FA Expectancy: Kyle Shanahan

Updated: July 23rd 2017

Throughout the offseason, I will be preparing a collection of articles that will focus on free agents and trade candidates. The articles will discuss the player in question, and what the move does to their value, as well as what their landing spot means for their new and old teams.

Kyle Shanahan – HC, San Francisco 49ers

I want to take a different approach to my FA Expectancy than I normally do and look at new 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan. More specifically, I want to see what type of coach he is and what his presence brings to the 49ers from an offensive standpoint. I also want to examine what his departure means for several high profile Falcons’ players.

A Team Saviour?

Shanahan began his coordinating career in Houston with the Texans from 2008 till 2010. His two seasons with the Texans he executed a balanced offense with 21 and 29 passing TDs to 16 and 13 rushing TDs respectively. In 2010 Shanahan was hired as the offensive coordinator underneath his recently unretired father, Mike, in Washington. For the first two seasons, they were a terrible offense. Led by Donovan McNabb (2010) and Rex Grossman (2011) they averaged only 18.5 points per game and failed to score 10 rushing TDs in either season. Then in 2012 Washington infamously traded for Robert Griffin III and the offense exploded around him and fellow rookie Alfred Morris. The Shanahan’s did an excellent job of keeping the offense simple and allowed both Griffin and Morris to control the game one the ground. The team finished with 22 rushing TDs (2nd overall) and averaged over 27 points per game, good for 4th overall.

Unfortunately, the offense took a step back in 2013 finishing average to below average in offensive statistics. This was likely due to the injury that Griffin suffered in the playoffs the season before as he became unable to execute the scramble drill that allowed the offense to make big, downfield plays. Both Kyle and his father were fired at the end of the season. Kyle became the offensive coordinator in Cleveland for the 2014 season and while awful in the passing game the team did have success running the ball, ranking 4th with 17 rushing TDs.

In 2015 Shanahan moved to join the newly hired Head Coach Dan Quinn in Atlanta. Quinn was the defensive coordinator of the Legion of Boom Seahawks that went to two Super Bowls and combining him with Shanahan was praised throughout the league. The team went through growing pains in their first season after starting off undefeated through the first month but failed to make the playoffs. Much like their record stated the offense was average with rankings of 21st in scoring, 23rd in passing and 13th in rushing. Then the offense exploded last season finishing top 3 in all three categories on their way to the team’s second Super Bowl appearance. The day after the Super Bowl Shanahan used his success to land the head coaching job in San Francisco, a team that was 27th in scoring in last season.

Having laid out his 8-year career as an offensive coordinator the below graphs show how Shanahan led offenses have done since 2008. For context, I have also listed the QB-WR-RB combo that led each team.

 

 

 

Kyle Shanahan Offensive Standings
YEAR Team SCORING S. RANK S. AVG PASSING P. RANK P. AVG RUSHING R. RANK R. AVG
2016 ATL 33.8 1 22.8 38 2T 24.6 20 3T 13.8
2015 ATL 21.2 21T 22.8 21 23T 26.3 13 13T 11.4
2014 CLE 18.7 27 22.6 12 32 25.2 17 4 11.9
2013 WAS 20.9 23 23.4 20 24 25.1 14 13T 12.8
2012 WAS 27.3 4 22.8 24 13T 23.7 22 2 12.5
2011 WAS 18 26 22.2 19 23 23.3 8 26 12.5
2010 WAS 18.9 25 22 21 22 23.5 9 24T 12.5
2009 HOU 24.3 10 21.5 29 5T 22.2 13 18 13.4
2008 HOU 22.9 17 22 21 13T 20.2 16 11T 14.9
AVG   22.9 17.1 22.5 22.8 17.4 23.8 14.7 12.7 12.9

 

Featured Starters
YEAR QB REC RB
2017 Brian Hoyer Pierre Garcon Carlos Hyde
2016 Matt Ryan Julio Jones Devonta Freeman
2015 Matt Ryan Julio Jones Devonta Freeman
2014 Brian Hoyer Andrew Hawkins Terrance West
2013 Robert Griffin III Pierre Garcon Alfred Morris
2012 Robert Griffin III Josh Morgan Alfred Morris
2011 Rex Grossman Jabar Gaffney Roy Helu
2010 Donovan McNabb Santana Moss Ryan Torain
2009 Matt Schaub Andre Johnson Steve Slaton
2008 Matt Schaub Andre Johnson Steve Slaton

 

Suffice to say that other than last year’s juggernaut Falcons and a magical season from a pair of rookies in 2013 his offenses have been pretty pedestrian. Matt Kelley of RotoUnderworld discussed how backward it is to assume that coaches who have had generational talents at a position are somehow going to make mid-tier to mediocre talent into fantasy stars. He even specifically talks about this infatuation with Kyle Shanahan and his Coach Klein-like advantage of motivating and play calling. If you want to listen to his full discuss you can find it here. Be warned that it does include some NSFW language.

What to Expect in San Francisco?

Football wise the 49ers were in complete shambles last season which is reflective in their two wins and 31st overall finish. Shanahan and new first-time General Manager John Lynch brought in veterans Brian Hoyer and Pierre Garcon, both of which Shanahan has worked with in the past, to have some stability in the passing game. I have already looked into the passing game in my Pierre Garcon article and discussed how Hoyer and Garcon can have appeal as low-cost options in 2017. Looking deeper into past seasons my 2017 prediction would be that the offense will fall somewhere between Shanahan’s 2013 Washington team and his 2014 Cleveland Browns. This would suggest that passing TDs would be hard to come by and therefore Garcon will need to rely heavily on collecting targets to hold WR3 value.

