Redrafting the 2016 Rookie Draft

Updated: October 9th 2016

As we’re about a quarter of the way into the 2016 season, plenty has changed since our rookie drafts this past summer.  Values have changed, injuries have occurred, and roles have been more clearly defined.  In hindsight there are many picks that we’re all proud of, but also some that we’re ashamed to look back on.  In this piece, I’m going to redraft the first round of a 2016 Rookie Draft assuming that it took place today.

#1.01 Ezekiel Elliott – RB DAL

2016: 94 car – 412 yards – 3TDs; 6 rec – 44 yards

Analysis: The consensus 1.01 pick throughout the off-season, Elliott has largely delivered on the months of hype that surrounded him.  He’s produced as the number one running back in Dallas, though he has been unluckily vultured at the goal-line a few times.  He’s been less involved in the passing game than I anticipated, but I expect his usage to improve over the next few years.

#1.02 Corey Coleman – WR CLE

2016: 7 rec – 173 yards – 2TDs

Analysis: Coleman, my choice for the 1.02 pick in the off-season, has flashed his immense potential in limited opportunities this season.  The Cleveland offense, headed by Hue Jackson, may no longer be a fantasy wasteland as Isaiah Crowell, Terrelle Pyror, and Corey Coleman have emerged this season as viable fantasy options.  Missing 4-to-6 weeks with a broken hand is unfortunate, but it doesn’t impact my long-term projection of Coleman.

#1.03 Will Fuller – WR HOU

2016: 19 rec – 323 – 2TDs

Analysis: I’m not afraid to admit that I was dead wrong about Will Fuller.  I had him outside of my top 10 and didn’t believe he would be nearly as versatile as he’s proved to be.  Not only a deep threat, Fuller is a weapon in all areas of the field.  His success is currently being limited by poor QB, but the sky’s the limit if Brock Osweiler improves.

#1.04 Sterling Shepard – WR NYG

2016: 20 rec – 263 – 2TDs

Analysis: Of all the 2016 rookies, I have the most shares of Sterling Shepard.  A very polished route runner, I expected Shepard to immediately make an impact especially in PPR leagues.  He has not disappointed and appears on a trajectory towards WR2 status for much of his career.

#1.05 Michael Thomas – WR NO

2016: 21 rec – 229 yards – 2TDs

Analysis: Through 4 games, the 6’3″ sure-handed possession receiver has performed well as many expected.   His quick emergence, as a WR3/WR4 in 2016, make him an excellent value on a 3 or 4 year RSO rookie contract.

#1.06 Derrick Henry – RB TEN

2016: 27 car – 97 yards; 3 rec – 50 yards

Analysis: After a very impressive preseason, I expected that Derrick Henry would be much more involved in the Tennessee offense than he’s been through four games.  Instead, DeMarco Murray has been a true workhouse, leaving little work for the rookie Henry.  In a year or two, Henry should take over the starting job in Tennessee and immediately join the RB1 conversation.  A true physical specimen with a unique combination of size and speed, Henry is one of the most athletically gifted RB prospects we’ve seen in quite some time.  This preseason, he even showed promise catching the ball out of the backfield.  If the Henry owner in your league is growing impatient, now’s the time to buy.

#1.07 Laquon Treadwell – WR MIN

2016: n/a

Analysis: Treadwell was widely considered the consensus 1.02 or 1.03 pick in all rookie drafts, but his value has dropped in the first month of the season.  He’s been a healthy inactive in several games and has seen very few snaps when he’s actually been active.  While the Vikings may want to bring their rookie along slowly, it’s very concerning that he can’t beat out Charles Johnson, Adam Thielen, Jarius Wright, and Cordarrelle Patterson for WR reps.  I’m still a believer in his talent, but red flags have been raised.

#1.08 Kenneth Dixon – RB BAL

2016: n/a

Analysis: Dixon’s expected debut in Week 5 has generated a great deal of buzz in the fantasy community as many expect him to quickly overtake Terrance West.  As a prospect at the draft, I was very high on Kenneth Dixon…love his speed, athleticism, and pass catching abilities.  The knee injury delayed his NFL debut and briefly suppressed his value, but that has now risen likely greater than it was in April and May.

#1.09 Josh Doctson – WR WAS

2016: 2 rec – 66 yards

Analysis: 2016 may end as a lost season for Josh Doctson, but all hope is not lost.  Assuming he enters the 2017 season healthy, he will have a great opportunity to earn a significant target share in Washington.  DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon are both free agents after 2016 and it seems unlikely both will return.  

#1.10 Jordan Howard – RB CHI

2016: 35 car – 178 yards; 9 rec – 77 yards

Analysis: The most interesting aspect of Jordan Howard’s impressive start as a rookie is his usage in the passing game.  Largely considered a 2-down back after catching a total of 24 passes in 32 collegiate games, Howard seemed to lack the upside of more versatile backs but clearly that isn’t the case.

#1.11 DeAndre Washington – RB OAK

2016: 23 car – 147 yards; 6 rec – 37 yards

Analysis: Throughout the off-season we kept hearing that the Raiders weren’t 100% sold on Latavius Murray as their workhorse back.  DeAndre Washington became a fantasy sleeper soon after the NFL draft.  Though only 5’8”, Washington is a physical back that can run between the tackles, make a defender miss in space, and is adequate catching the ball out of the backfield.  He may be part of a committee in Oakland long-term, but committees are the new norm in the NFL.  Washington is clearly a talent that runs behind one of the best offensive lines in football.

#1.12 Hunter Henry – TE SD

2016: 10 rec – 153 yards – TD

Analysis: Hunter Henry looks like he may turn into what the fantasy community had hoped Ladarius Green would be.  Henry has produced in Antonio Gates‘ absence and has become a reliable target for QB Philip Rivers.

Just missed the first round:

Wendell Smallwood – RB PHI

Carson Wentz – QB PHI

Tajae Sharpe – WR TEN

Tyler Boyd – WR CIN

Braxton Miller – WR HOU

Devontae Booker – RB DEN

Malcolm Mitchell – WR NE

CJ Prosise – RB SEA

Paul Perkins – RB NYG

Dwayne Washington – RB DET

Let me know which of your rookie picks you’re most proud of – on Twitter @DaveSanders_RSO!


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

More Analysis by Dave Sanders

numberFire Rookie Draft Results '16

Updated: August 22nd 2016

Welcome to year three of their writers league featuring writers from Reality Sports Online, numberFire, ESPN and FantasyGuru.com. Ironically, our defending champion is the only non-writer in the league, Rory Ryan, a Law Professor from Baylor, a write-in candidate from last year. Only one team turned over this year and is now owned by Reality Sports Online founder and president Matt Papson, who inherited a squad rich with assets and picks hence his team name being Hospitable Takeover. The three-round, three-year contract rookie draft was held on Sunday, August 7th and was completed in record time (less than 15 minutes).

The participants rookie picks and strategies are outlined below, along with player contract values to assist those users who have not had their rookie draft yet. Please follow us all on Twitter as we definitely love talking fantasy football.

Without further ado, the 2016 Rookie Draft.

Team: University of Phoenix Online (Brandon Gdula, numberFire) @gdula13

Picks:

1.01 Ezekiel Elliott, RB Dallas Cowboys (3 years, $20.8M)

2.01 C.J. Prosise, RB Seattle Seahawks (3 years, $4.7M)

3.01 Wendell Smallwood, RB Philadelphia Eagles (3 years, $3.1M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: My team needed everything, if we’re being honest, and at 1.01, I had no choice but to take Ezekiel Elliott. Dallas liked him enough to take him fourth overall, and he might lead the league in carries in 2016. What’s not to like? C.J. Prosise is a receiving back with some rushing ability in a run-first offense in Seattle. Thomas Rawls’ injury concerns me, and Prosise could wind up as a starter as a rookie. Even if not, he should secure the third-down role. I didn’t like any receivers left at the start of the third and was targeting DeAndre Washington, but I settled on Wendell Smallwood. He might be able to be a three-down back given that there is not much certainty ahead of him on the depth chart as a rookie.

