It is time to gather the PFF Fantasy Dynasty team for another edition of our staff roundtable. We are about 11 weeks away from the start of the 2012 NFL season and there are several topics this month that will help you sort through your dynasty league. As in previous editions, Chad Parsons joins the virtual roundtable – although this time is joined by new additions Scott Spratt and Mike Daneshgar.
As moderator and editor, I get to have the final say on each topic. Here are the questions this month:
Now that Organized Team Activities are wrapping up, which rookie have you changed your stance on since the NFL Draft?
Chad Parsons – Justin Blackmon. My projection model for college receivers loved him coming out of Oklahoma State and I considered him the second player off the board in a majority of PPR rookie drafts earlier in the off-season. Since that time, Blackmon was drafted too high by a Jacksonville team where the best case for a receiver now would be to have Chad Henne under center. Also, Blackmon’s drinking and decision-making habits have brought about more question marks for potential dynasty owners. Given all those factors, I can understand seeing Blackmon outside the top-5 in some rookie drafts this summer and behind players like David Wilson, Michael Floyd, and Kendall Wright.
Scott Spratt – I hope that my dynasty colleagues will not object to my going IDP on the first question, but the player that clearly stands out to me is Courtney Upshaw. The Ravens defense has had some productive players apart from the usual suspects, but after seeing the likes of Bart Scott and Adalius Thomas leave the team and then disappear in fantasy, I have taken the production of their fringe players with a grain of salt, contributing much of their success to the excellence of Haloti Ngata, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Terrell Suggs. Now, Reed is contemplating retirement and Suggs could miss all of 2012 with his Achilles tear. All of a sudden, there are potential holes all over that defense, and Upshaw looks like the biggest beneficiary. Upshaw played the hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker position at Alabama that Suggs has excelled in, and he has the versatility to make plays against the run and the pass. The combination of tackles, sacks, and forced fumbles could allow him to compete with tackle-heavy middle linebackers in the future, and his short path to playing time makes him a usable player right away. Upshaw was the sixth defensive end taken in the 2012 draft, but if he has DL-eligibility in your league, I would take him before all of them.
Mike Daneshgar – I do not really put much stock into OTAs but with a foot injury possibly sidelining Hakeem Nicks for the offseason, Giants WR Rueben Randle has a real opportunity to receive meaningful repetitions in training camp. The 756+ snaps that Mario Manningham accounted for last season seem to be up for grabs between Randle, Ramses Barden, Domenik Hixon, and Jerrel Jernigan. Randle was seen by many as an early second round pick with potential to creep into the first, so the Giants were more than happy to snatch him up with the last pick of the second round. He is a smooth route runner that catches the ball away from his body. Based on talent he should be the favorite to emerge as the third receiver, it just depends on how quickly he picks up the playbook.
Bryan Fontaine – All great choices here guys. I agree on Blackmon 100%. If I had a top-five rookie draft selection, I would probably pass on him now. I have not soured on his talent or situation; however, I also am concerned about his off field troubles. My player is Kendall Wright. After having some initial trepidation about his situation in Tennessee, I moved him up 10 spots in my last dynasty rankings update. He is learning all three wide receiver positions and could still have fantasy value as soon as this season despite Kenny Britt returning to action.
Using our PFF Dynasty ADP, name two players after the 13th round that dynasty owners should target late in their startup drafts.
Parsons – I am one of the most consistent dynasty drafters out there. I love diversification in long-term financial investing, but not when investing in late-round players in dynasty. Here are the hottest two names on my list now outside of the top-150: Tim Tebow (14.10, QB24) and Nick Toon (15.11, WR73). A back-end QB2 price tag for a player like Tim Tebow with top-12 potential is a great deal when talking about a range of ADP where most will never make a fantasy impact. Tebow has started 16 games in his NFL career, averaging nearly 22 PPG over that span, which would have been QB6 in 2011, even with the statistical explosion from the position. That is without being a developed passer. I am probably in the minority, but I still see a chance for Tebow to develop into a solid thrower from the pocket in his NFL career. His touchdown and interception rates are both better than the NFL average at this point. We have not heard the last from Tebow as a starting fantasy option, which means that, even if an owner does not like him long-term, there will be an opportunity to sell him for a profit in the coming season or two in dynasty. He is the ideal cheap QB2 for a dynasty team with a strong starter already on the roster.
