• 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.

  • The Fantasy Football Arm-Chair GM Rookie Symposium

    Now that Free Agency Frenzy has settled down these past several weeks, all fantasy football owners are eyeing the NFL Draft which will be held April 27-29 as the last true roster shakeup before OTA’s begin shortly thereafter. Of course, the total unknown for us fantasy owners is where will the well-known and most celebrated skill position players land when those 3 days are over. And this is where yours truly, the resident arm-chair GM comes in, to guide you through these series of articles that will try to surmise where the best fantasy football fit will be for those players for the upcoming season.

    Leonard Fournette | RB

    New York Jets- Drafting in the 6th spot, they can go a myriad of directions, but there’s a chance Fournette could be on their radar as part of their rebuilding plan. Matt Forte, who is 30 years old, and Bilal Powell are both essentially finesse running backs and the Jets need a power back to control the clock and be the foundation of their offense since the quarterback position is in flux going into the 2017 season.

    Carolina Panthers- With the recent news of Cam Newton’s surgery to repair a partially torn right rotator cuff, it would seem to make logical sense for GM Dave Gettleman to strengthen the running game and draft Fournette with the 8th pick. Although Jonathan Stewart did receive a 1-year contract extension, he is 30 years old, has a well-known injury history, and the primary backups are Fozzy Whittaker and Cameron Artis-Payne. Fournette would bolster the ground game by being the short-yardage and goal line back instead of Newton.

    Jacksonville Jaguars- On the surface it wouldn’t seem that the Jags would have any interest in Fournette since they did add Chris Ivory as a free agent last season, but new Director of Football Operations, Tom Coughlin, wants this offense to be more physical, bruising, and smash-mouth and they could believe that Fournette fits the profile more than Ivory. TJ Yeldon will remain the 3rd down, change-of-pace back for Jacksonville. Now, where does this leave Ivory in this possible scenario? A trade or outright release are two options the Jaguars may be open to.

     

    Dalvin Cook | RB

    Green Bay Packers- The Packers has startlingly little depth at the RB position and perhaps this is the year GM Ted Thompson decides to draft a multi-faceted running back with the 29th pick which will compliment Aaron Rodgers’ potent offense. Ty Montgomery, who spent the last half of the season in the backfield, will go into 2017 as a full-time running back but no one expects him to handle a full load and the recently re-signed Christine Michael, who always teases his ability, but rarely does it show up in a consistent manner. They are the only running backs under contract for Green Bay, therefore, adding Cook’s ability to play all 3-downs would be an invaluable asset to their offense in the long run. But first, he needs to master pass blocking or he’ll never get on the field.

    Washington Redskins- At the 17th drafting slot, it may see a little bit of a reach for them to take Cook, but he has a chance to get opportunities immediately since the team hasn’t been given incumbent Robert Kelley the stamp of approval and named him the starting running back. Matt Jones, the other running back who did start the season, may be released or traded to make room for a rookie running back (like Cook perhaps). There will be a new look at the wide receiver position since both Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson left via free agency but replaced them with Terrelle Pryor and Brian Quick but they may need a consistent running game early in the season before the new targets get acclimated to Kirk Cousins and the Washington offense and that’s where Dalvin Cook can be very useful in controlling the clock or being an outlet in the passing game. Washington could use some playmaking/explosiveness in the backfield and Cook fits the bill nicely.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers- With the 4-game suspension of Doug Martin to begin the season, Tampa might be in the market for another younger, cheaper running back and Cook may be the answer. Yes, yes, I know that they re-signed Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims is still on the roster, but Dalvin Cook has the versatility to be on the field for all 3 downs and perhaps he can be Tampa’s consistent running game to go along with Jameis Winston, Mike Evans, Cameron Brate, and newly acquired DeSean Jackson and be a more diverse and explosive offense.

