1st and 10 Week 17 by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles
“1st and 10″ is a weekly segment by Utter-Fantasy.com, getting fantasy insights from a knowledgeable person in the fantastic fantasy football community. With 10 questions each week, we will canvass some of the hot button topics to keep us all informed on the ever-changing NFL landscape and which may carry major fantasy football implications.
On Monday afternoon, approximately 12:00 Noon Central, I will post the latest segment in “1st & 10.” If you enjoy it, let us know. If you have any fantasy football questions, really let us know.
Week 17- July 11th, 2016
“1st and 10″ Week 17 Special Guest Writer- Jennifer Smith- senior writer for TheFantasyAuthority
Special thanks to Jennifer Smith and be sure to follow her on Twitter @FF_female920
Utter-Fantasy #1) The running back can be a hit-or-miss position. Of the 11 RBs selected early last year in fantasy football drafts, only one delivered on what people were hoping for, that would be Adrian Peterson. The disappointing group included Marshawn Lynch, Eddie Lacy, Arian Foster, Melvin Gordon and Jamaal Charles. I believe, however, that the current top 10 RBs are safer picks in 2016, than the top 10 RBs were last year? Do you agree Jennifer?
Jennifer Smith TFA: Well, injuries were the main factor last year with many you mentioned and those concerns are still present in this year’s top 10 RBs (as they always will be due to the ground and pound of being a workhorse); however, I’m confident in those at the top compared with last season. Age and durability have been the main topics coming up, but also small sample size/experience (e.g. Elliot, D Johnson). The main things I look for in my RB1 are 1) opportunity/volume 2) consistency 3) injury/durability concerns. If you spend an early round pick on these guys, you want a return and a big one at that. Both Charles and Bell are coming off knee injuries, but their rehab seems to be going well and I have no concerns about their volume or consistency when healthy. Doug Martin and Mark Ingram are integral pieces in their offenses (and consistent), and Lacy dropped weight and seems primed for a bounce back. I am high on Lamar Miller’s talent on a run heavy Texans team (he’s my #5 RB) and David Johnson will have to prove that his performance at the end of the season was legit. His coaching staff seems confident that Chris Johnson and Ellington will be complements and D Johnson will get lion’s share of the carries.
Devonta Freeman and Ezekiel Elliot are probably the backs I have more concern about, only because we haven’t seen Elliot at a professional level and there is always adjustment there, even though he is clearly very talented and well-rounded. Will he actually get 280-300 carries as is speculated? I’m thinking it will be less than that, but plenty to make a fantasy impact. Freeman’s efficiency started to wane over the second half of last season and with Tevin Coleman healthy, he will see less touches (265 carries last season, 73 receptions). The volume will be there and he showed he can be the bell-cow, but his performance over first half of last season (4.5 YPC; 9 TDs in 6 games) may be inflating fantasy owner’s expectations for 2016. He actually fell out of my top 10 (#11).
Utter-Fantasy #2) We all know that WR Antonio Brown will likely have another stellar season in 2016, but the other offensive players are harder to predict. Please write a brief sentence on the following Pittsburgh players with regard to their likely success with QB Roethlisberger and overall impact in fantasy football for standard formatted leagues. WR Markus Wheaton-WR Sammy Coates-WR Darrius Heyward-Bey-TE Ladarius Green
Jennifer Smith TFA:
WR Markus Wheaton- He will come out of the gate at the WR2 position and was tied with Heath Miller last season for the 2nd most red zone targets (third overall targets). He was pretty unimpressive in beginning of season, but had 4 TDs in last 6 games and seemed to develop chemistry with Big Ben. If he doesn’t step up initially with M. Bryant out, he’ll open the door for Coates. With a late 8th round ADP currently, you could snag a WR2 for a WR3 price (which is where I expect him to land for most of fantasy season), but I would rather have guys like Marvin Jones, Crabtree, or Travis Benjamin at a similar price.
WR Sammy Coates- They’ll involve Coates in 3 wide sets and give him an opportunity to show what he can do after having a “tremendous” off-season. He has the most to gain from M Bryant’s absence, but won’t hit his numbers in 2016. Coates is a great late round flyer in redraft and best-ball/MFL10 leagues due to his upside and opportunity.
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey- I don’t see him as fantasy relevant, as he is lowest on the totem pole out of all these listed. He had an increased role at the beginning of last season, but then was much less involved once Bryant returned.
TE Ladarius Green –He has the most upside for me, due to Ben’s extensive use of TEs in the past; however, this was with veteran Heath Miller who he developed chemistry with over 11 seasons. Green has been in Antonio Gate’s shadow in San Diego and definitely has the athleticism and size to dominate in the position. In the 3 games Gates was out in beginning of last season, Green averaged 4.6 rec, 58 yards, 12.5 yard average, and scored in 2 out of 3 games. I have him ranked as the #8 TE for 2016.
