This week, we'll begin our panel discussion with your contrarian takes. Next, our staff selects one of three topics from the grab bag that's focused on patience plays in re-draft, dynasty, and developmental leagues. And to end our roundtable, we'll our thoughts on big names to build around or sell to the highest bidder.
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Every week, I read analysis that, after watching the games, I disagree with.
A good example was the early-career conclusion that Cooper Kupp
was solely a short-range threat whose red-zone volume would disappear in 2018.
Kupp has elite short-area acceleration and stop-start quickness and gets on top of defenders early. He also earned enough targets in the red zone last year and at Eastern Washington that, if not for some drops of multiple targets, he would have been the top rookie fantasy receiver in 2017. Brandin Cooks
is not even the red zone threat that Sammy Watkins
was for the Rams, which also made it even more likely that Kupp would remain a significant option.
Share your analysis of a player, unit, or team that runs counter to the popular analysis that you've seen during the past two weeks. Include fantasy implications for your take.
I disagree vehemently with hot take artists that have been saying that James Conner
is a bad running back with no hope of being the future starter in Pittsburgh. Previous to this week, they pointed to inconsistent fantasy production as the proof that Conner was awful. The reality is that the offense as a whole has been struggling. If you watch the games, you see that Ben Roethlisberger
has played poorly, the offensive line has struggled to run block, and the defense has put them in game scripts that aren’t conducive to running back success.
If you want to talk about the statistics that matter, James Conner
has the most missed tackles as a runner and a receiver with 32 through the first 6 weeks of the season. Granted it was against a bad defense, but he forced 12 missed tackles against Atlanta alone. He has often made positive gains when there was little to nothing there, which is what I love to see from running backs I am evaluating. He may not be Le'Veon Bell
, but he’s definitely proven to me that he can be a more than functional option should the Steelers choose to trade Bell away.
Waldman: While the Falcons are not a good tackling team and particularly weak at linebacker and safety right now, I couldn't agree more with you about Conner. The young Steeler is a legitimate starter talent. Then again, some fans and hot take artists buried Le'Veon Bell during his first season as a starter, too. Conner is a versatile back who may lack Bell's top-shelf athletic talent but he has plenty of physical skill to produce at a high level.
Chad Parsons: Many are still centered on his up-and-down career start with drops and mostly long touchdowns as his contribution. However, Will Fuller V has evolved over the past season and a half with better hands, route running, and intermediate route success. Fuller was in decoy mode in Week 5 with a hamstring issue, leading to a dud fantasy performance with DeAndre Hopkins and Keke Coutee benefiting with more opportunities. Fuller has hit 20-plus PPR points in 5 of his last 9 games with Deshaun Watson and he is an elite receiver.
Waldman: That's a bold take because his we haven't seen him sustain that production long enough for most people to reach that conclusion but, of course, reaching that conclusion before all the evidence is there qualifies as a contrarian view. I think Coutee has a chance to become a better fantasy option in this offense long term, but the presence of Fuller, Coutee, and Hopkins will create conundrums for opponents that will benefit them all. If Fuller can sustain consistent production it will be a reflection that the Texans also see him as a well-rounded option. If the team keeps Fuller over Hopkins that will be another big sign.
Andy Hicks: I’m not sure if this is really a contrarian take or not, but the Chiefs are about to go on a losing streak. Andy Reid is in his 20th successive season as a head coach in the NFL and in a very high proportion of those years has a significant losing run where the scoring dries up.
Take last year where he lost 6 of 7 and scored less than 20 points a game during this period. This has been a trend:
- 2015: five consecutive losses.
- 2014: four losses in five weeks.
- 2013: six losses in eight weeks.
- 2012: 11 losses in 12 weeks.
I guess all coaches can have periods where the losses pile up and scoring drops, but rarely to a coach with as good a win/loss record as Andy Reid. We all saw during that seven-game stretch last year where Kareem Hunt was affected severely averaging only 3.3 yards a carry with no touchdowns.
I would be tempted to trade Mahomes as his last two weeks have been outside a QB1s performance and it doesn’t take long for opposing defenses to find ways to contain young players. As always, Reid and his team pick up the scoring, but the length of the losing run/scoring drought is always the concern. If it starts this week, maybe it picks up again for the fantasy playoffs. What is certain though is that the current run is going to slow down.
