Quarterbacks – best ball

Any fantasy football junkie worth his salt will know the name JJ Zachariason. Zachariason and Denny Carter cohost the in-season podcast Living the Stream, in which they recommend waiver wire caliber quarterbacks as weekly plug and play starts. The theory in a nutshell is that the quarterback position is extremely deep and that there is no need to spend early picks on the position, as you can often replicate or at least get yourself in the ball park, of top line QB production from the waiver wire. This theory was first introduced with 1 QB leagues in mind, but the basis of the theory works well for best ball.

While best ball may not have a waiver wire to lean on, it offers equivalent streaming-like value through its roster structure. The advantage being that you are able to draft multiple players at a position while only needing to rely on one of their scores. So, taking a cue from Zachariason and company you could just load up on quarterbacks in the mid to late rounds.

While others are reaching for Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton or Deshaun Watson, players are provided a chance to zig while others are zag, passing on those big-name passers in favour greater depth at all other positions. After all, your weekly score can be based on as many as three running backs or four wide receivers, or two tight ends but only one quarterback will ever count.

With this in mind, this is how I think we can best approach the position. Here’s a look at each QB, ranked by Play Draft’s ADP, along with which players I’d suggest targeting.

The current top five quarterbacks by ADP are:

Aaron Rodgers (QB1, ADP 39): there’s no anti-Rodgers argument here aside from his price.

Deshaun Watson (QB2, ADP 58.2): Five complete games under his belt and he is being drafted as QB2. This seems outrageous. He has nowhere to go but down in value based on this ADP. I proudly own zero shares.

Russell Wilson (QB3, ADP 67.2): Rodgers’ like greatness, Deshaun Watson, except with a long track record, and like both of them: too expensive. Along the lofty price tag come a few questions, namely: Doug Baldwin’s health, receiver depth in general, how much he might miss the departed Paul Richardson and Jimmy Graham, what sort of offensive line the Seahawks might patch together, and what new, uninspired direction offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer might take them in. You also have to ask how long Wilson can play at an elite level while running for his life.

Tom Brady (QB4 ADP 70.9): he is without Julian Edelman, Brandon Cooks and possibly Sony Michel. Did we mention he is 41? Gronkowski, Hogan and Burkhead can likely keep the ship afloat, but it would not be surprising if this is the year the wheels start to fall off. He could produce at the Rivers/Ryan/Roethlisberger ADP level and we’d all be impressed. Drafting him as QB4 is riskier than I like, let someone else pay the GOAT folklore premium.

Cam Newton (QB5, ADP 77.6): Okay, now we’re getting warm. There is plenty to like: rushing touchdowns and yards, a host of young intriguing targets, and a returning Greg Olsen. The passing trends haven’t been encouraging though, as Cam has been no more than mediocre through the air. His ground game makes him a cheaper, lighter passing version of Russell Wilson, at a better price. But that price is still expensive enough to have me asking if Mariota or Mahomes can’t manage comparable numbers much later.

Drew Brees (QB6, ADP 85.8): Now we’re getting warmer. Brees has fallen as the Saints run game has become such a force. The market seems to be assuming Brees is fading into the sunset and the Saints are forced to rely on Kamara and Ingram. The Saints offseason seems to suggest otherwise. Brees has been re-armed with the criminally underrated Ben Watson, the addition of Cameron Meredith, who they stole from the Bears and the drafting of TreQuan Smith. And yes, Ingram is gone so this transition may happen early.

Carson Wentz (QB7, ADP 92.9): Wentz has exploded out of the gate and was an MVP candidate late into 2017. That campaign was cut short by a torn ACL. This price level seems fair, but given the small sample size and questions about any lingering effects from the injury have me avoiding Wentz. A big part of his passing game success has been his use of his pocket mobility. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he missed some 2018 starts, it also wouldn’t be a surprise if he was less than 100%. Let’s wait until 2019 to pay a QB7 price tag for him. He’ll likely be cheaper then.

Andrew Luck (QB8, ADP 95.9): Earlier in the season Luck offered solid value but as encouraging camp stories mounted his ADP has climbed. If he is healthy he offers great upside as the Colts should lean heavy on the pass. Like Wentz though, I’d rather give him an extra season to remove some of the risk.

Kirk Cousins (QB9, ADP 101.4): New coach, new team, new teammates, chemistry with receivers and lineman starting at zero, all of this makes me think it would be wise to let him find a home on a competitor’s squad.

Jimmy Garoppolo (QB10, ADP 107.9): The Jimmy G hype, like the aforementioned Deshaun Watson and the soon to be discussed Mahomes hype, has me skeptical. I prefer drafting the known versus the unknown, particularly at certain price points That being said, I own zero shares of Watson but own a considerably more of the cheaper Garoppolo and lots more of the cheaper still Mahomes. Buying a few shares of Jimmy G to gain exposure seems reasonable, but the investment should be light.

HOT – guys to buy aggressively:

Matt Stafford (QB11, ADP 109.6): And now we are in the buy zone. Stafford is a known quantity who puts up consistent numbers and while he may have a new head coach he has the same offensive coordinator. Add to the equation a deeper backfield and the possibly emergence of Kenny Golladay and this looks like the makings of an exciting offense. Tate + Jones + Golladay could be the most exciting receiving trio in the NFL in 2018.

Ben Roethlisberger (QB12, 111.9 ADP): Again, more proven production on a roster featuring Leveon Bell, Antonio Brown and Juju Smith Schuster. While the 9th round is a little earlier than I like, Ben and Stafford are nice QB1s for your best ball squad. As are the next two guys…

Philip Rivers (QB13, ADP 115.4): More tried, tested and true production available in the ninth round. He may not offer shiny new toy appeal like a Watson or Jimmy G, but he will likely be throwing for as many yards and TDs. Keenan Allen, the Williamses and Melvin Gordon will given defenses plenty to contend with.

Matt Ryan (QB14, ADP 120.8): A reversion to the mean play available in the 10th round. Recall Julio managed only 3 touchdowns last year under the new coaching staff. That’s a number that is likely to go up considerably. Add Calvin Ridley to the equation and recall Sanu, Freeman and Coleman will all contribute and you have a recipe for team set to return to elite offense status. We have not heard the last of Matt Ryan.

Patrick Mahomes (QB15, ADP 122.1): Jimmy G and Watson are small sample size guys with monster hype and ADPs to match. Mahomes has a smaller sample size, similar hype and an ADP I’m willing to roll the dice on. The Chiefs have gone all in on Mahomes and loaded their offense with dynamic playmakers. Kelce, Hill, Hunt, returning Spencer Ware and yes, Sammy Watkins, all are reason to be excited. There will be bumps on the road but he offers big week to week upside. He also provides sneaky rushing yard/TD alpha. I would not be surprised if he or the next guy bested the Cam Newton as dual threat QBs.

