Kansas City Chiefs Draft Class Expectations

By Liam Lodge (@Liam66NFL)

Last week I looked at the draft of the Cincinnati Bengals, which you can find here.

To follow that I am now going all the way to the other end of the NFL spectrum and reviewing the draft class of the reigning champions, the Kansas City Chiefs.

For franchises like the Bengals who need to improve on a poor season, the object of the draft has to be finding the players that can help rebuild and recharge the team and increase the amount of positive results on the field. In the case of the Chiefs, the short-term aim is different – work towards staying ahead of the chasing competition; repeat last season’s success and defend the Super Bowl title.

This is the group that Kansas City fans hope will assist the team in remaining at the top of the NFL.


Image Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Round 1 (#32) –

Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB), LSU


At the end of the first night the Chiefs made their opening selection with one of the best picks of the entire round.

There are actually very few offensive systems where it would feel as though Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s skill-set would not be valuable, but placing him in Kansas City’s high-powered offense is a wonderful fit and his large workload throughout the last college season should mean that he will be fine learning pro schemes.

He is the kind of back that is such a fun watch and uses his short and stocky build to full effect with a strong running style, possessing great balance and side-to-side movement – many of his best highlights show him slaloming away from defenders on the move so footwork and vision are both very good. Also has good top speed once he is in open space. Edwards-Helaire is the best receiving running back in the 2020 class and LSU used him on all sorts of routes.

It is this versatility that gives him the potential to flourish early out of the Chiefs backfield, especially on short-yardage downs.


Image Credit: Michael Chang - Getty

Round 2 (#63) –

Willie Gay Jr. (LB), Mississippi State


Gay Jr. flew up big boards everywhere by acing his NFL combine performance.

The ultra-athletic linebacker is capable of getting to the football from anywhere and his powerful tackling means he can finish plays very well.

He does look raw in some mental areas of play and needs to find more consistency, but defenders with his athleticism are often preferred by teams in today’s NFL, and the Chiefs took a chance on him in round two. They will hope Gay Jr. is a fast learner – if so, he could see some playing time along the linebacker formation during his rookie year as effort and toughness are certainly not an issue.

A big plus is that he has the traits required to play in the much-coveted hybrid LB role, with the speed to hold up in coverage even against medium and long passing situations.


Image Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Round 3 (#96) –

Lucas Niang (OT), TCU


There is a bit of “boom or bust” about Niang as a prospect, with scouts and analysts rather split on his overall potential pre-draft.

Indeed, I was relatively low on him while evaluating those at the offensive tackle position, yet I would not have been surprised if a team made Niang a second-rounder. For that reason, there could be some good value here if he hits his ceiling in the NFL, it should also be noted that injury concerns would have attributed to his fall to the bottom of the third.

He looks best as a run blocker, showing good instincts, positioning and the ability to force space for his running back to work through. In the passing game, Niang gets set well and is solid enough to develop into a long-term protector for quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

The Chiefs coaching staff will surely have ideas about where they expect Niang to contribute and he will get opportunities to prove himself right across the offensive line as he has a technique suited to both tackle and guard.


Image Credit: Joe Robbins - Getty Images

Round 4 (#138) –

L’Jarius Sneed (S), Louisiana Tech


I evaluated and graded Sneed as a safety because that’s where he spent most of his final college season, but many will also have him as a cornerback.

He has a long, rangy style and looks and plays a lot taller than he actually is, with enough speed to react and get to plays quickly that come into his zone – demonstrating the sort of instincts for the ball that you want to see from your safeties.

He is like fellow defensive rookie Gay Jr. in that he will add some aggression and energy to his position group; bringing an all-effort approach to the game that should have the Chiefs’ fanbase warming to him.

Sneed was moved around a lot in the secondary, similarly to the career of Chiefs all-pro safety Tyrann Mathieu, who will no doubt be a mentor to Sneed now that they will compete on the same defense.


Image Credit: Michael Allio-USA TODAY Sports

Round 5 (#177) –

Mike Danna (DE), Michigan


Recent years have shown that it is not a bad idea to draft edge rushers from the University of Michigan. Danna was in fact only at Michigan for one season following a transfer and was used sporadically along the D line during his time there.

For a player that looks undersized and whose technique has quite a bit of room for growth, selecting Danna in the fifth round does feel like somewhat of a reach by the Chiefs. He does have good power and a quick first step; as his senior year saw him as a rotational defender you really have to trust in Danna’s strengths.

Kansas City obviously see some things they want to work with here and as they are pretty well set at defensive end, there is no huge rush in terms of developing Danna. He will be a project for a few years and it will be interesting to see if he can progress into a starting role.


Image Credit: Parker_Waters

Round 7 (#237) –

Thakarius Keyes (CB), Tulane


The Kansas City Chiefs certainly need to find more help at cornerback this off-season and at this point they traded back into the draft for one last go in round seven.

I think it was a surprise that they waited this far into the draft to select a CB, unless, as mentioned earlier, you are counting the Sneed pick as one at the position. The lack of depth remains an area to address, but taking Keyes here with their final pick is another good value move for the Chiefs.

He has plenty of upside and plays with good speed and physicality – looking comfortable at taking on receivers running a variety of routes on the outside, most effectively in close coverage. Keyes has some nice aggression to his playing style and will fight for a spot in the starting secondary from day one.