As we can see from above other than Matt Ryan the options at QB have been below average at best. This, along with the reputation his father had to turn any athlete with two legs into a 1,000-yard rusher, may be an indication as to why most Shanahan led offenses lean more heavily on the run. For those that are concerned that negative game script will force Shanahan to have to pass more frequently it has shown that even with mediocre teams Shanahan has always stuck with his running game. There is definitely fantasy appeal to having a Shanahan led backfield.

The question now becomes, “Who will be the primary back once the season opens”? They inherited Carlos Hyde who has been a workhorse back when healthy and also drafted Joe Williams in the 4th round. Apparently, Shanahan was adamant that the team take Williams for him to use in his offense. This has many thinking that Williams is the guy to own in San Francisco which has moved his rankings to the mid-second round in rookie drafts believing that his time will come sooner rather than later. But there has been news out of San Francisco that undrafted RB Matt Breida is looking better than Williams in practice and again Matt Kelley (in a separate discussion) mentioned back in May about how he was skeptical about Williams being ahead of Brieda on the depth chart come week 1. Have a listen here if you want the 3-minute conversation (again NSFW). Because of this for 2017 you want to stay the course with Carlos Hyde and try and acquire him from any panicky owners that don’t think he will return his usually RB2 value.

Will Atlanta suffer a Super hangover without Shanahan?

Other than Shanahan leaving the offense stays relatively the same. They still have Julio Jones who is top 3 of everybody’s receiver rankings. They still have Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman who make up one of the best 1-2 backfield combos in the league. And they still have Matt Ryan who is an ascending QB talent in the prime of his career. Regression probably is expected but that’s what happens when you have a record setting offense. Hopefully, not as bad as Cam Newton and Carolina last year but regression is expected nonetheless. Let’s be clear though that it won’t be because of Shanahan leaving. Remember that the team was middle of the road with Shanahan in his first season, statistically so we should expect the team to be somewhere between their mediocre 2015 season and their outstanding 2016 season.

If you are looking to acquire value from this team out of the previously mentioned players I would be trying to acquire Tevin Coleman. Devonta Freeman’s contract ends after this season and depending on what he is asking for it might be more economical if the Falcons let him go and draft another RB to pair with Coleman. This could open up the whole backfield in a strong offense to Coleman making his 2018 stock skyrocket. Worst case scenario Freeman signs a new contract and Coleman is in the same place he is now, a mid RB2 value in PPR leagues.

 

Make sure to continue to read more Free Agency Expectancy articles throughout the offseason to be prepared for your summer Auctions. Have a player that you want me to evaluate? Send me a message on Twitter @naandrews19.

Rookie Undervalued/Overvalued

Updated: July 23rd 2017

One of the great things about fantasy football is the wide range of opinions on rookies coming into the NFL. This week I join fellow RSO writers Nick Andrews and Robert Cowper analyzing a few rookies my compatriots feel the fantasy community is too high on or is not getting the attention they deserve. Be sure to read the other great takes from Nick and Robert on Reality Sports Online.

Undervalued

Nick – Jamaal Williams, RB, Green Bay Packers

During the draft process, I read a one-on-one interview where Williams explained his 1-year leave from BYU as well as his misdemeanor charge. Needless to say, his actions were something that we all did as 19 and 20-year-old males and should not be held against his skillset. In fact, I think they refocused his passion for playing football. He’s ranked as the 29th rookie on DLF, behind players such as Wayne Gallman and D’Onta Foreman. He fits what Eddie Lacy was during his first two seasons as a physical runner that can dominate inside the red zone. Unlike Lacy, he has the ability to play on passing downs depending on what role Ty Montgomery has as the main passing down back. In a format like RSO where rookies are asked to produce more quickly because of the contract limitations, I have Williams ranked as my 11th player (pushing TEs further down). You can likely get him at a discount and wait until the middle of the second and early third. Don’t be afraid to pull the trigger at the start of the second though as I am predicting Williams to be this season’s Jordan Howard of value.

My take:  Solid producer at BYU with average NFL size, bottom tier athleticism, and little passing game production.  Williams displays more power than his size and athleticism dictates and very good running instincts on interior lanes.  Opportunity exists with a wide open depth chart containing only former wide receiver Ty Mongomery and two other running backs drafted later than Williams.  The Packer situation premium is overstated a little at this point though.  Green Bay moved to a more Rodgers-centric passing attack trending downward in rushing attempts the last four seasons  finishing 29th last year.  Williams is going off the board as the 21st player in June MFL rookie drafts.  This is about right for a solid but limited player with a good opportunity to assume a two down role on a high powered Green Bay offense.

