2016 Fantasy Football Rankings: Quarterbacks 2.0

On the day of the 2016 NFL Draft, let’s revisit the current Fantasy quarterback landscape. One of the biggest moves in Free Agency came at the position, but there were other moves that both helped and hurt the value for multiple QBs. See who rises or falls as you prepare WAY TOO EARLY for your draft this summer.

1. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

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Save your Super Bowl 50 hot takes. It’s highly probable you reached your Fantasy Championship last year because you had Cam Newton starting down the stretch. The 13 touchdowns he threw in weeks 12-14 would suggest so. The offseason moves the Panthers made prior to this week would suggest they are committed to continue running with him and Jonathan Stewart. Letting Josh Norman walk freed up $14 million more of cap room to work with. Let’s see what else is added to Newton’s offense, on top of a returning Kelvin Benjamin.

 

2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots

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(For now, Brady stays here until we know for sure that his suspension will hold up for the season)

Last year’s biggest steal for many (before his suspension was lifted) just added another scary red zone target in Martellus Bennett. Tom Brady was a magician last year with a depleted receiver group, yet threw the 3rd highest touchdown total of his career (36) and averaged 298 yards per game. He’ll be 39 as the 2016 season starts, but there wasn’t much evidence of him slowing down yet.

 

3. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

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Okay, I’ve come to my senses. Aaron Rodgers is good at football, I know. I still wouldn’t recommend spending a 1st or early 2nd round pick on him, but adding Jared Cook to Rodgers’ arsenal helps in the red zone. The Packers aren’t particularly known for 2-TE looks, but they have that option now from 25 yards and in. If Eddie Lacy meets his “comeback” hype too, the Packers offense could be devastating and that would benefit Rodgers owners the most.

 

4. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals

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Carson Palmers numbers were very similar to Tom Brady’s last season. The Cardinals also brought the band back together, re-signing Jermaine Gresham, Chris Johnson, and Jaron Brown. They are 5 deep in quality WRs, and the Top 3 stack up with any group in the league. As long as the 36-year old can be held upright, you should get the consistent 2 touchdowns and 290 yards per game at least.

 

5. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

NFC Championship - San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks

Russell Wilson’s 21/2 TD-to-INT ratio from Week 10-15 are exactly why you put him in the Top 5. He put up his highest touchdown total in 2015 (34), which was 14 more than the season prior. What makes you hesitant is his annual slow start. Since being drafted in 2012, Wilson has averaged 1.3 touchdowns and 210.25 yards per game through through first 5 weeks of the season. What’s nice is that he hardly turned the ball over, but you’re hoping Seahawks play-callers stick to the formula they found last season, attacking downfield with Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett.

 

6. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars

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In his first two seasons, Blake Bortles was the most sacked quarterback in the league. Improving his touchdown total by 24 (35 in 2015) was pretty encouraging though, as was finding chemistry with two of the game’s most consistent receivers. The Jaguars added some offensive line help picking up former Steelers tackle Kelvin Beachum and improved their defense by signing Malik Jackson and Tashaun Gipson. Having Chis Ivory in the backfield too should also help forcing opposing defenses to fill the box. It’s safe to assume #BortlesKombat will continue to heat up.

 

7. Eli Manning, New York Giants

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Eli Manning, of all people, has challenged Odell Beckham Jr. to improve for next season. I guess a quarterback and captain is responsible for that, but Beckham continued to be the best thing going for the Giants offense having scored 25 touchdowns in 2 seasons. Manning seems to finally be getting a healthy Victor Cruz back and Dwayne Harris made solid strides as the #3 guy. Coming off the highest touchdown total of his career (35), Manning should build on it with another year of OBJ and the same offensive play-calling should make.

 

8. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

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Drew Brees missed his first game since 2009 last season and still finished the season with 32 touchdowns and  4,870 yards (324 yards per game). He’s younger than Brady but might have a bit more wear-and-tear. However, the extension Sean Payton received makes me think he’s going to come out firing with his QB this year. Brees has an elite deep option in Brandin Cooks, two other solid receivers in Brandon Coleman and Willie Snead, a new red zone threat in Coby Fleener and two effective pass catching running backs…Things are looking bright.

 

9. Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders

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After adding Donald Penn, the Raiders offensive line is now one of the best in all of football. When he wasn’t under pressure, Derek Carr had a passer rating of 96.4 last year. That and the 32 touchdowns he threw should improve as his chemistry with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree do as well.

 

10. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

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Losing Martavis Bryant hurts the Steelers offense a lot. He is a top tier talent and Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t necessarily his best during his 5-game suspension last season, 7 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Roethlisberger’s longtime go-to tight end also retired. However, the Steelers upgraded at the position by signing Ladarius Green and they still have Antonio Brown, plus  Le’Veon Bell returns. I don’t know if you can trust Big Ben to stay in one piece all season, but his knack for 3+ touchdown games and average of 328 yards per last season make him Top 10 worthy.

 

11. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

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Which Andrew Luck will we get this year? The one who went 2-5 and threw just 15 touchdown passes last season, or the one who threw 40 the year before? The Colts didn’t add much to their offensive line to protect him but they do still have speedsters T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief to throw downfield to. It will be interesting to see how Luck bounces back.

 

12. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

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Philip Rivers could be had for great value. With a healthy Keenan Allen through 8 games, Rivers averaged 344 yards and 2 touchdowns per game. Then Ken Whisenhunt rejoined the Chargers staff, who helped Rivers get his groove back in 2013, and they added the Cleveland Browns’ #1 receiver, Travis Benjamin. If everyone stays healthy, the Chargers could have a very high powered offense.

