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Sunday 23rd Apr 2017

This week and next week, we will continue to look at the 2013 draft class by focusing on running backs that could make a fantasy impact this year.

Giovani Bernard 5’8” 202 (4.53 40) – The undersized back out of North Carolina is stronger than many people think. He has good hands and vision, can cut on a dime and explode through holes. He’s not easy to tackle and can make defenders miss. In college, he displayed excellent acceleration to get around corners, but it may be tougher to do that at the next level. Most project him as a change of pace back behind the Law Firm, and he will certainly be at least that. If Bernard proves that he can protect the quarterback and produces when handed the rock, he could earn up to 50 percent of the carries in the Bengals backfield but if he struggles with his blocks, his touches will be limited.

Eddie Lacy 5’11’’ 231 (4.59 40) – Lacy has good speed for his size, is hard to bring down once he gets going and keeps grinding after contact. Many see him as a three down back who warrants 20+ carries, but I have to see it to believe it. The Packers pass first and only run to keep defenses honest. They also drafted Jonathan Franklin and still have speedster Dujuan Harris who will get some touches. Add in the injury concerns (toe and hamstring) and this Packer may be over-drafted.

LeVeon Bell 6’1” 230 (4.60 40) – Bell enters a great situation in Pittsburgh as he is poised to enter the season as the No. 1 back if he steps up in camp. Bell has good size and is a load to bring down. The problem is that his top end speed is limited and it takes him a minute to get up there. Opportunity is half the battle and he will certainly have that.

Joseph Randle 6’0” 204 (4.63 40) – Randle is a good all-around back but is not great in any one area. He looks decent, if unspectacular, on tape. He has very good vision and is decisive with his breaks. What makes him a sneaky fantasy pick is DeMarco Murray’s penchant for injuries and an offense with weapons such as Jason Witten, Miles Austin and Dez Bryant drawing the attention of defenders and opening up running lanes. Randle is a nice flier with modest upside to target in the later stages of the draft. His lack of high-end speed, however, limits his ceiling.

Andre Ellington 5’9” 199 (4.61 40) – Don’t be deceived by Ellington’s lackluster 40 time at the Combine. He runs fast with pads on. He has lightning quick cutting ability with quick feet and high stride frequency. He’s a threat to score every time he totes the rock. He’s also very strong with perhaps the best balance and athleticism in this year’s running back draft class. He brings with him injury concerns but if healthy, he’s a sleeper due to Rashard Mendenhall’s and Ryan Williams’ health concerns.

Christine Michael 5’ 10” 220 (4.54 40) – Injuries and off the field issues scared some potential suitors away, but the Seahawks got a nice value at the end of the second round. Michael is very strong, with vision, burst and quickness. He’s not easy to tackle, leveraging his legs well to churn out extra yards after contact. His biggest problem in terms of immediate fantasy value is the presence of Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin ahead of him on the depth chart. Unless Lynch receives discipline from his pending DUI incident, Michael is more of a late target in draft champions formats or a potential waiver play later in the season if injuries strike the Seahawks backfield.

As draft prep season amps up, this week we’ll unpack some deeper WR options that may not be relevant on draft day in regular NFFC leagues but may be waiver worthy later in the season or serviceable in draft champions formats that dig as deep as 30 rounds or more.

Keenan Allen 6’2” 206 (4.73 40) – Many compare him to Anquan Boldin. We shall see. You can’t teach speed, so that is one skill he’ll never be able to learn. Watch him during the preseason to see if he can still beat press coverage at the next level. The corners in the NFL are bigger and stronger than those in the PAC 10. If he excels there, he may get enough snaps to contribute. He is a decent blocker.

Aaron Dobson 6’2” 210 (4.43 40) – Has the speed and physical skill set to succeed but will enter camp as somewhat of a project. He will need to grasp the Patriots' system very fast and then beat out the more experienced Julian Edelman and Donald Jones, along with fellow rookie Josh Boyce. If he does that he would become, at best, Tom Brady’s fourth option in the passing game since the Patriots use their tight ends like wide receivers. On the other hand, both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are battling ailments that could bring their availability to start the season in question, and Danny Amendola has become a poster child for the injury prone.