Waldman: That's a good contrarian take, Andy. I completely disagree with it (laughter), but if you're looking at trends and young quarterbacks "getting figured out" by defenses, it's a logical stance.
I've believed Mahomes is a unique entity and while you're correct that he was QB16 in Week 5 against the Jaguars, he was QB12 in Week 4 against the Broncos based on standard Footballguys scoring. Unless you play in small formats, Mahomes has been a legit starter even the past two weeks. Let's also remember that the Jaguars and Broncos are two of the best pass defenses in football and Mahomes figured them out on the field pretty fast.
One thing is certain: If the Chiefs go on another big losing streak with this kind of talent at quarterback that not only executes the complex scheme as well as Alex Smith but is Smith's superior at creating when defenses take the scheme away, then it would make a great subject for further analysis.
Dan Hindery: The hype has gone a bit too far on Tyler Boyd, who, according to some outlets, has become “Dalton’s most trusted receiver” and a 1B option to A.J. Green’s 1A. He was a consensus fantasy WR2/WR3 going into last week. While Boyd has made major progress in his third season, he is unlikely to remain an impact fantasy player going forward.
Boyd deserves credit for stepping up and making plays when called upon but the volume was fluky. His two big games came when Joe Mixon
was sidelined and the Bengals were forced into a pass-heavy offense. His big stat line Week 3 came primarily due to the 76 yards and a touchdown he picked up on a pair of scramble drill plays where Dalton was flushed from the pocket and threw on the run.
Dalton has made a few more of these type of plays this season, but he isn’t Russell Wilson
and you can’t count on this type of production consistently. Boyd’s 15 targets in Week 4 were also due to a slew of injuries. The Bengals entered the game against Atlanta without Joe Mixon
. During the game, they lost Tyler Eifert
, John Ross
, and Giovani Bernard
to injuries. With A.J. Green
getting double-covered, Boyd was basically the last man standing in the fourth quarter.
Going forward, Boyd should have some fantasy value but his production should be more like what Brandon LaFell
produced in a similar role and not the huge numbers he put up in Weeks 3 and 4.
Amen, Dan. Boyd is a competent NFL receiver but those factors you listed are significant reasons why his short-term production exceeds his long-term potential. It's output that could help him exceed your current expectations, Dan, but long-term I'm selling high if someone thinks he's an emerging Robert Woods
Justin Howe: I certainly hope our readers aren't putting all of their eggs into the Andrew Luck basket. I'm a Luck supporter, but this isn't the kind of volume I like chasing. Luck is throwing an ungodly number of passes, but they're pretty hollow.
Aside from T.Y. Hilton, Luck's wideouts are combining to produce just 6.4 yards per target, with 2 touchdowns over 57 receptions. There's nary a dynamic deep threat in the group, and no track record of success among Ryan Grant, Chester Rogers, or Zach Pascal.
I love Hilton's (healthy) outlook, and he's an easy-breezy fantasy WR2 whenever he suits up, with ever-present WR1 upside. But I wouldn't steer anyone near the rest of that passing game. Even if this volume keeps up all year, the roles are too wonky and the efficiency too pitiful to expect much from the likes of these guys.I'd even be open to swapping Luck, provided I got back someone of value. If a league-mate offered me a redraft package like Matthew Stafford and Royce Freeman, I'd be all over it. Luck's volume is nuts but in my eyes, he doesn't project beyond the second tier of fantasy passers. And that tier is awfully crowded, with probably 8-12 different names on it. I'd happily take a lateral move at quarterback if I could add a position player of value in the process.
Waldman: I suppose if the Colts can't run, can't defend, and need more opportunities than the average passing offense to convert, Luck could sustain high volume but I'm with you, Justin, it doesn't seem sustainable. I can't wait until Deon Cain gets healthy in 2019 and the Colts add more talent to the offensive line.
Danny Tuccitto: It seems people have been getting Miami's wide receiver usage wrong for the past several weeks. Most egregious has been the misconception surrounding Albert Wilson and, especially, Jakeem Grant, in DeVante Parker's absence.
