• Opportunity: What positions have fantasy value in Andy Reid's offense?

    One of the more predictable ways to determine opportunity is to look at coaching habits. By looking at how a coach decides which plays to run, you develop an understanding of what players will be valuable in an offense. This is especially true if a coach has been on a team for a long period of time and large sample sizes exist.

    In this piece, we take a look at play calling and game script for the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2016 season and how those numbers might translate to 2017.

    By looking at the overall number of plays ran and pass/run ratio, we should be able to come up with a reasonable projection for how players on the team might fare in the fantasy category this season.

    How the Chiefs started in 2016

    Kansas City was a little shaky coming out of the gate, starting off 2-2 with bad losses to Houston and Pittsburgh. They also needed one of the largest comebacks ever to put away the San Diego Chargers in Week 1.

    During that four-game stretch, quarterback Alex Smith's arm served as the primary source of offense for KC. Smith passed on 69 percent of the team's snaps.

    Smith's passing workload had a lot to do with the Chiefs playing two high-powered offenses in San Diego and Pittsburgh. The Chiefs were also playing from behind in 3 out of 4 of those games.

    Overall, Smith finished as a QB3 in Week 1, QB32 in Week 2, and QB18 in Week 3. Not very consistent overall.

    As for the running back spot, starter Spencer Ware recorded his highest carry total in Week 3 with 20 attempts against the Jets. Game script had a lot to do with Ware's volume in that game, as the Chiefs nursed a 17-3 advantage in the second half.

    Spencer Ware finished as an RB3, RB21 and RB34 in that span.

     

    Embed from Getty Images

    Chiefs pick up steam

    After the 2-2 start, the Chiefs rattled off five straight victories. Their success stemmed from a change in offensive philosophy and a softer schedule. Smith threw the ball less with 22, 24, 19, 38 and 31 pass attempts in that stretch. Smith also only recorded one game with 250 passing yards.

    The Chiefs offense also played weaker defenses, scoring close to 30 points against Oakland, New Orleans and Indianapolis.

    In the run game, Ware became the team's go-to option. He out-snapped Charcandrick West 40-8, 36-14, 26-42, 0-45, and 41-20 in that stretch. The only outlier games were when Ware sustained a concussion Week 8 and missed the second half followed by missing all of Week 9.

    Rookie wide receiver Tyreek Hill also emerged as a key factor, doubling his snap count from 18 to 36 by Week 8 and contributing on special teams in a big way with two punt return touchdowns and one kickoff return for a score.

    Closing out strong

    The Chiefs were fantastic down the stretch, winning five of their last six games including tough victories against Atlanta, Oakland and Denver twice. Smith's throws per game hovered around the 25-28 mark with one or two outlier games. The passing attempts were similar to his Week 5-8 numbers.

    Smith's passing yard totals were very close to the same almost every week and he averaged 238 yards per game during the stretch. He had no games deviating 30 yards + or - from that average, aside from one outlier game against Tennessee where he only threw for 163 yards.

    Ware continued to assert himself as the lead back, out-snapping West 42-33, 38-11, 40-13, 36-21, 37-29 and he didn't play in the final game. His best finish came as an RB10 in Week 13 before he dropped off and failed to crack the Top 30 for the rest of the season.

    Go for running backs and tight ends?

    Andy Reid offenses in Kansas City haven't lent themselves to high value for the quarterback spot. He has consistently ranked low in pass plays per game and it hasn't impacted the Chiefs success at all. He's yet to record a losing season with this philosophy.

    Year Team  Pass plays/game  Rank Chiefs record
    2013 KC 34.8 20 11-5
    2014 KC 30.8 28 9-7
    2015 KC 30.3 29 11-5
    2016 KC 34.1 25 12-4

    This conservative passing approach has affected the wide receivers ability to have fantasy value. Here's how value shakes out at each position. Hint: This should give you pause if you're thinking about drafting Tyreek Hill.

    Year QB fantasy finish Highest RB finish Highest WR finish Highest TE finish
    2013 QB13 RB1 WR45 TE40
    2014 QB19 RB7 None in top 50 TE8
    2015 QB16 RB32 WR17 TE8
    2016 QB22 RB16 WR15 TE1

    It would appear running backs and tight ends have the most value in Andy Reid's offense. There hasn't been a wide receiver inside the Top 15 range since Reid got to Kansas City.

    Tight ends are a different story. Kelce ranked third in targets last season and sixth in 2015. Keep in mind, Brent Celek also had a Pro Bowl caliber season under Reid in 2009 and ranked 7th in targets that year. L.J. Smith was 11th in targets in 2006. So Reid has shown a tendency to get tight ends involved.

    Year Team Run plays/game  Rank 
    2013 KC 27.8 14
    2014 KC 26.2 15
    2015 KC 28.1 9
    2016 KC 25.1 20

    You'd think Reid's teams would be more run heavy but they aren't. Over the course of Reid's stint in Kansas City, the Chiefs ranked near the bottom in plays run per game among the 32 NFL teams. To put that in perspective, New Orleans ran 69 plays per game in 2016 to lead all teams. So Kansas City ran over 120 less plays than New Orleans did last season.

    Despite that, running backs are still valuable because of the passing game. Reid likes to use running backs as receivers, as evidenced by the 82 targets doled out last season to running backs. In 2015, there were 75 between three running backs. Jamaal Charles was lethal in 2013 because of this alone.

    Year Team Plays run per game Rank
    2013 KC 65.2 13
    2014 KC 60.1 29
    2015 KC 61.1 25
    2016 KC 61.1 28

    So how do you apply this to your fantasy team?

    Glad you asked. That answer lies in drafting for value at running back and valuing Travis Kelce as a TE1. Spencer Ware finished as an RB2 in standard scoring leagues (RB16) and was also an RB2 in PPR (RB16).

    Look for Ware to be the top back out of the gate. Expect some solid RB2 weeks out of him, but don't draft him too high. According to Fantasy Football Calculator, Ware is being drafted as an RB20.

    Ware's ADP is a little high with Hunt lurking but there are plenty of question marks regarding the RB's being drafted around him like C.J. Anderson, Adrian Peterson and Doug Martin. Still, his team has a strong defensive foundation and a coach that likes to get RB's involved. He's safe. 

    As for rookie backup Kareem Hunt, you'd be wise to draft him at his RB38 ADP. Hunt's elusiveness and ability to create yards after contact could land him the starter role at some point during the season.

    Tough road in 2017

    The Chiefs have a brutal schedule in 2017 and trail only Denver for the toughest slate in the league.

    When it comes to game scripts, the Chiefs get New England Week 1, Philadelphia Week 2 and the improved Los Angeles Chargers Week 3. Three defenses with good pass rushers and potent offenses.

    The Chiefs might have to throw more out of the gate and may struggle out of the gate like last year. Smith just isn't wired to throw for a ton of passing yards and is at his best when his attempts hover around 25-30.

    Ware will also have his work cutout for him, but there is some passing upside due to Reid's style of getting running backs involved in the receiving game. 

    Summing up Kansas City's approach

    Kansas City plays a conservative style of offense and looks to grind games out with defense. Their only true playmaker is tight end Travis Kelce due to his size and speed after the catch. Tyreek Hill has potential, but wide receivers have been stifled in Reid's offense due to low passing volume.

    Not much changed in the offseason for Kansas City to change this approach. Smith is still the quarterback, and their defense remains one of the best in the league on paper. With a now-healthy Justin Houston rushing the passer and safety Eric Berry at the helm, Kansas City should remain true to its identity.

    Cornerback Marcus Peters is also coming off a solid season, and graded out the 11th best corner in the league according to Pro Football Focus.

    Kelce, Ware and Hunt are the players you should be looking to draft. Ware isn't a great option given his ADP, but he will have good PPR value as a receiver. Hunt is a tremendous value.

