• Opportunity: The most optimal running backs for Week 3

    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 3 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 3.


    Week 2 has come and gone and while the overall picture is still cloudy, some small trends are starting to emerge in the fantasy football world.

    For one, Kansas City running back Kareem Hunt has been on a whole different level than any other running back. Hunt's 71 fantasy points through two weeks dwarfs the next highest running back, which is Ty Montgomery at 48.3. To put it in perspective, the highest fantasy scoring running back through two weeks in 2016 was DeAngelo Williams with 48.

    Todd Gurley continues to look more like the rookie who dominated for over 1,000 rush yards during his rookie season. Through two weeks, Gurley has finished as an RB6 and RB2.

    The Oakland Raider backfield remains messy. Marshawn Lynch is getting considerable volume and goal line work but lacking in the receiving category. DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard have combined for eight targets. Each back curbs the others ceiling from week to week.

    Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers (Thursday game recap)

    Total team scoring expectation: 42 points

    Actual points scored: 80

    Game script: Run heavy, defense-based game with high likelihood of turnovers.

    Los Angeles RB's: Well everyone was wrong on this one in terms of the game script. Todd Gurley was nothing short of amazing, rushing for 113 yards and two scores and catching 5 passes for 36 yards and another score. He's been incredible through 3 weeks and is currently the top scoring fantasy running back until the Sunday games.

    San Francisco RB's: Carlos Hyde saw his highest carry total yet with 25 rushing attempts for 84 yards and two touchdowns. He's a great shot to continue producing as the 49ers coaching staff keep increasing his volume. Rookie Matt Breida didn't do much in the run game, but he did have three catches on four targets for 20 yards in this one. He's not worth a stash unless you're in a 16-team points per reception league at this point, but he's worth monitoring going forward.

    Baltimore at Jacksonville (London game)

    Total points expected: 40 (Baltimore favored by 4.5)

    Game script: Run heavy, defense.

    Baltimore RB's: Javorius Allen was the volume guy in Week 2 with 42 snaps to Terrance West's 15. Allen also received six looks in the red zone but it was West that got the lone carry inside the five and scored a touchdown on it. West did not practice this week and is dealing with a thigh injury, making Allen a primary RB1 candidate for this week against Jacksonville. Through two games, the Ravens have the second most rushing attempts in the league with 37. 

    Jacksonville RB's: Rookie Leonard Fournette ranks second in rush attempts through two weeks. He's also been sprinkled into the pass game with five receptions on eight targets. If T.J. Yeldon is active in Week 3, expect him to steal targets from Fournette. Either way, Fournette is still the primary back and should see his usual volume. Fournette is an RB8 through two weeks this season.

    Cleveland at Indianapolis

    Total points expected: 40 (Cleveland favored by 2)

    Game script: Low-scoring. Grind game.

    Cleveland RB's: Isaiah Crowell hasn't gone off yet through the first two weeks, ranking as an RB18 through two weeks. But he's had decent volume with 27 carries through two games. The Colts have been stout against the run, holding both Todd Gurley and Chris Johnson to under 50 rushing yards. The Browns should keep Indy's quarterbacks in check, as the Colts QB's have yet to throw a passing touchdown this season. This could lead to Crowell's best volume of the young season.

    Indianapolis RB's: Both Frank Gore and Marlon Mack have struggled through two weeks. But Frank Gore is still a solid RB2 option thanks to his volume. Worth noting that Robert Turbin increased his snap count from 14 to 28 in Week 2, but didn't do much with it as he finished with just three carries for 11 yards. Cleveland has been decent against the run so far, making Indy's backfield more risky in Week 3.

    Pittsburgh at Chicago

    Total points expected: 45.5 (Pittsburgh favored by 7.5)

    Game script: Potential high-scoring with Pittsburgh's offense getting considerable upside.

    Pittsburgh RB's: Le'Veon Bell is due for a big game here. His volume was crazy in Week 2, as he saw 68 snaps to James Conner's 4. The Bears surrendered over 110 yards to Jacquizz Rodgers and Peyton Barber in Week 2. Bell's role in the receiving game also makes him game script proof in case this game favors more passing. The only worry is the unfavorable road splits for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but a good matchup should buck that trend. Bell is a great option in all formats this week and in DFS lineups.

    Chicago RB's: Tarik Cohen is the guy you want to start for Chicago going forward until Jordan Howard shows some of the effectiveness he had as a rookie. Howard is dealing with a shoulder injury, as he was reportedly wearing a sling in practice this week. The Steelers kept the Browns and Vikings run games in check which makes Howard a risky play. Cohen, meanwhile, leads all Bears offensive players in targets with 21 and is a strong start with so many injuries at wide receiver. Cohen also ranks fourth in yards per route run (2) trailing only Shane Vereen, James White and Melvin Gordon.

    Miami at New York Jets

    Total points expected: 41 (Miami favored by 6.5)

    Game script: Miami defense favored heavily. Run-heavy for Miami, pass-heavy for New York.

    Miami RB's: Jay Ajayi is the clear bell cow running back in this offense. His 28 carries in Week 2 should be replicated in Week 3 against a bad New York Jets run defense. The Jets have been lit up by LeSean McCoy and the Oakland Raider backfield in Weeks 1 and 2. With points hard to come by for New York, you might have to worry about Miami getting out to an early lead and taking Ajayi out. But Ajayi's floor is probably 70-80 yards in this one and he has significant touchdown upside.

    New York Jets RB's: Matt Forte took on a slightly larger role, out-touching Bilal Powell 13 to 6 and he's clearly the back to start in deeper leagues. Rookie Elijah McGuire also got into the mix for the first time, receiving six touches of his own for 29 yards and adding one catch for seven yards. Though this backfield is messy, there's some value at the position as the Jets will likely be playing from behind a lot and all of these backs are decent pass catchers. Good garbage time points are a very real possibility. This is a game to steer clear of the backfield for now, but keep an eye out for McGuire on waiver wires in deeper leagues. There's potential for him to see more opportunity in the future.

    Denver at Buffalo

    Total points expected: 41 (Denver favored by 2)

    Game script: Lots of running, low-scoring.

    Denver RB's: C.J. Anderson leads the league in rushing attempts and finished as the top fantasy running back in Week 2 with 27 points. Anderson is looking like a good option due to an improved line, strong defense and quarterback. The Bills have been stout against the run so far this season, so this is far from a dream matchup. Still, Anderson should see around 20 touches in this game and add a few catches in as well.

    Buffalo RB's: Carolina stifled LeSean McCoy last week. The Broncos come into this matchup riding a wave of confidence after holding Ezekiel Elliott to just eight rushing yards. It's hard to like McCoy this week, even though he's averaging close to seven targets per game. He's a running back to avoid this week.

    Houston at New England

    Total points expected: 43.5 (New England favored by 13)

    Game script: Defensive battle. Low-scoring.

    Houston RB's: Lamar Miller ranks among the top 5 in attempts with 35. He also has five catches on five targets through two weeks. Still, he hasn't been effective with just 3.6 yards per carry and zero touchdowns. Rookie D'onta Foreman saw his snap count jump from 2 to 17 last week. He also received 12 touches to Miller's 20. New England is also giving up just 20 points per game, which ranks among the Top 5. Both backs are good fade options this week.

    New England RB's: It's been about as down the middle as it can get with the Patriots running backs. Last week, James White and Mike Gillislee each saw 30 snaps last week. Rex Burkhead's snap count slightly decreased from 10 to 8 but he was efficient with 3 catches for 41 yards and a score. Whatever, it doesn't matter. Overall, the volume belongs to Gillislee and White for right now, with White being the primary receiving back and Gillislee getting the goal line carries.

    New Orleans at Carolina

    Total points expected: 49 (Carolina favored by 6)

    Game script: High scoring. Pass heavy game.

    New Orleans RB's: Mark Ingram is the lead back in this offense. He also has some receiving upside with five targets per game through two weeks. Alvin Kamara also has some upside in a game that could be pass-heavy, but there's still some risk with Adrian Peterson seeing more snaps in Week 2. This is a muddy backfield. Even more frustrating is the fact that Drew Brees is still passing at an elite level. There could be more scoring opportunities but the crowded backfield limits upside. Carolina has also been stout against the run this season. Best to steer clear of this backfield in Week 3.

    Carolina RB's: Cam Newton could hit Christian McCaffrey quite a bit more in this game. James White caught 8 passes for 85 yards against New Orleans and the Saints are giving up close to 30 points to running backs this season. Jonathan Stewart could also be a good start, but his receiving upside is limited and he's yet to find the end zone on the ground. McCaffrey actually has more upside in both standard and PPR leagues this week.

    Tampa Bay at Minnesota

    Total points expected: 41 (Minnesota favored by 2)

    Game script: Lower scoring.

    Tampa Bay RB's: With 34 snaps last week, Jacquizz Rodgers is the main back until Doug Martin returns. Charles Sims saw all of the passing-down work with three targets. Both aren't great options this week as Minnesota kept the Saints in check and held Le'Veon Bell to just 87 yards on 27 carries. The interior has been strong for Minnesota, as they're allowing just 6.9 fantasy points per game according to Pro Football Focus. Rodgers is a risky play this week.

    Minnesota RB's: Dalvin Cook had a favorable game script in Week 1 thanks to Sam Bradford's dominating performance. Week 2 was a different story, as Pittsburgh got out to the early lead and Minnesota passed the ball 66 percent of the time. It didn't help that Case Keenum struggled mightily at quarterback either. Bradford was ruled out on Friday, tough matchup for the Vikings running backs. Tampa is a solid defense against both the run and pass, but they've only played Chicago and Cook is a more complete back than Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. There's dark horse potential for Cook in this matchup, but if Keenum struggles again, expect Tampa to focus on Cook.

    Atlanta at Detroit

    Total points expected: 49 (Atlanta favored by 3.5)

    Game script: Potential high scoring with a lot of passing.

    Atlanta RB's: In case you haven't noticed, there's not a clear-cut high fantasy scoring game this week. However, this game could be one of those higher scoring games. Devonta Freeman flourished last week against Green Bay has double the amount of snaps as Tevin Coleman through two weeks. Even though the Lions have been strong against the run, they haven't really played against a decent running back yet. They got David Johnson in Week 1 who excited early with an injury and the New York Giants inept backfield last Monday night. Freeman has some intrigue this week in a potential high scoring matchup.

    Detroit RB's: This backfield is messy but the matchup is dripping with opportunity Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah split snaps last week with Abdullah seeing 28 to Riddick's 27. Riddick finished as an RB20 in Week 1, which is the highest finish of any Lions back so far. The Lions have a long history of not having a true feature back, and this year is looking no different so far. Still, the Falcons have been getting lit up by pass catching backs this year. Tarik Cohen and Ty Montgomery both caught touchdown passes and combined for 14 catches and over 120 receiving yards.

    New York Giants at Philadelphia

    Total points expected: 43.5 (Philadelphia favored by 3.5)

    Game script: Lower scoring. Turnover potential on Philadelphia's side.

    New York RB's: The Giants have looked awful through two weeks. Second-year back Paul Perkins is averaging 1.9 yards per carry and no Giant running back has scored a touchdown through two weeks. Orleans Darkwa saw a slight uptick in snaps and saw four touches to Perkins and Vereen's nine. Still, he's not a back you can rely on this week against a Philadelphia team that's fared well against the run so far. Vereen has slight upside because of his volume in the passing game with 13 targets through two games. This is also a desperation game for New York, as losing would put them at 0-2 in the division and 0-3 overall.

    Philadelphia RB's: The Eagles have been equally poor in the run game, with no running back over 50 total yards through two games. Darren Sproles remains the dominant PPR back, and the Giants have been susceptible to pass catching backs so far. They gave up five catches on five targets to Ezekiel Elliott in Week 1. Sproles is a good streaming option in deeper PPR leagues and has upside in DFS tournaments as well. No other Philadelphia back is worth starting as of now.

    Seattle at Tennessee

    Total points expected: 43.5 (Tennessee favored by 1)

    Seattle RB's: The Titans are a good run-stopping unit, holding both Marshawn Lynch and Leonard Fournette to under 100 yards. Chris Carson remains the high-volume guy and rushed for 93 yards and a score on 20 attempts against San Francisco in Week 2. This will be a tougher matchup for the Seattle backfield though, and the Titans have struggled more against the pass than the run so far.

