titans

Why it's valuable: Next up we have the backfield for the Tennessee Titans. Rookie Bishop Sankey had perhaps the best potential situation for putting up good fantasy numbers but left a lot to be desired on the stat sheet. Sankey finished with just 569 yards and two touchdowns. He also averaged a mediocre 3.7 yards per carry. Now, a lot of that had to do with the offensive line and shaky quarterback situation in Tennessee, but it still doesn't reflect well on Sankey considering he was a rookie who was given a good chunk of carries and also failed to make much noise around the goal line. 

The Titans have the No. 2 pick in the draft and although they will probably take a defensive end as most mock drafts are indicating, expect Tennessee to look at other options in the backfield if not just for insurance in case Sankey has a repeat performance of 2014.

Potential fantasy value situation No. 3 — RB for San Diego Chargers

Why it's valuable: Ryan Mathews had another injury-plagued season in 2014 and finished with 330 yards on 74 carries and three touchdowns. Mathews seems to have a good year every other year. He eclipsed the 1,000-yard plateau in years 2011 and 2013, but failed to do so in 2010, 2012 and now 2014. It seems like a good bet to draft Mathews in odd years. Either way, he's been inconsistent enough on a fringe playoff team to warrant some kind of change in the backfield. If someone ends up replacing him, whether it be a rookie or backup running back Branden Oliver or Donald Brown, be sure to weigh the options of drafting that RB over Mathews.

Potential fantasy value situation No. 4 — RB for Atlanta Falcons

Why it's valuable: We mentioned this one in our coaches shuffle podcast earlier last month but it bears repeating. Kyle Shanahan has proven to be a successful running coach and now that he's in Atlanta, expect the coordinator who made a 1,000 yard rusher out of late draft pick Alfred Morris to shake things up in the backfield. Right now, Devonta Freeman looks like the guy Atlanta will be utilizing first, but he struggled at times as a rookie and hasn't shown any sign that he can be a reliable fantasy running back as of yet. This is one situation to monitor because of Shanahan's past success and the wide open backfield in Atlanta. 

Published in Podcasts
Friday, 30 January 2015 00:00

Epiosde 44: Up on the Bay

On Friday's episode of Treatment, the Fantasy Football Helpers discuss Tampa Bay's hiring of former Atlanta offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and how it will likely have a positive impact on the Bucs fantasy value. They also talk about San Francisco's new offensive coordinator and how it will have just the opposite effect on the 49ers' offense.

The Helpers first start out discussing newly hired Buccaneers' offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, who comes over from the Atlanta Falcons. While at Atlanta, Koetter established a pass happy regime that kept quarterback Matt Ryan in the Top 5 in passing attempts consistently throughout his time there. 

After spending time at Arizona State in the mid 2000s, Koetter landed his first NFL job as offensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2007. He was very successful during his time there, as he helped David Garrard turn in a 18 touchdown, three interception season and the Jags made the playoffs. The following season, Garrard would throw the ball 535 times, which was seventh most among all quarterbacks that season. Garrard's 15:13 TD-INT ratio wasn't nearly as good that year, however.

While Koetter was in Jacksonville, he helped strengthen the fantasy value of receivers like Mike Sims-Walker, tight end Mercedes Lewis and running back Maurice Jones-Drew. While at Atlanta, he helped the Falcons become one of the most prominent offenses in the game and also played a key role in utilizing Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez in the passing game. In his final season with the Falcons in 2014, Koetter's offense ranked in the Top 5 for passing yards per game (284) and 12th in points per game (23.8).

When it comes to Tampa Bay, Koetter will again step into a good situation with plenty of weapons. Young receiver Mike Evans will be coming off a tremendous rookie campaign where he scored multiple touchdowns in a series of games midway through the season that set records held by former great Randy Moss. Fellow wide receiver Vincent Jackson is also coming off a decent season of his own and young tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins could be poised for a breakout season of his own. Seferian-Jenkins finished with 21 catches for 221 yards and two touchdowns in his rookie season.

Expect all of Tampa Bay's receivers to become better fantasy options due to Koetter's pass happy offense that will led to more opportunities for the skills players to accrue stats.

The Helpers then shifted their discussion to San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Geep Chryst. Previously the 49ers quarterbacks coach, Chryst will now take over as the team's play caller and is the only assistant still with the team that was brought in by departed coach Jim Harbaugh. It's a puzzling hire, considering Chryst did little to enhance the skills of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a guy who took several steps back and failed to the make the playoffs for the first time since taking over as starter in 2012. It's not a sign that the 49ers' receivers will be better fantasy players in 2015, as Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis are both coming off less than stellar seaosns.

View Thompson's Flickr page here.

Published in Podcasts

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Alfred Morris in 2012. Eddie Lacy in 2013. Jeremy Hill in 2014.

What do all three of those running backs have in common? They were all rookies when they rushed for over 1,000 yards and surprised everybody. By doing so, they cemented themselves as some of the best fantasy bargains in their respective rookie seasons. They did this through their talent obviously, but they also had a high volume of carries and good talent around them which likely played an even bigger role in their early success.