    Link to original photo

  • Early Returns: Post-Draft Mock

    May brings about several things: flowers, Spring, and Post-Draft Mocks. Prior to the NFL Draft, all mocks and rankings are fluid due to the huge changes that can occur thanks to the NFL Draft. Every year players quickly ascend or steeply fall in the wake of the NFL Draft. This year has been no different. In this two-part series, I am going to go over a recent mock draft done by FantasyFootballHelpers.com and friends. Each round I will tell you who I think got the best value, who reached the most, and some overall thoughts on the round itself.

    Round 1

    Value — It is pretty hard to get a ton of value in the first round but Antonio Brown going 1.06 to Josh Wyatt will likely be a great value. According to FantasyPros.com, Brown is ranked between 3 and 5 overall, making his fall to sixth, not unprecedented, but valuable nonetheless.

    Reach — I was the culprit of the biggest reach in round 1 when I took Mike Evans at 1.03. I’m a big proponent of the Matthew Berry adage, “You can’t win your league in round one but you can lose it.” Taking Evans before Brown, Beckham, and Jones may seem like Hot Take Fuel but I really felt that Evans’ floor is as high as any of the above mentioned WRs. He also doesn’t have to deal with Le’Veon Bell and Marty Bryant, or Eli Manning being washed, or a new OC. While I stand by my pick, I also acknowledge that many will view it as a reach.

    Thoughts — Round 1 went about how I anticipated with 7 RBs and 5 WRs being taken. As the picks went on I could see that last year’s RB success was dictating many drafter’s strategies towards an RB-heavy approach. I encourage you to go into your drafts with a fluid strategy that allows you to zig while others are zagging.

    Round 2

    Value — T.Y. Hilton went off the board as the WR9. I love what the Colts did with Hilton last year on the way to his WR5 finish. Of the top 5 WRs last season, Hilton was the least touchdown dependent with only 6 TDs. His targets, completion %, and aDOT (143, 64%, 13.5 yards) could all be replicated easily and his TDs could see a significant jump.

    Reach — I felt like Dez Bryant going as the WR8 was a bit of a reach early in the second round. He’s been incredibly TD dependent over the course of his career and his health has been consistently an issue the past two years. While he may have huge upside, we have seen that Dez Bryant also has an incredibly low floor.

    Thoughts — I felt like this round kind of sucked. There were a lot of picks that I wasn’t in love with and very few picks that I thought offered a ton of value.

    Round 3

    Value — I got Amari Cooper as my WR3. The core of Evans, Nuk Hopkins, and Cooper all but assures me of 450 targets with huge touchdown upside. I’ve never been a huge fan of Cooper but this should be the year he overtakes Michael Crabtree as Oakland’s WR1.

    Reach — Blake taking a QB in the 3rd round was a bold strategy that didn’t pay off as the rest of the group held off on starting a QB run. Another QB wasn’t taken for 18 picks so using that kind of draft capital on a QB did not pay off.

    Thoughts — There was a lot of good value at WR for people to draft in the third round. Cooper, Baldwin, Jeffrey, Robinson, and Watkins all have low-end WR1 upside. Through 3 rounds, you can see the divergence in strategy among owners.

    Round 4

    Value — You have to love getting Jarvis Landry as WR19 off the board. He is a polarizing player because of his lack of measurable but years of production have proven that Landry is a high-end WR2. With finishes of WR13 and WR10 in the 2015 and 2016 respectively, WR19 seems like Landry’s floor. I see him returning lots of value from this draft slot.

    Reach — Julian Edelman in the fourth round is a little rich for my blood. He’s at best going to be their 3rd option in the passing game which lowers the floor that you traditionally get with Edelman. Golden Tate went 18 picks after Edelman and offers the same kind of game but with more upside.

    Thoughts — A lot of polarizing players with a wide range of outcomes started coming off the board in Round 4. Players like Marshawn Lynch, Tyreek Hill, and Marty Bryant truly have monstrously wide ranges of outcomes but their owners must have felt the juice was worth the squeeze at this point. I prefer not to take chances this early in the draft but there is no arguing these players could all wind up as top-tier players at their position.

    Round 5

    Value — Jamison Crowder was a great value for Giana and I’ve already mentioned Golden Tate (drafted by Fugazi) as a player that I really liked. Crowder built upon a strong rookie campaign in 2016 and in 2017 199 targets will be vacated by the losses of Desean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. I think Crowder will see an increase in targets that will lead to a strong WR2 campaign.

    Reach — Donte Moncrief is touchdown dependent and nearly impossible to trust from week to week. If this was a best ball league I wouldn’t hate it as much but there is no way that Moncrief should go in Round 5 of a normal PPR draft.

    Thoughts — With Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram going back-to-back, I’m wondering who people think is the Saints RB to own. Two things have been clear over the past two seasons: Mark Ingram is a very good RB and Sean Payton hates him. In 2015, Ingram was in the running for the top RB in fantasy before his injury. In 2016, Ingram was ultra-efficient but was frequently spelled by Tim Hightower.

    Round 6

    Value — Stefon Diggs is on the verge of a breakout and getting him for my flex was a big-time coup. He is one of the best route runners in the league and frequently turns CBs inside out like Stevie Johnson in his prime. I’d have been okay with Diggs being drafted in the fourth but I got him in the sixth.

    Reach — Samaje Perine going in the sixth was a bit startling. Not to say that he can’t return value there but I think that with this group and how teams were being built, George could’ve waited for at least one round to get him. That said, I know how high George is on Perine and I’m completely okay with overdrafting a player you really believe in.

    Thoughts — If you scroll way back up to the Round 3 I explained how taking A-Rodg in the third was a reach and the three QBs who went in Round 6 further proves my point. Brady, Wilson, and Brees are in the same tier as Aaron Rodgers but available much later. Even with these 3 going, a true QB run wasn’t started which meant more QB value late in the draft.

    Round 7

    Value — Fugazi finally jumped on an RB and got Bilal Powell as his RB1. With how strong he is at WR, I love getting Powell in this PPR setup. Powell will have a high-floor due to his involvement in the passing game and likelihood of the Jets being atrocious.

    Reach — Jamaal Charles in Round 7 was not good. There isn’t a whole lot to say about it. He’s CJ Anderson’s back-up with terrible knees and a bad OL. I also wasn’t a fan of Cole Beasley because of how strongly I feel about Ryan Switzer. Switzer is a more athletic, cheaper version of Cole Beasley. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Beasley phased out of the offense as the season progresses.

    Thoughts — Like I said earlier if you identify a player as “your guy” I’m okay with reaching but Beasley, Charles, and to a lesser extent Hunter Henry don’t have the upside to draft them ahead of some of the players drafted at their positions directly after them.

    Round 8

    Value — Paul Perkins was a guy I was targeting in the 8th but Josh Wyatt got him early in the round. I love his upside this season and think he was a nice pickup.

    Reach — I’ve never understood the hype behind Kevin White who had one good season against terrible Big XII defenses. Since then he hasn’t been healthy and is the third option for a bad offense. If the Bears go with Trubisky I would drop White even further.

    Thoughts — There was a mini-TE run in the 8th which is about when I think you can expect many of the second-tier TEs to go. I think that if you are mapping out your draft, you can pencil in the rounds 7-9 as a good place to grab a TE. Personally, I took Travis Kelce in the 4th because I felt as though with my core of WR and Kelce at TE, I would lock in a weekly scoring advantage at two positions by Round 4. Had I opted to pass on Kelce, this is the round I would have targeted a second-tier TE.

    This is the half-way point of our draft and there are some teams that I really like. Some owners have went RB-Heavy, others have went ZeroRB, and others have went a balanced route while still building a strong squad. The second half of the draft will be where teams separate themselves from the pack. Stay tuned for the conclusion!

