Fantasy 5: How to value Lions fantasy options after Boldin signing

What signing means for Eric Ebron, Golden Tate and Marvin Jones. Plus, Jordy Nelson's injury, Carlos Hyde's upside and the Dolphins RB rotation.

| 11 months ago
(AP Photo/Paul Sancya

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Fantasy 5: How to value Lions fantasy options after Boldin signing

After months of asking “are we there yet?”, we are officially there. Training camp is underway across the league, and we’re just a week-and-a-half away from actual football.

Things are starting to pick up in the news, but here are the five most important things to know from the last 24 hours:

1. How does the Anquan Boldin signing alter the Lions’ fantasy landscape?

Eric Ebron owners let out a collective sigh yesterday when the Lions signed Boldin to a one-year deal. Boldin is entering is his age-36 season but has proven to be one of the most consistent receivers in the league over the last decade-plus. He has seen triple-digit targets in every season since 2006, has topped 1,000 yards seven times, and twice went over 100 catches.

For fantasy purposes, Boldin gives the Lions a strong receiver out of the slot. Last season, he ran 64.7 percent of his routes out of the slot. That’s an interesting fit, as the Lions used Golden Tate out of the slot 56.0 percent of the time in 2015. Reading the tea leaves might suggest that Tate could be used more on the outside in 3-wide sets, though that’s still speculation at this point.

Boldin’s presence deflates any of the T.J. Jones hype, and certainly takes targets away from Tate, Ebron, and Marvin Jones. That being said, the signing doesn’t significantly move the needle for any of these three. Tate is still the top target and worthy of WR2 consideration, Ebron is a TE2 who should still be considered a breakout candidate, and Jones remains an upside player on the fringes of the WR3 conversation. Boldin finished 2015 as fantasy’s No. 43 wide receiver, but it’s tough to envision him cracking the top 50 this season.

2. Training camp battle: Arian Foster vs. Jay Ajayi

There are a lot of question marks across the league as we enter training camp. Among them is how the Dolphins will deploy their backfield. The team has voiced support throughout the offseason for incumbent second-year man Ajayi, but also signed C.J. Anderson to an offer sheet that Denver ultimately matched, and later ended up signing the veteran Foster.

While the initial take on the latter move was that Ajayi would remain the starter, Dolphins head coach Adam Gase praised Foster’s play saying “he runs about as smooth as any running back that I’ve ever seen.” That’s coachspeak, for sure, but the fact remains that Foster could have a prominent role in the Miami offense and factor in as more than just a receiver. Health is always a concern with Foster, but the potential for a larger workload is certainly intriguing. Foster is currently going just three picks after Ajayi in the seventh round of fantasy drafts.

3. Don’t undervalue Carlos Hyde

We didn’t get to see much of Hyde last year, as the third-year man landed on injured reserve following a foot injury in Week 7. Up to that point, Hyde had 470 yards on the ground, but 168 of those yards came in his Week 1 outburst against the Vikings. Still, he was one of the league’s most elusive backs up to that point, forcing 35 missed tackles on 126 touches. Only Marshawn Lynch and Dion Lewis forced a missed tackle more frequently than Hyde did last season.

With Chip Kelly now in at head coach, the 49ers will run an up-tempo offense that translates to more opportunities for the San Francisco players to score fantasy points. It’s also an offense that is similar to the one Hyde played in at Ohio State. Under Kelly in Philadelphia, LeSean McCoy posted back-to-back seasons with 300-plus carries. Over the past five seasons, 13 running backs have topped the 300-carry mark. All of them finished as RB1s.

If Hyde stays healthy, 300 carries is certainly within reason. Yet the drafting public seemingly hasn’t caught up to Hyde, as he’s currently going as the 18th running back off the board. That’s an excellent value for a player who is in a very favorable situation with limited competition for touches. Hyde is a front-end RB2 who is oozing with RB1 upside.

4. Should fantasy drafters be concerned about Jordy Nelson?

As of this writing, Nelson is going as the No. 7 wide receiver in fantasy drafts. This seemed to be a reasonable spot that aligns with our site projections for Nelson. However, Nelson is coming off a torn ACL and reportedly had a “hiccup” with his other knee. Nelson gave the “nothing to see here” routine, and it was reported that he’s dealing with tendonitis. But this isn’t exactly what we want to be hearing at this time of year.

Nelson’s current ADP places him at the turn of the first and second rounds. Spending a pick that early on a player who is having issues crop up with camp opening is certainly sub-optimal. Players going in the same range include Lamar Miller, Rob Gronkowski, Allen Robinson and Alshon Jeffery. While question marks abound in the NFL right now, those players all make for more ideal options than Nelson at that point in the draft. The good news is that we still have plenty of time before draft season is in full swing. But we’re going to have to closely monitor Nelson’s status as we move through the preseason.

5. Is Victor Cruz even draftable?

Cruz is another player returning from injury. The veteran receiver and former WR1 has missed the Giants’ last 26 games. On Cruz’s comeback, the New York Daily News put his catch total at under 50 for the 2016 season, saying the lion’s share of the Giants’ passing game will run through Odell Beckham Jr. and rookie Sterling Shepard.

This is by no means a hot take, as we currently have Cruz projected for 35 catches. Yet, despite the pessimism surrounding Cruz’s return, the drafting public continues to take fliers on Cruz in the late rounds of fantasy drafts. He’s currently going as the No. 57 wide receiver with an ADP in the 13th round. That’s an ideal point in drafts to shoot for upside, and that’s something Cruz simply doesn’t offer. Players like Colts WR Phillip Dorsett, Steelers WR Sammie Coates, Broncos RB Devontae Booker, Giants RB Paul Perkins, and Bears RB Jordan Howard have significantly more upside and can all be drafted in the same area. It’s wise to pass on Cruz in the late rounds of your drafts.

| Director of Fantasy

Jeff Ratcliffe is the Director of Fantasy at Pro Football Focus. He produces all of our projections and is 2016's second-most-accurate ranker in the fantasy industry. Jeff also is the host of our show on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio and is one of the main hosts of our Fantasy Slant podcast.

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