FA Expectancy – Jimmy Graham

Updated: July 4th 2018

Our Free Agent (FA) Expectancy series is back! 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.

Jimmy Graham – TE – Green Bay Packers

When Jimmy Graham signed with the Packers in March there was plenty of excitement for owners that held his services. He was moving to an offense that features one of the best quarterbacks ever, Aaron Rodgers, and with the departure of Jordy Nelson, ARod would be looking for a new favorite red zone target. Davante Adams has emerged as a talented receiver but after Randall Cobb, who hasn’t done much since his breakout 2014 campaign, there are not many names that would warrant consideration for consistent targets. This must be a perfect match for Jimmy Graham to reclaim his TE1 title; or is it?

Since 2009 the Green Bay tight end has had a significantly reduced role in terms of target share and usage. The last two years Green Bay TEs have shrunk down to 15.8% and 10% of total targets and 8.2% and 6.2% for the team’s TE1 individual target share. The ceiling at this point may be similar to Richard Rodgers’ 2015 season where despite tight ends only being targets 18%, Rodgers managed to hold a 14.8% individual target share with 85 targets. This would have been good for a low-end TE1 target share in fantasy last season.

Many would be quick to point out that Graham is a far superior talent to Richard Rodgers and should, therefore, be able to outproduce his greatest statistics. Well, if we look back to the earlier career of Aaron Rodgers when he had the talented Jermichael Finley at tight end the stats are surprisingly not much different. In 2011 and 2012 Finley had 92 targets and 87 targets for a team target share of 16.7% and 15.6% respectively. This was also before every NFL team was running more 11 personnel (3WR, 1TE, 1RB) than any other type of formation so if a blocking TE is needed for running plays don’t expect to see Graham on the field. If Green Bay is creative with their schemes, they should find ways to use Graham as the third receiver and instead have Mercedes Lewis, who was also acquired, be the more traditional TE in 11 personnel formation. We will see though.

All in all, it is still likely that Graham will be a strong play at the weak tight end slot in fantasy. It should not be expected, however, that he would return anywhere close to his wide receiver level of production that he had with Drew Brees in New Orleans like some seem to think. If he is available in your auction this year look for a two year deal between $7-10MM annually. This way if he is productive in Green Bay you have him at about the highest TE Franchise Tag anyways without having to use your tag this season. If he has an expiring contract this year I would only be looking to resign him if either his contract is another one year deal or his annual value is low enough that if he doesn’t work out/retires in 2019 and beyond his cap space would not be a huge detriment. Without know his statistics through the first four weeks of this season I would suggest in the range of either $8MM/1year or $18MM/3year as a respectable contract for resigning Graham this season.

Seattle Seahawks Identity Problem

Fans of football have often reflected on the Seahawks trading for Jimmy Graham in 2015 as a knee-jerk reaction to the famed interception that cost them a second consecutive the season prior. The logic behind it sort of makes sense. If they had a big receiver that could they could trust in the end zone to “climb the ladder” for a jump ball instead of trying to throw inside to a smaller receiver they would have been champions twice over. They decided to trade away a key offensive line piece, center Max Unger, to try and solve this issue but in return ended up losing their team identity of being aggressive with their run game and defense. They haven’t looked the same since that Super Bowl 49 loss.

With Graham now gone and most of their defensive superstars either gone or aging it will be interesting to see how the Seahawks view their best strategy to win moving forward. They brought in Brandon Marshall to see if he still has some game left in him but at 34 and coming off multiple lower body surgeries it’s not even a guarantee that he makes the roster let alone has any fantasy value. The team drafted rookie running back Rashaad Penny in the first round which was a surprising move to many. This may indicate that the team wants to return to a game-controlling, run-first offense. Without much improvement on the offensive line, however, this may be difficult to accomplish so expectations for Penny should be kept at an RB3-4 max until we see how he will be utilized in both the passing game and carries per game. Ultimately, it comes down to how effective Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin can be and those three players (Wilson, Baldwin, and Penny) are the only players to expect game-to-game consistency in fantasy this season. Tyler Lockett does have upside but he hasn’t looked as explosive since his leg injury in 2016. He will have great games but be a ghost for more than one would feel comfortable as their third or fourth option at receiver.


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 @NickAndrews_RSO.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

The Watch List: 2018 Mountain West Preview

Updated: June 27th 2018

Welcome to The Watch List, a resource to help RSO owners identify the players, storylines and matchups from the college game that deserve your attention.  Check back throughout the Summer for previews on each conference and my preseason predictions.  During the regular season, The Watch List will continue to update you on who is fantasy relevant and worth your draft capital next year. 

