Crystal Ball Week 13 2017

By Evan Tarracciano
Evan Tarracciano
One of my favorite days during the calendar year is the start of the NFL Draft. Each team can look towards the future, bring in young talent and start anew. The look of utter joy on the faces of the prospects as they come to the stage and collect their jersey and hat, something which they have surely dreamed of since being a little boy, is always surreal. From bear-hugging the commissioner to bringing up children on stage, from crying over the recent loss of a loved one to the anticipation of sitting and waiting in the side media room, there are plenty of memories each season.

Back in late April of 2004 I was wrapping my sophomore year at Saint Anselm College, looking forward to the summer ahead and getting a well-deserved break. That particular year I had paid extra-close attention to the star rookies entering the draft, knowing that my beloved New York Giants held the fourth pick in the draft, and were looking to finally shore up the quarterback position after several years of mediocrity. The team was coming off of a 4-12 season and finished dead last in the NFC East, much to the chagrin of my Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles friends. Kerry Collins had thrown more interceptions than touchdowns, and backup Jesse Palmer sure didn’t seem like a long-term solution. Luckily, there were plenty of top tier options that I was eyeing, such as Philip Rivers of NC State, Ben Roethlisberger of Miami (OH), and Eli Manning of Ole Miss.

I won’t rehash the entire story, because most NFL fans will remember what happened. Manning was selected first by the San Diego Chargers, and subsequently traded to the New York Giants, after his family informed the team that he would refuse to play for San Diego (likely due to the franchise’s prior ineptitude). At the time, I thought that the Giants were making a huge mistake drafting an obvious diva. After all, who has the cahones to tell a franchise that he would rather go to law school than play for them?

Thirteen years later, I can safely say that I was incorrect about my initial assumptions about Eli. During his tenure with the team he has been the model of consistency both on the field (starting 210 games in a row, the second-longest streak in NFL history) and off the field, winning the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award this most recent year. Despite playing in one of the biggest markets in the country that was always quick to point the blame at him, his “Aw, Shucks” attitude and easy-going nature just seemed to be a natural fit. Though not necessarily a vocal leader, Eli’s presence can’t be understated, especially during the most recent turbulent times for the franchise. Third-round rookie Davis Webb was recently asked by Kimberly Jones of NFL Network “When did you learn most from Eli?”. His response was “Today, and how he handled things”.

His career numbers aren’t going to jump off the page like his contemporaries. He averaged a sub-60 percent completion percentage, has barely a winning record, and has thrown 222 interceptions (leading the league in that category in 2007, 2010 and 2013). That aside, the vast majority of his career was spent behind a sub-par offensive line, and the team hasn’t had a running back break 1,000 yards since 2012 when Ahmad Bradshaw accomplished the feat.

Despite the inferior numbers, many reports and writers assume that Manning is a shoe-in Hall of Fame candidate, based upon his two Super Bowl victories in 2007 and 2011 (he was also declared the Most Valuable Player in both games). While I can’t agree with the assumption, I will say that Manning is certainly worth considering for the Hall, and he is without question the best quarterback in franchise history since perhaps the days of Y.A. Tittle.

In a move clearly designed to look towards the future, the Giants have benched Manning in favor of giving Geno Smith and Davis Webb a trial run for the remainder of the season. Rightfully so, the team is taking plenty of criticism for their choice to seemingly disrespect their franchise player and captain by not letting him finish out the season. Right or wrong, I can certainly say this.

Eli, it has been a fun ride. I had the opportunity to meet him in person several times while living in Albany, NY and the team held their training camp just down the road from my apartment at the time. Manning was always patient for photo chances with children, signing autographs and talking to reporters. During my few very brief interactions with him, he conducted himself with nothing but class. I know that I’m not in the minority saying that I was looking forward to the team going deep into the playoffs this year, and was bitterly disappointed with the ineptitude of both the coaching staff and front office. This was a sad way to end your career, but I wish you all the best in the future. You might be on a different team next season, but I’ll always view you as a Giant.

Q: It sounds per practice reports that Jameis Winston will be back and starting Week 13. What sort of player do you think that he will be for the remainder of 2017? He hasn’t lived up to the hype!
A: Winston is the latest in a long line of players to see a significant rise in ADP following an appearance on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” show. Amazing what a little extra spot in the limelight will do, eh? Sure, he has been a disappointment to date, but there are areas of improvement he exhibited prior to being sidelined, such as a career-high 61.4 percent completion rate, and he had already surpassed the number of 300-plus passing yard games from either of his first two seasons, through the first eight games. He initially takes on the Green Bay Packers, who rank 25th in passing yards allowed per game, followed by:
Detroit (23rd)
Atlanta (8th)
Carolina (6th)
New Orleans (14th)
Winston’s upside should still rank him as a low-end QB1, based upon the weapons at his disposal with Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and the emergence of O.J. Howard. His games against Atlanta and Carolina look less promising on paper, but many times statistics can be thrown out the window with inter-divisional rivalries. He’s worth an add for sure, but I wouldn’t be as high on him as the beginning of the year.

