Sunday, bloody Sunday

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

(Tonight, tonight) Sunday, Bloody Sunday (let’s go)

Wipe the tears from your eyes

Wipe your tears away

Oh, wipe your tears away

I’ll, wipe your tears away (Sunday, Bloody Sunday)

I’ll, wipe your blood shot eyes (Sunday, Bloody Sunday)

Sunday, Bloody Sunday (Sunday, Bloody Sunday)

Sunday, Bloody Sunday (Sunday, Bloody Sunday)

Sunday Bloody Sunday – U2,1983

I can hear the U2 song playing in my head as I write this blog hours after the worst day for injuries on the gridiron since I can remember (and that’s a long time). Sunday, Bloody Sunday. You could make a winning fantasy roster out of the players who were injured in Week 2. The list includes three starting quarterbacks, two running backs who were the top two fantasy picks in most drafts and the No. 2 and No. 4 wide receivers, according to ADP at the start of the season.

That’s not to rub salt in anyone’s wounds with a reminder that the No. 1 wide receiver, Michael Thomas, was lost for multiple weeks with an ankle injury. Joining Thomas on the sidelines this coming week are Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Devante Adams and possibly Julio Jones. The latter may play through a hamstring injury, but Barkley won’t be playing through a torn ACL. He’s out for the season. McCaffrey will miss multiple weeks with a high-ankle sprain.  

As far as the three quarterbacks are concerned, I can tell you this. Since Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes are not on the list, it’s no big deal. If you’re counting on Jimmy Garoppolo, Drew Lock, or Tyrod Taylor to lift your fantasy fortunes, you don’t know much about fantasy football. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times – a quarterback won’t make or break your team. I picked up Cam Newton off the waiver wire in Week 1. Do I need to say more?

But there’s a good chance your fantasy team is in turmoil today. My first piece of advice is to go back and read (or reread) my last blog, “Relax, it was only Week 1.” I encouraged everyone last week to not go on tilt if things were not going their way. Just to recap, going on tilt is a poker term used to describe someone who is letting their emotions affect the way they play. The poker player might have just had a bad beat on a hand and is playing recklessly, trying to get even.

If you lost Barkley, you also suffered a bad beat. But the season is not lost. For example, I lost David Johnson, the No. 1 overall draft pick, in the first quarter of the first game in 2017. I still managed to win my league title – but it took a lot of work and a bit of luck. I picked up Alvin Kamara off the waiver wire and traded for Mark Ingram. Kamara and Ingram, teammates on the New Orleans Saints that year, were both weekly starters on my team. And the rest is history.

In addition to the aforementioned Barkley and McCaffrey, there was another star running back who went down on Sunday. Anyone who drafted Raheem Mostert had to be feeling good about things until the second quarter of yesterday’s game against the New York Jets. Mostert, who had put up 25.1 fantasy points in the first week for the San Francisco 49ers, had 18.7 when he went down with an MCL strain. He had rushed for 92 yards and a touchdown on just eight carries.

When I saw pictures of Barkley, who tore his ACL, I realized that those of us obsessed with fantasy football need to keep things in perspective. This young man was poised to see a massive payday in the form of a long-term contract extension with the New York Giants after the season is over. Now Barkley’s financial future, as well as his football future, are unclear. If you compare yourself to Barkley today, your Monday doesn’t seem so bad after all, does it?

One additional note on all of this madness. Don’t rush to the waiver wire to claim Devonta Freeman, who is scheduled to speak with the Giants tomorrow. Freeman isn’t going to rescue your season. He’s a low priority. If you want to grab someone off the waiver wire that might actually have fantasy impact, try and get Jerick McKinnon. He had three rushes for 77 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. Tevin Coleman also suffered a knee injury yesterday.

The top wide receiver who was injured Sunday was Adams, but the news today is encouraging. Adams, who departed Sunday’s game twice, wanted to return to action but was kept on the sideline because the Packers had the game in hand. While he did suffer a hamstring injury, Adams was never ruled out for the remainder of the game. Coach Matt Labut said he wanted to play again but there was no recent to risk it. The Packers play Sunday night against the Saints in Week 3.

Adams wasn’t the only big-name gamer on the field Sunday. Jones, the Atlanta Falcons star, was clearly in pain but played through a hamstring injury in yesterday’s heartbreaking loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Jones was limited in practice last week, but the wide receiver is on the record, saying it’s “nothing I can’t handle.” Still, it likely affected his performance on Sunday, considering that he only caught two balls on four targets. If he’s on your team, keep an eye on his status.  

Another wide receiver who saw his season come to an end on Sunday was Courtland Sutton of the Denver Broncos. Sutton, who had just returned from a shoulder injury, suffered a torn ACL in the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. While the loss of Lock doesn’t have a big fantasy impact, I do have a word of caution for you if you’re investing in the Denver secondary. Still James Jeudy was targeted seven times on Sunday, and all of his production came with Jeff Driskel under center.

I called Sammy Watkins fool’s gold in a recent tweet, but he was a popular waiver wire target last week.  The Kansas City Chiefs wideout took a vicious hit to the head during yesterday’s game. He walked off under his own power, but he was visibly affected and did not return to the game. It seems certain that Watkins will have to clear concussion protocol to play in Week 3, although he’ll have an extra day ahead of a Monday Night Football matchup with the Baltimore Ravens.

To sum it all up, I exhort you, while borrowing some words from the late, great Rudyard Kipling. “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs (that’s Kipling), and blaming fate or a random draft order for their lot in life, you can win your league title and everything that comes with it. And – which is more – you’ll be a Man (or Woman) my son (or daughter). That’s a liberal mixture of Kipling and Doubting Thomas, but I encouraged you to heed these words.  

You can follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

Relax, it was only week 1

Did you lose your first game in fantasy football? Don’t panic! It’s a long season, and there’s plenty of time to turn things around. No championships were won or lost in the opening week – unless you did something foolish like dropping an RB1, or an WR1, to pick up the flavor of the week off of the waiver wire. This is called going on tilt, and it will cost you dearly.

Going on tilt is a poker term used to describe someone who is letting their emotions affect the way they play. For example, if someone has lost a bunch of hands in a row, or suffered a bad beat, he or she might start playing recklessly. They make big bets, and raise others without the cards to support such aggressive actions. It never ends well for a poker player going on tilt.

In fantasy football, going on tilt would look like someone dropping Joe Mixon, or Nick Chubb, after one week because the running back had a bad game. I warned you repeatedly not to draft Mixon in the first or second round. But if you did, don’t compound your mistake and drop him, or trade him. You want to trade your fantasy player when his stock is up, not down.

I love to buy low and sell high. After all, I’ve been a financial advisor for thirty years, and I’ve traded individual stocks. Buy low, sell high has always been my mantra – in playing the stock market and fantasy football. This is a principle to live by but not a principle to enslave you. On rare occasions, there’s a time to cut your losses and sell low before things get worse.

But that time is not after one week of action. In the fantasy leagues I play in, there is a 13-game regular season and then the playoffs. You don’t need to finish in first place in your regular-season games to win the championship. You just need to make the playoffs. In a 10-team league, you qualify for the playoffs if finish in the top 4, or 6, spots depending on league rules. 

There’s a lesson I have learned, and it applies to fantasy football. Things are seldom as good as they seem, and they are seldom as bad as you might fear. If you are going to be successful in fantasy, you must learn how to control your emotions. This principle can be applied to fantasy sports, stocks and playing poker. When something goes wrong, stop and take a breath.

This also applies to life. It’s inevitable in your life that you will face adversity at some point. If this hasn’t happened to you yet, just wait. How you respond to that adversity will reveal character and determine your future. My years of experience have taught me the importance of not going on tilt in life. If you expect some things to go wrong, you have already baked that into the equation.

But I digress. Back to the subject that drew you to read my column. There were plenty of surprises, but some things seem to have stayed the same. The Cleveland Browns still look terrible. No lead is ever enough for the Detroit Lions. James Conner can’t stay on the field. Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers are still really good, but Matt Ryan is still the best garbage-time quarterback.