Let me set the record straight. When Parker is active, he's the clear snap hog at one of the outside wide receivers, with Wilson and Grant rarely seeing the field and typically for the purposes of plays specifically designed for them. When Parker is inactive, however, Wilson assumes Parker's usage almost exactly. In other words, there is no universe in which Grant and Wilson split 50/50 or have equal opportunity for targets when Parker's out.
Waldman: I wasn't aware of those assumptions, interesting.
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Waldman: CHOOSE ONE of these topics and share your point of view.
- Wait Til Next Year: Name a player you're high on who isn't in a position to do much this year, but you can't wait to see him earn a shot in 2018 and /or beyond.
- Wait Til Next Month: Which one of these players is most worth the long-term stash despite his injury/missed time is clogging up your roster space? Larry Fitzgerald, Dante Pettis, Leonard Fournette, Le'Veon Bell.
- 2019 Rookie Class: Name a player who has caught your eye who is eligible for the 2019 NFL Draft? Why is he a future fantasy starter?
Give us the goods...
Tuccitto: D.J. Moore has settled into the shared No. 3/No. 4 wide receiver role with Jarius Wright on the Panthers. This is, shall we say, less than ideal as Carolina employs three-receiver sets incredibly infrequently — let alone four wide receivers. This lack of playing time is also reflected in his opportunity stats, which show that he ranks seventh on this offense in market share of air yards, as well as eighth in market share of targets.
This sad situation will almost certainly change for the better next season. Devin Funchess is in the last year of his contract and Torrey Smith is essentially playing on a contract that can be torn up at any time. (I'm assuming Wright, a 28-year old journeyman, will not be a threat to Moore's usage in 2019).
What's more (pun intended), in the limited opportunities that Moore has gotten this season, he's proven to be a dynamic receiver who can play either of the roles soon-to-be vacated by Funchess and Smith. So if either isn't resigned rather than both, Moore will still be a sure-fire starter in two-receiver sets next season.
I've seen nothing to damper my prior determination that he'll ultimately end up as one of the top three wide receivers from the 2018 draft when it's all said and done.
Waldman: I agree, Danny. I was watching Moore today and his after-contact skills remain as impressive as they did at Maryland. He was one of my top-three receiver talents of the 2018 class and he's doing well with the opportunities that he's earning thus far. He's a definite patience play.
Where I want to disagree with you is waiting until next year. I think his recent playmaking poses a compelling argument for more playing time. However, that's just a feeling that I cannot justify.
Hindery: Can I choose two? I really want to choose two.
Waldman: If you "must" give readers more, I think they'll oblige you...
Hindery: Oklahoma wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown is a potential fantasy star. As the NFL has continued to borrow elements of the college game and spread the field, speed and quickness have become more valuable. Brown has elite sub-4.4 speed and excellent quickness. The big knock on him is size. Brown is listed at just 5’10, 170 pounds. His lack of bulk is worrisome.
However, with pass interference enforced more strictly than ever, size has become less important, and smaller players like Brown have been more successful. Brown is an elite deep ball threat and is also extremely dangerous running after the catch. He is also incredibly productive. Brown has 33-675-7 and has 130 or more receiving yards in four of six games this season.
Waldman: There was this little guy by the name of Az-Zahir Hakim for the St. Louis Rams who lit it up in Mike Martz's offense and possessed similar skills. I think you're right about the current climate of the game matching Brown's skills.
What's take No.2, Dan?
Fournette is going to be a fantasy monster once he gets healthy. T.J. Yeldon
has been a fantasy RB1 each of the last two weeks filling in for Fournette and this is a very running back friendly offense. It may not be until Week 10, but Fournette should instantly step into a huge workload. In fact, the lack of wear and tear early in the season could actually be a bonus down the stretch because the Jaguars will have less reason not to feed him the ball 25-plus times per game.
Waldman: Man, I so want to believe this but I've soured on Fournette's ability to stay healthy ever since Jene Bramel detailed Fournette's longstanding ankle issues as a ticking time bomb with an unknown fuse length. All we know is that the ankle will never get tighter and this issue will either become a more frequent source of concern or lead to a higher frequency of compensatory injuries.
Let's hope the Jaguars give him the time he needs to be completely healthy, ride T.J. Yeldon
and Jamaal Charles
, and Fournette comes back like a cement truck without breaks and a rocket engine strapped to its rear fender.