    Tennessee RB's: DeMarco Murray is banged up and all signs point to Derrick Henry getting more volume this week. Henry strung 92 yards and a score together in last week's outing against Jacksonville, a tough defense. Seattle is another difficult challenge, but the volume potential makes Henry a good RB2 play in standard leagues. Probably best to avoid him DFS since there's high bust potential with the matchup and there are better options out there at similar prices. For example, Henry's price tag is $5,300 on DraftKings and Ameer Abdullah has similar upside at $4,700.

    Kansas City at Los Angeles Chargers

    Total points expected: 45.5 (Kansas City favored by 3)

    Game script: Potential high-scoring. Both teams can throw and run the ball.

    Kansas City RB's: Kareem Hunt saw his workload explode in Week 2 and he's the only startable KC back going forward barring a severe slump or injury. He's a great Daily Fantasy play as well since some might be scared off by his expensive price. You should still have some exposure to him in your lineups this week regardless. The Chargers have been soft against the run, surrendering over 100 yards to Denver running backs C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles in Week 1. They also gave up 122 yards to Jay Ajayi last week.

    Los Angeles Chargers RB's: Melvin Gordon struggled on the ground last week against a tough Miami front. Still, his hybrid status makes him close to matchup proof this season. He's averaging seven targets a game and saw good volume against Denver in Week 1 with 18 carries. Expect him to see a similar opportunity in Week 3 against Kansas City. Branden Oliver is nothing more than a change of pace back at this point and hasn't seen much work in the receiving game with just one target on the year.

    Cincinnati at Green Bay

    Total points expected: 45.5 (Green Bay favored by 10)

    Game script: Balanced with equal amount of running and passing.

    Cincinnati RB's: Cincinnati's backfield remains the most puzzling and perhaps frustrating this season. The numbers tell all really. Through two games, the rushing attempts have been Joe Mixon (17), Giovani Bernard (12), and Jeremy Hill (12). Mixon has been the most effective as of late, rushing for 36 yards on nine carries last week. Still, it's hard to get excited about him until the Bengals let him loose, which may or may not happen anytime soon.

    Green Bay RB's: Ty Montgomery continues to be a force and has a solid matchup against Cincinnati, an average run defense so far. He's slowly stepping into that hybrid role and received seven targets last week, catching six of them for 75 yards and a touchdown. Montgomery's 65 snaps last week dwarfed all other Packer backs and Jamaal Williams is no threat to overtake him right now. He should also see more rushing attempts unless Andy Dalton and A.J. Green really go off in this one and force Green Bay to play from behind.

    Oakland at Washington

    Total points expected: 54 (Oakland favored by 3)

    Game script: High scoring. Defense optional.

    Oakland RB's: Marshawn Lynch is a good option in this one since Washington has fared poorly against the run but I worry about the game script in this one. If Oakland comes out throwing, DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard could see an increased role. Never much of a receiver, Lynch might see the majority of his work around the goal line if Washington and Kirk Cousins get off to a hot start. Jordan Reed is 50/50 right now but Vernon Davis is still a strong backup and Oakland struggles against tight ends. They also gave up two scores to Jermaine Kearse and Josh McCown of the Jets last week. There's a chance the Redskins put up a lot of points on them which would take Lynch out of the equation somewhat.

    Washington RB's: Samaje Perine saw his first action in Week 2 and rushed 21 times for 67 yards. While the numbers aren't eye-popping, he's the clear No. 1 back going forward. Chris Thompson continues to be ruthlessly efficient, rushing for 77 yards and two scores on just three attempts and is averaging six targets per game. Despite his performance, it's not looking like the Redskins will increase his touches anytime soon for fear of injuring his slight frame. Perine is a risky play this week but definitely worth an add in deeper leagues.

    Dallas at Arizona (Monday night)

    Total points expected: 47 (Dallas favored by 3.5)

    Game script: Above average scoring.

    Dallas RB's: Ezekiel Elliott struggled mightily against Denver after a 100-yard performance against the New York Giants in Week 1. Still, he's yet to record a touchdown this year and Arizona has been strong against the run, granted they've only played Detroit and Indianapolis so far. Elliott is an elite back and has a chance to rebound in this game, and with Arizona's offense playing so poorly, it's unlikely we see a Trevor Siemien passing game script like last week.

    Arizona RB's: Chris Johnson and Kerwynn Williams siphoned production from each other in Arizona's first outing without David Johnson. Andre Ellington led them in snaps with 30.


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  • Opportunity: The most optimal running backs for Week 2

    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 1 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 2.

    Week 1 saw a bunch of rushers see over 20+ carries, which is the first big indicator of consistency from week to week. We saw Ezekiel Elliott rush 24 times, and rookie Leonard Fournette was the top rusher with 26 total carries. Both backs finished with over 100 yards against good defenses in New York and Houston.

    We got our first glimpse of the identity these coaches might be establishing for their teams in Week 1. Fournette has a lot of potential as a rookie in Jacksonville, as the Jaugars look to favor a conservative, defense-first approach. Will that happen every week? Nobody knows. But it worked well in Week 1. The defense forced unproven quarterback Tom Savage into tough throws and Bortles threw just 21 times, which ranked 28th overall for that week.

    If you're looking at receiving running backs, Tarik Cohen and Shane Vereen dominated the target category with 11 and 10 respectively. Cohen finished with 25 PPR points after catching 8 passes for 47 yards and a touchdown. With his price on Draftkings being so low, it's no surprise Cohen was the true contrarian play and was featured in several top Daily Fantasy lineups. Vereen didn't find the end zone, but finished 14 PPR points on a respectable 9 catches for 51 yards.

    As you can see, it was an interesting week with a lot of surprises. Here's how we can break that down in Week 2.

    Houston at Cincinnati (Thursday game recap)

    Total team scoring expectation: 38 points

    Actual points scored: 22

    Game script: Run heavy, defense-based game with high likelihood of turnovers

    Houston RB's: Lamar Miller had the highest volume in Week 1 for Houston with 17 carries. Miller saw 29 total snaps in the last game, leading all Houston rushers. But it was rookie D'Onta Foreman who stood out in Week 2. The former Longhorn rushed for 40 yards, gaining 32 of them after contact. Miller still saw the bulk of the carries, but Foreman is starting to creep into the picture. Look to add Foreman to your waiver wire list.

    Cincinnati RB's: Cincy's backfield is coming into focus. Rookie Joe Mixon lead backs with nine carries and Giovani Bernard assume the receiving back role. Bernard led all Bengals runners with 4 targets, catching two of them for 16 yards. Bernard will have some value in high-scoring game scripts or when the Bengals find themselves down at half, which is something that might happen more often as the Bengals lost their first two home games so far.

    Green Bay at Atlanta (Sunday Night)

    Total points expected: 53

    Game script: Pass heavy from both offenses. The obvious high-scoring matchup of the Week.

    Green Bay RB's: Green Bay's Ty Montgomery played 74 snaps while rookie backup Jamaal Williams played just six. Montgomery also led the team in targets with four. This is the week to start Montgomery in all leagues including PPR and Daily Fantasy. The Falcons recently surrendered eight catches and a touchdown to Bears backup running back Tarik Cohen in Week 1. Montgomery has a real shot to have one of his best weeks of the year.

    Atlanta RB's: Both Freeman and Coleman are risky options right now. Freeman was the clear leader in snaps with 36, but Coleman wasn't far behind with 24 and also out-targeted Freeman 6:2. There's a lot to like in this matchup, but you don't know which back will put up points. It's safe to steer clear of this backfield for the time being.

    Tennessee at Jacksonville

    Total points expected: 43 (Tennessee favored by 1)

    Game script: High volume for Jacksonville running backs. Low-scoring. Grind game.

    Tennessee RB's:  Tennessee got down early and passed a lot more in Week 1, which hurt DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry's value. Murray out-touched Henry 12-6 but Henry got more bang per carry with 4.2 yards. Henry also created more yards with 2.8 after contact. With no backs receiving any goal line touches, this is a backfield that has some uncertainty heading into Week 2 even with a favorable game script.

    Jacksonville RB's: Leonard Fournette saw a league-high 29 touches, a feat that could occur again as the Jaguars establish a defensive identity. T.J. Yeldon expects to return for Week 2 which could limit Fournette's targets, as the rookie saw three in Week 1. But the volume should still be there for Fournette and he's a reliable start in redraft and cash games for DFS.

    Cleveland at Baltimore

    Total points expected: 41 (Baltimore favored by 7.5)

    Game script: Favors defense of Baltimore. Low-scoring. High turnover probability with rookie DeShone Kizer playing for Cleveland.

    Cleveland RB's: Trust the Hue Jackson touch. The Browns are sneakily becoming a competitive team thanks to an improved defense. However, both running backs aren't a great bet to do damage this week. Kizer's rushing upside limits touchdown probability for Isaiah Crowell. Duke Johnson was used exclusively as a receiver last week and didn't line up in the backfield once according to Pro Football Focus.

    Baltimore RB's: There's definitely some upside to giving Javorius Allen a start this week. Allen led Baltimore with 21 carries and outsnapped Terrance West 33 to 27. Plus, Allen could see more targets with Danny Woodhead expected out until Week 10. If Baltimore can control the pace of this game, it's not out of the question Allen could see over 100 yards and a couple catches. Throw in a touchdown and he'll greatly exceed his Daily Fantasy value. 

    Buffalo at Carolina

    Total points expected: 42 (Carolina favored by 7.5)

    Game script: Favors defense of Carolina. Low-scoring.

    Buffalo RB's: LeSean McCoy rushed 22 times for 110 yards in a run-heavy game against the offensively pedestrian New York Jets. He also added 5 catches on 6 targets for 49 yards. Mike Tolbert was also effective with 12 rushes of his own for 42 yards and continued his reputation as a touchdown sniper with a short score. Per Pro Football Focus, McCoy did receive one carry inside the five-yard line, so it's not like the Bills used Tolbert exclusively around the end zone. The volume will still be there for McCoy, although this is a tougher matchup for him.

    Carolina RB's: Jonathan Stewart remains the top back in this offense with 18 rushes to Christian McCaffrey's 13. McCaffrey saw 47 snaps to Stewart's 29 and saw 7 targets which led to 5 catches for 30+ yards. This is a decent matchup for Carolina's running backs, but low value hurts their chances for a huge day. It's unlikely Stewart goes over 100 yards with McCaffrey taking touches. It's also unlikely McCaffrey scores touchdowns unless he scores on a big play since he's not getting the goal line work.

    New England at New Orleans

    Total points expected: 53 (New England favored by 6)

    Game script: Lots of passing. Favorable for wide receivers and quarterbacks

    New England RB's: This is a good game to give James White a start in redraft and Daily Fantasy. White is the receiving back in New England, led them in targets with 5 in Week 1, and New England is likely to score a ton to keep up with New Orleans. The Saints have historically been a high-scoring team at home, so New England will have their hands full, especially with a banged up defense that will put more pressure on Tom Brady to put up points.

    New Orleans RB's: Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram are both good starts this week. Kamara led all Saints running backs in targets with six and caught four of them for 20 yards. Ingram wasn't far behind with five targets. Both backs struggled on the ground, but a lot of that had to do with Minnesota's stifling defense. It's unlikely New England puts up the same fight, especially if Donta Hightower is still hurt. Adrian Peterson, who was never a prolific receiver, may be the odd man out in this backfield as the season goes along.

    Arizona at Indianapolis

    Total points expected: 44 (Arizona favored by 7.5)

    Game script: Could be pass heavy for first half, run heavy in second if Arizona gets ahead.

    Arizona RB's: Kerwynn Williams is the current starting back for Arizona, a team that also signed Chris Johnson earlier this week. Williams has rushed for over 100 yards in the past, but his receiving upside will likely be curbed with Andre Ellington expected to fill that role. This backfield is cloudy, but Williams is an interesting dart throw if not for the fact that he'll be so cheap and the Indianapolis defense has struggled early on.

    Indianapolis RB's: Both rookie Marlon Mack and Frank Gore split carries with 10, with Mack getting the touchdown and the better fantasy day. It's difficult to see who will be the best option in this backfield as of now. Both running backs also saw a similar role in the receiving game, with each catching one pass on one target. There's not much to like about Indianapolis on offense right now in general, and the running back situation is no different. 