Robert – Wayne Gallman, RB, New York Giants

My choice for the player currently being underrated and under drafted is RB Wayne Gallman from the Giants. I became a fan of Gallman’s during Clemson’s championship season last year.  In my National Championship preview, I said that Gallman was a “slasher of a running back who I feel would be at home in a zone-running scheme.” Unfortunately, Gallman didn’t luck out with his destination’s scheme but I still think he can be successful.  Gallman has good size at 6’0″ 215lb but had a disappointing combine which dragged down his real life and fantasy value despite great college production.  He was essentially a three year starter and put up just under 4,000 total yards on 741 touches.  He also stayed healthy and out of the headlines over those three years which is more than you can say about many of the more talented RBs ahead of him. DLF has Gallman ranked as the 22nd best rookie which is actually higher than the 25th that I ranked him.  The surprising part though is his ADP: I had him at 25 in my mock draft but DLF’s ADP has him at 36.0.  The hate has officially gone too far.  That ADP has him behind question marks like Ishmael Zamora, Kenny Golloday and Aaron Jones.  Gallman will start the season on the depth chart behind sophomore Paul Perkins.  Perkins won the job late in the season, ending with four straight double digit carry games.  His production in those games was disappointing though: 62 carries, 271 yards, 2 receptions, 9 yards, 0 TDs.  That’s why the Giants invested a fourth round pick in Gallman, which is actually a higher pick than the fifth rounder used on Perkins in 2016.  To my eye, Perkins is JAG (just a guy) and won’t last as the unquestioned starter in New York.  I’ll be investing in Gallman with the hope that he realizes some value in 2017 and heads into 2018 atop the depth chart.

My take:  Gallman brings virtually identical size and athleticism to Williams but plays with less power and shows more passing game skills.  The Giants are another team with little on the depth chart which is currently fronted by Paul Perkins who did very little to impress last season with his opportunities.  New York provides one of the least friendly running back environments in the league with a bad offensive line and an offense which relies heavily on the short passing game with heavy 3 wide receiver sets resulting in small rushing attempt totals under head coach Ben McAdoo.  The Giants have also routinely used a deep committee under McAdoo which limits the carries for all running backs.  Overall, this is a low-upside player in a low-upside committee situation.  Gallman costs very little at his rookie ADP of 33 and makes for one of the cheaper rookie running gambles with a true opportunity for carries early.

Overvalued

Nick – Marlon Mack, RB, Indianapolis

I understand the excitement of having a young running back in an offense that has Andrew Luck and has been the hot topic landing spot for any rookie RB the last couple drafts. There are two main problems that I have with acquiring Mack in his current state: lack of draft value and scheme misalignment. Starting with the draft value, before being selected by Indianapolis Mack was ranked in with an ADP in the 30’s. Since then his value has risen to 20th on DLF but has been drafted between 17th and 13th in three of my RSO leagues. Every draft there are players that get pulled up after being selected based on land spot and lose any sleeper value that they had as a late 2nd or 3rd round pick because their acquiring price becomes a high 2nd or maybe even a 1st round pick. I would rather take two or three shots at drafting a valuable RB (such as Jamaal Williams) later in the draft than climbing the board to acquire what was a nice 3rd round pick in March.

The second reason I am avoiding Mack in drafts is that his skillset does not align with how the Colts offense is built right now. Mack was a player that could make big plays when he was able to move downhill and use his elusiveness to make defenders miss. Despite his elusiveness, however, he doesn’t break tackles and only gains minimal yards after contact. This is fine if you play behind Dallas’ or Oakland’s offensive lines that give 3-5 yards before contact. Instead, Mack is playing behind the Colts’ line which is one of the worst in the league and therefore will not be offering consistent holes for Mack to find. Mack also has an awful 54:1 fumble ratio in college that could limit his number of touches and plays until he can be more reliable. Overall I think Mack would be a good pick ONLY IF you can acquire him at the start of the 3rd round, which at this point is highly unlikely. He will become easy enough to acquire 12 months from now when owners are frustrated that he wasn’t able to usurp the ageless wonder, Frank Gore. For these reasons, I’m out.

My take:  Mack displays breakaway speed and plus athleticism at a similar size to Williams and Gallman.   Unfortunately, he also possesses the worst football skills among the group.  He routinely misses rushing lanes forcing runs to the outside.  Mack’s reliance on speed worked against low-level college competition but will find far less success in the NFL against much better athletes.  Mack was not asked to do much pass protection in college.  His small hands combined with atrocious ball security led to an abysmal fumble rate in college.  Mack possesses the widest range of outcomes of any player on this list.  His athletic ability could translate to a dangerous weapon for Indianapolis but his lack of ball security and pass protection skills are the type of deficiencies which lead running backs to short careers in the NFL if they are not corrected early.  An ADP of 19 is on the high side for a player with so many question marks.

Robert – Samaje Perine, RB, Washington Redskins

My choice for the player currently being overrated and over drafted is RB Samaje Perine from Washington. According to DynastyLeagueFootball.com, Perine is the 14th ranked rookie and his rookie ADP is 10.50, meaning he’s a first round pick in most leagues.  Personally, I ranked Perine as my 22nd rookie (10th RB); I did bend to consensus a bit and put him at 15 in my most recent mock draft.  The situation in the Redskins backfield gives me pause.  Last offseason, there were times when we thought Matt Jones, Keith Marshall and Rob Kelley each would start the year as the RB1.  Matt Jones’ struggles with ball security and injuries are well documented but he does have the most draft capital invested in him of all these guys.  A season ending injury was the death blow for 2016 combine workout warrior Keith Marshall but maybe he catches some attention again this training camp, or maybe he gets cut in July, who knows.  “Fat Rob” is probably the least skilled of the bunch but his best ability might be his availability.  None of this is even considering established passing down back Chris Thompson who will likely see about 100 touches of his own.  Given the fact that all of the aforementioned backs are, currently, still on the roster, it makes me hesitant to draft Perine.  I believe Perine is the most talented of the four every-down backs, but at this point they all have some reasonable chance to emerge as the starter so I’m going to stay away.

