The DLF Mailbag

Eric Hardter


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. With Frank Gore becoming a free agent and the 49ers using a second round pick on Carlos Hyde, it would seem all signs point to him becoming a feature back in 2015. Do you see him becoming a top-10 back this season?Chris in OH

[inlinead]San Francisco running back Carlos Hyde rests directly in the gray area between “risky upside player” and “future breakout.” As mentioned in Chris’ question is the fact venerable ball carrier Frank Gore is in the last year of his contract and might not be back in the Bay Area, lending some credence to the latter possibility in the previous sentence. However, Hyde did precious little during his rookie season, averaging only 4.0 YPC despite playing behind Pro Football Focus’ third-rated run blocking unit, showing the potential for his price outweighing his likelihood of success.

To that last point, Hyde is currently considered to be the ninth-best ball carrier according to the January ADP, while also checking in as they dynasty RB8 according to our own collaborative rankings. This seems high to me, especially given the transition the team is undergoing following the dismissal of head coach Jim Harbaugh. Regardless, the operative point remains that even if he hasn’t yet achieved it on the field, Hyde is already considered a top-ten ball carrier by most.

In order for the on-field success to match the hype, I think we need to see Hyde become a better receiver. Though he was only a part-time player in 2014 he still caught just 12 passes – Cincy running back and fellow rookie Jeremy Hill, last year’s PPR RB10, caught 27 passes, and every other top-10 ball carrier caught at least 37 balls. For a player who only procured 34 receptions across three years at Ohio State, it will be interesting to see if Hyde can improve that aspect of his game.

Finally, the 2014 San Francisco offense was a mess, and it started with quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Though his rushing numbers stood as the best of his young career, his passing statistics took a big step back, and the offense as a whole was stagnant. Kaepernick needs to exhibit serious improvement, or he could very well drag the entire unit down with him.

So given the totality of the above, along with my inherently conservative nature, I don’t see Hyde becoming an RB1 next season. He plays on a poor offense, his receiving numbers are subpar and we still don’t know what type of competition he’ll be facing in his own backfield. Given how he’s currently valued, I’d likely sell if I could get a top-five 2015 rookie pick in return.

  1. Who are the currently undervalued running backs you think contending teams should target this offseason?Jonny in NC

To me, there are there names that come to mind. And much to the likely chagrin of my DLF Podcast mate Karl Safchick, I’m going to start with the guy he’d rather not talk about:

Roy Helu Jr. – Yes Karl, I am aware he was never really a threat to starter Alfred Morris, but Helu has nevertheless proven himself to be a dynamic ball carrier. As I stated in this 2014 Summer Sleeper article, Helu has previously shown an ability to carry the load, and is also incredibly adept in the passing game. He also possesses the size/speed dynamic of a bell-cow back – I liken him to a better version of Boom Herron, and I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way. Ironically enough, I’d love for the soon-to-be free agent to land in Indy and get another crack at being a featured ball carrier.

Khiry Robinson – Before a forearm injury essentially curtailed his season, the Saints sophomore was quietly having an extremely efficient season. Though it was fellow running back Mark Ingram who received the most hype, he was actually a truly average running back over the course of the season, failing to make good on a weak schedule. It’s more than like New Orleans won’t bring him back, meaning Robinson should get his chance in 2015. Any ball carrier who has the potential to procure 200 touches in the high-powered Saints offense is one to monitor.

Stevan Ridley – It’s true Ridley is facing a perfect storm of free agent running back discontent, as he’s coming off an ACL injury in a year where the rookie class appears to be deep at the position. However, he’s proven workhorse ability, and has the chance to emerge in a different locale – and let’s face facts, nearly every other depth chart in the league contains more clarity than that of the Patriots. He could likely be had for a late second or early third round pick, making the minimal risk easily worth the reward.

  1. I own pick 1.01 in a 10-man salary cap league with half-PPR scoring.  Rookies only cost $1 towards the cap, and the pick I choose will receive the only four-year deal I’m allowed to give out. Due to the structure of my current team, running back is a priority over receiver.  Obviously the landing spots for the rookies could change things, but does this league system increase Gordon’s value over Gurley’s due to the ACL injury? Also, once a player’s contract expires, the existing owner owns the RFA rights of that player and can match any offer in that year’s veteran auction.Rob in IL

Following an ACL tear, former Georgia Bulldog Todd Gurley began his rehab in late November. While this means he’ll more than likely miss the majority of NFL Combine events in February, he’ll effectively be nine months removed from surgery by the time the 2015 regular season rolls around. As a 20-year old elite athlete, there’s a reasonable chance Gurley will be good to go at some point next fall.

I’m not the only one who believes this setback isn’t the “be all, end all” of rookie relevance either. Our own Dynasty Doctor Scott Peak recently penned an article both extolling Gurley’s virtues while also mitigating his injury history. While it couldn’t ever be argued that an ACL tear could be viewed in a positive light, it shouldn’t supersede the fact Gurley was popularly viewed as college football’s best runner for the past few years.

So even though you’re in a contract league, I wouldn’t deviate from what you would have done in any other format. If Gurley is the number-one player on your board, I’d select him, and more importantly wouldn’t worry about his rookie year production. As you mentioned you have the chance to match any offer when Gurley becomes a restricted free agent, so it’s not just a four-year window – all told if you want to be a “Gurley man,” there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

  1. So now it looks like Marshawn Lynch is going to sign a new contract with Seattle after all. What does this mean for the other Seahawks on offense?Tom in MA

In what has arguably been the most interesting dynasty subplot of the year, the pendulum has swung from one side all the way to the other as it relates to the ongoing Marshawn Lynch saga. At the beginning of the season it appeared to be a foregone conclusion that the talented veteran would reside elsewhere come 2015, but reports on Super Bowl Sunday stated that the Seattle brass have offered Lynch a lucrative, long-term contract. Should the latter prove to be true, this will have a dramatic impact on the entirety of the Seattle offense.

First and foremost, the inevitable-but-not-really breakout of sophomore Christine Michael now might not occur until he dons a different jersey. Though many had ignored the possibility of direct backup Robert Turbin functioning as any sort of impediment on Michael’s rode to stardom, it’s basically impossible to assert Michael would leapfrog the returning Lynch. With two years left on his contract, both Michael’s near-term and long-term future becomes clouded.

Continuing, a renewed dedication to the run-game could preclude quarterback Russell Wilson’s ascension to the ranks of fantasy’s elite signal callers. Yes, it’s true he finished 2014 as the overall QB3, but that was largely on the back of his 849 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns (120.9 fantasy points). He still only attempted a mere 452 passes, a figure that was 19th amongst all quarterbacks – though Wilson remains as a rushing threat, it would be a boon to his fantasy value if he was unleashed as more of a passer as well.

As such, this makes it tough to consider investing in any of the Seahawks’ pass catchers. Seattle didn’t boast a single 1,000-yard receiver in 2014, and the top perimeter playmaker, receiver Doug Baldwin, finished as only the PPR WR43. While I remain somewhat bullish on tight end Luke Willson, and view Seattle as a fine destination for a talented rookie receiver, it’s tough to get excited about any impending breakouts within this grouping.

Finally, this is obviously fantastic news for owners of Lynch. Should he choose to sign this new contract it removes the possibility for him leaving town, or retiring altogether. As PFF’s most elusive running back of 2014, he’ll immediately slot in as a high-level RB1 for the near future, and as such he should be selected within the first two to three rounds of startup drafts. Beast Mode remains as the straw that stirs the Seattle drink, and his owners might now have a few more gulps of his greatness.

Follow me on Twitter @EDH_27


eric hardter