You guys have a ton of articles.
This statement about Footballguys is a blessing but it can feel like a curse. Our staff delivers insights that change seasons for the better yet realistically, no fantasy owner has the time to read everything we publish in a week.
If this describes you, let me be your scout. Here are five insights from Footballguys articles that I find compelling for the weekend ahead. I'll share what should help you this week, touch on the long-term outlook, and sometimes offer a counterargument.
1. Is Marvin Jones ascending or finishing off a hot streak?
Unless you've never read my work, you know I'm a big Marvin Jones fan and I've been preaching patience and optimism about him for years. Jones is the No. 6 receiver in standard leagues and the No. 15 option in PPR formats after a three-week run of 19 receptions, 331 yards, and 2 touchdowns.
Prior to Week 6, Jones had 14 receptions, 184 yards, and 2 touchdowns, which begs the question: Is Jones on a hot streak or is he coming into his own as a legitimate primary receiver?
Ryan Hester's Trendspotting is one of my absolute favorite fantasy columns at Footballguys, and I feature it in this column in some fashion weekly (and unapologetically). It's technically a Daily Fantasy-driven piece, but I find it consistently (and David Dodd's Game Predictor) helpful when I'm researching the weekend's matchups.
Hester's research of the Lions-Browns game leads us to favorable trends for the Detroit receiving corps. From there, he examines the broader context of Jones' recent performances:
DETROIT LIONS (VS. CLEVELAND BROWNS)
- Detroit allows 76.2% of its total yardage via the pass, the third-highest ratio in the NFL.
- Cleveland allows 73.1% of its total yardage via the pass, the third-highest ratio in the NFL.
- Cleveland has allowed seven touchdowns to wide receivers.
- Cleveland has allowed 5+ receptions to four wide receivers.
- Detroit's wide receiving corps might be undergoing a changing of the guard.
- Over the last four weeks (three Detroit games), Marvin Jones has a 28.3% target market share, 12th in the NFL.
- Cleveland is allowing 2.9 yards per rush, fewest in the NFL (the next-closest team yields 3.4 per carry).
It will be interesting to see if the Jones vs. Golden Tate usage is related to any lingering after-effect of Tate's injury. Three double-digit games in a row is a rare accomplishment. Only Antonio Brown, Adam Thielen, Jarvis Landry, and Doug Baldwin have three games with at least 10 targets (that's right, DeAndre Hopkins has not).
John Mamula's Starting Stack's also placed a high value on the Lions' perimeter passing game:
DETROIT LIONS STACK VERSUS CLEVELAND BROWNS
Alternative/Super Stacks: WR Marvin Jones $6,200 (Cash/GPP)
Matt Stafford has finished with over 300 passing yards in each of the past three games and has five multiple-touchdown performances this season. He projects to have a high floor at home versus the winless Cleveland Browns. Golden Tate has at least 7 targets in each of his past four games and should thrive in this matchup. Marvin Jones has emerged with 36 targets and three touchdowns over his past three games.
My Take: Can Jones extend his double-digit target streak to four consecutive games and beyond? If not, can he hover near that double-digit range for the rest of the year?
Looking at the list of receivers that have earned three in a row, each shares important traits and factors:
- Route running acumen in the middle of the field that opens up their range of available targets.
- Run after the catch prowess, which makes them compelling short and intermediate targets and keeps defenders guessing.
- Surrounding talent at receiver and/or tight end who can beat primary cover corners, which prevents defenses from cheating too often to stop them.
Jones is an excellent route runner, he is underrated after the catch, and Golden Tate is a legitimate playmaker who would start for at least 85-90 percent of the teams in the league.
Hester hits on the correct question: Has Tate's shoulder injury helped Jones' target share? If it has, it hasn't hurt Tate's production. Tate has caught 21 passes for 295 yards and a touchdown during the same three-week span as Jones' 19-catch, 331-yard, 2-touchdown tear.
Prior to Week 6, Tate caught 29 passes for 267 yards and a touchdown. It doesn't look like Tate's shoulder is a significant contributing factor for Jones' recent success.
We know both receivers have a great matchup this weekend. Chicago (twice), Baltimore, Tampa Bay, and Cincinnati are also good matchups ahead. Because Jones is the vertical element in this offense, his responsibilities have an increased boom-bust factor compared to Tate (even Jones is still used in the short and intermediate game). Even so, I'd remain bullish on Jones as no worse than a WR2.
In dynasty formats, I don't think you could reasonably pry him away from my teams, and I'd recommend the same belief in him when it comes to your squads.
