Nick, Shawn, Harold, Anthony, Amol, and Pasha discuss some thangs.
Who will be the head man in the Baltimore RB corps this season?
Nick – Justin Forsett. As great as Buck Allen was, he only averaged 3.8 yards per carry. There’s no reason to overwork a young back like Allen this season when you have a guy like Forsett, who had some productive games last year, on his way out. This will be a great year to get Allen more involved in the offense to learn under a journeyman like Forsett. I think as the year progresses, it could more of a 50/50 split so you might want neither by the end of the season, but the guy you want come draft day is Forsett.
Shawn – As his injury last season pertained to his upper body, Forsett’s cut-and-dash style of running shouldn’t impede with his comeback. Buck Allen will most compete for carries but Forsett is still the man in Baltimore.
Harold – Definitely the hardest question to answer. Baltimore is the ultimate example of too many RBs with just enough talent to keep the discussion murky. I haven’t kept up on Dixon, but hear that he is pretty good. Being a rookie I would assume he is starting out at the bottom of the depth chart, so will need to work his way up. I think it’ll be a true committee, but give the edge to Forsett.
Anthony – To start the season it will be Justin Forsett. He is the proven back for the Baltimore Ravens and there is no reason why he won’t get the first crack at the starting job. He was injured towards the end of the season, but still managed to have 800 total yards, 31 receptions and 2 touchdowns. When Forsett gets hurt, and I feel like it will be towards the beginning of the season, Kenneth Dixon will be the starter for the Ravens. In his final year in college, he had over 1,500 total yards with 34 receptions and 26 total touchdowns. There is no chance he has 26 touchdowns this year, but the fact that he can catch the ball is very important. Marc Trestman is the offensive coordinator for the Ravens, and he loves to pass the ball to his running back. I don’t think Javorius Allen is good, Lorenzo Taliaferro has proven he can’t get the job done and I can’t believe Trent Richardson is still on the team. After Forsett gets hurt it will be Dixon’s backfield!
Amol – The Ravens have many question marks surrounding their RB corp going into the 2016 season: Is RB Justin Forsett capable of returning not only to his 2014 form but from a season ending broken arm injury? Will RB Trent Richardson revitalize his once promising year in Baltimore? Can under-the-radar backs RB Javorius Allen, RB Terrance West, RB Kenneth Dixon, or RB Terrance West make the job their own? On the surface, Forsett seems likely to regain his job as lead back but if we delve deeper it might not be that straightforward. He might have been used as the top back in OC Marc Trestman’s offense last season, but if we look closer at Trestman’s track record, he prefers backs that can both run and catch. Forsett can catch but he is definitely a more capable runner than pass catcher. In Chicago, RB Matt Forte was a bell cow because he could run and catch. Last season the Ravens did not have a back who could do those two things at a high level, but in the offseason the Ravens drafted a back who could be that type of player in Trestman’s offense. Rookie RB Kenneth Dixon out of Louisiana Tech has the traits that Trestman covets and although he will have to work the hardest to earn the top spot on the depth chart, he has attitude and toughness to do so. He is a shifty back, whose also isn’t afraid to get physical and finish his runs with authority. Dixon has the qualities to be a three-down back since he also excels at catching the ball out of the backfield. I fully expect Dixon too lead the ground attack for the Ravens in 2016, starting no later than Week 3.
Pasha – While Justin Forsett will likely lead the RB corps in Baltimore when the season commences, I believe that rookie back Kenneth Dixon will be the main horse in the stable for the duration of the season. Forsett has dealt with injuries as of late and is aging, not a good sign for an RB. Buck Allen in limited time proved he can handle some work in the NFL but by no means looked like a feature back. Enter Dixon. The rookie is an explosive talent that should be the head man come midseason of what will likely be a committee at RB. Despite his talents, I would steer clear of all Baltimore RBs this season, as the offense doesn’t project to be great and Forsett and Allen will both inevitably get some run. An injury to one of the latter two would really open up the gates for Dixon to shine. He would be a priority waiver wire pick up should this happen.
What fantasy draft strategy will you be utilizing come draft time?
Nick – The more mock drafts I’ve been doing, the more I’m realizing I like the “Zero-RB” strategy, especially in PPR. There are a ton of running backs that you can get later on in the draft for great value. Giovanni Bernard, Theo Riddick, Danny Woodhead, and Ryan Mathews are all backs going in the fifth round or later. I am liking picking up 2 or 3 stud wide receivers when I can wait and can get such great value for the running backs going later. As always it depends on where I’m drafting, but I seem to be taking more WR early when there’s an abundance of late round RBs.