But some things were different. One was Cam Newton. Newton put up 25.7 fantasy points in his New England Patriots debut. He looked like his old self, not the 2019 version. His dual-threat ability was on full display, as he led the Patriots in carries (15) and rushing yards (75). Cam found the end zone twice, and he completed 15-of-19 in an efficient play-action passing game.

The Patriots’ former signal-caller, Tom Brady, looked far from his old self. He looked more like Jameis Winston, with just as many touchdowns (2) as interceptions. It’s probably not fair to compare Brady to Winston, or Newton yet. Tom Brady had to face the tough New Orleans Saints in his Tampa debut, while Newton had the always rebuilding Miami Dolphins in his opener.

Another guy who looked far from his old self was Rob Gronkowski, who seemed older and slower than he did the last time we saw him in the NFL. On the other hand, he looked older and slower in 2018, when he retired. Gronkowski, a future Hall of Famer, played second fiddle to O.J. Howard in his first game in Tampa. Gronk caught two balls for 11 yards and 3.1 fantasy points.

The Kansas City Chiefs got things started on Thursday night, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire put on a show. Nowadays, some fantasy owners just want to own Chiefs offensive players, but I’m not racing to the waiver wire to claim Sammy Watkins, who scored 21.5 fantasy points, with a 7-82-1 day. I remember that Watkins had 46.8 fantasy points in Week 1 last year. Cool your jets.

Rest assured that the only fans watching the second half of the Baltimore Ravens’ blowout victory against the Cleveland Browns were fantasy owners. As a Nick Chubb owner, I was concerned by the fact that he had only 11 touches in the game. I didn’t draft him in the second round to see 5.6 points after his name. But the game script explained much of that, so we’ll see.

The fact that Chubb’s team really stinks is concerning for his owners. I’m not trying to trade Chubb after one week, but I am trying to trade for Kareem Hunt. The Hunt owner in my league lost Michael Thomas to a high-ankle sprain, so I offered him Will Fuller because I’m deep in wide receivers. There is a risk that neither Chubb, nor Hunt will be an RB1 if the Browns’ are this bad.

My team that rostered Chubb also made a big bet on a Pittsburgh Steeler revival. In addition to drafting Chubb with the 18th pick, I took Conner with the 23rd pick and JuJu Smith-Schuster in the fourth round as my WR1. Fortunately, Smith-Schuster delivered with 24.9 points to enable me to win my first game of the season – in spite of single-digit output from Chubb and Conner.

As a Conner owner, adding Benny Snell from the waiver wire was a priority. I bid $11 of my $100 FAAB money to get him, and time will tell if he is worth it. Conner’s injury may not prove to be serious, but Snell is a true handcuff in a Steelers offense that gravitates toward a bell-cow RB approach, instead of the time-sharing approach. He’s an insurance policy for Conner owners.

Another popular waiver-wire target this week was Nyheim Hines, who garnered 27.3 points in the Indianapolis Colts’ loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The game started with Marlon Mack on top of the depth chart, but his season-ending injury flipped the script to Hines and Jonathan Taylor. As a Taylor owner, I’m happy with the turn of events but also added Hines off the waiver wire. 

I can see a path to Taylor, a rookie, carving out 300 touches this season, and that gives him top-five upside. But he’ll have to improve on his 2.4 yards per carry. The good news was that Philip Rivers threw him the ball six times in week one. However, Taylor will share time with Hines, which means that game script will determine who will have the bigger role each week.

The Jaguars, the Colts’ upside-minded opponent on Sunday, had an impressive performance from James Robinson. The rookie has suddenly emerged as Jacksonville’s lead back, playing 34 of 50 snaps. He carried the ball 16 times for 62 yards and caught one pass for 28 yards. I was surprised to find him on the waiver wire Wednesday in my ESPN league and added him.   

If you’re a Chris Carson owner, you’d better own Carlos Hyde, who was a significant part of the Seahawks’ offense in week one. Carson only rushed for 21 yards on Sunday but caught two TD passes to account for his 24.6 points. I’ve stressed the importance of handcuffing key running backs, and Hyde is only owned in 18 percent of Yahoo league and 11 percent of ESPN leagues.

If you invested a fourth-round pick on Amari Cooper, you probably feel pretty good about it after Sunday night’s game. Cooper led all Cowboy receivers in receptions (10) targets (14) and yards (81). He scored 18. 1 points without getting into the end zone. None of big three Cowboy receivers caught a TD pass. The loss of tight end Blake means more targets for this trio.

As you prepare for the second week of the NFL season, check your emotions at the door, review your stat sheets and study your lineup(s) now to determine your starters. If you have drafted a decent team, you should have some difficult choices to make on starts and sits. Don’t beat yourself up if you leave the wrong player on the bench, though. We all do it from time to time.

You can follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

Tight end preview

The tight end position is not what it once was, and that’s a good thing for fantasy football owners. Three years ago, just three tight ends with at least 12 games played averaged more than 10 fantasy points per game (half-point PPR scoring). In 2018, the number increased to five, and last year there were eight. This year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see 10 names on that list.

Logically, a deeper tight end position should make Travis Kelce and George Kittle, the consensus Big Two, cheaper. But that hasn’t been the case in my experience. In a recent ESPN draft, Kittle was taken with the 16th pick and Kelce with the 22nd. But not by me. The next tight end off the board was Mark Andrews, in the fifth round (No. 43).

In the above-mentioned draft, I had targeted Darren Waller but he was taken with the 52nd pick. Too early. I took Evan Engram with the first pick in the 9th round (No. 81). Tyler Higbee went next in the 9th round. I favor Higbee over Engram but already own enough shares of Higbee. Frankly, Waller, Higbee and Engram are all fine at the right price.

What’s the right price? The NFFC ADP for Kelce is 23, Kittle 24, Andrews 47, Zach Ertz 55, Waller 68, Higbee 79, Engram 82, Hunter Henry 92, Hayden Hurst 93, and then there’s a cliff. The next TE off the board (NFFC) is Jared Cook at 113. My advice is to select your tight end before you fall off the cliff. In a 12-team league, the cliff may be in the 8th round.    

If you miss one of the nine TEs mentioned in the previous paragraph, you should be prepared to draft two. The reason is because the next tier is a crapshoot. Mark my words, there will be at least one breakout TE from this tier, but no one can predict who that will be. That’s why you take two of them and hope you’re lucky, or get lucky on the waiver wire.     

An infusion of young talent and increased utilization makes the tight end position more interesting this year than in the past. This is a great season to draft two from the group of Cook, Mike Gesicki, Rob Gronkowski, Austin Hooper, Noah Frant, Dallas Goedert, T.J. Hockenson, Jonnu Smith, Jack Doyle and Blake Jarwin. All of them could be had with a pick after 100.

Let’s take a brief look at these 10 tight ends:

JARED COOK, NEW ORLEANS

 It’s very uncommon for tight ends to finish in the top-10 with less than 100 targets, but Cook finished as the No. 7 tight end in 2019 with just 65 targets. He did that because he scored a touchdown every 7.2 targets, a number that is sure to regress. It’s tough to find him more targets in the offense in 2020 with the arrival of Emmanuel Sanders, too.

MIKE GESICKI, MIAMI

The good news is Gesicki totaled 89 targets last year, which ranked seventh among tight ends. The bad news is he finished as the No. 11 TE. The worst news is Chan Gailey is now his offensive coordinator. In the eight years Gailey has called an offense, his tight ends have finished 28th or worse in seven of them.  My recommendation is to pass on him.

ROB GRONKOWSKI, TAMPA BAY

On the surface, Gronkowski seems like a no-brainer. Tom Brady didn’t have a full offseason with his new receivers, so he may gravitate towards his old friend. During Gronkowski’s career, he posted top-five numbers in 40.9 percent of his games – the best of all-time. But he hasn’t played a game in the NFL since 2018, and he was clearly on the decline that year.

