Fantasy is a speculative game. Predict the future, and you look like a genius. Don’t, and you’re painfully human. Gazing into the crystal ball, here’s our view on three intriguing August over/unders.
With Jay Cutler now in the fold and Ryan Tannehill likely lost for the season due to an unstable knee, should fantasy owners express PANIC or PATIENCE over the values of Jarvis Landry (37.8 ADP, WR18) and DeVante Parker (76.6, WR36)?
Brad – PANIC (Landry). “Volume dependent” is the best way to describe the slot man. If his targets share (28.1% in ’16) drops to around 25 percent, you’re essentially looking, statistically, at a Stefon Diggs or Willie Snead — solid catches, bland yards, rare TDs. His short target distance (6.6, WR106 in ’16) and minimal red-zone role all offer supportive evidence. Because Landry owns very reliable hands Cutler will occasionally feature him, but with Parker rising, Julius Thomas in the mix and Jay Ajayi expected to be an offensive centerpiece, another 100-receptions seem like a stretch. Draft Landry, who was already pricey pre-Tanny injury, and your season will last longer than this year’s Hall of Fame speeches.
PATIENCE (Parker). Miami’s ascending star not only remains undervalued, he is still a fixture on my WR breakout list. Eyewitnesses, both coaches and media, claim he’s started to tap into his full potential, which fantasy players previously only briefly saw. If his targets share climbs into the 22-24 percent range and his catch percentage inches over 66, he could amass a 75-1000-7 line. Keep in mind, two years ago Cutler was one of the better downfield passers in the league ranking No. 10 in deep-ball completion percentage. I believe he and Parker establish an instant rapport.
Dalton – PANIC (Landry). I’m basically not changing my ranks between these two (I have Parker as my WR22 and Landry my WR29). It’s not ideal Tannehill went down, but Cutler is familiar with Gase’s system, and for all his faults, it sure seems like his big arm would benefit Parker (PATIENCE) the most. By all accounts, coaches have raved about Parker’s growth during the offseason. And I’m buying it. Landry is fine in PPR leagues, but he has nowhere near Parker’s upside given their differences in the red zone. He suffered just one drop last season while getting 8.6 YPT, and Cutler has a history of peppering receivers his size.
Scott – First of all, I’m surprised Miami didn’t consider a year with Matt Moore. He’s one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league, and it’s not like this team wants to play like the Sean Payton Saints or the Air Coryell Chargers.
I’m more inclined to give Landry the benefit of the doubt, the PATIENCE call. He’s already the established player. In Moore’s three regular-season starts last year (I’m merely trying to show this offense with a non-Tannehill tint) he collected a juicy 15-214-2 line. In my recent drafts, Parker’s starting to become a helium player, a player where improvement is priced in. Maybe that flow is stemmed with the QB change, but I’m uncomfortable with the ticket you have to write. You know what a summertime puff piece is, right? PANIC feels like too strong a word, but I realize this is a binary exercise. Queue up The Smiths.
Dalton – LYNCH. Hyde is getting buzz recently, but he simply can’t stay on the field (he’s missed 12 games over the last two years while young and in his prime). Lynch is obviously no sure thing at his age and coming off a season in which he didn’t even play, but Oakland has one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, and it’s clear he’s going to be given every opportunity to be the team’s workhorse (the new coaching regime in San Francisco fought hard to draft Joe Williams and has no ties to Hyde). Hyde has played basically only out of the shotgun in college and since entering the league, so he’s not exactly the best fit for the new 49ers’ system. And Williams is impressing of late. Again, Hyde is just extremely injury prone, and Williams ran a 4.41 40-yard dash. I have a tough time viewing Hyde as a top-20 back, and I’m a 49ers fan.
Scott – Run and HYDE, gamers. Run and Hyde. We all remember that Lynch looked sluggish in 2015 (3.8 YPC, nine games missed) and didn’t play in 2016, right? You want to bet on a 31-year-old back, off a sabbatical, who’s made a living out of seeking out defensive contact? He’s this year’s Easter Bunny pick. Plus, the two Oakland backs behind Lynch (DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard) are talented in their own right.
Hyde has injury concerns too (though he’s about four years younger than Lynch), but there’s not much behind him. Joe Williams has been a mixed bag this summer and Tim Hightower is clearly a JAG. Look what Kyle Shanahan did for Atlanta’s rushing game the last two years.
Brad – HYDE. The rusher’s value has swung violently to and fro much of the summer. Initial reports described a bewildered, cut-worthy Hyde ill-equipped to handle the transition to Kyle Shanahan’s outsize zone. Others say the “tremendous looking” RB is far and away the best back on the team, a player “ready like never before for the upcoming season.” With rookie Joe Williams struggling and Tim Hightower packing the flavor of a boiled shoe, it’s obvious Hyde will lead the Niners charge, a candidate for 70-75 percent of the opportunity share.
Yes, the Niners offensive line remains a giant question mark, but the RB is a terribly underrated three-down contributor. Last season, he ranked top-10 in breakaway percentage (RB8), yards after contact per touch (RB6), total evaded tackles (RB7) and catch rate (RB9). Hyde’s TD ceiling is lower compared to Lynch’s, but he’s several years younger and will take on a more attractive workload. IF he somehow logs 16 games, roughly 1,300 combined yards with 9-11 TDs are possible.
Various reports state Andrew Luck (61.7 ADP, QB4) will avoid the PUP list and start the regular season on time. Still, knowing the the downsides tied to his surgically repaired shoulder are significant. What stoplight color would you assign his draft day value – RED, YELLOW or GREEN?
Scott – RED RED RED. In fantasy football, injuries are going to find you. Why seek out pre-season problems when you don’t have to? Indianapolis has an injured quarterback and a highly questionable offensive line. I’ve drafted over 20 times and I have almost no shares in this offense.
And here’s the other key angle to Luck — we’re looking at one of the deepest quarterback boards in fantasy history. You can find someone you like at every price point. Draft players who excite you, not those that scare you. Common sense is a fantasy player’s best friend. Occam’s Razor for the win.
Brad – FLASHING RED. Chew on this, Luck zealot, among eligible QBs he ranked dead last with a 55.6 clean pocket percentage in 2016. Unsurprisingly, the turnstile up front collectively finished 32 of 32 in pass-blocking efficiency. Most shocking, the Colts did little to their most glaring deficiency this offseason. Ultimately, the front office is banking on its young unit to suddenly age – brazenly idiotic. Hits on the fragile QB will only continue.
The Colts’ receiving arsenal is entirely competent and, when healthy, Luck’s QB1 track-record is documented, but due to the risks attached he falls well outside my top-five. Given the position’s incredible depth, why take the risk on damaged goods at his top-65 ADP?
Dalton – RED. Luck has the upside to win the NFL MVP for sure, but he’s currently dealing with a serious injury involving his throwing shoulder, and for all his potential, the fact is he owns a career 7.2 YPA mark. The quarterback position is as deep as ever. Luck needs to come at a big discount given his injury concern right now.