The Chiefs faithful should be optimistic about how the organisation went about this draft. In the immediate reviews and analysis, picking Edwards-Helaire became the favourite moment of the first round among many observers. He and Niang could certainly be making plays straight away on the offense as rookies.

The other selections, which all focus on the defensive side, are all developmental players with lots of potential, and Kansas City is the right team for all of them to realise that potential quickly. As these pre-season months for the Chiefs are all about ensuring they stay champions, this draft appears to have been a good way to begin that process.

2nd Year Leaps

By Shaun Blundell (@Shaun_F10Y)

Every year a bunch of shiny new faces are selected by NFL teams to improve the fortunes of the franchise and replace aging veterans. Some have instant pay off (hello Baker Mayfield) whilst others take some time to come to fruition. Below I take a look at a number of players entering their 2nd season who are poised to make a significant leap from their performance levels of 12 months ago.

Sam Darnold, QB, New York Jets

Comp % – 57.7%, Yds – 2865, TD – 17, INT – 15, QBR – 77.6

There is no doubt Saquon Barkley is a huge talent but make no mistake about it the New York Jets had a huge present fall right into their laps last April when the New York Giants passed on Sam Darnold. As a rookie, the No. 3 overall pick last year had plenty of ups and downs but flashed the kind of potential which had many draft analysts calling him the best prospect in last years draft. The Jets have done a nice job inn adding protection up front on the offensive line, and add into the equation running back Le’Veon Bell then all of a sudden this whole offence has potential. If Darnold and new offensive minded head coach Adam Gase mesh well, the Jets could surprise quite a few teams this year.

Christian Kirk, WR, Arizona Cardinals

Targets – 68, Receptions – 43 (63.2%), Yards – 590, TD – 3

Arizona drafted Kirk in the second round out of Texas A&M last year, and he is primed to replace future hall of famer Larry Fitzgerald as Arizona’s no. 1 option in 2019. There is a tremendous buzz about what Kliff Kingsbury is going to bring to the Cardinals, certainly from an offensive perspective and Kirk could be set to be the main beneficiary. Proof will be in the pudding of course but with rumoured desires to be running 90 plus offensive plays per game and many in 5 wide receiver sets then opportunity should be plenty for Kirk. He is familiar with Kingsbury’s Air Raid system from his college days at Texas A&M, which also improves the confidence rating behind this selection.

James Washington, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Targets – 38, Receptions – 16 (42.1%), Yards – 217, TD – 1

Somebody has to take the targets that usually went the way of Antonio Brown, and although JuJu Smith-Schuster will put up big numbers, look out for Washington to make a nice leap in year 2. A second-round pick in 2018, Washington was expected to put up better numbers in his rookie year. Slated to be the starter opposite the aforementioned JuJu he will certainly get the opportunity especially considering that Big Ben throws as often as any quarterback in the league. He’l have Donte Moncrief to beat out in camp and throughout the preseason, but considering 2 other teams have already given up on him, that shouldn’t too hard to do.

Kerryon Johnson, RB, Detroit Lions

Rush: Attempts – 118, Yards – 641 (5.4ypc), TD – 3

Rec: Targets – 39, Receptions – 32 (82.1%), Yards – 213, TD – 1

The Detroit Lions running back was putting together a nice rookie season with over 850 all purpose yards before a knee injury cost him the last 6 games of the season. Not only does Johnson have obvious ability himself, when you add in the fact that the Lions released Theo Riddick, it’s fair to assume that Johnson could see his role expand to a 3 down back giving him even more opportunities to shine. He has the opportunity to become the focal point of the Lions offence assuming he can steer clear of injury this campaign. For those that are worried about CJ Anderson pulling off a LeGarrette Blount, with the amount the Lions want to run this year, Kerryon will still be knocking on the door of RB1 territory.

Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Buffalo Bills

INT – 2, Sacks – 2, Forced Fumbles – 2, Tackles – 121 (Solo 80, Assist 41)

Expectations were big for Tremaine Edmunds as a 20-year-old rookie drafted on the first round 16th overall by the Bills. Its fair to say he initially did not reach those expectations and got off to a slow start to the campaign. However, by the end of the season, the unbelievably athletic linebacker turned into the key cog in the Bills defence. He was named NFL defensive rookie of the month for December and If the former Virginia Tech star can keep improving, the Bills defense will be even better this season.

Justin Reid, DB, Houston Texans

INT – 3 (1 TD), Sacks – 0, Forced Fumbles – 1, Tackles – 88 (Solo 70, Assist 18)

Nobody questions the talent of the Houston Texans front 7, all the questions are aimed at the back end of the defence. The Texans may have found a gem in the third round of the 2018 draft when they selected Justin Reid from Stanford. He quietly put together a nice rookie campaign with 88 tackles, 10 pass break ups and 3 interceptions from 12 starts. With the honey badger being signed by Kansas City look for the Texans to maximise Reid’s versatility and for him to transcend into a real playmaker on the back end during his second full season.

Jaire Alexander, DB, Green Bay Packers

INT – 1, Sacks – 0.5, Forced Fumbles – 0, Tackles – 66 (Solo 61, Assist 5)

This is a classic example of a player benefitting from the addition of greater talent around him. Jaire Alexander began his NFL career with a strong rookie campaign. In 11 starts last season he made a significant impact for the Packers tallying 66 tackles, 1 interception, 11 passes defended, and 0.5 sacks. Green Bay added significant talent to its defence this offseason with 3 starters added via free agency and 2 first round selections booth on that side of the ball. That will benefit Alexander and the team’s secondary as a whole. The Packers finally seem to have realised that the defence needs to help out Aaron Rodgers and Alexander could well be the leading light on that side of the football. 

