Rookie Fantasies

There’s nothing more hyped up than rookie’s projections at this point in the offseason with everyone in the industry having a go at projecting fantasy outlooks for rookies that have just found a new home.

So many assumptions and so many things to consider, starting at the very beginning with depth charts.

Will Derrius Guice be the early down hammer in Washington? Is Sony Michel the first 3 down back for New England? Who takes the backfield in Indianapolis (apart from opposing defensive lineman)? These are among the many questions that surface after each and every draft and today I will take a look at some backfields that have been impacted, as well as some receiving cores that became a little more crowded. The winners/the losers and where you can expect to get these guys come the start of the season in your fantasy drafts.

Nick Chubb and the Cleveland Browns backfield:

Perhaps a slightly surprising place to start, but perhaps the one which is necessary, if it’s only to make you all aware of the danger in this backfield.

As you are fully aware (and if not, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?!?!), Carlos Hyde was a free agency signing for the Cleveland Browns, replacing the deceitful Isiah Crowell. Pre draft, you expected Carlos Hyde to slip straight in and (hopefully) perform a bit better than what Crowell ever did. Come draft time, Carlos Hyde dynasty owners were rejoicing that they bypassed Saquon Barkley at 1, thinking that Hyde was locked and loaded as their RB1. Unfortunately for Hyde and his owners, they selected Nick Chubb with on of their 2nd round picks. This gives us a massive cloud to try and see through with this backfield and whilst Chubb is coming off a horrific leg injury (to the point where his leg was potentially going to be amputated), but if Chubb plays to the levels seen in college, it could be a case of Hyde and seek for Carlos as the Browns running back 1 on the depth chart. These 2 will be battling it out in camp and training to catch Hue Jackson’s eye (*Shudders*) to try and win the bulk of the carries and you should definitely see a volatile fluctuation in both of their ADPs (according to fantasyfootballcalculator.com, Hyde currently 4th round, Chubb 10th round). I fully expect these 2 guys to have similar ADPs come draft season and it is not beyond the realms of possibility, that Chubb overtakes Hyde. Hyde signed a 3year, $15m deal so in terms of running back capital invested, this is quite high for Hyde, who is 27 and likely on his last NFL deal. If things go south for Hyde, you may even see him cut at the end of the season and struggling to find another team. However, I certainly expect Hyde to get the first shot at the gig and may be a candidate to draft as late as possible and try and trade him after a few weeks.

Aside from these two, we also have PPR specialist Duke Johnson in the backfield. I think with the drafting of Nick Chubb and signing of Carlos Hyde, I don’t think Duke Johnson’s workload will change to much. He has a decent role in this offence, there is a lot of trust here and Duke Johnson has often carried this team on his back (albeit in vain). He may lose some catches to Chubb/Hyde in a similar ratio to what his and Crowell’s was last year, but he may suffer a bit more due to the passing options now available to Cleveland. Last year, there was no Josh Gordon for the majority of the season, Corey Coleman was very up and down, rookie TE David Njoku was still feeling his way in and they often relied on Seth DeValve, Rashard Higgins and Ricardo Louis catching passes from an inaccurate QB. Duke Johnson was a centrepiece of this offence, lining up as a receiver for a good deal of time he was on the field. With the acquisition of Jarvis Landry and Josh Gordon should be ready to go along with Njoku in his 2nd season, Duke Johnson could take a back seat now to all the weapons in this team, which would be a disservice to Duke. That said, as he has safe hands, is well trusted by the coaching staff and is one of the most reliable players on this team (also in the final year of his contract), Duke Johnson still has appeal as flex position in bye weeks (had almost three times more receptions than any receiver last year). You just have to hope that any of the WR pass catching options have more than last seasons team high of 27(!).

Looking at the bigger picture, lets not forget, this is the Cleveland Browns. Now whilst I don’t think they’ll go 0-16 again (though they will give it a good try), it’s not farfetched to think that this team will be in the lower half of total scoring on offence. Going back to the old faithful pie analogy, this is probably a medium sized pie, which has the taste of one that is in the clearance isle of a supermarket because it’s sell by date is the same date as the day you buy it. The offence has averaged less points per game each season every year for the past 5 years ( down to 14.6pts per game last year), their yards per play is at its lowest since I started watching American football and had one of the worst turnover differentials last year at -28. They have to turn the corner at some point, right?

