LEFT SHOULDER/RIGHT SHOULDER
If Footballguys could have a virtual reality draft advisor program (coming in 2042), Sigmund Bloom would be the angel on your right shoulder. He'll be your beatific little-tie-dyed angel uttering catchy sound bytes of praise for players that dwell in his land of bright and shiny toys. Whether or not he coins them, fantasy owners and writers will continue crediting him until it becomes fantasy football cliche.
Please allow me to introduce myself. I'm lounging on Bloom's Couch on your left shoulder. Yeah, I'm wearing a black cape. Bloom will try to convince you that it's actually a wet blanket, but that's his beams of sunshine and rainbows tickling your hind parts. It's ridiculous garbage that the gullible masses clamor for like ravenous pigs. Do you actually enjoy watching football when his rays of sunlight are blocking your view of the screen?
Let me hang my cape over that annoying Bloo--beam. After all, the dark is so much better to see the details of the game. Isn't that better? I like the dark. I live in those details.
(I hope you guessed my name.)
Calling me evil is so simplistic. I prefer to describe my role as a necessary test; an advocate for doubt; me at my most cynical. This week, I'm testing your faith in the top 100 players according to early August ADP in PPR leagues. Here's 100-51.
If you still like these players after I do my work, then there's no reason that you shouldn't draft them. If not, their name should never cross your lips.
THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE 100, PART II: 50-1
50. Carlos Hyde: The Shanahan clan has two skilled football strategists in the family. The patriarch of the family has a history of dysfunctional behavior as a leader. He sabotaged Jake Plummer's 2006 season to get Jay Cutler on the field. When Robert Griffin requested input into the Washington offense before his second season, Shanahan later told the story to the Washington Post as if what Griffin did was preposterous when based on NFL people I've spoken with, 45-55 percent of teams expect quarterbacks to contribute in this manner. So when I hear that the younger Shanahan doesn't want Hyde as the centerpiece of the 49ers ground game, I wonder if the son will exhibit the same behaviors as the father. The acquisitions of Tim Hightower (a Shanahan family favorite) and rookie Joe Williams suggest that Hyde is on borrowed time. Hyde's ability buoys his ADP as high as it is, but the prospect of Shanahan going Lannister on his career looms.
49. Golden Tate: A receiver with three consecutive years of 90 catches in Detroit, Tate is firmly entrenched as a go-to option for the Lions offense. He also hasn't missed a game since 2012. Touchdowns aren't his game and thus far, Marvin Jones has emerged as one of the leading red zone targets in training camp. Jones also dominated the first month of the 2016 season with a line of 23-482-2 to Tate's 14-95-0 before Jones got hurt and then also double covered while still learning all of the pre-snap/post-snap adjustments of this offense. Most have written off Jones, but there's a good argument that Jones will be more consistent than dominant in 2017 and it means Tate's production could drop, too. Considering that Tate hasn't been a red zone threat of note since working with Russell Wilson in Seattle, Tate's fantasy game is reliant largely on volume. I'd be concerned that almost everyone is off Jones (you know the saying, "if everyone is thinking X, it might be time to consider Y") for reasons that don't account for the reasons stated above because if they are wrong, the volume nob on Tate's game could get turned down.
48. Andrew Luck: He's throwing a tennis ball during the first two weeks of August and played with a partially torn labrum for two seasons. Does this really sound like it's going to end well for the Colts quarterback? David Carr, I hope you're enjoying your seat with the NFL Network, Luck could be taking it by 2019.
47. Michael Crabtree: Working with Derek Carr and Amari Cooper is great. Dropping first-half passes almost weekly during the second half of the season (an NFL-high of 9 drops last year) was not. Cooper is an ascending talent. Crabtree could be on the decline. While a targeted red zone option 22 times for 12 receptions and 6 scores last year (Cooper only earned 14-6-0), Marshawn Lynch's presence and Cooper's athletic development as a more physical player during the offseason could alter that red zone workload. So could Jared Cook who earned 14 targets for 8 catches and 3 scores last year in Green Bay in a loaded passing offense. His ADP says "solid No.2-No.3 option", but it won't take much between Cooper and Cook to render Crabtree an expensive bye-week option.
