05 Aug One Player I Will Shy Away from in the First Round in PPR: Shocker
Every year when fantasy football season begins to ramp up there is always debate on who should be picked first overall, second overall, and so on so forth. The first round is filled with electric talent that we as fantasy owners get enamored with and clamor over.
Now we all most remember that neither is your league won with your first-round draft pick, nor is it lost with your first-round pick. The picks you make in rounds 2-6 are the real meat and potatoes. Furthermore, what I believe is the most crucial part in making a championship run is being very active on the waiver wire all season long.
Looking over at the consensus rankings at the very reputable site fantasypros.com, this is how the first round breaks down in terms of ADP (average draft position) updated actually today 08/05/16.
1. Antonio Brown
2. Julio Jones
3. Odell Beckham Jr
4. David Johnson
5. Todd Gurley
6. Deandre Hopkins
7. A.J Green
8. Rob Gronkowski
9. Lamar Miller
10. Dez Bryant
Now outside of Mr. Antonio Brown you could probably say that each of the other players have some sort of flaw or knock on their game, injury concern, age concern, or simply just disadvantageous situation.
If you know me, or have ever read any of my work with other companies, or listened to our Saturday afternoon(1:30EST-3:00EST) radio show, where you can call in be a part of the conversation and ask fantasy questions (516)387-1306, you know that I am an avid WR enthusiast who will be applying the ZERO RB theory that I have written about here http://thesportscrew.com/fantasyfootball-draftstrategy/, in most, if not all of my drafts.
The reason every league that I’m involved with is PPR (point-per-reception) is because it makes it more skilled adding another layer of accumulating points from the two most prominent positions in fantasy football, that being the running back and wide receiver. Also your weekly match-ups will be much more higher scoring dependent upon each leagues independent settings, which also help make this game we play for fun, more enjoyable.
Now to cut to the chase — each of you will be in a situation to make a first-round pick dependent on where your draft slot may be. If you get the first pick and do not walk away with Antonio Brown, you are trying to be too cute, and will be punished. Then when we look at picks 2-3, experts predominantly throughout our industry and those (like fantasypros.com) who do tracking on various different websites mock-drafters have Odell Beckham Jr. and Julio Jones going in those 2 and 3 slots dependent on the drafters preference.
From there the draft gets a little ominous and I am sure we will see more movement with some consistency as we get closer to kick-off and we have the latest news at our disposal. For me, there is one player that I am going to have an extremely hard time drafting in the first-round, especially because I already own him in a keeper league so I do not have to ponder the what if’s?
A man who recently told NFL Network that fantasy drafters should take him first overall. He than recanted his statement and said well I could see if you wanted to take Antonio Brown or Cam Newton first. He is intelligent enough to name Brown, who for a first time in my long tenured fantasy career that the unanimous first overall player (AB84) has an easy shot at finishing the season in that same slot. Now the Cam statement proves he is not an avid fantasy player, as he should not be having to while he studies the real game and all the grueling tasks that come along with playing in the NFL.
The man behind the screen, none other than second year running-back Todd Gurley. First I would like to preface this whole logic of mine by saying by NO means do I think that Gurley is a bad football player or anything near close. In fact, I think he easily is top-five at the position, and one that can get the 20+ touches a game that is now such a rarefied act in football.
First off we will take a look at last seasons break out performance for Gurely who over 13 games finished with 1,294 combined total yards (1,106 rushing, 118 receiving), 10 TD on 229 carries and 21 receptions. The last statistic is the one that can bury Gurley down in the rankings come mid-to-late in the season. Head coach Jeff Fisher loves to let his best RB tote the rock with the lion’s share of attempts, but when passing situations arise that is where Gurley has his downfall. They love to use team-mate Benny Cunningham in passing situations and we saw that last year when he finished with 26 receptions on 36 targets. Even Tre Mason who battled injuries most of the year only missed Gurley’s total by three receptions as he finished with 18 on 21 targets.
The top RB in fantasy football for the most part are dual-threat guys who can run the ball effectively while excelling in the passing game as well. Despite missing three games last season Gurley still finished as the 9th best RB in PPR scoring. We know that targeting guys who perennially hover the 35-50 reception total will get a major jolt to the top of the RB rankings by the end of the season.