2. Sell Christian McCaffrey?
Chad Parson's weekly feature, The New Reality is a Dynasty-focused feature that often discusses a primary topic and then examines touchdown regression candidates for the rest of the season. This week's main event was a contrarian view of McCaffrey.
Each week of watching the Panthers, I examine McCaffrey closely. It is early in his NFL career, but I expected a more dynamic player in space when it comes to eluding defenders and gaining additional yards beyond the typical endpoint of a reception. McCaffrey has been minimally effective as a runner, making most of his value dependent on the passing game. My film notes align with McCaffrey's grade by footballoutsiders.com as the fourth-lowest graded back with at least 14 carries in the NFL.
McCaffrey's divergent production as a rusher and receiver is not new to the NFL running back position, so I looked for some historically similar seasons and players. McCaffrey is averaging 2.9 yards-per-rush, so I filtered minimally productive runners with strong receiving numbers. Theo Riddick and Danny Woodhead were two recent examples to come up with 80+ receptions in a season, less than 125 carries, and less than 3.5 yards-per-rush - all thresholds for Christian McCaffrey this season. I have liked both Riddick's and Woodhead's tape more than McCaffrey in the 'dynamic space player' mold to-date. Another player to consider is Jacquizz Rodgers.
My biggest concern with McCaffrey during (and after) the NFL Draft process was his profile for a potential Round 1 running back. Looking at sub-210-pound backs, the successful first rounders have been strong athletes for their size, especially in terms of straight-line speed. In fact, the only two first-round backs in this subset to surpass 100 career VBD are Chris Johnson and Reggie Bush, both who run circles around McCaffrey as a measured athlete. Of all the sub-210-pound first-round backs, the only prospect with a lower Athleticism Score in my model than McCaffrey is Trung Candidate. Most of the list had a fantasy starter season, but turning into an NFL starter or long-standing fantasy impact eluded all but Johnson and Bush.
Giovani Bernard is a name I keep coming back to for McCaffrey. I liked Bernard's rookie season tape more than McCaffrey's and Bernard saw roughly 50% more volume as a runner as a rookie than McCaffrey. Jeremy Hill was drafted in Bernard's second season and this year saw Joe Mixon added to the depth chart, both of traditional lead running back build. In short, Bernard was never viewed as a true lead back by Cincinnati.
Since the merger, Larry Centers has the most longevity as the 'more receiver than runner' backfield option, logging 10 straight seasons of 50+ receptions while having minimal impact as a rusher in the running back-fullback hybrid role.
All of this research started to gauge if my thoughts on McCaffrey were fair. Should I give him more time to show as an elusive playmaker and better runner? Expecting this slanted production to last beyond another season is historically rare. Given McCaffrey's prospect profile matching the sentiment, he is one of the bigger sell recommendations by this offseason at the latest. Some examples of strong exit points for McCaffrey in the dynasty marketplace include:
My Take: One of the best things about the editorial environment at Footballguys is the diversity of viewpoints from intelligent, hard-working writers and analysts. I understand that it can sometimes be maddening for fantasy owners who want a simple answer and discover diverging opinions presented in equally compelling ways. However, it's the debate that often drives the best lessons. It's why we do the Face-Off features during the preseason.
In that spirit, my take will be the "Pro" side of keeping McCaffery.
I watch McCaffery almost every week, take film snapshots of plays on Instagram, and analyze the player, the play, and offensive and defensive tendencies. While I'm not charting plays, I'm getting a good sense of the strengths, weaknesses, and desires of these units on both sides of the ball.
So when I read that McCaffrey is a minimally effective runner and see comparisons to Riddick, Woodhead, and Rodgers, I question the context of the conclusions. Until last week, the Panthers offense has fed McCaffrey the ball on running plays that have few comparison points to any back in recent years.
Most backs don't get the ball from the wing on counter plays or run jet sweeps. Riddick, Woodhead, and Rodgers earned touches from traditional pro-sets in the form of draw plays, shovel passes, screens, or the occasional inside zone or off-tackle play. If McCaffrey were fed those kinds of touches it might be relevant to compare him to this trio. If he were fed more touches like last weekend, it might be reasonable to compare him to NFL running backs in general.
Right now, I'm not sure there are enough touches as a runner from alignments that most runners get for there to be a worthwhile comparison. My point is that McCaffrey's struggles have been tied directly to his team's struggle to use him like a real runner.
One could say this explanation argue's Parson's point that McCaffrey simply isn't that good of an athlete for his size. After all, Reggie Bush and Chris Johnson "ran circles around McCaffrey as an athlete," according to what he stated above.
