Fantasy High Five: Offseason Value

Fantasy High 5: Post-Draft Fantasy Discussion

Fantasy High 5Fantasy High 5 is Gridiron Experts’ fantasy football group discussion article. This week our staff talk offseason value. Which fantasy players are on track to be a huge steal for owners? Which might be overrated? Which teams have the pieces in place to make a run and is Tom Brady no longer a worthy starting fantasy QB?

Also, checkout related Gridiron Experts articles including out publishers PPR Mock Draft a popular piece called The New Breed RBs and while your at it, take a peek at our 2014 Fantasy Football Rankings.

 

Browns Running Backs

What are your thoughts on Terrance West, Ben Tate and the Browns’ running game?

Zach Greubel -GridironExpertsGridiron Experts’ own Matt Harmon has already said plenty on the subject, but I’m really liking Terrance West this season. Tate should start as long as he can stay healthy, but I see West being pretty heavily involved and not just spotting Tate here and there. West being drafted by the Browns has immediately put him into a favorable situation. He’s equipped with more than enough talent and will likely be the No. 2 running back behind Tate (rookie Isaiah Crowell and Dion Lewis are also in the mix). I do think Tate’s current average draft position is too high considering his injury history and the competition he’s facing. He still may end up being Cleveland’s No. 1 running back at the end of the season, but don’t be surprised if West is ahead of him, or at least not far behind.

Shae Cronin -Gridiron ExpertsThere’s no shying away from my love for Ben Tate this year – and there’s a GX content piece out there to prove it. Overall, the Browns backfield is exciting. Sure, lots of questions stemming from injury concerns (Tate) and guys we’ve never seen before (West, Crowell), but Cleveland is still providing plenty of intrigue. For fake football purposes this season, I like Tate over West for obvious reasons: experience, his fit with new OC Kyle Shanahan and the fact that he needs to stay healthy in order to get paid (for the most part). If Tate goes down, I’d love to see the former Towson star Terrance West rip it up and I think he can. This year, gimme Tate as an RB1 and breakout candidate.

Matt Harmon -Gridiron ExpertsI have already made my strong feelings on Terrance West known in a previous Gridiron Experts article. To repeat myself, I think the Towson product will be a star, as soon as this season. With the Browns, West finds himself in an exceptional situation to succeed. Kyle Shanahan employs the famous zone-blocking scheme, which is very profitable for running backs. The Browns have a good offensive line and a mobile quarterback in Johnny Manziel. Ben Tate has injury issues and has never been a great player when he’s seen extended time on the field. There’s far too much depth in rounds four through six for me to even consider drafting Tate at his current ADP. West should displace of him with relative ease. The true wildcard of this situation is Isaiah Crowell. The undrafted free agent was one of the most talented running back of this draft class. He has special balance and could shoot up the depth chart if it all breaks right. Still, the Browns showed us they love West by trading up for him. Crowell’s talent is tempting, but follow the organizational preference, for now.

Jody Smith -Gridiron ExpertsBen Tate is an excellent one-cut runner and should be a really good fit in Cleveland. However, according to ESPN, Tate’s name showed up on the Texans injury report some 80% of the time in his four year stint in Houston. That’s very alarming. Many people are talking up Terrance West as a sleeper to nab, but I think Tate is the guy to get. If you’re luck, you can get Tate as an RB3 and West is a high upside handcuff.

Darren ColletteI think at some point one of these two will be a good player to own. The question is which? Tate is the bigger and more hard hitting back and West is the rookie coming from a small school where he caught the stat sheet on fire. Since the answer to the question of Tate vs. West could be Isaiah Crowell, you need to be careful with this backfield. West should be the safer bet and is someone to consider taking high in dynasty leagues. In re-draft leagues, I don’t think I would take either of these guys inside round 10. If the Browns struggle in the passing game due to a lack of talent without Josh Gordon, expect the Browns to see some eight-man boxes to stuff the run. You should not be planning to start any Browns RB going into this season, both Tate or West would be a good bench RB investment.

Jason Willan -Gridiron ExpertsCleveland’s running game was a disaster last season, averaging less than 90 yards per game and scoring a league-low four rushing touchdowns on the year. But the Browns upgraded the talent level in the backfield during the offseason with the addition of veteran Ben Tate and rookies Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell. Cleveland also has Kyle Shanahan at the helm of the offense this year; likely signaling a more balanced attack than the heavy pass emphasis of previous coordinator Norv Turner. So, expect the Browns running game to be improved, but far from an elite unit. With a history of injuries and a much higher ADP price tag than the rookies, I probably won’t own a lot of shares of Tate this year. However, I think West is a nice backup to target in the middle rounds, who could provide good fantasy value down the road.

