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Fantasy Football Trade Targets - Week 7

The fantasy trade market is always a fun one to evaluate. Articles like this are essentially glorified "Who's Hot and Who's Not" pieces but the tables are turned to where sometimes, you want to trade for those that are cold and trade away those hot.

Now, six weeks into the season, we have several big-name players underperforming and others over-performing. The trade market has the most leverage possible early on in the year when owners are 0-6 or 1-5 with injuries flooding them (especially this year). The time to buy/sell is now and I am here to help.

If you like this piece or others like it,  follow me on Twitter @RotoSurgeon to catch on any relevant and/or ask questions. Best of luck!

 

Players To Trade For

J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens

With Mark Ingram presumably out or limited for the next few weeks due to an ankle sprain, J.K. Dobbins has an opportunity to seize a larger workload in the Ravens backfield.

The Ravens' backfield as a whole is a mess for fantasy. Dobbins has been on the field plenty since Week 1 but is only averaging six touches per game. Gus Edwards is rumored to see an increase in touches as well but his role seems fairly established as an early-down grinder, particularly, late in games to eat first-downs and maintain leads. Given that Edwards has just three targets this season and 12 total in his three year career, it's fair to assume that he will not see a significantly substantive change to his role. It is very likely that Justice Hill is activated if Ingram is out. Hill will probably take on two-minute drills and obvious passing situations like last season.

Edwards is a tell for defenses that the Ravens want to run. The hard part is of course stopping their potent ground game thanks to super-human athlete Lamar Jackson at the helm. Nevertheless, even the Ravens have to keep defenses honest and have versatile options on offense. Dobbins spaces the field much more than Edwards and can even move out-wide to play some receiver. His snap-share probably does not exceed 50% sans Ingram but his touches could consistently hit low double-digits, which is all he needs in this offense to become a fantasy-viable starter.

Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers

Adams is obviously not some diamond-in-the-rough but there is a window to buy at partially discounted value. After missing multiple weeks with a hamstring injury and now being five weeks removed from an extraterrestrial-like Week 1 performance, Adams can possibly be traded for with a WR like DK Metcalf who has not missed all season or Ronald Jones, a RB coming off of three straight 100-yard performances. There are plenty of avenues to get creative here but the main goal is to acquire Adams who could end the season as the WR1 in PPG scoring.

There is virtually no competition for targets in GB and even when hounded by secondaries, Adams is bound to win, especially in the end-zone where he has been a favorite target of Rodgers' throughout his career. The Packers' offense is not devoid of talent but even after missing two games, Adams still leads the team in targets (tied with Marquez Valdes-Scantling). Adams saw 10 targets in his first game back from injury and is underperforming his expected yards-after-catch per reception at the sixth-highest rate in the league. He is as dominant a WR as there is in the league and is in his prime of primes at age 27. The Packers' defense is horrendous (30th in DVOA) which will keep the offense moving through the air despite Coach LaFleur's desire to run.

It is not out of the question for Adams to hit a pro-rated end-of-year target total of 200, this type of player is worth buying even at full-cost.

 

Players To Trade Away

Kenyan Drake, Arizona Cardinals

Although this sell is a little too obvious, it must be done. Drake's rushing line at half-time this past Monday night was 7 rushes, 20 yards, and one TD. The Cowboys' gave up in the second half, it was evident from DeAndre Hopkins' 60-yard catch and Drake's 69-yard TD run. There was no fight left in that defense after witnessing the demise of their offense thanks to Andy Dalton and their shoddy offensive line. The play-calling was horrendous, specifically, the 58-yard field goal call when down 25 points in the first-half.

Drake has been a black hole all season and is hardly used in the passing attack. His value in the past was driven by his usage as a receiver but now, in passing-downs, Chase Edmonds gets the call. Drake has totaled just eight (8!!) targets through six games which puts him on pace for the second-lowest total of his career (first being his low-usage rookie season). While Drake's snap-share has remained steady all season, Edmonds had been incrementally rising up until this past week where his services as a receiver were unnecessary. This backfield is not one that will be ran away with anytime soon but if Drake hits another skid, Edmonds will be right on his tail to pick up the slack. Take the value regained from this past game versus Dallas and try to move Drake. It will be hard due to the timing but there's no harm in trying.

Terry McLaurin, Washington Football Team

*DISCLAIMER: Do not trade McLaurin until AFTER this weekend's matchup versus the Cowboys*

Scary Terry is a fantastic receiver on pace to have a great season, unfortunately, that pace is now derailed thanks to the decision to bench Dwayne Haskins and role out a QB duo of Kyle Allen and Alex Smith. While Allen is the starter for now, it is very possible that Smith takes over full-time if struggles continue. The splits here, although within a small sample, speak for themselves

McLaurin is faced with the gargantuan task of carrying the receiving load for a mediocre football team in complete flux, aiming at their future this season rather than the season itself. If he were to suffer a minor-ish injury, the team would probably shut him down as to not further the damage on their start wide-out. The risk with McLaurin outweighs the reward and luckily, he is coming off of a good enough game (12 targets, 7 receptions, and 74 yards) to sell with some semblance of value.



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Slow Starters Ready to Break Out in Fantasy?

We are now more than a third of the way into the fantasy football season and a seemingly clearer picture is available across the landscape. After a pandemic-shortened offseason and lack of preseason exposure, there were plenty of worries headed into the first month specifically. Thus far, one of the most prevalent topics with regards to how the pandemic played a part in fantasy is injuries because that is the easiest connection to make between lack of training camp reps, allowing for limited ramp-up time for players.

While injuries are the most tangible, slow-starting players are also ones who may have been hurt by the limited reps. Several skill guys had their snaps/roles cut early on in the season (Joe Mixon for example), yet were brought along over the course of subsequent weeks. Every player's performance is affected differently. Some are due to the pandemic, others are due to a rough schedule. It is often hard to pinpoint but this piece takes the best possible approach to evaluating each player's position.

Here are five slow starters expected to bounce back this season. For any questions on this topic or any other post, feel free to follow me on Twitter (@RotoSurgeon) and shoot it through.

 

Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles

I'm not buying any of the Jalen Hurts hype coming from the internet. Wentz has not been perfect, but thus far, he is not the only problem in Philadelphia's offense. Currently, nine out of 11 offensive starters are out with injury. Plus, Wentz is dealing with a league-worst 16 drops from his pass-catchers.

The Zach Ertz injury is a blessing-in-disguise because a plodding TE is now removed from the equation, allowing for more dynamic players to take his place. Richard Rodgers will sub in for the interim and Dallas Goedert, upon return from IR, will then take over. Ertz has been terrible this season despite having a fruitful history as Wentz's safety blanket. He shrinks the field around him, forcing more attention elsewhere.

Losing Miles Sanders would prove costly if the Eagles were not facing the New York Giants this week and then facing off against Dallas' putrid defense afterward. Boston Scott and the backups should fill-in just fine. With a bye week right after, Sanders should be fully healthy for the stretch run to take control of the NFC East in the second half.

Jalen Reagor's timetable to return from his thumb injury lines up here as well along with DeSean Jackson and Lane Johnson. The Eagles are in the most advantageous position within the division, making it possible they even add a dynamic piece at the trade deadline given the plethora of receivers potentially available for trade. Wentz is currently QB15 in scoring with a ceiling around the top-six given his increased rushing. Wentz is running more, and more efficiently than ever with 6.1 yards-per-carry on 28 carries. He is on pace for a career-high 75 attempts and already has four touchdowns on the ground which make up for and negate the increased turnovers this season.

 

Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams

It is inconceivable that Akers only played one snap this past weekend versus the 49ers but it happened and Rams head coach Sean McVay's "game-flow" explanation was a non-answer. Akers was not drafted with their first pick in the 2020 draft and named starter out the gates to ride the bench. Either there was an issue in practice or Akers is still not fully healthy.

Despite playing 13 snaps in Week 5 and touching the ball nine times, it did not make much sense to keep him benched the next week, especially with McVay commenting on his increased involvement. Akers returned along a reasonable timeline from his rib cartilage injury, yet the "optimal recovery time" according to Inside Injuries of The Athletic is five weeks as to not re-aggravate the rib. Akers suffered the injury in Week 2 and we are now heading into Week 7.

Darrell Henderson has looked very good in a handful of games and mediocre in others. Nevertheless, he has the "hot-hand" and will continue to start until he is usurped or fails. Akers will have to be the one to usurp him and fortunately for fantasy GMs who are stashing him, he is quite capable. Henderson is seldom used on third-down and obvious passing-situations because of his limitations as a pass-blocker and receiver. This is where Akers could thrive and eat into the RB snaps.

Malcolm Brown has been a black hole when given touches since Week 2 but that is nothing new. Brown is averaging 3.7 yards-per-carry and 2.2 yards-per-target thus far, below-pedestrian numbers. If Akers' issue with getting on the field is due to the Rams' desire to unleash him on third-down and passing downs, there is a fantasy monster brewing that should have been unleashed earlier.

 

T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts

Hilton has been extremely disappointing early on, no one is arguing against that. The assumption coming into the season was that despite a clear decline for Philip Rivers, the fringe Hall-of-Fame QB would still be an upgrade over Jacoby Brissett as a passer. That, unfortunately, has not been very true as Rivers is looking like a shell of himself but the Colts are winning games on the back of their top-three defense. The addition of RB Jonathan Taylor in the second round of the 2020 draft was meant to spark the offense as well but he has been just as disappointing, if not more than Rivers given the high hopes that come with youth. All-in-all, the Colts' offense is bad.

Hilton's 6.5 yards-per-target on the season is a career-low and he has not found the end-zone yet through six games. However, he did have a TD called back this past week on a penalty far away from the play. He has six red-zone targets on the season and is still building rapport with Rivers. Parris Campbell and Michael Pittman Jr. are out for the foreseeable future and now Hilton is playing nearly every snap. Over the first four weeks, he did not play more than 80% of the offensive snaps in a single game, but these past two, he has played 95% and 94%, respectively. Hilton owns a 19% target share this season with a season-high 10 coming two weeks ago versus the Browns. He is still fast/explosive and has brighter days ahead given a very soft second-half schedule.

 

Marquise Brown, Baltimore Ravens

Hollywood Brown is one of the fastest players in the league playing on arguably the most versatile offense, and yet, his fantasy production is lacking in 2020. Part of the reason for this is Lamar Jackson and the Ravens' low-passing volume, and another is the lack of need for extensive receiving production.

Brown has just one red-zone target on the season and did not crack 80% of snaps through the first four weeks of the season but has 86% and 85% over the past two weeks, respectively. The Ravens have outscored opponents thus far by a margin of 75 points. In their one loss to the Chiefs, Brown was blanketed and then phased out from the game by being on the opposite end of a blowout.

Brown's home-run ability makes him a stereotypical boom-or-bust option but with a 26% target share and nine yards-per-target, he is just on the wrong end of touchdown variance with one on the season. He's a fantasy star on the cusp of breaking out.

 

Austin Hooper, Cleveland Browns

Austin Hooper has ascended to fantasy relevance over the past few weeks but has yet to truly break out. After signing the largest free-agent TE contract ever, Hooper was expected to be a massive part of Cleveland's offense after a fantastic stretch in Atlanta. While a good bit of his production was driven by a high-volume passing offense next to Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, Hooper held his own with a large target share and end-zone production.

Through the first three weeks of the 2020 season, Hooper totaled seven receptions on 10 targets for 62 yards and no touchdowns. Just this past week, he had five receptions on six targets for 52 yards with 57 yards the game prior. Snaps have not been an issue as he is on the field plenty but with David Njoku back in the mix, he has seen a dip below 80% over the past two weeks despite an increase in targets.

Fortunately, Njoku has once again requested a trade out from Cleveland, leaving Hooper and Harrison Bryant as the primary options at the position. Hooper played up to 98% of the snaps in games sans Njoku and will likely carry a massive share moving forward. He's building rapport with QB Baker Mayfield but there is work to be done.

Having only two red-zone targets thus far is disappointing, but that could change as the chemistry grows. Cleveland is being forced to throw more often than they'd like with star RB Nick Chubb out-of-commission. Hooper's role will continue to grow and it could hopefully blossom in the second half of this season.



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The Operating Room Ep. 5: Players to Watch Before NFL Trade Deadline

In the fourth episode of the operating room, host Kev Mahserejian (@RotoSurgeon) of RotoBaller discusses players to watch before the NFL Trade Deadline.

Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well!

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NFL Trade Deadline and Fantasy Implications

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Fantasy Football Trade Targets - Week 6

The fantasy trade market is always a fun one to evaluate. Articles like this are essentially glorified "Who's Hot and Who's Not" pieces but the tables are turned to where sometimes, you want to trade for those that are cold and trade away those hot.

Now, five weeks into the season, we have several big-name players underperforming and others over-performing. The trade market has the most leverage possible early on in the year when owners are 0-5 or 1-4 with injuries flooding them (especially this year). The time to buy/sell is now and I am here to help.

If you like this piece or others like it,  follow me on Twitter @RotoSurgeon to catch on any relevant and/or ask questions. Best of luck!

 

Players to Trade For

JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers

Chase Claypool breaking out is the best thing that could have happened for Juju. Now, the Steelers finally have a field-stretching threat who can play the Martavis Bryant role in the offense and open up the middle of the field for Juju to operate. While the target share and fantasy production has been mediocre for the greater part of the past two seasons, the time has come to trade for Juju. His early-career production was definitely bolstered playing next to arguably the greatest receiver of this past generation in Antonio Brown but he did hold his own without him.

In 4 games with Ben and without AB prior to this season: Juju had 35 targets, 26 receptions, 333 yards, and 3 TDs. Two of those games were with Martavis Bryant who drew plenty of attention away from the line-of-scrimmage and the hope with Claypool is the same. Claypool is so big and fast that leaving him in man coverage with a smaller DB is foolish, he needs to be doubled downfield or else. Juju's strength is playing through contact, finding holes and breaking out plays with the ball in his hands. Diontae Johnson is a talented receiver due to return soon and also bolstered by Claypool but Juju is the primary beneficiary given his style of play.

Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys

Obviously, Cooper has been fantastic this season and trading for him last week would have cost an arm and a leg but after Dak Prescott's injury and Cooper's mediocre Week 5 performance, there may be a window open to take advantage of. While Andy Dalton is a downgrade from Prescott, he is still a capable NFL QB who will be playing in the best offense since 2015 with prime A.J. Green, Marvin Jones Jr, Giovani Bernard, Tyler Eifert and Mohamed Sanu.

Five years is a lot of time, and there has been plenty of mediocrity since, but Dalton's now been in Dallas all offseason and through the first month of the season. He should know the playbook well enough to operate the offense and have plenty of easy throws given the plethora of talent at WR. The Cowboys will feed Ezekial Elliot more than they had early-on with Prescott but they can only afford to do so to a certain degree given how poor their defense is (24th in DVOA). The passing volume will be there and Cooper can succeed with any competent QB under center, especially given the talent around him.

D'Andre Swift, Detroit Lions

Swift is in a precarious position fantasy-wise as he has not played much, if at all particularly due to Adrian Peterson's arrival, but he has been fantasy-relevant scoring double-digit PPR points in three-of-four games thus far. Kerryon Johnson is slowly getting phased out of the offense and while Peterson remains as the main blockade, that could not matter so much if Swift takes on the lead job with Peterson playing more of a short-yardage role.

Swift has shown to be a fantastic receiving option out of the backfield (despite dropping the game-winner in Week 1) and has tons of rushing upside. He was the second RB drafted in 2020 for a reason and while the Lions have shown to be incompetent with the position for two decades now, Swift should be the one to buck this trend. He was dealing with a hip injury earlier in the season which may have lingered a bit. Now, coming off of the BYE, the Lions may feel a lot more comfortable with him taking on a larger load and playing much more comfortably in the offense. Not to mention, the Lions get an absolute smash matchup versus the Jaguars who have been gashed on the ground for over 300 rushing yards the past two weeks.

 

Players to Trade Away

Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers

Hopes of Ekeler returning anytime soon are fleeting. While he did post a video on Instagram recently where he was working out on a bike machine and claiming to be getting healthier, there is a huge hill to climb before getting back on the field. Ekeler's injury is fairly severe as he admitted that some of the tendon in his leg ripped off of the bone. Luckily, surgery is not required but the rehab process could last until the end of the season. With the Chargers sitting at the bottom of the AFC West with a losing record, there will be no rush to bring him back on the field in the second-half of the season when he is eligible to return from IR. Even if he does return within his six-week timeframe initially established, there is a ton of re-injury risk if he is not 100%.

This has nothing to do with on-field performance/regression whatsoever, he will be incredible on the field with a QB like Herbert who has been a massive improvement over Tyrod Taylor. Trade Ekeler away while the initial reports of his injury are more positive than they may turn out to be in a few weeks.

Henry Ruggs III, Las Vegas Raiders

After a two-game absence, Ruggs came out and torched the Chiefs' secondary for two catches, 118 yards and a TD. Ruggs' is an incredible football player whose value will often not show up on stat-sheets like in Week 5. He is a field-stretcher who can operate on several sectors of offense but when you quarterback is Derek Carr, Ruggs is needed to take the top off of defenses and keep them honest. While Carr is justifiably labeled as a check-down artist afraid of throwing deep, he is *capable* of doing so, and when he does, Ruggs can, and will produce. However, In three games, Ruggs' hasn't seen more than five targets and given the type of offense Jon Gruden runs, it is unlikely that Ruggs' target share is respectively high anytime soon.

The selling point on Ruggs is that he is a home-run threat akin to Marqiuse Brown/Will Fuller and can win weeks with some WR1 performances. He still has some cache as the first WR selected in the 2020 Draft by a team bereft of pass-catching talent. However, Nelson Agholor and Hunter Renfrow have performed well, Bryan Edwards is returning soon, and Darren Waller is essentially the WR1 despite playing TE. Ruggs will have opportunities but they will be limited, making the margin-for-error quite slim.

David Montgomery, Chicago Bears

To be absolutely clear, do not trade Montgomery until after this week's matchup versus the Panthers. He will probably have as good a game as any running back against their porous run defense. Montgomery's fantasy value is more perception-based than performance-based thus far but he is coming off of his second-best scoring week of the season. Pile on Week 6's presumed performance and you have some momentum to trade away.

Montgomery has been a terrible real-life running back since entering the league and a mediocre-at-best "workhorse" RB. There is still reason to believe that he could have a decent career but he has been mired by the surrounding offense along with his inability to run straight. With Tarik Cohen out for the season, Montgomery's immediate workload should be plentiful and that is another selling-point but it is not hard to imagine Chicago bringing in a complementary back. to alleviate some of the work and play the more valuable passing-downs. The Bears have already inquired about Le'Veon Bell and it is very possible they trade for a back prior to the deadline or sign someone off of the street if a viable one is cut.



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Fantasy Football Buy or Sell - Week 5

The fantasy stonks market is always a fun one to evaluate. Buy/Sell articles like this are essentially glorified "Who's Hot and Who's Not" but the tables are turned to where sometimes, you want to buy those that are cold and sell the hot. Buy-low, sell-high is the motto but also, sometimes it is ok to buy-high if you aren't buying as high as it could be. This sounds unintelligible but it makes sense in my head.

Now, four weeks into the season, we have several big-name players underperforming and others over-performing. The trade market has the most leverage possible early on in the year when owners are 0-4 or 1-3 with injuries flooding them (especially this year). The time to buy/sell is now and I am here to help.

If you like this piece or others like it,  follow me on Twitter @RotoSurgeon to catch on any relevant and/or ask questions. Best of luck!