Storylines to Watch

  • Heisman Favorite:  Brett Rypien, QB, Boise State.  Rypien is an enigma.  Heading into 2017 I said that Rypien’s potential draft stock would be “be buoyed by the name cachet of Boise State and some gaudy numbers.”  Things didn’t quite work out for Rypien in 2017 (in fact, he lost snaps to backup Montell Cozart) but I feel the same now as I did then.  Rypien will have a number of huge games passing for a team that is a national brand.  If he can do it over thirteen games, he’d be as likely as anybody in the Group of 5 to get a Heisman vote.
  • Darkhorse Heisman Candidate:  Armani Rogers, QB, UNLV.  Seven of the last eight Heisman awards were won by quarterbacks.  Those seven averaged 921 rushing yards and 12 rushing TDs in their Heisman winning seasons.  The only passer in the Mountain West capable of sustaining that rushing attack over a full season is Rogers.  The Rebels kickoff the season with a showcase game at USC which would be a great chance for Rogers to become part of the national conversation.
  • Offensive Player of the Year:  Marcus McMaryion, QB, Fresno State.  I was between Rogers and McMaryion for this pick.  I figured I would go with the more experienced McMaryion who I believe is playing on a team with 10-2 potential.  McMaryion threw for 2,726 yards and 14 TDs while adding 300 rushing yards and four more scores on the ground.  I expect his numbers to increase in 2018 since he’ll be the starter from Day One.
  • Defensive Player of the Year:  Andrew Wingard, S, Wyoming.  Wingard finished 5th in the conference in tackles last season (114) and tied for the most interceptions (5).  He also added 8 tackles for loss, a sack, two forced fumbles and a recovery.  Assuming he avoids injury, Wingard could hit 500 career tackles.  He’ll be on the shortlist of top safety prospects heading into the 2019 NFL Draft season.
  • Newcomer of the Year:  KJ Carta-Samuels, QB, Colorado State.  By the time you read this preview, Carta-Samuels will have arrived on campus as a graduate transfer but he will have missed Spring practices.  Despite that, he’s likely the favorite to take over for Nick Stevens.  Carta-Samuels attempted just 47 passes in his career as a Washington Husky.  He was a 4-star recruit coming out of high school who earned a high score from 247Sports.  Interestingly, he turned down an offer from Boise State to join Washington so the October 19th matchup between them and Colorado State could be interesting.   (Honorable Mention: Khalil Shakir, WR, Boise State.  This kid’s Hudl.com highlights really impressed me.  If he earns playing time he could rack up all-purpose yardage as a receiver, runner and returner.)
  • Underclassman to Watch:  Armani Rogers, QB, UNLV.  Rogers, a quarterback, is the conference’s third leading returning rusher from 2017 with 780 yards and 8 TDs.  Rogers averaged less than 19 passes per game and was not particularly efficient (122.9 rating) or accurate (52.4% completion percentage) when he did throw the ball.  Despite some of the passing struggles, I am excited to watch Rogers this season.  I sampled some highlights of his and he appears to have a number of good tools, including: height, long speed, toughness and a strong arm.
  • Best QB-WR Tandem:  Marcus McMaryion and KeeSean Johnson, Fresno State.  McMaryion was a rare graduate transfer with two years of eligibility when he joined the Bulldogs in 2017 from Oregon State.  By the end of September he had earned the starting role and WR KeeSean Johnson was the immediate benefactor.  In McMaryion’s first start, against Nevada, Johnson finished with a 7-104-3 line.
  • Best RB Corps: UNLV.  The Rebs have an impressive running game on tap for 2018.  Senior RB Lexington Thomas ran 211 times for 1,336 and 17 TDs, taking a huge step forward after sophomore Charles Williams went down.  Williams is returning from that ankle injury that cost him all but one game in 2017.  As a freshman in 2016 he totaled 141-763-3 and was the team’s leading rusher ahead of Thomas.  Williams is a little bit bigger but Thomas has more experience as a pass catcher.  It’ll probably be a 1A and 1B situation.  Also returning is senior RB Xzaviar Campbell (72-336-1) who gets my vote for best name in the conference.  Let’s not forget that QB Armani Rogers is a big part of the run game as well.
  • Coach on the Hottest Seat:  Tony Sanchez, UNLV.  It was surprisingly difficult to pick a coach to single out in this spot.  The others I considered are either too new or too established at their position to come down on them for a bad season (i.e. Brent Brennan from San Jose State or Bob Davie from New Mexico).  Sanchez has a career record of 12-24 at UNLV but has beaten the win projection each season according to CoachingTreeHotseat.com.  Still, I think it would be tough to hold onto the coach through another losing season if the Rebels don’t get to a bowl in season four when Sanchez is playing with his own recruits now.

Teams to Watch

 UNLV (5-7 in 2017)

After doing a bunch of research on the Rebels for this preview, I’m confident that they will be bowl eligible in 2018.  They have a fourth year coach in Tony Sanchez who was increased the team’s win total year-over-year (albeit by just one each season).  The team has a solid offense that will be led by dual-threat QB Armani Rogers and they are my pick for the conference’s best rushing corps.  If Lexington Thomas can keep up last year’s rushing pace while Charles Williams returns from injury, they will be poised to hold onto the ball and win time of possession.  Keeping the defense off the field will be key because it ranked 114th in the FBS in yards per game allowed (458.7).  UNLV has played in just two bowls over the last two plus decades so it’ll be a big deal if they can accomplish the feat in 2018.

 Fresno State (10-4 in 2017)

There’s not much room for the Bulldogs to improve in 2018 but they still earn a spot on my “Teams to Watch” list because of the duo of QB Marcus McMaryion and WR KeeSean Johnson.  I predict that they will lead the conference in passing in 2018 and that Johnson will become a vogue NFL Draft sleeper.  Fresno had the conference’s second best defense in terms of both points and yards allowed per game and they return the entire back seven which will help overcome inexperience up front.  They have two non-conference home games against Idaho and Toledo where Fresno State should be favored; the other two non-conference games are away at UCLA and Minnesota which are obviously more difficult but not unwinnable.  It’s not impossible for Fresno to win three of those four and end the regular season at 10-2 on the way to the MWC Championship game.

