Into the Regular Season

Updated: September 7th 2017

The preseason brings lots of excitement for those of us deprived of the NFL for so long.  It also leads to some of the worst analysis from fantasy “experts”.  Reviewing stat lines from preseason games is mostly meaningless.  Touch sample sizes are typically incredibly small with starters playing very limited snaps.  Teams usually incorporate very “vanilla” play calls which may not be similar to what happens during the regular season.  Backups compete against second and third string players or worse.  While much of what we see in preseason play is essentially worthless in predicting fantasy value for the upcoming season, examining player situations and delving deeper into game tape can provide some useful observations for the coming season.

Moving Up

The most significant mover of the preseason is Chiefs’ running back Kareem Hunt.  The devastating torn PCL and LCL injury to Kansas City starting running back Spencer Ware opens the door for the third round rookie.  Hunt finished as one of Pro Football Focus’ highest ranked backs in college at Toledo and flashed nice plays throughout the preseason (along with some not-so-nice “rookie” moments).  The Chiefs are left only with Hunt, Chancandrick West, and re-signed C.J. Spiller as the only running backs on the roster.  Hunt should see plenty of work for Kansas City this season.

Perhaps no player benefits more from a quarterback change than Miami wide receiver Devante Parker.  Gone are the days of Ryan Tannehill force-feeding short passes to Jarvis Landry with Tannehill out for the season.   In comes Jay Cutler at quarterback with the arm talent to aggressively attack defenses down field.  The former Bear also has the mindset to throw into tight coverage and allow his physically gifted receivers to make plays on their own.  Parker is set up for a big third season in the NFL.  Cutler also solidifies deep threat Kenny Stills’ value while at the same time likely limiting the volume Landry has seen over the course of his career.

Questions about Kelvin Benjamin’s role in the new Carolina offense with two high draft pick offensive weapons and his ballooned weight in training camp depressed his fantasy value to the point that Benjamin moved all the way down to WR38 in early RSO auctions.  Second round draft pick Curtis Samuel was slowed by injury and no other receiver emerged during the preseason.  Benjamin clearly appears like the Panthers’ WR1 right now.  Early Benjamin buyers could have received quite the steal.

Wait and See Mode

Seahawks’ backfield historically holds good fantasy value during the Russell Wilson era in Seattle.  Wilson’s ability as a rusher prevents teams from keying on running backs opening running lanes for the back.  Last season Wilson suffered early injuries limiting his mobility throughout the season.  Wilson’s injuries and some horrendous run blocking by Seattle’s inexperienced offensive line inevitably led to a big decline in the Seahawks’ rushing game effectiveness.  Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls, and C.J. Prosise competed for first-team duties this offseason but all suffered from minor injuries during the preseason.  Rawls and Lacy likely split rushing down carries limiting the fantasy appeal of either.  You will want to avoid this backfield early in the season until injuries take hold or someone emerges as the clear top option.  Prosise will hold value as a low end flex play, especially in PPR leagues, as the passing down back and only real receiver out of the backfield.  This is particularly true early in the season with an extremely shallow receiving core behind starters Doug Baldwin and Paul Richardson.  Tyler Lockett will be eased back into the receiving rotation after a gruesome leg injury late last year.

The Green Bay backfield was ugly last season.  Converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery filled in admirably in a limited role last year after injuries destroyed the running back core but did not receive enough volume to be a consistent fantasy option.  I was hoping someone would stand out in the preseason to take over the primary back role.  No one did.  Montgomery was limited with injuries throughout the preseason and struggled with pass protection once again.  All three Green Bay running backs drafted this year (Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones, and Devante Mays) made the 53-man roster.  None consistently showed enough to earn a big role.  Montgomery starts as the “lead” back and his receiving skills should make him a solid flex play but it remains to be seen whether his health and pass protection struggles will allow enough time on the field for enough volume to be a consistent RB2 option.  Williams makes for a nice stash in case Montgomery misses time.