 

Players to Buy

Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams

Sean McVay recently announced that rookie running back, Cam Akers, would be active for Week 5. As we know, Akers has missed the past two games with a rib cartilage injury which knocked him out of action early-on in Week 2. A rib injury is tricky given that they can be played through and are mostly pain-tolerance issues. Akers will likely wear extra padding on his chest to minimize impact but re-injury risk is possible

With Akers back in action, the Rams will hopefully clear up their murky backfield. As of right now, Malcolm Brown has been the lead back while Darrell Henderson trails along with all of the production. Henderson has not played more than 49% of the snaps in any game this year while Brown hasn't played fewer than 49%.  The Rams are either wary of re-injuring Henderson or do not see him fit to play a majority of snaps. Whatever it may be, there is clearly a reason that Akers was drafted with the first pick for them in the 2020 draft. They liked him enough to start out of the gates and while his role may be limited this week, there is plenty of opportunity to take on assuming that Brown's role is shrunk. Malcolm Brown has already been targeted more times through four games this year than in any season of his six-year career and in just 33% of the snaps in Week 1, Akers saw 15 opportunities to touch the ball. Akers is the lead back that the Rams want and his opportunity will be plentiful in a week or two. Buy Akers now while he's still "cheap".

Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers

Hunter Henry is third in TE yards and fourth in YAC, you wouldn't know this by just going off of fantasy points where he is TE15 on the season! Unfortunately, Henry has not hit pay-dirt yet and is touchdown-less on the season. Luckily, touchdowns are fairly random and can regress in an instant. Tyler Higbee has three on the season and they all came in the same game. Higbee also has nearly 100 fewer yards on the season but sits 10 slots higher in rankings.

This is not anti-Higbee, more-so, pro-Henry. He's one of the most talented TEs in the league who has been hampered by injury throughout his career. While the price may not be too cheap given that he hasn't been unproductive, Henry is worth the long-term investment for potential buyers. TE matchups are not useful predictors for future performance, but he does get the Saints this coming Monday and they have allowed the most points to the position in the league. Get Henry ASAP.

Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys

Michael Gallup has come out as the third-fiddle in the uber-talented Cowboys' receiving room. While most would have expected rookie CeeDee Lamb to take a backseat to the third-year WR coming off of a 1000-yard season, the opposite has come about. Lamb is looking like co-alpha with Amari Cooper while Gallup acts as more of a field-stretcher. While this is true, Gallup is 11th among all WRs in air yards and 4th in average distance of target (aDOT) among those WRs with at least 20 targets.

Gallup's time will come and it may be in clusters rather than consistent production. Nevertheless, those clusters can win you weeks by themselves. He's already had one boom week this year versus Seattle where he saw nine targets and produced six receptions, 138 yards and a touchdown. This week's matchup versus the Giants should be another one presuming that the sole skilled cornerback for the opposition, James Bradberry, opts to primarily cover Cooper or Lamb. Gallup's production at the end of the year will reflect that of a WR2 and right now his price may be that of a WR3. Acquire him for whatever is in your means and fair because every week from now you can throw him in your WR3 or FLEX spot and potentially get a winning boost.

 

Players to Sell

Jamison Crowder, New York Jets

With Sam Darnold out indefinitely with and Joe Flacco taking on the reins at QB for the Jets, Jamison Crowder's value takes a hit. Not so much because Flacco is a worse thrower than Darnold at the moment, but because of the unknown factor that is who Flacco will target. During his time in Baltimore, Flacco found a comfort zone with tight ends as his safety valve whereas Darnold favors the slot. In Baltimore, the target share to tight ends was above 22% from 2010 on while Darnold has only provided 18% through four games this year.

Crowder may not be the most appealing sell given his lack of name value and limitations but has had two massive PPR games in his two healthy games played this season. Crowder seldom finds the end-zone (12 TD over past 32 games) and relies on heavy volume to produce. His target-share could decline due to the return of Breshad Perriman (who Flacco played with in Baltimore) as well.

Adrian Peterson, Detroit Lions

Not D'Andre Swift, not Kerryon Johnson, but Adrian Peterson has been the RB in Detroit carrying the largest work-share on the ground. This has been one of the more odd developments of our historically ridiculous 2020 but it is not unprecedented. Just last year, we saw plodding vet Jordan Howard carry the load in Philadelphia while Miles Sanders waited in the wings and played a more complementary receiving role out of the backfield. Albeit, it did take a Howard injury for Sanders' role to expand.

While Peterson has actually played relatively well, we have to consider how long this will last given the possibility that Matt Patricia is possibly on his way out midseason. Peterson could see his role shrink in the second half of the season if the Lions continue losing. They *should* want to see more of what they got with their second-round rookie.Kerryon Johnson is a complete non-factor so he can be disregarded outside of a trade or cut situation.  Peterson's production thus far has been fantasy-relevant and given his workload, he could hold value in leagues with RB-thin waiver wires.

Phillip Lindsay, Denver Broncos

In Phillip Lindsay's absence, Melvin Gordon has thrived (particularly in Week 4). Gordon has displayed every bit of what the Broncos paid for throughout the first quarter of the season and his role will remain heavy throughout the year. Lindsay is stepping back into his presumed complementary slot but could see a lower workload if Gordon continues to thrive. Lindsay is a great story being a hometown kid but the Broncos have yet to secure him long-term and they clearly saw enough limitations to the point that they signed Gordon in the offseason.

Lindsay is a mediocre receiving back and pass-blocker (arguably the worst in 2019) therefore, he will be off the field in most passing-downs. Also, touchdowns are hard to come by given that Lindsay is not a short-yardage/goal-line back. Outside of a Gordon injury, Lindsay will not see volume similar to last year, especially early-on post-turf toe. He is essentially the opposite of Cam Akers where you want to sell before he gets on the field rather than vice-versa. Lindsay's name-value could be appealing to a league-mate who is struggling at the RB spot and needs a starter for the next few weeks.



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The Operating Room Ep. 4: Breaking Down the Rams Backfield

In the fourth episode of the operating room, host Kev Mahserejian (@RotoSurgeon) of RotoBaller discusses the Rams backfield and what to make of it for the rest of the season.

Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well!

Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller Radio on SiriusXM (channel Sirius 210, XM 87) - every weekday morning between 6-7 AM ET, and every weekend too from 6-8 AM ET. You can also find new weekly shows on the site under RotoBaller Radio podcasts.

 

Breaking Down the Rams Backfield

Thanks for listening to today's episode! Be sure to tune in throughout the week, and to also follow RotoBaller on Twitter, YouTube and iTunes for the latest fantasy news and analysis.

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Fantasy Football Buy or Sell - Week 4

The fantasy stonks market is always a fun one to evaluate. Buy/Sell articles like this are essentially glorified "Who's Hot and Who's Not" but the tables are turned to where sometimes, you want to buy those that are cold and sell the hot. Buy-low, sell-high is the motto but also, sometimes it is ok to buy-high if you aren't buying as high as it could be. This sounds unintelligible but it makes sense in my head.

Now, three weeks into the season, we have several big-name players underperforming and others over-performing. The trade market has the most leverage possible early on in the year when owners are 0-3 or 1-2 with injuries flooding them (especially this year). The time to buy/sell is now and I am here to help.

If you like this piece or others like it,  follow me on Twitter @RotoSurgeon to catch on any relevant and/or ask questions. Best of luck!

 

Players to Buy

Odell Beckham Jr., Cleveland Browns

Three weeks into the season, we have two dud games from OBJ and one stud game. That ratio should ideally be flipped given his late third-round/early-fourth price tag in drafts. Unfortunately, there are negatives that will persist throughout the season (assuming he stays in Cleveland) and they include his QB and target volume via the offense. The Browns have been one of the most, if not the most efficient team at running the football and that will continue to limit the passing offense from a volume perspective. Baker Mayfield has only thrown 46 passes totals over the past two weeks. For reference, rookie Joe Burrow threw the ball 61 times in one game against the Browns alone. Along with the volume issues, Baker Mayfield has been one of the least accurate passers in the league thus far in 2020 in terms of "throws on target". He ranks 4th-worst in the NFL at 70.9%.

However, there is a bright side for the Browns' top receiver. He is now fully healthy after offseason hernia surgery and remains one of the most talented individuals in football who can turn nothing into something, whether it be in the middle of the field or outside. His target share is just over 25% and there is no way the rushing attack will be as efficient moving forward. While the Browns will lean more run-heavy than pass relative to the rest of the league, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt rank first and second in the league for rushing yards over expectation. Also, the Browns have yet to play in a "normal" game. They were blown out by the Ravens in Week 1 where Beckham was inaccurately targeted 10 times then over the past two weeks, the reason Mayfield was capable of throwing so infrequently was due to their cupcake matchups versus the Bengals and Washington. The Browns held a respectable lead throughout both games, leaving Beckham with just six targets in each outing. He will be closer to the eight target per game range moving forward and could see a significant boost in the upcoming matchups of Cowboys, Colts, and Steelers.

Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans

The Texans' schedule thus far: Chiefs, Ravens and Steelers. Those teams respectively rank, 5th, 10th and 3rd in team defense according to 2020 DVOA. While three games is a small sample, those three teams in order were 14th, 5th and 3rd last year. Hard to mash together a tougher start to the year for Houston. In the meantime, Watson is QB21 on the season behind Derek Carr, Ryan Fitzpatrick and the recently benched Mitchell Trubisky. Watson will undoubtedly return to some semblance of form over the next few weeks as his schedule immediately opens up. The games up until their Week 8 BYE are Vikings, Jaguars, Titans and Packers. All four teams rank below average in DVOA this year, with the Jaguars and Packers towards the bottom of the barrel.

Watson has finished as QB5 (2019) and QB4 (2018) over the past two seasons and was first in QB points-per-game his rookie season prior to a season-ending knee injury. He will perform significantly better even without his number-one target, DeAndre Hopkins in town. While Hopkins did help Watson ascend to top-tier QB status, Watson deserves credit as well and is working with an interesting receiving corps that has remained shockingly healthy through three games. Specifically, there is no guarantee that Will Fuller and Brandin Cooks remain healthy for a large chunk of the season but you can't predict injuries (ignore Fuller's hamstring flare-up two weeks ago). With Watson's mobility and the Texans' defense doing him no favors, he is a sure-fire top-10 QB the rest of the way. The first month of the season should be considered a blip.

Brian Hill, Atlanta Falcons

Hill’s snap% (34) was the highest since Week 12 last year and he led the team in RB targets (3) His targets+rushes last week (12) is more than double Weeks 1 and 2 combined (10). He is not some uber-talented RB he just happens to be the best one on a team that is desperate for production outside of their receiving corps. The Falcons have struggled to run the ball since Devonta Freeman's knee injury in 2018 and did their best with a "Hail Mary" signing of Todd Gurley this past offseason but that might be what they expected through three games. Hill is creeping up the depth chart and could very well take over soon if Gurley is to miss time or if he continues to flop as a receiving back.

Hill has a solid RB profile with a good build and solid hands to operate in the passing game. If he were to take over, no more than back-end RB2 production should be expected but given that he is widely available on waivers or for cheap, there is little-to-no risk to acquiring right now despite a breakout performance this past Sunday against the Bears.

 

Players to Sell

Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills

Singletary played the second highest snap-rate of his career last week versus the Rams but it came as a result of Zack Moss's toe injury. Yet, even as a workhorse, Singletary had a good, yet unspectacular game to justify any change in his season-long role. Moss will be returning soon given that this injury is not long-term and should eat into Singletary's workload. Moss is a different type of back than Singletary and will be leaned on in short-yardage and passing situations which are extremely valuable as we know.

The Bills want a shared backfield and that is why they drafted Moss so high and incorporated him early-on. Singletary has found success this season but has been matched up against two of the worst rush defenses in the league in the Rams and Dolphins (25th and 31st in DVOA). He was unspectacular versus the stout Jets run defense that ranks 3rd. Singletary should remain the lead back but his build is more-so that of a change-of-pace back who is a jack-of-all-trades rather than a master of one due to his frame and athleticism.

Todd Gurley, Atlanta Falcons

If we are buying one RB on a team (Hill) that means that we're selling another. Despite two fantasy-viable games from Gurley early-on, he just does not have the juice to hold onto his job if Brian Hill continues to play well. Gurley was drafted in round three across the board presumably as the workhorse in Atlanta and that has not been the case. In two of three games thus far, Gurley has only played half of the team's snaps and is a complete non-factor in the passing game. He has seven targets through three games, five of which came in game one where he accrued on yard on two receptions.

Gurley is no longer the Gurley of yesteryear as his arthritic knee is limiting his range of motion. This sort of hinderance on an athlete is debilitating and on top of it, the nerve issue could cause severe pain at any point in the season, resulting in missed time for the former MVP-caliber RB. The matchups over the next two weeks are spectacular and if you want to wait until after to sell, go ahead, but I would get rid of him sooner rather than later. Don't want to get caught holding the hot potato too long.

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

As a caveat, do not sell until *after* the Falcons game this Monday. The Packers have a Week 5 BYE which leaves you plenty of time to field offers on Rodgers through that two-week period. Rodgers was fantastic in September and should remain a solid start throughout the entire season. The Packers' offense is off to their highest-scoring start ever with outings of 37, 42 and 43 points thus far. This offense probably remains towards the top of the league, however, even with the return of Davante Adams, it is tough to say that they will remain utterly dominant given how exploitable the teams they've faced thus far are. Not to call out Rodgers for stat-padding but they definitely have stuck it to the defenses they've faced thus far with Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams running all over the Lions then Rodgers tearing apart a Vikings/Saints Defense that is a far-cry from recent years (both outside top-10 in DVOA).

The matchups throughout the rest of the season are not even very daunting but given that Green Bay wants to run the ball heavily with their deep, talented backfield, passing touchdowns may not be as plentiful as they have been. Rodgers, now 36, is not running as often as he has in the past. With only five carries through three games, Rodgers' rushing ballast may not exist moving forward.



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Fantasy Football Players to Panic About in Week 3

In the third episode of the operating room, host Kev Mahserejian (@RotoSurgeon) of RotoBaller discusses several players to either panic or not worry about across the NFL.

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Should We Be Worried?

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Fantasy Football Buy or Sell - Week 3

The fantasy stonks market is always a fun one to evaluate. Buy/Sell articles like this are essentially glorified "Who's Hot and Who's Not" but the tables are turned to where sometimes, you want to buy those that are cold and sell the hot. Buy-low, sell-high is the motto but also, sometimes it is ok to buy-high if you aren't buying as high as it could be. This sounds unintelligible but it makes sense in my head.

Now, two weeks into the season, we have several big-name players underperforming and others over-performing. The trade market has the most leverage possible early on in the year when owners are 0-2 or 1-1 with injuries flooding them (especially this year). The time to buy/sell is now and I am here to help.

If you like this piece or others like it,  follow me on Twitter @RotoSurgeon to catch on any relevant and/or ask questions. Best of luck!

 

Players to Buy

Myles Gaskin, Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins presumably acquired both Matt Breida and Jordan Howard in the offseason to overtake the backfield as a 1-2 punch yet have stuck in-house with Myles Gaskin to carry the load. Thus far, there has been a 65-35 snap-split in favor of Gaskin with the other two backs. There does not seem to be any indication that this will change outside of a Gaskin injury or in-game mistake meaning he is the guy to own in that RB room.

The Dolphins offensive line may not be the best in the league but they possess a competent passing offense with a heightened ceiling if rookie Tua Tagovailoa were to take over. Gaskin is utilized as not only a rusher but also a receiver quite often and checks the athletic boxes necessary to indicate that he can maintain success. He is not much more than a low-end RB2 but given the state of the position and his availability, why not take that?

T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts

T.Y. Hilton has played uncharacteristically poor throughout his first two games of 2020 with new QB Philip Rivers. Hilton is only charged with one drop on the season but he has missed several catchable balls and has not exceed 10 PPR points in either game thus far. It is also important to note that he only played 58% of the offensive snaps in this past game versus Minnesota, possibly due to poor play.

Nevertheless, he has been targeted 14 times and should return to form sooner than later. He was dealing with a lower-body ailment in the offseason but Hilton is notorious for always having to deal with something (and often play through it). While we may project that age is catching up to the 31-year old receiver, at least on film, it does not look like he's lost a step with regards to speed. Lord knows that the Colts are going to need that now, more than ever with Parris Campbell essentially out for the regular season.  Plus, his grandma expects better!

Golden Tate, New York Giants

With Sterling Shepard (toe) placed on injured reserve and Tate back on the field, it is easy to piece together a boost for Tate going forward. Tate and Shepard do not eat much into each-others' play-time, however, their skillsets as talented slot receivers overlap and generally limit the function of an offense given that neither offers a niche, versatile ability to optimize an offense.

Tate caught all five of his targets for 47 yards in his lone outing of the season while playing 62% of the offense's snaps. Last season, Tate scored at least 10 PPR points in nine-of-eleven games after missing the first few weeks of the season with an injury. He is a high-end WR3 moving forward.

Curtis Samuel, Carolina Panthers

Curtis Samuel is an interesting case given his career thus far. He came out of the gates firing in Carolina with Cam Newton but, unfortunately, broke his ankle and has not been very productive since. Part of the reason for his lack of production is Newton's injuries hampering his ability to throw along with the poor quarterback carousel in recent years. While Christian McCaffrey is hurt, an opportunity is open for Samuel to take over a larger role in the backfield and possibly maximize his unique skill-set.

The Panthers have failed Samuel to a particular degree by not utilizing him as a deep threat more often, rather, forcing him to play in the slot where his abilities are inhibited. The man runs as 4.31 40, he is not meant to play through contact without the ball in his hands. It is also important to note that Samuel had more rush attempts (172) than receptions (107) in college. A good chunk of those came on jet sweeps/end-around plays but he does possess the ability to operate in the backfield and can be motioned outside to run go-routes. Samuel may have been dropped in your league but he is worth a speculative add everywhere to see his usage in Week 3.

 

Players to Sell

James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers

James Conner has had a..fascinating start to 2020. After getting benched(?) Week 1 for Benny Snell, Conner came out and had arguably his best performance in two years in Week 2. The report in Week 1 seemed to be that he was dealing with an ankle issue but he looked fine on the sidelines and was itching to get back in the game but with Snell out-performing him, Conner remained sidelined. Maybe it was an early-season thing with no preseason to re-introduce the players to game speed?

No one knows for sure outside of that locker room, all we do know is that Benny Snell was essentially benched in Week 2 after fumbling, and it resulted in a Conner breakthrough and sell-window. Now, Coach Tomlin has come out over the offseason and stated that Conner is the bell-cow, three-down back for them but actions speak louder than words and we saw last year a committee incorporated in Pittsburgh for the first time in years. While it is unfair to deem Conner, or any player for that matter as "injury-prone" he is as close to the label as possible. Conner is a sell given the unknown nature of that backfield.

Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills

In Week 1, Josh Allen just crossed 300 passing yards for the first time in his statistically relevant football career then topped that performance with his first 400 passing yard game in Week 2. The addition of Stefon Diggs to that offense has seemingly paid dividends early-on and should continue to assuming everyone stays healthy. The Bills have a potent, well-meshed receiving corps in Diggs, John Brown, and Cole Beasley but knowing Allen, it is probable best to assume that the mistakes will come sooner than later while the improvements level off to a degree.

However, it should not be ignored that the Bills have faced two of the softest pass-defenses in the NFL, the Jets and the Dolphins. Allen is now up to 727 passing yards and 6 passing touchdowns on the season with 76 rushing yards and a TD on the ground. He was extremely fantasy relevant in 2019 and should remain so in 2020 but not to the same level as he's performed thus far. Sell Allen to a QB-needy owner desperate for upside at the position and roll with either a streamer or underperforming player (Daniel Jones) who has brighter days ahead.

