• 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

  • 10 post-Draft fantasy thoughts from across “The Pond”

    1) Deshaun Watson will be the No. 1 rookie QB in 2017

    What Watson showed time and time again in college was his ability to win. No matter what the situation was, Watson was never stymied. With the surrounding talent in Houston of DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Lamar Miller and even the emergence of C.J. Fiedorowicz at tight end, Watson will have only Tom Savage to overcome to earn the keys to the fantasy kingdom. No other rookie QB will have either the same opportunity to start or the same level of surrounding talent and with a top 10 offensive line protecting him, Watson will have all day to throw to his playmakers and is guaranteed to rack up points with his legs too.

    2) I want all of the Bucs

    No one has had a happier offseason so far than Jameis Winston. His Tampa Bay Buccaneers have added even more offensive talent to an already stacked group and so Winston is poised to take the league by storm entering his third season. 2016’s WR2, Mike Evans, was joined by blue-chip deep threat Desean Jackson in free agency and first-round TE OJ Howard, one of the best tight end prospects to be drafted in the last five years. The hopeful return of Doug Martin should also bring a balance to the offense and allow Winston to take advantage of thinner secondaries. All of the above mentioned players have the potential to rank in the top 10 of their positions come the end of the season and Winston in particular seems poised for a top 5 campaign.

    3) The Chargers WR corps is stacked and I don’t like it

    Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, Dontrelle Inman, Travis Benjamin and now rookie Mike Williams?! The Los Angeles Chargers have the deepest WR group in the NFL and it’s not even close. All five of the afore mentioned players could all conceivably rank in the top 36 wide receivers by the time the season has ended and while that seems like a good thing for fantasy, is it really?

    Keenan Allen is the clear-cut best WR from this group but after him it’s just a crapshoot. The argument could be made to take any of the other four guys after him and that will cause complications during draft season. With so many mouths to feed it will be tough to predict who which guys will earn the most snaps and so there is a likelihood of some of the Chargers WRs being over-drafted.

    4) Mike Williams will be under-drafted

    Speaking of Chargers WRs draft positions, Williams’ draft compatriot and new Titans WR Corey Davis has been dominating the recent rookie hype and Williams appears to have fallen by the wayside. With a playing style reminiscent of Dez Bryant and Keyshawn Johnson, Williams’ redzone production potential could have big impacts in fantasy this season. With TEs Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry drawing the defensive attention in the redzone, Williams’ jump-ball mastery could quickly make him one of Philip Rivers’ favorite targets. Corey Davis is a more dynamic and versatile receiver, but don’t sleep on Mike Williams, especially when his ADP is established.

    5) It’s time to say goodbye to Tajae Sharpe

    It was fun while it lasted Tajae. The fantasy love affair the Titans had with Sharpe seems to have come to halt for the former 5th round pick. While he will still be a bit-part player in Tennessee this season, the addition of WR Corey Davis with the 5th overall pick in the draft clearly shows what the Titans think of Sharpe. Rishard Matthews was one of the best stories (and bargains) in fantasy last season and so the combination of Davis and Matthews is likely to steal most of Marcus Mariota’s passes away from Sharpe. Delanie Walker had a breakout season at TE in 2016 also and his role is likely to be expanded again in 2017. Even DeMarco Murray got in on the pass-catching party last year and will turn some of Sharpe’s targets his way. All in all, the Titans offense looks ready to roll in fantasy in 2017. Sadly for Tajae Sharpe, it appears he won’t be a major cog in the process.

    6) Jeremy Hill…you’ve been put on notice, sir

    No matter what your stance is on Joe Mixon, he is undeniably talented and if things had turned out differently he may have even been a top 10 pick. For the Cincinnati Bengals this is great value. For Jeremy Hill this is bad news. Hill has battled injuries and simply poor play over the last few seasons and now appears to be a shade of the running-back he flashed glimpses of early in his career. Giovanni Bernard restricts Hill’s use in the passing game and Mixon is better than Hill in every facet of the game. While he still has the potential to overcome this, Hill’s role will likely be reduced down to a glorified goal-line back in Cincinnati this season and he may be in the market for a new home in 2018.

    7) The 2017 Bengals are a souped-up version of the Houston Texans

    As mentioned above, the addition of Joe Mixon and also John Ross, the speedster WR, to the Bengals this offseason adds even more talent to a team with offensive skill position pro-bowlers coming out of their ears. Their offensive roster is somewhat reminiscent of the Houston Texans roster in 2016. AJ Green is a top 3 wide receiver and will draw coverage away from John Ross who will be able to take advantage of open fields with his speed. This complementary receiving duo calls to mind that of DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, a relationship that operates in a very similar dynamic. A versatile, pass-catching running-back in Joe Mixon serves as a more explosive Lamar Miller and when healthy Tyler Eifert is a top 3 TE in the NFL, greatly outperforming CJ Fiedorowicz. With all that talent the 2017 Bengals could be a fantasy goldmine. Yet as we witnessed with the 2016 Houston Texans, the absence of a passable QB can render this talent useless. Your move, Andy Dalton.