Moving Down

Expectations for Terrelle Pryor and Tyreek Hill were extremely high this offseason with both being typically drafted as high to low-end WR2s. Many thought each had WR1 upside.  The preseason showing from both should dampen those expectations.  Both had massive problems catching the football with drops galore, a huge issue on teams whose passing game relies primarily on short, high percentage throws.  Pryor also continued his very raw route running skills from last season.  The Washington and Kansas City offense will undoubtedly run through superstar tight ends, Jordan Reed and Travis Kelce.  Pryor could easily end up as the third most targeted player in Washington behind Reed and Jamison Crowder.  Hill is due for negative touchdown regression this year and will be fighting for touches behind Kelce on a low volume Kansas City passing attack.  Consider both players boom-or-bust WR3s as of now.

The unknown timetable of Andrew Luck’s return moves all Colts down in the rankings to start the season most notably T.Y. Hilton.  Backup quarterback Scott Tolzein looked horrendous this preseason, so much so that Indianapolis traded for Patriots’ third string quarterback Jacoby Brissett to eventually take over backup duties.  This could lead to prime buy-low opportunities for Hilton and Luck.

Blake Bortles remarkably is still the starting quarterback in Jacksonville.   Chad Henne was unable to supplant Bortles in a bizarre one-week open competition for the starting spot.  Bortles might be benched at any time this season and the backup is not much of an improvement.  The dreadful quarterback situation means bad things for any Jaguars player’s fantasy fortunes including Allen Robinson and Leonard Fournette.  The Jacksonville offensive line displayed little improvement this preseason and Fournette is already dealing with a foot injury.  Just stay away from this offense.


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.

Mid Preseason Report

Updated: August 30th 2017

There have been 33 preseason games played which have given us a nice preview of what the 2017 season could be. Several players have already flashed potential while others are starting to make owners very nervous. Here is a list of players that have caught my eye (for good or bad) and what I think it means for their regular season.

↑ 2nd Round Rookie Risers

Alvin Kamara and Jamaal Williams have been impressive while running with their first team offenses in their first two games. Both have shown they can burst through the middle as well as make plays in the passing game. Hopefully, their usage hasn’t been a mirage due to other players (Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram for New Orleans and Ty Montgomery for Green Bay) not being in the lineup. Regardless, both are in high scoring offenses that should benefit their specific skill set, Kamara through the passing game and Williams with frequent goal line carries. Depending on where they were selected in your rookie draft it might be worth it to inquire what their costs would be now. After the usual crew (Fournette, Cook, McCaffrey, Mixon) these two RBs might have the highest floor for 2017.

↑ McCaffrey the Real 1.01?

It was an interesting quandary as to who should be chosen with the first pick in rookie drafts. Early in the offseason, it was Dalvin Cook but a poor combine dropped him from the pole position. Leonard Fournette was then the next man up and he along with Corey Davis have been the most consistent 1.01 in drafts May through July.  But now that the pads are on and the tackles are real it might have been a steal to get Christian McCaffrey at 1.03 or 1.04. He looks like he will fit perfectly with the Panthers play style and we haven’t even seen how defenses will react to read plays with Cam Newton under center. I expect Jonathan Stewart to have a role but this could be an even better complementary backfield than Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill was in Cincinnati. With his skills in the passing game, McCaffrey looks like an easy candidate for 60-70 targets and should be pushing 1,000 total yards. In PPR leagues that’s more than what I would want out of my 1.01 selection.

↓ LeGarrette Blount

LeGarrette Blount is the most Patriots system player. No other player could go from 18 touchdowns with one team to a potential cut candidate with a different team. With reports suggesting that Blount is slightly overweight and has shown that he might not be a good fit for Doug Pederson’s stretch and shotgun run game it really wouldn’t be a surprise to see him not on the roster week 1. Even if he does stay with the Eagles it will be difficult to expect a consistent weekly total. His value will solely be on whether or not he scores a touchdown in a given week. Unless you play in standard leagues Blount is a player that will likely have Matt Asiata-like value.

↑ Corey Clement

With the news of Blount and maybe even Wendell Smallwood not being roster locks for the Eagles, it makes sense to try and find who the next man up will be. Darren Sproles will always be the satellite back and will be more featured on passing plays. That leaves Corey Clement, the UDFA rookie out of Wisconsin as an interesting option for deeper leagues. He looked good running against a strong Bills defense (4.2 yards/carry and a TD) last week. While he’s unlikely to be used day 1 this may be a Rob Kelley like situation where by midseason he’s pushing for the most touches of the more traditional RBs. He is worth monitoring for now and if either Blount or Smallwood don’t make the roster he might be worth adding.

