DeSean Jackson, WR, Washington Redskins — Jackson is going absurdly low in many fantasy football drafts — being taken outside the top 30 wide receivers in most leagues — mostly on account of misconceptions of his durability, production, and attitude (almost all of which are totally false). Yes, Jackson missed six games last season with a troublesome hamstring injury, but he was totally healthy from November onwards last year, playing in nine of the Redskins last 10 games of the season, including the postseason (he was held out of a meaningless game in Week 17 against Dallas). Prior to 2015, he played in 31 of 32 games over his last two seasons. In the eight regular season games that Jackson did play in last season, he recorded 30 catches for 528 yards and four touchdowns; project that over the course of a 16 game season, and that’s over 1,000 yards receiving and eight touchdowns. In 2014, Jackson had 1,169 yards and six receiving touchdowns with the Redskins revolving door at quarterback; so, the questions about his level of productivity are totally baseless. Finally, Jackson might’ve griped his way out of Philadelphia, but he’s been a great teammate in Washington. He’s looked the best he has in training camps, so far, as a member of the Redskins, and he spent the entire offseason working hard at the team facility. Jackson could be in line for a pretty big season in 2016, perhaps in line with the numbers we used to see him put up in Philadelphia during his prime.
Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Similarly, another wide receiver named “Jackson” is falling to absurdly low depths in most fantasy drafts — often being taken outside of the top 45 wide receivers — because of injuries curtailing his production in 2015. Vincent Jackson put up only 33 receptions, 543 yards, and three touchdowns in 10 games last year. But, he’s come into training camp determined for a bounce-back season. Last year was the first time since 2010 when Jackson missed a single game due to injury; prior to 2015, Jackson hadn’t missed a game in four years. As a member of the Buccaneers, he was ranked among the top 15 wide receivers in the NFL each year (including 2014, in Mike Evans’ rookie season). In his first five healthy games of last season, he still had 21 catches for 306 yards and two touchdowns (extrapolated over a full season, that would be 67 receptions for 979 yards and six touchdowns). With another year of experience for Jameis Winston, and teams increasingly keying on Evans, Jackson could be in for a nice rebound season, and should be a solid WR3 for most teams.
Theo Riddck, RB, Detroit Lions — Riddick should be on the radar for everyone playing in a PPR or half-PPR this season. Entering 2015 as mostly an afterthought, Riddick finished 19th among running backs in standard PPR scoring leagues, putting him firmly in the RB2 mix. He actually led the league in receptions among running backs (80 catches), was the second most targeted running back (99 targets), had the second most receiving yards among running backs (697 yards), and tied for seventh in receiving touchdowns. Riddick is often around the 40th running back taken in PPR/half-PPR leagues, making him a total bargain for players who are savvy enough to grab him in the middle-to-late rounds of the draft.
Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders — Through the first eight games of last season, Derek Carr looked like a superstar-in-the-making, throwing for 2,094 yards, 19 touchdowns, and four interceptions. Then, in the second half of the season, his stats dropped to 1893 yards, 13 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. So, the simple question is: if you draft Derek Carr next season, which version of him are you getting? With all the free agent moves the Raiders made in the offseason, there’s going to be a lot pressure on them. Teams definitely won’t overlook them, the way they might’ve in 2015. Plus, given the fact that the Raiders don’t exactly have a dynamic running game, there’s going to be even more pressure on Carr to put the offense on his shoulders. How will he respond to that pressure, considering he’s only in his third NFL season? We’re not necessarily saying you should outright “avoid” Derek Carr, because there is a lot of upside (especially in leagues with any keeper options). But we’d be a little reluctant to bank on him as a sure-fire QB1, as he was for stretches of last season, and as many envision him being this season.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons — A few years ago, Matt Ryan seemed almost destined to break into the echelon of the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. But over the last three years, he’s only gone 18-30 as a starter, and his TD-to-INT ratio has dropped from 2.1 to 1.6. In 2015, he only threw for 21 touchdown passes, which was the 2nd lowest total of his career. Conversely, he also threw 16 interceptions (the second highest interception total of his career), four of which came in the red zone (the 2nd highest number in the NFL of such stat, only behind Eli Manning). Oh, and should we also mention his career-high 12 fumbles? At points last season, there were whispers of a near-mutiny by the Falcons offensive player, against Kyle Shanahan’s offensive schemes. Shanahan’s offense very much predicated on play-action passes, which isn’t something that Matt Ryan has shown a great proficiency with. Another season with bumps and hiccups in this offensive scheme won’t be good for business. At the point in the draft where you’d think about taking Matt Ryan, w’d be much more comfortable with guys like Matt Stafford (who could have a really nice season under offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter), Ryan Tannehill (who could have a big bounce-back season working under Adam Gase), or even Jameis Winston (who’s come into training camp in fantastic shape, and looking to improve on a very promising rookie season).
