When Jamaal Charles emasculated would-be Oakland tacklers to the tune of 215 combined yards and five touchdowns nearly six months ago your championship dreams went spiraling down the drain. You thought, "If only the Raiders still had Ted Hendricks or were armed with bazookas …"
Since then, to keep the events of that fateful day off your mind, you've drowned in adult beverages, dabbled in other fantasy sports and even exercised. Sadly, the pain lingers.
Pick your chin up, gamer. Your chance at redemption is just around the corner.
Are you prepared?
Prospective owners are returning to the virtual game in droves and again consuming information in large quantities. As a result, several newsy items jumping off RSS feeds have already begun to sway public opinion, an annual seduction that, in some cases, artificially inflates/deflates draft day prices.
Last year, rumblings about Jordan Cameron, Steven Jackson, Lamar Miller and Tavon Austin planted deep-rooted views that dominated perceptions for weeks. As someone who bought a first-class ticket on the Danny Amendola hype train, I should know.
Hey, win some, lose most.
With June minicamps and OTAs winding down, the NFL is about to enter the doldrums. From now until the end of July, little news outside arrests, unforeseen off-the-field injuries and inevitable levied suspensions (Josh Gordon and Ray Rice) will make waves. Heck, a Peyton Manning fart, Rob Gronkowski pool party or Johnny Manziel champagne chug would probably warrant a headline. It's that time of year. Inevitably any events/quotes/setbacks that occurred over the past month will simmer, possibly leading even the most unimpressionable owner astray.
In an attempt to filter out the nonsense, and get your feet wet for the fall, here are a dozen concrete observations from minicamp/OTAs:
Toby Gerhart is going to pull the plow in Jacksonville.
Ox. Horse. Mule. Domesticated elephant. Gerhart may resemble them all. Last year only LeSean McCoy and Marshawn Lynch surpassed the 300-carry mark. This season, the ex-Viking is sure to lead the charge in the category. Yes, questions regarding the Jacksonville offensive line, a unit that ranked dead last in run-blocking in '13, remain and the blowout factor is ever-present, but Gus Bradley is a clock-minded coach who will feed Gerhart up to 20-25 times per game. As Jags GM David Caldwell recently confirmed, the rusher will receive "the bulk of the carries."
Enough with the stereotypes. The man averaged 4.5 yards per carry and 91.3 combined yards per game in six career starts in Minnesota. Over his four-year career he also gained 59.7 percent of his yards after contact. Thickly built, blessed with excellent hands, tough inside and effective in pass protection, he's an every-down battering ram who is destined for a top-20 campaign. You're robbing the blind at his current 86.6 Yahoo ADP (RB24). As with New York's Rashad Jennings, another highly undervalued RB, invest in the volume.
Regarding Zac Stacy not guaranteed the starting job, Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has planted a flag atop bull(expletive) mountain.
If you're buying into Tre Mason overtaking Stacy on the Rams depth-chart, I'm selling magic pills that can make you instantly muscular, attractive and ever-lasting in the sack for a mere $500 per bottle. Buy some.
Because of Mason's lacking efforts in pass protection and diminutive stature, it's highly unlikely he'll push a wrecking ball back off an impressive 1,114 combined yard, 8-TD rookie campaign (in 13 games). Post-Dispatch writer Jim Thomas recently dismissed Schotty's comments noting they were nothing more than 'coachspeak.' His assertion is 100 percent correct.
Stacy, going on average around pick No. 19 overall in Yahoo drafts, is a borderline RB1 in 12-team formats. Yes he compiled an uneventful 3.89 yards per carry in '13, but he gained 62.7 percent of his yards after contact and ranked No. 8 among rushers with at least 100 snaps in pass-blocking (h/t Pro Football Focus). Also equipped with above average hands – he caught 26 of 28 catchable balls last year – he is a balanced back who should only relinquish playing time when he needs a breather. Count on him receiving 18-22 touches per contest.
Unsung rookie TE Richard Rodgers has Julius Thomas-like appeal.
Unfamiliar with Green Bay's other Rodgers? You're not alone. Overshadowed by higher picks Eric Ebron and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the third-round pick attracted little to no attention post-Draft. But that may soon change. According to Pack insider Rob Demovsky, the virtual unknown is tracking ahead of Andrew Quarless for the starting TE job. This summer, Rodgers has impressed with highlight reel catches and work ethic receiving positive grades from head coach Mike McCarthy while earning OTA MVP honors.
Like Aaron, Richard is a Cal product. He doesn't possess the explosiveness or big-play ability of an Ebron, but his terrific body control, height and tacky hands label him a reliable in-line target, particularly near the red-zone. On a team that targeted tight ends 110 times last fall, 76 of those to plus-sized options not named Jermichael Finley, he could be sneaky good. Tight end is extremely deep, but he's worth an end-game pick in 12-team and deeper formats. Monitor his training camp closely.
Argh! The Bucs' proposed runnin' back by commit-yay should have owners shakin' in their boots.
That's right mateys. This writer, who stupidly ranked Martin No. 1 among RBs last year, is jumping ship.
As discussed previously, Tedford isn't a one-back kind of guy. During his 11-year career calling the shots at Cal, only Marshawn and J.J. Arrington exceeded 20 touches per game in a season. And they each only did it once. In fact, later on in his tenure, he was increasingly supportive of an RBBC, rotating current and former NFL talents Jahvid Best, Shane Vereen and C.J. Anderson.
Last year, Martin was in the midst of a sophomore slump prior to succumbing to a shoulder injury. Tracked by PFF, his elusive rating ('12: 58.2, '13: 20.2) and breakaway percentage (33.1, 26.1) fell off the cliff. So did his yards per carry ('12: 4.56, '13: 3.59). Much of the reduction was due to an underachieving offensive line, Kim-Jong Schiano and a change at QB, but the blips were certainly startling. Adding Josh McCown and Mike Evans should help, but only 15 touches per game is completely believable. There's a reason why the Bucs drafted Charles Sims inside the top-70. And let's not forget Mike James and Bobby Rainey, each productive in spots last year, are still hanging around. With all that in mind, it's hard to justify Martin as a top-18 pick (17.1 ADP, RB9).
Whispers of an expanded role for Cordarrelle Patterson are turning into loud, ear-piercing screams.
When Patterson first stepped on a professional field, he was noticeably unpolished, particularly in the route-running department. Still, he matured greatly as the season wore on, hitting a crescendo Week 14 in Baltimore (5-141-1, return TD). Big, explosive and dynamic in the open-field, the weapon is expected to be a centerpiece in Norv Turner's vertical-attacking offense. Displaying considerable versatility in minicamp, he's advanced beyond that of a short, bubble-screen type WR. Turner clearly has plans to deploy him all over the field. Teammate Greg Jennings verified that belief last week revealing the Vikes' plan to "showcase" the sophomore target.
CP enticed just 4.8 targets per game last season. However, his top-four output during the fantasy playoffs (Weeks 14-17) certainly stirred the blood. Because of Minnesota's questionable stable of quarterbacks, many will continue to doubt the receiver's 2014 impact, but it's important to remember Matt Cassel wasn't a dumpster fire as the No. 1 last year. In six starts, the unfairly disparaged vet completed 61.4 percent of his attempts averaging 239.8 passing yards per game while notching a 9:7 TD:INT split. Rookie Teddy Bridgewater has also received accolades from Turner exhibiting excellent pocket poise, decision making and an "outstanding" deep ball. If the green QB gets the nod, he and Patterson could form a nasty 1-2 punch right away. Regardless who takes snaps Week 1, the wideout should deliver WR2 numbers with relative ease.
New Orleans' newly nicknamed "Lightning" Brandin Cooks, will spark a fantasy fire in Week 1.