    Philadelphia at Kansas City

    Total points expected: 47.5 (Kansas City favored by 4.5)

    Game script: Some scoring potential. Both teams create a good pass rush so sacks are likely. Kansas City will likely favor pass with injuries in Philadelphia secondary.

    Philadelphia RB's: LeGarrette Blount wasn't very effective in Week 1 with just 46 yards on 14 rushes. He saved his fantasy day with a one-yard reception score. Darren Sproles tied Zach Ertz for most targets among all Philly players with eight. Neither player is worth more than a dart throw in Daily Fantasy lineups this week.

    Kansas City RB's: Kareem Hunt was incredible in Week 1. He gets another plus matchup against a Philadelphia team that surrendered four catches, 52 yards and a score to Redskins running back Chris Thompson in Week 1. Though Charcandrick West saw a lot of snaps in Week 1, expect that to diminish due to Hunt's dominance. It's likely Hunt cracks the 20+ rush attempts and sees at least five targets in Week 2.

    Minnesota at Pittsburgh

    Total points expected: 45 (Pittsburgh favored by 7)

    Game script: Potentially high-scoring. Lots of passing.

    Minnesota RB's: Forget the notion that Latavius Murray would take away touches from rookie Dalvin Cook early on after Week 1. Cook is firmly entrenched in the feature back role and should see plenty of carries in this one. Coming off a 127-yard performance where he rushed 22 times, Cook also had more targets than Jerick McKinnon with five. Cook also had four looks in the red zone which led all Viking running backs. Pittsburgh gave up several 100-yard rushing games last season, including over 200 yards to Jay Ajayi.

    Pittsburgh RB's: Recency bias might keep people from drafting Le'Veon Bell this week in DFS, but don't let that happen to you. Bell is likely to rebound in Week 2. Pittsburgh is a different offense at home, as evidenced by Ben Roethlisberger's 59 touchdowns in his last 20 home games. Bell has been on the receiving end of some of those touchdowns, and it's not a bad idea to stack him with Roethlisberger in DFS tournaments since he'll be owned less than Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers.

    Chicago at Tampa Bay

    Total points expected: 43 (Tampa favored by 6)

    Game script: High volume for running backs. Clock moves fast. Lower play counts.

    Chicago RB's: Tarik Cohen is still going to see targets in this offense with injuries to so many of their wide receivers. However, it's best to remain cautious with him in ppr leagues until he repeats his Week 1 feat. Even if he does do damage again in Week 2, more people will own him in Daily Fantasy than last week which will diminish his value in tournaments.

    Tampa Bay RB's: Jacquizz Rodgers gets the start. Not crazy to think he could see 20-plus rushing attempts with just Charles Sims and Peyton Barber playing behind him. If Tampa Bay favors a conservative approach due to Chicago's poor offense, then Rodgers could come close to 100-yard effort. 

    Miami at Los Angeles Chargers

    Total points expected: 44 (Los Angeles favored by 4)

    Game script: Weak Miami secondary could lead to several pass touchdowns for Philip Rivers. Dolphins might be forced to play catch up early.

    Miami RB's: Jay Ajayi is fresh after not playing in Week 1 and gets a solid matchup against a Chargers defense that's worse against the run than the pass. Game script might hurt him a bit if Rivers takes advantage of Miami's vulnerable defensive backs. Miami surrendered over 32 fantasy points per game to wide receivers last year. There's also a bit of risk with Jay Cutler potentially turning the ball over and costing Ajayi possessions. Still, Ajayi is the clear No. 1 and also has modest points per reception value. He's a great play in all leagues and in cash DFS games.

    Los Angeles RB's: It's another green-light week for Melvin Gordon. With 45 snaps, 18 touches last week and 5 catches for 25 yards and a touchdown, he's the man in Los Angeles. Miami's run defense isn't terrible, but the volume potential for Gordon is among the best in the NFL. He also received all of the red zone looks for Los Angeles in Week 1, and the Chargers will likely have an easier time scoring against Miami than they did against Denver.

    New York Jets at Oakland

    Total points expected: 43 (Oakland favored by 14)

    New York RB's: Matt Forte and Bilal Powell had a similar snap count in Week 1 and each had a similar amount of targets and rush attempts. Powell has a slight edge as he looks to be the preferred running back in the red zone, but this is a cloudy backfield where both running backs are risky plays. It's not a terrible idea to avoid this group. Oakland is middle of the road against running backs, ranking 14th overall and giving up around 22.5 points per game.

    Oakland RB's: In a game where the Raiders could be up multiple scores by halftime, Marshawn Lynch is a great start this week. He had three looks in the red zone and no other running back had one in Week 1. His 18 attempts for 76 yards showed good volume and it's hard to see him not getting in the end zone at least once this week. Though he lacks major upside, he's a must-start in cash DFS games. DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard are cancelling each other out but Washington still holds value in PPR leagues as he tied for most targets among running backs with two in Week 1.

    Washington at Los Angeles Rams

    Total points expected: 46 (Rams favored by 2)

    Game script: Medium range for scoring. Rams have potential to go to ground game a lot with weak Washington run defense. Washington also poor against tight ends. Washington has good passing opportunities against weak secondary.

    Los Angeles Rams RB's: Todd Gurley is a solid start this week even though he wasn't the most efficient back in Week 1 (just over 2 yards per carry on 19 rush attempts). His five catches give him some versatility though, and Washington struggled to contain Darren Sproles last week in the receiving game as well. There's enough volume here to start Gurley is every league, and he's a good upside guy in DFS tournaments. 

    Washington RB's: Though Rob Kelley is the starting running back for Washington, scat back Chris Thompson was the fantasy stud in Week 1 after catching four passes for 52 yards and a score. This matchup will be tougher on Thompson though, as the Rams are stout against running backs in the receiving last week against the Colts. Overall, they held Marlon Mack and Frank Gore to just one catch each in a game that had the kind of game script that favors running backs catching passes.

    Dallas at Denver

    Total points expected: 43 (Dallas favored by 1)

    Game script: Run heavy game with minimal scoring on both sides

    Dallas RB's: Ezekiel Elliott is a no-brainer this week. The Broncos match up worse against the run than the pass. Elliott rushed over 24 times last week and should cross the 20-rush barrier again. His five catches for 36 yards gives him PPR upside and if the Dallas defense keeps Trevor Siemian in check, there's a good chance they lean on Elliott for most of the game.

    Denver RB's: C.J. Anderson is a good start this week but this is a tough matchup. Dallas looked menacing on defense with Sean Lee and rookie Jaylon Smith running amuck. Still, the volume is there for the Denver RB. Anderson dominated the snap count with 48 to backup Jamaal Charles 21. The Broncos gave him the ball three times inside the five yard-line, but they also gave Charles two goal line touches as well. In a game that could be low scoring, Anderson might see a healthy amount of carries and also saw some modest work in the receiving game.

    San Francisco at Seattle

    Total points expected: 43 (Seattle favored by 13)

    Game script: Favors Seattle defense heavily. Low-scoring, run-heavy game.

    San Francisco RB's: Carlos Hyde has tremendous upside week-to-week due to his role in the receiving game (six catches on six targets in Week 1). His rushing volume was low but that was because the 49ers got down early. It's tough to see that not happening again in Week 2 with Seattle's stout run defense, a unit that's giving up just under 20 fantasy points per game to running backs which ranks among the Top 5.

    Seattle RB's: Thomas Rawls looks like he's going to start in this one. He's a great upside play against a very bad San Francisco rush defense that led Christian McCaffrey and Jonathan Stewart run effectively in Week 1. Still, you're taking a major risk given that we don't know how much volume Rawls will get with Eddie Lacy and Chris Carson still in the fold. He's still a great dart throw in DFS tournaments since Eddie Lacy looked sluggish in Week 1 and Carson is still developing as a rookie. He might also completely destroy your DFS lineup, but taking those risks is often how you win big money tournaments.

    Detroit at New York Giants (Monday night)

    Total points expected: 43 (New York Giants favored by 4.5)

    Game script: Shootout potential. Both teams like to run hurry up offense and pass.

    Detroit RB's: Ameer Abdullah is the lead back with 36 snaps in Week 1. Still, Theo Riddick and Dwayne Washington combined for 35 snaps of their own, further muddying this backfield. New York has a stout run defense and only gave up 100 yards to Elliott because their offense was inept. They should fare better against Detroit and keep the Lions running backs in check.

    New York Giants RB's: Another struggling backfield, Shane Vereen led all backs in snaps with 31 to Paul Perkins 17. Perkins was expected to be the go-to run option and his two red zone looks suggest he'll be the goal line guy. Aside from some touchdown upside though, it's best to fade Perkins and Veren this week. No back has established a heavy-volume role and the Lions fare better against the run than in any other category.

    Link to original photo

     

     

  • Opportunity: Finding fantasy value in Andy Reid's offense

    One of the more predictable ways to determine opportunity is to look at coaching habits. By looking at how a coach decides which plays to run, you develop an understanding of what players will be valuable in an offense. This is especially true if a coach has been on a team for a long period of time and large sample sizes exist.

    In this piece, we take a look at play calling and game script for the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2016 season and how those numbers might translate to 2017.

    By looking at the overall number of plays ran and pass/run ratio, we should be able to come up with a reasonable projection for how players on the team might fare in the fantasy category this season.

    How the Chiefs started in 2016

    Kansas City was a little shaky coming out of the gate, starting off 2-2 with bad losses to Houston and Pittsburgh. They also needed one of the largest comebacks ever to put away the San Diego Chargers in Week 1.

    During that four-game stretch, quarterback Alex Smith's arm served as the primary source of offense for KC. Smith passed on 69 percent of the team's snaps.

    Smith's passing workload had a lot to do with the Chiefs playing two high-powered offenses in San Diego and Pittsburgh. The Chiefs were also playing from behind in 3 out of 4 of those games.

    Overall, Smith finished as a QB3 in Week 1, QB32 in Week 2, and QB18 in Week 3. Not very consistent overall.

    As for the running back spot, starter Spencer Ware recorded his highest carry total in Week 3 with 20 attempts against the Jets. Game script had a lot to do with Ware's volume in that game, as the Chiefs nursed a 17-3 advantage in the second half.

    Spencer Ware finished as an RB3, RB21 and RB34 in that span.

    Chiefs pick up steam

    After the 2-2 start, the Chiefs rattled off five straight victories. Their success stemmed from a change in offensive philosophy and a softer schedule. Smith threw the ball less with 22, 24, 19, 38 and 31 pass attempts in that stretch. Smith also only recorded one game with 250 passing yards.

    The Chiefs offense also played weaker defenses, scoring close to 30 points against Oakland, New Orleans and Indianapolis.

    In the run game, Ware became the team's go-to option. He out-snapped Charcandrick West 40-8, 36-14, 26-42, 0-45, and 41-20 in that stretch. The only outlier games were when Ware sustained a concussion Week 8 and missed the second half followed by missing all of Week 9.

    Rookie wide receiver Tyreek Hill also emerged as a key factor, doubling his snap count from 18 to 36 by Week 8 and contributing on special teams in a big way with two punt return touchdowns and one kickoff return for a score.

    Closing out strong

    The Chiefs were fantastic down the stretch, winning five of their last six games including tough victories against Atlanta, Oakland and Denver twice. Smith's throws per game hovered around the 25-28 mark with one or two outlier games. The passing attempts were similar to his Week 5-8 numbers.

    Smith's passing yard totals were very close to the same almost every week and he averaged 238 yards per game during the stretch. He had no games deviating 30 yards + or - from that average, aside from one outlier game against Tennessee where he only threw for 163 yards.

    Ware continued to assert himself as the lead back, out-snapping West 42-33, 38-11, 40-13, 36-21, 37-29 and he didn't play in the final game. His best finish came as an RB10 in Week 13 before he dropped off and failed to crack the Top 30 for the rest of the season.

    Go for running backs and tight ends?

    Andy Reid offenses in Kansas City haven't lent themselves to high value for the quarterback spot. He has consistently ranked low in pass plays per game and it hasn't impacted the Chiefs success at all. He's yet to record a losing season with this philosophy.

    Year Team  Pass plays/game  Rank Chiefs record
    2013 KC 34.8 20 11-5
    2014 KC 30.8 28 9-7
    2015 KC 30.3 29 11-5
    2016 KC 34.1 25 12-4

     

    This conservative passing approach has affected the wide receivers ability to have fantasy value. Here's how value shakes out at each position. Hint: This should give you pause if you're thinking about drafting Tyreek Hill.