Howe: From a dynasty perspective, I'm absolutely tantalized by the Broncos' young wideouts. Rookies Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton aren't close to edging the Broncos' two dominant wideouts out of the picture. But in 2019, that'll all turn on its head, with both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders looking likely to be elsewhere. Here are their contract situations for next season:
- D. Thomas (age 31) - 1 year left, $14M base salary, $17.5M against the cap (DEN saves $14M by letting him walk)
- E. Sanders (age 32) - 1 year left, $10.3M base salary, $12.9 against the cap (DEN saves $8.2M by letting him walk)
The Broncos will probably be thrilled to shake loose $22.2 million as they (presumably) rebuild in 2019, with a new quarterback almost certain to be added. That's almost certainly why they spent two premium picks on Sutton and Hamilton, who have impressed thus far in limited rookie time and look poised to start next season.
Sutton's exploits are known: the 6'4" second-rounder dazzled onlookers in camp with one acrobatic catch after another, and he's leveraged them into 252 snaps thus far (73 percent). Sutton has averaged 16.0 yards per catch, and he's drawn plenty of attention from Case Keenum in the red zone. With his huge body and Dez Bryant-like catch radius, Sutton could ultimately be what Thomas never became: a physical, downfield dominator.
When Sutton left Week 5 early, Hamilton stepped in and immediately caught all 3 of his targets for 44 yards. That included a 24-yard catch-and-run over the middle the showed off Hamilton's polished route skills and underrated foot-quickness.
Hamilton impressed at his combine with a 6.84 three-cone drill that hints at big-time agility, and he's always been a long-legged strider capable of creating separation. With his experienced and diverse game, he has the looks of a long-term NFL possession receiver — Keenan McCardell keeps coming to mind — and he seems poised for a big 2019 role.
He's flying way, way under the radar right now, too, so dynasty-leaguers would be shrewd to go ahead and float pay-nothing deals. If I could swap, say Samaje Perine for him, I'd do it with a smile.
Waldman: Love it, Justin, especially the thoughts on Hamilton and the pro comparison. The only thing that I can't shake is your thought that someone would give Hamilton up for Perine. Still, I get your point...
Hicks: This has to be Le’Veon Bell. Larry Fitzgerald and Leonard Fournette are going to struggle to return to 100 percent healthy during the season and in Fournette’s case, T.J. Yeldon has done well enough to eat into Fournette’s time. Dante Pettis is going to struggle without Jimmy Garoppolo and although his long-term future looks good, the 49ers would be best preparing him for 2019 and beyond and getting whatever kind of learning experiences they can throw his way.
That leaves me with Bell. James Conner has been great and can be a very productive running back for Pittsburgh and any other team in the right system. With Daniel and Matt's views duly noted, I don't think Conner is as complete a back as Le’Veon Bell is and will be for the foreseeable future.
Bell does carry the risk of coming up with a mystery ailment and underperforming, but he is trying to get as big a payday as possible next year so will need to show future employers something about his ability and attitude. Maybe a team trades for him and we see that showcase on a different team. Bell is flexible enough to be able to adapt to almost any other unit and if he returns to Pittsburgh, his usage won’t resemble that of previous years, but he can easily do more with less as James Conner is good enough to share the load.
Parsons: Alabama backs rarely string together meaningful production as the depth chart is always packed with elite recruits. Damien Harris is prototypically-sized and a good enough receiver to project as a three-down back in the NFL. While it's true the 2019 running back class is a fraction of the strength of 2017-18, Harris is poised to be a Day 2 pick and future NFL starter.
Waldman: Definitely a smart young running back will skills, Chad.
Simpkins: I really believe that patience-play option could be Richie James of the San Francisco 49ers. Don’t let his diminutive size fool you — he has the versatility to play any receiver position in this offense, something that will endear him in a Shanahan system where they like receivers with the versatility to play at any spot in the formation.
James is both elusive and great in contested situations, two skill sets that will make him a nightmare to defend. Who knows, as the year slips away, the coaching staff may want to see what they have in James and allow him to build some momentum going into next year.
