The Gut Check 381: The Honey-Do List

Waldman examines Jerick McKinnon's FAAB, scenarios to add Dwayne Washington, Phillip Dorsett's and Dexter McCluster's value, and he puts the trade value chart to practice use. 

Week 3 Honey-Do List

Most guys have a honey-do list on the weekends and written by their wife. It appears my honey-do list happens during the week and it's written by my readers. It's an odd life but I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Here are my thoughts on the most common Week 3 question topics that I'm getting on Twitter and Periscope Q&As:

How bullish are you on Lions RB Dwayne Washington? Can he become the starter in Detroit? 

Cautious optimism is the best way to describe my view of the rookie right now. Washington has always had the speed, balance, power, burst, and open-field vision of an NFL starter.  The issues that cost the former wide receiver the starting job at the University of Washington was his inexperience with the nuances of his new position: taking the quarterback exchange, ball security, running short outlet routes and tracking the ball, and pass protection. Most of all, Washington didn't understand the blocking schemes he was running behind and it led to boom-bust outcomes that often hurt the team more than it helped it.

Before the NFL Draft, I shared Washington's tape with C.J. Prosise's personal running back coach Chad Spann. I wanted to know if Spann agreed with me that Washington's raw talent was as good as I thought. Spann told me that if Washington learned the fundamentals of the running game, he had the physical skills and basic feel to become an NFL starter.

So why am I preaching caution? This summer, we saw Washington run the ball in a limited number of situations. The Lions didn't ask him to pass protect, he ran a limited number of routes, and the play selection of his runs was limited. 

The only areas where I saw significant improvement, albeit a limited sample, was ball security and taking the exchange with the quarterback. We really don't know how much Washington has grown. 

The rational assumption is that the Lions have seen enough from him in these areas to feel confident his growth in these areas. We also know that NFL teams give late-round picks and UDFAs very few reps in practice. The only reason the Lions noticed Washington enough to try him at running back was the rookie's kick return during a preseason game.

My advice is to view Washington's value to your team as a luxury at the end of your bench or as a lottery pick of extreme desperation. If we knew that he could pass protect or we saw him execute a wider range of plays, Washington would be among the top adds of the week and a player who could work his way into the Lions' rotation as a regular contributor with consistent fantasy value.

But we don't know this at all. If Washington only earns time during obvious running situations or Zach Zenner is the back sharing duties with Theo Riddick on passing downs, it's a good indication that the Lions realize Washington has a lot more to learn before he can help as an every-down contributor.

My advice: treat Washington like former Falcons' running back Antoine Smith. He's a big-play jackpot that will eventually hit on a play here and there. He may have even helped your team if you started him. But if you are seeking a season-long jackpot, you'll probably run out of quarters before he does.

What makes the situation more complicated is that Washington has more potential for growth than Smith. How do you apply this in a practical fashion? 

Add Washington: 

Don't add Washington: 

Where I lack confident answers about Washington:

I'd lean on keeping all of these backs over Washington. This changes if we learn that Washington has worked with a running back coach during the offseason on the areas where he was raw this time last year or if there are specific quotes from Detroit's staff about Washington's pass protection, short-area receiving ability, and overall growth with the nuts and bolts of the position. If the team only talks about Washington as a physically talented big-play threat, boom-bust remains the phrase to associate with the rookie. 

Can Dexter McCluster provide consistent fantasy value as a Charger? 

I'm disagreeing with our Footballguys News commentary about the situation. It's true that McCluster wasn't a big part of the Titans offense when he was last paired with Ken Whisenhunt but I think the reasons have more to do with quarterback play and less to do with the coach or the talent of McCluster.

The former Ole Miss runner is the closest thing to Woodhead currently available in the league and the gap in skills between the two is narrow. The difference has been fit with the scheme. Most teams don't know what to do with a player like Woodhead or McCluster. 

If teams were restaurants, Woodhead and McCluster are the cool gadgets that the general manager thinks will help sales and productivity but the manager and head chef have no idea how to incorporate it into their workflow. 

Tavon Austin is a cool gadget. The Rams are using him a lot after two weeks and the offense has been horrible. He's inefficient in his role. He's a great space player but he lacks the refined skills of a runner or receiver to work smoothly in a scheme. 

McCluster and Woodhead look like gadget guys but they understand how to run routes, read coverage, earn find open zones, and work between the tackles efficiently for their size. What they need is a skilled teammate/lead chef to put it all together. Rivers is that kind of chef.

