• Early Returns: Post-Draft Mock

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

    Round 1

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

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

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

    Round 2

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

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

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

    Round 3

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

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

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

    Round 4

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

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

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

    Round 5

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

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

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

    Round 6

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

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

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

    Round 7

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

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

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

    Round 8

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

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

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

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

  • 6 bargain bin running backs for your 2017 fantasy draft

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

    Doug Martin — Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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

    Derrick Henry—Tennessee Titans

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

    Robert Kelly — Washington Redskins

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

    Jamaal Charles — Denver Broncos

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

    LeGarette Blount — New England Patriots

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

    Joe Mixon — Cincinnati Bengals

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

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

  • How Jameis Winston can be a Top 5 fantasy quarterback

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

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

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

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

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

    Fantasy Football ADP for Jameis Winston

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

     (ADP Charts For Jameis Winston 2017)

    Fantasy Football ADP for Jameis Winston

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

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

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

    2) I want all of the Bucs

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

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

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

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

    4) Mike Williams will be under-drafted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    10) Carson Wentz will be the biggest bargain of 2017

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

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

  • Fantasy Film Projector: Alvin Kamara

    When it comes to identifying traits in running backs that produce immediate fantasy value, proficiency in pass blocking, ball security, route running and receiving ability are often most important. These traits are valuable because they're important when avoiding turnovers, which is often the difference in a rookie running back playing vs. standing on the sideline.

    Opportunity is paramount when it comes to fantasy value, and if a player has to leave the game because he can't identify blitz pickups on third downs, he'll likely miss out on plays when his number is called on either a run or pass play. When that happens, potential fantasy points go out the window.

    Tennessee running back prospect Alvin Kamara is proficient in a few of these categories, but not enough to make him a running back you should immediately target in your redraft leagues unless he finds himself surrounded by a ton of talented teammates. He has good hands and turned plenty of screen passes into long runs while at Tennessee. You'll see in the clip above how he's able to use his balance to turn a short pass into a touchdown against ranked opponent Georgia.

    Kamara has good balance when he runs and decent hands, even though his hand size is below average for NFL running back prospects. His good pad level also allows him to shed defenders once he gets momentum, but one athletic weakness may prevent him from being effective as a receiver at the NFL level. This is illustrated in the clip below.

    Overall, there are some likeable traits regarding Kamara's fantasy value. He just doesn't present a trump card ability which makes me uncertain on how he will win at the NFL level. He has decent hands, but lacks breakaway speed and agility to create yards after catch. He has  I'll be avoiding Kamara in redraft fantasy leagues unless he lands in an incredible situation such as Green Bay or Indianapolis.

     

  • Five reasons why Danny Woodhead will shine in PPR leagues

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

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

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

    Good situations

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

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

    What we like about him now

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

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

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

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

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

    Causes for concern

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

    Overall verdict

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

    Nathan Rupert/Flickr

Podcasts

Episode 178: Matt Harmon breaks down our wide receiver rankings

Monday, 22 May 2017 00:00
A bonus podcast for you guys. Matt Harmon of TheFantasyFootballers.com breaks down our writer Dominick's wide receiver rankings here. Be sure to check out TheFantasyFootballers.com Draft Kit as well. What do you you get out
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Episode 177: Wide receiver values w/guest Matt Harmon of TheFantasyFootballers.com

Friday, 19 May 2017 00:00
Matt Harmon, a wide receiver enthusiast who has contributed to websites such as Footballguys.com, NFL.com and currently TheFantasyFootballers.com, joins the podcast to discuss wide receiver ADP values and which rookies presen
Read more...

Episode 176: Crowded backfields and improving offenses

Thursday, 11 May 2017 00:00
George and Will discuss Minnesota, Cleveland and New England's crowded backfields and which running backs you should draft or avoid drafting in 2017. They also talk about Josh Gordon's denial for reinstatement into the NFL an
Read more...

Episode 175: NFL Veterans Stock Changes Due to NFL Draft

Tuesday, 09 May 2017 00:00
After not talking since week 16 of the 2016 NFL season Jaben and Will continue to give thoughts on a few more rookies, but most importantly how the draft will effect the fantasy value of NFL veterans. From the Los Angeles Cha
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Episode 174: Post NFL Draft Stock Watch

Tuesday, 09 May 2017 00:00
The band is back together as the boys from the 30 minute drill are back to give 10 rookies they are looking at as the offseason concludes. Jaben and Will give their thoughts on these rookies' landing spots and their potential
Read more...