Waldman: Another player whose potential I love, Daniel. I'll share a future rookie that I watched — Jalen Hurd of Baylor. If you don't follow college football, Hurd was a 6'4", 240-pound runner with arguably better footwork and quickness than Derrick Henry around the same time that Henry was the rage of Saturday football.
Hurd was a freshman All-American running back at the University of Tennessee but he wanted to play wide receiver. The staff wanted to keep him at running back and pound him into defenses. According to assistants with the team, Hurd played hurt and was not a malcontent but he was labeled that way after removing himself from a game.
Hurd transferred to Baylor, lost 20 pounds and spent the year working on the craft of the wide receiver position. Based on what I've seen, he has pro-level mobility and quickness in and out of breaks, he attacks his stem with urgency, and he can make difficult catches with good hand-eye coordination.
He's dropping passes at times where I believe he's overthinking less familiar situations because the technique is good but the targets are difficult. Even so, he appears far more refined as a receiver than I would have expected. What's funny is that his body is so re-shaped that on the occasions where Baylor has placed Hurd in the backfield in an I-formation set for short-yardage opportunities, his frame looks out of place between the tackles even if his "game" as a runner is still very much there.
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Foundation or Showroom Window?
Waldman: Tell us why a player is either...
- A foundation for specifically re-draft, dynasty, or both formats.
- A showroom piece you happily use but would trade away to get a foundation talent.
Let's go position-by-position.
QB - Pick 2
Goff really fits the bill for being a key player both in dynasty and redraft formats. The passing game has really been unleashed in a way that I did not expect coming into the year. Can you imagine what a juggernaut this offense will be like when they get their tight ends Tyler Higbee
and Gerald Everett
more involved? Good luck defending that, rest of the NFL!
Rosen is a player I feel is foundational for dynasty formats. I thought he was the most complete prospect of the rookie quarterbacks that came out this year; but even so, he’s surprised me with some of his decision-making and great throws he has executed thus far. I would buy now while the market is relatively cool.
Parsons: Goff is as simple as 'in Sean McVay I trust'. Week 5 was a great example as the Rams lost two of their receivers and still posted a divisional road win and elite offensive production. How long does this run last once Goff is paid top quarterback money? Who knows, but for now, Goff is a top quarterback and even with a partial set of his weapons will be a positive influence on title winners in 2018.
Long-term there are few quarterbacks I trust as much as Baker Mayfield. It goes back to seeing him at the Senior Bowl and how meticulous and advanced he was even with the first warm-up repetition. Mayfield has the nickname of 'Baby Brees' in my book as the similarities in their early career are pronounced. Mayfield will be the key piece to turning around the Cleveland franchise and a centerpiece for dynasty GMs over the next decade.
Hicks: Of all the young quarterbacks, Goff has the most skilled players around him that will be there for years to come. Todd Gurley is only 24 and signed to a reasonable contract for the next four years. Brandin Cooks is only 25 and safely there for the next three years at least.
Cooper Kupp is also only 25 and here for at least the next three years. Robert Woods has six years NFL experience but is still only 26 years old and on a very reasonable contract for the next four years. The head coach is young and even the tight ends will get a lot better. If they can keep the offensive line playing well this is a long-term top unit. This is even without mentioning how good Goff is now and how much better he can be.
Like Chad, I feel that Mayfield is a player that will lead an NFL franchise for years to come. Call it a presence or aura, but there is renewed confidence and hope in Cleveland finally. If he can develop and improve as the elite quarterbacks should, he will be a name we see in the NFL for a decade or more. He has to keep proving it, but there is something special about him that is rare for a rookie.
Goff is a strong-armed (check that velocity measurement from his combine) and strong-willed passer in an offense dripping with receiving talent. His top receivers are signed comfortably, as is his offense’s engine and the league’s best back, Todd Gurley. There’s no down narrative in my eyes, and there are few dynasty quarterbacks I covet more. He's a foundation player.
Not to take too much away from Wentz, who’s also a strong-armed gunner with an eye on pumping the ball downfield, but his value is inflated with such wonky touchdown numbers. Dating back to last year, Wentz has posted a 6.8 percent touchdown rate, a mark that even Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady struggle to hit in their best seasons. Wentz is great, but regression is coming for his touchdowns, and he’s not a special fantasy target on just his volume and yardage. He's on my showroom floor.
