• Why you should draft a lot of Damien Harris in 2019

    When it comes to drafting running backs late, you want to find a guy with upside.

    There's no exact science to upside. But you want a reasonably talented back who could see opportunity. You also want him in an offense that can maximize his skill set.

    The New England Patriots are a team that maximizes running back value as good as any in the NFL. It's also looking like they will be doing much more of that in 2019.

    Last season's success

    The Patriots ran the ball a lot more in 2018.

    They used a combination of James White and Sony Michel and the results were solid.

    Both running backs finished in the Top 25 overall. Only the Chicago Bears achieved the same feat with Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard.

    In Week 4, White and Michel combined for over 40 fantasy points.

    The reason this worked was because Michel was the ground guy, rushing for 112 yards and a touchdown. White finished with eight catches for 68 yards and a touchdown. So he was the clear receiving back.

    But things got messy when Michel went down with an injury. In Week 13, backup running back James Develin sniped 2 touchdowns on 4 carries.

    This Patriots offense has a clear system with running backs that works. This is why backup Damien Harris could become a major fantasy asset this season.

    Why the Patriots offense is good for running backs

    The Patriots are a SMART team. There's a reason they've won as 6 Super Bowls despite being in a league where it's hard to stay on top.

    This is because they follow the analytics. One of those analytics is rushing attempts inside the 5.

    The Patriots ran the ball a lot on the goal line. Michel had 12 carries inside the 5 last season, tied for fifth most in the NFL.

    Harris is a power back who would be an ideal goal line guy for New England.

    Two, they throw the ball to running backs on first down a lot. This is the new way to get first downs in the modern game. It also leads to more scoring opportunities.

    2019 offensive outlook for New England

    The Patriots are going to be one of the more run-heavy teams in the league again this season. This is largely because they don't have much at receiver this year. They lost Rob Gronkowski to retirement. There have been reports that rookie N'Keal Harry has struggled with drops in camp. Josh Gordon's status for reinstatement is still up in the air and Phillip Dorsett is just a guy. As of now, Julian Edelman is the only sure thing they have. But he's only a slot receiver.

    Why Harris is a good selection

    The biggest reason Harris is a good selection is Michel's injury status. There's a lot of concern that Michel's knee injury is worse than most of its kind. It's likely he could be held out the entire preseason. This is giving Harris valuable reps to get up to speed faster.

    Plus, Harris is a power back who will fill Michel's role nicely. His ball security and pass protection ability are both excellent for a rookie. He should instill trust in coach Bill Bellichick right out of the gate. He's a threat to take carries away from Michel at some point during the season.

    Great ADP value

    As of now, Harris is going off draft boards as an RB44. He's behind other backup running backs like Ronald Jones II and Latavius Murray.

    Harris is probably a better choice than both of those backs. His offensive line is better. His skill set fits perfectly for his specific role. Plus he will also have plenty of red zone running opportunities.

    Now, all of Harris's fantasy value rests on the health of Michel. So if Michel turns out to be fine, then Harris won't matter. But there's enough question marks on Michel to make Harris worth the risk. If you even want to call it that considering there isn't much else to draft at that spot.

    So buy as much Harris stock as you can in 2019. You'll be glad you did.

    Link to original photo.

     

  • This limiting belief will kill your fantasy score

    One of the most common mistakes I see people making in fantasy football is...

    Getting too emotional.

    Here's one thing you you shouldn't say when drafting a fantasy player.

    'He burned me last year so I'm not drafting him this year.'

    This is one of the more common things I hear from fantasy players. They get salty about a guy they were really high on who didn't pan out during a particular season.

    For example, you're looking to draft the best quarterback possible in your fantasy draft. You immediately come across a guy like Andrew Luck.

    Now, Luck is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the league. But you drafted him back in 2015 and he finished as a QB27.

    As he comes across your draft board, your subconscious tells you...

    'No, not taking him. I can't trust him.'

    To that I say... Woah. Slow down there.

    Ok, you don't want to draft Luck. I get it.

    But just because he burned you four years ago is not a good reason to avoid taking him this year.

    Ask yourself these questions about Luck for this season.

    — Does he have good receivers to throw to?

    — Is he one of the most talented at his position?

    — Is his offensive line blocking well for him?

    — Is his defense so bad he will be forced to throw the team back into games?

    — Does he have a coach with the right system to maximize his talent?

    — Does he have an easy schedule?

    — Is he healthy?

    — Is he in his prime?

    If he checks all those boxes, then get over him burning you in 2015.

    If you don't want to take Luck because you'd rather draft a different position at that point in your draft, that's fine. Just make sure you avoid drafting someone for the right reasons.

    Not drafting a player because 'he burned you one time' is never a good excuse.

