Thinking “outside the box” is the key to fantasy football success. It is hard to win a championship thinking like the drafting majority. Any successful drafter needs a plan of attack that delineates top players as well as sleepers that can be acquired in middle to late rounds. These players, rookies or veterans, could guide you to the fantasy playoffs just by thinking “against the grain.”
Fantasy Football: Going Against the Grain
Player: Tevin Coleman
Majority Opinion: Devonta Freeman was the top running back in fantasy in 2015. Why draft Coleman as more than an injury handcuff?
Randle Recommendation: Pass on Freeman, grab Tevin Coleman in Round 8 or 9.
The battle for touches in the Falcons' backfield should be entertaining, at least https://t.co/dDfLtvOahN
— SB Nation NFL 🏈 (@SBNationNFL) July 13, 2016
Skinny: Why do we continue to see headlines like the one above? The Atlanta Falcons have a 24 year old running back (Devonta Freeman) coming off the overall number one ranked fantasy season. At this point last year, it was Coleman, not Freeman, who was the expected starter. Game one in 2015? Coleman averaged 4.0 yards per carry, Freeman averaged 1.8 yards per carry. Week two? Coleman was averaging 3.6 yards per carry until a rib injury knocked him out of the game. When he returned two games later, Freeman had secured the starting job. However, after Freeman returned from a concussion in Week 11, his yards per carry dropped precipitously: 3.4, 3.3, 2.2, 3.3 and 3.0 over the last five weeks of the year.
As for Coleman, he was on the field for 63.8% of the Falcons’ offensive plays (playerprofiler.com). The percentage was higher than top running backs like Todd Gurley (55.1%), David Johnson (44.1%), and Mark Ingram (63.7%). The translation here is clear. Despite Freeman’s outstanding year, Coleman’s injury and fumbling issues (three lost), the Falcons clearly want to get him more involved in the offense. Devonta Freeman is an outstanding pass catching running back, but he wore down during the season. Tevin Coleman‘s current ADP is 93.2, while Devonta Freeman is being drafted on average at 16.7. Draft Coleman and enjoy the RB2 production
Player: Russell Wilson
Majority Opinion: The Seattle Seahawks prefer to run the ball, therefore Russell Wilson‘s upside is limited.
Randle Recommendation: Russell Wilson will be the number one fantasy football quarterback in 2016.
Skinny: It was a tale of two seasons for Russell Wilson in 2015. From weeks one to ten, Wilson was only the 17th best quarterback in fantasy football. He averaged 15.8 fantasy points per game in standard leagues, and ranked behind quarterbacks like Alex Smith (16.9), Joe Flacco (16.7), and Ryan Tannehill (15.9). From weeks 11 to 17? Well, a picture is worth 1000 words. Take a look at his game log:
|Weeks||Opponent||Comp||Att||Pct||Yds||TD||Int||Ru. Att||Ru. Yds||Ru. TD|
Russell Wilson ranked 2nd with 27.8 fantasy points per game, trailing only league MVP Cam Newton (28.1). Critics of Wilson will scoff and say the injury coincided with Marshawn Lynch‘s abdominal injury, which forced Seattle to abandon the conservative offense. So, whats the rationale?
First, Marshawn Lynch has since retired, leaving an injured Thomas Rawls as the returning lead running back. The Seahawks drafted C.J. Prosise and Alex Collins as potential future solutions, but there is no reason why Seattle would simply ignore the Wilson’s fantastic end of season. Seattle finished 6-1 in those last seven games.
Despite the poor start, Wilson finished with the number one passer rating in the NFL (110.1). He also finished second in yards per attempt with 8.5 yards per attempt. What most fantasy players do not realize, is Wilson ranked first in Deep Ball Completion Percentage at 51.7% (playerprofiler.com). This means Wilson completed more than one of every two passes thrown 20 yards or more downfield. Perhaps even most impressive is that with that deep ball prowess, Wilson was third in completion percentage (68%). Lastly, Russell Wilson’s running ability was superb (554 yards rushing, 3rd in NFL), yet he only scored one rushing touchdown last season. That is one statistic that is due for a regression in the positive direction.
Look for the Seattle offense to pick up exactly where the season ended, by letting Wilson play quarterback to his fullest potential. Between his passing efficiency and running ability, Russell Wilson will be the top fantasy football quarterback in 2016.
Player: Justin Forsett
Majority Opinion: The Baltimore Ravens’ backfield is a crowded mess. Don’t bother with any of them.
Randle Recommendation: Justin Forsett will be a top twelve fantasy running back in 2016.
#Ravens.com reporter Ryan Mink said Justin Forsett will open training camp as "the clear lead dog" in Baltimore's backfield.
— Gridiron Experts (@GridironExperts) July 12, 2016
Skinny: Before Justin Forsett‘s broken arm in Week 11, he was the centerpiece of the Ravens’ offense. Forsett had a 77% Snap Share in the ten games he was active (playerprofiler.com). This means he was on the field for 77% of the Ravens‘ offensive plays. He is the lead runner, but more importantly, the lead running back pass catcher in Marc Trestman’s offense. Over the course of his NFL offensive play calling career, running backs average over four receptions per game. Forsett’s 41 targets ended the season as 30th for running backs, yet he only played in nine games.
More importantly, do not forget that Trestman did not use his offense last year, deferring to the prior play calling scheme under Gary Kubiak. That will change this year, and Justin Forsett will be the primary beneficiary. Forsett had over 1500 total yards in 2014, and 44 receptions. While he turns 31 during the season, his limited carries early in his career make him several years younger in football age. In year two of Trestman’s guidance? Justin Forsett will shine. His current ADP of 89, places him as a seventh round selection in twelve team leagues. This is an absolute steal. Grab Forsett and enjoy his RB 1 production.
Player: Phillip Dorsett
— NFL Spin Zone (@NFLSpinZone) July 27, 2016
Skinny: The player projections for the Colts’ offense are coming in very high. Andrew Luck returns completely healthy, and the prolific passing game should return with him. Looking at current average draft position, T.Y. Hilton is being selected as the 15th wide receiver off the board, and Donte Moncrief as the 27th. Two statistics that are relevant here:
- T.Y. Hilton has finished as the WR19, WR11 and WR23 in PPR over the past three years with at least 1,000 yards/130 targets in each season. One would expect him to be much higher.
- For Andrew Luck‘s seven games in 2015, T.Y. Hilton’s receiving line was 31-548-3 on 65 targets. Donte Moncrief‘s was 32-351-5 on 54 targets. Very tough to differentiate the better receiver here.
Therefore, the best move is to pass on both players and take Phillip Dorsett, who is currently going as the 61st wide receiver in round 14. His workout metrics are off the chart: 4.33 40 yard dash time and 10.81 agility score are both in the 90th percentile or above. At the end of last year, his Target Share also grew to a season high 25% in week 17 (playerprofiler.com). This means that one fourth of the passing targets in that game went to Phillip Dorsett. The Colts have already stated they want to go to use more rollouts, which opens the passing game for down field plays. There are several reports coming out of Indianapolis that Dorsett is primed for a huge breakout year. The Colts’ wide receiver is draft is Phillip Dorsett (current ADP round 14). This, my fantasy friends, is grand theft larceny.