• 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

  • Perfect Match: Finding The Next Zeke, Pt. 2

    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 this week’s addition of Perfect Match, I am going to breakdown the QB that I think has the highest ceiling of any QB in the draft, a RB that has garnered more hype from ESPN than anyone not named Lebron, Steph, or Tiger, and a recently injured WR who fits in perfectly with what a new OC has done in the past. These potential landing spots would significantly increase each rookie’s value, so without further ado let’s dive in.

     Pat Mahomes- Pat Mahomes is looking to do the impossible: make the jump from Air Raid QB to professional QB. For those not familiar with the Air Raid offense, it is the hyper-paced, throw first offense that has been implemented by Mike Leach, Hal Mumme, and their disciples. It has been known to produce gaudy QB stats and has popularized the shallow crossers route combination that has become one of the most effective combos in football. Sadly, this offense has had almost no correlation to NFL success. Mahomes is looking to buck that trend.

    How can he do it? For starters, he has great arm strength and also has shown the ability to use touch on passes. His willingness to take a hit has been almost as impressive as his improvisational ability. I believe the main factor in whether or not Mahomes will be a success will be his landing spot. If he is able to sit for a year or two and learn a pro-style offense, he has the highest upside of any QB in the 2017 draft class.

    Perfect Match- Mahomes perfect match would have to be Pittsburgh. The chance for him to sit and learn for a year or two behind Ben Roethlisberger would be ideal. At 6’3 230 lbs, Mahomes is a similar build, his arm talent is similar, and his escapability is like that of a Big Ben. Obviously, this is more of a dynasty taek. However, with Big Ben's propensity for getting injured Mahomes could find some early playing time in Pittsburgh.

    Best Case/Worst Case- I think that a good player comp for Mahomes is Ben Roethlisberger but since I’m in the business of firing off hot taeks I’m going to take words of advice from my man Jameis Winston and “do it big.” While Big Ben is a decent comp, I think that Mahomes could be similar to another QB that sat behind an all-time great for a couple years named Aaron Rodgers. His footwork and quick release resemble Rodgers. Maybe he will even turn into a pretentious douchebag that bangs unbelievably hot women, too. Worst case is pretty fucking bad, though. Should he not buck the trend of Air Raid QBs failing in the NFL he will join such QBs as his coach Kliff Kingsbury, B.J. Symons, Graham Harrell, Sonny Cumbie, and Tim Couch.

    Leonard Fournette- Who can forget the highlight of Leonard Fournette bucking the Auburn defender off him like a horned-up mustang on the way to a brood mare? (What was no. 28 doing?!) Fournette possesses rare power and speed with the ability to redirect and accelerate much better than last year’s power/speed guy Derrick Henry. He shows an affinity for bulldozing players but also has the agility to make defenders miss.

    Perfect Match- Fournette has been mocked to Carolina on many occasions and I think that this is a perfect spot for him to flourish. The Panthers run a power scheme and have a seasoned fullback in Mike Tolbert to put in front of Fournette on power runs. The read option between Cam Newton and Fournette is interesting as the that would make an extra defender account for the QB and allow Fournette to operate against less defender.

    Best Case/Worst Case- Leonard Fournette was a 5-star prospect in high school that lived up to the hype. Another player that fit that same billing was Adrian Peterson. AP had the same power/speed combination that Fournette possesses. If he lands in Carolina, look out for a huge year! Worst case scenario, Fournette bulks up and turns into a Greg Jones. Jones was a power/speed guy in college who didn’t translate it to the NFL.

    Corey Davis- Corey Davis will look to continue the long line of successful MAC WRs. Antonio Brown, Julian Edelman (QB), Lance Moore, Greg Jennings and Randy Moss were all stand-outs in the MAC, but it is Corey Davis who owns career records in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. He also has the chance to be picked in the top-10. At 6’3 213lbs, Davis is an impressive athlete. He is also a polished route-runner and great after the catch. His stiff arm is one of the best I have seen from a WR.

    Perfect Match- The perfect match for Corey Davis is the Buffalo Bills. Davis and Sammy Watkins would team up to form one of the most formidable WR duos in the league. In fact, they would be incredibly similar to new OC, Rick Dennison’s previous WR duo, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Davis would have the opportunity to take over the Demaryius Thomas role in Dennison’s offense. This match is contingent on Tyrod Taylor being the Bills QB if they decide to blow up the team, all bets are off.

    Best Case/Worst Case- I tipped my hand in the previous paragraph as to who I believe is a great player comp for Davis and that is Demaryius Thomas. He might not be quite as fast as Thomas but I believe he makes up for it with better hands. I think that Davis is a relatively safe pick with a high chance of success. The only thing that could hurt him would be landing on a team that has a shitty QB. I think worst case scenario he develops into a Rueben Randle-type WR.

