Don’t Touch! Fantasy Football Busts

Quarterbacks

Cam Newton

When everyone was clamoring and putting Cam Newton in the Hall of Fame after his great 2015 MVP season, I was skeptical. To me (and the numbers back me up), 2015 was more of an anomaly than any sign that Newton was the new face of the league. Aside from a couple outlier seasons, where Carolina went 12-4 and 15-1, Cam is, for the most part, a .500 quarterback.

Now, Cam is without Ted Ginn, Jr., has an overweight Kelvin Benjamin coming off of major knee surgery, and is coming off shoulder surgery himself. While he has some added weapons in Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel, I’m reluctant to take Cam this season. Maybe he’s a solid QB2 to pop in on bye weeks or stream him in during favorable week matchups.

Ben Roethlisberger

I know people will disagree with Big Ben being included on this list — heck, I’m not sure I’m totally behind this one. But let’s look — Ben had a down year by all accounts in 2016, he’s 35, he’s a big target who gets hit hard by defenders, and he’s coming off an offseason where he seemed to seriously contemplate retiring.

All his backers will argue (rightfully so) that he’s got protection and weapons around him. But his reaction speed will get slower and he doesn’t have a proven #2 option at WR. If all things work out, Ben will be a good starting QB; but if they get rocky, he’s not a player you’ll want to start automatically, week-to-week.

Running Backs

Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard

There aren’t enough footballs to go around to please all the running backs in Cincinnati. Both Hill and Bernard have warts, themselves. And that’s before adding rookie Joe Mixon to the backfield. Expect Hill and Bernard to get used even less — and unpredictably, which is not what fantasy owners like hearing.

Tevin Coleman

I’ve been big on Coleman in his first two years coming out of Indiana, and I still like him — but you have to watch for a big drop off in 2017 for three reasons:

(1) What he did in 2016 is not sustainable. He scored 11 TDs — one every 14 carries (the NFL average is a touch for every 30-plus carries). In addition, Coleman carried the ball 3 times all season inside the 5 yard line and never was a target in the end zone.

(2) Devonta Freeman is the workhorse back in Atlanta and will continue to get the bulk of the looks and will be the option in the redzone and down on the goal line.

(3) The Falcons ridiculous, record-setting efficient offense will undoubtedly regress in 2017 — meaning drop offs in statistics for guys like Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Freeman, and, yes, Coleman.

The “Old Guys” — Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, Frank Gore

Age will catch up to everyone. And these three are no different from anyone else. For AP and Lynch, they’re on new teams, getting comfortable with the schemes and the plays, while at the same time trying to prove they can still tote the rock, productively. Honestly, both would be tremendous value in mid- to late rounds Lynch in 5th and Peterson in 10th), but ADPs suggest both will be gone much sooner than they should be — and that’s just not wise for old RBs with so many question marks surrounding them.

Frank Gore is still with Indy, but he probably would prefer not to be. I expect Marlon Mack to slowly start taking carries away early on, and by November, Mack may be the Colts top running back.

Wide Receivers

DeAndre Hopkins

How DeAndre Hopkins’s name keeps getting placed near the top of all these fantasy lists and projections is beyond me. He’s projected as a WR1 with an ADP placing him in the 3rd round. Hopkins’s ADP is really the result of a 10-week stretch in 2015 where he was on pace to becoming the highest-targeted receiver in NFL history. The Texans were not very good, they were slinging the ball down the field, and Hopkins was the major beneficiary. Now, the team in more balanced and Hopkins isn’t putting up numbers that match where fantasy owners draft him.

Since Week 11 of the 2015 season, he’s now had just two top-12, WR1 performances in PPR formats!! Did you hear me??? TWO, 2, dos, 1+1=2!!!! For the ADP, you better be getting more out of your WR1 than just 2 weeks worth of ranking inside the top 12 of WRs. C’mon, Brandon LaFell got in the top-12 three times last year alone.

Davante Adams

The Green Bay wideout was undraftable at this time a year ago. Now he’s projected to be a 4th round selection. Make no mistake — his 2016 season was magnificent with 12 touchdowns and 120 targets from Aaron Rodgers. But if you’re going to take this guy in the 4th round after ONE great year, I’d advise against it. Also, factor in (a) head coach Mike McCarthy’s promise to involve Randall Cobb more in the gameplanning after the WR suffered a down year in 2016 and (b) the addition of tight end Martellus Bennett.