Leaning on straight-line speed for a running back's potential is like using an ax for work requiring a screwdriver. While true McCaffrey's 4.48-second 40-time doesn't compare to the 4.3 and high-4.2 times of Bush and Johnson, the 40-time is by far, the most overrated combine drill for running back.
Sure, it's exciting that a back can flip the field with a run of 40 yards or more. It's also an important measurement for players. However, it's measuring one dimension of play that contributes to the lowest percentage of play possibilities.
Runs of 40-yards or more are actually the stratosphere of the range for what NFL teams define as explosive plays.
A 12-year run is the low end of the range for an explosive play. This is based on research into explosive plays by Mike Eayrs, the former head of research and development for the Packers.
What this implies is directly tied to what Bill Walsh valued most in skill players: Speed within the first 10-15 yards of the line of scrimmage. It means the kind of speed that is most valuable is acceleration and change of direction quickness.
Guess who had the second-best 3-Cone Drill of any running back since 2003? McCaffrey.
Comparing McCaffrey and Trung Candidate leads me to wonder if Parson ever really saw Candidate run. If he did, I don't think the former Ram would have made the analysis. Where I agree with Parsons is that Giovani Bernard and McCaffery are the better starting point for a comparison.
In terms of decision-making maturity, experience with specific blocking schemes, footwork, pad level, quickness, balance, and pass catching, McCaffery and Westbrook were stylistically similar. I also compared Bernard to Westbrook in style when Bernard was in college. In my world, it puts all three on the same spectrum.
While Parson's has a point about Bernard never earning lead back volume, it's about fit more than skill. Westbrook wouldn't have earned primary runner volume in any offense in the NFL other than the Eagles with Andy Reid and possibly a Mike Martz offense as a Marshall Faulk-like replacement.
Seeing roughly 50 percent more volume from Bernard as a rookie runner than McCaffrey is not McCaffrey's fault, it's Panther's misuse of him thus far, and bad offensive line. When Parson's asks himself whether he should give McCaffrey more time to show that he's a better playmaker and runner, I'll agree that, if grading by his analysis methods, expecting more production will be historically rare.
However, my answer to this question is still an emphatic, YES, give him more time. I'd argue that Parsons is drawing conclusions on McCaffrey's abilities based on production but not within the context of how the offense has used him.
There are certain types of plays that are doomed to fail regardless of the back's skill.Otherwise, Jared Goff and Todd Gurley would have been "sells" you regretted last year because you leaned too hard on the spreadsheet without the context play design and its success or failure due to its design and/or personnel.
If you disagree with me, I understand that it's always riskier to remain positive of a player for every season he doesn't reach expectations both on film and in the box score. However, the box score looks pretty good. If you trade McCaffery, this leads to the next topic...
3. learn about dan hindery's Dynasty Trade VAlue chart
The link above will take you the charts for each skill position from his November update. At the end of each chart, he discusses notable players based on the values. Here's Hindery's explanation of the work:
The dynasty trade value chart is tailored specifically to a 12-team PPR league that starts one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, one tight end and a flex. It is meant to serve primarily as a guide for trades but is also a great resource during startup drafts. If the players and picks on each side of the trade offer add up to approximately the same number, the trade would be considered even. If you receive a trade offer that sends you players with a higher total number value than the players you are giving up, that is a trade offer worth strongly considering.
With trade deadlines in many leagues coming up soon, pay special attention to how much of each player's value is based upon the present season (listed under the "2017" column) versus how much is based upon expected value in 2018 and beyond (the "Future" column). These two numbers combine to equal the player's total dynasty value ("Value" column). For non-contenders, you want to pay most attention to the Future value.
It should be relatively easy to swing win-win trades at this time of year between contending and non-contending teams. The 2017 value is basically irrelevant to a non-contender. Take LeSean McCoy for instance. His overall dynasty value is 8 points. But half of that value (4 points) comes based upon his expected production down the stretch of 2017 and in the 2017 fantasy playoffs. If your team has already been eliminated however, that production is irrelevant. Thus, he is only worth 4 points to your team. Trading for any player who has a future value of more than 4 points is a win, so it shouldn't be too hard to find a deal that makes your team better in 2018 and beyond.