Team: The Quickie Martin (Sam Hauss, numberFire) @Real_Hauss

Picks:

1.02 Corey Coleman, WR Cleveland Browns (3 years, $19.6M)

2.02 Kenneth Dixon, RB Baltimore Ravens (3 years, $4.6M)

2.09 Pharoh Cooper, WR Los Angeles Rams (3 years, $4.3M)

3.02 Austin Hooper, TE Atlanta Falcons (3 years, $3.0M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: With Elliott off the board and a big hole at the wide receiver position, I opted for Corey Coleman with the second pick of the first round. Coleman should be in store for a big role early in his career, even with Josh Gordon returning to the Browns, and has as much upside as any wide receiver in this draft class. My second pick was a bit trickier, because I really wanted to nab another wide receiver, but I liked the value much more at running back, hence my selection of Kenneth Dixon. The Ravens backfield is up for grabs and Dixon may already be the most talented of the bunch. He could emerge as the starter in a Marc Trestman offense as soon as this season. After taking a running back second I went back to the well at wide receiver, selecting Pharoh Cooper of the Rams. While I’m not sure where he’ll fit into the offense this season, I needed to add depth at wide receiver and Cooper is an explosive athlete with a lot of upside over the next few seasons. Some of you may be surprised to see me select the Falcons’ Austin Hooper with my fourth pick before Hunter Henry, however, in this league format rookie contracts are three year contracts and Hooper simply has a more clear path to fantasy value over the next three seasons than Henry. Henry is still playing behind Antonio Gates and will struggle to stay on the field as a full time player until he becomes a better blocker. Meanwhile, Atlanta has a huge number of targets to fill behind Julio Jones and, depending on what your opinion of Mohamed Sanu is, there really isn’t much competition to fill that void. Hooper has a rare chance to be a major contributor as a rookie at the tight end position and is a much safer choice in the short-term than the aforementioned Henry.

Team: Hospitable Takeover (Matt Papson, President and Founder, Reality Sports Online) @RealitySportsMP

Picks:

1.03 Laquon Treadwell, WR Minnesota Vikings (3 years, $19.1M)

1.09 Will Fuller, WR Houston Texans (3 years, $11.7M)

2.03 Leonte Carroo, WR Miami Dolphins (3 years, $4.6M)

3.03 Braxton Miller, WR Houston Texans (3 years, $3.0M)

Rookie Draft Strategy:  I inherited/took-over, what I believe to be, the bones of a well-balanced, championship-potential roster. The team isn’t deep at any one position, but it’s not overly shallow anywhere either. It’s also set up well for me from a contract perspective, with Russell Wilson’s $13.2M cap figure the highest on the team. Several promising young players, including Jay Ajayi, Kevin White, Maxx Williams, and Odell Beckham Jr. are still on affordable rookie contracts.

I was hoping to land Treadwell third overall, so-as not to over-invest in the Robert Griffin III experiment (on my roster), and was fortunate to have Coleman go off the board 2nd. I would have taken Derrick Henry in the 9 slot if he had lasted. With Henry off the board, I decided to hedge my Jaelen Strong ownership by selecting Philly-native Will Fuller. I didn’t love my option at 2.03, and wish I could have traded back to gain an extra selection in the late 2nd/early 3rd given how things turned out, but went with Leonte Carroo. With Smallwood off the board at 3.01 (who I had ranked right after Carroo), I had to decide between Hunter Henry (I already have a high pick invested in Williams and need a veteran), Paxton Lynch/Jared Goff (but need a backup to Wilson who can play now in case RG3 re-busts), and my actual selection — Braxton Miller. I went with Miller’s high upside, and him being a super-hedge to Strong and Fuller. If a clear #2 emerges behind DeAndre Hopkins in Houston, he’s on my roster.

Team: Great Odin’s Raven (Dan Pizzuta, numberFire) @DanPizzuta

Picks:

1.04 Josh Doctson, WR Washington Redskins (3 years, $18.3M)

2.04 Jordan Howard, RB Chicago Bears (3 years, $4.5M)

3.04 Hunter Henry, TE San Diego Chargers (3 years, $3.0 M)

3.09 Chris Moore, WR Baltimore Ravens (3 years, $2.9M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: 

I’ve drafted second overall the past two years in this league, so sitting at pick No. 1.04 made me feel like I was waiting around forever. It didn’t matter though, because I got the player I would have taken second overall anyway, knowing Elliott is the obvious first overall pick. I think Josh Doctson is the best wide receiver in this class and even if he doesn’t have an immediate impact his rookie year, there’s going to be a lot of good to follow.

I didn’t really like how the board fell to me in the second round, so I went with Jordan Howard to pair with Ka’Deem Carey to possibly get two-thirds of a potential RBBC for the Bears. It’s faulty, but that was my logic taking David Johnson in the third round of this draft last year and that worked out pretty well.

Heading into the third I was targeting Hooper, who I viewed as the top rookie tight end before the NFL Draft, but he went two picks ahead of me, which I was not expecting. I went with Henry because I could see San Diego throwing a lot and Antonio Gates is 36-years-old, but man, I really would have liked Hooper. I also had the ninth pick in the third round from a late season trade and took Chris Moore from Baltimore. I’m a big fan of Moore’s skillset — he can get down the field, create separation and win at the catch point — and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him contribute sooner rather than later for the Ravens, especially considering the unknown health/quality of Breshad Perriman and Mike Wallace.

Team: Team: gingersauce4u (Tyler Buecher, numberFire) @gingersauce4u

Picks:

1.05 Sterling Shepard, WR New York Giants (3 years, $17.3M)

2.05 DeAndre Washington, RB Oakland Raiders (3 years, $4.5M)

3.05 Mike Thomas, WR Los Angeles Rams (3 years, $3.0M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: Heading into our third year of this league, I’ve learned not to value positions of need as badly as I used to. Rookies beyond the first round are typically dart throws, but I have some optimism with the three players I drafted here. Sterling Shepard enters a terrific situation in his rookie season in an offense that has 100-plus targets up for grabs. Settling in behind Odell Beckham Jr. should allow Shepard plenty of single-coverage looks and allow him to truly shine out of the slot — an area he dominated in college. I love what the Raiders have done this offseason beefing up their offensive line with the addition of Kelechi Osemele and their additions on defense. It lines up for Oakland to have a more balanced attack, and something that rookie DeAndre Washington could take advantage of in his rookie year. Latavius Murray struggled with efficiency in 2015 with his success largely a byproduct of volume. Washington could carve out an early third-down/change-of-pace role that could expand into more touches as the season goes on. I’m not as high on Mike Thomas as a lot of others, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to grab him here in the mid-third round. Thomas was this year’s most notable Combine snub, after shining his final collegiate season with a 71-1,391-14 stat line for Southern Miss. He had an unlucky landing situation with the Rams, a team that ran the fewest plays per game last year and had the fifth-lowest passing play percentage. Fortunately, the receivers there have yet to establish any consistent production, so he may find a quicker path to playing time than if went somewhere else. 

Team: SamHerbie (Sammy Light, Reality Sports Online) @SamHerbie

Picks:

1.06 Devontae Booker, RB Denver Broncos (3 years, $15.2M)

2.06 Malcolm Mitchell, WR New England Patriots (3 years, $4.4M)

3.06 Paxton Lynch, QB Denver Broncos (3 years, $2.9M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: While most would think about wide receivers at this point in the rookie draft, I really like what Devontae Booker brings to the table. He’s a versatile every down back playing for a coach who he can thrive under and even though C.J. Anderson re-signed this offseason, he’s had a history of not holding up health-wise. I love Malcolm Mitchell’s big play ability and it didn’t take him long in the preseason to demonstrate some of that. Word is he’s projected to start as the Patriots “X” receiver. In the final round, I took Paxton Lynch as the first QB off the board.

