Fantasy 5: Jay Ajayi owners shouldn't panic over potential Arian Foster signing
It isn’t long now. Training camp opens up next week, and the Colts and Packers will take the field in the Hall of Fame game on August 7. Real football action – even though it’s the preseason – in just 20 days.
That means we’re almost time for the rubber to meet the road in terms of fantasy prep. Fortunately, we have you covered here at PFF. Here are five things from the weekend that you need to know:
1. An Arian Foster signing in Miami wouldn’t be a death knell for Jay Ajayi
With a cool market all offseason, Foster has remained unsigned despite being linked to various teams in the offseason, including the Seahawks, Chargers, Patriots, Redskins, and Dolphins. With Foster coming off a torn Achilles, these were nothing more than speculation or teams kicking the tires. However, the Miami Herald reported Sunday night that the Dolphins are “somewhat more serious” about signing Foster, who also has a workout with the Lions this week.
While much of Twitter has immediately christened Foster as the Dolphins’ new feature back, it’s important to pull back on the reigns a bit. For starters, the quote is about as vague as they come. “Somewhat more serious” sounds like the title of a failed boy-band comeback album. The quote certainly doesn’t paint Foster as a lock to be the lead back in Miami this season.
Foster burst onto the fantasy scene in 2010, finishing as the No. 1 overall fantasy running back as a relatively unknown player. He went on to post top-5 fantasy seasons in each of the next two years, but the injury bug struck in 2013. Since then, Foster has missed 17 games and he’s now entering his age-30 season. There’s no doubt he had a tremendous run earlier in his career, but Foster has a lot of wear on the tires. Even if Miami does sign him, there’s no guarantee Foster is immediately ahead of Ajayi on the depth chart. Ajayi owners need not enter panic-mode just yet.
2. The ‘skinny’ on Laquon Treadwell’s fantasy value
After having very little to work with last year, the Vikings upgraded their wide receiver corps with the first-round selection of Treadwell back in April. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune expects the Treadwell to be running the skinny post, which was a staple of offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s offense during his time in Dallas and San Diego.
The skinny post, or Bang 8, was a big part of Michael Irvin’s success, but the route isn’t commonly used in today’s game. The Bang 8 requires the receiver to go over the middle, which certainly opens up the player to take a beating. Turner also suggested that complex coverage schemes is main reason why it isn’t used a lot today.
Still, Treadwell has an ideal big frame to handle the physical demands of the route, and enters the league as a strong receiver in the short and intermediate areas of the field. His presence will open up another dimension to the Vikings’ offense, which bodes well for Teddy Bridgewater’s long-term outlook. Treadwell is an immediate candidate to lead the Vikings in receiving and is on the fringes of the WR3 conversation.
3. Camp battle to monitor: Stevan Ridley vs. Zach Zenner
The running back situation in Detroit is shaping up to be a three-headed monster, with Ameer Abdullah in the lead, Theo Riddick as the pass-catching specialist, and a third “big” back role that will come down to a camp battle between veteran Stevan Ridley and second-year man Zach Zenner. While there has been some chatter that Zenner was the front-runner for the job, DetroitLions.com’s Tim Twentyman views Ridley as the favorite.
The No. 3 will play a change-of-pace role in this offense, with this player likely to be the goal-line back. That’s bad news for Adbullah’s upside, but the No. 3 player is someone to keep tabs on for fantasy purposes. Zenner is a very athletic player who had a prolific college career at South Dakota State. He’s a very intriguing player who offers more of the unknown, whereas Ridley is a known commodity who has struggled since tearing his ACL two seasons ago. Of the two, Zenner offers potentially more fantasy upside should he win the job. Fantasy players should keep a close eye on this camp battle, as the No. 3 would be the next man up for the lead role should Abdullah get hurt.
4. Jacksonville’s committee approach limits fantasy upside from RBs Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon
One of the more puzzling fantasy situations this season is in the Jacksonville backfield. The Jags used Yeldon as an every-down option for much of his rookie season, but then brought in the early-down workhorse Ivory in the offseason. In offseason fantasy drafts, the public seems to be slightly supporting Ivory following his 1,000-yard season, but he’s still only being selected 26th among running backs with Yeldon going 34th.
The Florida Times Union weighed in on this situation and projected a 55/45 split in carries, with Ivory seeing the majority number. A true committee is far from optimal for either player’s fantasy value, as that would mean in the range of about 170 carries for Ivory and 145 for Yeldon. However, it should be noted that Yeldon remains the favorite for passing-down duties, which would likely add another 35 touches to his total. That puts the two nearly even on touches for the year. If this touch distribution plays out, it’s going to be hard to get anything more than RB3 value out of either player.
5. Does a Ryan Fitzpatrick signing matter for the Jets’ fantasy outlook?
Following the Jets and Muhammad Wilkerson agreeing on a five-year, $85 million pact, ESPN’s Rich Cimini suggested the Jets could now have the cap room to sign QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. The two sides have been far apart throughout the offseason. While the popular narrative in fantasy circles is that Fitzpatrick is coming off a strong season in 2015, his play wasn’t as good as the box score numbers suggest. Fitzpatrick completed just 59.6 percent of his passes and he graded out as our No. 30 signal caller with a below replacement-level grade.
The common view is that Fitzpatrick’s presence is the necessary straw in the drink for Brandon Marshall’s and Eric Decker’s fantasy value. However, this perspective ignores the point that Chan Gailey’s offense is more likely responsible for their – and Chris Ivory’s – fantasy output last season. While Geno Smith’s name does little to inspire confidence, his being under center isn’t a significant downgrade on Fitzpatrick. Not getting Fitzpatrick signed won’t have a major impact on the fantasy outlook of the Jets’ skill-position players.