Carrying the Rock

Updated: May 18th 2016

April 28th 2007. My girlfriend sat outside her family home in the aging cracked leather seats of a still-glistening black Celica convertible on the Jersey shore, and inside I was asking her mother and father for her hand in marriage.   She was blissfully unaware how her life would change that day.  She knew the plan.  She could tell you about the drive to NYC that was to come.  The time and location of the show at the New Victory Theatre.  What she didn’t and couldn’t see was the ring designed for her in my pocket, the behind the scenes intrigue that would put her on a Broadway stage at the close of the show, and the question that would link us forever.

Earlier that day Adrian Peterson was asked “how do you feel about being a Minnesota Viking?”  Megatron got a proposal from the Lions.  The Raiders and Browns were forever changed by Jamarcus Russell and Brady Quinn…Less in a “happily ever after”, and more in “college regret your buddies will remind you of at reunions” kind of way.    This is part of the intrigue of Dynasty.   The commitment GMs make to players.  It is understood that this won’t be a fling, there will be some sickness and health involved.   In reality most human beings and NFL teams are best served by going all in with a commitment to one person.   My bride carrying that rock on her finger, and Adrian toting the rock for the Vikings nearly a decade later speak to that truth.  Fantasy, particularly in RSO, demands a certain degree of fiscal promiscuity, however, understanding that some of the costs will be lost, but ultimately it may prove cheaper to spread three contracts over an uncertain backfield than pay for the services of stud and his handcuff.

April 28th, 2016.  Nine years later the first round of the NFL draft reintroduces us to the wonder and beauty of the fantasy season in earnest after the long national nightmare of the offseason.  Dynasty fantasy GMs carefully gauge the worth of their rookie picks as players meet their betrothed teams for the first times.  Veterans on the fantasy roster rise with the well-placed selection of a lineman with high hopes, or fall as the fickle gaze of a team turns to the next hot prospect.  Last article we looked at teams with relative stability at running back position, or at least a succession plan that seems probable.  The other half of the league can be looked at in light of the majesty of the draft.  Notably, CJA and Murray owners have clear handcuffs and possible successor targets in Booker(Utah) and Henry(Alabama).  Ezekiel Elliott’s bare midriff found its way to Dallas.  This, of course, caused last year’s cellar-dwelling fantasy GMs to squeal like middle-aged women at an N’sync concert.  McFadden and Alf owners were left annoyed and appalled like teachers chaperoning Prom.  Little analysis is needed here, the best RB prospect behind a line regarded as one of the best in football immediately vaults Elliott into top three RB status in the minds of many dynasty GMs.  Experts at Rotoviz make a case that Zeke might already be the #1 fantasy back overall in dynasty.

The fate of the following teams remain in the balance, however, and wise RSO GMs do well to note better deals and opportunity in other backfields as the draft unfolded.   This is not a column advising you to sell as the draft loomed over your players.  Dave Sanders did some prescient work for you on the Dallas and Miami situations, for example.  What we need to look for here are places where the incumbent running back situation is muddled, driving down value, and producing risk and opportunity for owners.  Think like an RSO GM clearly here.  While there is significant value in getting stud running backs described in other places, bigger rosters and the contract format of RSO allows you to monopolize backfields at a reasonable cost.  This hedges against failure and produces situations like Arizona last year where Ellington, CJ2K, and David Johnson could be rostered on your team for less than a single contract for a player like Eddie Lacey.

First the NFC East (DAL, WAS, NYG, and Phi) presents the most opportunity for savvy owners.  We covered Dallas.  Washington has the same offense and a nominal commitment to Matt Jones.  There are plenty of carries to go around as Alf departs with 202 carries.  Keith Marshall landing in Washington promises to have some value this year and moving forward.  Buy Jones and the rookie.  The New York Giants introduce McAdoo as head coach, but as he was the offensive coordinator and Jennings carried the load, it should prove easy for a savvy owner to roster Vereen and Paul Perkins in the hope that one back emerges.  Finally, the Eagles have a relatively loaded, but aging depth chart, proving another opportunity to stagger short terms/trades for Matthews and Sproles to pair with a long-term rookie contract for the rookie Smallwood.