    8) Christian McCaffrey should be a top 10 PPR draft pick

    Fitting that the 8th thought focus on the 8th overall pick and new Carolina Panthers RB, Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey’s outstanding receiving capabilities for a running-back are of such standing that it is quite possible he will play more snaps at receiver than at running-back during his rookie season. His natural ability for catching the football and unparalleled after-the-catch ability will make him a superstar in PPR formats. With the all-round game and athleticism of David Johnson, McCaffrey’s talent far outweighs the risk of taking him high in the draft and positioned on a Panthers offense ready to rebound in 2017, it is likely McCaffrey will be a front-runner for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

    9) The time has come to accept TE as the new committee position

    Fantasy owners have always been scorned by the dreaded running-back by committee approach. Fun, exciting prospects can have their fantasy potential swiped away due to a division of the volume, rendering both players effectively useless for fantasy purposes. Sadly, it appears that this virus has spread from running-backs to tight ends. Committee approaches make sense for teams with no depth at the position but it seems even teams with good quality TEs are still employing this tactic. Washington is homed to star tight end Jordan Reed yet due to injuries journeyman Vernon Davis now receives significant snaps. The Chargers have recently supplemented Antonio Gates with Hunter Henry and while Rob Gronkowski may be the best tight end of all time, injuries have forced the Patriots into providing back-up for him in the form of Dwayne Allen. The realisation of the spread of TE committees around the league makes Greg Olsen’s career and fantasy production even more impressive.

    10) Carson Wentz will be the biggest bargain of 2017

    Carson Wentz was not set up to succeed in his first year in Philadelphia, being surrounded by arguably the worst WR corps in the NFL. However, the offseason additions of Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith will allow Wentz to take chances and show-case his arm talent due to the big-play nature of their games. A solidified offensive line and a deep running-back committee (*sighs*) will keep the pressure off Wentz and allow him to scan the field and rack up huge numbers. The second year jump of Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota last year raised both of those players to fantasy stardom and there is no reason to assume the same won’t happen to Wentz. With a current ADP of the 11th/12th round and the potential for a top 10 fantasy QB season, Wentz could potentially be the Matt Ryan of 2017.

    Thank you for reading, follow Will Pendleton on twitter @willpendosports

  • Five reasons why Danny Woodhead will shine in PPR leagues

    It's easy to look back at what a player once was and talk yourself into him drafting him with hopes he'll exude greatness once again. When it comes to Baltimore Ravens RB Danny Woodhead, the potential to reclaim past success is definitely intriguing.

    Just two seasons ago with the San Diego Chargers at the ripe age of 30, Woodhead was a PPR (points per reception) monster who piled up over 100 targets en route to 80 catches for 755 yards and six touchdowns. He finished 3rd overall in PPR scoring among running backs, behind only Devonta Freeman and Adrian Peterson.

    Throughout his career, Woodhead flourished when he played in all 16 games with the Chargers (a feat he only accomplished in two of four seasons with the team). In 2013, he racked up 605 yards on 76 catches and six touchdowns which ranked him 12th overall in PPR leagues.

    Good situations

    Woodhead's been blessed with prominent quarterbacks during his time in the NFL. Woodhead played along the likes of Tom Brady (2010-2012) and Philip Rivers (2013-2016), both Pro Bowl quarterbacks. Both also helped Woodhead string together several seasons of 30+ catches, with Rivers favoring Woodhead the most after targeting the small running back over 190 times in 2013 and 2015.

    Now, Woodhead is again thrust into a potentially good situation playing alongside Pro Bowl quarterback Joe Flacco in Baltimore. When it comes to his potential for opportunity with the Ravens, Woodhead fantasy owners have plenty to be excited about.

    What we like about him now

    Top RB Kenneth Dixon is expected to miss the first four games of the season after violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. Dixon accrued 41 total targets last season with the Ravens, and the coaching staff is still very high on him so don't expect Woodhead to stay the top back all season, but it does bold well for his short-term value.

    A gifted receiver, Woodhead possesess a skill proven to age like fine wine. Just look at how players like Fred Jackson and Larry Fitzgerald have extended their careers despite their age due to their catching ability. At age 32, Jackson ranked 11th overall in PPR scoring in 2013 for running backs. Fitzgerald ranked 11th overall in PPR scoring in 2016 at age 33. There's no reason to believe age could limit Woodhead as a receiver in Baltimore.

    The Ravens are also a very pass-oriented team, especially to the running back position. Last season, the 3-headed monster of Terrance West, Kenneth Dixon and Kyle Juszczyk combined for 125 targets. It's not out of the question that Woodhead sees 10+ targets in Week 1.

    The current depth chart among receivers in Baltimore should only help Woodhead's cause to be involved in the passing game. With top target hogs Steve Smith now gone and also WR4 Kamar Aiken, the Ravens receivers consist of an aging one-trick pony in Mike Wallace, underachieving and injury-prone Breshad Perriman, and a host of lesser-known names Michael Campanaro, Vince Mayle, Chris Moore and Kenny Bell. While the draft could obviously change things, it looks like Woodhead will see a prominent passing role at least early on this season.

    Woodhead's current average draft position is in the eighth round, right near players like Dion Lewis, C.J. Prosise, and Giovani Bernard. With the Bengals likely to add another running back in the draft, Lewis becoming less of a factor as the Patriots added several RBs, and Prosise playing behind Eddie Lacy, no running back in that group has a more clearly defined role than Woodhead.