AUSTIN HOOPER, CLEVELAND

The Browns paid Austin Hooper a lot of money to join them but they’re also holding onto David Njoku because Head Coach Kevin Stefanski likes to use two tight ends in his offense. The best-case scenario with Hooper is that he gets close to the 70-target mark and scores at least six touchdowns. I would stay away from both of them unless one gets injured.

NOAH FANT, DENVER

Fant is a darling of many pundits, but he’s not my darling. Fant saw 66 targets his rookie year and ranked 15th in expected fantasy points among tight ends. But he didn’t tally more than four targets in any game with Drew Lock. To make matters worse, the Broncos added three talented pass-catching options in Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler and Melvin Gordon this offseason.

DALLAS GOEDERT, PHILADELPHIA

In my opinion, Goedert is the only true tight end handcuff in the NFL. If you draft Ertz, you should pick up Goedert later in the draft because he would become a top-five TE if Ertz is injured. The upward trajectory in Goedert’s production in 2019 was mostly due to injuries to all of the Eagles wide receivers. He saw at least five targets in 10 of the last 11 games.

T.J. HOCKENSON, DETROIT

Hockenson showed upside in his NFL debut in 2019, racking up 131 yards and a touchdown on six grabs. But that was 36% of his total yards and 50% of his touchdowns in 12 games. This is an offense that is willing to throw the ball, but the key for Hockenson is getting enough volume while sharing the ball with Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola.

JONNU SMITH, TENNESSEE

Volume is also a concern for Smith in a run-heavy Titan offense. He’s unlikely to get more than 3-5 targets per game in an offense that is projected for less than 500 pass attempts for the season. Despite Delanie Walker going down for the year, Smith saw more than five targets just twice all season and finished with 44 on the year. It’s best to pass on him.

JACK DOYLE, INDIANAPOLIS

Doyle has the look of a sleeper – especially in the first few weeks of the season with Trey Burton on the IR for the Colts. Now add quarterback Philip Rivers, the guy who’s supported a top-11 tight end in all but one season in his long career, and Doyle looks like a winner. Indy is a team that likes to target tight ends, so Doyle is a sneaky pick in the right matchups.

BLAKE JARWIN, DALLAS

Jarwin and Jason Witten combined for 124 targets last year, and now Witten is gone in Kellen Moore’s tight end friendly offense. Over the last two seasons, Jarwin has seen a total of 77 targets, turning them into 58 receptions for 672 yards and six touchdowns. Witten received 83 targets last year, and if Jarwin sees that kind of volume, he should break out.

You can follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

Quarterback preview

Do you want Patrick Mahomes or Lamar Jackson on your fantasy team? Then, you should be prepared to draft one of them in the first two rounds. Or, you can do what my brother-in-law did – draft both of them. And then prepare to not win your league. It would be interesting to find out the percentage of owners who won their league last year with Mahomes on their team. Then, compare that to the percentage of owners who won the league with Lamar Jackson. 

I will bet you the first number is very low, and the second number much higher. The reason is that you needed to use a first- or second-round pick to get Mahomes last year. Jackson was available in the latter rounds of drafts. I’ve shared the concept of opportunity cost in the past. Opportunity cost is the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen. This is a concept I’m familiar with as a financial advisor since it is frequently applied to investing.

Let’s apply opportunity cost to a draft. According to the NFFC ADP rankings, if you take Mahomes or Jackson, you are passing up Julio Jones, Chris Godwin, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, or one of the two elite tight ends, Travis Kelce and George Kittle. The NFFC represents the pros. On a recent ESPN mock draft, a participant took Mahomes with the 11th pick. He passed up Austin Ekeler, Josh Jacobs, Kenyan Drake, Aaron Jones, DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones and Devante Adams.

It’s mind-boggling. I didn’t even list Joe Mixon and Miles Sanders, who also went after Mahomes in that draft. The other seven are players I would want on my team if I could select them in the second round. Mahomes was on a lot of championship teams after his breakout season in 2018, and the same goes for Jackson 2019. But the reason is because they were taken late in the draft. There was little opportunity cost lost selecting them, and they delivered huge value at their ADP.      

If you look at the numbers, the past NFL season was a validation of the old adage that you never take quarterback early in draft. Granted, Mahomes and Jackson have a higher upside than other quarterbacks. But I’ve said it repeatedly – quarterback is a deep position. In a Yahoo draft I participated in last Sunday, I waited until the 12th round to take my quarterback. I took Daniel Jones and then dropped him a few days later when I looked at week one matchups.

As you can tell, I am a strong proponent of the Late Round Quarterback strategy. In the draft I just mentioned, I took my quarterback in the 12th round, my running back handcuff in the 13th, my defense in the 14th and my kicker in the 15th. And I will readily drop everyone except the handcuff when bye weeks, or matchups dictate. Do you understand how freeing this is? There is never the need for me to pick up a second quarterback, and this frees up a roster spot for RBs and WRs.  

Okay, if you’re not convinced about the Late Round Quarterback strategy and are still going to draft Mahomes, or Jackson, you can stop reading. Go work out, or feed your dog. The rest of this column will not interest you. But for those of you convinced, or at least open to my argument, keep reading. I am going to give you a thumbnail sketch of 12 quarterbacks who will be available at the end of your draft, or to stream during the season in the matchup. Many will be on the waiver wire.

Please note that I am not providing coverage on Mahomes, Jackson, Dak Prescott, Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, Matt Ryan, Josh Allen, Carson Wentz, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers because these quarterbacks are unlikely to be available in the late rounds. A few of them may be dropped at some point in the season, and you can always consider the merits of picking up that QB if and when the time comes. Here are the QBs I like with an ADP greater than 100.   

MATTHEW STAFFORD, DETROIT, ADP 103

The 2019 season started strong before he was injured, and some think it could be a sign of things to come. He was the No. 6 quarterback in fantasy through nine weeks. Stafford’s 8.2 yards per attempt was easily a career high and just the second time in his career over 7.6 yards per attempt. He’s might be a low-end QB1, or a high-end QB2. If you’re in a league where a number of owners roster two quarterbacks, it’s unlikely that he will be available after the ninth or tenth round.

DANIEL JONES, NY GIANTS, ADP 104

Volatility is a word to describe Jones, who had two of the top-10 single game performances by QBs in 2019. Jackson and Wilson are the only two other quarterbacks who did that. Jones had four games where he tallied 28-plus fantasy points, including three games over 30 points. But it wasn’t all pretty.  Outside of those four explosion games, Jones was a train wreck, finishing with 14.7 or fewer fantasy points in the eight other games he started. Pick your spots with Danny Dimes.

BAKER MAYFIELD, CLEVELAND, ADP 114

Mayfield was a draft darling in 2019 and was a huge bust. Some blame Mayfield’s problems on Freddie Kitchens. Kevin Stefanski should certainly be better for Mayfield’s efficiency, but Stefanski just ran one of the most run-heavy offenses in the NFL in Minnesota. And the Browns certainly behaved this offseason like a team that wants to run the ball. Mayfield should be better than he was last year, as should the Browns. You’ll have to pick your spots with Mayfield this year.   

BEN ROETHLISBERGER, PITTSBURGH, ADP 122

Many are undervaluing the Steelers this year, and that includes Roethlisberger, who’s been rehabbing from an elbow injury. Training camp reports indicate he looks good throwing the ball. Roethlisberger has thrown at least 26 touchdowns in six of his last eight seasons and has averaged at least 7.5 yards per attempt each year from 2014-2018. But he has been horrendous on the road, averaging 15.22 fantasy points per game compared to the 22.19 fantasy points per game at home.

JARED GOFF, LA RAMS, ADP 124,

Goff is the guy I picked up off the waiver wire this week to replace Jones because I like the matchup against the Cowboys secondary, which lost cornerback Byron Jones over the offseason. I expect Goff to pass more this season, and he’s got Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Tyler Higbee, their tight end, who caught 43 balls for 522 yards and two touchdowns in his last five games. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Goff emerge as a sleeper this year, but for now I’m looking at matchups.