 

13. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals

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Andy Dalton had a great season before his injury last year. 25 touchdowns and 7 interceptions are much better than the 19 and 17 before then. His #2 and #3 receivers, Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, left via free agency but it doesn’t hurt to have weapons like AJ Green, Tyler Eifert and Giovani Bernard. Brandon LaFell also joins the Bengals offense and possibly a first round quality receiver too from this year’s draft.

14. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

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Matthew Stafford is coming off his 2nd 30+ touchdown season of his career (32), but he’s going to be doing so without Calvin “Megatron” Johnson. The Lions did their best to fill the need at WR by picking up Marvin Jones, the best WR on the market after Alshon Jeffrey was franchised tagged, and Golden Tate has proven he can shine without Megatron. What’s also encouraging are the 17 touchdowns Stafford threw in the final 6 weeks of the season. His two running backs, Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick, are strong in the passing game as well.

 

15. Kirk Cousins, Washington

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I’m not sure how Kirk Cousins is supposed to feel about getting franchise tagged and then seeing Josh Norman get a $75 million contract after. If he wants to get paid more somewhere though, it would be in his best interest to play like the guy who threw 11 touchdown passes and zero interceptions over his last 3 games. He finished the season with a 101.6 passer rating and a healthy Jordan Reed can only help that continue in 2016.

 

16. Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears

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It’s taken a long time but it finally appears the Chicago Bears are putting a proper offense around Jay Cutler. The franchise tagged the best WR in free agency, Alshon Jeffrey. They sured up the right side of their offensive line by adding tackle Bobby Massie and kicking Pro Bowler Kyle Long back to guard. They also get to find out what Kevin White is made of. Continuity in offensive scheme and better coaching should keep the arrow pointing up for Cutler.

 

17. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins

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We go from one Adam Gase project to the next. Ryan Tannehill was on a steady track, improving on touchdown totals for his first 3 seasons, but took a step back in 2015 with a coaching staff that really didn’t seem to know what they were doing. He can throw and he can run. His new head coach specializes in utilizing quarterbacks with Tannehill’s talent in play-action, minimizing their mistakes. His Top WR, Jarvis Landry, also looks ready to explode.

18. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

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Matt Ryan should be much higher, but his 2015 season makes it very fair to doubt his abilities. With arguably the best WR in football, Julio Jones, and an emerging star at running back, Devonta Freeman, Ryan only threw 21 touchdowns last year. Only once did he throw 3 or more touchdowns in a game. Only ONCE in his career has thrown 30+ touchdowns in a season. Too often did you see him turn the ball over on scoring drives or get stopped because of his own inaccuracy. The Falcons upgraded his protection this year by adding Alex Mack at center and replaced Roddy White with Mohamed Sanu. It’s now or never, Matty Ice.

 

19. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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While Marcus Mariota started out hot, Jameis Winston may have finished the 2015 season looking like the better rookie quarterback. Despite losing 5 of his last 7 games, Winston’s numbers improved after a 5 touchdown performance against the Eagles. He also gets back the best RB that was available in free agency, Doug Martin, and hopefully Mike Evans finds a cure for “the drops”. It will be interesting to see how the team handles itself without Lovie Smith and with Dirk Koetter in charge.

 

20. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys

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It’s really tough to feel confident in Tony Romo as the #1 Fantasy quarterback on your roster. The backfield situation looks better with a committee of Darren McFadden, Alfred Morris and a healthy Lance Dunbar. If those guys get going, you might get the 34-TD Romo. If they don’t, then you have to worry about another season ending injury. Health will be key for both Romo and Dez Bryant in 2016. If by chance they draft Ezekiel Elliott though, you can feel a lot better about the Cowboys in general.

 

21. Brock Osweiler, Houston Texans

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There was one quarterback signing in the offseason that made serious waves and that was Brock Osweiler to Houston. He traded throwing to Demaryius Thomas for DeAndre Hopkins and an offensive scheme that earned Brian Hoyer a 100+ passer rating in 5 of his 11 games started. It’s hard to predict how good Osweiler will be after such a small sample size. He threw 10 touchdowns and 6 interceptions in 7 games with Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders as his options. Do Hopkins, Cecil Shorts III, Jalen Strong and fellow signee Lamar Miller help him improve those numbers?

22. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens

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“Is Joe Flacco a elite?” – One of my favorite Twitter jokes in sports.

Flacco’s never thrown more than 27 touchdowns in his career. He followed up his highest season total with a season-ending injury and just 14 TDs in 10 games. The Ravens are committed to Flacco though, extending him for another 3 years in the offseason. He’ll have Steve Smith Sr. playing his final season and wanting to go out with a bang. They also added Mike Wallace and Benjamin Watson to improve the receiving corps and prepare for for the annual Dennis Pita injury.

 

23. Marcus Mariota, Tenesse Titans

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Marcus Mariota had probably the most impressive start to his career you could ask for, throwing 4 touchdowns in the opener against his rookie counterpart, Jameis Winston. He’d match that total again vs. the Saints while adding 371 yards. However, he was shut out in the TD column 5 times and was only healthy for 12 games. Trading for DeMarco Murray shows the Titans are very committed to the run for 2016, which should help take pressure off Mariota in his sophomore season and set up his passing game better.

