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NFL Offseason Observations

A few observations in mid June:

• While it’s possible Brandin Cooks has a lower ceiling in New England given all the mouths to feed in the offense, I plan on owning some shares. Rob Gronkowski is injury prone and never a huge volume guy – 120 targets in 15 games two years ago – and the other targets simply aren’t that good. On a normal team, a player of Julian Edelman’s stature and long-term contributions might command his usual role no matter what, but the Patriots don’t operate that way. If Cooks (23 YO, 4.33 40, 10.0 YPT) vastly outplays Edelman (31 YO, 7.0  YPA), as he should, New England isn’t going to split things evenly just to honor the past. Cooks not only can run all of the short routes Edelman runs, but he can turn some of those catches into big plays. And he gives the Patriots their first legitimate deep threat since Randy Moss.

•  Dolphins head coach Adam Gase has been talking up virtually all his players this offseason, floating 350 carries for Jay Ajayi, “a great big year” for DeVante Parker and designing multiple plays for tight end Julius Thomas. This could be garden-variety offseason coach-speak, but there’s reason to take some of it seriously. Last summer, when Parker was hampered by a hamstring injury, Gase blamed Parker, comparing him to a young Demaryius Thomas, a massively talented but injury-prone player early in his career who went on to become a star. That Gase is now praising Parker’s offseason fitness and readiness means it’s probably earned.

As for Ajayi, he was the NFL’s best back after contact last year and had three of the league’s four 200-yard rushing games. He also had 260 carries in 15 games despite not seizing the starting job or cracking 20 carries until Week 6. And while Thomas has been injury-prone and ineffective the last two seasons, when he was with the Broncos he caught 24 TDs in 27 games – with Gase as his offensive coordinator.

With top target Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills, who signed a four-year $32 million deal in March, also in the fold, and scrubby Ryan Tannehill under center, Gase’s optimism for so many breakouts  may seem farfetched. But Gase coached Tannehill to 7.7 YPA last year (8th), ahead of Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger. And Gase was the coordinator for this offense in 2013 where five players scored at least 10 TDs:

While the Dolphins are unlikely to reprise one of the greatest offensive seasons of all time, Gase’s comments are grounded both in the talent of his players and his past experience overseeing a diverse and powerful group. I plan to have shares in Ajayi, Thomas and Parker.

• Sammy Watkins is still only 24 and a dynamic playmaker when healthy. But his 2016 season was derailed by a broken foot suffered last May, and it was problematic to the point that he had to have a second surgery in January.  Even now, he’s still limited in practice and not up to full speed. While the team hopes he’s ready for the start of training camp, it’s telling they didn’t pick up his fifth-year contract option (though the Bills had a bizarre offseason during which they fired their GM and most of the staff after the draft.) Bottom line, there’s injury and failure risk all over the place even with healthy, established players (see Robinson, Allen and Hopkins, DeAndre last year), so I don’t see a reason to use a top-three round pick on a player who is additionally battling long-term injury that was so serious the team essentially gave up on his long-term future.

•  Fantasy football has so much randomness, you’re usually forced to re-vamp a good portion of your roster by the end of the year. As such, the draft is mostly about getting a few core producers who stay with you from start to finish and around whom you can build. It’s great if one of those is 2016 David Johnson or 2015 Antonio Brown, but for the most part you’re looking for 90-1,000-8 from your WR and 220-40-10 from your RB in the first few rounds. To that end, I plan to have some Amari Cooper and Doug Baldwin types in Round 2 – boring but efficient wideouts, guaranteed targets, in their primes. I’ll swing for the fences later.

• Players I probably won’t own: 

Mike Evans – volume-driven 2016, a good, but not great real-life WR.

Alshon Jeffery – new team, injury prone, competition for targets.

DeAndre Hopkins – maybe rookie DeShaun Watson is an upgrade over Brock Osweiler, but by how much?

Sammy Watkins – see above.

Tyreek Hill – Jeremy Maclin is gone, but Hill’s receiving profile (9.7 YPC, 7.1 YPT) looks more like Tavon Austin/Cordarelle Patterson than Cooks/DeSean Jackson.