  • 6 bargain bin running backs for your 2017 fantasy draft

    Football isn't back, YET!!! But there is always time to prepare ahead for your draft. Especially since the exciting 2017 NFL Draft just passed. We already know who the top guys are for every position on every team. This article aims to help you get a few names in your head. So, when your draft day comes you make the right decision to scoop up these Bargain Bin players. Don't you love going into a store and find the clearance section with all the discounted items? It almost feels like you got away with stealing something. That is the best feeling in a draft as well when you get value in the later rounds. The first installment focuses on the running back position. We will look at just a few guys who will be available late in drafts that you probably should go get when you don't know who else to select. Never waste a pick.

    Doug Martin — Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Martin was suspended for the 1st four games of the season because he tested positive for Adderall. It's been an issue he has tried to get over and he will now seek the proper help to get over his addiction. Doug Martin will go under looked and forgotten about. This will be a great choice to scoop a lead back past the 10th round. Doug "Mighty Mouse" Martin has Charles Sims, Jeremy McNichols and Jacquizz Rodgers behind him, who will all be competing for third-down work. They're no competition to a back they just gave a five-year contract to for $35 million.

    Derrick Henry—Tennessee Titans

    The days of Derrick Henry becoming a No. 1 are soon approaching. He's still behind DeMarco Murray, but Murray isn't your typical pillar of health. The second DeMarco is out, Henry becomes a top 10 talent. At 6'3, 247 lbs. Henry is a battering ram in between the tackles and has the speed to get away from the secondary. This is the best handcuff in the NFL PLEASE TAKE NOTICE.

    Robert Kelly — Washington Redskins

    Mr. Kelly burst onto the scene midway through 2016 season. He made a name for himself against the Green Bay Packers, with 24 carries, 137 yards, and 3 touchdowns.  He wasn't quite able to duplicate that performance, any other game. On the bright side, he was consistently fed the ball 18 plus times a game 5 out of the last 9 games of the season. Kelly has Semaje Perine nipping at his heels but "Fat Rob" is still a worthwhile pick.

    Jamaal Charles — Denver Broncos

    Many have given up on the former best RB in the NFL. Who hasn't been himself since 2014 campaign, where he averaged 5.0 yards per carry and 1,000 yards rushing. The now 30-year-old back has gotten a breath of fresh "Mile High Air". I think it was a great but risky signing by Denver who needs a running game to protect Trevor Siemian. Charles is being put in a great environment to succeed behind the struggling C.J. Anderson who lost his job briefly to Devontae Booker. Let's be serious Anderson runs hot & cold like a faucet so this is a great opportunity to seize the moment and get a possible steal of a pick. 

    LeGarette Blount — New England Patriots

    Second only behind man-child David Johnson in rushing touchdowns, Blount had a resurgence with the New England Patriots. In any short yardage situation, LeGarette was fed and converted more often than not leading to 18 touchdowns. That's a hard stat to ignore when touchdowns are all we want from our fantasy players, especially someone you can grab in the last round of a draft.

    Joe Mixon — Cincinnati Bengals

    Cincinnati made this choice for a reason. There were rumors they wanted Leonard Fournette at pick nine. But once he was taken Mixon was clearly the next best talent to wait on. The Bengals organization is known for taking chances on troubled youth. Despite his off, the field actions cost him a first round selection and scared many teams away doesn't make him less of a beast on the gridiron. Mixon already steps in as a possible lead back by season's end. I strongly suggest you remember this name most importantly that will get forgotten in such a crowded backfield.

    More will unfold during the off-season and training camp that will lead to more Bargain Bin Backs. But for now, these are my favorites going into the 2017 NFL Season. 

  • How Jameis Winston can be a Top 5 fantasy quarterback

     “Famous” Jameis Winston has proven that he can be a productive quarterback on a consistent basis. Will he take the next step toward becoming an elite quarterback? It's very likely and here is why.

    It's obvious that most great quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady have weapons surrounding them. Winston had a great rookie year having only Mike Evans and a mediocre Vincent Jackson. In his second year in the league he found a red zone target, TE Cameron Brate. The two of them connected for 8 TD’s. Evans got the majority of the yards downfield, but Winston used Brate heavily in the red zone.

    In 2015 Winston completed 40% of his passes in the red zone. In 2016, that number rose to 45%. That number is a little scary, but 5% improvement in one year is pretty good. From inside the 10 yard line he completed 58% compared to 2015’s 39% of passes. He has had some issues with interceptions which is an issue. His arm is sometimes too strong for his own good. He has no problem airing the ball out, which could lead to a huge season now that he has speed is Desean Jackson. However, I think he will start to ease up a bit and think more before he throws the ball.

    With the Bucs’ first round draft pick they selected TE O.J. Howard. The numbers for Howard are not all that impressive, but it is important to remember that Alabama ran the ball a lot. Howard will play a lot in the red zone in a two TE set. He is an above average blocker, so this could help buy Winston a little more time to move around or stay in the pocket which he already does well.

    By far the biggest addition for Winston was Desean Jackson. DJax has averaged almost 68 yards per game in his last 3 years. That is not all that impressive, but when Winston was getting it done with 2 weapons, and now he has 3 maybe even 4 weapons, the NFC South better watch out. One of the things that I really enjoy about Winston is his ability to extend plays. He is pretty fast if he breaks out of the pocket and keeps the ball, but he likes to dance around to throw it more often. It is fun to watch, but for fantasy owners it is a big deal. He often turns what could be a sack into a 15 or 20 yard completion. His ability to keep those drives alive gets him to the red zone where he has proven he can find the paint.

    Fantasy Football ADP for Jameis Winston

    Winston has a great football I.Q. He understands his situations extremely well for being shoved straight into a starting role and only having played in the league for two years. Winston has used virtual reality training in the offseason to simulate game-like action without taking hits. These virtual snaps will help him mature and further develop. I would just say to wait to draft him until some of the elite quarterbacks leave the board. He would be great in dynasty formats.

     (ADP Charts For Jameis Winston 2017)

    Fantasy Football ADP for Jameis Winston

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

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

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

    2) I want all of the Bucs

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

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

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

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

    4) Mike Williams will be under-drafted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    10) Carson Wentz will be the biggest bargain of 2017

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

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

  • Five reasons why Danny Woodhead will shine in PPR leagues

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

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

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

    Good situations

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

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

    What we like about him now

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

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

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

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

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

    Causes for concern

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

    Overall verdict

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

    Nathan Rupert/Flickr

Podcasts

Episode 185: Dynasty talk with Danny Fresh

Friday, 18 August 2017 00:00
George welcomes Daniel Friedman, a dynasty fantasy football enthusiast. Friedman tells you how to build a great dynasty team by sharing his own experiences and strategies. They then talk about how to find your strengths as a
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Episode 184: Draft a quarterback early and lose your league?

Friday, 11 August 2017 00:00
George and Scott Sergent give you the strategies to employ in your fantasy football draft through their Mock Drafts. Overall, it's important to focus on three major things when drafting in standard, redraft leagues and they c
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Episode 183: Who you should draft at running back

Friday, 21 July 2017 00:00
On this episode, Scott Sergent joins the pod to talk about running back sleepers, injury worries to the Top 2 running backs in this year's drafts and which rookies have the best opportunity in 2017. They mention Danny Woodhea
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Episode 182: Regression/bounce back quarterback candidates with Scott Sergent

Thursday, 13 July 2017 00:00
The Helpers are back and Scott Sergent, the video producer at Georgia Tech joins the pod to discuss prime bounce back and regression candidates at the quarterback position. They mention Eli Manning's touchdown regression prob
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Episode 181: Player profiles/rankings with Mike Tagliere of Fantasypros.com

Thursday, 06 July 2017 00:00
Mike Tagliere, lead NFL Writer for Fantasypros.com joins the pod to discuss why Ty Montgomery and Danny Woodhead's ADP's are too rich for his blood, why Tyrod Taylor and Sammy Watkins could be on the verge of their biggest fa
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Episode 180: High-volume wide receivers w/Jody Smith of gridironexperts.com