    I use Luck as an example because he's a quarterback on the verge of perhaps his best ever season in 2019. The Colts were the hottest team in the league down the stretch in 2018.

    Their coach, Frank Reicht, is one of the more effective quarterback coaches in the league. He turned Nick Foles into a Philadelphia legend for life. A guy who was almost out of the league before 2017.

    Now, Reicht will be using Luck in a way that maximizes his talent. Which involves him throwing the ball a ton.

    It's not out of the question to think Luck could lead the league in passing attempts in 2019.

    Even Blake Bortles finished as a QB3 when he passed the ball on a ton.

    Imagine what would happen if a talented quarterback like Luck leads the league in passing attempts. In an offense with big-time weapons like T.Y. Hilton.

    There's a real chance we see the best version of Luck ever in 2019.

    Ok, so this was partly an Andrew Luck hype piece and a partial philosophy piece on not letting your emotions get in the way in fantasy football.

    So there you have it.

    Stay rational out there.

    Link to original photo.

     

  • Can Rashaad Penny outkick his ADP?

    Don't get sucked into that recency bias thought pattern. You often miss out on drafting a great player when you do that. 

    Sure, Seattle Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny burned you last season. But while you're stewing over his dismal rookie campaign, somebody else is about to draft a gem.

    We can call a spade a spade here. Penny is coming off a disappointing rookie season. He rushed for just 419 yards and two touchdowns.

    But hold the phone, Penny did a lot of things well in 2018. Plus, things are shaping for him to have a major impact in 2019.

    One of the traits that sticks out about Penny is his ability to make big plays. Penny had two rushes of 30 yards or more in 2018. He also had nine rushes for over 15+ yards.

    Not only that, Penny got better as the season went along. After Week 4, he averaged 5.8 yards per carry and that number stuck for the rest of the season.

    Sure he started off slow, but many great NFL running backs plodded out of the gate. Shaun Alexander, another great Seattle back, rushed for 313 yards his rookie year. Alexander did just fine after that, rushing for over 9,000 total career yards.

    Excellent ADP value

    There's a lot of potential for Penny to blow the doors off his ADP in 2019.

    If you like to squeeze as much value out of the later rounds of your fantasy draft, Penny is a top flight option. He's going off at No. 67 overall according to Fantasy Football Calculator.

    When you look at the backs going ahead of him, No. 67 is a tremendous value. Penny is going behind Lamar Miller, a running back who's rushed for over 1,000 yards just twice in five seasons. Miller has also never cracked higher than 1,073 yards. He's the ultimate 'safe' pick if you even want to call him that.

    Penny is also going behind Derrius Guice. Guice is a running back we've already written about as a potential disappointment. But even recently he tweaked his hamstring and may miss the start of training camp. Guice also has a ton of competition behind him with Adrian Peterson, Samaje Perine, Chris Thompson and Bryce Love in the backfield. While Guice has a lot of talent, he just can't catch a break right now. If we had the choice between Guice and Penny, Penny is the obvious choice.

    Opportunity... it's there

    Penny has a serious chance to see a lot more carries in 2019.

    For one, he just has to beat out one guy for the starting job, and that's Chris Carson. The Seahawks let Mike Davis go in free agency, so you won't have to worry about that gross 3-headed monster attack.

    Chris Carson is coming off an excellent 2018 season, but his health is a concern. Carson recently 'had some work done' on his knee this past offseason. Details are vague and it could be nothing, but Carson already has some other injuries under his belt after two seasons. Plus, with a team looking to run the ball as much as Seattle is, you can expect even more wear and tear on Carson as the season goes along.

    Seattle's run heavy approach

    The Seahawks were the only team to run the ball more than they passed in 2018. And offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is doubling down on that approach in 2019.  

    The one minor knock on Penny's opportunity is Pete Carroll's unpredictable approach. Seahawks.com reporter John Boyle reports Carroll wants to adopt a 'hot-hand' approach. This usually translates to 'who knows I am going to just run some plays and see what works best.' This is often frustrating for fantasy players. But again, with Carson's injury history and Penny's ADP, it's well worth the risk for what you're paying.

    Work ethic getting better

    We always hear about players 'being in the best shape of their lives' knowing it's player speak. It's still good to see someone taking his game seriously. Penny is doing that in 2019.

    He hired a nutritionist in 2019, so he's taking better care of his body. He also met with Marshall Faulk twice a week in the offseason to study film.

    Are these game-changers for his fantasy value in 2019? Of course not. Most players study film and take good care of their bodies. But it's still good to see he's not exactly going off the rails like some players seem to always do. See Josh Gordon.

    Probability of outplaying ADP: Very high

    Penny is one of the best value picks in 2019. He plays in a run heavy offense. The starting back in Seattle has some injury history already and will likely need to take some snaps off. Plus he's got the versatility to make big plays in the passing game. You should be looking to draft him in as many leagues as possible.

