FF-Winners.Com’s 2017-8 NFC South Preview


Among all the divisions in the National Football Conference, the NFC East might be the one with the most parity, the NFC West might be the one with the best team overall, and the NFC North might host the best quarterback in the conference (if not the entire league). But it could very well be the case that the NFC South might feature the most entertaining race to the division crown this year.

How does a team recover from blowing a 25-point lead in the third quarter of the franchise’s first-ever Super Bowl appearance? That’s the question that’s going to hound the Atlanta Falcons all year long. It’s already been talked about ad nauseum, and if the team has any stumbles along the way this year, it’s certainly going to be brought up repeatedly. History is not on the Falcons side, either; nine of the last 20 teams to lose the Super Bowl failed to make the playoffs last season. Atlanta’s defense will be better this year, thanks to the addition of defensive tackle Dontari Poe, the selection of edge rusher Takkarist McKinley in the 2017 NFL Draft, and the return of cornerback Desmond Trufant from injury. But what type of drop off will Atlanta’s ultra-prolific offense see from last year’s performance, with the loss of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan? New offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian has enormous shoes to fill, considering Shanahan guided the Falcons offense to the eighth-highest point total in NFL history, and helped quarterback Matt Ryan to an MVP award along the way; to make matters even more challenging, Sarkisian has never been an offensive coordinator in the NFL. In a division in which the Falcons top competitors certainly look to take a big step forward this year, the idea that Atlanta is a lock to repeat as the champions of the NFC South is far from a given.

The Carolina Panthers can provide first-hand attestation to the “hangover” that comes after losing the Super Bowl. After finishing the 2015 season with an NFL-best 15-1 record, the Panthers endured a season filled with all sorts of bumps and bruises, headlined by injuries to arguably the team’s two best players: quarterback Cam Newton, and middle linebacker Luke Kuechly. Newton played in 15 of 16 games las tyear, but as a result of the merciless beating he endured all season long, he put up the lowest completion percentage and yards per attempt of his career, his second lowest passing touchdown total, and his second highest interception total. Newton is unquestionably the team’s franchise player, so Carolina went out and signed tackle Matt Kalil from the Vikings to protect Newton’s blindside as the left tackle, and drafted tackle Taylor Moton from the University of Wisconsin with the intention of him coming over and manning the right tackle spot. And to add to Newton’s oft-maligned group of pass catchers, the Panthers used draft pick on “hybrid” run-pass options like Christian McCaffrey (their first round pick) and Curtis Samuel (the first of their two second round picks). With nine of 11 starters returning from last year’s defense, the Panthers are banking on the continuity of their group to keep opponents out of the endzone, and the young secondary to make a big leap forward from last year’s campaign that saw the team finish with the fourth-worst passing defense in the NFL.

There might not be a more intriguing team in the NFL heading into this season than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The league made a brilliant decision featuring them on HBO’s Hard Knocks television show, because they have the star power to absolutely compel audiences. After finishing among the top 10 quarterbacks in touchdown passes last year, Jameis Winston looks primed to make a big leap forward in year three of his young career. To facilitate that, his front office has given him a repertoire of weapons that would make any quarterback envious: wide receiver DeSean Jackson (brought in via free agency), tight end O.J. Howard (the team’s first round pick in the draft), and wide receiver Chris Godwin (the team’s third round selection), to join incumbent tight end Cameron Brate (who led the league in touchdown catches among tight ends last year) and superstud receiver Mike Evans. If the defense can improve on its performance from last year (they were ranked 22nd in most yards allowed last season), this team could make serious noise in the NFC.

The question for the New Orleans Saints (and its fans) for this year is pretty simple: can the team break free from the treadmill of 7-9 finishes they’ve had in each of the past three seasons? In each of those three years, the storyline seemed to be the same: a top three offense in the NFL (in yards per game), and a bottom five defense (in points allowed per game). There was a point in time where the idea of a quarterback throwing for 5,000 yards in a season was a mind-boggling feat, and yet the incomparable Drew Brees is coming off a year in which he exceeded the 5,000 yard mark for the fourth time in six years. That’s a big reason why the Saints were the only team in the NFL with two receivers to finish among the top 10 in yards receiving. One of those two receivers was rookie Michael Thomas, whose 92 catches last year was the second highest total in NFL history for a rookie. With Brandin Cooks (the other thousand-yard receiver) now gone, Thomas becomes the focal point of the passing offense, and seems more than capable of handling those responsibilities. Of course, with such a prolific passing maestro like Brees orchestrating the offense, it certainly won’t all be on him to make things go. Meanwhile, New Orleans’ annually porous defense went through yet another overhaul, resulting in as many as six new starters for the group this year. The headline addition would likely be cornerback Marshon Lattimore, the team’s top draft selection this year, who could turn out to be a steal of a pick. Still, the question is the same in the Big Easy: can the Saints’ defense stop anyone from moving the ball up and down the field at will, in order to let the offense do its magic?