Marcus Mariota (QB16, ADP 125.9): Mariota is Matt Ryan lite. He’s coming off a disappointing 13 touchdown year and the market is punishing him for it. He enters the year with a new coaching staff and young stable of weapons. There certainly could be some growing pains as he adjusts to this new reality. While the Titans may be looking at a transition year, there offense could surprise. Mariota should regress to the mean and also offers Cam Newton lite appeal in the running game. He is great value in the 12th round.

Luke warm value plays:

Jared Goff (QB17, ADP 129.1): Goff made leaps last year and could well continue that trajectory. I’ve avoided him for the most part, however for two reasons: the Rams insane defense and Todd Gurley. If there was ever a team that looked able to control a game’s tempo it is the 2018 Rams. Armed with a vicious d-line and arguably the best back in the league and there you have a recipe for mediocre passing attempts. Similar situation and production can be had much cheaper in Jacksonville.

Alex Smith (QB18, ADP 132.7): There is no way Smith is replicating his 2017 performance. The Chiefs played a college offense and Smith, pushed by Mahomes, played more aggressive than he ever before. A watered-down version of 2017 Smith provides stability in your QB best ball stable. Smith can contribute modestly in the running game as well, and in the 11th round, paired with a big upside play, he can smooth the waters of a wavy season.

Dak Prescott (QB19, ADP 143.2): Here’s a QB on what appears to be a dreadful team. He’s currently struggling in camp and has zero proven targets. This is a transition year for the Cowboys and it will likely transition Jason Garrett right out the door. The only reason to be excited about Dak is that he is likely to face plenty of friendly garbage time game scripts. If he’s able to stay healthy he should get the opportunity to produce relevant numbers.

Derek Carr (QB 20, ADO 147.5): Carr enters 2018 with a new coaching staff. On the mend from a broken back, expectations are high. It’s difficult to know what Oakland will look like however as the new staff may opt for a run heavy approach. Amari Cooper may or may not be able to catch, Jordy Nelson may or may not be washed up, Martavis Bryant may or may not be suspended for the year…let’s of questions. I’m just not convinced Carr is really very good. At the very least this will be a transition year with many questions to answer.

Late round, big value:

Eli Manning (QB21, ADP 154): Stop me if you’ve heard this before…everyone thinks Barkley, Beckham, Engram, and Shepard are set for big years, so shouldn’t Eli be great. While I like to run contrarian to many narratives this one is difficult to argue with, particularly when you can get exposure to that collection of stars with a 12th round pick.

Jameis Winston (QB22, ADP 154.1): Yes, he will miss four games, but yes this is best ball and you can lean heavily on your other QB or QBs while you wait for Winston to return. The Buccs may not be great this year but they are likely to put up great offensive totals. Winston finished 2017 on a tear and eclipsed 300 yards six times (and had 299 once). This seems likely pretty great value in best ball where he will still compete in 11 games.

Mitchell Trubisky (QB23, 157.8): For your QB hype needs, after Watson, Garoppolo and Mahomes, there’s Trubisky. There will certainly be challenges as he adapts to year two in the NFL under a new coach, but he has considerable weapons and offers ground game alpha. As a 12th rounder, paired with one of the Ryan, Rivers, Big Ben, Stafford group, you have yourself a duo with stability and upside.

Case Keenum (QB24, 162.4 ADP): Keenum will be welcomed with open arms by the Broncos faithful and target starved Demaryius Thomas and Emanuel Sanders. Keenum will not compete as a top 10 QB for fantasy purposes but he should provide consistent stable numbers. A good pairing for him might be one of the big upside riskier plays.

Blake Bortles (QB25, ADP 163.6): The only thing more consistent than the market’s hatred of Blake Bortles are his numbers. Despite the naysayers Bortles churns out startable, streamable totals. Add Donte Moncrief to an emerging group of young receivers and there is reason to believe that he can continue to rack them up. Like Goff there is some concern about how much havoc his defense and Leonard Fournette might reek, but I much prefer Bortles ADP to Goff’s.

Andy Dalton (QB26, ADP176.6): The red rifle is a complimentary piece to a more expensive and exciting counterpart, or two. He can provide a stable baseline and bye week stop gap in the 14th round. So long as you have a QB1, Dalton is good late value as a supporting best ball cast member.

Ryan Tannehill (QB27, ADP187.7): The market seems to have given up and Ryan Tannehill and Adam Gase, but given this ADP, it might be worth picking the QB as your third best ball option. The Dolphins will certainly find themselves in throwing situations and Tannehill can also move the ball on his recently repaired legs.

Tyrod Taylor (QB 28, ADP 187.8): Tyrod has all the makings of a surprisingly good season. If he were to play the entire season he would play behind his best offensive line and throw to his best offensive weapons to date. Despite Hue Jacksons’ repeated proclamations, however, I have zero confidence he will be provided such an opportunity. Instead the Browns will be impatient and rush Baker Mayfield to early starts, potentially damaging another first round asset in the process. Sigh.

Joe Flacco (QB29, ADP 202.1): Unlike the Browns, the Ravens are likely to have discipline and give Lamar Jackson the benefit on a full year on sideline finishing school. This could bolster the beleaguered Flacco as he will benefit from an improved offensive line and weapons, like Tyrod. Flacco’s first year with Marty Mornhinweg showed promise and they may be able to deliver on it this season. The additions of Michael Crabtree and John Brown are underrated, s is the possibility of the all but written off Kenneth Dixon. Don’t be surprised if both the Ravens and Flacco are better than expected.

Sam Bradford/Josh Rosen (QB31 and 33): The last round offers you a chance to grab a Cardinal QB. It’s uncertain just who that will be but given his track record at staying healthy, one would have to assume Rosen will get his turn. If you haven’t drafted a 3rd QB by now, the volume here may be enough to make them best ball startable a week or two. You might be better off forgoing this duo though, and instead opt for an extra receiver or back.

In a nutshell, don’t bother paying a big price for a big-name quarterback. Use those rounds instead to add running back, receiver and tight ends. Those positions fall off in a hurry while quarterback remains extremely deep and seems to be getting deeper. Best ball allows you to survive off weeks, so long as your depth shows up at the right times.

I find myself not drafting anyone until QB11 (Stafford). From there I generally employ one of two strategies: (1) – take two from the group of: Stafford, Roethlisberger, Ryan, Rivers, Mariota, Mahomes, or (2) take just one from that group along with two later targets, Eli and Trubisky, for example.

Good luck!

Best ball long/shorts rounds 4 through 7

Upon further review: Best ball long short rounds 4 through 7.

Welcome back.

While the first three rounds are thick with no brainer picks, the work gets harder in round four as the group offers potential elite production, with plenty more risk.

Going long

Juju Smith-Schuster (17%)

Juju had a spectacular rookie campaign: amassing 917 yards, 7 TDs, completely destroying Vontaze Burfict (see below) while becoming a fan favourite along the way. This is made all the more impressive when you realize he entered 2017 as the youngest player in the league. At 20 most players lack the physical and emotional maturity to take on the challenges of a new city, new life, increased fame and income, all while trying to learn a faster game against smarter, stronger, fully-grown competition. Yet, Juju staked out a claim on one of the leagues best offenses early, and refused to go away. Assuming he can overcome early pre-season injury concerns, its hard to imagine Juju not being better in year two.

https://youtu.be/fOfIObhGMe0

On a dynasty note, Juju should be bought aggressively. It goes back to the age thing. The early start has given him a head start on the rest of the league. Assuming he reaches his prime at 25-27, he’s likely to be bigger and faster all while accumulating 4-6 years on NFL experience. This could be the start of a very long and successful career.

Josh Gordon (11%)

Owning Gordon is a nervous proposition. He’ll be a great story of redemption, a sad story of defeat or more likely, something in the middle. We all have good memories of him demolishing the league, stringing monster games together and blowing past secondaries. In those games he was a dominating physical force that looked to be an elite talent. Enthusiasm for a return to those heights should be tempered, his small sample size of elite play took place, shockingly, in 2013. That was a football lifetime ago. There is no telling what Gordon, if we see him at all, will appear come September. Currently out of training camp to reinforce his treatment and mental health, concerns that he will play out the year are real.

Stefon Diggs (9%)

If I liked him in round three, I love him in round four. Assuming he can stay healthy, everyone and their mother is calling for Diggs to make the leap this season. Naysayers will point out his shortage of 1,000 yard seasons (none), new quarterback and lengthy list of ailments as concerns. Fair enough, but having watched him play, I have confidence he can duplicate last year while stealing a healthy share of Adam Thielen’s thunder. Should the breakout predictions ring true, a 4th round pick is more than fair.

Shorting

Amari Cooper (6%)

Granted, 6% is nothing to sneeze at, but he is held nervously and the buying has stopped. What haunts me is a game I watched last season where he was thrown to three times in the endzone and came up short each and every time. And while that evidence is anecdotal, I’ve seen enough of these similar blunders to have a negatively biased impression of the player and that’s difficult to shake. Add these factors: year one with a new coach, new system and the same over-rated, sub-par quarterback, and I don’t see a recipe for the certain success many are calling for. I’ll happily let him succeed on another team and readjust my biases for 2019.

Rashaad Penny (0%)

I don’t own a share of Penny at ADP. Despite what their coaching staff promises, I don’t see how the Seahawks are going to be able to control the game script and run the ball at will. There’s also the matter of their horrid offensive line performance over recent seasons. Add to the equation the returning (and currently hyped) Chris Carson, the explosive when healthy CJ Prosise and the under-rated Mike Davis, and I don’t see how Penny wins exclusive rights to this backfield, destined for disappointment.

Kenyan Drake (1%)

Drake had a great finish to 2017 and looks to have the majority share of the Dolphins’ backfield to start the year. Looking back he had impressive stat lines versus the Pats and Chiefs, as well as strong games against lesser lights, albeit with passable defenses, in Buffalo (twice) and Denver. This year’s schedule looks pretty favourable to Drake and the Dolphins. They have tough matchups versus the Jags and Vikings, but those don’t come until weeks 15 and 16. The games up to that point could offer Drake a good chance at big totals and cementing the lion’s share of the backfield touches. With little competition in the backfield, it appears my 1% ownership stake could haunt me.

Upon further review: Best Ball Longs and Shorts

Week 1 can’t get here fast enough.

Aside from the obvious reasons of: I need freaking football, there is also the growing urgency of stopping me from drafting any more best ball teams.

I can’t recall exactly when I started, but late February seems like a fair guess. Since then I’ve been on a steady diet of drafting at Draft. I just hit the 128-team mark with another 8 on the go.

I need help.

And help I’m getting. Mostly what this too-much-fun endeavor has provided me is a better view of myself, and how I weight certain players on the scales of love and hate. It’s also reminded me that despite thinking otherwise, I’m not immune to offseason narrative-itis.

What you’ll find below is a look at what I’ve learned. Some of this will be self-deprecating, some of it will be self-aggrandizing, all of it will hopefully be enlightening. The lessons learned here are useful for the rest of this draft season, and just as importantly, next year.

The details:

The vast majority of my 128 teams are of the slow draft 12 team variety. I like the traditional 12 team league size as it is the measure we often used when discussing season long or dynasty, and so it provides good perspective in those formats.

Here’s a round by round look at a variety of players, and what I think I know about them.

CORNERSTONE ROUNDS: 1 through 3

Round one isn’t rocket surgery. Don’t be a hero, don’t screw it up.

In 128 drafts I’ve picked everywhere on the board. I’ve picked a total of 15 different players in round one. And like most, drafting in the top two spots I’ll almost always opt for Gurley or Bell, with a little David Johnson sprinkled in. Ho um, the guys below make for more interesting debates.

Heaviest ownership:

Alvin Kamara (16%)

Kamara is liquid. He is taken as early as three or as late as eight. Despite an insane finish to 2017, Karama has plenty of doubters and naysayers, but I’m buying. He is in on an exceptionally coached and quarterbacked offense, loaded with weapons. Defenses will certainly be terrified of what Kamara might inflict on him, but they have plenty of other worries then to devote all of their energy to stopping him in this balanced attack. The same cannot be said for Ezekiel Elliot, who I would never take before Bell, Gurley, Johnson or Kamara.

Dalvin Cook (12%)

Gulp. In hindsight, this one makes me nervous. I picked him earlier in the offseason as a late first round running back. I did so because I watched plenty of him last year, and numbers and injuries aside, he looked the part of a superstar back. Prior to the rise of Kamara, he appeared to be the best three-down-back in the class. Upon further review, his injury history is a concern, and spending high draft capital on someone who might miss considerable time will keep me nervous all season.

Leveon Bell (9%)

Again, this is when I catch pick 1 or 2. Not much to think about here.

Lightest ownership:

Ezekiel Elliot (2%)

I hate Dallas. I don’t trust their coaching staff, I hate their depth chart and I think every team in the league is going to gameplan for their one and only weapon. I can imagine a season where Zeke is overused and banged up, the Dallas team is exhausted and capitulates by mid-season, and the ineffective Jason Garrett is finally shown the door at season’s end. Elliot may be set for a very disappointing year.

Kareem Hunt (2%)

He exploded on the scene and then seemed to run out of steam. I would not be surprised if Andy Reid gives Hunt the Dion Lewis treatment used by the Patriot’s last year. Keeping the kid rested and dividing more carries than fantasy owners would like, with returning and very capable Spencer Ware.

Melvin Gordon (1%)

This is personal bias speaking here. I’ve never liked Gordon very much and despite last year’s success am skeptical he can maintain the momentum. I’ve never warmed to Gordon’s game and watching tape is a quick reminder of why. Yes, he can “do it all” but he manages to do so with an uninspired plodder’s flare. As a Matt Waldman fan, I am enthusiastic about Justin Jackson demanding a role and digging into Gordon’s touches.

Round 2

Heaviest ownership:

Christian McCaffrey (20%)

Here’s another player who’s starting to make me nervous. I like McCaffrey’s game but many of these shares were drafted prior to the CJ Anderson additional and certainly before the team lost RT Daryl Williams. Note too that many of these picks were made prior to the introduction of the 2018 rookie backs, so the value isn’t horrible. That said 20% is higher than anyone would like given the question marks in the Carolina backfield, paired with Newton’s goal line prowess.

Rob Gronkowski (9%)

Frankly, 9% is too low. I’m always surprised that Gronkowski hangs around as long as he does. I also own 4% of him in the first round, which is a reach but at the tail end of round one at least worth considering. The 2018 Patriots are without: Edelman four games, as well as Cooks and Lewis from last year. Yes, there have been additions to fill those voids but none so consistently dependable as Gronk. In fact ,it’s hard to imagine him not finishing as the leader in yards, scores and possibly catches on a consistently elite offense. What’s not to like.

Keenan Allen (11%)

This just feels safe. A target hog that never fails to deliver when healthy. Add to this the absence of Hunter Henry and the questions marks surrounding Mike Williams, and there’s plenty to like.

Lightest ownership:

When all the guys I typically target are gone, I’ve settled on taking some of this group.:

Mike Evans (2%)

I want Tampa to be good. They just seem to be at the tipping point where hope and hype give way to skepticism, and I’m now in the latter camp until proven wrong.

Odell Beckham Jr. (2%)

This one can easily bite me in the ass. When ODB ADP comes up, I’ve opted for Julio, Gronk or even Michael Thomas when they are there. There’s just something about him that makes me hesitate. It might be the prima-donna thing, or worries about the Giants ability to succeed, and should they succeed, just how they do it. Call it a gut feel, but I’m only taking Beckham if I absolutely have to, I’m not seeking him out and I’m prepared to regret it.

Devonta Freeman (3%)

As Indiana Jones once said, it’s not the years, It’s the mileage. Freeman is a little guy with a lot of touches, many of them unfriendly. He has the very capable Tevin Coleman backing him up and the newly acquired Ito Smith looking to cut his teeth. Aside from that backfield depth, the Falcons are looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2017, with Julio looking to fend off can’t-score criticism. Steven Ridley also gives Matt Ryan another option. Atlanta’s offense will quite likely look a litte different and Freeman may be spared some volume. Injury rumours are another reason to opt out.

Round three:

The don’t screw it up, but you might have to reach round.

Heavy ownership:

Doug Baldwin (12%)

I’m buying the narrative here. Baldwin is criminally underrated, he is clearly the number one receiving target in an offense led by an MVP caliber talent in Russell Wilson. Heavy volume and favourable game scripts should give Baldwin career year numbers.

TY Hilton (10%)

I bought him early and often. With or without Andrew Luck, Hilton provides a handful of monster best ball weeks. Like Baldwin, he’s the obvious #1 on a team that is likely to need to throw a lot. The bonus, and it seems to be taking shape now, is that Andrew Luck is alive and well. Round three might look very good in a few weeks as Hilton edges to a higher ADP.

Stefon Diggs (9%)

My only regret here is that best ball does not allow for trading. Diggs has been the recipient of plenty of offseason love, recently receiving accolades and being considered the next Antonio Brown for his celebrated route running. His ADP may continue to creep into overvalued territory. My only concerns here are how he and Kirk Cousins get themselves quickly onto the same page. I’m happy to own him, but he seems to be reaching sell-high levels.

Joe Mixon (9%)

This allocation is a result of draft by need paired with RB panic. I actually don’t like Mixon and am dumbfounded by how many analysts and such fervent supporters. Perhaps it will become obvious once the season starts, but I watched him play last season and I think the hype and hyperbole is a little thick. I also remember that he plays behind an average line, with an average QB, for an average coach and should have to fend off the seemingly, just as talented Gio Bernard.

Light ownership:

While I wish I faded Mixon, the guys I actually did avoid are these three:

Jordan Howard (2%)

The early offseason narrative: Howard can’t catch and Nagy wants to throw to the backs.

The last 2-week narrative: Nagy is teaching Howard to catch, lookout.

The truth? Likely somewhere between, meaning round three is a pretty great place to grab a guy who will likely have a big role on a team with a much better offense. Even if his receiving game improvements are modest, they will be an upgrade. Add to that what you have to imagine are more red zone scores and this seems like good value.

Adam Thielen (2%)

He did well last year, in part, because Diggs was not 100%. It probably didn’t hurt that the Dalvin Cook injury changed the game plan dramatically as well. This year Cook is back and the aforementioned Diggs is about to become ANTONIO FREAKING BROWN! And granted, while I don’t believe Diggs is the second coming, I do think there are reasons to believe Thielen, adapting to a new QB and sharing a full season of targets with a completely healthy Diggs, may underperform consensus value.

Alex Collins (2%)

He was a bargain early in the offseason but gradually gained darling-value pick once the Ravens opted to forego taking a running back in the draft. This spoke just as much to their belief in Kenneth Dixon, as it did Collins’ 2017 effort. Round three might seem rich in hindsight soon though, as the oft-injured Dixon is once again limping. We shouldn’t be surprised if the Ravens bring a new back to camp and temper the Collins enthusiasm.

Next time we will look at round four and beyond…

Thanks for reading!

Deshaun Watson and hype

One of the biggest hurdles to fantasy success is are our preconceived notions and biases regarding certain teams or players. If you don’t actually watch specific players actually play it becomes easy to get lazy and subscribe to the available narratives. In this exercise of reviewing each team, I am learning as much about myself as a fantasy player, as I am the actual teams and players themselves. I’ve caught myself several times, where watching the tape or crunching the numbers changes my mind. Such is the case with Deshaun Watson.

