What to do with Freeman, Floyd -- fantasy advice from PFF's NFL experts
One of the great things about Pro Football Focus is that we have a side of the website fully dedicated to fantasy, and another side of the website fully dedicated to “real” NFL analysis (and a side focused on college football, too).
But what happens when the “real football” side of PFF and the “fake football” side of PFF converge? Let’s find out.
I had some questions running through my head during Week 2’s games, so I took them directly to the analysts on those games. I wanted to know what the “real football” takeaways were, and then I translated those notes into fantasy takeaways. I’ll try to refrain from hot takes.
Question: It definitely looks like a backfield-by-committee in Atlanta between Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Think this will continue all season? Who saw more red-zone plays?
Answer: “I don’t believe (the backfield-by-committee) will continue, as Freeman seems to be clearly better than Coleman. Not just on actual rushing ability or when he had the ball, but the offense just looked better when Freeman was on the field. I think teams are way more afraid of him rushing the ball, so they need to focus on stopping him more when he’s on the field, which opens it up for the passing game.
“In terms of red-zone snaps, Coleman had a few more than Freeman, but it seemed like a fairly equal split. It seems to be an all around backfield-by-committee no matter where on the field.” —Bryson Vesnaver (See full Falcons-Raiders grade recap)
Fantasy spin: This is obviously not the way Freeman owners wanted the season to begin, but Vesnaver’s analysis doesn’t spell doom. Freeman has certainly fallen from the fantasy RB1 ranks, but he remains an RB2 with upside. Additionally, the Falcons haven’t had a true goal-line situation yet, so we still don’t know if Freeman will be in on those plays.
The fact Vesnaver says the Falcons’ offense in general looked better with Freeman on the field is a big reason to be optimistic. We can’t pretend like Coleman doesn’t have a role, but we also can’t pretend like Freeman has been benched. Hopefully his talent wins out.
Question: Is Will Fuller the real deal? Back-to-back 100-yard games to start his career is impressive. It almost seems like he’s Brock Osweiler’s favorite target. Is he?
Answer: “The Texans are not taking it slow with Fuller and he is as heavily involved in the offense as an experienced veteran. They are already taking advantage of his speed, as he has become their biggest deep threat, which gives DeAndre Hopkins a bit more space to operate too.
“While Fuller has a tendency to drop passes — and he nearly dropped a long throw against the Chiefs — it seems like the Texans are willing to take this risk. Also, Brock Osweiler seems to have the arm strength to hit Fuller in stride on these long completions and the two appear to already built a good connection.” — Zoltan Buday (See full Texans-Chiefs grades recap)
Fantasy spin: The fact Fuller has become such an integral part of Houston’s offense — and such a trusted weapon of Osweiler’s — bodes extremely well for his fantasy fortune. These first two weeks haven’t been a fluke.
Fuller has been targeted 18 times through two games, which is right there with Hopkins’ 19 targets. Fuller’s high average depth of target of 23.5 — currently fourth-highest in the league — coupled with the fact that, as Buday noted, Osweiler is more than capable of connecting with Fuller on those deep balls, means the rookie could explode for a huge game any given week. He belongs in starting lineups.
Question: Arizona scored 40 points, but John Brown and Michael Floyd seemed almost invisible in Week 2. Are they just not getting open? Or was this game just such a blowout that we shouldn’t read into it?
Answer: “A couple of the Tampa Bay corners had really good games in Week 2, per our grades. And to your other point, the game was over rather quickly, and they weren’t throwing the ball down the field like they normally would if it were closer. One of the successful deep balls went to Jaron Brown, so Arizona’s deep game was working. It just wasn’t Brown or Floyd this week.” –Jon Abbott (See full Buccaneers-Cardinals grade recap)
Fantasy spin: We shouldn’t be worried about Floyd, who somewhat salvaged his day with a short touchdown, and we shouldn’t be cutting John Brown.
Despite the blowout, as Abbott noted, some Tampa corners, namely Alterraun Verner, had solid games. That helps explain why a role player like Jaron Brown was able to cash in on a huge play, instead of one of Arizona’s usual suspects.
Floyd has been targeted 15 times — only four fewer than Fitzgerald — while Brown has seen six targets. However, Brown’s smaller numbers were to be expected as he returns to full health (concussion). With that said, Brown’s slow start to the season is cause for some concern, and he belongs on fantasy benches for now. He should certainly still be on rosters, given his huge upside.
Let’s also not forget that Larry Fitzgerald also started last year on fire before slowing down over the second half of the year, which opened up the door for more opportunities between Floyd and Brown.
Question: What’s going on with the Oakland Raiders backfield? Every time they came on my TV, a different running back was touching the ball. Is this a true backfield-by-committee?
Answer: “For the Raiders, it seems clear that Latavius Murray is the No. 1 back. But I also think that they want to limit his workload to prevent injuries and keep him fresh, because they are definitely going to give DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard some carries. Murray is definitely the best of the backs in Oakland, but I would bet he rarely gets more than 12-15 carries per game, given the way they are rotating backs and relying more on Carr and the passing game. Washington and Richard should be looking at roughly five carries per game.” —Bryson Vesnaver (See full Falcons-Raiders grade recap)
Fantasy spin: That’s not the answer fantasy owners were looking for. Murray’s expected 12-15 carries per game, per Vesnaver, certainly makes him startable each week, but it keeps him firmly in the RB2 range instead of in the RB1 conversation. There simply won’t be enough volume for him if the Raiders are serious about “limiti[ng] his workload to prevent injuries and keep him fresh,” as Vesnaver noted.
Question: Have the Seahawks just had a (characteristically) slow start to the season, or is their offense just not going to be as good this year? Perhaps because of no Marshawn Lynch? Or can we blame this on Russell Wilson’s bum ankle?
Answer: “The Seahawks’ offensive line has not been good for a while now, and it was only a matter of when rather than if it would come back to bite them. However, the main reason it is happening now is due more to Russell Wilson’s injury than the offensive line’s play. While the unit isn’t playing well and was completely overpowered by the Rams defensive front, usually Wilson can still create something from broken plays when he is under pressure. However, his ankle injury clearly limits his mobility and his ability to evade pass rushers. In addition, the injury is also having an impact on Wilson’s accuracy. The ankle limits Wilson, and he is not getting a lot, if any, help from his surrounding cast, mainly the offensive line. –Zoltan Buday (See full Seahawks-Rams grade recap)
Fantasy spin: This sounds like a brutal combination. As Buday noted, Seattle’s poor offensive line play has been a known issue for years now, but it’s always been masqueraded by Wilson’s magic tricks. With reduced mobility, Wilson can’t create something out of nothing anymore.
The most worrisome part of Buday’s answer is that the ankle injury appears to have had an impact on Wilson’s accuracy. So not only has Wilson taken a blow to his most valuable fantasy asset (his rushing), but his passing is taking a hit too.
Assuming Wilson’s ankle issues don’t linger, we can rest easy knowing things should return to normal for Seattle before long. But for now, we have no choice but to downgrade the entire Seahawks offense from a fantasy perspective.