    Causes for concern

    The biggest worry one might have about drafting Woodhead is his injury history. He's coming off his second ACL tear and is now 32 years old. While age isn't a concern when it comes to receiving ability, injuries at that age tend to heal slower and you'll have to wonder if his route running will be affected.

    Overall verdict

    Woodhead is a good value for PPR leagues in the eighth round. Draft him if you have a chance. At the very least, he'll be good for four weeks before Dixon comes on and may still have a role since the Ravens planned on signing him even before the Dixon suspension.

    Nathan Rupert/Flickr

  • Buy Low Targets, April Edition

    The NFL season may be months away but it is never too early to look for some ADPs that stick out. Each month, from April until September, I will be giving you a buy-low target at each position. I expect these players ADP to steadily move up as the season approaches.

    Kirk Cousins | QB12

    Kirk Cousins, according to MFL ADP data (12 team, PPR, Re-Draft) is going off the board as the 12th QB. This is a guy who has finished the last two seasons as a top-10 QB. Last season, Cousins was the QB5 and averaged 20.6 FPs per game. His .48 points per dropback (PPDB) was good enough for 9th among QBs. Cousins did lose Desean Jackson and Pierre Garcon to free agency but the additions of Terrelle Pryor, Brian Quick, and a healthy Josh Doctson should, not only mitigate those loses but actually be a net improvement on overall talent.

    T.J. Yeldon | RB44

    T.J. Yeldon is not a name that jumps off the page as a sexy draft target but RB44 in a PPR scoring system is too low. Last season, Yeldon played in 15 games and was targeted 60 times. His 50 catches were the main contributor to him becoming RB33 last season but at 23, Yeldon still has time to prove himself as an every-down back. But what if the Jags make the mistake of drafting Leonard Fournette? I think that this would cement Yeldon as a passing down specialist with a 60 catch upside.

    Paul Richardson | WR91

    Paul Richardson is a guy who has always had the talent to flourish in the NFL, he just hasn’t had the health. Last season, we saw glimpses of Richardson’s potential but for some reason, fantasy owners are not jumping on the Richardson bandwagon. Including the playoffs, last season Richardson had 28 catches for 419 yards and a YPT of 10.2 which is similar to other slightly-built players like Brandin Cooks and T.Y. Hilton. I believe that Richardson will be a starting WR for the Seahawks this year and easily become a top-50 WR.

    Tyler Higbee | TE23

    Tyler Higbee is bound to draw comparisons to Jordan Reed at some point this off-season. There isn’t a ton of player comp available on Higbee because he doesn’t have a Burst Score, Agility Score, or Catch Radius. That said, he is known to be an athletic guy playing TE in Sean McVey’s system. If Jared Goff can improve (can only go up from where he’s at TBH) his performance, I think Higbee is a lock to be a top-15 TE this coming season.

Podcasts

Episode 179: Getting an edge in daily fantasy w/Jim Sannes of Numberfire.com

Thursday, 25 May 2017 00:00
Stop doing these two things and your daily fantasy score will improve drastically. Jim Sannes, baseball and football writer for Numberfire.com shows you how to boost your Daily Fantasy score by avoiding the common ways of th
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Episode 178: Matt Harmon breaks down our wide receiver rankings

Monday, 22 May 2017 00:00
A bonus podcast for you guys. Matt Harmon of TheFantasyFootballers.com breaks down our writer Dominick's wide receiver rankings here. Be sure to check out TheFantasyFootballers.com Draft Kit as well. What do you you get out
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Episode 177: Wide receiver values w/guest Matt Harmon of TheFantasyFootballers.com

Friday, 19 May 2017 00:00
Matt Harmon, a wide receiver enthusiast who has contributed to websites such as Footballguys.com, NFL.com and currently TheFantasyFootballers.com, joins the podcast to discuss wide receiver ADP values and which rookies presen
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Episode 176: Crowded backfields and improving offenses

Thursday, 11 May 2017 00:00
George and Will discuss Minnesota, Cleveland and New England's crowded backfields and which running backs you should draft or avoid drafting in 2017. They also talk about Josh Gordon's denial for reinstatement into the NFL an
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Episode 175: NFL Veterans Stock Changes Due to NFL Draft

Tuesday, 09 May 2017 00:00
After not talking since week 16 of the 2016 NFL season Jaben and Will continue to give thoughts on a few more rookies, but most importantly how the draft will effect the fantasy value of NFL veterans. From the Los Angeles Cha
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Episode 174: Post NFL Draft Stock Watch

Tuesday, 09 May 2017 00:00
The band is back together as the boys from the 30 minute drill are back to give 10 rookies they are looking at as the offseason concludes. Jaben and Will give their thoughts on these rookies' landing spots and their potential
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Waiver Wire

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.
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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
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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
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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
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Fantasy Film Projector: Joe Mixon

Wednesday, 12 April 2017 00:00
Editor's note: The Fantasy Film Projector is a process that identifies player traits typically correlated with fantasy football success. Those traits include receiving ability and route running (points per reception leagues),
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Fantasy Film Projector: Samaje Perine

Sunday, 02 April 2017 00:00
Editor's note: The Fantasy Film Projector is a process that identifies player traits typically correlated with fantasy football success. Those traits include receiving ability, route running, (points per reception leagues), p
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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.