     

     

     

  • Extracting late-round value in your fantasy draft: Ronald Jones II

    Drafting players who exceed their value in average draft position often separates the good teams from the truly great ones.

    So how do you give yourself the best chance of finding talent in the later rounds at the running back position? You have to find one that fits several categories.

    One guy with the potential is Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II. 

    So what do we like about this second-year back out of USC?

    Steady producer in college

    When it comes to predicting success, there's no greater indicator than college film. Specifically consistent, strong production over several years at the Division-I level. 

    Jones has this quality in spades. He burst onto the scene hard as a freshman at USC, averaging 6.5 yards per carry and 987 rush yards. He finished 2016 with 1,082 yards and 12 touchdowns that year. He finished strong in 2017, rushing for 1,550 yards and 19 touchdowns. And this was despite USC being a pass-heavy offense.

    I know it seems like an obvious strategy, but a lot of people end up reaching on an unproven back early because he has 'talent.' Sure, you're throwing some darts in the later rounds and not every player is going to fill every possible hole. But why not draft a guy who has talent but also showed he could produce at the college level?

    Not much competition to deal with

    The Buccaneers went extremely defensive heavy in the draft. They didn't take a running back and didn't even draft a skill position player until the sixth round, taking WR Scott Miller out of Bowling Green.

    Because of this, all Jones is competing with is ho-hum back Peyton Barber. Barber only averaged 3.7 yards per carry last season, so he didn't exactly blow the doors off the place. Plus he's on a one-year deal for a little over $2 million, so it's not like the Bucs are heavily invested in him. 

    When it comes to finding running backs who will produce fantasy points, you want to find a guy who the coach likes and will look to get the ball to. Volume is one of the most effective ways of predicting fantasy success. Even a mediocre running back getting 25 carries a game is better than a great running back getting 12 carries a game.

    Has the speed for big plays

    There's a lot of speed here with Jones. He's an explosive player. He was one of the faster guys at the 2018 combine, running a 4.48 40. He can stretch the field with his speed.

    When it comes to running backs, talent isn't the most important thing, volume is. However, the ability to rip off big runs at the second level is still very helpful. Often times a big 56-run will mitigate 10 runs of 3 yards or less. You want a running back with the capability of hitting a home run, and Jones has that.

    He's a dual threat

    Jones is a good route runner, has soft hands and catches the ball well. He wasn't asked to catch the ball a ton at USC, but he made the most of it when he did.

    Key tip: Receiving running backs are deadly. If you look at the top running backs from last season like Christian McCaffery, Alvin Kamara and Saquon Barkley, they all racked up a ton of targets.

    His current ADP is juicy

    Jones is going in the 9th-10th round in most fantasy drafts. Meaning you can get him at a steal. He's going around the likes of Adrian Peterson and Austin Ekeler. Now, his ADP will likely rise, especially if he shows out during preseason.

    Overall, Jones is a worthy dart throw running back this season because of his speed and opportunity.

     

     

     

  • Darrell Henderson is a potential league winner in 2019

    Todd Gurley has some issues, and people should be getting excited for rookie Darrel Henderson in 2019.

    ESPN's Lisa Thiry reported earlier that Todd Gurley will miss the entire preseason.

    While many weren't too concerned about Gurley's knee, it's definitely starting to look like there could be some issues now.

    If that's the case, it's important to adapt to the situation as a fantasy owner. That's why we look to the next guy up. Darrell Henderson.

    Why it matters for fantasy

    Gurley battled injury woes down the stretch last year, and he was the worst kind of fantasy player because of it.

    You didn't know what you were going to get with Gurley. But it was tough to bench him because he was such a stud.

    Also, we saw how good a backup running back can be behind the Rams potent offensive line.

    Running back C.J. Anderson had three games of 100+ yards in the playoffs last season, and was by the far the Rams best back in that stretch. With Anderson gone now, there's now more room in the offense for volume. 

    Why you should be excited about Henderson's immediate fantasy potential

    Henderson is by far the most explosive back coming out of the draft this season. He was also one of the most efficient running backs in college football history. You can read more about his stats and traits in our 'Talent Evaluation' section here.

    Also, the Rams traded up to get Henderson in the third round. Draft capital investment is often a good indicator of how soon a rookie sees the field. This shows that even if Gurley is healthy, the Rams are likely going to use Henderson anyway, making him valuable in deeper leagues.

    To top it off, you can currently get Henderson in the 8th round according to FFCalculator. Making him an absolute steal there.

    Is Malcolm Brown a problem?

    While Henderson has some opportunity, Malcolm Brown is still in the mix. The Rams hung on to him in the offseason and he's a talented enough back that could be a starter on several other teams.