 

↓ All Indianapolis Colts

I’m tired of this “will he, won’t he” game that the Colts have been playing with Andrew Luck and his shoulder injury. At some point, his lack of presence in practice and in preseason games suggests that he is not healthy and will be missing some games. How many is anybody’s guess at this point but it’s hard to trust any Colts players with the possibility of Scott Tolzien running the offense. T.Y. Hilton is the only player that should hold some consistency week-to-week but even he takes a mild hit. If you haven’t already sold Dante Moncrief I’m not sure what you’re waiting for. His touchdown dependency is a scary thing to bet on and without Luck in 8 games the last two seasons the offense has only averaged 17.5 points a game (Tolzien’s only game they scored 7 points!). Even with a rumor that Brock Osweiler may be on the Colts radar for a trade that shouldn’t get people excited about what the Colts will have going on this season.

↑ Zay Jones

Sometimes a player’s situation just trumps all the previous biases you have against him and you go from avoiding to actively seeking to acquire. Jordan Howard was that player for me last year and Zay Jones looks like he will be my 2017 choice. Sammy Watkins is gone, so is Anquan Boldin, and Jordan Matthews is JAG (Just A Guy) material. A player who is no stranger to being the first option in his offense, he had 158!! receptions last season at East Carolina, Jones is the definition of a possession receiver who just also happens to have 4.45 speed. While I’m less optimistic about long term value because of the history of the Bills and their run first offensive scheme, Jones should be one of the most targeted rookies in 2017.

Early RSO Contracts: QBs

Updated: July 31st 2017

Knowing the types of contracts given out by other fantasy teams can give the alert reader a big advantage when your own RSO free agency auction arrives.  Your league settings and available players will have a big impact on the size of contracts given out at various positions, but looking at the relative contracts within position groups provides some useful information.  To that end, I begin a new series examining early RSO auctions starting with a look at quarterbacks.

The Elite

Aaron Rodgers comes in as the most expensive quarterback by more than four million per season for a good reason.  He finished as the QB1 or QB2 every health season except for one (he finished as the QB7) while he was a starter.  There is not a safer player in all of fantasy football in my view. Historically, Rodgers has not been among the league passing attempts leaders, which sometimes limits his yardage totals.  He more than makes up for lack of volume with massive yearly touchdown totals do to extreme efficiency and extensive red-zone usage.  The Packer star also adds nearly mistake-free play, not throwing double-digit interceptions for seven seasons.  With all of the gushing praise just put on Rodgers, I will not own him in many leagues.  The drop-off from Rodgers to more cost-friendly options is not enough for me to justify the enormous premium placed on Rodgers in most instances.

Andrew Luck is the next quarterback at $5.5 million more per season than the third QB.  Luck finished as the QB2 and QB5 in PPG for 2014 and 2016.  The talent and upside are undeniable but his current price does not reflect the risk involved of a quarterback with multiple shoulder injuries who is not throwing the ball yet.  There are others available for a much cheaper cost (Russell Wilson for example) with similar upside and without the injury concerns.

Youth vs Veterans

The youth movement appears to be in full effect for quarterbacks in RSO leagues.  Derek Carr, Jameis Winston, and Dak Prescott come off the board next.  Carr and Winston, in particular, represent purely speculative projections at this point.  Carr paved the way to his best fantasy finish as the QB10 in PPG while Winston has not finished better than the QB19.  Tampa Bay added premier deep-threat DeSean Jackson and the first tight end taken in the NFL draft, O.J. Howard this offseason where Oakland took a more modest approach on the receiving spectrum adding tight end Jared Cook and return specialist Cordarrelle Patterson.  None of these additions warrant the cost of these players.

