For the record – Rams vs Vikings

@ Rams -6.5 over Minnesota

On the surface, it’s the 3-0 Rams versus a Vikings team who just lost to Buffalo, at home.

So the narrative might go like this: the humiliated Vikings will be out for blood and Zimmer will have them on their toes. Easier said than done. The Vikings offensive line is likely not up to the task of the Rams defense. Cook and Cousins will have little time to generate yards, despite their best efforts. It is hard to imagine a game plan that would compensate for the fatal flaw of no blocking.

In devil’s advocate terms, a case could be made that the Rams are a bit of a mirage, given that two of their three wins came against the seemingly lowly Raiders and Cards. It’s feasible that the Rams come in overconfident and aren’t ready for the Vikings fury, but I doubt it. The Vikings’ holes are just too big.

And those holes do not begin and end with their offensive line. The early season 2018 defense has been a serious downgrade from last year’s unit.

Again, Minnesota will be fired up for this one, they will likely put up a good fight for a few quarters,  but I think in the end their shortcomings will be revealed, and the Rams will take advantage. Rams to cover.

IN DYNASTY TERMS

Still buying all the Brandon Cooks you will sell me. Again, he’s younger than both Woods and Kupp, considerably more talented then either and has the speed to take advantage of defenses preoccupied with Todd Gurley. He, along with Goff and Gurley are signed for the foreseeable future. There are years and years of top ten points to be had here, and yet 2017 Watkins comparisons have him undervalued. Another big week and that skepticism is likely to disappear.

Dalvin Cook is likely in for a rough ride this week and his early season lackluster numbers may have some owners ready to talk. Next week against Philly may be equally discouraging for stakeholders. It may not happen this year, but eventually this offensive line will get better and we will all be reminded of pre-injury 2017 Cook.

Dynasty Tight End Rankings

Tight End Rankings
Tight End    Reason
Rob Gronkowski Still head and shoulders above the rest of the league
Travis Kelce Steady at #2
Zach Ertz Still holding the typical #3 spot, but most likely to fall of the top three due to Goedert
David Njoku Has all the physical and mental tools needed to succeed. If Cleveland emerges, he could lead.
Hunter Henry A lost year but still only 23.
Evan Engram Volume questions persist after rookie year bolstered by being only healthy body in town.
Kyle Rudolph Red Zone TD hog.
Jordan Reed If not for the injury concerns, he would be #3 on this list
Tyler Eifert Same story as Reed, if healthy he is much more valuable.
OJ Howard Targets is a near-term concern, coaching turn-over a long term question.
George Kittle Small sample size, but could very well be a red zone star.
Trey Burton An offseason darling who has run up based on a handful of games and optimistic speculation. Show me.
Jimmy Graham Injuries have made him a shadow of his former self. Rodgers could propel him higher.
Ricky Seals-Jones Hot finish on a team in desperate need on offensive targets. Could make a serious leap.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins New team, new role. Wait and see approach.
Austin Hooper A now or never year for Hooper. All the talent needed, none of the production.

Dynasty WR ranks

I’m skeptical of rookies until proven otherwise. And given the track record of rookie WRs its reasonable to think they will be available at more reasonable prices in years two and three.

Here’s how I’m valuing them now, or how I think they’ll be valued come year end.