Team: Cleveland’s Award Tour (Matt Goodwin, Reality Sports Online & numberFire) @mattgoody2

Picks:

1.07 Michael Thomas, WR New Orleans Saints (3 years, $13.5M)

2.07 Paul Perkins, RB New York Giants (3 years, $4.4M)

3.07 Jared Goff, QB Los Angeles Rams (3 years, $2.9M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: My strategy typically changes a bit in this league due to the 3 year rookie contracts vs. 4 years in my other leagues. To that end, I always try to get players who are fantasy ready in their rookie years. Michael Thomas fits that bill. He’s gotten glowing reviews in training camp and has earned quarterback Drew Brees’ confidence. He also fits a pretty big need for me at wideout. I was really hoping in the second round that Washington would be available as I think he could have an immediate impact in the Raiders offense as a pass-catcher, but like in Round 1, Tyler grabbed who I would’ve wanted. So I went with Paul Perkins, a versatile back out of UCLA. While all indications in New York point to a crowded backfield and Perkins probably being a year away, I have a little time to wait for someone scouts compared to Jamaal Charles. This strategy worked for me in the past with Devonta Freeman and this late in the draft, Perkins could be a steal.

In the last round, I was really open to anything. I originally was targeting a wide receiver who will have to wait until the auction potentially, but the opportunity to take the first overall pick in Jared Goff proved tantalizing. I’m not expecting much out of him this year, but could have a cheap and productive fantasy option for years 2 and 3 in a league that doesn’t tend to pay a premium quarterbacks. If Goff ends up being a startable fantasy quarterback in year two (i.e. Top 12 option), I can spend bigger at the other positions while paying Goff roughly $1M a season. I love his pocket presence and quick release. Hopefully I’ve picked the next elite Cal quarterback.

Team: Leo Howell (Leo Howell, ESPN) @LeoHowell8

Picks:

1.08 Derrick Henry, RB Tennessee Titans (3 years, $11.9M)

2.08 Alex Collins, RB Seattle Seahawks (3 years, $4.3M)

3.08 Rashard Higgins, WR Cleveland Browns (3 years, $2.9M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: The rookie draft wasn’t really a major event for me due to my lackluster selection for finishing well last year. I was surprised to see Derrick Henry fall to me, and since I was in full “best player available” mode, he made the most sense. Of the guys on the board, he’d easily be the highest for me in a redraft setting, and I feel like I can win now. I was tempted to go with Paxton Lynch in the second round, but thought he’d fall to me in the third… he didn’t. Still, happy with Alex Collins, who is a job away from being productive in a great system. Ended up with a bit of a biased pick, as Rashard Higgins hails from my favorite FBS college team. I doubt he makes an impact, but I’m banking on the big plays I’ve watched him make for the Rams.

Team: Funky Monks (Graham Barfield, FantasyGuru.com & Rotoworld) @GrahamBarfield

Rookie Draft Strategy: I sat the rookie draft out after an aggressive first year in the league. I traded my picks last year in an effort to win the championship and came close, losing in the finals. I traded my 1st round pick for Arian Foster, my 2nd round pick for Brandon Marshall, and my 3rd round pick for Carson Palmer.

Team: Loss Aversion (Rory Ryan, Baylor University Law Professor) @RoryRyan

Picks:

1.10 Tyler Boyd, WR Cincinnati Bengals (3 years, $11.2M)

2.10 Kelvin Taylor, RB San Francisco 49ers (3 years, $4.2M)

3.10 Tajae Sharpe, WR Tennessee Titans (3 years, $2.8M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: With three-year rookie contracts and rosters that are very shallow, I contemplated bypassing my last two picks. But I decided to risk the cap hit and take two of my guys. I think Kelvin Taylor has an NFL skill set. A pretty good one, actually. The upside with him and Chip in SF is worth the cap risk. I was very sad when Tajae Sharpe got so much good press so early. I’ve been on him for a while, but I wanted the press after my drafts. I knew I wanted both Taylor and Sharpe and drafted Taylor first guessing someone else might take a flier in Taylor but that all would be bored by Sharpe. I ended up getting both of the guys nobody wanted along with Tyler Boyd, who I would take for three years over many of the receivers who go earlier. I see a lot of Allen Robinson in him and there isn’t much in front of him on the Bengals roster.

More Analysis by Matt Goodwin

numberFire Rookie Draft Results ’16

Updated: August 22nd 2016

Welcome to year three of their writers league featuring writers from Reality Sports Online, numberFire, ESPN and FantasyGuru.com. Ironically, our defending champion is the only non-writer in the league, Rory Ryan, a Law Professor from Baylor, a write-in candidate from last year. Only one team turned over this year and is now owned by Reality Sports Online founder and president Matt Papson, who inherited a squad rich with assets and picks hence his team name being Hospitable Takeover. The three-round, three-year contract rookie draft was held on Sunday, August 7th and was completed in record time (less than 15 minutes).

The participants rookie picks and strategies are outlined below, along with player contract values to assist those users who have not had their rookie draft yet. Please follow us all on Twitter as we definitely love talking fantasy football.

Without further ado, the 2016 Rookie Draft.

Team: University of Phoenix Online (Brandon Gdula, numberFire) @gdula13

Picks:

1.01 Ezekiel Elliott, RB Dallas Cowboys (3 years, $20.8M)

2.01 C.J. Prosise, RB Seattle Seahawks (3 years, $4.7M)

3.01 Wendell Smallwood, RB Philadelphia Eagles (3 years, $3.1M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: My team needed everything, if we’re being honest, and at 1.01, I had no choice but to take Ezekiel Elliott. Dallas liked him enough to take him fourth overall, and he might lead the league in carries in 2016. What’s not to like? C.J. Prosise is a receiving back with some rushing ability in a run-first offense in Seattle. Thomas Rawls’ injury concerns me, and Prosise could wind up as a starter as a rookie. Even if not, he should secure the third-down role. I didn’t like any receivers left at the start of the third and was targeting DeAndre Washington, but I settled on Wendell Smallwood. He might be able to be a three-down back given that there is not much certainty ahead of him on the depth chart as a rookie.

Team: The Quickie Martin (Sam Hauss, numberFire) @Real_Hauss

Picks:

1.02 Corey Coleman, WR Cleveland Browns (3 years, $19.6M)

2.02 Kenneth Dixon, RB Baltimore Ravens (3 years, $4.6M)

2.09 Pharoh Cooper, WR Los Angeles Rams (3 years, $4.3M)

3.02 Austin Hooper, TE Atlanta Falcons (3 years, $3.0M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: With Elliott off the board and a big hole at the wide receiver position, I opted for Corey Coleman with the second pick of the first round. Coleman should be in store for a big role early in his career, even with Josh Gordon returning to the Browns, and has as much upside as any wide receiver in this draft class. My second pick was a bit trickier, because I really wanted to nab another wide receiver, but I liked the value much more at running back, hence my selection of Kenneth Dixon. The Ravens backfield is up for grabs and Dixon may already be the most talented of the bunch. He could emerge as the starter in a Marc Trestman offense as soon as this season. After taking a running back second I went back to the well at wide receiver, selecting Pharoh Cooper of the Rams. While I’m not sure where he’ll fit into the offense this season, I needed to add depth at wide receiver and Cooper is an explosive athlete with a lot of upside over the next few seasons. Some of you may be surprised to see me select the Falcons’ Austin Hooper with my fourth pick before Hunter Henry, however, in this league format rookie contracts are three year contracts and Hooper simply has a more clear path to fantasy value over the next three seasons than Henry. Henry is still playing behind Antonio Gates and will struggle to stay on the field as a full time player until he becomes a better blocker. Meanwhile, Atlanta has a huge number of targets to fill behind Julio Jones and, depending on what your opinion of Mohamed Sanu is, there really isn’t much competition to fill that void. Hooper has a rare chance to be a major contributor as a rookie at the tight end position and is a much safer choice in the short-term than the aforementioned Henry.

Team: Hospitable Takeover (Matt Papson, President and Founder, Reality Sports Online) @RealitySportsMP

Picks:

1.03 Laquon Treadwell, WR Minnesota Vikings (3 years, $19.1M)

1.09 Will Fuller, WR Houston Texans (3 years, $11.7M)

2.03 Leonte Carroo, WR Miami Dolphins (3 years, $4.6M)

3.03 Braxton Miller, WR Houston Texans (3 years, $3.0M)

Rookie Draft Strategy:  I inherited/took-over, what I believe to be, the bones of a well-balanced, championship-potential roster. The team isn’t deep at any one position, but it’s not overly shallow anywhere either. It’s also set up well for me from a contract perspective, with Russell Wilson’s $13.2M cap figure the highest on the team. Several promising young players, including Jay Ajayi, Kevin White, Maxx Williams, and Odell Beckham Jr. are still on affordable rookie contracts.

