Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire
I must attest that this has always been my favorite part of fantasy football season. The fall starts to break out, we start collectively picking apples at an intense clip, the cracking of twigs under our toes, and when you pull up your respective electronic devices and read what your favorite fantasy writers are up to, that moment in time where they go out on a limb, choose who they want to be their players to hitch wagons to, and we see where we differ, compiling our go to’s. Honored to write this column, let’s see where we agree and disagree, here are my Fantasy Faves and No Haves!
If you’d like to see the original article blurb, where you can get the gist of what we’re talking about, that can be found here!
My Guy-Alex Collins (RB, Baltimore Ravens)
Alex Collins doesn’t need much of an introduction. Coming into the 2016 season, I think we can all recall the talk up of Alex Collins when he stepped on to Seattle’s practice field, there were some lofty expectations. Some said he threw thunderbolts, some that he couldn’t feel a mere mortal’s pain. Then, expectations crashed, Collins could not break camp as any part of the Seahawk’s Cerberus (Christine Michael, Thomas Rawls, and C.J. Prosise). Relegated to the fourth string RB, he fell out of favor with Pete Carroll and was cut from September 2017, after an uneventful season. But, I think there was something Seattle was missing with Collins, and I think you guys may just agree with me on this one.
There was a real slow burn to start Collin’s entry into the Ravens backfield. The “Baltimore Boulder” (I’m trying to get this nickname going, let’s do this!) offered over 50 All-Purpose yards (receiving and running) in 9 out of his final 12 games last season. Not every game was an absolute satisfactory experience, as a couple games he hovers around 50 yards, and I can personally attest that seeing a 5 in your fantasy log can make you seething mad, especially from a top 20 running back. However, Collins has some other things going for him. There was a big push for this fellow to be a stud running back coming out of college, a pedigree that unfortunately Seattle didn’t have enough time to work with, thinking they were set at back. He also sits on top of an offense that is in great need of being reformed (If you can name me 2 wide receivers not named Steve Smith over the past 5 years in Baltimore, I’ll buy you a breakfast sandwich). Just shy of 24 years young, Collins could be becoming a fantasy workhorse right in front of our eyes, as he sits atop a depth chart that holds a ‘made of glass’ Kenneth Dixon, and Javorius “Buck” Allen, someone who has quickly fallen out of favor in the Baltimore front office. Bank on “The Baltimore Boulder”, inside your 3rd round where he’s currently being average drafted, and if it’s me, I’d suggest even taking him above Derrick Henry or Jay Ajayi.
My Sleeper-Julian Edelman (WR, New England Patriots)
The Patriots have become somewhat enigmatic in their talent evaluation. They turn no names into stars, and mostly any wide receiver drafted by them into the most recent Home Depot greeter. With that said, Julian Edelman has been Tom Brady’s right-hand man since 2013. When he’s been healthy or on the field, his targets can be seen as a major factor in this Patriots offense, as in the four years since ’13, his targets are 151, 134, 88 (shortened season of only 9 games), and 159. If there, the Patriots offense goes, he goes. Now, this year, he’s coming off an injury season, a training camp where he told reporters he doesn’t feel “at his best” in so many words, and oh, he also has a 4 game suspension that he won’t have limited for peds. So, why should we eye him in our drafts? I think we can all agree, other drafters will not be as on board with taking a 32-year-old WR with the limitations of the above, but the targets show, and the glimmer in Brady’s eye for him shows that you can do worse than taking Minitron, the target monster, either at his current ADP from trusted fantasy sites at 81, or even propelling him over Chris Hogan, Pierre Garcon, or if you want to feel adventurous, Sammy Watkins, all expected to go in the round 7 range. Draft Edelman without worry, and grab an extra wideout or two-end of the draft to cobble the first month, and we can raise a beer or sparkling beverage to our fantasy championships in 2018/19.