Brock Osweiler, Denver Broncos — Brock Osweiler is currently ranked anywhere between the #20 and #25 quarterback in fantasy next season, so it’s not like people aren’t already avoiding him. But, for those of you who think that Osweiler might be “Matt Schaub 2.0” for the Texans, we wouldn’t hold your breath. In an offense in Denver that had more depth than the one he’ll be playing with in Houston, he threw for 1,967 yards passing, 10 touchdowns, and six interceptions; extrapolate that over a full season, and you’re looking at less than 4,000 yards passing and about 20 touchdowns. Neither of those are titillating numbers. Again, we realize that he’s only in the backup/QB2 discussion for nearly everyone, but even as a backup, we think you’re better off letting someone like Jay Cutler or even Ryan Fitzpatrick fall into your lap.
Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers — We’re not necessarily advocating “avoiding” Cobb altogether, because we still think he’s going to have a (relatively) productive season. But,we do think he’s being a bit overdrafted in most leagues. Given the circumstances around him, we think Cobb is closer to a top end WR3, versus a WR2 that he’s often being picked as. With the return of Jordy Nelson — Aaron Rodgers’ favorite receiver — there’s just no way Cobb is going to lead the team in receptions, targets, and receiving yards next season. On top of that, Davante Adams is going to be better (he had nagging injuries for all of 2015 which really hampered his performance), Jeff Janis has had a great camp, and so has tight end Richard Rodgers . All of those guys could siphon off production from Cobb, who was basically Rodgers’ only reliable target last season (Rodgers and James Jones did a lot of their damage based off improvisation, and James knowing exactly where to go in those circumstances). Even in PPR leagues, we would take a chance on a couple of younger receivers with high breakout potential — like DeVante Parker from Miami or Donte Moncrief from Indianapolis, both of whom are being taken after Cobb in most leagues — instead of putting a lot of eggs in the Randall Cobb basket.
Michael Crabtree, Oakland — For the first half of the 2015 season, Michael Crabtree was a total stud. In the Raiders first eight games, he had 47 receptions, 591 yards, and five touchdowns. But over the next eight games, those numbers dropped to 38 receptions, 331 yards, and four touchdowns. Going into 2016, it’s not like Crabtree is a highly coveted fantasy commodity; he’s somewhere towards the bottom end of the top 40 receivers, putting him firmly as a WR3. The problem is, wewouldn’t even take him that high. Amari Cooper — a superstar in the making — is going to take the mantle of Derek Carr’s most targeted receiver, away from Crabtree. The team is also really high on second year tight end Clive Walford (who could be a breakout star in his own right in 2016), and young-but-raw receiver Seth Roberts. For my money, we’d much rather take a chance on guys like Marvin Jones, Tyler Lockett, Torrey Smith, or Dorial Green-Beckham (all of whom are being drafted after Crabtree in most leagues). They all present much higher upside potential than Crabtree.
Josh Doctson, Washington Redskins — It happens far too often in fantasy football leagues: someone overdrafts one of the big name rookies. But, even as a Redskins fan myself, we think we should pause on chasing rookie wide receiver Josh Doctson. Don’t get me wrong: he, by many people’s accounts, might’ve been the best wide receiver prospect in this year’s draft. The problem is, he’s stuck in a situation where there are just too many other talented veteran receivers. How many targets can we really expect Doctson to see, when he has DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, tight end Jordan Reed, and even second year receiver Jamison Crowder (who the team envisions as their full-time slot receiver in three receiver sets) ahead of him? At least in year one, we think Doctoson may get some looks in the red zone, for fade pass/jump ball opportunities at most. But, consider 2015 to be his “NFL redshirt year.” In dynasty leagues, Doctson is worth an early investment, if you’re perfectly ok with the idea that there will be minimal returns early on. But in redraft leagues, we don’t think he’s worth taking very high, because we don’t think he’s even going to match the stats that some of the top 2015 rookie receivers — Amari Cooper and DeVante Parker — put up last year.