46. Greg Olsen: This is the age where tight ends begin to slow down. Sure he's stretched the seam for years, but that healthy 13.4 yards per catch is vulnerable to turning into that late-career, Jason Witten 9.8 per catch at any moment. You fantasy owners are always so afraid of being on the wrong side of the age cliff. Olsen is looking more and more like a fantasy sea dragon at the edge of the flat earth that those Colorado families are worried about.
45. Terrelle Pryor: Despite the fact that he's tall, muscular, and routinely beating Josh Norman in training camp practices, have you noticed that many of those reps don't have a linebacker or safety anywhere near the play? That's not going to happen when the real games begin and definitely not in the red zone. Perhaps that's one of the reasons why Pryor didn't have a strong red zone total last year. Pryor also might not be the best red zone option on the team (Jordan Reed) or even the second best (Josh Doctson). Wide receiver conversion projects don't typically make the impact Pryor did last year, which you could argue changes the game and should tell you to throw out the data. However, we like our data the way our toddler kids cry without their binky.
44. Ty Montgomery: He couldn't pass protect last year. He appeared confused with certain assignments and his technique required a lot more refinement. That's not unexpected with a conversion project. Fast forward to 2017 training camp and Montgomery told the media last week that he's still learning (after committing errors in practice). Jamaal Williams was the best pass protector of the running backs I scouted in this 2017 rookie class. He wasn't an instant starter in that realm, but he was closer than most of the pool. RB coach Edgar Bennett cited it as the reason why Williams split first-team reps with Montgomery last week. Considering that the Packers offensive line doesn't look much improved from last year, do you really want Montgomery as your RB2 or sacrifice a quality wide receiver, tight end, or quarterback to land him as an early-round RB3?
43. Tyreek Hill: He's making contested catches in practice and teammates believe he's about to make the leap to superstar status. That sounds great, but fantasy owners might pass out if they see Alex Smith purposely throw a contested target a receiver's way on a consistent basis. Look for Professor Smith to dryly extract all of the fun from the Hill's game. If Travis Kelce isn't earning 50/50 shots, why are we expecting it for Hill?
42. Davante Adams: He (barely) emerged from his two-route-wonder status to become a fantasy WR1 in 2016. That route tree improved, but I do wonder if the addition of Martellus Bennett—a far savvier receiver than the athletically gifted Jared Cook—could hurt Adams. Beyond targets, it's not like Randall Cobb lost anything last year. If Green Bay decides to make his role more flexible than an old-fashioned slot guy that we've seen for the past two seasons, Adams could see a downturn. If Adam isn't watering that route tree, it could happen, and we know breakout players sometimes take a step backward if their minds aren't right about success.
41. Christian McCaffrey: Jonathan Stewart will retain his starting job and goal line role and the Panthers receiving corps hasn't done much to earn the respect of defenses. Press Kelvin Benjamin and he'll fold like a card table. Devin Funchess has been having impressive training camps for the past three years. Curtis Samuel still has much to learn. If you ask me, opposing defenses will press Benjamin, pressure Newton, and flood the zone where McCaffrey is heading. Just let Greg Olsen get the ball; it didn't help the Panthers win games last year. I love McCaffrey's skills, but the lack of surrounding talent concerns me.
40. Joe Mixon: I remember when LeVeon Bell averaged less than four yards per carry behind a banged up Steelers line during his rookie year. Everyone said he wasn't quick enough to make all of those moves despite the fact his agility and acceleration metrics as a 230-pound runner at the NFL Combine compared favorably to Ahmad Bradshaw and Jahvid Best. The whole "Bell lost weight and got quicker" narrative is the biggest piece of overblown junk I've heard about a player during the past five years and it's fitting because offensive line play is not considered enough. Yes, Bell got quicker when he lost weight, but he was already as quick and agile as Best at 230 pounds! The Steelers line was bad. The next year, they were healthy and among the best units in the league. Mixon has earned comparisons to Bell for his size-speed-quickness combo. He's also going to work behind a line that lost its best two options. Don't be surprised if you're reading football articles in October that assure fans that Mixon is going through what Bell went through. Wouldn't that be nice...
39. Jordan Reed: He can't stay healthy because he's a slow wide receiver with great agility and toughness who is doing everything he can to maintain tight end weight and his body is rebelling. Dustin Keller had that problem, too.
