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

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

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

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

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

    Steady producer in college

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

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

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

    Not much competition to deal with

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

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

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

    Has the speed for big plays

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

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

    He's a dual threat

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

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

    His current ADP is juicy

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

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

     

     

     

  • Darrell Henderson is a potential league winner in 2019

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

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

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

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

    Why it matters for fantasy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Is Malcolm Brown a problem?

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

    But should we get worried about Brown stealing touches?

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

    The current state of the Rams as a team

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

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

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

    Final verdict

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

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

    Link to original author of photo 

     

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

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

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

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

    Why Jacobs the better option

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

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

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

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

    Where Jacobs can become an elite fantasy RB

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

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

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

    Receivers do fantasy better

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

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

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

    The right spot with Oakland

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

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

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

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

    Rookie running backs are the best kind of rookie

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

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

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

    Final verdict

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

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

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

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

  • Why you should avoid RB's like Derrius Guice in 2019

    If there's one thing you must know about dominating your fantasy draft, it's this. You must extract value in the later rounds.

    Washington Redskins running back Derrius Guice is the kind of player you might think about taking. But his ADP is way too high according to FFCalculator. Here's why you should avoid him in re-draft this season.

    Why is his ADP where it is?

    People's confidence in Guice likely stems from two variables. For one, he's young. At just 21 years of age, he best years are ahead of him. 

    Plus, he's got talent. He was drafted in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. So Washington is invested in him and wants him on the field.

    Both of those are true enough. But if you look closer at Washington's offensive situation, you'll see Guice is drastically overvalued at that price.

    Here are the main reasons Guice should be avoided in re-draft this season.

    No opportunity in the passing game

    First, you don't want to draft a guy with zero receiving floor, and Guice is that guy this year. Chris Thompson is a dynamite screen receiver who's magic in the open field. Thompson will likely see the targets on third and long passing situations, not Guice.

    Receiving ability is how good fantasy backs become great fantasy backs. Here are a few backs with higher ADP's than Guice you could look at here.

    One example is Kareem Hunt, who is 79 overall. Yes, I know he's suspended for a bit and Nick Chubb is there. Still, Cleveland's offense will be much better and Hunt will likely see plenty of red zone receiving opportunities as a result. Plus, running backs who sit out tend to fare better when they actually do get back on the field due to lack of wear and tear. Le'Veon Bell's stats are an example of this.

    Even Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders have better opportunity in Philadelphia's offense. You could draft Howard at 62 or Sanders at 114, respectively. The Eagles have a stout offensive line. They also have an MVP-caliber quarterback returning from injury in Carson Wentz.

    Not only that, Guice is also competing with Adrian Peterson for ground touches. Peterson managed to turn the clock back enough to earn another year with Washington. The Redskins are committed to using him for at least this season.

    Not enough red zone trips

    This piggy backs on argument No. 1. You don't want a running back in a bad offense, and Guice will likely be in one.

    The Redskins are a poop show at the skill positions, particularly quarterback and receiver.

    They'll be trotting out a heavy dose of Case Keenum and Colt McCoy. Both quarterbacks lack big arm strength and Keenum is coming off a poor season with the Denver Broncos. First-round rookie Dwayne Haskins will likely take his lumps at some point as well. Expect plenty of poor field position spots for Washington in 2019.

    At receiver, their current top guy is Josh Doctson, who's entering his third season. Doctson has yet to breakout and has dealt with injuries and consistency issues early in his career.

    Rounding out their receiving core are underwhelming guys like Jehu Chesson, Darvin Kidsy and Brian Quick. Paul Richardson is a speedy slot guy, but it's unlikely he benefits from weak-armed Colt McCoy or Keenum throwing him passes.

    Instead, the Redskins will likely resort to a run-heavy, dink-and-dunk style offense that relies on a bend-don't-break defense to stay in games. Meaning there will not be a lot of high scoring affairs. And Guice's touchdown value will suffer.

    Injury issues

    Then there's the knee issues. Guice is coming off a major knee injury. When I say major, I mean there's a standard ACL tear and the kind of ACL tear that Guice has.

    According to Kareem Copeland of the Washington Post, Guice also got an infection to torn ACL that required 3 additional procedures. This required a catheter in his arm and seven weeks of antibiotics. An ACL tear is a severe enough injury on its own. Adding complications to the problem is an even more troubling sign for longevity at NFL level.

    Who to look at instead

    There's some intriguing rookie running backs to keep an eye on this offseason. Devin Singletary has upside due to Buffalo's upgrades on the offensive line. They may also cut LeSean McCoy to save money. Plus Frank Gore is entering year 7 of his farewell tour in the NFL. It's still a long shot Singletary becomes a starter. Still, you could get him on waivers basically and there's more opportunity for him than Guice.

    Also, I mentioned earlier that Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders are available to take later than Guice. Both those players would be fine dart throws given the strength of their offensive line. Plus, that offense could be money like it was in 2017 if Wentz stays healthy.

    Those are just a few guys that stand out.

    Overall, Guice is somebody who's vastly overvalued at his current ADP. There's better upside backs in the later rounds to look at.

    Link to original photo.

     

  • Top 4 potential waiver wire radar receivers in 2019

    It's time to break down some receivers you should keep on your waiver wire radar in 2019.

    These types receivers are so crucial to fantasy success. They're not the big time No. 1 guys, but they produce plenty of fantasy stats at the WR2 and WR3 position. And all those points add up.

    Some of these players might not have huge roles to start. But as we all know, things change on a dime in the NFL. Starters go down with injury. Or they get benched because they're struggling to produce. Rookies developing all offseason get their shot next, and sometimes they flourish. So you better be there to catch them while they're hot.

    It's important to note that these players usually start crushing it AFTER the season gets underway a bit. So don't expect most of them to start producing during Week 1.

    One example of this in 2018 was Atlanta Falcons rookie Calvin Ridley. Ridley took over the spot vacated by Taylor Gabriel and had monster production in Weeks 3 and 4. Catching 7 of 8 targets for 146 yards and 3 touchdowns in Week 3. Followed by 4 catches on 6 targets for 54 yards and 2 touchdowns in Week 4.

    That last part is key. You want a wide receiver who can give you two or three consistent good weeks, as it's hard to predict exactly when a receiver will pop.

    Also, two important things to look at when selecting these receivers.

    No. 1 — Quarterback play. A wide receiver's value is very dependent on the talent of his quarterback. Only the elite wide receivers can still produce good numbers without a great quarterback.

    No. 2 — Targets. There has to be enough targets to go around in the offense for a wide receiver to be successful. Some offenses prefer to spread the ball around. This is especially true if there's a lot of talented receivers on the offense. So it's important to find where the opportunity will be for a wide receiver.

    Here are some players who might not get drafted in your fantasy league worth keeping an eye on later in the season.

    Parris Campbell — Indianapolis Colts

    How he could be fantasy relevant in 2019: Talk about a dream pairing. Campbell is a scorching 4.31 40 receiver who gets Andrew Luck as his quarterback right out of the gate. The Colts were in dire need of a slot receive, so targets will be there for this rookie. Plus, he will make a nasty matchup for slower slot corners and linebackers.

    He's also not your typical frail slot guy. Campbell stands 6'0, 205 lbs and should provide some physicality if he's going over the middle. He was also drafted in Round 2, meaning the Colts will be expecting him to play very soon if not right at Week 1.