Dynasty WR Ranks
Wide Receiver Reason
DeAndre Hopkins He doesn’t catch the ball. He attacks it. He owns it. A beast with a QB on the rise
Keenan Allen PPR beast, technician, not going anywhere for a very long time.
Odell Beckham Big market noisy and likely to face a QB transition give me pause.
Antonio Brown He’s Antonio Brown
Julio Jones A beast off a bad year. He’s got production and trade value to spare.
AJ Green Forever tied to Julio, though anchored by a QB, coach and organization.
Stefon Diggs He might be Antonio Brown 2.0
Doug Baldwin Just like the next guy except his Drew Brees is considerably younger.
Michael Thomas Brees sunset coming. Questions about what he is in aftermath.
Brandin Cooks New teams, new playbooks: no problem. 24 years old with three 1,000 yards seasons. Yes please.
Corey Davis QB and rookie season questions loom, but I remain a believer this staff makes it work.
Sammy Watkins Home at last. Great potential fit. It’s now or never for this once highly regarded talent.
Davante Adams Prove it year. If he does he jumps 5+ spots. Otherwise a rookie is making big leaps.
Tyreek Hill Strange player with hug opportunity to modernize the no helmet tackle era.
Josh Gordon One time stud with a giant hiatus. All the tools and now possibly the brain to match.
Mike Evans Yes, way down here. Big body era gone by? Question marks at QB and coach? I prefer certainty.
T.Y. Hilton If Luck is right, he climbs but Tommy John is no joke.
Juju Smith Schuster Surprisingly mature, surprisingly young, excellent teal with a track record at WR development.
Amari Cooper Yes, way down here. If he cares he’ll be good to great. He hasn’t cared yet.
Jarvis Landry A boring track record that can’t be argued with. Cleveland is as good or better than Miami, no?
Kenny Golloday Potential beast with an under-loved QB who will have Rivers/Roethlisberger love in a year.
Golden Tate A new era WR that arrived too early. Still more yards to come.
Kenny Stills Under the radar #1 in Miami and not going away any time soon. Also 26.
Chris Godwin He’s 22, Evans is likely overrated and TB is in transition. I think his contract sees the other side.
Tyler Lockett Now or never season for this one time high upside 25 year old.
Cameron Meredith Nice recipe for fantasy jolt playing with Brees. 25 years old.
Sterling Shepard Meredith without the Brees bump. ODB counterweight.
Allen Robinson Once loved, loved again but many questions to be answered.
Keelan Cole Most of his yards in 17 came from play action. Fournette should provide more opportunity.
Nelson Agholor Wentz still needs another #1. Maybe Jeffrey?

 

Dynasty QB Ranks

First of all, everyone’s dynasty roster is in a different state. If you’re going for it you’ll happily trade an unproven rookie for a stable senior citizen QB.

The list below is how I would view these players’ trade values for the season ahead.

Rank Player Age Comment
1 Russell Wilson 29 MVP/HOF calibre despite coaching
2 Aaron Rodgers 34 MVP/HOF calibre despite coaching
3 Matt Stafford 30 Steady as she goes. Crazy weapons
4 Cam Newton 29 Feels like a time bomb
5 Andrew Luck 28 Higher if he’s right
6 Carson Wentz 25 1 more season cements value
7 Marcus Mariota 24 Lofty position that needs to be earned
8 Deshaun Watson 22 Nice start, show me more
9 Matt Ryan 33 A strong career finish coming
10 Jared Goff 23 Progress, but mighty D/Run game is a ceiling
11 Lamar Jackson 21 Runs and throws well
12 Pat Mahomes 22 Throws well and runs
13 Jameis Winston 24 Maturity misteps proving to be an anchor
14 Jimmy Garoppolo 26 Overhyped, overpriced
15 Philip Rivers 36 Shot put gold medalist
16 Ben Roethlisberger 36 Armed with star-studded cast
17 Drew Brees 39 Last gasp: return of the air game
18 Mitch Turbisky 23 Mariota, with a coaching headstart
19 Josh Rosen 21 He can take this job early
20 Eli Manning 37 Roethlisberger-like cast
21 Sam Darnold 21 Ideally he is afforded a learning year
22 Tom Brady 41 Old man vs AFC east
23 Baker Mayfield 23 Has to overcome a curse od Cleveland
24 Kirk Cousins 29 New team/system. Not as young as you think
25 Blake Bortles 26 Underhyped, underpriced
26 Derek Carr 27 Possibly horrible
27 Chad Kelly 24 Probably best Broncos QB now
28 Dak Prescott 25 Must overcome lack of coaching and weapons
29 Alex Smith 34 You’re not in Kansas (City) anymore
30 Andy Dalton 30 Boring us into submission. Possible surprise
31 Teddy Bridgewater 25 Deserves a chance to be a #1
32 Josh Allen 22 Poison narrative makes him a value play
33 Ryan Tannehill 30 Reclamation project. Perhaps Gase turns it around
34 Mason Rudolph 23 Long wait behind stubborn jerk
35 Kyle Lauletta 22 Probably not the heir apparent but a lifetime backup
36 Case Keenum 30 Journeyman killing time looking for QB1
37 Joe Flacco 33 The big yawn. Lamar push may provide minor lift
38 Tyrod Taylor 29 Denied a real shot, Cleveland will rush Mayfield

 

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!

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.

 

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.