It happens every year. It was Eddie Lacy in 2015, Doug Martin in 2014, and CJ Spiller in 2013. Every year, someone ends up taking the high profile player that ends up absolutely tanking their fantasy team’s chances all season.
To prevent that, let’s take a look at a couple of guys to avoid for 2016:
DeMarco Murray, RB, Tennessee Titans — He’s nowhere near as high up on draft boards this year as he’s been in years past, but in a standard scoring (non-PPR) league, we still have DeMarco Murray outside of my top 25 running backs. Consider the fact that the Eagles signed Murray to a highly lucrative $42 million contract for five years just one season ago, and were compelled enough to trade away Murray just one season later. Frankly, you can’t blame the Eagles, either. After handing Murray all that money, he responded with the lowest yards per carry of his career (3.6). He played in 15 games last season, but only had one game with over 100 yards rushing; outside of that one game, he ran for less than 85 yards in every other game. Over the last eight games of the Eagles season, Murray ran for less than 70 yards in each of them. It’s no wonder that he spent time in Chip Kelly’s proverbial doghouse, just weeks after supposedly being the centerpiece of a vaunted rushing attack that Kelly was supposed to unleash. So, again, why is it going to get any better under Mike Mularkey? The last time Mularkey was a head coach (in 2012 with the Jacksonville Jaguars), his top three running backs combined couldn’t crack 1,000 yards. In his entire NFL career Murray has only played in all 16 games for one of them (in 2014), and if (or when?) he goes down, he’s got a stable of young running backs — David Cobb (the Titans 5th round pick in 2015), Antonio Andrews (the team’s leading rusher from last year), and Derrick Henry (the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and the Titans 2nd round pick in 2016) — waiting to take his job. Stay away from Murray.
Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta Falcons — scoff as you might, just take a look at the facts. Between Weeks 3 through 7 last year, Freeman was the most productive running back in fantasy football, putting up 578 yards rushing and eight touchdowns in only five games. But don’t let that sample size influence you too much. In the other 26 games of Freeman’s career, he’s ran for a total of 726 yards and four rushing touchdowns. His yards per carry in Week 3 through Week 7 last year was 5.3; over those other 26 games, his yards per carry drops to 3.29. Over the last eight games of the 2015 season, Freeman ran for 440 yards. In other words: he ran for 130 more yards over five weeks than he did over the last eight weeks of the season. The Falcons may have beefed up the interior of the offensive line (having signed Pro Bowl center Alex Mack), but that could just as well help running back Tevin Coleman: the guy who many thought would win the starting job last year. There’s plenty of reason to believe that Coleman could still develop into the running back that gets more carries for the Falcons, with Freeman being the change-of-pace and third down specialist running back.
* DeMarco Murray will help Tennessee balance out their offense.
* Martellus Bennett left Chicago and will compliment Gronk in New England. The Pats love 2-TE sets and Bennett is a solid target for Brady (who will be suspended for the first 4 games by the way).
* Michael Crabtree’s commute to work got just a tiny bit longer as he’ll suit up for Oakland this year.
* Coby Fleener left Indy for New Orleans where the hole left by Jimmy Graham wasn’t filled last year.
* Lamar Miller is taking the lead spot in Houston and that means that Arian Foster will likely end up somewhere else.
* Robert Griffin III has finally gotten out of Washington, but landing in Cleveland isn’t all that exciting.
* Alfred Morris also left Washington, but he’ll be suiting up for Jerry and company in Dallas. We don’t expect him to unseat rookie Ezekiel Elliott for the starting gig though.
* Chris Ivory jetted out of New York (pun intended) and caught a nonstop flight to Jacksonville where he’ll duke it out with Denard Robinson and TJ Yeldon.
* The Falcons have bid farewell to our friend Roddy White.
* The Mike Wallace experiment continues with a trip to Baltimore.
* Mark Sanchez left New York for Denver after Brock Osweiler signed a major deal to become Houston’s starting QB.
* Calvin Johnson and Marshawn Lynch have officially retired.
* The Packers signed TE Jared Cook to a one-year agreement. A big TE is exactly what Green Bay needs.
