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Crystal Ball Week 12 2017
By Evan Tarracciano
As I sat and pondered what sort of direction this week’s article should take, I threw several ideas out to my wife.
“Players to be thankful for” ? – Nah, overdone.
“Players that have been turkeys all season and you can drop”? – More of the same.
I was stumped. Luckily, my better half came up with a fun idea, and I’m going to give it a whirl.
Lessons that I’ve learned this Fantasy Football season.
See, a fact that some of you might not know about myself? At heart, I’m actually a pretty nice, fun loving guy. On Twitter each Sunday, I rant and rave (as many of you do) about which of my players are letting me down and underperforming, why aren’t they getting enough targets, and the usual gripes and complaints. Yet for all of my Scrooge-like tendencies on social media, I’m ultimately in this business because I love helping people out and talking shop about sports. I’ve been playing both Fantasy Baseball and Football for nearly two decades at this point, and although I have gained plenty of experience along the way, there are always things that I can reflect back on. Without further ado, here are a handful of lessons that I’ve learned so far this year.
1. Never be afraid to draft rookies that come into the league with a massive amount of hype – I’ll fully admit, I was tentative looking at the 2017 rookie class of Fantasy players and wondering if any would live up to the hype. Leonard Fournette was widely touted as the second-coming of Adrian Peterson, and even though I studied plenty of his game tape from LSU, I was really gun-shy about drafting him as a top-10 running back. Fournette’s ADP prior to the beginning of the season was right around 24, suggesting that he was a late-second or early-third round pick in most standard size leagues. I knew that he could pound people in space and had fantastic hands, but would he be able to withstand a full season in the NFL? So far, no problems. Fournette ranks 7th in rushing yards, and that is after missing two weeks! Kareem Hunt had an unbelievable beginning to the year, scoring four touchdowns and rushing for more than 100 yards in four of the first five weeks. His usage has curtailed his total stats, but he is still second in the league in rushing yards, despite not hitting the century mark since Week 5 against the Houston Texans. Finally, Christian McCaffery. The Carolina Panthers knew that he would be mainly a compliment to Jonathan Stewart, and many owners wondered if his usage in the passing game would be enough to make up for his lack of carries. So far, so good. McCaffery leads all running backs with 57 receptions on an absurd 79 targets. Keep in mind that is eight more catches and 17 more targets than Le’Veon Bell. In PPR formats, he has been money. Rookies at the quarterback and tight end position have been mostly misses the past several years, but 2017’s running back class has provided me with renewed faith in youngsters.
2. One of the biggest indicators of Fantasy success is targets and opportunities – When predicting outcomes in our draft magazines or other publications, I’m constantly attempting to figure out how to rank receivers, down to the minutia of offensive schemes and snap counts. It turns out that a very simple indicating factor of success is simply overall volume of targets. If a quarterback is continually fixated on a wide receiver, there is a pretty solid chance that they will produce week-in and week-out, regardless of talent. Case in point? Larry Fitzgerald. A shoe-in Hall of Famer, Fitzgerald has been a Fantasy stalwart over the last decade at the position. However, an early-season injury to Carson Palmer had many guessing how he would produce with Drew Stanton or Blaine Gabbert behind center. It turns out – it doesn’t really matter. As one of the lone competent offensive threats on the Arizona Cardinals, Fitzgerald has been flooded with targets – 98 through the first 11 games of the season, good for fourth in the league. “Fitz” has responded with 69 catches for 768 yards and four touchdowns. Not bad for an old, washed up guy, eh? Adam Thielen and Jarvis Landry have also thrived, with both receivers seeing more than 95 targets for their respective teams. They might not be the flashiest receivers in the NFL, but opportunities have led to production for both players.
3. Sometimes, having a top 3 defense or kicker actually makes a significant difference- One of the most common mantras around drafts is that owners should never spend more than a late pick or dollar bid on either a defense or kicker. In theory, this makes perfect sense. Owners are barraged with the idea of streaming both options due to matchups, and that the “elite” choices at either position don’t provide any significant boost to your weekly production. While overall that is essentially true, having the best DST or K this season had actually been a giant boon in most formats. Take my home league for example. Greg Zuerlein, the kicker for the Los Angeles Rams, has nearly 20 points score more than the nearest choice in Stephen Gostkowski. The Jacksonville Jaguars DST has more than 20 points scored over the Baltimore Ravens, who are a clear-cut second choice ahead of the Rams. Owning any one of those options has provided their owners with a four or five-point advantage PER SLOT this season. That might not seem like much, but the total accumulated benefit isn’t anything to sneeze at. The major challenge entering the year is not so much spending the extra dollar as identifying WHICH options will be the clear-cut defacto No.1. Easier said than done.