Bounce Back Candidate- Jordy Nelson (WR, Oakland Raiders)
Jordy Nelson is no spring chicken. I’m not making us hip to anything we don’t already know. Thirty-three years old, we have watched Nelson run across the middle on slant routes for a decade now. Jordy Ray Nelson is hitting the road for his 11th year in the league, going back to Cali, Cali, Cali. Over the course of 2013 to 2016, Nelson was able to average 143 targets in the Aaron Rodgers-Jordy Nelson connection, being the defacto check down valve at any sign of trouble. Last year, Nelson’s targets dropped, a lot. And I’m sure without anything more than a surface check, it’s hinting at signs of slow down from age, that the honeymoon had died off in Green Bay, and now he’s rolling in to free agency, unwanted, or he’d still be remaining in Green Bay. I have a slight feeling that may be wrong, though. Last year, Rodgers spent the majority of the season on the bench, attempting to coach up “wet bag of dirt” Brett Hundley. It may be tough to throw barbs at someone like Hundley, just trying to bring his team to the playoffs as a second-year quarterback in just his 24th year on the planet. That’s a fair offering, but the drop off between Rodgers to Hundley production is Marianas Trench level deep, and Jordy still ended the season with 88 targets, while also averaging his lowest Catch percentage, of which I’d be more likely to blame on Hundley’s inaccuracy than Nelson, known for his ability in getting open and making catches.
So, Jordy hits the road, with an overloaded suitcase, on I-80West to a team somewhat in flux offensively, in the Oakland Raiders, trying to salvage a potential Hall of Fame career and show he can still do what he’s known best for, making catches in traffic, and being a middle of the field superstar. The Raiders have Derek Carr at the helm, potentially foaming at the mouth for the opportunity to have a weapon like Nelson available to him, and I assume they will attempt to structure plays around Nelson to move down the field. Between the departure of Michael Crabtree to the Baltimore Ravens, and Cordarelle Patterson to the New England Patriots, there are 143 targets from last year on the table, of which I expect Jordy to gobble up the majority of, if not more. I could foresee us looking at a return to prominence in Jordy’s production, somewhere around where he ended up in 2016, where he could catch over a hundred passes for 1200 yards, or so. You can currently get Jordy Nelson in the 8th round, behind names like Devin Funchess and Robert Woods. I wouldn’t feel the need to reach, he’s no longer a sexy name, but I would implore us to potentially pick Jordy Nelson where his Average Draft Position shows, and be happy about it, I think Jordy has a couple solid years left in him.
Bust Pick- Mark Ingram (RB, New Orleans Saints)
Mark Ingram has admittedly been one of my favorite picks for running backs over the course of the last couple fantasy seasons. You could look to your fantasy board somewhere between the third and sixth round, pencil him in as someone no one else seemed interested in, and take him at his Average Draft Position or a little later, and know he’d be reliable if healthy for over a thousand yards, and around fifty receptions, not someone who would win you your league, but you could do worse than. Ingram, unfortunately, has a couple roadblocks on production highway this year. However, he’s sitting out the first month due to a substance abuse suspension, and also has to deal with one of the hottest backs of last season, Alvin Kamara, eyeing down a full-time backfield role for those first four weeks, and for the foreseeable future. There’s absolutely a chance that Ingram is worthwhile where you can get him in the draft, he’s currently sitting at the top of the fifth round, but I worry there is absolutely a chance that this cherry bomb could blow right up in your hands. We can get Dion Lewis or Marshawn Lynch almost a round later, who have a role and also don’t have a four-game suspension to stare down to begin the season?
Ingram is absolutely a different back than Kamara, and it’d be a disservice to not discuss that, so potentially Ingram comes back in Week 5, against the Redskins, and is run completely normal like any other year, but in a high powered offense with plenty of options, there’s a chance that Ingram gets left stuck in production purgatory, just attempting to get himself to 800 yards, and maybe 7 touchdowns. Ingram is an unrestricted free agent in 2019, and while you always need to take an iceberg size grain of salt with “team reports”, the murmurs are that Ingram wants a new contract from New Orleans, and New Orleans is not pushing anything more than chatter until after this season. The worry is that Ingram either gets buried on the depth chart, as Kamara continues to garner more opportunities to run and catch as the Saints look ahead to life without Ingram, or focus their attack on fast-paced routes with Kamara, Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, and Cameron Meredith. He isn’t the same talent level as Ingram, but even Terrence West hiding at the back end of the running back depth chart worries me a touch, as he runs very similar to Ingram, and is younger than him.
I will not push anyone from Ingram if they are in the belief he can get back to the norm for him, garnering roughly a thousand yards and 8 to 10 TD’s, but with all the solid options in the Saints offense, I’d rather hedge my bets, and take someone else in round five, then regret picking him, when the warning signs were there, to begin with.