* Speedy WR Martavis Bryant won’t be playing for the Steelers or anyone else this year as he sits out a year for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
* The Jets acquired a new PPR stud in the backfield when Matt Forte left the Windy City
Murray,Latavius Struggled in the 2nd half with a 3.3 YPC (134/436) as did the rest of the Raiders offense. Part of that can be attributable to an extremely difficult schedule (D+), and that should improve to a C grading this season. This should help him take advantage of one of the expected better Olines in supporting the run. Solid as a backfield receiver with a 77% catch rate, yet the YPC are a bit disappointing at 5.7. Should improve on his 6 Rushing TDs this season. Currently a mid 5th round ADP, that offers significant upside value.
Thompson,Chris Recovering from shoulder surgery, but is expected to be ready for the open. Solid 1.93 FP per attempt last season, but under utilized as a back field receiver. Will back up Matt Jones, who showed volatility in his rookie season.
Riddick,Theo Registered almost 100 targets last season (99), and caught a solid 81% of them, while maintaining an above average 8.7 YPR. His points per attempt were off the charts at 2.92 (best in the league for anyone over 80 touches). That said, he still might lose some touches to 2nd year Ameer Abdullah. Although he only registered 2 QS in non PPR leagues, he registered 10 QS in PPR leagues.
Lacy,Eddie Points per Game dropped from 17.3 to a miserable 9.6. Somehow he still put together 4 quality Starts in his final 7 games. Conditioning (or weight control) is the major concern here, and right now it’s looking ok as Lacy lost weight this offseason with a conditioning program…but maintenance is at issue. If he can, he’s still productive, especially in Red Zone situations.
Ellington,Andre Performed extremely well in limited action. Averaged 6.4 YPC on his 45 carries and 1.50 FP per attempt. Yes DJ is clearly the lead dog here, but Ellington is going to see time, and is a capable backup if he can stay healthy.
White,James Solid receiving numbers out of the backfield with 33 receptions and 6 TDs in the 2nd half. Since he struggled in the run game, he’s more of a backup option to Dion Lewis at this point.
Hill,Jeremy Although his Red Zone numbers were quite encouraging with 12 total TDs (23% Red Zone success), his overall yardage numbers were disappointing (223/794 yards 3.6 YPC). His offensive line is considered above average (C+), and his schedule is neutral for 2016. We expect that there will be a rebound in the rushing totals, and his 7 QS from 2015, will climb closer to 8-9 in 2016, so there is value in his current last 6th round ADP.
Anderson,CJ Registered for an encouraging 6.3 YPC in the 2nd half while posting a superior 1.12 FP per attempt. However his usage came in spurts, and with Hillman still on the roster and rookie Davinte Booker in play, it’s something he may have to contend with again in 2016. Expected to open as starter, but still a volatile pick, with upside of course.
Who will be 2016s Cam Newton in the fantasy world? Newtons 2015 was one for the ages, particularly when you consider where he was drafted in most leagues. I can tell you in quite a few leagues, he was drafted in the lower third of all QBs which wasnt surprising given the lack of receiving talent, especially when Kelvin Benjamin was injured and lost for the season. Instead of a season that most experts thought wouldnt even match his lackluster 2014 (18 passing TDs), he went on to throw for a career-high 35 TDs and rushed for 10 TDs. He threw five TDs in three different games and when you factor in rushing TDs, he scored multiple TDs in all but four games and threw and/or ran for at least one TD in every game. I can remember dropping him in one league (Andrew Luck was my starter and Newton was my backup) after Week 1 when injuries started to hit and Newton had a lackluster season opener against Jacksonville. It was the biggest mistake of mine in that league and probably cost me a shot at the title. Even without Benjamin, Newton maximized the talent of the receivers he did have, especially his tight end Greg Olsen who had a career year. We havent even mentioned the Panthers D /ST which set up the offense many times as they became dominant, so Newtons year was really the result of a perfect storm. Looking at this year there are some names that will exceed expectations but to say any one of them will play to the level of what Newton did last year, would be unwise. Jameis Winston does come to mind after a nice rookie season that saw him throw for 4,044 yards and 22 TDs. He did throw 15 INTs but with one year of experience under his belt and a new offensive minded head coach in Dirk Koetter, not to mention stud receivers Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson, insiderfootball.com projects 29 passing TDs. Tyrod Taylor managed to hold on to the starting QB job in Buffalo all of last year and will be much better this year for it, especially when you consider he finished the season with five quality starts in his final eight games. Coming off 20 