I was hoping to land Treadwell third overall, so-as not to over-invest in the Robert Griffin III experiment (on my roster), and was fortunate to have Coleman go off the board 2nd. I would have taken Derrick Henry in the 9 slot if he had lasted. With Henry off the board, I decided to hedge my Jaelen Strong ownership by selecting Philly-native Will Fuller. I didn’t love my option at 2.03, and wish I could have traded back to gain an extra selection in the late 2nd/early 3rd given how things turned out, but went with Leonte Carroo. With Smallwood off the board at 3.01 (who I had ranked right after Carroo), I had to decide between Hunter Henry (I already have a high pick invested in Williams and need a veteran), Paxton Lynch/Jared Goff (but need a backup to Wilson who can play now in case RG3 re-busts), and my actual selection — Braxton Miller. I went with Miller’s high upside, and him being a super-hedge to Strong and Fuller. If a clear #2 emerges behind DeAndre Hopkins in Houston, he’s on my roster.

Team: Great Odin’s Raven (Dan Pizzuta, numberFire) @DanPizzuta

Picks:

1.04 Josh Doctson, WR Washington Redskins (3 years, $18.3M)

2.04 Jordan Howard, RB Chicago Bears (3 years, $4.5M)

3.04 Hunter Henry, TE San Diego Chargers (3 years, $3.0 M)

3.09 Chris Moore, WR Baltimore Ravens (3 years, $2.9M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: 

I’ve drafted second overall the past two years in this league, so sitting at pick No. 1.04 made me feel like I was waiting around forever. It didn’t matter though, because I got the player I would have taken second overall anyway, knowing Elliott is the obvious first overall pick. I think Josh Doctson is the best wide receiver in this class and even if he doesn’t have an immediate impact his rookie year, there’s going to be a lot of good to follow.

I didn’t really like how the board fell to me in the second round, so I went with Jordan Howard to pair with Ka’Deem Carey to possibly get two-thirds of a potential RBBC for the Bears. It’s faulty, but that was my logic taking David Johnson in the third round of this draft last year and that worked out pretty well.

Heading into the third I was targeting Hooper, who I viewed as the top rookie tight end before the NFL Draft, but he went two picks ahead of me, which I was not expecting. I went with Henry because I could see San Diego throwing a lot and Antonio Gates is 36-years-old, but man, I really would have liked Hooper. I also had the ninth pick in the third round from a late season trade and took Chris Moore from Baltimore. I’m a big fan of Moore’s skillset — he can get down the field, create separation and win at the catch point — and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him contribute sooner rather than later for the Ravens, especially considering the unknown health/quality of Breshad Perriman and Mike Wallace.

Team: Team: gingersauce4u (Tyler Buecher, numberFire) @gingersauce4u

Picks:

1.05 Sterling Shepard, WR New York Giants (3 years, $17.3M)

2.05 DeAndre Washington, RB Oakland Raiders (3 years, $4.5M)

3.05 Mike Thomas, WR Los Angeles Rams (3 years, $3.0M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: Heading into our third year of this league, I’ve learned not to value positions of need as badly as I used to. Rookies beyond the first round are typically dart throws, but I have some optimism with the three players I drafted here. Sterling Shepard enters a terrific situation in his rookie season in an offense that has 100-plus targets up for grabs. Settling in behind Odell Beckham Jr. should allow Shepard plenty of single-coverage looks and allow him to truly shine out of the slot — an area he dominated in college. I love what the Raiders have done this offseason beefing up their offensive line with the addition of Kelechi Osemele and their additions on defense. It lines up for Oakland to have a more balanced attack, and something that rookie DeAndre Washington could take advantage of in his rookie year. Latavius Murray struggled with efficiency in 2015 with his success largely a byproduct of volume. Washington could carve out an early third-down/change-of-pace role that could expand into more touches as the season goes on. I’m not as high on Mike Thomas as a lot of others, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to grab him here in the mid-third round. Thomas was this year’s most notable Combine snub, after shining his final collegiate season with a 71-1,391-14 stat line for Southern Miss. He had an unlucky landing situation with the Rams, a team that ran the fewest plays per game last year and had the fifth-lowest passing play percentage. Fortunately, the receivers there have yet to establish any consistent production, so he may find a quicker path to playing time than if went somewhere else. 

Team: SamHerbie (Sammy Light, Reality Sports Online) @SamHerbie

Picks:

1.06 Devontae Booker, RB Denver Broncos (3 years, $15.2M)

2.06 Malcolm Mitchell, WR New England Patriots (3 years, $4.4M)

3.06 Paxton Lynch, QB Denver Broncos (3 years, $2.9M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: While most would think about wide receivers at this point in the rookie draft, I really like what Devontae Booker brings to the table. He’s a versatile every down back playing for a coach who he can thrive under and even though C.J. Anderson re-signed this offseason, he’s had a history of not holding up health-wise. I love Malcolm Mitchell’s big play ability and it didn’t take him long in the preseason to demonstrate some of that. Word is he’s projected to start as the Patriots “X” receiver. In the final round, I took Paxton Lynch as the first QB off the board.

Team: Cleveland’s Award Tour (Matt Goodwin, Reality Sports Online & numberFire) @mattgoody2

Picks:

1.07 Michael Thomas, WR New Orleans Saints (3 years, $13.5M)

2.07 Paul Perkins, RB New York Giants (3 years, $4.4M)

3.07 Jared Goff, QB Los Angeles Rams (3 years, $2.9M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: My strategy typically changes a bit in this league due to the 3 year rookie contracts vs. 4 years in my other leagues. To that end, I always try to get players who are fantasy ready in their rookie years. Michael Thomas fits that bill. He’s gotten glowing reviews in training camp and has earned quarterback Drew Brees’ confidence. He also fits a pretty big need for me at wideout. I was really hoping in the second round that Washington would be available as I think he could have an immediate impact in the Raiders offense as a pass-catcher, but like in Round 1, Tyler grabbed who I would’ve wanted. So I went with Paul Perkins, a versatile back out of UCLA. While all indications in New York point to a crowded backfield and Perkins probably being a year away, I have a little time to wait for someone scouts compared to Jamaal Charles. This strategy worked for me in the past with Devonta Freeman and this late in the draft, Perkins could be a steal.

In the last round, I was really open to anything. I originally was targeting a wide receiver who will have to wait until the auction potentially, but the opportunity to take the first overall pick in Jared Goff proved tantalizing. I’m not expecting much out of him this year, but could have a cheap and productive fantasy option for years 2 and 3 in a league that doesn’t tend to pay a premium quarterbacks. If Goff ends up being a startable fantasy quarterback in year two (i.e. Top 12 option), I can spend bigger at the other positions while paying Goff roughly $1M a season. I love his pocket presence and quick release. Hopefully I’ve picked the next elite Cal quarterback.

Team: Leo Howell (Leo Howell, ESPN) @LeoHowell8

Picks:

1.08 Derrick Henry, RB Tennessee Titans (3 years, $11.9M)

2.08 Alex Collins, RB Seattle Seahawks (3 years, $4.3M)

3.08 Rashard Higgins, WR Cleveland Browns (3 years, $2.9M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: The rookie draft wasn’t really a major event for me due to my lackluster selection for finishing well last year. I was surprised to see Derrick Henry fall to me, and since I was in full “best player available” mode, he made the most sense. Of the guys on the board, he’d easily be the highest for me in a redraft setting, and I feel like I can win now. I was tempted to go with Paxton Lynch in the second round, but thought he’d fall to me in the third… he didn’t. Still, happy with Alex Collins, who is a job away from being productive in a great system. Ended up with a bit of a biased pick, as Rashard Higgins hails from my favorite FBS college team. I doubt he makes an impact, but I’m banking on the big plays I’ve watched him make for the Rams.