     

    Christian McCaffrey | RB

    Philadelphia Eagles- Let’s make no mistake about it: The Eagles running game needs an infusion of talent, toughness, and quickness to help the development of their second-year quarterback, Carson Wentz. Since the Eagles did upgrade the wide receiver corps with the signings of Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith, it would make logical sense for them to add a running back and they might use the 14th pick in the draft for the sole purpose to target McCaffrey because of his talent, versatility, and underrated toughness. He can be used as a receiver, punt/kickoff returner, or as a running back. The running back depth chart will not be as crowded as you would believe; Ryan Mathews might be released, Darren Sproles is 34 years old and is more dangerous as a punt returner and receiver out of the backfield, and Wendell Smallwood is the second year back trying to prove himself in the league. So if McCaffrey can make a mark for the Eagles during OTA’s, training camp, and the pre-season, he’s a weapon that could make the Eagles a more potent team in the NFC East.

    Indianapolis Colts- Frank Gore is 34 years old and can’t continue being the starting running back forever; so the Colts new GM Chris Ballard should be looking for his heir apparent and if he should choose, selecting Andrew Luck’s fellow Stanford alum in McCaffrey would be a prudent choice. He would be an asset in the passing game since the Colts do like to use their running backs as outlets for Luck; his return game skills may take some unnecessary pounding off of TY Hilton, and he could make the Colts running game a viable option if the passing game were to struggle during the season.

    Green Bay Packers- If the Packers decide to pass on Cook, drafting McCaffrey instead may even be a better fit with this rather potent passing offense. The virtual “swiss army knife” can be positioned anywhere on the field (backfield, slot, outside the numbers) and create mismatches for head coach Mike McCarthy to take advantage of and be a valuable weapon for Aaron Rodgers. His dynamic return skills can not only give the Packers offense great field position, it can allow Randall Cobb to focus 100 percent on becoming the best wide receiver he can be. As for the running game, it could be a dynamic 1-2 punch with Ty Montgomery in the beginning, but that may cap both of their fantasy ceilings, but he has the potential to be fantasy relevant.

     

    Corey Davis | WR

    Tennessee Titans- At first glance, it may seem odd that I have the Titans here as a possible landing spot for Davis, but let me explain my reasoning. Although their offensive profile is “exotic-smashmouth”, using one of the two first-round picks (likely the 18th pick), Tennessee drafting Davis would be a plus expected value move because he’s an additional weapon at the wide receiver position to go along with Rishard Matthews and he helps the franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota. The sooner Davis becomes the starter and becomes a tangible threat, the sooner defenses account for him and then the running game featuring DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry can REALLY go to town on opposing teams.

    Arizona Cardinals- Eventually the Cardinals will need a replacement for the future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald who will turn 34 August 31st.  Drafting 13th, Arizona may want to look at Davis as Fitzgerald’s possible heir apparent and another weapon to go along with John Brown, David Johnson, J.J. Nelson, and Jermaine Gresham for Carson Palmer to play with. It may be hard for Davis to crack the starting lineup when the season opens, but his performance during OTA’s and training camp may determine his snap count and target shares early in the season.

    The possibility exists that he will come on in the second half of the year once he has a better grasp of the Cardinals’ offensive scheme. Keep him on your fantasy radar if for some reason an injury occurs in the wide receiver corps; he will get a definite snap count and target share increase.

    Mike Williams | WR

    Buffalo Bills- There’s a gaping hole at the wide receiver position and the Bills desperately need to fill it since they decided to re-sign Tyrod Taylor and make him their quarterback for the foreseeable future. Both Marquise Goodwin and Robert Woods, who spent their entire careers with the Bills, left via free agency. Their departure leaves a substantial number of targets to be filled and the depth chart behind incumbent Sammy Watkins leaves little to be desired so it’s extremely plausible that Williams could be the starter beside with Sammy for Week 1 of the regular season. Therefore his fantasy value would be as a solid WR2 since both of them will soak up all of the snaps and targets at the receiver position.

    Baltimore Ravens- This is another team with a target vacuum at the wide receiver position with the retirement of Steve Smith, Sr. and the departure of Kamar Aiken. The presumed starters are the veteran speedster Mike Wallace and their 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman so there’s some chance for a drafted receiver (like Mike Williams) to get some snaps, targets, and receptions if they grasp the offense rather quickly. Under offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, the Ravens have become a much more passing team and Mike Williams should fit right in and become a fantasy relevant wide receiver in the range of a WR3 with WR2 upside.

    Now let me leave you with one small bit of advice: When watching the coverage of the NFL Draft during the 3-day period, don’t overlook the Day 2 or Day 3 draft picks; they may wind up being fantasy football hidden gems that may help you to the elusive championship in the fall. Better yet, I’ll do the service of listing some of those players in Part 2 of my Rookie Symposium series.