 

24. Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs

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Alex Smith is a very good game manager, at this point in his career and he can at times be a decent waiver pickup when your #1 guy is on a bye. Twice in 2015, Smith threw 2 touchdowns and ran for another and he was finally back to finding wide receivers in the end zone again (that’s progress, considering the year and half long streak of not throwing TDs to WRs). Smith will also be getting Jamaal Charles back, who is monster when catching the ball out of the backfield.

25. Teddy Bridgewater

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In year 3 of the Teddy Bridgewater era, the Vikings bulked up their offensive line by adding Andre Smith and Alex Boone. After being sacked 44 times last season, that’s a welcomed upgrade for Bridgewater. He’s thrown only 14 touchdowns in each of his first 2 seasons and the Vikings have yet to improve their receiver depth, but more attention to Adrian Peterson by defenses should open things up for Bridgewater this time around.

Anyone too high or too low? Was anyone left out? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter

More Position Rankings:

Running Backs (2.0)

Quarterbacks (1.0)

Wide Receivers (1.0)

NFL Week 9 Fantasy Mailbag

The second half of the fantasy season starts tonight with an AFC North rivalry matchup between the Bengals and the Browns. It’s likely been a serious waiver wire week for you with bye weeks and injuries to Le’Veon Bell, Matt Forte, Keenan Allen, Steve Smith Sr., and the entire Niners backfield all included. Let’s take a look at the best top waiver wire picks from this season. Coincidentally, a few will be featured in tonight’s game on NFL Network.

Quarterback – Andy Dalton, CIN

15 TD / 4 INT, 1,992 pass yards, 2 rushing TDs

Dalton TD

Any reason to recount that A-Dalt touchdown, I’ll take it.

In the first handful of weeks, people waited for Andy Dalton to fall apart and he didn’t. There was also a stretch of 4 games with potentially tough passing matchups (Baltimore, Kansas City, Seattle and Buffalo), and Dalton averaged 319.5 yards and 2.25 touchdowns against them. Having AJ Green and Marvin Jones healthy and Tyler Eifert playing to his potential are huge factors for that and why his success should sustain.

RB – Dion Lewis, NE

229 rush yards, 2 TDs / 32 catches, 349 receiving yards, 2 TDs

Dion TD

When you’re a running back in Bill Belichick’s system and you get on his good side, your numbers are going to benefit greatly from it. Dion Lewis was expected to be Shane Vereen’s replacement, but he’s he’s Shane Vereening better than Shane Vereen could (if that makes sense). In the 6 games Lewis has played, he has had more with double-digit touches than Marshawn Lynch, has scored touchdowns than Adrian Peterson, and more 100+ total yard games than Frank Gore and Justin Forsett.

WR – Allen Robinson, JAX

34 catches, 586 yards, 6 TDs

A-Rob TD

As Blake Bortles’s stock has risen, so has A-Rob’s. You can’t really sit him when he’s averaged 5.5 catches, 93 yards and 1 TD over the last 6 games. Robinson also leads all receivers in receptions of 20+ yards with 14.

TE – Gary Barnidge, CLE

40 catches, 567 yards, 6 TDs

Barnidging

Oh you didn’t draft Gronk? No worries because Gary Barnidge was available for EVERYONE after the first 3 weeks of the season. 30 years old and playing better than the rest of the tight ends in the league, Barnidge has scored touchdowns or caught for over 100 yards in every game since Week 3.

Mail Time!

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QB – That’s a really nice problem to have. While Philip Rivers is going to continue throwing it more than anyone with crazy high volume, but Ben Roethlisberger has the better matchup with better weapons to throw to as well. The Raiders are allowing 312 pass yards per game, 2nd most in the league.

WR – I’m not as jealous as this group as I was your QBs. I feel the most comfortable about Eric Decker against the Jaguars. Ryan Fitzpatrick being a little banged up means he’ll go to his possession option more which is Decker, and he has scored in 5 of his last 6 games. Then I go with Stefon Diggs despite facing a tough Rams defense. Diggs has earned the starting spot as the Vikings downfield playmaker. Not only do I hate Hilton’s matchup and quarterback (at the moment), the MRI he had on his foot and missing some practice doesn’t give me much optimism.

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Time for the “Reverse Rivers”…which isn’t as suggestive as you think, ya sicko!

Philip Rivers is going to throw a ton on Monday Night Football with the San Diego run game being weak and the Bears only giving up 2 rushing touchdowns all weekend. He’ll be without Allen, but he has to chuck it out of necessity. In games that Rivers has thrown at least 37 passes, he averages 381 yards and 2.4 touchdowns. The gameplan for the Bengals tonight should be very run oriented anyway as the Browns are giving up more rush yards than anyone in the league.

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Does Los Angeles count since they’ll be receiving the Rams soon?

I really wanted to pull the Lee Corso “Not so fast, my friend!” but I can’t, in my heart of hearts. Tavon Austin is the one decent option if your league counts return yards and you need a spots start out of someone. Austin has 6 total touchdowns with 2 coming on the rush, and 141 yards running too.

But Todd Gurley is the only viable option out of St. Louis and in a big big way…

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WR – Neither option is great and they are both going against incredible pass defenses, but I lean toward James Jones simply for the Aaron Rodgers factor.

QB – Big Ben for the reasons I listed above.

…and Todd Gurley is the realness. He’s the best running back in the league right now and if he stays healthy, I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Have more lineup questions? Feel free to ask on both Facebook and Twitter! Also, don’t hesitate to post any questions for next week’s Mailbag. Good luck this weekend! 