     

    Dontrelle Inman — New England Patriots

    How he could be fantasy relevant in 2019: Inman has a slight bounce back year with the Colts last season, catching 3 touchdowns on 39 targets. The Patriots are in a major offensive transition right now. Josh Gordon's year-long status is always a mystery given his past off-the-field struggles. Injuries have derailed DeMaryius Thomas and he might struggle to make the roster. 40+ year old QB Tom Brady is still under center, so there's good touchdown potential there as crazy as that sounds. There's potential for the chips to fall Inman's way, and he could see a substantial role in New England's offense at some point.

     

    JJ Arcega-Whiteside — Philadelphia Eagles

    How he could be fantasy relevant in 2019: The Eagles have plenty of wide receivers already. They brought back DeSean Jackson while also keeping Nelson Agholor. So Arceda-Whiteside likely won't see a ton of targets early on in 2019. However, Alshon Jeffery has battled several injuries since Philly's Super Bowl run two years ago, including a torn rotator cuff. Arcega-Whiteside is a similar type of receiver to Jeffery. He's a big wideout who can go up and get the ball, which plays into Wentz's strengths as a quarterback who likes to take chances and let his receiver go get the ball.

     

    Deebo Samuel — San Francisco 49ers

    How he could be fantasy relevant in 2019: The 49ers had some of the worst wide receiver production of 2019, so there's plenty of room for targets in that offense. They also have a potential Pro Bowl quarterback in Jimmy Garroppolo, who's coming back from an ACL tear. Samuel was drafted in the second round by San Francisco, which is a good indication that they're going to try and play him early. As long as he's not a complete bust, Samuel will be given plenty of opportunity to see targets in 2019.

    So there you have it. Four wide receivers to keep an eye on in 2019.

     

     

     

  • The state of the running game in today's NFL

    Football has always been a young man's game. That notion has never been more true than at the running back position.

    Here, we'll show you one tip when drafting a running back to enhance your team's likelihood of success. This is a simple one.

    Today's NFL is all about preserving the running back.

    Coaches and general managers now have enough data to know a running back typically lasts 4-5 years on average before seeing a drop in production. The best backs can produce into their 30's. But these are rare cases.

    The constant wear and tear at the position causes RB's to get injured over time. This can hurt your fantasy team because you could draft them in one of these down years.

    So how do you use this to your advantage in fantasy?

    Simple. Go young and draft a lot of running backs in the later rounds.

    This will help ensure you get a fresh young back who's ready to produce. It will also give you replacement options in case your back struggles or gets injured. 

    A quick telling stat from last season.

    Eight of the top 10 running backs in rushing attempts in 2018 were under 24 years of age. This brings us to another point.

    Volume is key when it comes to running backs. You want guys who are on the field. And due to many teams opting to go with multiple starting running backs, it's getting harder and harder to find high-volume backs.

    In fact, a running back getting 25 carries per game is unheard of these days. The highest last season was 19 per game from Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.

    Elliott finished with 304 carries for the year. The next closest back was New York Giants Saquon Barkley with 261. Over 40 carries less than Elliott.

    One other thing to note is both these running backs were under 24 years of age. Elliott is 23 and Barkley 21. These running backs were the top 2 rushers in the league in 2018.

    To point out how important youth is, all of the Top 7 rushers in 2018 were under 24 years of age. These include Todd Gurley (24), Joe Mixon (22), Chris Carson (24), Christian McCaffrey (22) and Derrick Henry (24).

    Also, in 2017, the two top rushers (Kareem Hunt and Todd Gurley) were 22 and 23 years old, respectively.

    2017 was a little better for some of the older backs though. LeSean McCoy (29 years old) and Mark Ingram (28 years old) ranked in the Top in rush yards.

    There are always outliers. Last season Adrian Peterson eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark at 33 years old.

    Quite a feat. One caveat though. Peterson hadn't played more than 6 games in a season since 2015. Indicating the rest he got for three years helped him preserve his body a little.

    So as a general rule, it's wise to take several running backs in your draft. Have at least 3 or even 4 on your bench. Still, you should always pay attention to each individual's injury history as well. Beware of young, unproven running backs with knee issues.

    Plus, if you have a choice between a younger back (21-24 years old) and a slightly older back (25-27) and both running backs are getting a similar amount of carries, then best to go with the young back.

    Photo/Keith Allison

     

Podcasts

Episode 201: Who's the top RB for 2019?

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

Episode 200: 2019 rookie RBs, and Giants hoopla

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

Episode 199: Walls of Jerick(ho)

Tuesday, 20 March 2018 00:00
On their first episode of the 2018 offseason, the Helpers discuss free agency signings and which ones have the best chance to generate tons of fantasy points. Want to win more money in Daily Fantasy sports? It's time to embr
Read more...

Episode 198: Sweet streams are made of these

Wednesday, 27 December 2017 00:00
On the final 2017 episode, the Helpers dole out their awards for the 2017 Fantasy playoffs. This year's titles include the '11th hour,' the 'we can't complain to that guy on Twitter anymore,' the 'where did that guy come from
Read more...

Episode 197: Playoffs are here

Saturday, 09 December 2017 00:00
On this week's episode, we help you understand that the playoffs are here. Then we tell you what will happen. Listen to us. Also, check out DRAFT, a daily fantasy website that you can actually win money on unlike DraftKings
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Episode 196: Finding out who we can trust

Tuesday, 14 November 2017 00:00
On the fantasy pod, Scott and George discuss waiver QBs, why there's no reason to not pickup Jamaal Williams, and why this season is still whack.  Link to original photo.
Read more...

Waiver Wire

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

Saturday, 01 June 2019 00:00
The 'What Can This Rookie Do For You' series aims to show how drafting this player will benefit your fantasy team. It illustrates his strengths and weaknesses. What scheme he would fit best in, and what kind of fantasy stats
Read more...

PPR back watch: RB David Montgomery's pass catching ability

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 23 March 2019 00:00
Editor's note: This series is meant to explain what rookie running backs can do for your fantasy team. A good running back also requires a good head coach, offensive line and quarterback to be successful in NFL. But these art
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Like Daily fantasy leagues? Like mixed martial arts? Try your hand at our free MMA contest and win money. Click the link to sign up.

On Friday's edition of Treatment, Matt Harmon of Footballguys stops by to talk about the development of his new product 'Reception Perception' which will be released sometime during the summer in 2015. 'Reception Perception' will focus on an in depth analysis of every fantasy relevant wide receiver and paint an reflection of exactly what is going on in a player's game film. This product will be free for the first year and Harmon plans to release it annually. You can read more about the project here and also check out examples of Harmon's past wide receiver articles here.

Matt immediately gets into the project in the beginning of the pod. He's been developing the content throughout the 2014 season and already has a bevy of articles under his belt including Jeremy Maclin, Julio Jones, Josh Gordon and Odell Beckham Jr. You can check out his page here. He first started with Jordy Nelson and Cordarrelle Paterson through his process. Paterson and Nelson are two very different receivers, with Nelson being athe more polished receiver and Paterson serving as the more raw, athletic wideout. He usually finds the players that are coming off some interesting games or are about to break out.

On top of the NFL players, Harmon is currently focusing on college players and already has one article on Alabama wideout Amari Cooper. Widely considered the top receiver in this year's 2015 NFL Draft class, Cooper is the main subject of the podcast and serves as the first example of what Harmon's 'Reception Perception' will be about.