38. Drew Brees: Who is going to stretch the field in this offense, Willie Snead? Don't make me laugh. Michael Thomas? He might. Brandon Coleman? If he catches the ball. Coby Fleener? Sure, if you count a once-a-month rate as frequent enough. What about Ted Ginn? Sure, if the Saints are willing to put up with him dropping the ball three times in a game to make one big catch. This team appears poised to run more often while imposing a horizontal passing game—whether that's the plan in August. There are only so many ways the Saints can manufacture deep targets for short and intermediate route runners without Brandin Cooks or someone like him in the lineup. I foresee a lot of "Brees in decline" overreaction pieces this fall.
37. Marshawn Lynch: The Raiders project about the same touches for Lynch as they gave Latavius Murray in 2016. If Murray only scored half of his 12 touchdowns last year, he would have been fantasy trash. Lynch—I can't lie...I can't do a Devil's Advocate on the guy. I'll let Joe Bryant pinch hit for me here. He thinks the Lynch love is trendy and against the odds. That's the best that I can do.
36. Alshon Jeffery: Carson Wentz has never had a consistent or a pinpoint deep game. Jeffery is there to mitigate some of Wentz's woes with his skill as a bad-ball receiver. It sounds great in theory. So does the theory that Jeffery has fixed his body alignment to prevent injury. I'll wait for all of this to play out in real life before I board that bandwagon.
35. Sammy Watkins: Sean McDermott doesn't like his starting quarterback, traded away the backup, and he drafted a system passer whose play has thus far can only be described as "sad". McDermott is running the show and he wants to run Watkins and Tyrod Taylor out of town. I get it. These guys are a part of the old regime and Watkins hasn't stayed healthy enough to deliver on his franchise talent. McDermott's icy relationship with Taylor is also impacting Taylor's play thus far. This looks like a disaster pic about to be released nationally in September 2017 and I want no part of it.
34. Jarvis Landry: The Dolphins' slot receiver lost his meal ticket last week and gets Jay Cutler as his replacement. I would not be shocked if Cutler leans more on the athletically gifted DeVante Parker and Landry's expected high-end WR2 production takes a hit. Cutler's best year in recent memory was 2014 and it was Alshon Jeffery who earned fantasy starter production. Brandon Marshall was 34th due to injuries. There wasn't another option in the top 100. Even if you combined Marc Mariani and Eddie Royals' 2015 stats, the Chicago slot position was not among the top-75 fantasy receivers. But it's Jarvis Landry....he's the best receiver on the team. Cutler will throw to him. I agree, but maybe not to the production that we've come to expect. After all, Cutler still threw downfield in Adam Gase's Chicago offense. Keep an eye on Kenny Stills, who can thrive in these situations now that he has a quarterback who doesn't look lost in the vertical game. To make matters worse, Landry is under investigation for possible battery.
33. Keenan Allen: Drop me a line when he finishes his first game in two years. I'll be happy for you.
32. Isaiah Crowell: The Browns line is good and it earned two upgrades that could make it potentially great. DeShone Kizer has the gun, pocket presence, and legs to develop into a solid starting quarterback with upside if he can avoid the Alex Smith processing error that's common to most quarterbacks below the line of demarcation that separates true franchise players from passers that teams will live with. But what about the defense? It still looks like that little kid who found his dad's suit, dress shoes, and hat and decided to clomp around in the living room. It may look cute, but it still ain't toilet trained. I have a difficult time thinking this unit will keep games close enough in the second half and it makes Crowell an inconsistent option at this ADP.
31. Allen Robinson: "In 11 on 11, Bortles stares down Robinson the whole way, Malcolm Butler undercuts the pass for an INT."
—Ben Volin covering Monday's August 7 practice via Twitter.
30. Tom Brady: Roger Goodell will find a way.
29. Travis Kelce: The Chiefs meal ticket in the passing game had microfracture surgery early in his career. He's missing time with knee swelling. Andry Reid says it's a somewhat regular event for Kelce and they'll manage it appropriately. It's the first I've heard of it. Maybe it will be alright this year but I don't like where this is heading, do you? This injury, Alex Smith's ultra-conservative mindset, and a plethora of viable fantasy options at the position don't make Kelce's ADP all that appealing.
