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

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

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

    Why is his ADP where it is?

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

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

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

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

    No opportunity in the passing game

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

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

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

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

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

    Not enough red zone trips

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Injury issues

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

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

    Who to look at instead

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

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

    Those are just a few guys that stand out.

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

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  • Top 4 potential waiver wire radar receivers in 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Parris Campbell — Indianapolis Colts

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

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

     

    Dontrelle Inman — New England Patriots

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

     

    JJ Arcega-Whiteside — Philadelphia Eagles

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

     

    Deebo Samuel — San Francisco 49ers

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

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

     

     

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    A quick telling stat from last season.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • Opportunity: Optimal running backs for Week 10

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

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

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

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

    Orleans Darkwa vs. San Francisco 49ers

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

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

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

    Alfred Morris vs. Atlanta Falcons 

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

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

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

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  • Opportunity: Optimal running backs for Week 8

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

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


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

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

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

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

    Minnesota at Cleveland

    Total points expected: 37.5 (Minnesota favored by 8)

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

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

    Chicago at New Orleans

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

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

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

    Atlanta at N.Y. Jets

    Total points expected: 46.5 (Atlanta favored by 7)

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

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

    Carolina at Tampa Bay

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

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

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

    San Francisco at Philadelphia

    Total points expected: (Philadelphia favored by 11.5)

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

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

    Oakland at Buffalo

    Total points expected: 45

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

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

    Indianapolis at Cincinnati

    Total points expected: 41 (Cincinnati favored by 9.5)

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

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

    Los Angeles Chargers at New England

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

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

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

    Houston at Seattle

    Total points expected: 42.5 (Seattle favored by 6)

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

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

    Dallas at Washington

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

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

    Pittsburgh at Detroit

    Total points expected: 45 (Pittsburgh favored by 3)

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

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

    Denver at Kansas City

    Total points expected: 44

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

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


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  • Opportunity: Optimal running backs for Week 6

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

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


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

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

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

    Cleveland at Houston

    Total points expected: 44 (Houston favored by 12)

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

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

    New England at New York Jets

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

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

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

    Miami at Atlanta

    Total points expected: 47 (Atlanta favored by 9.5)

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

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

    Detroit at New Orleans

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

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

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

    Green Bay at Minnesota

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

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

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

    Chicago at Baltimore

    Total points expected: 41.5 (Baltimore favored by 7)

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

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

    San Francisco at Washington

    Total points expected: 46.5 (Washington favored by 9)

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

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

    Los Angeles Rams at Jacksonville

    Total points expected: 43.5 (Jacksonville favored by 2.5)

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

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

    Tampa Bay at Arizona

    Total points expected: 44.5 (Arizona favored by 1)

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

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

    Pittsburgh at Kansas City

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

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

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

    Los Angeles Chargers at Oakland

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

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

    N.Y. Giants at Denver (Monday Night)

    Total points expected: 40.5 (Denver favored by 9.5)

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

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


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Episode 197: Playoffs are here

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Episode 196: Finding out who we can trust

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Episode 83: Sleeper picks and DFS advice

On Thursday's edition of the podcast, the Helpers talk about their favorite sleeper picks and also give out some daily fantasy advice regarding quarterbacks. Daily fantasy football is a blast to play, and if you want to join some contests, here are some links.

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Published in Podcasts
Monday, 04 May 2015 00:00

Draft Grades: NFC North

The 2015 NFL Draft has come and gone, and while fans eagerly wait the start of rookie mini-camps I feel it is the appropriate time to grade how teams fared in the draft.  The first edition of the Fantasy Football Helpers draft grades will feature the NFC North, with the rest of the NFC/AFC to come shortly there after.

 

Chicago Bears

Players Drafted

1.     (7) Kevin White WR/West Virginia

2.     (39) Eddie Goldman DT/FSU

3.     (71) Hroniss Grassu OG/Oregon

4.     (106) Jeremy Langford RB/Michigan State

5.     (142) Adrian Amos S/Penn State

6.     (183) Tayo Fabuluje OT/TCU

 

New Bears General Manager Ryan Pace was stuck with the task of bringing some ferocity back to the Monsters of the Midway. With the 7th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, and a new coaching staff that is switching from Lovie Smith’s 4-3 Tampa Two defensive scheme, to Vic Fangio’s aggressive 3-4 defense. After trading Brandon Marshall to the Jets in exchange for a 5th round pick the Bears were left with a massive hole at wide receiver opposite Alshon Jeffery. The addition of Kevin White with the 7th overall pick should provide the team with an instant impact player. Although White may not be as refined as Amari Cooper, who ended up getting drafted by the Raiders, White’s blend of size/power/speed make the Bears wide receivers one of the top young units in football.