There are also other considerations that may make trading productive veterans a positive move in terms of expected value. For example, do not overlook the value of positioning your team for the best possible 2018 rookie pick. While it is unethical to purposely submit something other than your best possible lineup late in the season, it is perfectly ethical to make trades that hurt your short-term prospects and give you a worse starting lineup down the stretch. Let me point to a quick personal anecdote to illustrate the point... In a 2015 startup draft, I purposely drafted young players and traded down to accumulate future picks with the intention of "tanking" the first season. Going into Week 13, I was positioned for the 1.01 rookie pick in the 2016 draft. However, a 2-point win in the final week dropped me three spots to the 1.04. Instead of landing Ezekiel Elliottat 1.01 that summer, I had to settle for Josh Doctson at 1.04. As of today, those players have a massive 36 point gap in dynasty value. In short, sometimes there is a hidden value in trading away productive veterans if you are a rebuilding team that comes from improving the value of your draft capital by making it more likely your team will lose late in the season.
In this edition of the Dynasty Trade Value Chart, there will be an extra focus upon the players whose dynasty values have changed the most since the last update in October. The "Change" column indicates how much each player's value has changed in the last month. The players who have seen the biggest value changes will be discussed in more detail below.
My Take: No trade chart is perfect, but Hindery's work is excellent, and it's a starting point for gauging a player's value. Where I can build on Hindery's data is to offer you advice on the soft skills of negotiation.
While many of you play in online leagues where you don't know your competition and don't need to sustain any working relationship with them for the future, a large faction of fantasy owners compete with a significant percentage of the same owners for multiple years and/or multiple leagues. In these cases, developing trust takes on greater importance.
It means developing the mindset of a good negotiator:
- Adopting a Negotiator's Mindset
- Being More Process-Oriented Than Results-Oriented
- Be Willing to Lose Big to Win Big
- Know What You're Willing to Give and Take
- Understanding the Framework of the Negotiation as the Seller and the Buyer
- Learning Common Buyer and Seller Motivations
- The Counter Offer
Also, consider these techniques and processes:
- Make Offers To Multiple Owners
- Encourage Discussion With Your Communications
- Encourage More Good Offers With Broadcasts To League That You Have Multiple Offers To Consider
- Ask What Your Trade Partner Is Targeting, Don't Guess (Think Win-Win, Not Rob-And-Pillage)
- Make Preliminary Offers Around Your Hopeful Agreement Point
You can read more in my 2015 article "The One Trade Advice Article You Need to Read,"
4. What to make of Kenyan Drake?
The Jay Ajayi trade opened the door for Drake and teammate Damien Williams to contribute for the Dolphins and both had success in different ways on Sunday. Williams scored a touchdown and earned a strong volume of targets. Drake broke a long run and flashed his athletic ability.
Let's examine the range of thoughts on Drake from our staff. We'll begin with Andy Hicks in Jeff Tefertiller's Dynasty Rankings Movement:
Kenyan Drake – The long-held concern over Jay Ajayi is a reason I have rated Kenyan Drake higher than most since he was drafted in the 3rd round by the Dolphins in 2016. We should soon see if he is a legitimate prospect that can hold a starting job in the NFL or just another guy that doesn’t translate ability into success in the pros. His first game since Ajayi left, indicates he has considerable upside, but he is splitting time with Damien Williams. Grab now and hope if you can.
Sigmund Bloom isn't concerned about Williams and rates Drake as the more desirable Sleeper:
Kenyan Drake, MIA, (at CAR) - Drake was very good in his increased role in Week 9, with his superior physical gifts accounting for production in a way that he hadn’t been able to accomplish on previous short stints on the field. The Dolphins should remain pass-heavy, which feeds into Drake’s PPR value. He’s the better bet out of the two Dolphins fill-in backs.
Footballguys' Game Summary of Drake's performance against the Raiders also supports the optimism even if there's a hint of caution embedded within:
With Jay Ajayi as the lead back, Kenyon Drake wasn't afforded many opportunities to showcase the game breaking ability that made him a star in college. Considering Ajayi was their offense up until this week, the Dolphins coaching staff must have seen something in Drake and fellow running back Damien Williams, in order to let Ajayi go. We were able to see what the coaching staff saw this week against the Raiders. Drake rushed nine times for 69 yards, and caught six passes for 35 yards.
While the Dolphins offensive line is not one of the better units in the NFL, Drake's ability to get to the outside makes it so they do not have to be. As long as they can give him a sliver of space, his speed will do the rest, and in contrast to Ajayi, the big play's come naturally and not at the expense of smaller gains.
Seven of Drake's nine rushes went for at least four yards, which included a 42-yard gain that helped set up a Jarvis Landry touchdown. Drake is also a natural pass catcher, which kept the Raiders from stacking the box against him, like many teams did with Jay Ajayi. Drake may never be a 20-carry-per-game running back, but his versatility fits in well with what the Dolphins now want to do on offense.
My Take: While Drake had multiple positive gains, his less successful touches gave me reasons for concern in this week's Top 10.
Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams fill the void from the Ajayi deal. Prior to the games, I mentioned on two Audible podcasts that Drake, a terrific athlete with unrefined skills as a runner, would be better suited as a perimeter and gap runner and space player, and Williams would be the better inside runner and likely red zone back.
After watching the Raiders' game, neither back dispelled these early assertions. Although Williams ran a 4.45-second 40 at the NFL Combine and it's an impressive time for a 220-pound back, Drake is the more explosive option on the field. This 42-yard run from a gap play through a huge crease showcases the athletic ability that got Miami excited enough to draft him in the third round.
However, I wouldn't get too excited about Drake as a consistent fantasy force this year. He's still greener than the grass he's running on when it comes a lot of the inside runs that the Dolphins use. His footwork and stride length between the exchange point and the line of scrimmage tell the story accurately.
But like a lot of raw athletes, if his team can get him a big crease in a straight line from the exchange point, he has the burst, strength, and second-level agility to create big plays.
These types of blocks happen enough to generate big plays, but not enough for Drake to keep the chains moving and set up the Dolphins offense in favorable down and distance situations. Drake's ball security was also an issue at Alabama and it still appears to be a lingering problem on Sunday night. Watch the end of the 42-yard run show above and Drake exhibits carelessness with the ball at the end of the play.
Drake's lack of ball security bit him earlier in the game when the matchup was still a contest.
Williams' acclimation was not as inconsistent because he has served as the Dolphins' red zone back and two-minute option for the last two years. His touchdown was a great example of what we've seen him do in limited time.
Here's another catch where Williams displays a skill for being a tough tackle in the open field.
And another that was nullified due to a Jarvis Landry holding call, but would have put his total yards from scrimmage well ahead of Drake.
Based on the Dolphins' penchant for flashy athletes, look for the Broncos to force feed Drake with the hope that he'll get smarter as a ballcarrier. He'll do enough to keep fantasy owners excited about his potential, especially when he hits a big play. However, Williams may be the safer bet of this risky backfield duo. If Miami can run more gap plays with Drake that may change, but Williams' experience, versatility, and ball security are a bigger draw for me than a back who is still just as likely to get concussed by the backside of his teammate as he is to break one for 50.
5. Andrew Luck's Future
I know I know I know I know...I featured a Luck article from Dr. Jene Bramel last week. Considering the depth and breadth of analysis from a good writer with excellent knowledge of medicine and football, who do I not?
WHAT COULD BE WRONG WITH LUCK'S SHOULDER
Budoff, who has extensive experience with labral repair and revision surgeries, has been kind enough to discuss the common difficulties facing those who have had a surgery similar to Luck. Recognizing the limitations of speculation based on media reports, there are multiple possible complications to consider.
**Shoulder capsule too tight after his labral repair
Fixing the type of labral injury Luck sustained is a technically challenging procedure. Scarring -- which is a necessary and expected part of the healing process -- sometimes leads to shoulder stiffness which then must be stretched out during rehabilitation. The resulting limitation in range of motion can cause soreness during rehab. This is one reason a successful surgery could still result in a longer rehab than expected.
**Residual shoulder instability after his labral repair
It's possible Luck's shoulder was loose and unstable in more than one direction. A repair of the posterior labrum could be successful but cause previously subtle instability elsewhere in the shoulder to cause pain, particularly at the end of a quarterback's throwing motion. This is another reason a successful surgery may still result in a longer rehab than expected.
Damage to the labrum can be associated with damage to the cartilage overlying the bony socket of the shoulder joint. In short, that would mean Luck has pre-arthritic changes in his joint that cannot be predictably addressed surgically. Cartilage lesions have never been reported in Luck and are probably the least likely concern on this list.
**Rotator cuff tendinopathy
Luck continued to play and throw for nearly two seasons with an unstable shoulder joint. The rotator cuff functions as the backup stabilizing structure of the shoulder and had to compensate and work extra hard to maintain stability in the shoulder. Overuse causes damage to the tendinous insertions of the rotator cuff muscles, a condition called tendinopathy. This is the most likely cause of Luck's soreness after he began stressing his shoulder by throwing.
Rapoport's story notes "changing mechanics" and "overcompensation" and injuries felt to be a "byproduct" of continuing to play through the original injury. That's highly suggestive of a rotator cuff injury. One might also read hints of residual instability in Rapoport's story but those are much less clear.
There's a lot more in this article, including what Luck now faces with his injury, his chances of returning to pre-injury form, and what to watch for as Luck makes a recovery.
Good luck this weekend!