Mike Davis, Carolina Panthers

With Christian McCaffrey out-of-commission and, uh, Mike Davis remaining as the heir-apparent in the Carolina backfield, it is fair to assume that we might not see a direct siphon from CMC to Davis given Davis's level of talent. Davis is a journeyman who has had some modicum of success in the past with Seattle.

He possess receiving ability but has displayed rushing success in the past while playing with Russell Wilson but it is difficult to envision Davis succeeding behind the poor Carolina OL with Teddy Bridgewater quarterbacking the offense, especially when CMC of all people averaged below four yards per carry with them.

Robby Anderson, Carolina Panthers

Fantasy-wise, Robby Anderson has performed like a top-5 receiver throughout the first two weeks of the season. Kudos to any owner who started Anderson and benefitted from his breakout performances but it is highly unlikely that he remains in that echelon, or even close to it for the rest of the season unless something were to happen to D.J. Moore. The targets are surely there and should remain relatively high all season given Carolina's need to throw, especially with CMC out, but with 18 through two games, it is hard to imagine Anderson maintaining a pace of nine per game.

Seven targets per game is a more reasonable season-long projection. Also, his catch-rate through two games is an unsustainable 83.3% (career average is around 55%). While Bridgewater is the most accurate QB he has ever played with, Anderson's style-of-play is not suited for this sort of astronomical bump. He will come back down to Earth sooner, rather than later. While some owners in your league may remain skeptical on the speedy Anderson maintaining serious value all year, maybe someone buys-in at a premium if they are WR-needy, especially given that he used to be a WR1 on a team and is now away from the limiting grips of Adam Gase. Anderson is a high-end WR3 but could possibly be sold as a WR2 right now due to perception.



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Corey Davis's Fantasy Value Is Here To Stay

Tennessee Titans wide receiver Corey Davis is finally enjoying some semblance of a breakout and it has been long overdue. The former fifth-overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft has had a tumultuous start to his career with injuries, a lack of targets, and generally disappointing performances marring his real-life and fantasy value.

Davis's fifth-year option on his rookie contract was not picked up, leaving him a free agent after the 2020 season. It is in his best interest to perform as well as possible every year, but particularly, this year. Contract-year narratives are a tad overblown but there is an added sense of urgency and pressure to perform for players knowing that their careers are not guaranteed a few months ahead. Football is a brutal sport and every player needs to take care of themselves meticulously to navigate the confines of a 16-game season.

This piece is a follow up to my offseason article regarding Davis and why we should buy-in just once more. You can check that out here.

 

Consistency Finally Here?

Davis's fatal flaw is a lack of consistency. Through two games, he has put up 13 targets, 10 receptions, 137 yards and a TD (76.9% catch rate, 10.5 yards-per-target). Not particularly eye-popping but he has scored over 10 PPR points in each game which is something to keep an eye on. So often, we witness a game in which he looks to have broken out and the next game he falls flat.

Now, this article by no means intends that Davis is a superstar, The point is, with the caveat of health, Davis is fantasy-viable and an option to slide into our WR2 and/or FLEX spots from here on out, particularly with A.J. Brown out of commission with a lower-body bone bruise.

Notice below, some important numbers to note: his catch rate and yards-per-target have gone up each season of his career. He showed a solid rapport with current QB Ryan Tannehill in 2019 prior to injuring his hamstring and now, fully healthy, he seems to have re-kindled that relationship.

Corey Davis has graded out as the seventh-best WR in the NFL through two games and while this small sample is lofty in projecting his rest-of-season, we can rest assured knowing that what we have seen early on is not a result of flukey outcomes.

Also, upon A.J. Brown's return from injury, it is very likely that Davis returns to receiving secondary attention from defenses while Brown draws the primary focus of DBs. Davis might not always have the upper-hand in these matchups but he will have a marginal boost in seeing weaker coverage by the CB2 rather than the CB1 more often than not. Over the next few weeks, Davis has some excellent matchups in Minnesota and Houston along with some tougher ones with Pittsburgh and Buffalo. A.J. Brown should return by Week 5 to attract shutdown cornerback Tre'Davious White away from Davis.

For now, while Brown is out, Davis may have more difficult matchups, but that is made up for by the increase in targets allocated towards him. The Titans are extremely thin at receiver and need one or both of Davis/Brown to take on a significant chunk of the team's target share, even with the team more skewed towards the run.

Davis's athletic profile and build fits the mold of a WR1, however, he should remain the WR2 on his own team but could very well be productive for the rest of the season. Buy the new and improved Corey Davis as a true fantasy asset you can trust most weeks.



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Fantasy Football Buy or Sell: Week 2

The fantasy stonks market is always a fun one to evaluate. Buy/Sell articles like this are essentially glorified "Who's Hot and Who's Not" but the tables are turned to where sometimes, you want to buy those that are cold and sell the hot. Buy-low, sell-high is the motto but also, sometimes it is ok to buy-high if you aren't buying as high as it could be. This sounds unintelligible but it makes sense in my head.

This week's article features several big names who were drafted in the first few rounds of every league. Joe Mixon, Nick Chubb and D.J. Moore lead the BUY side given their disappointing Week 1 performances and general question marks placed around them by some fans and analysts alike.

If you like this piece or others like it,  follow me on Twitter @RotoSurgeon to catch on any relevant and/or ask questions. Best of luck!

 

Players to Buy

Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

Discouraging performance for Mixon this past week. He fumbled the ball for the first time since 2017 and only played 59% of the offensive snaps (fumble and snaps definitely correlated). Expect somewhere closer to 70% regularly as long he keeps the ball secure. Mixon was only targeted twice (caught one) as Gio Bernard was in for two-minute drills but carried the ball 19 times. 20 touches in about half of his team's snaps are very promising and his matchup this week is favorable in a short-week with Burrow hopefully progressing as the season goes on. Buy ASAP.

Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns

The worry around Chubb is not his performance, but rather Kareem Hunt. Playing next to a fellow workhorse-style back is eerie for fantasy owners and most saw the worst in Week 1. Fortunately, there is a silver lining in that game being a 38-6 blowout and Chubb still playing about 50% of the team's snaps. He was out-touched and targeted by Hunt but that typically occurs to the starter in out-of-reach games. Chubb was split out wide or in the slot for eight snaps this past game which is quite promising. The Cleveland RBs have a great matchup vs the Bengals on Thursday and will look to bounce back with a ground-heavy game-plan.

D.J. Moore, Carolina Panthers

Moore was targeted nine times this past weekend and only came up with 4 catches for 54 yards in a 30-point outing by the Panthers. Robby Anderson stole the show with his dazzling TD on top of six catches for 115 yards but don't expect that too often. The Raiders defensive line hardly challenged the Panthers offensive line, allowing Teddy Bridgewater more time to throw than he typically will get in 2020. Expect more targets to Moore as the season progresses given his ability to work underneath the defense and create YAC. He and Christian McCaffrey will be crucial as safety valves for Bridgewater and you have an opportunity to buy low on DJM now.

Emmanuel Sanders, New Orleans Saints

With Michael Thomas now presumably out for the next few weeks due to a high-ankle sprain, Emmanuel Sanders steps in as the WR1 in New Orleans. This buy may seem obvious but it may not be. There's plenty of push-back against Sanders this season claiming that he has not been the same since his Achilles tear, which is fair but that does not mean that he is not still good. Sanders was the WR1 in San Francisco last year and remained fantasy-relevant while also nearly catching the game-winning TD in the Super Bowl (had Jimmy Garoppolo thrown a better pass). His yards per target in 2018 before his tear was 8.9 and after in 2019 was 9. While there is cause for concern due to age, 33 is not a death sentence for wide receivers, especially technically sound ones who rely on incredible footwork and route-running rather than elite athleticism.

O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Crazy what one down year can do to fantasy value. Howard was on a top-tier TE trajectory prior to falling flat in 2019 and now has an opportunity to shine again. His four catches for 36 yards and TD are not extraordinary but he did play 53% of the snaps and run 22 routes. With Chris Godwin in concussion protocol and Mike Evans dealing with an early-season hamstring, it's very possible that Howard gets on a bit of a heater early in the season. A Sunday morning matchup vs the lowly Panthers Defense is a good place to start.

Austin Hooper, Cleveland Browns

Odell Beckham Jr. is disgruntled, Jarvis Landry is dealing with a sore hip from offseason surgery, David Njoku is placed on injured reserve, and Hooper was the highest-paid TE of all-time at the point of signing. There is no possible excuse for Hooper to only see 2 targets against the Ravens despite playing 77% of the offense's snaps and running 31 routes, third-most on the team. Hooper's usage will see a massive uptick in the coming weeks.

 

Players to Sell

D.J. Chark, Jacksonville Jaguars

D.J. Chark possesses a great mix of size and speed but within the Jaguars offense, he will be limited due to Jay Gruden's quick-hitting, spread style and Gardner Minshew's lack of arm strength. Chark runs a 4.34 40 but he is deployed more of a decoy to navigate safeties and corners away from where the actual offense is happening. Luckily, Chark provided a plus fantasy outing versus the Colts this past weekend with three catches for 25 yards and a TD. He was only targeted three times on Minshew's 20 pass attempts in a close game that they ended up winning.

Darius Slayton, New York Giants

Slayton torched the vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers' defense on primetime this past Monday and set himself apart as the WR1 for the Giants. While this may be true, the WR1 for the Giants is such a misleading moniker given how much their talent is spread apart. The Giants have playmakers at WR, TE and RB. They also were without veteran Golden Tate this past week due to a hamstring strain. While Slayton may be the most skilled WR of their corps, he will be used as a decoy more often than not to open up the field for the rest of the Giants playmakers while demanding more attention than he can handle on a regular basis.

Jarvis Landry, Cleveland Browns

Landry underwent hip surgery earlier this year and was officially deemed "healthy" sometime around July or August. He went through the offseason workouts and practices without any setbacks despite his initial recovery timeline slipping into October. While I am no doctor, my best bet with player injuries is the more time, the better before returning to action (assuming there is no re-aggravation). Landry is now dealing with a hip issue on the injury report, missed practice this week, and is questionable for the Thursday night game. He is perennially undervalued in drafts and had a fine fantasy game against the Ravens with six targets, five receptions, and 61 yards. However, not even a season removed from a major injury with a QB that looks shakier by the week, I'd hesitate to say this year will look like a typical one.

Nyheim Hines, Indianapolis Colts

Hines is coming off of an extremely flukey two-touchdown game in which he saw plenty of playing time due to Marlon Mack's torn Achilles. In the coming games, it will not be just him and lead-back Jonathan Taylor. Jordan Wilkins will be active and in the mix, stealing snaps from Hines and potentially in-line for more if his talent is on display. It was probably a mistake for most folks to spend over 30% of the FAAB budget on Hines but if you can get something valuable back from an RB-needy owner, then maybe it was not so bad. Just make sure to trade before it is too late.



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The Operating Room Ep. 2: Running Back Committees to Watch

In the second episode of the operating room, host Kev Mahserejian (@RotoSurgeon) of RotoBaller discusses the state of several running back committees across the league. Backfields mentioned include the Rams, Cardinals, Browns and 49ers.

Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well!

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Running Back Committee Analysis - Rams, Cardinals, Browns, 49ers

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DraftKings Daily Fantasy Basketball Picks (9/11/20): NBA DFS Lineups

Elimination Friday is here and so is a new batch of DraftKings picks for you readers to hopefully take to the bank. The two-game slate is going to be filled with a lot of familiar names but potentially a surprise or two as well. Given that two teams might be going home tonight, we are bound to see players push themselves past their usual limits, making it difficult to rely on bench pieces. While these teams would like to give their younger pieces playoff experience in the case of a blowout, there is also a chance that starters remain in to compete unless it is extremely out of hand

There are several appealing plays today despite the low total for Toronto/Boston. After a double-OT thriller in Game 6, both teams will be playing on their last legs just two days after. We are guaranteed either a low-scoring slugfest or a fireworks-filled shootout. It will be exciting to see alongside the Clippers/Denver matchup which is potentially gearing up for another Jamal Murray flurry. Unfortunately, the Clippers have done a good enough job keeping him in check throughout the series with their defensive-minded approach to make him hard to start at his price.

Without further ado, here are our daily fantasy basketball lineup picks for DraftKings on 9/11/20. You can also check out today's FanDuel lineup picks. Remember to monitor injury news as the slate can completely change before lock.

 

DraftKings DFS Guards

Kemba Walker - PG, BOS ($7,700)

After an extremely disappointing fantasy performance on Wednesday, Walker's price has taken a bit of a dip below 8k once again. While he did play 52 minutes in Game 6, Cardiac Kemba is someone to bank on for elimination games. He's built for these types of situations and has been scoring at least 40 DK points several times throughout the playoffs with 50 in his range of outcomes. Start Kemba with confidence at the price dip in what should be a tight game.

Fred Van Vleet - PG/SG, DAL ($7,900)

Van Vleet's been a consistent performer throughout the playoffs with  at least 34 points in each game versus Boston. His pricetag has remained steady and below 8k  making him an appealing play. They will be calling his number plenty tonight, especially towards the end when tough sots need to be taken. He has the ball in his hands plenty and has exactly 22 shot attempts in half of the games in this series thus far.

Norman Powell - SG, TOR ($4,400)

Norman Powell's price makes him appealing, especially given that he has played over 30 minutes in the past two games of this series. He is a necessary piece for Toronto to generate offense as his plus shooting and free throw ability are desperately needed. His floor is extremely low given that he does not provide much outside of scoring but given that he has double-digit shot attempts these past two games, he is worth taking a flier on to allow for higher priced players.

DraftKings DFS Forwards

Kawhi Leonard - SF, LAC ($10,400)

Game 7 is Kawhi's time to shine and take over. We all remember his shot to end the Toronto/Philly series last year and know that he turns it up a notch in high pressure, closeout situations from his consistent play throughout the past half-decade in the playoffs. Although this game is not do-or-die for the Clippers, I'm sure he and the rest of the squad would prefer it to end sooner than later and this is their first opportunity to do so. With the Lakers similarly up three-games-to-one on their playoff opponent, it is imperative to end this series as soon as possible to remain well-rested and game-plan properly for the next series.

Start Kawhi with confidence knowing that he has a significant matchup advantage over a wing-deprived Nuggets squad that he has dominated throughout the series. His fantasy scoring has remained consistent throughout the playoffs

Jerami Grant - SF/PF, DEN ($4,900)

If there's one adjustment Denver needs to make, it's taking Paul Millsap off of the floor and playing more Jerami Grant and Michael Porter Jr. Porter Jr. would typically be a solid recommendation, especially at his 5.2k price but after coming out and criticizing his coaches decisions in a press conference after Game 4, it is possible that he's reprimanded in game. The primary beneficiary here is Grant who is averaging roughly 38 minutes per game over the past three in this series. His shot attempts are only about 10 per game through that stretch but he has the potentially of taking about 14 if left open often enough. Grant's rebounds and blocks allow for some decent upside, especially if having to play closer to the basket as a PF/C on occasion.

DraftKings DFS Centers

Ivica Zubac - C, LAC ($5,000)

Zubac is a necessary piece for the Clippers in a series like this due to his size. While he cannot neutralize Jokic outside of the paint, he presents a comparable matchup to body him up inside. He is at least better in that role than the undersized C Montrezl Harrell. Zubac's been a consistent fantasy producer throughout this series and will get run in the case of a blowout (much like Game 6 vs Dallas). With so few options at the position on the slate, take the guy who should give you 20 points but is capable of 30 as well.

 

Good luck to everyone in their NBA DraftKings contests!

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The Operating Room Ep. 1: Leonard Fournette vs Ronald Jones

Host Kev Mahserejian (@RotoSurgeon) of RotoBaller discusses the Tampa Bay backfield and who to start/sit for Week 1 between Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones while also advising how to treat them for the rest of the 2020 season.

Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well!

Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller Radio on SiriusXM (channel Sirius 210, XM 87) - every weekday morning between 6-7 AM ET, and every weekend too from 6-8 AM ET. You can also find new weekly shows on the site under RotoBaller Radio podcasts.

 

Week 1 Start / Sit Analysis - Leonard Fournette vs Ronald Jones

Thanks for listening to today's episode! Be sure to tune in throughout the week, and to also follow RotoBaller on Twitter, YouTube and iTunes for the latest fantasy news and analysis.

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Duke Johnson (RB, HOU) - Fantasy Football Draft Values

BALLER MOVE: Target Around ~120 Overall

CURRENT ADP: ~136

ANALYSIS: There is an overwhelming sentiment echoed that Duke Johnson will never be a lead back, primarily due to him not receiving over 100 carries in a season since his rookie year. Most NFL coaches typically prefer larger backs like teammates Carlos Hyde and David Johnson to carry the load for them because of their archaic mindsets but when push comes to shove, backs like Duke Johnson can get it done.

Duke Johnson had a typical season in 2019. He carried the ball 83 times for 410 yards and two scores while adding 44 catches for 410 yards and three more touchdowns through the air. The Texans made an offseason splash when they traded for running back David Johnson, a player who has battled injuries over the past few seasons but is also a very talented pass-catcher in his own right. The presence of David Johnson could cut into Duke's work in the passing game, but it is hard to believe David will be back to his best days this deep into his career and after we've seen from him lately.

Duke is currently being selected as the RB46 with an overall ADP inside the 12th round. By no means am I advocating to take Duke Johnson in the Top-75 or anything but at his price or even anywhere past pick 120 in most drafts, particularly PPR, you should absolutely be taking Duke. His upside is that of a low-end RB1 as we saw in 2017.

 

More Fantasy Football Values and Sleepers

Dallas Goedert (TE, PHI) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in All Leagues ROSTERED: 41% of Leagues ANALYSIS: If you consider yourself a good fantasy GM, this post won't surprise you. It made some sense to drop Goedert back in September's end when he fell down injured and was put in IR, but you'd be not very intelligent if you're not targeting... Read More

1 week ago

Jeremy McNichols (RB, TEN) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 1% of Leagues ANALYSIS: As a 2017 fifth-round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of Boise State, it was a very slow start to the professional career of running back Jeremy McNichols, taking just two carries for four yards with no targets in the passing game... Read More

1 week ago

Royce Freeman (RB, DEN) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 2% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Melvin Gordon is currently dealing with strep-throat (could be worse) and potential discipline from his recent DUI arrest, and while he could return this week, that remains up in the air, which leaves a window of opportunity open for Royce Freeman to build... Read More

1 week ago

Anthony Firkser (TE, TEN) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team PPR Leagues ROSTERED: 0% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Jonnu Smith has been the man at tight end for the top-tier Tennessee Titans squad so far this season, with Anthony Firkser serving as second-fiddle during Smith's breakout season. However, with Smith being held out of the Titans' last contest against the... Read More

1 week ago

Zach Pascal (WR, IND) - Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups

BALLER MOVE: Add in 14+ Team Leagues ROSTERED: 6% of Leagues ANALYSIS: Pascal has had an interesting season so far. He has had four games with four or fewer targets, but he has also had a two with seven or more. One of those better performances was last week when he caught four of seven... Read More

1 week ago

 

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2020 Fantasy Football Quarterback Rookie Rankings: Post-NFL Draft

Welcome back RotoBallers! Below you will find our staff's updated 2020 fantasy football rookie quarterback rankings. These rankings are being released after the 2020 NFL Draft, but things will of course change as we get closer to the NFL season. You might have already seen the first iteration of our updated fantasy football rookie rankings, released the morning after the draft. Now, it's time to break down each position in detail.

The RotoBaller crew has been busy fine-tuning all fantasy football rankings in the hours immediately following the conclusion of the 2020 NFL Draft. The first task was to focus on the recently-selected prospects in order to prepare dynasty owners for upcoming rookie drafts. Analysts Brandon MurchisonPhil Clark, and Pierre Camus have put together their early consensus wide receiver rookie rankings for our loyal readers to use to their advantage.