    Year QB fantasy finish Highest RB finish Highest WR finish Highest TE finish
    2013 QB13 RB1 WR45 TE40
    2014 QB19 RB7 None in top 50 TE8
    2015 QB16 RB32 WR17 TE8
    2016 QB22 RB16 WR15 TE1

     

    It would appear running backs and tight ends have the most value in Andy Reid's offense. There hasn't been a wide receiver inside the Top 15 range since Reid got to Kansas City.

    Tight ends are a different story. Kelce ranked third in targets last season and sixth in 2015. Keep in mind, Brent Celek also had a Pro Bowl caliber season under Reid in 2009 and ranked 7th in targets that year. L.J. Smith was 11th in targets in 2006. So Reid has shown a tendency to get tight ends involved.

    Year Team Run plays/game  Rank 
    2013 KC 27.8 14
    2014 KC 26.2 15
    2015 KC 28.1 9
    2016 KC 25.1 20

     

    You'd think Reid's teams would be more run heavy but they aren't. Over the course of Reid's stint in Kansas City, the Chiefs ranked near the bottom in plays run per game among the 32 NFL teams. To put that in perspective, New Orleans ran 69 plays per game in 2016 to lead all teams. So Kansas City ran over 120 less plays than New Orleans did last season.

    Despite that, running backs are still valuable because of the passing game. Reid likes to use running backs as receivers, as evidenced by the 82 targets doled out last season to running backs. In 2015, there were 75 between three running backs. Jamaal Charles was lethal in 2013 because of this alone.

    Year Team Plays run per game Rank
    2013 KC 65.2 13
    2014 KC 60.1 29
    2015 KC 61.1 25
    2016 KC 61.1 28

     

    So how do you apply this to your fantasy team?

    Glad you asked. That answer lies in drafting for value at running back and valuing Travis Kelce as a TE1. Spencer Ware finished as an RB2 in standard scoring leagues (RB16) and was also an RB2 in PPR (RB16).

    Look for Ware to be the top back out of the gate. Expect some solid RB2 weeks out of him, but don't draft him too high. According to Fantasy Football Calculator, Ware is being drafted as an RB20.

    Ware's ADP is a little high with Hunt lurking but there are plenty of question marks regarding the RB's being drafted around him like C.J. Anderson, Adrian Peterson and Doug Martin. Still, his team has a strong defensive foundation and a coach that likes to get RB's involved. He's safe. 

    As for rookie backup Kareem Hunt, you'd be wise to draft him at his RB38 ADP. Hunt's elusiveness and ability to create yards after contact could land him the starter role at some point during the season.

    Tough road in 2017

    The Chiefs have a brutal schedule in 2017 and trail only Denver for the toughest slate in the league.

    When it comes to game scripts, the Chiefs get New England Week 1, Philadelphia Week 2 and the improved Los Angeles Chargers Week 3. Three defenses with good pass rushers and potent offenses.

    The Chiefs might have to throw more out of the gate and may struggle out of the gate like last year. Smith just isn't wired to throw for a ton of passing yards and is at his best when his attempts hover around 25-30.

    Ware will also have his work cutout for him, but there is some passing upside due to Reid's style of getting running backs involved in the receiving game. 

    Summing up Kansas City's approach

    Kansas City plays a conservative style of offense and looks to grind games out with defense. Their only true playmaker is tight end Travis Kelce due to his size and speed after the catch. Tyreek Hill has potential, but wide receivers have been stifled in Reid's offense due to low passing volume.

    Not much changed in the offseason for Kansas City to change this approach. Smith is still the quarterback, and their defense remains one of the best in the league on paper. With a now-healthy Justin Houston rushing the passer and safety Eric Berry at the helm, Kansas City should remain true to its identity.

    Cornerback Marcus Peters is also coming off a solid season, and graded out the 11th best corner in the league according to Pro Football Focus.

    Kelce, Ware and Hunt are the players you should be looking to draft. Ware isn't a great option given his ADP, but he will have good PPR value as a receiver. Hunt is a tremendous value.

    Link to original photo

  • Early Returns: Post-Draft Mock

    May brings about several things: flowers, Spring, and Post-Draft Mocks. Prior to the NFL Draft, all mocks and rankings are fluid due to the huge changes that can occur thanks to the NFL Draft. Every year players quickly ascend or steeply fall in the wake of the NFL Draft. This year has been no different. In this two-part series, I am going to go over a recent mock draft done by FantasyFootballHelpers.com and friends. Each round I will tell you who I think got the best value, who reached the most, and some overall thoughts on the round itself.

    Round 1

    Value — It is pretty hard to get a ton of value in the first round but Antonio Brown going 1.06 to Josh Wyatt will likely be a great value. According to FantasyPros.com, Brown is ranked between 3 and 5 overall, making his fall to sixth, not unprecedented, but valuable nonetheless.

    Reach — I was the culprit of the biggest reach in round 1 when I took Mike Evans at 1.03. I’m a big proponent of the Matthew Berry adage, “You can’t win your league in round one but you can lose it.” Taking Evans before Brown, Beckham, and Jones may seem like Hot Take Fuel but I really felt that Evans’ floor is as high as any of the above mentioned WRs. He also doesn’t have to deal with Le’Veon Bell and Marty Bryant, or Eli Manning being washed, or a new OC. While I stand by my pick, I also acknowledge that many will view it as a reach.

    Thoughts — Round 1 went about how I anticipated with 7 RBs and 5 WRs being taken. As the picks went on I could see that last year’s RB success was dictating many drafter’s strategies towards an RB-heavy approach. I encourage you to go into your drafts with a fluid strategy that allows you to zig while others are zagging.

    Round 2

    Value — T.Y. Hilton went off the board as the WR9. I love what the Colts did with Hilton last year on the way to his WR5 finish. Of the top 5 WRs last season, Hilton was the least touchdown dependent with only 6 TDs. His targets, completion %, and aDOT (143, 64%, 13.5 yards) could all be replicated easily and his TDs could see a significant jump.

    Reach — I felt like Dez Bryant going as the WR8 was a bit of a reach early in the second round. He’s been incredibly TD dependent over the course of his career and his health has been consistently an issue the past two years. While he may have huge upside, we have seen that Dez Bryant also has an incredibly low floor.

    Thoughts — I felt like this round kind of sucked. There were a lot of picks that I wasn’t in love with and very few picks that I thought offered a ton of value.

    Round 3

    Value — I got Amari Cooper as my WR3. The core of Evans, Nuk Hopkins, and Cooper all but assures me of 450 targets with huge touchdown upside. I’ve never been a huge fan of Cooper but this should be the year he overtakes Michael Crabtree as Oakland’s WR1.

    Reach — Blake taking a QB in the 3rd round was a bold strategy that didn’t pay off as the rest of the group held off on starting a QB run. Another QB wasn’t taken for 18 picks so using that kind of draft capital on a QB did not pay off.

    Thoughts — There was a lot of good value at WR for people to draft in the third round. Cooper, Baldwin, Jeffrey, Robinson, and Watkins all have low-end WR1 upside. Through 3 rounds, you can see the divergence in strategy among owners.

    Round 4

    Value — You have to love getting Jarvis Landry as WR19 off the board. He is a polarizing player because of his lack of measurable but years of production have proven that Landry is a high-end WR2. With finishes of WR13 and WR10 in the 2015 and 2016 respectively, WR19 seems like Landry’s floor. I see him returning lots of value from this draft slot.

    Reach — Julian Edelman in the fourth round is a little rich for my blood. He’s at best going to be their 3rd option in the passing game which lowers the floor that you traditionally get with Edelman. Golden Tate went 18 picks after Edelman and offers the same kind of game but with more upside.

    Thoughts — A lot of polarizing players with a wide range of outcomes started coming off the board in Round 4. Players like Marshawn Lynch, Tyreek Hill, and Marty Bryant truly have monstrously wide ranges of outcomes but their owners must have felt the juice was worth the squeeze at this point. I prefer not to take chances this early in the draft but there is no arguing these players could all wind up as top-tier players at their position.

    Round 5

    Value — Jamison Crowder was a great value for Giana and I’ve already mentioned Golden Tate (drafted by Fugazi) as a player that I really liked. Crowder built upon a strong rookie campaign in 2016 and in 2017 199 targets will be vacated by the losses of Desean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. I think Crowder will see an increase in targets that will lead to a strong WR2 campaign.

    Reach — Donte Moncrief is touchdown dependent and nearly impossible to trust from week to week. If this was a best ball league I wouldn’t hate it as much but there is no way that Moncrief should go in Round 5 of a normal PPR draft.

    Thoughts — With Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram going back-to-back, I’m wondering who people think is the Saints RB to own. Two things have been clear over the past two seasons: Mark Ingram is a very good RB and Sean Payton hates him. In 2015, Ingram was in the running for the top RB in fantasy before his injury. In 2016, Ingram was ultra-efficient but was frequently spelled by Tim Hightower.

    Round 6

    Value — Stefon Diggs is on the verge of a breakout and getting him for my flex was a big-time coup. He is one of the best route runners in the league and frequently turns CBs inside out like Stevie Johnson in his prime. I’d have been okay with Diggs being drafted in the fourth but I got him in the sixth.

    Reach — Samaje Perine going in the sixth was a bit startling. Not to say that he can’t return value there but I think that with this group and how teams were being built, George could’ve waited for at least one round to get him. That said, I know how high George is on Perine and I’m completely okay with overdrafting a player you really believe in.

    Thoughts — If you scroll way back up to the Round 3 I explained how taking A-Rodg in the third was a reach and the three QBs who went in Round 6 further proves my point. Brady, Wilson, and Brees are in the same tier as Aaron Rodgers but available much later. Even with these 3 going, a true QB run wasn’t started which meant more QB value late in the draft.

    Round 7

    Value — Fugazi finally jumped on an RB and got Bilal Powell as his RB1. With how strong he is at WR, I love getting Powell in this PPR setup. Powell will have a high-floor due to his involvement in the passing game and likelihood of the Jets being atrocious.

    Reach — Jamaal Charles in Round 7 was not good. There isn’t a whole lot to say about it. He’s CJ Anderson’s back-up with terrible knees and a bad OL. I also wasn’t a fan of Cole Beasley because of how strongly I feel about Ryan Switzer. Switzer is a more athletic, cheaper version of Cole Beasley. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Beasley phased out of the offense as the season progresses.

    Thoughts — Like I said earlier if you identify a player as “your guy” I’m okay with reaching but Beasley, Charles, and to a lesser extent Hunter Henry don’t have the upside to draft them ahead of some of the players drafted at their positions directly after them.

    Round 8

    Value — Paul Perkins was a guy I was targeting in the 8th but Josh Wyatt got him early in the round. I love his upside this season and think he was a nice pickup.

    Reach — I’ve never understood the hype behind Kevin White who had one good season against terrible Big XII defenses. Since then he hasn’t been healthy and is the third option for a bad offense. If the Bears go with Trubisky I would drop White even further.

    Thoughts — There was a mini-TE run in the 8th which is about when I think you can expect many of the second-tier TEs to go. I think that if you are mapping out your draft, you can pencil in the rounds 7-9 as a good place to grab a TE. Personally, I took Travis Kelce in the 4th because I felt as though with my core of WR and Kelce at TE, I would lock in a weekly scoring advantage at two positions by Round 4. Had I opted to pass on Kelce, this is the round I would have targeted a second-tier TE.

    This is the half-way point of our draft and there are some teams that I really like. Some owners have went RB-Heavy, others have went ZeroRB, and others have went a balanced route while still building a strong squad. The second half of the draft will be where teams separate themselves from the pack. Stay tuned for the conclusion!

  • 6 bargain bin running backs for your 2017 fantasy draft

    Football isn't back, YET!!! But there is always time to prepare ahead for your draft. Especially since the exciting 2017 NFL Draft just passed. We already know who the top guys are for every position on every team. This article aims to help you get a few names in your head. So, when your draft day comes you make the right decision to scoop up these Bargain Bin players. Don't you love going into a store and find the clearance section with all the discounted items? It almost feels like you got away with stealing something. That is the best feeling in a draft as well when you get value in the later rounds. The first installment focuses on the running back position. We will look at just a few guys who will be available late in drafts that you probably should go get when you don't know who else to select. Never waste a pick.