28. Demaryius Thomas: The only receiver who dropped more passes than Thomas last year was Michael Crabtree. At least Thomas had an excuse; he injured his hip on the first offensive play of the season and wasn't the same all year. Thomas says he's healthy, but this injury has been a long-term issue in his health file that could emerge again. He's also waiting on Chad Kelly in 2018 because Paxton Lynch still can't win the job from future journeyman Trevor Siemian. Thomas may be better, but still not great without a notably talented quarterback in both head and body.
27. Leonard Fournette:
"In 11 on 11, Bortles stares down Robinson the whole way, Malcolm Butler undercuts the pass for an INT."
—Ben Volin covering Monday's August 7 practice via Twitter.
Fournette can catch and if you give him an open runway downhill, he can make linebackers and safeties look cowardly. But when this tweet above will be the common theme, boxes will be stacked and penetration will be forcing the runaway cement mixer from LSU to try his hand at ATV maneuvers and it won't end well.
26. Lamar Miller: Tom Savage is having an excellent camp? Sure, I'm buying that like I bought Brian Cushing's statement about Brock Osweiler last year:
"Brock Looks good so far...when you say his name I get excited. He's made some incredible throws. It seems like every practice he's getting better, which is frustrating right now because it's coming against us. But once the season comes along it's going to be awesome to see what he brings to the team." According to Alex Marvez, who posted these quote last year, "Cushing said one thing Osweiler has already brought to the Texans is leadership."
I'm trying not to laugh and I'm failing miserably right now. Leadership in football may begin in camp, but it's all talk until it's confirmed on the field. Last year, Osweiler was all talk. Maybe he'll succeed in Cleveland. Some observers say he has been surprisingly good in camp. None of this is good for Lamar Miller, who is performing for a team that is willing to blow smoke up each other's hind parts about its quarterback play. Miller may give you RB2 production even with this pitiful offense that just lost its most dangerous deep threat, but there are a lot of fourth and fifth-round picks with similar RB2 floors and better upside. Miller could be the fantasy football version of Brock Osweiler's Houston contract.
25. Brandin Cooks: A Steve Smith pretender since his years at Oregon State, Cooks has mixed results, at best, when targeted in contested situations. Smith dominated in this respect; Cooks gets love when he comes down with 1 out of 5 of these catchable targets. Excuse me if that doesn't excite me about Cooks as a high-end WR2/low-end WR1 in an offense that will much prefer to target Rob Gronkowski in these scenarios. Based on his performance at Georgia and as a rookie in New England, I'd actually prefer Malcolm Mitchell to Cooks in contested situations. It doesn't mean that Cooks will be a bust, but the expectations folks have that he's about to step into Randy Moss' shoes in this offense are grossly overstated. Moss had a brilliantly underrated mental component to his game and we've seen receivers with greater skills and versatility than Cooks fail to acclimate with Brady when the games begin and Brady starts checking and adjusting everything at the line.
24. DeAndre Hopkins: Thus far during his career, Tom Savage has preferred to throw the ball through dropping zone defenders than around them. Hopkins was among the top-10 most targeted players in the league last year and he still disappointed. Unless Savage has improved tremendously (and how can we believe anyone on the Texans roster when they were praising Brock Osweiler last summer?), I don't see Hopkins earning a higher quality of targets this year. This team is no more than two years away from a new coaching staff and it's about to get ugly for fans and Hopkins' fantasy owners.
23. Doug Baldwin: With Tyler Lockett and Paul Richardson expected to be healthy, Baldwin won't be leaned on as often in the vertical game. If the Seahawks' ground game improves—and by all accounts, the offensive line has better personnel than it did last year—the play-action deep game will take off and Baldwin won't be leaned on as much as an extension of the ground game. Note that Baldwin wasn't a fantasy factor during his first four seasons in the league when Marshawn Lynch was healthy and productive. When Lynch wasn't a factor in 2015-16, Baldwin's emerged. The Seahawks are bent on making the ground game the offensive priority, which means Baldwin's long awaited regression will happen, but for logical reasons dealing with the improvement of the ground game rather than overanalyzing touchdown totals.
22. Aaron Rodgers: Although Rodgers performed well with a bad offensive line last year, the unit could be even worse. An enhanced likelihood of injury is the only ammunition I have against Rodgers and with this line, it's a genuine concern.