Moving down our table we find Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Matt Ryan as the QB9 through QB11.  This seems like a bargain for the QB2, QB3, and QB5 from last season even taking into account the expected regression from the group in 2017.  Ryan obliterated his previous career highs in essentially every statistical passing category and the Falcons lost their offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan who moved on to coach San Francisco.  Less discussed is Brady’s likely regression coming into his age 40 season.  The Patriots’ quarterback put up his best season since his 50-touchdown performance in 2007 with a campaign that included a crazy 28-2 touchdown to interception ratio.  Brees, on the other hand, had a very normal Brees-type season.  He is among the most consistent quarterbacks in the league.  One must look all the way back to his time in San Diego for a finish outside the top 6.  Expect another one in 2017 with around 5,000 passing yards.

The Bargain Bin

There are many less expensive, quality alternatives to be found for those looking to go cheap at quarterback in either 1-QB 2-QB/Superflex leagues.  Phillip Rivers is a rock solid borderline QB1/QB2 who consistently provides value at his mid-QB2 cost.  Andy Dalton provides a lot of upside at the QB18 position.  He finished as the QB3 in 2013 and was the QB4 through week 13 in 2015 prior to an injury which ended his season.  The Bengals signal-caller carries more volatility than most with a revamped offensive line that struggled in 2016 and arguably lost its two best linemen in free agency.  This is balanced by a loaded skill position group which gets two of Cincinnati’s most dynamic playmakers back from injury, tight end Tyler Eifert and wide receiver A.J. Green.  The Bengals also added two of the top offensive talents in the draft, wide receiver John Ross and running back Joe Mixon.  For my money, Tyrod Taylor represents the best value among quarterbacks in 2017.  He finished as as a QB1 in PPG the last two season thanks in large part to his dynamic rushing ability.  His limitations as a pocket passer likely prevent him from being a top end performer, but the ability to get a solid starter at backup money is what makes an RSO team.

Rivers, Dalton, and Taylor all cost less than Philadelphia Eagles Carson Wentz for some reason.  Wentz predictably struggled mightily as a rookie finishing outside the top-24 quarterbacks in passer rating and QBR.  He was let down by one of the worst receiving groups in the NFL and a coaching staff that asked far too much of a rookie forcing Wentz to throw the fifth most attempts in the league.  Wentz has the physical tools to become a good quarterback, but there is not much reason for an RSO team to gamble with a significant, long-term investment on an unknown when there are plenty of cheap, reliable alternatives.

 

Average RSO Quarterback Contracts

 


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.

2017 Top 25s: QBs and RBs

Updated: July 16th 2017

Since RSO has rolled over to 2017, now’s the perfect time to revisit your rosters and start planning for the next season!

Do you have any players on your team that warrant a franchise tag?  Is it time to shop a player who’s 2016 didn’t meet your expectations and now burdens you with a high salary contract?  My “way too early” PPR rankings, known as my 2017 Top 25s, are here to help with those decisions!

In part 1 of my 2017 Top 25s, I’ll explore the quarterback and running back positions:

 

Top 25 QBs for 2017

Aaron Rodgers is in a tier of his own, making him an elite asset in Superflex and 2QB leagues. Tony Romo and Jimmy Garoppolo are two of the most intriguing names on this list. Over the next few months, we should find out where they’ll play in 2017. If either lands in Denver or Houston, expect their values to rise even higher up this list.

Top 25 RBs for 2017

Le’Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliott, and David Johnson form the elite trio of RBs that should command the highest AAV (average annual value) of any players in free agency auctions. Rookies Dalvin Cook and Leonard Fournette could be RB1s in the right situation. Coming off major injuries, veteran RBs Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson just missed the top 25. If they appear healthy as the season approaches and have promised roles, both could be underrated RB2s that will be undervalued in many free agency auctions.

My recommendation

Take an hour this weekend and send out personal emails to all of your fellow owners. Get the trade conversations started because they likely won’t come knocking down your door to acquire one of these players you’re looking to vanquish from your roster. Explain what you’re looking to accomplish, who interests you on their team, and provide an idea of how a potential deal could be reached. If you’re in an active league, you’ll be surprised at the quality of responses you receive.

I followed this recommendation last year, revamped one of my teams almost from scratch, and ended up winning the league.  Have a few minutes?  Read my article on Pressing the Reset Button to find out more about how this strategy can work for you.


