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The Gut Check No. 403: Terror in the Aisles

Matt Waldman shares 10 players whose 2017 prospects could be familiar horror stories.

Many of my Gut Check articles between May and July focus on analysis that I conduct to create my August draft plans. Those articles feature analysis that leads me to recommend what I think is best. Last week, I took a break from that to share a list of players that I like from each 12-pick tier in David Dodds' Top 300 Player Rankings in early July. This week, I'm using Dodds' list to share my thoughts on players that frighten me. 

Fear is a valuable commodity because it's one of the most organic tests there is. Some fears you face head-on and the act of doing so helps you generate a healthy respect for its source. Other fears teach you the value of planning ahead so you can avoid experiencing them in the future.

And there are some fears which you hope you never have to face, but the confrontation is inevitable and nothing will prepare you. Think the most traumatic horror movie of all-time...


If its terror isn't immediately evident to you, you'll understand soon enough...

The horror film is one of the most entertaining ways we explore fear as a society.  This week, I'm listing 10 players and the horror movies that remind me of them or their team.

I've done the analysis on most of these guys. This article is about fear and whether facing my fears about them will be constructive or destructive to my fantasy squads.

If I give into my fears, none of these players will be on my rosters. However, I expect that some of these players will be significant difference makers for our 2017 seasons, which is why the prescription for fear sometimes means channeling your inner Big Joe Grizzly. 

Alien (Jay Ajayi)

If you saw Jay Ajayi slash holes through the belly of the Bills and Steelers' defenses last year, you know his potential is awesome. Powerful, quick, fast, and a natural hands catcher who should only get better as a receiver, the RB1 upside is there. Fantasy owners counting on Ajayi delivering a massive return reminds me of the scientific community that thought it could contain the alien, bring it back to earth, and exploit its biology for the good of the human race.

This isn't a dead-on accurate comparison to the original (and best) Alien movie, but it fits the complete arc of the Alien story when piecing all of the movies together.   

That containment for Ajayi is the offensive line. If the unit doesn't improve, opposing defenses will break free of containment and turn this run game into human incubators.

Last year, Ajayi's totals were technically mid-range RB2 quality but his consistency data indicates that his performance felt more like a low-end RB2. He was an RB2 for 60 percent of the season but 40 percent of his games were sub-par, which was 23rd among running backs despite the fact that his weekly fantasy point average was 16th at the position.

In other worse, his conventional stats say mid-to-high RB2 but week-to-week, his inconsistency translated to low-end RB/high-end flex production. 

Hi, I'm Jay Ajayi, I'll be your RB2 this year although it's going to feel like I'm a flex-play and you'll want to talk a blindfolded walk across I-95 after weeks of subpar efforts only to watch I come alive for a 200-yard day when I'm on your bench. Remember kids, do what daddy says, not what he does...

Injuries and youth along the offensive line are valid excuses, but the unit still earns the side eye from fantasy owners heading into the summer. Laremy Tunsil had moments where he looked like a future stud, but he was often forced to play out of position due to injuries. Mike Pouncey must prove that he can stay healthy and free agent veteran Jermon Bushrod was a Pro Bowl guard for the Saints in 2012, but the Bears released him after three years in Chicago.   

With an ADP of 17, Ajayi's pre-draft value matches his 2016 production, but if he performs like the No. 23 or No. 24 RB in the spirit of consistency data, he's overvalued by 2 rounds. This wouldn't be as significant of a reach if Ajayi were available after the 7th round, but there's more weight with early-round picks  

Ajayi could transform your squad if the line can hold up. If not, his potential inconsistency could destroy your roster and leave your fantasy team a ship of horrors marooned in the outer limits of space. I'll be monitoring the health and performance of Pouncey and Miami's guards before I volunteer for this journey. 

Michael Myers (Leonard Fournette)

You horror purists probably prefer the 1970s original, but I enjoyed Rob Zombie's remake. Zombie fleshed out a backstory for Michael Myers and made him just human enough that the end result was a slightly more believable story that's a little scarier for a grown up. If there's a Michael Myers of fantasy football this year, it's Leonard Fournette.

Big, powerful, and capable of separating Big Joe Grizzly from his buck knife in a backroom brawl (NSFW), Fournette running free could be as awesome and scary as Myers running through his old neighborhood. However, if the Jaguars offensive line performs like it has in the past, the AFC South's Myers could remain shackled in Grove State Mental Hospital.