My take:  It is not surprising that my colleagues selected all running backs for their choices in a deep class at the position.  Each back chosen in this article was taken in the fourth round of the NFL draft but their rookie ADP varies from 33 for Gallman all the way up to 8 for Perine.  Perine is easily my favorite back of the group.  He brings true NFL power back size and incredible strength with nice agility for his mass.  Where pass protection is a weakness for most rookies that limits playing time, Perine’s blocking is a strength.   I have little doubt the former Sooner should receive 15 carries a game by the end of year given the Washington depth chart.  As stated by Robert, though, the coaching staff may feel the need to mix in a variety of players.  The problem for Perine is his 8th overall rookie ADP.  This is an extremely hefty price point for a player who will never be even moderately involved in the passing game and will be heavily touchdown dependent in fantasy.


Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

FA Expectancy: Jeremy Maclin

Updated: July 16th 2017

Throughout the offseason, I will be preparing a collection of articles that will focus on free agents and trade candidates. The articles will discuss the player in question, and what the move does to their value, as well as what their landing spot means for their new and old teams.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Kansas City Chiefs

The first big surprise, post draft, of the offseason was the Chiefs releasing veteran wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. After having consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in 2014 and 2015 Maclin dropped of statistically last season because of injury. In 2016 Maclin had less than 45 catches and only 2 touchdowns. For these reasons and believing that he may have “lost a step” going into his age 29 season, the Chiefs decided to move on. The Ravens swooped in and picked up Maclin on a 2 year/ $11MM deal. This has had a positive influence on several players’ value (including Maclin’s) which makes a re-evaluation of the position on both teams necessary.

What does this do for Baltimore?

The two stats that kept getting thrown around regarding Baltimore this offseason was that they had the highest amount of pass attempts last season (672) and have one of the highest amount of vacated targets from last season with the departure of Steve Smith. Translation: any receiver that joined the Ravens would become highly sought after on volume alone. Now with Jeremy Maclin opposite to Mike Wallace Baltimore has a similar, albeit older, possession-to-speed wide receiver combo like in Tampa Bay, which I applauded in my last article. From that article, you should be able to take away that I don’t think that Wallace will see a significant drop in targets and fantasy value. Joe Flacco on the other hand needed a receiver more consistent than Wallace to be the team’s WR1 and it should increase the usability of Flacco in fantasy, especially in Superflex/2QB. Breshad Perriman is the player that most people have pointed to as the loser in this scenario but I think people’s expectations of what Perriman was going to be was too high to begin with. He could have bye week/flex appeal for a period this season but I don’t see him being more than a WR4/5 this season. I have never been high on Perriman and saw him and Phillip Dorsett of Indianapolis as similar one-skill players. The window to sell Perriman is closing with the signing of Jeremy Maclin.

Does this help Maclin’s value?

jeremy-maclin-baltimoreJeremy Maclin came into Kansas City as the savior that could remove the stink of not having a receiver catch a touchdown in 2014. Some were skeptical that he was a product of Chip Kelly’s offense and would not have the same stats with Andy Reid. He answered with 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns and saw a big spike in his value. This lead to a number of RSO owners signing him to a multi-year deal at auction last offseason. Stephen Wendell and I even complemented RSO frontman Matt Papson last season on his 4 year/$26MM contract for Maclin in the Writer’s League. Unfortunately for all Maclin owners last year they were left wanting with his underwhelming 2016 season. Depending on how deep one invested they may have been able to trade out or just release Maclin earlier this offseason. If you did hold him through the low point you might as well hold him now till we see how he fits with the Ravens and what his value will bounce back to. In auctions, I will be treating Maclin much like I did Ryan Matthews last year where he could be a buy for a contending team that has the extra cap space this year but doesn’t want to commit money to the future for a sexier receiver. He should max out at $14MM for 2017, $25MM/2 years for those that really love the landing spot.

A “Hill” to die on in KC

No player has been more talked about (positively or negatively) in the 2017 offseason than Tyreek Hill. The rookie became the must waiver add midway through last season and many people were projecting his role to only increase heading into this season. Now with Maclin out and no obvious top option on the roster Hill will be locked in as one of your auction’s longest lasting bids. If you think Hill will be THEE player to get on your team be prepared to be spending over $15MM/year. If you are not a big Hill fan he’s definitely a player you want to nominate and watch other owners spend their cap on.

**As a tip I find that the first players at each position nominated actually go for less than their expected value since everyone is mildly hesitant to spend right away. Try not to nominate Hill (or any player you want out as a decoy) in the first round of selections. Instead, wait for a second or third pass to make owners set the market. **

Of course, the other Chiefs receivers have seen a bump in their value and are all worth acquiring, for the right price. Albert Wilson, Chris Conley, and even Jehu Chesson have a chance to be the WR2 (or WR1) in this offense but the Chiefs are not a team that is known for producing multiple fantasy relevant receivers. The drafting of Patrick Mahomes likely signals the change at QB from Alex Smith in the next year or two which could increase the depth of passes and overall aggressiveness of the offense. Ultimately there may be value in any three of these receivers if they can become a flex contributor. However, I would rather wait till the preseason to see which player looks like they will be playing the most snaps and pay the premium. Wilson and Chesson are likely available in your auction and could be bought near the end for close to the minimum. Conley has been gaining interest from the dynasty community and will be the most expensive of the three to acquire. A late second should be the ceiling that you pay to acquire him before we know more in August.