21. Todd Gurley: Tackle Andrew Whitworth is a fine addition to the Rams offensive line. So is Sean McVay's scheme that will likely keep Eric Dickerson from reprising his full-on version of Joe Namath, Super Fan. But who is going to keep the opponents from stacking the box and daring Jared Goff (or former Oregon State interception machine Sean Mannion) to throw downfield? Who will be open downfield? Tavon Austin is a small, overpaid scatback and a return specialist who was mistaken for the next coming of Victor Cruz. Robert Woods could wind up a slightly better version of Terence Mathis. If you don't remember Mathis, he had an 111-catch season in 1994 for the Falcons as an out-of-place, secondary option in a primary role. Mike Thomas? PED suspension. Cooper Kupp? Love him, but he'll likely be the underneath option du jour. Will Gurley get it done against loaded boxes? Do we expect RB1 production in this situation? Too many questions.
20. Rob Gronkowski: His back will remain an issue throughout his career. Yes, I know my Twitter pal who went gluten and dairy free is raving about how much better his back feels nowadays. But judging from his Twitter pic, he doesn't look like the kind of guy you'd want helping you move furniture, much less play a contact sport. That said, I've been off dairy for 21 years and intensity and frequency of allergies that I had as a child declined substantially. I get sick maybe once every two years. So yes, I recommend consuming a lot less dairy. And yes, I can help you move furniture but not if I'm getting hit 60 times a week while doing it. That's football in a nutshell. I'm not buying Gronkowski's adoption of the Tom Brady training program. Neither is Jene Bramel.
19. Dez Bryant: We're only a week into training camp, which means Bryant has at least 30 more days to hurt himself while treating a practice rep against a third-team Cowboy corner as if it's a 3rd and 18 with 3:33 left in the Super Bowl.
18. DeMarco Murray: The Titans decide that Derrick Henry is too good to keep off the field so they inject the second-year rookie into a committee situation that prevents either option from developing a rhythm and the offense becomes as efficient as the Nashville highway system during rush hour. THIS IS WHAT YOU WANTED, BLOOM? Stick to accelerating the beginning of the revolution, Bloom.
17. Amari Cooper: His red zone production was not worth his ADP, but here we are once again in 2017 hoping that Cooper plays to his rookie production despite the addition of Marshawn Lynch and Jared Cook. With that argument, I'm beginning to like Cooper even more—especially because he's added muscle without losing quickness. But I there's no proof that he's a red zone threat. He has earned a combined 22 targets in the red zone during his first 2 years in the league and he hasn't had a single reception on a pass thrown to him from inside the 5. Why will it start now?
16. T.Y. Hilton: I love Hilton's game, but he needs a quarterback with Andrew Luck's skill to target him with confidence against tight coverage. Right now, Luck is playing with a tennis ball in training camp.
15. Jay Ajayi: Great talent, but his performances went the direction of the health of his offensive line or the ill-health of the opposing defense (Pittsburgh without Cameron Heyward). If Mike Pouncey can stay healthy, this is all moot. However, that has been a big question mark and backup center Ted Larson has a biceps issue that could force a reshuffling of this unit if Pouncey gets hurt.
14. Jordan Howard: On paper, the Bears offensive line looks like a top-five unit. However, Kyle Long is still rehabbing from ankle surgery in November and guard Eric Kush tore his hamstring today and will miss the entire season. If the Bears have to shuffle its lineup to account for these injuries, the lack of cohesion could hurt Howard, especially in the red zone. Last year, Howard earned 34 touches inside the red zone, scoring 6 times—17th among NFL running backs last year. This is also a reflection of Chicago's quarterback play, which won't likely be much better this year. If Long returns to health soon, Howard remains a top-10 option. If not, there is a reason for concern because Matt Forte never authored a double-digit rushing TD season as a Bear and he had a more versatile game than Howard
13. Michael Thomas: Although Brandin Cooks can't make big-boy catches at the rate of the best primary receivers, his big-play ability opened the field for Thomas in a way that I don't think the Saints can replicate this year. Ted Ginn thrived in Carolina because Cam Newton had no one else who could get open deep and Newton was resigned to continue going to Ginn despite the drops. With a defense as good as the Panthers during this run, Ginn's drops weren't as critical as they might be in New Orleans, who must score a lot of points to overcome their defensive woes. I think teams will be more on Ginn dropping passes than leaving Thomas unbracketed. Yes, bracket coverage is coming for Thomas and that often takes a year or two for a young receiver to figure out how to beat. Still excited about Thomas elevating his game in year two?
