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For the past several years, the Noise has lived a double-life. By day, I maintain a conventional existence playing the role of husband, father, terrier lover and, on Thursdays, foul-mouthed tequila imbiber. However, come nightfall, I walk a much different line, transforming into a connoisseur of the mantastic.
It’s true, when it comes to fantasy football, I’m admittedly a proud lush. Over the years, my fantasy feels were unrestrained. Brandon Jacobs, Rashard Mendenhall, Pierre Thomas, Arian Foster, Le’Veon Bell and Melvin Gordon are just a few once unheralded names that were lustfully pursued. Those infatuations largely paid off. Others like Ameer Abullah, Felix Jones and Ryan Mathews, however, left my heart broken and rosters in squalor.
In a game where individual players are idolized owners can empathize. Professed obsessions commonly lead to lopsided trades, arm tendon tears and empty pockets. Don’t even ask how much I paid for Montee Ball in an auction a few years back (Think the approximate street value of one kidney).
In honor of fantasy fixations everywhere, here is
your must avoid list the Noise’s 2017 All Man-Crush team — ridiculous adjectives and hyperbole included:
Marcus Mariota, Ten, QB (97.5, QB8) – People with memory lapses tend to forget how volcanic the native Hawaiian was for a large chunk of 2016. From Weeks 5-12 he erupted, netting the third-most valuable passer line in fantasy, a stretch he completed 67.4 percent of his attempts, averaged 259.1 passing yards per game, 29.8 rushing yards per game and tallied a 25:3 TD:INT (two rushing) split. He was also dynamite inside the red zone (QB9 in RZ completion%) and downfield (QB8 in deep-ball completion%) while also padding the bottom line on the ground (24.3 rush ypg).
With Corey Davis and Eric Decker now running routes in Tennessee, I suspect Terry Robskie removes padlock from playbook and features more spread formations. Last year, the Titans ranked dead last in percentage of three-wide receiver sets (42, NFL average: 60). Fully recovered from a broken leg, Mariota is about to become a QB top-five megastar. There simply isn’t a better mid-draft option at the position.
Fearless Forecast: 4,087 passing yards, 30 passing touchdowns, 395 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns
Ty Montgomery, GB, RB (40.1 ADP, RB16) – Similar to a freshwater sturgeon traversing a frozen Wisconsin lake, Montgomery is a rare sight. Though deployed only occasionally last year, he was nothing short of dominant on a per touch basis. The advanced numbers don’t lie. Last year, Monty ranked top-five among running backs in juke rate (RB3) – he forced 17 missed tackles alone against rival Chicago Week 15 – yards after contact per attempt (2.8, RB1) and breakaway run percentage (RB2). And he accomplished that level of production “acting on instincts.” With a full offseason to work on his biggest weakness, stonewalling blitzers, he busts out in a big way in 2017.
Yes, Jamaal Williams will work into Green Bay’s backfield flow. Mike McCarthy was always going to employ some sort of running back by committee. And, no, Monty’s mysterious lower leg injury isn’t overly concerning. Once camp breaks, No. 88 registers roughly 13-15 touches per game. If his effectiveness is anything close to last year’s 6.7 yards per touch, he’ll toe the RB1 line in 12-team leagues, especially PPR. Remember he plays alongside arguably the best quarterback in the game, Aaron Rodgers, who was the primary reason why Monty saw light fronts a jaw-dropping 89.6 percent of the time in ’16. Ty one on, #TeamHuevos.
Fearless Forecast: 159 carries, 890 rushing yards, 51 receptions, 404 receiving yards, 9 total touchdowns
Bilal Powell, NYJ, RB (69.1, RB27) – I know what you’re thinking, “A Jet?! Really?! Man, those brownies in Denver (my home) are quite strong!” But featuring Powell on this list was done with complete sobriety and clarity.
Few Puddle Jumpers are worthy of a roster spot, but the crafty veteran back most definitely is. Last year, he showcased his three-down wares once thrust into a featured role. From Weeks 14-17 he logged a December to remember, posting the second-most valuable line among running backs (5.0 ypc, 138.0 total yards per game, 3 TDs). Diving deeper, he also compiled 14 missed tackles and a 3.2 YAC over that four-game span.
Overall, “Boom Boom” is a better-than-advertised inside runner. He’s also an accomplished receiver and difficult to corral in space. Among RBs, he ranked No. 14 in juke rate last season. His backfield compadre, Matt Forte, meanwhile, checked in at No. 56 in the category and was one of the worst qualifying backs in yards after contact per touch (No. 61). Nearly three years Forte’s junior and with 2,067 fewer career touches under his belt, Powell packs more across-the-board punch.
My best guess is New York installs a 60-40 platoon Week 1 at Buffalo with Powell shouldering the heavy side (14-15 touches per game). If Forte doesn’t recover soon from a hamstring setback, the speculated distribution will only widen. Essentially, Powell should provide owners with significant versatility and value, particularly in PPR leagues. The Jets’ suspect defense boosts his garbage time appeal. Heck, they’re already down 21-0 in every game.