Episode 173: Early Fantasy Quarterback Thoughts and QB Tiers

Tuesday, 02 May 2017 00:00
On today's episode Adam and Ferris go through some news from the NFL including the Denver Broncos signing of Jamaal Charles to go along with some of the fifth year rookie options that are being accepted and declined. After ne
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Waiver Wire

Why San Francisco 49ers running back Joe Williams is a perfect Zero RB candidate

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

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

Fantasy Film Projector: Joe Mixon

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

Fantasy Film Projector: Samaje Perine

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

Fantasy Film Projector: Christian McCaffrey

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

Aaron Rodgers Will Raise This Player's Fantasy Value In 2017

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

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On Monday's edition of Treatment, the Helpers discuss the zero running back theory and why it's a big risk in fantasy leagues. They also talk about the importance of quality running backs in fantasy football. Plus Pennywise 'Bro Hym Tribute' and some other things.

The Helpers kick off the discussion talking about the value of picking in the middle of the fantasy draft. According to NFL.com, more than 12 percent of fantasy owners who drafted at the sixth spot in 2014 won their league. Also, a stunning 70 percent of fantasy owners who drafted a running back in the first round also won their league.

The Helpers try to under why running backs are so important. For one, starters typically see anywhere between 10-20 carries per game, sometimes even more depending on the offensive philosophy of the coach. A chief example being DeMarco Murray's mere 400 attempts last year. For those who want to draft WR-WR if you're picking late in the draft, it's important to consider that a wide receiver rarely sees 10-20 attempts at catching the ball in any particular game. So if you decide to draft two stud wide receivers, you'll still be dealing with some inconsistency at times due in large part to the fact that there's only so much ball to go around.

Another take is that fantasy owners typically view feature backs as so rare that if you don't end up getting one in the first round, they consider the rest of the running back class to be of similar value and wind up drafting a handful of RBs in the later portion of the draft. While this strategy can work, we don't advise it because it usually involves some luck to end up having a late-round fantasy running back do well. While it's great if you already have a stud running back and you also get lucky and draft the next Jeremy Hill, avoiding running backs all together in the early rounds is a recipe for disaster. 

The Helpers also discuss OTA's and what to think about regarding player speak and how it often deceives fantasy owners into thinking somebody is primed for a breakout season. Case in point being Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, a running back who slimmed down last season and reportedly looked even more explosive than before (if that was possible). Still, McCoy ended up having one of the worst seasons of his career from a scoring standpoint, as he only found the end zone five times and his receiving numbers took a dive due to the emergence of Darren Sproles.

It's not to say a running back losing weight can't be beneficial for him from a fantasy point of view, but other factors such as vision, instincts, decisiveness and mental processing play a big, if not bigger, factor than physical attributes. Just something to take into account before you get too hyped up on one particular player because he looks like he can bench press more or run a slightly faster 40 time.

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Catching the ball has become one of the biggest assets a running back can have both in the NFL and fantasy football. It's no surprise you see RBs like Jamaal Charles, Le'Veon Bell, DeMarco Murray and other receiving competent backs rise above the rest in fantasy points by the end of the 2014 season. But, what if the running back isn't the best receiver on the planet? What if he's just a tough, physical runner who values running over defenders for those extra yards rather than joysticking past defenders? Oh, and what if he doesn't have Adrian Peterson like breakaway speed? Is it still worth drafting the downhill running back?

The answer to that is a resounding yes, however, certain criteria should be met. First, you need to know which round to take him in. Second, you need to know what scheme he plays in and if his running style is a good fit. Third, you need to look at the talent along the offensive line. Lastly, you need to evaluate his health and current physical state of his career.

Where Morris thrives

Redskins' running back Alfred Morris is a textbook example of a downhill runner. If you watched Morris as a rookie in 2012, you saw how effective he was at moving the pile and you almost cringed at the thought of some smaller defensive back having to tackle him. Here's a clip of Morris from 2012 where his drive to will his way past the first down marker is on full display.

Notice how his feet keep moving which allows him to maintain his balance through contact and scamper for more yards. He diagnosed where the hole is going to be quickly enough so that he can burst through it before the Cincinnati defender penetrates the line of scrimmage. He keeps his pad level low, which allows him to stay moving forward and gain positive yardage. His competitive toughness is also apparent on this play, as he looks to initiate contact with the defenders rather than avoid it. It's worth noting that Morris thrived in the read option alongside Robert Griffin III and there's no doubt the threat of a rushing quarterback helped Morris out immensely.