Donte Moncrief

The Colts WR had an unreal season in 2016. Moncrief had only 10 red zone targets, yet produced 7 touchdowns. To put that in perspective, no wide receiver since 2009 has managed so many touchdowns with so few looks in the red zone. To be able to put another season up like that in 2017 would be asking a ton.

Tight Ends

Zach Ertz

After back-to-back 800-yard receiving seasons in Philly, Ertz has all the skill in the world to do it for a third straight season. His inclusion in this category is more a statement on the increase in weaponry that now exists for quarterback Carson Wentz — the team added WRs Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. I expect to see a decrease in Ertz’s production, which causes me to proceed with caution and not reach too early on the tight end.

Austin Hooper

For some of the same reasons why I’m not high on Tevin Coleman, I’m very sketchy about Atlanta’s tight end. The Falcons 2016 offensive efficiency will be difficult (if not impossible) to match this year, and it doesn’t help that Atlanta has struggled for years to properly utilize the tight end position. OC Kyle Shanahan is in SF so that probably doesn’t help Hooper.

O.J. Howard

The rookie out of Alabama is going off the board as a top-12 tight end in mocks. In NFL history, only 7 tight ends have hit the 50-reception mark as rookies. Even in a down year for the position in 2016, each of the top 15 fantasy tight ends hit the 50-reception mark. In other words, Howard is going to have to have one of the best seasons for any rookie tight end just to crack the top 15 in 2017.

Tampa Bay has too many options for Howard to be a main go-to target for James Winston. Mike Evans is the WR1 and the team also signed DeSean Jackson this past offseason. Tight end Cameron Brate is no slouch either.

Don’t reach for Howard — other (many reliable) options will be there late in your draft.

 

Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed, @brian22goodwin.

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Fantasy Draft Day Sleepers 2017: WRs and TEs

Wide Receivers

Pierre Garcon

New 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and Pierre Garcon have a viable history together. The wide receiver led the NFL in 2013 with 113 receptions with Shanahan as the offensive coordinator in Washington. That history bodes well for Garcon; in addition, Shanahan uses his “X” receiver with great frequency — i.e. Julio Jones, Santana Moss, Andre Johnson. Garcon will be the top target in San Francisco with a catch rate of 65% over the past 4 years, making him a very valuable PPR WR.

Cameron Meredith

This is one reason certain football fans have such distaste for fantasy football. “Why would anyone care about any player on the Chicago Bears?” Correct, the team isn’t promising to be very good; and with either unproven Mike Glennon at QB or rookie Mitchell Trubisky, the offense is sure to go through some major growing pains. But…..fantasy football owners DO care.

The Bears have few weapons on offense aside from Jordan Howard. But someone has to catch passes from Glennon or Trubisky — and that man is probably going to be Cameron Meredith. Last year, the Illinois State product caught 66 balls for almost 900 yards. With Alshon Jeffery and his 8 targets per game gone for Philly, Meredith is worth a draft pick somewhere after the 10th round.

Ted Ginn, Jr.

Any fantasy owner has to give a second look to any WR in New Orleans. As long as Drew Brees is at the helm and Sean Payton is on the sidelines, the Saints are going to have a potent offense. This year the biggest benefactor could be Ted Ginn, Jr., with the departure of Brandin Cooks to New England.

The speedster has the ability to stretch the field, giving Brees that deep threat option every week. And even though the Saints’ offense is mostly predicated on shorter, quick routes, Ginn’s downfield breakaway speed should be enticing for Brees. Ginn might be more “boom or bust” from week to week, but he’s worth a late round pick.

Tight Ends

Hunter Henry

Everyone has been searching and waiting for the right guy to supplant Antonio Gates as the Chargers top tight end option. It looks like we have a winner. Henry put up 36 catches for 478 yards in 2016 as a rookie; and when targeted 4 or more times, he scored 7-plus fantasy points in 7 of those 8 games. Last season, Gates’s catch percentage was the lowest of his career at 57% — 10 points lower than Henry’s; and at 37 years old, it’s likely Gates will continue trending downward. In addition, Henry caught one more TD than Gates in 2016 despite 17 fewer receptions.

Henry should be one of Phillip Rivers’s go-to guys — especially with the bad luck of injuries that the Chargers continue to face with WRs (rookie Mike Williams could miss up to 8 weeks, and maybe the year).