Many things support the drafting a receiver like Nick Toon in dynasty formats. First off, the impact of a quarterback on receivers and their fantasy production (see my QB Impact article). Nick Toon has an early career opportunity with one of the best in the NFL, Drew Brees. In addition, the Saints receiver situation is a little clearer than in years past. Marques Colston is signed for the next five years, which would put him at 33 years old. I have concerns that his knees allow that length of sustained production. Lance Moore is the only other dependable option, signed through 2015. Moore has also missed 11 games over the past three seasons. Both Colston and Moore spend a significant amount of snaps in the slot (48% and 38% in 2011 respectively), leaving an outside spot open at a minimum. Players like Devery Henderson or Adrian Arrington are not going to be the reason that Nick Toon doesn’t get a chance to produce in New Orleans. Toon underachieved by many accounts at Wisconsin, but was solid across the board statistically and fast enough for his size. The best passing offenses in the NFL are where I want to spend my late-round receiver picks in any format.
Spratt – Most of the talent will have left the board by the end of the 13th round, but in a deeper league, I would look to target Mark Sanchez, 18th round ADP and QB33, and Mike Tolbert, 20th round ADP and RB77. Sanchez has lost most of his new quarterback shine thanks to his -27.9 PFF overall rating, better only than Blaine Gabbert in 2011, and to the arrival of Tim Tebow in New York. However, if I need to take a deep flier on a quarterback with top-10 potential, I will take the player that is 25 and has been there before. Yes, Sanchez was a top-10 quarterback in 2011 in typical scoring. The Jets have a mediocre collection of running backs, which helped Sanchez rush for six TDs, a number that will surely drop with Tebow around. However, Sanchez has also increased his passing attempts, yards, TDs, and completion percentage in each of his three seasons. If you took away all six of his rushing TDs, Sanchez would still have finished as the 14th-best quarterback in fantasy in 2011. The Jets just committed $58 million over five years to Sanchez. He will not lose his job as the starter, and Tebow will not restrict Sanchez to fewer than 30 pass attempts per game. In contrast, the Panthers signed Mike Tolbert to a contract that pays him like a top-5 fullback, and that means, for the purposes of fantasy, he is a backup. Gone are the Charger days when Tolbert had 300 carries from 2010-2011, but as deep as he is falling in dynasty drafts, I am willing to bet on his TD upside. Tolbert had 20 TDs over the last two seasons, most at the goal line. Cam Newton had 14 rushing TDs last season, most at the goal line. Of the two, Newton is the player that will determine the success or failure of the franchise, and so I expect the Panthers to let Tolbert shoulder that goal line abuse. With 4 years and near $40 million left on the contract of DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart could be too expensive to bring back in 2013, which gives Tolbert some potential for carries in the future. Now is the time to buy low on Tolbert.
Daneshgar – If he checks out medically, Vikings rookie WR Greg Childs could be a steal. Of course, that is a big “if” as he has had lingering issues for a while now. Still, for someone who has potential to be a number 1 wide receiver, he could be worth a flier. Prior to knee injuries at Arkansas, Childs was a first round talent. The other player that I would probably even target before the 13th round is St. Louis slot machine Danny Amendola. Particularly in a PPR league, Amendola is one of the few players that I will half allow Wes Welker comparisons for. I targeted him in all of my PPR leagues last year and Sam Bradford clearly was not the same quarterback without him. In Coach Fisher’s run-first offense, he may not have as much upside as before but with one year left on his contract it might be worth the risk.
Fontaine – With the benefit of going last, I can be sure to cover two players that have not been mentioned yet. Felix Jones is a forgotten player at this point with the emergence of DeMarco Murray, but with a price tag of only the 14th round and the 55th running back off the board – he presents value. Neither Jones nor Murray have been the healthiest players in their careers unfortunately. Jones’ price tag helps mitigate some of that risk and is just one play away from being a relevant fantasy option again. Even in a part time role, he is sure to increase on his two touchdowns scored in the last two seasons. As Scott mentioned with Sanchez, I would also target Blaine Gabbert for many of the same reasons. I covered Gabbert in my most recent article here.