Players to Watch

Honorable Mentions

  • Ty Gangi, QB, Nevada:  My favorite play from the Madden video game series, circa 2010, was the “Quick Kick” play that was in the Steelers playbook.  The quarterback would receive the shotgun snap and then punt it over the heads of the safeties.  It was such a fun play and was oddly successful.  Why do I bring that up when previewing Nevada’s quarterback?  When researching Gangi, I realized he punted the ball six times last year for a 29.0 yard average.  In all seriousness, Gangi improved his rate stats from 2016 to 2017 and has two of the conference’s leading receivers returning.  If Nevada is to rebound from a disappointing 3-9 campaign, it’ll come down to Gangi.
  • Juwan Washington, RB, San Diego State:  The Aztecs seem to be Running Back University lately with back-to-back NCAA leading rushers (Donnell Pumphrey and Rashaad Penny).  I don’t have the same expectation for the diminutive (5070) Juwan Washington but he’s certainly going to put up stats.  He finished with 759 yards and 7 TDs in 2017 and added 2 kick return scores.  Washington is fast.  There are limited college highlights of his available online so I watched some high school clips.  The frame rate can’t keep up with his legs.  In the few college highlights I was able to watch, I saw a number of successful goal line carries which surprised me.  I’ll be watching to see if Washington can play with enough physicality to overcome the inevitable questions his size will bring.
  • Olabisi Johnson, WR, Colorado State:  Johnson is a former high school track star with 71 career receptions, including a career high of 41 as a junior last season.  He averages 17.2 yards per reception, for a career total of 1,223 yards, and has 7 TDs.  The Rams are losing their top passer, rusher and receiver heading into 2018 so there is a lot of production to be had if Johnson can step up.  Colorado State’s last two dominant receivers (Michael Gallup and Rashard Higgins) were both good enough to earn mid-round NFL Draft picks so a payday could be in Johnson’s future as well.
  • Andrew Wingard, S, Wyoming:  The aforementioned Wingard is a box score dream.  In three years as a starter he has: 367 total tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 8 INTs, 7 passes defended, 1 fumble recovery and 5 forced fumbles.  At 6000/209, he may be a little undersized to earn a high draft grade for the NFL (nobody 6000 or less was drafted higher than the 4th round in 2018).  I watched Wingard’s 2017 film against Iowa.  He frequently lines up close to the line as a box safety and rarely drops deep into coverage.  I envision him earning a situational rover-safety role in the NFL where he would have the freedom to play close to the line of scrimmage.

Brett Rypien, QB, Boise State

I mentioned above that Rypien had a strange 2017 and that he’ll be looking to prove he is the BMOC in 2018.  Rypien lost snaps in each game to grad transfer QB Montell Cozart.  Cozart ended the year with 97 pass attempts and 86 rush attempts so it was a significant amount of time that Rypien ceded to his backup.  He has average size at 6020/210 but lacks speed despite running a zone read offense at Boise (I only saw him take one designated run in the two games I watched).  Rypien has above average short and medium accuracy; he’s also accurate while on the run, specifically rolling to his right.  When it comes to the deep ball, Rypien is no different than most college passers in that he struggles to hit his receivers with regularity.  He did make a number of 40-50 yard throws look effortless.  Those throws are made easier when Rypien relies on positive mechanics but he too often gets lazy.  I noted a number of throws where he was off-balance, throwing without his feet set, falling away, etc.  There were multiple “fade aways,” as I called them in my notes, that led to interceptions at the goal line because he lacked the requisite touch.  While Rypien may not have much speed, he does move well in the pocket; he often avoids the rush by shuffling to and fro while keeping his eyes downfield.  Keeping those eyes downfield may be an issue though because he takes frequent sacks.  What was most concerning in the pocket was his lack of ability to feel blindside pressure.  There was one play in each of the two games I watched where he simply turned his back to the rush from the RE and took a hit square in the spine.  If you do that against NFL pass rushers you are not going to be long for the starting role.  Rypien is going to come out as a four-year starter with a lot of experience so even if he has some flaws, he’ll get a late round NFL Draft look.  Right now I’m thinking he’s more of a backup with upside rather than a potential starter.  (Film watched: Oregon 2017, Virginia 2017)

Lexington Thomas, RB, UNLV

Thomas is an undersized back who made the most of the opportunity he earned when Charles Williams went down with an injury.  He’s listed at 5090 and just 170lbs but he does look and play bigger than that weight.  I’d expect him to come in at closer to 180-185 this season.  Thomas racked up 17 TDs and 1,336 yards last season and averaged over 6.0 yards per carry.  I watched his Ohio State and New Mexico films.  I figured those would give me a feel for Thomas at his best and his worst and I think that was about right.  He’s often the victim of poor offensive line play, getting contacted at or behind the line of scrimmage.  Luckily, Thomas displays good indirect contact balance so he is often able to bounce off and maintain his run.  He frequently tries to spin out of tackles, further showing his balance, and has a solid stiff arm.  You would not expect Thomas to be great in pass protection given his size but he is above average at worst.  He does not have the strength to hold off most defenders but he can still be effective, especially when cut blocking.  Thomas’ best trait may be his breakaway speed and acceleration.  He’s probably in the 4.45 range and he uses intelligent angles to make safeties miss in the open field and seem even faster.  Thomas has excellent ball security (zero fumbles on 335 carries over the last two years!).  Unfortunately I picked two games to watch in which he did not catch a pass and ran few routes so I cannot evaluate that part of his game.  Thomas will likely need to share the load with the returning Williams which may hurt his NFL Draft chances.  If he improves as a pass catcher (just 8 receptions in 2017) and continues to be a serviceable blocker he would be a viable late rounder or priority UDFA.  (Film watched: Ohio State 2017, New Mexico 2017)