Julius Thomas

A reunion with head coach Adam Gase is just what the doctor ordered for Thomas, who’s been relegated to a benchwarmer since 2015 when he left Denver (and OC Gase at the time) and went to Jacksonville. Gase uses his tight ends as well as any head coach in the league. In Denver as the offensive coordinator, Gase’s playcalling led Thomas to top-7 TE status in fantasy leagues in 2013 and ’14; then in Chicago, Gase did much of the same with Martellus Bennett and Zach Miller — the two combined to be top-7 in TE production in 2015. In 2016 in Miami, Gase’s 4-man combo at the position put them 10th in fantasy production.

In short, Gase uses his tight ends and uses them productively. And now he’s got Jay Cutler under center — and while many Dolphins fans are cringing at this thought, Cutler experienced one of his best seasons as a pro in 2015 under Gase’s tutelage in Chicago.

 

Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed, @brian22goodwin.

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2017 Draft Day Sleepers: Running Backs

Running Backs

Kareem Hunt

The rookie out of Toledo will need to carve out his spot in what is becoming a crowded backfield in KC. But Andy Reid loves using a multi-back system, and it’s hard to imagine the Kansas City coaches not seeing a place for Hunt after spending a 3rd round pick on him. Spencer Ware, Charcanderick West, and C.J. Spiller will all be options as training camp moves along, but Reid has been ultra-hesitant to commit to Ware or West fully as his top guys — which leads me to believe he doesn’t view them as workhorses. Hunt’s going in the 10th round of most mocks — pretty good value if he emerges as the guy.

Paul Perkins

The Giants should have one of the more explosive offenses in football, and Perkins should be the lead back. As much as Eli Manning is willing to chuck the ball around, the coaching staff (and NYG fans) would be quite pleased if Perkins could dispel some of the passing attempts. He’ll have to improve his catching abilities and he’ll have to prove he can reach the end zone. But if Perkins solidifies himself as the top RB in New York heading into the season, he should be very active.

Derrick Henry

Maybe the Alabama product isn’t that big of a sleeper candidate, but he made the list anyway. While DeMarco Murray’s been the definition of a workhorse running back for years now, one has to have doubts that he’ll continue playing at such a high level — especially when the team has a bruising, young runner in Henry waiting to get more reps.

Henry got more carries as the year went on in 2016, and I’d expect that trend to continue. Tennessee should have a fun offense with playmakers at practically every position. Even if he sees limited carries, Henry should still find enough touches that make him a fantasy value.

Duke Johnson

While all the talk when it comes to a Browns’ running back has centered on Isaiah Crowell, Duke Johnson has quietly built a nice little resume — especially in PPR formats. The former Miami Hurricane has caught more than 50 passes each of his two seasons in Cleveland.

The Browns should be improved in 2017 and the offense should be more exciting for Cleveland fans than it has been in a while. None of the projections put Johnson in the upper tiers or at a superstar level, but his passing catching capability makes him the best value pick of any of the four running backs on this list.

 

Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed, @brian22goodwin.

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Fantasy Football Sleepers at Quarterback to Draft in 2017

Carson Wentz

Philly has surrounded their first round quarterback with a lot of weapons this offseason — and that should pay off for fantasy owners who select Wentz on draft day. The North Dakota State product finished as the 20th ranked QB in PPR leagues last season, and with another year of experience plus the added artillery at his disposal, in the form of Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, Wentz could be looking at top 10 in 2017. The Eagles also return playmakers Darren Sproles, Zach Ertz, and Jordan Matthews.

Blake Bortles

It’s tough defending this one after Borltes opened up camp this past weekend with a 5-interception performance under the lights. But, who pays attention to practice, right? Allen Robinson returns and is a legitimate WR1, along with a versatile backfield led by rookie Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon. Giving the ball to Fournette on the ground 20-pus times a game will take the heat off Bortles. In addition, the defense is improved, which should help Bortles progress towards that “above average tier” of quarterbacks. He’s worth a flyer in the late rounds of your draft.

Eli Manning

Eli will make mistakes and drive fantasy owners crazy. But he’ll also throw the ball all over the field — for good or for bad. The offense lost Victor Cruz, but added Brandon Marshall and rookie tight end Evan Engram. Paul Perkins in the backfield is, also, ready to make a splash in 2017. The Giants’ offense should be involved in high scoring games, and Eli should stockpile the fantasy points. What makes Manning most enticing is that he will be available in the later rounds and carries little risk.

Other Sleeper QBs

Andy Dalton, Matthew Stafford

 

Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed, @brian22goodwin.

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The Fantasy 3: 2016 “Busts”

The number one thing most fantasy players do when projecting their version of the “Mel Kiper Big Board” prior to their draft is look at stats from the previous year. Yes, it seems sensible; yes, it’s helpful; yes, it has value in it; but no, it’s not giving you the whole picture. For instance, it’s really easy to get fooled by one season’s worth of greatness – or, on the opposite end, a season’s worth of underachieving. My point – collect more data, look at trends, and don’t get stuck on what your memory most easily and recently recalls.