Perine set the single game rushing record for all of the NCAA by tallying 427 yards. He averaged 6 yards per carry over the course of his 3 years in a Sooners jersey.

Rob Kelley is Samaje’s only competition for snaps since Chris Thompson will get most of the receiving snaps from the backfield. Kelley only averaged 4.2 yards per carry last season. After losing Pierre Garcon and Desean Jackson, the Redskins are going to need all the yards they can get on each play. This makes Perine the more desirable back. 

One of the qualities that Perine possesses that I admire is his ability to gain ground when he is tackled. TV announcers often say, "he did a nice job of falling forward to get the first down". I would not say that Kelley is bad at this, but Perine is great at it. Another thing I like is that unlike most big running backs, Samaje is able to make people miss tackles in the open field.

Even if Rob Kelley were to get more snaps than Perine, the offense will still be in the red zone frequently. Perine should see the majority of the carries at the goal line. I would compare Perine and Kelly to Blount and Lewis from the Patriots last season. 

Assuming that both backs split carries evenly with Perine getting the majority of goal line snaps, he can have a 1000 yard season with 12 touchdowns. If he gets the starting role then he could see more yards. I would not reach too far for him, but if he is available later in 6th or 7th round then he holds a great value.

I think that he can have a season much like Ezekiel Elliott had last season. The main difference that I notice is that Zeke had very little competition. Even if he is not the primary back he can still be useful in dynasty leagues or as a flex option in other leagues. Don't get me wrong, he is a long way away from being Zeke, but if he can start off the year hot he will carry that through the season.

Published in Waiver Wire

When it comes to fantasy football, you can do all the research you want. You can track team offenses, pass-to-run ratios, and amount of plays each time runs. You can assess the talent along the offensive line, at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end.

After you've done as much due diligence as possible, you can start to develop your fantasy football beliefs. Everybody has the players they liek and don't like for whatever reason, and you're no different.

Chip Kelly served as a primary example of that this past offseason, when he routed star running back LeSean McCoy to Buffalo in exchange for a young linebacker coming off a knee surgery in Kiko Alonso. He even picked up the much maligned Tim Tebow and slotted him into the No. 3 QB spot. Lord only knows what Chip has in store. 

But what Kelly showed all of us is that you have to go with the players you feel most comfortable with, both in your system and character-wise. If you don't like the Dallas Cowboys for whatever reason, you can still draft a highly successful fantasy football team while avoiding their players. After all, it's no fun rooting for a player to succeed on a team that you hate.

That's why we've decided to talk about a player we strongly believe as we enter the crucial last week in August and most leagues are starting to draft. We believe in this guy like Bill O'Brien believes in the F bomb as an effective motivational tool. A certain quarterback we feel is worth drafting in the first round. Yes, we actually want you to abandon the stigma that you can grab quarterbacks in the later rounds of the draft for this one guy. His name — Andrew Luck.

Why do we want him on our team so bad?

Two words — Peyton Manning. Yes, we've compared Luck's potential in 2015 to that of the Denver Broncos quarterback just two seasons ago. If you remember correctly, Manning lit the fantasy football world on fire week-in and week-out in 2013. He scored over 25 points (standard scoring rules) nine times, that's more than half a season you had your quarterback score you 1/4th of 100 points on his own. It was a huge leg up for any owner.

Luck really started out hot in 2014. In the first month of the season, he went on a three-game tear where he threw for at least three touchdown passes and less than 1 interception per game. In two out of three of those games, he tossed four touchdowns. That's about as good as it gets if you're playing in redraft leagues and need a consistent quarterback.

Playing an important role in your team's success is also key if you expect a player to consistently produce, and Luck is to his team what Manning was to the Colts — they need him to play well to be successful. Unlike New England, a team that changes up its strategy from game to game, the Colts engaged in countless shootouts with other great quarterbacks en route to their first AFC Championship appearance since 2010. Luck finished with 616 passing attempts, trailing only Matt Ryan and Drew Brees.

Plus, with the latest injury to Green Bay Packers star wideout Jordy Nelson, the gap between Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers has widened a bit. Not saying Rodgers still won't be an elite fantasy quarterback, but don't be surprised if the Packers lean on the run more to close out games in the absence of a big-play threat like Nelson. The Packers still have a formidable rushing attack with Eddie Lacy and don't need to rely on the pass as much to win games like the Colts will need to with Luck.

Now, Luck might not toss a record-breaking 55 touchdowns like Manning did, but he's arguably the most talented quarterback in the league. He's in his prime and plays in a souped-up offense with a good mix of young talent (T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Dwayne Allen, Philip Dorsett) and veterans (Andre Johnson and Frank Gore). Luck is also a very durable and hasn't suffered any serious injuries despite playing with a below average offensive line. Rodgers, while relatively durable in his own right, has a history of concussions, suffered a clavicle injury which caused him to miss seven games in 2013 and was hobbled by a leg injury last season that affected him going into the postseason.

Overall, Luck is one of the safest picks in the draft and normally we wouldn't advise to go with a quarterback in Round 1, but he's as close to a guarantee to be the Top 3 in his position as any player in the league this season, which is more than exciting in the sometimes cruel world of fantasy football.

