PFF Fantasy Mailbag: Who do you trust for Week 1?
A week from today, we will have up-to-date tangible evidence in everything we project. We will know how teams will use players (for the most part), and we will see how their new additions have changed their outlook, for good or bad. But heading into Week 1, there are still a lot of questions to be answered.
As we have done for the past few weeks on Twitter and Facebook, we asked you what questions you had heading into the season, and while there were plenty of questions, I’ll do my best to get to the best ones, and then answer the rest on Twitter for you. If you missed this one, be sure to follow @PFF_Fantasy and @MikeTagliereNFL to be aware of when we are opening the mailbox.
Losing a starting quarterback isn’t typically a good thing for anyone on offense, but when you’re talking about Sam Bradford, a player who is rarely on the field to begin with, it’s not as big of a blow as you might think. If you go back and look at what Doug Pederson and Andy Reid were doing in Kansas City, they had more success running the ball as the season went on, throwing the ball 26 times or less in seven of their last nine games, essentially minimizing the quarterback position. They also happened to go on an 11-game win streak while running the ball more often, so look for Pederson to do more of the same in Philadelphia. With that being said, Mathews has been a stud while on the field for any team. Of the running backs who saw at least 100 carries last year, Mathews ranked third in points per opportunity. In 2014, he ranked sixth in that category, and was fifth in 2013. As you can see, production is not the concern for Mathews, but rather him staying on the field for all 16 games. Considering he is healthy right now and locked in for plenty of opportunity with a rookie quarterback, there is no reason to be concerned.
This might seem like a viable question considering the lack of experience out of rookie Dak Prescott, but if you look at Bryant’s career, you should feel better. He did not rely on volume to produce top-six wide receiver numbers from 2012 to 2014, topping 137 targets just once in that span. By comparison, there were 12 receivers who hit that number in 2015 alone. If there’s a clear difference between Tony Romo and a rookie quarterback, it’d be that Romo will spread the ball around, while the rookie will almost always look for his No. 1 target. My expectations for Bryant this season are that he will see more targets, but his touchdown upside will be limited while Prescott is the starter. So in the end, his efficiency will go down a tad, but the increase in volume will make up for that. He’s still a top-eight wide receiver in the league, so no, I would not be trading him unless I’m getting top-eight WR value.
@MikeTagliereNFL good idea to start Dak for the first 4 weeks then start Brady week 5 on?
— Drew Zacher (@DrewPeru10) September 6, 2016
Looking at the schedule for the Cowboys, it’s definitely a viable strategy. After playing against the Giants in Week 1, they will play the Redskins, Bears and 49ers in the following weeks. All of those teams ranked in the bottom half of the league in terms of fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks last season. The lone game that is a bit concerning is Week 2, when they visit the Redskins on the road. It’s a divisional game, and the Washington secondary has changed with the addition of Josh Norman. If anything, you may be able to spot-start Jimmy Garoppolo, who plays against the Dolphins that week, if necessary. But let’s see how Prescott does against the Giants in Week 1. We haven’t seen very much from Prescott, but if his preseason showed us anything, it’s that he is prepared to at least “manage” a game for the run-heavy Cowboys.
@MikeTagliereNFL thoughts on L. Treadwell contributing this season?
— Leonard Haynes (@knickfan1970) September 6, 2016
This one hurts as a Treadwell supporter, because I think he was in line for a bigger role as the season went on. But after the Teddy Bridgewater injury, there are so many variables going on with this team that it may be hard to add another wrinkle into the offense on the go. With that being said, Charles Johnson is not the future of the Vikings, so it’s likely they’ll be looking for a reason to insert Treadwell into the starting lineup at some point. But more importantly, you do not need to draft or hold onto Treadwell in redraft formats right now. Once he makes his way into two-WR sets, he would carry WR4/5 value, but nothing more than that with Sam Bradford at the helm in a run-first offense.
— JTE (@JRTE1113) September 6, 2016
You can almost insert any running back into this conversation where Melvin Gordon’s name is, because Spencer Ware needs to find a way into your lineup in Week 1. There were a lot of questions surrounding Ware’s name when we announced this mailbag on Twitter, so instead of going through them one by one, I’ll tell you what to expect. If Jamaal Charles is in fact out for Week 1, Ware will be playing against a Chargers defense that allowed 11 of the 16 teams that played against them to top 100 yards rushing last year. If you were able to catch the preseason, the Chargers looked every bit as bad as they did last year, when we ranked them 32nd against the run. Once Charles went down last year, the Chiefs handed the ball to their running backs 237 times in 11 games (21.5/game), compared to the 94 carries in the first five games (18.8/game). So the argument that they may not run the ball as much without Charles doesn’t hold any water. On top of the carries, Ware made it a point to work on his receiving chops this offseason, and it showed in the preseason when he caught all eight of his targets for 50 yards. The icing on the Ware cake is that Charcandrick West has been dealing with a shoulder injury that kept him out for a majority of the preseason. Look for Ware to get at least 18 touches in this game, en route to a top-10 performance in Week 1. With that being said, the answer is going to be Ware in almost any scenario, including this one with Gordon.
When looking at these two running backs, it will often come down to their matchup, and it just so happens that both of these backs have dreadful matchups. Foster is in a timeshare with Jay Ajayi and headed to play in Seattle against a Seahawks team that held opponents to just 65.1 rushing yards per game last year. And then you look at Stewart, who you can say is in a timeshare with Cam Newton, and they are headed to play in Denver against the Super Bowl champs. With that being said, Stewart is going to touch the ball at least 15 times in this game, seeing that there is basically no scenario where the Broncos run away with this game behind Trevor Siemian. Stewart was also the only player to score a touchdown for the Panthers in the Super Bowl against these Broncos. On the flip side, there is a very likely scenario where the Seahawks blow out the Dolphins, which could lead to a lot of receiving work for Foster. But at the same time, it could also lead to backups being inserted into the lineup in the second half, especially considering Foster’s age and injury history. There are just too many question marks surrounding Foster’s role, on top of playing in Seattle. I’d play Stewart and hope for a goal-line plunge.
This is a fantastic question, given all of the question marks surrounding the Seahawks running back situation heading into Week 1. Not only has Christine Michael tore up the preseason, but Pete Carroll came out on Tuesday and said that they want to ease Thomas Rawls back into action. My thought is that Rawls starts the game, and if he isn’t blowing the roof off the Dolphins’ defense, they’ll insert Michael for a series or two, and at that point, he has a chance to run with the job. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities that the Seahawks ride the hot hand and give Michael the opportunity to win the job. The other piece, DeAngelo Williams, is a guy who is likely to provide RB1 value for three weeks and then become pure handcuff material. If you think Williams will have a role while Le’Veon Bell is on the field, you’re likely wrong. In the five full games that Bell was on the field last year, Williams totaled 14 touches. That is it. Meanwhile, Bell has averaged 22 or more touches per game in every single season. So in essence you’re talking about trading a potential RB2 and a handcuff (after the first three weeks), for a clear-cut No. 1 running back on a team who looks like they’ll be a lot more competent on offense, and have a top-five defense. As long as you aren’t losing all of the depth you have at the running back position, I would take that deal.