Team: Funky Monks (Graham Barfield, FantasyGuru.com & Rotoworld) @GrahamBarfield

Rookie Draft Strategy: I sat the rookie draft out after an aggressive first year in the league. I traded my picks last year in an effort to win the championship and came close, losing in the finals. I traded my 1st round pick for Arian Foster, my 2nd round pick for Brandon Marshall, and my 3rd round pick for Carson Palmer.

Team: Loss Aversion (Rory Ryan, Baylor University Law Professor) @RoryRyan

Picks:

1.10 Tyler Boyd, WR Cincinnati Bengals (3 years, $11.2M)

2.10 Kelvin Taylor, RB San Francisco 49ers (3 years, $4.2M)

3.10 Tajae Sharpe, WR Tennessee Titans (3 years, $2.8M)

Rookie Draft Strategy: With three-year rookie contracts and rosters that are very shallow, I contemplated bypassing my last two picks. But I decided to risk the cap hit and take two of my guys. I think Kelvin Taylor has an NFL skill set. A pretty good one, actually. The upside with him and Chip in SF is worth the cap risk. I was very sad when Tajae Sharpe got so much good press so early. I’ve been on him for a while, but I wanted the press after my drafts. I knew I wanted both Taylor and Sharpe and drafted Taylor first guessing someone else might take a flier in Taylor but that all would be bored by Sharpe. I ended up getting both of the guys nobody wanted along with Tyler Boyd, who I would take for three years over many of the receivers who go earlier. I see a lot of Allen Robinson in him and there isn’t much in front of him on the Bengals roster.

More Analysis by Matt Goodwin

2016 Writers' Bold Predictions

Updated: July 22nd 2016

Training camp is just days away! Only a short few weeks till the Hall of Fame Game which means that it’s time to start making some projections. The writers here at RSO have passed around five (5) topics about what we are keeping an eye out for in 2016. The list includes players to stash, players to be wary of as well as one bold prediction for fantasy this season.  Let it begin!

Interesting team/position group to watch for in fantasy

Matt Goodwin: I like the Cleveland Browns receivers to be better than advertised. Let’s not underestimate head coach Hue Jackson. The Browns will likely be trailing in most games and the team invested high draft capital in Corey Coleman, who I peg to eclipse 1,000 yards and 80 catches and 6 touchdowns this season. Andrew Hawkins is healthy and while the team will throw to running back weapon Duke Johnson and tight end Gary Barnidge plenty (don’t expect a steep drop-off in targets for Barnidge), this offense will be considerably better than people think. If Josh Gordon manages to come back too (the Browns brass seem like they’ve moved on and would likely trade their maligned star wideout), this offense could be somewhat dare I say, dynamic.

Coaching Changes

A change in Philly could be good for two cities

Luke O’Connell: The most fascinating fantasy position group has to be the San Francisco 49ers and their ragtag band of WRs: Torrey Smith, Deandre Smelter, Bruce Ellington.  Owners salivate over the projected negative game scripts for the 49ers and the sheer volume that Kelly might generate. Monopolizing these players at the beginning of the year and dropping the losers of the fantasy gold rush seems a viable strategy for owners.

Bernard Faller: Perhaps no team completely remade their offense as much as Houston did in the offseason.  The Texans instantly transformed from one of the slowest offensive skill position groups to one of the fastest.  Hopkins and Miller have top-5 potential plus Oz could be a sneaky play in 2QB and Superflex leagues with all the new weapons around him.

Dave Sanders: 49ers’ passing game under Chip Kelly is intriguing. As one of the slowest paced teams in 2015, they’ll see a drastic increase in snaps per game. For the 2016 season, I’m buying Torrey Smith as a low-end WR3 and whichever QB lands the job as a QB2.

Nick Andrews: Maybe it’s because I have actually conversed with Doug Pederson in the past (who is hilarious by the way) but I want to see what he can do running the show in Philadelphia. Being very different from former Eagles coach Chip Kelly I want to see what he can get out of his skilled positions, specifically Ryan Matthews, Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz. We know what he could do with the Chiefs last year making Maclin a seriously underrated WR1 each week and turning any RB into a fantasy commodity. Assuming either Wentz or Bradford can be an average, stable QB (à la Alex Smith) we could see a better-motivated offense coming out of PA.

Rebound/Comeback Player of the Year

Goodwin: Obviously Jordy Nelson brings the vertical threat back to the Packers and should once again thrive in Green Bay. Seems too obvious. Going out of the limb for me would be Victor Cruz. I rightfully get the Sterling Shepard hype, but with Cruz slated to be the Giants #3 receiver, I think his price is so low that he represents significant value and upside, especially if injuries occur. Cruz has always been a solid route runner and if the calf if really healthy, can easily exploit weaker defensive backs in the slot.

Dez and Romo

Big things cooking in Big D this year?

Luke: The last ride of Tony Romo is one in which fantasy owners should be interested.  He has a stacked line, an explosive rookie RB as a pressure valve, and the enigmatic Dez Bryant catching passes.  He could, perhaps even should, be the comeback star.

Bernard: You could put any Packer here but I will go with Eddie Lacy.  The consensus “safest” RB last season struggled with poor offensive line play, injuries, and poor play due to weight issues.  Lacy ended 2015 as the RB47 in PPR PPG.  Look for a contract year Lacy to be in prime condition and improve greatly, along with the rest of the Green Bay offense, with the return of Jordy Nelson.

Dave: I’m all in on Jordy Nelson this year.  He’s my WR7 this year in PPR leagues after having a full calendar year to recover from his torn ACL.

Nick: There will be a lot more “X” being thrown up in the end zone in 2016. Dez Bryant said he is good to go this season after missing half of last season with a foot injury and missing his QB for the other half. Before last season Bryant had three straight seasons with 1,200+ yards receiving and 12+ touchdowns. The man plays the game with a competitive fire that won’t let him have back-to-back down seasons. Throw that “X” up!

Who do you think the fantasy community’s Overvalued POTY will be?

Goodwin: Thomas Rawls and it isn’t close. The Seahawks secret sauce in the past has been pounding Beast Mode. However, with a different offensive line and receiving weapons, the Seahawks seem better equipped to turn the keys over to Russell Wilson like they did down the stretch in 2015. I feel Rawls resembles a 2014 C.J. Anderson and while I agree that if I’m paying lots of money for running backs, I want them young; however, if I’m buying young I want the pedigree too (high draft capital) or a larger sample size. Rawls has neither of these while the Seahawks invested in C.J. Prosise in the draft and Rawls is coming back from a significant injury. To invest long-term in him with $20+ million a year when the Seahawks can so easily walk away from him seems to be incredibly irresponsible.

Luke: Le’veon Bell rapped “I’m at the top and if not I’m the closest/Ima need 15 a year and they know this,” in his track “Focus.”  Viewed by many as the top RB in fantasy, the risk is starting to outweigh the reward.  Rumors of missing drug tests, a reconstructed knee, and contract negotiations via albums dropped on twitter…Le’Veon Bell will not toll for this GM.

Bernard: This is Donte Moncrief for me.  I spoke to many people who expect Moncrief to take over as the #1 WR in Indianapolis and possibly produce low-end WR1 numbers.  Many people will be disappointed this year.  Moncrief was quietly one of the most inefficient WRs in the NFL last season with or without Luck.  T.Y. Hilton is still the #1 target in Indy and will be for some time.

Dave: Count me out on Jordan Matthews.  According to Fantasy Football Calculator, he’s currently going 27th among WRs in PPR, but places 47th in my PPR WR rankings for this season.  After OTAs, Matthews is expected to remain a slot WR in Doug Pederson’s offense that will operate at a much slower pace in 2016.

Nick: Running back is one of the trickiest positions to understand as a fantasy player. New names seem to come out of the woodwork each week only to disappear before you can even put in a waiver claim.

Unproven RBs

Two sophomore RBs that may be too good to be true

This year’s hot name is David Johnson who took the NFL by storm with a 3 TD, 200 total yards performance against Philadelphia in the fantasy playoffs. Last I checked though Chris Johnson is coming back for another season and before CJ2K’s injury in week 12 David had seen a total of 27 carries. I’ve been burned one too many times from early round redraft RBs (Zac Stacy, C.J. Anderson) to invest heavily in another.

 

Who do you think could be the Underrated POTY?