When analyzing Cooper's skill set, Harmon focuses on a variety of factors including contested catch rate, drop rate, amount of targets, rout analysis, and tackle breaking measurements. He then translates all this data to give you an idea of what Cooper can be at the NFL level.

For fantasy football purposes, there's plenty of analysis within 'Reception Perception' that can be helpful to those looking to draft certain players to their fantasy teams whether it be in dynasty or redraft leagues. For dynasty purposes, you'll want to pay attention to Harmon's rookie wide receiver articles more for obvious reasons, but you'll also find plenty of information that may make you think twice about drafting a certain player.

One of the bigger factors that can really make or break an NFL receiver (and Harmon goes into this in his articles) is consistency in getting off bump and run coverages. A lot of young receivers lack the upper body strength to shed big, physical cornerbacks which often leads to them getting off track in their route and can really limit their ability to get open consistently. Plenty of wide receivers have struggled with that in the past and often times the ones who don't end up with the most targets and ultimately the most receptions. Harmon's analysis will show you which receiver has the most success getting off the bump and run.

The other big factor is contested catch success rate. Often times, wide receivers don't get wide open on a play and will have to make a catch in traffic. Harmon's analysis takes into account how many successful catches a receiver makes with defenders draped on him, and uses Odell Beckham Jr.'s as a guy who lacks size but consistently possesses the 'my ball' mentality and goes up and catches the ball despite being covered. It's an underrated trait that a lot of successful receivers possess and Harmon makes sure to cover that in his articles.

Follow Matt on Twitter @MattHarmonBYB

View Nathan Rupert's Flickr page here

Published in Podcasts
Friday, 30 January 2015 00:00

Epiosde 44: Up on the Bay

On Friday's episode of Treatment, the Fantasy Football Helpers discuss Tampa Bay's hiring of former Atlanta offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and how it will likely have a positive impact on the Bucs fantasy value. They also talk about San Francisco's new offensive coordinator and how it will have just the opposite effect on the 49ers' offense.

The Helpers first start out discussing newly hired Buccaneers' offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, who comes over from the Atlanta Falcons. While at Atlanta, Koetter established a pass happy regime that kept quarterback Matt Ryan in the Top 5 in passing attempts consistently throughout his time there. 

After spending time at Arizona State in the mid 2000s, Koetter landed his first NFL job as offensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2007. He was very successful during his time there, as he helped David Garrard turn in a 18 touchdown, three interception season and the Jags made the playoffs. The following season, Garrard would throw the ball 535 times, which was seventh most among all quarterbacks that season. Garrard's 15:13 TD-INT ratio wasn't nearly as good that year, however.

While Koetter was in Jacksonville, he helped strengthen the fantasy value of receivers like Mike Sims-Walker, tight end Mercedes Lewis and running back Maurice Jones-Drew. While at Atlanta, he helped the Falcons become one of the most prominent offenses in the game and also played a key role in utilizing Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez in the passing game. In his final season with the Falcons in 2014, Koetter's offense ranked in the Top 5 for passing yards per game (284) and 12th in points per game (23.8).

When it comes to Tampa Bay, Koetter will again step into a good situation with plenty of weapons. Young receiver Mike Evans will be coming off a tremendous rookie campaign where he scored multiple touchdowns in a series of games midway through the season that set records held by former great Randy Moss. Fellow wide receiver Vincent Jackson is also coming off a decent season of his own and young tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins could be poised for a breakout season of his own. Seferian-Jenkins finished with 21 catches for 221 yards and two touchdowns in his rookie season.

Expect all of Tampa Bay's receivers to become better fantasy options due to Koetter's pass happy offense that will led to more opportunities for the skills players to accrue stats.

The Helpers then shifted their discussion to San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Geep Chryst. Previously the 49ers quarterbacks coach, Chryst will now take over as the team's play caller and is the only assistant still with the team that was brought in by departed coach Jim Harbaugh. It's a puzzling hire, considering Chryst did little to enhance the skills of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a guy who took several steps back and failed to the make the playoffs for the first time since taking over as starter in 2012. It's not a sign that the 49ers' receivers will be better fantasy players in 2015, as Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis are both coming off less than stellar seaosns.

View Thompson's Flickr page here.

Published in Podcasts
Thursday, 29 January 2015 00:00

Dynasty WR Rankings Tier 1: DeVante Parker

Profile

Player: DeVante Parker

School: University of Louisville

Position: WR

Height: 6’3”

Weight: 208 lbs.

Position Rank: 1

Class: Senior

Leading off yet another talented wide receiver class is Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker. Some may be asking how I rank Parker over talents like Alabama’s Amari Cooper and West Virginia’s Kevin White. There is a case to be made for all three of them as to why they should be considered the best receiver in the 2015 draft class, but as of now I feel Parker is the number one receiver in this class due to his combination of size/speed that have people comparing his game to Bengals receiver A.J. Green

 Strengths:

  •      Quick feet, explosive out of break
  •      Unaffected by players around him
  •      High points the ball well
  •      Hands catcher
  •      Physical in the open field
  •      Attacks ball well in air
  •      Works back to ball well when QB under pressure

Weaknesses:

  •      Needs to refine route-running ability, mainly staying square until the top of his stem
  •      Needs to improve hand use against press-coverage
  •     Attacks ball well, but can always improve

During his four years at Louisville Parker proved to be a dynamic playmaker at the wide receiver position, improving his receptions, receiving yards, and touchdown receptions in his first three years on campus. 

Many draftniks thought that Parker was ready to establish himself as one of the premier wide receivers in college football, but with the loss of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to the NFL, and a foot injury that sidelined Parker for half the season, he was unable to show off his talent. 

When Parker did return from the foot injury, he started showing signs of being back to the player he was pre-injury, positing a 43/855/5 line in just 6 games this season. I know that foot injuries can be tricky for wide receivers due to the stress playing the position puts on a player's lower extremities, but with Parker being able to play the second half of the year with no setbacks, GM's should feel comfortable investing a premium pick on Parker.

Parker has underrated speed for his size, and has shown the ability to both separate down the field and make the tough catches with defenders around him. Parker also does a very good job using his wide frame to gain separation in the intermediate area of the field. Parker has very quick feet, and should not have a problem separating from bigger, press-type corners that the NFL has been looking for lately.  While Parker is a good route-runner, he needs to do a better job using his hands fighting off defenders, as well as staying square and sinking into his break.

 

Fantasy Outlook

In my opinion Parker has the tools to eventually put his name in the conversation as one of the premier wide receivers both from a team and fantasy perspective. As far as his rookie season, I would expect Parker to come in and make an immediate impact for whichever team is lucky enough to land his services.

It is tough to project just how valuable Parker will be during his rookie season because we do not know where he will be playing yet. However, even without knowing which team he will be playing for I expect Parker to have as good, if not more of an impact than Panthers and Buccaneers wide receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Mike Evans

While both Benjamin and Evans did produce double-digit touchdown's during their rookie seasons, they were only able to crack the century-mark for receiving yards three times. The lack of consistency in their yardage totals make them touchdown-dependent WR2/3 fantasy options during their rookie seasons. 