How he changed as a runner

Watching Morris in 2014, you saw a running back that seemed a little more indecisive at times. He often waited patiently to set up his blocks, but never fully committed to the hole even when it was there at times. You factor that in with his subtle decrease in burst, agility and all-around speed and it's no surprise his numbers last year were a career worst.

The Redskins instability at quarterback certainly didn't help Morris either. The team went through all three quarterbacks like kleenex last season and Morris had a different chemistry with each of them. With Robert Griffin III, he had more freedom as a runner because of the QB-run threat. With backup Kirk Cousins, he became more of a 3-4 yard per carry guy in addition to a play action guy which helped open up the passing game for the more pocket-oriented Cousins.

The current version of Morris runs to the edge and patiently waits for his blocks to set up, a trait many consider to be a positive one among running backs. The only difference — he never fully commits and cuts hard up the field like he did in his rookie year.

This isn't to say Morris was indecisive on every play in 2014. You still saw many glimpses of what he's capable of when he decides to commit to his blocks and burst through the hole. That was very evident in the game against Tampa, where Morris rushed for 96 yards on 20 carries. That performance against the Bucs was good for the second-most rushing yards Morris had in a game all season.

Also against Tampa, Morris displayed the kind of competitive toughness that has made him one of the most consistent fantasy backs over the last 3 seasons. Click the vine video below.

Where he still wins in the NFL and on your fantasy team

One of Morris' best traits is his durability. Through three seasons, Morris has started every game. He has shown to be the rare example of a running back who can withstand the harsh punishment of hit after hit that often lead to so many injuries at the position. In fantasy football, a guy who shows up and punches the clock is a valuable commodity in terms of consistency.

You could argue Morris has achieved that durability because of his more recent choices when running the ball. In 2014, there were times when Morris could've plowed over a defender but instead chose to use lateral jukes instead. Now, Morris' agility has never been his strongest suit, and his burst and explosiveness have decreased very slightly but also noticeably over the last three seasons. While you rarely see him make defenders miss like say, LeSean McCoy, his ability to juke rather than try and run defenders over has helped him avoid the violent hits that take their toll on a running back over the years has served as key preserver to the running backs productive career early on.

A typical Alfred Morris run in 2012: Line up in read option, burst through the hole after making one lateral cut, run downhill three of four yards,  initiate contact with defender while still running forward behind pads and keeping legs churning, fall forward for another two or three yards.

A typical Alfred Morris run in 2014: Line up behind the quarterback in a half-pistol formation (typically what he ran with Kirk Cousins at quarterback), burst through the hole just a tad bit slower, shuffle feet more to make cutback instead of planting foot in the ground and cutting decisively, wait for blockers to set up before running 2-3 yards before laterally sliding around defender and falling forward for an extra yard.

While that analysis may indicate Morris has regressed a little bit, the bigger culprit isn't so much in his athleticism since he remains pretty well-off in that category. It's more so his lack of decisiveness in the hole that has hurt his production the most

That, combined with the injury woes to the Redskins at the quarterback position in addition to a young offensive line that had to play a backup tight end at times during the season plus a new coach in Jay Gruden and loss of running back guru Mike Shanahan and you got a few more ingredients to complement the slight dropoff recipe as well.

His benign role in the receiving game

Perhaps the biggest threat against Morris as a potential solid fantasy running back is his struggles in the receiving game. Morris had one of the worst drop rates in the league last season, as he failed to reel in 6 of his 26 targets. This led to the Redskins not trust him much as a receiver, and it hurt Morris' fantasy value on third down. Per Football Outsiders, Morris was only on the field for 58 percent of the snaps in 2014, which ranked him 18th among starting RBs. It hurt him the most on long passing downs, as Washington preferred the services of Roy Helu Jr.

Helu's tendency to stay on the field when the team was running their no huddle offense in hopes of trying to comeback from a deficit in the fourth quarter. It was a fate the Redskins found themselves in very often last season after winning just four games, and Morris' value suffered as he frequently came out during third downs and Roy Helu Jr. saw plenty of work in the passing game via the screen and on choice routes.

Overall, Morris compiled just 37 catches for 310 receiving yards and zero receiving touchdowns in three seasons as a starting running back. It's not the kind of numbers you want to see in a current NFL landscape that almost requires a running back be a good receiver out of the backfield. You have the feeling at any moment, a more talented receiving back like newly-acquired Matt Jones might overtake Morris at some point in 2015.