Hindery: Wentz is a foundational talent to me. He has the size, athleticism, arm strength, intelligence, work ethic to be a fantasy QB1 for the next decade. Even with the offense struggling some over the last two weeks, Wentz has still put up big fantasy numbers with 659 yards and multiple touchdowns in both games. He should only get better the further removed he gets from his ACL injury.
Goff is currently in a situation which makes it easy for him to have a major fantasy impact. The exciting thing for dynasty players is little about his situation should change anytime soon. It starts with having the best play-caller in the league designing the offense. Sean McVay is 32 years old and should be calling plays for Goff for the foreseeable future.
The elite weapons aren’t going anywhere either. Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks are both signed until 2024, Cooper Kupp is signed until 2021, and Robert Woods until 2022. The Rams will have to continue to get younger on the offensive line but overall, there is little reason to believe this offense is going to slow down anytime soon.
Tuccitto: For dynasty, Goff is a foundation piece given it's becoming increasingly apparent he'll be paired with Sean McVay for years to come. In re-draft, however, he's a showroom piece I would happily trade away. This is based on the likely regression I wrote about last week in my True Fantasy Points update.
Mayfield is also a dynasty foundation piece. Once Hue Jackson and company are finally put out to pasture this offseason, the young talent on Cleveland's offense — including Mayfield — will take a leap forward.
Waldman: Goff is a foundation talent in re-draft and dynasty. I think calls for regression can't account for contextual on-field improvement for a player or team. He'll have some teams do a better job defending him this year than what we've seen but I don't expect the bottom to drop out and him to lose much of his current value if any at all.
Mayfield is a showroom piece because everyone wants him, draftniks have invested in him becoming the next Brees as early as 2017, and Mayfield has played well. He's a good young player with a team that finally appears to be heading in a better direction than we've seen for some time.
However, it's a big assumption that Mayfield's line, receivers, and tight ends will make the leap along with him. That's a lot of pieces. I'll gladly keep him as an unintentional foundation piece, but if someone offers me value commensurate with a top-five dynasty quarterback during the next 6-12 months, I'll won't refuse.
Let's move onto running back.
RB - Pick 1
My mind says McCaffrey but my heart says, Johnson. The Lions back can do it all and he's working behind a young offensive line with massive physical talent that should mature at the same rate Johnson's growing into his future role as a feature back. This team will eventually consolidate the running back stable and Johnson will be the featured option in 2019.
Tuccitto: I'm going to disagree. This is a good time to trade Kerryon Johnson in both dynasty and re-draft. Based on Matt Patricia and Jim Bob Cooter's history, Johnson's coaches are predisposed to a committee approach. Even if LeGarrette Blount and Theo Riddick aren't around next season, the names will change, but the philosophy will stay the same. Better to unload Johnson after a trio of productive games.If this were a situation ripe for a coaching change, I'd think differently, but Detroit just made a coaching change.
Hindery: In PPR dynasty leagues, there are few better foundational pieces than Christian McCaffrey. He just turned 22 years old and is leading the league in yards from scrimmage per game with 130.3 (just ahead of Todd Gurley and Alvin Kamara). He is also on pace for 108 receptions, which means he is averaging 20 fantasy PPGs before you even add in touchdowns. McCaffrey looks like a set it and forget it RB1 now and into the future.
Howe: It feels weird to say right now, but I’d be selling all of my Michel options if I had any. He’s looked great, and I love his talent profile. But I don’t adore the idea of a post-Tom Brady Patriots offense, and I don’t love Michel’s chances to remain a clear-cut RB1/2 in one.
Losing Brady would, of course, result in a big all-around dip for the Patriots, drying up the touchdown and clock-chewing elements Michel sorely needs. When you factor in his knee issue from this preseason and his lack of involvement as a receiver, Michel is actually screaming “sell.” Don’t let Patriot blinders block that out.
Hicks: Give me Christian McCaffery any day of the week. Unlike most of the third-down backs we see nowadays like Chris Thompson, Matt Breida, Duke Johnson Jr etc, he can take a pounding. Not only that he is a legitimate between-the-tackles runner and has improved on his rookie season in this area.