Robert Woods 6’0” 201 (4.51 40) – He has adequate but not great speed and physical prowess. However, he is rated as being very pro ready due to his experience in USC’s pro system. Woods possesses very good vision and is quick in and out of breaks. His chances of making an impact in 2013 are better than most rookies due to the lack of competition for the No. 2 wide receiver role in Buffalo.

Markus Wheaton 5’11” 199 (4.45 40) – I need to watch more tape and keep an eye on how he performs in the preseason, but in pads he doesn’t seem as fast to me in and out of breaks as he does to others. Nevertheless, he will compete with Emmanuel Sanders for the No. 2 receiver job opposite Antonio Brown, which bodes very well for his fantasy prospects.

Corey Fuller 6’2” 204 (4.32 40) – He will need to beat out a full crew of WR’s (Mike Thomas, Brian Robiskie, Kris Durham and others) just to secure the No. 4 receiver slot, but if he does, he could be a sneaky pick. Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles are not ironmen and in the Lions' offense any top-3 WR with a decent number of snaps is worth a look. He’s got the top-end speed to make defenders pay if they make a mistake.

Terrance Williams 6’2” 208 (4.52 40) – Williams works the sidelines well, has good hands and is faster than you think in pads. More importantly, Miles Austin and Dez Bryant have shown a propensity for getting dinged up, so Williams should get a number of serviceable starts this year as a No. 2 if either of them misses time.

Ryan Swope – 6’2” 205 (4.34 40) – Projects to have limited snaps as the No. 4 to start off and will likely need injuries to those ahead on the depth chart to have a fantasy impact, but Swope is a fireball that packs a punch. He’s tough and isn’t afraid to take defenders head on.  He can also fly as his combine time can attest.

Quinton Patton 6’0” 204 (4.53 40) – Patton is a solid receiver with great vision. He is very creative with the ball in space with excellent juke ability to make defenders miss. The problem is that with Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, Mario Manningham, AJ Jenkins and Kyle Williams in the stable, snaps may be few and far between.

Marquise Goodwin  5’9” 183 (4.27 40) – Yes, you read that 40 time correctly. The fastest receiver in the 2013 draft lacks size but no corner will be able to stay with him if he breaks free. He’s worth a late flier in DC formats for the occasional home run.

Denard Robinson 5’10” 199 (4.43 40) – An electric playmaker with the ball in his hands, the Wolverine quarterback may be used at running back, wide receiver, special teams and quite possibly all three. He’s still raw, so expect minimal impact outside of a couple highlight reel returns.

The necessary evil that is H2H in Fantasy Football has led to an inglorious finale for my 2012 post season, but even when I’m sweating it out, close to the big carrot, my attention shifts this time of year to preparation for the forthcoming season.  The data and impressions from the current year will never be fresher than they are now, making it the perfect time to start doing the work that will lead to 2013 draft cheatsheets and targets.

Many things will drive the fantasy market next September, the cumulative stats compiled over the 16 game season is one of them, however there is nothing magical about using that particular cross section of games over  another, and if one focuses solely on one in particular, some trends and indicators will be masked.  I like to take as many cross sections as possible, look at any outliers and then research any trends they may lie behind them.  After all, our job as players is to identify errors in the market.  That becomes an impossible task without data.  The starting point will be this year’s performance based on cumulative stats.  Next I’ll pour through as many cross sections of data as possible.  I’ll do this at each and every position.  I’ll spot the outliers, research, and determine whether enough information supports adjusting future expectations.

Here’s an example looking at the season versus the last ten weeks for QB and RB.