What 2015 has in store

There is optimism for Morris' fantasy owners in 2015, however. The Redskins are retooling their offensive line and spent a first-round pick on top right tackle Brandon Scherff. Scherff will likely be inserted into the starting lineup immediately and with pro bowler Trent Williams anchoring the other side, this could be a formidable unit as the season goes along. Williams is also in the final year of his rookie contract and will be looking for a pay day. Former third-round pick Spencer Long could also play a big role this season, as he's expected to play at right guard. 

New offensive line coach Bill Callahan wants to make the Redskins more of a power run team like he did with the Cowboys a season ago. This plays to Morris' strengths as a downhill runner. However, he'll have to become better at reading his blocks and more decisive in cutting up field if he wants to post another 1,000-yard season.

Final verdict

Morris is still an RB2, but he's an upper-tier RB2 with an offense that will try to rebuild its line and play more to Morris' strengths as a runner.

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The instant impact rookie running back. Seemingly every year, one or two rookies are gifted with an opportunity to see a significant workload at a certain point in the season. Some are scheduled to be their team's starter form the get go (think Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch in 2007) while others benefit from a stroke of luck due to an injury to the starting guy or the starting guy is struggling (Branden Oliver, Jeremy Hill in 2014).

As the NFL Draft nears, it's important to look at these situations so you can identify them and play them to your advantage. It's also important to look at past examples so you can hopefully spot a similar situation in the future.

What can the draft tell us about fantasy?

When it comes to identifying what round a player is more likely to have a higher probability of immediately producing at, it can vary by position. One obvious trend is that quarterbacks taken in Rounds 1-3 typically do better. Current top fantasy quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck, Ben Reothlisberger and Aaron Rodgers were all drafted in the first two rounds in their respective drafts.

When you look at the wide receiver position, DeMaryius Thomas was a first-rounder as was Odell Beckham Jr. and Dez Bryant. Jordy Nelson was a second-round pick in 2008. Top 2014 fantasy wideout Antonio Brown was one exception to the rule. Brown was selected in the sixth round of the 2010 draft.

Running backs are a different story

Even though there's been some late-round gems at the quarterback and wide receiver position, the running back position is place where you'll find perhaps the highest probability quality fantasy players. More frequently than you'd think, you'll find top fantasy running backs who were drafted in the later rounds or even went undrafted.

There's a lot of variables that play into running backs not getting drafted as high as they used to be, and we could list 1,000 more words telling you why that is, but for the sake of this argument lets just say the NFL is a copy cat league and selecting a running back later on is just the trend right now. Even the 2015 running back class, which is being hyped as the best in years, will still likely only draw two first rounders (Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon). So with a running back class as good as this one, which has many draftniks claiming it could be as good as 14 quality starters deep, it's important to look at how late-round running backs have come to the forefront in the past and made an impact on fantasy teams. Let's take a look at last year's impact fantasy running backs who were rookies.

Case study #1 — Branden Oliver, San Diego Chargers (undrafted)

Oliver was ranked in the Top 40 among fantasy backs in fantasy points in 2014, which wasn't bad for a 5'8 undrafted rookie out of SUNY Buffalo. Oliver got his chance when starter Ryan Mathews went down with an MCL sprain. Of course, nobody saw Oliver's start coming after Mathews was scheduled to sit out the following week. Everybody had Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown pegged as the backups most likely to benefit, myself included. It goes to show you — always look all the way down on the depth chart before picking somebody up off the waiver wire. You never know what can happen.

Well, a stroke of luck happened and Oliver took off against the New York Jets. After Brown went out with a concussion early on and with Mathews already sidelined, Oliver feasted on the weak Jets passing defense and caught four balls for 68 yards and 1 touchdown. He also rushed for over 100 yards and finished with 29 fantasy points. 

Watching that game, Oliver's ability in the passing game no doubt helped keep the defense and honest and led to him being more effective on the ground. Oliver also benefitted from Brown leaving the first half of that game with a concussion, which opened up the doors for him within the offense.

He didn't slow down afterward that game either. The Chargers leaned heavily on him the following week and Oliver made a nice second impression with a 101-yard effort against the Oakland Raiders and one touchdown. While those numbers were impressive, it's worth noting Oliver averaged just 3.9 yards a clip on 26 carries against one of the worst rushing defenses in the league, so it was no surprise that Oliver's production eventually dropped off.

