Each week I walk through the Twitterverse extracting some of the best commentary from trusted fantasy football minds. Twitter can be overwhelming with the amount of information that streams live, but it also proves to be one of the fastest and easiest ways to communicate. In 140 characters or less you can learn something about a player you may have never thought of from trends, stats or analysis.
Jonathan Stewart, RB CAR
For Jonathan Stewart’s entire career, fantasy owners have been waiting for him to be rid of DeAngelo Williams and stay healthy. Williams has finally moved on to the Steelers and the Panthers did nothing to add depth at the running back position with him gone. Mike Tolbert remains on the roster, but the 29-year old should be more of a change of pace back. The real threat to Stewart’s carries is quarterback Cam Newton, who despite being signed to an extension this off-season, won’t be asked to change his game. Newton has carried for 100 plus times each of his four seasons, but his total carries and yards have also dipped each year. The three games leading up to Carolina’s blowout of the Falcons in week 17 saw Stewart log at least 20 carries, all of which were wins for the Panthers as well. As the Fantasy Douche noted recently, when you give Jonathan enough carries he makes the most of them.
Jonathan Stewart only has 23 career games of at least 15 carries. But he’s averaged 97 yards/game in those contests. pic.twitter.com/zmbr74ubSO
— Fantasy Douche (@FantasyDouche) July 13, 2015
Furthermore, Stewart showed he still has the ability and vision to break the long run as seen from his 69-yard touchdown run week 14 against the Saints. So despite being 28 years old, Stewart has relatively few carries for a running back entering his eighth season and still averaged 4.6 yards per carry in 2014. Seeing that he also added 25 receptions last season as well you can likely count from some additional work in the passing game. The only other real detractor is scoring opportunities – no Panther running back has had more than eight total touchdowns in a season since Stewart had 11 back in 2009. Both Cam and Tolbert have been machines around the goal line totaling a combined 53 rushing scores the last four years. [inlinead]Even with that said, if Stewart plays a full slate I would find it hard to not see him score in at least half of the games. Give him 15 carries a game at his career average and you will have a running back with around 1,200 total yards and eight touchdowns. Last season that would have been enough for solid RB2 numbers and it does not seem like we are over-projecting too much. Health remains the only lingering point many fantasy owners will bring up. With that worry though comes a discount built into his ranking. Currently, DLF writers have Stewart as the 26th overall running back in dynasty and that seems low for a player with his apparent fantasy floor. I normally do not take injury history into account and focus more on current health. Stewart finished strong in 2014 and I am willing to bank on him performing well and playing in 2015 at his price. Other running backs ahead of Stewart include Shane Vereen and Doug Martin, who do not offer the same upside and even Andre Ellington who carries similar health concerns. LeGarrette Blount, RB NE Another running back whose current ranking appears low to me is New England’s LeGarrette Blount. Most dynasty rankings I have seen have Blount around the 50th overall runner behind players like Stevan Ridley, Knile Davis and Christine Michael. When it comes to running backs in fantasy I probably look too short-sighted, but if a runner does not have elite talent or clear opportunity, their shelf life is normally short. Blount is not an elite talent, but his opportunity for touches is likely the best situation since his first two seasons in Tampa Bay. Both Ridley and Shane Vereen have moved on along with their combined 190 carries in 2014. The Patriots also did not add another runner through the draft, leaving Blount as the presumed starter. As Adam Pfeifer commented, Blount has found success running in New England,
Blount is clearly a first and second down runner rarely getting involved in the passing game, but when it comes to running the ball across the goal line from a short distance he is your man. Tom Brady and the Patriots offense also offer plenty of opportunities for scores. I do realize Bill Belichick has never been reliable when it comes to game plans and the use of his running backs as seen last season in the playoffs. Blount carried three times against Baltimore and then followed up with a 30-touch effort against the Colts. But when you are talking about the fourth or fifth running back on your roster what do you truly expect? I would much rather have the ability to play a back who could deliver RB2 or even RB1 numbers any given week over a player biding his time on the bench waiting for someone to get injured.
Niles Paul, TE WAS
Another low cost fantasy name that came across my timeline this week was Washington tight end Niles Paul. Both Dan Schneier and Pat Thorman noted Paul’s production last season while starting tight end Jordan Reed missed games.
— Dan Schneier (@DanSchneierNFL) July 16, 2015
Reed essentially missed the first five games of the 2014 season and Paul was the clear beneficiary. To be fair as well, in week five Niles only recorded one catch for six yards against the Seahawks. The following week, Jordan returned and Paul was a backup option with an occasional catch.
In his first two seasons in Washington, Reed has already missed 12 games. Earlier I mentioned I normally do not take injury history into account, but Reed was already held out of the second round of OTAs after surgery on his knee this year. He is reportedly good to go for training camp but not something you normally want to deal with heading into a new season. The main point with Paul is that his value is sometimes all over the board in rankings, but normally falls around the 40th overall TE. If Reed does miss any time, Paul has shown he can slide into the offense and produce like a low end TE1. Paul also spent the offseason bulking up and getting the majority of the first team reps. Investing in Paul clearly costs little to nothing, but if I were a Jordan Reed owner I would definitely make Paul a priority to back up my starting tight end.
T.Y Hilton, WR IND
One interesting story line many have been following and speculating on has been the contract of Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton. Two weeks ago many were reasoning that between the Colts young receivers and the need to lock up Andrew Luck that Hilton may actually hit free agency. Of course over the last couple days it appears that T.Y. and the Indianapolis front office have been working towards a new contract that could still happen this year.
— Jason Cole (@JasonColeBR) July 27, 2015
Hilton looking for Dez Bryant or Demaryius Thomas level money may seem out of place, but you would also expect him to receive more than the $12 million a year Mike Wallace was offered by the Vikings.
Before the draft this year I thought the Colts would definitely lock up Hilton as they have shown a desire to keep their top receivers in the past. Things appeared to change though when they signed Andre Johnson, already have second year man Donte Moncrief in the fold and then drafted Phillip Dorsett in the first round of the draft earlier this year. The Colts are in a great position to review their young talent while still keeping T.Y. on the books for a steal. There is always the possibility that they could franchise Hilton and delay the contract talks as well. So what does this mean for Hilton’s fantasy value?
Currently the DLF team has Hilton ranked as the 15th overall receiver and that seems about right. But if I knew he would be attached to Luck for another four to five seasons I would easily increase his value. Conversely if it was apparent T.Y. was going to be allowed to walk then my outlook would not be as generous. Hilton leaving would mean a definite downgrade at quarterback because he would not be the newest member of the Packers. Teams like the Raiders were chasing free agent wide receivers last year like Randall Cobb and Oakland is not a landing spot you normally want your top fantasy assets residing.
If you are a Hilton owner I would remain on top of the current status and definitely hold onto Hilton as the outlook to remain with the Colts is looking more positive. If anything does change and Hilton’s agent Drew Rosenhaus starts causing some unwanted noise for his star player, I would start considering options to move T.Y. before he finds himself within a black hole.
Fantasy Team Name of the Week
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Natural Born Spiller
Special call out to Pro Football Focus’ Premium Stats for providing a great tool to pull some of the data and information in this article.