Dodds has Fournette ranked 21st overall in his July 8th Top 300, which I find terrifying because Fournette's ADP of 26 is 3-5 rounds is already too high for me. If the Jaguars are the asylum, Chris Ivory is the security guard played by Danny Trejo. We all know Trejo is a bad ass, but he's always played bit parts in major productions, and he'll probably never break through this form of typecasting. Like Trejo, Ivory is typecast as the back to carry a scene, but not a major studio blockbuster (injury prone). 

Determining how good Fournette will be this year will be difficult. Not only do we need to see if the Jaguars line will use schemes that match what Fournette does best, but we also need to see if the line has improved, and a line's preseason performance is difficult to judge. 

While I'm considering a trip into space with Ajayi, I'm afraid the Jaguars line will inadvertently leave Fournette and fantasy owners alone in the visitor's area of the asylum.

The Fly (Sammy Watkins)

David Cronenberg's version of The Fly is a story about genius gone wrong. Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum as Sigmund Bloom) is an amazing but reckless scientist who invents a teleportation device. However, his DNA accidentally combines with that of a housefly during a test and his life takes a gruesome turn.

Sammy Watkins' game has flashes of brilliance. When combined with Tyrod Taylor's deep accuracy, the pair can teleport the Bills offense 50-80 yards on a single play. Unfortunately, Watkins' foot injury is an unwelcome fly in the mix. 

Watkin's ADP of 36 means that most fantasy owners will be drafting him as a starter. Considering the way Watkins' injury has jerked fantasy owners around for the past two years, I feel a sense of dread when I think about taking him as a starter when he'll be limited at the start of camp. The injury placed a freeze on Buffalo's enthusiasm to sign Watkins to a new deal this summer, and that's a statement that indicates no confidence in Watkins returning to form and maintaining it.

If he's practicing without limitations in August, he could easily justify his current value. If not, be afraid. Be very afraid.    

Nosferatu (Mark Ingram II)

When the Saints couldn't trade Ingram this spring for center Jason Kelce, the organization left its veteran runner in a dangerous place. Adrian Peterson may seem like a harmless old man to many these days but if I draft Ingram, I'll be looking for the equivalent of a garlic necklace to put around my roster.

Peterson would love nothing more than to suck the life out of Ingram's fantasy value and I haven't seen enough from last year's film to conclude that his career has taken a stake through the heart.

Alvin Kamara also has potential to limit Ingram. However, he must learn to prevent the daylight from hitting the football. 

Ingram's sixth-round ADP is equivalent to RB24 on the board, so the fantasy community has a palpable sense of caution.Dodds favors the veteran slightly more at RB16.

Dodds doesn't believe much in beasties and goblins (unless Elmo riding a Big Wheel qualifies).  

I'd rather take my chances on Ameer Abdullah or Doug Martin. I like their upside whereas Ingram will need Peterson to get hurt in order for the Saints to keep him from mainlining Ingram's fantasy value. Tthe idea of pairing Ingram and Peterson in consecutive rounds isn't great value in most draft strategies, either.

However, old legends won't scare me completely away from Ingram at this value if I can land him as my third back for my roster. If Peterson's value rises as he flashes some of his old greatness, Ingram could become a value thanks to Peterson's age and Kamara's youth.  

Anway, are you really going to be scared of vampires now that they look like Kiefer Sutherland, Brad Pitt, and Tom Cruise?

(But they ain't All Day with a boulder on his shoulder...)

Deep Blue Sea (Spencer Ware)

Super-intelligent great white sharks turning on the crew of scientists that made them that way is horrifying. The movie they made about it? Not so much. But I appreciate that the movie turned on one of its big names early. 

You don't expect Samuel L. Jackson to die so early and that scene alone is worth a watch at home. Unfortunately, you're then stuck with LL Cool J.

No offense to LL, but if you asked me who I'd prefer to see as the lead actor in a movie, I'd give the edge to Samuel L in every kind of film that is a story about a Hip-Hop artist or a rom-com. When I look at the Chiefs ground game, I have a palpable fear that Spencer Ware's potential production could be gobbled up like Jackson in this B-flick and leaving us with Kareem Hunt as a bewildered Cool J talking to a scene-stealing parrot played by Tyreek Hill.

Ware was fantastic to begin the year, but he was not nearly as good statistically after suffering a concussion. It wasn't a coincidence that Ware's injury coincided with Tyreek Hill's emergence. However, I don't see Ware-Hill as an either-or fantasy dynamic when it comes to potential production.

While some may imagine Kareem Hunt as one of the super-intelligent sharks swallowing Ware's production, I think the Chiefs media are the misguided scientists, Andy Reid is the shark wrangler who will likely survive this fiasco, and Hunt is Cool J—seemingly a tangential character thrust into the spotlight when things get crazy. Hunt has a lot to prove as a receiver and blocker, and it often takes a year before a young back delivers on those responsibilities.    

So who are the sharks in this midwestern story? Will we see them coming? I don't know. It's precisely why I'm afraid about Ware's value in this situation.  

Night of the Living Dead (Tyler Eifert)

When it comes to his on-field ability, Eifert would be a movie hero with wilderness training, explosives expertise, Kung-Fu master, and handy with a crossbow. However, a zombie apocalypse could make anyone vulnerable—especially when they have to rely on other people to survive.

While we all love A.J. Green, appreciate the talents of a healthy Giovani Bernard, and salivate over the potential of John Ross and Joe Mixon, (and can even make a solid argument about the underrated merits of Andy Dalton supporting quality fantasy targets) these players are only as useful as their offensive line. 

That line was once like a fully stocked compound that allowed these skill players to pick off the zombie hordes from a position of strength. With two of it's best options missing, the compound is no longer secure. If things get really bad, Eifert could be forced to stay at the line of scrimmage on passing downs.  

It doesn't help that Eifert is returning from back surgery. It is also the kind of injury that seems ripe for additional cascade injuries related to this original problem as his career continues. 

Eifert as the No. 6 tight end on ADP lists and Dodds' boards shows a lot of confidence in his individual skills, but I fear they haven't thought about the impact of defenses getting the best of the Bengals' offensive line, which could force more long down-and-distance situations and limit Eifert's upside. With Delanie Walker and Hunter Henry available later and with arguably better offensive lines at their disposal, I'd rather avoid the prospect of a recovering Eifert, who could get overwhelmed and eaten alive.  

The Shining (Ben Roethlisberger)

How could I be fearful of Roethlisberger? Antonio Brown, Le'Veon Bell, and Martavis Bryant have All-Pro ability, and the offensive line is among the best in the league. In terms of accommodations, Roethlisberger's job seems as cush as a facilities manager living on the grounds of a well-stocked, stylish mountain resort during its offseason.

What could possibly go wrong?    

Roethlisberger enters this arrangement with some pre-existing conditions. Injuries are one of them and the potential for the offense to lean hard on the ground game in any given week is another.

When examining his consistency between 2013 and 2016, Roethlisberger is 9th among quarterbacks with an Elite Game Rate of 36 percent and 7th among passers in fantasy points per week with 22.8. However, his Sub Par Game is 15th and that changes how his stats actually feel for fantasy owners with him in their lineups.

Technically, Roethlisberger has been a QB1 but his reliability is decidedly QB2 material.  It makes his ADP of QB11 and Dodds' QB10 ranking a little high for his three-year performance history. 

Most people scoff at the idea that hauntings exist and, in many respects, downgrading Roethlisberger and his idyllic environs is like buying into a ghost story. At the same time, investing in Roethlisberger as your QB1 without pairing him with a starter of similar potential shortly thereafter is like staying the night in Room 237 at the Overlook.

Nothing bad may happen, but it helps to have a backup plan when a Plan A like Roethlisberger has displayed more than a few moments of instability. 

The Ring (Mike Gillislee)

Patriots beat writers have an unenviable job of tiring to predict the inscrutable Bill Belichick. Last year, Tyler Gaffney and James White were the hot names at running back for most of the summer. By December, LeGarrette Blount was well into a double-digit TD campaign.

Reading beat writer predictions about Patriots running backs is about as safe as watching that video tape with the dead girl emerging from the old well. Days later, your fantasy squad may die a horrible death. 

This year, the hot prediction is Gillislee, a hard-running, high-effort back with good burst who had a stint in Miami before earning enough time in Buffalo to draw interest from New England. I don't think the New England media is being ridiculous about projecting Gillislee in this role. 

However, Dion Lewis should be completely healthy and he flashed strong moments during the postseason. Rex Burkhead is also a versatile back with excellent burst, feature back size, and athletic measurements that make Fred Jackson—a Belichick favorite—a quality stylistic comparison. 

When examining Gillislee and this depth chart, it's difficult for me to see the Patriots sliding him into Blount's role with the presumption he matches Blount's TD production. One thing that we've seen from New England is a willingness to adjust its ground game to the strengths of its depth chart. 