JOE BURROW, CINCINNATI, ADP 131

Joe Burrow reported to the Bengals with a look of confidence that belied his rookie status. But he did just have one of the best collegiate seasons by a quarterback ever and was the No. 1 overall draft pick. Skeptics might recall Kyler Murray in a similar situation last year in Arizona. Burrow has plenty of wide receiver talent surrounding him. The offense that Zac Taylor ran last year presented plenty of opportunity. If he’s available, he is worthy of streamer consideration.

RYAN TANNEHILL, TENNESSEE, ADP 137

I picked up Tannehill midway through the 2019 season as a streamer and never dropped him. No one expected him to shine.  Consider that he averaged between 6.7 and 7.7 yards per attempt throughout their first six years, then jumps up to 9.6 yards per target last year. Tannehill’s 117.5 QB Rating in 2019 ranks as the fourth-best all-time. Working against him is the run-heavy Tennessee offense, but don’t sleep on Tannehill, who should be available on the waiver wire.

DREW LOCK, DENVER, ADP 149

Don’t judge Lock based on what you saw from him in his rookie season. He started late in the season, and Rich Scangarello was the offensive coordinator. Pat Shurmur has produced solid quarterback play in his time. The Broncos signed Melvin Gordon and then drafted wideout Jerry Jeudy in the first round, speedster KJ Hamler in the second round, then Lock’s former teammate, Albert Okwuegbunam, in the fourth round. Don’t forget about Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant.

KIRK COUSINS, MINNESOTA, ADP 156

The Vikings took Justin Jefferson in the first round of the NFL Draft to replace departing Stefon Diggs, and I wonder if the offense might move toward a more balanced attach under Gary Kubiak. Cousins only threw 444 passes last year, in spite of lacking mobility, and still finished as No. 15 fantasy quarterback in 2019. In the three previous years, Cousins was QB12, QB6, and QB5. He’s trending in the wrong direction, but he’s still a viable streamer – especially if he puts the ball in the air more in 2019.

PHILIP RIVERS, INDIANAPOLIS, ADP 164

Anyone who has played fantasy football for a while knows that Rivers has been money in the past. He had an off year in 2019, and turns 39 in December. But consider this. He played behind a bad offensive line last year, something he’s done through much of his career. This year, he’ll play behind a top-three offensive line. He has already played under Frank Reich back when he threw for 4,286 yards and 31 touchdowns, then a career-high 4,792 yards and 29 touchdowns in 2015.

GARDNER MINSHEW, JACKSONVILLE, ADP 166

Minshew was within a point of matching Kyler Murray on a per-game basis last year, and his situation looks quite a bit better than it did in 2019. His new offensive coordinator is Jay Gruden, who led Andy Dalton and Kirk Cousins to three consecutive top six fantasy finishes. The Jaguars also added Laviska Shenault, Tyler Eifert and Chris Thompson in the past few months. He’s an excellent quarterback to stream and has top-eight upside due to increased volume.

CAM NEWTON, NEW ENGLAND, ADP 179

Every time Newton has played 16 games, he’s been a top-five quarterback, and he was No. 12 in just 14 games as recently as 2018. He appears to have quickly dispatched Jarrett Stidham as the Patriots’ starting quarterback, and if he’s even a shadow of the runner he was in the past, he has top-12 potential. If Josh McDaniels uses Newton as the red-zone rusher, there’s no reason to think Newton can’t be top five again. You wouldn’t be crazy to draft him in a later round.

You can followThomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

WR preview, part 2

In part one of the wide receiver preview, I told you drafting for value was the key – especially if you’re going to load up on running backs in the early rounds. The wide receiver position is deep, but there are four elite wideouts and one super elite. Michael Thomas is in a class by himself. However, if you want Thomas, you will have to pay up to the tune of a first-round pick. The four elite receivers are Devante Adams, Julio Jones, Tyreek Hill and DeAndre Hopkins.

One or two of the elite guys might be taken at the end of the first round, and all of them will probably be gone by the end of the second round. I say probably because there is always a possibility someone in your league will go crazy with running backs, pushing one of the elite guys into the third round. The most likely one to slip is Hopkins, who is not getting as much respect this year after a down year in 2019. This led to his trade to the Arizona Cardinals.

I’m not against drafting an elite wide receiver, but I will probably wind up taking three running backs in the first three rounds and then start hammering the wide receiver position in round four. After the super elite and elite wideouts go off the board, there are 15-20 you can put in that next tier. If I get two or three standout running backs, I will hope find a breakout WR later in the draft. Chris Godwin was going in the fourth round last year, and that worked out well.

In part one, I told you about some of the wide receivers I like in the next tier, and the next one and even the next one.  If Thomas is tier one and Adams, Jones, Hill and Hopkins are tier two, then Cooper Kupp, D.K. Metcalf, Robert Woods. Keenan Allen, Will Fuller, A.J. Green and Julian Edelman are tier four for me. What I want to focus on here is the top 15 tier three WRS based on ADP because this is the likely place for a breakout. These wideouts can often be drafted in rounds 3-7.

CHRIS GODWIN, TAMPA BAY, WR6, ADP 20.50

Godwin played 63.4 percent of his snaps last year in the slot and was second in the league in slot yards (838) behind only Cooper Kupp. His new quarterback, Tom Brady, is expected by most analysts to target Godwin more than teammate Mike Evans because he runs more shallow routes. Godwin’s average depth of target was 10.4 yards last year while Evans’ was 15.3 yards. The problem is that Brady and Godwin haven’t played together, and I’m reluctant to draft Godwin early in the third round. Iffy.

KENNY GOLLADAY, DETROIT, WR7, ADP 27.36

As Matthew Stafford goes, so goes Golladay. He had four games with 23-plus PPR points with Stafford in the lineup in 2019, and just one game with more than 18 PPR points when he was out. Even if Stafford stays healthy, it’s going to be hard for Golladay to repeat his league-leading 11 touchdowns. With T.J. Hockenson expected to take a step forward, there could also be more competition for targets. Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola are still in the mix. Don’t spend a third-round pick on Golladay. Pass.

MIKE EVANS, TAMPA BAY, WR8, ADP 29.28

Despite averaging an elite 9.1 targets per game, Evans posted WR2 or better-type numbers in just 38.5 percent of his games last year, ranking 28th among wide receivers. With the gunslinger Jameis Winston gone, Evans now has a quarterback who will be far less willing to throw the ball into tight coverage. With Evans, you will have tight coverage because he doesn’t get much separation and relies on his athleticism to make catches. I believe Evans is a prime bust candidate in 2020 and a receiver to avoid. Pass.

ALLEN ROBINSON, CHICAGO, WR9, ADP 31.95  

Robinson is a wideout that should return value if you select him as early as the third round. He returned value last year with a 150-plus target season. He was No. 3 in total targets, trailing only Thomas and Jones. He posted WR2 or better numbers in 62.5 percent of his games, which ranked fifth behind only Thomas, Hopkins, Jones and Davante Adams. The fact that the Bears snagged Nick Foles only helps Robinson, as Foles has a more accurate arm than Mitch Trubisky. Robinson is worth a third-round pick.

ODELL BECKHAM, JR., CLEVELAND, WR10, ADP 32.59

In 59 career games prior to the 2019 season, Beckham was the best game-by-game fantasy wide receiver of all-time. Then, there was last year. Knowing that Beckham was playing through a hernia  explains some of a disappointing season. Many expect Beckham to bounce back in 2020, but I’m not one of them. New head coach Kevin Stefanski’s wide receivers combined for just 201 targets and a 43.1 percent target share last year in Minnesota – the fourth-lowest mark in the NFL. I pass on Beckham.

AMARI COOPER, DALLAS, WR11, ADP 33.41

It’s amazing that Cooper finished as the No. 9 receiver last year considering that he was No. 21 in overall targets. Based on the number of his targets and where they took place on the field, Cooper should’ve finished as the No. 23 wide receiver. Cooper averaged only 7.4 targets per game, compared to Michael Gallup, with 8.1. The addition of rookie CeeDee Lamb isn’t going to make getting targets any easier for Cooper.  Based on the low number of targets, I don’t believe Cooper is worth a fourth-round pick. Pass.