TOP 24 QB’s by average points per game
Tom Brady – 25.4
Drew Brees – 25.0
Robert Griffin III – 25.0
Cam Newton – 24.4
Aaron Rodgers – 23.8
Matt Ryan – 22.9
Peyton Manning – 22.8
Andrew Luck – 22.4
Matthew Stafford – 21.8
Ben Roethlisberger – 21.7
Tony Romo – 21.4
Andy Dalton – 20.8
Carson Palmer – 20.5
Michael Vick – 20.0
Josh Freeman - 19.7
Russell Wilson – 19.1
Joe Flacco – 18.7
Matt Schaub – 18.4
Sam Bradford – 17.9
Eli Manning – 17.7
Ryan Fitzpatrick – 17.4
Kevin Kolb – 17.3
Philip Rivers – 17.3
Jake Locker – 16.9
Top 24 QB’s average points per game (last 10 weeks – 4 starts minimum)
Tom Brady - 26.5
Cam Newton - 26.0
Robert Griffin III - 25.3
Aaron Rodgers - 24.4
Drew Brees - 23.1
Tony Romo - 22.8
Russell Wilson - 22.7
Matthew Stafford - 22.5
Peyton Manning - 22.2
Colin Kaepernick 21.8(6 starts)
Josh Freeman - 21.8
Andrew Luck - 21.4
Carson Palmer - 21.2
Ben Roethlisberger - 20.7
Matt Ryan - 20.6
Andy Dalton - 20.3
Sam Bradford - 19.7
Jake Locker - 18.8(4 starts)
Michael Vick - 18.8
Matt Schaub - 18.8
Joe Flacco - 17.4
Philip Rivers - 16.7
Ryan Fitzpatrick – 16.0
Nick Foles – 15.8(5 starts)

Pete Carroll had the training wheels on Russell Wilson early in the season but everyone knows they’re off now.  Wilson has produced the 7th most fantasy points among QB’s the last 6 weeks and since week 8 is ranked third with 24.2 ppg.  Kaepernick has also emerged as a viable QB1.  This isn’t rocket science and the market may adjust accordingly next fall, but you might be surprised how many times the market ignores these trends or doesn’t adjust enough.

Top 24 RB’s average points per game
Adrian Peterson – 22.0
Arian Foster – 20.1
Doug Martin - 19.2
Knowshon Moreno – 18.7(4 starts)
Ray Rice – 18.2
Trent Richardson – 17.5
LeSean McCoy – 16.9
Marshawn Lynch – 16.7
DeMarco Murray – 15.8
C.J. Spiller – 15.7
Darren Sproles – 15.6
Frank Gore – 15.1
Jamaal Charles – 14.8
Willis McGahee – 14.7
Matt Forte – 14.4
Alfred Morris – 14.2
Darren McFadden -  14..1
Chris Johnson - 14.0
Mikel Leshoure – 13.6
Ahmad Bradshaw – 13.1
Stevan Ridley – 13.0
Maurice Jones-Drew – 12.7
BenJarvus Green-Ellis – 12.6
Fred Jackson – 12.3
Reggie Bush – 12.3
Top 24 RB’s average points per game(last 10 weeks – 4 starts minimum)
Adrian Peterson - 25.9
Doug Martin – 22.5
Arian Foster – 19.6
Bryce Brown – 19.5
Knowshon Moreno – 18.7
Chris Johnson – 17.5
Marshawn Lynch – 17.4
LeSean McCoy – 17.2
Ray Rice – 17.0
Trent Richardson – 16.4
Darren Sproles – 16.2
C.J. Spiller – 15.3
Fred Jackson – 15.2
Frank Gore – 15.0
Matt Forte – 14.8
Steven Jackson – 14.4
Shonn Greene – 14.3
Darren McFadden – 14.2
Alfred Morris – 13.6
BenJarvus Green Ellis – 13.5
Willis McGahee – 13.3
Mikel Leshoure – 12.9
Jamaal Charles – 12.1
Ahmad Bradshaw – 11.9

The most noteworthy revelation is the conspicuous absence of the perennial preseason demigod Ryan Mathews.  I anticipate encountering the usual hype next summer.  Why expect anything else?  Just don’t forget he failed sniff anything more than middling RB3 value at any point during the season.  It will be interesting to see where in the first round the market places Doug Martin.  Meanwhile a heavy workload has spawned 1st round production from Knowshon Moreno over the last 4 weeks, but there remains much uncertainty surrounding his usage down the road. Bryce Brown was a target of mine in draft champions leagues based on how he looked in the preseason and his blue chip status many moons ago.  He’s the real deal but ball security issues, inexperience, and the presence of LeSean McCoy cloud any early prognostication.  At a minimum Brown’s presence is a serious threat to Slim Shady’s fantasy stock.