As far as the defensive side of the football Pace did a great job of adding some meat to the defensive line. Florida State defensive tackle Eddie Goldman should fit in immediately at the 0, or nose tackle position in the Bears 3-4 front. Although Goldman does not possess elite pass rush skills, he is a massive human being that should allow the Bears linebackers to run free to the ball.

The most underrated drat pick for the Bears in my opinion came in the 4th round with the selection of Michigan State running back Jeremy Langford. Despite not showing elite athletic ability on tape, Langford lit up the NFL Scouting Combine after posting the lowest 40-yard dash time out of running backs (4.42). Despite having great long-speed, Langford is a versatile back with the ability to make plays in both the passing and running game. With veteran running back Matt Forte entering the last year of his contract and rumors swirling that Forte could hold-out,  Langford could be in a position to take over the bulk of the carries in Chicago as soon as next season.

Overall, the Bears did not make a lot of splash move outside of the selection of Kevin White, but they were able to add some much needed depth along both the offensive and defensive line. While the Bears rebuild was never considered a one-year process, new GM Ryan Pace did a good job adding some quality young talent that has the potential to become starters.

Grade: B-

 

Green Bay Packers

Players Drafted

1.     (30) Damarious Randall S/Arizona State

2.     (62) Quentin Rollins CB/Miami (OH)

3.     (94) TY Montgomery OW/Stanford

4.     (129) Jake Ryan LB/Michigan

5.     (147) Brett Hundley QB/UCLA

6.     (206) Aaron Ripkowski FB/Oklahoma

6.   (210) Christian Ringo DE/Louisiana-Lafeyette

6.   (213) Kennard Backman TE/UAB

 

As long as Aaron Rodgers is around the Packers should be one of the elite offenses in the NFL, but if they want the Lombardi Trophy to come home again it is essential to improve on the defensive side of the ball.

With the departure of Tramon Williams and Davon House to free agency the Packers were left with a gaping hole in their secondary. With the team’s first round selection the Packers drafted Arizona State safety Damarious Randall, an athletic safety who has the ability play deep as a single-high safety as well as the ability to roll down into coverage against slot WR’s and TE’s. Packers GM Ted Thompson did not stop there when adding young talent to his secondary as he invetsed the team’s 2nd round selection into the intriguing Quentin Rollins, a former 4-year starter on the Miami (OH) basketball team who has played just one year of college football. Despite the lack of experience playing football at a high level Rollins showed great ball skills and impressive instincts.

After the first two picks for the Packers I really started to question the moves the team made. The team drafted Stanford offensive weapon Ty Montgomery with their third round selection. Although Montgomery possesses some unique skills with incredible athleticism, he is extremely raw as a receiver and will most likely be relegated to KOR or PR duties during his rookie season.

Despite the selections of Ty Montgomery and Brett Hundley I feel the Packers had a solid, but not great, draft. Randall and Rollins should be day 1 starters for the Packers, and 4th round selection Jake Ryan could see some playing time during his rookie season now that A.J. Hawk has signed with the Bengals. Although the draft was not as flashy as teams like the Titans, Vikings, or Jaguars, the Packers did add two starting caliber players and should continue to be one of the premier teams in the NFC this season.

Grade: C+

 

 

Detroit Lions

Players Drafted

1.     (28) Laken Tomlinson OG/Duke

2.     (54) Ameer Abdullah RB/Nebraska

3.     (80) Alex Carter CB/Stanford

4.     (113) Gabe Wright DT/Auburn

5.     (168) Michael Burton FB/Rutgers

6.     (200) Quandre Diggs CB/Texas

7.     (240) Corey Robinson OT/South Carolina

 

As much as I miss the days of Matt Millen being the GM of the Lions and investing in wide receivers year in and year out, the Lions have shed the laughing stock label and become one of the better drafting units under Martin Mayhew.

Under new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi the Lions passing offense took a step back, finishing outside of the top-3 for the first time in three seasons. Part of the issue with the Lions offensive inconsistencies lay within the deficiencies along the offensive line. With the addition of first-round pick Laken Tomlinson the Lions have an immediate upgrade in terms of pass-protection. During Tomlinson’s last season at Duke he established himself as one of the top pass-protecting lineman in the nation, allowing 0 sacks and 0 QB hits during his senior season. If Matthew Stafford is going to make the jump from being an above average quarterback into the upper echelon the addition of Tomlinson to one of the better offensive lines in the NFC North should help immensely.

