Fantasy 5: Rams RB Todd Gurley is being overvalued
Why fantasy expectations for Rams RB might be too high. Plus, the Giants' star rookie WR, and what to make of Le'Veon Bell and Sammy Watkins injuries.
Fantasy 5: Rams RB Todd Gurley is being overvalued
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.
1. Todd Gurley is being overvalued for fantasy
Move over, Steelers, the NFL’s newest explosive offense is in … Los Angeles? Speaking with the team site, Rams offensive coordinator Rob Boras stressed the need to generate offense by utilizing the Rams’ explosive players. Of course, Gurley, the team’s second-year star running back, is at the top of that list.
[Where should you draft Gurley? Check out our round-by-round pick recommendations based on draft order and league settings in PFF’s new fantasy draft tool.]
While Boras’ comments sound great, we’re in the season of coachspeak where tropes roll off the tongue faster than Usain Bolt in the 100-meter dash. Gurley is certainly explosive, but the picture Boras and head coach Jeff Fisher paint of this Rams offense is decidedly rosy. Los Angles enters the year with either a rookie in Jared Goff or a career backup in Case Keenum under center. They also lack viable receiving threats. Opposing defenses know what’s coming – lots of Gurley – and they’re going to key the run game. Gurley is a fantastic player, but expectations for his fantasy potential seem to be a bit lofty this season. The Rams are likely to struggle on offense, and that’s going to limit Gurley’s production. Given the state of the offense, it’s tough to consider him a top-end RB1. I suspect he’ll be overdrafted this year, and I currently have him eighth in my latest rankings.
2. Giants WR Sterling Shepard could have a breakout rookie season
NJ.com’s Jordan Raanan called rookie WR Sterling Shepard an instant-impact player, and it’s tough to argue against him. Shepard finished as our No. 1 receiver last season, as graded by the PFF College staff. While he’s not a true burner, he flashed sub-4.5 wheels at the combine and posted a 41-inch vertical jump. The testing numbers suggest explosive ability, but there’s more substance than glitter with Shepard. He racked up 1,266 yards on 85 catches last season, displaying versatility as a route runner — the vast majority of his targets came out of the slot, but he was very effective on deep routes as well. In the Giants’ offense, Shepard figures to be Victor Cruz 2.0. He provides an instant upgrade to a wide receiver corps that has struggled to find a viable running mate to Odell Beckham Jr. over the last two years. Expect Shepard to hit the ground running and become an immediate fantasy asset. He has borderline WR3 appeal and is currently coming off the board at an ADP of WR45.
3. Le’Veon Bell is poised to have a huge fantasy year
Bell is the top-ranked fantasy running back heading into 2016, but he’s also recovering from a torn MCL and PCL that he suffered in Week 8 of last season. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler said Bell is training in Miami “going very hard” and wants to “cut and run freely.” The expectation is for Bell to open camp on a limited basis, but Fowler suggested Bell could be playing as early as Week 3 of the preseason. That would be an ideal scenario for Bell’s fantasy prospects, as a preseason return to full action would mean all systems go for the season opener. Bell is an elite fantasy option when healthy. In the six games he played last season, only Devonta Freeman out-touched Bell. He is the No. 2 overall player in my rankings right now, behind only teammate Antonio Brown.
4. Sammy Watkins’ fantasy value is dropping slightly due to injury
Another injury situation with the potential to have an impact on the fantasy landscape is playing out in Buffalo with Watkins coming off foot surgery in April. With no timetable, Watkins said Saturday that he may not be allowed to return to the field until the start of the regular season. This is a backtrack from comments he made earlier in the month about definitely being ready for camp. Watkins is one of the most electric players in the league, and few possess his fantasy upside. Last season, only Jacksonville’s Allen Robinson tallied more yards on deep-ball passes (thrown 20-plus yards downfield), and Watkins ranked fourth among wide receivers in average depth of target, (aDOT) at 18.3. With Tyrod Taylor providing some stability at quarterback, Watkins appears to be on the verge of cementing his place among the WR1s, but the ambiguity of his status is certainly cause for concern. For now, we have to operate under that assumption that he’ll be on the field in Week 1, but the uncertainty is enough to push him slightly down draft boards into the front-end WR2 range.
5. Keep an eye on Washington LB Will Compton in IDP leagues
And one news item for the IDP crowd. To be successful in IDP drafts, you really need to ignore defensive players in the early rounds. Load up on offensive players, and be prepared to scoop value on the defensive side of the ball in the middle and late rounds. Knowing which defensive players to select in these phases of the draft is essential. So it’s a good idea to pinpoint linebackers who projected to play all three downs. Every-down players have the highest fantasy floors because they have the most opportunity to accumulate stats. One player I’m highlighting on my draft boards this year is Redskins LB Will Compton. CSN Mid-Atlantic projects Compton and Mason Foster to open camp as the starting off-ball linebackers. Compton started Washington’s final nine games last season (including the playoff loss), finishing as a top-36 fantasy option over that span with a solid tackles per opportunity rate (tPOP) of 13.2. While Compton graded out poorly overall last season, he’s in a good position to play a three-down role and should be considered an LB3-plus in balanced scoring IDP 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.