Now let me explain – when I say “bust” I mean that they will likely be drafted too highly and will not be able to live up to the expectations that come with being taken so highly. Rather, I’d love to have any or all of these guys if it means I can grab them on the cheap – 1, 2, 3, maybe even 4 rounds lower than what their current ADP is. Here’s three players that I’d put in the “bust” category.

 

David Johnson

I find it a little funny that I’ve included Johnson on this list. I think he’s going to have a great season and will be a david-johnsonthreat as a runner and a pass-catcher; he’s young; and he’s in Bruce Arians’s high-octane offense. What’s not to like, right? But again, like I said, it’s about value. Johnson is going as high as 4 or 5 in PPR leagues. To spend a top 5 pick on the Cardinal running back, could be unwise.

While everyone will remember Johnson’s explosiveness and in particular his week 15 performance in the the fantasy playoffs where he torched the Eagles’ defense, we can’t be dismissive of some red flags that potentially exist: (1) Johnson is the worst projected 1st round RB when running in between the tackles — averaged 5.88 ypc outside the edge, but only 3.0 when rushing inside; (2) his rushing isn’t necessarily his strong suit — it’s his pass catching ability — so how will he respond when defenses begin curbing his production; and (3) the Arizona coaching staff relied on running back by committee for most of last season and have hinted at doing the same this year.

I expect Johnson to be very good this year — and will be a great RB1. I’d just prefer to get him with a second round pick and not a first. But with elite, top tier RBs in low supply this year, I don’t think he’ll get out of the first round.

 

Jordan Reed

Another player I love winds up on the “Bust List”. Like Johnson, I think Reed is an exceptional player and one of jordan-reed-050516-getty-ftrjpg_m2cqy1m9mgr01o07d29kw47knthe best at his position. One key difference between the two, though, is the injury history with Reed. The Washington tight end is going in the 4th round in drafts — and in many ways that’s understandable. He’s coming off a season in which he caught 87 passes for almost 1,000 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. Probably behind Gronkowski and Eifert, Reed is the next TE people want (add Olsen in that conversation too). But beware of three areas of concern with Reed.

First, this isn’t a guy who skates along injury free most years. In 5 years, Reed has suffered 5 concussions and 3 hamstring injuries. Second, Kirk Cousins will have a young, big, speedy WR on the outside in Josh Doctson that will likely take some looks away from the tight end. Lastly, in the two seasons prior to 2015, Reed never caught more than 50 balls for 500 yards nor did he score more than 3 touchdowns. You can easily argue 2015 was an anomaly — and with the injury history, it’s hard to take Reed at that ADP without feeling a sense of buyer’s remorse.

 

Thomas Rawls

The Seattle RB is currently going off the board in fantasy drafts in the 4th round. You heard me right. Let’s remember what Rawls is and what he’s proven (or not proven) in the NFL up to this point — he came to Seattle as Thomas-Rawlsan undrafted free agent and in his rookie season, started a whopping 7 games. Talk about a small sample size.

Take a couple other pieces of information into consideration before thinking I’m nuts and Rawls is the next Marshawn Lynch in Seattle. One, the Seahawks became the first and only team since 2000 to draft not 1, not 2, but 3 running backs in one draft. Not to mention Christine Michael is still there in the Seahawks backfield. So to think Rawls is going to win the starting job handily or to take for granted that he will get the bulk of the carries in a backfield that consists of 4 other RBs seems a little hasty.

Secondly, Seattle’s offensive line is widely recognized as less than average. They’re pretty fortunate that Russell Wilson is so mobile and elusive.

And three — just for good measure — Rawls injured his ankle at the end of last season and is still not fully recovered. Seattle has not disclosed how much preseason play the second year back will see, but it’s not likely to be very much.

 

Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed — @brian22goodwin.

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The Fantasy 3: Fantasy “Sleepers” of 2016 Draft

Drafts are drawing near and everyone knows for the most part who they want in the first couple rounds — the “Must Haves” of the fantasy season. Beyond that, though, many of us are in the same boat – see who’s there and go with your gut. I’m not casting doubt on your decision-making – or your gut – but keep in mind the following three players as the draft wears on. Don’t necessarily reach for these guys, but don’t be afraid to take them when others may not even be thinking about them. (Always check out ADP prior to your draft so you have an idea of where certain players are going to ensure you don’t take a player in the 4th round that you could easily have picked in the 8th.)