Keenan Allen – he’s a short-pass specialist now and always hurt.

Ben Roethlisberger – he’s been awful on the road for three years straight, always misses games and nearly retired this offseason, given the savage beating he’s taken.

Marshawn Lynch – everyone likes the personality, so his return has a positive spin, but he’s 31 and runs with an aggressive, hit-absorbing style.

Frank Gore  – he’s 34 now, and while I’ve been wrong betting against him every year, it’s never the kind of wrong that hurts you much, i.e., his production is always modest when spread out over a full 16 games.

Doug Martin – why wait three games for a player who isn’t likely to set the world on fire even if everything goes perfectly when he returns?

Marvin Jones – Matt Stafford is now a dink and dunker, just north of Alex Smith, which leaves no room for Jones who needs big plays to thrive

LeGarrette Blount – he was a journeyman before the Patriots picked him up, and the Eagles are not the Patriots.

Matt Stafford – see Jones, Marvin

Later in the summer I’ll post a “Do Not Draft” from the early rounds. Here’s the list from the last three years: 2016, 2015 and 2014

Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind.



Draft Day 3: The Final Day

Rounds 4-7 took place Saturday and while these rounds don’t get nearly the attention of Thursday night or Friday, they can be just as important. Just ask Dallas who drafted Dak Prescott in the fourth round and of course the Patriots made the greatest sixth round pick ever in 2000 taking Tom Brady. Let’s see if there’s some diamonds in the rough from these rounds who could make a fantasy impact immediately in their rookie season.

Samaje Perine, Pick 114, Washington Redskins – A quick glance at Saturday’s selections and it could be Perine who makes the biggest fantasy impact this season. The Redskins are reportedly shopping chronic fumbler Matt Jones and while Rob Kelly had a modicum of success it’s not like the Redskins are married to him. Perine is a bigger back capable of handling first and second down duties and then allowing Chris Thompson to maintain his third-down role. If Perine impresses during camp, it’s possible he gets 10-15 carries as soon as Week 1.

Jamaal Williams, Pick 134, Green Bay Packers – Williams should carve out a role immediately complementing Ty Montgomery as the “in-between-the-tackles” runner as the more physical running back between the two. Williams’ off the field incidents pale in comparison to other rookies and he’s not considered at-risk from that perspective. The Packers would be wise to use Williams instantly as Montgomery doesn’t appear to be a workhorse capable of handling 20-plus touches per game. In PPR formats Williams will lose some value as his role likely won’t be to catch many balls out of the backfield. Still, an impressive camp should get him carries immediately in the Packer offense.

Ryan Switzer, Pick 143, Dallas Cowboys – This was the first offensive player taken by the Cowboys and as stated they did pretty well in the fourth round last season. It’s almost too easy to compare Switzer to Cole Beasley but that’s pretty much the type of player he is. Where Switzer could make an immediate impact is in the return game adding value to the Dallas defense/special teams in fantasy. The all-time receiving leader at North Carolina, Switzer had seven career punt returns for a touchdown, one short of the national record.

Jake Butt, Pick 145, Denver Broncos – One of the stories surrounding Butt was that he will collect $543,000 from a loss-of-value insurance policy by dropping to the first pick of the fifth round. The policy kicked in during the middle of the third round and paid Butt every time there was a pick up until he went off the board. By playing in the Orange Bowl and tearing his ACL its estimated Butt lost around $2 million in guaranteed money from getting drafted in a higher spot. Nevertheless, Butt lands in Denver and could find himself in two-tight end sets opposite Virgil Green provided he’s fully recovered from knee surgery.

DeAngelo Yancey, Pick 175, Green Bay Packers – Yancey is seen as something of a project but his ability to stretch the field and be a big-play threat could work with that Aaron Rodgers guy. Yancey could compete for the fourth wide receiver spot and be a home run play on third down. Yancey will need to work on his separation as well as his route running to play at the next level and earn the trust of Rodgers.

