What do the Hope Diamond, King Tutt’s tomb, the Madden video game series and this blatherskite have in common?
Virtually everything we encounter/touch/promote gets cursed.
Over the years, dozens of players tagged “All-Mancrush” drowned in an inescapable wake, victims of an unforeseen sinister wrath. Yes, some unrestrained infatuations circumvented disaster. Brandon Jacobs, Rashard Mendenhall, Pierre Thomas, Arian Foster, Le’Veon Bell, Melvin Gordon and Tyreek Hill were a few lustfully pursued names who panned out. Others, however, left hearts broken and rosters in squalor. Ameer Abdullah, Felix Jones, Ryan Mathews, Terrelle Pryor were just a few.
So many failures. So many fantasy obituaries.
As any fantasy owner can surely attest, individual players are often idolized in this obsessive little game. Professed infatuations commonly lead to lopsided trades, arm tendon tears and empty pockets. A few years back I shelled out the approximate street value of one kidney for Montee Ball. Yep, that catastrophe.
In honor of fantasy fixations everywhere, here is your must avoid list the Noise’s 2018 All-Mancrush team — obnoxious adjectives and hyperbole included:
QB: Cam Newton, Car (93.5 ADP, QB5) – If Sasquatch emerged from the backwoods of North Carolina and signed on to play tight end for the Panthers, Cam would find a way to overthrow him … repeatedly. Inaccuracy is the passer’s only downside. Over his past two campaigns, he ranked No. 32 or worse in overall completion percentage and red-zone completion percentage. He’s Blake Bortles with more productive legs.
However, due to his scoring duality, Newton remains a bargain buy at his Round 7-8 ADP in 12-team leagues. Since taking the league by storm in 2011, he finished QB4 or better five times. Norv Turner’s belief he can elevate the QB’s completion rate into the high-60s is a hallucination, but an increase use of play-action and quick throws can’t hurt. Adding rookie D.J. Moore, a prolific short-to-intermediate weapon while at Maryland who looked terrific in the Panthers’ Preseason opener (4-74-0), only boosts Newton’s profile. So does Carolina’s likely forgiving secondary. Shootouts on the horizon? It’s very possible. Add it up and It could be argued he’s in the best situation of his career. And, no, I’m not overly concerned about the supposed doomed offensive line. Collapsed pockets tend to spark opportunistic runs. Let’s not forget, too, Cam has finished QB4 or better in five of his first seven seasons, including a QB2 landing in 2017.
Recently elevated to my QB1 overall, Cam is about to blaze a trail to his finest fantasy season to date.
Fearless Forecast: 3,632 passing yards, 24 passing touchdowns, 14 interceptions, 701 rushing yards, 6 rushing touchdowns, 333.4 fantasy points, QB1
RB: Jordan Howard, Chi (24.7 ADP, RB14) – The raging debate regarding Howard’s fit in Matt Nagy’s offense has divided fantasy nation. Supporters are convinced he’ll operate as the early-down jackhammer and, if his reported tireless attempts to remedy his receiving ills pay off, surprise as a receiver. Conversely, critics argue Nagy’s “game specific” advocacy and very public love affair with Tarik Cohen point to a less substantial role for the incumbent. Extinguishing the negativity somewhat, Nagy declared Howard the team’s “featured back” in June, though an exact touch per game projection is anyone’s best guess. Under nincompoop John Fox, the masher tallied 60.7 percent of the opportunity share in 2017, which ranked RB11 among all NFL rushers. Duplicating last year’s workload in a new system is a sensible conclusion.
If Howard coats his hands in Gorilla Glue, he’s going to finish inside the RB top-10, provided Mitchell Trubisky advances the Bears air attack forward. Last fall, the RB encountered a base or stacked front 79.4 percent of the time according to Player Profiler. Chicago’s offensive line, which finished top-10 in run-blocking efficiency, did manage to create a few holes. Even against mostly unattractive fronts, Howard shuttled his way to the fourth-most runs of 15 or more yards. Additionally, he matched Zeke Elliott in tackles avoided per attempt (0.12). If the offense clicks, he’ll pile up salivating stats on upwards of 15-18 touches per game, many of those coming inside the red zone. It’s asinine he’s fallen to Round 3 in many formats. He was, after all, RB14 in PPR despite the buttery digits. The exaggerated disdain toward him needs to stop.