Go Home Bills Fans…You’re Drunk. The Drunkest In The League, Actually.

“Year One” of the Rex Ryan era has driven Buffalo Bills fans to drinking.

That’s not a joke. With data from smartphone breathalyzer app BACtrack, cross-referenced with Twitter’s fan allegiance map, Bills fans are leading the league in average Blood Alcohol Content.

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BAC levels among NFL fans were gathered and examined from games starting in the pre-season through October 26th. Atop the list on game day were Bills fans with an average 0.076 BAC. Tied for 2nd behind Buffalo are Detroit Lions fans (0.069) and Philadelphia Eagles fans…with batteries in their pockets, waiting to be thrown.

Drinking the least on game day are Cincinnati Bengals fans (0.015) and Tennessee Titans fans (0.021). However, left off the list are Raiders, Jaguars, Jets, Rams and Buccaneers fans due to insufficient data. Curious Bears fans can see they are ranked 11th with a BAC of 0.054.

The study was conducted to find out if an NFL team’s record was had an impact on their fan base’s drinking habits. That correlation was unfound with the 1 win Titans being the “case in point.” Drinking levels were proven to increase with 2/3 the NFL audience as BAC averages rise from the pre-season to the regular season.

It should be noted that BACtrack Consumption Reports are released in order to provide insight to the drinking habits around the country so consumers can consider the effects of alcohol…

…or you end up like Dizzy Bat Guy below.

Dizzy Bat

For more, follow along on Facebook and Twitter

NFL Week 7 Fantasy Mailbag

Before we get into the meaningful and important information you are dying for in order to set your lineup, can we enjoy the worst play call in the history of football once more?

Colts Fake Punt

The Colts have become an easy target as of late, especially on this site, but you can’t help but ask “How did you think this was going to go?”. Fortunately, the internet blessed us with a fantastic TECMO reenactment for us to watch over and over again.

Of course Bill Belichick’s Patriots are no stranger to teams acting a fool against them. For #ThrowBackThursday, they recalled another great football folly that their opponent this weekend (and Mark Sanchez) will never forget.

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Quick Hits

  • This year’s “Hard Knocks” team is on the struggle bus, as the Houston Texans are just 2-4 on the season so far and Bill O’Brien’s seat is rising in temperature by the week. Fantasy owners with DeAndre Hopkins on their roster aren’t mad though. Hopkins is riding a 4-game streak of 100+ yards (148 or more in his last 3), has only caught less than 8 passes once this season, and is on pace to top 190 targets this season. Since 2007, only Brandon Marshall and Calvin Johnson have accomplished that.

DeHop

  • If you kept Todd Gurley stashed on your bench after drafting him, you’re reaping all the benefits now. In just the last two games, Gurley has run for more than 300 yards and has accumulated more 20+ yard runs than Matt Forte, Chris Ivory, and Devonta Freeman have all season. Gurley also has a plum matchup this weekend against a Browns team that has given up more rush yards than anyone in the league.

Gurley

  • Do they even run the ball in San Diego anymore? Philip Rivers (Batman Woo!) threw 65 passes last week against the Packers, completing 43 for 503 yards and 2 touchdowns. Rivers has thrown for 350+ yards in each of his last 3 games, 4 of his 6 games this season, and you can’t expect him to slow down against a Raiders secondary that’s allowing 308 yards per game passing this season. The fact Rivers leads the league in pass attempts this season, 42 per game, is encouraging for Rivers owners…Not so much if you have Melvin Gordon, but very much so for Keenan Allen.

Mail Time!

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I included both your questions together for one reason and one reason only…

#BORTLEKOMBAT!

I plan to rock that hashtag throughout the Jaguars/Bills games in London this weekend, but that’s not why you called…

#BortleKombat has been on full assault the past two weeks as Blake has thrown 7 touchdowns and 4 picks in that time. His matchup this weekend is pretty sexy this week as he takes on Rexy (see what I did there) and his Bills defense. The Allens (Robinson and Hurns) are are licking their chops over facing a secondary that has given up the 3rd most passing touchdowns this season…However, everything is coming up Breesus as the King of the Drews is finding comfort in tight end Ben Watson and the downfield tandem of Willie Snead and Brandin Cooks. What’s worse than the Bills pass defense? The Colts pass defense. They have given up 300+ pass yards for the past 4 weeks and Vontae Davis can’t cover everyone.

Two answer both questions I’m going Breesus > #BortleKombat > Eli’s Face.

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When Andre Johnson went to Indy, I was pumped to see how he would with a real quarterback. Unfortunately, he looks like an old school tight-end in an Andre Johnson jersey. Unless you can handcuff him in a trade, Johnson’s value is simply for dropping in order to pickup a more useful player.

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I am assuming you are the one picking up Forte and Lewis, and if that’s the case…DO IT! People have stashed Dez Bryant hoping he’ll come back and tear things up again. I doubt Bryant returns this week, but he isn’t too far away. Until Tony Romo returns, I’m concerned about who is throwing him the ball. Dez will catch anything that’s thrown within 5 feet of him though…Matt Forte and Dion Lewis down the stretch are a hell of a starting RB combo. If Team 1 has Marshawn Lynch and Chris Ivory already, I understand them making the deal. I don’t see a loser, but Team 2 is getting the better value heads-up.

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Anyone who asks me about starting Antonio Brown will get this from me.

