When Talent Meets Opportunity
“Opportunity is the name of the game in fantasy football. Talent matters, of course, but we want players who see a healthy volume of targets and touches to anchor our lineups.” – Matt Harmon[the_ad id=”63198″]Mr Harmon is a wise man, on a great many topics. But the above quote is probably one of the most useful when it comes to considering which players we want on our fantasy rosters. It’s like owning an Aston Martin Vanquish S Ultimate Edition when you live in a city. Yes, with a recorded speed in excess of 200mph it sounds great, but when the maximum speed limit is 30 and the roads are filled with speed bumps, you should probably have invested in something a bit more similar. The fantasy football equivalent would be not drafting Adrian Peterson and instead drafting an early round flyer on rookie wide receiver Laquon Treadwell. You’re just not going to get the type of output you’d expect for that type of investment.
When it comes to fantasy football productivity, the following four position groups should be ranked high on your board, as potential opportunities it will present themselves as these players are in a postion for success.
New Orleans Saints Tight End
The Saints have provided solid fantasy production to pass catchers for the whole of the Sean Payton era, keeping Drew Brees near the top of quarterbacks to own for more than a decade. Since 2011, the Saints have finished 2nd in total pass attempts in four out of five seasons, and led the league three times. In this period, the Saints have targeted their number one tight end on 20% of their passing attempts. Having Jimmy Graham helped of course, but even in 2015 the veteran Ben Watson saw career highs in targets (110), receptions (74) and yards (825). Coby Fleener, free from sharing tight end duties with Dwayne Allen in Indianapolis, is currently the 7th tight end off the board in MFL10’s, and could very well finish 2016 behind only Rob Gronkowski in fantasy numbers.
- Suggested Page: Gridiron Experts Tight End Rankings
San Francisco 49ers Running Back
Chip Kelly’s three years with the Philadelphia Eagles saw a huge change of emphasis for that teams offense after 14 years under Andy Reid. Big Red’s Eagles teams ranked in the 37th percentile in team rushing attempts from 1999-2012, while Kelly’s teams were in the 80th.
Last seasons mash up of DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles masks the emphasis that Kelly places on his number back, with the Eagles RB1 in those three seasons accounting for 58% of the teams total rushing attempts. Kelly has spoken glowingly of Carlos Hyde this off season, going so far as to call him a “stud“, and after an injury marred 2015 season he is set to finally inherit the 49ers backfield. Game script, and a shortage of true offensive weapons, may be a factor, but Hyde has shown some skills as a receiver, snaring 74% of his career targets to date, so he has a good chance of staying on the field for all three downs.
- Suggested Page: Gridiron Experts Running Back Rankings
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Running Back
First year head coach Dirk Koetter is that rare and strange creature in that he seems to be able to craft his offenses to suit the personnel at his disposable. The Bucs offense that he ran in 2015 finished 8th in rushing attempts, after three seasons with the Falcons that saw the team finish 3rd, 3rd and 8th in pass attempts against 24th, 32nd and 29th finishes in rushing attempts. In all of this, he has in some small way been consistent. Since 2011, his main running backs have handled 60% of his teams total carries.
Some people feared the fantasy consequences of Bucs maintaining Charles Sims, a 3rd round pick just two seasons ago, would have on Doug Martin. But Martin’s signing of a five year, $35.75m contract this off season is a clear indication that this is a partnership with Sims, not a battle. Despite an identical 4.9 yards per carry average in 2015, Sims saw most of his work as a pass catcher, seeing 70 targets to Martin’s 44. Martin clearly carried the contest in terms of rushing attempts, seeing 288 to 107.
Ten RBs are being taken ahead of Martin in MFL10 drafts so far this offseason, giving him an ADP of early in the 3rd round. This is a potential steal for someone.
Oakland Raiders Second Wide Receiver[the_ad id=”58837″]Whether by design or circumstance, Musgrave is a similar character to Koetter, in that his offensive emphasis seems to be different wherever he happens to be coaching. His 2015 Raiders team attempted the 13th most passes in the NFL, while attempting the 29th most rushes, whereas his 2013 Minnesota Vikings outfit was much more balanced, finishing 18th in rushing attempts and 20th in pass attempts. In one thing he has been consistent however, and that is showing due consideration to his WR2. From 2011 to 2015 (not including his 2014 stint as the Eagles QB coach), the second wide out on his teams has seen just shy of 20% of the total team targets, which given the pass happy attitude of his current charges is good news for Michael Crabtree’s fantasy prospects.
After six seasons with the 49ers in which he amassed a single 1000 yard campaign, his first year in the Silver and Black saw him targeted 146 times for 85 receptions, 922 yards and nine scores, good for a WR18 finish. With Amari Cooper still occupying the majority of the attention of opposition defenses, Crabtree could well be set for another WR2 type finish.