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 keeper and dynasty leagues as talent evaluation and scouting are integral components of each.  Follow him on Twitter @DaveSanders_RSO

2018 Player Rankings

Updated: August 7th 2016

You’re probably thinking, “Did I read that right? 2018 rankings?”  Yes, yes you did.  In dynasty leagues, we often project a player’s long-term upside by evaluating the perceived ceiling for that player.  But rarely do we give much thought to when that career year may occur.

When participating in a start-up draft or auction, I’ll typically target players that should have at least 3 production left or will enter their prime within the next 3 years  – call it my “Rule of 3”.  For example, I’ll rarely draft or bid on a running back over 30 years old like Adrian Peterson, but likely also won’t target a quarterback like Carson Wentz who may not even start in the NFL during his rookie year.

Having a three year plan in dynasty is as important as planning for the upcoming season. Having your team projected to finish .500 is not where you want to be.  If in contention, I’m always going to seek opportunities to buy.  If I realize by-mid season or before that a championship isn’t probable this year, I’ll reach out to each owner in my league and shop the players least likely to help me in future seasons.  Taking a small step back could result in your team take a huge step forward in the years to come. With all that said, let’s dive into my WAY TOO EARLY rankings for the 2018 season…

Quarterbacks

1) Andrew Luck
2) Russell Wilson
3) Cam Newton
4) Derek Carr
5) Aaron Rodgers
6) Jameis Winston
7) Marcus Mariota
8) Blake Bortles
9) Jared Goff
10) Matthew Stafford

*We’re seeing the dawn of a new era for the elite fantasy quarterbacks.  For plenty of years, we grew familiar with seeing Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees occupy the top tier of quarterbacks.  It’s now time for a similarly prolonged stretch for Luck, Wilson, and Newton.  Baring injury, I don’t see anyway these quarterbacks aren’t top 10 in 2018.

Running Backs

1) Ezekiel Elliott
2) Leonard Fournette
3) LeVeon Bell
4) Todd Gurley
5) David Johnson
6) Nick Chubb
7) Derrick Henry
8) Lamar Miller
9) Dalvin Cook
10) TJ Yeldon

*What is there not to like about Ezekiel Elliott?  He’s one of the best running back prospects to enter the league in a long time, plays behind the best offense line in football, and excels as a receiver and in pass blocking.  He should be a true three down back for an offense that will give him as much work as he can handle.  See, DeMarco Murray‘s workload in 2014.  Derrick Henry should take over for DeMarco Murray as the Titans‘ primary ball carrier in 2017, if not sooner.  He should immediately become a top 10 RB once given 250 carries in a season as a potential touchdown machine.  However, Henry won’t be too involved in the passing game and should be lowered slightly in rankings for PPR leagues.

Wide Receivers

1) Odell Beckham Jr.
2) DeAndre Hopkins
3) Amari Cooper
4) Sammy Watkins
5) Allen Robinson
6) Keenan Allen
7) Julio Jones
8) Mike Evans
9) Brandin Cooks
10) Donte Moncrief

*This group of wide receivers is special.  Pay what it takes to acquire any of them…you won’t regret it while they’re filling up the stat sheet for the next 5+ years.

Tight Ends

1) Rob Gronkowski
2) Jordan Reed
3) Tyler Eifert
4) Zach Ertz
5) Ladarius Green
6) Travis Kelce
7) Coby Fleener
8) Clive Walford
9) Hunter Henry
10) Austin Hooper

*It’s Gronk and everybody else.  I’m a huge fan of Jordan Reed who’s basically a 6’2″ wide receiver playing the tight end position, but his injury history scares me.  He could be #1 or #2 on this list or could just as easily fall completely outside of the top 10.

Let me know your thoughts on Twitter @DaveSanders_RSO!  Would love to hear who you think I am too high on or should have included in my Top 10s!

My next article will explore the likelihoods that rookie QBs, RBs, WRs, and TEs put together a top 10 season within their first 3 years in the NFL.  Look for that to drop later this month!

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 keeper and dynasty leagues as talent evaluation and scouting are integral components of each. 