KeeSean Johnson, WR, Fresno State

To answer your question… no, there is no relation between KeeSean Johnson and Keyshawn Johnson.  KeeSean is listed at 6020/202 and plays bigger than that height.  His highlights from 2016 and 2017 feature frequent contested catches in the air.  He shows strong hands in those situations so I wish he always used those hands to catch the ball.  Oftentimes, Johnson relies on body catches when he’s open or in the middle of the field.  I did notice inconsistent hand placement on a few of his jump ball catches.  Johnson has the ability it’s just a matter of getting the proper technique down so I’m not detracting anything from him at this point.  His speed should test in the 4.55 range which is fast enough but does not make him a burner.  His run after catch numbers are limited, again mostly because of bad habits rather than ability.  On multiple plays, Johnson was able to make a great diving play for the end zone but on others he lazily steps out of bounds to avoid contact.  My question of his mindset was reinforced when I saw him get a penalty for a throat-slashing gesture directed at a defending player.  I’m not saying he’s a bad guy, I just think he needs to be motivated to do what’s best for the team on every play.  There was no full game package of Johnson available online so I’ll need some further study to evaluate his route running, release and blocking.  Johnson will greatly benefit from another season with McMaryion.  His stat line from 2017 was 77-1,013-8; I don’t think 1,300 yards and 12 TDs is out of the question.  I have a feeling he will go from “off the radar” to “sleeper” in a few months time.  (Film watched: 2016 & 2017 highlight packages)


Notes: In an effort to standardize the description of key positional traits, I frequently use the following adjectives: elite, good, above average, average, below average, poor.  My experimental grading system uses a Madden-like approach by weighting position relevant traits on a 100-point scale; bonus or negative points are awarded based on production, size, injury history and character.  Heights listed are using a notation common among scouts where the first digit corresponds to the feet, the next two digits correspond to the inches and the fourth digit corresponds to the fraction, in eighths.  So, somebody measuring 5’11” and 3/8 would be 5113.  This is helpful when trying to sort players by height.  When watching film for a player, I typically pick two games at random to watch.  For top prospects I may add a third game, while for long shots I might only devote the time for one. If game film is not available I will search for highlight reels, but keep in mind these are the best plays that player had all season so they really need to jump off the screen. I do not necessarily want to watch games where they did very well or very poorly as that may not be a great illustration of their true ability. If possible, when comparing players at the same position I also like to watch film against common opponents. Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  There are a lot of analysts out there who have a deeper depth of knowledge about certain players but I pride myself in a wide breadth of knowledge about many players.  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, herosports.com, fcs.football, foxsports.com
  • Film: 2019 NFL Draft Database by @CalhounLambeau, youtube.com (but be wary of highlight only reels)
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, walterfootball.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, ndtscouting.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, Strong as Steele with Phil Steele, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  He is a proud member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.  Robert works as a recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper

Q&A with Jalin Moore, RB, Appalachian State

Updated: June 13th 2018

I’m excited to bring you another interview with a 2019 NFL Draft prospect. Last week, we had Stetson TE Donald Parham. This week we are featuring Appalachian State RB Jalin Moore. I most recently wrote about Moore in my 2018 Sun Belt preview. In that piece, I picked Moore as my favorite to be the Sun Belt’s Offensive Player of the Year. He was draft eligible in 2018 so I covered him multiple times last season too. Moore is listed at about 210lbs and is an excellent pass blocker who runs with power. I hope to see Moore continue to get more involved as a pass catcher in 2018 which would really help increase his NFL Draft stock. Before we get to my Q&A with Jalin, let me show you my favorite play of his that I saw while studying some of his film. In this 31 yard touchdown run you see a bit of everything: his balance to avoid being tripped up, his speed to gain separation and his strong stiff arm.

Q: What’s the most memorable football game you ever played? Why does that one stick out?

A: The Idaho game my freshman year in 2015. It was a game where I got the opportunity I had been waiting for since I got here. I had been telling myself, with everybody on the team when you get to college, you don’t get too many chances, so I had in my head that this was my chance. I tried to make the most of the opportunity. (Moore certainly made the most his that opportunity; he ran 27 times for 244 yards in a 47-20 romp.)

Q: When you were growing up whose posters were on your wall?

A: Growing up, I was so good at basketball as a kid, everybody thought I was going to the NBA, so I had Michael Jordan, Shaq and Kobe, Tracy McGrady. I had all the jerseys, too. I was a real basketball fan growing up, and it’s funny now, I don’t even like playing for fun too much.

Q: If you could play one other position in college, offense or defense, what would it be? Why?

A: I’d probably say cornerback. Corners, they get to wear anything … long sleeves, towels. They’re not really in the trenches a lot, but they get to look good while they’re doing everything. They’re not bumping and grinding. They’re on the outskirts, so if I could play another position, it’d probably be corner.

Q: Do you have a player or team you particularly enjoy playing against? Maybe it’s a former teammate or a hated rival?

A: I’ve got to say Georgia Southern. Whether it’s Duke and Carolina and all the other teams, it’s up there with all the big rivalries in North Carolina. That’s Hate Week with trash talking and everybody saying everything to each other, and anything goes that week.

Q: Do you have any pregame rituals?

A: On the way back from the Mountaineer Walk, you meet with the fans, I’ll put my headphones back on when you get on the field just to get my mind right. I just try to zone out of everything and think about everything but the game. I can’t think about the game for too long. If I think about the game three hours before the game, by the time it gets there, I’d be drained out. I try to relax and get my mind right.