Drew Brees has jumped on the bandwagon. So should you. The record-setting QB marveled at Cooks' speed, cutting ability, work ethic and versatility in minicamp suggesting the rookie is the club's true replacement for Darren Sproles. Scheduled to work more extensively with Brees in San Diego prior to training camp, the former Oregon St. star should establish an instant bond with the multi-time All-Pro.
Jimmy Graham is still the main man in the Saints' offense and an aging Marques Colston will continue to get 6-8 looks per game working inside and out, but it would be no surprise if Cooks attracts a similar workload. Recall Sproles registered 89 targets and 71 receptions in his final year with the Saints. And don't fret about Kenny Stills. He's essentially an updated version of Devery Henderson, a deep-only threat who will earn sporadic targets.
Cooks (110.4 Yahoo ADP, WR41), like fellow buzzy rookie Jordan Matthews, is a double-digit round WR bound to make serious noise this season. Bank on him being a starting lineup mainstay in PPR leagues. Approximately 70-75 receptions, 800-900 yards and a handful of touchdowns are in my fearless forecast.
Hue Jackson isn't fond of prolific-throwing gingers.
Elizabeth I. Chuck Norris. Obi-Won Kenobi. Those minature troll dolls your kid sister once adored. Andy Dalton. Jackson probably loathes them all.
Throughout the early summer, the offensive coordinator has hinted at a plan to cut Dalton's workload significantly, possibly slicing up to 100-150 attempts from last year. The ground game, featuring Gio Bernard and brutalizing rookie Jeremy Hill, is expected to be the basis of a conservative scheme.
Dalton was shockingly valuable from a fantasy perspective last year. The largely drafted QB2 finished with 308.1 points in traditional settings (4 pts/pass TD), an output which ranked No. 4 at his position. In reality, though, he was one of the league's poorest passers under pressure notching a 56.7 accuracy percentage when badgered (No. 23 in the NFL). Insiders believe Jackson's ball-possession offense will help alleviate mistakes in those high-heat situations and make Dalton more efficient overall, a sound strategy. However, with the volume turned down Raggedy Andy should be viewed as nothing more than a middling QB2 in fantasy.
Prospective investors will pop shoulders reaching for Christine Michael.
Many feel if they don't draft Michael in the middle rounds they will be a day late and a dollar short. The opposite, though, is true. No question he's an incredibly explosive talent who, as evidenced last preseason, albeit against third-stringers, possesses eye-popping skills. Pete Carroll to OC Darrell Bevell to Texas A&M's strength coach to 'Blitz' the mascot have talked up the newcomer. Bevell has even declared an RBBC will be installed with Michael carving out a noteworthy role. But don't bite.
The immature rusher has refined his pass-blocking, an area that handicapped him last year. At this point, I could see him getting 8-10 touches per game in a change-of-pace role. That's it. With Marshawn a cut candidate after this season, the 'Hawks definitely need to get Michael regular season experience. Still Lynch will remain the focal point on the ground. No coach would be dumb enough to significantly reduce the role of a RB who trucked over fools to the tune of 1,573 combined yards and 14 total touchdowns the season before.
Michael is one splashy preseason run away from being a top-100 pick (136.3 Yahoo ADP). He's a fantastic keeper league buy in the middle rounds, but for redrafters, Terrance West, Lamar Miller, Carlos Hyde, Jeremy Hill and Bernard Pierce are better later round options.
Montee Ball is bound to blow up.
I've already laid out my case for Ball as an RB1 and top-10 overall pick. If you're too lazy to click the link, devote the following stat to long-term memory: RBs who've taken handoffs from No. 18 have averaged 1,518 combined yards and 10.4 total touchdowns per year.