AFC North Breakdown

By Thomas Rowberry (@Rowberry_)

Last Season

Baltimore Ravens 10-6

Pittsburgh Steelers 9-6-1

Cleveland Browns 7-8-1

Cincinnati Bengals 6-10

Baltimore Ravens

Draft Selections: Marquise Brown, WR (1.25), Jaylon Ferguson, OLB (3.85), Miles Boykin, WR (3.93), Justice Hill, RB (4.113), Ben Powers, G (4.123), Iman Marshall, CB (4.127), Daylon Mack, DT (5.160), Trace McSorley, QB (6.197)

Offseason Key Additions: Earl Thomas, S (Seattle Seahawks), Mark Ingram, RB (New Orleans Saints), Seth Roberts, WR (Oakland Raiders)

Offseason Key Departures: Terrell Suggs, OLB (Arizona Cardinals), CJ Mosley, LB (New York Jets), Eric Weddle, S (Los Angeles Rams), John Brown, WR (Buffalo Bills), Za’Darius Smith, OLB (Green Bay Packers), Joe Flacco, QB (Denver Broncos), Michael Crabtree, WR (Free Agent)

Super Bowl Odds: 40-1

Analysis: Eric DeCosta’s first offseason as ‘the guy’ was spent overhauling the Ravens roster to fit the skills of their young signal caller. DeCosta completely overhauled the offensive threats around Lamar Jackson, ridding the team of starting receivers John Brown and Michael Crabtree whilst adding former Saints running back Mark Ingram to be a bell cow back and drafting college standouts Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown and Miles Boykin as downfield threats.

Defensively the Ravens lost as much talent as any team in the league, losing stalwarts Terrell Suggs, CJ Mosley and Eric Weddle as well as pass rushing specialist Za’Darius Smith. That being said they may now have the best defensive backfield in the league thanks to the addition of former All-Pro Earl Thomas who joins Marlon Humphrey, Travon Young, Brandon Carr and Tony Jefferson. The one area that remains a concern for the Ravens is the front seven, the losses of CJ Mosley, Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith haven’t really been addressed in the offseason meaning the likes of Tyus Bowser, Kenny Young and third round pick Jaylon Ferguson are going to need to have big seasons to cover the losses.

Don’t get it wrong, Baltimore still have one of the best situations in the league. There is talent at the offensive skill positions, they have one of the best offensive lines in the league and arguably the best defensive backfield in the league. Baltimore will be good.

Look Out For: The thing everyone is looking out for regarding the Ravens is the evolution of Lamar Jackson, will he take the steps to become a true passer in the NFL or will the Ravens zig whilst the league zags and lean into the running game that served them so well last year? One team played the Lamar Jackson led Ravens last year, the Los Angeles Chargers, they figured the Ravens out and forced Jackson to throw the ball to disastrous results so unless Jackson has improved the Ravens could struggle offensively even with the talent around him.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Draft Selections: Devin Bush, LB (1.10), Diontae Johnson, WR (3.66), Justin Layne, CB (3.83), Benny Snell Jr, RB (4.122), Zach Gentry, TE (5.141), Sutton Smith, LB (6.175), Isaiah Buggs, DE (6.192), Ulysees Gilbert III, LB (6.207)

Key Offseason Additions: Donte Moncrief, WR (Jacksonville Jaguars), Mark Barron, LB (Los Angeles Rams), Steven Nelson, CB (Kansas City Chiefs)

Key Offseason Departures: Antonio Brown, WR (Oakland Raiders), Le’Veon Bell, RB (New York Jets), Morgan Burnett, S (Cleveland Browns), Jon Bostic, LB (Washington Redskins)

Super Bowl Odds: 20-1

Analysis: Has a team ever lost two of the best players at their respective positions in one offseason before? Because that’s what happened to the Steelers this offseason. Following a 9-6-1 season that saw Le’Veon Bell sit out the year and Antonio Brown ‘quit on the team’ the Steelers parted ways with both, allowing Bell to sign as a UDFA for the New York Jets and trading Brown to the Oakland Raiders for a pair of draft picks (2019 third and fifth round picks).

In Bell and Brown’s absences last year the Steelers saw running back James Conner and receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster breakout as two of the best young players at their respective positions, they’re hoping for similar jumps from their supporting casts. Ben Roethlisberger remains one of the best quarterbacks in the league so with Conner, JuJu and a supporting cast that features Vance McDonald, Eli Rogers and James Washington the Steelers offense should remain one of the best in the league.

In Devin Bush the Steelers have one of the most highly touted rookies in the league and look to have finally found someone to have filled the gap created by Ryan Shazier’s devastating injury a few seasons ago. Reports suggest that Bush is already showing up as a leader for the Steelers defense, a unit which has been missing a true leader in the middle of the field.  The Steelers defensive backfield should be much better in 2019 with the additions of Steven Nelson from the Chiefs and rookie Justin Layne, both of who should feature somewhat heavily after seeing disappointing play from the likes of Artie Burns in 2018.