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Published in Fantasy Coverage
Tuesday, 25 August 2015 00:00

Dynasty prospect: Ezekiel Elliott

The running back position requires an athlete to possess several traits for success. One of the crucial ones is competitive drive. The ability to initiate contact with defenders typically much bigger in size, keep your feet churning to break tackles and extend plays is key to turning a five yard gain into eight yards. This trait is even more crucial in short yardage situations where your team needs a few inches on the goal line for a touchdown or first down. One of the most promising prospects in this area is Ohio State junior Ezekiel Elliott, a running back that also possesses the athleticism and durability needed to excel at the pro level.

Elliott was unveiled as the Buckeyes feature back for the first time in 2014, replacing current 49er Carlos Hyde. He flourished in coach Urban Meyer's revamped offense, a scheme that was a departure from his spread days in Florida. The attack focused more on inside zone blocking plays and power runs up the middle. While many hear 'zone blocking' and immediately equate it with running backs avoiding contact and seeking consistent three-to-four yard gains, that wasn't the case with Elliot. He was a physical runner that used his strength after contact to wear down defenses and eventually break big gains in the later stages of the game.

What he did  

The offense involved a lot of cutting off the center up the middle, and Elliot proved very good at this up-the-gut style of running. The sophomore ended up rushing for 1,878 yards, a number that trailed only Melvin Gordon and Tevin Coleman. Elliot finished the season with 20 rushing touchdowns and also added 28 catches for 220 yards (7.9 yards per catch average). He was Top 5 in several rushing categories for the Big Ten, including rushing attempts, rushing yards, touchdowns, and plays from scrimmage.

When looking at Elliott, he's got several characteristics that make him a potentially good runner at the pro level.

Biggest strengths: Functional strength, competitive toughness, finishes runs after contact, mental toughness, vision

Biggest weaknesses: Pass blocking, home run speed, elusiveness

What kind of player is he

At 6'1, Elliott is a little taller than your average running back and has a thick frame at 225 lbs, giving him an NFL-like weight despite being only a junior in college. He shows good quickness when diagnosing a play both physically and mentally, and has the agility to cut off center and between the tackles. His balance is very good and allows him to continue running downhill after contact. A hard-nose runner, Elliot saw his most successful runs come in between the tackle and tight end on inside zone plays with the Buckeyes.

A typical Elliot run

He shows good burst getting to the line of scrimmage with good lateral quickness to cut off inside blocks. He's patient when waiting for his blocks to set up and cuts up field decisively and without losing speed. He has the vision to run off blocks at the second level and stands a good chance to break off a big run if he sheds a tackle or two.

He also has the speed to beat defenders to the edge and get up field. His transition from a 45 degree angle to north-and-south is fluid, and he maintains a good forward lean when running which keeps him from running too tall. He also keeps his feet churning after contact which allows him to pop defenders backward upon contact and gain extra yards in combination with his strength at 225lbs. He struggles when trying to run for long touchdowns as his lack of top-end speed often results in him getting tackled from behind by corners and safeties.

Context

Elliott has only managed to string together a stellar season just once, an obvious thing to write but still important considering teams will be gunning for him more in 2015. Though he'll have a sign on his back, he's already battle-tested when it comes to playing against the best teams in college. He posted four touchdowns and 246 yards rushing against Oregon in the National Championship game. He also ran for 230 yards and two touchdowns against Alabama, a team ranked fourth in points allowed (16.6) in 2014. It's important when any athlete plays his best against the toughest of defenses, and Elliot demonstrated he could do that.

He could also wear defenses down throughout a game, as his biggest runs typically came in the second half when Ohio State needed a breakthrough play to seal a victory.

Elliott accomplished all this despite playing with three different quarterbacks and capped his year off with a 246 yard performance in the National Championship game against Oregon to go along with a season-high four touchdowns. He proved he could remain durable with 273 attempts and no injuries.

Pass blocking woes

Elliott's biggest weakness is his pass blocking. He typically stands too high when engaging defenders which allows him to get driven back by pass rushers. He lacks the desire to pass block and will throw his shoulder in at times instead of squaring up the defender. He does, however, display a desire to run block and relished the opportunity to hit linebackers in the middle of the field on quarterback keepers. That will be something to take notice of if he hopes to elevate his status to potential first-round draft pick either in 2016 or 2017.

Catching the ball

Elliott can definitely make tough catches. He posted a seven catch game against Indiana and three games with at least four receptions. He's not expected to catch the ball a ton in the Buckeyes' offense, but it's a skill he's proven to have.

What type of NFL player can he be

Overall, Elliott is a very good power runner that can move piles with his strength after contact. He has the potential to be a 1,000-yard rusher in an offense that values running the ball up the middle and with the inside zone. A team that runs the inside zone quite a bit is the Philadelphia Eagles. This offense would be ideal for a player like Elliot. He still needs to develop his pass blocking, but he has a good chance of going in the first round based on his running talent alone.

