Several weeks have now gone by in NFL Free Agency and a lot of the bigger names have relocated to new teams or re-signed with their previous team. There are still some chips to fall like Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles, but with a draft class that is very deep at running back, these two may have to wait until after the draft to find a job.
The future of Tony Romo still remains a huge offseason question mark. Offensive situations in Houston, Denver and perhaps others will benefit greatly by landing the former Pro Bowl Dallas Cowboys quarterback. Until Romo finds a new home, we as well as the rest of the quarterback market will have to wait.
The moves to date have sent ripples throughout the fantasy football community.
Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith to the Eagles
Carson Wentz gets a couple of playmakers to pair with Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz. All of a sudden this wide receiver core is about as deep as you can find.
Alshon Jeffrey is in on a one year, $14-million dollar prove it deal after suffering hamstring injuries and serving a four game suspension over the last couple of years. His issue has never been ability, it's been staying on the field. If on the field, he will provide Wentz with one of the more explosive weapons in the league.
Most people will select Jeffrey in the top 24, but I'm concerned that the Eagles now have too many weapons. With Jeffrey, Torrey Smith, Jordan Matthews, Zach Ertz, and still a decent group of running backs, Jeffrey may have a hard time seeing an elite number of targets. I'm of the mind to wait until round three on Jeffrey in every format. There are other wide receivers that I like more; TY Hilton, Doug Baldwin, Michael Thomas, Brandin Cooks, DeAndre Hopkins, and Allen Robinson.
Torrey Smith will help as well, but we have to see Wentz prove he's willing to throw it down the field, and he has to improve in that area as well. According to Pro Football Reference, each of Wentz' numbers in the Yards/Attempt Index were below average. Torrey Smith is a late round pick to me at this point. He may have some Kenny Stills type of value in deep leagues, but he won't get enough targets in the passing game to be an every week starter.
I'm not ready to write off Jordan Matthews at the moment. He will slide into the slot when the Eagles are in three receiver sets, which is where he is a more effective receiver. Look for Matthews in the 5th or 6th round in PPR leagues. Later than that will be pretty good value in any format.
Danny Woodhead to the Baltimore Ravens
Danny Woodhead has been a very effective running back in his time in the NFL. Whether it was in situational spurts with New England or in his new role as a 3rd down/red zone back for San Diego, he's become a very reliable pass catcher out of the backfield.
Woodhead has caught 75+ passes in two of the last three seasons. In 2016, before getting injured in the second game of the season, he saw 25 touches and scored a touchdown.
Baltimore in 2016 threw the ball to their running backs to the tune of 23.2% of the team's targets.
Woodhead will immediately slide into the passing situation back and may get more work with Kenneth Dixon suspended for the first four games of the season (PEDs).
Terrance West likely gets the first shot as the early down runner with Woodhead spelling him from time to time, but don't rule out Baltimore spending an early pick on a runner like Dalvin Cook who would fit nicely in their high volume passing attack.
Woodhead is a mid-round pick in PPR leagues and is draftable in the last several rounds of standard formats. Terrance West will also be a mid-to-late round pick. Kenneth Dixon for me falls to rounds 7 or 8. Other than Woodhead, this isn't a backfield that I'll be investing in come draft time.
DeSean Jackson to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
DeSean Jackson is moving on from the NFC East. Dallas Cowboys fans, you can all take a collective deep breath. He's the NFC South's problem now.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have shown us what it looks like to make an offense friendly for their franchise quarterback.
With Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Cameron Brate, and Charles Sims as passing game targets, Jameis Winston looks poised for an explosive season.
The impact of Jackson to the Bucs mostly will affect Mike Evans. Evans saw a league leading number of targets in 2016. He may not see that many opportunities in 2017, but it's likely that he will receive more favorable coverages with teams having to pay attention to Jackson over the top. Evans is a top-eight pick.
Jackson will get some of the best coverages he has ever seen. Mike Evans is a top-five wide receiver in the NFL and teams have to pay attention to him. Jackson will at times be matched up one-on-one as teams look to take Evans away. DeSean Jackson is likely a 5th or 6th round pick in standard leagues.
The biggest winner in this is Winston, who now has one of the best jump-ball wide outs in the league and one of the best deep threats in the league. If I ended up with Winston as my QB1 in fantasy, I'd be pretty thrilled. Target him in the 8th or 9th round.
Pierre Garçon to San Francisco 49ers
Someone in San Francisco is going to have to catch passes and Pierre Garçon is still good at doing that.
Reunited with former Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan, now San Francisco 49ers head coach, Garçon will have a chance to find the magic that once led him to a 113 catch season under Shanahan.