Look Out For: In order for the Steelers to be great this season they’re going to need Big Ben to have one of his best seasons, their schedule looks one of the most difficult in the league with them typically facing three tough games to every ‘easy’ game this season – First four quarter of the season see them play the Patriots, Seahawks, 49ers and Bengals, the second quarter sees them play the Ravens, Chargers, Dolphins and Colts, the third quarter they play the Rams, Browns, Bengals and Browns before finally ending the season with games against the Cardinals, Bills, Jets and Ravens.

This team is still one of the most talented in the league, and they still haven’t had a losing record with Mike Tomlin as Head Coach but the schedule is rough, the offensive skill position players surrounding Conner and JuJu are mostly unproven at this point so if Big Ben doesn’t have a big season the Steelers could be in for a long season.

Cleveland Browns

Draft Selections: Greedy Williams, CB (2.46), Sione Takitaki, LB (3.80), Sheldrick Redwine, S (4.119), Mack Wilson, LB (5.155), Austin Seibert, K (5.170), Drew Forbes, T (6.189), Donnie Lewis Jr, CB (7.221)

Key Offseason Additions: Odell Beckham Jr, WR (New York Giants), Kareem Hunt, RB (Kansas City Chiefs), Olivier Vernon, DE (New York Giants), Sheldon Richardson, DT (Minnesota Vikings), Morgan Burnett, S (Pittsburgh Steelers)

Key Offseason Departures: Kevin Zeitler, G (New York Giants), Jabrill Peppers, S (New York Giants), Emmanuel Ogbah, DE (Kansas City Chiefs), Brien Boddy-Calhoun, S (Houston Texans), Breshad Perriman, WR (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Super Bowl Odds: 20-1

Analysis: After a 7-8-1 season that saw Hue Jackson, Todd Haley and Gregg Williams given their marching orders and Baker Mayfield break the rookie touchdown passing record the Browns & John Dorsey have spent the offseason building arguably the most talent laden roster in the entire league. This offseason has seen the Browns acquire arguably the best receiver in the league in Odell Beckham Jr, one of the best but most troubled backs in the league in Kareem Hunt, beefed up a defensive line that already featured Myles Garrett and Larry Ogunjobi with the additions of Olivier Vernon & Sheldon Richardson.

The Browns offense has the potential to be one of the best units in the league, Baker Mayfield threw 27 touchdowns in just 13 games last season as a rookie. With a full offseason working as ‘the guy’ in Cleveland it’s fair to expect him to make a leap this season, especially when you look at the talent Dorsey has put around him. Odell Beckham Jr, Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Antonio Callaway, David Njoku as receiving targets, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in the backfield…. There isn’t a more talented offensive roster in the league.

The Browns defense isn’t to be laughed at either, Dorsey and his staff have put together a defense that could be every bit as good as the offense. There aren’t too many defensive lines better than the Browns in the league right now, the linebacking group is solid without having a true superstar and now their secondary has a cornerback tandem that could develop into one of the best in the league with rookie second round pick Greedy Williams partnering sophomore Pro Bowler Denzel Ward.

Look Out For: Is it wrong to say the Browns as a whole? A team that went 7-8-1 last year probably shouldn’t be as high on people’s radars as the Browns are but they became one of the most fun teams to watch once Baker Mayfield took over last year and now have a roster full of blue chip talent. This Browns team could go onto win the Super Bowl as early as this year BUT they also have the potential to implode.

As good as Mayfield has been he runs his mouth a lot and could rub his teammates, will Odell Beckham continue to be as divisive as New York media would have you believe he was for the Giants? Can he co-exist with Jarvis Landry? Is Freddie Kitchens up to being a Head Coach after only a handful of games experience as an offensive co-ordinator? Will suspensions for Kareem Hunt and Antonio Callaway hurt in the early part of the season? And will the weight of expectations be too much for the Browns young roster to handle?

Cincinnati Bengals

Draft Selections: Jonah Williams, OT (1.11), Drew Sample, TE (2.52), Germaine Pratt, LB (3.72), Ryan Finley, QB (4.104), Renell Wren, DT (4.125), Michael Jordan, G (4.136), Trayveon Williams, RB (6.182), Deshaun Davis, LB (6.210), Rodney Anderson, RB (6.211), Jordan Brown, CB (7.223)

Key Offseason Additions: John Miller, OG (Buffalo Bills), Kerry Wynn, DT (New York Giants), B.W. Webb, CB (New York Giants)

Key Offseason Departures: Vontaze Burfict, LB (Oakland Raiders), Michael Johnson, DE (Free Agent)

Super Bowl Odds: 100-1

Analysis: Has a team had as bad an offseason as the Bengals this offseason? The Bengals FINALLY made a good move in letting Marvin Lewis leave, replacing him with 36-year-old Zac Taylor but since then they have done very little to inspire confidence going into this season.

They spent very little in the offseason, John Miller will likely start at guard for them but he isn’t exactly great. Kerry Wynn and BW Webb were both backups for the Giants and will likely struggle to get into the Bengals rotation in the defensive line and secondary respectively. Many have questioned the quality of the Bengals draft class, which is now under more scrutiny with top pick Jonah Williams likely missing the entirety of the 2019 following surgery on a torn labrum. Star receiver AJ Green suffered ligament damage in a preseason practice session and will now likely miss 6 to 8 weeks, oft-injured speedster John Ross was expected to have a bigger role this year but he’s been out with a hamstring injury since July.

