It's not uncommon this time of year to get questions about my thoughts on particular players. Sometimes it takes the form of emails, texts, calls, or even the low-tech (but much more enjoyable) face-to-face chats. The questions are usually something along the lines of "What do you think of [insert player name]?" Here's a rundown of players and their fantasy implications that you should know before drafting.
== Running Backs ==
Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
The number of running back workhorses in the NFL just got a little bit smaller. The Steelers are going to utilize the increasingly popular running back by committee (RBBC) approach, which means that drafting Bell as your RB1 isn't going to have the kind of return that many of us were expecting. LeGarrette Blount will be sharing duties with Bell, and the Steelers have indicated that the former Patriot will very likely get the goal-line duties as well. Bell is still a good player to have on your fantasy team and still solid in both standard and PPR formats, but his value is downgraded slightly by this announcement. Blount on the other hand makes for a great late round flyer. Blount's 51st ranking on FFN makes him a RB4/5. There's solid value there especially if Bell misses any time this year.
UPDATE: Bell and Blount were arrested recently for possession of marijuana. It's too soon to know the fantasy impact, but this is a story to keep an eye on if you draft either guy. I would be surprised to see this impact their 2014 season however.
DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys
Recent comments from Dallas coach Jason Garrett have us concerned that Murray could face a RBBC situation. Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle figure to take some of the load off of Murray who is coming off a great year. He only missed two games last year which is positive given his perception of being injury-prone. He brought in 205 points for fantasy owners last year in standard scoring and 258 in PPR leagues. He has the potential to have an even bigger year this season especially considering the fact that 2014 is a contract year for him. Even though there's no reason to think that Murray won't get the bulk of the workload, the RBBC approach will likely eat into his carries.
Montee Ball, Denver Broncos
I can't help but think back to last year at this time and many believed that the starting gig in Denver essentially belonged to Ball. Reality is often the best arbiter of these types of things. 2013 was clearly Knowshon Moreno's show. Now, that's going to change because Moreno got shipped down to Miami. Expectations are just as high for Ball this year though. A few weeks ago, Montee Ball was going in the first round of most drafts. Then came news of his appendectomy and that he'd miss the preseason. His value dropped a bit and now he's sitting at the end of Round 1 or the beginning of Round 2. Here's my concern. Ball is essentially still an unproven player, and your first two picks should be safe picks. If your first pick doesn't pan out, your season is sunk (hello - remember Doug Martin last year???). Ball has that kind of risk for me. The upside is that he's in a Peyton Manning offense and that means that he'll be involved in the passing game and defenses simply cannot focus on him for fear of being burned through the air. It's a tough call, but as my RB1 I would be nervous.
UPDATE: Ball is back earlier than expected and has looked good in limited action. I'm less concerned today than I was before. Draft Ball with confidence.
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks
I'm looking at Marshawn Lynch this year like I would look at real estate. When the assessor or agent is looking at your home to determine its worth, he/she is also taking into consideration comparables in the market. When I do this with Lynch, the comps are not encouraging. Lynch is 10th overall on the FFN list and 6th among RB's. I have a hard time believing that he actually delivers at that level this year. First, we have to look at his workload. No other running back has carried the ball more often than Lynch over the past four years. If we include the playoffs, the guy had more than 400 carries last year. He has had at least 250 carries each year, and when we look at our comps of guys who have had that kind of workload over the course of the past 3 years, we'll find guys like Arian Foster, Ray Rice, Steven Jackson, and Chris Johnson. Are those the kind of guys you want as your RB1? Nope - me neither. I would be thrilled with Lynch as my RB2, but his ADP and FFN ranking have him going well ahead of that meaning that I likely won't have Lynch on any of my teams this year.
