Fantasy Devil's Advocate: 5 contrarian draft tips
Training camp is underway and this is the time of year that analysts want to make a splash with a hot take. Those hot takes get repeated and then all of the sudden it feels like the whole fantasy football community feels the exact same way about a player.
That’s not to say that these takes are wrong. They are usually based on strong statistical evidence. But there’s normally another side, another outcome that’s just as likely.
And I’m here to play the devil’s advocate. Let’s look at the “truisms”:
“Jamaal Charles is a risky fantasy option this year”
Two ACL surgeries are less than ideal, but rather than not drafting him at all, it means you need to handcuff and get Spencer Ware and/or Charcandrick West. The system in Kansas City guarantees running back production for whichever player is on the field. Based on all of the information out there today, there is no reason to doubt that Jamaal Charles is still the No. 1 back on this team.
Moreover, Charles has never averaged less than 5.0 yards per carry. To put that into perspective, last year, none of the running backs with more than 150 carries averaged over 5.0 yards per carry. Charles may lose some of his burst due to the surgeries, but even so, he’ll still be effective in comparison to everyone else in the league.
In a league where bell-cow backs seem as rare as a humpback whale in the Mississippi River, it seems foolish to turn away from the primary back in one of the friendliest offenses that a running back could ask for. It’s not fashionable to handcuff, but after last season there is an argument to be made that instead of spending all of your FAAB money on West midseason (we all did it), why not draft these guys now in the later rounds?
“Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker need Ryan Fitzpatrick to come back to be fantasy relevant”
Until Ryan Fitzpatrick is on the roster, we all need to come to terms with Geno Smith being a starting quarterback in the NFL. It feels like a throwback (and it is) but that’s the world in which we live.
Chan Gailey was brought in by Todd Bowles to help resurrect Smith’s career before Smith got decked in the face last year and Fitzpatrick came in there like a knight on a white horse. Smith only played in one game last season at Oakland and he threw for 265 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, also tacking on 34 rushing yards. I could see him putting up those numbers or better due to the weapons he has on the field.
Eric Decker is quarterback-proof. People unfairly thought he was a product of Peyton Manning, but he put up 612 yards and eight touchdowns when he was an afterthought in the extremely dicey Tim Tebow offense during Decker’s sophomore outing. He then put up 962 yards and five touchdowns even while missing a game during the 2014 season when he had a Geno Smith/Michael Vick hybrid as a quarterback and the other wide receivers were Jeremy Kerley and Stephen Hill.
Then there is Brandon Marshall. Only once since 2007 has he ended the season with fewer than 1,000 yards. That was in 2014, when he missed three games, had a professional falling out with Jay Cutler and battled injuries. He’s as “quarterback-proof” as they come.
Both of these players will be fine and their ADPs are dropping. This is the time to grab them at a discount.
“Duke Johnson is absolutely the Cleveland running back you want to own”
All offseason fantasy analysts have licked their chops over the idea of getting Duke Johnson on their fantasy teams. This is especially true for the zero-RB enthusiasts.
But Isaiah Crowell is still around.
Sure, he’s not good at social media, but he apologized and will donate to police officers. If we stick to fantasy, he’s a steal. Everyone loves Johnson because they believe that he will be the Giovani Bernard in Cleveland’s Hue Jackson offense. I agree, but then why aren’t people excited about Crowell being the Jeremy Hill of Cleveland? Hill outscored Bernard in every format over the last two years. Neither will blow you away with their yards per carry, Crowell at 3.8 YPC and Hill at 3.6 YPC, but they will get opportunities.
According to FantasyFootballCalculator.com, you have to take Johnson in the sixth round, while you can get Crowell in the ninth… and that’s in standard scoring. In PPR, you have to take Johnson in the fifth round, with Crowell dropping to the 10th. Getting Crowell at bargain bin prices is something you have to consider.
“All of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ offensive weapons will produce fewer fantasy points, mostly due to their improved defense”
There’s a lot to be excited about when you look over the Jacksonville roster on the defensive side of the ball. Six of the Jaguars’ seven 2016 draft picks were used on defensive players, which included former Florida State safety Jalen Ramsey and former UCLA linebacker Myles Jack. Also, they will get back their first-round pick from last season, Dante Fowler Jr., who tore his ACL in camp and did not play in 2015. The buzz is that if the team isn’t playing from behind then they won’t need to throw the ball on 69 percent of their plays like they did last season. Not having to force the ball down the field means less opportunity, therefore less points.
However, most of the defensive star power come in the form of inexperienced players. Certainly, the talent potential is there, but they will still need to adapt to the speed of the game and working together as a cohesive unit.
And don’t underestimate Blake Bortles’ ability to put the team in a catch-up situation all on his own. We are talking about the quarterback who threw 18 interceptions, the absolute most in the league. And then there’s that offensive line — Bortles was sacked a league-high 51 times.
Also, the Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks were among the best defenses in the league and each of those teams had elite offensive fantasy weapons. The Denver Broncos were an exception to the rule, but the situation with Peyton Manning was unusual. If the Jaguars want to win games, they will need to excel on both sides of the ball. Don’t overcompensate in your projections based on a hopeful improvement on the defensive side of the ball.
“Rookie tight ends are never fantasy options”
This one is basically truth with little room for debate. Over the last 10 years, only seven rookie tight ends have gone for more than 500 receiving yards in a season. Only John Carlson of the Seattle Seahawks went past 600 yards, and that was in 2008.
However, if you’re playing in a best-ball league, do note that rookie tight ends seem to fare better late in the season. For instance, Clive Walford of the Oakland Raiders was a non-factor at the beginning of the season, and then saw 71.4 percent of his 2015 production come in the last eight games.
This year, there are some intriguing rookies that are in favorable situations for fantasy production (as spotty as it may be). Over the offseason the San Diego Chargers let Ladarius Green go to the Pittsburgh Steelers and drafted Hunter Henry to take over after Antonio Gates hangs up his cleats. Make no mistake, Gates is the man unless he’s physically off the field. But Gates is 36 years old and struggled with injuries all last season. Henry could get involved earlier than expected. Other rookies of note who are in dubious depth chart situations would be Tyler Higbee of the Los Angeles Rams, Thomas Duarte of the Miami Dolphins, Austin Hooper of the Atlanta Falcons and perhaps Nick Vannett of the Seattle Seahawks.