McCluster has never worked with a quarterback with as much on-field savvy and pre-snap responsibilities as Philip Rivers. Alex Smith is a smart guy but he's neither as inventive nor aggressive as Rivers. If you need a runner and the pickings are slim, I'd roll the dice.

In fact, I have. I added McCluster this morning in the Footballguys Staff IDP Dynasty League. Dion Lewis and Ameer Abdullah are on my IR and Spencer Ware and DeAngelo Williams have been my starters. Throw in the always nicked-up Jonathan Stewart, and McCluster might come in handy in this PPR league where I can start 1-2 runners.    

What are your thoughts on Phillip Dorsett

I'm not sold on him. My pre-draft fantasy advice with Dorsett when he was a rookie:

Smaller prospects need to be game-changers in some aspect of their skillset to develop into fantasy WR1s or strong WR2s. Antonio Brown and Isaac Bruce have/had great skill after the catch. Steve Smith and Marvin Harrison could make plays down field in tight coverage. Dorsett is skilled in both areas but he's not elite at either one. If he falls to you at the value of a future WR3, he'll be worth consideration. 

Dorsett is a flashy prospect but the substance of his game hasn't developed to the point that he's a breakout player in the making. He'll make big plays with his speed and leaping ability and he works back to the quarterback, which is important in the Colts offense. He's a solid WR3 but I'd prefer him as a WR4-flex. If you can get WR3 value for Dorsett in a trade, I'd do it. 

Is Jerick McKinnon worth 50 percent-plus of your FAAB? It's more complicated than yes/no.

While the Week 12-Week 16 slate for Minnesota includes some appealing games with Detroit, Dallas, Jacksonville, and Indianapolis, it's a long way off and there's still a chance Adrian Peterson returns within this timeline.

Even assuming that Peterson is gone for the year, the Vikings offensive line hasn't performed well and it lost left tackle Matt Khalil for the year. T.J. Clemmings is an athletic dude still making the conversion from defensive end and he struggled last year in relief of Khalil.  

If you extrapolate the last two years of McKinnon's output based on likely carry totals if he were the starter in 2014 and 2015, you're looking at 1076 and 1084 yards on the ground. With Matt Asiata the preferred red zone back, expecting McKinnon to earn more than five touchdowns seems unrealistic. 

The receiving game is a place for mild optimism. I could see upwards of 50 catches for the runner, but his yards-per-catch efficiency has never been strong. 

Of course, there's the question of talent and how people define it. McKinnon is great physical talent but how refined he has become as a between the tackles runner who can consistently keep the team's offense on a favorable down and distance schedule is a valid question. I don't think we've seen the answer while he has been in the NFL. 

Because the Vikings' offensive line has struggled, the quarterback is new, and McKinnon is still inexperienced at the position relative to other backs, I think his absolute upside in terms of total yards is 1050 on the ground, 50 catches and 350 yards through the air and 6 total scores.

If McKinnon hits these production marks, you're looking at the No.7 RB in PPR leagues and standard formats during the most depressed year for RB scoring in recent memory. Is that worth 50 percent of your waiver FAAB? Yes.

Is there a strong likelihood of McKinnon earning this production based on the factors I outlined above? No. I think his yards per carry efficiency will drop to the low 4s rather than remain in the high 4s-low 5s. I wouldn't at all be surprised if McKinnon's output is in the high 3s per carry.

A more realistic outlook for McKinnon based on the line play and workload is 3.7 per carry, which is a gift compared to Peterson's current output of 1.6 and McKinnon's 2.7 average on limited touch count this year.  The Vikings have averaged 22 carries per game thus far. If this figure remains constant, look for McKinnon to average 14 carries, 4.5 targets, and 3 catches per week. 

We're looking at 725 yards on the ground, 42 catches and 300 yards through the air, and 5 total touchdowns. Grand total? 132.5 points. Slightly better than Giovani Bernard's 22nd-ranked output in standard leagues last year and good enough to edge Bernard's teammate Jeremy Hill for 20th at the position in PPR leagues during a down year for RBs in 2015. 

Let's return to the original question: Is Jerick McKinnon worth 50 percent of your FAAB? 

  • If your league has two-RB lineups and only one flex play? It's a little pricey, but yes. 
  • If you believe production at the RB position will remain depressed like last year? Yes. 
  • If your league has at least two flex plays? No. You can be more creative and productive with that money. 
  • If you believe last year's RB production was an extreme low point and we'll see more production this year, McKinnon is overpriced. 

