Welcome to the latest edition of the weekly mailbag.
Send me your questions using the DLF Mailbag Form and I’ll include the best in future articles. Remember the guidelines to have the best chance at seeing your question get posted:
1.) Dynasty questions only, no start/sit questions
2.) Help me help you by providing sufficient information about your league (e.g. line-up requirements/PPR or non-PPR/etc.), and include your first name and where you’re from.
3.) Your chance of getting your question answered is inversely proportional to the length of the question.
Let’s get to it!
1.) If Tavon Austin was coming out this year, how would he rank with the current crop of wide receiver prospects? I have fourth overall pick this year in my PPR league and someone is offering me Austin for it. Austin would be on five-year contract and return yards count. – Craig in IL
Given the massive hype placed upon him by both the St. Louis Rams’ brass, as well as the fantasy community, Tavon Austin’s rookie season can’t be looked at as anything other than an abject failure. Indeed, despite being the first skill position player selected in the 2013 NFL Draft, Austin found himself outpaced by his fellow freshman pass catchers, including Keenan Allen, Cordarrelle Patterson, Terrance Williams and DeAndre Hopkins. With a paltry 40 receptions (3.3 per game over 13 games), this forgotten season ultimately saw Austin finish as the PPR WR56, well off the fantasy radar.
Perhaps even more troubling is the manner in which Austin was utilized. Averaging just 10.5 yards-per-catch, the diminutive receiver functioned mostly as the recipient of screens and slant routes, largely failing to capitalize on his long speed. His only two big gainers (81 and 57 yards) both came in a blowout win against the Colts – while you can question the validity of selectively removing those two plays, doing so sees Austin’s yards-per-catch across his other 38 receptions drop to a pathetic 7.4. For a player who only caught 58% of his targets, that’s unacceptable – simply put, he didn’t come close to resembling the playmaker he was billed to be.
The fact you can glean value from Austin’s return abilities helps, as between punts and kickoffs he gained an additional 52.2 yards per game. With that said, there are no guarantees he’ll function as a prominent return man for the duration, or even majority, of his career. Should he lose those abilities, his value takes a huge hit – as a 5’8”, 176-pound receiver who struggles to win contested catches and goes down too easily at first contact, I don’t envision him producing anything more than WR3 numbers.
Ultimately, this is a long-winded way of saying I’d take my chances with the pick. Sammy Watkins seems like a lock to go with the 1.01, but after that you’ll have a real chance at more “prototypical” pass catchers such as Mike Evans, Jordan Mathews, Allen Robinson, Kelvin Benjamin, Davante Adams and Marqise Lee. Truthfully I’d rather take my chances with any one of them over Austin – nothing is set in stone, but I have a hard time seeing Austin ever living up to our, admittedly unfair, lofty expectations for him.
2.) In my 12-man, non-PPR league I can hold onto three of the following players, losing the draft pick in the round I drafted them in 2013: Russell Wilson (6th round), Doug Martin (1st round), Marshawn Lynch (got in trade, 1st round), Gio Bernard (4th round) or Montee Ball (8th round). Is it dumb for me to keep Russell Wilson, Doug Martin and Beast Mode? Or should I hold onto either Bernard or Ball? – Adam in NY
When it comes to the six players in question, I don’t think any combination of the three can be construed as a “dumb move.” With that said, I think I’d choose a different tact. Let’s start with the leading man of our most recent Super Bowl champions.
In just two short years, the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson has already established himself as one of the league’s best young players, as well as a stalwart fantasy option. Despite working with an unheralded cast of characters that would make MacGyver cringe, Wilson has finished as the QB11 and QB10 in successive years and the sky appears to be the limit. But even with that type of talent, I’d rather see you hang onto players in positions of lesser depth.
If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times – quarterbacks just don’t have a ton of value in smaller league formats. There are so many qualified starters in the league right now, it doesn’t make sense to spend a sixth round pick on Wilson when you could nab a player like Tony Romo or Ben Roethlisberger much later. Since you’re essentially playing on a year-to-year basis with only three keepers, streaming your signal callers on an annual basis makes the most sense to me.
So with three positions still open, I’d choose to hang onto the trio of Doug Martin, Gio Bernard and Montee Ball. Martin and Bernard are essentially self-explanatory – both combine youth and skill, and could form the backbone of your ball carrying corps for the next few years. I especially expect Martin to bounce back in Jeff Tedford’s offense, functioning once again as a legit RB1.