For all of the dynasty owners that thought the departure of Reggie Bush to the 49ers would mean an increased role for Theo Riddick, those thoughts were quickly put to bed after Lions invested their 2nd round pick on Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah. Despite not having the frame of a typical 3-down running back, Abdullah runs with underrated power between the tackles and is matchup nightmare when used as a receiving option out of the backfield. With Joique Bell struggling to hold onto the ball consistently (11 fumbles lost since 2012) and just one more year left on his current contract, Abdullah could push Bell for the starting job as soon as next season.

While the Lions draft does not possess a lot of fantasy relevant draft picks, they once again filled plenty of needs. The additions of Alex Carter and Quandre Diggs to the secondary should provide some quality depth behind Darius Slay and Rashean Mathis, as the Lions continue to have one of the best defensive units in all of football.

Grade: B-

 

Minnesota Vikings

Players Drafted

1.     (11) Trae Waynes CB/Michigan State

2.     (45) Eric Kendricks ILB/UCLA

3.     (88) Danielle Hunter DE/LSU

4.     (110) T.J. Clemmings OT/Pittsburgh

5.     (143) Mycole Pruitt TE/Southern Illinois

5.   (146) Stefon Diggs WR/Maryland

6.     (185) Tyrus Thompson OT/Oklahoma

6.   (193) B.J. Dubose DE/Louisville

7.   (228) Austin Shepard OT/Alabama

7.  (232) Edmond Robinson OLB/Newberry

 

Teams of the NFC North beware; Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer is building a juggernaut on the defensive side of the football. After investing in Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr, Xavier Rhodes, and Shariff Floyd in the first round over the last 4 years, the defense is loaded with young talent just waiting to take off.

Although I thought the Vikings would go with wide receiver DeVante Parker or defensive end Bud Dupree in the first round, the team made the wise move and added the physical press-corner Trae Waynes out of Michigan State. Waynes, if all goes well, should fill in immediately as the team’s no. 2 CB this season opposite Xavier Rhodes.

The addition of Waynes was just the start for the Vikings, as they added ILB Eric Kendricks and LSU DE Danielle Hunter with the teams 3rd and 4th round selection. Kendricks, an “undersized” linebacker from UCLA should be an immediate starter for the purple at either WLB or MLB.  Despite being a tad bit undersized for an NFL ILB, Kendricks has a nose for the football and is underrated in coverage. Guys like Chris Borland have gotten me to realize that linebackers who are tackling machines in college, translates very well to the NFL game. Hunter is an intriguing defensive end prospect with elite size (6’5”, 252 lbs.), speed (4.57), and incredibly long arms (34 ¼). Despite being raw as a pass rusher Hunter has all the physical tools to be a dominant RDE at the NFL level. If Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer and Defensive Line Coach Andre Patterson Sr. can get Hunter’s physical tools to show up on the field, the Vikings could have one of the steals of the 2015 NFL Draft.

If second year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is going to take the next step into being one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL, the Vikings have to find a way to protect him better. With the additions of Pittsburgh tackle T.J. Clemmings, Oklahoma’s Tyrus Thompson, and Alabama’s Austin Shepard, the Vikings added some much needed depth to the offensive line.

Of all the teams in the NFC North the Vikings had the most impactful draft of any team. With two players that will step in and be day one starters (Waynes, Kendricks), and four players that have the ability to develop into starting caliber players (Clemmings, Hunter, Diggs, Pruitt) the Vikings not only had the top draft in the NFC North, but one of the top in all of football.

Grade: B+

 

 

 

Photo Courtesy of Neon Tommy Flickr Page

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Wednesday, 21 January 2015 00:00

What happened in 2014: Matthew Stafford

In the 2011 season, Matthew Stafford entered the group of fantasy elite QBs when he tallied 5,038 passing yards, 41 TDs and 16 INTs.  It was only his 3rd year in the league and he joined the top tier of fantasy QBs that included Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady.  Fantasy experts saw a young QB with a rocket of an arm, an offense who passes more than anybody, along with the best WR in the NFL, Calvin Johnson, and decided to anoint Stafford as the next big thing at the QB position and a player who would produce fantasy greatness for years to come.  

The following year Stafford set the NFL record for passing attempts but his TDs fell dramatically from 41 to 20.  We heard a lot of stories about how many times Lions players were tackled inside the 5 yard-line and even at the 1 yard-line and we heard that his 20 TD season was a fluke.  He’d be projected as a top 6 QB once again. Well, two more years have passed since Matthew Stafford’s 41 TD outburst in 2011 and in that time frame eleven different QBs have thrown 30 TD passes….none of them are named Matthew Stafford.  In 2013, he fell just short with 29 TDs but then followed that up this season with an abysmal 22 TD passes.  I think it’s safe to say that the last three years are not all flukes, but that Stafford was just too hyped after 2011.  Year after year fantasy owners have been spending a relatively high draft pick (ADP round 3-5) on Stafford and coming away disappointed while chasing what may be the real fluke, 2011’s stats.