Q:Should I be scared at all of playing a bunch of guys on Thanksgiving? Does the short week honestly make a huge difference in their output?
A:I wouldn’t shy away from playing any individuals just because they play on Thursday instead of Sunday. Players who are health risks entering the matchups, such as Sterling Shepard (concussions), or Jordan Reed (hamstring) definitely get a downgrade, but otherwise it isn’t a tremendous detriment. The biggest factor is the idea that the coaching staff won’t have the time to properly game plan for their opponent. This isn’t a major issue overall since many of the teams that play on Thursday have obvious warts, such as the New York Giants pass defense, or the Washington Redskins run defense. I’m okay with playing plenty of options in those contests, and am doing so in leagues that are must-win. Josh Doctson, Matthew Stafford and Adam Thielen, just to name a few.
Q:Your favorite Thanksgiving dish is…..?
A:You folks are going to think I’m crazy, but my answer is actually turnips. My grandmother has always made a diced turnips in bacon dish, which I usually inhale each year. I’m fine with turkey or green bean casserole, but that is my go-to option of the bunch.
Q:Samaje Perine was low in your rankings last week, but should be a shoe-in for a large workload against the New York Giants. He’s still available in my 12-team league, should I add him?
A:Absolutely. When my article posted I wasn’t aware that Rob Kelley would miss the remainder of the season and make Perine the starting Washington Redskins tailback. Perine was overdrafted in the vast majority of leagues entering the season, and outside of a decent workload in Week 2 hasn’t been a major factor. Down the stretch he is a mid-line RB2 on a contending team. He will lose some touches to Byron Marshall on pass-catching downs, but is a true workhorse back, especially with the injuries to both Kelley and Chris Thompson.
Q:Kenny Stills appears to be the favored target over DeVante Parker in Miami – is he safe to roll out moving forward as a WR3? Or what should I expect?
A:This is a pretty straightforward scenario. When Jay Cutler is the quarterback, the targets will go to Parker. When Matt Moore is the quarterback, they will go to Stills. In three of the past four contests, Stills has seen more than eight targets, and the production has significantly gone up. Last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Stills was able to exploit the defense and average well over 25 yards per catch. He still has elite speed, but expecting that sort of production is asking a bit much. Cutler is still in the midst of the NFL’s concussion protocol, and is expected to miss Week 12 against the New England Patriots. Should he indeed be sidelined, Stills would fall into the WR3 discussion, with Parker being more of a FLEX option in standard leagues.
Q:Rex Burkhead absolutely screwed me last week after he fumbled. What is the deal?
A:Clearly you haven’t owned a New England Patriots running back before. As is the case with many an example before him, Burkhead was the victim of circumstance. Bill Belichick has a “zero tolerance” policy regarding fumbles, something which Burkhead clearly understood, from the post-game interview. While Dion Lewis accrued the majority of snaps, Burkhead was relegated to the bench after nearly giving the ball away. I have a sneaky suspicion that the upcoming matchup against the Miami Dolphins will be a “revenge game” of sort for Burkhead, will him getting more total touches than expected. I’m bullish on him moving forward as an integral part of the Patriots running game. He still needs to be owned in all 12-team formats or larger.
Q:It sounds like Kelvin Benjamin will sit out this week with a knee injury – is Zay Jones a solid streaming option then?
A:Funny enough, I actually like Jones when Benjamin is on the field more than without him. He doesn’t have the “feel” of a true WR1 for this team, with the ability to dominate an aggressive CB and take over a game. In college he was a volume-based play, and I still view that as the case here. Benjamin’s absence is a detriment, rather than a boon, to his value. The Buffalo Bills don’t have many pass-catching options with the exception of LeSean McCoy and Charles Clay (I’m not even considering Jordan Matthews here). Jones will get his fair share of targets if Benjamin isn’t starting, but it will be hard to trust him for more than a FLEX in a PPR format.
Q:Give me one player who you think will surprise tomorrow for DFS purposes. I know that you are more of a seasonal-analysis type guy, but throw me a bone!!
A:It wouldn’t shock me if Orleans Darkwa posted better numbers than expected. I know, I know. I’m a New York Giants fan, born and bred. Homer at heart. Yet, I have a bit of reasoning for this one. The Washington Redskins rank 19th against the run, allowing nearly 115 yards on the ground per game. Darkwa has seen the vast majority of carries for the Giants over the past several weeks while Paul Perkins has been on the shelf. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a stat line of 17 carries for 85 yards and a score from him. This should still be a competitive game.
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 on Twitter (@Roto_Wizard) 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