I always ask people to just download our podcast. “We don’t care if you listen,” I say…”We just want the clicks.”
This is true. But the people, well, sometimes they ignore me and actually listen. And those who do listen know that I hate answering keeper questions during the offseason.
My advice is to wait until the last possible minute to make a keeper selection because fantasy value changes all the time — every day, in fact, based on health, role, team, coaching, scheme and so many other factors. And never was that more evident than at the NFL draft, where many players saw their fantasy stock rise or fall based on what their teams did.
So here, now, is a quick NFL draft edition of “Love / Hate.” These are not necessarily guys I love or hate for the upcoming season, but rather players whose value went up (“loves”) as a result of the NFL draft or players whose value went down (“hates”) because of what their team did. This is by no means comprehensive, but rather just the highlights I noted as I watched the draft unfold.
2016 players I love based on what their team did at the draft:
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys: Just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it isn’t true. The short hand is he’s a stud running back who is also a terrific blocker, running behind one of the best lines in football. The Cowboys are the only team that has a current streak with a RB who has run for 1,000 yards while totaling 300 receiving yards in consecutive seasons. They’ve done it three straight years, in fact, or every season since starting center Travis Frederick was drafted. I mean, hell, Darren McFadden, who didn’t get more than 10 carries in a game until Week 7 last year, and was running with one of the worst offenses in football (no Tony Romo or Dez Bryant for most of it), STILL finished tied for the 13th-best RB in football. Elliott is going to come in and get a ton of work right away — he’s a legit top-10 running back, and a consideration in the second half of the first round. Also worth noting that Romo’s best fantasy season was 2012; Marion Barber had 1,257 total yards and 12 touchdowns that year.
Eli Manning and Sterling Shepard, QB and WR, New York Giants: When I say Eli likes to throw in three-wide sets, I mean he LIKES TO THROW in three-wide sets. He did it 551 times last season, to be exact — and that does not include four-receiver sets or any other formation. Exactly three WR’s on the field … 551 times or, to put another way, 89.2 percent of the time. Eli scored 244 fantasy points in three-WR sets, tops in the NFL in 2015 and the third most in a single season over the last five years (behind guys named Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers). Now obviously, you throw the most from three-WR sets, you probably stand to score the most from three-WR sets. The point here is Ben McAdoo’s system is fantasy friendly, they are going to throw a ton, and even if Victor Cruz is back and healthy, Shepard will be on the field a lot as a No. 3 — and given Cruz’s history, Shepard could easily be a No. 2. Shepard, a 5-foot-10 speedster who is a terrific route-runner and has good hands, drew comparisons from McAdoo to a guy you might have heard of, Randall Cobb. They are going to throw a lot in New York and now they have another guy to catch it, which is good for Eli, and it’s a great landing spot for Shepard.
Jay Ajayi, RB, Miami Dolphins: After trying to re-sign Lamar Miller, then trying to sign C.J. Anderson, kicking the tires on Arian Foster and being rumored to be in on a number of other free agent running backs, it really looked as if Miami was saying, “We don’t know who our starting running back will be this year, we just know we don’t want it to be Jay Ajayi.” And then they went out and drafted Kenyan Drake. Drake, a 6-1, 210-pound speedster, is not a guy who will be an every-down player — Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay were commenting during ESPN’s draft coverage about how he’s a specialist and not an every-down back — which is how I see him, too. He’ll be the third-down guy, some depth for Ajayi, but ultimately, Ajayi will be the main guy on first and second down and, if he can stay healthy, he’ll flirt with top 20 RB numbers.
Corey Coleman, WR, Cleveland Browns: Sometimes you don’t have to be the best-looking dude at the bar, you only have to be the only dude at the bar. With no word on Josh Gordon and not a lot of other talent in the receiving game save for tight end Gary Barnidge and running back Duke Johnson Jr., Coleman immediately slots into the No. 1 wide receiver role. A 5-11, 194-pound stud with speed to burn, he’ll be a key cog in Hue Jackson’s new offense. It depends on who is QB in Cleveland, of course, but while he has his faults, Robert Griffin III also has a cannon for an arm, and is fairly accurate deep. They will take a few (more?) shots a game to Coleman, and last year, the Browns ranked fifth in average time given to their QB before the pass is thrown. More time equals better chance for deep plays to develop, don’tcha know? As our friend Jeff Dooley of ProFootballFocus noted, Coleman’s 3.97 yards per route run in 2015 was second-best in the class, and equal to Amari Cooper‘s numbers in 2014. He’ll be the focal point of a passing offense that won’t be great but won’t be terrible, either.
Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints: Going to a team that has Drew Brees as its QB is good for the fantasy value of any wideout, especially if you’re 6-3, 212 pounds and going to a team with 5-10 Brandin Cooks and 5-11 Willie Snead. With no more Marques Colston, Thomas will team with Coby Fleener to give the Saints some size in the red zone (I’m not expecting much out of Brandon Coleman). No QB attempted more red zone passes AND had a higher completion percentage on those throws than Brees in 2015. And I say a lot of those throws will go toward Thomas (whose hands are 5/8 of an inch bigger than Kawhi Leonard’s … he’s got some big mitts!). Thomas scored or had a 30-plus-yard reception in 10 of his final 11 games in college, and he could eventually compete with Snead for second-most looks from Brees. At worst, he’s the No. 3 on a team with a QB that leads the NFL in pass attempts over the last five years.