Quarterbacks are tricky as they are not truly valuable outside of Superflex and 2-QB leagues due to their inherent replaceability for typical fantasy leagues. The 2020 Draft had its fair share drafted, but if you're looking for anything resembling a safe floor, I'd suggest looking elsewhere. Each and every QB drafted this year has his warts but luckily, a massive upside to go along with them. As always, we take a forward-looking approach with our evaluations. These are subject to change as things unfold over the offseason, but for now, here is a look at our quarterback rankings for the 2020 rookie draft class.

 

NFL QB Rookie Rankings for Fantasy Football (Post-Draft)

Be sure to also check out our fantasy football rankings and analysis for the 2020 rookie running backs, rookie wide receiversrookie tight ends, and our top 130 rookies list.

Tier Rank Player Name Team Pierre Brandon Phil
2 9 Joe Burrow CIN 7 9 12
2 12 Tua Tagovailoa MIA 6 14 20
3 20 Justin Herbert LAC 16 23 22
5 37 Jalen Hurts PHI 28 44 36
5 40 Jordan Love GB 31 48 39
6 54 Jacob Eason IND 41 55 75
7 59 Cole McDonald TEN 50 67 60
8 68 Jake Fromm BUF 48 66 80
8 71 Nate Stanley MIN 62 73 #N/A
8 72 Anthony Gordon SEA 55 81 #N/A
9 74 Jake Luton JAX 63 74 #N/A
9 79 Steven Montez WAS 70 #N/A #N/A
10 117 Brian Lewerke NE #N/A 107 #N/A
10 119 Bryce Perkins LAR #N/A 111 #N/A

 

Tier 1 - QB Rookie Rankings

Joe Burrow is the unequivocal QB1 in this class. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. The Bengals did not think twice about drafting him and neither should you (if your draft position allows it). Burrow's historic Heisman campaign at LSU last season is only marred by the fact that he was not as successful the season before. The addition of Joe Brady and shift from a pro-style to a spread offense unlocked Burrow's game along with his teammates at LSU.

Burrow set the college passing touchdown record with 60 (and just six interceptions) while his completion percentage jumped nearly 20 percent from 57.8% to 76.3% between his redshirt junior and senior year. While he did a ton of talent/help around him in the form of NFL-level players such as Justin Jefferson, Ja'Marr Chase, Terrace Marshall, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Saahdiq Charles, Damien Lewis, and Lloyd Cushenberry III, Burrow's ability to extend plays behind the LOS along with his natural touch on throws should allow him to translate well to the league.

He will be joining a Bengals team that is not without some talent of its own. In the second round of the 2020 Draft, Cincinnati added a premium prospect in Tee Higgins who was a top WR recruit out of high school and shined over the past two years at Clemson with 16 total touchdowns more than 2000 receiving yards. Higgins will be added to a solid receiving corps that featured Tyler Boyd, Auden Tate, and a former first-round pick, John Ross (who showed flashes in 2019). Not to mention, Burrow will potentially be throwing to A.J. Green if he does not get traded and have the luxury of handing the ball off to a premier running back, Joe Mixon if he does not hold out. The offensive line is improved as well since they are getting back a healthy Jonah Williams, their first-round pick in 2019 Burrow should be drafted in the top-3 of Superflex/2QB  leagues and towards the end of the first in typical dynasty rookie drafts.

Unpopular opinion #1 - Tua Tagovailoia is a luxury pick, not a building block.

While I do believe that Tua Tagovailoa is an incredibly talented quarterback, it is ridiculous to ignore the recent injury history. Tua is coming off of a hip injury that was discussed as potentially career-ending due to the severity. Luckily, he had great doctors on his side who repaired the broken ligament, and now, he is reportedly 100% healthy and recovered. While I am no doctor (despite being a RotoSurgeon), I am of the belief that Tua, even when cleared to play in September, is still at high risk of re-injury. The hits in the NFL come from significantly larger, and stronger individuals in college.

Despite the league doing everything in its power to mitigate the damage done to their star assets, it is nearly impossible to guarantee that they will not take a few hard licks during the coarse of a season. What happens when Tua is deemed a runner on a play and gets cracked from the side repeatedly throughout a year? Part of his appeal is his mobility, teams will have to determine whether it is worth taking away a dimension of his game in favor of his health. Alabama essentially did that in 2019 and we saw the offense take a step back from the incredible heights it reached the year before.

I have not even brought up the fact that Tagovailoa has had surgery to repair both ankles within the past two years. While this surgery was midseason to get him back on the field sooner, it is still very worrying to pile on to him. The term "injury-prone" is thrown around a lot and typically frowned upon from medical experts, however, when a player is showing you time-and-time again that his body cannot stay together while playing this game at a high-level, it might be appropriate in certain cases to stick them with that label.

Tua is a risky first-round pick in multi-QB leagues and should only be drafted by teams who can afford that risk. The upside is insane if he does manage to stay healthy, I just do not like those odds with a premium pick.

 

Tier 2 - QB Rookie Rankings

Justin Herbert might be an underwhelming QB prospect but boy, is he athletic.

Herbert is the prototypical tall, white QB that NFL front offices (like Denver) drool over because of the "tools". The fact of the matter is, while Herbert did have some success in Oregon, he was helped out a ton by a scheme that asked him to make a ton easy throws like screens and other open throws to the flat or just past the LOS that boosted his completion percentage and surface stats. Herbert completed just around 60% of passes that were not screen throws last season and did not show consistency in the intermediate part of the field, where an NFL QB should be asked to throw significantly more than in college.

To be fair, Herbert did not have close to the pass-catching talent that Hurts, Burrow, and Tua had in their respective offenses but that does not absolve him.

Herbert shouldn't be fully characterized as "inaccurate," however he does struggle in some aspects of the game that you would desire from a QB prospect and missing open receivers in the middle of the field a big worry. Accuracy is hard to teach, very few QB prospects truly become more accurate as they enter the league. Fortunately, there is no denying that he has a big arm and his athleticism will allow him to create with his legs when the right pass is not there.

If he can consistently make big plays downfield and not turn the ball over often, he should be a successful NFL quarterback despite probably not ever entering that upper-echelon of passers. A good comp for him is some mix of Ryan Tannehill and Josh Allen. Herbert should be in the league for a long time and be given every opportunity to succeed if health is not an issue. He's a fine upside pick in rookie drafts for his potential rushing production alone.

 

Tier 3 - QB Rookie Rankings

Jordan Love is an intriguing case. The Packers traded up from pick 30 to 26 in the first round to acquire the volatile QB who many deem as a bust from the jump. Love was favorably viewed after posting a 32 TD, 6 INT, 9.4 AY/A season while completing 64% of his passes in 2018 but absolutely fell off statistically in 2019. He threw nearly as many touchdowns and interceptions 20:17 lowered his completion percentage and his AY/A dipped to a 2017-like 6.4.

This raises eyebrows as to whether 2018 was just an aberration or if the loss of five out of his top-six primary receiving weapons (Darwin Thompson, Jalen Greene, Aaren Vaughns, Ron'Quavion Tarver, Dax Raymond), head coach and offensive coordinator played a major part in his regression. I'm tempted to believe the latter and that Love is not just some toolsy fluke.

Love is unfairly comped to Patrick Mahomes by some draft touts and it is wholly unfair to him to set some crazy standard like that. What Love does well is similar to what Mahomes does well in pocket-escapability and big-time throws but they are not on the same level. He is able to make throws on the move and sling dimes while at it.

Love is worth the upside, particularly in a plus-landing spot like Green Bay but is not worth taking too early in rookie drafts given that he is probably three or four years away from starting (much like the incumbent starter for the Packers).

Unpopular opinion #2 - Jalen Hurts is a gadget QB, not a future face of a franchise.

Jalen Hurts is Taysom Hill, if Taysom Hill was good at being Taysom Hill. Point being, he is so athletic that he belongs in the league but he just is not an accurate enough passer to cut it as a full-time QB. I am sure that in a spot-start situation, he could be a QB1 in fantasy due to his potential rushing production but that is not the ideal scenario for an NFL team to win unless in transitions its entire offense to a Ravens'-like mold on the fly.

What I see the Eagles doing with Hurts is operating him in short-yardage/goal-line situations to alleviate the hits that Carson Wentz will take. Hurts is not the "heir apparent" by any means. Wentz is only 27 and both of their contracts will run along the same timeline They'll utilize Hurts' size, athleticism, and durability on sneaks and QB runs that could option into passes to mix things up and give Wentz a break.

Hurts is deemed as this pick with massive upside, and it is possible he lives up to it if he was ever given the opportunity to start for a season, however, it would be unwise for any NFL team to make that decision if their goal was to win games.

 

Tier 4 and Lower - QB Rookie Rankings

This is really where we scrape the bottom of the barrel.

Jacob Eason and Jake Fromm were both potential Day 2 selection during the draft but saw their stock fall to Day 3. Eason landed in the more advantageous, long-term spot in Indianapolis while Fromm fell to the Bills in Round 6. Fromm is the antithesis of incumbent starter, Josh Allen, and has less of a challenge to eventually start if Allen goes down. Eason would have to challenge Jacoby Brissett for the QB2 role with the Colts and would likely lose that battle.

Fromm is much more game-ready than Eason due to his natural touch and awareness, however, Eason's upside is much larger due to his size and arm strength. Also, Philip Rivers is probably not the QB of the future with the Colts, opening up the door for Eason to have a slim chance of taking over in a year or two. Josh Allen is still extremely young and with his progression from year one to year two, it is doubtful that the Bills move on for at least a few years sans an absolute meltdown in performance.

Cole McDonald has a fun name and fun game but it is hard to see him taking over as a starter at the NFL level due to his unusual delivery and erratic game. He is athletic, stands at 6'4" 220lbs, and is quite capable of hitting some deep shots downfield. He has some of the best highlights in college. Unfortunately, a highlight reel won't win you games in the league.

Cole McDonald is a fun project for the Titans and is worth that late-round flier in multi-QB leagues given that he is capable of using his legs (750 rushing yards and 11 TDs last two years). He could easily become the Titans' QB by beating out former Toledo and AAF QB Logan Woodside and maybe start a few games this season if Tannehill goes down.

Nate Stanley landed in Minnesota where he would probably never be asked to throw given how little their scheme asks of QBs along with his inability to do much besides stand in the pocket.

Anthony Gordon is a low-key winner after signing with the Seahawks. While there is no chance in hell that he starts in place of a healthy Russell Wilson anytime soon, the QB2 job there is basically his already because there are only two QBs in that room. Gordon showed flashes in Mike Leach's spread offense last season and looked like someone who could be drafted not only off of his tape but because of Gardner Minshew's success translating to the league. Gordon might struggle when asked to operate a pro-style scheme but at least for fantasy purposes, he could get a few spot starts if he sticks around.

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DraftKings Daily Fantasy Basketball Picks (8/21/20): NBA DFS Lineups

Friday funday is here and so is a new batch of DraftKings picks for you readers to hopefully take to the bank. Last Friday was quite the unfortunate set of events as players across the board were benched in favor of reserves in order to rest starters for the playoffs. Now, we have a natural idea of who is playing heavily and who is not due to the nature of high-leverage games and having a two-game sample to potentially guide us to victory.

With the games rotating day-to-day in a carousel fashion, the same teams play every other day. Today, we have the typical series' of Dallas/Clippers, Raptors/Nets, Jazz/Nuggets, and Celtics/76ers. With Mike Conley's return to the bubble and the general unpleasantness of the Celtics/76ers series, there are no recommendations from either side. Pricing did factor into that decision but so did my discomfort with projecting both games given the matchups.

Without further ado, here are our daily fantasy basketball lineup picks for DraftKings on 8/21/20. You can also check out today's FanDuel lineup picks. Remember to monitor injury news as the slate can completely change before lock.

 

DraftKings DFS Guards

Lou Williams - PG/SG, LAC ($5,600)

With Patrick Beverley doubtful to play, Williams is a safe option at his price. Although his minutes hardly fluctuated with Beverley out for Game 2, Williams remains a safe play given the thin backcourt depth and his consistent role as a ball-handler. Landry Shamet is still recovering from a foot sprain he suffered at the end of the regular season and has not performed well thus far leaving plenty of shot opportunities to go Williams' way today.

Note: Keep an eye on any reports of limitation for Houston's starters

Seth Curry - SG, DAL ($3,900)

Patrick Beverley's absence benefits the opponent given that Lou Williams, Landry Shamet and Reggie Jackson will be on guard duty. Curry is unlikely to see as much of Paul George/Kawhi Leonard while Doncic and Hardaway are on the floor leaving opportunities to get open and find uncontested shots. His $3.9K price tag is very palatable given that he had been between $5K and $6K at points during the season. This price has gone up incrementally over the past two playoff games but not enough to turn anyone off. He's returned good value over his past two games and has 30 DK point upside.

Luka Doncic - PG/SF, DAL ($10,800)

The man, the myth, the legend. Doncic is a fantasy monster by all means and will be in control all game as long as it is relatively close. The Mavericks handily beat the Clippers by double-digits on Wednesday and Doncic only played 28 minutes. While the Mavericks have been impressive thus far against LAC, it is very possible that today's matchup is closer than last time and Doncic is forced to do more. With so much at stake as we head deeper into the series, his minutes will hit the low-40's if necessary. He already hit a tasty 65.8 DK point mark in their first game in just 38 minutes and his price is exactly the same. Play him with confidence.

DraftKings DFS Forwards

Kawhi Leonard - SF, LAC ($9,600)

Kawhi Leonard is a proven force in the playoffs and has not disappointed to this point in the series. Leonard is playing around 40 minutes per game and has over 50 DK points in both. His price tag is consistent with his play and worth buying given that he has a 40-point floor and a 60 point ceiling. The Mavericks do not have a match for him on the perimeter. The only case in which he "fails" to return is if either team gets blown out and Leonard sits for the fourth quarter.

Marcus Morris - SF/PF, LAC ($5,000)

Marcus Morris has "beaten" his price tag over the past two playoff games and while it may be inflated to $5K for the first time in the series, he should continue to produce given his minutes and shot volume. Morris has played 30 minutes in almost every game since entering the bubble. The only game in which he didn't was the opening matchup versus New Orleans in which the Clippers blew them out by 23 (Morris still played 26 minutes). While Dallas's frontcourt could trouble Morris any night, he is a major beneficiary of playing next to multiple superstars regularly as he is often left open. The only concern is that over the past two games, he has six steals which may be inflating his value. Nevertheless, this is not enough cause for concern to avoid him at cost.

Garrett Temple - SG/SF, BKN ($5,100)

Garrett Temple has played 34 and 35 minutes in both of the Nets playoff games thus far. One was a blowout and the other was relatively close as Brooklyn went into the 4th quarter with a lead. This allows us to presume a high minute floor for Temple whose matchup may not be ideal but all that matters for DK is volume, not so much efficiency (aside from TOs). Temple has 13 and 15 FGA over the past two playoff games, with 11 and 10 of those attempts from three. He has one turnover over his past 4 games (all high-minute totals) and can mix in assists, rebounds and steals. At $5.1K it makes sense to buy-in, especially with how limited the Nets roster is and their comfortability working Temple.

 

DraftKings DFS Centers

Serge Ibaka - C, TOR ($5,300)

Ibaka's played 26 minutes in each of the past two playoff games and that's comforting knowing that it is very possible that the Raptors blow Brooklyn out again. They are so much more talented than them that it could not be much of a contest by the third quarter. Of course, if the game gets TOO out of hand, the risk is run of guys like Chris Boucher and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson seeing expanded PT. Despite the blowout in game one, the Raptors only went into the 4th quarter with a nine-point lead. If that lead is doubled today, Ibaka takes a hit. Regardless, at $5.3K, his projection is still favorable, especially if he can get more of his shots inside rather than from three (four 3PA per game in series).

Montrezl Harrell - C, LAC ($4,100)

This is a risky play but one that could pay major dividends. Harrell is now coming into his third game in the bubble and his price has dropped each time due to unimpressive statistical performances/low minute totals. His absence from the bubble absolutely left him a little rusty but it is fair to presume that now, two games in, he may be back to "full" go. His rebound and scoring have been unspectacular to this point but it remains to be seen whether he has his feet under him or not. Harrell was never a heavy minute total guy anyway and now, at $4.1K you are getting the best value on him in a long time.

 

Good luck to everyone in their NBA DraftKings contests!

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Midseason Waiver Saviors at Every Position

With roughly 60 percent of the MLB season left to play, fantasy owners are understandably at their wits-end with some of their underperforming draft picks and "bigger" names that they are far too hesitant to drop.

Do not let the fallacy of sunk-costs play you into holding onto a player that is dragging your team through the mud. Instead, opt for someone who might not be as popular but that could provide reliable season-long stats to your team.

Unless your league consists of over 14 teams, there are always players on the waiver wire ready to help you out. This piece by Kev Mahserejian (@RotoSurgeon on Twitter) takes a look at under-rostered players at each position (as laid out in the title).

 

Catcher

Austin Nola, Seattle Mariners

22% rostered

Austin Nola (not to be confused with brother Aaron Nola) is coming on quite strong in his sophomore season. Despite playing on a lower-end Seattle Mariners offense, he is consistently batting 5th and producing well by catcher-eligible standards. With two home runs, six runs, nine RBI and a .283 batting average supported by a .319 BABIP these is legitimate fantasy viability here and in a short-season, it would make sense to part ways with that struggling Yasmani Grandal or Mitch Garver to upgrade immediately.

Nola, a perennial Quadruple-A player up until last season, is not your typical "breakout", especially since he's 30 years old but when the numbers are sustainable you have to give credit where it is due. His Statcast data backs up his performance thus far with a .351 xwOBA not far off from his current .356.

 

First Base

Jesus Aguilar, Miami Marlins

29% rostered

Jesus Aguilar is back. He only really arrived in 2018 and left for 2019 but nonetheless, he is back. Aguilar's hitting second consistently atop a decent Miami Marlins lineup and producing modestly enough to be fantasy relevant once again. Despite not scoring many runs on the season (7), Aguilar has 15 RBI and four home runs in 16 games which is a nice reminder of the 35 jacks he hit in 2018 on the Brewers.

Aguilar has cut his strikeout rate down in each of the past four seasons from 30.2% to 25.3% to 22% to 16.2% in 2020. That rate is currently in the top-sixth percentile of eligible MLB players. The power was always there but now with improved contact skills, he is once again a fantasy-viable bat. Certainly, a worth-while add over struggling first-basemen like Carlos Santana or Edwin Encarnacion.

 

Second Base

Tommy La Stella, Los Angeles Angels

15% rostered

Tommy La Stella has been one of the most underrated hitters in the MLB for two seasons in a row. If he had not fractured his leg in 2019 and cut his la stellar year short, there would be much more hype surrounding him. In 81 plate appearances, his walk rate (12.3%) is nearly double his strikeout rate (6.2%)...this is blatantly absurd. He is batting second every-day in a potent Angels offense and producing well. With a .290 average, two HR, nine runs and 10 RBI, La Stella is doing much better than that of over-rostered 2B like Danny Santana and Lourdes Gurriel.

 

Third Base

Yoshi Tsutsugo, Tampa Bay Rays

11% rostered

Tsutsugo is a hard sell not only due to his mediocre batting average but also because he typically sits vs LHP (but will occasionally come in halfway through games when an RHP comes in). He is a talented, rookie hitter who is underperforming a tad. While his BABIP may be attributed to his low, 30-grade speed AND 20-degree launch angle, Tsutsugo is hitting well by exit velocity and hard-hit rate standards (both 85th percentile). He hits the ball hard, and he does it consistently; you can only ask so much more out of your guys nowadays.