In 2014, Stafford bottomed out setting his low mark in passing yards in 4 years and his 22 TDs ranked 14th at the position, one above rookie Derek Carr.  Heading into the season, experts and fantasy players were once again expecting Stafford to produce, with a 4th round ADP (46th pick overall) so the question is….what happened?

Coming Into the Season

Joe Lombardi took over as offensive coordinator for the Lions this season replacing Scott Linehan who was released when Jim Schwartz was replaced by Jim Caldwell as the Lions head coach.  Linehan had done a decent job developing Stafford since he joined the staff in 2009 including the career year in 2011, but the Lions opted to go another direction and clear house upon the firing of Schwartz.  They brought in former Saints QBs coach Joe Lombardi, a Sean Payton disciple to run the offense.  Lombardi’s recognition as an OC candidate came to fruition while Sean Payton was suspended following the bountygate scandal.  The Saints didn't suffer on offense and many believed Lombardi was the reason.  Stafford had all the tools for Lombardi to mold Stafford into the next Drew Brees, a comparison that started popping up upon Lombardi's hiring.   

Golden Tate was added to bookend Calvin Johnson on the outside, and as it turned out to complement him in the slot.  Having played in a conservative offense in Seattle, it was unknown how good Tate would be but one thing was for sure, he was better than the man he’d be replacing in Nate Burleson and/or Kris Durham.  In addition, the Lions used their first round pick on Eric Ebron, a physical specimen with great hands at tight end.  These changes once again had everyone aboard the Stafford hype train.

2014: Week 1- A Match Made in Heaven

Stafford’s first week in Joe Lombardi’s offense could not have been scripted any better.  On the first drive of the game, Stafford found Calvin Johnson all alone for a 67-yard touchdown down the right sideline.  He was all by himself, with nobody within 20 yards of him.  On the second drive, he’d catch a 16-yard TD pass and was almost just as open.  Stafford finished with 346 yards and 2 TDs passing, a rushing TD, and 0 turnovers in an easy 35-14 victory. The success of the high flying offense was a great start for the Stafford/Lombardi relationship and the Brees comparisons were all over the media.  Little did they know, the Giants were just that bad of a defense.

2014: Weeks 2-11 – Calvin’s injury + Tate’s Emergence = Stafford Mediocrity

Over the next 10 games the Lions would go 6-4. They found themselves in a race for the division lead, but it was due to their top ranked defense, not their quarterback.  Stafford had only 11 TDs and 10 INTs during this stretch, while only throwing for 300+ yards once.  His top performances (2 passing TDs each game) came against the Jets, Saints and Falcons….and the way those defenses were playing, should those even count as good games?

Calvin Johnson sustained an ankle injury in week 3 against Green Bay.  He played the next 2 weeks as a decoy combining for only 3 catches and 19 yards.  The Lions decided to shut him down for the next 3 weeks.  Basically five weeks were played without Calvin Johnson, a scene all too familiar to Lions fans.  Stafford didn’t actually have his worst weeks without Calvin, but his improvement in the new offense had to be put on hold while they waited for Calvin to get healthy. 

The one positive to come out of the injury was Stafford’s new found chemistry with breakout WR Golden Tate.  Tate basically put up Calvin-like numbers during this stretch.  In the five games that Calvin was either a decoy or out, Tate had four 100 yard games (three over 134 yds) and surpassed seven receptions in each game.  He made two game winning TD catch and runs, one against the Saints and the second against the Falcons.  This chemistry would carry through the rest of the season even when Calvin returned and Tate became a dynamic number two option,a mismatch against #2 CBs who could take it to the house on any play.

2014: Weeks 12-17 – Finally!

After a brutal 10 week stretch and back to back 0 TD weeks heading into week 12, Stafford was written off for good as a fantasy option.  However, something clicked against the Bears that week that stuck for the remainder of the season.  Sure, the Bears are one of the worst defenses in the league, but Stafford looked absolutely incredible on Thanksgiving Day throwing for 390 yards and 2 TDs on 34/45.  In the final 5 weeks Stafford threw for 9 TDs and only 2 INTs while the Lions finished winning 4 of their last 5.  He had his first two 3 TDs games and had two 300+ yards outings during this time.  His most impressive game was actually a loss where he had 217 yards 3 TDs 0 INTs at GB in week 17 to end the season.  Sure, Aaron Rodgers out dueled him but putting up those numbers in Green Bay in December is something that only a guy like Rodgers does.   