    But should we get worried about Brown stealing touches?

    There's definitely some cause to worry. Brown is definitely going to get a shot as well. So he's a welcome dart throw as well.

    The current state of the Rams as a team

    The Rams burst out of the gate last season as one of the best offenses in the league. But many factors contributed to their team's slow decline near the end of the season.

    They had injuries to their key players, including key wide receiver Cooper Kupp. Plus Gurley's play declined as the season went along. Defenses also started to figure out Sean McVay's style, which lead to more teams beating them in the playoffs.

    But despite that, the Rams are still a very good offense heading into 2019. They'll have Kupp back. Sean McVay will also have to evolve his play style once again to counter other coaches counters. But he's proven to be a smart enough guy where I'm confident he'll do that.

    Final verdict

    Overall, Henderson has the potential to be a league winner for fantasy teams in 2019. The Rams offense will be among the best in the league. There's opportunity for high volume with Gurley's knee issues. The Rams showed a lot of interest trading up to get him in the third round.

    Lastly, Henderson is one of the most explosive rookie backs this season. Draft him in as many leagues as you can.

    Link to original author of photo 

     

  • Is Josh Jacobs really the best rookie RB to draft in 2019?

    The 2019 running back class didn't have a once-in-a-generation star. But many rookie running backs still have a chance to score massive amounts of fantasy points in 2019. As we know, landing spot matters a lot for running backs. And in the 2019 NFL Draft, many backs got drafted to teams in dire need of a running back.

    The most talented of the bunch was clearly Alabama prospect Josh Jacobs. But the question remains, is Josh Jacobs the best fantasy rookie running back to draft in 2019?

    The answer to that is undoubtedly yes. Don't say 'yeah but I think Miles Sanders blah blah blah or David Montgomery blah blah blah.' I know you (the reader) are saying that right now. But take off your contrarian hipster glasses, put down the Pabst Blue Ribbon, and keep on reading.

    Why Jacobs the better option

    Sure, there were plenty of other talented rookie running backs with promise. Miles Sanders went in the second round to Philadelphia, a team with a good offensive line and only an injury-riddled Jordan Howard to beat out. David Montgomery went to Chicago, which was a solid spot since there's no clear-cut starting RB on the roster. Both backs have good potential opportunity in 2019, but Jacobs rises above them all for several reasons.

    For one, there was no running back in a weak 2019 class more NFL ready than Jacobs. At Alabama, he showed he could run between the tackles, catch the ball and also pass protect (a common bugaboo among rookies). No running back in this rookie class was that solid in all three phases like Jacobs.

    Sanders and Montgomery, while talented, have some holes. Sanders runs tentative at times and Montgomery lacks long speed to separate from defenses.

    Jacobs isn't a speed demon either, but he's by no means slow. Jacobs even improved his 40-time on his second Pro Day, clocking in at 4.52 compared to 4.6 he ran on his first attempt. Plus, Jacobs' size creates more chances to break tackles and gives him a chance to rip off a big run.

    Where Jacobs can become an elite fantasy RB

    Jacobs is no doubt an excellent inside runner. He has great balance and runs with some anger to create yards after contact. According to Rotoworld's Graham Barfield (creator of Yards Created metric for Running Backs), Jacobs tied Saquon Barkley for 3rd highest percentage of carries to create 5 or more yards. This shows his propensity to break tackles.

    That alone is exciting. But there's an even bigger factor that could help Jacobs be the man in 2019.

    That factor comes in the passing game. Jacobs averaged 2.4 receiving yards per route in 2018, according to Graham Barfield. This ranked second among all rookie running backs. A good route runner who moves incredibly well for a guy his size, Jacobs can adjust his body to make difficult catches in ways most 220 lb backs can't. You can see some highlights of in this article here. He also has massive hands 10 inch hands, an obvious good trait for a pass catcher.

    Receivers do fantasy better

    In 2018, the Top 5 running backs (Todd Gurley, Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffery) all had at least 80 targets. And 3 of the 5 (Kamara, Barkley, and McCaffery) had over 100 targets. In 2017, three of the Top 5 fantasy RB's had over 87 targets, and the fourth had 79. While this is only a two-year sample, it's looking more like target numbers are becoming a huge indicator for fantasy success among running backs.

    Catching running backs score fantasy points regardless of game script. They rarely post '0' point weeks. If the defense is stopping them in the run game, they can flare out on screen passes and create yards in the open field. If the defense has slow linebackers, they can exploit those matchups for big gains in the pass game.

    Catching the ball is also good because it allows running backs to gain bigger chunks of yards in the open field. We saw Kareem Hunt do this especially well in 2017 on screen passes. Same thing with Barkley on the Giants in 2018. Jacobs isn't incredibly elusive like those backs, but he's fast enough and athletic enough to make people miss in the open field as well.

