Many have commented about the volatility of this Fantasy Football season. But listening to Rotowire’s Chris Liss on his excellent Rotowire fantasy show with Jeff Erickson on Sirius-XM gave me an idea. Instead of saying there’s no real fourth or fifth best fantasy player prospectively pending the appeal status of Ezekiel Elliott this and future weeks, let’s make the case for and against the contenders.
The top four that people would agree or disagree on only when it comes to order are, in no particular order, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Elliott, Todd Gurley (yes, Gurley’s schedule seems tough but matchups are overrated). Then the arguments start and it’s why fantasy this year is a game where most leagues have no great teams.
Quarterbacks are out because we don’t generally win with them nor draft them in the first round never mind with the fifth pick. That we would even consider a quarterback is merely a symptom of the underlying problem (lack of stars) that we’re debating.
Kareem Hunt seemed a lock to finish in the top five and was so dominant early that he’s still second behind only Gurley in PPR points among non QBs. Andy Reid is a good coach. Hunt hasn’t been worked enough that he should be hitting a wall. If anything, he needs more touches. But his efficiency, which was bound to regress, has cratered, especially on the ground. And his catches are limited by losing all third-down passing work to Charcandrick West. The big problem is that all the trickery that Reid deployed with motion especially involving Tyreek Hill is rendered useless with teams mostly playing zone. That’s why the next guy on the list is feasting.
Travis Kelce right now is the eighth-ranked non-QB in PPR. If Reid shrugs about Hunt and the running game being neutralized with zone defenses than Kelce can reliably go for 100 yards whenever he needs them. Kelce leads the NFL since 2016 in 100-plus yard receiving games with 9. But Kelce can dominate in man, too, so Reid has to do some things that will keep teams out of zone. I honestly don’t see how he can devise a poison strong enough to do this, however. But then I don’t lay awake every night on a cot in an office trying to come up with ways.
DeAndre Hopkins is done. I don’t care how many targets he gets from Tom Savage. He’s going to go back to being the Hopkins of 2016. The pre-Deshaun Watson Hopkins, maybe a top 30 player but nowhere near what he’s been (fourth most valuable in PPR).
Melvin Gordon probably has the highest floor of all these players because the Chargers give him TDs almost as if he’s on their fantasy team and that Gordon scoring is the primary objective. But he’s got a very checkered injury history that usually kicks in down the stretch. He’s on pace for 320 touches, which is not that much. But the 16-TD pace on those touches in an average offense makes little sense. So that’s two strikes against Gordon going forward.
LeSean McCoy is the 10th player on the list behind Carlos Hyde who has the extra game, as we need to point out do both Hunt and Kelce. McCoy’s per-play efficiency is a career low but he’s on pace for 374 touches. Age may be catching up with him and he is always banged up and playing through injuries but the case for him is that his efficiency will increase and the volume won’t decline. If that happens, he’s your man. I consider this just possible, not probable.
Leonard Fournette has an injury history and now has proved to be prone to off-field issues severe enough to cost him a game. So there is a chance he messes up again, of course. Or that his role is cut back slightly due to his lack of proven ability to withstand a nearly 400-touch-per-16-game pace. But it’s likely he remains the focal point of the Jacksonville offense, which is a problem itself. The TD floor is low given the team’s inability to score. I assumed that he was too big-play reliant but just about 50% of his yards are on runs of 10 or more yards (just 12); average is about 40-to-42%, typically. Fournette is probably the most reasonable though slightly boring pick for the fifth best player going forward.
Mark Ingram had a quiet game and some still prefer the much sexier, show-room fresh Alvin Kamara, especially off his big week. But since the Adrian Peterson trade, Ingram has not had less than 77 rushing yards and has scored four TDs in four games. He’s the 2017 Devonta Freeman, who is 30th this year among non-QBs, right behind Julio Jones and Rob Gronkowski.
Gronkowski has to be mentioned but the odds of him making it healthy through the rest of the season are so low that any of his owners would sign for merely one more lost game. That means the projectable risk is more like two or three lost games especially if the Patriots put the breaks on him with the slightest injury to increase the odds he’s healthy for the postseason.
The field is vast. This year is so crazy that if Marvin Jones or Robby Anderson ended up being the fifth best player for the rest of the year, I’d merely be surprised but not shocked. Right now, in PPR, Chris Thompson is 11th, Kamara 12th, Christian McCaffrey (who seemingly has done nothing) 15th, Tyreek Hill is 16th and probably the most exciting player in football given he can score from anywhere in any way. It’s also possible that guys we loved in August like Michael Thomas, A.J. Green (really hurt by Andy Dalton’s poor season) and even Amari Cooper make up for their poor starts. Note that even after Cooper’s huge Week 7 and Anderson only coming on of late and being a Jet, Anderson still is ahead of Cooper in PPR.
The guys you can cross off the list are Dez Bryant given he has injury concerns as of this writing that are being underplayed but we know how that goes. And Mike Evans has a suspension this week and probably no Jameis Winston for the rest of the season. Evans is only 24th (again all these ranks are PPR among non-QBs) to begin with.
One final guy to put on the list is Alshon Jeffery, who has come on of late. But Carson Wentz’s TD rate is unsustainable. And Jeffery is often inured too. The Eagles are a good offense but have scored 23 of 30 offensive TDs through the air. That’s 77%. The NFL average is 68% and the Eagles just traded for Jay Ajayi.
If there’s someone you think I’ve overlooked that you’d like to nominate or if there’s a QB you think can be the rare player that can lead you to a championship, make your case in the comments.