Fantasy 5: Looking for a value at RB? Try Rashad Jennings
He may not be the most exciting pick, but he's still the Giants RB to own. Plus, sleeper WRs in Buffalo and Cleveland and positive signs in Miami.
Fantasy 5: Looking for a value at RB? Try Rashad Jennings
Every weekday, the Fantasy 5 will take a look at the five most important NFL news stories for fantasy football players, giving you the advice you need to improve your team.
Building a draft board is the most important thing you can do throughout the fantasy football draft season. This isn’t something you can accomplish in one sitting. It takes time and research. You’re going to tinker with things over the next two months. But all of the prep is worth it when draft day rolls around.
Of course, we’ll be here every step of the way with five fantasy items that you need to know as you prepare to dominate your draft. Here’s today’s Fantasy 5.
1. The Giants RB to own is … Rashad Jennings
Okay, so I’m stating the obvious here, but Jennings is currently going as the 38th running back off the board with an ADP of 8.08. That’s extremely late for a player who finished 19th in standard scoring and 22nd in PPR last season.
The concern in fantasy circles is that rookie Paul Perkins will immediately eat into Jennings’ workload, but Giants.com’s John Schmeelk expects Jennings to see 15-18 carries per game, with Shane Vereen mixing in 5-10 carries a game and serving as the primary third-down back. While the projection may seem a bit lofty, Jennings averaged just under 20 carries per game over the final four games of last season. Over that stretch he rattled off 432 yards at a clip of 5.5 yards per carry.
Perkins is an exciting player who was the most elusive back in the FBS last year, racking up 85 forced missed tackles on 265 touches. From a player comparison standpoint, he has some similarities with Cleveland’s Duke Johnson. That suggests he may be more of a backup to Shane Vereen than to Jennings, though Perkins did flash ability as a runner at UCLA. Jennings appears to be in the driver’s seat for the lion’s share of touches in New York. While he isn’t a sexy name to put on the draft board, he’s a good bet to return strong value at his current ADP.
2. A reason to like Miami’s fantasy options a little bit more
With new head coach Adam Gase at the helm, the Dolphins have been one of this offseason’s most buzz-worthy offenses. This is a unit that will look very different from last season’s incarnation. Gase and offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen plan to deploy a much faster pace with the goal of running more snaps per game. Last year, the Dolphins averaged 66.1 snaps per game, which ranked 26th in the league. That’s three fewer snaps per game than Gase’s offense in Chicago, and 4.5 per game fewer than Indianapolis where Christensen was the quarterbacks coach last season.
Tempo is a good thing for fantasy purposes. Just look at Philadelphia in the Chip Kelly era. His fast-paced offense had the Eagles running roughly 75 plays per game. That extra volume means extra opportunities to score fantasy points.
Gase has shown the ability to run an effective offense in the past, and his presence bodes well for this entire unit. Of course, quarterback Ryan Tannehill is a bit of a wild card. He has flashed ability and was a fantasy asset at times in his career, but he also hasn’t seemed to take the step forward we’ve seen out of some of his peers. However, the Dolphins are allowing him more freedom to make adjustments at the line of scrimmage. The fantasy value of Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, and rookie Leonte Carroo is closely tied to Tannehill’s progress. That being said, the extra volume for this offense gives the Miami skill players a little extra fantasy appeal.
3. The dynasty outlook is bright for Browns WR Rashard Higgins
With a new regime in place, the Browns set out to completely overhaul their wide receiver corps this offseason. The exclamation point came on draft day when Cleveland selected four wideouts, the last of whom was Higgins in the fifth round. However, ESPN Cleveland’s Tony Grossi believes Higgins and Andrew Hawkins are the front-runners to start along with first-round pick Corey Coleman.
A PFF College favorite, Higgins graded out as the No. 2 receiver in the FBS in 2014 and followed that up with a 12th-place finish last season. He put up big numbers at Colorado State with 239 catches for 3,649 yards and 31 scores. Higgins isn’t particularly fast – 4.64 40 time – but he’s one of the most polished route-runners in this year’s rookie class. Our college analysts compared him to Isaac Bruce.
Fantasy owners need to take notice of Higgins. He was a straight-up steal for the Browns on Day 3 and he’s going to make an immediate impact in this offense. Of course, Cleveland could certainly have their struggles this season, especially given the quarterback situation. So Higgins may not be a strong season-long option in the short term. However, his dynasty outlook is bright. Better yet, he’s currently coming off the board as a huge value at the tail end of the third round in dynasty rookie drafts.
4. Know the name: Dezmin Lewis
Around this time last year, we started hearing rumblings about some kid turning heads in New Orleans named Willie Snead. Those who paid attention got the jump on Snead and possibly owned him for his 35th-place fantasy finish last season. This year, Lewis is a name who has surfaced a couple of times this offseason after performing well for the Bills in the spring.
A second-year receiver out of Central Arkansas, Lewis checks in at an impressive 6-foot-4, 215 pounds. He drew praise in the predraft process, but also entered the league very raw. Lewis turned heads on the Buffalo coaching staff with his work ethic and progress over the offseason. With the Bills relatively thin at wide receiver after Sammy Watkins, Lewis has a legitimate shot at the No. 3 job. With his height and big frame, Lewis has the potential to be a red-zone asset. But he also has good speed for his size, running a 4.46 at his pro day. At this point, Lewis is only a name to monitor in redraft leagues, but it’s advisable to preemptively stash him in deep dynasty leagues.
5. Pump the brakes on Anthony Hitchens in IDP leagues
With Rolando McClain suspended for the first 10 games of the season, the Cowboys are in a bit of a pickle at middle linebacker. Anthony Hitchens is the early favorite to assume the starting duties, but veteran Andrew Gachkar and seventh-rounder Mark Nzeocha are also in the mix. DallasCowboys.com’s Bryan Broadus said all three players will get “reps in practice and a couple of games” and whoever steps up will get the job. He also said to expect the front office to make a move if no one is able to seize the job.
This situation has obvious implications for the Dallas defense, but from an IDP standpoint, it isn’t safe to simply assume that Hitchens is the replacement. We’ve seen Hitchens as an every-down starter at multiple points over the last two seasons, but he’s generally failed to impress and proved to be a liability against the run last season. Gachkar saw limited work for the Cowboys last year, and was more of a subpackage option in his time with San Diego. Nzeocha is an athletic player out of Wyoming who is coming off a season-ending knee injury in October. At this point, the job is far from locked up for Hitchens, and Nzeocha is worth keeping an eye on in dynasty leagues.
Jeff Ratcliffe | 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.