Arian Foster, Houston Texans
One of the most frustrating players from a fantasy perspective has got to be Arian Foster. He can blind us with dominating play against defensive studs like he did last year against St. Louis and Seattle, but if he's not on the field, he's not scoring points. Foster suffered such a severe back issue last season that he not only missed most of the season, he briefly considered retirement. Industry consensus is that Foster is in line for a reduced workload this year. Combine that with the injury to Brandon Brooks, a questionable offensive line, and the fact that the Texans played from behind more than any other team last year and red flags should be waving all over. Foster always has potential, but the first two rounds are about safety picks. Foster is a great example of why Fantasy Football Nerd has proven to be so useful to so many people. If we look at some of the sites FFN aggregates from, we'll often see Foster ranked in the Top 12. FFN weights its rankings based upon historical accuracy from each site and each position, so we'll find Foster ranked 18th and 22nd in standard and PPR formats. I'm not spending a 1st round pick on Arian Foster nor do I want Foster as my RB1. Neither should you.
Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
President George W. Bush spoke to a group of parents, teachers, and children in Nashville on Sept. 17, 2002, and I'm going to quote him here because it's relevant to Doug Martin (and mildly entertaining). "There's an old saying in Tennessee. I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee that says, 'Fool me once, shame on ... shame on you. Fool me ... you can't get fooled again.'" I'm not normally one to infuse politics into fantasy football, but I can't help but think of this particular Bushism when it comes to Martin. He's being drafted 12th - 14th among RB's on average, which means that if you wait on drafting a running back, you run the real risk of having Martin as your RB1. No way - you're not going to fool me again. Before his injury last year, Martin was averaging 3.5 yards a carry, down from 4.6 the year before. I know he's only had a limited number of carries this preseason so far, but he hasn't done anything with them averaging a paltry 2.5 yards per carry. Unless you give the guy 50 carries, he's not likely to see the century mark in yardage. The injury to Charles Sim brings Martin's value up a bit, but if you're looking for a safe pick in the first two rounds, I don't see how Martin fits that bill.
Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, Detroit Lions
It has been interesting to watch the gap in rankings between Bush and Bell close over the past few weeks. Initially, the rankings indicated that Bush was the clear favorite; however this is not the Reggie Bush show any longer. Bell has proven that he can not only compliment Bush, but he can deliver as well. Bell is quietly and quickly closing that gap. The values for both men go up in PPR formats, but given the fact that Bell can be picked up several rounds later, there's more ADP value in Bell than Bush this year. Watching Bush go in the 3rd round in several recent drafts made me rub my eyes and double check that auto-draft wasn't somehow left on. Iâ€™m not saying to stay away from Bush â€“ just know the value heâ€™s going to bring to your team and draft accordingly.
Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals
Ummm...yes, please. I think this will be a breakout year for Ellington. His play and his role have been compared by many to be the next coming of Jamaal Charles. I wouldn't rush to anoint him just yet, but he does have the kind of potential to land him in the Top 10 finishers this year. Working against him is his schedule. You'll be glad you had him in Week 1, but the last 4 weeks of the year are going to be brutal. Ellington during the fantasy postseason will face both St Louis and Seattle - not easy matchups. Still, I'd feel very solid with Ellington in the 2nd round.
== Quarterbacks ==
Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
I'm not going to spend much time on Manning, but I do want to mention that any thoughts you have of Manning throwing for 55 TD's again this year...forget about it. Manning is still the #1 fantasy QB, but he's not going to win your league for you all by himself. Expect a regression and expect him to go in the first or second round.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Guess who I'm targeting this year at QB? Matty Ice is perhaps one of the best values at QB right now. His FFN rankings have him at 73rd overall and 7th among QB's - numbers that aren't really that crazy. The best part is that I'm seeing him drafted lower. If Ryan is available to me in the 6th round, I'm smiling and clicking the Draft button. Look, the guy has both Julio Jones and Roddy White back and healthy. The absence of Tony Gonzalez shouldn't factor in too much with Harry Douglas taking a more active role in the offense. He's a fantastic QB playing on a team that can put up points. For the most part, I'm not willing to splurge on a Manning, Brees, or Rodgers. Matt Ryan is a great QB to target this year.
Tom Brady, New England Patriots
If Matt Ryan isn't available to me in the 6th, there's a good chance that Brady will be available the same round or perhaps in the 7th. Brady has the potential to be a Top 5 QB again, especially if Gronk spends more time on the field than off. Brady had a difficult year last year, but I'm expecting a nice bounce-back season out of him. He's currently ranked 84th overall and 10th among QB's on FFN. He should finish the year ahead of both of those numbers.
Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
As long as someone teaches Griffin how to slide, there's a good chance that he comes up solid after a disappointing year last year. So what's different that would make me say that? First, he's healthier. The torn ACL is no longer a concern for me. Second, his receiving corp is fantastic. There's the big-play ability and the deep threat posed by DeSean Jackson. Pierre Garcon is back and looking great. As long as he stays healthy, Jordan Reed makes for an awesome target and safety valve at Tight End. Andre Roberts has potential. Alfred Morris is not going to catch many passes, but he'll likely see 1,000 yards rushing again so defenses can't ignore the Washington run game. Griffin will likely be available in or around the 7th round (ranked 81st overall and 8th among QB's on FFN). For all of these reasons, I think it's entirely possible to see RGIII back in our fantasy good graces in 2014.
Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
I had some concern with Romo and his back injury, but if he's in pain, he hasn't shown it. The defense in Dallas was atrocious last year, and let's be honest, it hasn't gotten better in any meaningful or significant way. The Cowboys had to throw a lot last year and they'll likely throw a lot again this year. What gets me excited about Romo is his supporting cast. Dez Bryant is a beast who can turn a botched play or an underthrown pass into fantasy production. Witten is the best security blanket at tight end and a proven player. Terrance Williams and DeMarco Murray are talented players that defenses cannot ignore. Romo is in that same sweet spot as Ryan, Brady, and RGIII. If I've passed on the elite QB's, I'd be just fine with Romo under center on my fantasy team.
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Perhaps no other QB has generated more questions to my inbox than Newton. Here's the deal. The ankle surgery is a concern. Part of the draw for Cam is his ability to scramble and pick up more fantasy-relevant yards than other QB's. 10 yards rushing is equivalent to 25 yards passing. Without the wheels that helped him make a name for himself, he's going to have to rely on his arm. Who's he throwing to? Olsen is the only familiar face and you can't throw to him all game. While there are some glimmers of hope in the receiving corp, it's largely an untested group with little/no chemistry. RGIII sits literally one spot ahead of Newton in the FFN rankings, and I'd rather have RGIII who has much more talented receivers and a higher ceiling. If you draft Newton, make sure you grab another equally-capable QB to back him up.
== Wide Receivers ==
Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings
It seems like we can't go a draft without someone bringing up Patterson. He's no longer a secret. If you had drafted a few weeks ago, Patterson would have been a steal at 80th overall and 28th among wide receivers. Today, his FFN ranking is 46th overall and 19th among receivers. The kid reminds me a lot of former Viking Percy Harvin in that the best way to utilize him is to simply get him the ball. That's exactly what Norv Turner plans to do. The QB situation in Minnesota is nothing to write home about, but Matt Cassel was more than serviceable late last season when he took over the starting role. Patterson has been going in the 5th or even early 6th rounds making him a great value at that spot. I like him to outperform that ADP.
Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns
We still don't know when Gordon's appeal will take place or what will come of it. If you're willing to take a risk, you can grab Gordon in the later rounds of your draft. Depending on the size of the league and the format, it's not unrealistic to find Gordon becoming someone's WR4/5. If he gets half his year back, that's 8 games that the former Top 5 finisher could play for you. At that kind draft spot, the value is unmistakable. Then again...he could sit out for the whole year, but your late round picks are about value and Gordon could be great value.
UPDATE: Josh Gordon's appeal was denied. The talented WR will not play in the NFL this year. Cross him off your draft list.
Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers
He's healthy. He's talented. Defenses are worried that Colin Kaepernick will bust out of the pocket. Pick your reason. This is the year that Crabtree finally emerges as a top WR. The 49ers have a solid receiving corp with Stevie Johnson, Anquan Boldin, and Vernon Davis, but Crabtree is the real receiving threat. When Kaepernick and Crabtree have been on the field together, Crabtree has seen an average of 8 targets per game. That's the kind of number that should have you considering him as one of your starting WR's. At 41st overall and 17th among WR's on FFN, Crabtree should outperform his draft rankings.
Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons
With Julio Jones missing most of the season last year, defenses keyed in on an injured Roddy White. Both of Atlanta's key receivers are back and healthy. I expect the Falcons offense to be firing on all cylinders again and wouldn't shy away from either Jones or White. The offensive line in Atlanta has gotten better and the running game is questionable. What isn't questionable is the ability for the Falcons to move the ball through the air. If you have any reservations about drafting White based upon last year's performance, I'm listing him here so that I can say "forgot about it". I expect a nice bounce-back year from White.
Victor Cruz, New York Giants
Who doesn't love a good salsa dance? With Eli Manning under center, there hasn't been much dancing as of late. Eli has looked simply awful this preseason and he was slightly better than terrible last year. Cruz is the best offensive threat on that Giants team so we can be reasonably confident that the Giants will want to get him the ball as often as possible. Looking at Cruz's stats, he only had 4 scores all year with 3 of them coming in Week 1. He saw 100+ yards in four games and averaged 71 yards per game that he played. Can Eli really be as terrible as he was last year? As long as he improves a little bit and the line can give him some breathing room, there's no reason why Cruz can't eclipse the un-Cruz-like 998 receiving yards last season. He's ranked 13th among WR's on FFN. That's right in the mix with Vincent Jackson, Roddy White, and Keenan Allen - all guys I would rather have if I felt that Eli was a hopeless cause.
Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans
One of my favorite guys to target at wide receiver this year is Kendall Wright. He's not a sexy pick like a Brandon Marshall or Jordy Nelson, but he's productive. In PPR formats, Wright is inching closer to PPR-gold status. He had 94 catches last year and there's a good chance that you didn't even know about it. Even with all the talk about Justin Hunter as one of this year's sleepers, Wright is guaranteed to be the focus of that receiving corp. He's currently ranked 28th among WR's on FFN effectively making him a WR3. He can easily perform at WR2 levels and likely will.
Terrance Williams, Dallas Cowboys
I've said it already and I'll say it one more time. The defense for America's Team is awful. Now, that's not a good thing if you're a Cowboy's fan, but it's actually pretty good news for fantasy owners, because it means that Tony Romo will have to throw...a lot. Dez Bryant will often see double coverage meaning that Williams is likely to see single coverage. This kid has a ton of talent and can create separation. Romo knows it. Jason Garrett knows it. Now you know it. Williams is ranked one spot behind Kendall Wright on FFN and should perform at a similar level. Here's a guy that you can target in your later rounds and packs enough punch that he's a solid value come draft day.
== Tight Ends ==
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
Allow me to state the obvious - Gronk is ridiculously talented and a TD-magnet. Other than Jimmy Graham, there may not be another better endzone target than Gronk. Allow me to state the obvious yet again - he's injury prone and is still considered 50-50 to even play Week 1. Gronkowski is the ultimate risk/reward player. When he's healthy and on the field, he's elite. When he's not, well you're plugging in a backup TE. For me, there's too much risk in Gronk going at the tail end of the 2nd round. That's just too rich for my blood because it means that I'm drafting him over a safer, capable RB or WR. Make no mistake though - once Gronk goes off the board after Graham and Julius Thomas, the next tier is not as pretty. The Tier 1 tight ends are similar to the Tier 1 quarterbacks this year. If you're not going to get an elite guy, then don't reach. I don't think Gronk is a safe pick so I'm passing on him, grabbing a RB or WR instead, and targeting guys like Jason Witten, Dennis Pitta, Kyle Rudolph, or even Martellus Bennett (a great value pick by the way). Gronk is/can be awesome, but his asking price is too much for me.
Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
First things first - Reed needs to stay healthy for this draft pick to pay off. If he can do that, his ceiling is fantastically high. He's ranked 10th among tight ends on FFN and could easily end the year in the Top 5. Jay Gruden is a pass-happy kind of guy, and with Reed's size and talent, he will make for a very nice endzone target. This is a guy you can get in rounds 6 - 8.
XSOT CommentedAug 29, 2014 11:00 am
Great advise! Shout out from Oshkosh, WI baby!
Lakemonsters CommentedAug 30, 2014 11:00 am