What do I believe? I'd rather save my money in all but two-RB lineups. My limit would be 35 percent of my budget.     

Trade Advice/Trade Value Chart

A lot of trade activity will be going down in the coming weeks. 

Last week, I outlined a method for creating a trade value chart in re-draft leagues.  Here's what the chart looks like. 

I'm using the percentile range of rankings as the basis for point values. This should help in package deals.

The most important advice is to discuss the value of players more than the specific guys. Also, make sure that package deals make sense for your team's win-loss record, depth, and bye week schedules. The points may add up but you might find it doesn't make sense within the context of your roster.

Let's examine some trade questions I'm seeing on Twitter.  

Paraphrased questions below: 

I'm 2-0 and willing to gamble on landing a second RB. Should I trade Corey Coleman for Doug Martin?

Even with the poor start for the Buccaneers, Martin has looked better between the tackles than Charles Sims. He's simply a more disciplined, creative, and powerful runner who will earn his job back after Sims fills-in for him. The bottom range I have for Martin is RB2 with top-5 upside the rest of the way when he returns.

Coleman has top-20 upside but and I think his value is the most durable of the receivers on the Browns' depth chart. I think a more realistic value for the rookie receiver is WR3 (top-36). 

Because Coleman is a top-15 option in PPR leagues after two weeks, you're banking on Martin delivering top-12 value and its likely that the guy who wants Coleman views the rookie as a top-24 option. It's an even swap according to my chart and based on my projected view of Martin's upside, perhaps a slight value in your favor if I'm right. 

I was offered Odell Beckham and Doug Martin for Le'Veon Bell and Dez Bryant, I'm thinking "no" but want your take? 

Beckham qualifies as Tier 1 player on my chart. If you're not as bullish, I can't imagine his value dropping lower than Tier 2. Despite his poor start, I can't imagine Martin having anything lower than Tier 5 value and at best, a Tier 2 back. The maximum trade value points I'd give this pair is 189. 

Based on Deangelo William's production, Bell has Tier 1 upside moving forward but there's a good argument that Williams will continue to see enough touches and depress Bell's upside to Tier 3-4 the rest of the way. I love Dez Bryant's skills but I'm lukewarm on Dak Prescott's ability to make him anything more than a Tier 4 option. The maximum trade value points I'd give this pair is 169 points. 

Because of there's wiggle room in a negotiation with Martin and Bell's value, this could be considered a fair deal but I'd probably favor the Beckham-Martin side despite the risk that Martin's missed time presents for you. If you have RB depth or can compete with one back in a lineup that allows for 3-4 receivers, I'd take the deal. If you can't, it's probably tough to accept. 

I was offered Todd Gurley and Donte Moncrief for Melvin Gordon III and Travis Benjamin in a 12-team PPR league. Am I crazy to turn it down?

Gurley has Tier 1 upside despite the offense's woes. Expect better weeks for Gurley by midseason. Even so, it's probably fair to say his true value is Tier 4 on this chart. If you can your negotiation partner to agree on Tier 2-3 value, you did well. Moncrief has Tier 4 upside but a more realistic value is Tier 5-6. 

I'm betting you can get Tier 2 value for Gurley if you're willing to agree that Moncrief is a Tier 5 value. That's a combined value of around 148 points. 

Gordon is a top-7 back right now and I don't think it changes much. I think you have a good argument that he's Tier 3 value and that it might even turn out to be a low value. Benjamin is the No.10 receiver after two weeks and the only game in town with true primary receiver value for the Chargers (Tyrell Williams is still learning and at best, a high-end WR3). If you can get Tier 3 value for Benjamin, good for you. I think a good negotiator might bring you down to Tier 4 (top-24 WR) because he's more likely to have Desean Jackson's variability based on his style of play. 

Let's say you get your negotiation partner to agree that both players are Tier 3 values. That's 148 points and an even deal. Even if Gordon is Tier 2 and Benjamin is valued at Tier 4, it's even.

Where there might be a problem is if one of you can't agree on Moncrief's value. I'd prefer to keep Gordon and Benjamin because I don't see Moncrief delivering the value most see him worth. But I do understand how this trade could work out down the stretch. 

My advice? If you have the depth to ride out Moncrief's rehab and RB depth to successfully play match-ups while Gurley and the Rams offense struggles, it's a calculated gamble with a potentially strong end-game run that I can approve of. If you're more conservative-leaning or you lack the depth, I'd stick with the Chargers duo.