Fearless Forecast: 191 carries, 842 rushing yards, 58 receptions, 435 receiving yards, 6 total touchdowns
Terrelle Pryor, Was, WR (38.7 ADP, WR18) – The converted quarterback is my ultimate bae. Already this month, my fingers have typed hundreds of superlatives about the receiver. Is my adoration unhealthy? Possibly, but I have my justifications.
For starters, he compiled WR2 numbers last year with punchlines Josh McCown, Robert Griffin III, Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan and Charlie Whitehurst hurling wingless paper airplanes in his general direction. It was arguably THE most heroic campaign of the season next to Kenny Britt’s 1,000-yard effort in Los Angeles. And he achieved that in his first full season as a wide receiver. Unprecedented. Exchanging his Factory of Sadness punch card for a gig in Washington’s Factory of Fun, his worth rockets skyward. His viral videos from training camp are merely a warmup.
Kirk Cousins sorely needs to improve in red-zone efficiency, an area the receiver notched top-notch numbers with the Browns (69.2 catch rate in ’16). Sure Jordan Reed, Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson will challenge him for targets, but Pryor could match 2016’s share total (141). Keep in mind, Washington castoffs DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon accounted for 37.1 percent of the club’s vertical workload a season ago. Currently my WR8 (I’m a sick puppy!), Pryor turns a massive profit for his investors.
Fearless forecast: 90 receptions, 1,211 receiving yards, 9 touchdowns
Tyreek Hill, KC, WR (43.9, WR23) – He’s too small. He’s tied to Alex Smith and Andy Reid. He’s still relatively unproven. … These are common arguments Hill haters spew when talking themselves out of the wide receiver, a terrible mistake. History says their gripes are reasonable, but the ‘Freak’ is about to get nasty. According to Reception Perception, last year he ranked No. 3, behind Antonio Brown and Willie Snead, in getting open whether against man, zone or press coverage. Equally impressive, he totaled outstanding success rates on myriad routes. Bottom line, doubter comps to Cordarrelle Patterson are unfounded and laughable. Unlike the former Viking, Hill’s route tree actually has branches.
Reflecting on ’16, Hill ranked No. 5 in total output at the position Weeks 8-17 netting 47 receptions, 724 combined yards (rush/receiving) and six touchdowns. Most importantly, he accomplished that seeing just 20.2 percent of the targets share. His home-run hitting ability and scoring diversity explained his amazing efficiency. In terms of fantasy points scored per target (2.42) only Taylor Gabriel outpaced him.
Reid has made it crystal clear, Hill is the Chiefs’ offensive engine. Underused even during his breakout period last fall, he should log a snap rate in the 60-65 percent range (43.5 in ’16). Maybe I’m nuts, but the trends and data indicate a WR top-10 campaign is no stretch.
Fearless Forecast: 73 receptions, 817 receiving yards, 236 rushing yards, 8 total touchdowns
Tyrell Williams, LAC, WR (89.6, WR41) – Close to the double-digit rounds, there isn’t a better receiver value out there. A true shocker special last season, the long drink became a favorite Philip Rivers beverage post-Keenan Allen ACL disintegration. He attracted a respectable 21.1 percent of the targets share and tallied a 69-1059-7 line (WR22). Most impressively, Williams averaged 15.2 yards per route and finished top-11 in contested catch rate.
With Mike Williams on the PUP and without an official timetable to return (October?), it seems unlikely he’ll suddenly take a backseat to the rookie at any point this fall. Tyrell is the franchise’s new Vincent Jackson, an explosive weapon who was 87 percent successful against man or zone coverages and ranked No. 11 in contested catch rate in 2016. In other words, he isn’t some one-trick streak-only pony. His absurdly discounted ADP is a gift from the fantasy gods. With a highly competent quarterback throwing him the pill, he should match or slightly exceed last year’s WR2 output.
Fearless Forecast: 72 receptions, 1,103 receiving yards, 8 touchdowns
Cameron Brate, TB, TE (160.1, TE20) – In the later rounds, ‘X’ marks the spot for the grossly underrated Buccaneer. Many forget he was the sixth-most valuable tight end from Week 8 on last season. He and Jameis Winston, whether on short, intermediate or long connections, were around 63 percent successful according to Sharp Football. That hyper efficiency combined with Brate’s solidified red-zone role (25.4% red-zone targets share in ’16) and benefits playing alongside Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson point to another top-12 return. Yes, even with the supposedly divine O.J. Howard on roster. Understand Dirk Koetter features a ton of two-TE sets. Bank on Brate and Winston picking up where they left off.
Fearless Forecast: 52 receptions, 629 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns
Throw a challenge flag at Brad and follow him on Twitter @YahooNoise