Fearless Forecast: 260 attempts, 1,099 rushing yards, 32 receptions, 232 receiving yards, 11 total touchdowns, RB11
RB: Royce Freeman, Den (61.1 ADP, RB26) – Many in the fantasy community still house considerable bitterness toward Denver running backs. Thanks to the misguided, deceiving ways of Lucifer Shanahan, owners mining for Rocky Mountain gold missed the memo on Reuben Droughns, Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell. As a result, they vowed to never again trust a Broncos back. But it’s time to rescind the blood pact.
Freeman is everything Vance Joseph needs and more. His stout build (6-feet, 235 pounds), quick feet (4.54 40-yard dash) and open-field shiftiness has him on the fast-track to overtake slouch Devontae Booker in short order. Keep in mind, the decorated former Duck accumulated 3.39 yards after contact per attempt and finished RB11 among all FBS rushers in elusive rating last year. Cleaning up in pass pro and offering more consistency as a receiver are necessities, but he’s the odds-on favorite to lead the Broncos in touches, netting 15-17 grips per game. Behind an offensive line that finished No. 9 in run-blocking efficiency according to Football Outsiders in 2017 and given the benefits of Denver’s overall offensive improvements, the Rolls Royce could very easily tally luxurious, top-15 fantasy numbers. His breakthrough performance Preseason Week 1 was just the beginning. In terms of running style and fantasy substance, he reminds me of Chicago’s battering ram mentioned above. Saddle him up.
Fearless Forecast: 256 attempts, 1,072 rushing yards, 31 receptions, 241 receiving yards, 8 total touchdowns, RB14
WR: Josh Gordon, Cle (51.9 ADP, WR26) – Accumulated rust be damned. Gordon, off a year-plus disappearance from professional football, showcased his world-class skills from the onset late last year. In five games, he enticed 26.4 percent of the target share, averaged a ridiculous 2.09 yards per route (WR13), 17.5 average depth of target (WR2) and chipped in 11.5 fantasy points per game. Extrapolate his 18-335-1 line over 16 games and he would’ve finished at 58-1072-4, nearly the same number of total fantasy points in .5 PPR as T.Y. Hilton. And that’s just scratching the surface. Other advanced analytics (e.g. success versus man/press coverage per #ReceptionPerception) paint a rosy picture. Again, that’s not too shabby considering the forced vacation and his horrendous quarterback play. Understand he finished WR86 in catchable targets percentage. Deshone Kizer, who would miss Cedar Point’s 205-foot Steel Vengeance from five yards out, overthrew him routinely.
Yes, Jarvis Landry is a volume receiver who will likely reduce Gordon’s workload, but they’re two very different weapons. Landry along with Duke Johnson and David Njoku’s presence in the short field could lead to more premium downfield looks, especially with fantasy #BurnerAccount, Corey Coleman, out of the equation.
More importantly, Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield are substantial upgrades at QB. Remember, Gordon tallied godlike numbers in 2013 with the likes of Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden and Brian Hoyer under center.
Due to his superior talents, ideal size and prominent role, he’s a bargain at his discounted ADP. A WR1-level season in 12-team leagues is on the horizon, assuming he returns to the team promptly.
Fearless Forecast: 73 receptions, 1,109 receiving yards, 8 touchdowns, 195.4 fantasy points, WR10
WR: Larry Fitzgerald, Ari (33.6 ADP, WR14) – In the not-so-distant future, bronze statues of Fitzgerald will glisten under the scorching Sonoran sun. The man is an Arizona institution, a dedicated, unflinching consistency king whose popularity in the area is only rivaled by Kurt Warner and John McCain. Some believe given his advanced age (35) he can’t possibly continue to crank out elite fantasy campaigns, but similar to Tom Brady his football DNA is more than your standard double helix.