With Ball, he’s essentially a discounted flier who could easily outperform his 8th round draft status based on the scope of Denver’s Peyton Manning-led offense. While I still want to see him prove it with a larger sample size, Ball improved as the 2013 season progressed, and he appears likely to assume feature back duties. With him as your RB3, you’ll have an enviable group of ball carriers, which is arguably the most important position in a non-PPR setting.
3.) I want to discuss Matt Forte – he’s a beast, but he’s getting older and his window is closing. In addition to my studs (Forte, LeSean McCoy and Doug Martin) I have some younger guys that could hit next year (Trent Richardson, Andre Ellington and Stevan Ridley), but they could also be busts. I’m asking what you would do if you’re me? Maybe I can parlay him and pick 1.08 in a trade? As this is a superflex league I would like a third quarterback. Would you consider trading Forte in attempts to upgrade at quarterback or tight end, or just use my pick to do so? – Cameron in CA
Excluding the specifics of this particular question for just a second, this ultimately boils down to the age-old dynasty question – when is it time to upset the apple cart? At some point we all have to deal with this conundrum, and usually it boils down to what we perceive to be a player’s apex value. In this case, the man in question is Chicago running back Matt Forte.
I don’t feel the need to expound upon Forte’s transcendent year – put succinctly, Head Coach Marc Trestman turned him into one of fantasy’s most valuable players. However, he’s still a 28-year old running back with over 2,000 career touches (including the playoffs), so it’s fair to wonder if the figurative end is near. As such, we wind up asking ourselves if we should cash out now before he falls off that metaphorical cliff.
Truth be told, I’ve never been much of a Chicken Little when it comes to my players getting older. I’m not saying any one strategy is right or wrong, but I think we often get to a point where we attempt to outsmart ourselves and it doesn’t always work out the way we plan it. We convince ourselves we’re selling “high” based on nothing more than a generalized probability, thereby often eschewing guaranteed production based on the desire to populate our rosters with younger, theoretically talented players. Obviously it would be amazing to be able to craft an elite roster comprised solely of 25-year olds, but in practice that quest is typically doomed to failure.
I guess that’s a long-winded way of saying I’d hold pat with Forte. You currently have the ability to couple him with Doug Martin and LeSean McCoy, giving you a huge advantage over your peers – is that something you really want to jeopardize? Andre Ellington is a better play in PPR leagues, Trent Richardson underwhelmed in 2013 and Stevan Ridley can’t seem to gain Bill Belichick’s trust. They’re good players, but far from a lock for production.
If you want to improve your stable of signal callers I’d pair your first rounder (1.08) with one of Richardson or Ridley in an attempt to move up into the top four picks. This would guarantee you a shot at one of the top tier of rookie quarterbacks (Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Derek Carr), providing you with the depth you covet. More importantly, your starting line will remain intact, and you’ll be set to make another run in 2014.
4.) In my 12-team non-PPR league we keep three players, and can keep a fourth who would cost a pick in the same round as drafted in 2013. I’m deciding between the following players (draft pick cost is shown in parentheses): Drew Brees (1), CJ Spiller (1), Gio Bernard (3), Andre Ellington (6), AJ Green (1) and Alshon Jeffery (7). Right now I am leaning toward keeping Brees, Green, Bernard, and using my 7th rounder on Jeffery. What do you think? – Steve in VA
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I think there’s a better way to utilize your keeper selections. Though Saints quarterback Drew Brees is one of the surest things in fantasy football, I just don’t see the value at the position in a 12-team setting. As tempting as it is to hang onto a player who virtually promises you top-three production, I think you could find a comparable player in the dispersal draft – I’d cut Brees loose.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are the players I’d undoubtedly find room for – Gio Bernard, AJ Green and Alshon Jeffery. I touched on Bernard above, and needless to say my opinions haven’t changed in the past few paragraphs – he’s a foundation player. Ditto for Green, who many view as dynasty’s most desirable asset due to his age and skill set. This pair of Bengals should provide you with consistent and persistent fantasy output.
With Jeffery, I agree you should designate him as your “draft pick keeper.” In just his second year, he showed the ability to function as a WR1 and you’ll be acquiring his services for the low cost of a 7th round selection. Paired with Green, you now have arguably two of dynasty’s seven most desirable pass catchers.
For your last selection, I’d go with Bills’ running back CJ Spiller. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating – his “down” year still resulted in over 1,100 total yards and an average of 4.6 yards-per-carry. His yards per catch average was lower than his career mark and backfield mate Fred Jackson served as the goal-line specialist with nine touchdowns to Spiller’s two, both explaining his downturn in fantasy effectiveness and suggesting plenty of room for improvement. I expect a bounce-back 2014 campaign for the dynamic ball carrier, and truly believe a return to the RB1 ranks is imminent.
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