There just isn’t a lot to talk about with the Bengals, their draft was underwhelming, their offseason additions don’t inspire confidence and they’ve suffered injuries to two of their most important players this season. The only real positives for this team is that they do have talented young players and have one of the best running backs in the league in Joe Mixon. This could be a long year.

Look Out For: The Bengals aren’t going to be good in 2019, I know it’s a bit harsh to be so blunt but they play in a division that features the Ravens, Steelers and much improved Browns. In Andy Dalton you could argue they have the worst starting quarterback in the division and a have an unproven 36-year-old at Head Coach, that’s just not a recipe for success in 2019.

2019 Season Prediction

Browns 10-6

Ravens 10-6

Steelers 8-8

Bengals 3-13

Podcast 42 – Week 3 Review, Waivers and TNF

Tim and Lee go through all the games in week 3 of the NFL, talk about the latest roughing the passer penalties, some interesting stats to this point and also look ahead to week 4 and fantasy football waivers!
A rant about Dallas, obviously too…

Rookies on the Run

As I write this, I am coming around to the fact that the NFL is now fully in my bloodstream and a big part of my life, and it makes me so happy. Never before at this time of year have I indulged myself so much in to this sport (or anything for that matter);

My podcast is in full swing (plug alert!), talking and meeting new people to talk about their teams, I am doing mock drafts daily (yes it’s May) because, why the hell not?

I listen to probably at least 5 hours a week of NFL podcasts which range to purely fantasy related ones to NFL news centric podcasts and everything in between.

I’ve pulled myself away from the Dallas Cowboys All or Nothing Series for a few hours to write this latest piece. You could say the only letters in the alphabet I like are “N”,”F” and “L” (certainly not GDPR anyway…).

If you are reading this thinking the same, and you want somewhere to post your thoughts or speak your mind, please let me know because I would love to have you post pieces for us or even come on to the podcast. If you are an aspiring writer, a stat geek or a fantasy football die hard, you are qualified enough in my opinion so if you want somewhere to get your stuff out there, please get in touch. We currently have Lee Wakefield doing stuff for us and I am so happy for all the efforts he puts in.

Anyways, enough of that, you’ve clicked this link for rookie running back information, so let’s get to it.

In this article, we’ll take a look at all of the potentially high-end fantasy running backs.

Which running backs have preferable setups? Which running backs have the opportunities to succeed and, can they take it?

We’ll take in to account draft capital invested in these running backs, project their usage and their production, and try and give you an indication at any value to be had in drafts.

Saquon Barkley – New York Giants – 1st Round

20 Running Backs were selected in the 2018 NFL Draft. It goes without saying that Barkley was the most coveted, the most well known and likely the name that is most likely to be remembered in 25 years time.

I am not going to waste too much time here at the top of this list examining Saquon…mainly because the literature is already all out there from the “experts”. All those writers and fantasy royalties within the industry have already exhausted their content on the #2 overall pick so I would suggest that, as I am not a writer, to go read theirs.

That said, it goes without saying Barkley will be selected by someone in your leagues in the first round. If you are in the mid to late slots of the 1st round, you’ll be choosing between Barkley and the likes of Kamara, Kareem Hunt and Leonard Fournette.

Barkley, branded a “generational talent” by the big wigs in the industry walks into the starting role in New York and no matter whether you think the pick itself was clever by the backroom staff and David Gettleman, you cannot project thigh enough the season(s) he could have in Big Blue. Granted, the offensive line sucks and Nate Solder and draft pick Will Hernandez will have to be supermen to fix it by themselves, but Barkley is bombproof in fantasy due to the passing down work abilities and the workload he will get. Gamescripts are something that shouldn’t affect Barkley because if they are behind, Barkley will get dump offs for cheap 10-20 yard run and catches and if the Giants need to salt the clock, they are handing it off to their new RB.

But before you go and take him 1st overall (I jest, of course), just remember all the other talent on this team. OBJ, injured for a long period last year will return, Sterling Sheperd has another year under his belt, as does Evan Engram and let’s not forget the Giants have not been a great running team for a long time. The aforementioned offensive line additions may take a few weeks to gel and set up the lanes for Barkley to plough through.

All in all, Barkley is someone I would take over Kareem Hunt if you want a barometer in both types of league and is a player I would take over Kamara and Fournette in PPR leagues only.

It’s hard to predict a bucket load of scoring opportunities for the Giants as a whole over the season and there are plenty of mouths to feed and the point per reception will help elevate the floor of Barkley, which is where Hunt and Fournette will take a back seat to Barkley in that respect. He doesn’t have much in the way of competition with Wayne Gallman, who did flash a few moves towards the back end when the season was done. Shane Vereen may be a alternative for the giants on 3rd downs or obvious passing situations to try and save Barkley from burnout but considering that is pretty much it, Barkley is a pretty sure fire selection to have a huge volume of the backfield touches.

Head coach Pat Shurmur said in a press conference after the draft that Barkley will be on the field for the Giants “as long as he can handle it.” It has been a few years since he had a true dual-threat running back in his offense, but Shurmur’s time in Philadelphia shows he meant what he said. LeSean McCoy was second among running backs in total snaps in 2013 with 890 and fourth in 2014 with 790 before being shipped off to Buffalo. One can certainly expect similar snap counts from Barkley as a rookie.

