Fantasy 5: Why Matt Forte might be overvalued
Jeff Ratcliffe wonders if the Jets' new RB is due for a falloff in production. Plus, chances of a Dez Bryant rebound and a DeVante Parker breakout.
Fantasy 5: Why Matt Forte might be 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.
This is the worst time of year for sports. Okay, so you have midseason baseball, the CFL, Wimbledon, the Tour de France, and maybe a little NASCAR. But none of those compare to a brisk September Sunday afternoon with the smell of fall in the air and football games being played throughout the country. Only two more months to go.
As you get prepped for your fantasy drafts, here are five things from today that you need to know:
1. Is Matt Forte being overvalued?
One of the most consistent fantasy producers over the last several seasons, Forte is entering his age-31 season on a new team with the Jets. While the 30th birthday is often a death knell for a running back’s days as a viable producer, Forte went out and posted a top-10 fantasy season despite missing three games. He now joins Chan Gailey’s high-powered offense that helped Chris Ivory to a career year last season.
While the stars seem to be aligning for a late-career run for Forte, it’s important to consider the depth chart he’s entering. Over the offseason, New York re-signed RB Bilal Powell to a three-year, $11.25 million contract. Powell proved to be a strong receiving asset for the Jets last season racking up 60 targets in 11 games played. That put him on a pace for 87 targets, which would have ranked third behind only Danny Woodhead (96), Theo Riddick (94), and Devonta Freeman (92).
Brian Costello of the New York Post said the Jets “adore” Powell, and he expects him to get “major touches this season.” This is something I’ve noted several times when discussing Forte’s 2016 outlook, but it bears repeating. Powell’s abilities as a receiver overlap with a key area of Forte’s game. Forte will get work in passing situations, but the Jets are going to continue to use Powell in those spots as well. The Jets also have Khiry Robinson in the mix for some of the Chris Ivory role, which means Forte should see a dropoff in touches. He still figures to see the largest share, but 300-plus touches is unlikely. With a current ADP of the 14th running back being selected, Forte is slightly overvalued and should be considered as more of a mid-range RB2.
2. Is Dez Bryant being undervalued?
Last year was ugly for Bryant. After being drafted as the No. 2 fantasy wide receiver behind only Antonio Brown, Bryant finished a lowly 77th in fantasy scoring. Of course, his struggles were in part the byproduct of an early-season foot injury and having to play without Tony Romo for most of the season. Bryant also attributes his poor play to mentally not trusting his foot following surgery in late-September.
It was the perfect storm for Bryant – and really the Cowboys as a whole – last season. Injuries ravaged the team, and that’s just something that can happen in the NFL. However, injuries aren’t predictable and they really shouldn’t be used in fantasy evaluation. Yet, I’ve noticed a lot of people are down on Bryant this year, and place him well behind the Big 3 of Brown, Odell Beckham Jr. and Julio Jones.
This line of thinking seems to place too much stock in last year while ignoring the fact that Bryant was a top-five fantasy receiver in each of the three previous seasons from 2012-2014. He’s also only entering his age-28 season, which is typically where we see a lot of receivers at their peak. With Romo back under center and a potentially potent run game with rookie Ezekiel Elliott toting the rock, Bryant is poised to bounce back in a big way. Better yet, you can get him several picks after the Big 3 come off the board.
3. Slow down the DeVante Parker hype.
Parker is one of this year’s popular breakout candidates following a promising end to his rookie campaign where he scored three times over the Dolphins’ last five games and ranked 20th among wide receivers in standard fantasy scoring over that stretch. He’s expected to enter camp fully healthy after Miami limited his work in offseason activities. You might remember that Parker got off to a slow start to his pro career following foot surgery last June.
A former first-rounder, Parker entered the league with an exciting profile, possessing prototype No. 1 wide receiver build (6’3, 209) and 4.45 speed. His play down the stretch was impressive. Despite the Dolphins’ tire fire offense, Parker managed 1.97 yards per route run over the final five games, which outpaced T.Y. Hilton, John Brown and Eric Decker over the same span.
While there is plenty to like about Parker – and the Dolphins offense as a whole – we shouldn’t just throw caution to the wind. There are a lot of mouths to feed in Miami, so target volume could be an issue for Parker. Jarvis Landry is the favorite to lead the team in targets, but rookie Leonte Carroo and Kenny Stills will also be in the mix for targets. Parker’s big play ability is appealing, but it’s best to still view him as more of a WR3 option.
4. Can Derek Carr repeat last year’s success?
Last season, Carr was one of the biggest surprises at quarterback, tossing 32 touchdowns and finished 14th in fantasy scoring after essentially going undrafted in fantasy leagues. Commenting on Carr’s play, Raiders WR Michael Crabtree called Carr a “gunslinger … Brett Favre-type of quarterback.” But Favre himself disagrees and thinks Carr is more polished as a player.
Game recognize game, but for fantasy purposes Carr is a very interesting quarterback to discuss. He’s currently being drafted as the 12th quarterback off the board, which feels a little high. He’s certainly still an ascending player, but he’s also a strong candidate for touchdown regression. Last season, Carr topped 30 touchdowns despite not throwing for 4,000 yards. While one doesn’t necessarily beget the other, a dip in touchdown numbers moves Carr to middle of the pack in fantasy scoring. That’s exactly where we placed him in our 2016 draft guide, as the No. 15 quarterback. He certainly offers upside as a QB2, but I wouldn’t want to enter 2016 with Carr as my lone quarterback in leagues that start just one quarterback.
5. Happy trails, Bishop Sankey.
At this time last year, Sankey was a popular “value” pick in fantasy drafts as a potential lead back who you could get in the early ninth round. Well, he proved to be overvalued even at that ADP, as the Titans ended up giving roughly three times as many carries to former UDFA Antonio Andrews as they did to the former second-rounder Sankey.
As if we needed confirmation, Sankey was running at the back of the line in Titans offseason practices. With DeMarco Murray and second-rounder Derrick Henry the favorites for early-down work and Dexter McCluster working in on passing situations, Sankey is battling with Andrews and David Cobb for the No.4 job if the Titans end up keeping four backs. This’s bad news for dynasty owners who are still holding out hope for Sankey. Unfortunately, it’s time to let him go.
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.