Fitzgerald is one of my prime targets in .5-plus PPR leagues (34.7 ADP, WR15). He’s affordable, highly reliable and destined to hog targets on a Cardinals team somewhat devoid of quality pass catchers. Last year, he skewered defenses over the middle compiling a 71 percent success rate on catches between 4-7 yards. He also ranked top-12 in several additional advanced analytics categories, including contested catch rate, total yards after catch and red-zone receptions. Equally important, he’s tied to a pair of accurate short-field passers. Fantasy owners are familiar with Sam Bradford’s ability to throw strikes, but Josh Rosen, the most precise passer on intermediate pass plays among all FBS QBs last year according to Pro Football Focus, is also capable of threading needles.
Fitz owns the characteristics any fantasy owner with a functional brain craves. He’s a high-volume (27.2 TGT% in ’17), high-floor weapon who should again eclipse the 100-catch mark along with 1100 yards and 6-8 TDs. In other words, a repeat of his WR5 per game output in PPR is bankable. Draft him with supreme confidence.
Fearless Forecast: 105 receptions, 1,129 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns, 207.5 fantasy points, WR11
TE: Trey Burton, Chi (101.8 ADP, TE10) – Think of the former Eagle as the truculent grizzly from “The Revenant;” the competition prime DiCaprio flesh. He’s not the perfect size, but Burton is slippery in space, athletic, efficient and an overall route technician. In other words, he’s extremely difficult to cover over the middle of the field, particularly when facing zone coverage. On a per opportunity basis with Philly last year, he ranked No. 4 in the category (0.52 fpts/opp in PPR). All he was missing was a steady snap share (31.9% in ’17) and now he has it. Adam Shaheen’s presence is a dauntless roadblock.
Nagy is an aggressor when it comes to attacking defenses between the hashmarks and within 20 yards – slants, digs, sit-down routes. Trubisky, who excelled in two-TE 12-personnel sets last year (9.6 YPA, 50% success rate), meshes impeccably with his head coach’s philosophy. Burton (Anthony Miller too) is sure to be a primary read operating as Travis Kelce in this offense, possibly drawing 18-20 percent of the target share. Record that type of workload and a 65-825-8 season is reachable.
Fearless Forecast: 63 receptions, 712 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns, 132.7 fantasy points, TE6
FLEX: Jordan Wilkins, Ind, RB (173.4, RB58) – Every year a later-round or undrafted rookie RB free agent experiences a carpe diem moment. Two years ago Howard rocked the fantasy world. Last season, it was Jamaal Williams. This fall, Wilkins owns a similar potential.
Selected in Round 5 of the NFL draft, the Ole Miss product shouldn’t be underrated. In a breakthrough campaign for the Rebels he amassed a 155-1011-9/26-241-1 line over 12 games. Beyond scratching the surface, he also racked an outstanding 3.32 yards after contact per attempt, 23.8 missed tackle percentage on all touches and finished RB7 in elusive rating among all FBS backs according to Pro Football Focus. He’s an upright runner, but his size (6-foot-1, 218-pounds), multidimensional skills, power between the tackles and slipperiness visually impress. Colts RBs coach Tom Rathman, who recently talked up the youngster’s vision and physicality, agrees. With Marlon Mack sidelined for the next 2-3 weeks (hammy) and Robert Turbin suspended to start the season, Wilkins has an enormous opportunity to wrest away first-team reps. No, Christine Michael isn’t a thing, you loons.
If Andrew Luck regenerates and the offensive line fronted by prized rookie Quenton Nelson progresses, the youngster could convince Colts coaches he’s their true RB of the present. As owners go gaga over Mack (91.8 ADP) and Nyheim Hines (132.1) much earlier, sneak Wilkins on your roster and ridicule their idiocy.
Fearless Forecast: 183 attempts, 788 rushing yards, 19 receptions, 135 receiving yards, 5 total touchdowns, 131.8 fantasy points, RB30
Want more “Noise?” Follow Brad on Twitter @YahooNoise, download his award-nominated podcast “The Fantasy Record” and check out Season 3 of “The Fantasy Football Hour” on regional sports networks nationwide starting August 23.