TD passes and just six INTs along with 568 rushing yards, we project increases in all parts of his game, including TD passes which we have at 28. If Buffalos D can knock off the penalties and give its offensive counterparts more chances to succeed, Taylor can take the next step up. Marcus Mariota looked good in his rookie year when healthy which is saying something because he had pretty close to no talent around him in Tennessee. He had eight quality starts and will look to increase that this year. The Titans did make the move to acquire DeMarco Murray which was brilliant because it will take pressure off of Mariota and allow a beefed up offensive line to dominate in the trenches. Although some will see this move as a limit to what Mariota can put up, we project 30 passing TDs and a much more confident QB picking his spots much more efficiently. Jasbir Singh
The pending four-game suspension isnt the only concern with Pittsburgh running backLeVeon Bell; hes also coming off another knee injury. However, the news is better on that front. ESPN.coms Jeremy Fowler wrote that Bell no problem with his open field cutting. The Steelers have a bubble around him, but movements really fluid, Fowler added…Arizona wide receiver John Brown is in the leagues concussion protocol after banging his head on the turf during practice on Sunday. Its early enough in camp that this should be a nonfactor, but all concussion issues are worth monitoring…The Buffalo Bills signed veteran running back Reggie Bush to a one-year deal worth up to $3 million, including incentives. He will likely be used in a niche role within the offense and be utilized in the teams return game. Bush could get a spike in value if starter LeSean McCoy were to go down, but offers minimal stand-alone value…Eagles running backRyan Matthews (ankle) has yet to see the practice field in Philadelphia. Given his injury history, its not surprising. The longer he remains the more opportunities rookie Wendell Smallwood will have to get some reps…Rookie running back C.J. Prosise is expected to miss 7-10 days of training camp due to a strained hamstring. The injury doesnt appear to be too serious, but any loss time for a rookie running back is never a good thing in training camp when the depth chart is as crowded as it is in Seattle…CBS Sports Jason La Canfora reports that Redskins rookie wide receiver Josh Docston (Achilles) is expected to return to action in a few weeks. Hes been sidelined since May and if he wants a shot at having an early-season impact Docston can ill afford to fall too far behind…Chargers wideout Stevie Johnson has sustained a torn meniscus and will seek a second opinion before undergoing surgery. His timetable will become clearer after he is operated on, but for now it doesnt appear hell be much of a factor in fantasy football or for the Chargers in 2016…Chicago wide receiver Eddie Royal and tight end Zach Millerare both in concussion protocol, but neither issue appears to be serious. Both are expected back on the practice field later in week….The Chargers and rookie defensive end Joey Bosa are still not close to a deal. The No. 3 overall pick and his reps havent spoken to the club since last Thursday.
After missing nearly a week of action, Alshon Jeffrey (hamstring) was back on the practice field on Monday for the Bears. Chicago placed the franchise tag on their top wide receiver this offseason partially because of concerns of his durability issues…Sammy Watkins (foot) passed his physical and was taken off the Bills PUP list on Monday. Thats a huge plus for Watkins and his Week 1 playing status…The Eagles will be without wide receiver Jordan Matthews (knee) for 2-4 weeks as he deals with a bone bruise, according to the Philadelphia Daily News. A loss of Matthews would be devastating to an offense starving for weapons…The Dolphins have listed Jay Ajayi as their No. 1 running back on their initial preseason depth chart, of newly signed free agent Arian Foster. Expect the two running backs to share the workload for most of the season in Miami…After initially believing the Detroit tight end Eric Ebron suffered an Achilles injury, ESPNs Adam Schefter is reporting it is actually a high ankle sprain issue Ebron is dealing with. That is better news than originally anticipated and could still mean hell be available for Week 1…Cleveland wide receiver Josh Gordon (suspension) has plenty of work to do to get back into shape before hes eligible to return in Week 5. He will be the first to tell you he needs to lose weight, according to head coach Hue Jackson…Denver has listed Mark Sanchez and Travis Siemian as co-starters at quarterback on their initial depth chart…The Redskins will not dress wide receivers Jamison Crowder (hamstring) or Josh Doctson (Achilles) in Thursdays preseason opener… Buffalo left tackle Cordy Glenn (ankle) is expected to miss the entire preseason. Glenn hasnt missed a game since 2012.
* Of the Top 10 RBs drafted last year, only 2 finished the season in the Top 10 (Peterson and Forte). The average finish for the remaining eight? 32nd. Don’t be afraid to take a WR with your first pick.