Don't expect a high batting average anytime soon but power will be there from a cheap bat in a good lineup. Hitting towards the bottom of the order is not ideal but he does have 11 runs and 14 RBI thus far to pair with three home runs.

 

Outfielder

Stephen Piscotty, Oakland A's

10% rostered

Stephen Piscotty is only 29 but it feels like he has been in the league forever. He's had a few solid years (2016 and 2018) but recency bias clouded the consensus opinion. While it was fair to be out in the preseason, Piscotty is heating up and worth a look, especially given how widely available he is. With nine runs, 17 RBI, and four homers thus far, Piscotty is a solid add to your team.

He, like Tsutsugo, bats towards the end of the order around the seven-hole but given that the A's lineup is strong (sixth in wRC+), he will be batting around talented hitters regardless. He is currently underperforming his xwOBA by .024 points which is fairly significant a disparity to assume regression will come to a certain degree.

 

Starting Pitcher

Elieser Hernandez, Miami Marlins

16% rostered

Hernandez came into this season as a fringe starter. There were spring training reports of him being a bullpen piece but with COVID-19 hitting the Marlins, and particularly, their pitching staff, Hernandez was thrust into the middle of the rotation and has solidified his role across now three outings. Through 14.2 IP, Hernandez has accumulated 19 strikeouts along with a 1.84 ERA and 0.75 WHIP. While he does not have any wins or quality starts, those are not as important to worry about when considering waiver wire additions.

Hernandez is sporting a 3.78 xFIP along with a 3.01 SIERA, both indicating potential season-long success if he keeps pitching the way he has though it is doubtful that a 33.3% strikeout rate along with a 3.5% walk rate are fully sustained. Expect regression to hit Hernandez eventually but even so, he must be owned in all 12-team leagues and potentially even deeper 10-teamers.

 

Relief Pitcher

Daniel Bard, Colorado Rockies

4% rostered

While the Rockies did come out and state that they are "no longer employing a designated closer" that is only because the options thus far have failed to meet expectations. While it remains possible that Jairo Diaz regains the role he earned earlier in the season, the chances of him displaying similar success look slim given his recent outings and lack of comfort pitching the ninth-inning and beyond.

Enter Daniel Bard, the hard-throwing former Red Sox pitcher who was out of the league from 2014-to-2019. Bard averages 97mph on his fastball, 87mph on his slider and is perfect for Coors where slow breaking balls go to die. While it may be a tall task to expect a guy with 12 major league innings pitched over the last seven years to come in and consistently close, there remains a possibility that he is "the guy" in Colorado. His strikeout rate is currently around 30% and his walk rate is right around 2% with just one all season. The Rockies have exhausted the other viable closing options and might be forced to rely on Bard. For fantasy owners, why not take a stab at the guy available for free almost universally?



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DraftKings Daily Fantasy Basketball Picks (8/14/20): NBA DFS Lineups

We have a four-game slate for Friday's NBA schedule and it is quite underwhelming given the circumstances. With playoffs looming and teams uninterested in "home"-court advantage, it is not going to be teams' bright and best out there for most of the games, if at all. The only playoff scenario possibly affected comes via games for Oklahoma City and Houston where one team could be the four seed and the other team could be the five seed.

It's best to go in with the mentality that teams are not pushing their stars today and that we are about to see some mostly atrocious basketball. Clippers head coach Doc Rivers came out and stated that they do not plan to rest their starters which is fairly believable but to a degree. Given that the Clippers have hardly been at full health this season, they might want to continue providing their star duo of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard as much of a chance to build chemistry as possible and come into the playoffs as a tight unit.

Without further ado, here are our daily fantasy basketball lineup picks for DraftKings on 8/14/20. You can also check out today's FanDuel lineup picks. Remember to monitor injury news as the slate can completely change before lock.

 

DraftKings DFS Guards

James Harden - PG/SG, HOU vs PHI ($11,500)

While it is best to assume that starters are not going to get pushed today, if Harden is indeed starting, he should be in your lineup. With Russell Westbrook out, Harden is essentially averaging two fantasy points per minute. He is the Houston offense and will command all of the ball while he is on the floor. Unfortunately, we do not know EXACTLY how much he will play, the fact that Harden nearly had a triple-double at halftime in the Rockets' last game should suggest that even in limited minutes, he can and will produce. The 11.5k price-tag is not pretty but with how many cheap options there are to be recommended, it is hard to pass on the Beard.

Note: Keep an eye on any reports of limitation for Houston's starters

Austin Rivers - PG/SG, HOU vs PHI ($5,300)

This might seem like a hedge on Harden but it could also be looked at as a piggy-back. If, say, Harden is pulled after 25-30 minutes of play, it is the Austin Rivers Show immediately after. We saw as recently as this past Sunday, Rivers dropping 41 (non-fantasy) points in a game Harden played 33 minutes in. It is not out of the question for these two combo guards to simultaneously eat. At his price tag of 5.3k, it is a worthwhile bet.

Hamidou Diallo - SG/SF, OKC vs LAC ($4,300)

Hamidou Diallo steps into a larger role against the Clippers with Lugentz Dort and Chris Paul out. He has been averaging roughly 24 minutes per game over the past four games and should be more involved Friday. Diallo's ceiling is not the highest but he has should an ability to return value at cost while priced in the mid-3000 salary range. Now, at 4.3k, he is priced up but worth buying given the circumstances. If SGA is out and/or limited, Diallo's appeal only goes up despite a tough match-up with a full-health Clippers.

 

DraftKings DFS Forwards

Paul George - SF, OKC vs LAC ($8,600)

With Doc Rivers' comments on playing starters in the inconsequential final game of the regular season, it might be worth starting Paul George against his former team. There is a very likely scenario where George and Leonard are limited but George has shown to be better able to provide fantasy value of late at a lower cost, especially with his shooting proficiency and ability to score in bursts. With the low cost plays in your lineup already, it is very possible to afford Paul George and James Harden in the same lineup and not worry about losing out on minutes given the thin superstar tier.

Darius Bazley - SF/PF, OKC vs LAC ($5,400)

Bazley has been on FIRE. He's averaged 22 points per game, 8~ rebounds, and one steal over his past three games. While Danilo Gallinari did miss one of those games with an ankle injury, Bazley maintained his production despite the return. With this game versus the Clippers essentially useless for their future, it is unlikely that Gallinari plays much if at all, resulting in more of an opportunity of Bazley to continue providing returns at his price. Bazley's three-point shooting is not exactly sustainable, but he's going to air it out (26 attempts over the past four games). Even with the jump from the 3k range to 5k, he is worth it.

Keita Bates-Diop - SF, DEN vs TOR ($3,400)

Keita Bates-Diop is a near-min play with favorable opportunity potential. The Nuggets are set with their playoff seeding and will probably limit, if not sit, veteran Paul Millsap and fragile rookie Michael Porter Jr. There is a scenario where MPJ does see a good bit of time to continue acclimating but if the rest of the team is limited, it is likely that he sits as well. Bates-Diop is a direct beneficiary as a swing-forward who should absorb those minutes and usage. He's seen over 20 minutes in two of their past three games and while he has not displayed much fantasy value since late-January, in limited minutes he has shown the ability to produce a few points and boards.

 

DraftKings DFS Centers

Ivica Zubac - C, OKC vs LAC ($6,000)

Zubac is a "starter" for the Clippers but not necessarily a central player. This, along with his recent performances, should make for a fruitful Friday. Zubac's played at least 21 minutes over his past six outings and is averaging roughly 33 DK points per game in that span. With Montrezl Harrell still out of the Bubble, Zubac does not have much competition at the center spot where the Clippers will likely stay big to match Steven Adams and Nerlens Noel. Joakim Noah's unlikely to see major minutes, if anyone, Patrick Patterson could see an increase but he can coexist on the court with Zubac for small-stretches. Zubac should be good for another 20~ minutes, if not more.

Chris Boucher - PF/C, TOR vs DEN ($5,300)

Serge Ibaka is questionable for this game after missing the past two. While the Raptors might want him to see some game action prior to the playoffs, it is seemingly unlikely that he suits up for a meaningless game. Even if he does "start" it's hard to imagine they push him with a knee issue as to not re-aggravate it. Boucher is a safe start at 5.3k against a Denver Nuggets team that is big-heavy and will not force Boucher off the floor unless he gets in foul trouble. The past two games without Ibaka have been glorious with 50 points averaged between the two and can absolutely be surpassed if Boucher matches up against Bol Bol often.

 

Good luck to everyone in their NBA DraftKings contests!

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Josh James Should Close for the Astros

The pitching woes in Houston continue to stack upon one another. Consider it bad luck, karma for cheating, or whatever you want, the fact of the matter is that this pitching staff is dealing with a litany of issues and cannot afford to make more mistakes throughout the rest of this shortened season. The Astros need to fix their closer situation expeditiously.

With Roberto Osuna (forearm) out for the foreseeable future with the possibility of Tommy John and incumbent set-up man/closer-en-waiting, Ryan Pressly, dealing with a nagging elbow injury, the Houston bullpen is left with major question marks on the back-end.

Enter Josh James, who could (should) be closing for the Astros in 2020.

 

Better in the Bullpen?

The 27-year old fireballer is one of the top "prospects" in the Astros organization and had the chance to start twice thus far in 2020. Unfortunately, those starts left owners clutching for their ratios as James's walk issues reared its head in full force and relegated him from the bullpen after a total of six innings pitched. Typically, when a pitcher's walk rate is higher than his strikeout rate, that's a bad sign.

However, there is a silver lining for those who have held on in redraft, along with his dynasty owners. James realistically profiles better as a reliever long term and it would behoove him and the organization to shift that role as soon as possible to not further the damage done to the team or his development. James's "stuff" is not the problem so much so as forcing him to utilize it multiple times throughout a batting order.

Where James can really shine going forward is in a current Seth Lugo/early Josh Hader-esque role in which he is a fireman/closer who comes in to either get two innings worth of outs earlier in close games or closing on other occasions.

In 2019, when primarily deployed as a reliever, despite posting a walk rate that had him bottom-sixth percentile in the MLB, James was top-first percentile in expected batting average, top-second in expected slugging and top-tenth in expected weighted on-base average. James has not been anywhere near as effective with his arsenal in 2020 but that may be due to his new role as starter.

Also, it is important to note that thus far, James's average fastball velocity has been down by nearly two miles per hour and it is likely due to having to throw more pitches per game and not dish out in the high-90's as he did the last two seasons where his velocity sat around 97.1 vs this season at 95.6. It also could be a slow start related to COVID and a lack of summer camp/bullpen prep but that should improve regardless as we get deeper into the season and James is asked to throw fewer innings/pitches per game.

 

Houston's Bullpen "Depth"

Pressly's elbow was deemed "healthy" enough to return to game action after a stint on the IL to start the season but it seems that he is either rusty or dealing with lingering issues. His most recent outing was a clean inning with a strikeout, leading to the sole caveat of this piece being his health. If Pressly's elbow is back to normal-ish going forward, this could become a moot point as he'll keep the role. Obviously, there are concerns though.

Other options in the Houston bullpen include but are not limited to Cy Sneed, Andrew Scrubb, Blake Taylor, and Enoli Paredes. Sneed and Scrubb are run-of-the-mill relievers without strikeout potential at the moment or at any point throughout their respective minor league careers. Taylor is very impressive. He's given up no runs throughout his first 8.2IP and has struck out ten and walked just three. If he was not literally the only left-hander in Houston's bullpen, he would probably be the favorite to take over. However, with matchups so important to continue playing, regardless of the new three-batter rule, it is doubtful we see Taylor take on a full-time closer role but he could sneak a few saves here and there.

Promising young right-hander Bryan Abreu was recently optioned to the team's alternate site after walking seven batters in 3 1/3 innings. Enoli Paredes looked sharp in extra innings against Oakland the other day, but he is still a largely-unknown entity.

Josh James seems to be the logical answer at closer. Sure, there remains the possibility that Houston trades for someone of Ryan Pressly's elbow magically returns to 100 percent but both are unlikely due to varying reasons. While in a normal season a trade would be the clear answer, this shortened season leaves a lot to be desired given that teams are still partially un-sure if the season will even fully play out. If you trade for a reliever, lose a year of control and regain your in-house options next season, what was the point? That's just bad asset management depending on what you give up.

James is not likely to pitch in high-leverage innings from the jump given his poor outings thus far but the possibility remains that after a few shut-down innings over the next week or two with an improved pitch command, he can get relied on to close games.

James is about to be free across most leagues due to his disastrous start and demotion. Take advantage of this opportunity in redraft and even dynasty where you can buy-low. There is a place for Josh James in this league, just because it might not be as a starter does not mean that he cannot still be a valuable fantasy asset.



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Duke Johnson is the DJ to Own in Houston

There is an overwhelming sentiment echoed (particularly online) that Duke Johnson will never be a lead back. This is primarily due to him not received over 100 carries in a season since his rookie year and even then it was just 104.

Credit to Duke Johnson, he has stayed healthy every season of his NFL career and played in all 16 games, however, that does not help any fantasy truther/advocate's case of trying to prove that he is capable of carrying the workload. There are no touches to pro-rate or injuries to blame for limited usage.

The fact of the matter here is that he has been designated as a scat-back by NFL coaches and that is that. But, in fact, there may be more to it.

 

Stop Size Discrimination!

Johnson is not your typical between-the-tackles grinder but he is built for a bulk workload and has found success rushing around the middle of the field. Most NFL coaches typically prefer larger backs like Carlos Hyde and David Johnson to carry the load for them because of their archaic mindsets but when push comes to shove, backs like Duke Johnson can get it done. He has been one of the most efficient rushers in the NFL since 2016 as he has averaged 4.7 YPC between the dumpster fire Browns team that went 0-16 to Houston last year.

If your argument for Duke Johnson not being capable of taking on a lead role is because he has "never done it before," I really hope you are not drafting Kenyan Drake in the first two rounds because Drake, who is the same age as Duke, has never topped 220 touches (rushes and receptions) between college and his 4 years in the NFL. In Duke's final season at the University of Miami, he touched the ball 280 times. While we are now six years removed from that, nothing about him has changed besides his arbitrary year-to-year usage that was determined via two of the most backwards coaches in recent history, Hue Jackson and Bill O'Brien, irrationally deciding that Duke should be forced into an ancillary role on offense (Mike Pettine had Duke as well but only as a rookie).

Houston traded a conditional third-round pick for Duke Johnson last offseason and it was presumed across much of the football landscape that he would take on a lead-back role. However, the acquisition of Carlos Hyde weeks later proved cumbersome as Duke fell behind on the depth chart. Unfortunately, Hyde was fairly efficient as a ball-carrier behind Houston's second-ranked offensive line in adjusted line yards for running backs. He helped Houston rank first in power run success and was solid for how BOB envisioned their offense. In his eyes, there was no need to disturb a backfield that worked well and complemented each other. As the old adage goes - if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Hyde amassed 1,070 rushing yards on 245 carries and played every game.

While BOB is still his head coach in Houston, the RB ahead of Duke on the depth chart is MUCH worse in 2020.

 

DJ vs. DJ

The RB who currently holds the starting job, David Johnson, is not a viable NFL starter anymore.

Everyone loves to post this video and bash David Johnson. While I may be one of those people, this is not significant enough evidence to prove anything. David Johnson was fantasy relevant as recent as 2019. Throughout his first six games, he produced 613 total yards, 30 receptions and five touchdowns (three receiving). He posted RB1 value in PPR formats in all but one game that came against a respectable Baltimore defense. However, after that, not only did he suffer an ankle sprain, but also a back injury which deteriorated any chance of production upon return. David Johnson looked like a shell of himself in games he "appeared" between Weeks 10-16. He rushed just 17 times for 45 yards (2.65 YPC) and caught all six of his targets for 55 yards.

David Johnson has not been an efficient rusher since 2016. To his defense, he missed all but one game in 2017, the Arizona offense was a complete mess in 2018 when rookie Josh Rosen started and their offensive line had none of their preseason starters available past Week 10. However, even in his "elite" debut into the NFL he only averaged 4.4 YPC across his rookie and sophomore season. Johnson's rushing success was largely volume-driven but it worked because he had the prototypical size to carry that load at 6'1" 224 lbs. Now, we see the husk of a man who has been through the NFL ringer and been spit out.

The cliff for running backs is STEEP as we've seen with countless cases in the past and will continue to due to the brutal nature of the position. There's a reason that RBs value that second contract so much and threaten to hold out, it is not often a guarantee they make it to their third.

He might still be effective as a pass-catcher but from what has been put on tape and on the box score over the past few seasons, David Johnson has not shown to be a good runner. He still may possess straight-line speed but his range of mobility is shot due to the litany of injuries and set-backs his body has faced. The most worrisome is his back which could limit him throughout the rest of his career. Even he comes into the year healthy, there is no telling whether his body is 100 percent or not, the next series of hits he faces at the most touched skill position will determine that.

This is pure speculation based on the evidence provided but the way I see it playing out is:

  • There is no preseason to display David Johnson as ineffective
  • BOB will give David Johnson a heavy workload starting Week 1 to justify acquiring him and just a second-round pick in exchange for arguably the best WR in the NFL
  • David Johnson's runs look like a tire with no tread left on them. He can hardly even fall forward correctly beyond the line of scrimmage

This will leave BOB with a tough decision to make after a few weeks of mounting evidence that David Johnson is in fact, cooked. He could slowly diminish David's touches and siphon them to Duke, or, what he should do, name Duke the lead back and for the most part remove David from the running back rotation.

There remains a possibility that Houston makes a move for another starter in the case David Johnson does not pan out but it would have to be from the bargain bin of free agency. It is unlikely they trade more assets for another running back after doing so for Duke and David Johnson already.

I am not advocating for Duke Johnson to receive an Ezekiel Elliot type of workload by any means. However, why not something a BMI counterpart like Lamar Miller received while he was with the Texans (Miller 54th percentile, Duke 59th). Now, Lamar Miller isn't a high standard to set oneself towards, but the point is that Miller, an RB with similar proportions to Duke Johnson, was the lead back for Bill O'Brien. It is not exactly precedent but it does show that BOB is okay with utilizing a shiftier back than a larger Carlos Hyde/David Johnson-type if need be.

(Fun fact though - in 2017, when Duke Johnson was in Cleveland playing his typical role and Lamar Miller was leading the Texans backfield, Johnson finished as RB12 in PPR and Miller finished as RB13 while playing the same number of games (15) during the fantasy season.)

 

Fantasy Outlook

Duke is currently being selected as the RB49 in NFBC drafts while David is going off the board as RB22, 100 picks earlier around Round 4. By no means am I advocating to take Duke Johnson in the Top-75 or anything but at his price or even anywhere past pick 100 in most drafts, particularly PPR, you should absolutely be taking Duke. His upside is that of a low-end RB1 as we saw in 2017. Nothing has changed since then but his team and usage, he is as capable as ever while the same cannot be said for David who is living off of dreams of past glory.



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Early (Over/Under) Reactions for Fantasy Baseball

The first week of the shortened MLB season is officially over and we have several prominent fantasy storylines emerging. Some carry over from 2019 and others have come out of nowhere. My job here is to walk us through those which seem most notable.

COVID-19 is one tough customer and has made not even hope for a fully shortened season questionable but even hope for another week of baseball. A lot of fantasy has to do with projecting. Whether that be performance-based of matchup based, you are always projecting and since we cannot predict who exactly could/will get the virus, we have to treat everything in a vacuum, unfortunately.

Bear with me as we go through these and pretend that a sudden postponement/IL stint is not in the cards anytime soon because that takes out all of the fun from any of this.