Tyler Boyd, WR, Cincinnati Bengals: No Marvin Jones, no Mohamed Sanu. … They can’t all go to A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert. As a long-standing member of the Not-a-Brandon-LaFell-believer club, Boyd lands in a potentially nice fantasy spot, with a good offense, good QB and the chance to be on the field quite a bit. Boyd scored or had 10-plus catches in seven of 12 games last year. He’s 6-1, 197 pounds, and he’s a good route-runner who has a versatile skill set. As our Bengals NFL Nation Reporter Coley Harvey noted, at Pitt, Boyd “ran the ball off jet sweeps, lined up in the backfield at times, played in the slot, threw on a rare occasion and made plays as an outside receiver.” With Sanu gone, expect a few “gadget” plays for Boyd each week in an offense that ran the second-most red zone plays in 2015. He’s a WR4 with some upside.
Others receiving votes:
I like that the Indianapolis Colts are addressing the offensive lines issues, with two picks in the first three rounds going to strengthen the line. That can only help Andrew Luck and Frank Gore. … Not that Adrian Peterson‘s value could get much higher, but Laquon Treadwell is a very good blocker at WR and another playmaker to stretch the field, which can only help loosen up defenses playing the Vikes. The less eight-man fronts Peterson sees, the better. … Kenneth Dixon landed in the perfect spot for his skill set. An excellent pass catcher, Dixon is a great fit for Marc Trestman’s offense and has only 31-year-old Justin Forsett (off an injury) ahead of him. He’s already better than Javorius Allen, Lorenzo Taliaferro or, ahem, Trent Richardson. … The fantasy graveyard is littered with those who have believed in NYG running backs, but you could argue Paul Perkins is the best running back on the Giants right now. Rookie-hating Tom Coughlin is gone and only 31-year-old, injury-prone Rashad Jennings and passing-down specialist Shane Vereen stand between Perkins and a significant role on a fantasy-friendly offense. This is a nice spot for Perkins. … Jeff Driskel is a name that deep-league dynasty guys should be aware of. We have seen lesser talents put up huge fantasy numbers under Chip Kelly and with only Colin “They hate each other” Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert ahead of him, Driskel could easily find playing time and fantasy relevance. … The same goes for DeAndre Hopkins, who was already going to be one of the first wide receivers off the board in fantasy drafts this August. After drafting Will Fuller and Braxton Miller to add to the Texans passing game, Nuk tweeted this:
Ain’t no more double teams baby!
– Deandre Hopkins (@Nukdabomb) April 30, 2016
We agree, Mr. Hopkins. We agree.
2016 players I hate based on what their team did at the draft:
Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris, RB, Cowboys: Went from potentially an interesting time share to fighting for the right to give Zeke Elliott a breather. They’re in handcuff mode now, with no actual fantasy value except as potential insurance to the Elliott owner in your league.
DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans: Oh, they’ll both still have value. The Titans are going to run, run, run and then run some more this season, and a mobile QB and an improving offensive line will only help that. Murray was looking like he could flirt with RB1 numbers this year as the only dog in a run-first offense, but now here comes Henry, who will take enough work away (especially short-yardage stuff) that will do just enough to knock Murray from low end RB1 to low end RB2/high end flex. Murray won’t lose third-down work to Henry (though it remains to be seen how much Dexter McCluster gets used there) but … it ain’t great, ya know? Meanwhile, Henry, who could have been a very interesting flex or RB2 this year in the right situation, now becomes a handcuff /TD vulture type. Bleah.
Laquon Treadwell, WR, Minnesota Vikings: Very talented player who, on the right team, could have had an immediate fantasy impact. With Teddy Bridgewater as his quarterback on an offense that attempted the fewest passes in the NFL last year and had the second fewest passing touchdowns … this has to be a disappointment. The offense will continue to revolve around Adrian Peterson, and I expect Stefon Diggs to take a nice leap this year — leaving Treadwell to be a much better dynasty pick than anything significant for standard leagues this year.
Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams: Quick, name the last good fantasy QB under Jeff Fisher. I’ll wait. That didn’t derive a lot of value from his legs, you McNair truthers. Exactly. I asked this question on Twitter and some folks threw Kerry Collins at me, but come on. Kerry Collins? I don’t like any of the QBs drafted this year for fantasy, but if I had to pick one, give me Paxton Lynch, who has to beat out only Mark Sanchez and has two stud WRs to throw to, plus some running ability, a good QB-friendly coach in Gary Kubiak and a defense that will often put them in favorable field position. Unless you play in a league where you get points for handoffs, I want no part of him this year, even in a two-QB league.
Josh Doctson, WR, Washington Redskins: I absolutely love the player, and as a Skins fan, thought it was a good move — especially with the impending free agency of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. He’s a nice fit for Washington, and has the “go up and win jump balls” kind of skills that will ultimately play nicely with Kirk Cousins. He also has some nice size (6-2, 202 pounds), so he’ll be who Cousins is looking for (along with Jordan Reed, of course) when they get in close. While he’s a terrific player to grab in dynasty, he has little value this year as long as Jackson, Garcon, Reed and Jamison Crowder are around.
Hunter Henry, TE, San Diego Chargers: Another guy who is interesting for dynasty leagues, but the struggles of rookie tight ends are well documented, and as long as Antonio Gates is around — how long do you think he has? Maybe only 10 more years? He’s indestructible — Henry is nothing more than depth for a team that already runs a lot of three-WR sets with only one TE. No thanks.
Matthew Berry — the Talented Mr. Roto — TMR – would like, just once, for someone to describe him as having a great motor, big wingspan, needs to work on his three-point technique but has all the intangibles you’re looking for.