* Tony Romo will miss half the season with a broken bone in his back. Even if/when he comes back, he’s not likely someone you’re going to want to roster.
* Dion Lewis will miss 8-10 weeks while he gets his knee cleaned up. Only Bill Belichick knows what that Pats’ backfield is going to look like.
* Thomas Rawls will be ready for Week 1. Christine Michael looked good this preseason, but Rawls will be at the top of the depth chart.
* According to Ian Rapoport, Bengals’ TE Tyler Eifert should be ready to play by Week 4.
* The NFL has redefined the “Questionable” label for injuries this year. Any player whose chance is less than 100% this year (even if it’s 95%) will be considered Questionable. That should make Sunday mornings real fun…
* Ben Watson tore his ACL and will miss the season. Bad news for the Ravens before the season has even started.
2016 may represent a changing of the guard, when it comes to the first overall pick in standard scoring fantasy football leagues. Previously, especially in leagues that didn’t incorporate any points per reception component, it was a foregone conclusion that you’d take the best running back in the league. Over the last decade, guys like Priest Holmes, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Adrian Peterson were almost always off the board by the second overall pick. Sure, there would be the odd year when Peyton Manning or Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers would enter the consideration set, but the ability to capitalize on the rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, and receiving yards and touchdowns that the elite franchise running backs produced was just too much to pass up.
So with this changing of the guard, who enters the 2016 season as the top overall picks? Here’s are the
Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers — Brown may be the singularly most dominant wide receiver in fantasy football (and football in general) since Randy Moss. In 2014, he lead the league receptions, receiving yards, and passes caught for a first down. He averaged over 100 receiving yards per game, and almost one touchdown per game (he had 13). How did he follow that up in 2015? By again leading the league in receptions and receiving yards, exceeding both totals from 2014. His 136 receptions was the second highest total in NFL history, and his 1,834 yards was the 4th highest total in NFL history. Few players have shown that type of year-over-year consistency, in terms of re-writing NFL standards for their position. With Ben Roethlisberger throwing the football as well as any quarterback in the league, and with the suspension of Martavis Bryant opposite Brown (meaning the Steelers will likely have to continue to force targets in Brown’s direction), there’s no reason to see those statistics dropping.
Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams — at this point last year, there were legitimate questions as to whether Gurley would even play in the 2015 season for the team that drafted him; he suffered a torn ACL injury in November while playing his last season for the University of Georgia. The Rams tried to bring him along slowly, not rushing him into immediate action when the season began. It started with just a few spot carries in an ugly game against the Steelers; Gurley had a paltry nine rushing yards on six carries (and one reception for five yards). From there? Everything changed. Over the next four games, Gurley ripped off 566 rushing yards and four touchdowns, drawing rave reviews from the rest of the league for his startling combination of vision, size, and speed. Despite really only playing in 12 games last year, Gurley finished third in the NFL with 1,106 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns (the latter tied for second best in the NFL). Who knows what a full season of carries, and an improvement at the quarterback position — assuming the Rams select a quarterback with the #1 overall pick — could bring.
Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers — Once Bell returned from his two game suspension to start the 2015 season, the conversation began as to whether he emerged as the best running back in the NFL. His ability as a runner and a receiver began to draw comparisons to Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk. In the five games prior to the early November matchup against Cincinnati, when he suffered his season-ending knee injury, Bell recorded over 125 combined yards in four of those five games. He remains one of the true “bell cow” running backs in the NFL, but the biggest question around Bell will be whether he will be fully healthy when the 2016 season begins, after his offseason surgery to fix the damaged MCL/PCL in his knee.