I went into Watson with a skeptical, contrarian approach. The market seemed to be a little too much in love with him, ranking him as high as QB2 with an ADP of 57.9 (using Play Draft). For dynasty purposes the euphoria was much the same as owners salivated over the 22-year old. Fair enough, his 21 touchdowns and almost 2,000 total yards were incredible. The fact that he amassed that total only over a seven-game span was jaw dropping. These were superstar numbers, that projected over a full season were all time greats. How could he possibly produce at that pace over a full season?

A chorus of voices has been asking this same question this offseason. Despite the growing ranks of the “reversion to the mean” camp, Watson has remained a favorite in all formats. I became a little anti-Watson, avoiding him completely. My initial concerns with Watson bulls was that I had seen this movie before, and I knew how it ended. It was not very long ago, after all that we watched players Like Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick explode onto the scene. Both of those players enjoyed great early success and accolades, only to have the league catchup with them, one way or another. Was history repeating itself?

But this time it might be different. Watson it turns out, is really freaking good. Yes, he’s an athletic quarterback who runs, but unlike Kaepernick and RGIII, he looks the part of quarterback. What I mean by that is when I watch him he appears to have an innate pocket presence, can see the field the entire field and has a willingness to make the smart, sometimes boring play. Where Griffin and Kaepernick could sometimes see oblivious to pressure, or panicked to absent, imagined pressure, Watson seems to navigate the pocket with eyes in the back of his head. He feels the pocket, escapes pressure, extends plays and delivers. What’s more, while those two former star-in-the-making quarterbacks seemed to be stuck in easy-read paint-by-numbers offenses, Watson seemed capable of much more, much earlier. So the tape gave me a definite newfound respect for Watson.

The tape was also a friendly reminder that DeAndre Hopkins is amazing. I suppose no reminder was necessary but it certainly was fun to watch. Watching the film, I was reminded how he seems attack the ball when he catches it. That he dominates coverage and straight up catches everything. I was also surprised by how often I’d see him coming back aggressively to Watson’s throws. It was a combination of chemistry, along with his incredible talent, that acted as training wheels for the rookie QB. He’ll undoubtedly continue to help the kid keep his numbers afloat.

I was also impressed with Fuller. There are plenty of Fuller doubters this offseason, pointing to the fact that he was the beneficiary of Watson’s skewed 2017 numbers and that he appeared to havea fragile frame. I was ready to buy this narrative, but again I was wowed. His speed paired with Watson’s pocket allusiveness were a deadly combination. Given the time to find open space he should remain a big contributor. The Fuller/Hopkins combo would be a nightmare with a pocket passer, Watson makes them exponentially more difficult to cover.

Tape aside, what makes Watson’s monster debut even more impressive is that fact that it happened at all. The Houston Texans did plan to start him and therefore did not prepare him with first teams reps. He did not receive the benefit of a full offseason for the most complicated and demanding position in the game. You’ll recall excuses were regularly made for Sammy Watkins, who, joining the Rams late in the pre-season never caught on to the play book or established chemistry with his quarterback. That’s a valid excuse and makes perfect sense. But it makes what Watson managed all the more impressive. He put together all of those scores and yards without the advantage of a full pre-season as the focal point of the offense. Simply put his coaching staff didn’t properly prepare him, yet he was completely prepared for the opportunity. What is he capable of doing with a full offseason under his belt.

Needless to say, I arrived at a few conclusions: (1) Watson is probably not a mirage. He won’t match his 2017 but he’s really good. (2) Hopkins is still amazing. (3) Fuller is much better than I thought and (4) I don’t watch nearly enough Texans games.

All of those positives aside, several questions remain for the season ahead:

1 – Watson’s injury: Yes, knee tears are very recoverable, but Watson is someone who depends on his legs. If he’s not running the ball, which they may certainly limit early in the season, he does require that mobility to manage the pocket and extend plays. Any loss of quickness could be a problematic in the near-term.

2 –Offensive line: Watson will need to make time in the pocket as he has what many consider the worst offensive line in the league. Four new starters will take time to earn their places and create line chemistry. This is a process and will not happen over-night. Even if his athleticism is on par with last year, he’ll need it.

3 – The running game: Lamar Miller stands atop the depth chart. Donta Foreman is recovering from a very serious injury and may not contribute early or at all. The depth chart is thin beyond uninspiring Alfred Blue. Miller is capable but any injury to him and this team is in serious trouble, placing a greater burden on Watson.

NOTE: I fully expect the Texans to make one or more picks ups at running back between now and week 1 as team make cuts. I anticipate that is what they are waiting for and would suggest you are careful in drafting Miller for that reason and Foreman for injury concerns. A nice fit might be Ameer Abdullah should Detroit let him go.

4 – League catches up: The week 1 matchup with New England will be telling. We’ll have some answers on the questions above as well as how the league might adjust to Watson. He won’t be the surprise he was last year and if anyone will make adjustments for the Texans new strength, it will be the taker of strengths, Bill Belichick. The Pats narrowly escaped a home loss to Watson and company last season, and it would seem fair to reckon they remember that well going into the season opener.

2018 may include some hiccups for the Texans. For that reason, drafting Watson as the QB2 is a little lofty. His injury may linger and his stock may slump ever so slightly. After all, old quarterbacks on new teams and a new crop of rookie quarterbacks have their own stories to write. In the face of that recency bias the shiny new toys may eclipse a slightly struggling Watson.

Prior to re-watching Watson’s games, I would have suggested he was an optimal sell-high candidate, just as hind-sight proved Kaepernick and RGIII to be, but having watched him play again, I am convinced that any slip in value we may see this season should be embraced, aggressively as a dynasty opportunity. And while he may not play at his ungodly pace of 2017, I doubt this 22-year old will make you regret it.

Best ball note:  While I love Watson for dynasty, QB2 is far too rich for me for best ball. I prefer taking quarterbacks in the later rounds so Watson would never enter the picture for me at his current ADP. With that said, were I too go QB early, after Rodgers, I’d much prefer the 2018 prospects of Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, Cam Newton, and even Drew Brees.

Final note: Fingers crossed that Ameer Abdullah does become a Texan. A fresh start for a talent deserving a second chance on a team sorely missing healthy talent at the position.

 

All we need is just a little patience

First Round Wide Receivers, Corey Davis & the Tennessee Titans

When it comes to first round wide receivers, fantasy players have been tormented in recent years. We’ve been believing the hype and drafting 1st round receivers in hopes of catching the next superstar. But of late, he just hasn’t been there. We’ve been like dogs, answering the call of our owners, only to receive a boot in place of the expected bone. And after so many kicks, we’re a little bit angry and short on patience.

Here’s a look at what we’ve been though:

It all started with the spoil of riches that was the 2014 class. That group included immediate stars in: Sammy Watkins, Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Benjamin, Mike Evans and Odell Beckham Jr. in what was arguably one of the best classes of receivers ever.