    The right spot with Oakland

    Jacobs steps into a golden opportunity with Oakland to showcase his receiving ability. With only Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington to contend with, it's tough to see Jacobs not starting immediately in 2019.

    The Raiders made some major splashes in free agency. grabbing arguably the best wide receiver in the league in Antonio Brown. They also added Tyrell Williams, a high-quality No. 2 who was a consistent touchdown producer with the Chargers. Williams is already impressing coaches in practice, and these receivers will move the chains and give Oakland more scoring opportunities in the red zone. When the Raiders get done around the goal line, Jacobs will be the top candidate to punch it in. This gives him added touchdown value.

    The big question is quarterback Derek Carr. Will he be able to return to his 2016 form when he was a Pro Bowl quaterback? He hasn't played at that level since the injury, but you could argue 2018 was a rebuilding year since the Raiders lost key weapons in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Carr has proven he's capable when he has the tools, and the Raiders certainly have them in 2019.

    Even more promising is the game script within the division. The Raiders play in the loaded AFC West, featuring MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City and future Hall of Famer Philip Rivers. There's going to be a lot of shootouts in these games, leading to more chances of getting Jacobs involved in the passing game and score touchdowns.

    Rookie running backs are the best kind of rookie

    Running back is a young man's position and so it's not surprising to see Jacobs as one of the top contenders to win this year's Offensive Rookie of the Year award. If you're playing the odds, three of the last five AP Offensive Rookie of The Year players were running backs. Those were Saquon Barkley (2018), Alvin Kamara (2017), and Todd Gurley (2015). All running backs finished in the Top 5 in standard fantasy scoring at their respective position.

    To go deeper on one of them Alvin Kamara finished 4th overall in standard fantasy scoring as a rookie. A big part of that was his 105 targets, which allowed him to snag 81 catches and 709 receiving yards. Kamara also had the fortune of playing with one of the three best quarterbacks of this generation in Drew Brees. 

    But while it's safe to say you won't expect Jacobs to amass 105 targets as a rookie since the Raiders are unlikely to be THAT prolific on offense, there's still plenty of opportunity to utilize his catching ability. The Raiders passed the ball 59 percent of the time last season, good for 12th overall. It's expected they'll throw more given their new weapons in Brown and Williams on the outside. So expect Jacobs to see his fair share of targets in 2019.

    Final verdict

    Josh Jacobs is an NFL ready running back. He has a scintillating opportunity with zero running backs ahead of him on the depth chart. There's potential for Oakland to give him plenty of targets since they're a fairly pass-friendly offense. He'll also be playing in a high-scoring division where several games could become shootouts.

    He's a no-brainer RB2 in all standard scoring leagues this season. You should also snag him a ton in best ball and he should be one of the first picks off the board in dynasty leagues at running back.

    To read more about Josh Jacobs, check out this piece on what his best traits are here.

    To see all our rookie coverage, check out our 'Talent Evaluation' section here.

Podcasts

Is Zach Ertz too expensive in 2019?

Saturday, 20 July 2019 00:00
In this pod, George spitballs about the Eagles tight end situation and why Zach Ertz might be overpriced at his current ADP. Link to original photo Research Ertz was only consistent part of Eagles offense last season. He
Read more...

A growing RB trend you must exploit to maximize your fantasy score

Saturday, 10 August 2019 00:00
Want to crush your fantasy draft in 2019? Prepare yourself with FantasyPros DraftWizard. On this episode of the Fantasy Football Helpers Podcast, George goes over an NFL trend regarding running backs and how you can use it t
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Episode 203: Opportunity is still king

Saturday, 06 July 2019 00:00
George discusses his latest food binge on this podcast. Plus gives one simple tip on how to avoid drafting busts.  
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Episode 202: Crushing mock drafts

Saturday, 22 June 2019 00:00
Want to do your own Mock Drafts for free? Fantasypros Mock Draft Wizard lets you do Mock Drafts at blazing speeds. No waiting in draft lobbies. Plus, you can experiment at different draft positions and learn a lot about where
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Episode 201: Who's the top RB for 2019?

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

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

Is he worth drafting at his ADP? Miles Sanders

Saturday, 29 June 2019 00:00
Philadelphia Eagles rookie running back Miles Sanders has the swiss army knife potential you'd like out of a fantasy running back. But is he worth drafting at his current ADP? Right now Sanders is getting drafted at No. 85 o
Read more...