NFL Draft Day 2: Mining for Fantasy Gold in Rounds 2-3

While Day 2 of the NFL Draft doesn’t carry the pomp and circumstance of Day 1, there never seems to be any shortage of talent. A big part of that is the inevitable slide of a few first-round worthy players that seemingly occurs each year for a variety of reasons, and 2017 had two particularly prominent cases in the form of running backs Dalvin Cook and Joe Mixon. Besides those recognizable names, there were several other college standouts that were snapped up Friday night, so let’s dive in and look at some that could potentially accrue fantasy relevance in the coming season:

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2nd Round Re-Mock

At the 11th hour finally getting a chance to re-mock the second round. No time for the third since my Pack are about to be on the clock. Here’s to another fantastic night!


  1. Green Bay Packers (from CLE) – Dalvin Cook, RB (Florida State)
    – I’ve often wonder what could have been if Brett Favre had Barry Sanders in the 90’s after we passed him up by one pick in 1989. Now, by no means am I saying Cook could be anywhere close to Barry, but he can also make the Green Bay defense nearly unstoppable in the back half of Aaron Rodgers’ career.
  2. Seattle Seahawks (from SF) – Cam Robinson, OT (Alabama)
    – Robinson can protect Russell Wilson and open holes for a fellow Crimson Tide alum and new Seahawk. With all the depth at corner on Day 2 it makes too much sense.
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Forrest Lamp, OG (Western Kentucky)
    – Fournette and Lamp will be cornerstone pieces to transforming the Jacksonville offense over the next 5-7 years. They can recreate what Seattle did in the early 2000’s with Shaun Alexander and Steve Hutchinson.
  4. Chicago Bears – Zay Jones, WR (East Carolina)
    – This is Keenan Allen with a little less size and a little more speed. The Bears coaches got to work with Jones at the Senior Bowl and now add him to the mix of Alshon Jeffrey replacements.
  5. Los Angeles Rams – Kevin King, CB (Washington)
    – With so many needs, the Rams opt to go best player on their board and get a top tier corner to replace a much-missed Janoris Jenkins.

  6. Los Angeles Chargers – Obi Melifonwu, S (Connecticut)
    – One of the top value picks of the second round, Melifonwu will provide a huge boost to a San Diego secondary and Gus Bradley defense that is going to emerge as one of the league’s best very soon.

  7. New York Jets – Zach Cunningham, LB (Vanderbilt)
  8. Carolina Panthers – Jordan Willis, DE (Kansas State)

  9. Cincinnati Bengals – Joe Mixon, RB (Oklahoma)
    – Since Marvin Lewis has been leading the Bengals the team has showed an affinity for giving trouble players a chance to grow as football players and men. Jeremy Hill has struggled the last two years with efficiency and consistency and is a free agent next spring while Giovani Bernard has dealt with numerous injuries. Mixon will solidify this backfield as a huge strength again.
  10. New Orleans Saints – Marcus Williams, S (Utah)
  11. Philadelphia Eagles – Alvin Kamara, RB (Tennessee)

  12. Buffalo Bills – JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR (USC)
    – The Bills pair huge need with good value in Smith-Schuster, who possesses all the tools to play a great “Robin” to Sammy Watkins’ “Batman.”
  1. Arizona Cardinals – DeShone Kizer, QB (Notre Dame)
    – Bruce Arians can’t get this pick in fast enough and must be absolutely giddy to land Carson Palmer’s heir apparent without having to make a trade. Kizer has all the physical tools to orchestrate Arians’ aggressive downfield passing attack and his intellect will help him to absorb a deep playbook.
  2. Indianapolis Colts – Tyus Bowser, OLB (Houston)
  3. Baltimore Ravens – Chris Godwin, WR (Penn State)
  4. Minnesota Vikings – Chris Wormley, DT (Michigan)