With Parker, you get a player that is a better athlete down-the-field than, has more consistent hands, and will likely go to a team with an established quarterback. Like Benjamin and Evans, I expect Parker will be a touchdown dependent WR3 fantasy option to start the season, with the potential to move depending on where he lands in the draft and how he progresses during OTA's and mini-camps.

 

 Player Comparison: A.J. Green 

Earlier I compared Parker's game to the style of Bengals star wide receiver A.J. Green. While that is high standard for any player to try and reach, I feel that if you look a little closer at their production in college and the progression that Parker made during his college career he has the potential to be the same caliber of player.  

DeVante Parker/A.J. Green College Career Comparison

Player Receptions Receiving Yards Touchdowns  YPC
DeVante Parker 156 2775 33 17.79
A.J. Green 166 2619 23 15,78

Green was the more consistent college player totaling over 50 receptions and 800 receiving yards during in all three seasons in Athens. It took a little it longer for Parker to make an impact for the Cardinal program as he did not see a full-time role until his sophomore season.

As you can see by the chart above Parker is a touchdown machine. Parker posted double-digit touchdowns in his sophomore and junior season, while posting an absurd 17 yards-per-reception over his career. 

DeVante Parker* Player A.J. Green
6'3" Height 6'4"
208 lbs Weight 205 lbs
4.49* 40 yard dash 4.50
26"* Vertical 34.5"

*indicate high school measurements

 

Draft Projection

Parker has a firm top-15 grade for me, but could potentially land anywhere within the first round if teams deem White or Cooper better fits for their offense.

A lot of rumblings have Parker being slotted at the number 11 overall pick, joining forces with his old college quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in Minnesota. As a Vikings fan I would not complain about the outcome, but I deem it unlikely as of now. With head coach Mike Zimmer’s intention on establishing an elite defense in Minnesota, I expect GM Rick Spielman to find his coach another toy that he can pair with young talents like Harrison Smith, Xavier Rhodes, Anthony Barr, and Everson Griffen.

After that, you can pretty much throw a dart board at any team in the first round that has the need for a talented pass catcher, as I could see Parker going anywhere from the number four overall pick to the Raiders, to as far back as the Chargers selection at nineteen. If Parker is able to test well at the combine and pro day I would not be surprised if Parker puts himself in contention to be the first wide receiver taken come April.

Grade: Top 15

Photos Courtesy of Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Flickr Page

 

Published in Waiver Wire
Thursday, 29 January 2015 00:00

What happened in 2014: Le'Veon Bell

A bishop can't ever morph into a king, right?

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell certainly didn't enter the 2014 NFL season surrounded by the kind of hype typically reserved for the Adrian Peterson's, LeSean McCoy's and Jamaal Charles's. Despite that, Bell defied his ADP and crystallized his talent with profound rushing numbers and even sprinkled in some Jamaal Charles-esuqe performances few people knew he could pull off.

Bell finished with a career-best 1.361 rushing yards to go along with eight rushing touchdowns in 2014. Even more impressive was his evolution as a receiver. He caught 83 passes for 854 yards and three touchdowns. In total, he had 11 touchdowns and 2,215 yards from scrimmage, trailing only DeMarco Murray who finished with 2,261.

One consistent season

Bell began 2014 with a 100-yard game against the Cleveland Browns, a game the Steelers had to eke out 30-27 after starting off with a gigantic lead early in the game. Bell ended up with 109 yards on 21 rushes (5.2 yards per carry) and one touchdown. He also added six catches for 88 yards, a feat that would become more and more consistent as the season went along.

In the following game against Baltimore on one of those ever-so-weird Thursday night games, Bell's fantasy value suffered from game flow as the Baltimore Ravens out-possessed Pittsburgh 35:08 to 24:52, which limited Bell to only 11 carries. He still averaged 5.9 yards per carry and five catches for 48 yards though, which is probably the best indicator that you have a stud fantasy running back on your hands.

Bell never had a fantasy performance lower than six points, and finished with at least 10 points in 14-of-16 games. He peaked in Week 14 against Cincinnati where he totaled 41 fantasy points in standard leagues on 21 carries for 185 yards and two touchdowns to go along with six catches for 50 yards and one touchdown.

What he does

When you watch Bell on tape, he doesn't really do anything mind boggling. He's exceptional at keeping his feet moving laterally while he waits for the offensive line to develop their blocks, then he explodes through the hole with the kind of purpose that often makes the difference between a 3.5 yards per carry back and a 4.0 guy.

Although he rattled off runs of 81 and 53 yards in 2014, Bell's breakaway speed isn't exactly his calling as a runner. Instead, it's his ability to break tackles and eat up extra yardage by falling forward that makes him such a valuable asset to the offense and fantasy teams. He has a relentless style and the Steelers really committed to him especially down the stretch against below average run defenses. This was evident as the Pittsburgh Steelers ranked No. 1 in stuffed rate in 2014 according to Football Outsiders, meaning they had the fewer rushing plays go for negative yardage than any other team in the league.

After former teammate LaGarrette Blount was cut in Week 11, Pittsburgh started to lean on Bell even more heavily than they had all season. In four of the last five games, Bell rushed for carry totals of 21, 26, 20 and 20. His 290 carries ranked third in the league behind only LeSean McCoy and DeMarco Murray. Just a year earlier, Bell carried the ball just 244 times during his rookie season. Obviously, his high volume of carries in 2014 had a lot to do with his success throughout the season and the Steelers coaching staff's continued decisions to give him the ball as much as possible, but the offensive line of the Steelers also played a big role.

Pittsburgh's offensive line was among the best in 2014. They ranked sixth overall in run blocking and rarely allowed a play of negative yardage. Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey led the charge.

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage

Want to make money playing Daily Fantasy Leagues? Sign up for DraftKings NBA Contest by clicking here.

We at FantasyFootballHelpers.com are excited to be newly affiliated with DraftKings and we’d like our followers to become affiliated as well.  If you’re not familiar with how DraftKings works, let me take a moment to explain the basics before we get into strategy.  DraftKings assigns each player with a dollar value and allows you a salary cap of $60,000 to create your preferred team. Each team consists of a QB, 2 RBS, 3 WRs, a TE, a flex and a Defense. Basic PPR scoring is used and rewards are given for 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing/receiving. 

DraftKings runs a multitude of contests where you are going head to head from with anywhere from  1 person to 75,000 people! My favorite contests are the ones where I can invest something meaningless like $2-5 and come away with prizes of $10,000-$25,000.  They also run the Millionaire Maker, a $27 contest where first place is $1 Million!!!   There are many contest options with differing strategies for each, but I’d like to share with you my preferred strategy for selecting a lineup when entering these larger contests.

Rule #1 – Know the NFL Injury Report Like the Back of Your Hand  

Knowing the injury report is vital to winning these large contests.  DraftKings values players based on previous performance so for example if we know that Jamaal Charles is anywhere from out to questionable we’ll want to monitor his injury and after we’re sure he’s out, go ahead and insert Knile Davis into the lineup regardless of his matchup.  In this example, Davis would be purchased at a backup RB price but have potential to give you high end RB1 numbers regardless of matchup.  Davis is a known stud when he gets an opportunity to play, but other backup players should be judged on a case by case basis by looking at the matchup, and previous success when given an opportunity.  Basically if the player in question has a chance for a big game and can be had at backup value you must have them in your lineup. You’ll then be able to load up on other stud “sure things”.  For questionable players and/or game-time decisions, it's important to constantly refresh the injury report before gametime until there is a definitive designation of “out”.   