COOPER KUPP, LA RAMS, WR12, ADP 35.88

Cooper Kupp is the top slot receiver in the NFL, and he should be rostered.  The definition of a great slot receiver is a player with quick feet, precise route-running, reliable hands and the ability to rack up yards after the catch. Kupp checks all of the boxes. Kupp ran 65.5 percent of his routes from the slot last year. His 134 targets were the 11th most in the league, his 10 touchdowns were tied for second and his 524 yards after the catch were fourth best. Draft him in the third or fourth round, and you’ll thank me later.

D.J. MOORE, CAROLINA, WR13, ADP 36.47

It’s hard to believe Moore would be drafted ahead of Kupp, but it’s happening in many drafts. Moore’s fantasy value was capped in the first two years by poor quarterback play, and I don’t believe Terry Bridgewater is much of an upgrade. The Panthers also have a new head coach. Matt Rhule decided to bring in Robby Anderson, a receiver who previously played under him, which could mean that Moore loses targets in 2020. I don’t understand why you would take him in the third or fourth round. Pass.

JUJU SMITH- SCHUSTER, PITTSBURGH, WR14, ADP 38.89

Like Beckham, Smith-Schuster was being drafted in the second round of fantasy drafts last year. That was based on him posting 1,426 yards in his second NFL season in 2018. But that was when Antonio Brown was the No. 1 receiver, and Smith-Schuster was receiving less secondary attention. Everyone wants to attribute his decline in 2019 to injuries and poor quarterback play, and they may be right. But I remain skeptical that he returns third- or fourth-round value. There are better options for you. Pass.

ADAM THIELEN, MINNESOTA, WR15, ADP 41.17

Thielen was the best receiver in fantasy football in the first half of 2018, but he hasn’t been the same since. He turned 30 a week ago, and he also has back problems. That’s not a recipe for success for a wide receiver. The Vikings were 30th in pass attempts last year, and Thielen was targeted just 48 times in 10 games after seeing 298 targets over the previous two seasons. There should be some positive regression in 2020, but low volume and injury concerns make him too risky for a fourth-round pick. Pass.

A.J. BROWN, TENNESSEE, WR16, ADP 41.84

Speaking of volume concerns, consider Brown. The Titans were dead last in pass attempts last year, and I don’t expect to see them changing from a run-first offense in 2020. Brown averaged a ridiculous 8.9 yards after the catch last year, a number that isn’t repeatable. The best receivers rarely average more than 6.0 yards after the catch. If you move Brown down to the 5.5 range, he would’ve recorded 187 fewer yards and finished as the WR28 in 2019. Brown is talented, but the volume isn’t there. Pass.

CALVIN RIDLEY, ATLANTA, WR17, ADP 43.88

While the Titans were last in pass attempts last year, the Falcons were first. This should answer your question about whether Ridley and Jones could both be WR1s. Consider the Bucs last year with Godwin and Evans, and you have the answer. Ridley saw 49 targets in the six games he played after Mohammed Sanu was traded, which would amount to 131 over a 16-game season. He is worth a drafting.

ROBERT WOODS, LA RAMS, WR18, ADP 47.16

I’ve been able to get Robert Woods with the 63rd pick in Yahoo mock drafts, which is an incredible value. Despite scoring just two touchdowns last year, Woods was able to finish as the No. 17 wide receiver. He had the 9th most targets in the league – more than teammate Kupp. Under Sean McVay, he’s been a WR2 or better in 21-of-43 games, which is the same as the Chief’s Hill. He’s not as sexy as Hill and doesn’t have the high ceiling, but he has a higher floor. He could start every week on your fantasy team.

D.K. METCALF, SEATTLE, WR19, ADP 48.13

At 6-foot-4 and 229 pounds, the athletic Metcalf could be a breakout wide receiver on another team. But not the run-first Seahawks. Consider that Metcalf only averaged 6.3 targets per game last year. Then consider that the team was looking into Antonio Brown, which tells me they may add another perimeter wide receiver. It would directly impact his target upside if that were to happen, and not as much Tyler Lockett. Because of that, Lockett is the safer pick this year. There are better options available. Pass.

COURTLAND SUTTON, DENVER, WR20, ADP 49.68

Sutton finished as WR19 last year, with 125 targets – the 15th most among wide receivers. But he had zero competition for targets last year, which is why he saw more than half of the ones that went to  receivers. He’ll now have to contend with first-round pick Jerry Jeudy and second-round pick KJ Hamler in the starting lineup. That’s not to mention Melvin Gordon, who’s an established pass-catcher out of the backfield. He’s being drafted essentially where he finished last year, and that’s too high. Pass.

In conclusion, I have identified four wide receivers you should roster on your fantasy team. Robinson is going in the third round of most drafts, Kupp in the fourth, Ridley in the fifth, and Woods in the sixth. Pound the running backs in the first two rounds and then pick up some wide receivers. If you add a third running back in the third round, you still have time to add three solid wideouts in the next three rounds. Of course, you will add at least two or three more later in your draft.

WR preview, part 1

No one disputes the importance of acquiring the right running backs for your fantasy football team. That’s why I focused on this position for the last two weeks. There are landmines to avoid at running back – especially in those crucial first rounds. In contrast, wide receiver is the one position you can just let come to you on draft night. It’s such a deep position, but you have to be able to recognize value on the draft board when it’s your turn to pick.

I’m quite familiar with the concept of value because I’ve been a financial advisor for 30 years. When you invest in the stock market, you’re always looking for value. You’re looking for that company that has been beaten down by bad news but still has a strong balance sheet. But you don’t have to be a financial advisor, or an investor, to understand value. Just ask yourself if you’re capable of recognizing a bargain when you see one at Walmart.

I’m going to share a secret with you about how to find value at wide receiver and other positions. Just memorize, or become very familiar with the average draft position (ADP) of the top 100 players. If you search the web for ADP, you’ll find a hundred different lists. Many of these haven’t been updated since the ice age ended. Others are based on a limited pool of fantasy players, and some of them might not know very much about fantasy football.

It took me some time to find a reliable ADP source, but I found one. It’s the National Fantasy Football Championship (NFFC) website. The NFFC was started in 2004 as the industry’s first multi-city, high-stakes fantasy football event. The highest grand prize is $200,000, and the entry fee for that contest is $20,000. My hunch is that if these guys are paying thousands of dollars to enter the competition, they are probably the best fantasy players in the world.

When it comes to wide receivers, I want to know who the NFFC contestants are drafting and in what order. It’s not hard to find out because they publish their ADP rankings, based on their drafts and continually update it. Do you understand how valuable this information is? If Keenan Allen has an NFFC ADP of 53, and I find Allen on the board in the ninth round, that’s value. I didn’t make this scenario up – it occurred in a recent mock draft I entered.

I participated in a Yahoo 10-team mock draft on Tuesday, and I only wish I could claim this team as my own this season. It started out with Christian McCaffrey, passed over with the first two picks. The first pick was Patrick Mahomes, and I honestly believe the person picking second already had Saquon Barkley in his cue and didn’t realize what had happened. I did and selected McCaffrey with the third pick. I followed with two more running backs.

After drafting McCaffrey, Josh Jacobs and Aaron Jones, I was set at running back. At the end of the 4th round, Cooper Kupp was still on the board. I took Jared Goff’s favorite receiver with the 38th pick. His NFFC ADP was 35, so there was some value there. My fifth-round pick was D.K. Metcalf, and my 6th round pick was Robert Woods. I wouldn’t mind having Kupp and Woods on the same team at that kind of value. If one gets hurt, there’s more for the other.

Frankly, I didn’t plan it that way. But Woods was still on the board when I used my 58th pick, and I couldn’t pass him up. His NFFC ADP is 45. Although my focus was on wide receivers in these rounds, I noticed David Johnson was undrafted when it was my turn to select a player in the 7th round. His NFFC ADP is 42, so Merry Christmas to me. When opportunity knocks, you must be ready to seize it on draft night. This is how you win a championship.