    Don't forget to check back next week for another installment of Perfect Match!

    If you missed the first installment, click here!

  • Why Duke Johnson's best football is still ahead of him

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

    What is 'matchup proof?'

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

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

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

    Where he could be of considerable value

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Hope for a bigger role

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

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

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

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

    Hope for a better situation

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

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

     

Podcasts

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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Episode 162: Overvalued/undervalued 2017 players w/ guest Frank the Tank (pt. 2)

Tuesday, 24 January 2017 00:00
On this episode, Adam Inman talks 2017 predictions with dynasty expert Frank the Tank. You can follow Frank here @DynastyFrank. Also, follow co-owner of Fantasy Football Helpers Adam Inman @adaminman.
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Episode 163: Overvalued/undervalued 2017 players w/ guest Frank the Tank (pt. 1)

Wednesday, 25 January 2017 00:00
On this episode, Adam Inman talks 2017 predictions with dynasty expert Frank the Tank. You can follow Frank here @DynastyFrank. Also, follow co-owner of Fantasy Football Helpers Adam Inman @adaminman.  
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Episode 161: Jacksonville, backfields, and Joseph Addai

Tuesday, 10 January 2017 00:00
On this episode of the Helpers pod, Adam and George discuss the coaching changes in Jacksonville, why Giovani Bernard is one of the best dynasty keepers and why Joseph Addai is a sign that the Colts backfield could have fanta
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Episode 160: End-of-season brain droppings

Monday, 02 January 2017 00:00
On this episode, George and Adam discuss the 2016 fantasy season. They go over surprises, non-surprises and give some implications on where players might go in next year's fantasy drafts. //
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Waiver Wire

Fantasy Film Projector: Christian McCaffrey

Monday, 13 March 2017 00:00
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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
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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
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Rookie Profile: Leonard Fournette

Wednesday, 22 February 2017 00:00
  Player: Leonard Fournette Comparison: Adrian Peterson Best Fit: New York Jets  Scouting Report Leonard Fournette’s name has circulated Draft circles since he was the No. 1 Recruit coming out of high school. He evol
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Rookie Profile: Deshaun Watson

Sunday, 19 February 2017 00:00
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Friday, 23 January 2015 00:00

Episode 43: C.J. Anderson's lunch ticket

On Friday's episode of Treatment, the Fantasy Football Helpers discuss the recent signings at offensive coordinator including Greg Olson in Jacksonville and Adam Gase in Chicago. They also talk about Gary Kubiak and how Broncos' RB C.J. Anderson could be in for a historic season if the chips fall right.

The Helpers start off the podcast by talking about the recent hiring of Gary Kubiak on the Denver Broncos. Kubiak has a long history of churning out 1,000 yard rushers in his zone run blocking scheme. Most recently, he turned around a Baltimore Ravens offense that had been struggling with their run game dating back to Ray Rice's lowest yards per carry average of his career in 2013.

All Kubiak did was take a castaway running back in Justin Forsett and turned him into a Pro Bowler. Forsett rushed for more than 1,200 yards and scored eight touchdowns. Kubiak also became famous for his zone run blocking scheme in Houston, where future All-Pro running back Arian Foster compiled three straight 1,000-plus yard seasons.

With Kubiak now back in Denver, a place where he also helped Terrell Davis become one of the best of all time, the Broncos will shift their focus to current starting running back C.J. Anderson. Anderson had one of the best finishes to a season of any running back in recent memory, as we talked about a few weeks earlier on our recap podcast. It's not out of the question that an aging Peyton Manning combined with a good offensive line and Kubiak's run system could lend itself to a more run-heavy offense in 2014. If that's the case, C.J. Anderson is a bonafide RB1 in redraft leagues.

The next coach the Helpers talk about is offensive coordinator Adam Gase, a guy who was recently signed by the Chicago Bears. Gase led the 2013 Denver Broncos to a record 606 points, making them one of the greatest offenses in the history of the league. Gase will not have the kind of talent to work with that he had in Denver, but it's worth noting that he did managed to squeeze a playoff victory out of then-Broncos quarterback Tim Teebow in 2011. So Gase has proven he can be successful with a quarterback not named Manning.

Gase will be faced with the seemingly impossible task of getting Jay Cutler to play up to his potential. Cutler finished as the 14th best fantasy quarterback in 2014, which put his fantasy value as a boarderline QB1/QB2. The Bears definitely have the weapons at the receiver position with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. They also have the running back in Matt Forte. The real problem for the Bears since Cutler arrived has always been their offensive line. It'll be interesting to see how Gase works with Cutler and if they can get him some better pass protection. He's not unlike Tony Romo in that he has Pro Bowl level ability, but hasn't always had the best protection in the world which is a big reason why he battled injuries throughout his career.