He's 30 now and age catches up to everyone, but in the middle to late rounds, Garçon would be a nice low-cost pick with a ton of upside. There isn't anyone else in San Francisco that will compete for targets with him.
Brandin Cooks to the New England Patriots (Trade)
Probably the biggest offseason move was the New England Patriots acquiring Brandin Cooks for their first round pick.
Obviously New England isn't satisfied with their 17 year run of dominance; they want to maximize as much of Tom Brady's career as they can.
Obviously, Cooks goes to a place where there are a ton of weapons on offense for Tom Brady to work with. If I had to assess the target pecking order, I would go Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, then Brandin Cooks; at the moment.
Edelman is 30 years old and has had trouble staying healthy throughout his career, through no fault of his own; he plays a very tough position and goes over the middle a ton.
Gronkowski, on the other hand, is only 27, but has had a hard time keeping his health. In fact, he hasn't played a complete season of NFL football since 2011, his second year in the league.
With as much as New England likes to throw the ball and Cooks' ability to win all over the field, I would feel comfortable spending a 3rd round pick on the former Saints wide receiver.
Terrelle Pryor to the Washington Redskins
With the exodus of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon, the Washington Redskins' wide receiver group was left quite depleted. Enter Terrelle Pryor, coming off a career year in which he showed that he had made the successful transition from college quarterback to wide receiver.
He only caught 55% of his passes for the Cleveland Browns in 2016, but we can give him a bit of a pass on that, because, you know, it's the Cleveland Browns.
Going to Washington, Pryor will get a HUGE upgrade at quarterback with Kirk Cousins. For 2017, that has the potential to be a big season for Pryor and Cousins. If you are looking at Pryor in dynasty leagues, know that he's only on a one-year deal. What happens in 2018 is anyone's guess, because after all, it's the Washington Redskins.
Jamison Crowder gets pushed down a bit, as well as second year wide out Josh Doctson. I'd look at Pryor in the 5th or 6th rounds.
Ted Ginn Jr. to the New Orleans Saints
Out goes Cooks and in comes Ted Ginn Jr., the New Orleans Saints didn't waste anytime filling their open WR 2/3 position.
With Michael Thomas playing excellently in 2016, the Saints have put the wide receiver keys in the second year player's hands. Ted Ginn and Willie Snead will compete for targets as the home-run-hitter in the offense.
If your league awards return yards, I'd look at Ginn anywhere in the 10-12th round of your redraft leagues.
Eddie Lacy to the Seattle Seahawks
How Eddie Lacy doesn't have more food endorsements is beyond me. He's struggled with his weight over his career and has signed a contract with the Seattle Seahawks that includes weight incentives throughout the season.
Lacy has the ability to be a formidable back in Seattle's power running offense. He has to stay healthy and agile, however.
His $5 million base salary looks to put him in line for the early down work for the Seahawks, who have had a hard time replacing Marshawn Lynch.
C. J. Prosise and Thomas Rawls have shown potential, but Pete Carroll and his coaching staff wants a bit more oomph from their early down runner.
Eddie Lacy is probably a 3rd round pick in 12 team leagues and a 4th in 10 team leagues. Thomas Rawls and C. J. Prosise will figure to be handcuff candidates in the mid to late rounds of your drafts.
Latavius Murray to the Minnesota Vikings
For some reason, I'm the only person that seems to like Latavius Murray in the fantasy football world.
He's played in more than 14 games in each season of his NFL career and has averaged at least 4.0-yards per carry. Sure, he isn't a home run type of back, a bit more of a plodder really, but he will get yards and he is good in short yardage situations.
He's averaged 17 touches a game over the last two seasons for 78.3 yards per game. Murray's also scored 18 touchdowns over the last two seasons.
With Jerick McKinnon the only competition in the backfield at the moment, Murray looks to be in line for a feature role, and if he gets a 20+ touch per game workload, he'll produce nicely.
He'll probably be available in the 5th round or later, though I'd be content taking him the 4th.
Is Dak Prescott a Player to Avoid in Fantasy Football in 2018?
For the Dallas Cowboys, the plan is to stick with Dak Prescott to hopefully turn him into a successful long-term franchise quarterback. Going into his third year in the league, this could be a season that defines his future on America's Team.
However, after the entire team struggled in 2017 while trying to overcome several key absences (including Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith), Prescott's level of play has been questioned by plenty around the league. Fans, analysts and writers everywhere aren't as sure as they were in 2016 about the quarterback's future.
And now, according to NFL.com, Fantasy Football players should beware of drafting Dak Prescott once their "friendly" (we all know they're anything but friendly) seasons begin.