Lessons Learned

Stafford may be undervalued next season and I believe he will improve significantly.  I’m going to give him one more try as long as his ADP puts him in the middle rounds.  He finished the season red hot and started realizing Joe Lombardi’s vision on offense.  His chemistry with Golden Tate is tremendous for his prospects of breaking out next season.  Calvin Johnson is still as good as he always was and if he could ever stay on the field we could see something really special.

However, I don't mean top 5 QB when I say really special.  For one, the Lions defense is elite.  If they can retain Ndomukong Suh next season, then it will remain elite. In addition, the running game is much improved.  Joique Bell has settled into the Lions work-horse back and was able to close out games by picking up late first downs and eating clock. The team no longer needs to rely on Stafford’s arm to win games. This formula was successful and will not be changing if the defense remains intact. Keep an eye on Suh’s status because if the defense gets worse it will really help Stafford’s fantasy value.

Stafford will enter year two with confidence in Joe Lombardi’s system. Lombardi was quoted as saying “Looking back, I kind of tried to drop maybe some responsibilities on him that maybe a quarterback like Drew didn’t get until four years into the system in New Orleans. “We asked a lot of him and he responded...”   Stafford will have another year under his belt throwing balls to Golden Tate and while Eric Ebron did very little (as almost all rookie TEs do), we can expect a significant improvement in his game.  I do think Stafford will reach 4500 yds and 30 TDs next season.  In a way too early mock draft on NFL.com he was the 14th QB off the board in the 12th round.  Getting Stafford at that value is highway robbery.  I anticipate his value improving the offseason and would target him as the 10th QB starting in round 8. 

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Monday, 15 December 2014 00:00

Episode 38: First Aid (Week 15)

On Monday's Week 15 edition of First Aid, the Helpers analyze Seattle/San Francisco and Detroit/Minnesota and give out fantasy value to the players in those contests. Plus weekly awards and a quick preview of Chicago/New Orleans tonight. Enjoy.

Published in Podcasts
Saturday, 06 December 2014 00:00

Week 14 bullet points for RBs

Editor's note: Our bullet point articles are written to better explain our weekly rankings, which you can find here.

Start of the week

Le'Veon Bell at Cincinnati

Bell has been one of the biggest surprises of this season. Yeah, he was expected to be a solid RB2, but the numbers he's putting up are reminiscent of Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles. Like Charles, Bell managed to string together an eight catch, 159 yard receiving effort that was similar to Charles' eight catch, 195 yards receiving against Oakland in 2013. The major difference between those two games were the touchdowns though, as Charles found the end zone four times while Bell didn't score once.

Scoring shouldn't be an issue for Bell this week though. The Bengals give up the sixth most points to fantasy running backs (19.6 per game) and Bell has rushed for a touchdown in last two contests. He's on pace for 2,000 total yards this season, making him one of the most versatile fantasy backs of the 2014 season. He's as good a bet as any to rush for 100 yards and score two touchdowns this week.

Start em'

Joique Bell vs. Tampa Bay

From one Bell to another, Joique is coming off his best game of the season where he rushed for two touchdowns and 91 yards against the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving. He's been somewhat inconsistent when finding the end zone as he hadn't scored four weeks prior to his two-touchdown effort. Even with that, he's been the most reliable running back on the Detroit Lions, averaging 52 yards per game. He also has a good matchup against a bad Tampa Bay rushing defense that gives up 18.1 fantasy points to running backs.

The Buccaneers defense has played a little better since the start of the season, with Gerald McCoy being a plug up the middle. But while the Buccaneer front four has given Tampa an edge, teams can still run the ball on them with reasonable success on the edges. Matt Forte rushed for 89 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries (3.9 ypc) and the Bengals dual threat of Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill combined for 109 yards. Tampa's secondary ranks among the worst in the league as well, so Bell's receiving ability in the flat and on short routes could be equally effective. He's a good flex play this week.

Tre Mason at Washington

Mason has a lot going for him in this matchup, and it starts with all the problems going on in Washington. The Redskins have been a mess in the locker room, with reports that Jay Gruden wants quarterback Robert Griffin III off the team after this season. It's so bad that even one of his own teammates blasted him over the weekend. When your team has lost confidence and seemingly the will to play hard because of negative vibes, it's never a good situation. And that's not just some woo-woo speculative armchair analysis (ok maybe a little) but it really does impact a team's performance on the field.