12. Jordy Nelson: It's funny how a 32-year-old receiver could be described as "being in the heart of his career" (our Footballguys player page) after a 97-catch, 1257-yard, 14-touchdown return from a torn ACL. Nelson, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall, James Jones, Anquan Boldin (twice), Andre Johnson (twice), Wes Welker (twice), Roddy White, and Steve Smith (twice) are the only receivers to earn WR1 or WR2 production after age 31 since 2012. Only Marshall, Jones, Johnson, White, and Smith did it as outside receivers. It's select company, which means the odds are against Nelson truly "being in the heart of his career," especially when he'll be one of the three oldest perimeter options (Johnson at 32 and Smith at 33 and 35) to do it.
11. Devonta Freeman: He has been a workhorse during the past two years, touching the ball 337 times in 2015 and 281 times in 2016 despite the presence of Tevin Coleman. He has also scored 11 touchdowns in each of those seasons, thanks to a combination of his skill and the lack of an established option in the passing game beyond Julio Jones. This year, Austin Hooper, Mohamed Sanu, and Taylor Gabriel could change that. All three have developed a greater rapport with Matt Ryan and it has been the goal of offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian to diversify the passing attack. If Freeman's touchdown totals dip to 8, which our crack(ed) staff of projection makers believe, Freeman will need to run for 1350 yards to approach what he did in 2016. I don't see it happening, which means he won't repeat his RB6 production—his current ADP.
10. Melvin Gordon: The Bolts lost starting right guard Forrest Lamp to an ACL tear last week. The rookie was expected to be an instant impact player for a team that needed to address its line woes. Gordon is a quick-hitting back, who is at his best when the line can allow him to create at the second level rather than behind the line of scrimmage (like Freeman does in Atlanta). With the return of Keenan Allen and a healthy Travis Benjamin, Gordon could also see a significant drop in targets. Even as the No. 8 fantasy RB last year, he wasn't a highly efficient runner, either.
9. LeSean McCoy: Analytics diehards should take note that one of the significant reasons that the Eagles traded McCoy two years ago was step data that predicted McCoy would have two more good years, at best, before he saw a drop-off in productivity. That projected expiration date has arrived. He has missed 5 games during the past 2 seasons, but only 1 of them came last year. Will the lighter workload McCoy saw in Buffalo mitigate the projections from Eagles analytic specialists or was the damage already done?
8. A.J. Green: If you hate the fact that Andy Dalton has been the quarterback throwing the ball to Green, you're going to hate it more when Dalton doesn't have the offensive line to prevent a total QB meltdown during the regular season. Green told Bengals.com in February that the one player Cincinnati 'can't lose' is Rams new tackle, Andre Whitworth. Ta-da!!! Unless you like disaster movies or horror flicks, drafting A.J. Green could be like like taking a late night swim off the coast of Amity Island.
7. Mike Evans: What I wrote about Desean Jackson yesterday applies to Evans: If Winston gets reckless, Dirk Koetter has been more than willing to shut down the passing game and run the ball 30 times a game, even if it means giving it to a 5-6, 196-pound scatback!. Jacquizz Rodgers earned 62 touches in Weeks 5 and 7, including 56 carries. Did I stutter, Jameis? Evans actually posted 14 receptions for 185 yards and 3 scores during that span, but I fear Winston could get too enamored with Jackson's speed to the detriment of targeting Big Mike.
6. Julio Jones: Coordinator Steve Sarkisian wants to diversify the offense by expanding the route trees of Taylor Gabriel and Mohamed Sanu. It's a good idea for the Falcons because if we're being honest with ourselves, the Falcons have been a one-man-band in the passing game for the past 2-3 years. That's great for fantasy owners, but it's not ideal for a playoff contender. We've seen Matt Ryan support three fantasy starters when Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez were in town and Jones' production was 9th among receivers when he played a full 16-game slate in 2012. However, Jones wasn't the primary option at that time. If there's any reason to doubt Jones meeting his expected production other than injury, it is opposing defenses focusing on stopping him as other options emerge to pick up the slack.