Make sure to continue to read more Free Agency Expectancy articles throughout the offseason to be prepared for your summer Auctions. Have a player that you want me to evaluate? Leave me a message on Twitter @naandrews19.

Questionable Offseason Moves

Updated: August 22nd 2017

Every season NFL teams make questionable moves in the offseason which makes one wonder what the team is thinking. Poor personnel decisions, salary cap management, and lack of coherent team direction cause major headaches both during the season and for the future.  I take a look at a few of these situations and examine the implications for both NFL teams and your RSO leagues.

Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars: A hope and a prayer at quarterback

I felt confident each of these teams would address the quarterback position bringing in quality veteran competition. Instead, Houston traded up in the draft for Clemson’s DeShaun Watson to compete with incumbent Tom Savage and Jacksonville stuck with Blake Bortles only resigning perpetual backup Chad Henne.

The Texans have wasted a J.J. Watt led defense which has finished eighth or better in Football Outsider’s DVOA metric for defensive efficiency each of the last three seasons. Despite the strong defense and playing in a poor division, Houston finished just 9-7 in the last three seasons primarily due to incompetent quarterback play.  Now the Texans are left with the uninspiring choice of relying on either Tom Savage or rookie DeShaun Watson.  Savage did not throw a single touchdown pass and managed only 6.3 yards per attempt (close to Blake Bortles and Carson Wentz who were among the bottom of the league) in three appearances.  The Texans managed just 21, 12, and 17 points scored in those contests.  The other option is starting first round pick Watson.  The odds of rookie quarterbacks performing well are not good.  For every Dak Prescott, there is a Jared Goff, Ryan Leaf, and E.J. Manuel who produce very little.

The Jaguars, meanwhile, maintained the status-quo by keeping Blake Bortles as the starting quarterback. Jacksonville possesses an ascending young defense built from multiple high draft picks and expensive free agent additions.  Quarterback play doomed this team to awful finishes over the last few seasons where the Jaguars won only 11 games over the last three years.  You can read about Bortles’ struggles with more detail. Simply put, Bortles has been one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL over his three year career.  Jacksonville then compounded the problem by inexplicably picking up Bortles’ fifth-year option at $19 million for 2018.  There is no upside to picking up the option and lots of downside.  The odds of Bortles suddenly making a significant jump in the fourth season are extremely low.  There is practically zero chance Bortles would make anything close to $19 million on the open market in 2018.  The contract also becomes fully guaranteed if he suffers a catastrophic injury which prevents him from playing in 2018.  The Jaguars probably look for a new quarterback in 2018.

RSO Consequences: Look for more of the same in Houston.  This has been among the most run-heavy offenses in the league since head coach Bill O’Brien arrived and that is unlikely to change.  Lamar Miller and rookie D’Onta Foreman should see plenty of volume.  DeAndre Hopkins and the rest of the Houston receiving core will likely be limited by poor quarterback play and low volume once again.  Neither Savage nor Watson will be fantasy relevant.

Jacksonville, on the other hand, looks to completely change the script.  They invested heavily in fourth overall pick running back Leonard Fournette and will want the running game to carry the offense.  Expect a sharp decline in Blake Bortles pass attempts this season from the over 600 for each of the last two years.  Things have gone terribly wrong for the Jaguars if Bortles throws the ball much more than 500 times.  This reduction in volume, while good for Jacksonville, likely means less production from Allen Robinson and the rest of the Jaguars’ receivers.  Bortles should provide QB2 production when playing but could easily be benched later in the season due to performance and/or the fifth-year guarantee to prevent injury.

Kansas City Chiefs: Contender or Rebuilder?

Another team making a big move on draft day, Kansas City gave up 2017 first and third round picks in addition to a 2018 first to take quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs decided to gamble on a possible future quarterback upgrade where they could have added premium playmaking talents.  Kansas City then released Jeremy Maclin, the only proven wide receiver on the roster.  No other wide receiver on the roster broke the 600 yard mark for the Chiefs.  These are moves typically made from a team rebuilding for the future, not from a team which has won 23 games over the last two seasons.  I would not say the Chiefs are sabotaging Alex Smith’s likely last season as a starter in Kansas City, but it is clear Kansas City is not providing Smith with all the tools possible to succeed and the Chiefs are questionable to make the playoffs given how the offseason has gone.

On a side note, waiting until June to release Maclin was a classless move on the part of the Chiefs. Kansas City certainly has salary cap issues but they have known about these cap issues before the free agency period began and nothing new has happened to change their mind about the move.  There is no good reason for the Chiefs to release Maclin, who has been nothing but a model citizen and teammate, this late in the offseason after teams have spent most of their cap space in free agency.  This is an issue I foresee many agents addressing in top players’ contracts next season forcing teams to make an earlier decision on player cuts.

RSO Consequences: Tight end Travis Kelce maintains his role as the dominant receiver in this offense.  The wide receiver position is a free for all.  Rookie sensation Tyreek Hill’s dynamic freshman campaign was largely supported by some, likely unsustainable, huge runs resulting in an absurd 11.2 yards per carry and a bunch of manufactured touches near the line of scrimmage in the passing game.  Will this usage continue or will another receiver step up for Kansas City?  Historically Alex Smith supported, at most, one fantasy relevant wide receiver and the upside is not extremely high considering the limited volume in the Kansas City passing attack.  Maclin should be a quality second wide receiver for the team that lands him but his fantasy value will largely be determined by where he lands.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Doug Martin Contract

By most accounts, Tampa Bay improved considerably this offseason offensively highlighted by free agent acquisition DeSean Jackson at wide receiver and first round draft pick O.J. Howard at tight end. One player who will not contribute at the start is running back Doug Martin who will miss the first three games as part of a four game suspension for performance enhancing drugs.  Martin’s production has been extremely spotty in his five year career, accumulating less than 500 rushing yards in three out of five seasons with injuries playing a key role.  He is in the second year of a five year contract which pays him a little under $6 million this season (7th highest cap hit of any running back) and around $7 million for the remaining three seasons.