 

Khris Davis? More like Chris Davis

Through 17 PAs, Davis has no hits, two walks, and seven strikeouts. He has not been the same since injuring his hip in 2019. He ran into the outfield wall in Pittsburgh on May 5th. His stats up to that point in 145 plate appearances were 10 HR, 20 runs, 26 RBI while slashing .229/.303/.481. A bit under par for his typical power numbers and .247 average but he was dealing with a .238 BABIP at the time, several ticks below his career average.

After May 5th, his 2019 numbers in 389 PAs were 13 HR, 41 runs, 47 RBI whilst slashing.217/.288/.350 on a .276 BABIP. Davis looked like a shell of himself during this period of time but it should be noted that he did also deal with a hand injury around late July. Nevertheless, Davis's poor 2019 has carried over into 2020 and it is abhorrent to see his lines from game-to-game. Davis was not that early of a pick in most drafts as his ADP across-the-board was between picks 150 and 200, however, there was a universal expectation of a bounce-back within a fair degree. Maybe he would not surpass 40 home runs as he did yearly from 2016-2018 but over 30 seemed within reason.

Now, owners are hoping for any reason to hold on after just a week. Davis is a drain on average, does not provide speed, and is essentially useless without monster power. He is not droppable just yet because he is prone to streakiness but another week of nothing but zeroes essentially on the board and owners should move on. Half of Oakland's upcoming matchups until the end of next week are against LHP and they generally are not facing a gauntlet of starters. Davis better get right, or else.

 

Dansby Swanson is the GOAT

Well, not quite. As much as Swanson owners (like myself) want to gloat and appreciate the season he's put together thus far, there are red flags that need to be acknowledged. First off, his BABIP is out of control at .588. He's striking out a career-high rate of 37.5% and he has taken just one walk throughout 32 PAs. Thus far, the positives outweigh the negatives but the negatives loom. Positives include five of his 12 hits going for extra bases, two of them as home runs, his rising spot in the lineup to second (with Ozzie Albies out, but still) allowing him to hit between the monsters in Atlanta and his early pair of stolen bases

Swanson is a Statcast favorite from 2019 and has the first-overall pedigree still on him despite a rough rookie and sophomore season. Although we are working with a small sample here, Swanson is getting barrels on his batted balls early on. He has four on his 19 batted balls which has helped push his hard-hit rate above 50% for the first time ever. His exit velocity and launch angle are down from the past two years but not significantly enough to be concerned. Swanson making quality contact is what we should focus on.

Swanson was on a tear in 2019 prior to injuring his right heel. A bruise in late-July derailed his breakout season. From July 24th on, Swanson slashed .204/.311/.252 and did not hit a single home run in 119 PAs. Prior to this injury, his slash line was .265/.330/.468 as he hit 17 HRs in 431 PA. Swanson's breakthrough is a continuation from early last season and whilst not sustainable at this rate, he is absolutely worth grabbing in every format if available to ride the wave.

 

Matt Boyd is Almost Droppable

Yes. Give Boyd two more starts before cutting loose. His upcoming matchups are against the Cardinals and Pirates then the schedule is a LOT more difficult afterward. If he can't get right against those two bottom-feeder offenses (who in their own right are better against lefties), there is no point in holding him through the gauntlet he will face afterward v CLE @ CHW v CHC v MIN.

Boyd's relatively unlucky through first two starts, and to be fair, it is not easy playing this Cincinnati lineup in Great American, one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the league. His most recent outing against Kansas City was more disappointing is anything even with the extra strikeouts. While he was BABIP'd to death, the hope for Boyd was that he could take his game to the next level in 2020 and build on the positives from last season after increasing his strikeout rate above 30% for the first time and minimizing his walk-rate to a career-low 6.3%. Boyd's xFIP was impressively under four for the first time as a professional. Had he not been so unlucky with the long-ball in 2019, his ERA would have been stellar.

Now, the real hope for Boyd is that he gets traded to a playoff hopeful in need of starting pitching i.e. Houston and Boston. If that were to happen, he would not only be surrounded by better defenses but also be in line for more wins with real, consistent run support which raises his floor outside of quality start leagues. Unfortunately, banking on a trade as the only reason to hold a player is typically a fool's errand.

 

Andrew Benintendi is a FRAUD

This may come to be true for two straights years. While I am still holding out hope for a bounce-back by means of a hot streak, it is absolutely brutal watching Benintendi try and hit the ball. He is walking a ton which leaves some room for optimism, it is just when he swings the bat that's the problem. Benintendi's been so bad that he is not hitting 8th or 9th versus lefties. He remains at lead-off against righties but that could change soon enough if his struggles continue.

Benintendi notoriously struggled in 2019 as he was a popular breakout candidate and top-50 fantasy pick. His average dipped to .266 on the season and his strikeouts jumped from 16.5%~ as a rookie/sophomore to 22.8%. Drafters in 2020 hoped this season was just a slump/aberration and Beni would get back to his 70 hit tool ways but unfortunately, it does not seem to be the case. Benintendi has a single run and RBI with two hits all year, a single and a double. He is dealing with an extremely poor BABIP below .200 and four of the seven starters Boston has faced thus far have been LHP. This excuse should not count when facing Orioles' pitching but we are giving Beni the benefit of the doubt.

Walks really are his saving grace at the moment. Benintendi's slash-line through the first week of the season is a hilarious .095/.321/.143, you don't see many of those too often. He has taken seven walks and struck out eight times. I'm not sure what to make of this plate discipline because it is honestly not terrible. That walk rate will surely go down in due time because Beni does not look comfortable with his swing and pitchers will be attacking him through the coming weeks. You have to hold him in 12+ teamers with the matchups/ballparks he has coming up along with the lineup he plays in but in shallower leagues, cut bat after next Sunday if these poor performances keep up.

Maybe he's just a slow starter. Who knows?

 

Can't Spell Cristian Javier Without ACE

Javier came out of the blue this past Wednesday and eviscerated a tremendous Dodgers' lineup which featured most, if not all of its regulars. He even outpitched Dodgers' star pitching prospect Dustin May who couldn't last past the 4th inning. Javier pitched 5.2 innings, struck out 8 while allowing just 2 hits and one walk. His only earned run was off a smoked shot by Corey Seager, the hottest hitter in baseball. Javier's four-pitch repertoire keeps hitters on their toes and has allowed him to accumulate ridiculous strikeout numbers throughout the minors. He often sits just above 30% in strikeout rate for a season but has touched 40% in others. The stuff is nasty and was in full effect this week.

Javier looked poised and in control throughout the entire start. This is not the typical version of Javier that has been displayed in the minors. His walk rate sits between 10 and 13%. Javier's command is absolutely his biggest knock and could force him into the bullpen down the line. For now, the Astros need all of the help they can get after losing Justin Verlander and will keep trotting Javier out there until he gives them a reason not to.

Javier will presumably stay in the rotation over the next few weeks and his schedule looks like this:

@ ARZ
vs SF
vs SEA
@ SD
vs LAA

It really does not get much better than this for a RHP. Javier has a chance to turn heads over the next month if he can stick in the rotation.



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Starting Pitcher Waiver Wire Pickups for Week 1

The season is officially here! While things may look a little different on the outside, baseball is still being played and that is what should matter. More importantly, those fringe fantasy starters widely available in your leagues should be eyed now more than ever because they could become staples across the fantasy universe in a mere few weeks.

This year, we have less time than ever to evaluate players. Starting pitchers get an even shorter end of the stick due to their typical 5-day start schedules. The weeks will be fast-paced and every start will matter. Our goal is to quantify the value of each starter to a point where it is easy for you to decide whether they're  worth adding over someone already on your roster.

A reminder before we begin: Our focus is on players who are below 50% owned in Yahoo leagues, and standard 5x5 scoring. Your mileage may vary, in terms of availability or league settings. Using that cutoff point for ownership rate, however, these are your starting pitcher waiver wire targets and adds for Week 1 of the 2020 fantasy baseball season!

 

Pickups for Shallow Leagues

Joe Musgrove (SP, PIT) - 39% Owned

Joe Musgrove was a breakout candidate last season after posting major improvements across the board in 2018. He ultimately disappointed owners to the tune of a league-average 4.44 ERA with the worst xFIP and SIERA of his short career. Musgrove saw a one mile-per-hour downtick in velocity which hurt him throughout the season. In eight of his 31 starts in 2019, he allowed at least five runs, and unfortunately, it was not due to luck.

The general pitching mentality seared into young Pirates was to pitch to contact rather than attempting to miss bats. This old school mentality promulgated by ex-pitching coach Ray Searge harmed just about every SP over the past few seasons due to the ignorance of what modern analytics state. Searage's system was based on a mindset where walks were detrimental. While they are troublesome, it wholly overvalued them while ignoring how much more damage balls in play could cause.

Nevertheless, the Pirates have reconfigured their front office in an attempt to reach modernity and it will hopefully pay dividends sooner, rather than later. Recent reports on Musgrove have been positive as his velocity is up from last year in spring/summer training. He's slated to start Opening Day against the Cardinals and presents good value as the front-line starter in a year where innings will be difficult to come by.

Caleb Smith (SP, MIA) - 37% Owned

Caleb Smith's 2019 season was visibly divided into two parts. His stretch prior to the oblique injury, and that after it. His season looked like Jekyll and Hyde via game logs. From the start of the season until June 6th, his ERA was 3.41 and he was sporting a 1.02 WHIP and 31.5% K-rate with only a 7.7% walk rate.

After the injury, his ERA inflated to 5.36 with a 5.96 xFIP, 22.3% K-rate, and 10.4% walk rate. The hope here is that Smith's injury is the primary culprit in his fall from grace and having a full offseason to recover has brought his best self back. Smith is the SP2 in Miami and should see plenty of opportunities to pitch regularly.

Nate Pearson (SP, TOR) - 34% Owned

Pearson is a highly touted rookie who is essentially guaranteed to come up as soon as the Blue Jays can manipulate his service time. Six days into the 2020 season, Pearson will be activated and asked to take one of the spots on this thing starting staff. The Blue Jays benefit a great deal from the shortened season because they have enough talent to get really hot for a month and collect enough wins to sneak into a playoff spot.

Pearson will be asked to shoulder a substantial load as the SP3/4 given how unreliable the starters could be. His stuff is MLB ready and after dominating the minors last season, he is deserving of a promotion. Expectations should be high for the fire-balling stud for potential strikeouts and WHIP but wins and ERA may not as easy to come by.

Griffin Canning (SP, LAA) - 29% Owned

Griffin Canning's elbow may be held together by string cheese but the price at the moment is so low that saying no is almost blasphemous. He just pitched a fantastic six-inning game against the Giants in summer camp and looked sharp.

Canning's pitch sequencing is more important than anything to his caliber of talent and if the new managerial staff can unlock the right formula, he could be a force in the Angels' staff.  He is an immediate drop if injury strikes, but for now, he should hold onto a back-end role in Anaheim. Canning is just 24 with plenty of room for important despite having a mediocre fastball. If the secondary pitches get going, watch out.

 

Pickups for Deeper Leagues

Ross Stripling (SP, LAD) - 25% Owned

With David Price opted out of the season and the Dodgers pitching staff seeing an influx of youth, Ross Stripling remains one of the more stable options after the front-line starters in Buehler and Kershaw. His role may alternate throughout the season from starter to long-man but that should not change the fact that Stripling and his shining peripherals should be valued.

The Dodgers have no reason to preserve starters up until they clinch a playoff spot because every game matters so much more and the short season puts less of a strain on the players' bodies. While Stripling may never have pitched more than 122 innings as a major leaguer in the past, with this bizarre season's structure, he will not be limited or have his innings manipulated too much.

Chris Bassitt (SP, OAK) - 14% Owned

With the news of A.J. Puk's shoulder and his meeting with Dr. El-Attratch, Chris Bassitt's role in the A's rotation is as secure as ever. He is the SP4 with Daniel Mengden behind him piggybacking with top prospect Jesus Luzardo.

Of course, Bassitt has to perform well enough to hold onto the job but given Luzardo's history of minimal pitches thrown in a game, it's unlikely that he's a threat until possibly later in the season. Bassitt finally pitched roughly a full major league season yet managed to keep his ERA under four (3.81). He's a worthy late-round/waiver wire flier.

Corbin Burnes (SP, MIL) - 9% Owned

With Brett Anderson placed on the IL due to a "blister" issue, Corbin Burnes is now the fifth starter in Milwaukee. His fantasy value shoots up with the extra Ks that come with the extended innings and wins as well. Burnes is an extremely volatile pitcher who has such incredible stuff that it doesn't matter where the ball goes, you'll be in awe of the movement and velocity he can generate.

He will not be guaranteed a spot all year but this is his opportunity soon enough to display full-time consideration. Maybe he ends up piggybacking a 5th starter and collecting wins. Value can come from all over, talent always wins out. Burnes' 8.82 major league ERA in 2019 is complemented by a 3.37 xFIP. Strikeouts heavily skew xFIP but Burnes has his other positives such as his stint as a reliever full-time in 2018 where he generated fewer K's but got enough outs to end the year.



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Damien Harris is the Answer at RB for New England

As it currently stands, the New England Patriots' backfield is a mess. For the most part, this is more-so by design rather than personnel. The Patriots run one of the heaviest split backfields in the NFL from year-to-year. We would be in the right to call Bill Belichick a "Running Backs Don't Matter" truther, save for the part where he drafted Sony Michel in Round 1 of the NFL Draft just two years ago.

The Patriots have not had a true "workhorse" running back since Corey Dillon in the mid-2000s. Sony Michel was presumably the future of the backfield but he fell flat on his face in 2019 and has been working with rocks for hands since his rookie season.

As we've seen in New England, for every Benjarvus Green-Ellis, LeGarrette Blount, Stevan Ridley, or Sony Michel there is Kevin Faulk, Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen, and James White. Occasionally, we will see the mythical Dion Lewis who will be utilized as both a runner and receiver but unfortunately, these are few-and-far-between. Damien Harris falls within the former category but has the potential for more. At the moment, we are strictly concerned with not only getting the most bang for our buck but also seizing control of one of the most productive running environments in the NFL.

 

Why Not Sony Michel?

Michel came into the NFL with a reported bone-on-bone injury to his knee which is typically degenerative and requires serious workload management. While he has not missed a game due to a flare-up, he does typically miss practices for rehab mid-week. The injury is mostly a pain management issue with potential long-term repercussions.

His career thus far has been such an anomaly after posting 64 receptions on 83 targets in four college seasons at Georgia with nearly 10 yards-per-reception. Michel is one of the biggest one-trick ponies in the NFL and defensive coordinators realize that by-and-large. In 2019, he faced stacked boxes (eight or more in the box) on nearly 34% of his carries which is an increase from the 26%~ rate in 2018. His presence on the field is a full-on tell.

Michel excelled as a runner during his rookie season. He posted 931 yards on 209 carries in the regular season and 336 yards on 71 carries across three playoff games (including a Super Bowl win) with six total touchdowns to match his regular-season total. While a good chunk of the credit is due to the offensive line and good scheming, he "did his job" as the New England motto goes.

2019 was a different story as he rightfully earned more work, played a full season, and lost a large chunk of efficiency. He averaged fewer than four yards-per-carry and saw nearly double the targets from his rookie season but yet again failed to do much with them. He's totaled 19 receptions on 31 targets for 144 yards and no scores as a pass-catcher thus far.

What's most shocking is Michel's lack of burst. Michel looks like he's maintaining his posture at all times with his straight-up running style and hits cruise control in open space rather than accelerating.

To be fair to Michel, he does have one elite trait: pass-blocking. PFF has him graded as one of the best in the league with an 82 grade last season and it would explain why Belichick liked having him on the field so often despite the production being lesser than that of other running backs in New England.

Now, Michel is coming off of a foot surgery from June and could begin training camp on the PUP list. While this PUP is not as severe as the regular season PUP where a player must sit out at least six games before activation, it is concerning that he will not be ready in time for what should the oddest training camp maybe ever due to current conditions with the global pandemic.

 

Why Damien Harris?

Do not get me wrong, the claim here is not that Harris will take over the entire backfield and command a monster workload as a dual-threat who usurps even James White. While it is in the realm of possibility (a sliver of a chance), the assertion is that Harris will take Michel's primary rushing role as soon as this season.

No one has a better sense of Sony Michel's medicals than the Patriots and their team doctors. Maybe that is what led them to draft Damien Harris in Round 3 of the 2019 Draft. Maybe they just really liked him and couldn't pass? Who knows for sure, but the fact of the matter is that they spent a premium, top-75 pick on two running backs in back-to-back years which is peculiar, to say the least.

Despite sharing a backfield with Josh Jacobs, Bo Scarbrough, Najee Harris, and technically Jalen Hurts throughout his productive, last three years at Alabama, Harris managed to accrue two 1000 yard seasons and did it while averaging just over 7 yards per carry in both of them. Obviously, playing with NFL-level QBs and pass-catchers while behind top tier offensive lines will benefit any running back, Harris's sustained success is impressive, especially against SEC competition.

Harris is a very talented one-cut runner who does not spend much time behind the line-of-scrimmage. He is the embodiment of a power-back with an incredibly wide frame and tough, head-first running style. While he may not be agile, Harris's mix of size, speed, and athleticism is enough to make him the most dangerous RB in New England from a talent stand-point. Harris has something none of the other rushers have in his ability to burst into open space.

The addition of Cam Newton is a plus for every running back in New England, which makes it difficult to use that as a plus for anyone in particular. It is definitely possible that one of Sony Michel or Damien Harris benefits more from read-option plays but that is tough to tell at the moment. Harris was quite successful with Jalen Hurts back in Alabama while Michel was more-so in a pro-style offense throughout his career at Georgia with a mix of Jake Fromm, Jacob Eason, and Greyson Lambert.

Also, with Newton in town, not only will he team's pass attempts go down but the shape of the backfield could look a lot different. With Tom Brady at QB, the offense was working around an immobile QB who needed a clean pocket to operate. Brady could always improvise and work towards a quick-hitting offense to work around the bad OL at times but that is not when he was at his best. Brady, to his credit though, was agile in the pocket and tough to bring down. Cam Newton is even tougher and has the ability (when healthy) to escape the pocket and improvise plays.

Pass protection will absolutely still matter but the degree to which it does for running backs, in particular, could change. Why do I bring this up? Well, it just so happens that Damien Harris's fatal flaw is pass-protection. It would explain why he only received four total carries in the 2019 regular season despite consistently poor outings from Sony Michel. Michel's leash was extremely long last season as he managed to stay healthy and touch the ball 250 times.

 

In Conclusion

Harris's current redraft price is between pick 150 and 200 (fluctuating based on league). Drafting him in the teen round will not tank your draft if he does not see much more work than last year or fails to produce with an expanded workload. Harris provides immense upside given that he may be the lead-back in one of the consistently great offenses in the NFL that is ready to adapt to a new style of QB with the departure of Tom Brady.



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Give Corey Davis One More Chance

Tennessee Titans wide receiver, Corey Davis, is entering his fourth season in the NFL and already, many in the fantasy community are dumping their stock and refusing to buy at bottom-barrel prices. Davis is currently going off of the board in NFBC drafts around draft pick 200. Hardly anyone is reaching for him. Davis typically falls and gets drafted off of name-value rather than the belief of a bounce-back.

Draft capital after 3 years of disappointment means next to nothing. Pedigree is great at first but comes with an expiration date and Davis is close to his. It is possible that the Titans were just not a team/culture fit but there's no way to quantify this. With the evidence available, it is almost fair to say that Davis is going to be a bust. He won't be the first early-round receiver or the last to fall on his face.