Q: What’s your favorite play that you’re always hoping gets called? Why is that your favorite?

A: Outside zone. That’s a play that’ll wear defenses down. You might get it the first four times, but you run it 30, 40 times, you get tired of running side to side. That’s when we’re going to chop you down and cut it straight up.

Q: Do you have any specific personal goals for the 2018 season?

A: I’ve got a few, but my No. 1 personal goal is to be the leader that this team needs me to be. We’ve got talent, but it takes way more than that.

Q: Is there a current NFL player that you model your game after?

A: I don’t really my model my game after him, but I feel like we have some of the same qualities, and he’s a young guy — Alvin Kamara. I feel like we have similar footwork, quick on the speed and shifty. Soft hands out of the backfield, I feel like I showed last year that I can catch the ball out of the backfield, too. As I look at his film, I feel like I see some of the same things.

Q: If fans want to follow you on social media, where can they find you?

A: On Twitter, it’s @itz__boobie.

(The above Q&A was lightly edited for formatting and clarification. Answers were received on June 8, 2018 via e-mail.)

Check back throughout the offseason as we showcase more 2019 NFL Draft Prospects. If there is somebody you would like to see us feature, please reach out to me on Twitter @robertfcowper.


Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey. He is a proud member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Robert works as a recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper

FA Expectancy – Kirk Cousins

Updated: June 8th 2018

Our Free Agent (FA) Expectancy series is back! 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.

Kirk Cousins – QB – Minnesota Vikings

It is still shocking almost three months later that Washington refused to try and win back Kirk Cousins and instead traded for an older and some would call inferior quarterback in Alex Smith. This allowed Cousins to sign freely with the Minnesota Vikings after being courted by several other quarterback-needy teams. The 2017 Vikings were a team that despite the impressive play of Case Keenum, people were suggesting they were a QB away from being a Super Bowl favorite. Because of this, the Vikings were willing to pull out all the stops to acquire Cousins’ services. His fully guaranteed 3-year contract is an important feature for RSO owners to consider in their auctions and suggests that he will be one of the top targets in Superflex leagues. So is Kirk Cousins being overvalued or does his resume warrant the rise that he has experienced this offseason?

Since becoming the full-time starter for Washington in 2015, Kirk Cousins has finished as QB8, QB5, and QB6 while averaging 290 standard QB-scoring fantasy points. He also averaged 567 pass attempts over the past three seasons. Meanwhile, Minnesota has averaged 523 pass attempts over the same time and has had QB finishes of QB23, QB23, and QB14 respectively. This should not be a surprise since drafting Adrian Peterson in 2008 the Vikings have been one of the most run-oriented teams. To be fair their QB room has been lacking in talent save for a quick drive-by of Brett Favre in his 40’s. Either way, they were second in the league last season with over 500 rushing attempts which makes it likely that bringing in Cousins should be a sign of the Vikings looking to improve their passing abilities rather than change their offense to a pass-heavy scheme.

Cousins is not Sam Bradford or Case Keenum. His gunslinger mentality means that he is unlikely to be having 70 percent completion seasons. However, for most leagues, all we care about in fantasy is touchdowns and yards. With Cousins’ aggressiveness, along with the receiving talent around him, there is a greater likelihood of big plays in Minnesota looking ahead to 2018.

Effecting the Offense

The Vikings offense uses only a handful of receiving options in the passing game which makes knowing who to target in fantasy much easier. Between Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph, and Jerick McKinnon these four receivers earned over 73 percent of the targets and 88 percent of touchdowns in 2017. Expecting things to stay the status quo these four receivers (swapping Dalvin Cook for McKinnon) should yield a similar collective target share in 2018. It will also be likely that Thielen will remain the target leader as Cousins’ previous slot receiver, Jamison Crowder, was his highest targeted option in Washington last season. Therefore, while Diggs receives a lot of the credit for being the name brand choice of Viking WRs if you can acquire Thielen for a reasonable fee he may once again still be an undervalued WR in fantasy.

The other Viking that should be a must acquire is Dalvin Cook. As previously mentioned Jerick McKinnon had almost 70 targets last season but split carries with Latavius Murray after Cook was injured. Cook averaged 4 targets per game while also averaging 18.5 carries which shows that the coaching staff was ready to roll with him right away as their main backfield option. With McKinnon gone the Vikings do not have a consistent receiving back outside of Cook which should only increase his role in the passing game moving forward. Cook’s recovery throughout the offseason will be one to monitor but if he is healthy he has the potential to be a top 5 running back in PPR this season.

Changes in the Capital

It is crazy to realize that Washington is only two years removed from having multiple 1,000-yard receivers (Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson) and a quarterback who almost threw for 5,000 yards. Now, none of these three players are on the team. I guess that’s the ever-changing landscape of the NFL. As previously mentioned Washington did not do any favors in trying to retain Kirk Cousins’ services and as a final one-finger salute they traded for Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith before Cousins was even officially off the roster. I have nothing against Alex Smith and think that he has been one of the more underrated quarterbacks since being considered a bust after his early years in San Francisco. However, Washington is acquiring a 34-year-old quarterback who is coming off his one elite statistical season and had a tremendous group of players to support him. In D.C. Smith doesn’t have the same level of talent around him as he did in KC. Jordan Reed is probably his best option and he is closer to being forced into retirement with each snap he plays due to his extensive list of injuries.  All in all, Smith will have his work cut out for him to make people believe that he was the reason for his own stats last season.