The 2013 NFL Draft has come to a close, and now everybody and their cousin is scouring the draft board to identify that rookie that will become the next big thing, as well they should. That’s what makes this hobby such a challenge and so much fun, trying to prove our analytical mettle to be above our peers. However, when it comes to fantasy draft day, those who want to finish in the winner’s circle will need to sift through the noise and identify those who will actually put up numbers. Those who draft rookies are just the fools that chase the shiny new toy, right? It seems that way, but let us look at some numbers from 2012, where the hot rookie wide receiver commodities went in High Stakes draft formats, and how they ranked in terms of actual point production against other wide receivers over the course of the season.

Rookie WR

Early NFFC 14 Team Satellite WR Draft Position

FFWC 12 Team WR Draft Position

Actual Point Production Ranking – WR’s

Justin Blackmon

50th

33rd

29th

Kendall Wright

53rd

40th

45th

Brian Quick

56th

69th

121st

Michael Floyd

62nd

76th

65th

Stephen Hill

69th

72nd

96th

Alshon Jeffery

65th

66th

82nd

Rueben Randle

66th

Not Drafted

89th

T.Y. Hilton

Not Drafted

82nd

31st

I feel that Justin Blackmon had his own tier all to himself. Looking at his tape, Blackmon was my standout favorite rookie at any position. One has to wonder what might have been if he hadn’t held out so long. Over the last five weeks of the season, the Jaguar phenom ranked 20th overall among WR’s, scoring at a 14.2 ppg clip (compare A.J. Green at 13.8 ppg). We all know the dangers of small sample sizes, but they are useful to illustrate possibilities. Land mines such as Brian Quick will always be there, but overall the market did a pretty decent job of pinpointing the proper targets.  Blackmon, Wright and Hilton all gave a good return and Floyd was closer to par value. Michael Floyd finished a relatively strong 34th over the last five games.  Don’t forget he’ll have Carson Palmer feeding him the rock in 2013. T.Y. Hilton was good enough to finish 27th over the final five matchups.

In a recent 2013 NFFC 14-team satellite, these sophomores were ranked thusly among WR picks: Justin Blackmon 21st, T.Y. Hilton 29th, Kendall Wright 46th, Michael Floyd 47th, Rueben Randle 58th, Alshon Jeffrey 61st, Brian Quick 63rd and Stephen Hill 70th.

It will be interesting to watch ADP data over the coming weeks. Clocking a 4.34 40 time, I can see visions of T.Y. Hilton dance in drafters heads as they ruminate on the impact Tavon Austin could have manning the slot in St. Louis. Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s not forget the presence of Brian Quick and Chris Givens (4.41 40).  Sam Bradford threw 552 times for 3,702 yards while Andrew Luck tossed it 627 times for 4,374 yards. The Rams also lack a veteran like Reggie Wayne to pull away defenders. My eyes will be on Tavon in the preseason to see how he is deployed.  He’s got great top end speed and tremendous acceleration to go with it. He can also change directions in the blink of an eye and has excellent vision.

Cordarrelle Patterson stands 6’2”, weighs 216, and yet still boasts a 4.42 40. With Adrian Peterson and Greg Jennings begging for attention from defenders, Patterson lands in a great spot in the twin cities. The guy is a playmaker with the ball in his hands in the open field. If the league you play in gives credit for special teams TD’s, Cordarrelle gets a small boost in value as he was a great returner for the Volunteers.