Here’s my three sleepers based on value of the 2016 fantasy football season:

 

Marcus Mariota

 

I wasn’t sold on Mariota coming out of Oregon at first – Chip Kelly/Oregon QBs don’t exactly have the greatest marcus-mariota_btcoz9d544gf1pr4mxbv17aj9track record of success in the NFL. But last season, I found myself using Mariota at the position for a couple weeks as I streamed my quarterbacks throughout the year. The young man did not disappoint.

In addition, Mariota has the ability to run with the football – and in fantasy, that’s huge for a quarterback. Head Coach Mike Mularkey saw this ability and went with it – Mariota rushed 24 times in 7 games with Mularkey as interim coach last season, compared to just 10 times in 5 games with Ken Wisenhunt at the helm.

Mariota’s passing numbers have the potential to explode as well. With DeMarco Murray in the backfield, an improved offensive line, and receivers Dorial Green-Beckham and Rishard Matthews in the mix, Mariota will have options all over the field. Not to mention, tight end Delanie Walker has established himself as one of Mariota’s favorite go-to targets and a top tier player at his position.

And the beauty with Mariota is that you can wait. Let Cam and Rodgers and Brees and all those guys fly off the board (probably earlier than any QBs should). When the dust settles and you’ve stockpiled at the positions that matter most – RB and WR – the Tennessee signal caller should be there for you. He’s currently going in the 15th round on average.

 

Tevin Coleman

 

After Coleman went down injuring his ribs in Week 2, Devonta Freeman never let him back into the mix and forced hi-res-a697b903f7dac2f99d2553b098c85c07_crop_northhim into a secondary role for the Falcons. But we cannot forget that what the Falcons front office and coaches saw in Coleman last season to name him the Week 1 starter still exists. While Freeman will begin the year as the starter, Coleman will be given every opportunity to earn more carries as the weeks go on. Freeman did suffer a concussion near the end of last season and had ball security problems.

Coleman, the former Hoosier, has all the attributes of a starting running back in the NFL – speed, can break tackles, has the ability to run in between the tackles while also breaking to the edge. Third round picks don’t typically get discarded that easily in the NFL – especially if they’re running backs. Expect Atlanta to give Coleman many chances to re-take some carries – splitting time between the 2 RBs can only serve to help the Atlanta offense. Coleman could be a great RB to have on the bench – and possibly move into a starting role as time goes on. His ADP puts him in the 11th round.

 

Jay Ajayi

 

Recent reports of Ajayi missing some Dolphin practices due to a knee issue may actually help his status as a sleeper. No report is very clear with respect to the severity of this ailment, but the running back says it’s nothing to worry about and the team hasn’t behaved in any way that would sound alarms.Jay+Ajayi+oCB1lIuBROfm

Head Coach Adam Gase has earned a reputation as a “Quarterback Whisperer” of sorts over the past few years in Denver and Chicago. One reason for this is how the offensive-minded Gase uses his running backs. CJ Anderson and Ronnie Hillman combined for over 1700 yards from scrimmage with Gase running the O, and last season, Matt Forte and Jeremy Langford both earned praised in the Bears’ offense – accounting for over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 14 touchdowns.

The Dolphins are looking for Ajayi to replace Lamar Miller’s 1300 total yards and 10 touchdowns he accrued as the Fins’ top RB last season. With Miller now in Houston, Ajayi has been given the reigns – the signing of Adrian Foster should only help to give the former Boise State back a breather and keep him fresh throughout the year, especially if this knee issue ends up being something more. Fantasy owners could realistically expect Ajayi’s 2016 output to mirror Miller’s from 2015 – perhaps even better it due to Gase and the fact quarterback Ryan Tannehill is another year experienced. In addition, Miami does have pass-catching weapons in Jarvis Landry, DeVonte Parker, and Jordan Cameron. Gase will be sure to optimize all he can out of them – which in turn should help to create running room for Ajayi out of the backfield.

Ajayi’s ADP has him going off the board in the 8th round.

 

 

Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed — @brian22goodwin.

 

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The Fantasy 3: Who to Avoid in 2016

There are always players everyone seems to want when draft season rolls around. And many times, buyer’s remorse sets in around October – sometimes sooner. Save yourself the trouble and avoid the following players this year.

