Hey there fantasy football fans! Welcome to the pre-season edition of SmartFantasy’s (soon-to-be) weekly fantasy article where I, Kent Weyrauch, will be covering lists of players that I will want to either pick up, start/stream, buy low or sell high each and every week. The lists will be consistent from week-to-week, but the players will always be up-to-date based on the current fantasy landscape.

First, here is a little about me. I am a 26-year-old USMC veteran student who is studying statistics at the University of Minnesota (Go Gophers!). I have only been playing fantasy football for 3 years now, but it has quickly enveloped my life and now I’m a fantasy football fanatic. I won both of the leagues that I played in last year and brought home over a grand in winnings. I plan to utilize my personal experience as a stats major to find the trends woven into the fabric of a championship winning fantasy football roster!

In this first edition, things will be a little different than usual since the season hasn’t started yet. I will be covering five guys that I want on my roster going into the 2016 fantasy football season. Here we go!

[All ADPs taken from Fantasy Football Calculator – 12 team leagues 1QB/2WR/2RB/1TE/1FLEX]

Guys I’m targeting on draft day:

Player Scoring ADP 2015 Pts/gm 2015 Final Rank
LeSean McCoy RB Standard 2.09 12.2 RB17
PPR 3.01 14.9 RB19

I’m going to talk you down from the proverbial ledge that I know you’re on with LeSean McCoy. He is NOT injury prone. His injury last season was an MCL tear. The exact grade was never reported, but it was back and forth between reports of it being sprained or torn. Regardless, even the most severe tear is typically fully healed in eight weeks. In addition to that, MCL’s can be recovered from 100% in terms of performance. The only lasting effect of MCL tears may be stiffness following exercise. Shady opted for MCL surgery, which increases the recovery rate of the tear. Before the MCL tear, Shady played complete 2014 and 2013 seasons, which I bet you wouldn’t have guessed without checking. The only reason he missed four games in 2012 was due to a concussion at the end of a season in which the Eagles finished 4-12. They definitely weren’t about to risk a star running back’s health at the end of that awful season. SportsInjuryPredictor.com has him listed as a low risk status for future injuries based on his history.

Let’s get into the reasons why you want him on your fantasy football team this year. First things first, take a look at Shady’s fantasy points per game in 2015. If we extrapolate these numbers to a full 16 games, which we expect based on his low injury risk, then that would have put him at RB4 in both standard and PPR for last season. We’re talking about a top 5 capable running back here. Throughout his career, McCoy has maintained a 4.57 YPC and about 75 yards per game rushing and 25 yards per game receiving. The one aspect that is only slightly worrisome is his touchdown totals. In an offense with Tyrod Taylor siphoning red zone rushing attempts, there is some reason to be worried about McCoy getting more than 6-7 touchdowns (though this is slightly less worrisome now that Karlos has been cut.)

But fear not, fantasy friends. LeSean McCoy is a clear lead back in a run-first offense. The Bills recently signed good ole’ 31-year-old Reggie Bush as a safety net and as a kick returner. With Karlos Williams being cut from the team entirely and Reggie Bush being more of a pass catching back, that leaves Mike Gillislee to be the handcuff for early down work. Shady will get volume and he will have more red zone opportunities this year. Between 2014 and 2015 he touched the ball 708 times, or 354 times per season. If LeSean McCoy plays a full season, look for his stat line to possibly surpass 1800 all-purpose yards in 2016 with hopes of eight or more touchdowns as well.

 

Player Scoring ADP 2015 Pts/gm 2015 Final Rank
Eric Decker WR Standard 5.05 11.5 WR10
PPR 4.09 16.8 WR14

 

Eric Decker is the personification of high floor when it comes to fantasy football. He is also a PPR monster. He has some of the best hands in the league and his route running is outstanding. Decker averaged almost 70 yards per game (68.5) and only had three games without a touchdown in 2015. In terms of fantasy points, he never scored below 8.1 points in standard and never below 11.7 in PPR. That’s consistency right there. With that being said, his ceiling isn’t fantastically high. His highest scoring affair last season was 23.7 points (PPR) against the Colts. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a great score to see in your lineup by Monday night, but his average fantasy points scored will likely be around 16-17. He’s the type of guy that you can have sitting in your WR2 slot all season and you will never worry for a second.