Saturday, 01 July 2017 00:00
The Fantasy Football Helpers are back after a brief hiatus and ready to talk important stats that lend themselves to consistently sound predictions for your fantasy team. Jody Smith, 26-year Fantasy Football Veteran and Senio
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Waiver Wire

Jordan Matthews: Boring, predictable, but will exceed ADP value

Monday, 10 July 2017 00:00
In this article, we take a look at a player's potential to outperform their current ADP (average draft position) and assess the risks and potential rewards of drafting them. We look at opportunity stats including target share
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How Samaje Perine Will Help Your Fantasy Team In 2017

Wednesday, 24 May 2017 00:00
Samaje Perine proved his worth at the University of Oklahoma. In 2014 he had a stellar year. In 2015 and 2016 the stat line would suggest a decline in his performance, but that is due in part to sharing snaps with Joe Mixon.
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Why San Francisco 49ers running back Joe Williams is a perfect Zero RB candidate

Tuesday, 09 May 2017 00:00
When we look to draft a player to our fantasy team, we often seek the most talented players we can find. However, looking at the coaches offensive philosophy and which players best fit their system can be very telling in term
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Fantasy Film Projector: Alvin Kamara

Monday, 24 April 2017 00:00
When it comes to identifying traits in running backs that produce immediate fantasy value, proficiency in pass blocking, ball security, route running and receiving ability are often most important. These traits are valuable b
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Fantasy Film Projector: James Conner

Thursday, 13 April 2017 00:00
Editor's note: The Fantasy Film Projector is a process that identifies player traits correlated with fantasy football success. Those traits include receiving ability, route running, (points per reception leagues), play streng
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Fantasy Film Projector: Joe Mixon

Wednesday, 12 April 2017 00:00
Editor's note: The Fantasy Film Projector is a process that identifies player traits typically correlated with fantasy football success. Those traits include receiving ability and route running (points per reception leagues),
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Wednesday, 18 January 2017 00:00

Lessons learned from 2016: Quarterbacks

Editor's note: This is Part 3 in a several part series where we dissect each offensive fantasy position and tell you what happened this season (2016) and how you can apply those lessons into your draft for next season (2017). You can check out all the lessons learned from quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs, and tight ends throughout the offseason.


Coming out of the 2015 season, the 2016 quarterback landscape was looking good. In 2015 all of the top 13 QBs threw for 30+ touchdowns and the top 6 all had over 300 fantasy points. In 2016 however, only five players threw 30+ touchdowns and only three QBs topped the 300 fantasy point bar. So, what did we learn about the quarterback position this fantasy season? Did anything go right or was this just simply a down year for quarterbacks?

We learned that…mechanics make the wheel go round

2016 was the year the general football consensus learned the importance of QB mechanics. Many quarterbacks have managed to skate by on arm talent alone and that makes them good fantasy options for one season. But inconsistent mechanics means inconsistent quarterback play and this means inconsistent fantasy production in the long run, explaining the huge drop off in quarterback production from 2015 to 2016.

Brock Osweiler was at the helm of arguably the most talented offense in the NFL. Surrounded by DeAndre Hopkins, Lamar Miller and Will Fuller, Osweiler’s lethargic wind-up and sluggish release resulted in batted balls and many uncatchable targets due to his side-arm release.

The same goes for Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles. The Jags offensive performance in 2015 garnered questions as to whether they were home to the best wide receiver tandem in the league in Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. Bortles’ terrible 2016 mechanics resulted in Allen Robinson, a borderline 1st/2nd round pick in August, becoming effectively unusable this season as Bortles began to drop the ball below his elbow in his wind up leading to an unnecessarily long release and producing overthrown passes.

Even last year’s MVP Cam Newton along with rookie prospect Carson Wentz had their mechanical flaws expose them this season. Relying on arm strength alone leads to inaccuracy and produces passes often too low for receivers to catch. Forced passes and backfoot throws are all traits of a quarterback’s reliance on their arm strength and often result in passes being too far behind receivers. Using your arm instead of your body is a quick recipe for an interception. Neither player steps into their throws and so they struggle to throw with touch and anticipation.

Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees on the other hand have perfect mechanics and it comes as no surprise that both of them are consistently top 5 fantasy quarterbacks, with the odd SuperBowl thrown in too.

We learned that…mojo doesn’t last

Momentum is a term we hear a lot regarding NFL offenses and it is often why fantasy owners worry when their players return from their bye-weeks as offense is all about practice, repetition and chemistry. Offenses that can keep their momentum going throughout the season are both NFL gold and fantasy gold.

In 2015 we saw that a few offenses certainly were feeling their mojo and this lead to stellar quarterback play. Cam Newton, Blake Bortles and Carson Palmer were all part of high-flying offenses last year and all finished as top 5 fantasy quarterbacks.

However, without relatively much changing, all three of those quarterbacks failed to repeat this in 2016, with Newton following his QB1 season finishing as the QB18 and Palmer slotting in right behind him. Strangely enough, the much maligned Blake Bortles finished as the best of the bad bunch with a confusing QB8 ranking.

As we all accept Bortles is a fantasy anomaly year on year, the rankings clearly show that momentum doesn’t carry over through the offseason. With this in mind, beware of drafting the wildly inform quarterbacks from this season again in 2017. I’m looking at you Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford.

We learned about…the new kids on the fantasy block

2016 however, wasn’t all bad. With Peyton Manning retiring and Tom Brady and Drew Brees getting up there in years, 2016 saw the birth of the new crop of fantasy studs. Derek Carr (QB9), Marcus Mariota (QB15) and of course Dak Prescott (QB6) had a coming out party this year.

Carr was an MVP candidate this season and probably would’ve finished as a top 5 QB without his injury in week 16. Mariota, who was also similarly injured to Carr in week 16, was complete gold-dust early in the season with three top 5 finishes in quick succession and threw for two or more touchdowns in two thirds of the games he played in in 2016.

And we couldn’t discuss young quarterbacks without talking about the man of the moment, Dak Prescott. Prescott finished 2016 tied 5th for total touchdowns with 29 but the true measure of Prescott’s greatness this year has been in his ability to limit his interception total with only 4 INTs. Not only does that result in less negative points but it also keeps drives alive and results in more scoring opportunities for Prescott, who has also demonstrated legitimate rushing capability too.

We learned to…please wait on QB

If 2016 has taught us anything, it is that you please, PLEASE wait on a quarterback when you draft next season. Unless you’re drafting Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees, there is no need to take a quarterback in the first 6 rounds. Top RBs and WRs are so few and far between and with injuries too, the need to stockpile your skill position players is greater than ever before. Fantasy is usually uses only one quarterback per line-up and as quarterback is so deep there is no need to waste a high pick on a brand name quarterback. Instead take a RB/WR and wait for a sensible upside QB.

For example, Ben Roethlisberger had a 6th round ADP and finished as the QB16 whereas Dak Prescott for instance had a 12th round ADP and finished as the QB6. It doesn’t stop there either; Kirk Cousins, Matthew Stafford and Derek Carr were all available in rounds 10-12 and all finished as top 10 QBs this season. But the craziest thing of all…Matt Ryan was undrafted this year in the majority of leagues. Wait and bet on upside, you might just wind up picking up the QB2 off the waiver wire.

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

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Thursday, 16 April 2015 00:00

Buy/Sell QB Edition v 2.0: Ryan v. Brees

In my first installment of Buy/Sell I broke down the fantasy value between Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, and the Broncos Peyton Manning. For my second installment, I am going to dissect the fantasy potential of two of the league’s most prolific passers, Saints quarterback Drew Brees, and the Falcons Matt Ryan. 

Buy: Matt Ryan

When Dirk Koetter signed on in 2012 to be the Falcons offensive coordinator one thing was for certain, Matt Ryan was going to throw the ball all over the yard. In the three seasons that Koetter was in charge of play-calling, the Falcons had one of the more pass-happy offenses in the NFL, finishing in the top-10 in passing attempts and passing yards every year.