    Doug Martin — Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Martin was suspended for the 1st four games of the season because he tested positive for Adderall. It's been an issue he has tried to get over and he will now seek the proper help to get over his addiction. Doug Martin will go under looked and forgotten about. This will be a great choice to scoop a lead back past the 10th round. Doug "Mighty Mouse" Martin has Charles Sims, Jeremy McNichols and Jacquizz Rodgers behind him, who will all be competing for third-down work. They're no competition to a back they just gave a five-year contract to for $35 million.

    Derrick Henry—Tennessee Titans

    The days of Derrick Henry becoming a No. 1 are soon approaching. He's still behind DeMarco Murray, but Murray isn't your typical pillar of health. The second DeMarco is out, Henry becomes a top 10 talent. At 6'3, 247 lbs. Henry is a battering ram in between the tackles and has the speed to get away from the secondary. This is the best handcuff in the NFL PLEASE TAKE NOTICE.

    Robert Kelly — Washington Redskins

    Mr. Kelly burst onto the scene midway through 2016 season. He made a name for himself against the Green Bay Packers, with 24 carries, 137 yards, and 3 touchdowns.  He wasn't quite able to duplicate that performance, any other game. On the bright side, he was consistently fed the ball 18 plus times a game 5 out of the last 9 games of the season. Kelly has Semaje Perine nipping at his heels but "Fat Rob" is still a worthwhile pick.

    Jamaal Charles — Denver Broncos

    Many have given up on the former best RB in the NFL. Who hasn't been himself since 2014 campaign, where he averaged 5.0 yards per carry and 1,000 yards rushing. The now 30-year-old back has gotten a breath of fresh "Mile High Air". I think it was a great but risky signing by Denver who needs a running game to protect Trevor Siemian. Charles is being put in a great environment to succeed behind the struggling C.J. Anderson who lost his job briefly to Devontae Booker. Let's be serious Anderson runs hot & cold like a faucet so this is a great opportunity to seize the moment and get a possible steal of a pick. 

    LeGarette Blount — New England Patriots

    Second only behind man-child David Johnson in rushing touchdowns, Blount had a resurgence with the New England Patriots. In any short yardage situation, LeGarette was fed and converted more often than not leading to 18 touchdowns. That's a hard stat to ignore when touchdowns are all we want from our fantasy players, especially someone you can grab in the last round of a draft.

    Joe Mixon — Cincinnati Bengals

    Cincinnati made this choice for a reason. There were rumors they wanted Leonard Fournette at pick nine. But once he was taken Mixon was clearly the next best talent to wait on. The Bengals organization is known for taking chances on troubled youth. Despite his off, the field actions cost him a first round selection and scared many teams away doesn't make him less of a beast on the gridiron. Mixon already steps in as a possible lead back by season's end. I strongly suggest you remember this name most importantly that will get forgotten in such a crowded backfield.

    More will unfold during the off-season and training camp that will lead to more Bargain Bin Backs. But for now, these are my favorites going into the 2017 NFL Season. 

  • How Jameis Winston can be a Top 5 fantasy quarterback

     “Famous” Jameis Winston has proven that he can be a productive quarterback on a consistent basis. Will he take the next step toward becoming an elite quarterback? It's very likely and here is why.

    It's obvious that most great quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady have weapons surrounding them. Winston had a great rookie year having only Mike Evans and a mediocre Vincent Jackson. In his second year in the league he found a red zone target, TE Cameron Brate. The two of them connected for 8 TD’s. Evans got the majority of the yards downfield, but Winston used Brate heavily in the red zone.

    In 2015 Winston completed 40% of his passes in the red zone. In 2016, that number rose to 45%. That number is a little scary, but 5% improvement in one year is pretty good. From inside the 10 yard line he completed 58% compared to 2015’s 39% of passes. He has had some issues with interceptions which is an issue. His arm is sometimes too strong for his own good. He has no problem airing the ball out, which could lead to a huge season now that he has speed is Desean Jackson. However, I think he will start to ease up a bit and think more before he throws the ball.

    With the Bucs’ first round draft pick they selected TE O.J. Howard. The numbers for Howard are not all that impressive, but it is important to remember that Alabama ran the ball a lot. Howard will play a lot in the red zone in a two TE set. He is an above average blocker, so this could help buy Winston a little more time to move around or stay in the pocket which he already does well.

    By far the biggest addition for Winston was Desean Jackson. DJax has averaged almost 68 yards per game in his last 3 years. That is not all that impressive, but when Winston was getting it done with 2 weapons, and now he has 3 maybe even 4 weapons, the NFC South better watch out. One of the things that I really enjoy about Winston is his ability to extend plays. He is pretty fast if he breaks out of the pocket and keeps the ball, but he likes to dance around to throw it more often. It is fun to watch, but for fantasy owners it is a big deal. He often turns what could be a sack into a 15 or 20 yard completion. His ability to keep those drives alive gets him to the red zone where he has proven he can find the paint.

    Fantasy Football ADP for Jameis Winston

    Winston has a great football I.Q. He understands his situations extremely well for being shoved straight into a starting role and only having played in the league for two years. Winston has used virtual reality training in the offseason to simulate game-like action without taking hits. These virtual snaps will help him mature and further develop. I would just say to wait to draft him until some of the elite quarterbacks leave the board. He would be great in dynasty formats.

     (ADP Charts For Jameis Winston 2017)

    Fantasy Football ADP for Jameis Winston

Podcasts

Episode 191: We know nothing part II

Tuesday, 26 September 2017 00:00
On Tuesday's Week 3 recap pod, the Helpers discuss the protests in response to Donald Trump's twitter comments. They discuss the weird week that was with many 0-2 teams winning in surprise fashion. They also talk about trends
Read more...

Episode 190: Hunt's catch up

Monday, 18 September 2017 00:00
On Tuesday's podcast, the Helpers recap Week 2. They discuss Alex Smith's emergence as a consistent QB1, why Kareem Hunt is who he is, the weirdness at the fantasy running back position, increased snap count for players and b
Read more...

Episode 189: We know nothing

Tuesday, 12 September 2017 00:00
On the first episode with a few games to analyze, the Helpers discuss who the high-volume players were and if those players stand a chance to repeat those performances or not. They also talk injuries, including who's the best
Read more...

Episode 188: Week 1 predictions

Saturday, 09 September 2017 00:00
The 2017 NFL season has begun. It's time for us to start helping you win in Fantasy Football. Here, we discuss all the matchups this week with the highest scoring potential. We tell you which players we're high and low on. We
Read more...

Episode 187: Draft strategies w/Alex Ethofer

Wednesday, 30 August 2017 00:00
Got enough draft strategies yet? George welcomes Alex Ethofer, a passionate fantasy footballer who has won several high stakes leagues. They discuss how to avoid risky running backs, how to dominate your draft by combining hi
Read more...

Episode 186: Who we want on our teams this season

Friday, 25 August 2017 00:00
George and Scott Sergent discuss who they want to draft to their fantasy teams this season. They advise you to avoid certain rookies, find value in the later rounds and mention which quarterbacks to take. Stop guessing and s
Read more...

Waiver Wire

Upside vs. efficiency: Should you draft John Brown or Randall Cobb?

Wednesday, 30 August 2017 00:00
Giana Pacinelli of the the Huffington Post and 2QBs.com joins George Banko of Fantasyfootballhelpers.com to debate which receiver to draft, Randall Cobb or John Brown? Opening statements George: Randall Cobb is coming off a
Read more...

Jordan Matthews: Boring, predictable, but will exceed ADP value

Monday, 10 July 2017 00:00
In this article, we take a look at a player's potential to outperform their current ADP (average draft position) and assess the risks and potential rewards of drafting them. We look at opportunity stats including target share
Read more...

How Samaje Perine Will Help Your Fantasy Team In 2017

Wednesday, 24 May 2017 00:00
Samaje Perine proved his worth at the University of Oklahoma. In 2014 he had a stellar year. In 2015 and 2016 the stat line would suggest a decline in his performance, but that is due in part to sharing snaps with Joe Mixon.
Read more...

Why San Francisco 49ers running back Joe Williams is a perfect Zero RB candidate

Tuesday, 09 May 2017 00:00
When we look to draft a player to our fantasy team, we often seek the most talented players we can find. However, looking at the coaches offensive philosophy and which players best fit their system can be very telling in term
Read more...

Fantasy Film Projector: Alvin Kamara

Monday, 24 April 2017 00:00
When it comes to identifying traits in running backs that produce immediate fantasy value, proficiency in pass blocking, ball security, route running and receiving ability are often most important. These traits are valuable b
Read more...

Fantasy Film Projector: James Conner

Thursday, 13 April 2017 00:00
Editor's note: The Fantasy Film Projector is a process that identifies player traits correlated with fantasy football success. Those traits include receiving ability, route running, (points per reception leagues), play streng
Read more...

Running backs adept at catching the football are often revered in fantasy football. They can turn an average fantasy scoring day into a good one, a good one into a great one, a great one into a historic one and a historic one into something you think is really, really awesome. More importantly, backs who catch the ball can alleviate the pain of a bad fantasy day on the ground, which allows the running back to become 'matchup proof.'

What is 'matchup proof?'

'Matchup proof' means a running back is startable no matter who he's playing against, and one way a receiving back becomes matchup proof is by defying game script. For example, if a running back finds his team down by 30 points in the first half and his team needs to pass more to get back into the game, he'll still accrue fantasy points because he'll likely be targeted on check down passes.

While receiving is a big factor in creating consistency among RBs, it's not the only trait a running back needs to possess. He also must be a talented inside runner, a back who can generate tough yards after contact with big defenders on runs up the gut and also possess the vision and instincts to make sharp cuts up the field. This is even more true in zone blocking schemes.

Among the traits listed above, Cleveland Browns running back Duke Johnson definitely fits the receiving mold, and while he hasn't shown the ability to run the ball effectively between the tackles, it's unfair to think he can't do it because he hasn't gotten a real shot at the team's 'feature back' role. He also possesses the kind of instincts and athletic ability required to make plays in the run game. In this piece, we will examine if Johnson could emerge as a breakout fantasy candidate in 2017.

Where he could be of considerable value

Going back to Johnson's receiving ability, it's very clear he's had potential in PPR leagues. Johnson was targeted 68 times in 2016, good for 5th most among all NFL running backs. He also ranked seventh in yards per reception at 9.7. Despite all this though, he only finished RB48 in PPR leagues, right around where T.J. Yeldon, Theo Riddick and Alfred Blue ended up.

While the result wasn't ideal, the potential was definitely there given Johnson's role in the offense. More importantly, we've seen smaller receiving backs have very good fantasy seasons — even in standard leagues.

One example of this is Danny Woodhead in 2015. Featured in a passing offense alongside Pro Bowl quarterback Philip Rivers, Woodhead finished as a Top 10 fantasy back in 2015 and it was largely due to his receiving stats. Woodhead caught 80 passes for 755 yards and scored six touchdowns that season. He was also targeted over 100 times total.

Standing just 5'8, 200 lbs, Woodhead benefited from an offense that scored a lot, which allowed him to see 37 red zone targets in 2015, which far exceeded anyone else on the team.

Like Woodhead in 2015, Duke Johnson's role in the passing game was prominent in 2016. Unlike Woodhead though, Johnson didn't have a Pro Bowl quarterback in Rivers throwing him the ball. He instead dealt with a merry-go-round of QBs that consisted of a still-inept Robert Griffin III, a veteran in Josh McCown who also struggled, and a rookie in Cody Kessler who was actually the best of the bunch.

Overall, the poor situation hurt Johnson's touchdown value, as he saw only 14 red zone looks in 2016. If we're going to expect bigger things from Johnson in 2016, the Browns must improve their quarterback situation.

Hope for a bigger role

Johnson also had to deal with playing second fiddle to Isaiah Crowell, who saw 34 red zone attempts in 2016 also.

While Crowell was the team's dominant inside runner in 2016, he struggled with consistency as 518 of his 952 rushing yards came in four games, making him a liability from week to week. He was also woeful in pass protection.

Crowell also finished out the final year of his contract in 2016 and the latest talk of an extension appears unlikely. While Crow managed 7 touchdowns and nearly 1,000 yards on the year, it's likely the Browns will want to spend their money elsewhere since Crowell was only valuable on first and second down and didn't change the course of the Browns dismal 2016 season.