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Published in Waiver Wire

Entering the 2014 fantasy draft, Montee Ball was being scooped up early by fantasy owners who thought they had found the next big thing.  Those that expected RB1 numbers from Ball were sadly mistaken, as a season of injuries and the emergence of CJ Anderson caused him to finish as the 90th RB overall in standard scoring behind teammates CJ Anderson (11th overall) and Ronnie Hillman (41 overall).  To put how disappointing Ball's season was into perspective, Ball finished with only 27.4 fantasy points on the season in 5 games played.  These beyond disappointing numbers in 2014 killed many owners fantasy seasons, but now the hopefuls are looking to the future... and the future's name is CJ Anderson.  Entering 2015, Anderson is going in current mocks between the late first to second round, eerily similar to Ball's ADP entering 2014.  Could this spell disaster for Anderson next season?  This analyst thinks that the clear answer is a resounding 'no.'  Let's take a look at both backs in order to find proof that Anderson is not doomed to repeat the failures of Montee Ball.

Evidence vs. Speculation

In 2013, Knowshon Moreno finished as the #5 fantasy running back with Ball (next big thing) showing flashes of greatness.  When Moreno left the Broncos after the 2013 season, the fantasy world was abuzz that Ball would be the workhorse back and repeat Moreno's numbers in 2014.  This was pure speculation.  In his entire rookie season, Ball never had more than 15 carries per game and averaged only 7.5.  In other words, Ball was never the bell cow in the Broncos' 2013 offense so to expect him to just take that role in 2014 was nothing but a hopeful prediction.  Additionally, Ball only had a single 100+ yard game (13 carries for 117 yards) and in that game had a single rush for 45 yards.  Remove that rush and Ball had 12 carries for 72 yards, which while still impressive is not RB1 material.  Finally, even though Ball showed some flashes of being a viable fantasy starter in 2015, there was one glaring statistic that should have made people realize he couldn't be the workhorse back in 2014.  In his rookie season, on rushing attempts 11-20 Ball averaged only 3.4 yards per carry.  In other words, when Ball was given more than 10 carries per game, his stats dropped significantly.

After taking a look at the numbers, it seems that there's a bit more evidence supporting Anderson's case.  In the first nine weeks of 2014 Anderson tallied only 17 carries.  In week 10, he began to take the reins and rushed for 90 yards on 13 carries (6.9 yards per carry).  Fully taking over the backfield in week 12, he averaged 23 carries per game (140 carries in 6 weeks) and 4.6 yards per carry (648 yards on 140 carries) for the remainder of the season.  This is the definition of a workhorse back, a role that Montee Ball never actually achieved in 2013.  And remember that glaring statistic of Montee Ball only averaging 3.4 yards per carry after 10 rushes?  It doesn't seem like Anderson has that problem.  On carries 11-20, Anderson averages 4.3 yards per carry, and on carries 21-30, he averages 4.9 yards per carry.  These are the type of numbers required from a workhorse back and should continue in 2015.

Wear and Tear

Montee Ball and CJ Anderson are both only 24 years old, and should have good long careers ahead of them right? While they could both have long careers ahead of them, the level of wear and tear of Ball is MUCH higher than that of Anderson.  Now, I understand that CJ Anderson has 186 career carries in the NFL while Ball has only 175, but this goes beyond the NFL.  In his 4 year college career, Ball rushed 924 times for an impressive 5140 yards (5.6 avg) while in Anderson's short career rushed only 198 times for 1135 yards (5.7 avg).  A lot of people forget that rookies entering the NFL don't have equal levels of wear and tear.  While you can't say that Ball's injury in 2014 was directly caused by his heavy workload in college, it certainly didn't help.  Likewise Anderson, even with his heavy workload in 2014, remained injury free and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.  This could be a testament to his build and the toughness he has.  Measuring in at 5'8" and 224 lbs, Anderson is simply a more durable back compared to the 5'10" 216 lbs Montee Ball.  And even as a shorter and heavier back, Anderson has a bit more top speed than Ball.  In fact, in addition to speed Anderson slights Ball in a few categories.  Let's take a look at their combine results...

* = Top Performer 40 Yard Dash Bench Press Vertical Jump Broad Jump 3 Cone Drill 20 Yard Shuttle
CJ Anderson

4.60 sec

17 reps 32" 119" 7.15 sec 4.12 sec*
Montee Ball 4.66 sec 15 reps 32" 118" 6.88 sec 4.40 sec

Now I know these numbers are extremely close (too close to call really) but with how similar they are it makes you wonder why Ball was drafted in the second round while Anderson went undrafted.

Where to Target CJ Anderson in 2015

After crunching the numbers, it is clear that CJ Anderson has solidified himself as a workhorse-capable back.  He is entering the 2015 season as the Broncos #1 back and with an expected reduced workload from Peyton Manning, Anderson looks like one of the best backs (situationally) for 2015.  Additionally, with Gary Kubiak returning to the Broncos (this time as their head coach) I expect even more emphasis on the running game.  In my opinion, if Kubiak (as offensive coordinator) was able to turn the journeyman, Justin Forsett into a viable fantasy starter, I can only imagine what he can do with a gem like CJ Anderson.  Because Ball's ADP in 2014 was based on speculation and assumed potential, he failed to live up to the hype.  In Anderson's case the hype is real! I expect Anderson to finish in the top 10 for RBs easily and could push the top 5.  Look to scoop up Anderson in the back end of the first round or the very early second round.