Defensively, The Redskins have been very stout against the run this season but injuries are starting to take a toll. Starting linebacker and leading tackler Keenan Robinson has been battling a sprained MCL and hasn't practiced all week. Sack leader Brandon Meriweather (also a prolific tackler) is battling a sprained toe and hasn't practiced either. Meriweather is listed as doubtful while Robinson is questionable. Key pass rusher and run stopper Jason Hatcher is also questionable as is Chris Baker. On offense, DeSean Jackson is dealing with a shin injury and didn't practice Friday, he may be a scratch as well which could limit the offense since he's Washington's leading receiver.

Now on to the Rams. Mason had his coming out party against the Raiders last week, rushing for 117 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. He's become one of the key factors in the Rams' success. When Mason rushes for at least 60 yards, the Rams are 4-1 and when he rushes for over 100 yards, the Rams are 2-0. Expect St. Louis to ride Mason once again and while he might not explode for the big yardage he did against Oakland, he should still hover around the 70-90 yard mark and one touchdown.

Owner's beware

Denard Robinson vs. Houston

Shoelace will need to double knot this Sunday after falling back to earth over the last few weeks. After several strong performances that included back-to-back 100 yard games in relief of starter Toby Gerhart earlier in the year, defenses are gearing up for him better. Teams are stacking the box since they know Robinson is perhaps the biggest offensive threat with Blake Bortles still going through growing pains as a rookie. All of that planning has really limited Robinson's value.

Another reason for caution could be Robinson's struggles in pass blocking. The Jaguars surrendered seven sacks to the New York Giants last week, and two of those were a result of Robinson's blown coverage. Dealing with a pass rush that includes J.J. Watt this week won't make it any easier. If the Jaguars elect to pass more and go after Houston's weak secondary, Robinson could see a smaller portion of the snaps.

The Jaguars have also been experimenting a lot since they know they're no longer in the playoff chase. Bortles will continue to get his reps so the staff can evaluate him and while the rookie quarterback is nursing shoulder and ankle injuries, expect the Jaguars' staff to keep testing out his skills so they can help him improve next season. If they pass a lot against Houston and Robinson is forced to come out due to his pass protection liabilities, then Shoelace could get lost in the shuffle.

View Keith Allison's Flickr page here.

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Wednesday, 26 November 2014 00:00

Episode 33: We give thanks

On a special Thanksgiving edition of Diagnosis, the Helpers break down each game on the Thanksgiving slate including the Eagles/Cowboys, 49ers/Seahawks and Bears/Lions. They talk about every relevant fantasy player in those matchups and finish the podcast by sending out love letters of thanks to the players who have helped them throughout the fantasy season on their own fantasy teams. Also, check out our weekly rankings here.

Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

Quarterbacks

Mark Sanchez — Sanchez has been playing adequately in replacement of Nick Foles, and is a solid QB1 option against a bad Dallas secondary. While Sanchez is prone to turnovers (he's averaging about two interceptions per game) the high octane offense of the Philadelphia Eagles combined with the good matchup should keep him in the 15-20 point range. 

Tony Romo — Romo is in line for a big week. The Eagles have one of the worst defenses against the quarterback, surrendering 19.5 points per game. Only the New York Jets allow more. He's a must-start for Week 12.

Running backs

DeMarco Murray — Obviously a must start, Eagles are better against the run than the pass, but the offensive line of Dallas is far and away the best in the league right now. Expect another 100 yard rushing day.

LeSean McCoy — McCoy is finally starting to recapture the elusiveness that helped him claim the rushing title last season. When he makes guys miss in the open field, he rattles off big gains. McCoy found the end zone last week and recorded his first game of 100-plus rushing and a score. He's a must start this week.

Wide receivers

Jeremy Maclin — A must-start WR1 as always. With 980 receiving yards on the season, Maclin is ready to eclipse the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the first time in his career. He remains one of the best ADP draft bargains of 2014.

Jordan Matthews — Continues to thrive as the No. 2 receiver with Sanchez under center. It's impossible for Matthews not to be productive based on Sanchez's strengths in the intermediate game.

Dez Bryant — Clear cut WR1 in a great matchup. Bryant should near 100 yards and find the end zone at least once this week.

Terrance Williams — Not startable due to a low volume of targets, but the Eagles do give up quite a few points to receivers. If you're very desperate, there's some upside to this matchup.

Tight ends

Zach Ertz (sleeper*) — The Cowboys are one of the worst teams in the league at defending the tight end, giving up 10.1 fantasy points per week to tight ends on average. They've also given up a league-worst 72 receptions to tight ends on the year. Vernon Davis, Larry Donnell and Jimmy Graham have all carved them up. 

Jason Witten — Remains a very solid TE2 against a defense that hasn't fared well against tight ends with DeMeco Ryans out.

Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions

Quarterbacks

Matthew Stafford — We know he's played bad recently, but Stafford has a great matchup at home against a bad defense. He's a great option this week.

Jay Cutler — Rated our No.17 QB in our weekly rankings, Cutler continues to struggle with turnovers and overall poor production. The only upside is the Bears will likely be down in this game early which could mean plenty of garbage time yards. He's a QB2.

Running backs

Reggie Bush — He's expected to start today, and is a desperate play even with a good matchup. Still, the Lions could use some help at running back as they're one of the worst rushing teams in the league. There's some element of home run potential here.

Joique Bell — Still a great flex play in PPR leagues.

Matt Forte — Don't be scared off by the tough matchup even for a second, Forte's one of the best receivers out of the backfield in the league right now. Any rushing yards negated by a tough Lions run defense should be made up for in the passing game.

Wide Receivers

Brandon Marshall — Played much better lately, he's got 8 touchdowns on the year but three of those came in one game against San Francisco. He's still a must start in 12-team leagues.

Alshon Jeffery — Wide receiver who is always a must start. He's scored three touchdowns in the last four games.

Calvin Johnson — Megatron could be in line for his best game of the season. The Bears will be without their top defensive back in Kyle Fuller and Johnson has seen target numbers of 15,12, and 10 in his last three games.

Golden Tate — Tate is a solid WR2 in a plus matchup. His 97 receiving yards were a lone bright spot against New England last week, and he's already eclipsed the 1,000 yard receiving mark for the first time in his career.

Tight Ends

Martellus Bennett — A guy who doesn't get enough credit. Bennett struggled last week but also strung together a 134-yard effort against the Green Bay Packers. The Lions one weak spot comes in defending tight ends, so Bennett has upside in this matchup.

Eric Ebron (sleeper*) — Injuries have slowed what was expected to be a good rookie season for one of the top tight ends of the 2014 draft. Ebron has a great matchup against the Bears, who rank dead last against the tight end (10.9 fantasy points per game). Expect Stafford to look for him in the red zone.

 

 

 

Published in Podcasts

Preparation in fantasy football is always crucial to victory. Each week, it's like a mad dash to see who can make the right pickups first and who's ahead of the injury and matchup curve the most. As the playoffs draw near, the planning that goes into having a strong lineup in Weeks 14,15 and 16 are the staple of every fantasy owner's season.

Those three weeks mentioned above are the big climax for fantasy owners, and they want their matchups tastier than a Chip Kelly personalized smoothie. If you're already thinking your team is destined for the playoffs, then you may want to look into how you can fortify your team to make it even more tough to beat when it really matters. Here are some matchups for Week 14 that could be plausibly fruitful.

Week 14 matchups

Eric Ebron (3% owned) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

With a little over 100 yards receiving and just one touchdown, the tight end dubbed the second coming of Vernon Davis hasn't had a very productive rookie season due to a nagging hamstring injury that's kept him out of action for nearly half the season. Still, he's eventually expected to return to the lineup in Week 11 and has a good matchup down the road against a Tampa Bay defense that ranks second worst in the league against the pass. In a pass heavy offense loaded with plenty of receiving talent, it's not out of the question Ebron could get lost in the shuffle playing along guys like Golden Tate, Brandon Pettigrew and Calvin Johnson. Despite the possibility of low targets, he's still a good TE2 option just because of his athletic upside and a favorable matchup. With tight ends like Jordan Cameron and Vernon Davis constantly hurt, Ebron could be a good savior if you're weak at the TE position.

New Orleans Saints defense (8% owned) vs. Carolina

Carolina's offense has really struggled these past three weeks. They haven't scored more than 20 points since they tied Cincinnati 37-37 back in Week 6. Panthers QB Cam Newton has been playing hurt with two bad legs, which could severely limit his upside as a rushing quarterback. The Panthers running game has been non existent with their running backs averaging just 3.6 yards per carry. Jonathan Stewart heads their paltry rushing attack with 299 yards on the year.

The Panthers receivers have also been inconsistent, with Greg Olsen serving as the team's best option with 51 catches. Rookie Kelvin Benjamin has shown flashes but his route running and consistency haven't been there, as evidenced by his 43 catches on a whopping 85 targets. He's basically catching just half of the balls thrown his way. Jerricho Cotchery is still without a touchdown on the season and looks as every bit out of place as many thought the vet would be in a role too big for a guy of his age.

On the other side, the Saints' defense has improved mightily. They've registered five interceptions in their last four games and have sacked the quarterback at least four times in their last three games. Surprisingly, they rank in the top 15 in yards allowed as well. While divisional matchups can often be close, the Saints defense could be worth a play due to Carolina's struggles on the offensive end.