Jamaal Charles

Nothing will keep fantasy owners from drafting running backs quite like hearing the words “30 years old” or “recent knee injury”. While the KC workhorse isn’t quite of age yet (29 until December), the RB is coming off his hi-res-186038894-running-back-jamaal-charles-of-the-kansas-city-chiefs_crop_exactsecond ACL tear in 5 years. And, yes, Charles managed to bounce back with authority in 2012 after his first major injury by rushing for a career-best 1,509 yards. He’s an outstanding pass catcher out of the backfield and mixes power with elusive quickness. There’s no doubting the talent or the work ethic of Charles. But when does the body refuse to do the things it used to be able to do? No one can put an exact time or number on that question, but, again, when you start pushing 30 and you’ve had multiple knee operations, you start to get your answer.

In addition, the Chiefs will likely be more apt to dispelling Charles from time to time with Spencer Ware and Charcanderick West in order to save their stud back for the stretch run in December and possibly January. While that’s probably great news for KC fans, it’s disheartening for fantasy owners who want and expect Charles to produce numbers of old.

LeSean McCoy

A couple things bother me about McCoy this year. First, Rex Ryan offenses never seem to be all that innovative or productive as far as individual stats go. Few players in that system end up producing gaudy offensive numbers. GettyImages-488589822.vadapt.980.high.22McCoy has all the tools and the talent to be very productive and to be on someone’s roster within the top 20 picks of a draft. But how he is used in the offense is where the question marks come into play.

Secondly, McCoy’s drop off as a top RB hasn’t exactly happened overnight. His lack of TD productivity has been evident over the past 4 seasons and his drop in yards after contact has fallen in each of the last 6. Add to the equation that Karlos Williams has proven to be a RB1 and that McCoy has dealt with injury in 4 of his 7 seasons in the league.

A lot of experts are high on McCoy and expect big numbers from him – especially in PPR leagues. Suffice to say, I’m not one of them. But, hey, I don’t claim to be an expert either.

Dez Bryant

This is a complicated one. It was just one year ago that Bryant was a sure-fire top 2 WR, who garnered much 1st round consideration. However, a disappointing 2015 season coupled with more foot problems (a third surgery) makes the all-pro wide receiver a questionable draft choice early on. You also have to consider the health and 10405206-largedurability of Tony Romo this season.

So when I say to “avoid” Dez, I mean stay away from reaching on him in one of the first 2 rounds. His value has declined – but many magazines and media publications still tout him as a top 5 WR. And knowing that, people are guaranteed to eye him with one of their first two picks for sure. I’m warning against that. In the event your league is full of smart fantasy players (or guys who read this column), you may find him in the 3rd round and, then, by all means pick him up.

Another interesting note on Dez – the Cowboys have a very favorable schedule, especially the first couple months. It’d be a savvy move to grab Dez – even if it means drafting him in one of the first two rounds – and use him as trade bait after a month or so of what can expected to be very productive fantasy output.

Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed — @brian22goodwin.

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The Fantasy 3: Three “Must Haves” As Your Draft Approaches

Here are 3 fantasy “must haves” in my opinion this season. All three of these guys are affordable, you won’t need to reach on them, and they will provide you with valuable point production.

A.J. Green

The Bengal All-Pro wideout had a less than impressive season in 2015. But Green still managed nearly 1300 yards and 10 touchdowns. Tight End Tyler Eifert had an exceptional year in 2015 – taking some receptions and TDs away 635844166052926339-1129BengalsRamsSG-07from Green. This year the Bengals’ offense will be without wide receivers Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones, which may give Green (and Eifert for that matter) more looks from Andy Dalton.

Despite what some would call a down year in ’15, Green was still targeted on over 27% of Dalton’s passes; and with Eifert, combined for over 70% of Bengals’ receiving touchdowns.

The biggest factor in determining Green’s success or not this season may be predicated on the success of his quarterback. Dalton’s 25 touchdowns and 7 interceptions last season came in an injury-shortened year that saw the ex-TCU passer play in only 13 games. Arguably, 2015 was Dalton’s most efficient season at the helm of the Cincinnati offense. If his growth continues, Green may be primed for a return to elite fantasy receiver status.

Ryan Mathews

With the departure of DeMarco Murray to Tennessee, the Philadelphia backfield is Mathews’s to lose. If the former Charger can’t grab hold of the majority of the workload this season, you might want to consider the fact that Mathews may never be able to be the number one guy.