If you are investing a 1st round pick however, you may want a bit more confidence in the Giants offence before selecting Barkley. Giants have averaged 3.9 and 3.5 yards per carry in the last 2 seasons and Eli Manning has been barely average or consistent for the past couple of years. They should be improved on lthe last few years, but that’s not exactly hard when they have been one of the worst.

(Oops, spent a bit too much time there on Saquon…nevermind).

Derrius Guice – Washington Redskins – 2nd Round

Similar to the somewhat questions marks over the Giants offence and the potential production output for 2018, you could probably say the same for Washington.

New Quarterback Alex Smith replaces Kirk Cousins and we all know at how good Alex Smith is at handing the ball off (despite his gunslinging abilities he showed us last year in Kansas City).

On to Guice himself, there was a fear he would slide in the draft due to his character concerns (did you see the recent story about him taking loads of twitter fans to go see a movie? terrible, eh?) but the Redskins came out and claimed that they would’ve been happy taking Guice in the first round.

Guice is a running back that can handle 3 downs and it’s unlikely that they ask him to do that straight off the bat with Chris Thompson in the offence. Injuries slowed Guice down last year at LSU and there is a fair bit of tread on his 36 game college career. His production was eye-popping; 3 games with 250 rushing yards (yes, 250!) and a third of his games saw him surpass 100 yards on the ground. Guice was a backup to Fournette , filling in and more when he went down.

Guice is a hammer, but has the vision and explosiveness to bring a whole host of skills to this backfield. Like Barkley, Guice doesn’t have much in the way of opposition to oust in this team. Samaje Perine. Given multiple chances to take the lead in this backfield, with injuries to Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson at points last year, only averaged 3.4yards per carry on 175 attempts. Guice walks straight in to the RB1 role for this team and certainly has the opportunity.

Granted, the offensive line was one of the worst hit by injuries and rhythm was something Washington were not granted on offence last season. Doubled with that, the Redskins weren’t winning many games or in front for long periods too so running the ball was not always in the gameplan.

Whilst they haven’t done too much in the offseason to address the offensive line, you’d have to think that they cannot get much worse from a production standpoint in 2018. Guice is likely to go in rounds 3 or 4 in drafts come August and I round 3 is certainly too thick for my blood at this point. Chris Thompson is a trusted piece in this offence in the passing downs that I don’t think Guice gets that work in his rookie season to justify picking him in the 3rd round. Added in a slight question mark over durability (he is also a very angry type of runner, similar to Chris Carson/Thomas Rawls type), I’ll pass on Guice until the late 5th Round. He is currently going in the 6th round so that seems about right to me.

Rashaad Penny – Seattle Seahawks – 1st Round

As covered in the podcasts and every media outlet, Seattle selecting Rashaad Penny was on no-ones script, nor was it in anyone’s crystal ball. Pete Carroll supposedly wants to get back to the ground and pound this year…he does know he needs an offensive line to do that, right? Penny in the backfield in Seattle is like a pheasant on a Scottish back road; he’s gonna get absolutely run over by trucks. Seattle have had trouble finding a replacement since Lynch left, however they have had capable players. Thomas Rawls looked great until injury struck him down. Similar comments apply to Chris Carson last year and then add in injury to CJ Prosise and even Russell Wilson, a great running QB, you get a common theme.

I don’t have much confidence in Penny lasting 16 games behind that offensive line and I don’t see the Seahawks recreating previous successes from the last few years. The defence has been obliterated which use to lend itself to running the ball in Seattle and 2 pieces in the passing game have also left. There isn’t much left in Seattle and I start to think that it’s going to be dumped on Rashaad Penny.

Some positives for Penny and Seattle are that Brian Schottenheimer is the new OC in Seattle, who likes a running game and that there is little competition for Penny to beat out (this is a theme with drafted running backs) and Penny is accustomed to a large workload from his time last year at San Diego State.

A lot of these rookie running backs will go in rounds 3, 4 and 5 in draft season, and Penny will have plenty of buyers due to his 3 down abilities and workload. I wont be one of them.

Sony Michel – New England Patriots – 1st Round

Sony Michel is a strange one for fantasy. As covered in previous posts, Sony Michel is the first running back taken by New England in the draft since James White. Now that SHOULD signal the intentions of the Patriots’ with their 1st round draft pick. However, Rex Burkhead got paid in the offseason too, something which Patriots are never to generous to do with running backs (ask Jeremy Hill). So whilst I think Michel will lead the market share in this backfield, it’s difficult to establish a percentage breakdown…it is New England after all. Burkhead is used around the formation when healthy and will probably see a similar role in 2018, whilst White I see as the main loser here and will probably take a backseat of the committee but will definitely have a game or 2 where he scores multiple touchdowns.

The attempts vacated by Dion Lewis last year is something that Michel could come in and take over and this is a high scoring offence, plenty of boxes ticked for a running back for fantasy. There is a fairly wide range of outcomes for Michel in my opinion but I think he will be a middle of the road running back for fantasy. 750 yards, 6 or so touchdowns plus a bit in the passing game too. This would put him in the running back 20 range, or a low end RB2. Doesn’t sound too bad for a what is currently a 6th round pick in fantasy right now, but again, too rich for me in redraft leagues when you have the headache during the season also. Burkhead scares me a little bit but like I said, he will be utilised in his own way in this offence and James White will take 15-20% of the backfield touches. I cant get away from the fact thoughm, that the Patriots spent a first round pick on this guy, so he is one guy I may pull the trigger on in drafts. I certainly prefer him in best ball formats so you don’t have the headache of trying to predict when Michel’s (or Burkhead’s /White’s) good games will be. Let’s just hope he doesn’t pan out like Gillislee (did I mention that Michel fumbled 12 times in college? yeah, Belichick LOVES that too).