Allen Hurns (20% owned), Cecil Shorts (43% owned) vs. Houston Texans

The Jacksonville Jaugars lost their most targeted receiver, Allen Robinson, to a broken foot which will sideline him for the remainder of the season. With Robinson out, expect the speedy Hurns to be the primary benefactor in the Jaguars' offense. Quarterback Blake Bortles has thrown for at least 200 yards in all but two starts, and he's eclipsed the 300 yard mark once as well. He moves the ball down the field consistently.

Hurns suffered a concussion during the Jaguars' last game against Dallas, but he still leads the Jaguars in touchdowns (5) and with Robinson now out, expect Hurns to see more targets which should increase his yardage totals and overall consistency. Plus, he's still available in nearly 80 percent of Yahoo! Leagues. Shorts is second on the team in targets (61) and has two 100 yard games on the season.

These two receivers are good options in Week 14 because of their matchup against the Houston Texans, a team with a secondary known for getting burned throughout this season. The Texans are allowing 279 passing yards per game, which ranks 29th in the league. Hurns will have major upside as a WR3/flex guy in a bigger role with a good matchup.

Terrance Williams (81% owned) @ Chicago Bears

I know, Williams has been an inconsistent player at times. But he's still on pace for 11 touchdowns and 700 receiving yards. Williams and the Cowboys will have a gift wrapping of a matchup against the Chicago Bears in Chicago on Week 14. The Bears have allowed 268 passing yards per game, which ranks 28th in the league. They're also surrendering around 30 points per game. Williams is coming off a poor game against Jacksonville where he only saw two targets, but they still took shots at him in the end zone. He's been a big part of the Cowboys' receiving game this season and while he may be feast or famine, he's unlikely to fade in an offense that values his contribution.

View Keith Allison's Flickr page here.

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Wednesday, 12 November 2014 00:00

Episode 29: Chronicles of Riddick

On this week's episode of Diagnosis, the Helpers discuss their good and bad calls from Week 10, the state of the Arizona Cardinals and Detroit Lions and what to expect from this Thursday's matchup between the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins.

The Helpers start off their best and worst calls. First, they hit on Michael Vick, the quarterback for the New York Jets. In his second start, Vick was coming off an impressive start against Kansas City, and he paid off for those who started him. He finished with 132 passing yards and 42 rushing yards. He finished as the seventh overall quarterback for Week 10, showing off the vintage Vick traits which included some nice deep passes and had the New York Jets not have been blowing Pittsburgh out, would've likely thrown for more yards.

One run in particular, came off a scramble which ended up being about a 20-yard run that nearly resulted in a touchdown. Also, Vick had no turnovers, which is something he's had problems with throughout his career.

Fantasy owners have always been wary of Michael Vick and for good reason. His small frame has never lent itself to taking too many big hits in succession. Vick is best used in fantasy as a plug and play guy in good matchups as long as he's healthy.

One miss the Helpers had for Week 10 was Kansas Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles, who they pegged as a likely bust in a tough matchup against Buffalo. The Bills held Charles in check for three quarters, and Charles only had 29 yards at the end of the first half. But Charles broke a big 40-yard touchdown late in the game which helped his value. Of course, that's not saying that the Helpers were right about Charles — they weren't. But the Bills were one of the best defenses against the run coming in, and they did play well enough to contain Charles for a half. But as all home run hitters do, Charles answered with a big gain which helped him finish with 98 rushing yards and a touchdown on the day. He probably won't be recommended as a bust going forward unless the matchup is exceptionally bad or he's battling some type of injury.

Another player the Helpers dubbed a sleeper for Week 10 was Detroit Lions running back Theo Riddick. Riddick came into the Lions matchup against Miami having scored two touchdowns in the last two games and he repeated that feat again. It came on the very last play of the game, but Riddick's score gave him six points which helped fantasy owners who started him get some value.

Riddick and the Lions have another tough matchup against the Arizona Cardinals, but starting running back Reggie Bush is still banged up and saw just five touches against Miami. You have to keep Riddick stashed away just in case Bush can't go in Week 11.

Riddick has now scored three touchdowns in his last three games, and appears to have cemented his role as the primary receiver out of the backfield.

Published in Podcasts
Sunday, 26 October 2014 00:00

Week 8 bullet points for RBs

Editor's note: This article is to further explain our weekly running back rankings, which you can find here.

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Thursday, 16 October 2014 00:00

Week 7 QB/DEFs bullet points

Editor's note: This is a column to better explain our quarterback/defense rankings for the week. You can find them both here and here.

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

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