The running back market has changed since Martin signed his contract. Not a single back, including high profile names Eddie Lacy, Marshawn Lynch, and Adrian Peterson, signed for more than $4 million during free agency.  Clearly, Martin’s contract is out of line in today’s market for a 28 year old back with his overall lack of production and injury/suspension issues. The Buccaneers were given an out, however, as Martin’s suspension voids the 2017 salary guarantees in his contract.  This is a golden opportunity for Tampa Bay to, at a minimum, renegotiate Martin’s contract to a level more commensurate with the market.  An outright release is also not out of the question given the current options on the team and options likely available in trade or free agency.   It is a mystery why Tampa Bay has not addressed the situation yet.

RSO Consequences: The running game was ugly in 2016 with Tampa Bay averaging over four yards per carry against only a single opponent (San Francisco’s awful run defense).  The situation could be a mess in 2017 and is one of the most unpredictable in the league.  Rodgers, Sims, and rookie McNichols could all see significant looks without Martin in an offense that could score plenty if Jameis Winston takes another step forward.  Martin’s outcomes range from being cut to taking over the lead role in an offense with many scoring chances.  I generally steer clear of heavy investment in large, uncertain running back committees and this group is not an exception unless you can get pieces on the cheap.


Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

Slicing ’17 Rookie Class into 12 Tiers

Updated: July 23rd 2017

According to a recent poll on our RSO Twitter feed, about 50% of RSO leagues have not yet conducted their rookie drafts.  As you’re continuing your preparation, I’m here to provide my tiered rankings of the top 50 rookies.  Navigating three to four rounds of a rookie draft isn’t easy.  My tiers are designed to help you know when to buy or sell so you can accumulate the best possible rookie class, at great value!

So let’s begin…

Tier 1

1. Corey Davis WR TEN

While Corey Davis may not be quite the same level of prospect as recent 1.01/1.02 picks Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, and Todd Gurley, he’s undoubtedly the best prospect in this class and the only receiver I’m willing to bet will be a true NFL #1.  Putting my money where my mouth is, I already have 3 shares and am aiming for more.

Tier 2

2. Joe Mixon RB CIN
3. Christian McCaffrey RB CAR
4. Leonard Fournette RB JAX

To say you can’t go wrong with picks 2, 3, and 4 would be inaccurate. In a few years, all three will have differing values. But at this point, the margins between each are razor-thin.

Consistent with my general strategy, I’m going to often choose the most talented player regardless of their potential non-talent-related downfalls such as injury history, off-the-field issues, etc. I’ll take Joe Mixon at 2.  He’s the only RB in this class that I believe truly has an elite RB1 ceiling. My rankings 3rd and 4th ranked players differ depending on your scoring system. PPR -> Christian McCaffrey. Standard -> Leonard Fournette.

Tier 3

5. Dalvin Cook RB MIN

While a sub-10th percentile SPARQ score terrifies me, Dalvin Cook‘s college tape tells a different story. I firmly believe that he’s the most talented back on the Minnesota Vikings and it isn’t remotely close. How soon he will earn playing time may be another story. He will need to improve drastically in pass-protection and ball security to earn playing time.

After the 1.05 pick, this draft class falls off a cliff. If you’re slated to pick 6th or later in the first round of a rookie draft this year, I’d advise shopping that pick for help now or 2018/2019 picks.

Tier 4

6. Mike Williams WR LAC

Back injuries are scary. Back injuries are especially scary when learning a NFL playbook for this first time, getting acclimated to a NFL playbook, and completing for playing time among a crowded group of talented receivers. Even if he fully recovers from this injury in time for the season, he’s unlikely to contribute in a meaningful way this season. Still my 1.06, I’d only make that pick if I’ve exhausted every trade possible without coming to an agreement. If Mike Williams struggles for playing time, but appears healthy when on the field, he might be a buy-low target at the trade deadline or during the 2018 off-season

For more info on his injury and the potential need for surgery if the non-surgical route doesn’t work, I’d recommend listening to the AUDIBLE LIVE! Podcast from June 8th as Jene Bramel (@JeneBramel on Twitter) provides great insight.

Tier 5

7. Alvin Kamara RB NO
8. John Ross WR CIN
9. David Njoku TE CLE
10. Evan Engram TE NYG
11. Samaje Perine RB WAS
12. O.J. Howard TE TB
13. Kareem Hunt RB KC

Even if he doesn’t develop as an inside runner, Alvin Kamara will still be a very productive pass-catching back in the NFL. The Saints offense is very RB friendly and neither Adrian Peterson or Mark Ingram are locks for the Saints’ 2018 roster.

Love John Ross‘ talent, but hate the landing spot. Andy Dalton isn’t the ideal QB for him, especially behind a poor offensive line that may force them to focus on getting the ball out of his hands quickly.