However, the purpose of this piece is to give him just one more chance in drafts. You don't even have to reach for him, just take the minimally invasive plunge and draft him around ADP.

 

Prove-It Year

Before the deadline passed, the Titans declined Davis's fifth-year option which would have guaranteed control over him at a steep seven-figure price-tag. Their decision to do so creates a prove-it year mentality for Davis and although he likely would have performed well regardless, given the opportunity he has in front of him (at least relative to last year). This is just an extra chip on his shoulder.

Corey Davis had a peculiar volume fluctuation throughout his three-year NFL career. As a rookie, Davis was targeted 65 times in 11 games, roughly six per game. That season, he received 10 targets in Week 1, injured his hamstring Week 2 and then returned in the second half of the year, saw double-digit targets just once in nine regular-season games, and played poorly outside of a few games including a playoff game against New England.

As a sophomore, Davis was targeted 112 times, seven per game exactly, and caught 65 passes for 891 yards with four touchdowns. Not too impressive for a top-five pick but certainly showing improvement!

Davis came into 2019 with the expectations of the notorious third-year WR bump but fell extremely short. His targets fell back to the range of his rookie season with 69 total in 15 games, a meager four-and-a-half per game. On the surface, he did not see much of a bump with Tannehill whatsoever as both Tanny and Mariota targeted Davis similarly. More importantly, Davis was usurped on the depth chart by rookie phenom, A.J. Brown.

What stands out most:
2017: 11 Y/R, 5.8 Y/T, 52.3% catch rate
2018: 13.7 Y/R, 8 Y/T, 58% catch rate
2019: 14 Y/R, 8.7 Y/T, 62.3% catch rate
As you can see, there is at least some incremental escalation across three important stat-rates for a receiver. Corey Davis does not jump off the page as some world-beater thanks to this but it shows some marginal improvement that instills some semblance of hope.

 

Look on the Bright Side

While Davis did not see much of a bump between his time with Marcus Mariota or Ryan Tannehill in 2019 he did see six targets per game in the three games he played with Tannehill before injuring his hip prior to Week 10. Not to use a small sample to dictate projections, but this share is reasonable enough to presume that he could see similar usage in a full, healthy season with his new QB.

If Davis were to be targeted in the ballpark of six times per game over a 16-game season, that's 96 targets by virtue of third-grade multiplication. If he were to hit roughly triple-digit targets, his current ADP in the late 'teens of 12-man drafts would seem ridiculous. At that point, the WRs typically drafted are either rookies or WR3s and 4s on their respective rosters. Hell, Davis is getting drafted 80 spots behind the top rookie WRs in the class. Given the learning curve and odd offseason, that could end up a huge mistake.

Davis is still a talented receiver, he just has not had the proper opportunity for an extended period of time and has dealt with nagging injuries in 2019 and as a rookie. The hamstring injury from 2017 has been mentioned along with his hip injury in 2019 but on top of those, Davis also came down with an ankle injury and late-season concussion. Not to say these are absolutely why he flopped but they certainly did not help.

Tennessee not drafting/signing any WRs this offseason shows that they, rightfully, still believe in him. A.J. Brown is absolutely the first-option on the offense and Jonnu Smith, their new starting TE with Delanie Walker out of town, will be plenty involved. Davis will get fed his fair share in a low-volume passing offense and have the chance to earn more targets as the season progresses. Most importantly, he will have the chance to build rapport with Ryan Tannehill and earn his trust to be thrown to even when not clearly open.

Davis will stay on the field plenty by virtue of his one clear, redeeming talent almost always on display, blocking. This fantastic thread by Titans Film Room on Twitter is all-encompassing enough to justify the claim.

 

In Closing

The cost of acquisition is so low on Davis, the clear WR2 in an average offense, that it would be unwise NOT to draft him. Rather than being someone who is reaching for that early defense or top kicker towards the lower-middle part of drafts, spend that ~180th or even ~170th pick on a player who is due for 100 or more targets in a fully healthy season.

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CeeDee Lamb Will End 2020 as the Cowboys' WR1

While the Cowboys may not have expected CeeDee Lamb, the talented Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver, to fall to them at 18th overall in the 2020 Draft, they made the correct choice in selecting him rather than reaching for a position of need like a cornerback. Lamb's fall in the draft from a potential top-10 selection to the Cowboys was peculiar but nonetheless, it is not the first time a clear elite talent has fallen further than expected (Randy Moss in 1998).

Lamb will begin 2020 as the WR3 in Dallas and start in their base 11-personnel alongside Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. While usurping receivers who efficiently eclipsed over 1000 yards just last season will not be easy, Lamb is special enough to accomplish the task. He is the best bet of any WR from this class to end up a top-two round pick next draft season even though he has more competition than the likes of skilled first-rounders Justin Jefferson, Jalen Reagor, and Henry Ruggs III (Jerry Jeudy has the most difficult of any).

Just to clarify the title of this piece though, the assumption is not that CeeDee Lamb will finish as WR1 in scoring for Dallas but that he can take control of the WR1 role before season's end and into 2021. You should continue drafting Cooper well ahead of him and Gallup just above him. But Lamb could end the season at the top of the pile at a far lower ADP given the target distribution available from early on in the season.

 

Lamb is a 2021 WR1

Dak Prescott is one of the more efficient and reliable passers in the league with a 65.8% completion rate and no games missed throughout his career. He has incrementally increased his pass attempts year-by-year from 459 his rookie year, to 490 as a sophomore, 526 in his third year, and 596 last season. While the volume climb will plateau at some point, it is a good bet to believe that it will not be 2020. Passing is often dictated by whether you are leading the game or not. Teams with substantial leads run more, teams in trailing, tied, or in close, late-game situations will pass more.

Also, talent dictates a good amount too. With the Cowboys adding Cooper/Gallup over the past two years, they have leaned on the pass given that they can efficiently operate. Last season, in particular, they were middle-of-the-pack in terms of playing with a lead/deficit.

The Cowboys' defensive ranking by weighted DVOA last season was 19th in the league and they just lost two key starters on that end: Byron Jones and Robert Quinn. They are now left with massive holes that they failed to properly fill over the offseason. While they still have Demarcus Lawrence wrecking tackles on one end of the line, opposite him is going to be some mix of Tyrone Crawford, the oft-suspended Randy Gregory/Aldon Smith duo, or fifth-round picks from the past two seasons, Joe Jackson and Brandley Anae. Whatever comes to start opposite Lawrence will surely be a downgrade from Quinn who just had his best season since hitting the Pro Bowl in 2014.

 

Byron Jones is probably even harder to replace given how much he has improved since the transition from safety early in his career to cornerback. Jones cemented himself as a premier, shut-down CB last season and was rightfully paid $82.5 million for five years with $57 million guaranteed. 2017 second-round pick, Chidobe Awuzie, will look to step into the CB1 role in Dallas but he will be hard-pressed to come close to replicating Jones' abilities on the perimeter. Awuzie has been a viable CB2 since getting drafted. However, he might not be suited to overtake the tasks asked of a primary CB.

Dallas has added some safety help in the form of HaHa Clinton-Dix to complement Xavier Woods in the back-end but neither of them is elite and capable of overcompensating for mediocre CB play despite possessing competent enough abilities in coverage. Trevon Diggs, the Cowboys' second-round rookie CB is probably going to see some snaps early on due to his draft capital and skillset but he is a few years away from anything close to CB1 duties (if at all) due to his tendency to lose receivers in space.

The loss of Maliek Collins is negated by the addition of veteran Gerald McCoy. Both McCoy and Collins serve similar duties and have produced similarly of late, which makes that transition marginal. A healthy Leighton Vander Esch returning is the biggest addition to this Cowboys' defense given that a neck injury obliterated his 2019 season and caused him to play poorly even when on the field.

Head Coach Mike McCarthy assigned Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator and while a new scheme could help mitigate the losses, I am firmly on the side of talent being more important than scheme. All-in-all, it is hard to envision that the Cowboys' defense looks any better heading into 2020, and is more likely to get worse if anything.

 

Vacated Targets

The Cowboys may have a front-loaded wide receiver room in four-time Pro Bowl WR Amari Cooper and a rising Michael Gallup but there's enough love from Dak Prescott to go around in 2020. With the departures of slot receiver Randall Cobb and former announcer Jason Witten, the Cowboys look to a fresh-faced receiving corps of Cooper, Gallup, Lamb, and Blake Jarwin to overtake primary receiving duties. Ezekiel Elliott will have his role as the short-area target/dump-off but likely will not be motioned out wide as better receiving backs like Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey.

Disregarding more marginal target earners like Cedrick Wison, Tavon Austin and Devin Smith, the departures of Cobb and Witten open up over 160 targets going into 2020. While that may not be exact, again, we can assume the passing volume due to a poorer defense and playing with a deficit as often if not more will remain relatively high.

TE Blake Jarwin will be a major beneficiary from the shorter-area targets that had gone to Witten as well as seeing his fair share of work otherwise rising to TE1 on the roster. However, even by taking those away, along with the sprinkled looks around to Gallup, Cooper, and Pollard, Lamb should easily find a way to triple-digits. Lamb, Cooper, and Gallup should all deservedly hit at least 100 targets easily this season. If one of them were to get injured, that would skyrocket the other two into easy WR1 territory for the weeks that follow.

Michael Gallup missed two games early last season due to arthroscopic meniscus surgery which only kept him out for two games. Amari Cooper has only three games in his five year NFL career, however, he has suffered several ankle and foot injuries that he has played through. Short-term lower leg sprains are not the only deterrent for Cooper, he claims to have played through plantar fascitis during his rookie season which "got worse" as the year progressed. Nevertheless, he managed to play a full 16 and has for three out of his five seasons. There's no reason to assume that either of Cooper nor Gallup (Lamb as well for that matter) will see an injury recur that hinders their performance/ability to see the field but particularly, Cooper's injury history is something to keep in the back of your mind.

 

This Lamb is a GOAT

Lamb displays excellent ball-skills as a receiver at the point of attack and can contort to make high-difficulty catches in traffic. While his speed may not be the fastest receiver in the world, he uses his patience as a runner with the ball as an advantage over defenders. Lamb has a special stop-start ability. Much like Le'Veon Bell behind the line-of-scrimmage, he can shake around defenders to force them to miss and then break tackles with relative ease.

The scenario for him as a WR1 is simple. He will begin the year behind Gallup and Cooper on the target totem pole. Probably see a similar share early on in the same range as Zeke and Jarwin but if he were to shine with low volume early on (the expectation give his talent level) then the Cowboys will undoubtedly increase his target share to similar levels as their top-two receivers. From what we've seen from Cooper throughout his career and how Gallup projects as more of a vertical threat in the mid-to-deep field, it's fair to say that the Cowboys do not have a true alpha between them. Lamb could find himself as the 1A to Cooper's 1B by season's end and even lead the Cowboys in targets per game.

Hell, Gallup averaged more targets per game in 2019 as a sophomore (8.1 vs 7.4) than Cooper. If Lamb performs as well as he is capable of early on, he could absolutely top both of them by the end of the year and come into 2021 as the clear WR1.

There are also obvious trade rumors surrounding Jamal Adams of the Jets. Dallas is a ~loudly voiced~ landing spots given their need for secondary help and it is not impossible to envision Michael Gallup as part of a trade package given New York's need for receiver help along with Gallup's free-agent status next offseason. This would make the avenue to WR1 level targets MUCH for feasible but the situation seems unlikely as of now.

While Lamb did play in the offense-friendly Big-12 with Heisman-caliber/winning quarterbacks throughout his college career, the numbers he piled up and performances he displayed were overwhelmingly incredible. Lamb increased his yards per reception from 17.5-17.8-21.4 and scored 33 total touchdowns in those three seasons. He operated as a punt-returner given his skillset and was essentially his QBs' first-read these past two seasons with a quarter of his team's targets.

If none of this convinced you to believe in CeeDee Lamb as the WR1, just know that he is taking on the coveted number 88 jersey worn but historic Cowboy receivers Dez Bryant, Michael Irvin, and Drew Pearson. Buy in now because Lamb's price will not be cheaper for a long time.

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Why Saquon Barkley Should Be the 1.01 Pick

This might come off as crazy but hear me out. Yes, Christian McCaffrey had one of the best fantasy running back seasons in PPR history last season but Saquon Barkley should still be drafted ahead of him in 2020.

2019 was tumultuous for Barkley and the New York Giants. They officially transitioned from the face of their franchise to a first-round rookie QB midseason and Barkley sustained a high-ankle sprain in the third game of the year. Barkley missed the next three games and performed uncharacteristically from Weeks 7-14. He carried the ball 117 times for 373 yards, resulting in a meager 3.19 yards-per-carry and caught 30 passes on 42 targets for 218 yards. He scored twice during this stretch and the Giants lost every single game (albeit, due to more important factors like a mistake-prone rookie QB, mediocre O-Line, and porous defense).

The most damning performance throughout this abysmal two month period was a 13-carry, ONE-yard game against the New York Jets. The Jets had one of the best defenses versus the rush last year (2nd in DVOA) but that is no excuse for Barkley's performance. But 2020 can be a bounce-back campaign for Barkley. Here's why he should be the first pick in 2020 fantasy drafts.

 

Saquon Barkley: The Real 1.01

By no means is it incorrigible to select Christian McCaffrey first-overall. He has not missed a game throughout his illustrious three-year career and has seen at least 100 targets (with an incremental increase) each season. McCaffrey is also the lone-wolf in that backfield. The Panthers do not have a true back-up RB who steals opportunities. Reggie Bonnafon, a former QB, is listed on their depth charts as the RB2 but it would not shock me if Curtis Samuel took over for a chunk of opportunities if need be. Nevertheless, CMC is a premier option and by no means am I suggesting to pass on him further than the first pick.

The issues that come to mind with CMC are the changes to the offense and the overall outlook for the Carolina Panthers heading into 2020. They have officially moved on from former league MVP and first-overall pick, Cam Newton to Teddy Bridgewater (more like Bridge-QB-Water lol). Furthermore, the Panthers acquired a brand new coaching staff from the college ranks by signing Baylor Head Coach Matt Rhule to a long-term deal and bringing in young phenom Joe Brady from National Champion LSU to coordinate the offense.

Joe Brady comes from Sean Payton's tree and will instill a pass-heavy offense to Carolina, which will look incredible when they have the proper personnel to properly run it. Did McCaffrey perform well with Kyle Allen of all people? Absolutely. But there was a stretch of a month in 2019 where teams were essentially blind-sided by Allen and he flukily did not turn the ball over and played relatively well.

At the moment, the Panthers have one of, if not the worst offensive line in the NFL. They let go of both starting guards Trai Turner and Greg Van Roten while trading for oft-injured LT Russell Okung. For the time being, their Matt Paradis signing is looking poor given his only season in town last year and their guard replacements are John Miller and Dennis Daley, both downgrades from last year's starters (who in their own right were just average at best).

Taylor Moton is the only above-average piece on the line unless 2019 second-round pick Greg Little steps up or soon-to-be 33-year-old Okung returns to form. The Panthers did not draft a single lineman this year and while CMC's best work is not done between the tackles, his rushing ceiling is lower. Carolina's OL ranked 11th in adjusted line yards (via Football Outsiders) in 2018 and 17th in 2019. This year will most likely be even worse.

The poor offensive line mixed with Teddy Bridgewater's immobility is a huge concern. While Bridgewater will be forced to get the ball out of his hands ASAP to short-area receivers like McCaffrey, there is certainly a concern that the offense as a whole will be towards the bottom of the league despite having several talented receivers on the field in D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, and Robby Anderson. It is difficult to pinpoint how effective this offense can be along with the upside. Brady will certainly spread things out well with plenty of 11-personnel and motioning McCaffrey out wide like he did Clyde Edwards-Helaire but will any of that matter given Bridgewater's personal limitations and low time to throw? Bridgewater's passes had the lowest air yards per target in the league last year and that was behind a top-five Saints offensive line.

Lest we forget, just two years ago, in Barkley's rookie year (McCaffrey's sophomore season), he was the RB1 in PPR formats right ahead of McCaffrey. Barkley was basically the entire Giants' backfield that year and ranked 1st in open-field yards (gains at least 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage). That was with an immobile Eli Manning and significantly worse offensive line. According to Football Outsiders, the Giants' adjusted offensive line yards ranked 25th in 2019 and 29th in 2018. They just drafted NFL-ready tackle Andrew Thomas fourth-overall and added upside in rookies Matt Peart and Shane Lemieux. Lemieux is rumored to be in the mix to start at center, which would fill the biggest hole at the moment. If there's one thing general manager Dave Gettleman can get right, it's finding talent across the offensive line over time.

Barkley was the second-overall pick in the 2018 draft for a reason. He was rightfully heralded as a "generational talent" given his elite mix of speed, size, athleticism, pass-catching, route-running, and vision/ability as a rusher. That did not go away overnight. While the sprain may have lingered throughout a chunk of 2019, he should be fully healthy heading into this season. Barkley started to look a LOT more like running back that was coveted going into last season in the last month after he was more comfortable on his ankle. Re-aggravation is a risk though and probably the most valid reason to keep him ranked 2nd across fantasy drafts but you play to win the game and Barkley has the highest upside of any running back year in, and year out moving forward if healthy for the next half-decade at least.

If you have the chance, take Barkley first overall and do not look back.

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2020 NFL Draft Wide Receivers: Dream Destinations

The 2020 NFL Draft is nearly here. We don't know where the top skill players will land, but as fantasy football junkies we know where we want them to go. This list is filled with my favorite wide receivers for the 2020 class, starting with the receivers I believe are the most talented and capable of thriving in any destination, both short-and-long-term. I will break down each player and provide my top ideal landing spots, as well as a worst-case scenario. These are simply in regards to fantasy value. Once you are done here with the top tier wide receivers, be sure to read part two of this article looking at the dream destinations for the second tier of rookie wide receivers.

Wide receivers are made in all shapes and sizes and come with various abilities and strengths. Some players listed are so talented that it would not matter who is on their team in three years given that they would be the workhorse WR regardless. Talent overcomes location at the end of the day but at least for redraft purposes, these WRs may struggle with certain teams. There are, of course, outliers like A.J. Brown last year who ended up in a run-heavy offense that was perceivably an awful landing spot, but due to a mid-season QB change, lack of competition for targets, and incredible play-making abilities, he thrived. Nevertheless, that is not always the case.

The "Dream Destinations" are based on fit in particular offenses around the leagues. Factors considered when selecting the teams included position depth, talent/skill overlap, and function of offense. Not only is future fantasy value for dynasty/redraft taken into account, but also, how a player complements the current roster in place along with any future standalone value. Also, the destinations are based on draft positioning. If it weren't, I would just have Ceedee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy "ideally" ending up in Kansas City with Patrick Mahomes, but that probably is not happening. Let's see where the top wideouts should end up.

 

CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma

Dream Destinations: Raiders, Jets
Worst Case: 49ers

CeeDee Lamb is my WR1 for the 2020 class. He is the most dominant pass-catcher at the point of attack, can run routes with the best of them and is nearly impossible to tackle on a defense's first try. He is the prototypical, alpha X-receiver of this class and has drawn comps to DeAndre Hopkins (obviously a high-end outcome but in the range of possibilities).

Almost anywhere he lands, he will be the WR1 and be fed targets due to his talent and physical prowess. He has the body to handle 150 targets per year and that is more than available with the Jets, Raiders, and Eagles. The Jets just let Robby Anderson walk and have been in need of a true WR1 since the departure of Brandon Marshall. They recently signed former first-round pick Breshad Perriman to a one-year deal and have Jamison Crowder locking up the slot. Lamb is a perfect fit along-side them with a hopefully mono-free Sam Darnold slinging them the ball going forward.

