Coffin Corner: Week 1
It's Week 1 of the Fantasy Football season. We're almost to the point where we can stop talking about drafting clubs and get into breaking down the on the field matchups. Before we get to that though I thought it would be wise to break down some players, one running back and four wide receivers to be specific, and give my thoughts on whether or not I agree with how the players are being viewed in the fantasy game. Safe to say I'm likely to be disagreeing with the conventional wisdom for all five players.
Ahmad Bradshaw OVERLOOKED?
Ahmad Bradshaw is always hurt, his feet are so beat up that they are painful to look at, but the guy is one hell of a football player. In fact, he's one of the most complete backs in football as he can run the ball with immense skill, he's always been adept at catching the pigskin, and he's very good at picking up the blitz, an often overlooked but tremendously necessary skill in the backfield. Let's review a back that was rarely taken in the top-25 during draft season but one that could payoff handsomely.
If healthy Bradshaw will be the lead back for the Colts, that is without question, and the offense that figures to be very effective at moving the football and putting up points. The Colts are going with a new offense this season, more of a West Coast variation, and that plays directly into the talents of Bradshaw. If they run more two-wideout / two-tight end sets as planned there should be ample push up front to aid Bradshaw in the running game.
The “if healthy” part is the biggest reason that Bradshaw wasn't looked at as a potentially dominating fantasy force this season. Here are his career games played marks per season: 12, 15, 15, 16, 12 and 14. Obviously history strongly suggests that he will miss multiple games, and let's face it he certainly will miss game action in 2013. He's had recurring issues with his foot this offseason and as a result he wasn't able to practice fully in pads until August 21st. Yep, concern city. I'll say this. It's pretty much an imperative that if you rostered Bradshaw you handcuffed him with Vick Ballard. I'm not a huge fan of the skills with Ballard, the guy averaged only 3.9 YPC last season and caught just 17 balls, but he would be in for a substantial workload if, I mean when, Bradshaw doesn't play.
Before moving on to the wide receivers, let me drop for you some Bradshaw knowledge.
Last season Bradshaw ran for 1,015 yards even though he missed two games. His 72.5 yards per game mark was better than Ray Rice (71.4), LeSean McCoy (70.0) and Maurice Jones-Drew (69.0).
Bradshaw had a 4.6 YPC mark last season. That was the same as Doug Martin, a tenth better than CJ2K and two tenths better than Rice, Matt Forte and Stevan Ridley.
Bradshaw ran for six rushing scores last season. That was the same total as Reggie Bush, CJ2K and C.J. Spiller. It was also one more rushing score than Jamaal Charles, two more than DeMarco Murray and four more than McCoy.
I'm not saying you should be in love with Bradshaw if he's your RB2, there is too much injury history under the bridge for that, but if he's your RB3 you're probably in pretty good shape.
TAKE ME ON IN FANTASY FOOTBALL
That's right. Show me that I'm full of it. Sign up to prove that you know as much, or more, than this blowhard. Beat me in the Week 1 challenge.
A smattering of thoughts on wide receivers heading into Week 1.
Josh Gordon, Browns
On Twitter over the weekend a couple of fellas came at me hard suggesting that Gordon was an elite wide receiver option this season. Really? First off, the guy is out for two weeks due to suspension. That should mean more to you than it seems to for most. One more misstep by Gordon, and reportedly he still needs to mature a lot off the field, and we could be looking at a significant suspension that could wipe out his 2013 season. Second, let's talk about his production on the field. From Weeks 10-13 Gordon was a solid fantasy option averaging six receptions for 79 yards. Too bad he only scored once in those four games. Moreover, he only scored once in his last nine games. In fact, if we remove Weeks 5-7 from his ledger, he had one touchdown in 13 games. Yes the offense is different this season with a new OC and HC, but that's still got to concern you a bit, doesn't it? What about the fact that Gordon had four games with 80 yards last season but that he also had four games with less than 30 yards? Gordon also had three more games in the 30's in yardage. That doesn't make you at all nervous with Josh? Immense talent without a question. A knucklehead whose performance was all over the map last season though, that cannot be denied.
Brian Hartline, Dolphins
This guy doesn't score. He did an end zone boggie one time last season. Once. That happens to be the same amount of spiking the football he did in each of the previous two seasons. All told the guy has scored six times in four NFL seasons. So blah city right? Sort of. He's not likely to see a huge boost in TDs, though the addition of Mike Wallace to help stretch the field will be a big boost to the Dolphins offense. Wallace figures to see a lot of double-teams which should help to open up things underneath for Hartline. The Fish also lost Reggie Bush this offseason, so that's another possession type receiver who is out of the mix (it remains to be seen how much Lamar Miller will be involved in the passing game). What all of that means is that Hartline should be able to come close to his reception total of last season. Maybe you know how many balls he caught, but were you aware that his 74 receptions were more than Steve Smith (73), Vincent Jackson (72), Larry Fitzgerald (71) and Miles Austin (66), just to name a few? Were you aware that Hartline's 1,083 receiving yards were more than Eric Decker (1,064), Stevie Johnson (1,046), Lance Moore (1,041), Cecil Shorts (979) and Randall Cobb (954 yards)? And yes I know Hartline went for 253 of those yards in a career best game in Week 4 against Arizona. As a guy drafted as a WR4/5 in fantasy he's likely to exceed his draft day cost in a PPR setup.
Hakeem Nicks, Giants
Be honest. Do you remember that in 2010 Nicks had 79 receptions for 1,052 yards and 11 touchdowns? Do you remember that in 2011 Nicks had 76 receptions for 1,192 yards and seven scores? That's a two-year average of 78 catches, 1,122 yards and nine scores. If you post numbers like that you're a borderline WR1 for fantasy folks (last season Victor Cruz, Nick's teammate with the Giants, had 86 receptions for 1,092 yards and 10 scores). The health of Nicks will determine his productivity. If he's hurt Rueben Randle becomes an excellent option on a weekly basis. If Nicks is healthy, there is little reason to doubt that not only will be be the 1B to Cruz's 1A in the passing game, but there is a very reasonable expectation that he should be able to return to the level he flashed in 2010-11. If you took Nicks as your WR3 this season it was well worth the risk.
Emmanuel Sanders, Steelers
Mike Wallace is gone. Heath Miller is still working his way back from a devastating knee injury. That duo combined for 135 receptions, 1,652 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. Someone has to step into that void in Pittsburgh. Markus Wheaton has been impressive in his first pro camp, and the hope is that he will emerge as a leader in the Steelers' offense in time, but folks the kid is a rookie and the history of outstanding rookie wideout production in the NFL is underwhelming (that's why many espouse the third year rookie breakout theory). Based on some research of mine the truth is that roughly one in five rookie wideouts do much of note in their first season, making them exceedingly difficult to count on in year one. That's why Sanders is so important to this club. Antonio Brown is a great bet to lead this team in receiving, he should blow past his 66 catches for 787 yards and five scores from last season, but the team needs a second option. Sanders hasn't always been healthy in his three NFL seasons, and he's been far from a standout on offense, but he should blow past the carer bests of 44 receptions and 626 yards that he posted last season. If he doesn't the Steelers will struggle to move the football through the air.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Thursday at 7 PM EDT & Friday's at 9 PM EDT. For more of Ray's analysis you can check out BaseballGuys.com or the BaseballGuys' Twitter account where he tirelessly answer everyone's questions.