Knowing injuries on defense is equally important.  While DraftKings does provide you with the opponent’s ranking against each position, it does not adjust for injuries on defense.  Obviously if J.J. Watt or Richard Sherman is hurt, then the Houston and Seattle defenses will suffer and players against those teams should be upgraded.

Rule #2 – QB/WR/TE Combo Play

Selecting a QB/WR/TE on the same team allows you to score 2 TDs on one play.  I usually start with the QB selection and choose my favorite WR on his team.  In daily fantasy we’re looking for the quarterbacks who can feasibly throw for 300 yards and 3+ TDs on a given day.  This always includes the group of Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson (not a 300/3 guy but can run for 50-100 yds) and Tom Brady regardless of matchup but keep in mind they will always be priced high.  I’m not opposed to selecting them, but I also like to also take a look at the next tier of QBs that includes Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, or Joe Flacco and take a close look at their matchups.  If any of them are against a defense like a Philadelphia, Atlanta, Jets or TB that gives up monster passing stats then I’m inclined to save some money at the QB position and go with the second tier QB.  If the matchups don’t seem particularly great for the second tier QB, I’ll choose my favorite matchup from the first tier of QBs.  Whoever I choose at QB I will pair them with the best WR/TE option on that team.

Rule #3 – Running Back Selection by Blowout type

I love to choose running backs involved in blowouts on both sides.  The obvious choice is to choose the typical workhorse who will get 25 touches in a blowout therefore racking up yards and goal line carries i.e. Marshawn Lynch at home vs. the New York Giants.  This is obvious enough and getting two of these types of backs is fine.  If money is getting tight then my other strategy is to select a RB who catches a high volume of passes in a game where their team is projected to be blown out.  The receptions add up in PPR leagues and selecting a RB who can catch 6-10 passes and get in the endzone in garbage time can pay dividends.  A high cost option in this scenario would be Matt Forte, while medium and low cost options include Daniel Herron and Fred Jackson.  

Also, do not choose a RB from the same team you’re selecting your QB/WRs.  We’re looking for as many multiple TD games as possible for our lineup and there are only so many TDs to go around for one NFL team.

Rule #4 – The sleeper wide receiver

In these large tournament formats, we’re not looking to play it safe.  We want that top prize and should therefore take a shot on the low cost big time play makers at the WR position.  Based on the rest of the roster we’ll need one or two of these options.  Hitting on these selections is the most important factor in winning huge prize money.  Those who hit on Martavis Bryant, Kenny Stills, Donte Moncrief, or Mohammed Sanu in their big time performances from this year were well on their way to winning big money. This position provides the highest upside and the lowest cost.  Researching how teams perform against number #2WRs-#4WRs can help you determine who may have the best chance of breaking out in a specific week.    

Rule #5 – Choose a Strong Defensive Matchup

The whoever plays against Jacksonville rule applies here.  But specifically you don’t want to spend so big on your skill position players that even you yourself know that you’re most likely picking a defense that should not score a lot of points. It’ll be exciting to look at your lineup and gush over the talent up and down the roster but when your defense throws you a 2 point effort you’ll be out of the running for that top prize regardless of what your offensive players do.  Draftkings starts your defense with 10 points and harsh penalties are given for points against.  It’ll take a few turnovers sacks and a possible TD for your defense to have a great day so make sure you choose wisely.  The difference between choosing a 20 point defense vs. a 5 point defense could be the difference between $1,000,000 and $1,000 or more realistically $1,000 and $10.   Tip: Use the weather reports wisely when it comes to defenses.  A low cost defense can have a big day simply because it is too windy for any offense to be sustained.

Conclusion

Using these methods does not in any way guarantee success.  The NFL is extremely difficult to predict on a week by week basis and it will take a healthy combination of skill and luck to defeat thousands of others.  Using these tips will give you a leg up on those who do not have a plan in place.  DraftKings  gives you the ability to view the lineup of anyone in a contest.  In order to develop some of your own strategies, view the lineups of the weekly winners to see what has been working for them and if you notice any trends then adjust your lineup accordingly.

When the 2015 season begins we will run a weekly column with our favorite weekly DraftKings selctions and value picks.  If you have any questions about this article or DraftKings related advice feel free to drop a comment on the Fantasy Football Helpers Facebook page or on Twitter at @FantasyFB_CBASS.    In order to join DraftKings or deposit funds while helping us out a bit, you can click on the ad on the right hand side of this page.     

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Wednesday, 21 January 2015 00:00

What happened in 2014: Matthew Stafford

In the 2011 season, Matthew Stafford entered the group of fantasy elite QBs when he tallied 5,038 passing yards, 41 TDs and 16 INTs.  It was only his 3rd year in the league and he joined the top tier of fantasy QBs that included Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady.  Fantasy experts saw a young QB with a rocket of an arm, an offense who passes more than anybody, along with the best WR in the NFL, Calvin Johnson, and decided to anoint Stafford as the next big thing at the QB position and a player who would produce fantasy greatness for years to come.  

The following year Stafford set the NFL record for passing attempts but his TDs fell dramatically from 41 to 20.  We heard a lot of stories about how many times Lions players were tackled inside the 5 yard-line and even at the 1 yard-line and we heard that his 20 TD season was a fluke.  He’d be projected as a top 6 QB once again. Well, two more years have passed since Matthew Stafford’s 41 TD outburst in 2011 and in that time frame eleven different QBs have thrown 30 TD passes….none of them are named Matthew Stafford.  In 2013, he fell just short with 29 TDs but then followed that up this season with an abysmal 22 TD passes.  I think it’s safe to say that the last three years are not all flukes, but that Stafford was just too hyped after 2011.  Year after year fantasy owners have been spending a relatively high draft pick (ADP round 3-5) on Stafford and coming away disappointed while chasing what may be the real fluke, 2011’s stats.

In 2014, Stafford bottomed out setting his low mark in passing yards in 4 years and his 22 TDs ranked 14th at the position, one above rookie Derek Carr.  Heading into the season, experts and fantasy players were once again expecting Stafford to produce, with a 4th round ADP (46th pick overall) so the question is….what happened?

Coming Into the Season

Joe Lombardi took over as offensive coordinator for the Lions this season replacing Scott Linehan who was released when Jim Schwartz was replaced by Jim Caldwell as the Lions head coach.  Linehan had done a decent job developing Stafford since he joined the staff in 2009 including the career year in 2011, but the Lions opted to go another direction and clear house upon the firing of Schwartz.  They brought in former Saints QBs coach Joe Lombardi, a Sean Payton disciple to run the offense.  Lombardi’s recognition as an OC candidate came to fruition while Sean Payton was suspended following the bountygate scandal.  The Saints didn't suffer on offense and many believed Lombardi was the reason.  Stafford had all the tools for Lombardi to mold Stafford into the next Drew Brees, a comparison that started popping up upon Lombardi's hiring.   

Golden Tate was added to bookend Calvin Johnson on the outside, and as it turned out to complement him in the slot.  Having played in a conservative offense in Seattle, it was unknown how good Tate would be but one thing was for sure, he was better than the man he’d be replacing in Nate Burleson and/or Kris Durham.  In addition, the Lions used their first round pick on Eric Ebron, a physical specimen with great hands at tight end.  These changes once again had everyone aboard the Stafford hype train.