Despite having one of the best offensive units in football the Falcons were held back by sub-par offensive line play, and arguably the worst defense in football. Due to these deficiencies the Falcons finished the 2014-15 season with a 6-10 record, leading to the dismissal of head coach Mike Smith and the rest of the Falcons coaching staff.

New Coaching Staff

Despite Kyle Shannahan taking over for Dirk Koetter as the Falcons offensive coordinator, I do not expect the Falcons offense to take a step back in the 2015-16 season. 

During Shannahan's 7 seasons as an offensive coordinator in the NFL with the Texans, Redskins, and the Browns, Shannahan has been one of the most pass-happy coaches in the NFL, ranking in the top-10 in 5 out of 7 seasons in total passing attempts. The only two times that Shannahan did not rank in the top-10 in pass attempts was in 2013, one year after Robert Griffin III suffered a torn ACL, and in 2015 in Cleveland when he had to deal with the sub-par quarterback talent of veteran journeyman Brian Hoyer and rookie Johnny "Football" Manziel.

Offensive Weapons 

Aside from having one of the worst offensive lines in football, the Falcons offense is still littered with playmakers that have the potential to make even an average quarterback look like a Joe Montana.

Julio Jones has finally taken over as the focal point as the Falcons passing attack, with Roddy White shifting to more of a possession. Despite ranking third in the NFL in both targets (154) and receptions (103) Jones only found pay-dirt 6 times causing Jones to be an elite PPR asset, and a low WR1 in standard formats. 

Although "Rowdy" Roddy White (as my buddy Paddy refers to him as) is getting closer to the twilight zone of his career he still proved to be a reliable receiver for fantasy owners. Despite missing two games in 2014, White still ranked in the top 20 in targets (122), receptions (80), and touchdown receptions (7), ranking White as the 24th  overall wide receiver (Low WR2) in ESPN standard scoring leagues.

Sell: Drew Brees

Just like with Peyton Manning, I am not telling you that Drew Bress is a player you should completely avoid in fantasy football, but should definitely temper your expectations for the former MVP. After losing Jimmy Graham to the Seahawks and the team investing a large amount of money to stabilize the running game, the Saints could be looking at a shift in offensive philosophy in 2015.

Jimmy Graham Departure

Normally the loss of a tight end would not be something that scares me off from drafting a quarterback in fantasy football, but when that tight end is Jimmy Graham you have to take note. 

As you can see by the table below Graham has been one of the most dangerous pass-catching tight ends over the last three seasons. Last year, in what could be considered a "down year" by the standards that fantasy owners hold Graham to, Graham was still able to post double-digit touchdowns and almost 900 receiving yards, ranking him the no. 3 overall tight end in fantasy football. 

Graham TA Rec. % Ct Yds Yds / Rec. YAC YAC / Rec. LG TD
2012 131 85 64.9 982 11.6 310 3.6 46 9
2013 145 90 62.1 1267 14.1 433 4.8 56 16
2014 121 85 70.2 889 10.5 292 3.4 29 10
  397 260 65.73 3138 12.07 1035 3.98   35

With Graham's departure to Seattle, it leaves a gaping hole in the Saints receiving corps. All-purpose receiver Brandin Cooks showed promise during his rookie season, but would be more effective as a slot receiver than a player that predominantly plays on the boundary. Marques Colston re-structred his contract to stay with the team but is in no way capable of being a no. 1 WR at this point in his career.

Little known second-year tight end Josh Hill will be given the opportunity to fill the void left by Graham in the Saints passing game. Saints head coach Sean Payton has raved about Hill this offseason stating in an interview with ESPN, "This Josh Hill is another player that I love. I love," Payton said "When you look at his runs, jumps, height, weight, speed, you look at his measurable ---- and he didn't go to the Combine, thank God.

While it is fair to assume that Hill will see an uptick in production in 2015, I highly doubt that the will come anywhere close to the production Graham posted aside from his 31/356/5 that Graham posted his rookie season. 

With the draft quickly approaching, and the Saints in possession of two first-round picks the Saints could be in line to add wide receiver early in the draft for the second year-in-a-row. 

Photo Courtesy of Football Schedule Flickr Page

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage

Strength of schedule is always one of the hottest topic in the offseason and the debate regarding whether or not strength of schedule matters is always a controversial one. One of the most important things to remember is that it's February, so we're early in the offseason and you have expect each team's strength of schedule to slightly shift with every free agency acquisition/departure, every draft pick, every retirement announcement and every current player becoming just one year older. All these transactions affect the team's chemistry as a whole and when you play in a league with such a small margin for error like the NFL, then one small change can make a big difference.

So while you may be deciding many things about your fantasy team such as which player to keep or which player you should get rid of, just remember that you really want to take your potential keepers strength of schedule into consideration when deciding if you should keep him. You should also base your decision on several other factors as well such as his age, the talent surrounding him and his team's offensive system. But for now, let's take a look at which players stand to benefit most from the 2015 NFL schedule released by CBS earlier this week.

1. Matt Ryan/Julio Jones

The Atlanta Falcons have the easiest schedule on paper in 2015 with a combined opponent record of 104-150-2. They lead off the first three weeks with New Orleans, Cincinnati and Tampa Bay. Of those three opponents, the Buccaneers ranked 3rd worst against wide receivers, averaging 24.7 fantasy points per game. The Saints weren't far behind, giving up 23.3 points per game to wideouts as well. The Bengals fared better against the pass but ranked in the bottom five in fantasy points allowed to running backs. They surrendered 19.4 points per game on average to RBs in 2014. Keep in mind, this is just the first three games.

But with strength of schedule, you always have to look at the opponents during the money weeks (usually Weeks 14,15 and 16 in most leagues). In that span, the Falcons get Green Bay in Week 14, Pittsburgh in Week 15 and New Orleans in Week 16. Both the Saints and Steelers were in the bottom six for fantasy points allowed against quarterbacks.

Julio Jones came a little over 100 receiving yards shy of winning his first receiving title in 2014. Had he not been injured over the final stretch of the season, he probably would've gotten it as he really caught fire in the waning games with 613 total yards in his last four contests. Unless some of the Falcons' opponents really revamp their defenses in the offseason, Julio could easily kick off 2015 on a similar note. If you want to go with Ryan and Jones as a combo in 2015, this is the year to do it.

2. Andrew Luck

The Colts are a team on the rise. Since Luck entered the picture as the team's franchise quarterback in 2012, Indy has been passing its checkpoints with flying colors and hasn't shown any hitches in the process. Make the playoffs in your first year? Check. Make the playoffs in your second year and win in impressive comeback fashion? Check. Make the playoffs your third year and advance all the way to the AFC Championship game? Check.

To top it off, the Colts will have the second easiest schedule on paper in 2015 with a combined opponent record of 106-149-1. The Colts play in the weak AFC South, a division where two of its teams will be picking in the top 3 come the 2015 draft. They also get the benefit of playing tougher opponents like New England at home in their cozy dome as opposed to the often unforgiving cold weather in New England. The Colts are 19-5 at home since Luck took over and they haven't lost more than two games at Lucas Oil Stadium since then as well.

3. DeAndre Hopkins

The Texans announced Ryan Mallet as their likely 2015 starter at quarterback earlier this week and his performance will definitely play a huge role in Hopkins' further development. Good news for him and his fellow wide receiver Hopkins that he'll have a relatively easy slate to work with in 2015. Like Indy, the Texans will feast on the defensive backfields of Tennessee and Jacksonville twice. They will also play three of the worst fantasy defenses against wide receiver teams in New Orleans, Tampa Bay and the New York Jets. All those games are home games as well.