Earlier this week, NFL.com Fantasy Editor Marcas Grant published an article telling us ten players to avoid for the 2018 Fantasy Football season. Perhaps it may come as a surprise to some that Dak Prescott is in there among names like Ty Montgomery and Jack Doyle. You can read his full article here.
To be honest, I see his point here.
It's more than fair to say that it's not going to be an easy year for Dak. He's got to prove a lot in a year that could have a juicy extension at the end of it. After going through a sort of an expected sophomore slump, Prescott's third year in the NFL should be his best one yet.
There's a big but, though. Dez Bryant and Jason Witten are long gone, leaving Dak Prescott with a promising yet unproven set of pass catchers.
Will a dominant running game led by five great offensive linemen and Ezekiel Elliott be enough to help Dak and the rest of the offense? Probably. but how much will Prescott be able to accomplish?
Through a painful 9-7 season in which the Cowboys never seemed to be able to find a steady pace, #4's stats took a hit. Here are his numbers from his two years in the pros:
- 2016: 311 completions, 67.8% completion percentage, 3,667 yards, 23 TDs and 4 INTs.
- 2017: 308 completions, 62.9% completion percentage, 3,324 yards, 22 TDs and 13 INTs.
- He also ran for six touchdowns in each of his two seasons.
Per FantasyData.com, his fantasy points dropped from 286.88 in 2016 to 260.66 in 2017.
Despite his numbers dropping, Dak certainly took huge strides as a passer. From taking command of the offense as a captain to making throws he wouldn't make as a rookie, Prescott was able to demonstrate improvements during a rough sophomore slump.
Even with Dez gone, the receivers the front office brought in throughout the offseason are expected to be Dak-friendly. If the receiving corps actually make his strengths shine, the Cowboys' offense will take a huge step in 2018.
Maybe, as Jason Witten mentioned on Adam Schefter's Podcast, Dez is as good as anyone going up for the football. But that's not what will make Dak shine. This revamped WR room might be just what he needs, though.
At the end of the day, even though I truly believe he'll have a good career in the NFL and that he's the future of the Dallas Cowboys, I doubt he should be marked as an early target in the Fantasy Football world.
As of right now, from a Fantasy Football perspective, I would barely rank him as a Top 15 quarterback for many reasons.
First of all, the Cowboys' game will revolve around Ezekiel Elliott. Secondly, it doesn't matter how much faith we put into these pass catchers, they haven't proved anything yet.
Dak is not a bad player at all. But taking Prescott in the middle or even late rounds of a Fantasy Draft might be the safest way to go right now.
Lastly, I leave you with some "Fantasy Nuggets" from fellow Inside The Star writer and Fantasy Football Guru John Williams:
- Dak failed to score 10 standard format fantasy points only four times last season. He scored 15+ points nine times and 20+ six times in 2017.
- In 2017 - even with a down second half - he finished as the 13th best QB in points per game and as the tenth best in total QB scoring.
- In 2016, he was in the top 10 in both categories mentioned in the previous bullet point.
- His ability to run and score touchdowns on the ground easily make him one of the best 12 QB options for fantasy football.
Fantasy Football Implications of Ezekiel Elliott’s Suspension
Ezekiel Elliott has been suspended by the NFL for 6 games for violating the league's Personal Conduct Policy. This will leave a void in the backfield for the Dallas Cowboys and on many fantasy football rosters around the world. As it is with the real league, it's a next man up philosophy in the world of fantasy football as well.
At the moment, that next man up is Darren McFadden.
Just two years ago, with Dallas still clinging to playoff hopes in the wake of Tony Romo's injury, McFadden rushed for more than 1,000 yards. He finished fifth in the NFL that season despite not seeing more than 10 carries a game until week six. From week 6 until the end of the season, McFadden had 7 games with more than 90 yards rushing.
McFadden's touchdown total from that season leaves a lot to be desired, but let's not forget the quarterbacking chaos that went on that season. Between Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel, and Kellen Moore, defenses weren't worried about being beat in the passing game.
Frankly, it's a miracle that McFadden rushed for 1,000 yards.
Over 11 games from weeks 6-17, McFadden averaged 21.45 touches per game and 108.27 total yards per game. At that pace, stretched over a 16 game season, McFadden would have totaled 1,732 yards, which would have led all running backs in total yards that season.
If you still have to draft, I would take a chance on McFadden around the 7th or 8th round in 10 or 12 team drafts.
As for Alfred Morris, he will get some touches as much as the Dallas Cowboys will look to run the ball. That being said the second half of 2016 showed who the coaches preferred as the backup.