Not too long ago we got some news that Fitzpatrick will be starting once again for the Jets in the 2016 NFL season. Some people thought this was a massive improvement over Geno Smith. Based on what I’ve seen, it really doesn’t matter who’s throwing the ball. In fact, when Geno Smith and Decker played together in 2014, Geno’s QBR while passing to Decker (discounting drops) was 94.1. That’s roughly a top 12 QBR if it was for his season long stats. Fitzpatrick’s comparison stat from 2015 is 84.4 QBR. Decker is a quality receiver. He can make any QB that’s under center look good with his hands of gold.

Finally, something to note about Decker is his ADP. He’s currently sitting around the late 4th/early 5th in both standard and PPR, with an obvious bump under PPR conditions. Guys like Jeremy Maclin, Golden Tate, and Kelvin Benjamin are going ahead of him right now. Based on the consistency I know that Decker is capable of, I would gladly take him before all 3 of these guys. Currently in mocks, when I have a pick on the back end of the draft, I’m going RB, RB, WR, Decker and I am loving that setup. Having Decker on your squad allows you to fish for upside guys later in the draft for flex plays.

 

Player Scoring ADP 2015 Pts/gm 2015 Final Rank
Giovani Bernard RB Standard 7.02 8.3 RB21
PPR 6.01 11.3 RB16

 

I almost feel bad for picking Gio, because I feel like it’s borderline cheating. Almost every fantasy expert out there has praised Gio’s abilities as a pass-catching runningback. But as long as his ADP remains in the 6th round or later, I’m going to continue that song of praise. Now, with that being said… there is a reason that his ADP is as low as it is. He does not have very much touchdown potential. Jeremy Hill will likely be the red zone option for the Bengals once again, as he did quite well last year with 12 total TDs. This, however, does not discount Gio as another safe floor option going into 2016. Same with Decker, his value goes up considerably with any level of PPR. Through the first 11 weeks last year, Gio was averaging 13.5 fantasy points per game, and he only had one game with less than 9 points. Hill did eventually hit a hot streak for the end of the season, limiting Gio’s role. Since the Bengal backfield is still considered to be an even split, you may see a little bit of the hot hand approach, but even in those last 6 weeks Gio posted an average of 7.7 fantasy points per week. Nothing to complain about, but not great.

The part that excites me most about Giovani Bernard is that he will likely be seeing more targets this year. Tyler Eifert will be missing time, Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu are gone, and Dalton showed that he’s capable of carrying the illustrious “Red Rifle” nickname. The Bengals have lost a total of 164 targets from last year’s roster. I’m predicting (based on offseason information) that Bernard will get about a 10 target boost on the year (and it could be more). With his 74.2% catch rate, we’re looking at a predicted receiving stat line of 56/540/2. Now you might be thinking, “Kent, those stats aren’t even that great. I could get a receiver with much better stats than that!” Well, you would be right. In a sense. But what your receiver can’t do is rush the ball. Over the last three years, Gio has had more than 150 rushing attempts and at least 680 rushing yards each year. This brings his approximate all-purpose yard total up to 1200+. If I told you that you could get a 1200 yard running back in the 6th round with PPR value, you would probably think I’m nuts. Gio is that average looking kid in gym class that chucks a dodgeball harder than your school’s starting baseball pitcher. Take him with confidence before your friends can.