FF-Winners.Com’s 2017-8 NFC North Preview

Over the past decade, the Green Bay Packers or the Minnesota Vikings have won the NFC North division nine times in 10 years. Given the way the division looks heading into the 2017 season, it would be very surprising if that trend didn’t extend to 10 times in 11 years.

Green Bay Packers

During the 2016 NFL season, the Green Packers not only went undefeated between the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend through the third week in January of 2017, but they beat opponents by an average of more than 12 points per game. But it all came to an end with a resounding thud, when the Atlanta Falcons ambushed the Packers in the NFC Championship game, storming out to a 31-0 lead at one point, and handing Green Bay a 44-21 defeat. But during that second-half-of-the-season run, Green Bay re-established themselves as one of the top contenders in the NFC, and they’ll look to build on that momentum during the 2017 season. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is one of the early favorites for the Most Valuable Player award, and rightfully so. After leading the league in touchdown passes (40) and touchdown-to-interception ratio (almost 6-to-1), and finished 4th in total passing yards (4,428), he’ll get to throw to an even-better group of receivers this year, with Jordy Nelson another year removed from his season-ending ACL injury (in 2015), Randall Cobb coming into camp healthy after dealing with nagging injuries all of last year, and Davante Adams coming off a breakout season and looking as sharp as ever. On top of that, the Packers went out and acquired tight end Martellus Bennett, who could turn out to be one of the steals of free agency.

The question for the Packers will be if the defense can keep up its end of the bargain, having finished 22nd in total yards allowed last season, and a dismal 31st in passing yards allowed. Green Bay devoted their top two picks in the 2017 NFL Draft to the secondary, taking cornerback Kevin King and safety Josh Jones, and brought back cornerback Davon House to play the nickel spot. But losing safety Micah Hyde, one of the real leaders in the secondary, may prove to be a very difficult endeavor.

The Packers offense can score on nearly anyone in the NFL, but the question will be whether they can stop anyone from scoring on them.

Minnesota Vikings

This year’s Minnesota Vikings will feature the same storyline as last year’s Vikings — a game-managing quarterback, a dynamic running back, a patchwork offensive line, and a ridiculously stout defense — but with different characters filling many of those roles.

Sam Bradford will be back for the second year in a row as the Vikings quarterback, having taken over the role on the heels of the catastrophic knee injury to Teddy Bridgewater. In the backfield, he’ll spend much of this year handing off the football to rookie running back Dalvin Cook, the team’s second round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft (it’s just a matter of time before he takes over the job from free agent acquisition Latavius Murray). And the line that’ll be blocking for Bradford and Cook will feature as many as four new starters from last year’s group, as Minnesota continually looks to fix the beleaguered unit.

But the same “beleaguered unit” description simply cannot be used for the defense, which will return nine of 11 starters from last year’s group, and should be as good as any defense in the NFL. Minnesota ranked third in the NFL in fewest yards allowed per game overall, and fewest passing yards allowed per game as well. They were fifth in the NFL in quarterback sacks, with three different edge rushers racking up seven or more sacks last season (and that’s even with star linebacker Anthony Barr suffering a big slump for much of last year).

The Vikings are essentially the mirror opposite of their division rivals in Green Bay: their defense will be good enough to limit any opponent from putting a lot of points on the board, but will the offense do enough to actually score enough points to squeak out a win?

Detroit Lions

In a conference that’s filled with a good number of teams that will be vying for the six available postseason berths, the Detroit Lions find themselves in a place that most professional sports teams dread: sprinting on proverbial “treadmill of mediocrity.” They’re interesting enough to be relevant, but not relevant enough to be interesting.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford had a fantastic year in offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter’s offense, finishing with his second highest completion percentage, second highest yards per attempt, and second highest passer rating of his career last season, along with the fewest number of interceptions thrown. And even with that, the Lions still ranked outside the top 10 passing offenses last year (they were 11th) and didn’t have a single receiver finish in the top 10 in receiving yards (Golden Tate was 14th). For all the yards they could put up in a game, it didn’t translate to much, considering Detroit finished 20th in the NFL in total points per game.