View Karen's Flickr page here.

Published in Podcasts
Saturday, 13 December 2014 00:00

Sleepers and busts for Week 15

Well, if you’re still alive then I say congratulations and I I’d also like to say…. I’m jealous!  My first round exit will be just another blip on the radar that nobody will remember.  Admittedly, my team happened to not be very good, but in addition to my team, the regular season’s points leader and consensus best team in my league by far was eliminated. Unfortunately for that team, they will also be another team in the 2014 season that nobody will recall long term.  This week those of you who are one game from the championship, are not only playing for a spot in the Super Bowl, or in many cases money….you’re playing for a permanent place in your league’s history books, a fond memory that you and your league members will have forever the bragging rights that come along with this glorious memory.  Let me show you what I mean. 

I’m a Giants fan in my early 30s and I’ve been a diehard football fan as long as I could remember.  Anything Giants related is entrenched in my mind, but playoff games between other teams before they reached the Super Bowl…not as much.  For example, everyone around my age or older remembers the Titans v. Rams Super Bowl  XXXIV where Kevin Dyson, instead of scoring the game tying TD, was tackled at the one yard line to end the game.  The game was now 15 years ago this January and even if you don’t remember the details of the game you know exactly what game I’m referring to and there is a clear picture of it in your mind.  However, do you remember how those teams got there?  A small percentage of you might, but I’m almost positive that the very large majority does not.  I had to look it up and I discovered that the Rams beat the Tampa Bay Bucs 11-6.  Weird score and I know I watched that game, but I can’t tell you anything about it off the top of my head.  The Titans dominated the Jaguars 33-14.  I can’t tell you anything about that game either.  In the long run nobody will remember or care that the Bucs made the NFC Title game that year.  I’m sure the Bucs don’t brag about losing that heart breaker.   Super Bowls will live in all of our hearts and minds forever.  Don’t be a blip on the radar!  Whether you’re the best team in your league on paper or whether you’re a team that got hot at the right time, take it home this week and you’ll be in fantasy football lure for the rest of your days. 

Your lineup should be set with the exception of maybe a flex spot and the always matchup dependent TE spot.  However, there are players at every position that I believe can help you accomplish your goal of winning a Super Bowl ring.

Without further ado, your week 15 Sleepers and Busts: 

DISCLAIMER:A sleeper is not a must start and a bust is not a must bench, they are merely indications that a player will have a better or worse game this week than they normally do. It all really depends on your alternatives. I will give an example of a few players for whom I personally would start the sleeper over or bench the bust for.These players are simply there as an indication of how good or bad I think the sleepers/busts will perform so you have a comparison in mind when applying it to your actual lineup. For example if I am comparing a QB to a stud like Andrew Luck, I am not necessarily saying you need to start him over Luck (even if I would) but it will imply that I feel really good about him. 

Sleeper QB:

·       Mark Sanchez v. Dallas.  Ok so maybe last week didn’t work out at home against Seattle,  but that was the Super Bowl Champs playing at their best in a huge game and this is Dallas, a team that's known as the biggest group of December choke artists in the last 15 years. Their defense has given up 7 TDs through the air in the last three weeks to Eli Manning, Jay Cutler, and Mark Sanchez himself.  The Eagles dominated the Cowboys in Dallas 33-10 on Thanksgiving day and there is no reason to think they won’t do the same on Sunday. 

Quick stat: According to Football Outsiders, teams losing by more than 20 points at home are just 17-36 (.321) in road rematches. The Eagles and Sanchez are looking better already.

Sanchez has shown consistent QB1 ability other than his misstep last week and despite only throwing for 96 yards, he still threw for 2 TDs.  He’s otherwise been consistently over 300 yards and has had multiple TDs in 5 of 6 starts. His matchup is ideal for the playoffs and has unlimited upside.  Take a tip from me.  Just because you were rejected by the girl/guy who doesn’t ever give it up (Seattle), does not mean you won’t score with the girl/guy who has the reputation for giving it up (Dallas)!  As far as Mark Sanchez goes, we know he’ll score on Sunday….as soon as he’s done throwing a few TDs in the football game.