Crowell and Johnson are not too far off from each other in terms of talent either. According to Pro Football Focus, Johnson and Crowell graded out about the same in running and receiving. Plus, Johnson carried the ball only 73 times in 2016, which gives him less wear-and-tear for next season and makes you wonder if he could play better if he gets more carries in the offense.

Hope for a better situation

It's likely Cleveland will improve its situation at the quarterback position in 2017. Imagine if they locked down a quarterback like, say, Jimmy Garoppolo from New England? A quarterback with better accuracy could allow Johnson a lot more opportunity to catch the ball in stride and make plays out of the backfield. This will be something to monitor heading into the offseason.

It's absolutely possible Duke Johnson could put together a 700+ yard receiving season given his talent, but he needs some help. He has the talent as a receiver and a good coaching staff that can maximize his skill set. He just needs a quality quarterback to go along with a bigger role in the offense next season. The latter variables could definitely turn in his favor in 2017. Keep an eye on how things fall together this offseason.

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage
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, 01 July 2015 00:00

Episode 74: Handcuffs and injury buff (ers)

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On Wednesday's show, The Fantasy Football Helpers are joined by Adam Inman of FFLockeroom.com. Adam talks about different backup running backs who he thinks you should draft to your team for the coming 2015 season.

The first backfield they go over is the Arizona Cardinals. Starting running back Andre Ellington has been stifled by injuries throughout his career and the latest addition of Dustin Johnson via the 2015 draft creates intrigue. Johnson dons prototypical running back size at 6'1 and could be a strong candidate for more carries in his rookie season if Ellington gets hurt.

Now, of course it's always tough to predict injuries. But, Ellington has a strong history of struggling to stay 100 percent throughout his career going back to his college days at Clemson. Since he began playing at the collegiate level, Ellington has undergone two surgeries, one on his foot and one on his ankle. He's also dealt with concussions and hasn't played a full season once in his two-year career. It's important to see the trends when identifying injury risk, and Ellington has them unfortunately.

The next backfield up is the Tennessee Titans. Since he lives in Washington, Adam Inman followed Titans RB Bishop Sankey quite a bit while he played at Washington. Inman was always a believer in his talent and isn't ready to give up on him just yet, however, Sankey struggled mightily as a runner in 2014 and didn't look like he had any special trait that he could beat defenses with on a consistent basis. Fellow rookie running back David Cobb, out of Minnesota, possesses the receiving ability you want out of a running back in addition to a good burst through the hole which could itself to a more consistent rushing attack. Sankey will likely still see the bulk of the carries early on, but if he slips, watch out for Cobb. Consider drafting Cobb in the very late rounds of your redraft league and you should have a chance at landing a steal.

The next running back tandem discussed comes out of Cleveland. Podcast host George Banko admits he's a big believer in Duke Johnson as a potent receiving back but also admits he's a big injury liability. Inman reiterates that current top RB Isaiah Crowell should be the top guy and Johnson looked like he got hurt on seemingly every carry while playing at Miami in college. Either way, this is a backfield that's tough to judge given the inconsistency of the Browns' offense and also the uncertainty at the quarterback position. Probably best to stay away from this one until it becomes less of a blob of bodies and more of a group built around a consistent identity.

The fourth and final backfield discussed is the Detroit Lions. Joique Bell looks like a prime candidate for regression coming off a dismal 2014 season and rookie Ameer Abdullah has been drawing tons of hype since getting drafted. Abdullah is undersized, but plays strong and has the potential to be an elite receiving back. Adam and George both agreed on this one, that Abdullah has amazing potential and could be one of the best handcuff backs to pick up in 2015.

 Link to original photo here.

 

Published in Podcasts
Monday, 19 January 2015 00:00

What happened in 2014: Isaiah Crowell

He entered 2014 as a sleeper, but quickly energized the Browns' running game and entered the realm of fantasy relevance as a talented back with considerable upside especially around the goal line. While there were plenty of somewhat high peaks accompanied by somewhat lower valleys, Cleveland Browns rookie running back Isaiah Crowell remained in the fantasy spotlight as a high quality flex option throughout 2014, and his 2015 value is something worth monitoring this offseason.

How he got to where he is now

As a 22-year-old rookie coming in to Cleveland, Crowell signed with the Browns as an undrafted free agent and was immediately given a $10,000 signing bonus. Scouts were wary of his discipline issues while in college. For example, Crowell was arrested on a weapons charge just before his sophomore season at Georgia which led to his dismissal from the perennial Division I powerhouse and his eventual enrollment at Alabama State just a month later. He bounced back while at Alabama State though, rushing for 30 touchdowns in two seasons and despised 1,000 yards rushing during his senior year.

He was no doubt a talented college player, and he proved his game could translate into the NFL during his rookie year. In his first season, he averaged a very solid 4.1 yards per carry, which was higher than teammates Terrance West (3.9 YPC) and now former teammate Ben Tate (3.1 YPC).

But Crowell's lack of touches early on curbed his fantasy upside. While he managed 11 carries twice in the team's first four games, it was clear the Browns' coaching staff was committed to offseason acquisition Ben Tate, a guy we will talk about later in this article.

So because he didn't see the majority of the carries (that distinction would eventually belong to Terrance West who had 171 total on the season), Crowell ended up with only 607 rushing yards. He rushed just 148 total times in 2014, a little over nine carries per game. Between him, Tate and West, the Browns were among the most run happy teams in the NFL.

While his yardage numbers didn't set hair on fire, Crowell made his fantasy money around the goal line which was a place the Cleveland coaching staff trusted him the most. He finished with a team-high eight rushing touchdowns, twice as money as both West and Tate.

Offensive line hot start and late fizzle

With a front that included Pro Bowlers Alex Mack and Joe Thomas, the Browns were all the rage through the first four games of the season and it looked like Crowell could benefit from that. Starting quarterback Brian Hoyer sure did, as the Browns' offensive line allowed the fewest quarterback pressures through five games, giving Hoyer the kind of protection usually reserved for the great quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and most recently, Tony Romo.

The good protection Hoyer enjoyed paid dividends for his stats. His zero interceptions in the first three games of the season and tacked up a three touchdown, 297 yard performance against Tennessee in Week 4. It only took Tate until Week 2 to record his first 100 yard game against the Tennessee Titans. The Browns went 2-2 in those first four games, but never lost a game by more than a field goal. Overall, it looked like things were trending upward.

But then misfortune occurred. Pro Bowl center Mack broke his leg in the team's Week 6 victory over Pittsburgh, which ended his season. The loss was a huge blow to an offensive line that had just played its best game of the year in a 31-10 victory over Pittsburgh. Coincidentally, Crowell rushed for 77 yards on just 11 carries (7.0 YPC) and a touchdown in that game. Other than his 88 yard outing against Atlanta, it was Crowell's the highest YPC average performance of the season.

No sooner when Mack left did Crowell's numbers start to dip. They lost an ugly game against Jacksonville, where fill in center John Greco struggled in his first ever start at the position after shifting over from guard. Hoyer felt the difference too, as he was sacked three times after being virtually untouched through the first quarter of the season. He finished just 16-for-41 for 215 yards in that loss. The rushing game also suffered, as Crowell turned in his worst performance of the season up until that point, rushing for just 18 yards on seven carries (2.6 YPC).

The Browns quickly rebounded and rattled off three straight victories, but the schedule was a bit softer against bad defenses like Oakland and Tampa Bay. Plus, the running game wasn't a factor in the victories since the Browns averaged 1.8 yards per carry as a team in that stretch. With those numbers coming against a bad Oakland Raiders rush defense and a Gerald McCoyless Tampa Bay D, you would've liked to have seen better stats from Crowell in that stretch. No doubt the injury to Mack played a key role. That said, the Browns averaged 23 points per game through nine weeks, which is something to be respected.

Making them eat Crow

Crowell slowly won over the coaches trust as the season went along. By Week 9, he started to see a consistent uptick in carries and eventually became the team's starting running back. He averaged 12 carries per game over the last eight weeks of the season, but remained a boom or bust candidate due to his inability to break big plays which zapped his yardage potential.

His fantasy value also suffered from the committee style attack employed by coach Mike Pettine, which led to inconsistent carry totals as the Browns rode the hot hand between he and West. Sometimes West would end up with more carries even if Crowell was the starter going in, as was the case in Week 12 against the Falcons where Crowell rushed 12 times for 88 yards while West saw 15 carries for 48 yards. Despite Crowell's better numbers, the Browns were committed to running a committee style system which left production at the running back spot very erratic at times.

To top it off, he battled a hip injury throughout the later part of the season which constantly kept his starting status in doubt.

Taters gonna Tate

While the competition between two running backs is enough to pose a consistency problem from a fantasy standpoint, it was even more muddled at one time during the 2014 season. The Browns signed former Texans running back Ben Tate in the offseason in hopes of finding a feature back after former their once coveted Top 5 draft pick in Trent Richardson didn't pan out, but the result was more of the same.

Tate started out well enough, averaging 6.2 yards per carry in his first two games, but quickly fell back to earth after that. From Weeks 4-8, Tate rushed for just 90 yards over five games. It all came to a head after a noticeably poor showing against Houston in Week 8, where Tate couldn't find a way into the positive net yardage category and ended with a pathetic -9 yards on four carries. He was released shortly after.

So with Tate gone, that's 119 more carries available to split between West and Crowell, assuming they don't go out and grab a running back in a talented pool of rookies come draft time. So while we can't say for sure if Crowell will have a chance to see a significantly higher amount of carries in 2015, there will be more opportunities for carries next season now that he proved his worth as a rookie.

Departure of Shanahan

After Norv Turner left in 2013, the Browns brought in Kyle Shanahan from Washington. The change in style was immediately noticeable. Turner was a pass enthusiast and the Browns ended up leading the league in pass attempts that season with 681. The results were good for wide receiver Josh Gordon, who ended up winning the receiving title, but the Browns didn't exactly light the world on fire and missed the playoffs for the 11th straight season.

Under his zone blocking run scheme, Shanahan recommitted the Browns to the ground game in 2014 and Cleveland ended up ranking sixth in rushing attempts with 477 total carries for the season. But the poor finish by the team and eventual 7-9 record led to Shanahan getting canned as well. So now the Browns are looking at their sixth offensive coordinator in six years. Former Rams, Bears and Lions coordinator Mike Martz interviewed with the team most recently, but there has been no official word on who will replace Shanahan just yet.

Uncertainty at quarterback

Brian Hoyer was the clear cut starter heading into 2014, but eventually regressed to the point where rookie Johnny Manziel started to see action. If Manziel's expected to take the reins in 2015, it could mean much more inconsistent play while he goes through growing pains as a young player. This could force the Browns into a bit of a rebuilding mode, which could also zap Crowell's value.

Final verdict

There is considerable sleeper potential for Crowell in 2015. The Browns still have a very talented offensive line and the absence of Ben Tate should provide more opportunities for carries as long as Cleveland doesn't try to add more RBs through the draft and/or free agency. But while it looks like he's weathered his past discipline problems that drained his value in college, there's always the possibility he messes up again. Also, inconsistencies at the quarterback position and some uncertainty at the offensive coordinator spot still leaves the possibility of fantasy upside for Crowell as a work in progress. But he's definitely an above average in the talent department.

View Erik Drost's Flickr page here.

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage

If you were lucky enough to make the fantasy playoffs in your league this season, chances are your lineup is already set. It's easy to know which guys to start for Week 14 right? You simply go with the guys that got you there. Your QB1, RB1, RB2, WR1, WR2, TE, DEF are all ready to go.

This idea of sticking with your studs is a philosophy we will endorse to the death. Advanced fantasy football people don't think twice about it, while beginners may get too cute and bench somebody because of a bad matchup or just a bad gut feeling. Word to the wise, your best players are matchup proof, so start them.

But even though your studs are set in stone, there are last-second tweaks that you can make to your flex spot that can often make the difference between a good week and a great one. Since flex players often aren't the most electric guys, their chances of success boil down to favorable matchups and a good situation. If you can find the right guy in the right matchup who's peaking at the right time, you can really give yourself an edge over an opponent that's probably just a good as you are because he's in the playoffs as well.

Here are five running backs who we would trust as flex options for your first playoff matchup in Week 14.