What This Rookie Can Do For You: Darrell Henderson's two major weapons

Saturday, 01 June 2019 00:00
The 'What Can This Rookie Do For You' series aims to show how drafting this player will benefit your fantasy team. It illustrates his strengths and weaknesses. What scheme he would fit best in, and what kind of fantasy stats
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PPR back watch: RB David Montgomery's pass catching ability

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

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

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

Saturday, 30 March 2019 00:00
Editor's note: This is a quick post on Penn State running back Miles Sanders. Sanders is coming out for the 2019 NFL Draft this season, so we though it'd be a good idea to discuss what can do if you draft to him to your fan
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Wednesday, 01 July 2015 00:00

Episode 74: Handcuffs and injury buff (ers)

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Link to original photo here.

 

Published in Podcasts
Monday, 19 January 2015 00:00

What happened in 2014: Isaiah Crowell

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

How he got to where he is now

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

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

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

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

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

Offensive line hot start and late fizzle

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

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

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

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

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

Making them eat Crow

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

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

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

Taters gonna Tate

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

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

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

Departure of Shanahan

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

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

Uncertainty at quarterback

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

Final verdict

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

View Erik Drost's Flickr page here.

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage

Week 16 is the championship week in fantasy football for nearly every league. Unfortunately, there are a lot of top running backs whose status is in flux on the biggest week of the fantasy football season. You may be one of those people facing the dillema of having one of those backs on your fantasy team and are still uncertain what your lineup should look like. We're here to hopefully make it a little easier to decide. Here are a bunch of running backs whose status is uncertain heading into Week 16, what their matchups are like, and whether or not we trust them to win you a fantasy championship.

Cleveland Browns Isaiah Crowell @ Carolina Panthers

Crowell's problem: Hip injury

What he did last game (vs. Cincinnati): 7 carries for 17 yards (2.9 yards per carry), 2 catches for 17 yards

What he's up against this week if he plays: Carolina ranks 12th worst against fantasy running backs (17.8 points per game)

What happened last week: Crowell has put together an impressive rookie season with 8 touchdowns and 546 rushing yards. Not bad for a guy who went undrafted. Crow's always been a bit of a touchdown dependent, boom or bust guy due largely to the Browns dual system with Terrance West. That, combined with the Browns suspect run blocking ever since Pro Bowl center Alex Mack went down for the season and you have a constant whirlwind of uncertainty going into each matchup if you have Crowell. 

To complicate matters further, the Browns trotted out rookie Johnny Manziel for the first time last week and it was a strug. The rookie quarterback forced the issue at times, made some classic rookie mistakes like throwing the ball just a half second too late on an out route which lead to an interception and overall created more doubt regarding whether the Browns will move the ball effectively this week. Of course, you can't place the blame solely on Manziel. The Browns receivers failed to reel in a few of his throws, but his mistakes were enough to severely limit the Browns offense and allowed the Bengals to bring the blitz more which limited Crowell's upside.

What could happen this week: The Panthers are a far cry from the dominant defense they were just a year ago where they ranked second best team in the league against running backs. Injuries on the defensive line sprinkled with lackluster depth at the receiver position have resulted in several low scoring outputs for the Panthers, but they have established a bit of a running identity in the last few weeks. The Panthers have shown life in the running game with Jonathan Stewart averaging 4.6 yards per carry. The Panthers will also likely get Cam Newton back and he's averaging 5.0 yards per carry.

Even though Crowell is banged up, he played through it last week which could indicate he's not completely against playing through pain. Still, the Browns are a complete liability on offense as long as Manziel is under center as a rookie. If you watched the Bengals/Browns game last week, you saw how the Bengals completely dominated the Browns in the run game which ate up clock and limited the offenses time on the field. That could very well be the case again this week against Carolina with Stewart.

Do we trust Crowell?: No

Who would we start over him?: Giovani Benard, Carlos Hyde, Dan Herron, Lamar Miller, Tre Mason

Dallas Cowboys' DeMarco Murray vs. Indianapolis Colts

Murray's problem: Broken metacarpal in his left hand (same injury as Apollo Creed's opponent in Rocky I which forced the champ to find himself another ranked contender)

What he did last game (@ Philadelphia): 31 carries for 81 yards, 2 touchdowns (2.6 yards per carry)

What he's up against this week if he plays: Indianapolis ranks 6th worst against fantasy running backs (19.1 points per game)

What happened last week: While many consider Murray's injury huge in terms of affecting his value, the status of offensive linemen Zach Martin and Doug Free may actually make a bigger difference. Martin and Free suffered ankle injuries last week against Philadelphia, but luckily both avoided the dreaded high ankle sprain which could've been a sweet kiss of death for Week 16. Their status is uncertain but if either or them can't go, it could really impact the effectiveness of the Cowboys run game. 

As for what happened in the game itself, the Philadelphia Eagles front four picked up from where they left off last week after handling the run quite well a week earlier against the Seattle Seahawks and running back Marshawn Lynch. Fletcher Cox has been a force up the middle all year long and is a perfect fit for the 3-4 scheme. They kept Lynch under the 100-yard mark and held him to just 3.7 yards per carry.