Brown kick

Big Ben is practicing and his status is questionable. Yes, I’m saying there’s a chance…Regardless though, Landry Jones proved he can sling it last week. Brown is arguably the best football playing in the sport. Despite some weird weeks lacking targets, you have to play him. Both Roethlisberger and Jones will target him and should do so.

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I like Dion Lewis a lot, but not this week against the Jets. On the other sideline, I love Chris Ivory. His aggressive running has helped set up the surprisingly efficient passing game for New York. He also has the 3rd most rushing yards in the league at this point.

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Stefon Diggs has been a sexy waiver name this week and rightfully so. Finally, someone not named Adrian Peterson is producing for the Vikings and he has a nice matchup going against a Lions defense that even let Marquise Wilson of the Bears blow by them last week. I like Robert Woods, but I’m very skeptical of EJ Manuel throwing as opposed to him running. Prioritize Diggs > Woods.

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This is now a weekly question with you, and I’m okay with that…Anywho, you have one more week with Pierre Garcon as a #1 wideout, as it looks like DeSean Jackson is a week away from returning. Go ahead and start Garcon as Jordan Matthews has a rough matchup against Carolina this week.

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Melvin Gordon is such a tough read because you don’t know if the Chargers even want to run at this time with their banged up offensive line. At least I know he’s getting the ball. If it was a PPR league, I would recommend The Duke, but he’s only used in passing down situations and is now sharing a backfield with not only Isaiah Crowell but Robert Turbin as well. The only thing I trust from the Browns against the Rams offense is Gary Barnidge in the end zone. Go with Gordon.

I, like you, also picked up Christine Michael to have stashed and I’m also going to wait a week to see how the Cowboys use him. A young athletic back behind that Cowboys offensive line should be great, but your combo of Bell and Murray makes him more of a luxury than a necessity. He’s too unknown on the field to confidently trot him out. Going against the Giants is a nice measuring stick though.

Have more lineup questions? Feel free to ask on both Facebook and Twitter! Also, don’t hesitate to post any questions for next week’s Mailbag. Good luck this weekend! 

NFL Week 3 Fantasy Mailbag

My favorite ongoing social media sports joke may in fact be the Andrew Luck “Civil War Era” Letters when things go wrong…

Andrew Luck Civil War

“My Dearest Abigail,

It is with much regret I must report our efforts to protect the homefront against the Jet brigade of New York were for nought. General Pagano was displeased with my inability to conquer the Isle of Revis. We lost our position upon the field on at least three occasions and despite the valiance of Private Moncrief, our company was forced into retreat. We will regroup and look to return to prominence as we move toward Nashville, led by the youthful Colonel Mariota.

Your beloved,

Andrew”

Be better, Andrew. 

Quick Hits

  • In better quarterback news, the Tom Brady Revenge Tour rolls after he completely destroyed what would probably be his toughest matchup all year. Brady dropped 3 touchdowns and 466 yards against Rex Ryan’s Bills defense in Buffalo. For the 15th time, an NFL record, the Patriots won after Brady throws 50+ passes. In perspective, Peyton Manning has 17 games throwing 50 or more passes and has a 4-13 record doing so. Hall of Famers Dan Marino and Warren Moon are tied for second in wins throwing that many passes…just 5 each. 

Brady vs Bills

  • If you drafted Le’Veon Bell and had him stashed until this week, it’s time to unleash the beast. In 15 of the 16 games he played in 2014, Bell recorded 100+ total yards and/or scored a touchdown. He also was the league’s 40th leading receiver in terms of yards, and had the most among all running backs. Ben Roethlisberger owners should really like that as well. Bell will lace’em up against a Rams defense that allowed 6.5 yards per carry to Washington rookie running back Matt Jones a week ago. Welcome back, Le’Veon. 

Bell Week 3

  • If you were on the “Odell Beckham Jr’s overrated” bandwagon, get the hell off it. ODB (as I refer to him) came back in a hurry last week against the Falcons, catching 7 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown that looked like he ran threw a Super Mario star. This weekend, Beckham lines up opposite from a Washington defense that gave up the most touchdowns to wide receivers a year ago (23). In his only game against them, ODB caught 12 passes for 143 yards and 3 touchdowns. 

Mail Time!

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The universe is testing you Jason, and I know…It’s not fair. This coming from someone who started Peyton Manning in Week 1 and Tony Romo in Week 2. The WR1 epidemic is awful and hamstrings are a bitch, but I’m hoping you either drafted well or went hard on your waiver wire. There are a few adds I would recommend if you haven’t yet though:

Travis Benjamin helped Johnny Football out a lot last weekend, recording 115 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 3 catches. Won’t light it up PPR wise, but he has that “go-up-and-get-it” ability that got Josh McCown paid after his stint in Chicago. If you get return points in your league, Benjamin becomes all the more attractive against the Raiders.

Michael Crabtree is averaging 12 targets per game after his first two starts in Raider black and silver. Not a great matchup going against Cleveland, but you would think Amari Cooper will draw the Joe Haden coverage more. Cooper getting the majority of opposing secondary attention helps Crabtree’s production, as does a healthy Derek Carr that will be playing more catchup in ballgames than not.

Leonard Hankerson is doing what many Roddy White and Julio Jones owners in the past have become familiar with from Harry Douglas. When either of the Top 2 Falcons WRs were injured (or going ghost like White has a tendency to do), Douglas was a PPR machine. Hankerson had 6 catches and a touchdown on 11 targets last week. The Dallas defense may sober his admirers this weekend, but he has two great matchups afterwards against Houston and Washington.