Andre Ellington

Andre Ellington’s ADP has jumped a full round this off-season (4.02 to 3.01). What do you expect from him?

Zach Greubel -GridironExpertsI really like Ellington. In my opinion, he has top 15 running back potential in PPR leagues. Head coach Bruce Arians sounds pretty high on him too, saying he could see 25-30 touches a game. While it’s unlikely for Ellington to maintain 25-30 touches per game over a 16-game span, 20 touches a game isn’t out of the question. He’s not just a pass-catching running back and can hold his own between the tackles. He put up a solid 5.5 yards per carry on 118 attempts in his rookie season. Don’t expect him to duplicate that number in 2014, but it is telling. In PPR leagues, he’s worth a mid-to-late third-round pick. I probably would not take him that early in standard leagues.

Shae Cronin -Gridiron ExpertsIf what the head coach says (25 touches a game) comes to fruition in the regular season, Andre Ellington is a stud this year. He has the versatile skill set owners covet in PPR formats. He provides home run ability and proved last year as a rookie that he can make the most of his carries. The biggest question regarding Ellington is whether or not he can handle the workload? He hasn’t had more than 15 carries in a single game in the NFL. If the answer is yes, then Ellington’s production at that position make him a steal, even at 3.01. If he can’t handle it, I still believe he’s worth the risk of a mid third-round pick in PPR formats.

Matt Harmon -Gridiron ExpertsLet’s get this out of the way… I love Andre Ellington as a player. His fall to the sixth round of the 2013 NFL draft was ludicrous. Ellington is an exciting and dynamic open field runner. The trouble is, Bruce Arians’ predictions for his workload are wildly unrealistic. When coaches say in May and June that they want their back to touch the ball 25 to 30 times a game, they aren’t really doing the math in their head. If Ellington saw 28 touches each week next season he’d total 448 for the season. That is a nearly impossible total for any back to handle, or even hope for. Consider that this is the same coach who swore up and down that this running back couldn’t handle a big workload just last season. The whole thing smells a little fishy to me. In conclusion, I think Ellington is a fine target in the third round of fantasy drafts, but you must temper your expectations. To this point, he’s still largely an unknown and I’d bet my savings he doesn’t get this massive projected workload. Ellington will be a great play in PPR leagues and fun to watch, but other players will have a role in this backfield too.

Jody Smith -Gridiron ExpertsThe numbers don’t lie – Ellington has explosive big play ability like Chris Johnson had in the first couple of seasons of his career. However, Ellington is small and has almost no chance of holding-up for the 25-30 touches that Bruce Arians said he’d like to give his second year back. With Rashard Mendenhall retired, Ellington is in line for a bigger work load, but there’s no guarantee he’ll hold up, produce at a consistent level, or be able to run inside for tough yards. There seems to be too much risk for a guy being drafted as an RB2. Let’s see how he looks in the preseason.

Jason Willan -Gridiron ExpertsThe jump in ADP is justified, given that the Cardinals didn’t bring in much competition during the offseason. With Stepfan Taylor and Jonathan Dwyer serving as the biggest threat to Ellington’s workload, his fantasy value seems to be more secure than it was a few months ago. After averaging 5.5 yards per carry and catching 39 balls in limited action as a rookie, I like Ellington’s potential in 2014 as Arizona’s primary threat out of the backfield. However, it’s still to be seen whether or not he can hold up for a full workload in the NFL. Ellington didn’t eclipse 15 carries in any game last year and in his career at Clemson, he never had more than 223 rushing attempts in a single season. Ellington has a lot of fantasy upside this year, but an early third-round ADP certainly carries an element of risk.

Tom Brady Stats

Tom Brady’s fantasy value has never been lower, is he a Bargain?

Shae Cronin -Gridiron ExpertsBrady looked less than elite last year while playing a majority of the season without his most reliable and effective receiving target, ultimately finishing as a middle-of-the-road fantasy quarterback. With Rob Gronkowski back in the fold, one could argue Brady’s good for another handful of touchdowns – and five more touchdowns last season would’ve made the difference between finishing as the 14th-ranked fantasy quarterback and the 8th-ranked fantasy quarterback. So yeah, even if only going off gut feel, Brady is a bargain this year.