Knowing tight ends were going to go quickly, I picked up Darren Waller at the end of the 8th and then found Allen still on the board in the 9th. But my WR shopping spree wasn’t over yet. Somehow, Will Fuller was still available, and I took him at the end of the 10th round (NFFC ADP 78). A.J. Green was undrafted and I took him in the 11th round (NFFC ADP 71). I had one open spot on my starting roster and took quarterback Daniel Jones in the 12th round.

The 13th round in a 15-round draft should be reserved for your handcuff, if you need one. I discussed handcuffs last week. To summarize, only a few key running backs need to be handcuffed. There is no handcuff for McCaffrey, so I had a freebie and took Julian Edelman. This left only a defense and a kicker to draft in the final two rounds. I finished up with one QB,  four RBs, seven WRs, one tight end, one defense and one kicker (see below).

3. Christian McCaffrey (Car – RB)

18. Josh Jacobs (LV – RB)

23. Aaron Jones (GB – RB)

38. Cooper Kupp (LAR – WR)

43. DK Metcalf (Sea – WR)

58. Robert Woods (LAR – WR)

63. David Johnson (Hou – RB)

78. Darren Waller (LV – TE)

83. Keenan Allen (LAC – WR)

98. Will Fuller V (Hou – WR)

103. A.J. Green (Cin – WR)

118. Daniel Jones (NYG – QB)

123. Julian Edelman (NE – WR)

138. New England (NE – DEF)

143. Younghoe Koo (Atl – K)

I know what you’re thinking. “I thought this was a wide receiver preview, and Doubting Thomas just gave me the results of his fantasy draft.” I hope you got more out of it than that, but you can conclude from what I shared that I like Kupp, Metcalf, Woods, Allen, Fuller, Green and Edelman at the right price. Again, the key is value – if you can find it. There are some other wide receivers that I also like at the right price, and I am going to cover all of them next week.

It’s more difficult to determine who the real difference makers are at the wide receiver position than at running back. That’s why I recommend drafting six or seven wideouts. Mike Thomas is in a class by himself, but you probably won’t want to spend your first-round pick on a wide receiver. The next tier of receivers have some warts, but the risk is mitigated by high volume. This group includes Devante Adams, DeAndre Hopkins, Tyreek Hill and Julio Jones.

At the risk of repeating myself too much, please do your homework before draft night. Ideally, you have done research on the top 50 wide receivers so that you know who you want on your team and who you want to fade. While volume is an important factor, it’s not the only factor to consider. Remember that a target is not the same thing as a catch. If the quarterback is not accurate, the percentage of targets caught will be lower for that receiver.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

Running backs, part 2

When I was in school, it was common for me to walk into the classroom unprepared. The “dog ate my homework” excuse didn’t play well, and I really had no one to blame but myself for being a mediocre student. The apostle Paul is credited with the old adage that you will sow what you reap in life. I agree with Paul and add that this is also true of fantasy football. If you don’t do your homework before draft night, you will reap a subpar fantasy team.

If you’re reading this column, you are already working on your fantasy homework. If you’re just starting, you should start with running back research. Last week I told you there would be two parts to my coverage of fantasy backs. If you missed part one, go back and read it first. The most important information was in the first installment because these are the backs that will be drafted in the first five rounds. The early rounds will make, or break you.

Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott, Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara and Derrick Henry were all discussed last week. They all deserve their lofty ADP ranking. I also gave my opinion on Clyde Edwards-Helaire. I’m leery of Edwards-Helaire only because taking a player who hasn’t logged an NFL snap with a first-round pick is risky. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t draft him at the end of the first or beginning of the second round.

In a 10-team league, expect a minimum of seven and a maximum of nine running backs to be drafted in round one. The exception is Mike Thomas, who will get drafted somewhere in the midst of the RB feeding frenzy. Another four or five will be drafted in the second round. If you fail to draft a back in the first two rounds, you could be looking at the RB15 in the third round. That’s Todd Gurley, and I don’t want him as my RB1 if I can avoid it.

There are other landmines to avoid in the first two rounds. I covered that last week. Let’s move on to the middle rounds of the draft and see who’s worth rostering. David Montgomery has a current ADP of 60 and is usually taken in the fifth round. In my opinion, Montgomery is another player to avoid. He is the lead back in Chicago, and he will get 15 carries per game. But the Bears offense is anemic, and the line was in the bottom quartile last year.

Raheem Mostert, who is also going in the fifth round, is a different story. Watching him in the playoffs last year caused many to believe he will break out in 2020. There’s no denying he’s abundantly talented. Matt Breida was traded to the Dolphins, but Jerick McKinnon is back, and there’s still Tevin Coleman, and Jeff Wilson. Despite being on the roster the past two years under Kyle Shanahan, Mostert has received only 171 carries in 25 games.

D’Andre Swift is the next back in line. The rookie was drafted by Detroit, where running backs go to die. Did you forget that Kerryon Johnson was predicted to be the next Barry Sanders when he was drafted two years ago? Pundits who tout Swift as a breakout back must assume that Swift will stay healthy and get 20 touches per game. But Johnson is still there, and he’s good when he’s healthy. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Matt Patricia using a committee.

Speaking of committee, that brings me to Devin Singletary. Here’s another talented runner who could achieve great things if he had the opportunity. But then there was Frank Gore, who got the goal-line work in spite of being close to 50 years old (or it just seems that way). Gore is gone, and Buffalo drafted Zack Moss. General Manager Brandon Beane says Moss will assume the Gore role, which means that Singletary’s upside will be capped again.

I don’t like Montgomery, Swift or Singletary, but I do like the next in line – Cam Akers. Akers is going in the sixth round of most drafts, and he’s one of the last in the draft that I think could make an impact. The Rams cut ties with Gurley this past off-season. The other backs on the roster are nothing to get excited about. Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown aren’t going to lead this backfield. Akers has a clear path to becoming the next Gurley.

It’s unlikely that you will find an impact back after round six. Kareem Hunt is going in the seventh round, and he’s proved he can perform at an elite level. How can we ever forget 2017, when this rookie rushed for 1,327 yards and caught 53 passes for another 455 yards in Kansas City? The problem for Hunt is that Nick Chubb is the lead back in Cleveland, and Hunt has been relegated to a relief role, used primarily in the passing games.

Ronald Jones II, who is going in the seventh or eighth round, has been called the lead back in Tampa for the last two years. The problem is that he only carried the ball about 10 times per game last year, along with two receptions per game. Twelve touches per game won’t get it done. Perhaps, things could change in the Tom Brady era, but the Bucs also drafted Keshawn Vaughn in the third round, so that tells me it’s going to be a committee.

Other running backs ranked lower than Jones are also part of a committee and should be no more than bench pieces for you. One back that might be worth rostering late is the Patriots’ James White.  White has always been a value in PPR formats, and I am intrigued about the possibility of White getting a lot of work in the passing game if Cam Newton wins the starting job. As I recall, Newton passed a lot in the past to another back named McCaffrey.

Philip Lindsay is RB35, and he is the Rodney Dangerfield of running backs. Consider this fun fact. Over the last two years, only Ezekiel Elliott, Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb, Christian McCaffrey, Chris Carson, Saquon Barkley, Joe Mixon and Todd Gurley have more rushing yards. But Denver signed Melvin Gordon during the offseason. Lindsay put on 10 pounds before reporting to camp this year and still wants to earn some respect.

Matt Brieda is RB37 and may be an RB1 in Miami after his offseason trade. But he appears to be going from one committee in San Francisco to another in Miami. With Jordan Howard also traded to the Dolphins, it’s highly unlikely that Brieda gets a big workload. Frankly, I wouldn’t draft any Dolphins running back. The talented Kenyan Drake averaged 7.5 carries a game in his last season in Miami. Why would the less-talented Brieda be different?

Marlon Mack is RB38, and Colts Coach Frank Reich said recently that Mack is still viewed as the Colts’ starting running back. Drafting Jonathan Taylor in the second round of the NFL draft was a harbinger of a changing of the guard in Indianapolis. But I can recall a similar situation in Seattle two years ago when Rashaad Penny was drafted in the first round and expected to quickly supplant Chris Carter as RB1 at the beginning of 2018.

