FA Expectancy: Robert Woods

Updated: July 31st 2017

For the final 2017 FA Expectancy article, I wanted to shine the spotlight on Robert Woods who signed with the L.A. Rams. His arrival wasn’t a big splash like Brandin Cooks in New England or Alshon Jeffery in Philadelphia and most owners have seen Woods move from one stagnant offense in Buffalo to another in L.A. as neutral at best. So why should anyone be excited about a receiver moving to the 27th ranked team in pass attempts in 2016 and who hasn’t accumulated more than 700 yards or 5 touchdowns in a season? It all has to do with the situation he finds himself with new coach Sean McVay and the lack of experienced receivers on the depth chart.

Can Woods Be the #1 Option?

The Bills for the last two seasons under Rex Ryan finished 31st and 32nd in pass attempts. Before Ryan arrived Woods had 65-699-5 in his sophomore season playing alongside Sammy Watkins and the team was ranked 13th in pass attempts. With the three years that most expect receivers to develop it would have been interesting to see how Woods would have developed in a moderate passing offense these last two years.

Last season Watkins missed weeks 2-11 forcing Woods to be the WR1 and he produced an average of 10.66 points in PPR leagues. This was highlighted by his game on Monday Night Football in week 9 against Seattle of all teams when he had 10 catches for 162 yards. Clearly, he can contribute enough to be a fantasy relevant receiver and this all came with only a single touchdown in 2016. Increasing his touchdown total to even a moderate 5 or 6 would make Woods a solid WR3 with WR2 upside on a weekly basis.

Fisher-less Rams

Despite some confusion midseason with the Rams giving Jeff Fisher a contract extension the team finally came to their senses and fired him before the end of the season. His replacement, Sean McVay, is the youngest head coach in the modern NFL history (30). With all the hype surrounding Kyle Shanahan and how he will be changing the fortunes of the 49ers, there’s not much being talked about with McVay’s success. I argued this in a previous article that Shanahan wasn’t that dominant of a play caller for Washington and after McVay replaced him the team actually scored a slightly higher amount of touchdowns (38:34) per season.

So why are people so high on players like Pierre Garcon and Joe Williams but aren’t as high on Robert Woods and Todd Gurley? The only reason must be because of how little publicity the moves the team made in the offseason have been and the stigma of a Fisher-led team leaves. We should remember that before last year’s draft most expected Jared Goff and Carson Wentz to be developmental QBs and were likely going to be 2-3 years away before deciding what their NFL talent levels would be. Therefore, it should be expected that there be an improvement from last year. Even if the quarterback play doesn’t improve drastically from Goff the addition of McVay should increase the passing numbers from Fisher’s 27th ranking last year.

 

Addition by Subtraction

The team added Andrew Whitworth to the offensive line which was a big reason for Gurley’s disappointing sophomore season. Getting a running game involved in the offense will always help open up zones in the secondary which is where Woods earns his money. At 6ft, 200lbs and a 4.51 40-time Woods isn’t going to blow the top off or box out defenders, he will need time to create separation and make himself open. Luckily for Woods, the Rams still have Tavon Austin who can be the speedy, gadget player that can stretch the field. They also released last year’s receiving leader Kenny Britt along with Brian Quick which immediately put Woods in the role of the X receiver. The team did draft Josh Reynolds (a Matt Waldman darling) and Cooper Kupp who people are very excited about for the future. Still, somebody has to be the primary option and at least for 2017 that would seem to be Woods. Averaging 10PPR points seems like a floor for Woods who wouldn’t need to be more than a WR4/5 on any roster. With the upside of being a target volume vacuum in what should be a more pass friendly team, the cost of $3-6MM for Woods offers tremendous value for the stat line he could have.

 

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.