I know no-one is going to go out to rush to buy these players in drafts, but with Carlos Hyde currently having a 4th round ADP, I felt it necessary to say DONT DO IT! That said, Nick Chubb in Dynasty should be a must add.

Sony Michel and his fellow Patriots:

Here’s something you don’t see every day, New England spending 1st round draft capital in a running back.

For so many years, Bill Belichick and the Patriots back room staff pick up running backs from free agency and the local council dustbin collection staff and make it work. New England’s pick on Sony Michel was the first running back they drafted in ANY round since 2014! That pick is still on the team and his name is James White (4th Round pick). You have to go back to 2006 for a first round running back (Laurence Maroney) so it goes to show you what they must think of Michel (they even (tbc) released some medical smokescreen about his knees to ensure he fell to them!).

Historically, New England have gotten production everywhere, but it has been terribly hard to predict who is going to be the productive one. It seems like a decade ago that Mike Gillislee scored a hattrick on opening night vs Kansas City and even longer for Jonas Gray’s monster game of 201 yards and 4 touchdowns vs the Colts, only then to be cut a short while after.

Bill Belichick uses running backs like I use Nandos vouchers – I have loads and get the most out of them. Sony Michel will likely be the main guy for New England at least going in to the season, but let’s not forget their offseason activity… They signed Rex Burkhead to a new 3 year deal and invested a fair amount in the former Bengals running back. This was before the draft and it seemed to signal that Burkhead was going to be the guy, so the Michel pick in the first round was perplexing from that standpoint. Fantasy owners sighed when this happened to as it will be much the same like it has been over the past couple of years. trying to figure out each week who will score the avalanche of fantasy points week to week. I suppose at this juncture in the middle of May, I would project that Burkhead will the one they move around the formation and try and use his quickness and agility to create separation in extended types of run plays or dump off pass to take to the house and Michel will be see the bulk of the carries.

LeGarette Blount’s 299 rushing attempts is the only time a NE RB has allowed a running back to have over 200 carries since 2013, I can’t see anything from this backfield (let’s not forget about James White too) to make me think that we will have something like that this year. Added in to the 3 main guys, you have Jeremy Hill and Mike Gillislee, both likely to be cut before the season starts. Even if 1 of those two are saved from the chop, it’s just another mouth to feed in this backfield although you would put it past Belichick giving one of those 2 a monster few games within the 2018 season.

Prior to the draft, I absolutely loved Burkhead in redraft leagues and dynasty. With Michel coming in, that has absolutely made this a “DO NOT ENTER” zone, similar to that of a eastern European underground strip bar. Yes you are getting an RB in one top 3 scoring offences over the past few years, but I think you can only be happy with these picks in best ball type leagues because only 1 of these RBs will score heavily from week to week. if you are able to pick up 1 or both of these in the later rounds of best ball, you could be in a good position coupling them with elite WRs and TE that you may have picked up in the earlier rounds.

Fantasyfootballcalculator has Michel’s ADP somewhere between rounds 8 or 9, and Burkhead going on average the round before, but I can tell you now that Michel’s ADP will get a lot higher come draft season. For me, If they are still in these rounds when I come to do my drafts, I would take Michel over Burkhead simply because of the draft capital invested by the Patriots and that for me tells the story of this backfield.

Good luck if you choose to draft any of these Patriots running backs and be prepared for the duck eggs and the top scores.

Michael Galluping to no.1 on the Cowboys depth chart:

In drafts right now, Michael is a late round flyer…

ARE YOU FREAKIN KIDDING ME?!

I am telling you now, Michael Gallup leads Cowboys receivers this year in yards and Touchdowns.