From that point receiver bullishness went into full throttle. I can’t recall when exactly the zero-RB strategy first gained serious traction, but it wasn’t long after this 2014 class. Everyone was going ape-shit for receivers, both fantasy players and actual NFL general managers alike.

The 2015 draft spoke to that enthusiasm.

The early success of the five first rounders in 2014 might have had something to do with the six receivers drafted in 2015’s opening round: Amari Cooper (4), Kevin White (7), DeVante Parker (14), Nelson Agholor (20), Breshad Perriman (26), and Phillip Dorsett (29).

At the time some of these names were considered reaches, and with hindsight that clearly is the case. With the exception of Cooper, this was a collection of underwhelming or disappointing rookie campaigns.

Receiver madness was not quick to fade though. The 2016 first round saw these names taken in the first round: Corey Coleman (15), Will Fuller (21), Josh Doctson (22) and Laquon Treadwell (23).

Unfortunately, not unlike 2015, these rookie season all proved to be duds. The majority of voices urged patience and reiterated upside on both the 15 and 16 classes, if only we’d wait.

By 2017, that patience was being tested. It seemed both fantasy players and NFL GMs were growing a little skeptical. Zero-RB was becoming a joke, and the pendulum starting to swing away from receivers and towards the backfield.

In the ’17 draft, receivers were taken early, but not often: Corey Davis (5), Mike Williams (7), and John Ross (9). High picks all of them, but teams opted for the later rounds to fill the position.

And once again, the 1st round class proved frustrating.

By this point even Cooper’s star was a little dimmer, while Fuller was enjoying a Deshaun Watson bump and Nelson Agholor was basking in the glow of his new Super Bowl ring.

Aside from that modest group, the rest of the ‘15 and ‘16 alumni fell into two groups: hopeful or hopeless.

There remains some hope that Doctson and Parker can become fantasy relevant, but Treadwell, White, Perriman, Coleman, and Dorsett have been left for dead.

The first-round receiver bull market was dead.

Fantasy pros who had hailed the skills sets of Kevin White and Laquon Treadwell were now in full back pedal. Zero RB was a tired punchline, and drafting WRs in the first round in the NFL draft was considered a waste of draft capital, with only DJ Moore and Calvin Ridley taken in the latter portion of the 2018 draft.

The environment for wide receivers turned to crap. The pendulum swung away from receivers and firmly towards running back as the likes of Gurley, Zeke, and Kamara exploded onto the scene.

Three-year rule

It was not so long ago that there was a theory, or rather a fantasy rule of thumb about receivers. The theory was that receivers took approximately 3 years to reach their potential. And while this theory was upended by some early success stories, it’s worth revisiting. All wide receivers were not created equal. Some enter the league older, more developed, more mature, they compete against thin depth chart competition, or enter the right system. Others endure stubborn coaches, complex systems, injuries, coaching changings and star-studded depth charts too difficult to penetrate. The three-year theory assumed some players took time to develop. It allowed for players to grow into their new role and team and slowly grasp the nuances of the game, all the while maturing into their physical primes. It seems we’ve parted ways with this three-year window, demanding instant results.

In today’s environment, patience is hard to come by. In the world of twitter polls and hot takes it is difficult to just sit and wait for these players to ripen. We want success and we want it now.

So that’s where we are. We were spoiled by a bumper crop and then have endured a brief drought which we now seem to be overreacting to. But that could prove costly. The 2014 crop skewed the market and while we must reflect and reevaluate on those occupying the bottom of our depth charts, we must also remember that patience is a key to roster construction. Giving up on a player too early is much more painful than holding on to one a little too long. Have an objective look at your players and see if they are not worthy of the three-year rule. Some circumstance may have held them back temporarily, while new circumstances might unleash their potential.

Corey Davis

All of that exhausting pre-amble brings me to Corey Davis.

There are circumstances that explain Davis paltry 2017 numbers. First off, he missed the entire pre-season with injuries. He was offered no time to get in game experience or build chemistry with Mariota before the live-ammo of the regular season. Despite that missed opportunity, he managed to post impressive target and yard totals in week one, only to aggravate the injury the following week. Healing on the sideline the slow-healing Davis became a bit of a forgotten man and the coaching staff made due with their veteran receivers. Kudos to them, as that staff muddled through the season to somehow not only make the playoffs, but beat the Chiefs in the Wild Card round, before ultimately losing to New England.

In those two do or die games Mariota rediscovered Davis, with the receiver gaining just short of 100 yards and his first two career touchdowns. The connection finished on a high note.

Playoffs aside, the exotic smashmouth administration was replaced by Mike Vrabel and his staff. The most tantalizing member of which has to be offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur. LaFleur, having enjoyed success under league coaching darlings Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay, shoulders a heavy load of expectation that he can deliver a new and improved offense in Tennessee.

LaFleur will enjoy the low baseline that was the 2017 season and it is hard to imagine he won’t improve on those pedestrian numbers. Last year Mariota threw for a disappointing 3,232 yards and 13 TDs, having thrown 26 the previous season. In his fifteen games he eclipsed 300 yards only twice and finished with less than 200 yards in four of his last six regular season games. Even a pessimist would be hard pressed to imagine Mariota having a bleaker 2018.

Let’s hope that along with better overall numbers for the offense, Davis enjoys the benefit of a full offseason and improved regular season health. He eked out 375 yards despite playing only 11 games, with few of those games played at full strength. Then also consider that he was competing last season with Rishard Matthews and Eric Decker for targets, the latter of whom is now gone. This season Davis should enter the season healthy and with a defined role. While Matthews has proven to be a consistent contributor, Davis physical gifts suggest he can easily draw his fair share of targets. Last years targets broke as follows:

Walker                                 111

Matthews                           87

Decker                                  83

Davis                                     65

Murray                                 47

With Walker aging, Decker absent, Matthews maintaining, and a new aggressive coordinator, it is hard to imagine a healthy Davis not taking a major leap forward.

Let’s not forget that Davis, drafted by GM Jon Robinson, is also economically attractive to the Titans. Davis is locked in with a cap friendly rookie contract that the GM will want to see a return on. He’s not going anywhere any time soon.

As far as dynasty receivers are concerned this is a pretty favorable check list: talented young QB, newly mandated coaching staff, firmly entrenched GM, and thin depth chart at receiver. This means that the staff, Mariota and Davis will all be given long-leashes and the time and patience needed to succeed.

The question is will we as dynasty owners have that same patience. If so we could be rewarded with a young QB/WR combination, ready to produce for a very long time.

 

 

 

Brandin Cooks and Recency Bias

Los Angeles Rams

Brandin Cooks is the #1 WR for the Rams

Most of us are vulnerable to recency bias. We reflect on what we just saw one season ago and imagine more of the same is on store. Such is the case with the Brandin Cooks and the Rams receiving corps.