Injuries have plagued the young back’s career since his days in San Diego, which is a legitimate concern for ownersRyan Mathews, Colin Jones hoping Mathews takes ownership of the Eagles’ backfield. This may be Mathews’s best opportunity to put up solid fantasy numbers as new head coach Doug Pederson brings his running back-heavy brand of offense to the City of Brotherly Love. The former Kansas City offensive coordinator had a hand in Jamaal Charles’s rise to stardom, as one of the NFL’s premier running backs over the last few seasons. And last season was, perhaps, the most impressive display of coaching by Pederson, when Charles went down with a season-ending injury and the Chiefs shifted their reliance to unproven RBs Charcanderick West and Spencer Ware.

To be clear, I would not reach on Mathews in any round earlier than 6. But if he’s available in the 6th or 7th rounds, he’d be a good value grab – especially for owners who need a 3rd RB on their roster at this point in the draft.

Derek Carr

If I told you to guess the top 2 quarterbacks to throw the most touchdowns in their first two NFL seasons, you’d NFL: Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefsprobably guess Dan Marino, but I’m sure you would guess about 100 other QBs (maybe more) before you got to Derek Carr. But Carr’s first two seasons have been spectacular as far as TD production. Add the fact that Amari Cooper is now established and has a full year under his belt, Carr may be in store for his best season yet.

In addition to Cooper, Oakland has managed to put together a well-rounded offense to compliment Carr – Michael Crabtree at WR and Latavius Murray in the backfield. Not to mention head coach Jack Del Rio’s personality appears to have rubbed off on his mean-spirted, nasty defense. With the question marks that hang over the offenses in the AFC West, the Raider defense should wreak havoc and provide Carr and the electric offense more opportunities to put points on the board.

 

Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed — @brian22goodwin.

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The Fantasy 3: Edition 2

Let’s play “Should I or Shouldn’t I”. Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed — @brian22goodwin.

Should I or Shouldn’t I…….

…trade up to the #1 overall pick in my draft?

Shouldn’t.

Not this season, at least. I’ve always been a big believer in grabbing the high point producers – and as many of them as you can. As in most drafts, the guys picking aren’t total clowns (right?) so they follow Yahoo! or CBS or ESPN or some other magazine. Ultimately, they aren’t out there drafting players who don’t belong – at least in the first round or 2. So if I’m to get a couple or three of these point-hogs, I have to get creative and find a trading partner who believes in the opposite of what I do – he would rather stockpile a bunch of 2nd, 3rd, 4th round picks and let me take his 1st rounder.

More often than not, that is my strategy in the weeks leading up to the draft. (It’s fun, it’s entertaining, images-3and it’s really what I believe as far as putting the best team together.) This year, however, I will venture down a more conservative path. Perhaps because I’m still nursing some burns from the past few seasons; perhaps, also, because I’ve seen what happens with these big point scorers – Andrew Luck, Eddie Lacy, Jamaal Charles, LeVeon Bell for instance from last year. All hurt or just flat out underwhelming. Either way, it’s not worth trading up for them. Even if you have your eyes on the players that are being projected to be in the running for that number 1 spot this season – Todd Gurley, Antonio Brown, Bell, Odell Beckham, it’s awfully risky.

I love the excitement of making pre-draft trades and mixing it up, but this year I stress caution.

…enjoy drafting at the turn this year (10 and 11 in 10 team leagues, for example)?

Should.

Most years the turn is a fine spot to be, and this year is no different. You’re sure to have a couple top RBs sitting there, who people passed on because they went the WR route in the first round. The top TE will likely be on the board as well as WRs in that 2-5 range.

It’s a pretty good spot to be if you were only taking one player, let alone two! Imagine snagging AP and Gronk or Dez and David Johnson. For those of you who won’t want to wait so long for your QB, this spot works for you too – although I strongly urge against a QB selection before round 8 at the absolute earliest. You could come away with Cam and Gronk or A-Rod and AP.

…roll the dice with some rookies in the middle rounds of my draft?

Shouldn’t.

Last year’s outstanding rookie class really is going to have people rethinking how and when they take these first year players. I’m not saying to avoid rookies at all costs – instead, I’m cautioning you to not reach on any. The ones who will go off the draft board early are not the guys I’m referring to. For instance, Ezekiel Elliott should be a first round pick – maybe top 5. I’m fine with that. I’m just saying don’t try and find the next Todd Gurley in the 3 or 4th round like last season. It doesn’t happen often and it’s a terrible risk.

Research the rookie class ahead of your draft. Put some stars next to some names that you think could be impact players on the field this year for their respective teams – be sure to consider the team they play for, their schedule/division, the head coach they play for, and any injuries they dealt with in college. Then in the later rounds of the draft once you have build a decent amount of depth, go ahead a pick a few of those guys that you starred. You have depth already so these picks won’t kill you if they turn sour, and by waiting you allow other owners in your league to take some of these rookies – leaving proven veterans on the board, who will continue to add depth to your roster.