My tight end rankings are based on my belief in their long-term upside. Love David Njoku‘s talent and his situation isn’t as bad as many believe, especially with the release of Gary Barnidge. Evan Engram should settle in as a big slot receiver, though classified as a TE, for the Giants once they release he can’t handle the typical blocking duties of an in-line TE.

O.J. Howard likely will end up as the best NFL TE, but I’m worried that his talent as a blocker may limit his fantasy potential.

Samaje Perine doesn’t feel like a 1st rounder to me.  I would do everything possible to trade the 1.11 pick for a random 2018 1st. He was graded by many as a late 2nd or early 3rd round pick dynasty rookie pick, but has catapulted into the 1st round due to his promising landing spot in Washington. Betting on him to the next Jordan Howard is dangerous. Barring that type of breakout, I expect Washington to be in play for signing a free agent or drafting a top RB prospect in 2018.

Rounding out this tier is Kareem Hunt – a running back who dazzled on tape, but disappointed at the NFL combine. Joining a Spencer Ware in the Kansas City backfield, many believe Hunt will overtake Ware for the majority of carries by mid-season. I believe this is far from a lock and would expect Ware to lead KC in carries this year, by a 2:1 ratio.

Tier 6

14. JuJu Smith-Schuster WR PIT
15. Chris Godwin WR TB
16. Carlos Henderson WR DEN
17. James Conner RB PIT
18. Zay Jones WR BUF
19. Curtis Samuel WR CAR

Higher on Carlos Henderson than most, I love his ability after the catch. It’s also worth mentioning that aging receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders aren’t long-term barriers to playing time in Denver.

Tier 7

20. Taywan Taylor WR TEN
21. D’Onte Foreman RB HOU
22. Jeremy McNichols RB TB

Loved Taywan Taylor pre-draft and couldn’t have hoped for a much better landing spot.  Great target in the late 2nd or early 3rd round of your draft.

Tier 8

23. Melvin Mack RB IND
24. Kenny Galladay WR DET
25. ArDarius Stewart WR NYJ
26. Gerald Everett TE LAR
27. Joe Williams RB SF
28. Josh Reynolds WR LAR
29. Chad Williams WR ARI

This group includes several recent ADP risers: Kenny Galladay, ArDarius Stewart, Joe Williams, and Chad Williams. In each of my drafts, I want to land several players from this tier.

Tier 10

30. Jamaal Williams RB GB
31. Aaron Jones RB GB
32. Patrick Mahomes QB KC

In both redraft and dynasty, Ty Montgomery is the back I want in Green Bay though it’s hard to ignore the fact that the Packers drafted 3 running backs. If everything breaks right for either rookie back, Williams and Jones could be featured in one of the NFL’s best offenses. That alone makes them solid values in the 3rd round.

If early rookie drafts are any indication, I’m going to be heavily invested in Patrick Mahomes. While he’ll need to be more consistent to succeed at the next level, I can’t help but drool at his raw ability. His landing spot, under Andy Reid’s tutelage, could not be better. Let’s not forget that Andy Reid used to be criticized during his Eagles days for passing too much.  Mahomes will be put into position to not only succeed, but also develop into a QB1 in fantasy.

Tier 11

33. Cooper Kupp WR LAR
34. Wayne Gallman RB NYG
35. Amara Dorboh WR SEA
36. Deshaun Watson QB HOU
37. Adam Shaheen TE CHI
38. DeShone Kizer QB CLE
39. Mitchell Trubisky QB CHI

Tier 12

40. Ishmael Zamora WR OAK
41. Jonnu Smith TE TEN
42. Josh Malone WR CIN
43. Jehu Chessen WR KC
44. Chad Kelly QB DEN
45. Dede Westbrook WR JAX

Tier 13

46. Shelton Gibson WR PHI
47. Jake Butt TE DEN

48. Elijah McGuire RB NYJ
49. Brian Hill RB ATL
50. Donnel Pumphrey RB PHI


Bio: An avid fan of all things NFL, Dave has been playing fantasy football since 1999.  Though Dave participates in all types of fantasy football including redraft and daily, he prefers dynasty and keeper leagues as talent evaluation and scouting are integral components of each.  Follow him on Twitter @DaveSanders_RSO

GM’s Guide to Waldman’s RSP: Part II

Updated: July 23rd 2017

Back in April, I took a Reality Sports centric look at Matt Waldman’s opus, The Rookie Scouting Portfolio.  My aim then was to distill the 1,000+ page document into a few useful takeaways for RSO owners; the aim today is to take those takeaways and apply them to the 2017 rookie crop.  By no means is this an exhaustive or all-encompassing look at the RSP and it’s potential lessons, so please support Matt and his work by purchasing the full RSP and going through it in depth – you’ll be happy you did.

Below you will find the same headers from my original post, the takeaways, with a short reminder of why I think that point is important, and how I feel 2017 applies.  For each section, there are numerous players who might apply but I will concentrate on just one per section – specifically players who would be on the radar for most in “standard” RSO leagues.  Your mileage may vary, depending on league settings.