Nate Washington is a notorious spot-start guy in Fantasy and that may be the case here whether DeAndre Hopkins goes against Tampa or doesn’t. Ryan Mallett threw 58 passes a week ago and Washington is averaging over 18 yards per reception. Probably a sleeper play, but it makes a lot of sense if you’re desperate.

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There’s an interesting conundrum with Alfred Morris and Matt Jones in the backfield for Washington. The running attack appears to be their offense’s bread and butter and Jones became the flavor of the week out-carrying Morris last week 19-18. What’s worse for Morris is that Jones actually catches passes and was trusted more late in the game last week against the Rams…I would go with with Pierre Garcon based on the targets he gets on short yardage downs, Morris’s role being diminished, the Giants being competent against the run, and Duke Johnson still being the #2 man in Cleveland.

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Glad you were able to walk threw #1…I know you’re probably frustrated with the guys who are likely your Top 2 drafted RBs, but this may be the week to reap the benefits of taking them. Latavius Murray has a plumb rushing matchup against a Browns defense that let Dexter F’ing McCluster run for nearly 100 against them and has allowed 300+ rush yards in 2 weeks. The Raiders should be feeding Murray until he pukes…Because the Lions have no clue how to use obviously their best back in Ameer Abdullah, I lean toward Justin Forsett in your flex. He’s the second most targeted receiver for the Ravens and 2nd on the team in catches too going up against a Bengals defense that has allowed the most running back touchdown receptions so far in this young season.

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I would start Forsett exactly for reasons I listed above…and then I look to Dion Lewis. The Imitation Game that is Bill Belichick’s running back strategy may have been cracked. Even after a fumble (GASP), Lewis was still getting love in the Patriot’s offense. He has over 100 combo yards in each of his first two games, and at least 5 touches of 10 or more yards in both as well. Lamar Miller just isn’t getting enough usage for me to feel comfortable playing him yet, which is super unfortunate.

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Among the two WRs, I lean toward Terrance Williams. After Romo went down last week, Williams looked like the Cowboys’ best offensive weapon. Brandon Weedon is pretty gross, but he will at least be held upright behind the Dallas OL. The Falcons secondary is also allowing the third highest passing percentage to quarterbacks so far this season…Now you can comfortably wait and see if Eddie Lacy can go Monday night against the Chiefs. If he does, you definitely start James Jones. If not, then there’s an argument to be had. The KC front 7 is better at rushing the quarterback than they are stopping the run, and James Starks would get plenty of work against them. Jones doesn’t get enough targets (just 7 in 2 games) for me to feel comfortable playing him over someone who is guaranteed touches. Go with Starks if he’s the #1 running back on Monday.

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I am assuming you meant John Brown and if so, you should start him. I know Larry Fitzgerald had a resurrection game, but consider who it was against. The 49ers are ripe for the taking when it comes to #1 WRs and John Brown has taken most of his reps in the X spot. Expect Carson Palmer to keep tossing bombs and for Brown to be at the end of quite a few…Now for your flex. The reasons above are why I don’t trust James Jones as much as many. Todd Gurley is finally ready to go and appears nowhere on the injury report. Gurley is part of a committee but I believe he has the highest ceiling among any of your options. If return points count in your league, go with Benjamin. He has the same number of targets as Jones, but more big play ability. If not, take a chance on Gurley. It’s early enough in the season where taking chances is fun and not terrifying.

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It’s #TyrodTime, my friend. We saw Drew Brees’s decline begin a year ago, and he overcompensated by throwing more than any quarterback in the league. Until he can do more than 1 TD and 1 INT in a game, can you trust him?…Let Taylor do his thing until the league figures him out.

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I won’t argue against Crowell in this situation. In a standard league, which I assume doesn’t count return yard points, James Jones does have a leg up on Travis Benjamin given the quarterbacks throwing to them. However if Vontae Davis is out this weekend for Indy, start Kendall Wright. As we saw last Monday, that Colts secondary is horrendous and it doesn’t get any better with Davis out. Marcus Mariota could potentially be having a field day this weekend.

Have more lineup questions? Feel free to ask on both Facebook and Twitter! Also, don’t hesitate to post any questions for next week’s Mailbag. Good luck this weekend! 

NFL Week 2 Fantasy Mailbag

Week 1 is in the books, and we’re off and running! 

Tyler Lockett return TD

The return of the NFL to your Sundays, and big return touchdowns from Tyler Lockett (SEA), Jarvis Landry (MIA) and Tavon Austin (STL), had everyone buzzing after the weekend. Top receivers like T.Y. Hilton (IND) and DeSean Jackson (WSH) had Fantasy managers all over the waiver wire for suitable replacements. If you had Peyton Manning, have you already tried handcuffing him in a trade for someone who you feel confident about throwing further than 10 yards?…I did. 

Quick Hits 

  • If you haven’t traded Peyton yet, because you couldn’t or you want to hold out hope, picking up Marcus Mariota certainly seemed like the sexy move after his NFL debut with the Titans. Mariota became the first rookie to post a perfect passer rating (158.3) and the second to throw 4 touchdowns in his debut. Fran Tarkenton was the first in 1961, but Mariota accomplished the feat in just the first half…I wouldn’t expect the the same dominance against the likes of Joe Haden and the Browns defense this week, but Super Mariota is worth having on your bench. 