The AFC North (Bal, Cin, Cle) tells a different story.  Hue Jackson leaves behind an offense that produced two backs with over 200 touches a piece.  Hill and Bernard won’t come cheap and as Bernard approaches free agency, the best hope for an owner would be an expensive double-down anticipating the two backs split in free agency next year, but this feels like a scenario to avoid.  Baltimore requires three roster slots for the enterprising owner, as Forsett, Buck Allen, and Kenneth Dixon can all be had at reasonable cost in most leagues.  Whatever back emerges in the lead roll behind a line likely improved by the draft should provide extremely valuable.  Cleveland’s value likely lies in its receivers due to perennial game-flow questions.  Duke Johnson is the value here, unless Hue Jackson drives the hype train too hard.

Staying on the up North in the NFC.  Chicago seems to have a marginal lead back in Langford, but protecting that investment with contracts for Ka’Deem Carey and Jordan Howard should be very affordable.  Langford and company are headed for a committee under Fox and should not demand a premium.  Detroit will offer very little value in terms of opportunity at RB for rookies.  Look to consolidate Abdullah and Riddick in the event one back emerges.  Zenner may be worth a roster spot in deeper leagues.

Rounding out the NFC are two teams that demand consideration.  Chip Kelly’s unpredictability diminishes Hyde as a surefire lead but he is safer than most options in this category.  Rostering a rookie RB that is more of a pass-catcher seems particularly valuable in light of the potential for some big deficits and Kelly’s famously up tempo offense.  Your NFL runner-up is the most intriguing.  The oft-injured Jonathan Stewart is locked in to lead the Panthers in carries this year, but whatever rookie the Panthers sign in 2017 in will be coupled with a strong offense and little competition beyond Stewart, unless a man named Fozzie Whittaker moves you.

The final AFC backfields to target if you believe in gathering all the parties provide one fine situation in Indy.  Owners can trade for/stagger a short term Gore deal with a long term rookie contract.  Dion Lewis must be paired with James White.   Lewis provides the biggest boom/bust potential in terms of injury and usage of this whole group.  Finally Oakland and Miami have relatively strong incumbents, and some failed free agent flirtation by their team in the offseason suggests owners would be wise to assume a 2017 rookie in Oakland and Kenyan Drake factor into their teams’ plans long-term.

In fantasy the best GMs know how to ask the right question.  When confronted with talents like Ezekiel Elliot the answer is obvious.  The more valuable questions in terms of contractual obligations seem to lie in assuming the risk of backfields in their entirety.   Putting the rock in the right hands is such a vital part of real and fantasy football, so pay close attention to the landing spots below and consider the opportunity of the rookies as they answer “yes” to their new teams.

In list form:

  1. Ezekiel Elliot- If you have the 1.1 enjoy.
  2. Dion Lewis- Absurd PPG when healthy.
  3. Yeldon + Ivory- More touchdowns are coming.
  4. Hill+Bernard
  5. Murray + (Deandre Washington)- Breakout offense.
  6. Hyde + (Wait for 2017).
  7. Gore + Rookie (Wait for 2017)
  8. Stewart + Rookie (Wait for 2017)
  9. Baltimore Backfield (Kenneth Dixon) Forsett, Buck Allen
  10. Eagles Backfield Ryan Matthews + (Wendell Smallwood)
  11. Langford + (Jordan Howard)
  12. Jennings + Vereen (Paul Perkins)- Begging for a transition.
  13. Matt Jones + Keith Marshall
  14. Cleveland Backfield (Duke Johnson) Crowell
  15. Ajayi + Kenyan Drake- Will need a couple years for Gase to sort a lead back.
  16. Detroit Backfield (Abdullah) + Zenner/Riddick

The list is ordered in terms of my anticipated points by backfield for the upcoming season.  The backs in bold project better over a three year span.