2014: Week 1- A Match Made in Heaven

Stafford’s first week in Joe Lombardi’s offense could not have been scripted any better.  On the first drive of the game, Stafford found Calvin Johnson all alone for a 67-yard touchdown down the right sideline.  He was all by himself, with nobody within 20 yards of him.  On the second drive, he’d catch a 16-yard TD pass and was almost just as open.  Stafford finished with 346 yards and 2 TDs passing, a rushing TD, and 0 turnovers in an easy 35-14 victory. The success of the high flying offense was a great start for the Stafford/Lombardi relationship and the Brees comparisons were all over the media.  Little did they know, the Giants were just that bad of a defense.

2014: Weeks 2-11 – Calvin’s injury + Tate’s Emergence = Stafford Mediocrity

Over the next 10 games the Lions would go 6-4. They found themselves in a race for the division lead, but it was due to their top ranked defense, not their quarterback.  Stafford had only 11 TDs and 10 INTs during this stretch, while only throwing for 300+ yards once.  His top performances (2 passing TDs each game) came against the Jets, Saints and Falcons….and the way those defenses were playing, should those even count as good games?

Calvin Johnson sustained an ankle injury in week 3 against Green Bay.  He played the next 2 weeks as a decoy combining for only 3 catches and 19 yards.  The Lions decided to shut him down for the next 3 weeks.  Basically five weeks were played without Calvin Johnson, a scene all too familiar to Lions fans.  Stafford didn’t actually have his worst weeks without Calvin, but his improvement in the new offense had to be put on hold while they waited for Calvin to get healthy. 

The one positive to come out of the injury was Stafford’s new found chemistry with breakout WR Golden Tate.  Tate basically put up Calvin-like numbers during this stretch.  In the five games that Calvin was either a decoy or out, Tate had four 100 yard games (three over 134 yds) and surpassed seven receptions in each game.  He made two game winning TD catch and runs, one against the Saints and the second against the Falcons.  This chemistry would carry through the rest of the season even when Calvin returned and Tate became a dynamic number two option,a mismatch against #2 CBs who could take it to the house on any play.

2014: Weeks 12-17 – Finally!

After a brutal 10 week stretch and back to back 0 TD weeks heading into week 12, Stafford was written off for good as a fantasy option.  However, something clicked against the Bears that week that stuck for the remainder of the season.  Sure, the Bears are one of the worst defenses in the league, but Stafford looked absolutely incredible on Thanksgiving Day throwing for 390 yards and 2 TDs on 34/45.  In the final 5 weeks Stafford threw for 9 TDs and only 2 INTs while the Lions finished winning 4 of their last 5.  He had his first two 3 TDs games and had two 300+ yards outings during this time.  His most impressive game was actually a loss where he had 217 yards 3 TDs 0 INTs at GB in week 17 to end the season.  Sure, Aaron Rodgers out dueled him but putting up those numbers in Green Bay in December is something that only a guy like Rodgers does.   

Lessons Learned

Stafford may be undervalued next season and I believe he will improve significantly.  I’m going to give him one more try as long as his ADP puts him in the middle rounds.  He finished the season red hot and started realizing Joe Lombardi’s vision on offense.  His chemistry with Golden Tate is tremendous for his prospects of breaking out next season.  Calvin Johnson is still as good as he always was and if he could ever stay on the field we could see something really special.

However, I don't mean top 5 QB when I say really special.  For one, the Lions defense is elite.  If they can retain Ndomukong Suh next season, then it will remain elite. In addition, the running game is much improved.  Joique Bell has settled into the Lions work-horse back and was able to close out games by picking up late first downs and eating clock. The team no longer needs to rely on Stafford’s arm to win games. This formula was successful and will not be changing if the defense remains intact. Keep an eye on Suh’s status because if the defense gets worse it will really help Stafford’s fantasy value.

Stafford will enter year two with confidence in Joe Lombardi’s system. Lombardi was quoted as saying “Looking back, I kind of tried to drop maybe some responsibilities on him that maybe a quarterback like Drew didn’t get until four years into the system in New Orleans. “We asked a lot of him and he responded...”   Stafford will have another year under his belt throwing balls to Golden Tate and while Eric Ebron did very little (as almost all rookie TEs do), we can expect a significant improvement in his game.  I do think Stafford will reach 4500 yds and 30 TDs next season.  In a way too early mock draft on NFL.com he was the 14th QB off the board in the 12th round.  Getting Stafford at that value is highway robbery.  I anticipate his value improving the offseason and would target him as the 10th QB starting in round 8. 

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Tuesday, 13 January 2015 00:00

What happened in 2014: Teddy Bridgewater

Shhhhhhhh.  I’m about to reveal something that only a small percentage of football fans, both NFL and fantasy football fans know.  Minnesota Vikings rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater, finished his 2014 campaign on one of the all-time best runs by a rookie QB.  Because of their record at the time (4-7), most people stopped paying attention to the Vikings from an NFL standpoint, and fantasy owners who were gearing up for the playoffs already had a reliable starting QB, so they ignored the end of the season statistical barrage that will be referred to as Teddy Time later in the article.

It obviously wasn't all smooth sailing so I’d like to further analyze Bridgewater’s season and answer the question that should be on your mind.  What happened?

Coming Into the Season

In 2012 as a sophomore Teddy Bridgewater punched his ticket into the NFL throwing for 27 TDs vs. 8 INTs, his season culminating as the Sugar Bowl MVP in a victory over Florida.  He remained in school for 2013 and capped off his storied career with a 31/4 TD/INT ratio.  He was the 3rd QB selected in the 2014 draft behind Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel.  A concern over Bridgewater’s arm strength knocked him down to third on the totem pole, but the Vikings thought enough of him to trade 2nd and 4th round picks to Seattle in order to select him with the last pick in round one.  In hindsight, the slip to the end of round 1 was the best thing that could’ve happened for Teddy, as he is clearly comfortable in Minnesota and is standing firmly at the head of the 2014 QB class after disastrous seasons by Bortles and Manziel. 

2014: Weeks 1-2 – Holding a clipboard

Despite being the favorite to start heading into the season, Bridgewater lost a camp battle to Matt Cassel that lasted all the way until the last preseason game.  Neither QB met the expectations of head coach Mike Zimmer and Offensive Coordinator/QB Guru Norv Turner, so they decided that winning was the top priority and they’d stick with the veteran Cassel.     

2014: Weeks 3-4 – Season debut, first start and injury

After Cassel went down with a foot injury, Bridgewater was inserted into the lineup mid-way through week 3’s game against the Saints.  With the Adrian Peterson child abuse story having just popped up, and with breakout candidate TE Kyle Rudolph going down with a significant injury, the Vikings season was in shambles.  All eyes were on Bridgewater to salvage any hope for the future of the Vikings franchise.  Taking over for Cassel, Bridgewater struggled in his first action against the Saints. However, his first start of the season resulted in a 41-28 rout over the Atlanta Falcons, a game in which Bridgewater threw for 319 yards and ran for a crucial TD, without committing a turnover.  Bridgewater led several long drives and consistently hooked up with Jarius Wright (132 yds) setting up three Matt Asista goal line plunges.  Things were finally looking up for the Vikings.  The Vikings' balloon was deflated however when it was revealed that Bridgewater suffered a potentially severe ankle injury during the game. 