While he turned out to be a nice addition off the waiver wire for a brief stretch, Oliver's fantasy value hit a snag after he ran into some tough defenses that started with a 36-yard performance against Denver on Thursday night. He tossed in six more equally ineffective games before finishing with 582 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns for the year, with half of his fantasy points coming in those two games against Oakland and New York.

Lessons learned

Oliver proved (at least in his rookie season) to be more of a scat, receiving type back. He's not a guy that can beat you with 20 carries per game. He's more of a Darren Sproles type player who will beat you out of the backfield. But in the right matchup against a weak passing defense, he proved he could produce for at least a few weeks.

One of the takeaways you can use from Oliver is to considers drafting backup running backs where the starter has an injury history. Now, this doesn't always work out. DeMarco Murray was injured almost every season but managed to finish 2014 without any major injuries to speak of. He did suffer a hand injury at one point, but it didn't slow him up much to create a ton of value for the backup running back on Dallas.

In the case of Oliver, starting RB Ryan Mathews also had a long injury history. So keep an eye out for running backs (especially the rookies in this draft) who get drafted to a team with a No. 1 back who is prone to sitting out games.

Next, always be keen on matchups. Oliver benefited from two easy defenses (New York Jets weak passing defense and Oakland's weak rushing defense) when he put up his best numbers.

Lastly, always make sure to scope out the entire depth chart of a team. Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown were the top backups but Oliver was also on the depth chart as well.

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Published in Fantasy Coverage
Friday, 10 April 2015 00:00

Prospect: RB David Cobb

Gopher it Gopher it.

That's what you should be saying to yourself when you peer into your dynasty draftboard during the later rounds and realize Minnesota product David Cobb is still available.

His journey up until this point

Aside from Melvin Gordon and Jay Ajayi, no running back had more carries (314) than Cobb did in 2014. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry in a run heavy offense that allowed him to maximize his stats and finish 11th overall in rushing yards.

One of the biggest knocks on David Cobb throughout the draft process has been his speed. He ran a 4.81 40-yard dash at the combine, which ranked 4th worst among more than 30 running backs who participated. He injured his quad during the run, which likely played a role in the slow time.  Since then, Cobb recently clocked in at 4.65 and 4.70 at his pro day earlier this week. Slightly better than last, but don't let the slow 40 times fool you, there are reasons to believe this won't hinder him too much from being a relevant fantasy back in the future.

Even going back to the history of running backs and 40 times, a 4.4 40 hasn't always been the best indicator of fantasy success. Le'Veon Bell, who ranked second overall among running backs in fantasy points last season, ran a 4.6 40. C.J. Anderson, one of the hottest fantasy running backs of the year down the stretch in Denver, ran a 4.6 as well. At 5'8, 224 lbs, Anderson is similar to Cobb in size but oddly enough his college stats were very similar to Bell's senior season.

Back when he was at Michigan State as a senior in 2012, Bell ran for 1763 yards and 13 touchdowns on 382 attempts (4.7 yards per carry). Cobb ran for 13 touchdowns and 1626 yards on 314 carries (5.2 yards per carry). Both running backs were a huge part of their team's offense, and both displayed similar tendencies in yardage, yards per carry and touchdowns. Both running backs have also shown the ability to catch the football, as Bell ranked No. 1 among PPR running backs in 2014. Cobb, who obviously hasn't shown this ability at the pro level yet, is a capable receiver and we'll talk about his catching ability later in this article. But first...

His running style

A few things to take note of when you watch Cobb run. For one, he makes up for his lack of explosiveness with a decisive running style that allows him to create 4 or 5 yards of positive yardage quickly. He uses his size to his advantage, running through small gaps without slowing his feet for a millisecond. And that's perhaps the best trait Cobb possesses — he's a very fluid runner. He doesn't stop on a dime to

After that, it's just a matter of the offensive line giving him enough room down field and/or Cobb making one guy miss. Cobb doesn't rely on violent jukes to shake defenders, instead preferring quick lateral cuts that are effective at breaking tackles without slowing his feet down.

Now, Cobb is not the kind of running back that's going to break enough tackles to run for long touchdowns especially at the NFL level. But he possesses the kind of vision and purposeful north-and-south running style that allows him a certain reliability. He

A 5'11 senior, Cobb runs compact and can get slippery in tight spaces, a skill most running backs of bigger size can't replicate. He also keeps his feet moving after contact which allows him fall forward for a few extra yards more often than not. You rarely see Cobb get jacked backwards due to his low center of gravity.