The last time Morris ran for more than 1,000 yards was in 2014. In 2015, if you'll remember, he lost his job to Matt Jones who has since lost his job to UDFA Rob Kelley, who is starting but is being threatened by 2017 draft pick Samaje Perine.
When Morris played last year he was pretty ineffective averaging a career-low 3.5 yards per carry.
With McFadden's injury history, you can take a shot on Alfred Morris late in your fantasy drafts around the second to last or the last round.
How Should You Value Ezekiel Elliott in Upcoming Fantasy Drafts?
That's a difficult question to answer, because a lot will depend on your league settings. My simple answer is, if you can get any discount on Ezekiel Elliott from his average draft position of 3.0, then you're getting a good value for at least the second half of the season.
Just a week ago I wrote to not allow this absence to sway you too much. I stand by that.
Fantasy football is about getting as much value as you can with each draft pick. Elliott is a top 5 value in any setting, even if he has to sit out. I think you can comprise a roster good enough to get into the playoffs, then you'll want Elliott for a playoff run.
Just like the Dallas Cowboys, all you need to do is tread water while he's out. If you can make it through the suspension at or around .500, you will still be in good position to win your fantasy football league.
When Elliott comes back, he will be the starter.
Even if they make him earn it, it won't take long. He's just better than McFadden and Morris. If your league lets Elliott somehow slip outside of the first round, snatch him up and make sure you draft McFadden. You'll thank me for it later.
While many will look at this situation as a detriment to Dak Prescott and may feel deterred from drafting him as the 9th quarterback in your league, I actually see it the opposite. While Dak was very efficient in Dallas' run-first offense, he showed throughout the 2016 season that he could be leaned upon in a shootout or to bring the team back from a large deficit.
In fact, Dak might have played his best game of the season during the playoff loss to Green Bay when the team got down 21-3. Forced to pass, Prescott completed 63% of his passes for 302 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in nearly leading the team back to victory.
With a full offseason in the Dallas offense and a really good compliment of receivers led by Dez Bryant, I fully anticipate Dak to have an excellent sophomore campaign.
Dallas may lean more on the pass during Elliott's absence, which will make Dak more valuable to me. Remember fantasy football is about acquiring stats and with Elliott out, Dak will have a great chance at putting up even bigger numbers. Especially if the run game is ineffective.
Fantasy Football: Draft Ezekiel Elliott Early, Don’t Be Swayed
Plenty of fantasy football drafts have come and gone, but many still remain as training camp is in full swing. The question has come up in the fantasy football Twitter community; what do you do with Ezekiel Elliott amidst rumors of a suspension? And the short answer is nothing.
Investigations into whether or not Ezekiel Elliott has violated any of the NFL's policies have persisted. Supposedly, those investigations have come to a close. The personal conduct policy, the domestic violence policy, and the substance abuse policy seem to all be in play as the league decides on the appropriate punishment for the Dallas Cowboys' star running back.
You could go the safe route and drop Ezekiel Elliott down your draft boards or you could take a chance at having one of the top scorers in fantasy football on your roster.
Say a suspension does come down. At worst, a drug suspension would be four games.
The domestic violence issue seems to be circumstantial evidence that even the Columbus Police and District Attorney declined to pursue. The NFL's personal conduct policy could apply, but that seems to be more of a threat than anything. So the question is, if Elliott is out for four games, does he lose his value somehow. I'd say no.
We don't have to go back very far to see a similar star running back with a similar suspension. In 2016, Le'Veon Bell was suspended for the first three games of the season and many people slid him down their draft boards. In some mocks, I saw him going outside of the first round.
Sure he missed the first three games of the season, but he finished as fantasy football's No. 3 running back and was there when you needed him most. Playoff time.
Bell only had three games where he failed to score less than 15 standard fantasy points during his 12 game season (didn't play in the season finale). The point being, anyone who drafted Le'Veon Bell in the first round or the top of the second was quite happy with the results.
If Ezekiel Elliott misses time, it will be at the beginning of the season, but like Bell, he will be around at the end of the season when you're trying to put away a championship win.
If you're drafting at the top of the first round, don't let Ezekiel Elliott's consistency and scoring ability get by you because of a threat of suspension. He'll be available to you when you need him most.
The first few weeks of the season are tough matchups for Elliott anyway.
Dallas will face the New York Giants, Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals, and Los Angeles Rams in the first four weeks--all teams with tough defenses. Though Elliott is a guaranteed starter for those four weeks, it's likely you're lowering expectations for him against some of the top run defenses in the NFL.
For me in 2017, the reward of having Ezekiel Elliott on my roster far outweighs the risk of any potential suspension. Draft Zeke and reap the benefits.
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