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The Fantasy 3: Edition 1

8-le-veon-bell-pittsburgh-steelers-2013-171-90-points_pg_600I’m adding a new format to my blog – The Fantasy 3, where I make 3 statements or observations or questions and then put my own spin on addressing them. I will post new editions from now until fantasy football season wraps up in December. (Of course, I will continue posting other articles as I’ve been doing on all other sports-related topics aside from just fantasy football.) Hope everyone enjoys! Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed — @brian22goodwin.

Let’s play a little game of “True of False”. I’ll lay out 3 statements and tell you my thoughts. You may agree or disagree – feel free to jump in the conversation and make these games fun!

Statement 1: A Running Back should be the first position off the board on Draft Day.

False. Two reasons why I feel this way: (1) the RB position has become so injury-prone that it’s become a major risk to use a high draft pick on a running back only to see them tear an MCL and miss the remainder of the year; and (2) so many teams nowadays are using the running back by committee that RB stats suffer thus decreasing their fantasy value.

Look at the top picks who came off the board last season – Jamaal Charles, Leveon Bell, CJ Anderson, LeSean McCoy – all got hurt at some point (some more severe than others). People last year could have made the case that Bell and Charles were the top 2 players in the entire draft. Even the guys at the position who you know will get the rock all the time need to be looked at with skepticism. Is it worth taking Bell or Peterson or David Johnson this year at number 1?

There is a slew of solid backs that are probably worthy of a high selection – Charles, Devonta Freeman, Demarco Murray – but these guys also face competition within their own backfield. There’s no saying how many touches these players will get week-to-week or if they should fall out of favor with the coach or the system. You can’t take a guy like Charles number 1 overall this year because Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West proved to be viable options in Kansas City last season.

Now the argument that comes up is a valid one: RB is a required position (2 in fact are needed in most leagues) so it puts more value on the RBs at the top of the list. In other words, if you don’t grab a top 6 or 8 RB, forget it – the drop off is like falling off a cliff. I would counter by explaining that those points you lose by settling for a tier 2 RB later in rounds 3 -6 as opposed to a Todd Gurley-type in Round 1, are more than offset by taking multiple top tier WRs in the opening rounds. (This is a fascinating topic and will be focused on a lot more in upcoming posts.)

Statement 2: Cam Newton was great last year. I need to grab him early – Round 1 or 2.

False. No one needs to grab Cam Newton (or any other QB for that matter) this early in the draft. Streaming quarterbacks is a very interesting theory and I tried it last year with varying degrees of success. But the theory itself definitely holds water. (My shortcomings last year with it were more user-error than problems with the actual strategy.) Check out Andrew Luck last year. He was a top ranked QB prior to many drafts. He gets hurt, under-produces, goes on IR, and forces the fantasy owner to scramble for another available signal-caller. Compare that to the owner who stockpiled RBs and WRs and decided in the 16th round to snag his QB. Who did he draft, you ask? Oh. Cam Newton.

I know that’s a perfect storm sort of example for me to give. But it’s those types of situations that have given birth to the idea of streaming your quarterback, like you do your defense or kicker. For example, I rode Kirk Cousins for the final month or so of the season after playing around with QBs like Sam Bradford, Nick Foles, Carson Palmer, and Jameis Winston for the better part of the year. That paid off for me and worked – at least in the end it did.

I don’t recommend ever taking a QB before the 6th or 7th round (and that’s being generous). I won’t even look at QB names until round 10 and, likely ,won’t draft one until the 12th round at the earliest.

Statement 3: Building depth is the only thing you should worry about in the middle rounds (5 thru 10).

True. After talking starters at WR and RB in rounds 1 through 4, your next 5, 6, 7, picks ought to follow suit as well. I already talked about how RBs get injured faster and more often than Mike Carey gets a call on the field wrong for CBS. So it would behoove you to draft many backups at the position. With WRs, you typically start 2 or 3 so you better have 2 on your bench at the very minimum. There is no rush drafting any other position until you have built some ample depth at those 2 positions. Quarterbacks can wait until the 12th round and beyond, a defense should go in the 15th round with kickers all going in the final round. Squeeze your tight end selection in somewhere around the 11th to 13th rounds and you should have set yourself up pretty nicely – a good balance of depth at the most critical positions mixed with value talent at the other positions.

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