The team did acquire rookie running back Derrius Guice in the second round who projects to be an early down runner which along with sophomore runner Samaje Perine will give Smith a strong running game behind him. Chris Thompson, who is returning from his own season-ending injury will also help to alleviate pressure by being a safety blanket satellite back. It is unlikely that Smith will have over 4,000 yards again this season but because of his play style, there should be few turnovers to negatively affect the offense. So while good for winning games it doesn’t translate to much fantasy value. Most of Washington’s passing options should be valued as at best bye week fillers until we see if one player can become a focal point of the offense.


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 @NickAndrews_RSO.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

Q&A with Donald Parham, TE, Stetson

Updated: June 10th 2018

We have a special treat for RSO readers today… a Q&A with Donald Parham, TE from Stetson.  Parham’s name may sound familiar to my readers and followers because I started tweeting about him in May and also featured him in my 2018 FCS Preview.  I reached out to Donald through Stetson’s AD’s office and he was gracious enough to email me his responses despite his hectic schedule on campus.  Parham is an interesting NFL Draft prospect for either 2019 or 2020.  He has a 6’8″ frame and in case you need visual evidence of just how valuable that can be on the football field, I submit to you:

Q: What’s the most memorable football game you ever played? Why does that one stick out?

A: My sophomore year I had a diving catch against Sacred Heart, I think for a touchdown. It stuck out because it kind of set the tone for my level of play for the rest of my career.

Q: When you were growing up whose posters were on your wall?

A: I didn’t have anyone on my walls I have always tried to do my own thing

Q: If you could play one other position in college, offense or defense, what would it be? Why?

A: Defensive end, everyone tells me that I have the stature to be a great one, just if I had a few more pounds on me.

Q: Do you have a player or team you particularly enjoy playing against? Maybe it’s a former teammate or a hated rival?

A: Jacksonville is probably the one to say because its always an intense game and I enjoy the energy.

Q: Do you have any pregame rituals?

A: Just to stay calm and think about my assignments and listen to music.  Nothing too hype, but got a nice beat to it

Q: What’s your favorite play that you’re always hoping gets called? Why is that your favorite?

A: That’s classified.

Q: Do you have any specific personal goals for the 2018 season?

A: 10 touchdowns at least, and 100 [yards] per game.

Q: Is there a current NFL player that you model your game after?

A: Gronk, he plays with a lot of energy and is just overall fun to watch, and he just makes it look easy.

Q: If fans want to follow you on social media, where can they find you?

A: IG and Twitter :@jiggydd_49.

(The above Q&A was lightly edited for formatting and clarification.  Answers were received on May 29, 2018 via e-mail.)

Check back throughout the offseason as we showcase more 2019 NFL Draft Prospects.  If there is somebody you would like to see us feature, please reach out to me on Twitter @robertfcowper.


Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  He is a proud member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.  Robert works as a recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper

The Watch List: 2018 C-USA Preview

Updated: June 6th 2018

Welcome to The Watch List, a resource to help RSO owners identify the players, storylines and matchups from the college game that deserve your attention.  Check back throughout the Summer for previews on each conference and my preseason predictions.  During the regular season, The Watch List will continue to update you on who is fantasy relevant and worth your draft capital next year. 

Storylines to Watch

  • Heisman Favorite: Devin Singletary, RB, Florida Atlantic.  We’ll cover Singletary more below but let’s just say that anybody with 2,000 yard and 30 TD potential has a shot at getting votes for the Heisman.
  • Darkhorse Heisman Candidate:  Brent Stockstill, QB, Middle Tennessee State.  Stockstill put up big numbers in 2015 and 2016 and a return to that 4,000 yard form could put him on the radar for more casual fans.  Stockstill will have three marquee games to showcase his ability, and maybe pull out an upset, when the Blue Raiders visit Vanderbilt, Georgia and Kentucky.
  • Offensive Player of the Year:  Mason Fine, QB, North Texas.  It would be easy to pick Singletary here but Fine likely means more to his team than Singletary does.  Fine is undersized (5110/180) but is a high volume passer.  He finished second in the conference in most passing categories in 2017 and should find himself atop the leaderboards in 2018 with Mike White, Jason Driskel and Chase Litton gone.  In 2017 he finished with 4,052 yards, 31 TDs and 15 INTs.
  • Defensive Player of the Year:  Jalen Young, S, Florida Atlantic.  Young is currently rated as DraftScout.com’s sixth best safety in the 2019 class.  He is a three year starter heading into his senior season.  He’s averaged 81 tackles and 4 INTs over those campaigns.  I watched a package of his high school highlights since more recent ones were tough to find and I noted that he had a good combination of ball hawking skill and a desire to get involved in run support.  He could be a sneaky NFL Draft prospect if he continues to improve in 2018 because teams will value his versatility.
  • Newcomer of the Year:  Maureese Wren, WR, Louisiana Tech.  Per ESPN’s scouting service, Wren is the highest rated incoming transfer to the C-USA.  Wren is listed at 6030 and 216lbs which is a big enough frame to factor in right away.  According to 247Sports.com, Wren received offers from 24 FBS schools including some blue bloods like Texas, Oregon, Washington, Nebraska and Arkansas.  Wren could help jump start the Bulldogs after a disappointing 2017 season.
  • Underclassman to Watch:  Spencer Brown, RB, UAB.  Brown was a big part of UAB’s unexpected success in 2017.  As a true freshman he put up 1,329 yards and 10 TDs.  He has tremendous size at 6000/235.  As you’d guess, he is thick and can easily power through contact.  I’d like to see an increase in receiving production this season.  We have some time yet to see if he was a one year wonder or a star in the making.
  • Best QB-WR Tandem:  Mason Fine and Jalen Guyton, North Texas.  I mentioned Fine above and since he’s one of the few returning quarterbacks in the conference he basically guarantees North Texas this spot.  I expect Fine’s top target this season to be former Notre Dame transfer Jalen Guyton.  Guyton has good size at 6010/194 and produced well in his first season at Marshall (49-775-9).  If Guyton doesn’t step up, Fine will look to juniors Michael Lawerence or Rico Bussey who were also Top 10 in receiving yards in C-USA last year.
  • Best RB Corps:  Marshall.  Sure, the Owls have the best back in the conference but the Thundering Herd return two 800+ yard rushers from last season.  Tyler King gained 820 yards and 7 TDs last season as a freshman; Keion Davis totaled 812 yards and 6 scores.  Both were involved in the passing game too, combining for 31 receptions and 231 yards.  New grad transfer QB Alex Thomson can also contribute on the ground: he had 402 rushing yards and 5 TDs in his career at Wagner.
  • Coach on the Hottest Seat:  Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee State.  I stumbled on a great site when doing my “hot seat” research: CoachingTreeHotSeat.com.  The site tracks coaching bios, hirings and firings from year to year and grades coaches against their team’s expected win totals.  The site rated the Blue Raiders season a C in 2017, B- in 2016 and C+ in 2015.  If the last name sounds familiar it’s because Rick’s son Brent is the starting quarterback.  If MTSU falters at all this season, I’ll bet the administration sees it as an opportunity to move on from the father as the son is graduating.