Hopkins is coming off a solid 76/1,210/6 season and posted a monster game against Tennessee where he compiled nine catches for 238 yards and two touchdowns. Mallet's big arm complements Hopkins speed perfectly. Hopkins is a big play receiver, as evidenced by 15.9 yards per catch average which ranked eighth overall in 2014. That, plus a weak division and three additional shaky secondaries makes Hopkins a high upside WR2 in 2015.

4. Cam Newton

The Carolina Panthers finished strong in 2014 despite a banged up defense and an unfortunate car accident that sidelined quarterback Cam Newton for a game with two back fractures. Even with that, the Panthers found their run game thanks to a resurrected Jonathan Stewart and rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin showed much promise as a red zone jump ball threat.

The Panthers have one of the top 5 best schedules in 2015 with a combined opponent record of 111-145 (.434) and hopefully their bad injury luck will be a thing of the past. They play in the weak NFC South which was full of terrible defenses last year and they also get (I can see you're sensing a theme here) the AFC South as their out of conference opponents.

5. Tom Brady

Coming off his first Super Bowl victory in over a decade, Brady and the Patriots will have the luxury of a not-so-difficult path on their way to repeating as champions. They play Philadelphia at home, a team that gave up more fantasy points to wide receivers than any other team in the league last year. The team right behind Philadelphia in that category was the Washington Redskins, a team New England will also play at home. New England also plays AFC South punching bags Tennessee and Jacksonville. Consider Brady and all his receivers including Brandon LaFell, Julian Edelman and of course, Rob Gronkowski as viable fantasy options in 2015 once again.

 

View Mark Runyon's Flickr page here.

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Saturday, 29 November 2014 00:00

Sleepers and busts for Week 13

I’d like to wish a Happy Thanksgiving weekend to all the readers and families of readers out there.  Thanksgiving is far and away my favorite holiday of the year.  The holiday encompasses my two favorite activities, eating (hopefully) really good food and watching football. It’s that simple.  There are no gifts I need to worry about buying, there’s no religious aspect to the holiday, there’s no costumes and people ringing my doorbell all day long, and as much as I love kids, there’s no Thanksgiving fictional character that I have to worry about blurting out isn’t real.  It’s really just “Hey, come over we’ll watch football, we’ll eat really good food and then we’ll watch a little more football.”  What a holiday!  I’m sure the attendees at the 1st Thanksgiving did not incorporate football into the plans for how the tradition would carry on, but I’d like to say thanks on this Thanksgiving to the pilgrim who invented this holiday, I thank you sir/madam.  Whoever you are/were, you started what became the perfect day, a national holiday solely based around food and football.  Ok I do admit the holiday gets me thinking about how thankful I am for my beautiful wife, the rest of my wonderful  family, and all my friends, and it even gets me thinking about how thankful I am for my freedom and about how incredible our soldiers are. So in summary, football, delicious food, more football, family time, and ignoring the bad momentarily while accentuating all the good things in life to be thankful for…..it’s the perfect holiday.

This is the last week of many regular seasons. Do or die, make or break, or in my case division title and first round bye, or monumental collapse.  Use these sleepers and busts to jockey for playoff position and to ensure that this will not be your last week. 

Happy Thanksgiving once again to you all.  I’m also thankful for each and every one of you out there giving this article a read.

Without further ado, your week 13 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:

Matt Ryan v. Arizona

Is Arizona a very good defense?  Sure.  Is this matchup ideal for Matt Ryan?  Probably not.  But Ryan is at home against a team who we know for a fact will not allow the opposition to run the ball.  Ryan is ranked as the number 20 or so QB on most popular sites and if he did perform that poorly it would just mean the Falcons would get totally shut down completely at home. I refuse to believe this will happen.  In 4 home games (they’ve had 1 neutral game in London which I am not counting) Matt Ryan has thrown 9 TDs while only committing 3 turnovers.  Also, the Cardinals, while they are one of the elite NFL defenses, have allowed the 8th most passing yards per game this season.  He’s not a must start QB1 but Ryan historically performs significantly better at home than he does on the road, and even if the Falcons lose this game handily, he’ll still have a good amount of yards and a couple of TDs to show for it.

I’d Start Matt Ryan over: Eli Manning, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Zach Mettenberger,

Bust QB:

Cam Newton at Minnesota

Newton is coming off a bye week so maybe he’s been able to heal, but he clearly hasn’t been playing healthy.  He’s no longer the threat he used to be running the ball.  He’s also reverted back to his poor decision making ways with only 4 TD and 10 turnovers in his last 4 weeks. Minnesota is at home and is coming off an impressive showing against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.  They lost the game but they put pressure on ARod and limited the Pack to 24 points, not an easy feat.  The strength of the Vikings defense lies in their secondary where Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith lead the way, limiting teams to the 7th fewest passing yards per game.  They’re also a top 5 defense against opposing TEs, the position of most strength in the Panthers passing attack.   Newton is being ranked as a matchup QB option, in the 13-16 range but I see him as a borderline QB2 and maybe even a non-start in 2 QB leagues. 

I’d Start the following players over Cam Newton: Andy Dalton, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Zach Mettenberger, Kyle Orton,

Sleeper RB:

Dan Herron v. Washington

Herron was a surprise starter last week, even to fellow Colts RB Trent Richardson.  There was a fairly even time share between he and Richardson, but Herron out touched him and out gained him and most importantly he racked up five receptions while playing on 3rd downs.  The Colts will miss Ahmad Bradshaw but it’s nice to see that they have a better talent than Richardson in Herron that they can use when killing clock.  Clock killing is exactly what the Colts will be doing this week at home against the hapless Redskins.  The Skins will be going into Indianapolis start Colt McCoy.  This seems like a total mismatch, one that will heavily favor the Colts.  Look for Herron to once again out touch Trent Richardson and approach 100 yards while getting in the endzone at least once.  Herron is a high RB2 this week. 

I’d start Dan Herron over: Isaiah Crowell, LeGarrette Blount, Giovanni Bernard, Fred Jackson

Bust RB:

Isaiah Crowell at Buffalo

Isaiah Crowell is a great talent that much is clear.  His future in this league is bright.  The Georgia alum was able to break out last week, ripping apart the Falcons in a homecoming game for him in Atlanta.  However, I do not think he’s matchup proof and is not a must start.  Buffalo is ranked 5th against fantasy RBs in .5PPR leagues.  At home they’ve limited their opponents and have only allowed the Patriots to put up more than 22 points. This game has cold weather low scoring game written all over it. The Bills defense is fast at LB on the edges and match up with Crowell’s skill set.  Despite Josh Gordon’s return to the lineup, the Browns will not have success moving up and down the field, and the opportunities for redzone touches and scores will not be there for the Crow. Crowell is a flex option this week but I would not trust him in leagues that start only 2 RBs.

I’d start the following players over Isaiah Crowell: Dan Herron, Tre Mason, Alfred Morris

Sleeper WR:

Charles Johnson v. Carolina 

Charles Johnson was a much hyped up rookie coming into the season but had not been a factor until week 10.  In the last two weeks his catches, targets, yards and playing time have all skyrocketed. This past week it was apparent that he was the Vikings number 1 WR, playing 67/69 snaps and receiving 11 targets.  He only turned those targets into 3 catches for 52 yards but he did score a TD and was open on several other occasions.  The last two weeks have resulted in 9 catches for 139 yards and a TD.  Carolina comes to town sporting the 26th ranked defense against fantasy WRs.  CB Captain Munnerlyn and safety Mike Mitchell have been major losses in the secondary from a once dominant defense. Perhaps an even bigger factor has been the suspension of All Pro defensive end Greg Hardy.  Hardy’s absence has all but eliminated the Panthers pass rush and QBs and WRs are having a field day against the new Panthers defense.  Look for Teddy Bridgewater to have one of his best days as a pro passer and for his new number 1 target, Charles Johnson, to be the major beneficiary.  Johnson can be started in many 3 WR leagues.

