Fantasy 5: Running backs and wide receivers in flux
Jeff Ratcliffe takes a fantasy trip through the day's news, including RB situations in Kansas City and Cincinnati and WRs in Indianapolis and Jacksonville.
Fantasy 5: Running backs and wide receivers in flux
This time of year in the NFL is kind of like New Year’s Day. I’m not talking about the afternoon of Jan. 1, when you kick back and relax. I mean when the clock strikes midnight. There’s this huge buildup on New Year’s Eve. The energy is palpable. Then you reach the countdown. Five, four, three … cut to the ball dropping … two, one. Everyone celebrates! And then that’s it. It’s really the most anticlimactic holiday of them all.
That’s sort of how things are following the NFL draft. We have several months of preparation that culminates with the draft, and then we hit one of the slowest times of the year on the NFL calendar. But even in this time of year, there’s still plenty of news from around the league. Here are five stories to know for Wednesday, May 10:
1. The running back to own in Kansas City is…
This is going to be one of the more challenging backfields to decipher this offseason. The Chiefs still have incumbent started Spencer Ware, but they also spent a Day 2 draft pick on PFF College favorite Kareem Hunt. The early indication from the Kansas City beat is that Ware will hold onto starting duties with Hunt’s playing time possibly increasing over the course of the season.
I’m not quite sure I buy that perspective. Hunt was arguably the most underrated talent in a very deep running back class. At Toledo he flashed ability as a receiver and was one of the most elusive backs in the nation last year. Ware is coming off a solid 2016 campaign where he managed a respectable 921 yards on 214 carries with a solid 2.8 yards after contact. He also caught 33 balls for 447 yards. However, what fantasy owners will quickly point out, he found the end zone just three times as a runner and twice as receiver.
Ware’s ADP is all over the place in the industry depending on where you draft right now, but the average is right around RB18, which Hunt is going outside the top 60 at the position. Expect that gap to close over the course of the next three months, but at this point, Hunt offers the better value. Until we get more clarity regarding the Chiefs’ backfield, both players are risky fantasy picks in redraft leagues.
2. Joe Mixon to hit the ground running
While Kansas City’s backfield is murky, the situation in Cincinnati seems to be much easier to decode after the Bengals spent a second-round pick on Mixon. The expectation from the Cincinnati beat is that Mixon “will get a heavy dose of playing time right away” including work as a returner.
This take doesn’t come as a surprise with Giovani Bernard still recovering from a torn ACL and Jeremy Hill disappointing in each of the last two years. However, the bigger question in Cincinnati is how their offensive line will perform with Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher manning the starting spots at both tackle positions. Neither of the 2015 picks has been able to excel at the NFL thus far in their careers. Mixon is likely in a position where he’ll see heavy volume, but it isn’t wise to view him as anything more than an RB2 in his rookie season.
3. More YAC for Donte Moncrief?
The Colts receiver wants to increase his yards after catch following an abysmal average of just 2.5 yards in 2016. Moncrief’s YAC has declined in each of the last two years after he posted a strong 6.7 yards after catch in his rookie season.
You know it’s a slow news cycle if we’re talking about this sort of thing, but Moncrief is an intriguing player to discuss for fantasy purposes. He’s coming off a disappointing 2016 campaign where injuries cost him seven games. However, he did have a Cris Carter-esque level of productivity with seven scores on just 30 catches. That level of productivity will be extremely difficult to sustain, but Moncrief offers upside as a front-end WR3 option. He’s currently going 29th among wide receivers in ADP, which will cost you a mid-sixth round pick.
4. Rashad Greene on the roster bubble.
He was Jameis Winston’s favorite receiver in 2014 with 99 catches for 1,365 yards and seven scores. However, that success has not translated over to the professional level. Greene has just 24 catches and has missed 15 games due to injury over the last two seasons. The Jaguars just spent a fourth-round pick on Dede Westbrook, who profiles very similarly to Greene.
With Allen Robinson, Marquis Lee, and Allen Hurns all locks for the 53-man roster, the competition for the remaining roster spots will come down to Green, Westbrook, Bryan Walters, and Arrelious Benn. At this point, Greene could be on the outside looking in. Those holding out hope for Greene in deep dynasty leagues may want to temper their expectations.
5. Tom Savage plans to win the Texans starting job.
It would be alarming if someone in his position didn’t say as much, but the deck is stacked against Savage in 2017 after the Texans traded away their 2018 first-round pick to move up and select Deshaun Watson.
Following the draft, Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said “Tom is our starter,” but there’s a lot of time between late-April and the start of the season. Of the quarterback prospects in this year’s class, Watson has the most polished resume and is the most prepared to step in as a starter. The competition between Savage and Watson should be interesting, but it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising if Watson wins the job outright. As the starter, Watson won’t have much re-draft value outside of 2QB formats. However, his landing spot and opportunity make Watson the top quarterback option in dynasty rookie drafts. Watson is worth a late-second round pick in 12-team rookie drafts.
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.