Fantasy 5: Don't expect Allen Robinson to repeat 2015
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.
There’s roughly seven months between the Super Bowl and the start of the following NFL season. Seven months to pore over previous data. Seven months to project future outcomes. Seven months to get ready for fantasy drafts.
But then once the season starts, we have to throw a lot of what we did in the offseason out the window. Fantasy owners who hold on to what we thought before the season typically aren’t in the hunt for championships come December. It’s important to adapt as things unfold on a weekly basis.
Fortunately, we’re still in preparation mode. As you prep for your fantasy drafts – which are now about six weeks away for a lot of leagues – here are five things you need to know:
1. Allen Robinson is a prime regression candidate.
Robinson is coming off a massive breakout season where he posted 1,400 yards and 14 scores, and finished as fantasy’s No. 4 wide receiver. ESPN Jaguars reported Mike DiRocco thinks it will be “tough for him to duplicate those numbers,” and we’re inclined to agree here at PFF.
Robinson led the league last year with 47 deep-ball targets of 20-plus yards downfield, accounting for a whopping 33.1 percent of his total. He caught a position-high 19 of these targets for 672 yards and three scores. While that was fantastic production, there’s an argument to be made that Robinson’s numbers were padded a bit by a Jags team that lacked a run game and tended to play from behind due to deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball.
Jacksonville addressed the run game with the offseason addition of Chris Ivory, and their defense should be improved with free agent signee Malik Jackson, redshirt second-year man Dante Fowler, and rookies Myles Jack and Jalen Ramsey. While they’re by no means a Super Bowl contender, this Jags team looks to be improved from last year’s iteration. That likely means less of Blake Bortles having to push the ball downfield to Robinson and Allen Hurns. Don’t get me wrong. Robinson is still a WR1, but it’s going to be very difficult for him to get close to last year’s lofty production.
2. Don’t overvalue Matt Forte, and don’t overlook Bilal Powell.
The Jets are coming off a highly productive offensive season where Chris Ivory was one of just seven runners to top 1,000 yards on the ground. With Ivory bouncing to Jacksonville in the offseason, the Jets will now look to veteran Forte as the lead back.
A fantasy mainstay since 2008, Forte showed signs of decline last season, and will turn 31 at the end of the year. He’s also racked up an average of just over 315 touches per year over the last eight seasons. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Jets will likely deploy a time-share at running back with Bilal Powell eating into Forte’s workload. Khiry Robinson also has the chance to work in on short-yardage and goal-line situations.
Powell does a lot of similar things to Forte on the field, and the Jets prioritized getting him re-signed during this year’s free agency period. So a committee situation with both players getting work as runners and receivers makes sense. Forte projects as the more likely early-down runner, with Powell a strong bet to lead the Jets’ backfield in targets. Forte still figures to get the majority of touches, but it’s tough to envision a scenario where he gets close to 300 combined carries and receptions.
The drafting public seems to be hip to how things should shake out in New York, with Forte currently going 14th among running backs. Positioning Forte as a borderline RB1 feels just about right. However, Powell is a strong handcuff who can be snagged at a value as the 57th player at the position in current ADP. Forte has been a very durable player, only missing seven games over his entire career, but Powell would become a front-end RB2 if Forte went down with injury. In the meantime, he still has the potential to provide RB3 production in PPR leagues.
3. DeMarco Murray is a risky fantasy option.
One of last season’s many busts at running back, Murray was eighth among running backs in 2015 ADP and he finished a disappointing 18th in fantasy scoring. It certainly could have been worse, but Murray was nowhere near the 1,800-yard output he produce in 2014 with Dallas. Traded in the offseason, Murray initially looked to be in a good situation in Tennessee. But then the Titans drafted power runner Derrick Henry, and a committee appeared likely.
There’s a chance that may not be the case, as TitansOnline.com’s Jim Wyatt said he expects Murray to “be the team’s workhorse in the backfield.” While it’s often wise to take beat writer speculation with a grain of salt, Wyatt has been on the Titans beat for a long time and is very plugged into the team. His comments also align with the praise that has been heaped on Murray since he joined the team.
But it hasn’t been all good out of Tennessee this offseason. Offensive coordinator Terry Robiske implied the dreaded hot-hand approach when discussing how carries will be divided between Murray and Henry in 2016. Reading the tea leaves, this scenario makes more sense than giving Murray the bulk of running back touches, especially given the fact that the Titans spent a second-round pick on Henry. Murray is currently going 18th among running backs in ADP, which is just too high for a player coming off a down year who looks likely to be in a committee situation.
[If you’re planning to take Murray, you’ll need to know where in drafts he’s likely to fall. And you’ll want to see where Henry goes as well. Take a spin with PFF’s new Draft Master tool to find out, plus get recommendations on the players you should target in every round of your draft.]
4. The Colts leading receiver is … Donte Moncrief.
While the drafting public is currently endorsing T.Y. Hilton as the top Colts receiver, ESPN’s Mike Wells thinks Moncrief will actually lead the team in receiving this season. With much of the fantasy community confident Andrew Luck bounces back this season, Moncrief is a player who has started to generate some steam. His current ADP of 6.09 is up a full round from just one month ago.
Hilton truthers may simply laugh off Wells’ comment, but there’s some merit to what he said. Our projections currently have Hilton seeing just 11 more targets than Moncrief, and that total could certainly flip. Moncrief showed good rapport with Luck last season, ranking 29th in fantasy scoring before Luck got hurt. With an improved Luck, Moncrief certainly has front-end WR2 upside. Even with his ADP moving up, you’re still likely to get him at a value on draft day.
5. Josh Gordon watch.
With the new regime turning the page in Cleveland, we haven’t discussed Gordon much this offseason. But every so often, I receive questions about him from dynasty owners who are still holding out hope that the once promising receiver will return to the NFL.
Gordon is eligible to apply for reinstatement August 1, so we really won’t have any news until that point. But the question is whether the Browns will actually welcome him back if he is granted reinstatement to the league. The sense from the Cleveland Plain Dealer is Gordon will start with a clean slate and Hue Jackson will determine whether he thinks Gordon can stay clean. There’s still hope for Gordon’s dynasty owners, but we won’t know anything concrete for about another week and a half.