Because of his compact size and aggressive running ability, you rarely see Cobb get pushed backward, get off balance or look indecisive, three traits that can often make a difference between a short gain and a big loss at the NFL level. Below you'll see a clip on how Cobb against Mizzou during the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl. Notice how quickly he gets up the field and how his compact frame allows him to stay upright after contact before falling forward for an extra few yards.

His other positive traits

Much like Le'Veon Bell, Cobb has an ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Watch this play where Cobb lays out for a pass. Even though the catch didn't count since he was out of bounds, it was still a good example of his athleticism and hand-eye coordination.

 

Where he works best

Cobb would be very valuable in a pass-oriented offense that employs a committee-style running approach. It's unlikely he's ever a feature back (very few running backs these days are anyway) but he can definitely provide value as a PPR running back in offenses that have an elite quarterback. He's also proven to be durable which is a valuable trait at an injury-prone position. Cobb should be taken in dynasty drafts in the mid rounds which is the spot where he will offer the most value.

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Published in Waiver Wire

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You guys remember Ryan Mathews back in 2010? He was actually considered a Top 10 fantasy running back before he even saw a single snap in the NFL. Fresh out of Fresno State, Mathews (who was in his early 20s at the time) stepped into a situation where Hall of Fame running back Ladainian Tomlinson went ring chasing with the New York Jets. Fellow Chargers backup running back Darren Sproles remained with the team, but was still relegated to the role of receiving back and was never considered to be a real replacement for Mathews. So everything looked lined up for fantasy production right off the bat for the rookie.

Flashback to 2010

Due to his situation, Mathews had a rare opportunity to start off his NFL career as an RB1. It seems silly now considering Mathews was outrushed by the likes of Mike Tolbert during his rookie season. Tolbert finished 2010 with a team-high 735 yards and a team-high 11 touchdowns. Mathews was much less impressive but still managed to rush for seven touchdowns and 678 yards (4.3 yards per carry).

One of the reasons Mathews ended up being a bust in his rookie season was his light workload. Even though then coach Norv Turner indicated he planned to run Mathews 20-25 times per game, that proved to not be the case in the early stages of 2010. Turner once again fell in love with Philip Rivers and the vertical passing offense, as the Chargers ranked second in the league in passing yards. This style of offense curbed Mathews' upside. Though he did rush 20 times for 79 yards in his first career game, he didn't carry the ball more than 9 times in the next three games. The coaching staff never fully trusted him to carry the offense and it resulted in passive numbers on a week to week basis.

Mathews average draft position in fantasy leagues for his rookie season was 14th overall in 2010. He was drafted ahead of players like Peyton Manning, Jamaal Charles, Brandon Marshall, Larry Fitzgerald and Tom Brady. Sure, most of those players are quarterbacks and wide receivers and we all know running backs are the most valuable but Mathews was still highly regarded considering he never took a snap in the NFL before that season.

The situation in San Diego served as the main reason Mathews was drafted as high as he was. But ultimately, the Turner style of offense just didn't fit him.

What we have in 2015

With Mathews now departed for Philadelphia, the Chargers now have a backfield very similar to what they had when Tomlinson left in 2010. They have a scat back in Branden Oliver, who led the team in rushing yards with 562 but averaged a very benign 3.6 yards per carry and was largely shutdown by almost every good run defense down the stretch last year and was even held in check by below average defenses like Oakland and Jacksonville as well. I think it's fair to say it's unlikely Oliver morphs into a starting running back over the offseason and will likely remain a change of pace back going forward.

They also have Donald Brown, a running back who the Chargers insist will be back in 2015. Brown struggled mightily in 2014, rushing for just 223 yards on 85 carries (2.62 yards per carry) through 13 games. Brown's best season was in 2010 with the Colts when he rushed for 537 yards and six touchdowns. He hasn't had more than 134 carries in a single season and isn't likely to take over as the top back either. 

The last guy San Diego has is Danny Woodhead, a back who suffered a nasty injury last season where he fractured his fibula and ankle early in 2014 but will likely return this season. Woodhead played in just three games and finished with just 38 yards rushing.

However, Woodhead probably has the most fantasy value due to his 2013 season. Woodhead compiled a very solid 76 catches on 86 targets for 605 yards and six touchdowns.

Offensive line improvements

The Chargers were one of the worst run offenses in the league last year, ranking among the bottom in teams according to Pro Football focus. They went out and tried to remedy this problem during free agency, signing Orlando Franklin for five years and $36.5 million with $20 million of that guaranteed. Franklin helped running backs like Knowshon Moreno, Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson compile very good fantasy numbers during his four-year stint with Denver.