The only long-term concern becomes touchdowns, but he does so much with the ball that his scoring in fantasy football will be regular and consistent. At worst he projects as a long-term bottom end RB1. If he can find that end zone on a regular basis then he becomes even more. He is barely 22 years old and will be an elite player If he isn’t already.
Parsons: I'm with Matt on this one despite the fact that Johnson is set to 'simmer' as his snap count is low despite clearly being the best running back on the Detroit roster. Yet, Johnson is on the sideline often for LeGarrette Blount, especially on the goal line. By 2019, Johnson will be the unquestioned starter and a firm RB1 producer with his two-way ability and interior toughness.
Simpkins: Add me to the Johnson bandwagon. Johnson is beginning to change the perception that Detroit can’t have a valuable fantasy running back. The vision, patience, and flexibility I saw as I evaluated him this summer clearly have translated to the pro game. He’s someone I want to get my hands on in dynasty formats where I can. Watch the status of his injury in redraft formats, but if it proves to not be too serious, I think he can be a player that helps you there, too.
Waldman: Let's continue with wide receivers.
WR - Pick 2
Simpkins: Thielen might be one of my biggest misses in dynasty formats to date. I’ve come to respect his skills and nuanced route-running ability. I thought that the team might force the issue with LaQuon Treadwell at one point because of the draft capital spent on him. However, to their credit, they have recognized that Thielen is the superior player at this stage. I’m also buying in redraft because this team looks like it can’t run effectively right now and will need to pass a lot to make up for that deficiency.
I like Kenny Golladay, but I feel his perceived value will outweigh his actual value over time in dynasty formats. If I can get a first plus a player I like out of Golladay, I’m selling high. I’ll buy in redraft formats because I feel he’s drawing the worst of the opposing team’s coverage options and will continue his success through this year. It’s when he’s forced to be the No.2 or No.1 option in future years that I’m not sure Golladay will produce at his current clip.
Parson: I was the classic 'Kupp is a high-floor and low-ceiling wide receiver prospect' analysis in the dynasty community. However, his route running, hands, and savvy within the construct of the Rams hyper-efficient offense is enough to be a top-20 weekly option and cornerstone dynasty asset. I projected Kupp as a solid WR3/4 for fantasy purposes coming out with college without much upside beyond that. I was wrong, but not stubborn enough to stick with my previous take with the sample size growing by the week.
Golladay is siphoning Marvin Jones Jr' upside weekly as the vertical and red zone threat for the Lions three-headed wide receiver committee. Golladay was an elite metric prospect many viewed as a Day 2 reach by Detroit. However, Golladay has justified the investment and entered my top-20 dynasty receivers.
Waldman: Give me Kupp and Thielen all day. Despite loving Laquon Treadwell's potential upon leaving Ole Miss, I was fortunate to add Thielen based on what I saw of him as a rookie. Both Kupp and Thielen have excellent route skills and understand how to make the correct reads with their quarterbacks to find open space.
Kupp was one of my favorite receivers of the 2017 draft and I expected the impact he made as a rookie as well as the ascension this year. While I already had my stance on Kupp before I heard that Steve Smith tabbed Kupp the best rookie receiver of the 2017 class, I would have taken a second and third (and fourth and fifth...) look at Kupp if I hadn't formed a similar view as Smith — one of the best receivers to ever suit up and an astute football mind.
Howe: You don’t need me to tell you how good Thielen has been. He’s dominating from the slot but is far more than a typical slot specialist. He works down the field with fundamentals and deceptive foot-quickness, and he’s adept at positioning himself to make the catch. Thielen’s start to 2018 (47 catches through 5 games, with 102 or more in each one) doesn’t feel like a fluke. He’s locked into an offense helmed by a franchise quarterback, and there’s talent elsewhere to spread the defense’s attention.
When I write about Golladay, I feel like his parent. I gush over his college accomplishments (2,285 yards and 18 touchdowns over 2 seasons at Northern Illinois) and his ascent to the NFL. Then, I boast about how he actually outperformed Marvin Jones Jr on a per-snap basis as a 2017 rookie. Then, I triumphantly point to his 66 percent completion rate here in 2018, and his.
All told, Golladay looks like the real deal as a big, long wideout capable of both tight downfield routes and sprawling, acrobatic catches. Golden Tate will be an unrestricted free agent next year, and Jones’ release could save the rebuilding Lions a chunk of change. The ultra-dynamic, super-young, and dirt-cheap Golladay is the clear future at wideout.