I’d Start Charles Johnson over: Kenny Stills, Michael Floyd, John Brown, Steve Smith, Julian Edelman

Bust WR:

Kenny Stills at Pittsburgh

Kenny Stills was expected to step up after Brandin Cooks went down with a broken thumb, and he did not disappoint.  Stills caught 8 balls for 98 yards in his new role, however this week he and his teammates at WR could be in for a down game.  The Saints, a disappointing offense, travels to Pittsburgh. The Steelers sustained early season injuries and after weeks of being decimated on defense return 3 key starters in Ike Taylor, Troy Polumalu and Ryan Shazier. The defense has been able to remain effective ranking 16th in passing yards against and 9th against fantasy WRs despite these key losses. Now with the defense back at full strength the Steelers should be able to once again become a viable defense, especially at home.  Other than Jimmy Graham there is no sure thing in this difficult road matchup.

I’d start the following players over Kenny Stills:  Charles Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Wallace, Steve Smith, Sammy Watkins

Sleeper TE:

Charles Clay at. New York Jets

Charles Clay was a top 10 TE last season and he has built fine chemistry in the redzone with Ryan Tannehill.  This season he hasn’t had as much success playing in a new offense and dealing with injuries, but he’s shown to be able to produce in the right matchups.  Coming off a groin injury, he returns just in time for the 3rd worst team against TEs the New York Jets.  The Jets have allowed a mind boggling 12 TDs to TEs and this past week allowed one to Bills TE Scott Chandler.  Outside of my top 6 TEs this week (Graham, Gronk, Julius Thomas, Greg Olsen, Delanie Walker) it has not been easy to find consistent TE play so it’s important to play the matchups.  I’d start Clay over anyone who isn’t those 6 guys in this game. 

I’d start Charles Clay over: Antonio Gates, Coby Fleener, Larry Donnell, Travis Kelce

Bust TE:

Antonio Gates at Baltimore 

Antonio Gates was the reason why many fantasy teams got off to a great start with his surge of TDs in the first half of the season.  Recently he’s been the reason why fantasy teams may be going through an epic collapse to end the season.  Gates has combined for only 74 yards the last three weeks.  He’s only had 10 targets in that stretch and he hasn’t had more than 61 receiving yards in a game since week 2.   He’s TD dependent and is on the road against a defense in Baltimore that has allowed slightly over 10 points per game in five home games.  TD opportunities may not be available against this stingy defense.  I’d play the matchups and look elsewhere at TE this week.

I’d start the following players over Antonio Gates: Travis Kelce, Delanie Walker, Coby Fleener, Charles Clay, Tim Wright

That’ll be it for this week.  Happy Thanksgiving weekend.  Good luck and see you in the playoffs!

View Keith Allison's Flickr page here.

 

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Saturday, 08 November 2014 00:00

QB/DEF bullet points for Week 10

Start of the Week:

QB - Ben Roethlisberger at New York Jets - #4 in Weekly Rankings

Why not go with the guy who has thrown 12 TDs in the last two weeks as the start of the week?  Big Ben set all kinds of records in the past two weeks and his matchup against the Jets is a lot better than his matchups the past 2 weeks against Indianapolis and Baltimore.  Maybe he’ll throw 8 TDs this week!  Just kidding but I really do not see a way he throws less than 3.  The Jets rank dead last in fantasy points against QBs and have allowed an insane ratio of 24 TDs vs. 1 INT.  I’d only start Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson over him this week.  Enjoy the ride.

D/ST – Dallas Cowboys vs. Jacksonville in London - #4 in Weekly Rankings

They’re playing Jacksonville…..case closed.  No seriously, that’s most of it.  Jacksonville has allowed opposing defenses to score a whopping 2.6 more fantasy points per week than the 2nd worst defense.  Blake Bortles at this stage of his career is a turnover machine and many of his INTs are taken to the house.  The game in London is on a sloppy field, and the weather is projected to be lousy.  Look for a low scoring game where the Jaguars fall behind quickly, forcing Bortles to throw.   The more he throws, the more points the Cowboys D/ST will score via sacks and turnovers. 

Start em:

QB – Matt Ryan at Tampa Bay - #7 in Weekly Rankings

It’s been a while since I’ve recommended starting Matt Ryan, but the matchup this week is too tasty.  Tampa Bay has waved the white flag on the season.  Their personnel in the secondary aren’t NFL caliber players, especially after trading safety Mark Barron two weeks ago.  Ryan has an inept offensive line protecting him and he could face some pressure from a formidable front seven, however, the bye week has given the Falcons two weeks to fix their offensive line woes.  It’s been a disappointing season overall for Ryan owners, but big points are in store for this week’s cake walk of a matchup.   

D/ST – Green Bay vs. Chicago - #9 in Weekly Rankings

Sometimes historical stats don’t matter all that much but in this case I think they absolutely do.  Jay Cutler has a win/loss record of 1-9 and 19 INTs all time against the Green Bay Packers.  These numbers are jaw dropping.  I say the stats do matter here because basically the same coaching staff has been in place in Green Bay during Cutler’s entire career.  The Packers know how to attack Cutler and make him a walking breathing turnover.  When that many turnovers are bound to happen big points become possible for a fantasy defense.  Look for more of the same in Lambeau this week.    


Owners Beware:

QB – Eli Manning at Seattle - #18 in Weekly Rankings

The Giants have been playing football from behind a lot lately and it’s actually led to Eli Manning being one of the better fantasy plays.  Eli has been forced to throw for the entire 2nd half and has been able to convert on some late TDs while keeping his turnovers down.  The same thing could very well happen in Seattle, but sometimes when you fall behind big too often, the other team starts generating a massive pass rush forcing sacks and turnovers.  This is what happened three weeks ago in Philadelphia, and it’s what I see happening this week in Seattle.  Seattle hasn’t looked exactly right defensively but the cure could very well be the Giants, who lack the weapons to hang around in this game. The Seahawks allowed the Raiders to make last week’s game close and I’m sure Pete Carroll will remind his team that they have looked absolutely terrible defensively. I expect the Seahawks turnaround to greatness to start this week.  A tough day from start to finish is on the horizon for Eli Manning.

D/ST – San Francisco at New Orleans - #17 in Weekly Rankings

The 49ers are always one of the first fantasy defenses off the board.  Owners drafted them thinking they can just plug them in every week and the 49ers would at worst be mediocre and at best elite.  This year’s defense has not had that type of success.  They rank as the #17 fantasy defense this season.  Navarro Bowman and Aldon Smith have been out all year and the loss of Patrick Willis has been tremendous.  They have not been awful in terms of yardage as they rank 3rd and 5th in rushing yards and passing yards against respectively.  However, there are just not enough big plays being made.  They’re only on pace for 26 sacks after posting 38 sacks a year ago. The Saints are playing incredible football and are coming off back to back dominant wins at home against Green Bay and at Carolina.  They’re mixing up the run and pass enough to keep Drew Brees upright and they’re keeping defenses guessing.  The game is in New Orleans where Brees and the offense plays its best football and San Francisco could struggle to get stops if they’re not able to dial up a pass rush.  Look elsewhere with a streaming defense this week.

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

Week 7 QB/DEFs bullet points

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

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Thursday, 09 October 2014 00:00

Week 6 QB/DEF bullet points

Editor's note: These are bullet points used to help explain our weekly QB/DEF rankings for Week 6. You can view the QB/DEF rankings here and here.

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Friday, 03 October 2014 00:00

Potential boom and bust players for Week 5

Even though week 5 is a favorable bye week (Dolphins/Raiders), that doesn’t mean you’re locked, loaded and ready to go with your lineup.  Maybe you're dealing with injuries and/or suspensions. Maybe your team just hasn’t been very good. Maybe your roster contains players who should either be started or avoided this particular week based on matchups or other football related situations. Or maybe your team is loaded with Dolphins and Raiders, and if that’s the case, I feel sorry for you. 