Bio: Luke @FantasyDocOC is husband, father, doctoral student, and teacher slowly building a reality dynasty league comprised entirely of daughters. Following in the footsteps of Saint Francis, “Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” CUA. Hoya Saxa.

More Analysis by Luke O'Connell

Pre-Draft Rookie Mock: Picks 1-12

Updated: April 28th 2016

The NFL draft is nearing and everyone is getting anxious about which players will end up with which teams. There are always a couple of players that rise, or fall down, fantasy draft boards based on their landing spot over the weekend. As a “what if” scenario I have taken the latest 7 round mock from NFL writer Chad Reuter and created a two round rookie mock draft based on the landing spots laid out in his article. This hypothetical draft will consist of the standard PPR, 1QB league. Let us begin!

Ezekiel Elliot, RB

Mock: R1 Pick 1            Proj: R1 Pick 13, Miami Dolphins

Ezekiel Elliot, RB, OSU

Elliot will likely be the first player off every board this offseason regardless of team need. With the ability to be a three down back that already has arguably the best pass blocking skills in this year’s class it won’t be hard for him to find the field as a rookie. Adding him to Adam Gase’s Dolphin offense would only strengthen his case for going #1.

Laquon Treadwell, WR

Mock: R1 Pick 2            Proj: R1 Pick 23, Minnesota Vikings

Laquon Treadwell, WR, Mississippi

After Elliot there is a clear tier gap that features 3-4 WRs. The order of their selections in the real draft may also affect their selections in fantasy drafts. While many may be quick to judge the slow 40 time Treadwell posted during his pro day, I am sticking with the player that this time last year was considered the locked in first pick.

Josh Doctson, WR

Mock: R1 Pick 3            Proj: R1 Pick 22, Houston Texans

Josh Doctson, WR, TCU

Doctson did nothing to hurt his chances of being the first selected WR off the board this year by showing off at the combine in February. At worst Brock Osweiler offers the same level of quarterback play as Teddy Bridgewater would to Treadwell in Minnesota.  If he landed with Houston however, Doctson’s target numbers would be capped being opposite Hopkins as the WR2, whereas Treadwell would likely step in as Minnesota’s week 1 starter.

Leonte Carroo, WR

Mock: R1 Pick 4            Proj: R2 Pick 61, New England

Leonte Carroo, WR, Rutgers

Here’s where things get spicy. Many have Carroo projected as mid to late first round selection in rookie mocks. With off field issues being as taboo as they are right now it’s likely that some will drop him down even further. But should he land in New England with a coach who’s known for polishing up troubled players, Carroo could offer the Patriots an outside, sure handed WR that the likes of LaFell, Lloyd, and Dobson never could live up to.

Corey Coleman, WR

Mock: R1 Pick 5            Proj. R2 Pick 34, Dallas Cowboys

Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor

The Coleman hype train has been gaining steam since the end of the college season when the Baylor product put up a mind boggling 20TDs! When your comparisons are to that of Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr., you immediately draw the eyes of readers as well. In Dallas he would likely be the WR2 behind Dez Bryant and play a majority of his snaps out of the slot. In a scheme that values a strong running game and already has a slot receiver in Cole Beasley it would be interesting to see how Coleman would fit in big D’s playbook.

Derrik Henry, RB

Mock: R1 Pick 6            Proj: R1 Pick 30, Carolina Panthers

Derrik Henry, RB, Alabama

Skeptics have pointed to two holes that suggest Henry is one of the most overvalued players in this year’s rookie draft: his size and the school he attended. While some may be able to argue that Alabama has dangled some rotten carrots over the NFL’s head in recent years (*cough* Richardson *cough*), Henry showed at the combine that despite being a freakish 6’3” 247lbs he could still run a respectable 4.54 40 time. Rumors have suggested that he could go anywhere from Seattle at 26 to Dallas at 34 in the second round. Henry would bring a familiar smash mouth running style that has been a staple to these franchises in recent years.