Let's start with the volume argument. In 2013, Lacy's 284 carries his rookie season ranked fifth overall. Morris had 335 carries in 2012 which was good for third best that season and Hill's 222 carries ranked 13th this past season. It's through this idea of volume carries that we will use to see if we can figure out who will be the guy to post 1,000-plus rushing yards in 2015.

Among those three rookie seasons, Morris found the most success in the yardage category and also (coincidentally) had the most volume. The sixth-round draft pick by the Redskins thrived under Kyle Shanhan's zone run blocking scheme and finished second in the league in rushing yards with 1,613. He trailed only Adrian Peterson that season, who had a monstrous 2,097 yards and come 14 yards short of breaking Eric Dickerson's long held record of 2,105 set in 1984. Morris also had a pre-injury Robert Griffin III under center. RG3 and the Redskins also ran a read option offense that few defensive coordinators had figured out yet.

Lacy had a similar story to Morris. He might've been slightly more hyped coming out of college, but his draft stock took a bit of a nose dive when an injury forced him to miss several workouts during the combine which led to Giovani Bernard getting selected as the first running back overall in the 2013 draft. Le'Veon Bell and Montee Ball were also taken before Lacy, as Eddie was eventually taken later in the second round by the Green Bay Packers. While Lacy never possessed crazy explosiveness and was even considered 'too fat' to play running back by many, he showed great determination and purpose to go along with his immense strength and eventually finished with 1,178 yards and more importantly, 11 touchdowns. Lacy had Aaron Rodgers under center.

Just this past season, LSU product Jeremy Hill found himself embedded in a run heavy offense in Cincinnati under offensive coordinator Hue Jackson and found his place quickly after former starter Giovani Bernard went down with an injury early in the season. Hill rushed for 1,124 yards and 9 touchdowns. While there was some luck involved since he had to wait for an opportunity before he could see a spike in numbers, Hill's volume of carries increased even after Bernard recovered. If you extrapolate Hill's rushing attempts had he been the full-time starter at the beginning of the season, you would've been looking at numbers similar to Lacy and Morris.

While Hill didn't have a premier quarterback under center like RG3 (2012 RG3, not today's RG3) and Rodgers, he did have an offensive line that hovered around the Top 10 in run blocking. Another running back who probably had the most potential for volume last season was Bishop Sankey of the Tennessee Titans. Sankey found himself on an offense without a true No. 1 running back, but Tennessee's offensive line ranked in the bottom 15 and Sankey also didn't prove to be very explosive in his own right. So this theory isn't full proof, but it's a good start.

Why it's important for fantasy football

Identifying bargains and hitting on them is always key in fantasy football. For example, if you ended up with a pair of running backs like Le'Veon Bell and Jeremy Hill, you would've been set at running back for the majority of the 2014 season.

Bell was the 12th running back taken off on the board on average in standard rules fantasy drafts this year according to FantasyPros. Hill was the 40th RB selected on average. Bell finished as the No. 2 running back in fantasy this past season with 272 fantasy points, trailing only DeMarco Murray. Hill finished as the 10th best running back in fantasy with 171 fantasy points and compiled those numbers in roughly 10 starts, closing out the year with three straight 100-yard efforts.

Chances are, you were probably bummed out if you drafted those guys initially, as they were guys you took simply because they were the last running back left in their tier or whatever. but as the season went along, you were happier and happier.

Who's the potential best bargain in this year's crop of rookie running backs?

Obviously, it's too early to tell. But before you get angry and click the 'x' button, there's a way to reasonably predict which future rookie running back has the best chance to put up good numbers in their first season. That way comes from (you guessed it), identifying which team would have the potential to give the rookie running back the highest volume of carries.

The biggest and most obvious factor when predicting a bargain fantasy rookie running back is playing time. If the team doesn't need that running back because they already have a firm starter in his place, then he won't be in the backfield accruing stats for your fantasy team. A good example of this is Christine Michael in Seattle, a guy who drew some hype before the 2014 began only to be kept on the bench due to Marshawn Lynch's continued success. Carlos Hyde and Frank Gore are two other examples. So let's take a look at some of the team's that actually need a running back and assess whether or not that team has enough talent to help a rookie become a bargain fantasy running back in 2015.

Side note: This assessment of team's picking is just for the first round of the 2015 draft only and based on team needs only. It doesn't take into account the teams who don't have a significant need for a new running back (for sake of the 'demand' argument earlier). This argument doesn't take talent into account as much either. It assumes all this year's top running backs are equally talented (we know that's not exactly the case, but for arguments sake lets say it is).

 

Jacksonville Jaguars (pick No. 3) — The Toby Gerhart experiment failed for the Jaguars in 2014, and now it's looking like they may need a true workhorse to complement scat back Denard Robinson. The point of this article isn't to try and predict if Jacksonville would take a running back, it's to see how well that running back could do if he got drafted there.