The following predictions for week 5 sleepers and busts at QB and RB. They can assist you with those crucial decisions that could be the difference between winning and losing this week. A sleeper does not mean the player is a must start and a bust does not mean the player is a must bench for you. I’m just pointing out a couple players at each position who I believe will perform better or worse than the general public may think. The decision on whether or not to start these players depends on the quality of your alternatives.  Without further ado, your week 5 sleepers and busts:

Sleeper Quarterbacks:

·        Ben Roethlisberger at Jacksonville – This week it’s Pittsburgh’s turn to take on the conglomerate of NFL backup and practice squad talent otherwise known as the Jacksonville Jaguars starting defense. The Jags rank dead last against fantasy quarterbacks, having allowed 11 passing TDs and three 300+ yard performances with only one interception. This matchup is especially tasty since the Steelers' defense is a struggling unit that has lost starting CB Ike Taylor and starting LBs Ryan Shazier and Jarvis Jones due to injury. Blake Bortles should be able to keep this game close or win the game outright in a shootout, keeping the Steelers in throw mode for 4 quarters.  Big Ben = Big production = Top 5 QB this week. 

I’d start Ben Roethlisberger over: Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Matthew Stafford, Jay Cutler, Eli Manning.

 

·        Mike Glennon at New Orleans – This entry is for two QB leagues or for those who are extremely thin at the position.  Mike Glennon has improved the outlook for all Tampa Bay skill players since taking over for Josh McCown. He has a rocket of an arm, sees blitzes well and takes shots down field. In last week’s upset victory over the Steelers, he posted 302 yards 2 TD and 1 INT. There is no defense outside of Jacksonville worse than the New Orleans Saints (ranked 28th vs. QBs). As long as that funny looking guy who's Buddy’s son and Rex’s brother is calling the plays, the opposing offense will have every chance to succeed.  Expect him to match or exceed last week’s numbers. 

I’d start Mike Glennon over: Tom Brady, Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco, Alex Smith  

 

Bust Quarterbacks:

·        Matt Ryan at New York Giants – Through three weeks, Matt Ryan is the number 4 fantasy QB in the land. The start to this season has many of his owners believing that this could be the year Ryan breaks into that elite discussion, but I have bad news for all of you — the fun is over for Matt Ryan. Ryan lost his starting center Joe Hawley and starting right tackle Lamar Holmes. With left tackle Sam Baker already out for the season this leaves the Falcons with really serious issues on the offensive line. The Giants defense has been flying around the field, hitting the quarterback at will and causing turnovers. A confident defense at home vs. a new and shaky o-line….I’ll take the defense in that matchup. I’m sure Ryan still has some good games left in him in the future but most of them will be at home or indoors where he has proven to be a better QB. If you have a quality QB2 to start over Ryan, I’d go with him this week. Through four games this season, Ryan has thrown four touchdowns and five interceptions in road games.

I’d start the following players over Ryan: Colin Kaepernick, Nick Foles, Cam Newton, Tony Romo

 

·        Matthew Stafford vs. Buffalo Bills - This is one of those cases where a bust does not necessarily mean that you’re not starting him. I do still have Stafford as my QB10 on the week, but I’ve seen him mostly in the top 5 or 6. Stafford is coming off a great 293 yard 2 TD performance against the Jets, a 24-17 victory. That game was competitive. Kyle Orton will be getting his second start since January 2011 (last start 12/29/13) in a hostile environment against a very good defense in Detroit. The defense should be able to take care of the win and the offense will step on the breaks in the second half. If Stafford secures his TDs early, he could salvage his day but his upside is limited by a a few things. For one, the game could be a blowout. Two,  Calvin Johnson’s possible injury and lastly, the fact that Buffalo’s defense is not bad at all. You’re probably starting him but take a look at the rankings page to see the 9 better options at QB this week.

I’d start the following players over Stafford: Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Russell Wilson, Jay Cutler.

 

Sleeper RBs: 

·        Shane Vereen vs. Cincinnati –The Patriots offense has been putrid through 4 weeks and it looks like there's no one answer that will make them any more than an average unit. The offensive line is in shambles. Belichick was benching player after player on the o-line, making the game they were playing look more like musical chairs instead of football. Brady and Belichick have too much pride and intelligence to get blown out week after week. Whether or not they figure out how to be a top team once again, the Patriots will try to figure out how to create big plays and let one of the best players of all time, Brady, determine their fate. The beneficiary of the struggling Patriots in the long term will be Shane Vereen. The Patriots soon to be passing mode offense favors Vereen’s game. His resurgence into fantasy relevance starts this week in a matchup against a very good Cincinnati defense. We saw glimpses of this last week as he totaled 5 receptions and 67 total yards but I expect a lot more going forward. I see a lot of dump-offs, quick passes, screens and wheel routes with some draws mixed in. Plus, if the Patriots do get to the red zone, he should also get a few goal line looks. 8-10 catches, 100 total yards and a TD is within reach for Vereen.

I’d Start Shane Vereen over: Arian Foster, Zac Stacy, Matt Asiata, Ahmad Bradshaw, Chris Ivory 

·        Reggie Bush vs. Buffalo – While nobody in the real world likes to see an injury, Reggie Bush owners around the world probably were not all that upset when Joique Bell went to the sidelines with a concussion in the 3rd quarter last week.  If Bell can’t give it a go, Bush owners will finally get what they’ve been screaming about all year, the majority of touches in the running game. Expect a heavy workload for Bush in probable blowout even if Bell does play as he may be limited. 100+ total yards 5+ catches and at least one score are my prediction.

I’d Start Reggie Bush over: Eddie Lacy, Frank Gore, Montee Ball, Andre Ellington

 

Bust RBs:

·        Zac Stacy at Philadelphia – The confidence in Zac Stacy among the general public baffles me. I see him listed as a top 12 RB this week so maybe I’m just watching a different game, but I don’t see it. Philadelphia should be able to control this game, easily limiting Stacy’s rushing attempts. In addition, Stacy has not yet earned the complete trust of his own coach, as displayed by his exact 50/50 split with Benny Cunningham (34 snaps each) in week 3. I don’t trust Austin Davis to keep this game competitive and I don’t trust Jeff Fisher to play Stacy enough to warrant this kind of value.

I’d Start the following players over Zac Stacy: Reggie Bush, Khiry Robinson, Doug Martin, Shane Vereen, Andre Williams

·        Khiry Robinson vs. Tampa Bay -  The New Orleans Saints are a difficult team to figure out when it comes to fantasy RBs. With Mark Ingram out, everyone thought that Khiry Robinson and Pierre Thomas would split the remaining workload.  Well, surprisingly it was Travaris Cadet who received the first touch of the game in week 4, and it was Pierre Thomas who played the most snaps on offense.  Khiry Robinson averaged almost 11 YPC and totaled over 100 yards but again, the timeshare was alarming (Snapcount: Pierre Thomas-23, Khiry Robinson-18, Travaris Cadet-18). Who knows what Sean Payton will do now after the Saints got trampled in Dallas. Furthermore, the Bucs run defense is healthy and stout with star DT Gerald McCoy having returned last week.This unit held LeVeon Bell to only 3.3 YPC and 63 yards rushing in week 4. There’s too much uncertainty with the Saints backfield for me to trust Robinson as any more than a flex option this week.

I’d Start the following players over Khiry Robinson:  Doug Martin, Shane Vereen, Chris Ivory, Andre Williams, Justin Forsett

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Published in Fantasy Coverage
Monday, 01 September 2014 00:00

Episode 13: All-denim team

Goal of this podcast: To give you one last string of well-educated speculation before the NFL regular season begins. We talk sleeper picks that have been overhyped, plus two bold predictions, some mailbag and a few guys who could rock the denim as well as Aaron Rodgers and crew did earlier this week.

Published in Podcasts

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