Matt Harmon -Gridiron ExpertsIt depends on where Tom Brady falls in your fantasy drafts. The FF Calculator has him going at 7.03 and MFL’s ADP data puts him down as the 12th quarterback off the board. I don’t think either one of those is a value. Yet, in our Gridiron Experts June mock draft, Brady tumbled to the 12th round. Now, that’s more of bargain to me. I do believe that the Patriots’ quarterback is a declining player and one in a skill-position deficient offense. Despite his reputation and legacy, it’s hard for me to imagine him posting QB1 numbers with regularity in 2014. Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers are better bets to score more fantasy points than Brady. Both players can be had later in fantasy drafts. Brady hasn’t been part of my draft plans for years now and it looks like that will not change again this go-round.

Darren ColletteLast year, Brady dropped-off a lot after a pair of fantastic seasons in 2011 and 2012. However, it would be hard for any QB to recover right away after losing players like Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez. Add to that the injury issues with the Gronk and Brady’s 4,343-25-11 year actually seems pretty decent. I think he’s due to bounce back this year and is indeed a bargain at his current ADP.  Now that he’s had the time to adjust, I expect to see Brady become a top 10 QB again and maybe even reach top 5. Getting Brady in round 7 (or later!) might just be the pick that enables you to lift a trophy in December.

Jason Willan -Gridiron ExpertsI would not feel great going into the season with Tom Brady as my top fantasy quarterback and even with his stock down this year, he’s still a back-end starter in most leagues. He hasn’t reached “bargain” status for me just yet. New England’s offense averaged about 428 yards per game in 2011 and 2012, but fell below 385 yards per game last season. While the Patriots are hoping a healthy Rob Gronkowski, Shane Vereen and Danny Amendola can get things back on track in the passing game, the team did little to otherwise address the offensive side of the ball this offseason. Brady’s skills seemed to be diminishing last year and with a very similar supporting cast, I’m not expecting a big bounce back in 2014.

Alfred Morris isn’t getting any love this offseason. Why is he falling and where would you rank him?

Zach Greubel -GridironExpertsMorris is the epitome of an unsexy pick; he’s a quiet producer. While I do think Morris will take a step back again in 2014, I still have him ranked as a top 15 running back in standard leagues (13th overall). New head coach Jay Gruden likes to pass in his offensive scheme. Roy Helu will probably see an increased role and Morris will continue to be next to non-existent in the passing game. Still, over his first two seasons he’s averaged about 1,450 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. I don’t see him achieving those numbers, but he’s still worth an early third-round pick.

Shae Cronin -Gridiron ExpertsI am in agreement with Zach as it pertains to Alfred Morris and his fantasy stock in 2014. Since Morris doesn’t offer any sort of receiving threat, he’s not the ideal guy in Jay Gruden’s offense. Still, that doesn’t imply Morris isn’t the bell-cow in Washington. He’ll continue to receive a majority of the carries and he should be solid near the goal line. Clearly, he’s more attractive in standard scoring formats, but he’s a solid selection across the board due to his durability and fit in the zone blocking system. The late second round and beyond is a fair landing spot for Morris this summer.

I am pretty iffy on AlfrMatt Harmon -Gridiron Expertsed Morris as a fantasy asset this season. As a general rule, I don’t like taking running backs that offer nothing in the passing game. Morris is the epitome of that player. Sure, he’s the banger and is going to receive the bulk of the carries, yet running backs like him are too easily erased by the game script. If the Redskins fall behind by multiple scores (which is likely with their defense) it becomes hard to keep Morris on the field. We saw this happen last season as Morris had less than 17 carries in the first five games of the year. I’m also worried about Morris playing outside of the zone-blocking scheme. Running backs who thrive in that system have a poor history of sustained success. There’s a chance Morris fails to meet expectations in a new system. In the second round, I am not interested in the Redskins’ back. There are far too many other players I prefer. Of course, there is a point where I’ll consider him if he starts to fall too far. In the mid-third or early fourth round, I’ll happily invest in this workhorse. He’s just not someone I’m going to prioritize in my drafts. The upside and value just isn’t there.

