Crystal Ball Week 1 2017

By Evan Tarracciano
Evan Tarracciano Draft day and Christmas are my two favorite days of the entire year. Each one carries an immense amount of anticipation, a culmination leading to meeting friends and family and the added bonus of a gift or two. Players, in a strange way, are akin to presents – you can’t wait to check them out, especially the ones that you really wanted.

For those of you who don’t know, I primarily participate in auction leagues. I prefer them to standard/snake drafts, since I really enjoy honing in on targets that I want to endorse. This mindset often leads to having similar team makeups in a number of leagues, so when an injury occurs, it is particularly devastating.

David Johnson was the biggest “gift” that I opened on my pseudo-Christmas this year. In nearly every league, I spent big to acquire him, and fully endorsed him as the best player in the entire league, especially in PPR formats.

Sadly, Johnson was the worst kind of toy – defective. He broke before anyone could actually enjoy using him, and sadly he doesn’t come with a very good return policy.

The opening week of the Fantasy season was highlighted by both breakouts (Kareem Hunt, Tarik Cohen) and major injuries. This column will discuss both in detail, coupled with answering several questions that I received via Twitter (@Roto_Wizard) over the past day or two. If you are new to this column and would like to have your questions answered in the future, please make sure to give me a follow and submit all inquiries on Tuesday afternoons. In addition to providing answers here, I also host a weekly “Q&A” video chat over on the Football Diehards Facebook page, which you can find here:

Q: The Arizona Cardinals backfield is an absolute mess with David Johnson landing on IR. Who (if anyone) should I take to replace him, and how much should I spend on them?

A: I’ll be blunt and upfront – no one is going to “replace” David Johnson, or come close to it. The Cardinals have already confirmed that they anticipate on utilizing a full blown RBBC, head by Kerwynn Williams and Chris Johnson on early down work, and Andre Ellington in on passing situations. Williams did manage to beat Johnson for a roster spot as the year started, but owners have to wonder if that was due to Johnson’s higher veteran base salary, declining skillset, or both. Arizona’s offensive line is one of the worst in the league, and even David Johnson was struggling to find holes against the Detroit Lions. The next few games the Cardinals face some subpar rushing defenses in the Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles, so Williams should have a small window of being a low-end RB2. Ellington makes for an upside flier in PPR formats, especially since the team figures to play from behind often. None of these players are worth spending more than 10-15 percent of your FAAB on, or a high waiver claim.

Q: Well, it certainly didn’t take long for Danny Woodhead to re-aggravate his hamstring injury. Buck Allen was a decent receiver in prior seasons – is he worth a pickup?

A: The Baltimore Ravens confirmed on Wednesday that Woodhead will miss a minimum of four weeks, and they were considering using him for the I.R. (eligible to return) slot, that would cost him another four. In his absence Allen is the most logical candidate to go after, and I would prefer to add him to any of the Cardinals backs listed above. In Allen’s rookie season of 2015, he caught 45 receptions for over 350 yards and two touchdowns. He is a much better receiver out of the backfield than Terrance West, and managed to out-touch West in Week One. Woodhead isn’t a particularly fast healer, and is 32 years old. It would be a major surprise if the team didn’t side with caution and sit him out for the full eight week duration, meaning that Allen will have plenty of time to carve out a niche for himself in this offense.

Q: Andy Dalton was receiving an awful lot of hype entering the regular season, with some expects touting him as a low-end QB1 in 10 team leagues. What happened Week One?

A: With both A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert returning to full health and the Cincinnati Bengals adding Joe Mixon and John Ross, it was certainly an easy assumption pegging Dalton for a return to Fantasy relevance. Sadly, as is the case with many quarterbacks in the league – it doesn’t matter what sort of firepower you have, if your offensive line can’t protect the pocket for more than two seconds. There is no doubt that his line (16/31, 170 passing yards and four INTs) was dreadful, and it was clear that after being sacked multiple times that Dalton was rushing his throws in an effort of self-preservation. The Bengals take on yet another formidable line Week Two against the Houston Texans, so his chances of an immediate rebound are slim at best. Ross will especially suffer, as his skillset is dependent upon deep balls and letting plays develop. If you can still hold onto him as a backup QB I’d attempt to be patient, and look to grab an upside play like Sam Bradford until things improve.