Goodwin: Tyrod Taylor. While there seem to be a multitude of options at quarterback this season, Taylor’s versatility with his legs and another year of experience in a contract year will only benefit him. The Bills have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, a now healthy Robert Woods and assuming Sammy Watkins’ health; I expect huge things from this tandem. I wouldn’t be surprised if Taylor finishes as a Top 5 fantasy quarterback this season.

Underrated QBs

A pair of waiver wire QBs that could be a cap saver in 2016

Luke: Alexander the Great, while rolling and conquering much of known world, had time to learn philosophy from Aristotle and drop lines like this one: “As one lion overcomes many people and as one wolf scatters many sheep, so likewise will I, with one word, destroy the peoples who have come against me.” The lion that may prove to overcome many this year is Matthew Stafford.   In traditional redraft leagues His ADP puts him down in 14th round. However, with a ceiling that projects favorably to Big Ben and Drew Brees (5/6th round picks) you can save crucial salary cap money and destroy the league that comes against you.   If analysis based purely on cost isn’t your cup of tea, know that Jim Bob lets Stafford sling it inside the 10 yard line.  Stafford led all passers in the NFL with 21 touchdowns last year and was by far the most efficient, completing 75% of his passes inside the 10 yard line despite being one of the league leaders in attempts.

Bernard: Dwayne Allen is currently coming off the board as a mid-range TE2.  He could finish much higher.  Coby Fleener and Andre Johnson left Indianapolis with 162 targets.  Expect Allen to pick up a big chunk of those targets.  Allen is also a nice target near the goal line on a team without much in the way of red zone threats.  Do not be surprised if Allen hits double digit TDs on a high powered Colts offense.

Dave: I’m higher on Kevin White for this season and in dynasty than much of the fantasy community.  He’s currently going 37th among WRs in PPR leagues this season (30th in my rankings) and 21st among WRs in July dynasty startups according to DLF July ADP. If Jeffery misses time, White could quickly jump into the WR2 conversation.

Nick: If Giovani Bernard isn’t the ideal buy low target in fantasy this season I don’t know who is. The Bengals lost over 150 targets in Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu and Tyler Eifert looks like he could miss games to start the season with yet another injury. With only A.J. Green to help Dalton consistently in the passing game I can easily see a scenario where Gio becomes the number two. A schedule that includes the Jets, Dolphins, Patriots, Bills and Broncos along with two divisional games against the Steelers and a better Ravens squad will make for close scoring games.

Your 2016 Fantasy Bold Prediction

Goodwin: I felt like I just gave one with Taylor, but I’ll go something different. Here goes-Charles Sims outscores Doug Martin in fantasy points this season. Sims is already slated for more carries than his 107 totes in 2015 (higher than you’d think given Martin’s season) and is the Bucs receiving back. While Martin got the big money deal, Sims to me is too talented to keep off the field, especially if the game script is in his favor.

Luke: Perhaps it’s just too much “All or Nothing” on Amazon, but my bold prediction is that David Johnson will be the highest scoring RB in all formats this upcoming year.  His starting workload from last season projected over an entire year is a Cardinal virtue for BA’s team.

Ryan Matthews is the new Jamaal Charles

Ryan Matthews is Doug Pederson’s new Jamaal Charles

Bernard: Ryan Mathews finishes as an RB1.  Mathews has been a very productive back throughout his career, averaging 4.5 YPC, despite playing with some bad offensive lines.  Injuries have also been Mathews undoing far too frequently.  The former Charger is by far the most talented lead back on the roster mixing prototypical size, speed, and power.  He is the clear #1 back on an offense that will be run heavy with new head coach Doug Pederson.  Mathews stays mostly healthy on his way to a big year.

Dave: Adrian Peterson will not finish 2016 as a top 10 RB in PPR scoring.  Peterson’s never been a huge part of the passing game and is now finding himself on the sidelines often in 3rd and long situations according to Pro Football Focus.   Entering his age 31 season, I’d rather be out one year too early than one year too late.

Nick: The new NFL features more passing and requires versatile running backs that can both run between the tackles and catch passes down the field. Because of this I boldly predict that Giovani Bernard will lead all running backs in receptions while simultaneously having the most scrimmage yards of any running back in 2016. Management and the coaches clearly saw Bernard being a big part of their offense by extending his contract through 2019. They could have just as easily let him play out the season and see what’s available in free agency as well as the 2017 draft. With the inconsistencies of Jeremy Hill on the ground and the lack of receiving options in the air, Gio should be used in the same role as fellow AFC North running back Le’veon Bell.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

2016 Writers’ Bold Predictions

Updated: July 22nd 2016

Training camp is just days away! Only a short few weeks till the Hall of Fame Game which means that it’s time to start making some projections. The writers here at RSO have passed around five (5) topics about what we are keeping an eye out for in 2016. The list includes players to stash, players to be wary of as well as one bold prediction for fantasy this season.  Let it begin!

Interesting team/position group to watch for in fantasy

Matt Goodwin: I like the Cleveland Browns receivers to be better than advertised. Let’s not underestimate head coach Hue Jackson. The Browns will likely be trailing in most games and the team invested high draft capital in Corey Coleman, who I peg to eclipse 1,000 yards and 80 catches and 6 touchdowns this season. Andrew Hawkins is healthy and while the team will throw to running back weapon Duke Johnson and tight end Gary Barnidge plenty (don’t expect a steep drop-off in targets for Barnidge), this offense will be considerably better than people think. If Josh Gordon manages to come back too (the Browns brass seem like they’ve moved on and would likely trade their maligned star wideout), this offense could be somewhat dare I say, dynamic.

Coaching Changes

A change in Philly could be good for two cities

Luke O’Connell: The most fascinating fantasy position group has to be the San Francisco 49ers and their ragtag band of WRs: Torrey Smith, Deandre Smelter, Bruce Ellington.  Owners salivate over the projected negative game scripts for the 49ers and the sheer volume that Kelly might generate. Monopolizing these players at the beginning of the year and dropping the losers of the fantasy gold rush seems a viable strategy for owners.

Bernard Faller: Perhaps no team completely remade their offense as much as Houston did in the offseason.  The Texans instantly transformed from one of the slowest offensive skill position groups to one of the fastest.  Hopkins and Miller have top-5 potential plus Oz could be a sneaky play in 2QB and Superflex leagues with all the new weapons around him.

Dave Sanders: 49ers’ passing game under Chip Kelly is intriguing. As one of the slowest paced teams in 2015, they’ll see a drastic increase in snaps per game. For the 2016 season, I’m buying Torrey Smith as a low-end WR3 and whichever QB lands the job as a QB2.

Nick Andrews: Maybe it’s because I have actually conversed with Doug Pederson in the past (who is hilarious by the way) but I want to see what he can do running the show in Philadelphia. Being very different from former Eagles coach Chip Kelly I want to see what he can get out of his skilled positions, specifically Ryan Matthews, Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz. We know what he could do with the Chiefs last year making Maclin a seriously underrated WR1 each week and turning any RB into a fantasy commodity. Assuming either Wentz or Bradford can be an average, stable QB (à la Alex Smith) we could see a better-motivated offense coming out of PA.

Rebound/Comeback Player of the Year

Goodwin: Obviously Jordy Nelson brings the vertical threat back to the Packers and should once again thrive in Green Bay. Seems too obvious. Going out of the limb for me would be Victor Cruz. I rightfully get the Sterling Shepard hype, but with Cruz slated to be the Giants #3 receiver, I think his price is so low that he represents significant value and upside, especially if injuries occur. Cruz has always been a solid route runner and if the calf if really healthy, can easily exploit weaker defensive backs in the slot.

Dez and Romo

Big things cooking in Big D this year?

Luke: The last ride of Tony Romo is one in which fantasy owners should be interested.  He has a stacked line, an explosive rookie RB as a pressure valve, and the enigmatic Dez Bryant catching passes.  He could, perhaps even should, be the comeback star.

Bernard: You could put any Packer here but I will go with Eddie Lacy.  The consensus “safest” RB last season struggled with poor offensive line play, injuries, and poor play due to weight issues.  Lacy ended 2015 as the RB47 in PPR PPG.  Look for a contract year Lacy to be in prime condition and improve greatly, along with the rest of the Green Bay offense, with the return of Jordy Nelson.