I’d Start Mark Sanchez over: Tony Romo, Jay Cutler, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, JohnnyManziel

Bust QB:

·       Matthew Stafford v. Minnesota.  Oh how a couple of big performances against awful defenses make us forget.  In the last two weeks against the 23rd and 31st ranked teams (Chicago, Tampa Bay) against fantasy QBs, Stafford has averaged approximately 350 yards and 2.5 TDs per game. Stafford’s previous two games were against elite defenses in New England and Arizona, games in which he combined for 0 TD and 2 INT.  Minnesota, the 10th ranked fantasy defense against QBs and 6th in passing yards against, is up next on the schedule.  They’re not nearly as good as New England or Arizona defensively but they’re not nearly as bad as Chicago and Tampa Bay.  The Vikings can be run on easily, ranking 23rd in yards per game and I anticipate the Lions going that route. Some sites have Stafford ranked as high as #4 this week after his success the last two weeks but I’d expect him to finish with about 250 yards and 1-2 TDs, a borderline QB1. 

I’d Start the following players over Matthew Stafford: Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan

Sleeper RB:

·       Fred Jackson v. Green Bay.  They say experience wins in the playoffs right?  Well why not take a shot with the oldest RB in the NFL.  This matchup has big upside for the Bills best receiving threat out of the backfield.  Jackson, a versatile threat looks as healthy as ever with 18 and 21 touches the last two weeks.  He has not hit pay dirt in those games but he did score big in PPR leagues with his 10 receptions last week against Denver.  Denver got off to a 24-3 lead and the Bills had to air it out leading to many dump offs to Jackson.  I see this game against Green Bay being extremely similar with a similar outcome for Jackson.  Start the old reliable Freddy Jackson as a RB2 in PPR leagues and as a flex in .5 PPR and standard leagues. 

I’d start Fred Jackson over: Steven Jackson, Chris Johnson, Jeremy Hill, Latavius Murray

Bust RB:

·       Chris Johnson at Tennessee. Last week I believed in the awful RB (Trent Richardson) having a big game in a revenge game and it backfired on me. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.  Chris Johnson is a slightly better Trent Richardson. I don’t mean speed wise, Richardson runs in slow motion, but Johnson has zero power at this stage of his career and doesn’t provide much in terms of broken tackles.  It takes Moses parting the waters for him to hit the hole.  Johnson did have over 100 yards two games ago, in the run runrunrunrunrun game against the Dolphins, but has otherwise not topped 69 yards rushing yards this season when normal game plans were in place.  A decent performance could very well happen against Tennessee but I would not dare to put my fantasy prospects on a guy who has not scored a TD in the last nine games.  Experts are ranking him as a mid RB2 but I think he’s a at best a desperate flex option.  If you’re still alive at this stage of the game, you probably can do better.

I’d start the following players over Chris Johnson: Isaiah Crowell, Jeremy Hill, Fred Jackson, Chris Ivory, Dan Herron

Sleeper WR:

·       Marqise Lee at Baltimore. For one week Baltimore, the league’s worst team against fantasy WRs, did not get dismantled in the passing game.  With the Jaguars coming to town, a blowout is likely in favor of Baltimore and a lot of throwing should be in store for the Jaguars come the 2nd half of the game.  A lot of throwing against the worst fantasy team against WRs? sounds like fantasy gold to me. Advantage Marqise Lee, the shiny new toy in Jacksonville. Lee has 16 targets over the last two weeks and is building some chemistry with number one pick Blake Bortles.  He’s been consistent with 52-75 yards over the last 3 weeks including a TD, but should be on the higher end of the spectrum against one of the league’s poorest defensive backfields.  Consider Lee as a 3rd WR.

I’d Start Marqise Lee over: Charles Johnson, Steve Smith Sr., Malcolm Floyd, Harry Douglas

Bust WR:

·       Steve Smith Sr vs. Jacksonville.  Steve Smith is in the midst of a fine bounce back season in his first year in Baltimore.  He comes into this week 15 matchup against the Jaguars with two TDs in his last three games and with Torrey Smith battling an injury common sense says he’ll receive more targets and continue to put up big weeks. People see Jacksonville and think it’s a tasty matchup but much like I’ve warned the past few weeks, they’re actually a BAD matchup.  Since week 4 this team has been playing stellar defense against the pass.  Just this week they opposed Ryan Fitzpatrick who was coming off a 6 TD performance and held him to 135 yds and 0 TD!  IN addition, the previous two weeks they held Eli Manning to 1 TD and broke Andrew Luck’s streak of 300 yard performances while holding him to 1 TD.  The point of mentioning all these QBs is that the Ravens could very easily win this game handily, but it could be with a steady dose of Justin Forsett and some big plays against Blake Bortles.  The Ravens will not have to air it out too often, limiting Smith’s opportunities against and already very good pass defense.  All year Smith has been a boom or bust type of guy and I’m smelling bust for this week. 