Hindery: I recently moved both Cooper Kupp and Kenny Golladay into my top-20 in my dynasty rankings at wide receiver. While neither is a true No.1 receiver on their own teams, the Lions and Rams offenses both rank in the top three in terms of percentage of passing offense going to the wide receiver position.
The way these offenses are structured, they can support multiple top-25 fantasy wide receivers. Kupp and Golladay have both made some improvements in their second seasons and we don’t know for sure what their ceiling will be. Both are foundational pieces for dynasty leagues. Perhaps not as WR1s but as players who you feel great having in your starting lineup for the foreseeable future.
Tuccitto: Kupp is a foundational piece in dynasty leagues to pair with Goff for the next three-plus seasons. In re-draft, however, I would put him on the trading block because, like Goff, he's scoring significantly above expectation right now. I don't mean "significantly above the public or analyst expectation" as Matt mentioned in the earlier section. I mean "significantly above expectation derived from Kupp's own performance rates so far with the Rams."
Lockett is a clear showroom piece for me. Per Pro Football Focus, he's scored 4 touchdowns in 155 routes run, for a rate of 2.6 percent. That's completely unsustainable, as his "true" rate of 0.9 percent based on 1,500 routes run with the Seahawks. And now with Doug Baldwin being as close to full health as he has been in months, opportunities should decrease for Lockett going forward.
Waldman: Let's wrap up this roundtable with some tight end talk.
TE - Pick 1
Are you building around these players or selling them to the highest bidder?
If the opportunity came to sell high on Eric Ebron
in dynasty, I would leap at the chance. He is putting up big numbers with Andrew Luck
but it has been without T.Y. Hilton
and Jack Doyle
in the lineup. The Colts also have Deon Cain
on injured reserve as a player who is going to factor into the receiving equation at some point. I’m skeptical that the number of targets Ebron has been seeing will be sustainable over the long-term when the Colts aren’t so desperate for competent pass catchers.
Kittle and Njoku are foundational talents. Kittle is the most obvious choice here because he's a gifted downfield receiver who’s propping up C.J. Beathard
as we speak. But I’m almost as interested in Njoku, who’s still just one year removed from being the NFL Draft’s most explosive tight end prospect. Njoku is winning routes in the slots and the seams, and he has the eye of his franchise quarterback.
I’ve been selling Ebron in dynasty formats for a long time, the exception being in leagues in which I’m ultra-thin at the tight end position. Ebron is currently benefiting from passing volume that won’t be sustainable over the long-haul. When Andrew Luck
gets a better supporting cast and the volume ceases to exist, the drops and plays not made will hurt a lot more than they are stinging right now. As for redraft formats, I’m willing to ride the wave while it lasts, unless I can turn Ebron around for a massive profit at running back or wide receiver.
Kittle has been a solid TE1 this season, despite a number of missed connections and drops. Plus, Jimmy Garoppolo
is out on a now-offensively challenged 49ers offense. Looking ahead to next season, Kittle can push for high-TE1 production as he is one of the few tight ends to stretch the seam and stress the deep zone of the field from the position, plus Garoppolo will be back and (likely) reinforcements at wide receiver are coming.
Njoku is a dynasty foundation -- especially in dynasty leagues with tight end premium scoring -- based on the same coaching-related factor I discussed earlier with respect to Baker Mayfield
Hicks: David Njoku is a player that could easily go either way, but he really has the eye of Baker Mayfield and the two together could be something special down the line. Since Mayfield took over he has had seven and 11 targets and 11 total catches. Given his size and speed the touchdowns are coming and although young tight ends take time, he has already shown at age 22 that his upside is going to be scary if he can put it all together. With the lack of top end receiving talents in Cleveland outside Jarvis Landry, this is a player that should remain an elite fantasy tight end for years to come.
Waldman: I missed hard on Kittle. His burst and hands are starting-caliber and his blocking is excellent.
I want to believe in Njoku but if I had to choose one of the players other than Kittle and wait another year, it's Goedert. He's not earning the production that's converting the public into believers but the Eagles have a potential out with Ertz in 2020 and I believe they'll take it if Goedert develops as I project.
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