Lewis is more of a tweener who can function between the tackles and in space. His vision and agility may be the best on this depth chart. Now healthy, he will push Gillislee harder than the beat writers are stating. The Boston Globe reports that Belichick thinks Lewis is a lot further ahead than he was last year and he's "anxious to see him in training camp." 

It's a wait-and-see scenario. Unfortunately, my fantasy brain is terrified that if I act on any of these backs, I'll witness the hooded one emerge from that well and kill my team's season in a manner of days.

Bambi (Eli Manning

Fantasy writer Lisa London recently posed a question on her Facebook page asking for movies that traumatized you as a child. Jaws, the Amityville Horror, the Shining, and Phantasm were among the films on the list.

However, my entry got the most likes, and you bet your sweet bippy that it was Bambi. As "Nate Flix" points out, Disney didn't do one of those melodramatic death scenes that prepares the audience for a death with a long, drawn out scene. The death scene in Bambi was as sudden, jarring, and psychologically painful as death often occurs in real life.

I saw Jaws way too young and had recurring nightmares about diving into the mouth of a great white shark, but the movie spawned a lifelong fascination with these magnificent creatures. I don't remember anything about Bambi but the feeling of the alarm that experienced when Bambi's mother died.

In fact, I had to re-watch the death scene this week on YouTube so I could even write this segment. 

Subjecting little kids to a moment where an innocent, vulnerable being loses the only protection and love it had in such a psychologically truthful manner is as insidious as it gets. I hope you're laughing because I am as I am writing this. However, if you saw Bambi, you're also laughing because you know I'm right.

Disney has created a fantastic product with several classics during its history. It's a great production company that appears as wholesome as it gets. However, Disney also has some insidious history. Walt and many of his messages had some serious issues. 

Sounds like the Manning family, if you ask me. 

Eli Manning's 2017 prospects look as good as they ever have. Although he's had one top-5 fantasy season during his long career, it's hard to ignore his potential with his stable of weapons. If Matthew Stafford, Philip Rivers, Derek Carr, Jameis Winston, or Marcus Mariota had this group of skill talent, I'd put any of these quarterbacks in the top seven, if not the top five. 

It's why I find it more difficult not to bump Manning's ranking on my boards with each passing week, especially with reports about Evan Engram looking good and Brandon Marshall being a good citizen (because I've never thought he was "done" after last year's disappointment). Right about now, the outlook for Manning seems as sunny as a young deer frolicking carefree in a forest of friendly woodland creatures and birds singing in the background.

Then I look at the Giants offensive line and Manning's penchant for mind-numbing decisions at the most inopportune moments and it chills me. 

You can see that "Manning face" in November at the moment he delivers his fourth, three-interception week of the season, can't you? It looks a lot like a deer frozen with fear.

I don't think I could relive Bambi again.

Texas ChainSaw Massacre (Rishard Matthews)

It may seem like cheap gore to some, but Tobe Hooper is a skilled director who also made Poltergeist. Alien is regarded as horror masterpiece and apparently, Ridley Scott cites Texas Chainsaw Massacre as an influence for the film.

If you haven't seen Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it's a story about a group of college kids whose vehicle breaks down in the Texas countryside and they head to a nearby house to seek assistance. They learn fast that it's about as wrong of a house as it gets and they're about to literally wind up as roadside barbecue. 

If this movie was set in Tennessee, Rishard Matthews would be driving on the highways of Nashville—which could be a horror moving setting on its own because its highway system downtown is the most ill-conceived, whacked-out thing that I have driven in a developed nation, and I've driven everywhere in this country as well as extended stints in Puerto Rico and Jamaica—and get run off the road. 

His car would careen slowly down an embankment and he'd manage to extricate himself unharmed and walk to a house on Luton street, hoping he could make a phone call because his cellphone flew out the window during the accident.

As Matthews walks into the house (the door was open and a TV is on), Eric Decker, clad in a butcher apron, bursts into the room, hits Matthews over the head with one of those white, blue, and red flaming thumbtack helmets, and carries Matthews into the backroom.

Next thing you see is Corey Davis at a counter serving "Hot Chicken" with Taylor in the back hacking up meat with a cleaver. After all, wide receivers taste like chicken—ask a safety. 

Matthews had flashes of fantasy goodness in Miami and put together a fine run in Tennessee last year. However, I think Decker and Davis could cannibalize Matthews' role as one of the top three passing down options in this scheme. And Delanie Walker's role is safe.

When I see Matthews ADP beckoning me at the doorway with this crew lurking inside the house, I prefer to head down the street and get my Hot Chicken at Prince's. Just watch out for the crater in the parking lot...