Draft picks

In the upcoming draft, the Chargers are picking at No. 17 overall, a spot that would perfect to grab one of the top running backs in this draft. If they opt to go for a guy like Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon, there's no way you can't immediately put them on the same level as Mathews was in 2010.

Overall, the Chargers present possibly one of the best fantasy situations for running backs in 2015 and are a team you must monitor in the offseason if you need a running back either on your dynasty team or if you're drafting one in a redraft league. If you want more information on Todd Gurley, check out Josh Mensch's prospect piece.

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Published in Fantasy Coverage

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Breathe a sigh of relief. Go out and enjoy some of the incoming spring weather for a second. The biggest wave of free agency has likely passed us. With most of the big time players like Ndamukong Suh, DeMarco Murray and Brandon Marshall now signed with new teams, it's time to let the dust clear and really look at how some of the players might be used and what their fantasy value could be in 2015. For this article, we will focus on the newest running back tandem in the league, Ryan Mathews and DeMarco Murray in Philadelphia.

How they got there

The Eagles first hinted they were looking for a new running back when they traded away LeSean McCoy last week to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for linebacker Kiko Alonso. The move shaved $11 million off the salary cap for Philly, but left some wondering what the Eagles were thinking. After all, McCoy won the rushing title just two seasons ago in 2013, plus there wasn't exactly a huge free agency market for running backs. The immediate thought was the Eagles planned to grab a running back through the draft which features a talented crop of RBs this season.

But of course, that wasn't the case. They signed DeMarco Murray to a five-year, $42 million with $12 million guaranteed just a week later. At the same time Murray entered the picture, the Eagles were also in the midst of signing former Chargers running back Ryan Mathews, who they eventually inked for three years and $11 million. Financially, it makes sense. McCoy was due more than $9 million in 2015 and would've saddled the Eagles with a $10 million cap hit roughly. Now, the Eagles have both Murray and Mathews for just a $7.5 million cap hit. Overall, it's two running backs, Alonso and cornerback Walter Thurmond for the price of what McCoy would've cost. Not a bad tradeoff. Another nice thing about the trade — both running backs are in the prime of their careers and have rushed for over 1,000 yards in multiple seasons. On paper, it's a worthwhile endeavor, but who knows if it'll translate to more wins on the field.

The Mathews deal looked more like Chip simply getting a potentially good running back at a bargain price, while the Murray deal cemented the former Cowboy as the newest franchise running back of the Philadelphia Eagles. But how will it all translate from a fantasy perspective.

The carry breakdown

The Eagles have become a more run-oriented team since Chip arrived in 2013. In the past two seasons, the Eagles ranked in the top 5 in total rushing attempts and have seen one of their guys win a rushing title (LeSean McCoy in 2013.) While McCoy was a true feature back, seeing the majority of carries compared to then-backups Bryce Brown and Chris Polk, it's looking like there could be more of a committee style attack in 2015 with Murray still assuming the majority of the carries.

Last season, there were 415 rushing attempts by running backs in the Philadelphia offense. Murray ran the ball a league-leading 392 times in 2013, a workload that dwarfed any other running back by 100 carries. Even though Murray ended up winning the rushing title with more than 1,800 yards, it's safe to say Philadelphia likely won't run him as hard as Dallas did. Murray slowed down as the season went along, averaging just 2.6 yards per carry in two of the Cowboys' last four games.

Assuming both Murray and Mathews are healthy, Murray is the obvious choice for the majority of the carries. While some may be wondering whether or not Mathews will still have fantasy appeal, the answer is a little cloudy but still important to know in case you plan on drafting him in redraft leagues. Mathews will have RB2/flex appeal in 2015. He might have hot and cold weeks, but some weeks he'll rush for 60 yards and a touchdown and that's still worth 12 fantasy points in most leagues. Other weeks, Murray will take over. But the track record for running backs coming off a season where they carried the ball as much as Murray did hasn't favored the running back. Going back to guys like Larry Johnson, who carried the ball over 400 times in one season, it's safe to say you're not going to get the same kind of fantasy production from Murray that you did last season.

One thing you have to remember with running backs is matchups also play a huge role. Take last year for example. Darren Sproles got off to a hot start in 2014. He rushed for 71 yards and a touchdown in Week 1 against a lowly Jacksonville team. LeSean McCoy, on the other hand, ran for 74 yards on 21 carries. McCoy had more carries, but Sproles ended up having a slightly better fantasy day. This gave him confidence to slay the Colts in Week 2 on Monday Night. In that game, Sproles caught seven passes for 152 yards, giving those who started him in fantasy plenty of production.