Things weren’t better for Detroit’s defense, overseen by highly-esteemed coordinator Teryl Austin. The Lions defense was in the bottom half of the league in total yards allowed per game (18th in the NFL), rushing yards allowed (18th), passing yards allowed (19th), and quarterback sacks (tied for 30th).

So, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Detroit spent much of the offseason fixing the defensive side of the ball, as almost half the unit will have new starters next season. But in an already loaded conference, and a division with two teams that have postseason aspirations themselves, have the Lions really done enough to make a return trip to the playoffs?

Chicago Bears

For sports fans in the greater Chicagoland area, the mantra this Fall likely won’t be all that much different than it was in the Fall of 2016: “well, at least the Cubs are doing well.”

It was another offseason of offensive upheaval for the Chicago Bears, marked by the team pushing it’s longtime starting quarterback, trading for a quarterback to presumably be the starter, and subsequently drafting a quarterback to also presumably be the starter. And that’s not even mentioning the fact that four of Chicago’s top five wide receivers will be different than the depth chart from last year, after watching their best wide receiver (Alshon Jeffrey) leave town as well.

So now, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (at some point this season anyway), running back Jordan Howard (who finished second in the NFL in rushing yards last season), and wide receiver Cameron Meredith (the team leader in virtually every receiving category last year) will form the foundation of the rebuilt Bears offense.

Ironically enough, the Bears defense will return all 11 starters from last year’s group. Take what you will from that fact, considering Chicago had the sixth-worst rushing defense in the NFL last year, ranked in the bottom 10 of the NFL in most points allowed per game, and featured exactly zero players with more than eight sacks recorded last year.

Winter is Coming, Chicago fans. And if you root for these Monsters of the Midway, don’t say we didn’t warn you.

FF-Winners.Com Reveals 2017 Superbowl Champion!

The countdown to the 2016-7  NFL Season is just a few days away as the opening kickoff is set for September 8th. This season should provide us all with a ton of big time hits, spectacular plays and fireworks to keep us all on the edge of our seat till the final whistle at Super Bowl LI.

Now before we can crown a Super Bowl Champion, the 32 NFL teams must fight a grueling 16 game schedule before earning a chance to compete in the NFL Playoffs. That being said we take a look at both conferences to determine which team has what it takes to take home the Championship and a trip to the Super Bowl.

Starting in the NFC: this Conference may be the weaker of the two as we can see two teams walking away with their respective divisions while the other two divisions being a battle between just two teams. The only question is whether or not we could see a sleeper team like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Detroit Lions sneak into contention.

Meanwhile in the AFC: this should be a battle to the final whistle in every division as we could see as many as 10 teams take home playoff spots. This includes a new top team in the AFC East when it all closes out snapping the New England Patriots run of division crowns.

Here is how our experts and artificial intelligence computer see the AFC and NFC conferences shaping out in 2016:

NFC Champion – Green Bay Packers: As you look around the NFC the question marks arise for nearly every team in the division. The NFC East has no real favorite as it will come down to the quarterback position and how they play. The NFC South has the potential to be a four team race with the New Orleans Saints as our top team in the division. Then there is the NFC West as we see the Seattle Seahawks taking the division but don’t expect their defense to be as good as they once were.

Then there is the NFC North where just a week ago we could see the Packers fighting for the division with the Minnesota Vikings. Than a key injury to Teddy Bridgewater now leaves the Packers with a chance to walk a way with an easy path to the NFC North crown.

In the end the Packers offense will be too much for opposing defenses with the return of Jordy Nelson, the addition of Jared Cook and the newly shaped Eddie Lacy running the football. Add that with having one of the top three quarterbacks in the NFL and you have your NFC Conference Champions.

AFC Champion – New England Patriots: Yes we expect the Patriots to land in the second spot in the AFC East but still expect them to be the team to beat when it comes playoff time. Now that being said we wouldn’t be surprised if they won the division but we do like the Miami Dolphins at this point simply based on the fact the Patriots will be without Tom Brady for the first four games. A four game stretch against teams that are all built around defense including the Arizona Cardinals and the Houston Texans.
The good news for Patriots fans is all you need is a trip to the playoffs as wild card team and you can find a way to make it to the Super Bowl. Since 2000, the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants and Green Bay Packers have each won the title as wild cards!