Peyton Manning, Den, QB
ADP (From Fantasy Football Calculator): 38.6 (QB3)
If I’m going to use my late-third or early-fourth round pick on a QB (the average price tag for Peyton), it’s not going to be on a 39-year-old with a recent history of quad and neck injuries, the former being used as the excuse for an ugly performance stretch over the final five weeks of ’14 (though the injury occurred at the mid-way point of that slide) . And, if the guy is also losing a Red Zone Hoover like Julius Thomas, a velcro-handed chain mover like Wes Welker and three starting offensive linemen from last season, then I’m definitely going to look a different direction. And let’s not forget that we also have to take into account a change at head coach (Gary Kubiak), which also means a change in offensive philosophy, one that should be decidedly more ground heavy if history tells us anything. If the early rounds are about minimizing risks, then avoiding Elder Manning as his career nears the cliff’s edge is the prudent course of action. (Brandon Funston)
Arian Foster, Hou, RB
ADP: 8.4 (RB6)
Every featured back in the NFL comes with risk – it’s tackle football, after all – but I see more warning signs with Foster than the ordinary player. He’ll turn 29 right before the season, and there’s a fair amount of tread on the tires – he’s missed 14 games over the last four years, battling a laundry list of physical problems (last year it was hamstring, knee, hip and groin injuries). Only Marshawn Lynch has more rushing attempts than Foster over the past five years (a 46-carry edge), and consider Lynch has played in 13 more games than Foster. Houston’s bell cow takes on a lot of contact at 6-feet-0, 232 pounds, and I’d like to be more floor driven with my early picks, especially at the running back position. (Scott Pianowski
Kelvin Benjamin, Car, WR
ADP: 36.1 (WR15)
Last year, the scintillating performances of Odell Beckham, Mike Evans, Jordan Matthews and Benjamin left the fantasy community thirsting for more. Their break out rookie campaigns, unsurprisingly, have raised expectations to near unprofitable levels. However, of all the second-year targets likely to experience a sophomore slump, Benjamin tops the list. To be fair, he’s a preeminent red-zone threat. Tight end-like at 6-foot-5, 240 pounds and blessed with plus leaping ability, he’s a menace near the goal-line. In one more game he enticed the same number of red-zone targets (17) as Rob Gronkowski. He should again be a preferred weapon of Cam Newton, but red flags are flapping in the wind. Benjamin missed 10-of-14 summer practices due to hamstring problems which caused him to pack on 10 pounds of unnecessary weight. The wideout said recently he’s already shed the extra baggage and is healed, but I have my doubts. Hammies can flare up at a moment’s notice. Just ask the dude who owned Miles Austin a while back. Couple that with adjustments defenses are bound to make, Carolina’s conservative approach and Devin Funchess increasing competition for targets and it’s plain to see the increased downfall probability. At best, you’re hoping for a repeat of 2014 (73-1008-9). At his WR15 price, the margin simply isn’t there. (Brad Evans)
Jonathan Stewart, Car, RB
ADP: 43.4 (RB21)
Coming off his most productive year since 2011, Stewart is going all Lisa Kudrow and attempting to make a fantasy comeback. With DeAngelo Williams soon to be suiting up for the Steelers, Stewart has been loosed from RBBC bondage and will assume Carolina’s workhorse duties. His ADP has soared accordingly. However, this volume that everyone is predicting is far from guaranteed. Head Coach Ron Rivera has never leaned on a single back. Not even in the Divisional Round of the playoffs where Mike Tolbert was tapped over Stewart on a crucial third down play. Speaking of Tolbert, the human bowling ball is back to full health and ready to vulture the end zone. And he’s not the only one. Fozzy Whitaker and rookie Cameron Artis-Payne are also in the mix. Still, the biggest threat to Stewart’s production is his quarterback. Cam Newton rushed the red zone twelve times and scored three touchdowns in 2014. J-Stew had nineteen attempts from the goal-line, but only managed two scores. Throw in Stewart’s obvious durability concerns and his current price tag seems a bit bloated, especially in standard scoring formats which are so touchdown dependent. (Liz Loza)
Travis Kelce, KC, TE
ADP: 54.8 (TE3)
I challenge you to go find a fantasy analyst — anyone, anywhere — who isn’t extremely bullish on Kelce this season. Go ahead, take a minute to search. We’ll wait. Nothing, right? It’s amazing, really. We have never agreed on anything the way we seem to agree on the greatness of Kelce. Kansas City’s tight end is carrying a fifth round ADP these days, and I’ve seen him selected much earlier than that — and everyone who picks the guy takes an immediate victory lap in draft chat. While I have plenty of respect for Kelce’s talent (and we’re all impressed at his recovery from microfracture), I really hate these situations where we price a player at a level where he needs to make a significant value leap. Let’s not pretend the team context in KC so great; this team’s passing offense ranked No. 29 last season and No. 24 the year before. When the Chiefs visit the red-zone, Jamaal Charles is basically the entire show. If you’re counting on Alex Smith boosting the value of any member of his receiving corps, well, I mean … c’mon. We’re talking about a hyper-conservative quarterback and a low-yield passing game. KC only put the ball in the air 493 times last season, finishing with only 18 touchdown passes. No need to pay a premium price to get a share in this passing game. I’ll take Zach Ertz in the eighth or Josh Hill in the eleventh, thank you very much. Kelce is all yours. (Andy Behrens)