  • Hard not to feel good about the offense that takes on that Buccaneers defense after you saw what a rookie quarterback and Bishop Sankey did to them. At home, Drew Brees, Brandin Cooks, and maybe even Brandon Coleman will eat the Tampa secondary alive. Mark Ingram owners should also be excited for the matchup after seeing his usage in the passing game last week. CJ Spiller is set to return, but Ingram shouldn’t lose too many snaps after leading all running backs in receiving yards with 98 on 8 catches. 
  • It’s scary to think Julio Jones is getting better, right? The Falcons WR, who ran a 4.3 40-yard dash on a broken foot in his draft combine, proved Monday Night how essential he is to the new Atlanta offense with 9 catches on 11 targets for 141 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jones would have been closer to 200 yards had two of his big plays not been called back on holding calls. Expect another big week out of him against the Giants after they allowed the 2nd most pass yards in their season opener. 

Mail Time

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I know Donte Moncrief became a favorite pickup for many after Hilton went down in Week 1, and I get it. Moncrief has all the measurables, the speed, and the quarterback that make him viable as Hilton’s replacement. However, I don’t love him against the Jets and Darrelle Revis. In two games against Revis, Hilton recorded just 4 catches for 60 yards. That doesn’t spark much excitement from me for Moncrief…While the Rams defensive line is indeed terrifying, their secondary allowed the 3rd most catches to wide receivers last week and that bodes well for Washington’s new #1 WR Pierre Garcon. During his string of starts in 2013, Kirk Cousins targeted Garcon an averaged of 12.2 times over 5 games. Moncrief still has to share balls with Andre Johnson, Phillip Dorsett, Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen. Rashad Jennings made things murkier after throwing his quarterback under the bus, while also losing touches to Andrew Williams and Shane Vereen. I like Tevin Coleman most longterm, as he separated himself as the more reliable back from Devonta Freeman. For Week 2, Garcon is your best option.

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To answer your first question, go Matt Ryan for sure. I know the Bears secondary looks very tempting, but the Giants look even worse with their unit. If the Tony Romo was able to shred them without Dez Bryant, imagine what Ryan will do with both Jones and Roddy White healthy….

Your first option at running back should be Latavius Murray. The Ravens defense got worse against the run losing Terrell Suggs, and Murray was used like an every-down back and useful in PPR catching 7 passes against a better Bengals D….Sankey looked great last week, but when has he proven that he can be consistent on the pro level? CJ Anderson is banged up and Ronnie Hillman certainly emerged as a threat to take touches away. Joique Bell also didn’t do anything to quiet the Ameer Abdullah fan club…Only because the matchup isn’t great for Anderson do I recommend Sankey over him, but it’s very begrudgingly. The Browns may be harshing his mellow very quickly.

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See my previous answer about the latter 2 and just go with TJ Yeldon. The Jaguars offensive line graded out in the Top 3 for run blocking last week and Alfred Morris burned the Dolphins defense for 125 yards.

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One can assume LeGarrette Blount is going to get feature back duties this weekend returning from suspension, but when could you ever assume anything with Bill Belichick running backs? Blount also comes back against a scary Buffalo front 7…Danny Woodhead, on the other hand, took more than half of the Chargers snaps last weekend, scored 2 touchdowns, and was the second most targeted player for Philip Rivers. Rookie Melvin Gordon may get more work in his second start, but I trust Woodhead’s opportunities over Blount’s…especially in the red zone.

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The most reliable player in this scenario is CJ Anderson, and that’s scary. With talks that both Todd Gurley and Tre Mason being ready to go this weekend makes Benny Cunningham a lot less valuable. I would recommend Lockett if you got return points for him, but he still needs to grow in the Seattle passing attack with Doug Baldwin and Jermain Kearse well ahead of him.

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After taking more snaps than Joique Bell and proving he’s a much better home run threat, Ameer Abdullah made a lot of people right about him. He also has a better matchup going against the Vikings than Woodhead does against the Bengals. I would like to see Abdullah pickup where Carlos Hyde left off last Monday Night.

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The one person benefiting from Peyton Manning’s short pass strategy is Emmanuelle Sanders. Especially in PPR, he’s a must play. Second, I trust John Brown against the Bears secondary. Larry Fitzgerald will get most of the attention leaving not much to take on Brown’s speed downfield.

In regards to James Jones, he caught 4 passes and scored 2 touchdowns last week against Alan F’ing Ball (who wanted know part of covering inside the end zone) and a struggling Kyle Fuller. There’s a reason Jones was available for the Packers to pick him up before the season started, and I don’t think his skills are suddenly back to 2012 quality. Rodgers makes him a better player, but Davante Adams and Ty Montgomery are younger…and possibly more viable.

Have more lineup questions? Feel free to ask on both Facebook and Twitter! Also, don’t hesitate to post any questions for next week’s Mailbag. Good luck this weekend! 

Fantasy Cheat Sheet 2015: Defenses and Kickers

The last two things on your mind in a Fantasy Football Draft are Defenses and Kickers, but they are still positions that will either put you over the top in a close game…or kill you. 

Aggressive Fantasy players rarely stick with the defenses and kickers that they drafted, always rotating for great matchups. If you grab a solid point producer though, that’s one less stress you need to deal with for your weekend.

Here are my Top 10 for both defenses and kickers. You know when you should be drafting them already, so I spared the recommendations this time. 

Defenses

1. Philadelphia

Eagles D

2014: 28 Takeaways, 49 sacks, 1,405 Return, 11 TDs

Eagles defense won games for people by themselves last year. Seattle will get overdrafted because they are talked about the most, but they don’t really score much. Philly gets pointage and they’ve improved in the off-season by adding Kiko Alonso. Philly is also insane in special teams situations blocking kicks and returning.