Kenneth Dixon, RB

Mock: R1 Pick 7            Proj: R3 Pick 96, New England Patriots

Kenneth Dixon, RB, LA Tech

While Belitricks has left a bad taste with fantasy owners in the last half decade, Dixon would present a nice ying to Dion Lewis’ yang. His ability to both hit the hole and go, while also catching passes out of the backfield make him a late day two, early day three option for any team that needs an RB.  After abandoning the running game altogether during the playoffs last year, it seems apparent that the Patriots will address the running game in this year’s draft to better balance their offense in 2016.

Tyler Boyd, WR

Mock: R1 Pick 8            Proj: R3 Pick 65, Cleveland Browns

Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh

I like to think of Corey Coleman as the MonStars from Space Jam with Tyler Boyd playing the role of Charles Barkley and friends. When the offseason started Boyd was being talked about with Treadwell in the WR1 conversation. Since his poor showing at the combine however, his upside has been zapped out of him by the likes of combine stars Coleman and Doctson. This has resulted in him falling out of the first round in several rookie mocks recently. While being mocked to the Browns wouldn’t add any incentive to reaching for Boyd in drafts, it wouldn’t be the first time that a star player who under performed at the combine turned out to be a draft day steal.

C.J. Prosise, RB

Mock: R1 Pick 9            Proj: R3 Pick 72, Chicago Bears

C.J. Prosise, RB, Notre Dame

For converting from a WR to RB, Prosise had a pretty spectacular year. While it will be interesting to see how his skill set translates to the NFL level his value will ultimately come down to which team he falls to. If he can play the Danny Woodhead role on a pass oriented offense he could easily see 50 to 60 catches out of the backfield.

Michael Thomas OSU, WR

Mock: R1 Pick 10         Proj: R1 Pick 28, Kansas City Chiefs

Michael Thomas

Michael Thomas, WR, OSU

It would fit perfectly that Michael Thomas, who is criticized for being simply a piece of a great Ohio State team would be lining up opposite to Jeremy Maclin who was one of 2015’s most underappreciated WRs. While Thomas didn’t have the typical offensive market share that many fantasy analysts look for in a top-tier pick, it would have been hard to fault him when your team’s first, second and third options are hand the ball off to Ezekiel Elliot. You just can’t know exactly what his ceiling will be and therefore he offers those at the end of the first round a serious risk-reward option.

Sterling Shepard, WR

Mock: R1 Pick 11         Proj: R2 Pick 49, Buffalo Bills

Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma

Fantasy enthusiasts have a serious love-hate relationship with Shepard. His 5’10” 197lbs frame makes him an ideal candidate for becoming a slot receiver in the NFL. The problem is that there haven’t been many elite slot WR seasons since Wes Welker in 2013. That was on the most productive passing offense in NFL history and he still finished third on his team! Shepard may become another PPR targets hog, but we will need to see how he can separate with agility and strong route running before he can be compared to a Cobb, Landry or Edelman in terms of superstars in the slot.

Will Fuller, WR

Mock: R1 Pick 12         Proj: R1 Pick 24, Cincinnati Bengals

Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame

Unlike Shepard, Fuller can and will take the top off a defense with his blazing 4.32 in the 40 time. Still, his small frame (6’0” 186lbs) will make it hard for him to break the stigma of being just another speed dependent DeSean Jackson receiver type. Going to a team like Cincinnati would definitely keep opposition safeties and corners honest by having to additionally cover the likes of Green and Eifert on any given play. Much of Fuller’s value will be determined by the receiving core around him.

That’s the first 12 picks for my pre-draft RSO rookie mock. Look for part two that will include picks 13 through 24 before Thursday’s NFL Draft.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews