Fantasy 5: Green-Beckham falling behind in the Titans’ pecking order
With several mouths to feed and a rookie seemingly jumping him on the depth chart, Jeff Ratcliffe says it'll be hard to use DGB in fantasy.
Fantasy 5: Green-Beckham falling behind in the Titans’ pecking order
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.
Should you go running back or wide receiver in the first round of your draft? The short answer: Yes. If the top player on your board is a wide receiver, select that player. Likewise, take the top player on your board if it’s a running back. The point being that you don’t want to lock yourself into a strategy. Doing so will almost always cause you to miss out on value.
Your best bet is to start building a draft board right now, and follow that board when draft day rolls around. Of course, we have the tools to help you in that process here at PFF. We also keep you up to speed on everything you need to know about the fantasy-relevant players across the league. Here’s today’s Fantasy 5:
1. The Titans wide receiver to own is … not Dorial Green-Beckham
We don’t expect the Titans to be a prolific passing offense in 2016. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, especially after head coach Mike Mularkey said he hoped the replicate the “exotic smashmouth” offense of the early-2000s Steelers. It’s a ground-and-pound style that the Titans are set up for with the additions of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry at running back. Tennessee is also expected to take the training wheels off of Marcus Mariota, and allow the second-year quarterback to run more this season.
Mariota is an interesting late-round fantasy quarterback for that very reason, but he’s very unlikely to top 4,000 passing yards. That being said, there still could be potential value to be had among the Titans wide receivers. Incumbent Kendall Wright is all but inked in to a starting job. Wright has some appeal, but his tendency to freelance routes and failure to take a significant step forward so far as a pro make him a low upside fantasy option. He’ll man the slot for the Titans, with Rishard Matthews and rookie Tajae Sharpe the favorites to play outside in 3-wide sets.
Matthews signed with the Titans in the offseason, and he’s coming off a solid season with the Dolphins. He was especially effective over the first eight games last year, ranking 21st among wide receivers – tied with Amari Cooper – in fantasy scoring with 500 yards and four touchdowns on 33 catches. He’s a sneaky bet to lead the Tennessee wideouts in receiving.
Sharpe is a strong route-runner out of UMass who blew right by Dorial Green-Beckham on the depth chart in offseason practices. While Sharpe is somewhat of a longshot to be a viable fantasy asset, his presence certainly throws cold water on the Green-Beckham breakout narrative. Green-Beckham is currently the first Titans wide receiver being drafted as the 42nd player off the board at the position. That’s way too high for a player who isn’t guaranteed to start when the season opens.
2. Saints courting Anquan Boldin, which isn’t good for Michael Thomas.
Despite a lackluster surrounding cast and an early-season shoulder injury, Drew Brees continued to roll last season. With a stronger skill-position group that includes free agent TE Coby Fleener and rookie WR Michael Thomas, Brees has an intriguing fantasy profile in 2016. And New Orleans could potentially be adding another weapon, as it was reported Thursday that the Saints are “making the strongest push” to sign WR Anquan Boldin.
A 13-year veteran, Boldin has amassed seven 1,000-yard seasons and twice topped the 100-catch plateau. He’s also seen at least 100 targets in every season since the stat began to be recorded in 2006. If signed, Boldin would give the Saints a reliable possession receiver, but one who is entering his age-36 season. For fantasy purposes, Boldin would offer a reasonably high floor, but limited upside. However, his presence would significantly alter Thomas’ trajectory in 2016. There’s optimism surrounding Thomas, though he’s at best fourth in the target pecking order. He’s currently a late-round flier, but a Boldin signing would essentially knock Thomas off the fantasy radar.
3. Don’t overvalue Tyler Lockett.
The Lockett buzz has been building all offseason, but be cautious with the second-year man and former PFF College favorite. The Seattle Times noted that while Lockett has taken a step forward, Jermaine Kearse “figures to maintain a healthy presence” in the Seahawks’ offense.
Kearse saw 66 targets to Lockett’s 67 last season. While we anticipate that gap to increase this season, our projections currently have Lockett at 80.6 targets. He comes in as the No. 45 receiver, which is nearly 10 spots behind his current ADP. Of course, Lockett offers massive upside, as he displayed in his rookie campaign. However, limited target volume in one of the league’s most run-heavy offenses doesn’t bode positively for Lockett. His explosive ability gives Lockett weekly WR2 upside, but he’s best viewed as a front-end WR4.
[Want to see where you might be able to get Lockett in a draft? Take a spin with PFF’s new Draft Master tool to find out, plus get recommendations on the players you should target in every round of your draft.]
4. Pump the breaks on Jonathan Williams.
Earlier this week, I mentioned Williams as a player to watch in Bills training camp as Karlos Williams sheds weight on the sideline. Well, the former Williams didn’t help his cause after being arrested for driving while intoxicated on Thursday morning in Arkansas. Insert face to palm.
The NFL lets the legal process play out first before leveling any suspensions, so Williams isn’t likely to face any immediate discipline from the league. However, this gaff doesn’t reflect well on Williams as he enters his first training camp. At the same time, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the rookie Williams won’t pass the second-year Williams on the depth chart.
With one Williams overweight and the other in legal hot water, the name to potentially monitor in the Buffalo backfield is Mike Gillislee. He played just five games with the Bills last season, but ranked 21st among running backs in fantasy scoring over that span from Weeks 13 to 17, finding the end zone three times and averaging 5.7 yards per carry. Whichever player wins the No. 2 job will be one of the league’s most desirable handcuffs.
5. A career-year on tap for Virgil Green?
Haven’t we heard this one before? A popular breakout candidate last year, Green managed just 12 catches for 173 yards and a score on 14 targets. Statistically, those were the best numbers in five years as a pro. So to be fair, a career year isn’t going to be too difficult to accomplish. However, it isn’t advisable to read too much into yet another Green breakout narrative.
There has been chatter this offseason about second-year man Jeff Heuerman emerging and the Broncos’ primary pass-catching tight end. Heuerman missed all of his rookie season with a torn ACL. He was lightly used as a receiver at Ohio State, but did show well as a blocker. Heuerman is certainly in the mix for the No. 1 role, but there’s also a very real possibility that no Broncos tight end emerges as “the guy.” Denver’s suspect quarterback situation also makes this a less than ideal spot for fantasy value. Fantasy owners are best served avoiding Broncos tight ends in 2016.
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.