DeAndre Hopkins lacks top end speed, but if he earns enough snaps he’ll have the benefit of Arian Foster pulling the defense into the box and Andre Johnson gobbling up the best cornerbacks.

At 6’4” with a 4.44 40, Justin Hunter is someone to track, but with Kenny Britt, Kendall Wright and Nate Washington already in house, his first year impact may be minimal.

Roger Goodell has floated the idea of changing the kickoff rules.  Originally concocted by Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano, after a touchdown or field goal, instead of kicking off, the team gets the ball at their own 30 with the down and distance of 4th and 15. The idea being in lieu of an onside kick, the team could attempt to get the first down but if they fail, they leave the opposition with great field position. The motivation is safety as fewer injuries should occur on the punt if the team opts not to go for it than there would have been on the kickoff ensuing the score.

Most media outlets have focused on poo-pooing the punt option.  To this writer, of greater interest is the ‘4th and 15’ option, which would in effect replace the onside kick.  Under the new, current onside rules, the odds recovering an onside kick are not much different than owning a winning Powerball ticket.  I don’t know about you but that’s not entertaining.  Does anyone truly await lotto numbers with bated breath anticipating becoming a millionaire?  OK, so I am exaggerating a little bit.  They’re not that rare, they just seem like it.  They’re not as rare as a blocked extra point, but successful attempts when the defense is expecting it are uncommon enough that it eliminates some of the suspense.  I think Goodell’s idea is interesting, but if implemented it needs to be ‘4th and 10’ in order to give a team that’s down a more realistic chance of coming back.  As it is, when one team gets the lead they usually tend to sit on it once the 4th quarter rolls around.  No longer primarily focused on moving the ball across the plane and into the end zone, the challenge now becomes taking time off of the clock.  Riveting.  In essence, it’s less about competing against the other team and more about shortening the game to avoid further competition.  As a Knowshon Moreno owner in the FFWC Postseason playoffs, I loved the 20+ touches number 27 received in the second half.  It was enjoyable for me personally because he was racking up fantasy points in my quest for $200,000, but from a pure football spectator standpoint it wasn’t overly impressive or entertaining.

I think the proposed kicking changes don’t go far enough.  Imagine an NFL world in which punts, at least as we know them, were eliminated. Why?  Because they reward failure and give teams with leads an incentive to become conservative, take the air out of the football and shorten the game.  They allow the primary focus of the offense to shift away from moving the football down the field and into the end zone.  Isn’t the spirit of the game centered on the offense using their strength, their force, their will, intelligence, and strategy, to move the pigskin down the field into the end zone?  The job of the defense is to thwart such efforts.  Succeed and you are awarded six points, fail and you must relinquish the ball.  The defense is awarded the ball and now becomes the offense.  Why should that reward for stopping the offense be cheapened by allowing a punt to improve the field position of those that failed?  The importance of getting a first down is actually diluted by the punt option.  Think of the intensity if you faced a 4th and 5 from your own 12-yard line but you’re not allowed to punt.  If you failed to pick up the first down there would be real consequences for the offense and significant rewards for the defense.  However with the punt option in play it’s not that big of a deal.  I bet you’d see fewer teams sitting on leads if they’re facing a turnover on downs in their own territory if they fail to convert.  Eliminating the punt would force teams to truly compete regardless of the size of their lead.

***************************************

My fantasy Christmas came a little early this year.  I received a lump of coal from James Jones and postcard with a picture of Donnie Avery trying to catch a touchdown pass with his facemask.

Over the last four weeks Danario Alexander is the 5th most productive Wide Receiver. Justin Blackmon is ranked 8thJosh Gordon is quietly ranked 17th over that stretch.  Bilal Powel is averaging over 13 points per game over the last four and Trent Richardson 20.5.

Now is the time to get your cheat sheets ready for next year when the data is fresh.  I do this every year and you’d be surprised how accurate the lists are in their pristine state, before they are ‘corrupted’ by the preseason hype of the forthcoming year.

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