     

    Your fantasy football arm-chair GM,

    Michael Stepney

    FORTUNE FAVORS THE BOLD

    Photo Links:

    http://footballscoop.com/news/snakes-chasing-stanfords-christian-mccaffrey/

    http://www.scout.com/college/football/story/1699567-2016-preseason-heisman-watch-list

    http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/no-combine-or-pro-day-for-western-michigans-corey-davis-after-ankle-surgery/

    http://www.ohio.com/sports/college-football/college-football-clemson-wide-receivers-mike-williams-deon-cain-will-play-against-alabama-1.738077

    http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/sports/college/story/2015/sep/19/fournette-powers-no-13-lsu-past-no-18-auburn-45-21/326090/

  • Blind Vision- How Going Blind Has Helped Me Win Fantasy Football Titles

    By: Tom Petrillo aka @tpetrillo80

    Watching 50 hours a week of game film, watching all the highlight shows on the different platforms, watching all the games every week. Whether from NFL analysts or fantasy analysts this is what you're constantly bombarded with. For the first 32 years of my life, I was like everybody else in America and bought into this concept. But now I know differently. This is my story.
    Almost 5 years ago, I went blind due to my poor life choices and not taking care of my diabetes for a decade and a half. I knew many aspects of my life would change. I would never be able to drive again, it would be difficult for me to ever find a job, and the most difficult of all, I would never physically see any of my family and friends again. That is why I sleep a lot. When I sleep, I dream. When I dream I have visions of my family and friends. What they looked like the last time I could see them and it brings me some form of comfort.

    One thing I did not immediately realize is how it would drastically change how I follow sports. I can't watch the game film anymore, Neither can I watch the highlights or the games on Sunday. But I can still follow it, and in many ways, I feel like I can follow it better than those who have sight.

    Everybody remembers watching some player nobody's ever heard of rip off a 70-yard run, spinning like Barry Sanders and juking the defenders out of their cleats and immediately running out the next week and plucking that guy off waivers. I'm guilty of it just as much as the next guy.

    But now, I may have heard about that 70-yard run, but I could not see him make the miraculous moves that want you to go out and get him. I look at the stat line, and I see 26 rushes for 99 yards. I won’t be enamored by the 70-yard run. I will hear the stat line and be unencumbered by the highlights and can focus on the numbers. This has helped me avoid busts like Joseph Randle and C.J. Spiller in the past. I like to call this blind vision. It has not only helped me in fantasy football in which I have one at least one championship every year since I went blind.

    It also helps me in life. It helps me talk to people, which I have done a lot more since I went blind. When I could see, I could never give oral reports or stand up in front of anybody and give speeches. Now that I am blind and I can't see who is in front of me I am able to talk to a lot more people, we get to know each other's true selves because I listen to them. I don't make snap judgments based on what they look like or what they're wearing but I get to know the heart of the person by the words they speak.

    I truly feel that going blind has not been a hindrance for me but a blessing. I'm still alive, I am still kicking and most importantly I am meeting true human beings. In many ways, these individuals have a truer sight than those who have 20/20 vision. If everybody went blind for six months this world would be a much better place.

    Oh! And one public service announcement for all those sports commentators out there, when you go to commercial breaks or especially at the end of the game announce the score. Do your blind sports fans a favor and give us the score, paint us a picture, and announce the game.

  • Rookie Profile: Patrick Mahomes

    Comparison: Cam Newton

    Best Fit: Houston Texans

    The Texans are an incredibly talented team, on both sides of the ball, and have one of the best coaching staffs in the league. Bill O’Brien, a proven quarterback guru, (who has won games with Brock Osweiler, Tom Savage, Brandon Weedon, T.J. Yates, Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett) would be the best coach to fix Mahomes’ mechanical issues and place him in a position to succeed.

