Fantasy 5: Will Andrew Luck rebound in 2016?
Armed with a big new contract, can the Colts QB jump back to the fantasy elite? Also, Tampa Bay TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Cincinnati WR Tyler Boyd.
Fantasy 5: Will Andrew Luck rebound in 2016?
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.
Tom Petty once said “the waiting is the hardest part.” That pretty much sums up the feeling at this time of year. We’re so close to the start of the NFL season, yet so far away.
The good news is there’s a lot to know before we dive headlong into the fantasy draft season, and we’re going to be with you every step of the way. Here’s today’s need-to-know information from across the league.
1. Will Andrew Luck rebound in fantasy in 2016?
Back up the Brinks truck, because Luck just got some serious cash. The Colts signed Luck to a six-year, $140 million deal that includes $87 million in guaranteed money. The new contract makes Luck the highest-paid player in the league with an average of $23.3 million per season. We discussed the Luck deal on last night’s PFF Fantasy Slant podcast.
From a football standpoint, this was an obvious move for the Colts. There are currently just north of 7.4 billion people on the planet, and only about 15 of them can play quarterback at a true NFL level. Luck is one of those people. With roughly half of the league kidding themselves at the position, it makes sense to lock Luck up with a big deal for the long term.
But for fantasy purposes, we seem to be ignoring the elephant in the room. Last year, Luck was the top quarterback taken in fantasy drafts with an ADP in the late first round. He failed to return value on that lofty average draft position, ranking 12th in fantasy scoring through the first nine weeks of the season. Of course, apologists will point to his injury issues as reason for his down year, but Luck has shown deficiencies previous to last season. He’s struggled in the face of pressure, and that continued last season with Luck seeing pressure on over 40 percent of his dropbacks and completing just 37.7 percent of his throws when pressured.
To be fair, I do expect Luck to rebound from last season, but it’s hard to slot him right back in as a top-3 fantasy option. Current ADP has him in the No. 3 spot at the position, ahead of Russell Wilson, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger. It may be splitting hairs, but I’d prefer any of those three over Luck, and think there’s a good possibility Luck doesn’t return value at his ADP of 4.12.
[What’s the right time to draft a quarterback this season? Try a few mocks in our new fantasy draft tool and find what works for you.]
2. Tyler Boyd is expected to help the Bengals offense – but that might not translate to fantasy
The expectation comes from Bengals receivers coach James Urban who also said “we’re excited to see [Boyd].” Following an offseason where Cincinnati let both Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu walk in free agency, the team selected Boyd in the second round of April’s draft.
He’s a versatile receiver who showed the ability to play in the slot and on the outside in college. Boyd also had at least one catch on 13 different types of routes last season. He figures to assume Sanu’s role as the primary slot receiver with Brandon LaFell taking over for Jones on the outside opposite A.J. Green.
The drafting public is currently endorsing Boyd over LaFell, with the former going as the 61st wide receiver off the board and the latter essentially undrafted. While Boyd’s long-term outlook is intriguing for dynasty purposes, he isn’t a lock to out-target LaFell. Perhaps more importantly, the No. 2 wide receiver in this offense is really the fourth option in the target pecking order, behind Green, tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Giovani Bernard. With volume capped, the potential for a strong fantasy season out of either LaFell or Boyd is extremely limited.
3. Doubts about Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ fantasy value
There’s no denying Bucs tight end Seferian-Jenkins’ physical ability, but questions abound about his NFL future after the third-year player was removed from practice earlier this month. On Seferian-Jenkins, head coach Dirk Koetter said “he didn’t know what he was doing.” This event came just three weeks after Koetter suggested Seferian-Jenkins is in a battle with Cameron Brate for the starting job. Since then, a string of awkward social media gaffes and a possible attitude problem haven’t helped the cause.
Entering the offseason, Seferian-Jenkins was a player many in the fantasy industry expected would finally make the leap after flashing upside as a red zone option last season. Given his series of unfortunate events and Koetter’s affinity for Brate, it’s really tough to place any fantasy chips on Seferian-Jenkins. Brate isn’t anything special, but the former UDFA out of Harvard did score three touchdowns on 30 targets last season. If he’s able to win the job, Brate will surface on the back-end of the TE2 radar.
4. Titans WR Dorial Green-Beckham is studying, but don’t overlook Tajae Sharpe.
It’s the time of year where many in the fantasy community are identifying potential breakout players for the upcoming season. Green-Beckham is a name on a lot of people’s lists, but recent events have us pumping the brakes. He entered the league last year as a raw second-rounder with impressive size and athleticism. After floundering for much of the year, he flashed down the stretch with two 100-yard performances in the last five games of the season.
Reports out of Titans OTAs suggested a more focused Green-Beckham who reported to practice in good shape. However, rookie Tajae Sharpe quickly moved past him on the depth chart. Green-Beckham had a hamstring issue, but was also called out for mental errors by head coach Mike Mularkey.
Green-Beckham said he’s studying the playbook, but the jury is certainly still out on him taking a step forward this season. Despite being picked in the fifth round, Sharpe is no slouch. He was extremely productive at UMass with 2,588 yards over the last two seasons. He’ll likely open camp as a starter and has the potential to be one of the more productive wide receivers from this year’s rookie class.
5. Can Jadeveon Clowney turn it around?
The former No. 1 overall pick has been a general disappointment, dealing with microfracture surgery, a meniscus procedure, a sports hernia operation, a concussion, an ankle injury and a lower back injury thus far in his pro career. However, Texans linebackers coach Mike Vrabel said Clowney is “determined” entering this season.
Determination is one thing, but staying healthy another issue entirely. If Clowney is able to avoid the injury bug this season, he’s going to need to take a step forward on the field. Last year, he recorded a quarterback pressure (sack, hit or hurry) on 10 percent of his pass-rush snaps. That’s significantly lower than teammate Whitney Mercillus (14.8) and is on the low end of edge rusher production across the league.
Of course, for IDP purposes, Clowney has the dreaded “LB” designation, which saps much of his fantasy potential outside of big-play scoring formats where sacks are valued at a premium. Still, Clowney has flashed moments of brilliance over the last two years, and could be one of the rare fantasy-viable edge linebackers if he puts it all together.
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.