Teams to Watch

Florida Atlantic (11-3 in 2017)

FAU has the best shot, in my opinion, of earning a New Year’s Six bowl among the Group of 5 teams.  They have a Power 5 coach in Lane Kiffin, a Heisman hopeful in RB Devin Singletary and the conference’s best defense.  What they don’t have is a quarterback.  Last year’s signal caller, Jason Driskel, retired from football.  Kiffin has two potential starters to choose from, both of whom originally enrolled at Power 5 schools: De’Andre Johnson (Florida State) and Chris Robison (Oklahoma).  Whether or not the Owls are contending for the Boca Raton Bowl or the Peach Bowl will rely heavily on what Kiffin can mold those two into.

Florida International (8-5 in 2017)

Per 247Sports, FIU signed the best recruiting class of C-USA.  They were able to secure the conference’s only two 4-star recruits, both of whom are defensive tackle JUCO transfers.  Tayland Humphrey is listed at 6050/350 and will clog the middle.  He had offers from an awesome list of schools and ultimately took visits with Kansas and Oklahoma State before choosing Florida International.  Teair Tart-Spencer meanwhile is a bit lighter at 6040/295 but his Hudl highlights will strike fear into opposing offenses.  Tart-Spencer was predicted to go to Alabama by 247Sports but ultimately signed with the Golden Panthers.  Tart-Spencer was dismissed from his JUCO team so it appears that some teams got cold feet and backed out of the running.  Butch Davis, like Kiffin, may be taking a chance on talent over character but it’s worth the gamble.  Look for FIU to compete with FAU for the division crown with it all coming down to their November 3rd matchup.

Players to Watch

Honorable Mentions

  • AJ Erdely, QB, UAB:  Erdely is possibly the oldest player I’ll cover this offseason (24 when the season begins) and he has a sweet mustache to prove it. Erdely started as a true freshman at Middle Tennessee State in 2013, played sparingly in 2014, went JUCO in 2015 and sat out 2016 all before leading the 2017 reincarnation of the Blazers to a 8-5 finish. He is a dual threat who passed for 16 TDs and added 13 on the ground. I don’t think Erdely gets NFL Draft looks but he has an interesting personal journey and plays on a team that surprised us all last season so keep an eye on him.
  • Aaron Cephus, WR, Rice:  Cephus caught my eye because he had the best yards per catch average in the conference at 24.9.  Usually when you see such a huge average it’s somebody who caught six balls and one of them was a fluke hail mary.  Not for Cephus who had 25 grabs on route to that huge average.  In fact, Cephus lead the NCAA in yards per catch average.  Plus he was a (redshirt) freshman playing on a horrible Rice team.  The cherry on top is that he comes in at 6040/200.  Cephus will technically be NFL Draft eligible after this season as a redshirt sophomore but I imagine it would take a record-breaking season for him to come out.  Still though, he’s on my watch list.
  • Jaylon Ferguson, DE, Lousiana Tech:  Ferguson has accumulated some impressive stats over his three year career.  He has 122 total tackles, 41.5 tackles for loss and 27.5 sacks.  He’s listed at 6050/269 and DraftScout.com has him projected at 4.84 speed.  He’ll need to show scouts he’s faster than that in order to get true buzz.  If he does trend closer to 4.70 speed we’re looking at somebody with physical comps to Myles Garrett and Bradley Chubb.
  • Azeez Al-Shaair, LB, Florida Atlantic:  Al-Shaair has started since he was a freshman and has a chance to hit 500 career tackles in 2018.  Last season was his best yet with 146 total tackles.  Unsurprisingly, that was good for best in the conference; it was also good enough for third in the FBS.  Al-Shaair decided to stay in school after his standout junior season and put off a potential payday that could have helped him care for two of his younger siblings who live with him.  After my limited research he seems like a good leader and an overall good dude that we can all root for even if he doesn’t have a huge draft stock.