Dave: I’m all in on Jordy Nelson this year.  He’s my WR7 this year in PPR leagues after having a full calendar year to recover from his torn ACL.

Nick: There will be a lot more “X” being thrown up in the end zone in 2016. Dez Bryant said he is good to go this season after missing half of last season with a foot injury and missing his QB for the other half. Before last season Bryant had three straight seasons with 1,200+ yards receiving and 12+ touchdowns. The man plays the game with a competitive fire that won’t let him have back-to-back down seasons. Throw that “X” up!

Who do you think the fantasy community’s Overvalued POTY will be?

Goodwin: Thomas Rawls and it isn’t close. The Seahawks secret sauce in the past has been pounding Beast Mode. However, with a different offensive line and receiving weapons, the Seahawks seem better equipped to turn the keys over to Russell Wilson like they did down the stretch in 2015. I feel Rawls resembles a 2014 C.J. Anderson and while I agree that if I’m paying lots of money for running backs, I want them young; however, if I’m buying young I want the pedigree too (high draft capital) or a larger sample size. Rawls has neither of these while the Seahawks invested in C.J. Prosise in the draft and Rawls is coming back from a significant injury. To invest long-term in him with $20+ million a year when the Seahawks can so easily walk away from him seems to be incredibly irresponsible.

Luke: Le’veon Bell rapped “I’m at the top and if not I’m the closest/Ima need 15 a year and they know this,” in his track “Focus.”  Viewed by many as the top RB in fantasy, the risk is starting to outweigh the reward.  Rumors of missing drug tests, a reconstructed knee, and contract negotiations via albums dropped on twitter…Le’Veon Bell will not toll for this GM.

Bernard: This is Donte Moncrief for me.  I spoke to many people who expect Moncrief to take over as the #1 WR in Indianapolis and possibly produce low-end WR1 numbers.  Many people will be disappointed this year.  Moncrief was quietly one of the most inefficient WRs in the NFL last season with or without Luck.  T.Y. Hilton is still the #1 target in Indy and will be for some time.

Dave: Count me out on Jordan Matthews.  According to Fantasy Football Calculator, he’s currently going 27th among WRs in PPR, but places 47th in my PPR WR rankings for this season.  After OTAs, Matthews is expected to remain a slot WR in Doug Pederson’s offense that will operate at a much slower pace in 2016.

Nick: Running back is one of the trickiest positions to understand as a fantasy player. New names seem to come out of the woodwork each week only to disappear before you can even put in a waiver claim.

Unproven RBs

Two sophomore RBs that may be too good to be true

This year’s hot name is David Johnson who took the NFL by storm with a 3 TD, 200 total yards performance against Philadelphia in the fantasy playoffs. Last I checked though Chris Johnson is coming back for another season and before CJ2K’s injury in week 12 David had seen a total of 27 carries. I’ve been burned one too many times from early round redraft RBs (Zac Stacy, C.J. Anderson) to invest heavily in another.

 

Who do you think could be the Underrated POTY?

Goodwin: Tyrod Taylor. While there seem to be a multitude of options at quarterback this season, Taylor’s versatility with his legs and another year of experience in a contract year will only benefit him. The Bills have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, a now healthy Robert Woods and assuming Sammy Watkins’ health; I expect huge things from this tandem. I wouldn’t be surprised if Taylor finishes as a Top 5 fantasy quarterback this season.

Underrated QBs

A pair of waiver wire QBs that could be a cap saver in 2016

Luke: Alexander the Great, while rolling and conquering much of known world, had time to learn philosophy from Aristotle and drop lines like this one: “As one lion overcomes many people and as one wolf scatters many sheep, so likewise will I, with one word, destroy the peoples who have come against me.” The lion that may prove to overcome many this year is Matthew Stafford.   In traditional redraft leagues His ADP puts him down in 14th round. However, with a ceiling that projects favorably to Big Ben and Drew Brees (5/6th round picks) you can save crucial salary cap money and destroy the league that comes against you.   If analysis based purely on cost isn’t your cup of tea, know that Jim Bob lets Stafford sling it inside the 10 yard line.  Stafford led all passers in the NFL with 21 touchdowns last year and was by far the most efficient, completing 75% of his passes inside the 10 yard line despite being one of the league leaders in attempts.

Bernard: Dwayne Allen is currently coming off the board as a mid-range TE2.  He could finish much higher.  Coby Fleener and Andre Johnson left Indianapolis with 162 targets.  Expect Allen to pick up a big chunk of those targets.  Allen is also a nice target near the goal line on a team without much in the way of red zone threats.  Do not be surprised if Allen hits double digit TDs on a high powered Colts offense.

Dave: I’m higher on Kevin White for this season and in dynasty than much of the fantasy community.  He’s currently going 37th among WRs in PPR leagues this season (30th in my rankings) and 21st among WRs in July dynasty startups according to DLF July ADP. If Jeffery misses time, White could quickly jump into the WR2 conversation.

Nick: If Giovani Bernard isn’t the ideal buy low target in fantasy this season I don’t know who is. The Bengals lost over 150 targets in Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu and Tyler Eifert looks like he could miss games to start the season with yet another injury. With only A.J. Green to help Dalton consistently in the passing game I can easily see a scenario where Gio becomes the number two. A schedule that includes the Jets, Dolphins, Patriots, Bills and Broncos along with two divisional games against the Steelers and a better Ravens squad will make for close scoring games.

Your 2016 Fantasy Bold Prediction

Goodwin: I felt like I just gave one with Taylor, but I’ll go something different. Here goes-Charles Sims outscores Doug Martin in fantasy points this season. Sims is already slated for more carries than his 107 totes in 2015 (higher than you’d think given Martin’s season) and is the Bucs receiving back. While Martin got the big money deal, Sims to me is too talented to keep off the field, especially if the game script is in his favor.

Luke: Perhaps it’s just too much “All or Nothing” on Amazon, but my bold prediction is that David Johnson will be the highest scoring RB in all formats this upcoming year.  His starting workload from last season projected over an entire year is a Cardinal virtue for BA’s team.

Ryan Matthews is the new Jamaal Charles

Ryan Matthews is Doug Pederson’s new Jamaal Charles

Bernard: Ryan Mathews finishes as an RB1.  Mathews has been a very productive back throughout his career, averaging 4.5 YPC, despite playing with some bad offensive lines.  Injuries have also been Mathews undoing far too frequently.  The former Charger is by far the most talented lead back on the roster mixing prototypical size, speed, and power.  He is the clear #1 back on an offense that will be run heavy with new head coach Doug Pederson.  Mathews stays mostly healthy on his way to a big year.

Dave: Adrian Peterson will not finish 2016 as a top 10 RB in PPR scoring.  Peterson’s never been a huge part of the passing game and is now finding himself on the sidelines often in 3rd and long situations according to Pro Football Focus.   Entering his age 31 season, I’d rather be out one year too early than one year too late.

Nick: The new NFL features more passing and requires versatile running backs that can both run between the tackles and catch passes down the field. Because of this I boldly predict that Giovani Bernard will lead all running backs in receptions while simultaneously having the most scrimmage yards of any running back in 2016. Management and the coaches clearly saw Bernard being a big part of their offense by extending his contract through 2019. They could have just as easily let him play out the season and see what’s available in free agency as well as the 2017 draft. With the inconsistencies of Jeremy Hill on the ground and the lack of receiving options in the air, Gio should be used in the same role as fellow AFC North running back Le’veon Bell.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

Top 5 Remaining Offseason ?s

Updated: June 7th 2016

In the Zone

As the offseason has progressed, there have been some storylines that have continued to linger and others that have been new developments. There are fantasy implications all abound for all of these questions. Here are my top five remaining questions (in no particular order) that will alter the mindset of how players in these situations are viewed. I’m not including Tom Brady’s four-game suspension because the Patriots will be able to game plan for it if it sticks.

1) Ryan Fitzpatrick’s Contract Situation

The New York Jets, according to Spotrac, have only $3.1 million of remaining cap space for its Top 51 players. That provides an interesting conundrum on bringing back Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is coming off a career season with 3,905 yards passing and 31 touchdowns against 15 interceptions.