    Mahomes is at his best when he plays freely and O’Brien would instil confidence in him, allowing him to do what he does best. Behind a solid offensive line, and in theory a solid running game, Mahomes and his huge arm could utilise one of the most explosive and dynamic receiving corps in the league with DeAndre Hopkins, second year burner Will Fuller and an all-world athlete in Braxton Miller. This Texans offense could in theory be reminiscent of an air-raid Texas Tech offense, built on big passing plays and high-flying, high-scoring offense. With all of the blue-chip pieces the Texans have in place on offense, fantasy owners everywhere would be desperate to see a situation like this happen and bring fantasy relevance back to Houston.

    Scouting Report

    Mahomes presents himself as one of the more intriguing players in the entire 2017 draft. From a glance at a far he certainly appears to be a special player. With one of the biggest arms in recent memory, Mahomes has put up huge numbers (as is the trend for Texas Tech quarterbacks) in the Kliff Kingsbury offense over the past two years while in the starting role and has a highlight reel to rival any and all. However, on closer inspection many mechanical flaws can be identified with Mahomes’ throwing motion and footwork in particular and herein lies the division of opinions on his draft stock.

    Mahomes fans will state that his production speaks for itself and this cannot be argued with. 5,052 yards, 53 total touchdowns and only 10 interceptions in only 12 games is outstanding production undoubtedly. However, much like another Big 12 team in Baylor, Texas Tech’s offensive system is geared towards producing video-game statistics and not towards preparing players for pro-style offenses. Ex-Baylor and New York Jets quarterback Bryce Petty also had gaudy numbers at the collegiate level yet that has failed to translate in the NFL. Detractors of Mahomes will also cite a total of 27 sacks taken in 2016 also. Mahomes may be 6’3’’ and 230 lbs, yet no rookie quarterback can sustain that kind of beating in the NFL.

    The biggest flaw of Mahomes however is his mechanics. His rare arm talent allowed him to overcome this at the college level yet NFL defenses are faster, stronger and more complicated. Poor mechanics breed bad throws and bad throws often result in interceptions. Mahomes rarely sets his feet or steps into throws and so loses both extra power and accuracy. His unstable base throws off his upper body mechanics too meaning that his shoulders are never flat at release, a trait that results in looping, easily intercepted passes.

    Mahomes cleaned up his footwork at the NFL Combine last week yet anyone can appear fleet-footed when there is no real opposition. Mechanical fixes are a lengthy process and are only proven when quarterbacks are put under pressure. Mahomes and his future NFL team could follow the Cam Newton and Carolina Panthers model in order to develop him as a player. Newton struggled with similar mechanical flaws to Mahomes coming out of college, relying on his arm over his mechanics and while he had minor success in his first few seasons it was not until Newton spent a full offseason fixing his mechanics that we saw his full MVP level potential.

    As the raw prospect he is now, Mahomes would be much better suited to becoming a back-up and sitting behind a veteran while he develops. This model allowed Aaron Rodgers to sit and observe Brett Favre in Green Bay while fixing his own mechanical issues. However, it is very believable that if Mahomes was forced into the starting line-up due to an injury that he could have surprising success. His knack for making ‘wow’, big threat plays could very easily steer a team to a small string of victories however if placed in the spotlight for too long it is easy to see defenses figuring out ways to stop Mahomes. If this was to happen it may be worth taking a shot on Mahomes in your line-up for a few weeks. There is no reward without risk.

    Follow Will on twitter @willpendosports

     

  • The Fantasy Football Arm-Chair GM Free Agency Primer

     It's the middle of February and you're eagerly awaiting the NFL Combine, which signals the unofficial beginning of the new league year. But, the actual start of the new league year coincides with the start of free agency, March 9th. This is the first component of team building (the Free Agency Frenzy) with all 32 teams jockeying for position to acquire player(s) that could change their fortunes and jump-start their chances to reach the playoffs, or perhaps even a Super Bowl. The second component of team building for the 2017 season is the NFL Draft (which runs April 27th-29th) and is where most teams would want to build the core of their team through. And, there will undoubtedly be several rookies that will make a sizeable impact for their respective NFL teams this season, and ipso facto your fantasy team.

    Of course, the question you’re probably asking me is: “What the hell does this have to do with my fantasy football team?” My answer is: “If you give me a thousand words, I’ll gladly show you the correlation between free agency, the draft, and fantasy football.”

    Free Agency

    Free Agency is a tool that as a fantasy football owner you must continually monitor to get the latest information because player value and production can wildly fluctuate depending on what team he signs with and the offense he will be in. It is also useful in a predictive fashion too, you can take a look at the “markets” that have been set for certain positions and use that information to anticipate the moves of both players and teams.

    NFL Draft

    Now as for the Draft, a rookie can show up immediately and impress the offensive coaching staff and be rewarded with more playing time with the No. 1 offense and be a surprise playmaker to increase his fantasy value to owners who are looking for that hidden gem.

    Now that’s been fully explained, let’s cut to the chase and look at the important impending free agents and see where they may have a big fantasy impact for the 2017 season:

    Alshon Jeffrey | WR

    Suffice it to say Jeffrey very easily could have been the winner of the shitty timing award when it came to having a down statistical year and being suspended 4 games for PED use before his walk year. Fortunately, the cap keeps rising, the crop around him is weak and he is perhaps the top name on the market (possibly at any position).  I believe that he’ll get huge interest from teams looking for a physical, big-bodied WR1 who can make contested catches and is a potent red-zone threat. It is entirely possible that Jeffrey will sign a contract making him one of the highest-paid wide receivers in the entire NFL. In fact, it wouldn’t shock me if he came away with one of the biggest contracts ever recorded for a wide receiver, that is simply where we are now with this cap rising and the lack of talent out on the open market. (For what it is worth I could see him making around $18 million dollars a season, making him the top prize in the free agent market).

    Potential suitors: Eagles, Ravens, 49ers, Buccaneers

    Kenny Stills | WR  

    If you look at his “surface” numbers, nothing about Stills’ season screams “high-priority” free agent, but if you do that, I’d simply reply with “When I can join your league?”  Stills’ yard per catch (YPC) since the New Orleans Saints made him the 144th overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft has been above 14.0, meaning whenever the ball comes his way, it’s usually for a huge chunk play down the field. All he needs is a legitimate chance to be the WR2 in an offense and his statistics have a chance to rise exponentially. Plus, he has an advantage that GM’s crave:  He’s a young veteran entering his free agency period (He will turn 26 on April 22nd).

    Potential suitors: Dolphins, Eagles, Buccaneers

    DeSean Jackson | WR

    Now, here’s the other prize jewel of the wide receiver free agent crop! Everyone under the sun knows what D-Jax is all about: taking deep shots, yards-after-catch, and of course scoring touchdowns. With his time with Washington seemingly coming to an end (IF you believe the media reports coming out of D.C.) His services are available to the highest bidder (he’s all about getting his paper). But, he did say that he wanted to play with a GREAT quarterback. Notwithstanding trying to get a nice contract for himself, the next team that acquires him will immediately get a playmaker, game breaker, & someone who tilts the field dramatically for the offense; he truly is a player who takes the top off of the defense.

    Potential suitors: Eagles, Buccaneers, 49ers

    Terrelle Pryor | WR

    The former quarterback, who switched positions after flaming out as the signal caller in Oakland, broke the 1,000-yard barrier in his first full season as a wide receiver (and this came with the carousel of epic mediocrity that the Cleveland Browns ran out at quarterback last season). While some maturity questions may still linger with Pryor, his play last season showed glimpses of even a higher ceiling. If the Browns are smart, they will aggressively attempt to sign him to a lucrative long-term contract, which shouldn’t be difficult seeing they have the most cap space in the entire NFL.

    Potential suitors: Browns, Buccaneers, 49ers

     

    The QB free agent class this year isn’t comprised of any franchise type, but there are several who could make a team markedly better. Mike Glennon, who has spent his entire career in Tampa Bay, is seeking to become a starter and will cash in with a nice starter-level contract (or become the highest paid backup in the league, outside of Brock Osweiler I suppose). Jay Cutler will probably be cut from the Bears and despite having great natural throwing talent, his maddening inconsistency and propensity for throwing back-breaking interceptions may prevent him from being pursued as anything more than a bridge quarterback again. Kirk Cousins may seek a trade to the 49ers from Washington to play with his old offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who is also their newly named head coach, but the reality is he will probably end up playing one more season in Washington under the franchise tag before totally redefining the quarterback market next season as the most sought after free agent.

    Martellus Bennett | TE

    The mercurial, but talented tight end finally seemed to find a home in New England with Brady and Belichick. Bennett turned into a savvy low-cost investment with the season-ending injury to Rob Gronkowski; he was an integral piece to the Patriots winning Super Bowl LI and now he’s hitting free agency at the absolute perfect time. At the moment, with the uncertainty of Gronk’s health coming into the 2017 season, it would behoove the Patriots to make a reasonable offer to keep Bennett in the fold. Watch for the NY Giants to possibly make a play for Bennett since they have a glaring need at the TE position, reuniting him with a quarterback and offense scheme where he’s already had previous success.

    Potential suitors: Patriots, Giants, Lions  

    LeGarrette Blount | RB

    The hammer of the Pats running game had a career year with 18 rushing TDs (no, that’s a typo!) and helped the Pats win their 5th Super Bowl as a franchise. Now Blount hits free agency with a lot of momentum behind him and is probably looking at a long-term contract with some nice guarantees worked in. It’s possible that Mr. Blount finds his market to be cooler than anticipated when you factor in his age (he will be 30 at the start of next season) and the issues he has already with the league. I could see a team like the Raiders making a play for his services to replace Latavius Murray should he depart via free agency.

    Potential suitors: Patriots, Raiders, Packers

    Danny Woodhead | RB

    The versatile, tough as nails, red zone magnet is recovering from an ACL tear suffered early in the 2016 season and is currently a free agent. His production as a member of the Chargers has warranted at least a 1-yr incentive based contract with a team that needs a steady, veteran running back with a nose for the end zone. Inevitably some fantasy football pundits will look at Woodhead and argue this: “he’s suffered 2 season-ending injuries the last 2 years, he’s getting brittle or injury-prone”.

    My retort would be: “Don’t be afraid to take low-cost risks for high-leverage gains.” Woodhead will make any team in the NFL better because of his knowledge, toughness, and ability to score TD’s. The Los Angeles Chargers would be wise to sign him back to team with Melvin Gordon and they will have a formidable 1-2 punch in their backfield.

    Potential suitors: Chargers, Packers, Colts, Rams, Buccaneers

     

    As of March 4th, two big name running backs and a wide receiver, who are also 30+ years of age, were released by their respective teams making them unrestricted free agents available to sign with any team.

    Adrian Peterson | RB

    To the surprise of no one, the Vikings made the proactive decision to release their all-time leading rusher since they weren’t going to go into the 2017 season paying a 31-year old (He’ll be 32 in March) running back $18 million, especially considering he suffered his second major knee injury in as many years last season. The early release gives Peterson and his agent a chance to get to test the free agent running back market and see if there’s a team willing to give Peterson a contract of his suiting when free agency begins. If not, it is entirely possible he could come back home to the Vikings, but at a much lower price.

    Potential suitors: Vikings, Giants, Seahawks

    Jamaal Charles | RB

    After 9 very productive seasons, the Kansas City Chiefs released the 30-year old running back deciding to go with Spencer Ware, Charcandrick West, and the recently signed CJ Spiller as their main backfield. I still believe that Charles has something left in the tank and it would be an interesting move for a team looking for a running back that can be a home run hitter and a dynamic playmaker (Hello Eagles). He averaged 5.0 yards a carry or better in 7 of his first 8 seasons (He averaged 4.97 in 2013). But his 2016 season was derailed by recurring problems with both knees, and he struggled to get on the field.

    As being a fantasy football GM goes, it would be a next level move to take a late flier in summer drafts on Jamaal Charles being able to recapture some of his former glory more than Peterson. He’s a power back with declining yards per carry for the last several years and Charles needs fewer touches to be a factor whether through running the ball or being a pass receiver out of the backfield.

    Potential suitors: Eagles, Colts, Raiders, Packers

    Brandon Marshall | WR

    On March 2nd, it was announced that the New York Jets will give Marshall his unconditional release, although they did offer him a contract for the 2017 season per various media reports. However, Marshall is seeking a chance to win a championship with another team and asked for his release in order to find a franchise that is not in the midst of a complete rebuild. I personally believe Marshall has something left in the tank and teams on the precipice of a playoff berth should be looking at him for that missing piece.

    Potential suitors: Ravens, Cowboys, Patriots, Raiders  

     

    In closing, when it comes to the correlation between free agency and fantasy football, be cognizant of all the major media reports/signings when it begins March 9th. It could radically affect who you’re thinking about taking in your league drafts later in the summer. Stay a top of all news coming from the team’s beat writers to see who’s doing well and who’s struggling.

    Don’t be content reading out of date magazines; be proactive instead of reactive. That’s why I’m here to keep you up-to-date with all of the NFL transactions relevant to fantasy football.

     

    FORTUNE FAVORS THE BOLD

    Hoping to make your fantasy football season much easier and fun.

    Your fantasy football GM,

    Michael Stepney(@MStepney71)

  • Perfect Match: Finding The Next Zeke, Pt. 3

    Last Year around this time draftniks began floating the idea, “What if Zeke goes to Dallas?” It was a perfect landing spot for him, great OL, veteran QB (or so we thought), and an amazing skill set that would allow him to play 3-downs from the beginning. Sure enough, that is where Zeke found himself and the rest is history.

    But how will that affect us in 2017?

    It will surely touch off a “search for the next Ezekiel Elliott.”

    In the final installment of Perfect Match, I will pair a major piece of shit with one of the games with one of the game’s most storied franchises. I’ll also match one of the most physically gifted TE prospects in years with a team begging for another offensive weapon and I’ll match another TE with an innovative first-time coach.

    Joe Mixon- I didn’t exactly bury the lede with my description of Joe Mixon. By now, we have all seen the videos of him doing a despicable act of violence. We live in a society, however, that gives second chances to talented individuals. Fortunately for Mixon, he is one of the most talented RBs in the world. At 6’1 226, Joe Mixon may be the most physically gifted RB in this year’s draft. He can mix speed with power and his catching ability is a legitimate strength. What is most impressive with Mixon are his feet. He has some absolutely amazing footwork when negotiating a hole.

    Perfect Match- I think the perfect match for Joe Mixon would be in Green Bay. The Packers will most definitely be looking for an RB in the draft, possibly even two. If you recall, Eddie Lacy was drafted alongside Johnathan Franklin (forced into retirement due to injuries), so Ted Thompson is no stranger to loading up on rookie RBs. Mixon’s dynamic playmaking ability would be a major upgrade for the position and in many ways, Mixon is like a rich man’s Ty Montgomery. With Mixon and Montgomery on the field at the same time, the Packers could get very creative with their packages, almost always getting one of the two lined up across from an LB.

    Best Case/Worst Case- I think the Joe Mixon’s best case scenario involves him developing into a Le’Veon Bell-type RB. He has even displayed some of Bell’s trademark patience during his time at Oklahoma. Worst case scenario for Mixon is a who’s who of talented players who have fallen by the wayside due to character concerns. Let’s hope he doesn’t go the way of the Ray McDonalds and Greg Hardys of the world.

    David Njoku- David Njoku is an elite athlete for the TE position. In H.S., Njoku was a national high jump champion. At 6’4 245 lbs, he has the prototypical build for a TE in today’s NFL. In his time at Miami, Njoku showed the ability to be a deep threat, as well as, a zone-buster. I think his elite athleticism will be on display at the combine, where he will skyrocket up draft boards.

    Perfect Match- The perfect match for Njoku is the New York Giants. The Giants have had a gaping hole at TE for years which has left Eli without a valuable option in the passing game. But even UDFA guys like Will Tye have found success in short periods at TE for the Giants. If Njoku were to be drafted by the Giants, he and OBJ would immediately become one of the most athletic WR-TE tandems in the league. With Sterling Shepard being exclusively a slot guy, the Giants need a TE with the versatility of Njoku to open up the offense and give Manning another homerun threat in the passing game.

    Best Case/Worst Case­- David Njoku has all of the tools to become a star in the NFL but he merely lacks experience at the position. Another guy who lacked experience at the position who went on to do great things was Antonio Gates. Did you know he played basketball?! Unfortunately, there are other cautionary tales of elite athletes that do not pan out. Case in point, Matt Jones. At 6’6 237 lbs, Jones ran a sub-4.4 40-yard dash at the combine. That was probably the highlight of his NFL career because a lack of polish at his position combined with enough funds for copious amounts of cocaine was Jones’ undoing.

    Evan Engram- Here is a guy who I absolutely love as a football player. Coming into the 2016 season, there were questions as to whether Engram was a WR or a TE. Engram worked at his craft and put on some mass to silence those questions. Evan Engram is a TE and a damn good one at that. He has soft hands and the ability to create separation from defenders. He has the ability to move all over the field and create mismatches.

    Perfect Match- One coach who is known for creating mismatches is Kyle Shanahan. Currently, the 49ers are completely devoid of playmakers. Their best TE is the oft-injured Vance McDonald and they have no real weapons at the WR position. Engram would immediately become the best weapon in the passing game for the 49ers.

    Best Case/Worst Case- Engram’s best case and worst case play on the same team. I think that with Engram’s RZ ability and versatility, he could grow into a healthier version of Jordan Reed. He could also become a Niles Paul. A talented guy who’s frame just isn’t quite big enough to hold the mass necessary to compete in the NFL.

    That concludes the Perfect Match Series, if you missed the first two editions here are the links:

    Part Two

    Part One

Podcasts

Episode 169: Overrated/underrated players Pt. 2

Monday, 10 April 2017 00:00
Adam Inman, George Banko, Andy Ferris and special guest Dominick Petrillo debate who's currently being overdrafted and underdrafted according to various Mock Draft sites. They tell who you should think about drafting and who
Read more...

Episode 168: Overrated/underrated players Pt. 1

Monday, 10 April 2017 00:00
Adam Inman, George Banko, Andy Ferris and special guest Dominick Petrillo debate who's currently being overdrafted and underdrafted according to various Mock Draft sites. They tell who you should think about drafting and who
Read more...

Episode 167: Free Agency Breakdown with Special Guest Rumford Johnny Part Two

Monday, 27 March 2017 00:00
The Fantasy Football Helpers and Rumford Johnny finish out the ten most intriguing teams as we round out free agency and look forward to the draft. Rummy joins Jaben for the second half of the podcast, be sure to listen to th
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Episode 166: Free Agency Breakdown with Special Guest Rumford Johnny

Monday, 27 March 2017 00:00
Rumford Johnny joins the Fantasy Football Helpers to break down 10 of the most intriguing teams after the moves in free agency and we take look ahead at the draft. We lead the show talking about the most active team in free a
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Episode 165: Latavius Murray's best situation

Monday, 27 February 2017 00:00
On this edition of the pod, Will Pendleton and George Banko discuss Latavius Murray's fantasy value going forward, if any rookie quarterbacks will be fantasy relevant in 2017 and why Christian McCaffrey is one of the most fas
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Episode 164: Perkins, Richard and other RBs on our radar

Tuesday, 14 February 2017 00:00
On this episode of the Helpers pod, Will Pendleton and George Banko discuss several backfields including the Oakland Raiders and New York Giants. Link to original photo.
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Waiver Wire

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),
Read more...

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
Read more...

Fantasy Film Projector: Christian McCaffrey

Monday, 13 March 2017 00:00
Editor's note: This is the second installment of the Fantasy Film Projector series for 2017. The goal of the Fantasy Film Projector is to help you identify traits from college players that will translate to points for your fa
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Aaron Rodgers Will Raise This Player's Fantasy Value In 2017

Saturday, 04 March 2017 00:00
In 2015, the Packers were missing something in their offense. The glaringly obvious fact was that Aaron Rodgers no longer had Jordy Nelson due to a knee injury. In addition, the Packers were missing a tight end that could run
Read more...

Fantasy film projector: Jeremy McNichols

Thursday, 23 February 2017 00:00
On this edition of the Fantasy Film Projector, we discuss Boise State running back Jeremy McNichols and where his skill set fits into the NFL fantasy picture as a rookie in 2017. Background McNichols played 3 seasons at B
Read more...

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.

Link to original photo

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.

Link to join Draftkings $10M Fantasy Football Tournament for Week 1. $25 buy in but it's the largest payout they've ever given.

Link to original photo

 

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

Goal of this podcast: To talk a little bit about some players in the early preseason who have piqued our interest a little bit. Obviously, it’s just the preseason, so you don’t know for sure if what these players are doing will translate to the regular season. But there were a few players who we saw do some eye-opening things that deserve some attention and overall fantasy consideration. We also talk a little bit about a few players who haven’t piqued our interest even though they should’ve by now.

Published in Podcasts
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