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage

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

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

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

Can Ellington stay healthy in 2015?

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

Where to target Ellington entering 2015

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

Published in Fantasy Coverage

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

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

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

Bodyguards: An improved offensive line

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

Weapons Galore: A bolstered receiving corps

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

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

Conclusion: What to expect from Manning in 2015

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

2015 Projection: #4 QB Overall Standard Scoring

-4900 yards

-38 TDs

-14 INTs

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Published in Fantasy Coverage

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When news of Pierre Thomas' release from the New Orleans Saints broke earlier this month, Mark Ingram's stock skyrocketed.  Prospective fantasy owners were beaming at the idea that Ingram may finally become the workhorse back that we've all wanted him to be.  However, all of that changed in the past week when the Saints signed veteran running back C.J. Spiller to a hefty 4-year, $18 million contract.  While the Saints are clearly going to benefit from signing Spiller, fantasy owners are at a loss and it's tough to get a good read on the situation.  Will Spiller be relegated to "change of pace" duties, or are we going to see another true timeshare in New Orleans?  In this article we will break down the strengths and weaknesses of both players and try to make sense of this headache of a backfield.

Numbers Don't Lie...

Although the Saints most likely plan on using these two great running backs in tandem, the simple truth is that both of them perform better when the spotlight is solely on them.  Last year when Mark Ingram was finally given the reins, he posted a modest, yet respectable 4.3 yards per carry average.  Though not eye-popping, his 9 TD's in 13 games shows that he has what it takes to produce as a starting fantasy RB.  Likewise, during C.J. Spiller's breakout 2012 campaign, he averaged an incredible 6.0 yards per carry along with 8 total TD's.  Although his numbers have been less than stellar since 2012, Spiller has undoubtedly proven that he has what it takes to be a viable starting fantasy RB.  Additionally, both of these young veterans have been cursed by playing behind fan-loved veterans in Pierre Thomas and Fred Jackson.  Now that both are free of that burden, the numbers will decide who gets the spotlight next year.

Rushing vs. Receiving

When looking at the numbers, both Ingram and Spiller have proven to be quality running backs, each averaging 4.2 and 5.0 yards per carry throughout their careers, respectively.  However, in today's NFL an RB must be multi-dimensional.  The days of 25+ carries per game are over.  Today, it's about making the most of what little opportunities you have, and more importantly, being a threat in the passing game.  This fact becomes even more important when talking about the Saints offense, as they attempted to pass on 61.8% of all offensive plays in 2014.  So what does this mean for Spiller and Ingram?  The simple answer here is that Spiller dominates Ingram in the passing game.  In five seasons Spiller accumulated 158 receptions for 1,195 yards and 6 TD's.  Likewise, in four seasons Ingram was only able to accumulate 53 receptions for 288 yards and 0 TD's.  Although Ingram was playing with Pierre Thomas, a receiving back specialist, it is clear that Spiller will be the receiving back in New Orleans' offense, further boosting his stock in PPR formats.

Outlook for 2015

So far we've come to two simple conclusions. First, both Spiller and Ingram are capable of handling starting RB responsibilities and thrive in a workhorse back setting. Second, C.J. Spiller has proven to be the superior pass catching RB, a trait necessary to thrive in the Saints offense.  Unfortunately these two facts lead to the likely conclusion that Ingram will handle 1st and 2nd down duties, while Spiller will come in on 3rd down and other passing situations.  Unfortunately this means the worst for fantasy owners as neither Spiller nor Ingram will reach their true fantasy potential in 2015.  However, there is a bright side.  As both running backs have proven to be quality starters, and both have a seemingly unfortunate injury history, this combination should be looked at as one of the most valuable handcuffs going into 2015.  If either Spiller or Ingram go down at some point in the season, expect the other to thrive as the sole rusher in the Saints backfield.  Additionally, because Spiller is the more proven back, him taking over starting RB duties is not outside the realm of possibility.  At the end of the day, against most mocks to date, I would take Spiller before Ingram come draft day (especially in PPR formats).  Either way, if you decide to take either of these RBs in 2015, you had better make sure to grab the other while you can.

Published in Fantasy Coverage

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Throughout the 2014 season, one of the biggest stories was the immediate success of the rookie wide receiver class.  Whether it was Odell Beckham’s “catch seen around the world,” or Mike Evans consistent production week in and week out, the fantasy world was buzzing over the unprecedented success of the rookie class. And it wasn’t just Beckham or Evans making headlines.  In fact, for the first time ever, eight rookie wide receivers finished within the top 50 WRs on the season (almost 20%!).  But can we expect this production again? 

It is well known that the dreaded ‘sophomore slump’ has claimed many an NFL rising star (Michael Clayton, Mike Williams, and Zac Stacy to name a few).  So what does this mean for the best WR class to date? Can we expect eye-popping numbers again, or are we doomed to fantasy peril by investing in these young stars?  In this article we will examine the top rookie WRs from last season and predict whether they will rise or fall in their sophomore season.