Against Murray, it was more of the same. They held the league's leading rusher to a season low 2.9 yards per carry average. Even when defensive end Trent Cole went out with an injury in the second half, Brandon Graham stepped right in and the defense didn't miss a beat as far as containing Murray went. Still, the Cowboys committed to the run and Murray went on to have a productive fantasy day despite being limited. It shows you just how valuable he is to the offense even when he's not performing at his peak.

What could happen this week: Murray is currently a game time decision for Week 16. If you weren't lucky enough to grab his handcuff Joesph Randle (who's available in 87% of Yahoo! Leagues) then you may have a crisis on your hands. The matchup against Indy is tasty like a Dallas steak medium rare cooked on a cast iron grill. The Colts are allowing 110 rushing yards per game and rarely hold opponents to low scores. They've been involved in several shootouts with their No. 1 ranked passing attack and teams haven't exactly struggled when it comes to keeping up with their scoring. Two weeks ago, Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West combined for over 100 rushing yards against them. They allowed 99 yards from Arian Foster last week and over 130 total rushing yards to the Texans overall. This is a team that can be run on, but you can't put Murray's status at anything better than 50/50 at this point so you'll have to monitor him throughout the week. But remember to monitor the status of the linemen as well. If Martin and Free can't go but Murray can, expect Murray to maybe be a little less effective but still startable. If Murray can't go and neither can Marin and Free, then go with Randle if you have him but temper expectations severely.

Do we trust Murray?: If Martin and Free can't go, then no. But you have to start him anyway because of the all important fantasy commandment of 'start thy studs.'

Kansas City Chiefs' Jamaal Charles @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Charles' problem: Ankle and knee injuries

What he's up against this week: Pittsburgh ranks 12th best against fantasy running backs (14.6 points per game)

What happened last week: Charles rushed for a respectable 52 yards on 15 carries (4.3 yards per carry) and looked like his usual self until  a big hit sidelined him for virtually the remainder of the game. Originally thought to be concussed, it turned out Charles' head is just fine and he shouldn't have any more obstacles keeping him from playing against Pittsburgh this week. Backup running back Knile Davis continues to be among the top handcuff RBs in the league and is a worthy flex option regardless if Charles starts or not.

What could happen this week: The Steelers have a lot on the line in this game. They control their own destiny heading into the playoffs. Still, they remain completely inept against the pass (252 passing yards allowed per game) and allow 23.8 fantasy points to wide receivers per game which could help Charles be very effective catching the ball out of the backfield. Charles hasn't been the dominant receiver in 2014 that we've seen in the past but he still has 5 receiving touchdowns on the year to go with 235 receiving yards. Davis could be in line for some catches as well. 

Do we trust Charles?: Yes, go with him as an RB1, start Davis as a flex

San Francisco 49ers' Frank Gore vs. San Diego Chargers

Gore's problem: Concussion

What he did last game: 11 carries for 29 yards, 1 touchdown

What he's up against this week if he plays: San Diego ranks 13th best against fantasy running backs (14.5 points per game)

What happened last week: Gore got off to a hot start before he took a vicious hit after trying to block down field which left him with a concussion. Fellow running back Carlos Hyde, who replaced Gore, also suffered injuries to his ankle and back. Both running backs missed practice on Tuesday and they have a short week as they're scheduled to play San Diego on Saturday.

What could happen this week: Even before his injury, Gore had been struggling. His YPC average hovered around 2.7 over the last four games and he hasn't crossed the century mark since Week 5 against Kansas City. Hyde has been waiting in the wings and looks like the fresher option at this point. He's been limited in touches, but when he's gotten the carries he runs hard and is a touchdown threat around the goal line.

Do we trust Gore?: No

What should you do: if Gore can't go, then start Hyde as a flex. If Gore can go, bench both him and Hyde or keep Gore in the flex if you're desperate. Hyde simply doesn't get enough carries if Gore is on the field to be effective.

View Pro Football Schedules Flickr page here.

 

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View Football Schedules Flickr page here.

 

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

Week 12 pickups

Top Additions

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

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

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

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

Recommendation: Stash and See

Value: Flex/High RB3 w/ Potential

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

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

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

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

Recommendation: Add Immediately

Value: WR2/High Flex

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

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

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

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

Recommendation: Add Immediately

Value: High RB2/Low RB1

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

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

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

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

Recommendation: Add Immediately

Value: Flex w/High RB2 Potential

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

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

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

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

Recommendation: Add Immediately

Value: WR1

Players to Monitor

1.    Charles Johnson WR/Minnesota Vikings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Published in Waiver Wire

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

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

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

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

Why the Falcons' offense helps me

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

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

How about the Atlanta defense?