These numbers far exceed prior contributions from the signal-caller, yet Fitzpatrick only completed 59.6% of his passes last season and had one 300 yard game while the team narrowly missed the playoffs. Fitzpatrick seems to be wanting $12 million a year, possibly on a one year deal, which doesn’t appease the Jets who want to spread out the salary over time for cap purposes.

While the Jets were clearly a better team last year with Fitzpatrick at the helm, how much of that is attributable to a solid ground game and more importantly, renaissance man Brandon Marshall? I’d say a lot. Even with bolstering its offensive line with the trade for left tackle Ryan Clady and the big free agent signing of versatile running back Matt Forte, giving the quarterback the most amount of talent he’s ever had around him by far.

Geno Smith hasn’t effectively been a game manager, but hasn’t really been given the opportunity since the unfortunate broken jaw incident that led to Fitzpatrick starting the season and catching fire. Smith is the starter in OTA’s in Fitzpatrick’s absence and is a free agent in 2017. It would behoove the Jets to see what they have in Smith this year, especially if Fitzpatrick continues to hold out for what he believes he deserves.

What does all this mean for fantasy football? Not much, really. Marshall and fellow wide receiver Eric Decker have performed well no matter who their quarterback is, even if they are showing solidarity for Fitzpatrick. I watched Fitzpatrick frequently miss connections with Decker plenty last season and Decker does have a 200 yard game on his resume with Smith as quarterback. Forte also performed well in Chicago, even at a greater clip without Jay Cutler.

That’s your main concern, unless you are a Jets fan. Let’s face it- you aren’t throwing eight figures at Fitz in your auction or are considering him as a QB2 for any of your leagues.

Conclusion: Proceed as you were. Nothing to see here, people.

2) Sammy Watkins’ Injured Foot

It certainly came out of left field last month when it was announced that third-year wide receiver Sammy Watkins had foot surgery in April. This is the same surgery that impacted Julio Jones, Dez Bryant, and Julian Edelman. The big question that fantasy owners are dying to know is whether Watkins will be back in time for the regular season.

From a Reality Sports Online perspective, and I’ve said this on the record on Twitter, this Watkins news makes his price that much more reasonable and I’d be in buy mode while he’s cheaper. There are a few buckets of owners of Watkins in leagues. First, you have those who have Watkins on a rookie deal, likely around $6.0 million a year currently. That is a steal for a potential top 10 fantasy wideout for the next two years. Those who entered leagues later may have a heftier price tag on Watkins, but if it is anything under $20 million a season, that could be value.

As for me, I traded my final contract year of Randall Cobb (1 year remaining, $17.4 million) for Watkins (2016: $6.4 million, 2017: $7.0 million) and Matthew Stafford (1 year remaining $14.0 million). Basically, while I like Cobb’s potential efficiency to increase this year with the return of Jordy Nelson, I think Watkins ceiling is massive and a cheap price. Stafford is likely a cheap trade or cap casualty as I have Russell Wilson as my starter on a cheaper deal, but that to me was a small price to pay to get a potential superstar (which no doubt Cobb has been as well at times).

The news on Watkins having a screw inserted and prior history with Bryant rushing back and a subsequent Edelman surgery are troubling, but the Bills know what they have in Watkins and won’t make him take unnecessary training camp reps to risk not being ready for the regular season. Even if he starts slowly the first two weeks, his back half of 2015 was dominant on a team that only threw the ball more than 30 times in half of the final eight games.

How dominant you ask-try 41 catches for 732 yards and 6 touchdowns in the final eight games, including four 100 yard games. In fact, in that stretch, when Watkins was targeted 10 or more times, his worst game was 5 catches for 81 yards and a touchdown. Further, that’s on a run-oriented team and the team didn’t bring much in the help department for quarterback Tyrod Taylor in the passing game.

Lastly, in the event I haven’t convinced you on Watkins yet, he’s got a potential fantasy playoff slate against Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Miami, all at home in Weeks 14-16 and the Raiders and Jags immediately prior.

Conclusion: Not concerned currently, but pay attention to the news. If you have Watkins, you’re probably holding him and expecting big things. If you have someone who is losing faith on him in your league, pounce on that, especially if the price is right.

3) The Josh Gordon Saga-Will It Continue?

By now you know the narrative about Josh Gordon. Incredibly talented, but can’t stay out of trouble. Those of you who still own him at an average of 1.7 remaining years and $9.3 million remaining contract are sincerely hoping Gordon can put his past (and Johnny Manziel) behind him to tear it up on the gridiron again.

That picture remains unclear, but there is some optimism that when August rolls around, Gordon can be clean and reinstated. The question then is what do the Browns do with him? He certainly would like nice in an all Baylor connection with Robert Griffin III and rookie #1 pick Corey Coleman (who I really like as a Top 3 rookie draft get), but at the same time Browns coach Hue Jackson is emphasizing character and the team is stockpiling Moneyball draft picks for the future.

Conclusion: Wait and see. If you have Gordon at an annual average of 1.7 years remaining and a little over $9.0 million left on his contract, just hope he hits the field, because if he does, he’ll produce anywhere. He still has top five wide receiver potential at close to bye week replacement pricing.

4) Is This the Year to Go Cheap at Quarterback?

Given the popularity of streaming quarterbacks in weekly redraft leagues and similar low dollar values in some daily games, a popular strategy that is now emerging in Reality Sports Online leagues is to spend as little as possible on your starting quarterback. The theory, as adopted by Reality Sports Online’s own Stephen Wendell with a quarterback like Derek Carr is simple: there are only 10-12 starting quarterbacks in each league, so don’t overpay for one while your budget can be used on positions that may require more cap space.

If any a year to adopt this strategy, 2016 seems like a prime one with quarterbacks like Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston in their second year of rookie deals which typically found them as late first or early second round picks in 2015. The same holds true for Carr and fellow third year quarterback Blake Bortles. Both third year signal-callers have plenty of weapons. Heck, even Andy Dalton was playing like a top five quarterback until he got injured last season.

With quarterbacks like Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, and Eli Manning always a possibility to produce, unless quarterback is a position that derives more value in your leagues, it might be smart to not go crazy trying to sign the Aaron Rodgers types for $25 million when one of these quarterbacks can be had for $5 million or less.

Conclusion: 2016 seems like the first RSO league year where the cheap quarterback may really derive an advantage. I’m a firm believer in prime signal callers in the fantasy playoffs, someone you are sure will produce solid numbers even on a bad day. But if you can load up at receiver and get the right running backs under contract, this strategy is an interesting one.

5) Arian Foster: Whose Fantasy Season is he Going to Screw Up?

It is somewhat insane that Arian Foster remains unsigned, but it seems like he wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s close to having a clean bill of health and there are definitely a few potentially needy teams still lurking. Foster likely is looking at a $3-4 million deal with some incentives that could be achieved if he’s healthy and performs well.

To me, the big question isn’t where Foster signs, but which current fantasy starter he’s going to destroy value for?

First off, if you are still holding Foster thinking he may be the same running back he was on Houston when healthy, please temper your expectations. He’s a very accomplished runner with excellent pass catching ability and a nose for the end zone. That’s where he holds the biggest value to teams. I don’t think teams are looking at him to be their bell-cow at this point in virtually any scenario.

I’d expect him to sign with the Miami Dolphins and if he does, Jay Ajayi owners will not be happy. Washington remains a good possibility and they’ve built up a pretty nice offense at this point. Put Foster in a committee and give him pass catching and goal-line responsibilities and he’ll have almost as much fantasy value on efficiency and fresh legs than he did as the featured back on the Texans. I personally don’t buy the New England hype-Dion Lewis is younger, coming off an easier injury to recover from, and under a fairly good contract.

Conclusion: If you haven’t cut Foster yet, hang on and see where this next month takes him. I wouldn’t overpay for him as a handcuff, but I’ve come around on him if he’s in a good situation and used well (10-12 touches a game), he could have Danny Woodhead like PPR fantasy value. If you are holding Ajayi or were hoping that Matt Jones was about to break out this year, get nervous, but wait to see what happens.


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). 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.

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