Fantasy 5: Decker signing deepens Titans slate of weapons
(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.)
Mandatory minicamps concluded last week, leaving us with a minor hiatus until we get to the start of training camps. That being said, a lack of NFL-scheduled events isn’t going to slow down this gravy train called the Fantasy 5. Let’s dig into the goods.
1. Eric Decker signs with the Titans
After visiting the Titans last week, Decker signed a one-year deal to join Tennessee as the newest addition to the team’s deep receiving corps. Decker gives QB Marcus Mariota another adept pass-catching weapon in an offense that is deep with receiving targets. Decker can make an immediate impact as a dangerous red-zone weapon for the uber-efficient Mariota. Over the last five seasons, Decker ranks fifth in receiving touchdowns (43) and second in red-zone touchdowns (36). He should pair well with Mariota and his effective red-zone throwing, where he has yet to throw an interception and sports an unbelievable 33:0 touchdown:interception ratio.
Decker’s versatility running routes on both the perimeter and from the slot will be a welcome addition to Tennessee’s offense. In 2015, Decker caught the fifth-most receptions (56) and scored the third-most touchdowns (7) from the slot according to our own Eliot Crist. The addition of Decker will allow the Titans to bring along rookie Corey Davis at his own pace and allow the first-rounder to acclimate to their offense organically. Decker and Rishard Matthews will likely start on the outside in Tennessee’s “12” personnel grouping and then have Decker kick inside in the slot with Davis on the outside when going three-wide.
Reportedly entering camp fully healthy after his hip and shoulder surgeries, Decker looks ready to hit the ground running in Tennessee. Decker and Mariota should both get a bump in ADP in future drafts and we could see TE Delanie Walker’s ceiling lowered a bit with the potential for touchdowns now much more of a competition. Decker is currently being drafted as the WR43 and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him move inside the top 36 fairly soon following this signing.
2. Jets quarterback competition heats up?
QB Josh McCown may not be a lock to enter 2017 as the Jets starting quarterback, according to several Jets reporters. Second-year QB Christian Hackenberg turned some heads and enters a surprising battle between the two after OTAs concluded last week. There’s still plenty of time for this to shake out, but it will likely be the biggest headline out of New York for the reminder of the summer.
Hackenberg was dreadful last preseason, leaving many doubting if he had a career in the NFL at all. He didn’t inspire much confidence after completing 17-of-47 passing (36.2 percent) for 159 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions, and a 35.7 QB rating. McCown on the other hand, will be entering his age-38 season as a journeyman who has never played a full season and has a career-high of 13 passing touchdowns. Injuries and lack of production have kept him from ever developing beyond a backup role bouncing around from team to team. While this battle will be interesting for Jets fans, its major fantasy implications will be how much the quarterback play impairs the few playmakers the Jets have been able to hang on to.
Whoever is playing under center for New York will have a tough time creating much fantasy success. The offensive line is a mess. They have one of the thinnest groups of receivers in the league. They likely will be facing tons of negative game scripts with a roster that may have them competing for the top pick in next year’s draft. Add in an entire new offense under OC John Morton and it boils down to one of the least fantasy-friendly passing attacks and a desperate situation for even 2QB leagues.
3. Could Jay Ajayi see an uptick in receiving?
Ajayi has reportedly been working on his receiving skills this offseason and will look to further improve the modest receiving totals he put up last year. Ajayi picked up just 27 receptions last year, but he proved in his final season at Boise State that he’s already an adept receiver. Ajayi finished his junior year with 50 receptions for 535 yards as an all-purpose back, and it wouldn’t be shocking for HC Adam Gase to utilize him more as a receiver out of the backfield. A boost in Ajayi’s receptions would make an even safer floor for the current No. 7 RB in drafts, given he had only four weeks as a top-12 PPR option in Weeks 1-16 last year.
4. Detroit’s left tackle position a liability?
With LT Taylor Decker presumed to miss the large majority of the season (4-6 months) after tearing his right labrum in OTAs, the Lions were quick to try and find a replacement late last week, signing former Buffalo Bills pick Cyrus Kouandjio and trading for the Rams’ Greg Robinson. Kouandjio enters as the likely favorite after starting three games at left tackle for the Bills last year.
Kouandjio played just 207 total snaps last year, but allowed only one sack and didn’t allow a single registered quarterback hit. Robinson was far less successful, yielding eight sacks, five QB hits, and 27 hurries allowed, finishing 44th in pass-blocking efficiency. While the loss of the up-and-coming 22-year-old Decker (five sacks, four QB hits allowed) is a blow to the line as a whole, Kouandjio looks to be a serviceable backup in pass protection. Unfortunately, he and the rest of the offensive line free agent additions (RG T.J. Lang, RT Bobby Wagner) are all far better pass-blockers than run-blockers. The loss of Decker should lower the ceiling of breakout candidate Ameer Abdullah and leaves the run game with serious question marks entering training camp.
5. Kyle Rudolph improving overall game
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said Rudolph has looked remarkably better as a blocker so far in OTAs this summer. It feels like it can only go up from here in that department for Rudolph, who finished last year as one of our worst-graded blockers. Rudolph finished 58th out of 65 qualifying tight ends in run blocking, yet still played 92.1 percent of the team’s offensive snaps. Rudolph shined as a receiver in 2016, finishing with an 83-840-7 stat line (TE2) and leading all tight ends in red-zone targets (25). Any blocking improvements will be a welcome addition for one of the league’s best-value fantasy tight ends, who is currently being drafted in the seventh round as the No. 9 TE.