You will want to keep an eye on who the Eagles play in Week 1. If they play a run defense that looks like it could be below average, Mathews is an obvious flex start in the offense. Now, he could fall flat on his face in Week 1 and not produce at all, at least then you'll know what kind of player you're dealing with this season, and can remain hesitant to start him in the coming weeks.

But overall, Mathews is a player that has to be drafted in 12-to-14 team leagues this season. He's still a talented running back in a run oriented offense. Plus, Murray always comes with a 'handle with care' sticker and could find himself on the injured reserve list at some point during the season. But even if Murray stays healthy, Mathews will likely see touches on the field and if he has the hot hand, then he'll be the one getting you 10-12 fantasy points that particular week.

Published in Fantasy Coverage
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
Saturday, 13 December 2014 00:00

Week 15 bullet points for RBs

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

The playoffs, we know they're here. We know what you need. So here are our bullet points for RBs this week.

Starts of this week

Jamaal Charles vs. Oakland, Matt Forte vs. New Orleans, Le'Veon Bell at Atlanta — #1, #2, and #3 in weekly rankings

It was really difficult to pick any of these guys for the top start, so we figured just go with all three. If you're lucky enough to have snagged two of them in your draft, you're sitting on a gold mine in Week 15. The only thing you have to worry about is Charles, who is a bit banged up with an ankle injury he suffered last week. Still, Andy Reid expects Charles to be a full go for Week 15.

When it comes to Forte, the New Orleans Saints have allowed 15 rushing touchdowns this season, which is tied for second worst in the league behind Atlanta. They allow a third-worst 21.5 points to fantasy running backs and are also in the bottom 10 against receivers, which is good for Forte as well considering he's a PPR dreamboat. Sorry....got a little carried away there.

Forte has dropped off a bit over the last two games so you may be a little concerned heading into Week 15. He averaged just 2.0 yards per carry against a suspect Dallas defense and understandably struggled against the best run defense in Detroit on Thanksgiving. Still, when he isn't feeding you the steak in the run game, he's supplementing it with some mean potatoes in the passing game. With 25 receptions over his last four games, you can count on Forte to continue to catch at least five passes per game and add 40-80 receiving yards on top of it. Even better, a 10-12 catch games is the ceiling for this guy, which is a skill sket you just can't get out of any fantasy running back.

As for Bell, you already know he's morphed into a superstar this season. He's coming off his best fantasy performance of the year against Cincinnati, where he totaled over 230 yards and three touchdowns combined rushing and receiving. His soft schedule has helped him out there's no question, not unlike LeSean McCoy's schedule down the stretch helped him win the rushing title last season. Bell will be going against an Atlanta defense that gives up the most fantasy points in the league to running backs (22.3 per game). The Falcons also allow the most rushing touchdowns in the NFL (17) and also allow 122 yards per game. 

Good starts

Mark Ingram at Chicago — #11 in weekly rankings

Da......Bears da Bears da Bears da Bears...have struggled on defense this season. They allowed Lions running back Joique Bell to rattle off a season-high 91 yards on Thanksgiving. They also allowed 196 yards and two touchdowns to Dallas over a week before. Ingram is coming off a dud game against Carolina and the Saints offense has been inconsistent throughout the year, but the trend with Ingram has consisted of one bad game followed by one good game. There's no reason he can't produce well in the flex spot this week. Roll with him.

Isaiah Crowell at Cincinnati — #17 in weekly rankings

Crowell is among our favorite waiver pickups and also among are favorite most frustrating start or sit options for 2014 (aside from maybe Kenny Stills). Crowell rewarded those who started him with 11 fantasy points last week and while Terrance West may see more carries than he did a week before, Crowell remains the most talented of the bunch with his 4.4 yards per carry average to go along with eight touchdowns. The Bengals are fourth worst against running backs, allowing 21.2 points per game.

Le'Veon Bell just gashed them for nearly 200 yards rushing and you have to figure with rookie Johnny Manziel starting today, the Browns may go run heavy if he struggles. Expect Crowell to see anywhere between 15-17 carries and come close to 100 yards and a touchdown today. Start him with confidence.

View Erik Drost's Flickr page here.

Published in Fantasy Coverage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View Football Schedules Flickr page here.

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage
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