Jacksonville's offensive line struggled mightily last season. They ranked dead last in pass protection and 29th in run blocking according to Football Outsiders. Drafting a rookie running back to your fantasy team in a redraft league who plays on Jacksonville in 2015 would be risky if they don't make some big changes to their offensive line in the offseason.

Good volume probability: High        Talent on team: Low       Overall bargain probability: Low

Atlanta Falcons (pick No. 8) — A big factor that could help a rookie running backs cause on this team is Kyle Shanahan's zone run blocking scheme. We mentioned early how Morris had immense success in this offense as a rookie despite not being the most highly touted running back coming out of the draft.

The Atlanta Falcons ranked in the middle of the pack when it came to run blocking last season, and that was with some key injuries along the offensive line. Plus, they already have one of the best receivers in the league in Julio Jones, a guy who can stretch the field and take corners and safeties deep which will clear out space for the running back. We saw how DeSean Jackson's speed in Philadelphia helped LeSean McCoy win the rushing title in 2013.

The running back situation is currently cloudy but the potential for volume exists. Veteran Steven Jackson will likely be cut and Jacquizz Rodgers is a free agent. That leaves Devonta Freeman left. Freeman didn't play much as a rookie and struggled when he did.

The Falcons also play in the NFC South, a division currently known for some of the worst defenses in the league. The Falcons put up nearly 60 points on a Thursday night game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers early this season. If the Falcons end up taking a good rookie running back sometime this draft, fantasy numbers could be very good.

Good volume probability: Medium    Talent on team: High     Overall bargain probability: High

St. Louis Rams (pick No 10) — The Rams were a team that slowly got better as the season went along, especially on the defensive side. They drafted a rookie running back last year in Tre Mason and Mason ended up having one monster game against Oakland to go along with several good ones.

Despite Mason's solid 765 yard, four touchdown rookie season, there's still some doubt as to whether or not he can be an every-down back for St. Louis. The Rams (like Atlanta) ranked in the middle of the road when it came to run blocking in 2014. But unlike Atlanta, they have quarterback and receiver issues which make them much more susceptible to team stacking the box.

Good volume probability: Medium     Talent on team: Medium    Overall bargain probability: Average

Baltimore Ravens (pick No. 26) — The Ravens struggled on the offensive line but added tackle Eugene Monroe from Jacksonville at a great price and also got great production out of their rookie linemen. That, combined with Gary Kubiak's wizardry in the run game led to former castaway Justin Forsett having a career season in 2014. Joe Flacco also played some of the best ball of his career and the Ravens made the playoffs after failing to the previous season.

Good volume probability: Medium      Talent on team: High          Overall bargain probability: High

New England Patriots (pick No. 32) — I'm sure you're cringing as you read this based on Bill Belichick's unpredictable offensive game planing that has screwed your fantasy team over countless times but the Patriots are in need of a running back if they don't resign Stevan Ridley. Their offensive line ranked in the Top 5 in run blocking this season and helped Jonas Gray have a monster game against Indianapolis on Sunday night. They also helped LaGarrette Blount reclaim fantasy relevance in the playoffs as well.

If they take a running back, of course you'll most definitely not want to take him high due to the risk. But there's also a high probability that the rookie running back has some good outings as long as he doesn't fumble and get in Belichick's doghouse.

Good volume probability: Low        Talent on team: High         Overall bargain probability: Low

Overall verdict

So if you're looking at right now, the Falcons, Ravens and Rams probably have the best chances for high volume carries for a rookie running back. The Falcons and Ravens have the most talent on the offensive side of the ball with their quarterbacks, while Baltimore has the best offensive line and Atlanta has a good receiving core. If any of the most highly-touted rookie running backs gets selected onto the Ravens or Falcons, he likely has the best potential to be a bargain fantasy running back in 2015.

View Kyle Engman's Flickr page here.

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

Sleepers and busts for Week 13

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

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

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

Without further ado, your week 13 Sleepers and Busts: 

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

Sleeper QB:

Matt Ryan v. Arizona

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

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

Bust QB:

Cam Newton at Minnesota

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

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

Sleeper RB:

Dan Herron v. Washington

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

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

Bust RB:

Isaiah Crowell at Buffalo

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

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

Sleeper WR:

Charles Johnson v. Carolina 

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

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

Bust WR:

Kenny Stills at Pittsburgh

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

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

Sleeper TE:

Charles Clay at. New York Jets

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

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

Bust TE:

Antonio Gates at Baltimore 

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

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

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

View Keith Allison's Flickr page here.

 

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Monday, 01 September 2014 00:00

Episode 13: All-denim team

Goal of this podcast: To give you one last string of well-educated speculation before the NFL regular season begins. We talk sleeper picks that have been overhyped, plus two bold predictions, some mailbag and a few guys who could rock the denim as well as Aaron Rodgers and crew did earlier this week.

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