• Buy Low Targets, April Edition

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

    Kirk Cousins | QB12

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

    T.J. Yeldon | RB44

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

    Paul Richardson | WR91

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

    Tyler Higbee | TE23

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

  • The Fantasy Football Arm-Chair GM Rookie Symposium

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

    Leonard Fournette | RB

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

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

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

     

    Dalvin Cook | RB

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

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

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

     

    Christian McCaffrey | RB

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

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

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

     

    Corey Davis | WR

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

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

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

    Mike Williams | WR

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

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

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

     

    Your fantasy football arm-chair GM,

    Michael Stepney

    FORTUNE FAVORS THE BOLD

    Photo Links:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    By: Tom Petrillo aka @tpetrillo80

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Rookie Profile: Patrick Mahomes

    Comparison: Cam Newton

    Best Fit: Houston Texans

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

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

    Scouting Report

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

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

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

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

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

    Follow Will on twitter @willpendosports

     

  • The Fantasy Football Arm-Chair GM Free Agency Primer

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

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

    Free Agency

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

    NFL Draft

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

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

    Alshon Jeffrey | WR

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

    Potential suitors: Eagles, Ravens, 49ers, Buccaneers

    Kenny Stills | WR  

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

    Potential suitors: Dolphins, Eagles, Buccaneers

    DeSean Jackson | WR

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

    Potential suitors: Eagles, Buccaneers, 49ers

    Terrelle Pryor | WR

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

    Potential suitors: Browns, Buccaneers, 49ers

     

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

    Martellus Bennett | TE

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

    Potential suitors: Patriots, Giants, Lions  

    LeGarrette Blount | RB

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

    Potential suitors: Patriots, Raiders, Packers

    Danny Woodhead | RB

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

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

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

     

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

    Adrian Peterson | RB

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

    Potential suitors: Vikings, Giants, Seahawks

    Jamaal Charles | RB

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

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

    Potential suitors: Eagles, Colts, Raiders, Packers

    Brandon Marshall | WR

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

    Potential suitors: Ravens, Cowboys, Patriots, Raiders  

     

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

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

     

    FORTUNE FAVORS THE BOLD

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

    Your fantasy football GM,

    Michael Stepney(@MStepney71)

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

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

    But how will that affect us in 2017?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Part Two

    Part One

Podcasts

Episode 169: Overrated/underrated players Pt. 2

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

Episode 168: Overrated/underrated players Pt. 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waiver Wire

Fantasy Film Projector: James Conner

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

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

Fantasy Film Projector: Samaje Perine

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

Fantasy Film Projector: Christian McCaffrey

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

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

View MGoBlog's Flickr page here.

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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