Q: Speaking of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense, Doug Martin left last week’s game early with a concussion, and Peyton Barber came away with two touchdowns! Is he the one to target in this backfield if Martin is out?
A: I’m a fan of knowing that my starters will see guaranteed touches each week, and for that reason I prefer Jacquizz Rodgers of the remaining players in Tampa Bay. When Martin missed time earlier this season, it was Rodgers who benefitted the most, having 16 or more carries in two of the first three games. Barber is more of a short-yardage back, and I can’t rely upon him having multiple one-yard touchdowns. Other analysts will point to Charles Sims in deeper PPR formats, and I suppose that I could support that idea, but Rodgers is also capable of being a pass-catching back as well.

A: Ha. Gordon has received his fair share of praise from Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson since returning to practice earlier last week, praising his physical condition while stating that he would like for him to play “as much as possible” per Patrick Maks (a staff writer for I’m excited for Gordon to be on the field and want him to succeed as much as the next fan, but it is hard for me to envision him blowing up instantly. I’ve written about him in multiple prior columns months ago as a player to stash in dynasty and keeper formats, and I still believe that is the case. If the Browns find a better option than DeShone Kizer in the draft, Gordon and Corey Coleman could be a phenomenal 1-2 punch. In his limited usage on the field I’d project him to come away with 5-7 targets, catching a few passes and exciting us in the process. Don’t go overboard and start him.

Q: Ricky Seals-Jones will be a top ___ TE for the rest of 2017.
A: I’d still project him outside of the top 10 for sure, but it wouldn’t be outside the realm of reason to put him between 10 and 15. The position has been a dumpster fire all year long, and even certain players that owners expected to count on as every-week starters have been remarkedly inconsistent (Hunter Henry, Jason Witten, etc.). Like many others, I hadn’t even HEARD of Seals-Jones prior to him catching two touchdowns in Week 11, and didn’t expect him to find the end zone yet again last week. His matchup against the Los Angeles Rams this week isn’t a cakewalk, but after that he faces the Washington Redskins, New York Giants and Seattle Seahawks. Each squad (particularly the Giants) has been soft against the tight end position. Blaine Gabbert has played better than many expected, and there aren’t many other red zone threats for this team.

Q: Michael Crabtree is suspended and it sounds like Amari Cooper will miss the upcoming week against the New York Giants, leaving Seth Roberts and Cordarrelle Patterson available. Is either worth a streaming pickup this week?
A: This is one of those situations where there is a big difference between how I view a player for DFS purposes and seasonal formats. In DFS, he makes a ton of sense. The New York Giants defense is terrible, and they just put their best cornerback on IR for the remainder of the year in Janoris Jenkins. Roberts, along with Jared Cook, should see double-digit targets this upcoming week and feast. He is the safer pickup of the two, with Patterson being more of a boom-or-bust option. If you were Crabtree or Cooper’s owner in a seasonal format and the waiver wire is bare, there are likely few options more enticing than Roberts available. From that standpoint, sure, he is worth an add. That said, I don’t think he has much relevance beyond this one week, and will take a backseat when Crabtree returns.

Q: A player who you feel is an under-the-radar snag this week will be_____?
A: No one is truly under the radar and worth spending all of your remaining FAAB or blowing a high waiver wire option on. However, there are two players who I think will be worth snagging that are widely available, even in deeper formats. Mike Davis was in the midst of a breakout game against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 11 before departing with a groin injury, and appeared to be the savior of the Seattle Seahawks backfield that many have been waiting for. Since he was hurt last week and missed the game against the San Francisco 49ers, the team was forced to use Eddie Lacy instead. Don’t be surprised to see Lacy struggle and Davis come on quickly again. I also like George Kittle, the tight end for the San Francisco 49ers now that Jimmy Garoppolo is the starting quarterback over C.J. Beathard. Don’t be surprised to see him inherit several of the dump-off passes that were going to Carlos Hyde each week. Kittle is an athletic tight end who can surprise people in the open field. I’m buying on his long-term upside.