Pair Rookie Productivity Charts with Depth Chart Notes

The key to being a successful RSO GM (as in the NFL) is identifying value.  Everybody knew that Zeke Elliott was going to be a real life and fantasy stud, but he didn’t represent any value as you had to use the 1.01 to get him.  Those owners who grabbed backs like Rob Kelley and Devontae Booker later in their RSO rookie drafts were the beneficiaries of production that belied the value of their contract.  In my first RSP article, I identified 150-200 carries as the sweet spot between production and cost to acquire.  In order to find rookies who have the potential to hit that threshold, it’s important to closely look at the team’s depth chart to determine their opportunity – Waldman’s depth chart notes are a great tool to help with that.  The guy who I am targeting with all of this in mind in 2017 is Wayne Gallman.  I’ve proclaimed my love for Gallman on RSO’s site before and I will do so again here.  Gallman joins a Giants backfield with Paul Perkins and Shane Vereen but there should be enough touches to go around.  I see 2017 going very similar to 2016, whereas Perkins will start the year as the starter (like Rashad Jennings did) with Gallman gaining steam as the season progresses.  Vereen factors in mostly as a pass catcher rather than a ball carrier; he missed most of 2016, and has missed multiple games in four of six seasons, but even when healthy he’s only had more than 62 carries once.  Perkins averaged a respectable, but uninspiring, 4.1 yards per carry on 112 carries and added 15 receptions for 618 total yards but zero TDs.  My expectations for Gallman would be a bit higher, maybe 160-175 total touches, 750-800 yards and 3-4 TDs.  Keep in mind that the Giants invested a 4th round pick in Gallman after spending a 5th on Perkins just the year before.  So, either they are not convinced Perkins can be their RB1 or they will be invested in a RBBC.  Obviously the first outcome is preferable for Gallman owners but either way I firmly believe he will outperform his RSO contract.  Waldman has Gallman ranked at 22 and DynastyLeagueFootball.com has him at 21, so depending on your league size he’s either a late 2nd or early 3rd draft pick so his contract will be somewhere in the $900,000-$1,300,000 range.  Invest in him now and as he blossoms the next few years you’ll be happy you have him locked in on the cheap.

Pay Attention to ADP Value Designations

A player I’m higher on after reading through this year’s Post Draft Update is WR Josh Reynolds.  Reynolds was drafted by the Rams in the 4th round and Waldman believes he will see production right away in the NFL; he placed Reynolds on his “Good Fit” list and also placed him in Tier A with other instant impact WRs like Corey Davis, Mike Williams and John Ross.  The average ADP for Reynolds as collected by Waldman was pick 35.8, over 21 picks after where Waldman has him ranked, the highest such discrepancy for anybody in the top 50 (note: DynastyLeagueFootball.com currently has him at 30.50 so his value may be creeping up).  The more research I do, I’m starting to convince myself that Waldman is right and that Reynolds is somebody I should own shares in.   The Rams WR corps is weak, maybe the weakest in the league, and Reynolds had solid collegiate production in the SEC (164 receptions, 2,788 yards and 30 TDs in three full years).  Last year, Malcolm Mitchell was in a similar position (ranked #16 by Waldman but being underdrafted).  So, what does this mean for RSO owners?  It means that you can wait a round (or maybe even two if you’re daring) on Reynolds and still get great value.  Target him in the early- or mid-3rd round and the $900,000 investment will provide solid returns.

Don’t Fall in Love with Lottery Tickets

It’s easy for a dynasty owner to fall in love with a rookie, especially ones with the intoxicating blend of physical ability and potential playing time.  If we’re talking players like Leonard Fournette or Corey Davis, they are obvious no-brainers.  The challenge though, is identifying the guys who might need to work on a key positional skill or maybe who are buried on a depth chart.  These “lottery tickets” can pose huge cap headaches for their RSO owners so I urge you to stay away.  In my original piece, I mentioned Zach Zenner, whom I was highly interested in in 2015 but avoided.  Ultimately he did realize some value in late 2016 but not enough to warrant a roster spot through all his zeroes and a guaranteed rookie contract.  This year, I will avoid WR Krishawn Hogan from the Cardinals.  In a recent draft of mine, a fellow owner called Hogan a “lotto ticket I’m willing to take,” but in taking Hogan he passed on the aforementioned WR Josh Reynolds who has a shorter path to targets and has draft capital invested in him.  I know that Hogan is a great story (he supported himself through college so he could play football) but the hype has gone way too far for me as an RSO GM.  Hogan has prototypical size at 6’3″ and 220lb but he played in the NAIA at Marian University.  It’s not that he chose to skip D1 recruiting offers for personal reasons, he just didn’t have much production in high school (20 receptions as a senior).  He chose D2 Walsh University but then transferred after a 32 reception season to the lesser NAIA.  Aside from my questions about his ability and lack of high level competition, I am concerned about how many bodies there are in front of Hogan on the Cardinals depth chart.  There’s the obvious names of Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, JJ Nelson and Jaron Brown but the Cardinals also added Patriots castoff Aaron Dobson and even drafted rookie Chad Williams in the 3rd round.  I know all this sounds like I’m “hating” on Hogan, and I honestly feel bad writing negatively about him because everything I read has great things to say about him as a person but I’m just not willing to commit to him on my RSO team.  Even if you have a 5-round rookie draft, I would rather not invest in somebody like Hogan who will likely eat up cap and roster space for most of his contract before (maybe) becoming productive.  If you are intrigued by Hogan and want to be the guy who had him before he arrives, I would urge you to let him go undrafted, sign him as a free agent on a 1-year deal and then use the new contract extension feature if he flashes anything.

 

When researching college players I use a number of resources, I would recommend bookmarking the below sites…

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, cfbstats.com
  • Film: draftbreakdown.com, youtube.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, nfldraftscout.com, walterfootball.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, ESPN’s First Draft podcast, draftek.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  Robert works as a recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.