5. Odell Beckham, Jr.: Teams decide to triple cover Beckham and dare Eli Manning to throw it elsewhere? Yeah, doubtful. Beckham has a much greater chance of self-destructing than opponents do of stopping him. So that's where I'm going here. Beckham has become more publicly volatile with each passing year. Opponents see it and will exploit it. He's also paired with the even more volatile Brandon Marshall. This could be like oil and flame with Eli Manning's decision-making the match. It's a receiving corps that should cook, but it only takes a little bit of carelessness to cause a raging grease fire.
4. Ezekiel Elliott: The Cowboys' back might be the easiest one on the list. Although there is no doubt that Elliott has greatness within his grasp as a talent, he behaves as if he's invulnerable. What he and many young and immature pro athletes with egos out of control don't realize is that fame makes individuals highly vulnerable to trouble. Their circles of influence often expand too wide and individuals in those circles create problems that have a gravitational pull towards the athlete. Media has a keen eye on every move that player makes and if that player has a negative interaction with someone in public, word of that interaction will go viral. Elliott was not only involved in an altercation in a Dallas bar, but I heard that his behavior at a public appearance the next day was boorish and unprofessional for the setting. I've been told that contacts of Elliott have warned him of his behavior and where it's leading, but he doesn't believe he's touchable. He's a great player, but it's clear that he's heading down the opposite path of becoming a great professional. He's capable of making a U-turn but if the prospect of a four-game suspension doesn't do it, then it's a horrible sign that he'll need something career-threatening to change his ways. If Elliott misses four games this year, it's not a killer for his production. However, we'd really be looking at Elliot not being a great factor for your team during the first 6 weeks of a 13-week fantasy season because his bye week is Week 6 and he'll return in Week 5. That Week 5 game is against the Packers and Aaron Rodgers. Not only will Elliott be eased in a bit, Rodgers and company could easily wreck the game script for Elliott to even be a factor. This scenario would ruin Elliott as a viable first-round pick despite what ADP says.
3. Antonio Brown: If I'm correct that Ben Roethlisberger is feeling the effects of his career and the baling wire is showing, then another injury-marred season could hurt Brown's production. When Roethlisberger missed 3 games in 2015, Brown's production during that span was 11 catches for 111 yards and 0 scores. Not a pretty sight for one of the best receivers in football. I'm not ready to call Roethlisberger brittle, but I'm closer to that label that ever before. Neither Landry Jones nor Joshua Dobbs is capable of making Brown a consistent WR1. It's a big cliff. Let's pretend it's not there....maybe it will just go away or correct itself.
2. LeVeon Bell: The Steelers think Bell is a bit of a knucklehead. It's pretty clear this is the case. It drafted James Conner, a player whose personality and track record on and off the field is the antithesis of what Bell has delivered in the form of arrest and suspension. Bell also believes he should be considered a mashup of a running back and wide receiver when it comes to contractual negotiations. Sorry, but there was a long line of runners who would have earned that consideration well before Bell. Marshall Faulk had four consecutive seasons that were better than Bell's best two. William Andrews had 2 seasons in 3 years with over 2000 yards from scrimmage before an injury curtailed his career. Brian Westbrook had a 5-season stretch that equaled or exceeded where Bell is heading. Bell has nothing on Marcus Allen in 1984-85. James Brooks has an argument in his favor between 1985-90. In other words, Bell is a great talent and a fantastic player and while I don't blame him for trying to get paid as much as possible, I understand why the Steelers aren't budging. They have a terrific line and they believe they can win without Bell. History tends to agree with them. Bell will likely wind up on a team that has nowhere near the line play. But we're not talking about dynasty so the only thing that applies here is Bell's attitude. The conflict could lead to Bell playing with a healthy-sized chip or it could cause him to self-destruct. I'd like to give you something worth doubting that's more tangible, but I'm not that good.
1. David Johnson: Because 20 total touchdowns are not sustainable? Because 2118 yards from scrimmage are not sustainable? Because the passing game should be healthier? Because Chris Johnson is back to spell him? None of that makes me doubt taking him among the top three players in a draft. He's a physical, flexible, intelligent, and versatile football player. Unless the Cardinals stop running gap plays, I'm all aboard.
But as that old saying goes, "If everyone is saying 'x' it's time to seriously consider 'y'."