Ronald Jones II – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 2nd Round

Finally, a running back I am excited about and not overly worried about taking in the 3rd or 4th rounds!

I had a small shock when I put his name in to google to bring up some stats and saw the headline “’Very concerned:’ US Marshals seek Ronald Jones”. Thankfully it was some 38 year old d-bag  in Milwaukee on the run.

Ronald Jones has the chance to have it all and at a discounted price in drafts. Ronald Jones isn’t a big name (yet) and all the players discussed prior to Jones, will surely get selected before him in the majority of fantasy leagues.

However, those in Tampa have sky high expectations for their 2nd round pick including Jones himself.

“Definitely coming in and hitting it right off the bat,” Jones said. “Yeah, Rookie of the Year, things like that. Taking the team to the next level. Winning the division. Possibly going deep in the playoffs. Just making that spark.”

The Bucs averaged 3.7 ypc last season with a below par Doug Martin (2.9ypc!), bit part player Jacquizz Rodgers and other young running back Peyton Barber, who looked ok down the stretch last year. Tampa Bay had a disrupted 2017 after Hurricane Irma dictated that they had their “bye” in week 1 and it certainly showed towards the end of the team that the simply did not have the puff to be consistent. A leaky defence meant Tampa were playing from behind often, things didn’t go to plan in the running game. I think there is even a stat out there that Winston only threw 80 passes last season when Tampa had a lead (have to go and check NFL.com situational stats…).

I think this offence will have a step forward from last year, Winston is Winston and you are going to get the good, the bad and the ugly from him. The defence is a hell of a lot better and like I mentioned with Seattle’s previous successes, a good defence helps a run game script. He’s being compared to having a similar impact to Cadillac Williams in 2005 and Warrick Dunn in 1997. Don’t’g forget Doug Martin had a great Rookie year also, so there is history in Tampa of this kind of occurrence.

Before we all board the Jones hype train tough, he isn’t well versed in pass catching and is likely to be a 2 down back to begin with but I fully expect Jones to turn in to a workhorse back towards the end of the season. It’s been documented that the Bucs have already tried to get Jones involved in the passing game and Dirk Koetter has been impressed.

The opportunity is there for Jones in probably one of the least predictable offences for 2018 but if you believe in the Bucs stepping forward, you should believe in Ronald Jones. Out of all the running backs on this list, and considering he will be drafted after the majority of them, I am happy to draft Jones in the 4th or 5th round. He is currently going in the 9th round, but expect that to rise as the season approaches.

Royce Freeman – Denver Broncos – 3rd Round

Royce Freeman could a diamond in the rough at Denver. They’ve revamped their offence; New QB in Case Keenum, cleared out their backfield from the past couple of years and Devontae Booker is the most veteran back in the team. Many people perceive this to be a committee and a training camp battle, but I see it slightly differently.

Devonate Booker would be the starter normally, if he was good enough. He has had a few cracks at the whip but like Perine, is just not good as a primary ball carrier. Freeman I think is already the overwhelming favourite for this job and he only has to beat out DeAngelo Henderson.

1 red flag against Royce Freeman is his tread on the tyres but Elway and Freeman himself has no such worries. Freeman had 947 rushes in college along with 79 catches probably dictates that Freeman doesn’t have the longevity of the others from this draft class but I like Freeman’s chances at production during his time in the NFL. He did turn that volume in to production; 3 years of over 1300 yards, can catch the ball, can pretty much do anything, which makes him a great addition to this offence.

Denver’s offence could also be sneakily good this year. Vance Joseph’s second year should easily be better than his first;  Seriously inept last year at QB with Siemian, Paxton Lynch and Brock lobster, Case Keenum will come in along with Sutton and Hamilton to compete with Thomas and Sanders, this team will surprise most and no-one is talking about them. That could suit Freeman too as the expectation from anyone outside Denver will not be high. Royce Freeman, at the time of writing is going in the 10th round in drafts. I think this will only rise throughout camp and in the preseason, because Booker is not having this job and if he was, he would have had it by now and they would not have selected Freeman in the 3rd round.

Kerryon Johnson – Detroit Lions – 2nd Round

Kerryon Johnson is a late round flyer according to Fantasyfootballcalculator.com right now and for good reason.

Historically, Detroit have not had a great running game; their Offensive line has been ust that, offensive. Stafford has never really had a good line or running game to help him flourish at quarterback and there has been a massive overhaul in the offseason and it seems that this is the end of the road for Ameer Abdullah. Along with Kerryon, they have bought in Blount, who has won 2 Super Bowl rings in the last 2 years with the Eagles and the Patriots.

Whilst Blount will assume the role of goal line back, Johnson is quietly going about his work and is another to take in the later rounds. He is versatile, has the abilities to be a 3 down back, can handle a heavy workload (did so at Auburn) and he is a tough inside runner. Detroit traded up from 51 to get him at 43 and again, that probably says all you need to know here for Kerryon’s intended usage.