Reports from Broncos central have detailed the rusher's rapid improvement in receiving and pass protection. Match that to OC Adam Gase's persistent chatter Ball has made 'big strides' and it's misguided not to think a breakthrough is on the horizon. Critics will point to last season's miscues, but recall what a mediocre Knowshon Moreno accomplished in that offense. That's right, top-five numbers. Roughly 1,500 total yards with 12-15 TDs is no hallucinogenic dream.
Doughshon Moreno is a wasted pick, no matter the round.
When Moreno orders a pizza he always springs for extra cheese. That's what we've learned about the tubby RB this offseason. He came to minicamp overweight and out of shape, a condition which instantly put him in Joe Philbin's doghouse. As a result, Lamar Miller worked exclusively with the first team, getting a leg up on the veteran. Worse yet for Blowshon, he underwent a knee scope last week making him a possible PUP candidate when training camp opens in late July. After cranking out RB1 numbers in Denver, he's on the verge of going from fantasy penthouse to poorhouse in one year.
Miami is a bit of a black hole for fantasy RBs. Repercussions from the Richie Icognito scandal coupled with Mike Pouncey's three-month absence (torn hip) has the offensive line in shambles and, though the new Philly-styled offense under Bill Lazor is interesting, this is a franchise loaded with question marks. Will Ryan Tannehill thrive? Can Mike Wallace bounce back? Will the 'Fins' fair to Midland defense keep games close? Again questions ... In most cases, situation masks talent, especially when that woefully average talent plays alongside Peyton.
Unless Moreno heals quickly and suddenly resembles the player seen in 2013, a full-blown RBBC, likely headed by Miller, will be instituted. Drafting the ex-Bronco anywhere close to his current 88.1 ADP is moronic, esepcially when more promising rushers Gerhart, Joique Bell and Shane Vereen are going around the same time.
Rob Gronkowski has ventured into equally vague, eerily similar territory.
On June 24, Boston Globe writer Ben Volin expressed skepticism about Gronk's availability when regular season action gets underway in September. Like last year, the Pats are being overly cautious with their tight end in the hopes that once he returns to the lineup, he'll remain there for the rest of the season.
The glass-fragile target has missed a whopping 14 games over the past two years undergoing procedures on his ankle, forearm (four of them), back and knee. Still, when in uniform, he's dropkicked the competition averaging at least 11.9 fantasy points per game in standard formats since 2011. He's as valuable to the TE position as Calvin Johnson is to WRs, though Jimmy Graham also has an argument. In fact, if he was a WR, a 16-game Gronk would be a top-five contributor. Still Volin's speculation lends pause. It's possible we may not see the TE until mid-October, greatly complicating where he should be selected on draft day. Ask yourself, is eight games of Gronk (48.1 ADP) worth a top-50 pick? For the sake of my sanity, I would rather entrust Jordan Cameron (57.0) or Vernon Davis (41.3) at that price point.
Ben Tate is not an RB2 and isn't worth anywhere close to a top-60 pick
Quoted in the Plain Dealer Saturday, Browns shot caller Mike Pettine tossed out "committee" when asked about his backfield, a revelation which instantly diminished Tate's value. He did compliment the veteran's zone-blocking familiarity and downhill quickness, but the head coach seemed equally, if not more, enamored with rookie Terrance West. Pettine has marveled at how the kid's "dancer-type feet" work in concert with his 230-pound frame and how well he's executed within the system.
As I've discussed beore, it's only a matter of time the tractor trailer from Towson asserts himself as the primary ball carrier. Evidenced by his obscene 2013 numbers (413-2509-41), he's a monster in the making. Best guess: Tate starts the season atop the depth-chart logging roughly 12-14 touches per game. West, meanwhile, tallies 10-12 totes from the onset before seizing the lion's share Week 6 when the fragile ex-Texan is carted off with some sort of physical ailment.
Tate, currently going some 30-40 picks before West in average Yahoo drafts, is the most overrated RB in fantasy. The youngster, however, is a rising talent worth reaching for anytime from Round 7 on in 12-team drafts.
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