  5. Washington Redskins – Budda Baker, S (Washington)
    – A tremendous value pick, Baker will captain the back seven for Washington and inspire teammates to raise their level of play.
  6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Malik McDowell, DT/DE (Michigan State)
  7. Denver Broncos – Adam Shaheen, TE (Ashland)
    – A Division II “Gronk,” this monstrous tight end has all the physical tools to develop into a premier weapon once his technique as a route runner and blocker are refined.
  8. Cleveland Browns (from TEN) – Curtis Samuel, WR (Ohio State)
    – A bit redundant with Corey Coleman and Duke Johnson offering similar skillsets to Samuel, but the Browns just flat out need more playmakers.
  9. Detroit Lions – Cooper Kupp, WR (Eastern Washington)
    – By Week 8 when Kupp already has 20-something catches for first downs Lions fans will love this pick. In the quick-throw, rhythm Detroit offense, Kupp’s exceptional technical polish and strong hands will translate to a lot of chain-moving plays.
  10. Miami Dolphins – Dion Dawkins, OG (Temple)
  11. New York Giants – Samaje Perine, RB (Oklahoma)
    – For all the hype about Joe Mixon’s talent, Perine just so happens to be Oklahoma’s all-time career rushing leader – a.k.a., the guy whose college numbers bested OU alums such as DeMarco Murray, Billy Sims and some Adrian Peterson guy. Now he’ll be punishing courageous defenders in the NFC East as Big Blue’s bell cow.
  12. Oakland Raiders – Raekwon McMillan, ILB (Ohio State)
  13. Houston Texans – Taylor Moton, OT (Western Michigan)

  14. Seattle Seahawks – Sidney Jones, CB (Washington)
    – Seattle steals Jones with an awesome value pick. The smooth corner mirrors as well as anyone in this draft not named Marshawn Lattimore.
  15. Kansas City Chiefs – Desmond King, CB (Iowa)
    – You can’t have too many ballhawks in the secondary, especially ones unafraid of hitting.
  16. Dallas Cowboys – Marcus Maye, S (Florida)
  17. Green Bay Packers – Ryan Anderson, OLB (Alabama)
    – Cheesehead fans that were disappointed to miss out on T.J. Watt with their first pick will quickly get over it when they see Anderson’s instincts and intensity churning out critical plays in the fall.
  18. Pittsburgh Steelers – Jourdan Lewis, CB (Michigan)
  19. Atlanta Falcons – Dan Feeney, G (Indiana)
  20. Carolina Panthers – Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE (Villanova)
    – The untapped potential for Kpassagnon parallels well with Ezekiel Ansah coming out of BYU in 2013, but this freaky athlete boasts even more size. Carolina went back-to-back defensive tackles when they took Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short in the first and second rounds, respectively, and could now grab two bookend rushers to groom behind franchise stalwarts Julius Peppers and Charles Johnson.

Live Blog – NFL Draft Round One

1) Cleveland Browns select Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M

Garrett joins a Browns defense that was terrible in 2016. They ranked second to last in yards allowed and rush yards allowed, and third to last in points allowed. They also recorded the third-fewest sacks. Not only was Garrett widely considered to be the best overall prospect in this draft, but he also fills one of the Browns’ biggest needs. He is a pass-rushing end who is skilled at getting to the quarterback – he recorded 8.5 sacks in just 11 games as a junior.

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Best Draft: G-Men Edition

My brother-in-law bleeds blue. As much as it disgusts me, I respect his deep-rooted love for all things New York Giants. So since we’ll be watching the entire draft together, and it’s his birthday on Saturday, I’ll take my shot at improving an already loaded Giants roster. But there’s no way I’ll give them the time or energy I put into My Packers Draft Class, that in keeping with “tradition,” I posted earlier this afternoon.

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My Packers 2017 Draft Class

I’ve decided to reignite a draft day tradition by highlighting my preferred targets for each of the Packers’ 2017 NFL Draft selections. I use that term “tradition” quite loosely, as I only went through this exercise on the Draft Days in 2011 and 2012. My excitement for this class — and for the back half of Aaron Rodgers’ career — has me feeling obligated, however, to show my Cheesehead pride and step into Ted Thompson’s big shoes.

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