Super Bowl Champion – New England Patriots: In the end the Patriots will find a way to win it again as Bill Belichick continues to find ways to win in the NFL. Add that with the fact Brady will have a big time chip on his shoulder once returning from his suspension and that will be all the team needs to win.

Now looking a little deeper: this Patriots team has a ton of talent on both sides of the ball including a very deep running back crew. While their receiving corps lacks the big name star they still have guys that can make a big play while having possibly the best tight end duo in the NFL with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett.
On the defensive side of the ball the team added a playmaker to their secondary in Cyrus Gray through the draft as well as Chris Long through free agency. The team also added former first round pick Barkevious Mingo to add another threat to the teams pass rush.

The end result should be another Super Bowl title and possibly the last of the Belichick/Brady era!

FF-Winners.Com Reveals 3 Amazing Fantasy Bargain Sleepers for 2016-7

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.

[Analysis by NFL expert Rajan Nanavati]

FF-Winners.Com Reveals Sleeper Team of the Year 2016

One of the most under-the-radar storylines in the NFL is the way that Chicago Bears General Manager Ryan Pace has gone about renovating this roster over the last two years. They’re one of the rare teams who has set out to build a team the “right” way — building the foundation of the team through the draft, and then supplementing those building blocks with smart free agent acquisitions — and has actually stuck to the plan (at least so far).

Pace has absolutely aced his last two drafts. The Bears had one of my favorite overall crops in 2015 — they could have as many as five starters from that group: wide receiver Kevin White, defensive tackle Eddie Goldman, center Hroniss Grasu, running back Jeremy Langford, and safety Adrian Amos — and they followed that up by putting together one hell of a class this year. I’m admittedly getting a little “Vernon Gholston déjà vu” when it comes to their first round pick Leonard Floyd — people falling in love with the physical tools more than his actual football skills — but the raw tools are certainly there. The rest of the class, though, is absolutely money.

Offensive lineman Cody Whitehair (out of Kansas State) and defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard (out of the University of Florida), taken in the late second and early third rounds, will contribute right away. Linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski (4th round pick out of West Virginia University) is an undersized but athletic and rangy; at the least, he’ll provide great depth and standout special teams play. Running back Jordan Howard (5th round pick out of Indiana) is a “thunder” running back with serious pop, and could provide a really nice tag team partner to Jeremy Langford. Defensive back Deandre Houston-Carson (6th round out of William & Mary) is a small school gem that could’ve gone a couple of rounds higher. And finally, wide receiver Daniel Braverman (7th round pick out of Western Michigan) is a feisty Julian Edelman-type receiver who was crazy productive in college.

In the 2016 free agency period, the Bears might’ve made three of the shrewdest and most strategic free agent signings out of anyone. They shored shore up the middle of their defense by (very quietly) signing two of the better inside linebackers in football: Danny Trevathan (formerly of Denver) and Jerrell Freeman (formerly of Indianapolis) That just adds to a group of linebackers that already had Pernell McPhee (a fantastic free agent pickup from Baltimore last season), Lamarr Houston, and the aforementioned Floyd. Then, they signed right tackle Bobby Massie (formerly of Arizona), allowing Kyle Long to move back inside to guard, where he’s a Pro Bowl-caliber player; that one signing effectively shored them up in two positions. So, the Bears’ offensive line and the middle linebackers — two of their weaker position groups last season — could very well end up being two of their strengths.

We think they still have a few big questions that need to be answered, like whether new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains — who was promoted from quarterbacks coach — can carry on the offense that Adam Gase so masterfully ran for Chicago last season; who is going to emerge from their logjam at running back (between Jeremy Langford, Ka’Deem Carey, and rookie Jordan Howard have their strengths, but none of those guys are anything close to what Matt Forte was last season); and if their secondary can hold up (Kyle Fuller had an up-and-down year last year, and they’ve basically got nothing at cornerback behind him, nor at safety next to Amos).

Still, if things break correctly for them, this team has the potential to be dangerous. And if they continue to build this team the way they have been over the last couple of years, We think they’re a really good running back and one starting cornerback away from being a legitimate contender in the NFC.

[Analysis by NFL expert Rajan Nanavati]

FF-Winners.com’s Three Quarterbacks to Avoid in 2016-7

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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.

[Analysis by NFL expert Rajan Nanavati]

FF-Winners.com’s Three NFL Receivers to Avoid in 2016-7

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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.

[Analysis by NFL expert Rajan Nanavati]

FF-Winners.com’s Two Running Backs To Avoid in 2016

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.

[Analysis by NFL expert Rajan Nanavati]