 

1)     Odell Beckham Jr. (5th WR Overall in Standard Scoring)

 

The man, the myth, the legend.  The 2014 offensive rookie of the year had the greatest start to his career than any other wide receiver in history.  Period.  In only twelve games he caught 91 passes for 1,305 yards and 12 TDs. Wow! But what can we expect from the breakout rookie in 2015?  It should come as no surprise that Beckham’s production was increased after the season ending injury suffered by wide out Victor Cruz.  With Victor Cruz coming back next season we shouldn’t be surprised if Beckham’s targets drop a bit.  However, his production may not take too much of a hit (if any at all). With Cruz back on the field defenses will have one more playmaker to keep their eyes on.  And with the emergence of Rueben Randle towards the end of the season (further catching the attention of opposing defenses), OBJ will have plenty of space to work with.  Additionally, with Eli Manning growing more and more accustomed to Ben McAdoo’s new offense, we should have a top 5 wide out on our hands.

 

Projected WR Rank: 4th Overall

 

2)     Mike Evans (10th WR Overall in Standard Scoring)

 

Entering the offseason, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have many holes to fill, the most important of these being at the QB position.  With the #1 pick in the 2015 draft, the Bucs are expected to take one of the top two QBs of the draft in Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota.  Rookie QBs are always a big question mark going into a season, but if Mike Evans was able to produce top 10 numbers with Josh McCown and Mike Glennon under center, we shouldn’t expect less with either of the two rookie QBs.  As a true deep threat, Mike Evans should pair nicely with the strong arm of Jameis Winston, giving us a possible WR1 next season.

 

Projected WR Rank: 12th Overall

 

3)     Kelvin Benjamin (17th WR Overall in Standard Scoring)

 

In his rookie season, Kelvin Benjamin utilized his size, becoming one of the greatest red zone threats in the NFL.  Unfortunately for Benjamin, he’s the only receiving threat on the field, and with a less than mediocre run game, defenses need only focus on Benjamin.  Additionally, the Panthers must upgrade their offensive line in order to give Benjamin time to create space and allow Cam Newton to find the open man.  With the recent release of veteran RB DeAngelo Williams, the Panthers need to add some playmakers to their roster if Benjamin has any chance of repeating his solid WR2 numbers in 2015.

 

Projected WR Rank: 18th Overall

 

4)     Jordan Matthews (24th WR Overall in Standard Scoring)

 

As the 7th WR taken in the 2014 draft, Jordan Matthews exceeded expectations by finishing as the 4th best rookie wide out and the 24th overall wide out.  The simple fact about Jordan
Matthews is that Chip Kelly really likes him.  In fact, he had to trade up in the draft (10th pick of the 2nd round) just to get him.  With the approval of Chip Kelly, Matthews saw plenty of playing time right off the bat.  However, his production fell in the middle of the season (failed to gain more than 50 receiving yards in a game between weeks 4-10).  This was not Matthews fault.  The fact of the matter is that the Eagles need to address their quarterback situation, and if we know anything about Chip Kelly, he’s not a afraid to make a monumental deal that would give Matthews the help that he needs.

 

Projected WR Rank: 22nd Overall

 

5)     Sammy Watkins (25th WR Overall in Standard Scoring)

 

At the beginning of the season, it appeared as though Sammy Watkins deserved to be the first receiver taken in the 2014 draft.  However, as the season progressed Watkins’ numbers were devastated by poor QB play in Buffalo.  Unless the Bills can trade up in the draft and grab Winston or Mariota (probably not going to happen), it is unlikely that the Bills QB situation will improve in 2015.  A natural talent, Watkins is plagued by a poor offense and poor system.  Additionally, Watkins doesn’t have the speed (4.43-40) of fellow rookie Brandin Cooks (4.33-40), or the size (6’1” 205 lbs) of fellow rookie Kelvin Benjamin (6’5” 243 lbs), or the hands of fellow rookie Odell Beckham Jr.  Though it is undeniable that Watkins is a natural talent, all of these factors lead us to believe that we may see a true sophomore slump from Watkins next season.

 

Projected WR Rank: 28th Overall

 

 Though we’ve only covered the top five rookie wide outs from last season, the rest of the rookie class deserves recognition, and in fact some may even make a jump ahead of the 5 WRs listed above.  Listed below are the projected ranks of the remaining top 13 rookie wide receivers in order of their 2014 rank:

 

7)     Martavis Bryant* – Projected WR Rank: 32nd Overall

8)     Jarvis Landry* – Projected WR Rank 35th Overall

9)     Brandin Cooks* – Projected WR Rank: 26th Overall

10   Taylor Gabriel – Projected WR Rank: 70th Overall

11   Allen Robinson – Projected WR Rank: 58th Overall

12   Donte Moncrief* – Projected WR Rank: 30th Overall

13   Davante Adams* – Projected WR Rank: 42nd Overall

 

 

Potential Sleepers = *

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Published in Fantasy Coverage

Editor’s note: This is part three of an eight-part series where we will look at each team’s receiving core by division and analyze which receiver will be the favorite for most targets. As fantasy owners know, targets are a crucial part of success for fantasy receivers. This week covers the NFC South.

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Saturday, 16 August 2014 00:00

Preseason players on the rise

While success during the preseason does not guarantee fantasy success, there were a few players who made positive first impressions. While most of the starters will not play more than a series or two in the opening week, that does not mean fantasy football owners will not take note on how prospective players are perform. Here are four players who are on the rise after their first preseason game.

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Page 1 of 2

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