Jesse Pantuosco

Bump and Run

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Mailbag Part 2

Wednesday, June 6, 2018


We’re still putting the finishing touches on our Draft Guide here at Rotoworld and in the midst of all my writing, editing and late-night caffeine consumption, I thought it would be fun to take a stroll down memory lane. About a month ago I tweeted out some of my predictions from last year’s magazine, many of which came to fruition. That felt pretty good for the ol’ ego. Then I flipped through some more pages and landed on last year’s mock draft. With this year’s mock draft coming up (we actually had it last night) it felt like a good time to revisit the events of 2017.

 

Here are my round-by-round selections from last year’s mock, which took place on June 7.

 

1.12 Jordan Howard, RB, CHI

2.13 Michael Thomas, WR, NO

3.36 Lamar Miller, RB, HOU

4.37 Aaron Rodgers, QB, GB

5.60 Pierre Garcon, WR, SF

6.61 DeSean Jackson, WR, TB

7.84 Frank Gore, RB, IND

8.85 Cameron Meredith, WR, CHI

9.108 Jimmy Graham, TE, SEA

10.109 Robert Woods, WR, LAR

11.132 Kenny Stills, WR, MIA

12.133 Latavius Murray, RB, MIN

13.156 Kirk Cousins, QB, WAS

14.157 C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, HOU

15.180 Rams DEF

16.181 Dan Bailey, K, DAL

 

I can’t look anymore. Make it stop! Seriously, can you imagine a worse squad than that? If a dumpster fire and a train wreck could procreate, this would be their offspring. Talk about carnage. The quartet of Rodgers, Garcon, Meredith and Fiedorowicz (who isn’t even in the league anymore) combined to play 20 of a possible 64 games last year. Miller and Jackson endured arguably their worst seasons. I didn’t even guess right at kicker—Bailey finished 25th in made field goals (15) and 26th in accuracy (75.0).

 

I suppose it wasn’t all bad. Thomas was lights out and even though he posted his lowest yardage total in seven years, Graham still led all tight ends with 10 touchdowns. Woods enjoyed a breakout year in Los Angeles (a development I would have bet against after the Rams acquired Sammy Watkins from Buffalo in August) while Murray was productive following Dalvin Cook’s season-ending ACL tear.

 

The point is … wait, what is my point? I guess the point is that it’s still really early and a lot can change between now and September. Last year’s debacle also goes to show that no one is immune to bad injury luck and that the draft can’t be your only tool for building a successful fantasy team. Those who read my weekly Power Rankings column last year probably remember that one of my drafts was disrupted by a power outage, turning my team into an auto-drafted nightmare. It took 32 waiver adds, a blockbuster trade and some smart lineup choices, but somehow I made it all the way to my league’s championship game (I got smoked by Todd Gurley, but still).

 

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There are many avenues to fantasy success. The draft is just one of them. Now let’s dig into another mailbag edition of Bump and Run. Question No. 1 …

 

If Chris Hogan can stay healthy, where do you see him ranking in PPR?

 

I can tell you exactly—29th. Next question. Just kidding … I do have a few thoughts on Hogan. The former Penn State lacrosse player started off with a bang last year, contributing five touchdowns over his first five games. Hogan was getting good yardage too, totaling 60-plus yards in four of those five outings. Unfortunately he lost his way after that, averaging under 40 yards per game over his last four contests and ended up missing most of the second half with a shoulder injury. Hogan was largely a non-factor upon his return, though he did impress with 128 yards in a Super Bowl loss to Philadelphia.

 

Hogan isn’t huge (6’1”/210) but obviously he’s done enough to earn Tom Brady’s trust inside the red zone, where he drew 12 targets last year. The Patriots lost Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola this offseason but gained a healthy Julian Edelman. Those even each other out, so I wouldn’t expect any drastic changes to Hogan’s workload in 2018. He’s firmly in the touchdown-or-bust category, but hitting pay-dirt is always a strong possibility with Brady under center. I snagged Hogan in the sixth round of last night’s mock, if that matters to you at all.

 

Do you see a major bounce-back season from Eli Manning in 2018?

 

Not major, no. Having a healthy Odell Beckham back certainly helps and the addition of Saquon Barkley is also a plus. The Giants were fairly one-dimensional last year, throwing the ball on over 60 percent of their plays. Having a capable back to hand off to takes some of the pressure off Manning, who attempted an exhausting 571 passes last year (38.1 per game). That might mean less volume for Eli but obviously if Saquon can keep the offense moving—which the running game wasn’t able to accomplish last season—Manning will benefit from more scoring opportunities.

 

But let’s not forget just how bad the Giants were last season. And it wasn’t the Beckham injury that sunk them—the Giants didn’t win a game with OBJ in the lineup last year (0-5). The Giants made a concerted effort to upgrade their O line by overpaying for New England tackle Nate Solder in free agency and nabbing UTEP guard Will Hernandez in the second round of April’s draft. Pat Shurmur wasn’t the flashiest head-coaching hire but he knows how to run an offense, and more importantly, he’s not Ben McAdoo. These were moves the Giants needed to make, but none of them addressed the true problem, which is Eli himself.