Carlos Hyde (owned in 36% of leagues) @ Oakland

Hyde has been one of the top fantasy handcuffs all season. He doesn't get a whole lot of opportunities but when he does, he runs hard and usually sees touches around the goal line. The 49ers have a good matchup against a Raiders team that's given up the most fantasy points to running backs (22 points per game) this season. It's likely the 49ers utilize Hyde and Frank Gore as a one-two punch and Hyde sees some production as a result.

Over the past three games, Hyde has recorded carry averages of 9, 7, and 5, respectively. He hasn't rushed for many yards in those games, but he has scored a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints, a bottom-five team in fantasy points allowed to running backs (20.4 points per game) on average. It's likely the Raiders could allow a similar result.

If you really don't know who to start in the flex spot and don't want to leave things up to a boom-or-bust receiver, Hyde is a good bet to give you some kind of production because of the matchup. San Francisco also ranks 8th in the league in rushing attempts (347), so the opportunities should be there for Hyde.

Jonathan Stewart (owned in 27% of leagues) @ New Orleans Saints

For the same reasons as we just mentioned for Hyde, Stewart could also benefit from a good matchup against the New Orleans Saints. With DeAngelo Williams likely out with a hand injury, Stewart steps in as the best running back option on a Panthers team in desperate need of offensive firepower.

Last week against Minnesota, Stewart averaged 7.1 yards per carry on his way to 85 yards on 12 attempts. It was Stewart's best game in over a month.

When it comes to the New Orleans Saints' defense, they've allowed 95 yards from Le'Veon Bell, 182 yards from Justin Forsett and 152 yards from Jeremy Hill over the last three weeks. Their defense hasn't shown any signs of improvement so expect the Panthers to go at them with the run game.

Isaiah Crowell (owned in 67% of leagues) vs. Indianapolis

Ok, so it's unlikely you'll snag the Crow off the waiver wire this week as he's owned in the majority of leagues. This advice is more for the people who already have him and are wondering if they should start him in this week. Well, we didn't like Crowell last week against Buffalo and we were vindicated, as he ended up rushing for just 29 yards on 17 carries (1.9 yards per carry) against a tough Buffalo run defense that swarmed him on nearly every play. It was like watching a guy repeatedly run into a brick wall at times.

But the key number in Crowell's stats is '17.' Crowell's 17 carries are a good indicator that the Browns will continue to run the ball even if the end result isn't positive yardage. They still used him around the goal line plenty as well, so a touchdown could be play. The Browns were also trailing in that game throughout and still committed to the run game, which is a good sign gameflow won't affect Crowell's numbers. Also, fellow rookie Terrance West gave up a costly fumble which could limit his workload going forward.

As for the matchup, the Colts rank in the bottom five against running backs (19.9 points per game) and their offense hasn't taken good care of the ball all season long. Newly starting running back Dan 'Boom' Herron's has had issues with fumbles early on and quarterback Andrew Luck has thrown at least one interception in eight games this season. Add in the fact that the Browns have at least one takeaway in 8 straight games and this could be a game where we see Cleveland get a chance to turn mistakes into points.

Andre Williams (owned in 40% of leagues) @ Tennessee

Starter Rashad Jennings injured his ankle last week against Jacksonville but the injury is not considered to be serious. Even if Jennings is healthy, Williams is likely going to see some carries against a Titans team that ranks second worst in the league against running backs (21.8 fantasy points allowed per game).

Williams has not been very effective in his rookie year, as he's averaging just 2.9 yards per carry this season. Still, he's received a respectable 134 carries in 12 games. The Giants like to mix it up in the run game and Williams has the right matchup to at least snipe a touchdown and rush for 40-60 yards, making him a candidate for a solid 12-15 point game which is a great number for a flex spot.

LeGarrette Blount (owned in 63% of leagues) @ San Diego

Blount received the bulk of the workload against Green Bay with 10 carries and should be the Patriots No. 1 running back with Jonas Gray in the doghouse. San Diego has been OK against the run (15th overall) but they still surrendered over 100 yards to Justin Forsett last week and also gave up over 100 total rushing yards to both Miami and St. Louis.

It's likely Blount sees around 12-15 carries, rushes for 70 yards and scores a touchdown. You just have to take the risk that Shane Vereen or Brandon Bolden won't snipe one here or there. Even if they do, there's no reason to expect Blount to not see the majority of the carries in Week 14.

View Football Schedules Flickr page here.

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Tuesday, 18 November 2014 00:00

Week 12 pickups

Top Additions

1.    Jonas Gray RB/New England Patriots (8.4% Owned)

Raise your hand if you started Patriots running back Jonas Gray this week? Not many? That is what I thought. Well after gashing the Colts on Sunday night for 199 yards on a whopping 38 attempts (5.2 YPC), fantasy owners can expect Gray to be one of the hot commodities on the waiver wire this week.

Gray was buried on the depth chart at the start of the year behind veterans Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen. With Ridley out for the year with a torn ACL, Gray has taken over as the bell cow in the Patriots backfield, and Vereen has once again been relegated to a third-down/COP back in the Patriots offense.

I have to warn you fantasy owners; Patriots Head Coach Bill Belicheck can cause some serious headaches with how he divvies up the workload for his running backs, using the flow of the game to dictate his primary rusher for the day. Although you cannot expect Gray to go out and run for 200 yards and four touchdowns on a weekly basis, he's well worth stashing on your roster especially if Belicheck continues to get the former golden domer more involved in the offensive game plan.

Recommendation: Stash and See

Value: Flex/High RB3 w/ Potential

2.    Jordan Matthews WR/Philadelphia Eagles (41.7% Owned)

After posting two startight weeks with 100+ yards and a touchdown, it's safe to say that rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews has replaced Riley Cooper as the team’s no. 2 option in the passing game.

In the last two games, Matthews and quarterback Mark Sanchez have shown solid chemistry, connecting for 12 receptions for 245 yards and three touchdowns. I expect Jeremy Maclin to continue to be the focal point of the Eagles passing game, but with the up-tempo offense Kelly employs there's no reason to think that Matthews cannot continue to put up quality fantasy numbers on a weekly basis.

If Matthews was left unclaimed after last week’s monster 7/138/2 line against the Panthers go out and grab him immediately.

Recommendation: Add Immediately

Value: WR2/High Flex

3.    C.J. Anderson RB/Denver Broncos (77.8% Owned)

When asked how he would split up the carries between his stable of running backs, Broncos Head Coach John Fox stated that the primary factor would be "first and foremost" on "who's healthy." After losing Ronnie Hillman for an extended period of time with a sprained foot, the Broncos were left to depend on UDFA C.J. Anderson and second-year running back Montee Ball to carry the load.

Fantasy owners who thought Ball was going to come in and make a big splash were quickly disappointed after he re-aggravated the groin injury that cost him the last five weeks. Early indications are the Ball will be out an extended period of time, and could even be placed on injured reserve depending on the results of his MRI on Monday.

With both Ball and Hillman out the Broncos backfield suddenly went from one of the deeper groups in the league to one of the thinnest. Anderson has shown the ability to carry the load for the Broncos running game, racking up 119 yards on 22 carries (5.4 YPC) over the last two weeks. Anderson also proved a legitimate receiving threat out of the backfield, hauling in 12 passes for 159 yards and one touchdown. On an offense with Peyton Manning running the show, there will be no shortage of scoring opportunities for Anderson, and as long as he is the starting running back he has the potential to post RB1-type numbers going forward.

Recommendation: Add Immediately

Value: High RB2/Low RB1

4.    Isaiah Crowell RB/Cleveland Browns (23.7% Owned)

How frustrating has it been trying to figure out how the Browns will handle their running game this season. One week it’s Tate getting the bulk of the carries, the next it's Terrance West, and finally this week Isaiah Crowell was the Browns starting running back.

I have been saying for some time now that Crowell is the best running back on the Browns roster, and if Sunday’s game is any indication as to how the Browns will split up the carries in the future, the coaching staff agrees with me. Crowell totaled 90 yards of offense (61 rush, 30 receiving) against the Texans, and out-carried West 3:1.

While no one is certain how the Browns coaching staff is going to split the carries up, unless you are Mike Pettine, it is clear to anyone that watches the Browns offense that Crowell is the best of the Brown’s running backs. 

Recommendation: Add Immediately

Value: Flex w/High RB2 Potential

5.    Josh Gordon WR/Cleveland Browns(68.3% Owned)

The wait is finally over Browns fans as Josh Gordon is finally eligible to play after serving the final game of his suspension this weekend.

It's tough to say how heavily involved Gordon might be in his first week back. Last year under Norv Turner, the Browns offense led the NFL in passing attempts. This year it is a different story, as new head coach Mike Pettine has made it clear that he wants to feature an offense that is predicated on a power-running game.

Gordon’s talent is undeniable and should immediately become the no. 1 option in the Browns passing game. For his first game back I would rank Gordon more as a high-end WR2, and depending how offensive coordinator Kyle Shannahan implements him, could easily reach high end WR1 numbers in the very near future.

Recommendation: Add Immediately

Value: WR1

Players to Monitor

1.    Charles Johnson WR/Minnesota Vikings

If you are not a Vikings fan, you are probably not very familiar with Johnson, but ever since being signed off the Browns practice squad he has quietly become the Vikings most consistent receiver. While his overall stat line may not be that impressive, Johnson has been one of the few receivers that has shown the ability to stretch the field for the Vikings, as well as showing the ability to get separation from man coverage. After posting 6 catches for 87 yards in week 11 against the Bears, I expect Johnson to get some more run with the first-team offense. Do not waste a waiver claim on Johnson this week, but definitely keep an eye on his production going forward.

2.    Cody Latimer and Jacob Tamme WR and TE/Denver Broncos

It was a tough week for the Broncos offense. After getting held to 7 points on offense for the first time since 2001, Peyton Manning lost a lot more than just a game on Sunday. Both Julius Thomas (Ankle) and Emmanuel Sanders (Concussion) left Sunday’s game and did not return. While Sanders’ concussion does not look to be major, Thomas was not quite as lucky as his ankle injury could cause him to miss an extended period of time.

If Sanders is forced to miss any time with his concussion there will be a massive void that will need to be filled opposite Demariyus Thomas. I would imagine the Broncos go to a combination of veteran Andre Caldwell and rookie second-round pick Cody Lattimer.

Julius Thomas was forced from Sunday’s game with what is being called a low-ankle sprain, and could potentially miss an extended period of time. If he is forced to miss time, Manning’s long time teammate Jacob Tamme will be given the first opportunity to fill the void in Thomas’ absence. While Tamme will not blow anyone away with his athleticism, he's a very reliable target in the red zone, and if we know one thing about a Peyton Manning led offense they might get down in that area a few times a game. I would not recommend spending a waiver priority on any of these players, except for Tamme due to the lack of quality depth at tight end in fantasy football. As for the rest of them, keep them on your radar in the coming weeks to see how they are integrated in the Broncos offense.

3.    Latavius Murray RB/Oakland Raiders (0.7% Owned)

I have no idea what took so long for the Raiders coaching staff to give this kid an opportunity, but like the say “better late than never”. Murray rushed for a team-high 43 yards giving the Raiders running game a much needed kick in the butt.

Now falling to 0-10 this season the Raiders have no reason to not see what they have in Murray, especially when their other options are two veterans in McFadden and Jones-Drew that are completely washed-up.

Being on a terrible team like the Raiders that will consistently be playing from behind will likely limit Murray’s fantasy potential, but there is no denying that he has the ability to make plays that the veterans simply cannot make at this stage in their career. Keep an eye on Murray as I expect his role to continue to grow in the Raiders offense. 

 

Published in Waiver Wire

Hey everybody, this is Josh Gordon, Pro Bowl wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns. Just wanted to say thanks if you're one of the few lucky fantasy owners that stuck with me through this whole suspension ordeal. I say this honestly: You guys are true believers.

As I sealed the deal on my 12th straight used car sale (I promise all customers a free pine tree air freshener if you know what I mean) I could only feel bad as I watched my teammates enjoy the benefits of an easy schedule and play against some of the worst defenses in the league over a five-game stretch of the season. I can only express regret for not being there to give you all fantasy points. But Good things often come to those who wait, and success and prosperity currently lines your remaining path in the 2014 fantasy football season.

You gotta admit, that section of the Browns' schedule from Week 2-7 was as soft as the NFL's domestic violence policy. My matchups would've been pretty tasty considering our opponents consisted of Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, Oakland, Tampa Bay, Cincinnati and Houston. Damn, what I could've done to those cornerbacks.