Let’s start by having a look at the 2017 receiving totals

Todd Gurley: 64 receptions, 87 targets, 788 yards, 6 TDs

Cooper Kupp: 62 receptions, 94 targets, 869 yards, 5 TDs

Robert Woods: 56 receptions, 85 targets, 781 yards, 5 TDs

Sammy Watkins: 39 receptions, 70 targets, 593 yards, 8TDs

Higbee + Everett: 51 receptions, 77 targets, 539, 3 TDs

Recency bias would have us assume that Cooper Kupp is about to take the next step after posting an excellent rookie campaign, that Robert Woods will continue to split time with Kupp as Jared Goff’s primary target, and that Brandin Cooks would post similarly disappointing numbers to Sammy Watkins.

But probably not.

Watkins apologists (this writer included) blame the lackluster season on his late arrival to camp. Having been traded for late in the offseason Watkins, was not provided the time necessary to learn the offense and build rapport with Goff. Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and company all got a head start on Watkins and as a result were leaned on more heavily by Goff.

Still others Watkins supporters will blame Goff for his yardage total, suggesting the second year QB had made progress from his rookie season, but still couldn’t deliver the deep ball with accuracy. Watkins sluggish numbers were Goff’s failure, not his. This argument holds less credibility than the first. Goff was hardly the best deep ball thrower, but stats rank him closer to the middle of the pack, and even above average.

So exactly what happened to Sammy Watkins is still unclear, but let’s agree that the late arrival narrative holds some weight.

Enter Brandin Cooks. Cooks seems to have suffered an ADP drop in the wake of the trade to the Rams. While there are a number of reasons for this, namely: the fact that he was traded twice in two years being a red flag, an apparent QB talent drop having moved one from Brees/Brady to Goff, the one that seems to be put forward most frequently is that a player of his skill set simply can’t succeed in Los Angeles, and like Watkins will be regulated to a deep ball/decoy role, while Goff leans on the more familiar talents of Woods and Kupp.

A few things to consider about Cooks:

  1. at 24, he is younger than both Woods (26) AND 2nd year Cooper Kupp (25).
  2. He has posted 1,000+ yards in three of the last four seasons.
  3. 2017 was Cooks first season in a new offense with a new quarterback.
  4. He posted 1,082 yards on 65 catches and 114 targets in 2017, in that new offense.

Hey, about that narrative

The other side of being traded twice in two years, is that we can get an idea of how Cooks might adapt. While Watkins was only given a few weeks to familiarize himself with his new team, Cooks was given several months to immerse himself in the “Patriot’s Way”. The Patriots are known to run a complex and nuanced offense. Brady is known to be demanding of his teammates, with an offensive system, like many dependent on QB/WR reads, trust and chemistry. Many WRs have arrived in New England and quickly failed to live up to Brady and Belichick’s high standards. Not so with Cooks. He won their trust and became a key contributor, right up until the moment he was knocked out of the Super Bowl.

Also consider the situation Cooks was going into in New England. The Pats were hardly a team starved for talent. Brady was quite comfortable throwing to the likes of Gronkowski, Amendola, Hogan, White, Lewis, Burkhead and others. Despite walking into a room of entrenched veterans, Cooks finished the season only two yards behind Gronk for the lead in receiving yards and led the team in targets. If he is able to compete for targets with that group, it should be safe to assume he might be able to best his two elders in Los Angeles, Kupp and Woods.

It is likely that the Rams traded for Cooks with the intention of making him their clear number 1 receiver. The tell-tale sign will be what happens with Cooks’ contract. He’s up for free agency at the end of this season. It seems hard to believe that the Rams do not intend to invest in Cooks for the long-term. Last year they traded a first for Watkins only to watch him walk in the offseason. It would be hard to imagine them recklessly spending 1st round picks in consecutive seasons with nothing to show for it. A new contract is coming and likely soon. And why not, they will be signing a 24-year old receiver with three 1,000-yard seasons and pairing him with a 3rd year quarterback on what many consider one of the best young teams in the league. If and when he is signed and the Cooks-Goff chemistry takes hold we could be looking at one of the best QB/WR stacks for the next 5+ years.

Fantasy-wise:

Dynasty: Current value is likely very cheap. He s a potential #1 on a young team on the rise. If he re-signs long-term his value should get a nice jolt upwards. Buy the current dip.

Best ball: Current ADP is 51 on PlayDraft and he is the 21st receiver going off the board, behind a number of possible disappointments. Again, this seems like more than fair value for him. I’d consider sneaking him in on a few teams as he could very well finish as the #1 Rams receiver.

 

San Francisco 49ers

Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers finished the 2017 on a tear. Having posted a record of 1 and 10 to begin the season, Kyle Shanahan turned to his mid-season acquisition to ride out the year. He did not disappoint. Garoppolo would start weeks 13 through 17, posting impressive fantasy totals in five consecutive wins. Niners fans were given reason to be excited.

This offseason Garoppolo converted his 5-win stretch into a long-term contract. He is the face of the franchise for the foreseeable future. The Niners are likely in good hands for the long-term, the short-term is another story. Garoppolo’s play in 2017 was certainly impressive but it is perhaps wise to get a little perspective on his small sample size before paying his current ADP of 105.5 and QB9 ranking.

As QB9, Garoppolo finds himself being chosen ahead of the likes of Matt Stafford, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, and Philip Rivers. Now, it can easily be argued that Jimmy is worthy of being chosen ahead of those elder statesmen in dynasty, where age is certainly a factor, it is a much harder case to suggest he should be drafted ahead of any of them for the 2018 season.

A look at last season’s streak suggests the 49ers may not carry their year-end momentum into the new season and at some point, Jimmy may lose some of his offseason hyperbolic shine. For that reason, selling him into the current ADP could net you valuable assets and positions with greater scarcity. There is a strong case to sell the premium and wait for a dip to by. Here’s why.

A strong finish

Upon closer inspection, Garoppolo’s 2017 sample size is not as impressive as we might remember it.

Win one:

Jimmy’s five game tear began against the Chicago Bears. A team that came into that contest with a 4-game losing streak and seemed to have, albeit slightly prematurely, turned the page on the John Fox era.

Win two

The second win came against a Houston Texans team missing their own small-sample-size quarterback and riding a 1-5 record over their previous 6-game stretch into the matchup.

Win three:

Some credit can be given to the 49ers for beating the would-be playoff bound Titans. The Titans fell ass backwards into the post-season and then somehow beat Kansas City, so this is a valuable win. Though re-examining the Titans’ season, the squad really only managed to beat one credible team in the regular season (Jacksonville), the other wins all now appear to have been hanging-curve balls, with the benefit of hindsight.