Jason Willan -Gridiron ExpertsAlfred Morris is still a RB1 for me in standard 12-team leagues and I will happily scoop him up in most drafts if he continues to be available in the mid-to-late second round. In a “disappointing” 2013, Morris still finished fourth in the league in rushing and even as Washington’s offense regressed from 27.2 points per game (4th in the league) to 20.9 points (ranked 23rd), Morris still managed seven touchdowns. He might not match the 1,600 yards and 13 touchdowns of his rookie season, but Morris is one of the few bell-cow running backs left in the NFL and I think rumors of his fantasy demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Which new hire offensive coordinator will get the most out of his players this season?

Zach Greubel -GridironExpertsI’m really liking the Dolphins offense this season, particularly Mike Wallace, but I think Ryan Tannehill will have a career year under first-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Lazor was the quarterbacks coach under Chip Kelly in Philadelphia last season. DeSean Jackson put up career-high numbers and Nick Foles rocketed himself into top five fantasy quarterback consideration. A lot of that had to do with Kelly, but it’s no coincidence that it occurred with Lazor. The former University of Virginia offensive coordinator likes to run the West Coast Offense, which should aid not only Tannehill and Wallace, but the entire offense. Part of that West Coast Offense involves running the ball frequently. With Knowshon Moreno struggling this offseason and reportedly harboring a bad knee, Lamar Miller could see a resurgence. The Dolphins have not scored very much over the last few seasons. They brought in Lazor to help change that. It’s best to temper expectations at this point in the year, but the sky is the limit for Miami.

Shae Cronin -Gridiron ExpertsAlthough Sean McVay was promoted from tight ends coach to offensive coordinator in Washington, head coach Jay Gruden will handle play calling duties for the Redskins. Adding DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts were both huge moves for the Redskins this offseason, helping adopt a more explosive threat to opposing defenses. Additionally, Gruden loves to pass the football and take advantage of mismatches, both of which increase the potential output of the Redskins’ skill players this fantasy season. Robert Griffin III is projected to throw more passes in 2014 than in either of his first two seasons. Jackson provides an obvious jolt, Roberts brings additional support to the arsenal, Pierre Garcon is a likely beneficiary of the upgraded wide receiving unit (especially in PPR formats) and tight end Jordan Reed is in for a huge year assuming he’s in good health. Despite the risk of sounding like a homer, Gruden, McVay and the Redskins offense should receive plenty of fantasy attention this season.

Matt Harmon -Gridiron ExpertsKyle Shanahan has had an underrated career as an offensive coordinator. Things did collapse under his watch last season in Washington, but prior to that, Shanahan was a part of some very productive offenses in Houston and helped RG3 put up a dynamic rookie season. For crying out loud, the Redskins offense was even viable with Rex Grossman behind center! In Cleveland, the young Shanahan has many players who fit what his system likes to feature. The Browns have a good and athletic offensive line that will execute the zone-blocking scheme to perfection. That will have a positive effect on the running backs. Either Ben Tate, Terrance West (my bet), Isaiah Crowell or a mixture of the three should produce big numbers in this offense. With a sound rushing attack in place, the Shanahan play action game will come in full force. Johnny Manziel is the type of athletic and improvisational player who could excel on bootlegs in this system. Kyle Shanahan can help tutor Manziel as he did a young Griffin in Washington. This offense typically features an athletic tight end, which Cleveland has in Jordan Cameron. The breakout tight end is set to see his numbers explode in his second season as the starter. The questions begin at the wide receiver corps, which will presumably not have Josh Gordon around. The good news is that this scheme usually only calls for one receiver to carry the load. Don’t rule out Andrew Hawkins becoming that guy. Young Baby Hawk’s ADP is insanely low right now, and he’s flying well under the radar. Hawkins is a definite sleeper and is reportedly impressing early in OTAs. If he’s the top dog, he’ll be fed the ball quite a bit in this system.

Jason Willan -Gridiron ExpertsIs it against the rules if I pick a “passing game coordinator” instead of an official OC? Semantics aside, Scott Linehan will be calling plays for the Dallas Cowboys this season and that should be an exciting prospect for fantasy owners. Linehan was at the helm of a Detroit Lions offense that averaged almost 400 yards per game over the last three seasons, never finishing worse than sixth in total offense during that period. Meanwhile, the Cowboys haven’t averaged more than 376 yards per game during Jason Garrett’s tenure as head coach and last year’s Bill Callahan-Garrett play-calling experiment resulted in the lowest offensive output for the team since 2005. With weapons like Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams and DeMarco Murray at his disposal, I expect Linehan to make an immediate impact and vault Dallas back into the upper-echelon of NFL offenses.

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