I’d start the following players over Steve Smith: Marqise Lee, Julian Edelman, Vincent Jackson, Golden Tate, Malcolm Floyd

Sleeper TE:

·       Larry Donnell v. Washington. It’s been a rough go for Larry Donnell and those fantasy players who started him for the past three weeks but week 15’s matchup with Washington is the cure for the tight end blues.  The Redskins have gotten torched in back to back weeks by Coby Fleener and Jared Cook.  They rank 29th overall against the TE.  The Giants have shown that when they have an advantage in the passing game that they’ll keep picking on the matchup as evidenced by Donnell’s tendency to either put up a huge game or a tremendous dud.  Look for the Giants to look for Donnell on fade patterns and/or jump balls in the endzone.  In addition, look for them to throw a few deep seam passes to Donnell, a play that Washington has not shown the ability to cover in the last couple of weeks. 

I’d start Larry Donnell over: Antonio Gates, Julius Thomas, Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, Jordan Reed, Zach Ertz

Bust TE:

·       Julius Thomas at San Diego.  If your other options are borderline options then you must start Julius Thomas, however I am concerned with his week 15 matchup.  I’m mostly concerned with his injury.  If he is not 100% then he is not the same player that can beat LBs and safeties 1 on 1 in the blink of an eye.  In addition, I am concerned with Denver’s proficiency in the run game.  In the beginning of the season, Denver was struggling to punch the ball into the endzone and Julius Thomas was their best option inside the 10 yardline.  Nowadays CJ Anderson is one of the hottest RBs in the game of football, and he does convert inside the 10.  The Broncos have no problem letting Anderson doing the dirty work while letting Julius Thomas get his legs back under him in his first game back from injury.  If that wasn’t bad enough, San Diego is the 3rd ranked team against TEs and held a healthy Julius Thomas to only 2 catches for 23 yards in week 8. Once again, start him if you have to but if you have any other high end options like Delanie Walker, Martellus Bennett or this week even Larry Donnell, I would go ahead and bench him and save him for my Super Bowl week.   

I’d Start the Following Players over Julius Thomas: Delanie Walker, Martellus Bennett, Larry Donnell, Antonio Gates

That’ll do it for week 15.It’s win or go home my friends.  Don’t be a blip on the radar!  Get it done this week and you’ll have bragging rights for a lifetime.  Good Luck!

View Allen Kotok's Flickr page here.

 

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

Episode 37: Playoff sleepers

On Friday's edition of Diagnosis, the Helpers discuss a few playoff sleeper options at each position for Week 15. Week 15 is often considered the divisional round of the fantasy playoffs, so the competition is likely to get even tougher from here on out. Also, they go over their hits and misses from Week 14.

Published in Podcasts
Saturday, 06 December 2014 00:00

Week 14 bullet points for RBs

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

Start of the week

Le'Veon Bell at Cincinnati

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

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

Start em'

Joique Bell vs. Tampa Bay

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

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

Tre Mason at Washington

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

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

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

Owner's beware

Denard Robinson vs. Houston

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

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

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

View Keith Allison's Flickr page here.

Published in Fantasy Coverage

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

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

Week 14 matchups

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Terrance Williams (81% owned) @ Chicago Bears

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

View Keith Allison's Flickr page here.

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Monday, 03 November 2014 00:00

Episode 26: First Aid (Week 9)

On Monday's episode of First Aid, the Helpers discuss Ryan Tannehill's career performance and what it means for the Dolphins fantasy value going forward. They also hand out their weekly awards and discuss tonight's Monday night matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and the New York Giants.

San Diego Chargers vs. Miami Dolphins

Ryan Tannehill owners got to see something special on Sunday, and that something was the best game of Tannehill's young career. The 2012 first round draft pick went 24-for-34 for 288 yards, 3 touchdowns and zero interceptions. He also ran four times for 47 yards and finished with just under 40 fantasy points for the day.

Tannehill owners should temper expectations in the coming weeks though, as the Dolphins face tough defenses in Buffalo, Detroit and Denver over the next three weeks. Not to say Tannehill can't put up solid numbers against those defenses, he can, but it's out of line Tannehill to put up QB1 numbers every week. He hasn't thrown for three touchdowns once this season, and achieved the feat just four times in two and a half seasons.

Philip Rivers flipped on the opposite day switch and played nothing like a quarterback who came into this game with one of the best TD:INT ratios in the NFL at 20:5. I guess you could say Rivers was due for a bad game after such a great first half of the season, but it didn't make his performance any less bearable. Rivers went just 12-for-23 for 138 yards, zero touchdowns and three interceptions. It was the first game Rivers didn't throw a touchdown which was surprising considering the receiving core was healthy and Branden Oliver has proven to be a force in the backfield.

