PFF Fantasy Mailbag: Down on a few guys
Here we are, one week closer to real games being played, and ones that actually matter to you, the fantasy player. There is a reason that you’ve tried to hold off your fantasy draft until this time: injuries.
Just last week, Dion Lewis would’ve been a fine RB2/flex player to have on your fantasy team, but that’s not the case anymore. While he is going to have his second knee surgery in under a year, you are looking for his replacement. Maybe you are looking for a new keeper because of this?
Whatever your issue is, I’m here for you in the fourth installment of our Twitter Mailbag. If you’ve missed these up to this point, we’ll be here next week, but make sure to follow @PFF_Fantasy on Twitter or join us on Facebook to get notified when to ask your question. But now, let’s attack some of the best questions submitted this week.
— A R Garbs (@G_A_R_B_S) August 23, 2016
This is a question that has been brought up a lot recently, and I can understand why. It’s never a good thing when you have to play against the Seahawks, Broncos or Chiefs twice a year. But you have to take the good with the bad. Sure David Johnson has to play the Seahawks twice, but that also means he gets to play the 49ers twice. And as good as the Rams’ run-stopping unit is, they allowed the most receiving yards to running backs last year (962 yards). Then, looking over at Latavius Murray. Sure, he plays the Broncos and Chiefs a combined four times, but one of those games against the Broncos is in Week 17, when there is no fantasy implications. On top of that, he gets the Chargers twice, which was a gift last year, and then the Colts in the fantasy championship (Week 16). Strength of schedule is so hard to predict year over year, which is why you should try and ignore it for the most part.
There are some people out there who will claim that the Broncos’ quarterback situation cannot be any worse than it was last year, but I disagree with that. Demaryius Thomas finished as the No. 13 wide receiver last year, but was actually the No. 21 wide receiver on a points-per-game basis. Meanwhile, Emmanuel Sanders was just two spots lower on a per-game basis. The problem with believing that it can’t get any worse is that Mark Sanchez is never the answer to get better. He has never been graded as a top-50 quarterback by PFF (in any year), let alone a top-32 quarterback to qualify as “starter-worthy.” While Brock Osweiler wasn’t great last year, he graded out as our No. 26 quarterback in 2015. And then to build on that, Sanchez may have lost the job to 2015 seventh-round draft pick Trevor Siemian. In a nutshell, the quarterback situation in Denver is not good at all. They will be looking to run the ball more often in 2016, behind C.J. Anderson, who they paid a lot of money to in order to stay with the team; Devontae Booker, who they spent a fourth-round pick on in this draft; and the re-signed Ronnie Hillman, who led the team in carries last year. What this all means is fewer targets for the two wide receivers, and arguably less efficiency. At their current costs (Thomas is the No. 16 WR, Sanders No. 32), it’s wise to avoid both on draft day.
— Darren Fleurent (@DRFleurent) August 23, 2016
It seems that every year there are some industry experts who expect Stafford to regain his 2011 form, when he finished as the No. 5 fantasy quarterback. Despite the fact that he’s never finished higher than No. 5 even with Calvin Johnson, there are some who believe he’ll be a value this season as the QB15. This strikes me as odd, because that means there are some who project him to take a step forward without one of the greatest wide receivers of our generation. By staying healthy and playing 16 games in every year over the last five years, that has allowed him to finish top-15 by default, but he’s not someone you want to spend an 11th-round pick on. If you are able to get him later, in say the 14th to 16th round, to pair with someone like Tyrod Taylor or Tony Romo, that’s fine, but don’t count on him to be your every-week starter.
— Phillip Caldwell (@pcaldwell1985) August 23, 2016
Knowing that you are not alone when asking this question should make you feel good. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been asked about the Jaguars running back situation, and my response has typically been this: Avoid. I wrote a piece on the Jaguars offense as a whole earlier this offseason. Jacksonville running backs totaled just 294 carries last year, and although that number figures to improve in 2016, it’s not going to jump into the 400 range. When looking at timeshares that are almost divided equally, you want to own the running back who can stay on the field in all situations, and that is not Chris Ivory. Through the first two preseason games, T.J. Yeldon has earned the start, with Ivory getting the goal-line carries. I expect this to continue, leaving Ivory as a volatile week-to-week option, whereas Yeldon has a limited ceiling. That being said, Yeldon keeps dropping down draft boards, and is now being taken in the ninth round. While that is happening, Ivory is being taken as a seventh-round pick. Yeldon is becoming intriguing at his price, while Ivory will be on zero of my fantasy teams.
This is a fair question, as six-point passing touchdowns do favor more quarterback scoring. On top of that, the 0.5 points per completion adds another layer to the cake. But here’s the thing: regardless to the scoring, the reason “late-round quarterback” is a thing is because of the depth at the position. It’s not nearly as top-heavy as it used to be, and looking at your scoring system, it actually hurts guys like Cam Newton and Russell Wilson because they don’t throw that often, and therefore don’t have the amount of completions of someone like Matthew Stafford, who throws more than 600 times on the regular. When looking at the quarterback position, there are just five guys who are “set it and forget it” type quarterbacks: Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and Drew Brees. Outside of them, you likely want to stream two quarterbacks. Because of how high those guys are typically drafted, don’t put any extra stock into the quarterback position. Take value at running back and wide receiver, and let someone else spend a top-four pick on those guys. If one of them falls into the fifth round, that is where I would start to consider one of them.
Similar to the quarterback position, there are a few tight ends that stand out over the rest: Rob Gronkowski, Jordan Reed, Greg Olsen, Travis Kelce, Delanie Walker and Coby Fleener (although some may question him, he’s in that group for me). Those are the guys who are locked into at least 100 targets, so long as they are healthy. With that being said, there is another tier of tight ends that extends into the starter conversation, although they have some questions surrounding them: Dwayne Allen, Antonio Gates, Zach Ertz, Jason Witten, Gary Barnidge and Julius Thomas. That group would include Tyler Eifert if we knew he was playing in at least 14 games. I would feel comfortable having any of those guys as starters, but would likely pair them with another late-round option like Zach Miller, Vance McDonald or Will Tye, providing a cheap insurance policy.
This is a question that really resonates with a lot of keeper players, as there are two players at the opposite points in their careers, and you don’t know which one you should side with. For me, in this case, Nelson is the keeper. It’s a PPR league, so it automatically favors wide receivers, but that’s not the only reason we’re leaning Nelson. Both are coming off bad injuries, although the ACL injury that Nelson suffered isn’t as bad as it used to be with modern medicine. Rawls on the other had surgery on his ankle, a much less common injury, and has massive competition on the roster. While I believe he’s still the starting running back there, it’s likely we see a bigger split than in years past, just because they have so much depth at the position. Christine Michael is making a case to steal more than just a few carries a game, and they also drafted three other running backs to pair with Rawls. Meanwhile, Nelson has finished as a top-11 wide receiver in three of the last four years he has played, and was the No. 2 wide receiver in two of them. He is the glue that held the Packers offense together, and that says a lot about him as a player. Take Nelson, and if you want, you’ll be able to snag Rawls if you’d like at another point in the draft.
I’m usually against putting top-tier talent back in the pool, but when seeing the prices for your keepers, put them back in. If you were paying fair market value, it’s one thing, but as far as my pricing goes, you are overpaying on both of them, as I have Dez down for $37-40, and then Gronkowski for $35 of a $200 budget. The only players worth those prices are Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham and maybe Todd Gurley. If there are some other players deeper on your roster who you’re able to consider, shoot me a list on Twitter @MikeTagliereNFL and I’ll do my best to find value on your team.
At this point, it’s really hard to say what Gordon’s true worth is, but I will say that your confidence level on him should be rising the more we see Robert Griffin III succeed. Not only has Griffin looked good moving around in the pocket and sliding without taking contact, but we’ve seen him drop in some great passes without the two biggest playmakers on the team, Corey Coleman and Gordon. Meanwhile, Gordon has been graded positively in every year he’s played by our analysts, and it’s rare to find a wide receiver in this range capable of producing a 1,600-yard season in just 14 games. While I want to see more encouraging reports about his football shape, it’s not out of the question that Gordon can finish as a top-30 wide receiver despite missing four games. If you have solidified your starters at the wide receiver position, and Gordon is a guy you can wait on to come back, I have no issues drafting him in the seventh round.