Andre Ellington, Ari, RB
ADP: 45.0 (RB22)
Andre Ellington got 5.5 YPC during his rookie campaign, but he was one of the biggest busts as a sophomore last season, when that number dropped to 3.3. Pro Football Focus graded him as the No. 56 runner out of 57 qualified backs, as Ellington got just 1.8 YPC after contact, which was the second lowest in the NFL. He played hurt, which undoubtedly contributed to his lackluster season, but there’s reason to be concerned about the 5-9 back’s durability moving forward, which is evidenced by the Cardinals spending a third round draft pick on David Johnson. Moreover, did you realize he’s already 26 years old? LeSean McCoy just turned 27 two weeks ago. Given his health risk and coming off last year’s truly dismal performance, I can’t see drafting Ellington as a top-25 fantasy back in 2015. (Dalton Del Don)
(from sporting news.com:)
Basics (If you’ve played for a few years, feel free to skip this section)
1. Knowledge is power. You HAVE to know your league’s settings. This is non-negotiable. Know what positions are required (2 QBs? 3 flex? No flex?), know how the scoring is broken down, know if bonus points are awarded, etc. You can throw a wrench into your season from the very beginning by not understanding your league’s settings.
2. Do your research. You don’t need to know who has what assignment on an A-gap overload zone blitz (is that even a real thing?), but it’s important to know who the starting running back and receivers are for the Jaguars, who some of the backups are in Dallas and Philadelphia, and so on.
3. Personal touch. Make your own rankings. Yahoo!, ESPN, CBS, etc. are all going to have their own set of rankings, but yours may look a lot different — especially when you move beyond the top 30-40 or so. Your rankings will reflect your research and your strategy and will help you have an easier time during the draft.
4. Patience is a virtue. Don’t be the person who jumps on a kicker or defense a round or three too early. Not only will you announce yourself as fresh meat, but you could significantly lower your team’s ceiling.
5. Fantasy football “fitbit”. Everyone wants to get his and her steps these days. Use that same mentality in fantasy football. Be active on the wire, consume information, start players who are actually starting on game day. You’ll be surprised what simply being an active owner can do for you even if you had a lackluster draft.
1. Pitch selection. One of the most basic things you’ll hear someone say regarding draft strategy is “get as much value as possible”. That’s certainly true, but “value” is such a fluid concept in a draft. At any point, the best value may be that boring, steady vet with the established ceiling and high floor. Sometimes it’s the flashy young player with high risk but an even higher ceiling. The key is knowing when to simply move the chains and when to toss the Hail Mary. Whatever you do, try to avoid “throwaway picks”. That’s not the official term, but you know it when you see it. “Oh, it’s the 12th round, Trent Richardson and his 3.3 yards per carry will come in handy at some point, right?” No! Even late in the draft, you want to avoid wasting picks on players that you know won’t give you anything. If you’re going to take a zero anyway, you might as well swing for the fences.
2. “Last man standing”. In this day of specialization and committees, it can be difficult to sort through backfield pecking orders. It’s one thing if you know that Player A is going to handle early-down work and give way in passing situations or if Player B is a goal-line specialist, but how do you handle a situation like Cleveland or Dallas where multiple backs with similar skillsets are going to be battling for carries? Instead of guessing, just wait and pluck the second or third guy in the competition. Not only are you getting him at a cheaper price, but chances are solid that you’ll end up with the top option. You can also avoid these murky situations altogether, but it’s getting increasingly more difficult to build a team without dipping into these muddled competitions.
3. Stacking. While you shouldn’t necessarily set out to draft excess depth at a position or a number of players with the same bye, you shouldn’t be afraid to build on it if that’s how your draft has unfolded. Quality depth is never a bad thing, and you can usually trade from a surplus. As far as byes are concerned, I’ll reiterate that you shouldn’t go out of your way to have all of your players on one bye week, but sacrificing one automatic loss in exchange for a higher chance at a win in several other weeks isn’t an awful trade.
We will keep it brief and to the point:
1. Play a top fantasy defense when it is at home.
3. Play wide receivers that are heavy and tall.
4. Play other wide receivers who have a top ten quarterback throwing to them, and are targeted often in and out of the red zone.
5. Read ff-winners.com 😆