A big reason why Rivers had so much trouble was due to the pressure he was under throughout the game. Led by Cameron Wake and Rishard Matthews, the Dolphins got consistent pressure and forced Rivers to unload the ball before he wanted to. The Dolphins sacked Rivers three times and forced one fumble on the day, which they also recovered. The Dolphins defense finished with 22 fantasy points in standard leagues and has now strung together back-to-back games of scoring at least 20 points. They're only owned in about 40 percent of Yahoo! Leagues also.

As for the running game, Lamar Miller didn't post spectacular numbers but was very efficient none the less for Miami. Miller rushed for 49 yards on 11 carries and added a touchdown as well. The Dolphins' line did a good job creating lanes for him to run through and while Miller didn't approach 100 yards, he gave Tannehill much more freedom in the pocket because the run game was working so well.

On the other side, Branden Oliver struggled for the second straight week. Oliver was consistently bottled up in the backfield and finished with 13 carries for 19 yards (1.5 YPC). It's safe to consider benching Oliver in non-PPR leagues as Ryan Mathews will likely return to the lineup after the Chargers' Week 10 bye. Oliver has proven to be a nice change of pace back who can catch the ball out of the backfield not unlike Danny Woodhead did last year for San Diego, but it' s looking more and more like the 5'8 Oliver may not have the size to be an every down back in the NFL.

 

Published in Podcasts
Saturday, 01 November 2014 00:00

Sleepers and busts for Week 9

A nationwide flood warning is in effect. Grab your umbrella because there’s a storm brewing out there.  The hurricane otherwise known as weeks 9-11 was forecasted back when the NFL schedule makers decided to develop an unprecedented bye week system. Weeks 5-8 were the calm before the storm.  Sure there was light rain at times for some owners with 2 teams per week having byes, but for many owners there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, especially in that joke of a week when Miami and Oakland were off. Storms at their worst are strong enough destroy houses and even cities and this 21 day long storm from week 9 to week 11 is threatening to ruin fantasy teams over the next 3 weeks, and maybe even entire fantasy seasons around the country.  With 6 teams on byes this week and next week, and 4 teams off in week 11, there has never been a more critical time to reach into your bag of tricks.  Work that waiver wire and don’t be afraid to reach deep on your roster during these weeks because at some point you’re going to need to take chances. The results of these three weeks will have a tremendous impact on your playoff possibilities. 

So all of you owners of Julio, Roddy, Ryan, Rodgers, Nelson, Cobb, Watkins, Stafford, Joique, Golden, Cutler, BMarsh, Jeffery, Forte, Bennett and any injured player…. let me help lead you out of this storm completely avoiding any damage at all with these sleepers and bust predictions for week 9. 

Without further ado, your week 9 Sleepers and Busts: 

DISCLAIMER:  A sleeper is not a must start and a bust is not a must bench, they are merely indications that a player will have a better or worse game this week than they normally do. It all really depends on your alternatives. I will give an example of a few players for whom I personally would start the sleeper over or bench the bust for. These players are simply there as an indication of how good or bad I think the sleepers/busts will perform so you have a comparison in mind when applying it to your actual lineup. For example if I am comparing a QB to a stud like Andrew Luck, I am not necessarily saying you need to start him over Luck (even if I would) but it will imply that I feel really good about him. 

 Sleeper QB:

·         Tony Romo v. Arizona. OR Andy Dalton v. Jacksonville All of you WWE fans, and back when I was watching, WWF fans, tell me that what you saw last week in Dallas wasn’t reminiscent of something you’d see at Wrestlemania, or since it was only week 8 and it was on Monday Night, Monday Night Raw. The Cowboys stadium is so over the top, and you had the same type of theatrics with Jerry Jones being in the owner’s box, then on the sideline, then in the trainer’s room and then back on the sideline as the messenger to head coach Jason Garrett, telling him that Romo was ready to come back in for the final drive.  It’s just not something you see in the NFL. We saw Romo come out of the tunnel with a few minutes remaining in the 4th quarter and the crowd went wild, almost like we were seeing Stone Cold Steve Austin making a surprise appearance in the Royal Rumble after a year-long injury. 

      My point is that the Cowboys just love this kind of dramatic BS, and all I take from it is that Romo is healthy enough to play football.   I truly think he’s going to be in the lineup against Arizona, a team that ranks dead last in passing yards against.  If Romo is active, the Cardinals will be stacking the box, sending risky blitzes and giving up big chunks of yards through the air. I’ve seen this act before with Romo playing through pain, and more importantly, playing well while injured.  I get to list him as a sleeper because the Cowboys create this kind of atmosphere that makes this a bigger deal than it really is, and owners will be wary to use him even if he’s pronounced as the starter.  Romo is one of the top fantasy QBs since week 3, so start him as you normally would against a passing defense that gives up more yards through the air than anybody.  