Receiveland

Updated: July 7th 2016

In the Zone

First off, I’d be remiss as someone born and raised in Cleveland to not talk about the first championship in 52 years as the Cleveland Cavaliers became part of history in coming back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Warriors. Watching the final four and a half minutes of the game and seeing the Cavs hold the Warriors scoreless was very similar to my waiting out my semi-final playoff matchup in my main Reality Sports Online league last year. While that one didn’t go my way on the final play as I’ve written about before on a Drew Brees dumpoff to Tim Hightower, this one did and it was beyond my wildest expectations.

Outside of family events, this by far was the best event I’ve experienced and all the better that it was on Father’s Day as a I hit the floor in a sea of emotions when the buzzer sounded like I played in the game. In many ways I’m still celebrating this team as The Chasedown and The Three replace The Drive, The Fumble, The Blown Save, The Move. Suffice to say, I cannot wait until the championship gear we ordered shows up on my doorstep and am grateful to LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and the rest of the Cavs for providing me the freedom to watch sports with no nervousness that the worst will happen going forward.

With that aside, it is time to talk a little bit about some wide receivers and tight ends that I like for 2016. I’ll stay away from the obvious names that may not be available in your auctions or will command top dollar. Writing articles like this are certainly bittersweet for me because I feel like I’m giving people in my leagues insight into potential targets of mine, but the beauty of Reality Sports Online marketplace pricing makes value fairly subjective. Before I jump in, one of the best in the business at dissecting wide receivers for fantasy football is NFL.com’s Matt Harmon through his Reception Perception series. If you are serious about contending in your league, Harmon’s strength is dissecting the route tree receivers run and the success and advanced metrics that support predictive analysis.

1) Tyler Lockett & Doug Baldwin, Wide Receivers, Seattle Seahawks

Tyler Lockett did a little bit of everything last year for the Seahawks and when Russell Wilson started airing it out in Seattle in Week 11, Lockett became a serious threat as a receiver, including catching 30 of his 40 targets for 444 yards and five touchdowns in seven games. As Harmon pointed out in Reception Perception, the Seahawks love taking deep shots with Lockett as the “nine” route was the route that the Seahawks ran the most with Lockett in his sample. The Seahawks targeted Lockett two to three times a game down the stretch and while some of those lacked success, Wilson works tirelessly with his receivers in the offseason so you can expect Lockett to be the recipient of amplified targets based on his ability to beat different coverages with frequency.

In leagues that factor in return yardage, Lockett is even more valuable. My fellow league-mate and USA Today Network’s Ryan Bonini recently compared Lockett to Randall Cobb and I think he could be right in terms of his rookie to second year ascension.

Further, if you are one who thinks the Seahawks will turn into a ground and pound team again at the beginning of the season and are paying $20 million plus to Thomas Rawls in your leagues, you may want to rethink that decision based on Doug Baldwin’s recent four year, $46 million ($24 million guaranteed) extension.

To me, this contract extension signals the Seahawks transition to being a passing team. Drafting C.J. Prosise, who excels as a pass catching running back as a former college receiver shows that the team wants to surround Wilson with the full arsenal of aerial weapons, as well as highlights that they are not fully invested in Rawls, who is coming off a significant ankle injury after being an undrafted rookie success last season. Look, I’m not sending Rawls to Siberia; however, I think his sample size is still small enough that in spite of an astronomical yards per carry last season that the Seahawks don’t have much capital invested in him, which makes him a scary dynasty asset to predict (think C.J. Anderson last season).

Back to Baldwin. In the same post Game 11 stretch as Lockett, Baldwin amassed 40 receptions on 53 targets for 590 yards and 11 touchdowns. Talk about crazy efficiency, but also note that Baldwin went bananas in a four game stretch with multiple touchdowns in each of those in the midst of your fantasy football playoffs.

Those in the fantasy football community talk about regression frequently and those who don’t understand the term automatically associate it with something bad. However, it more refers to statistical deviation and performances regressing to a mean or average. Surely, Baldwin’s touchdowns should come down this year or get closer to his career averages (29 total touchdowns in five seasons); however, would you really complain if he scored eight touchdowns for your fantasy squad this year as a top 24 wideout?