2. Buffalo

Bills D

2014: 30 Takeaways, 54 sacks, 1,124 Return, 4 TDs

The Bills upgraded their already excellent D by hiring Rex Ryan. They don’t score a lot of TDs, but they do get to the quarterback a lot which forces turnovers and scoring chances.

3. Seattle

Seahawks D

2014: 24 Takeaways, 37 sacks, 1,072 return, 3 TDs

The Seahawks give you the best opportunities for shutouts and control the game by running a lot. They can pack on the INT and Sack points as long as they get the opportunity to…Oh and #LegionOfBoom

4. St. Louis

Rams D

2014: 25 Takeaways, 40 sacks, 1,581 return, 5 TDs

The Rams D-Line could be the best in football and with an unreliable offense, they get plenty of opportunities to reek havoc on opposing quarterbacks.

5. Kansas City

Chiefs D

2014: 14 Takeaways, 46 sacks, 2,035 return, 3 TDs

The Chiefs didn’t generate many takeaways last year, but they have the best return game and pass rusher (Justin Houston) in football. They also get one of the best safeties in the league back in Eric Berry, 

6. Houston

Texans D

2014: 34 Takeaways, 38 sacks, 630 return, 6 TDs

Houston is the anti-KC. They take the ball away and they score. Plus, they have JJ Watt.

7. Arizona

Cardinals D

2014: 25 Takeaways, 35 sacks, 684 return yards, 5 TDs

The Cardinals were very vulnerable to the pass last year, which is surprising when they have Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu in their secondary. That may be the bright side because they DO have Peterson and Mathieu, two of the league’s best athletes…and an excellent pass rush.

8. New England

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2014: 25 Takeaways, 40 sacks, 1,124 return, 5 TDs

Patriots lost Revis but they always fill in their vacancies well. Very savvy pass rushers and special teams have a penchant for coming up big.

9. Baltimore

Ravens D

2014: 22 Takeaways, 49 sacks, 1,359 return, 3 TDs

The Baltimore D isn’t going to carry you like they used to, but they are very good for spot starts and getting sacks. Their divisional games are generally slugfests too that work in their favor.

10. Green Bay

Packers D

2014: 27 Takeaways, 41 sacks, 888 return, 6 TDs

The formula to GB’s success last season was getting out to a big lead early and then forcing opposing teams to throw and and be pressured into turnovers. I anticipate that to be a similar circumstance for them again this year, but they can give up a lot of points at times.

Kickers

1. Stephen Gostkowski, NE

Gostkowski

2014: 35/37 FG, 51 XP

What you generally want in your kicker is someone who doesn’t miss often, gets a lot of opportunities, and picks up plenty of XPs. The Patriots spend a lot of time in their opponents’ territory and that Gostkowski rarely misses.

2. Cody Parkey, PHI

Parkey

2014: 32/36 FG, 54 XP

Similar to the Patriots, the Eagles get into their opponents’ territory plenty for Parkey to get attempts. It also helps that they score TDs on both offense and defense for him to pick up XPs

3. Steven Hauschka, SEA

Seattle Seahawks vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Steven Hauschka

2014: 31/37 FG, 41 XP

Hauschka has some of the best range in the league, his longest FG last year being from 58 yards out. His leg definitely shortens the field for the Seahawks.

4. Randy Bullock, HOU

Bullock

2014: 30/35 FG, 40 XP

Bullock benefits from getting to play in a dome for most of his season without dealing with the elements. Not sure how many scoring chances the Texans will get with their quarterback and running back situations, but Bullock’s good.

5. Dan Carpenter, BUF

Carpenter

2014: 34/38 FG, 31 XP

Scuzzy Dan made the 2nd most FGs in the league last year, and will get a chance to kick plenty more if Buffalo commits to their run game. Scoring touchdowns may still be an issue without a viable quarterback in their system.

6. Matt Bryant, ATL

MBry

2014: 29/32 FG, 40 XP

Bryant is reliable. As long as the Falcons offense does their job this year, his attempts and extra points will certainly rise.

7. Adam Vinatieri, IND

Vinatieri

2014: 30/31 FG, 50 XP

Vinatieri is SO OLD but still SO ACCURATE. The Colts should be scoring in the bunches again this season, and having a better RB in Gore will make Vinatieri an excellent pick for your team.

8. Justin Tucker, BAL

Photo: Shawn Hubbard

2014: 29/35 FG, 42 XP

Tucker admittedly plays Fantasy Football as well and is well aware that you depend on him each Sunday….and he is very dependable.

9. Blair Walsh, MIN

Walsh

2014: 26/35 FG, 29 XP

So much of a kicker’s success is dependent on the offense putting him in a position to kick. Year 2 of Bridgewater and the return of Adrian Peterson should bode well for Blair Walsh getting more attempts.

10. Dan Bailey, DAL

Bailey

2014: 25/29 FG, 56 XP

At the very least, you want your kicker to kick a lot of PATs. Bailey led the league in XPs last season and I don’t expect his attempts to waver too much this year. Cowboys Stadium has never been too bad to him either.

Do your rankings look different? Let me know on Facebook and Twitter

Also…

Quarterbacks Cheat Sheet

Running Backs Cheat Sheet

Wide Receivers Cheat Sheet

Tight Ends Cheat Sheet