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

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

The elephant in the room

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

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

Final verdict

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

View Erik Drost's Flickr page here.

 

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

Week 9 boom or bust RBs

Week 9 is approaching and we are officially on the back end of the 2014 fantasy football season. Are you tired of your team yet? Have you officially labeled yourself a degenerate gambler after spending your kids college funds on a weekly fantasy football site? Well if that's the case, then that's dedication right there. I salute you.

Over the past week, there's been a few developments at the running back position. One is the injury to Bengals RB Giovani Bernard, and the other is the injury to Ravens RB Justin Forsett. Both injuries aren't severe, but could impact the starting matchups for Week 9. Jeremy Hill is a must start with A.J. Green back in the lineup keeping safeties more honest than George Washington. Forsett, on the other hand, may end up playing. So without further ado, here are your boom and bust RBs.

Start of the week

Arian Foster vs. Philadelphia — #2 in weekly rankings

Foster has turned into a fantasy monster once again after an injury-plagued 2013 left his value sandwiched between an RB2 at worst and RB1 when at best. He was an RB2 more often than not though.

This season, Foster is averaging 5.2 yards per carry, a scary good number when you consider he's averaging around 22 carries per game. He's rushed for more than 100 yards in all but one contest, and has strung together back-to-back four reception games. In short, Foster's value has skyrocketed just like we all thought when Bill O'Brien took over as offensive coordinator.

This week against Philly, Foster will deal with a rushing defense that ranks 21st in the league and is giving up more than 115 yards per game to running backs. Jadaveon Clowney is out, so Eagles quarterback Nick Foles should get a slight break with the pass rush. Philadelphia will likely keep moving the ball down the field as they've done all season and while that may impact Foster's rushing numbers slightly, the second best RB in fantasy should get some receptions if Houston has to throw their way back into the game.

Some under the rader potential booms

Lorenzo Taliaferro vs. Pittsburgh — #16 in weekly rankings

With Justin Forsett listed as probable, it's probably wise to only use Taliaferro as a flex guy in a deep league, but there's still lots of potential here. The Steelers have given up seven touchdowns to running backs this season (20th worst in the league) and are coming off one of their worst defensive efforts of the year despite defeating the Indianapolis Colts in Week 8.

Forsett will likely be the starter, but Taliaferro could easily snag a goal line touchdown or two if Forsett comes out a bit slow. Taliaferro is averaging a solid 4.4 yards per carry and the Ravens defeated the Steelers handily 26-6 earlier in the season.

isaiah Crowell vs. Tampa Bay — Unranked

Yes, we didn't rank Crowell and opted to list Ben Tate way too high, which deserves a 'come on man.' To make it up to you, we'll talk about Tate's struggles. He's only averaging 3.6 yards per carry in a run-based offense with a coaching staff that considers him a bellcow. He's also coming off a game where he averaged a measly 1.7 yards per carry against a bad Oakland run defense. He's got only one 100-yard game so far this season and aside from a two-touchdown effort against Pittsburgh, hasn't been much of a factor on the goal line.

Enter Crowell. There's been talks around the Cleveland locker room that Crowell could be in line for more carries this week against the Buccaneers. The rookie out of Alabama State already has one more touchdown (4) than Tate and is slowly starting to create a buzz in the backfield. Tampa Bay ranks 23rd in the league in rushing defense so even if Tate plays well, expect Crowell to see some of the workload and hopefully grab a touchdown in the event of a blowout.

Owners beware

Andre Williams vs. Indianapolis — Unranked

With starting RB Rashad Jennings still sidelined and the Colts' defense surrendering a ton of yardage to Pittsburgh last week, it may be tempting to think Williams is in line for a big day. But that's not the case this week. The Colts are expected to have cornerback Vontae Davis back for an entire game. Davis' physical play has been a nuisance to nearly every receiver he's covered and more importantly, has allowed the Colts to blitz more which causes all sorts of problems for the offense. Expect the Colts' defense in Week 9 to resemble the defense of Week 7 that shut down Giovani Bernard and the Cincinnati Bengals.

As for Williams, he hasn't shown much since taking over for Jennings in Week 4. He's a plodding back who needs to get running down hill before in order to plow over defenders. While that style has been effective at times, Williams hasn't rattled off a carry longer than 23 yards and is averaging a mediocre 3.1 yards per carry. He's likely to be shut down on Monday night.

 View Keith Allison's Flickr page here.

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Friday, 12 September 2014 00:00

Best and worst fantasy plays for Week 2

The great thing about football—and fantasy football to be more specific—is its unpredictability. In any game, at any time, a superstar can be born.

Published in Fantasy Coverage

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