No Dez Bryant and no Jason Witten who accounted for nearly half of all receptions last year in the team, the free agency signings of Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson don’t overly excite me. They are players that are supposedly “Dak Friendly” and will look to catch the eye in minicamps.

Hurns has never had more the 65 receptions in any season, has had one 1000 yards receiving season in Jacksonville (which is a fair accomplishment) and doesn’t strike as a no.1 receiver. He will have a role and is at most, a better than average WR.

Deonte Thompson (and to a certain extent, Hurns) is the speed to help stretch the field, but I don’t know if he is an upgrade on an under-utilised Brice Butler.

The veterans of the team at WR are now Cole Beasley and Terrence Williams, who blow more hot and cold than a Katy Perry pop song. They are extremely inconsistent, struggle to create separation and don’t show up every week.

Enter Michael Gallup. A Colorado State University 3rd round pick by Dallas and there were plenty of eyebrows raised at the fact it took the Cowboys to the third round to select a WR. After looking at some film and his measurables, this is a great fit for both. Gallup is a very intelligent route runner, has good hands and can contest a jump ball like Dez Bryant. His skills at making a defender commit and then cutting loose often goes unnoticed and for anyone that wants to take a look at the new Dallas WR, there is some great film here:Β https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Thi8pwK7stQ. He has deceptive pace and is good at getting himself between the defender and the ball, having as much room to make the catch as possible.

The footage also shows Gallup’s area in need of improvement; He is a bit rough round the edges and is probably not coming in to the greatest of coaching schemes to help train him on and become a great WR in the NFL. You also have to hope that Dak steps back in to his rookie form too for Gallup to see any type of production. Gallup doesn’t top the class in any of the skills of a wide receiver, but is very competent and established at all of them without any real weaknesses.

Overall Gallup has the opportunity to establish himself as Dak’s new security blanket, even if the team are going to run the ball, run the ball and run the ball. Let’s not forget the bigger picture here, there wont be vast amounts of yards and touchdowns going to this Dallas set of pass catchers so don’t go shoving all your chips in to this team unless its Zeke in the first round but for fantasy, but I am very happy with him being the 4th WR I pick up in my drafts, somewhere in rounds 7-9. It is possible that Gallup may take a year or two to blossom (especially with the coaching staff’s lack of abilities and imagination) and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Hurns end up being the No.1 this year, but I think that would say more about Dallas’s lack of success in getting the most out of Gallup and the rest of the WR group.

The Ridley riddle in Atlanta:

Calvin Ridley, one of the more well known WR in the draft, perhaps ended up in a place not many expected. That said, I think Calvin Ridley can flourish here, but there are a few worries. Firstly, he isn’t walking in to a Michael Gallup situation in Dallas , nor even something like a DJ Moore in Carolina. He is walking in to a high scoring, powerful offence, but may struggle to make inroads in terms of targets and receptions behind their other current options. There is a role for Ridley opposite Julio Jones, but there are a lot of other people he has to battle with for receptions after that. Mo Sanu was a big positive for the Falcons last year and Austin Hooper popped up a fair amount (49 rec, over 500 yards and 3 TDs). Added to that, the dynamic backfield duo that catch a lot of passes. Calvin Ridley will have to impress to be able to get even a small portion of the target share from Matt Ryan but I think the main benefactor of this situation is Julio Jones.

Julio, like the Falcons on the season, were atrocious last year in the redzone (5 rec from 19 targets) and scoring in general despite Jones having over 1400 yards and the offence having over 4000 receiving yards in total(!). The acquisition of Calvin Ridley and all of the hype surrounding him will surely help Julio in seeing less intense coverage and open the field up even more for all of the pass catchers in Atlanta. Calvin Ridley will have a few games here or there of decent production and has the potential to step right in for a full WR1 workload should Julio’s injury troubles take their toll again (Jones only played a full season 3 times in the last 6 seasons).

In fantasy football, I would only consider Ridley in bestball leagues or as a late round flyer, but his hype will not mean that he falls to a place where you have to choose between him and Stephen Gostowski. Julio Jones, a candidate to fall in to the 2nd round of fantasy drafts, could end up being a steal.