Name a wide receiver over the age of 30 that might surprise dynasty owners with a few productive years remaining.
Parsons – Reggie Wayne. I see a late career in the mold of Derrick Mason from the Colts receiver in the next few seasons. Wayne is 33 years old now and Mason had seasons of 80/1037/5 at age 34, 73/1028/7 at age 35, and 61/802/7 at age 36. I see similar things for Wayne with 120+ targets/year in the short-term with Andrew Luck. At WR34 in ADP now, Wayne provides nice value as a cheap starter for competing dynasty teams.
Spratt – I decided to look a bit deeper than players like Steve Smith and Reggie Wayne that I like but likely will not surprise anyone if they have a few more good seasons. I settled on Santana Moss. Moss has dropped to the 20th round in 12-team dynasty ADP to WR93. That is excessively low. The Redskins have many players—Moss, Pierre Garcon, Leonard Hankerson, Anthony Armstrong, Josh Morgan, Fred Davis, Chris Cooley, and Roy Helu—vying for targets, but Moss is the one player that is not redundant. Moss is the only Redskins receiver that took even a quarter of his snaps in the slot in 2011, and he was worst in the league in catch rate on slot passes. A lot of the blame for his poor performance can be placed on the arm of Rex Grossman, who was fourth worst in the league in accuracy percentage. It is tempting to assume that Robert Griffin III will usher in a youth movement, but Washington has playoff aspirations in 2012, and Moss may be the best receiver they have. He had the highest PFF overall and pass-catcher rating in 2011 of the returning wideouts, and he rated better than newcomer Pierre Garcon did, as well. The non-signing of Eddie Royal may have saved the job of Moss, now 33, but off a season of 90 targets and just a year removed from a season of 93 receptions, he could make the most of it.
Daneshgar – It is hard to believe that Malcom Floyd will be 31 this year. Philip Rivers passed for 4,624 yards last season and the 1,106 that Vincent Jackson accounted for will (for simplicity’s sake) be redistributed to Floyd, Robert Meachem, Vincent Brown, and Eddie Royal. Floyd ended 2011 on fire with at least 5 catches 90 yards and 1 touchdown in his final 3 games. Floyd only played in 523 snaps but still had the second highest PFF rating for the entire San Diego offense (+13.7). Therefore, he performed well in a relatively small workload, is slated to receive a bigger workload, and ended the season well – sign me up for Malcom Floyd. Added bonus: he is in a contract year.
Fontaine – There is not a lot of other enticing options left. I will mention that Brandon Lloyd (31 in July) has plenty left in the tank and now joins one of the best passing offenses in the league. Lloyd’s best seasons are likely behind him; however his aDOT of 15.2 yards will be a welcome addition to the short passing New England ran last season.
If you draw the top pick in a PPR startup dynasty league, which player are you taking with the first pick?
Parsons – I am the dynasty owner that deplores top picks. I love to trade down and mine more mid-round value as I see most running backs as declining assets in dynasty formats. That would be my absolute first choice if I was sitting with the 1.01 pick. If I had to take a player, I would draft Arian Foster and attempt to trade the stud back after the draft. Foster has a clear handcuff in Ben Tate and operates in one of the best rushing offenses in the NFL. His trade value will be sky high for the next 1-2 years outside of injury, allowing roster flexibility.
Spratt – I would take Arian Foster. In 2010, he was worth $58 in typical PPR leagues, 38% more than the next best player was. In 2011, he was worth $38, the fourth most despite missing three games. Foster will be 25 at the start of the 2012 season, and he lacks some of the uncertainty that depresses the value of the other young, elite backs. Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles return from major leg injuries. Ray Rice is in the final year of his contract. Chris Johnson disappointed in 2011. LeSean McCoy is a couple of years younger, and so is a consideration, but Foster has accumulated 750 more yards from scrimmage than McCoy in the last two seasons. McCoy could lose some value if he scores fewer than the 20 TDs he managed in 2011. Aaron Rodgers is my top quarterback and Calvin Johnson my top receiver, but quarterbacks lose value relative to pass catchers in PPR formats, and wide receiver is a much deeper position than running back.