If for some reason I’m wrong, and Romo actually does not play I have a bonus sleeper at QB for you that’s Andy Dalton at home against Jacksonville with A.J. Green back on the field.  Dalton, a top 5 fantasy QB just a year ago has certainly missed his top receiving option but he’s actually excelled in 3 of the last 4 weeks a stretch in which he’s had 6 TDs (including 2 rushing) and 3 INTs.  AJ Green’s presence is huge on its own but it will also allow breakout WR Mohamed Sanu to operate against number 2 CBs one on one all day long.  He’s been playing absolutely out of his mind with Green out of the lineup and he’s sure to continue excel against lesser competition.  Even with Giovanni Bernard out of the lineup the Bengals will move the ball against an inferior opponent, Jacksonville.  The Jaguars have been playing a lot better defense of late but their last three opponents, Miami, Cleveland and Tennessee, have significantly worse QBs than Dalton and do not possess a WR duo comparable to AJ Green and Mohamed Sanu.  I like Romo if he’s available more than Dalton but if Romo is out, look for Dalton to look like he did last season.          

I’d Start Tony Romo OR Andy Dalton over:   Phillip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer

Bust QB:

·         Ryan Tannehill v. San Diego.  In the long run I am a believer in Ryan Tannehill, but I had much higher expectations from him last week when he opposed an already poor defense that was loaded with injuries.  Almost all of his stats (196 yds 1 TD 1 INT) were accumulated when the game was out of reach and the only thing impressive about his day were his 48 yards rushing. After his disappointment in week 8, Tannehill’s only truly high level performances have come against two awful defenses in Chicago and Oakland. This week he does come home, but San Diego is a less than ideal matchup. The Chargers rank 6th in passing yards against and they return two CBs (Brandon Flowers and Shareece Wright) from injury. Mike Wallace, despite having a bounce back season, has complained about his role in the offense and the lack of deep balls coming his way. His speed is not being fully utilized and Tannehill has not shown the ability to complete these types of passes at a high rate.  Look for the Chargers to do what they do best and sustain long drives eating up clock, while the Dolphins will continue to play more of the same conservative run the ball and throw dink and dunk type passes in the short and intermediate game. There aren’t going to be enough possessions against a quality pass defense like San Diego for Tannehill to be worth starting. Look elsewhere for your bye week replacement.        

I’d Start the following players over Ryan Tannehill:   Andy Dalton, Alex Smith, Carson Palmer, Brian Hoyer

Sleeper RB:

·         Shane Vereen v. Denver.  The roller coaster ride for Shane Vereen owners continued in last week’s thrashing of the Bears when Jonas Gray dominated the backfield touches.  However, if you take a closer look, there was at least one encouraging sign for Vereen owners.  Vereen got 5 touches and/or targets inside the 10 yard-line including two goal line runs.  It seems like game flow will dictate whether Vereen has a monumental game, big game, average game, or below average game.  I do not see him having any total busts going forward. This matchup against Denver is the perfect setup for the monumental type of performance. The Patriots and Bill Belichick have had success against Peyton Manning in the past, but win or lose, nobody is slowing down Denver right now, so we’re sure to see a high scoring, high pace game.  Denver ranks first in the NFL in rushing yards against, so don’t expect to see Jonas Gray rumbling down the field.  This is the ideal game for Vereen’s skillset.  The fact that Gronk is at the top of his game and that Brandon LaFell has established himself as a go to guy, will only help free up the middle of the field for Vereen to operate 1 on 1 against a LB.   Expect Vereen to see 8+ targets and the ceiling for him, especially in PPR leagues, is unlimited.     

I’d start Shane Vereen  over:  Frank Gore, Alfred Morris, Jerick McKinnon, Denard Robinson, Chris Ivory

Bust RB:             

·         Chris Ivory at Kansas City.  Chris Ivory is a fine player and is one of the biggest surprises at the RB position this season, but this week owners should look for other options.  The Jets travel to Kansas City, and let’s be honest; they’re going to lose big.  There's no doubt that Kansas City will be stacking the box with their dominant front seven led by Dontari Poe, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, and will force Michael Vick to throw. This alone does not eliminate Ivory from a start because the Jets have lost big throughout the season and Ivory has been great.  But, combine that with the fact that we’re in week 9 and Kansas City has allowed ZERO rushing TDs this season and right there we have our the nail in the coffin.  Again, running backs such as Montee Ball, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Lamar Miller, Frank Gore, and Branden Oliver have combined for ZERO TDs on the ground against this team.  I would not bet on Chris Ivory and the Jets breaking that trend. 