I can’t leave the subject of running backs without discussing handcuffs. It amazes me how many fantasy owners don’t handcuff their key running backs. If you’re new to our game, the word handcuff is used in fantasy football to describe the act of drafting a player in order to provide insurance for another player already on the roster. For example, if you draft Ezekiel Elliott in the first round, you need to add Tony Pollard later in the draft.

Not all running backs can be handcuffed. The reason is that even a bell cow might be replaced by a committee if he is injured. In other words, handcuffing RBs is not an exact science. The importance of a handcuff depends on several factors, including the value of the starter in question and the overall clarity of the backfield situation and the roster size of your league. In my opinion, no RB drafted after the second round needs a handcuff.

I consider only a few backs worthy of a handcuff. With only 15 or 16 roster spots, you must be frugal. In addition to Elliott, I would handcuff Dalvin Cook if I draft him. His handcuff is Alexander Mattison. Like Pollard, Mattison is a natural handcuff, who’s value will go through the roof if Cook is injured (or holds out). Another natural handcuff is Chase Edmonds for Kenyan Drake. I would also handcuff Alvin Kamara with Latavius Murray.

In conclusion, I’ll tell you that professional football is changing for running backs. Bell cows are harder to find, committees are in place in most NFL cities and you should expect less from the backs you roster in 2020. But that doesn’t mean you don’t give this position the attention it deserves. RB is the position that matters most in fantasy football. And there is a short supply of impact running backs, so do your homework before draft night.

Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, is on Twitter. Follow @ThomasLSeltzer1.

Running backs, part 1

There is simply too much to cover on the subject of fantasy running backs, so I’m going to break this important segment into two parts. This week, we’ll cover the players who can be in your starting lineup every week. Next week, we’ll cover the rest of the crop. You will need to roster four or five of these bad boys, but they are going to be in high demand.

If you don’t employ a Zero-RB strategy, you have to get it right on your first running back selection. If you’re RB1 is a bust, it’s going to be almost impossible to win your league championship. I’m not talking about losing him to an injury, which is fate. Case in point, David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell were being drafted in the middle of the first round last year. They were both busts and are available in the fourth or fifth round.

My first piece of advice is to pray for the No. 1 overall pick. Drafting first, no one in their right mind would not select Christian McCaffrey. To understand how good McCaffrey was last year, consider that if McCaffrey had simply stopped playing football in Week 12, he would have still finished as the No. 1 running back. There are other three-down running backs, but there is no one in the same league with him. He’s truly in a class of his own.

McCaffrey was the NFL’s best fantasy player in PPR leagues and had the second-best fantasy season in NFL history. McCaffrey accumulated 471.2 fantasy points, 1,387 rushing yards, 1,005 receiving yards, and 19 total touchdowns. He also became the third player in NFL history to record 1,000+ receiving and 1,000+ rushing yards in the same year. He led all players in terms of yards from scrimmage, with nearly 2,400 total yards.

There’s not much debate about who should be the No. 2 pick in the draft behind McCaffrey. It’s another workhorse running back who is also used in both the passing and running game. Two years ago, Saquon Barkley was the No. 1 back RB1 PPR formats ahead of McCaffrey. Barkley was basically the entire Giants’ backfield that year. Even more impressive was that he did that with an offensive line that was close to the worst in the NFL.

Barkley was the No. 1 pick in many drafts last year, but then he sustained a high-ankle sprain in the third game. Barkley missed the next three games and performed poorly in weeks 7-14. He carried the ball 117 times for 373 yards, resulting in a mere 3.19 yards-per-carry. He only caught 30 passes on 42 targets for 218 yards. An improved Giants team is continuing to build their offense around him, and Daniel Jones should help Barkley be even more effective.

Ezekiel Elliott is likely to be drafted third in most drafts, and his track record justifies this. He’s never been the top fantasy back in the league, but in the last five years, he’s finished in the top six three times. In spite of these facts, the Cowboys are clearly putting more emphasis on the passing game. This will limit Elliott’s targets in the passing game, but it will also make it less likely that opposing defenses will be able to stack the box.

One of the things that makes Elliott attractive at No. 3 is his consistency. He’s posted RB2 or better numbers in 92.9 percent of his career games, which is better than any running back in recent history. Le’Veon Bell is second with 87.0 percent. Elliott has been healthy throughout his career, but there are a lot of miles on his 25-year-old body heading into his fifth season. If you select him, you need to add his handcuff, Tony Pollard, late in the draft.

The next running backs off the board in your draft will likely be Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara and Derrick Henry – but not necessarily in that order. In a PPR format, you may want Kamara ahead of Henry. In non-PPR, Henry, who led the league in yards gained last year, is the better option. However, I like Cook better than either one of them and might even take him over Elliott with the No. 3 pick. Cook runs fearlessly and is more difficult to bring down.

Another running back that may be taken in the first round of your draft is Joe Mixon. I’ve warned you repeatedly not to do this. Let me just say this about Mixon – I may be wrong, but I’m not in doubt. The pundits point to the idea of Mixon as a three-down back, but he seldom plays more than 60 percent of the snaps. He’s still playing for a terrible team, and you can even add some holdout risk. Joe Burrow under center won’t help him.

Moving on from Mixon, and you’ll still find some very good backs. Josh Jacobs, Nick Chubb, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Aaron Jones are all likely to come off the board in the second round. I favor Chubb and Jones, but both are limited by sharing back duties. Jacobs is limited by his low usage in the passing games. The rookie, Edward-Helaire gets a lot of hype because of his role in the Chiefs backfield. But he hasn’t played a down in the NFL.

I’m going to fade Miles Sanders and Austin Ekeler. Both will likely be drafted in the second round and both are overrated. The Eagles have had a committee approach since Doug Pederson took over. Sanders benefitted in the second half of 2019 after the injury to Jordan Howard and so many receivers but I don’t expect his volume to be as high this year. Although Melvin Gordon is gone, Ekeler is a still going to be part of a committee in Los Angeles.

If Kenyan Drake falls to me late in the second round, it would be hard for me to pass him up. Drake found new life after he joined the Cardinals in week 9. He averaged 15.4 carries for 80.4 rushing yards per contest in eight games. He was the No. 4 running back through the remainder of the fantasy season. The Cardinals trusted him enough to move on from David Johnson and not draft a running back until the seventh round, so he has a solid floor.

After the first two rounds, there are still some excellent backs left to draft. One likely to be taken in the third round is Todd Gurley. The No. 1 fantasy back in 2017, his skills seemed to be diminishing as injuries piled up. If Gurley still has some gas left in the tank at 26, he could have a revival in Atlanta. The Rams offensive struggled in 2019, which hurt Gurley’s production. This year, he’ll be running behind one of the better offensive lines in football.

Another interesting player is Leonard Fournette, who’s volume made him a great play last year. The only running backs who offered RB2 or better numbers more often than Fournette in 2019 were McCaffrey, Elliott, Cook, and Ekeler. The reason why he’s going as late as the third or fourth round this year is because of the injury risk and Jon Gruden’s tendency to favor the committee over the bell-cow approach. But that risk is baked in to his ADP.

If you take the Zero-RB approach, you can still get two good backs in the first five rounds. In addition to Gurley and Fournette, you’ll likely find Bell, Johnson, Chris Carson and Mark Ingram still on the board. All four are worth adding. Carson will likely be gone in the fourth, but Bell, Johnson and Ingram could all be available in the fifth round. Plan on rostering two backs in rounds three, four and five unless you took two early.

Running backs that I am fading in these three rounds are Melvin Gordon, Jonathan Taylor, James Connor and Devin Singletary for a variety of reasons. I fear the committee in Denver and Indianapolis and Buffalo will limit the upside of Gordon, Taylor and Singletary. The injury risk is simply too much for me to tolerate with Conner. I don’t think we’ll be seeing the player that replaced Bell and played so well in the first half of 2018.