Don't fret too much, you'll still get some mileage out of me come the end of the regular season, and the first pay off will come this week against Atlanta in the comfortable confines of the Georgia Dome.

Why the Falcons' offense helps me

Well, we know their offensive line has struggled due to injuries, but the real key stat is time of possession. The Falcons are holding onto the ball an average of 28 minutes and 17 seconds per game, which ranks 25th in the league. They don't do much better at home, as they hang onto the ball for 28 minutes and 43 seconds per game. The offense relies too much on the pass as evidenced by their 38.2 pass attempts per game, which forces the clock to stop on incomplete passes and leads to punts. Of the 113 offensive drives put together by Atlanta, 28 of them have resulted in a 3 and out. That's 26th worst in the league.

All this should help Bryan Hoyer and myself stay on the field more. I know my Browns aren't exactly great in time of possession either. We actually rank behind Atlanta in that category. But, we're making changes in that area. We cut Ben Tate earlier this week, and our most talented running back in Isaiah Crowell is finally starting. Crowell averaged a respectable 4.4 yards per carry in his first start as a Brown against Houston last week, and the purpose he shows when running the ball should help us extend drives and keep our offense moving down the field. The longer I'm on the field, the opportunity I will have to score points. Stick that in your pipe.

How about the Atlanta defense?

It's nice if you're me. The Falcons rank dead last in passing yards allowed, averaging 281.2 per game. They're also 24th in rushing yards allowed, so our offense should be able to provide a lot of scoring for you. The Falcons gave up 292 passing yards to Carolina last week. That's right, the team whose tight end leads them in receptions managed to put up nearly 300 yards passing. The week before, Josh McCown and Tampa notched 301 passing yards against them.

There also shouldn't be a lot of pressure on the quarterback this week either. The Falcons have registered only 13 sacks on the year, which is tied for second worst in the league. Only Oakland is worse with 10. There shouldn't be any problem when it comes time for me to get open. One thing needs to happen though.

The elephant in the room

Brian Hoyer has to really show up this week. I'm not saying he can't, but he went 20-for-50 last week against a below average secondary in Houston and finished with a dismal 61 quarterback rating. Granted, J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney were breathing down his neck most of the game and he won't have to deal with that so much against Atlanta, but he's got to avoid looking like that other quarterback in our division with the red hair. 

But despite Hoyer's struggles last week, I think my presence gives him an added boost. I can run after the catch like nobody's business. Last year, I led the league in receiving yards on just 87 catches and only one receiver in the Top 10 had less receptions than that. I averaged 18.9 yards per catch and turned short passes into large chunks of yardage. Only Kenny Stills averaged more yards per catch than me.

Final verdict

All the elements are there. A good matchup, a better running game and a (hopefully) a serviceable quarterback. I should be good to help you start your run to your fantasy championship, maybe throw you around 18-20 fantasy points (roughly 120 receiving yards and a touchdown). Take care.

View Erik Drost's Flickr page here.

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Sunday, 02 November 2014 00:00

Week 9 boom or bust TEs/WRs

Start of the Week

Andrew Hawkins v. Tampa Bay Buccaneers #14 Weekly Rankings

With Josh Gordon suspended for the majority of the season, the Cleveland Browns needed someone to step up and try to fill some of the void left by Gordon. As many of our writer’s here at Fantasy Football Helpers have indicated, Andrew Hawkins has been the most consistent Browns receiver from a fantasy perspective.

Despite not having the body of a typical no. 1 receiver (5’7”) Hawkins is quietly having a very successful year, leading Browns' receivers in targets (52) receptions (36) and receiving yards (471), showing to be quarterback Brian Hoyer’s safety blanket.

This week Hawkins gets a juicy matchup with a Tampa team that has officially waved the white flag on the season after making a couple of trades at the deadline, including one for starting safety Mark Barron. The Buccaneers are currently giving up the most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers (29.4), and have given up a league-high 12 receiving touchdowns this season. Look for Hawkins to build on his hot-start as Hoyer picks apart the Buccaneers secondary this Sunday. 

Dwayne Allen v. New York Giants

First thing's first, Andrew Luck is an absolute monster and should be one of the leading candidates to be the NFL’s MVP at the half-way point of the season. Luck has not had a game this year with fewer than 300 passing yards, and shown the ability to spread the ball around to the multitude of receiving options on the Colts offense. Even though there was some uncertainty early on as to whom would be the primary tight end for the Colts, Allen has cemented himself atop the tight end depth chart, proving to be the superior option in the passing game between Allen and Luck’s college teammate, Coby Fleener. Despite not having a high-volume of targets, Allen makes the most of his opportunities, finding paydirt in all but two games this season.

This week Allen gets an owner friendly matchup against a Giants defense that is currently allowing the 10th most fantasy points to opposing tight ends, and just gave up two touchdowns to Cowboys tight end Gavin Escobar in week 8. Due to the recent history, and the Colts offense being one of the best in the league, I see Allen as a top-10 play in a week owners are scrambling to find bye-week replacements.

Start ‘Em

Pierre Garçon v. Minnesota Vikings #16 Weekly Rankings

Garçon owner’s are likely getting very frustrated with the Redskins receiver due to the reduction in fantasy production in Jay Gruden’s offense. However, this is the week I feel Garçon finally busts out of his slump.

With Robert Griffin III officially ruled active for the Redskins week 9 matchup with the Vikings, look for Garçon to once again be the focal point of the Redskins passing game. Despite having a suspect sophomore season, Garçon still led the team NFL in targets and finished second in receiving yards. This year, it was looking as if the two were going to continue their ways, as Garçon led the Redskins in targets (12) and receptions (10) in the team’s week one loss to the Texans.

Despite having a tough matchup with a Vikings defense that ranks in the top-5 in terms of yards-per-game I expect Griffin to try and establish a rhythm with both of his receivers, utilizing the short passing and screen game to get Griffin some early completions. I know that it has been hard to trust Garçon on a weekly basis, but if you had the patience I think you are going to be drastically rewarded very soon.

Owner’s Beware

Michael Floyd v. Dallas Cowboys Unranked this Week

Despite having the big-play potential of the Cardinals receivers, third-year wide receiver Michael Floyd has struggled, failing to top 50 receiving yards or five receptions in any of his last five games. Floyd has been saved by a two touchdowns in his last three games to save any fantasy relevance, but with nagging injuries and an inconsistent workload, Floyd may be someone to keep on your bench this weekend.

It has been no secret that Floyd has been battling some lingering injuries over the last few weeks. He tweaked his knee last week against the Eagles, and even though Floyd was able to remain in the game the team started to feature rookie John Brown as the team’s vertical threat, showing the injury may be more serious than originally led on. Floyd has practiced in full this week and is on track to play, but I know as a fantasy owner I would feel much more comfortable rolling with Fitzgerald, or even the rookie John Brown as a potential sleeper, rather than roll the dice on potentially damaged goods.

Vernon Davis v. St. Louis Rams

Despite having being one of the most well known tight ends in the NFL, Vernon Davis is on the verge of being droppable for fantasy football owners.  Since destroying the Cowboys in week one with two receiving touchdowns, Davis has failed to register a game with more than 3 receptions or 40 yards in any game.

Davis has also had a run-in with the injury bug, suffering back spasms after taking an award shot to the back from Demeco Ryans in week 4, causing him to miss the teams next game.

If I were a Vernon Davis owner, I would keep him as far away as you can from your starting lineup. As shaky as Davis is there are plenty of other options if you are looking for a potential bye week fill-in, such as Clay Harbor (v. Bengals) or Jace Amaro (v. Chiefs). While none of these players will produce at the TE1 level, both of them I feel have a better chance of reaching fantasy relevance than Davis does in week 9.

View Football Schedules Flickr page here.

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Wednesday, 03 September 2014 00:00

Prospect: Isaiah Crowell

Image courtesy of Erik Drost

There have been a lot of changes to the Cleveland Browns since last season. A pass-happy team in 2013, there's reason to believe the running game may be creeping its way back into the team's philosophy this season. But with no convincing No. 1 running back on its roster just yet, it leaves room for speculation regarding who the best fantasy running back could be in Cleveland for 2014.

It all started with a shift in management. Vertical passing enthusiast Norv Turner took his talents to Minnesota and was replaced by former Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, a guy who's often been jokingly referred to as an 'anti-fantasy football' coordinator. Alfred Morris owner's from 2013 can attest to that. You could play a sad violin for Morris owners last season, as they saw their touchdown points gobbled up when Shanhan opted to dial up several doses of Roy Helu on the goal line last season. Morris still went on to have a solid season in 2013 with 1,275 rushing yards, but his touchdown total nearly halved after he finished with 7 compared to the 13 he had during his rookie season.

Unlike Turner, Shanahan's offensive philosophy centers around a balance of run and pass. He has proven effective at managing quarterbacks with vastly different styles as well. He helped Texans' Matt Schaub throw for a lot of yards in Houston and also ushered in the zone-read in Washington under the athletic Robert Griffin III. With Shanahan's equally favored approach to both the ground and aerial game, it creates some fantasy intrigue for owner's who may be looking at some stat potential out of the Browns backfield. It can't get much worse for Cleveland in the running category from 2013, as the Browns ranked 30th in rushing attempts with 348.

A good fantasy running back is made in the trenches

A good running game starts with the guys up front, and the Cleveland Browns have one of the better offensive lines in the NFL. Center Alex Mack is a two-time pro bowler and has been a fixture on the Browns' offensive line since Cleveland drafted him in 2009. Mack provided the blocking for several highlight games early in his career, including Jerome Harrison's 286-yard rushing effort which ranked third-most all time for one game. 

Left tackle Joe Thomas remains one of the best pass protectors in the league, though the Browns one weakness could be at right tackle with Mitchell Schwartz. Schwartz was a liability in pass protection last year, and while Shanahan believes he's a good fit for his zone-blocking scheme, one has to wonder if the 6'5, 320 lb Schwartz will be able to hack a run offense usually designed for more athletic lineman.

Schwartz was such a liability in fact that the Browns used plenty of resources to cover up for him. According to pro football focus, the Browns led the league in chip blocks for both the running back and tight end positions last season to help alleviate some of their protection problems. However, that may be a tougher task this season due to their inexperienced backfield.

The current crop of running backs may not be best suited for providing quality pass protection. According to pro football focus, current starting running back Ben Tate ranked 39th in pass blocking efficiency in a pool of 46 running backs who saw at least 40 pass blocking snaps last year. Behind Tate, you have two rookies in Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell who both of which weren't known as pass blockers in college.

Enter Crowell

We mentioned his name finally, and the undrafted rookie out of Alabama State has some upside for stashing on your roster right now.

Crowell's college career started off very promising. He landed a starting spot with the Georgia Bulldogs when he was just a freshman. Playing against several vaunted defenses in the SEC, Crowell went on to have several big games including a 30-carry, 147-yard performance against Ole Miss. He finished his freshman year with 856 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns, but it was disciplinary problems that kept him from continuing what looked like a future successful collegiate career with the Bulldogs.

The following season, Crowell was dismissed from Georgia after he was arrested on a drug charge. He ended up enrolling at Alabama State and finished as the leading rusher at Alabama State and led the Hornets to a 7-4 record.

Some of his highlights can be seen in the video below. His run at the :37 second mark of this video is especially impressive.

Why he's worth a roster stash on your fantasy team

Current starter Ben Tate is expected to be an every-down back for Cleveland starting out, which isn't surprising considering the fifth-year RB has proven reliable with a respectable 4.7 ypc average while playing behind Arian Foster in Houston for three seasons. Still, it's Tate's first go in the workhorse role, which is a job only a handful of running backs have proven able to hack at a consistent level. Tate played in only 11 games in 2012 and was eventually placed on injury reserve with cracked ribs in 2013, so durability may also be an issue. 

Current No. 2 running back West struggled during preseason, averaging just 2.9 yards per carry and zero touchdowns. Crowell, on the other hand, notched 105 yards on 15 carries (7 YPC) and a touchdown. If Crowell can keep his previous run ins with the law a thing of the past, he's got real potential to be a starter on the Browns at some point if the chips fall the right way.

Published in Waiver Wire

One of the most talented dogs in the dog pound was kenneled for 2014, and it leaves fantasy owners wondering if anybody else is capable of leading the pack.

Published in Fantasy Coverage

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