2014: Weeks 6-11 – The low point, followed by steady improvements

Bridgewater’s ankle recovered quicker than expected and he only missed one game. However, his next two games, both Vikings losses, were anything but smooth as he was sacked 13 times against the Lions and Bills while throwing only 1 TD vs. 5 INTs.  It was apparent that the rust from the injury was there and the game was moving too fast for Bridgewater during these losses.  He looked indecisive and took too many sacks against the ferocious pass rushes that these two teams brought to the table. 

He’d settle down and show steady improvements in the next three weeks against lesser defenses (TB, Washington, Chicago), going 2-1 as a starter and throwing 3 TDs vs. 1 INT, but there were still two huge elephants in the room when viewing the Vikings' offense.  One was that Bridgewater was checking down time after time so despite the winning record against the Bucs, Skins, and Bears, fans were left scratching their heads asking themselves when Norv Turner’s offense would become even remotely explosive.  The other elephant in the room was the play of young, speedy WR Cordarelle Patterson. Patterson had a fine rookie campaign (627 total yds, 7 TDs) and was the NFL’s preseason fantasy football darling at the WR position, with experts placing him amongst the top 15 for 2014. The coaching staff did their best to feature Patterson early in the season but he was an utter disappointment in Turner’s offense.  Patterson struggled with route running, effort, and dropped passes.  He became less and less featured in the offense over time. His poor play opened the door for another athletic freak at WR, Charles Johnson.  Eventually Johnson would take over for Patterson as Patterson became a pure part time player.

 

2014: Weeks 12-17 - Teddy Time

The turning point of Bridgewater’s season actually came in a 24-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers.  Nobody had given the Vikings a prayer to be alive in that game and Teddy went toe to toe with Aaron Rodgers, even executing a 4th quarter drive to bring the team to within three points with four minutes to go.  He finished the game with 210 yards and 2 TDs, his first multiple TD game.

The emergence of Charles Johnson gave Bridgewater a legitimate big play, down field threat.   From the Green Bay game forward, the cast of receivers including Johnson, Greg Jennings and slot man Jarius Wright was a balanced, dangerous crew.  Each player had a defined important role.  They had their dynamic #1 WR in Johnson who excelled on intermediate and deep balls (56 yard TD on go route vs. NYJ), along with a short-intermediate pass receiver and pro’s pro in Jennings (4 TDs in last 6 gms) and the speedy sneaky slot receiver Jarius Wright (2 TD last 6 gms).  Bridgewater looked comfortable slinging the ball to this trio, winning 3 of his last 5 games and averaging 246 yds and 1.6.  He’d finished the season with 4 multiple TD games in his last 6 and completed 68%+ in each of his last 5 games.  The offense produced 30+ points 3 times bringing fantasy value not only to Bridgewater but to players at all positions on the Vikings offense.  

To go into further detail, during the last 5 weeks (Teddy Time) the following accolades that Bridgewater racked up were not only impressive for a rookie but for any quarterback:

·          *Second highest completion percentage (Behind Romo)

         *First rookie ever to complete over 70% of passes in four straight games

       *Eighth highest passer rating

       *Seventh highest yards per attempt

 *Pro Football Focus’ second-highest graded quarterback (Behind Rodgers)

Lessons Learned

You may not have realized, but Teddy Bridgewater’s 64.4% completion rate on the season was the 3rd best ALL TIME by a rookie behind Ben Roethlisberger and Robert Griffin III.  Norv Turner gained more confidence in his young QB, and dialed up deeper passes once Bridgewater started to trust his offensive line and his WRs.   If you don’t catch my drift, his five game streak of greatness to end the season went unnoticed but was truly special.  With another year to work with Turner and his WRs, Bridgewater is sure to be undervalued and I’m pegging him as the breakout QB of 2015.  He finished with a 14 TDs and 12 INTs in 13 games.  Maybe it’s a coincidence but he also had this same TD/INT ratio in his first year starting at Louisville…the next season he finished with 27 TDs/8 INTs.  Take what you want from that.  A QB with this level of elite accuracy in a Norv Turner offense cannot be ignored.  Turner will allow Bridgewater to air it out starting in week 1 and a huge breakout could be on the horizon.  At minimum he will be a solid high end QB2, one that I would go out of my way to draft in the later rounds.  Those who like to wait on QB would be wise to pair him with another mid-level QB and play matchups.  Think of him as next year’s Ryan Tannehill.     

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Wednesday, 07 January 2015 00:00

What happened in 2014: Sammy Watkins

Sammy Watkins delivered for those who took the risk and went against the age-old notion that rookie receivers rarely produce quality numbers. But despite a respectable 65/982/6 line, there were several factors that prevented him from having one of the best seasons for a rookie wide receiver in recent memory.

When it comes to redrafting Watkins onto your team next season, there are already several wheels in motion that will affect his value for 2015.

In what could end up going down in history as one of the greatest wide receiver drafts of all time, rookie WRs Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin all finished with over 1,000 receiving yards in their first year. All three receivers were first round talents, but  they weren't the ones who drew the biggest hype.

That distinction belonged to Watkins, a 6'1 phenom who possessed blazing 4.34 speed and considerable size at 211 lbs. He had all the playmaking tools you want out of a franchise receiver. Watkins ended up being the first receiver taken off the board at No. 4 overall by the Buffalo Bills, a team that endured a big risk to get him after they surrenderd a 2015 first and fourth round pick to move up from the No. 9 spot.

Unfortunately for Watkins, being taken that high in the draft usually means the team you play for is still a ways away from being any good, and that was definitely the case with the Buffalo offense. Watkins landed on a team that had a young, unproven quarterback in E.J. Manuel, an offense geared more toward the run without a premier running back to take the pressure off the receivers and to top it all off, a below average offensive line that put increased pressure on quarterbacks.

But even with the obstacles that came with being on a sub par team, Watkins set record team rookie marks in receptions (65) and receiving yards (982) and also netted six touchdowns. Those numbers are impressive for any rookie receiver, but you can't help but feel like you missed out on the Beckham Jr./Evans party considering both receivers had double the touchdown total of Watkins when all was said and done. Those one-handed preseason catches were probably enough to sway a lot of fantasy football players to draft him though, so it's understandable. I mean, look at this.

But even though he managed to string together a decent rookie year, it does leave the question. With so much uncertainty in Buffalo right now thanks a departed quarterback in Kyle Orton and a new coaching staff that favors the run over the pass, is Watkins the last receiver you would take in your fantasy draft this season among Beckham Jr., Benjamin, Evans and maybe even Brandin Cooks?

Leaving touchdowns on the table early

When the Bills drafted Watkins, it was a move designed specifically to get the developing Manuel some help. Manuel struggled early on during his rookie season, and eventually suffered a knee njury which led to him only playing in 10 games.

Watkins and Manuel didn't exactly light the world on fire in the beginning of 2014, but they didn't flounder either. Watkins eclipsed 100 yards receiving in just his second game of the season, catching eight passes for 117 yards and a touchdown against Miami in what was perhaps Manuel's best game of the season.

But if you watched that Miami game and had Watkins on your fantasy team, you couldn't help but be a little frustrated. Manuel missed Watkins on what would've been a sure touchdown to a wide open Watkins down the seam. Manuel also failed the punch the ball in when the Bills' defense frequently gave his offense fantastic field position and settled for three Dan Carpenter field goals instead. Manuel even had the ball on the 20 yard line after the Bills blocked a punt and still couldn't find a way to get a score. It wasn't so much that Manuel played bad, he just didn't thrive like you would've expected.