 

Now 37, Manning has seen his yards per attempt drop in each of his last three seasons. He’s also been a turnover machine, accounting for 29 interceptions and nine lost fumbles over his last two fantasy campaigns. The Giants’ offense looks decent on paper—Odell and Barkley are studs while slot receiver Sterling Shepard and second-year tight end Evan Engram have emerged as solid complementary pieces. That will be enough to propel Eli into the streaming/QB2 ranks, but betting the house on an aging, mistake-prone quarterback is never a good strategy.

 

Could Lamar Miller be an RB1 for me if I have three legitimate WR1s in a PPR league?

 

Ugh. I’ve gone the Lamar Miller route before and I would not recommend it. He was on the cusp of losing his starting job last year but lucked out when impressive rookie D’Onta Foreman blew out his Achilles in Week 11. Miller’s paltry 3.7 yards per carry would be easier to live with if he found pay-dirt once in a while, but so far the 27-year-old has managed just 12 touchdowns (six rushing, six receiving) over his two years in Houston. A subpar offensive line didn’t help last year and neither did Deshaun Watson’s torn ACL. But let’s get real. Miller is now entering his seventh NFL season. If the breakout was coming, it would have happened by now.

 

I would probably need to know who your other wide receivers are so I could determine whether they really are WR1 caliber or if you’re just talking a big game. But if you really are that stacked at wideout, that’s obviously something you could work with. Essentially the question becomes whether or not you believe in the zero-running back approach, a popular draft strategy in PPR leagues. The general thinking is that running backs are, by and large, less reliable than wide receivers and should be treated as such. Halfbacks are more susceptible to major injuries—we’ve all had a season torpedoed by a running back getting hurt in Week 1—and are also at greater risk of being affected by outside factors like game script and offensive line play.

 

I’m a big believer in balance and am usually very-risk averse when it comes to drafting, which is why I’ve never gone all-in on the zero running back technique (if you’re not familiar, the basic idea is not to take a running back before the sixth round). But if you do happen to miss on the first wave of ball-carriers, you may as well take the best player available instead of reaching for a running back you can get later in the draft. Miller would probably fit that criteria—he went 55th overall (RB21) in last night’s mock and I was mildly surprised he went that early. Even with Foreman coming off a significant injury, this looks like a split backfield to me.    

 

Is Mike Evans worth keeping as a first-round pick in a PPR league?

 

Again, it would probably depend on your other keepers, but at this point, I wouldn’t consider Evans a first-rounder. I have him as my WR9, which puts him right on the second/third-round fringe. That’s not a knock on Evans, either. He’s been incredibly productive since arriving as the seventh overall pick in 2014. In fact, he’s one of just three receivers in NFL history to begin his career with four straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Barring an injury, I have no doubt he’ll make it five-for-five.

 

But to earn first-round status in fantasy, you have to be next level. Though still a helpful fantasy contributor, Evans set career-lows in both receiving yards (1,001) and catches (71) last year and scored just one touchdown over his final nine games. Jameis Winston’s shoulder injury could be at least partially to blame for his down year, though Evans has never been the model of efficiency—he’s reeled in just 53.2 percent of his career targets. It’s all nitpicking, of course, but isn’t that our job as fantasy evaluators? We have to poke holes in everyone, otherwise how would we ever make a decision?

 

It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if Evans popped off for a monster season in 2018, but he’s not a sure thing like Antonio Brown or DeAndre Hopkins. At an ultra-competitive fantasy position where the margin for error is so thin, the slightest risk factor can send your draft stock plummeting. That’s why we’re seeing players like Michael Thomas, Keenan Allen and even Davante Adams go ahead of Evans in most mock drafts.

 

Is Derrius Guice worth the No. 2 pick in a dynasty league?

 

Well it’s probably between him and Rashaad Penny. My personal preference is Penny but they’re pretty close. Actually, they’re EXTREMELY close. Penny is literally one spot ahead of Guice in my current running back rankings. To me, it’s about opportunity. Last year Seattle running backs combined for ONE rushing touchdown. One. That’s shameful. So yeah, I’d say it’s safe to assume Penny, the NCAA’s leading rusher in 2017, will be given a big workload in year one. Penny was drafted 27th overall, which is way before anyone expected him to go. You don’t make an all-out move like that unless you’re planning to play the guy.

 

Guice should be an improvement on the Rob Kelley/Samaje Perine tandem the Redskins featured last season, though Chris Thompson, who ranked third in receiving yards per game among running backs in 2017, figures to stay involved on passing downs. I’m not fading Guice, but Thompson’s presence certainly caps his upside while Penny should have free reign of the Seahawks’ backfield (sorry Chris Carson and C.J. Prosise).



Jesse Pantuosco is a football and baseball writer for Rotoworld. He has won three Fantasy Sports Writers Association Awards. Follow him on Twitter @JessePantuosco.
Email :Jesse Pantuosco



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