Shawn – All depends on the running backs available in the first round. If I see one of my guys, ill likely be going RB first, wide receiver later and QB last.
Harold – I’d like to focus on RB early and grab some high end guys to minimize the risk of a letdown like so many fantasy owners experienced last year. I’m especially fond of this idea due to the popularity of the Zero RB and WR heavy strategies this year. My only issue is that my primary league is full of wildcard owners that don’t follow any particular logic or strategy, so it’s a crapshoot at best.
Anthony – I don’t believe in going into a draft with a particular “strategy.” I usually know who I want in the first round based on where I am drafting, but after that I want to stay as “fluid” as humanly possible. I will say that I am not one of the people who think that you shouldn’t draft a stud running back in the first round. I want to be able to draft Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson or Todd Gurley in the first round.
Amol – The running back position is arguably the most important position in fantasy football and this season, more than ever, elite three-down running backs are scarce. With the NFL turning into a passing league, there are a plethora of wide receivers that someone can draft but running backs are few and far between. The running back early strategy seems like the best strategy for this season, in order to ensure you have at least one quality starter at the position. You might even consider doubling down and going RB-RB in the first two rounds making your team elite at the thinnest position in fantasy. Just remember it is easier to plug-and-play wide receivers, as many of the league’s pass catchers can go off any given week. It is much harder to predict running backs because once a starter (and I mean a true starter in the likes of Adrian Peterson, David Johnston, Todd Gurley etc.) goes down, teams generally employ a committee approach to fill that void.
Pasha – Best available is the way to go. I create my own customized rankings, and just run with what I’ve got, regardless of need at a certain position. There are so many injuries and depth changes throughout the year, it will hardly matter that you took an extra WR when you needed a TE.
Who is your top breakout player of the year?
Nick – All aboard the hype train, CHOO CHOO! I love Lamar Miller this year. He was so underutilized in Miami and I can’t wait to see him finally let loose on the field. Texans’ head coach Bill O’ Brian has implemented one of the heaviest run offenses in the league. When Arian Foster was healthy, he averaged 22.5 touches a game. Miller only got 22 touches twice in the last two years! He’s so versatile out of the backfield that they can use him just like they used Foster. If Miller finished in the top 3, I wouldn’t be surprised at all. The opportunity is there, the talent is there, and if he’s there in the draft, I’m taking him.
Shawn – Having played in every game last year while scoring 8 touchdowns, Lamar Miller is a reliable power runner with a good nose for the end zone. The height/QB/WR confluence of Osweiler to Hopkins should often keep safeties out of the box and free up Miller to eclipse the 1000 yard mark for the first time in his career.
Harold – I’m high on Sterling Shepard this year. McAdoo as a coach, Eli slinging it, OBJ drawing coverage, and very little threat of a run game taking away opportunities, the number 2 in the Giants pass game should have a field day. It also doesn’t hurt that there are absolutely no DBs in that division or the NFC North, who they are slated to play this year. That’s ten games against teams without any pass defense. I easily think he could end the season with 1000 yards and 8 TDs. Not too bad for a guy you can get late in drafts.
Anthony – Lamar Miller is my top breakout. Sure, he has had good seasons, but this is the year when he becomes elite. When you come from a team that gave you less than 15 total touches in a game and go to a team that averages 22 total touches per game, the offensive production that Miller will have will make him an elite option. At Miller’s career average of 4.6 yards per carry, if he gets 20 rushing attempts per game he will have almost 1,500 rushing yards. Let’s not forget that he also catches the ball very well. If Miller gets the same amount of catches that Arian Foster averaged while he played for the Texans (50), at Miller’s career average of 8 yards per catch, he will have 400 receiving yards on top of 1,500 rushing yards. Finally, if you give Lamar Miller his average touchdown production, which is 7 total touchdowns, and combine it with his rushing yards, receiving yards and receptions, he will score 282 fantasy points in a PPR league. That averages to almost 18 points per game. He has the skills to breakout, and the Texans will give him the opportunity.