Devin Singletary, RB, Florida Atlantic

As I have alluded to in multiple places in this preview, Devin Singletary is the conference’s best.  He put up incredible stats in 2017: 301 carries, 1,918 rushing yards, 6.1 yards per carry, 32 rushing TDs, 19 receptions, 198 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD.  He led the FBS in carries and rushing touchdowns and led the conference in just about every other stat.  What surprised me the most when I looked back at his stats this offseason were the number of carries.  Backs who are listed at 5090 don’t typically hold up over a 300 carry season but Singletary did.  Singletary is stout enough, he weighs in at 200lb, that he’s able to hold up better than thinner backs but he needs to add a few more pounds for the NFL.

When I watched Singletary, I repeatedly noted two things: his cutting ability and his pass protection.  Singletary’s ability to change direction without losing much speed is an elite trait.  He shows a variety of cuts, including a jump cut and a back cut that is particularly useful for getting him out of trouble.  He has good speed, in the 4.50 range, but is not elite in that department.  He’s plenty fast for the position but he’s not a track star type back.  He lacks the strength to move the pile at the line of scrimmage but in one-on-one situations he has enough strength to break tackles.  In pass protection, I see an ability to identify his assignment and get there on time to protect his quarterback.  On one specific play he slide along the line, keeping his shoulders parallel and had good hand placement when contacting the defender.  On a number of other plays he successfully chipped or cut blocked the defender.  I didn’t see much of him in terms of his pass catching ability, he caught a number of relatively easy screens, but I would say that it’s average at worst.  He did show me nuance as a route runner though which is encouraging.  I also noted that he has enough awareness to carry out fakes on play action passes and zone read fakes.  Singletary does not give up on the play and rarely goes out of bounds by choice.

I was very encouraged by my film study of Singletary and I’m eager to see how he does in 2018.  I would not at all be surprised to see him rise up our fantasy draft boards and command a late first round pick this time next year.  (Film watched: Western Kentucky 2017, Middle Tennessee State 2017)

Tyre Brady, WR, Marshall

Tyre Brady was the first wide receiver I deeply studied this offseason and that might have been a problem because I am smitten.  I was honestly quite impressed with the two games of film I watched.  Brady looks like he has the potential to be a starting X receiver in the NFL.  He has good size at 6030/208 and showcases an ability to make acrobatic catches near the sideline with his strong hands and toe-tapping body control.  I was encouraged by his release which was usually positive, although I would like to see him get more physical when coming out of his breaks.  He can be physical at the top of his route stem so I know he can do it.  Brady has good to elite speed, I’m thinking in the 4.40 range.  He pairs that speed with the skill to stop on a dime and fluidly change direction.  His run after catch prowess relies mostly on his breakaway speed but he can spin out of tackles to pick up extra yardage.  The only negative I noted for Brady was his blocking but that’s not surprising for his position.  There is one possible off-field negative that I hope is behind Brady: he was suspended multiple times at Miami for undisclosed reasons before transferring.  Hopefully whatever that was is in his past and he can finish out a successful career at Marshall.  I’ll need to return to Brady after I study some more WRs to make sure it’s not a primacy bias but right now I’m thinking that Brady has Day Two NFL Draft potential and could end up on 2019 fantasy draft boards.  (Film watched: Colorado State 2017, NC State 2017)

Brent Stockstill, QB, Middle Tennessee State

Brent and Rick Stockstill combine to make an interesting story line at MTSU.  The father-son duo has brought as many or more wins to the Blue Raiders over the last three years as any other three year stretch in the program’s FBS history.  The only caveat to that is that son Brent has missed a number of games in that stretch due to injuries.  I watched Stockstill’s game against Arkansas State in the Camellia Bowl and was not impressed.  Statistically, it was one of the worst games of his career but I think it was worth watching because it came in a bowl game and against a mediocre defense.  Stockstill’s accuracy was inconsistent; he often missed throws high and wide, two of which turned into INTs.  He loves to throw the back shoulder and also shows good touch over the middle.  In addition to having a long injury history, Stockstill is also an old prospect (he was in the 2013 recruiting class) which means he’s unlikely to factor into NFL Draft conversations even though he has 4,000 yard potential.  (Film watched: Arkansas State 2017)

 


Notes: In an effort to standardize the description of key positional traits, I frequently use the following adjectives: elite, good, above average, average, below average, poor.  My experimental grading system uses a Madden-like approach by weighting position relevant traits on a 100-point scale; bonus or negative points are awarded based on production, size, injury history and character.  Heights listed are using a notation common among scouts where the first digit corresponds to the feet, the next two digits correspond to the inches and the fourth digit corresponds to the fraction, in eighths.  So, somebody measuring 5’11” and 3/8 would be 5113.  This is helpful when trying to sort players by height.  Then watching film for a player, I typically pick two games at random to watch.  For top prospects I may add a third game, while for long shots I might only devote the time for one. If game film is not available I will search for highlight reels, but keep in mind these are the best plays that player had all season so they really need to jump off the screen. I do not necessarily want to watch games where they did very well or very poorly as that may not be a great illustration of their true ability. If possible, when comparing players at the same position I also like to watch film against common opponents. Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  There are a lot of analysts out there who have a deeper depth of knowledge about certain players but I pride myself in a wide breadth of knowledge about many players.  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, herosports.com, fcs.football, foxsports.com
  • Film: 2019 NFL Draft Database by @CalhounLambeau, youtube.com (but be wary of highlight only reels)
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, walterfootball.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, ndtscouting.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, Strong as Steele with Phil Steele, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  He is a proud member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.  Robert works as a recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper