PFF Fantasy Mailbag: It's keeper time
Here we are, just 22 days away from the start of the NFL season. It’s the best time of the year for fantasy footballers, as draft season approaches. You’ll be bringing your cheat sheets, laptops, snacks and drinks over to your friends’ houses in order to start your journey to a fantasy championship.
We at PFF thought of ways to give you a helping hand, and one was to have me beside you, talking you through the decisions you’re about to make. This is the third Twitter Mailbag, where you are able to ask me any questions that you have weighing on your mind. Whether it’s keepers, or just general strategy, this is what we’re here for. So let’s not waste any more time and get into your questions.
— Jon Astry (@AstryJon) August 16, 2016
This is a fair question when looking at your current keeper situation, as you’re lacking a true No. 1 wide receiver, which most fantasy teams have. But that may be causing you to reach for Benjamin, and that’s something you don’t want to do. In 2014, before he tore his ACL, Benjamin finished as the No. 17 wide receiver. This may seem like he could improve in his “sophomore” season (considering he lost last year), but you must keep note that he had an extremely high touchdown percentage in order to get there, something you don’t want to rely on for fantasy production, especially from your WR1. Touchdowns accounted for 35.3 percent of his fantasy points, well above the league-wide average of 27.5 percent. Part of the reason everyone loved him in 2014 was due to the lack of options in the offense and the volume he would receive, but what a difference a year can make. With the emergence of Devin Funchess and Ted Ginn, it’s extremely unlikely Benjamin will be even close to his 142 targets again. I’d be shocked if he surpassed 125, and considering his touchdown regression combined with ACL surgery, I’m fading Benjamin. With Rawls, he may have his own injury concerns, but at least we know he performs when on the field at an elite level.
@MikeTagliereNFL non ppr. Keeper league. Keep Antonio brown as my first Rd pick as#7 or keep Allen Robinson as my 6th Rd pk #67
— John McGlynn (@jfmcglynn) August 16, 2016
I talked last week about almost always siding with talent in keeper selections, but this is a case where you have two extremely talented players, but one of them actually gives you equity on his pick, and that is Robinson. It really hurts to put Brown back into the pot, but by keeping him for a first-round pick, you are taking him with no equity built in, whereas Robinson is younger and gives you maybe not as high of a ceiling, but top-five upside for years to come. If this were a question between Brown and somebody like Michael Floyd in the sixth, I’d side with Brown, but Robinson has shown us that he is a force to be reckoned with, finishing with 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns on just 142 targets. Believe it or not, Robinson was just 22 fantasy points off Brown last year, on 48 fewer targets.
This is a fantastic problem to have, as all of the players listed here are top-20 picks in fantasy drafts. Pairing Amari Cooper is the smartest thing you could do for your fantasy team, and not because he is dramatically better than Keenan Allen at this point, but because he is one of the most well-rounded wide receivers I’ve ever seen come out of college. Cooper and Allen are in a group of receivers that I’ve been comparing recently in my draft battles, and for these two, the question is close enough that the deciding factor can be age, and Cooper is just 22 years old. He finished as the No. 25 wide receiver in his rookie year while playing through a planter fascia injury from Week 11 on. If you were to extrapolate his Week 1 through Week 10 numbers into a full season, Cooper would have totaled 1,301 yards and 6.4 touchdowns, which would have made him the No. 13 fantasy wide receiver last year. He’s a top-10 wide receiver for 10 years to come, so enjoy the tandem of Jones/Cooper.
— Jeff Greenwell (@LastAngryFan) August 16, 2016
This is a common question I come across on Twitter, and for good reason. Before I started writing full-time and researching this sort of thing hard-core, I would’ve said there was no way I could draft a player suspended for one-quarter of the fantasy season in the top two rounds. To put it bluntly, my opinion has changed. Bell is an elite-level talent, and one that is irreplaceable in starting lineups. Over the last three years, Bell has played in 35 regular-season games. Of those games, how many would you guess he finished with RB2 numbers, at minimum? He did in 31 of them. That is more than 11.2 PPR points in 31 of 35 games (88.6 percent of the time), and in the four games he didn’t reach that number, he totaled no less than 7.8 PPR points. He has been an RB1 in 21 of those games (60 percent), which again, is something to marvel at. So when looking at the possibility of a four-game suspension, we are looking at 12 games played. Going off his history, we’d get seven games as an RB1, with another four as an RB2. Looking at the running backs going late in the second round (Eddie Lacy, LeSean McCoy, Doug Martin and Mark Ingram) over the last five years, they have averaged RB1 performances 34 percent of the time, and RB2 performances 68.4 percent of the time. So when you consider that they’ll produce on average 5.4 RB1 performances, and 4.6 RB2 performances, Bell is a steal at his late-second-round ADP, because he not only will match their performances at the end of the year, but you also won’t get a zero those other weeks. You are going to be playing a replacement for Bell in that slot, and whatever they give you is a bonus toward Bell. He should be taken as the sixth running back off the board, wherever that is in your draft.
This is another great question, considering there are a lot of question marks surrounding the Lions offense and who they’ll use as their go-to-guy in Jim Bob Cooter’s offense. Here is what we know about how Tate was used once Cooter took over last year – his average depth of target actually went down from the 7.6 yards in was in the first eight weeks to just 3.8 yards over the final eight. The crazy part is that the shorter aDOT was better for his production, when he totaled 50 receptions for 436 yards and five touchdowns, compared to the 40 receptions for 377 yards and one touchdown in the first eight weeks. Even going back to 2014, Tate had a low aDOT, sitting at 7.9 yards. By taking Tate out of the short-yardage role, it actually hurts his fantasy value, because he’s one of the better receivers in the league running after the catch. On top of that, his touchdown numbers were much lower with the higher aDOT, totaling just five touchdowns on 200 targets, compared to his five touchdowns with Cooter on just 57 targets. So to answer your question, I believe it negatively affects his fantasy outlook.
When looking at this question, I can only assume you are either in a keeper league where you have the first pick, and these players are available, or… You have a draft pick in the back half of the first round. In a vacuum, Bryant is the pick here. Nelson is coming off major knee surgery at age 31, and as a player who relies a lot on speed, it’s hard to not have concerns. Jeffery is another one who has injury concerns that have rolled into his relationship with John Fox and the Bears organization. They have not offered him a long-term deal, and it’s only natural for him to worry about his health if free agency is right around the corner. Then there is Bryant, the only player of the bunch who has finished as a top-six wide receiver three times. The impressive thing about him is that he’s done that while topping 138 targets just once in his career. His foot problems are seemingly behind him, as he actually had two different surgeries to ensure proper healing, and lessen chance of re-injury. If Week 1 of the preseason was any sign of things to come with Bryant, it’s that you’ll be seeing him throw up the “X” quite a lot.
You are correct, as I’ve heard people already dub him a bust, while there are others clamoring for him to be a top-10 wide receiver in startup drafts. The truth of the matter is that nobody knows right now, because we haven’t seen him play an NFL snap. What I see on tape is a guy who has a striking resemblance to Julio Jones, though as not nearly as polished a route-runner. He came from a junior college before West Virginia, so it shows how willing he is to put in the work and not get down on himself. The same thing happened this offseason, where he knew he was behind in the offense after missing his entire rookie season. He did the smartest thing he could – got with his quarterback Jay Cutler, and built a relationship. They hung out, White picked his brain, and they even played in a softball league together. Why is this important? If you recall Cutler’s relationship with former Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall, it was a similar situation, and Cutler trusted him. Consider the fact that the Bears are hesitant to give Alshon Jeffery a long-term contract, a lot of White’s outlook rests on his shoulders. If he is the player who we all thought he was before the NFL draft, then White might just be the Bears No. 1 wide receiver in 2017. But keep expectations tempered for 2016, because he is basically a rookie, and still behind Jeffery on the pecking order.
Well to be honest, it’s not ridiculous at all. It’s well documented how bad a year that Murray had in 2015 from an efficiency standpoint, despite finishing as the No. 10 running back in standard formats. The problem was that he had so much volume, it’s a shame that he didn’t finish higher. The only players who received more touches than him in 2015 were Adrian Peterson, Devonta Freeman and Doug Martin. That is it. However, it was his first year with the job, and if you recall just three short years ago, Le’Veon Bell averaged the fourth-most touches per game, yet finished as the No. 14 running back. He averaged just 3.5 yards per carry that year, but was highly wanted the following year because we knew the volume would be there.
While I’m not saying that Murray is Bell, I am saying that sometimes it takes some time for a running back to succeed. Murray averaged 4.0 yards per carry in 2015, which although slightly below the league average, isn’t that bad. The lack of fantasy production came from his lack of scoring, as he finished with just six touchdowns. The Raiders defense is one of the most underrated ones in the entire league, and they have only gotten better this offseason, which will allow Murray to rack up touches once again. Not just that, but he’s also going to be running behind our No. 2 graded offensive line that also got some upgrades this offseason. So to answer your question, it isn’t ridiculous at all, and it’s possible that we are all undervaluing him going into the season.