Amol – For years TE Ladarius Green was supposed to break out in San Diego. He has all the physical tools and he showed glimpses of being a dominant tight end in the league. However that never happened and instead future HOFer TE Antonio Gates continued to hold onto his starting spot. Now Green finds himself in Pittsburgh with a fresh start. He will fill the void left by TE Heath Miller and considering how often QB Ben Roethlisberger relied on Miller in the passing game, I think Green can expect to be used in the same way. Green is far more athletic than Miller ever was and he could have a huge impact in this offense. The Steelers have stars in RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown, so the pressure really is not that immense. But the suspension of WR Martavis Bryant ensures that Green is definitely in line to be used heavily. With teams keying in on Brown and Bell, Green could see himself quickly elevated to a go-to target in the passing game. I fully expect Green to break out similarly to how TE Jordan Reed and TE Tyler Eifert did last season.
Pasha – John Brown will shine this year. Once dubbed a Marvin Harrison-esque talent, I truly believe the kid will shine in what is projected to be a potent offense this year. Fitz is aging and will be relegated to inside duties, leaving Brown and Floyd on the flanks. Brown can also be used inside and will be all over the field. The Cards are Super Bowl contenders this year, and I see Brown leading the receiving corps in a deep postseason run. Draft him with ease as a WR2/3.
Over/Under Antonio Brown will break the record and have 2,000 receiving yards this season:
Nick – UNDER: Brown is undoubtably the best receiver in the game and should absolutely be the number one pick. A healthy Ben Roethlisbeger, the easiest schedule for WRs, and no true No. 2 receiver are all signs that Brown could actually get over 2,000, but there’s one big reason he won’t. That reason, is LeVeon Bell. Keep in mind, the running back only played 6 games last year and that’s a heck of a lot of targets left for Brown. In 2014, Bell had 105 targets, catching 85 of them. When DeAngelo Williams filled in last year, he was only targeted 47 times. Bell will get right back to being highly targeted in the offense along with new tight end Ladarius Green. The talent is there to get 2,000 yards, but there’s just too many mouths to feed in that offense with new additions and players getting healthy.
Shawn – AB is the man, plain and simple but I’m taking the under here. With Leveon Bell’s presence and at least two more viable options, there are only so many yards to go around. I wouldn’t be shocked if he did but I expect another 1700-1800 electrifying yards out of him.
Harold – Under. I think if Bell can stay healthy, it hurts the possibility of Brown breaking 2,00 yards. I’d like to see him push the record higher, but I think their coaches would prefer to run the ball more than pass, and that division has always played that way. With all that said, I’m not oblivious to the fact that it is definitely within reason to think it’s possible this year.
Anthony – I will take the under. Antonio Brown is amazing, but he won’t get to 2,000 yards this year. I think he could still have 1,800 receiving yards like he did last year. Le’Veon Bell being healthy will take some of the targets that were going to Brown when Bell was injured, as DeAngelo Williams didn’t have a lot of receptions or receiving yards. The Steelers offensive is going to be dangerous this year with Brown, Bell, Markus Wheaton, Sammie Coates and Ladarius Green as options for Ben Roethlisberger. Antonio Brown will likely be the #1 receiver in football again in 2016, but not at the expense of breaking Calvin Johnson’s record.
Amol – Make no mistake: I think WR Antonio Brown is an elite wide receiver and is likely the best in the game, but I don’t see him having a 2,000 receiving yards this season. I mean, think about it. Greats like WR Jerry Rice, WR Randy Moss, WR Calvin Johnson have never managed to top 2,000 and I would consider all those players a level above of Brown. I just don’t think the balanced Steeler’s offense will afford the ability to reach 2,000. RB Le’veon Bell is an elite back and the Steelers will use him often in both the ground and passing games. Also, the addition of TE Ladarius Green gives the Steelers a good young tight end with massive potential to fill the void left by the recently retired TE Heath Miller. The suspension of WR Martavis Bryant might seem like it will further push Brown to 2,000, as he will be Big Ben’s primary target but I think it will have the opposite effect. Brown will face a lot of double coverage and unless WR Sammie Coates can step up and fill in at a high level for Bryant, I think Brown might find it extremely hard to break any records. Brown is a special talent and if he did break the record it would not be a major surprise however I just don’t see him being able to pull it off.
Pasha – I may be in the minority here, but I’m going with the OVER. AB has made 1,500 receiving yards a standard when it was once deemed a great feat. With Jerry Rice-like talent, I see AB surpassing 2K yards receiving en route to an MVP season. He is my surefire #1 overall fantasy pick.