Utter-Fantasy #3) Most fantasy football prognosticators have a certain player(s) that they are higher on for the upcoming season than others might have them. I have DAL RB Zeke Elliott and SD WR Travis Benjamin higher than most. Who have you seen recently ranked perhaps too high, that you have reservations about?
Jennifer Smith TFA: Latavius Murray, Dion Lewis, and Devante Parker are the ones that I’ve seen creep up ranks this summer, perhaps too much. Murray’s YPC last season was unimpressive, but he was able to end the year as the #10 fantasy RB. The story this end result doesn’t show you is the weekly inconsistency and rollercoaster of production that he gave owners last season. He is currently ranked around #17-18 RB off the board and last season, he only bested this ranking in 6 games. The rest, he ranked #23 at best and #57 at worst. He’s ranked near guys like Forte, Anderson, Hyde, and D Murray (and above Gore, Gordon, Langford) and ADP in late 3rd round. This price is just too high for me given the issues mentioned and the addition of D Washington behind him (will probably steal mostly receiving touches, at least initially). I would rather have someone with more consistency for my RB2.
My concerns with Lewis are purely about durability. He has NEVER played a full season and is on the ever-mysterious NE Patriots which many downplay, but is a serious obstacle and frustration of many fantasy owners during season. I don’t question his talent one bit, but coming off another injury (ACL), I think drafting him at around #23 RB (near in ranking to J Hill, Stewart, Gore, D Murray, Landford, and Gordon) is too steep for me. My RB2 needs to be consistent and stable, and I just wouldn’t reach that high for someone with such high risk. FYI, I had the same mindset about Arian Foster last year and told others that even his lower ADP was too pricey. There’s a chance things turn out well for owners, but a higher likelihood of disappointment. Good best ball pick or RB3, but most likely someone is going to reach for him in your league. It won’t be me.
Devante Parker is a guy with upside and his performance at the end of last season after Rishad Matthews’ injury gave him the opportunity was impressive. I won’t argue the upside, as everyone saw how explosive he CAN be when he’s healthy and his fundamentals are sound. However, my concern is his ADP (6.10) and that he is flying off the board before guys like John Brown, Allen Hurns, Donte Moncrief, and Tyler Lockett. We have a limited sample of Parker and he has a nagging foot injury that he’s struggled with since college (missed time last season as well). There’s just not enough to justify a his increased ranking, in my eyes.
Utter-Fantasy #4) In a follow up question, what player have you currently ranked higher than others, because you see them having a better 2016 NFL season than is expected?
Jennifer Smith TFA: I swear, I had him before he was mentioned in the last question but Travis Benjamin is a guy I really like this season. The Chargers offense will be improved this year with the return of Keenan Allen and better play by Melvin Gordon. Rivers ended 2015 as the #1 QB in completions (438) and pass attempts (662), so there’s plenty of targets for this deep threat player. Benjamin finished last season as the #28 fantasy WR, yet he is being ranked around #48 currently despite joining a better team and having a better QB. His ADP is in the ninth round right now, which is a steal for a WR2 across from Keenan Allen. Sign me up.
Utter-Fantasy #5) The fantasy football draft can be one of the best parts of any fantasy season. One of my favorite “best ball’ leagues actually drafts “twice”…once prior to the beginning of the NFL season, then at Week 8 of the NFL schedule. (Each team freezes 2 players from their existing roster, all other players are thrown back into the “available pot” and we re-draft.) It is very fun, and brings a new, exciting element to the league as everyone has practically a brand new team. Have you ever participated in a mid-season re-draft league, and if not, would you ever recommend it for a future league?
Jennifer Smith TFA: I actually haven’t participated in a league with a mid-season re-draft, but I’m always game for ways to make fantasy more fun. I like the excitement of getting a “second crack” at drafting, but I would imagine as an owner that is dominating or drafted well initially, the second draft could be un-welcomed or frustrating. The owner that drafted poorly or whose team is plagued with injuries, would be ecstatic. If you sign up for one of these leagues, you know the 2nd draft is coming and most likely you enjoy something different to spice things up mid-season. Personally, I might steer clear of doing a lot of these leagues due to preparation that I do for my drafts and that this might be a lot to manage mid-season. I can definitely see the appeal, especially if you’ve been in fantasy football for a while and are getting bored with regular formats.
Utter-Fantasy #6) Falcons’ QB Matt Ryan has put up consistent fantasy numbers year after year, ending 2015 as the #16 overall quarterback. A few years ago he was being evaluated as a top-tier quarterback, but opinions have varied since then. Do you have faith that Matty Ice will have a productive 2016 campaign? Where would you rank him amidst QBs? How early or late should owners be looking to draft him?