Q: Jesse James scored two touchdowns for the Pittsburgh Steelers in their opener. Is he worth picking up or was this a fluke?

A: More of a fluke than anything else – Ben Roethlisberger was unable to find anyone other than Antonio Brown and James in the passing game. Le’Veon Bell, Martavis Bryant and Eli Rodgers combined for a total of seven receptions for just 40 yards. That line isn’t going to happen again, especially as the team continues to phase in Bell and Bryant.

Q: I saw your tweet about Josh Gordon possibly being reinstated – what was all that about?

A: In an effort to prove to the league that he is now past his drug issues, Gordon checked himself into a rehab center, and is due to complete his program on September 21st. According to Mary Kay Cabot of , he has been working with Tim Montgomery, the former Olympic Gold medalist and world-record holder. Gordon’s last bid for reinstatement was denied on May 11th, but the league did state that he would be allowed to re-apply in the fall. He remains a long-shot to join the league, and even if he does one has to wonder what sort of game shape he will be in. That said, if you have a free slot at the end of your bench with a number of players going to IR already, his upside is tremendous.

Q: Rank these RB pickups this week – Chris Carson, Tarik Cohen, Kerwynn Williams and Alvin Kamara. PPR league.

A: For the most immediate impact, it would be Williams-Cohen-Kamara-Carson. For the rest of the season, Carson is a tremendous pickup though. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if he finishes the season with the most rushing yards on the Seattle Seahawks. It might take a few more weeks of Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy being hurt for him to see a bigger role though.

Q: Allen Robinson is out for the season with a torn ACL – which WR will step up more in his absence, Marqise Lee or Allen Hurns?

A: I don’t want to go with the hokey “it depends on the format” response, but in a way that is true. I’d expect Lee to be the more heavily targeted player of the two, with Hurns being a better play in standard formats. However, it is evident that the Jacksonville Jaguars want to rely upon their defense and running game to secure victories, and would prefer Blake Bortles to never throw a pass. Both receivers are no more than a WR3 for me at best, but have the possibility of putting up a solid game or two before season’s end.

Q: Alex Smith led my league at the QB position for points this week!! What is going on?

A: Several elements will contribute to Smith having a better season than many expected. First, the presence of Patrick Mahomes is sure to push Smith. He signed a 5-year, $76 million contract back in 2014, so it isn’t as if his tenure is already coming to an end. That said, Mahomes is more athletically gifted than him, but needs some serious refinement. Second, Tyreek Hill being an unquestioned starter who will be on the field more often can only be a benefit. Additionally, we saw in the preseason that the team was more willing to take shots downfield to Travis Kelce and Chris Conley. None of these changes suggest that Smith is the next Tom Brady, but it wouldn’t be a complete shock to see him throw more than 25 touchdowns for the first time in his career.

Q: Speaking of the Kansas City Chiefs, can Tyreek Hill honestly keep this up?

A: Each week Hill manages to churn out a massive play or two, which has seen his overall rankings rise to nearly a low-end WR1. At this point I’d honestly be surprised if that doesn’t occur. He can make or break an entire week with one reception, given his speed.

Q: Fill in the blanks. DeShone Kizer should be owned in leagues with ______ owners or greater. He finishes as a top _______ quarterback.

A: 12 and 20.

Q: Any updates on Andrew Luck? The Indianapolis Colts look lost without him.

A: For now, no. Luck is still “weeks away” according to all reports, and for the near future I’d be very reluctant about starting any receiver on this team.

Q: Are you related to Giorgio Tavecchio?

A: Certainly rooting for a fellow Italian to succeed, but I can’t say that we come from the same family tree, sadly.

Q: Your biggest bounce-back candidate for Week 2 is…?

A: Really, anyone on the New England Patriots (outside of Mike Gillislee) and New Orleans Saints. That game is going to be a total shootout. Brandin Cooks, Kevin Hogan, Michael Thomas and Mark Ingram will feast.

Q: What percentage of my FAAB should I use on Buck Allen after I lost David Johnson for the season? 12 team PPR.

A: I don’t want to go bananas and blow too much on Allen since there is the chance that another player will come into relevance that you’d like to acquire. That said, he will be the pass-catching back for as long as Woodhead remains sidelined, which could be up to 8 weeks. 15-20 percent sounds about right.