I did a little math-ing to further prove this point, over the past 5 seasons or so I am sure we all looked at these three names as always being at the top-end of round one in your PPR leagues. Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte, and LeSean McCoy at some point in their career were being discussed as a possible number one overall selection in fantasy. Do you want to know what all these guys have in common? Catches, catches, and more catches. Charles has averaged 40.4 receptions throughout his career. McCoy has averaged 47.4 catches per season in his career. Lastly, Forte — where I even took out the miraculous record-breaking 102 catch season in 2014 so that the outlier can still prove the point because Matt still averaged 55 receptions a season.
While missing three games of the regular season in 2015, Gurley was still able to show why he was a first-round draft pick after finishing as one of seven to eclipse the 1,000 rushing plateau last season. The first taste of NFL game action did not fare so well as he was eased into the game against Pittsburgh where he accumulated nine yards on six rushing attempts. Shortly there after he came flying out of the gates in Week 4 versus division rival Arizona Cardinals as he ran for 146 yards on 19 carries (7.8YPA). He then went and followed up that performance with three more consecutive 100+ yard performances while averaging more than 6 yards per attempt. Defenses started to devise a better game plan for Gurley and the adjustments made were quite evident as he only reached the 100-yard mark one more time in Week 13 versus the Lions.
Here I will give you a quick synopsis over the other games not mentioned: WK8: 24/89yd (3.7YPA), WK9: 12/45 (3.7YPA), WK10: 25/66 (2.6YPA), WK11: 9/19 (2.1YPA), WK12: 9/41 (4.5YPA), WK13: 16/140 (8.7YPA), WK14: 21/48 (2.2YPA), WK15: 19/83 (4.3YPA). Only three times in those contests did he average over 4 yards per attempt. After rushing for at least 128 yards in four of his first five games, he managed only 531 yards over his final eight games.
All of this being said, by no means is it a knock against the talent-level of Gurley, because like many experts I do believe he is one of the most gifted and talented RB in the league, and if he stays healthy I’d say he is a really solid bet to be wearing that yellow suit coat walking into the Hall of Fame.
All of this arises from the situation at hand Gurley will find himself in. He has a rookie quarterback in Jared Goff at the helm. That alone will bring eight man fronts all game long, while stuffing the run becomes the defenses main prerogative and having no qualms about being beat over the top by some rookie QB. You ask well what if they get the ball out quickly to some of those talented receivers? Well unfortunately for Las St. Vegas Louis they are very thin at that position with little upside outside of Tavon Austin who is more of a gadget player anyways. So than does the duo of the ‘often injured’ Kenny Britt and Brian Quick scare you? That’s right, and if they don’t scare you, do you think they will scare opposing defenses? Did not think so. Add in the fact that the Rams are an extreme low-volume offense that averaged about 61.4 plays per game (last in league) and with a rookie QB leading the charge, there will be a ton of stacked boxes focusing on strictly stopping Gurley.
Lastly, one could think well what if he gets that reception total up to the 40’s or so assuming he plays all 16 games, that’s not too of a far-fetched notion is it? Well there is one guy that Jeff Fisher loves to keep in-the-fold for some reason, and that is Mister Benny Cunningham. Last season, Cunningham was the St. Louis best receiving RB as he finished with 26 catches on 36 targets, compared to Gurley and his 21 receptions on 26 targets. While I do believe Gurley will become more involved in the passing game, Cunningham is trusted to pick up the blitzes in the passing game as well as being an adept receiver, so this will keep these two guys splitting the reps on receiving downs. When we think about receiving downs, for the Rams I envision those to be early and often. On first down the defense will stack the box and do some type of heavy run blitz against a rookie QB not ready to audible or feel comfortable changing plays yet. So then they will stand at a 2nd and 12 or 13, which usually sets the offense in passing mode. Unless something drastic this off-season changes about their 2nd/3rd long scheme, the Rams usually like to send Benny Cunningham out in those situations which is playing time lost for Gurley, as well as the lost opportunity to get more involved in the passing game.
With all of this being said, Gurley will still probably end up on one of my teams because of how talented he really is, and that just adds another layer of making him a joy to watch while running the rock on Sundays. Los Angeles you have been blessed with a shiny new toy, the only problem lies that the box has been wrapped with duct tape about 4 or 5 times. So if the Rams can get the toy out of the proverbial box then they can have some fun, but often times that box will hold true.
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