The Raiders are in a similar situation as the Jets. They have their slot locked up in Hunter Renfrow along with Tyrell Williams acting as the big-bodied deep threat outside like Perriman. They are also lacking that true do-it-all receiver like Lamb. I am worried that either Derek Carr or Marcus Mariota could limit his team's WR production but I am sure that Jon Gruden will do a decent job scheming the offense around them.

While San Francisco is a great real-life destination for the talented wide-out, there is cause for concern in Kyle Shanahan's offense. He is going to be competing with George Kittle and Deebo Samuel for targets along with having to deal with a run-heavy scheme that spreads out targets. Lamb's efficiency would probably be best-off in SF but fantasy-wise it will be difficult week-to-week. There truly is no "worst-case scenario" with Lamb given that he is so talented that he would fit anywhere. SF is just better off targeting a deep threat who can take the top off of defenses and open up space for the rest of the offense.

 

Jerry Jeudy, Alabama

Dream Destinations: Jaguars, Eagles
Worst Case: Cardinals

Jeudy is one of the most, if not the most agile receiver in the entire class and can cut on a dime to get open or create extra yardage. He might be best off starting out as a slot receiver (where he played a ton in college) and then maybe moving outside occasionally or better yet, down the line. He's a big play waiting to happen with incredible speed who can add multiple dimensions to any offense. The poor contested catch-rate (5%) has me worried with regards to Jeudy. He is not a physical WR at all and requires his shifty movements to create extra yardage.

Jacksonville's plan at the moment is to roll with Gardner Minshew II for 2020 and see where that goes. While this is a likely tank job, especially with rumors they are trying to trade Leonard Fournette, they will still want to surround their young QB with as much young talent as possible. The Jaguars are an ideal destination for Jeudy as he can fit in the slot next to D.J. Chark and attack the intermediate part of the field while Chark dominates deep. Both receivers have 4.4 speed and can open up space for the run game to operate.

While the Jaguars currently have Dede Westbrook in the slot, he has failed to display the Biletnekoff-esque domination from his Oklahoma Sooner days. There is definitely the option of moving Jeudy around, however; if Westbrook continues to stagnate, he should get relegated to the bench. Jay Gruden taking over as OC is a plus for the Jags as they will hopefully be headed towards a more modern offense that is built around the pass.

The Eagles are an incredible landing-spot for Jeudy as well. He is a perfect fit between Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson this year and should be able to take the WR1 crown soon after. While they will have to trade up to get him, the rumors are that they are willing to do so for a WR. With their selection of J.J. Arcega-Whiteside last year and release of Nelson Agholor, it makes sense that they would target Jeudy to fit in the slot, although their current interest is reportedly in CeeDee Lamb or Justin Jefferson.

Jeudy is an immediate upgrade for an offense that is often without playmakers due to injury and should see a fair share of targets early-on with more to come if one or both of Jackson/Jeffrey go down. Carson Wentz is a great, reliable QB (when he's on the field) who is accurate on deep shots and can extend plays for Jeudy to thrive.

There are rumblings that the Cardinals might add a WR with their eighth overall pick (or in a trade-down scenario). While this may be smoke, it would be terrible for Jeudy because there would be little possibility that he comes out as a WR1/target-hog for at least few years. The Cardinals just traded for DeAndre Hopkins and are planning on extending RB Kenyan Drake. They drafted several receivers in 2019 (albeit not the best), slot-man Christian Kirk in 2018 and still have Larry Fitzgerald around. Jeudy would immediately impact the team given his talent-level but would have a tough time getting the ball, even in a pass-heavy offense that runs out four-wide often.

 

Henry Ruggs III. Alabama

Dream Destinations: 49ers, Broncos
Worst Case: Buccaneers

Ruggs is more than just a deep threat. Folks online have comped him to John Ross, Ted Ginn Jr. etc as these smaller, speedy wideouts who get drafted high and then bust. Points are made about Ruggs' lack of production in relation to his Alabama teammates, however, that is pretty foolish to consider when every single one of them is a prospective first-round pick. Ruggs is much closer to Tyreek Hill than he is to John Ross, although he is not identical to either.

Ruggs plays bigger than his size suggests although he is not one to make contested catches anytime soon. Ruggs has a solid body and massive 10" hands that make it easier to reel in deep shots than his speedy counterparts.

The 49ers would be one hell of a landing spot for Ruggs because he is the perfect complement to an offense that just lost Emmanuel Sanders and lacks a true deep-threat. Although Jimmy Garoppolo does not have the strongest arm, he is capable of making his fair share of accurate, deep throws (unfortunately not in early-February...). Plus, with Deebo Samuel and George Kittle in the mix, it will be hard to double Ruggs, leaving an open opportunity somewhere on the offense for him to find the end-zone.

The Broncos are a great landing spot as well, particularly due to their lack of depth at receiver. Ruggs would immediately take over as the WR2 opposite alpha wideout Courtland Sutton. Denver wants to lean on the run to alleviate pressure on sophomore QB Drew Lock but will need to air it out a few times a game if they plan on winning.

Lock possesses very good arm strength and can make throws off bootlegs to allow Ruggs enough time to break wide-open. In situations where Ruggs is heavily covered, the field will be open for Lock to find Noah Fant, Sutton or dump it off to one of his running backs in space. If Sutton were to go down at any point, Ruggs would surely be capable of playing the WR1 role, even at his size.

The Buccaneers are a brutal potential landing spot for Ruggs. Not only will he get a 43-year old Tom Brady throwing him passes, but he also has to compete for targets with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, arguably the most talented WR duo in the NFL.

Ruggs would be a great addition for the franchise, no doubt acting as another field-stretcher for Brady and filling the WR3 role but it would be awful for fantasy, His targets would be lower end due to who he is playing with and it is unlikely that Brady has enough juice in his arm to hit him in stride consistently.

 

Jalen Reagor, TCU

Dream Destinations: Eagles, Raiders
Worst Case: Dolphins

Reagor is one of the most fun wide receivers to watch in this entire class. He is not the tallest guy but he is built solidly and plays big for a receiver under six-feet tall. Reagor's lack of production last season along with his drops are definitely red flags. However, he was reportedly playing through an injury and also dealing with some awful quarterback play. His catch rate these past few seasons is extremely low but after watching him, it was clear that his targets were often nowhere near him.

His speed off the line-of-scrimmage and ability to make contested catches at his size are incredibly impressive. He ran in the mid-4.4's at the combine but plays much faster on tape. Reagor is not your prototypical dominant, outside receiver but he sure can play like one, particularly at the next level.

The Eagles are probably the absolute best landing spot for Reagor given that he can operate as their WR1 as soon as Alshon Jeffery is gone. He can fit in the slot immediately and honestly be the most talented WR on the field. No disrespect to D-Jax or Jeffery but Reagor is on another level. He has insane burst off of the line of scrimmage, can blow by defenders, runs fluid routes, and make tough contested catches. He may not see too many targets from the jump due to his rookie status but if Jeffery or Jackson gets hurt early in the season, he will get an instantaneous boost.

Reagor in Las Vegas would be great as well. He, like Lamb, would immediately step in as the best WR on the roster. Reagor's ability to create plays with the ball in his hand and open up space without it will work wonders for the rest of the offense no matter who is under center. His speed would make everyone else's job much easier. He is very much used to playing with bad quarterbacks (just turn on any recent TCU game) and would be fine with either Carr or Mariota. For a sub-six foot tall receiver, he has a very solid catch radius due to his athleticism. His drop issue is a bit overblown, and so is his poor catch rate (46% in 2019). Just having an NFL QB throwing to him will change this perception immediately.

The Dolphins are a team on the upswing with their bountiful draft capital and re-invigorated culture thanks to Coach Brian Flores, however, for all that they lack, they are solid at WR with two strong starters moving forward. Former first-round pick DeVante Parker finally broke out last season and signed a three-year extension to stick around while undrafted free agent Preston Williams broke out on the scene and provided 32 receptions, 428 yards, and three touchdowns in eight games before tearing his ACL. Of course, Reagor would be a fine addition to this WR room but he would not have the opportunity to thrive.

It is possible to have a great rookie season in 2020 if Ryan Fitzpatrick is the starter and he airs it out like last season, providing plenty of targets all over the field. However, the expectation is that Miami is bringing in a running back with one of their first-round picks and will want to get him on the field as soon as possible. This, unfortunately, makes it likely that they will lean heavily on the run to alleviate the pressure on the rookie QB. Reagor does not stand to benefit in fantasy if he were to land in Miami for at least the first couple of seasons.

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Wide Receiver Dream Destinations (Tier 2) - 2020 NFL Draft

We've already covered the top tier of rookie wide receivers from the 2020 NFL Draft class and where their best and worst landing spots would be. This article continues in the same vein, continuing with some very talented receivers as well but whose short-term fates could be hindered due to particular team situations. Both the best-case and worst-case scenarios are simply in regards to fantasy value.

Wide receivers are made in all shapes and sizes and come with various abilities and strengths. Some players listed are so talented that it would not matter who is on their team in three years given that they would be the workhorse WR regardless. Talent overcomes location at the end of the day but at least for redraft purposes, these WRs may struggle with certain teams.

The "Dream Destinations" are based on fit in particular offenses around the leagues. Factors considered when selecting the teams included position depth, talent/skill overlap, and function of offense. Not only is future fantasy value for dynasty/redraft taken into account, but also, how a player complements the current roster in place along with any future standalone value. Also, the destinations are based on draft positioning so bear in mind that if another receiver is thought to have been taken earlier for a team, they may not be in the market for one of these players.

 

Michael Pittman Jr., USC

Dream Destinations: Colts, Vikings
Worst Case: Buccaneers

Michael Pittman Jr. is one of the more unheralded WR prospects in this year's class. His knocks include a later breakout age and issues with finding holes in zone coverage, however, his positives heavily outweigh those.

He is not someone to project as a WR1 in the NFL, but he can absolutely thrive in any offense operating as a high-end WR2. Pittman's mix of height, weight, and speed is incredible. He is a big-bodied target that not only beats corners off the line one-on-one but also makes tough contested catches. My comp for him is Marvin Jones Jr.

Pittman's ideal landing spots include Indianapolis and Minnesota. He can thrive in both offenses playing next to talented wideouts like T.Y. Hilton and Adam Thielen with a veteran quarterback slinging him the ball.

Minnesota is probably better for any rookie than Indianapolis given that they are at least tied to their QB past 2020. Cousins gets a lot of flak online but dang it, he is accurate. Pittman can operate in the screen-game and as a deep threat while offering very savvy blocking skills. He is a welcome addition to any team he joins.

The Buccaneers are the worst-case scenario for similar reasons to Henry Ruggs III. While Brady can still take the occasional deep shot, he isn't what he used to be and 43 is very much pushing it into "washed up" territory. Having to compete with Evans and Godwin would be a pain for Pittman as a WR3 from the jump and having to fight for deep targets with Evans will be a pain.

 

Justin Jefferson, LSU

Dream Destinations: Packers, Saints
Worst Case: Vikings

Jefferson is one of the most well-rounded WRs in this class. High-floor is an overused term but he is the definition of it. Jefferson has been productive since 2018 and displays natural skills on the field from his receiving ability to his willingness to stand next to the OL and block for the offense.

He has 4.4 speed but for some reason looks a little slower on film and can often look clunky turning around. His cuts on slants though are extremely clean and he is very capable of creating extra yardage with the ball in his hands.

Jefferson has a good bit of wiggle in the open field with the ability to not only make defenders miss tackles but also run straight past them. He had an insane 91 percent catch rate last year fueled by a historic year from projected number-one pick Joe Burrow along with plenty of shorter, open passes that allowed for YAC opportunities.

The Packers and Saints are ideal fits for Jefferson because he would get an opportunity to play next to elite WR1s in Michael Thomas or Davante Adams with elite, veteran QBs like Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees throwing to him. Jefferson could be plugged into the slot position right from the jump, given that both teams have a need there, and produce modestly as a rookie. Jefferson is not someone teams should ask much from in his first few seasons but with some growth, he could potentially develop into a great receiver.

Jefferson is a peculiar fit in Minnesota because of how much he played out of the slot in LSU. He rarely ran on the outside and I'd worry about him facing talented perimeter corners and consistent press coverage. Also, Adam Thielen is best served in the slot and that overlap does not project too well.

Jefferson is an experienced player but could get rattled by physical play early in his career. While he does have the speed to get open deep, I'm worried about him getting knocked off of routes and getting lost in the defense. Minnesota is expected to continue playing more 12-personnel to focus on blocking for Dalvin Cook and expanding the role last year's second-round pick Irv Smith Jr. Someone speedy like Jefferson is a need next to Thielen but a better fit would be someone bigger and more imposing.

 

Bryan Edwards, South Carolina

Dream Destinations: Texans, Raiders
Worst Case: Patriots

Bryan Edwards is someone you really have to watch to understand. Without any definitive combine numbers, there are not accurate data points as to how athletic he truly is. He is an awesome receiver who saw half of his targets come behind the line of scrimmage.

That could be seen as a negative by some but to me, it's a huge positive. Despite the South Carolina offense probably not being capable of downfield passes, it shows trust in Edwards as a playmaker with the ball in his hands (which he definitely is).

Edwards has some insane high-end player profiler ratings like a 94th percentile college dominator rating and 100th!! percentile breakout age at 17. Edwards' skillset is still in development but he has been productive (by poor-offensive surrounding standards) since his freshman season by posting at least 500 yards and four touchdowns each year. He reminds me of a more fluid version of his fellow U of SC Gamecock, Alshon Jeffery. They are comparable not only by size but also how they play downfield in traffic.

While he shows it on tape against legitimate ACC competition, there are question marks as to whether he will be able to separate at the next level, on top of having come off a broken foot that kept him out of the combine. Foot injuries are often tricky, which might concern teams.

Nevertheless, Edwards is one of the most exciting receiving prospects in this class. He has a true WR1 body. Edwards could end up as the best out of this class and it would not shock me. For now, we have to limit excitement and be realistic. Edwards is a Day Two draft prospect with the possibility of sliding to Day Three if teams opt to go a different route in this deep class.

Houston is a great landing spot for Edwards, particularly if they cut Kenny Stills and/or Keke Coutee. He'd have an open opportunity to start even sooner and would take over DeAndre Hopkins' role as the short and intermediate threat on the field. While he is definitely nowhere near Hopkins' level, he is capable of fulfilling the same duties. Edwards could become a favorite target of Deshaun Watson on bubble screens and throws to the sideline but might need more refinement before developing into a true number-one option.

While the Patriots do have a need at WR, they just drafted N'Keal Harry last season, who fills a very similar role as Edwards. It is not out of the question to have two WRs who fill similar archetypes, but for fantasy, it is a nuisance. Harry was their first-round pick last season and will probably have a decent leash by Belichickian standards.

Edwards will have to go through the Patriots' ringer of trials to see the field and even if he does, the smallest mistake could land him in the dog house. Obviously, Edwards' talents could speak for themselves if he shows out in practice and early in the season but for now, it is hard to project him for success in New England.

 

Tee Higgins, Clemson

Dream Destinations: Colts, Texans
Worst Case: Rams

Tee Higgins is a former top high school recruit who produced in college, helped his team win a national title and has the body of a prototypical WR1. His athletic testing is fairly mediocre though for a guy who put up 118 catches, 2103 yards, and 25 TD over the past two seasons in one of the toughest conferences in the country. Higgins comes off as a future red-zone threat and a jump ball dominator with his insane catch-radius.

Higgins best fits an offense with speed but no size. The Colts and Texans are perfect landing spots to fill this niche role as receivers corps like Fuller/Cooks or Hilton/Campbell are perfect complementary receivers to allow Higgins space to thrive in the intermediate and deep field along with attracting enough attention in the end-zone to not leave Higgins over-covered.

Deshaun Watson is certainly going to miss having DeAndre Hopkins around but replacing him with a bigger, though less talented Clemson product should be sufficient moving forward. Unfortunately, the Colts are in a much more advantageous spot in the second round to select him given that they pick ahead of Houston.

The Rams are now in need of another starting-caliber wide receiver after trading away Brandin Cooks. They have an extremely talented skill-corps at the moment with Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett as their starting pass-catching options, but need a field-stretcher in the draft to properly space the offense.

Higgins would be a poor fit here as they are not a team that relies heavily on balls thrown in traffic nor are they lacking in red-zone threats. Also, for fantasy purposes, Higgins would not be as heavily targeted as we would like. It is possible that Higgins is available when the Rams' first selection is up but they absolutely should pass if he slips to the mid-second round.

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Fantasy Basketball Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 21

The waiver wire is where leagues are won and lost. The draft is long past and now your rosters feel completely different if you are even moderately active. Players come and go due to poor performances and/or injury all the time. Staying on top of your needs is essential to winning matchups and grinding your way to a championship.

As a reminder for most leagues, it is crucial to plan ahead. Waiver wire adds, scheduling, and player injuries are all things to consider. Make an effort to improve your team by maximizing your weekly adds and utilizing streamer spots via the waiver wire. Be wary of weekly streaming options and stay ahead of your opponents.

Our staff at RotoBaller has great insight and daily columns on how to improve your squad and tips to make your team successful, so be sure to check them out! Now, let's get prepared for Week 21.

 

Week 21 Standard Leagues - Waiver Wire Pickups

*Securing your categorical needs at this point is important, especially if you're playing in head-to-head leagues*

Columns are written based on H2H 9-category standard size leagues:

Shabazz Napier - PG - Washington Wizards (18% owned) 

Napier's scoring is not going to carry anyone's team but he provides enough of an all-around game as a PG to be valuable in deeper leagues. He is just coming off of a 27-point performance but had failed to crack double-digits in his four previous games. His steals, threes, and assists are the main selling point along with the fact that he isn't an absolute tank for FG% while providing a slight FT boost. Ish Smith's absence has opened the door for much more PT and usage from Napier in a starting role.

Dario Saric / Aron Baynes - PF/C - Phoenix Suns (30%/34% owned)

With Deandre Ayton out indefinitely, Baynes slides into the starting C spot and Saric takes on an expanded role from the bench or occasional starting spot. Kelly Oubre's absence has also opened up time for Saric who had fallen out of the lineup completely just a month ago. Saric's main areas of success are threes, points, and rebounds so his production could be a lot more volatile than Baynes who somehow is wrecking over the past two games, but we have seen how Baynes could provide sustainably productive fantasy performances as he did earlier in the season while Ayton was suspended. Baynes averaged roughly 13 points (on 53% shooting), six rebounds, 1.5 threes, and a block while Ayton was suspended. Both are drops if/when Ayton returns but for now, Saric is worthy of adding in 12-plus team leagues and Baynes in even shallower formats.

Donte Divincenzo - SG - Milwaukee Bucks (35% owned)

With Giannis Antetokounmpo out for the next week, Donte DiVincenzo takes on an expanded role in Milwaukee as a ball-handler and scorer. Eric Bledsoe is also dealing with an ailment of his own which leaves even more of an opportunity for DD to succeed. He's been on a relative tear over the past three games providing nearly 20 points per game with an all-around stat-line fill that is backed up with good percentages. He should be added everywhere until Giannis returns.

Michael Carter-Williams - PG - Orlando Magic (2% owned) 

Evan Fournier's dealing with a UCL issue (a precursor to Tommy John Surgery in baseball) and his absence has opened up a larger role for Michael Carter-Williams to take on. MCW is now operating as a combo-guard who is taking more shots rather than an initiator who is minimally involved on offense. He remains a limited ball-player given his poor shot but he has made a few threes this season and carved out a decent role in Orlando. His past three games are promising and as long as Fournier is inactive, there will be the opportunity to continue providing steals, assists, and hopefully points with decent efficiency.

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