Johnson had great production in college, averaging 4.8 yards per carry on 519 career carries. He has a slight LeVeon Bell about him in that he will wait for the holes before exploding, whilst he isn’t a deep level slasher when running, I think that the Lions run game has all of the sudden got more exciting to draft. He didn’t set anything alight in the combine and his measurables are never going to be in the top of lists, but what he does have is a more complete package to offer the Lions,

I do think that Blount was brought in to nurture Johnson whilst also picking up the slack if and when required. He for me is a steal at the moment and I am happy taking him anyway from round 6 or 7 onwards.

Nick Chubb – Cleveland Browns – 2nd Round

Now Chubb is very much a gamble at this point. No-one knows how the backfield story will play out in Cleveland. Duke Johnson I think has a cemented role in the offence, and Hyde will likely start in the Crowell role. Chubb has a very good chance at taking over if Hyde stalls at some point in the season. It wouldn’t even surprise me to see Baker Mayfield take over at QB at the same time as Chubb in the backfield. If they do end up on the 2nd string team, they get to build a chemistry off the field which could help in the long run when it’s time to bench Tyrod and Carlos Hyde. After all, they recently called a truce on their Rose Bowl differences (Chubb’s Georgia Bulldogs beat Mayfield’s Sooners 54-48 in that epic double overtime game) and were made to room together in rookie camp, much to Mayfield’s dismay.

Chubb is lucky to be even walking today after the leg injuries he suffered in college and I think that he is so focused to take the opportunity he may have thought would have never came.

I will definitely put my bottom dollar on a lot of people over-drafting Chubb because of the upside and potential, even in redraft leagues.  My advice would be to wait a few weeks in to the season, when Chubb isn’t seeing a lot of action, to go try and trade for him and get him at a very low price. This won’t really work for Dynasty leagues but in redraft leagues, there will be a lot of casual players that will give up on Chubb after a few weeks and will either drop him to waivers or likely accept someone like Rod Smith for him. Nick Chubb is currently RB 43 going in drafts, one spot ahead of Royce Freeman, and that blows my mind.

That said Chubb set records everywhere in his college and high school days and would easily would have been a first rounder had his leg injury not struck him down and perhaps taken the ceiling off of his abilities and possible making him good, but not special for the future. For fantasy, my approach with him will be to wait and see before I draft. The other question mark will be the success he could have in Cleveland. Cleveland have been awful running the ball, scoring points and winning games over the past few seasons so you have to question how much success he can have in fantasy when you are surrounded by mediocre coaches, an average performing offensive line and a negative approach team. I do think that turns this season and Nick Chubb will be a part of that turnaround, but I am not going to invest in him in fantasy (or anyone in Cleveland for that matter) and would rather enjoy watching the Browns turn it around.

 

Of those on this list, below are where I feel they will end up at the end of the season in terms of fantasy points (12 team league, so RB1 = between 1st and 12th, RB2 = between 13th and 24th), how likely their scores are to be volatile (low floors/high ceilings) and where I would be happy taking them in fantasy drafts.

 

(* denotes higher in PPR, # denotes lower in PPR).

Saquon Barkley

Draft round: 1

Fantasy Finish: RB1

Role in offence: 3 down back, good catching back

Volatility: Low

Reason to draft: Workload Reason not to draft: Draft price may not = output (mid to late 1st round)

Derrius Guice

Draft round: 5

Fantasy Finish: RB2#

Role in offence:1st and 2nd Downs

Volatility: Low

Reason to draft: Will be day 1 starter Reason not to draft: Little action in the passing game

 

Rashaad Penny

Draft round: 6

Fantasy Finish: RB2/3*

Role in offence: 3 down back

Volatility: Medium

Reason to draft: Workload Reason not to draft: Injury risk, poor Offensive line

 

Sony Michel

Draft round: 5

Fantasy Finish: RB2

Role in offence: mixture of all 3 downs will have about 60% of carries, 40% of passing share amongst New England RBs

Volatility: High

Reason to draft: High scoring offence Reason not to draft: volatility at consistency

 

Ronald Jones

Draft round: 6

Fantasy Finish: RB2/3

Role in offence: Early on in season, 1st and 2nd Downs with a view to all 3 downs later on in season

Volatility: Low

Reason to draft: Workload Reason not to draft: Offence may struggle leading to poor output, potential no passing work.

 

Royce Freeman

Draft round: 7

Fantasy Finish: RB3*

Role in offence: 3 down back from the midpoint in the season

Volatility: Medium

Reason to draft: Workload for draft price Reason not to draft: Offence may struggle

 

Kerryon Johnson

Draft round: 8

Fantasy Finish: RB3/4

Role in offence: Early point of season could be a between the 20s back but could end up being a 3 down back if taking well to the NFL

Volatility: Low

Reason to draft: Draft price could be a steal Reason not to draft: Running game historically bad, competition.

So that does it for the article. Very well done on getting to the end. I didn’t intend on making it this long, but when you have lots to talk about, the words keep on flowing. Appreciate you reading and would love any feedback on where I have screwed up (or if you agree!) and you can do that by emailing me on full10yards@gmail.com or get in touch on social media with the handle @full10 yards on Instagram and Twitter.

Don’t forget to follow us over on social media because when we get to 500 followers we’ll give away an Odell Beckham Jr NFL Jersey.

Don’t forget if you are listening to our #MyTeamMyThoughts series on the podcast and we haven’t covered your team, you could come on the show and talk about them!

 

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: 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.