Win four:

Then there is what was is inarguably an impressive win. Jimmy G and company managed to beat the Jags, scoring an impressive number of points in doing so. Mind you Jimmy managed only 240 yards in that matchup while his counterpart provided a buffet of turnovers to provide the Niners every chance to win. This was an impressive and important team win, but not Jimmy’s alone.

Win five:

Week 17 pitted Jimmy versus the Rams backups. The Rams were on auto pilot and the 49ers finished strong with a lineup of starters.

So, the 2017 legend of Jimmy run was a real thing, but it is likely being overplayed a little. Given that the 49ers open the 2018 season against the very strong Vikings D team and follow up with games against KC, Green Bay, the Rams twice and Broncos, this could be two steps back season before Jimmy and company take any more steps forward.

If you own Jimmy in dynasty, it would be worth at least seeing what the market has to offer. Perhaps someone is will to pay a considerable premium for a player getting inflated credit at a position deep with talent. With Roethlisberger, Ryan, Rivers and Stafford all being valued below Jimmy, you may be able to net one of those older QBs along with a young receiver or running back. It is certainly worth exploring as his value may suddenly take a hit should he not perform at his 2017 level.

In best ball, the aforementioned old guys can all put up equal or greater numbers, so you should let the competition draft him and attach positions of scarcity.

This is likely a year to sit Jimmy out, and should he disappoint, look to acquire him post-hype.

Speaking of hype

Jerick McKinnon is an excellent player. He’s a tremendous athlete with shocking good strength for his size and a receiving skill set among the top in the NFL. Kyle Shanahan’s record with running backs, along with his father, are the stuff of legend. It has been a rule of thumb now for two generations: draft Shanahan running backs. It has been a winning proposition. Not to be a broken record, but his offseason hype inflation could also provide another opportunity to sell high.

McKinnon was provided an opportunity to be the top running back in Minnesota but was unable to assume Dalvin Cook’s role, post injury. He played a role as a runner and a receiver but was never able to shoulder the full load. The Shanahan effect, new contract and offseason hysteria have taken McKinnon to new heights. Currently drafted 21.3 ADP and RB14, there is again value to be squeezed here. Keep in mind that McKinnon’s ADP is skewed somewhat by early season action on PlayDraft (our ADP reference) that saw him going in the double-digit rounds prior to the Niners acquiring him. His is now drafted anywhere from the early 2nd to late 3rd round. This is hype you should price.

Last year the 49ers were led by now departed Carlos Hyde. Hyde managed 900+ yards rushing and 350 receiving, along with 8 TDs. These are the numbers drafters must be assuming McKinnon can duplicate or better. But is the Hyde role his?

Looking at last year’s numbers one must consider Matt Breida. Breida managed an under-the radar 465 rushing yards and 180 yards receiving, on roughly half of the touches of Hyde. It seems a safe bet that Breida’s modest success did not go unnoticed by the coaching staff, and that he should factor into the 2018 gameplan. As offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons, Shanahan incorporated two talents into his backfield, with considerable success. Both Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman were able to provide numbers on the ground and through the air, acting at times as interchangeable pieces. Could it be that the Niners intend on employing a more equally divided running attack? It may be that Kyle Shanahan, smart and adaptable coach that he is, intends to employ a similar split backfield in San Fran, one in which Breida takes far more touches than reflected in either his current ADP or McKinnon’s.

With this in mind, it might be wise to field offers for Jerick McKinnon in the hopes and being overpaid, or at least receiving a more clear-cut number 1 RB. While it’s not a certainty the backfield will be shared, there are some hints that McKinnon may not inherit the full workload. For that reason it is important to at least see how your fellow dynasty owners value him. At the same time, it could be worthwhile exploring Breida as a possible cheap asset to acquire, given his 2017 season was overshadowed by Hyde and he has now been swallowed by the McKinnon hype Tsunami, he can be had in the very late rounds in best ball and dynasty.

Receivers

The Shanahan offense has typically employed a go to X receiver. The Atlanta version of which was Julio Jones. No such talent can be found on the current 49ers roster. It can be assumed that Shanahan is again capable of adapting and may be willing to employ a Patriot-esque receiving corps strategy. It’s also worth considering that this offense continues to be a rebuild in progress and all of the pieces aren’t present. Said X receiver could very well be drafted from next year’s rich wideout crop. For that reason, it would be wise to avoid overpaying for a player like Marquise Goodwin and look instead to some of the less exciting targets.

For best ball purposes, rather than pay up for slightly expensive Goodwin, draft capital is better spent on Pierre Garcon (500 yards in 8 games last year) and Matt Waldman’s top receiver prospect Dante Pettis. Both should provide production above expectation (based on ADP) while Goodwin threatens to disappoint.

As far as dynasty goes, I’d again avoid Goodwin and opt for Pierre Garcon who will only be 32 going into the season and Dante Pettis, who when looking at the current roster, seems to be the player most likely to be around for the long-term.

Tight end

The 49ers hype extends to tight end George Kittle, who’s 2017 contributions suggested a promising future in San Francisco. Like Pettis, Kittle could become a mainstay in the Shanahan system, and like RB and the X receiver, tight end is a position that has done well. With Garcon having missed the Jimmy intro and Pettis not yet on the squad for the 5-game streak, Kittle has the early lead for familiarity with the new QB. He will compete for targets with Garrett Celek but could very well reach relevancy as he approaches 700 yards plus this season. He is also likely to be one of the better red zone options for this team, that while they may not win more than eight games, can certainly score a few more touchdowns than they managed in the first half of 2017.

Wrapping up

In short, there is no panic to sell Garoppolo or McKinnon, but given their inflated offseason values it is worth exploring what a trade might net you. It’s always fun to gauge your league and get a sense of how others value your guys. Don’t fall in love with the hype when it is possible you can generate a great return. In best ball, Jimmy is an avoid at ADP and McKinnon is worth rostering when he falls beyond the 2nd round.

Goodwin is best rostered on someone else’s team. He’s too expensive for what could be disappointing production as the returning Garcon eats his targets. Pierre Garcon should be consistently productive, though perhaps boring. Pettis is likely to flash here and there this season but should be aggressively bought for dynasty purposes.

At running back, Breida is a nice late best ball pick and could also surprise by stealing touches from McKinnon in dynasty. Given his cheap valuation it is a low-cost risk worth taking.

George Kittle can be drafted in best ball without worry and is worth a look in dynasty as well.

All in al the 49ers look to be headed in the right direction. The rebuild moved along faster than anticipated, but there is much work left to be done. Their only shortcoming is that they became one of the leagues offseason darlings and the market has run away with several player valuations. That appears to be an opportunity to sell the expensive Niners and grab the cheap ones.