Daneshgar – Give me Calvin Johnson. It is hard to believe that not only is he still 26 years old but also 2011 was the first full season he has had to work with quarterback Matt Stafford. Could 96 receptions 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns really just be the tip of the iceberg? An entire decade of production out of that combination would not surprise me one bit. There are plenty of other good young talents out there but none of them are far above the competitors at his position like Megatron. He is both projectable and productive, and being a Decepticon means that aging is not an issue either.
Fontaine – There is not a consensus here among the group. I agree with Chad that I would try every avenue to trade the top pick and bolster my roster with as many picks as I could acquire in the top 100. I also would likely settle for Foster if I kept the selection. My draft strategy would be to take wide receivers with my next three picks when the quality of running backs in the second and third rounds does not compare.
The wide receiver depth chart in St. Louis is wide open, which player are you targeting from that group to have production the next few years?
Parsons – This situation is as confusing as a Shanahan or Belichick running game. In terms of this season, Danny Amendola is the most consistent option, but only as a WR4/flex-type fantasy option. Of the young options, Brian Quick (WR41 in ADP) gets the first shot to start and make an impact, but Chris Givens (WR68 in ADP) is the guy I would bet on to burn the brightest and the longest from the existing receiving group in St. Louis.
Spratt – The Rams had 10 wide receivers that took snaps in 2011, and, improbably, only Brandon Lloyd secured a positive PFF pass-catcher rating. Now, Lloyd is a Patriot, and the Rams are left with plenty of question marks. Honestly, there is no receiver on the team I am sold on, but given their draft positions, the only receiver I see as a potential value is Steve Smith. Brian Quick is the most talented of the rookie—Quick and Chris Givens—and sophomore—Austin Pettis and Greg Salas—receivers, and he is the one I consider the favorite to emerge on the outside. However, at WR41 and inside the top-100, there is too much other talent available for me to take him there. Smith is now two injury-riddled seasons removed from his 107 reception 2009 campaign that placed him 11th in fantasy at receiver, but he is still just 27 years old. The Rams have been searching for a primary wideout since Torry Holt left in 2008, and with all the attention the Rams have given the position in the subsequent drafts, it is easy to forget that the closest they came to a No. 1 receiver absent Lloyd was bargain free agent Mark Clayton, who racked up 300 yards receiving and 2 TDs in the first four games of 2010 before a knee injury ended his season. Smith has a similar diamond-in-the-rough potential, and he is going undrafted in most leagues, a luxury that allows you to delay commitment to him. Wait a couple of games to see if Smith is more than Danny Amendola insurance, and if he is, cut bait with your least valuable drafted sleeper.
Daneshgar – I mentioned him earlier so I have to go with Danny Amendola. The only thing is that his being in a contract year could mean that he will not be necessarily producing with the St. Louis Rams. In all honestly, none of the other Rams receivers excite me all that much. Brian Quick based on where he was drafted seems like an obvious upside choice but seeing him up close at the Senior Bowl I was not all that impressed. He is a big receiver who does not play big, did not seem to thirst for contact, and just simply did not catch my eye, as one would expect an early second round pick to do. Chris Givens could be a good upside gamble and certainly has a bit of flash to his game. If it were between him and Quick, I would prefer the value of Givens later on.
Fontaine – St. Louis has seemingly thrown tons of capital at the wide receiver position in the last two drafts with little to show for it. Austin Pettis and Greg Salas are already on the bubble, and now they have added Brian Quick and Chris Givens to the mix. Looking back at Jeff Fisher’s offenses in Tennessee, they never had a dominant fantasy receiver – which makes me skeptical if this offense can support a productive slot option (Danny Amendola/Salas). I would give Quick consideration if he fell past his current ADP but is not a player I am setting out to target per say. I will agree with the group and say that Givens has the best chance to be a productive player at a fraction of the cost of Quick.
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