Fantasy 5: Maclin’s release raises Tyreek Hill’s stock
The Chiefs sent the veteran receiver packing Friday. Jeff Ratcliffe on the impact of that on Tyreek Hill, plus some rookies to know.
Fantasy 5: Maclin’s release raises Tyreek Hill’s stock
(The Fantasy 5 is a quick-hit wrap-up of some of the biggest news topics of the day for fantasy football players, giving you advice you need to improve your team.)
There’s no such thing as a perfect draft strategy. Drafts are dynamic with constantly shifting variables. They also require different approaches based on the scoring settings and roster requirements. We recently conducted a deep league mock draft with 16 teams where our mockers had to adjust their draft tactics. Be sure to check out the results. But before you do, here are the five biggest news items fantasy players need to know from this past weekend.
1. Chiefs send Jeremy Maclin packing
In a surprise move, Kansas City severed ties with the veteran receiver Friday evening. The move comes after a disappointing 2016 campaign where Maclin managed just 44 catches for 536 yards and two scores. He topped 1,000 yards in each of his previous two seasons, but injuries and lackluster play plague Maclin last season.
Immediately linked to several teams, Maclin is reportedly in preliminary talks with the Bills where former Eagles teammate, LeSean McCoy, has been actively recruiting. Sammy Watkins, Zay Jones, and Andre Holmes are currently projected to start in three-wide sets for Buffalo. With Watkins’ injury history and Jones already banged up, the Bills are precariously thin at the position. Signing Maclin would make a lot of sense, but Buffalo isn’t the most ideal spot for fantasy value as the Bills have been one of the league’s run-heaviest offenses in recent seasons.
The fallout in Kansas City is perhaps more appealing. Maclin’s departure thins out an already slender depth chart, but it also opens the door for Tyreek Hill to assume a larger role in the offense. With Maclin on the roster, it was tough to see a path for Hill to see significantly more work than he did last season.
Chris Conley is all but locked into one of the outside receiver spots, so Hill would have only been on the field in three-wide sets. The Chiefs has three wide receivers on the field on just 57 percent of their passing plays last season, which ranked 31st in the league. With Maclin gone, Hill will likely play every down, which moves him from a high ceiling WR3, to a viable WR2 with weekly WR1 upside. The Chiefs will still be a conservative offense with Alex Smith under center, but Hill’s fantasy stock is certainly on the rise.
2. Josh Norman to shadow opposing No. 1 receivers
Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Manusky confirmed that Josh Norman will travel with opposing No. 1 receivers. However, it should be noted that ESPN’s John Keim said that while Washington will use Norman in a shadow role, “it doesn’t mean they always will.”
This is an important qualification when you consider the receivers in Norman’s division. Norman does well with bigger-bodied receivers, so that means we can expect shadows against Dez Bryant and Alshon Jeffery. But what about Odell Beckham Jr.? Norman doesn’t far as well against shorter, shiftier receivers, but he has shadowed Beckham in the past, including last season. So it’s likely that trend continues.
In his six games against NFC East divisional opponents last season, Norman allowed 15 catches on 27 targets for 193 yards and zero scores. While he didn’t record an interception in those games, he did manage five pass breakups.
3. End of the road for Dennis Pitta?
The Ravens tight end suffered a dislocated hip for the third time. He’ll undergo surgery for the injury, but this is likely the end of Pitta’s football career. Pitta returned to the Ravens from the same injury last season, and led all tight ends in catches with 86. He was also Baltimore’s top target, pacing the team with 116 targets.
With Pitta out of the picture, the Ravens are left with Ben Watson, who is returning from an Achilles injury, along with Maxx Williams, Crockett Gillmore, and Nick Boyle at tight end. It’s tough to predict exactly how the Ravens will deploy their options at this point, but we aren’t likely to see one clear option lead the group like Pitta did last season. That means minimal opportunity for fantasy value.
4. Know the name: Chris Godwin
It’s still early in the offseason process, but Godwin has reportedly been making plays in Tampa Bay OTAs. Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter praised the third-rounder’s play, and Jameis Winston went as far as calling him “an amazing young talent.”
Of course, it’s the time of fluff where tropes reign supreme in the news cycle, but Godwin is an exciting rookie who should at least be in your fantasy rolodex. At this point, his path to playing time is somewhat blocked with Adam Humpries projecting as the slot receiver along with Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson on the outside. However, Koetter said Godwin is capable of playing both inside and outside, so it’s a situation worth monitoring throughout the pre-season. Godwin may not surface on the fantasy radar in Year 1, but his long-term fantasy outlook is bullish.
5. Also know the name: Taywan Taylor
This year’s crop of rookie receivers doesn’t rival the likes of the 2014 class, but there are certainly some talented players in the bunch. Unlike teammate Corey Davis, Taylor wasn’t one of the biggest names in this year’s group, but he was still selected on Day 2 as a third-rounder. Like Godwin, he’s also impressing in OTAs.
With a combined 184 catches for 3,197 yards and 34 scores over his last two college seasons, Taylor was one of the most productive receivers in this year’s class. He landed in a great spot on a thin Titans depth chart. Davis and Rishard Matthews project as the starts on the outside, but Taylor has the early edge to contribute in three-wide sets. He isn’t likely to be much of a fantasy asset in that role on a run-heavy offense, but fantasy players should also file Taylor’s name away.
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.