Next week, I’m going to cover the rest of the running backs that you might consider adding later in your draft. Those not mentioned this week, or next, are not worth considering on draft night. Another caveat to mention here is that it’s unlikely that you will find an impact running back later than the fifth round of the draft unless there are some key injuries to the above-mentioned backs. Of course, that’s why you handcuff your big dogs.

Follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

Key to your draft success

The first two rounds of your fantasy football draft are critical to your success. Last week, I took a look at the players likely to be drafted in the early rounds, along with some recommendations. Four of the first five picks are likely to be running backs, with Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas the only exception. If you are playing PPR, you can draft Thomas as high as No. 2 overall.

It wouldn’t shock me to see Thomas slip to No. 6, or even lower because there’s so much focus on getting a running back with their first pick. If he falls to you in the second half of round one, consider it an early Christmas present. Don’t expect Thomas to repeat his record-breaking 2019, but he will still project as the target and reception leader in 2020, with a 12-touchdown upside.

There are some landmines to avoid in the first round. The first landmine is Joe Mixon, who’s ADP is currently 9 in PPR. In my opinion, this is crazy high. Mixon plays for a terrible team, and the addition of Joe Burrow isn’t going to transform the Bengals into a contender. The biggest problem for Mixon and Burrows is the offensive line, which was one of the worst last year.

The second landmine to avoid is Miles Sanders, who’s ADP is currently 12. Sanders did little during the first half of the 2019 season. When Jordan Howard got hurt, Sanders averaged 16.3 PPR points. Now, the pundits are putting him at the back of the first round. To do so, you must believe the Eagles are going to pass more to Sanders and move away from the committee approach.

There’s a third running back that’s getting a lot of hype and will probably be taken in the first round. Rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire is the rage in Kansas City with Damien Williams opting out. I’m won’t spend a first-round pick to take a guy who’s never played a down in the NFL. There were no offseason minicamps, training camps have limited practices and there are no preseason games.

If I’m drafting at the end of the first round and beginning of the second, I may grab a pair of wide receivers. Assuming Thomas is gone, Devante Adams, DeAndre Hopkins, Tyreek Hill and Julio Jones may all be available. Last year, I employed the Zero Running Back Strategy in one of my leagues and won the league. In Zero RB, you wait until the fourth or fifth round to take an RB.

This strategy, which was originated by a high-stakes fantasy player named Shawn Siegele, leaves you with just one running back after five rounds. You might have as many as four wide receivers, or three wideouts and a top-tier tight end like Travis Kelce. You could also draft Patrick Mahomes in those first five rounds, although I’m an advocate of waiting to get a quarterback.

The reason why the Zero RB strategy makes sense is that running backs are overvalued by most fantasy owners. If others are drafting backs, they won’t by drafting wide receivers. That leaves value for anyone courageous enough to wait on backs. Keep in mind that you are likely to find Chris Carson, Le’Veon Bell, Melvin Gordon and David Johnson still on the board in the fourth round.

It doesn’t matter whether you apply the Zero RB strategy, or a more traditional one. You’ve got to get it right in the first two rounds. I don’t mean to say you can’t find players to help your team in the later rounds because you certainly can. But don’t believe for a moment that some late-round sleepers are going to rescue you from a disastrous mistake in the first or second round.

The disastrous mistake would be like the one I made in 2018 when I took Bell with the first pick in the draft without hesitation in spite of the fact that he was threatening to hold out for a new contract. In my own defense, most analysts agreed with my contention that he was bluffing. But he wasn’t. Season over. There’s a time to take a risk with your team, but not in the first round.

A player I would put in my top five in a standard league is Derrick Henry. Henry was exceptional last year and at the end of the 2018 season, but the Titans don’t use him in the passing game. Consider that he rushed the ball 303 times for 1,540 yards in 2019 – best in the NFL. But he only caught 18 passes. Compare that to Alvin Kamara, who caught more than four times as many.

Kamara has been PPR gold the past three years, with 81 receptions each year, along with at least 700 yards. However, I wouldn’t put Kamara in my top five in a standard league. While Henry is elevated in a standard league, you must devalue Kamara, who rushed for a mere 797 yards. Kamara only scored five touchdowns last year, which means he should benefit from positive regression.

Someone in your league might draft Lamar Jackson in the first round, pointing to the fact that he led all scorers in total fantasy points last year. And it wasn’t even close. But if you’re counting on Jackson to repeat that performance, you will probably be disappointed. Jackson depends on his legs to be successful, and it’s likely that he won’t run as much in 2020 as he did last year.

My argument for waiting on selecting your quarterback is simply based on supply and demand. Eleven of the top 12 fantasy points leaders in 2019 were quarterbacks. That’s a large supply. Judging by their current ADP, you could get Dak Prescott, third best, or Russell Wilson, fifth best, in the sixth round. Carson Wentz, who finished No. 10, is projected to go in the ninth round.

As you would expect, there are several intriguing players to consider in the second round. Four of them are running backs.  Nick Chubb, Kenyan Drake, Josh Jacobs and Aaron Jones are all on my radar at this point. There are reasons to like each of these backs, but there are also risks.  The risk for Chubb and Jones is they will themselves in a time-sharing arrangement again.

Chubb, one of the most talented backs in football, has another talented back, Kareem Hunt, to contend with for an entire season. When Hunt returned from suspension last year, he had a dramatic effect on Chubb’s share of targets. Although Chubb was second in the league in rushing yards, he only caught 36 passes. Hunt had 37 receptions in eight games after serving his suspension.

I was fortunate enough to pick up Drake on waivers last year when he came to Arizona, and I didn’t regret it. He finished the season as the No. 4 fantasy back over the final eight weeks despite not knowing the playbook when he came over. He knows Kliff Kingsbury’s offense now.  Add DeAndre Hopkins and an improved offensive line to the mix, and Drake could be even better in 2020.

Jacobs was impressive last season as a rookie despite the lackluster Raiders offense and having lost 10 pounds during the season with the flu. He finished eighth overall in total rushing yards in spite of having played only 13 games. But like Chubb he was limited by a limited role in the passing games. The buzz in Las Vegas is that he will be more involved in the passing game in his second season.

Jones caught 49 passes in addition to rushing for more than 1,000 yards last year. But there is risk in taking him in the second round with the Packers drafting A.J. Dillion No. 62 overall. However, Jones had to split the workload with Jamal Williams last season and still managed to finish as the No. 2 running back in fantasy football. He’s worth picking up late in the second round.

You can follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter.

 

Jack be nimble and quick

Professionals who have been writing (and playing) fantasy baseball much longer than I have agree there has never been a season like 2020. A 60-game schedule, COVID cases, players opting out and injuries galore has made team management like trying to navigate your boat in the midst of a storm on the open sea.

The season is hardly two weeks old, and I have already made two trades and 43 waiver wire acquisitions on one of my teams. Okay, a caveat is that the this particular team was drafted on January 30th, so I’ve been messing with it for longer than three weeks. But consider the moves I’ve made just since 5 p.m. Friday.

On the above-mentioned team, I added Colin Moran on Friday evening, Donovan Solono on Sunday and J.P. Crawford this morning.  On another team, I added Kwang-Hyun Kim this morning after Roberto Osuna hit the IL and then dropped Kim and picked up Jairo Diaz after more news on the Cardinals’ COVID outbreak.

In another league, I added Ryan Pressley and Hyun-Jin Ryu this morning. Pressley should replace Osuna as the Astros closer, but he wasn’t available in the league where Osuna was my closer. Just FYI, I am currently managing only three teams, and a personal rule is that I won’t own more than a share of any one player.

The morale of this story is that you need to move quickly as major league baseball news breaks if you want to win your league(s). The 2020 season is only 37 percent as long as a regular season, so you simply don’t have the time to wait on players who are off to a slow start, or listed as day-to-day with nagging injuries.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The waiver wire is your key to success, and you’ve got to work it like your life depends on it. None of the above-mentioned players I acquired had an ownership percentage above 50 percent when I acquired them except Ryu, who was surprisingly dropped by an owner.