I’d start the following players over Chris Ivory:  Shane Vereen, Ben Tate, Jeremy Hill, Branden Oliver, Andre Williams

Sleeper WR:

·         Andrew Hawkins v. Cleveland.  The Baby Hawk has been soaring up and down the field the last 2 weeks to the tune of 12 catches for 200 yards and 1 TD.  With Jordan Cameron likely out, he's far and away Brian Hoyer’s number 1 option in the passing game at home against the absolute worst fantasy defense against WRs, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs have accomplished this feat through 8 weeks and now have traded away the best player in their secondary, safety Mark Barron. Look for Brian Hoyer to have a field day with the main beneficiary being the vastly underrated Hawkins.  I’ve seen him ranked as WR26-30, but in a shallow week like this, I’m giving him top 20 value.  He’s already had five games with over 70 yards and I’m projecting him for at least seven catches for 80-110 yards and a maybe even a TD.       

I’d Start Andrew Hawkins over:  Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Crabtree, Doug Baldwin, Keenan Allen

Bust WR:

·         Michael Crabtree v. St. Louis. The hype and respect that Michael Crabtree receives from fantasy owners and experts world-wide baffles me.  Listen, I will admit the guy does have a really cool name, but otherwise what else does he really have going for him? Is it his 2013 of 19 catches and 284 yards in an injured season with only 5 regular season games?  Or is it his 2014 campaign where he is on pace for only 73 catches for 736 yards?  What other player who has topped out at 49 yards receiving in the last 4 games would be ranked as a WR2 on expert lists this week?  He’s ranked as the #24 WR and it is just incredible to me.   Sure, the Rams are a fine matchup.  Colin Kaepernick threw for over 300 yards in their last meeting and that game was one of Crabtree’s best moments of the season when he had 3 catches for 49 yards and a TD.  In other words, he isn’t very good. Anquan Boldin has dominated the Rams for years and I would expect this game to be no different. The additions of Steve Johnson and Brandon Lloyd to the 49ers receiving core certainly have not helped Crabtree one bit.  However, if you like seeing your players on the sideline stretching their feet out by stepping on a tennis ball or a softball or whatever that ball is, then Crabtree is surely your man. But, if you want statistics, production and fantasy points I’d look elsewhere.      

I’d start the following players over Michael Crabtree:  Andrew Hawkins, Odell Beckham Jr. , Doug Baldwin, Pierre Garcon, Allen Robinson

Sleeper TE:

·         Clay Harbor v. Cincinnati.  Blake Bortles is having a rough start to his NFL career.  He’s turned the ball over plenty and his team, as a result, has fallen behind in many games fairly quickly.  However, Bortles was the number 1 QB drafted and every game he has certain drives and plays that display exactly why he was the most coveted player in the 2014 NFL draft.  Look for Cincinnati to take the lead early in this game and never look back, forcing Bortles into a second half full of passing.  Cincinnati is totally inept at covering any TE with a pulse, and Clay Harbor does have one. Other than Levine Toilolo and Crocket Gilmore, every tight end they have faced this season has gone for double digit fantasy points in .5 PPR leagues.  This list includes Dennis Pitta, Delanie Walker, Rob Gronkowski, Greg Olsen, and Dwayne Allen.  Is Clay Harbor closer talent wise to Levine Toilolo and Crocket Gilmore than these other stud tight ends?  Definitely. But the Jaguars dial up plenty of plays (even deep plays) for Harbor, and Bortles has confidence in his TE. If you’re streaming, look for Clay Harbor to deliver low end TE1 numbers.     

I’d start Clay Harbor over:  Vernon Davis, Timothy Wright, Jace Amaro, Heath Miller

Bust TE:

·         Jordan Reed at Minnesota.  Against the tight end, Minnesota has allowed only New Orleans’  Josh Hill, to score double digit fantasy points in .5 PPR leagues. They are ranked number 7 overall against TEs and they give up the 4th fewest passing yards per game, so this is sure to be a tough draw for Jordan Reed. RG III will be making his first start since week 2 and he will be rusty.  Reed has had to share looks at the TE position with Niles Paul and has not yet broken out the way that owners who drafted him thought he would when he became healthy. I believe in Jordan Reed long term, as RG III gets comfortable playing quarterback again, but I would avoid starting him this week.     

I’d start the following players over Jordan Reed:  Travis Kelce, Larry Donnell, Jason Witten, Zach Ertz,

That’ll do it for week 9.  Let’s take this three week storm of byes one week at a time.  Here’s to sunny skies and a disaster free week 9. Good luck to you all. Feel free to drop a comment question or criticism and I’ll do my best to give you a prompt response.      

 View Alan Kotok's Flickr page here.

 

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Sunday, 26 October 2014 00:00

Week 8 bullet points for RBs

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

Published in Fantasy Coverage

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