Based on the Reality Sports Online data I’ve seen, it is likely that Baldwin is a free agent in your auction and while others pursue some bigger names like T.Y. Hilton and Keenan Allen, Baldwin figures to perform on a similar level for a boatload less money. Ride the continued perception of the Seahawks ground game to get their wideouts on the cheap.

2) Coby Fleener, Tight End, New Orleans Saints

For fantasy owners seeking a quote to bank on for getting a steal at the suddenly declining tight end position, “He’s Always Open” is hopefully not the “We’ll run him until he throws up” quote from yesteryear (C.J. Spiller on Buffalo). However, Saints Quarterback Drew Brees uttered these words recently about new free agent signing Coby Fleener after playing the NFC South last season and watching lots of film on Fleener.

Early returns are that Fleener’s getting open in practice too, for what’s that worth. It may not matter. When a tight end like Benjamin Watson has 74 receptions on 110 targets for 825 yards and 6 touchdowns at age 35, following Jimmy Graham’s run in New Orleans, it is clear that the system produces opportunities for tight ends. In Indy, Fleener was forced to block and was inconsistent without Andrew Luck.

If there were any doubts in how New Orleans values the position, Fleener’s 5 year, $36 million contract with $18 million guaranteed should quell those questions. Now, the only question becomes whether or not a player with a history of drops makes the most of always being open. To me, the smart money in your auction is to take the chance on Fleener on a one to two year deal around $5-6 million a year. Assuming health, your reward should be a Top 8 tight end with upside.

3) Daniel Braverman, Wide Receiver, Chicago Bears

File this one in the rookie sleeper category, but Chicago’s Daniel Braverman is a slot wide receiver who shows an uncanny ability to get significant yards after the catch and catch the ball in traffic. If you aren’t aware of him, he left Western Michigan after his junior season in which he caught 108 balls for 1,367 yards with 13 touchdowns. The 5’10, 177 lb. Braverman runs a 4.47 40 yard dash and was a 7th round selection of the Chicago Bears.

His story is compelling as he grew up in South Florida playing with an incredible work ethic and a chip on his shoulder because he was often overlooked among 5 star recruits. Braverman is the protege of former NFL wideout and fellow Miami University alum Sly Johnson who has been his mentor since 7th grade in South Florida. You certainly want to root for a guy as a fantasy owner who has overcome his mother leaving Braverman and his father at a young age.

When you watch tape of Braverman like this game against Ohio State and you see plays that show a little bit of Golden Tate, a splash of Julian Edelman (perhaps it is the Jewish receiver connection), and some Cole Beasley. He shined in two games against top ten opponents Michigan State and Ohio State, finishing the former with 13 catches for 109 yards and the latter with 10 receptions for 123 yards and a touchdown, showing the ability to break free over the middle while running all sorts of routes. Braverman also handled some punts and kickoffs which would add to his fantasy value.

What makes Braverman attractive to me are the targets that exited with Martellus Bennett, as well as Marquess Wilson’s foot injury landing him on the PUP list to begin the season. Add in the fact that Eddie Royal is 30 years old and we all know what he brings, and this brings unique opportunity for Braverman who seems like the type of player that will work his way into playing time and then play well enough to never relinquish it. Word is he’s already seeing some snaps with the 1’s while Royal has been out.

For a price of a third round rookie pick or a flier multi-year deal in your free agency auction, there’s significant value to be had on Braverman and I’m all in on the Braverman Express.


Matt Goodwin is entering his third season as a writer for Reality Sports Online and is in year four of his main league. He also contributes for numberFire. He is an avid sports fan from Cleveland, Ohio who would count a championship for a Cleveland major sports team a close second behind getting married to his wife Renee and the births of his children, Jory (6 year old son) and Lainie (18 month old daughter) and the Cleveland Cavaliers have finally provided that reality! Matt loves mid 90’s hip-hop, playing pick-up hoops, traveling, Ohio State football and Arizona basketball, watching Glengarry Glen Ross for the millionth time and being outside the few months it doesn’t rain in Seattle where he lives. He can be found on Twitter @mattgoody2 and hopes you continue to read his In the Zone articles.