Sidenote: Buffalo finished 30th in red zone efficiency on the season, scoring just 43% of the time which stifled Watkins' ability to score the all important touchdown consistently. He finished with just six touchdowns in his first season and if the Bills can find a quarterback who can consistently score in the red zone, then those numbers will obviously go up. It's not out of the question that Watkins could be in line for a 1,500 yard, 12-plus touchdown season if the Bills can get the right guy under center. That of course, is a big if because of the following.

Manuel's benching, enter Kyle Orton

After Manuel's completion percentage took a considerable dip in losses to San Diego and Houston, the coaches soon lost faith that he was their guy and signed veteran game manager Kyle Orton to take center.

Orton was thrust into the starting role after only starting one game a season ago in the Dallas Cowboys' season finale against Philadelphia. Orton and the Cowboys lost that game, but the veteran did put up a 358 passing yards to go along with two touchdowns. He seemed like he was a better fit to help move the offense down the field and therefore increase Watkins' fantasy value.

Watkins takes off

When Orton was offcially named the starter against Detroit, the Bills instantly became an offense more capable putting up bigger passing stats which led to Watkins having some of his best games as a rookie.

While it took a few games for Watkins to develop chemistry with Orton, Watkins flourished midway through the season in Weeks 7 and 8. He torched the Minnesota Vikings for 122 yards and two scores, which was the first and only multiple touchdown game he had all season.

A week later against a bad New York Jets secondary in Week 8, Watkins got behind the defense consistently and finished with three catches for 157 yards and a touchdown. However, he showboated too early on a long pass he caught in the first half which resulted in him getting dragged down from behind at the ten yard line by a hustling Darrin Walls. Chalk it up as a rookie mistake, but it was just another touchdown left on the table for Watkins.

Despite a few lapses in focus, the two-game stretch of nearly 400 receiving yards was incredibly impressive and offered those a glimpse at just how dominant Watkins can be with a couple of good matchups and a quarterback who's playing well.

Injuries/drop in numbers

Despite a quick spike numbers midway through the season, Watkins and the Bills offense quickly fell back to earth almost immediately after their dominating 43-23 win against the Jets. Watkins failed to catch for more than 35 receiving yards over the next four games, eventually injuring his hip against the Browns which was one of several nagging injuries that plagued his rookie campaign. Watkins had already been slowed by several other ailments including broken ribs earlier in the season.

He did manage one more 100 yard game against the Denver Broncos in December, which served as his final exclamation point performance of 2014. But he was held largely in check against Green Bay (1 catch for 6 yards) and Darrelle Revis against New England (3 catches for 57 yards) in the final games of the season.

Orton slowly regressed as the season went along as well, posting a 6:7 TD-to-INT ratio in his last five outings. Overall, Watkins finished the season with 128 targets, which ranked 23rd in the league. He finished with a 51 percent catch rate according to Football Outsiders, which was lower than Beckham Jr's incredible 70 percent and Evans' 55 percent. A very good season overall though.

Offensive line issues

Not helping Watkins and the Bills offense was the fact that their offensive line struggled most of the season, especially early on at the guard spot which led to them being ranked among the worst offensive lines in the league for the first quarter of the season. Still, the offensive line did get better as the season went along, which led to them eventually being ranked 19th overall in pass protection according to Football Outsiders. Not terrible, but definitely some room for improvement there.

Marrone's surprise departure

Former Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone expressed in regards to Buffalo's trading up in the 2014 draft to snag phenom wide receiver Sammy Watkins.

Even if you put on your hindsight 20/20 spectacles for a minute, it's still hard to understand Marrone's concern with the move. Watkins turned out to be a very solid rookie and the Bills nearly the made the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. If anything, it was the reach for Manuel in the first round that set the Bills back. It'll be interesting to see if Manuel is given a second chance under the new coaching staff and we see a Jim Harbaugh/Alex Smith-like resurgence.

The hiring of Rex Ryan

Per Yahoo! sports, recently fired New York Jets coach Rex Ryan became the new head coach in Buffalo earlier this week, and former San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman is expected to take over the offense.

We have a pretty good idea of who Ryan is as a coach at this point. He's a defensive guru who took two Jets teams to back-to-back AFC Championships in 2009 and 2010. Ryan's winning formula often emphasizes pounding the ball up the gut with running backs while relying on a strong defense. The downside to his style is he often keeps the quarterback under wraps and doesn't like to take big risks down field, which can lead to little reward for offensive playmakers.

What the new coaches mean for Watkins' fantasy value

It's Ryan's ground and pound style that makes an OC like Roman a good fit for the overall coaching staff since they share the same offensive philosophies, but it might hurt Watkins if they don't adapt. Roman spent the last four seasons running a run heavy offense in San Francisco that had a great offensive line and a workhorse running back in Frank Gore.

The Bills have neither of those right now. Their main strength is at wide receiver with Robert Woods and Watkins. It'll be interesting to see if Roman is a good fit for Buffalo, but he'll likely have to adjust a bit and look to get the receivers more involved than he did in San Francisco if we expect Watkins to have a WR1-type fantasy year.

With Orton announcing his retirement earlier in the week, it's obvious Watkins' ADP for 2015 will mostly hinge on the talent of the guy under center as well.

Final verdict/2015 outlook

Watkins flashed some brilliance with his dazzling one-handed grabs during the preseason and his numbers took off like a rocket over a two-game stretch midway through the season but he left a little to be desired considering his talent is off the charts.

Consistency will likely be his next goal, as injuries, poor quarterback play, a few mental lapses on his part and an average offensive line played a role in keeping his numbers from reaching those of Evans and Beckham Jr.

It's only been one season, but Watkins certainly doesn't look like a bust, so drafting him in fantasy a solid WR2/3 is the best option at this point. A lot can change in the offseason, and if the Bills have a lot of questions they'll have to answer with a new coaching staff and a hole at the quarterback position.

View Zennie Abraham's Flickr page here.

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Monday, 22 December 2014 00:00

Episode 40: First Aid (Week 16)

On Monday's final edition of First Aid for 2014, the Helpers discuss the Atlanta Falcons and their potential to be fantasy juggernauts next season. The Dallas Cowboys impressive fantasy numbers and what exactly went wrong with Andrew Luck. Plus weekly awards for the best and worst of the week.

Published in Podcasts

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

Cleveland Browns Isaiah Crowell @ Carolina Panthers

Crowell's problem: Hip injury

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do we trust Crowell?: No

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

Dallas Cowboys' DeMarco Murray vs. Indianapolis Colts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kansas City Chiefs' Jamaal Charles @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Charles' problem: Ankle and knee injuries

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

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

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

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

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

Gore's problem: Concussion

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

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

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

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

Do we trust Gore?: No

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

View Pro Football Schedules Flickr page here.

 

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage
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We believe Fantasy Football success comes down to two things — opportunity and talent. You will have Fantasy Football mastered once you understand how good a player is and how good of an opportunity he has to gain yards and score touchdowns. The thing is, you'll never master Fantasy Football. But you can get pretty darn good at it when you have even a slightly better understanding of opportunity and talent than the average Joe. That's what Fantasy Football Helpers is dedicated to doing.

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