Jennifer Smith TFA: Yes, I do think that Matt Ryan will have an improved season compared to 2015 and I have him ranked currently at #13 , right between Romo and Dalton. Ryan ended in the top 10 fantasy QBs in 2012-2014, but his dud last season might be steering owners away in 2016, which is a mistake. Ryan seemed to have difficulty adjusting to OC Kyle Shanahan’s system and threw 16 interceptions (2nd highest in career) and only 21 TDs (worse than any of his past 6 seasons; only season he did worse was his rookie campaign). Julio is Julio, but he can’t do everything. Roddy White clearly did help Ryan’s play in 2015, but Atlanta hopes that Sanu will contribute more. I think Sanu will be better than White and having a decent (emphasis on decent, not good) WR2 to help reduce double coverage on Julio Jones can only help the offense. Add in the successful running tandem of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, and I think Ryan returns to form and ends the season just outside the top 10
Utter-Fantasy #7) Which team or teams that made the playoffs last season will suffer the biggest drop off and miss the tournament this year? Subsequently, which team could you see making the jump into relevance in 2016?
Jennifer Smith TFA: The Bengals may struggle in the AFC North division, as I think both the Steelers and the Ravens will have good 2016 seasons and, as already discussed, they have a depleted receiving corps heading into this season. As we all know as well, Dalton will have to step up his consistency in order to make the playoffs again this year. I know I might anger a bunch of fans here, but I think the Patriots might have a harder road this season to the playoffs than in many seasons past. The Jets missed playoffs by the skin of their teeth in 2015, Dolphins have some great upside, and Buffalo gets Sammy Watkins at full health and a dynamic quarterback in Tyrod Taylor.
I could see the Colts making a jump back into relevance this season with a healthy Andrew Luck. They improved their O-line and so can protect him better and I like their receiver corps of Hilton, Moncrief, and D Allen. Their run game is a little concerning, as if Gore goes down, there isn’t a lot of depth behind him. I could also see Cowboys having a big jump after a horrible 2015 season. They’ll need a healthy 16 games from Romo and Bryant, and for Elliot to hit the ground running (literally), but I could see them having a strong season. Their receiving corps isn’t very strong behind Bryant, however, so that’s something to keep in mind.
Utter-Fantasy #8) Of the following NFL players who had significant injuries in 2015, who concerns you the most for the upcoming season? RB LeVeon Bell… RB Jamaal Charles… TE Jimmy Graham… WR Jordy Nelson… WR Kevin White… WR Keenan Allen
Jennifer Smith TFA: I know many might say Kevin White (and I’m concerned somewhat, but more of his rookie performance and not injury), but I’m more concerned with Jimmy Graham. The reports out of Seattle about his recovery timeline have been mixed, some saying he will be ready Week 1 and others that he will start the season on the PUP/reserve list (costing him first 6 games of the season, a huge fantasy impact). As if this wasn’t enough, Graham was severely underutilized last season in Seattle after dominating in New Orleans. He had difficulty converting the few red zone targets he received (30% completion rate) and then tore his patellar tendon in week 12. This is considered one of the most serious injuries a player can face and his ability to bounce back is severely in question (see Victor Cruz). He concerns me most, followed by White.
Utter-Fantasy #9) Denver’s WR Demaryius Thomas had 14 TDs in 2013, 11 TDs in 2014 and only 6 TDs in 2015. Does his downward TD spiral continue in 2016, and what do you predict for his overall stats at the end of the upcoming season?
Jennifer Smith TFA: I think Thomas bounces back in 2016 and I anticipate a 10-12 TDs, 110 receptions for around 1375-1400 yards. DT had some distractions (contract, mother’s release from prison) during the 2015 season and has admitted that these distractions took away from his performance. Add in Manning’s struggles and moves at QB, and this temporary dip in production makes some sense. Despite the uncertainty at QB for 2016, DT is by far the most targeted receiver (overall and in the red zone) in Denver, and it isn’t close. He will continue to be an anchor of the offense and looked toward to lead the team in 2016.
Utter-Fantasy #10) The Cincinnati Bengals lost WRs Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu to free agency. TE Tyler Eifert is injured again and does not expect to be ready for Week 1. The Bengals signed WR Brandon LaFell and drafted WR Tyler Boyd, but did they do enough in free agency and the 2016 NFL Draft to replace their depleted receiving corps?
Jennifer Smith TFA: It’s a strong no for me on this one. AJG can’t do it all himself and the injury to Eifert is a significant loss. Eifert represented the 3rd most targeted receiver overall and the 2nd most targeted player in the red zone. LaFell represents a fill-in and someone that could be fantasy relevant only because of volume/situation, not based on talent. Anyone that watched him last season couldn’t be overly impressed with his drops and completion percentage (50%), but the Bengals will look to him as WR2 as Boyd gets used in the slot. I was never very impressed with Sanu, so I think his loss hurts much less than Marvin Jones. He quietly had a solid 2015 season with a 65-816-4 line and was a consistent contributor across from Green, but left the Bengals to get more opportunities and leave Green’s shadow. Boyd will need to get his feet wet as a rookie and if Green gets injured, the Bengals will struggle significantly.
Next Week’s Guest….GuestFFL.com’s Matt Dougherty