 

Player Scoring ADP 2015 Pts/gm 2015 Final Rank
Clive Walford TE Standard Undrafted 3.4 TE30
PPR 13.12 5.3 TE31

 

As I was deciding some of these guys that I wanted to target, I realized that there are always fliers at the end of the draft that might garner some attention. One of the fliers that I am going with this year is Clive Walford. Some of you might be going to Rotoworld right now to see what team he is even on. Well, I’ll tell you: he’s a tight end for the Oakland Raiders. There aren’t many numbers that I can bring up to convince you that Clive is worth a look this year. Last season as a rookie he only had 28 receptions for 329 yards and 3 TDs. Not really that impressive. However, he’s been receiving some positive attention throughout the offseason at minicamps and training camp. Raider’s OC Bill Musgrave said he wants Clive to “be a big part of what we do.” And he might be a big part of my draft strategy as well.

Something to note about the Raiders offense is that they were scoring a lot of touchdowns through the air. Carr ended the season with an impressive 32 passing touchdowns and has earned the title of ‘gunslinger’ by some in the NFL. The thing is, those touchdowns were spread all over the place last year. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree only nabbed six and nine, respectively. That leaves 17 touchdowns that were spread amongst guys like Marcel Reece, Seth Roberts, Andre Holmes, and… oh, Clive Walford! For his sophomore year, Clive has climbed up to the top TE spot over constant blocker Lee Smith. I think this young guy is capable of doubling his stats from last year, which would land him at 56/658/6. That might not look that great on paper, but the coaching staff did say they wanted to ease him in this season due to an ATV accident gashing his leg in the offseason, so his production might be mostly near the end of the 2016 season.

He’s currently sitting at an ADP of approximately… free, and that is the best part about him. He’s a guy you can look to draft as a backup to your TE1. Then just watch him for a few weeks to see exactly how the Raiders want to utilize him. If he starts playing up to his potential, then you either have a serviceable TE with TD upside or trade fodder if another position is weak for your team. If he doesn’t? Drop him. Churn and burn, baby! That’s how you find breakout stars each year. And then be on the lookout for a late season hot streak from this guy if you didn’t draft him or ended up cutting him. You’ll need to be quick on the waivers if he does go off.

 

Player Scoring ADP 2015 Pts/gm 2015 Final Rank
Jerick McKinnon RB Standard 13.02 3.9 RB59
PPR 12.03 5.2 RB57

 

I’m a Minnesota Vikings fan. I will preface this last pick by saying that. However, I like to think that I am not drinking as much of the purple kool-aid as a majority of our fanbase does following a hot season. I like to keep my team opinions fairly well grounded. So, I’m going to say something that fantasy players and Vikings fans will both despise: Adrian Peterson may be done with the Vikings after this season. I know, I know. It’s tough to hear, but it’s a reality that we need to start accepting soon. And doing that, it will allow us to reap fantasy dividends if we invest in McKinnon now. But, if you are in any kind of keeper league with smart opponents, you may need to reach a bit if you want to get him.

AP is going to have a $18 mil cap hit next year (2017), the largest for any runningback by a large margin. I know that AP is coming off of a great season, but not playing in 2014 might have been a factor in him having the juice to grind through 300+ carries again last year. Should he show any kind of depreciation with his speed/ability due to his age, there is a decent chance he won’t be on the 2017 Vikings’ roster.

McKinnon played 11 games in his rookie season and was on pace for almost 1000 all-purpose yards if had played from the start of the season. He was eased in slowly by Zimmer, because of his rookie status. That year he was also in a timeshare with Matt Asiata. Unfortunately, Matt Asiata did take every touchdown opportunity away from McKinnon that year, but should McKinnon lead the depth chart, that will likely change.

If you’re worried about not getting any value out of him this year, I wouldn’t worry much. He’s a skilled pass catcher who has already been praised by the coaching staff and is said to be deserving of more targets this year. This should make him a possible PPR flex play against good matchups this year. He also reportedly packed on 10+ pounds of muscle this offseason for better power running between the tackles. This will hopefully translate to better yardage on carries and more yards after contact. Jerick McKinnon was already known for being an incredibly gifted natural athlete with great combine numbers. He’s preparing himself to eventually take over that backfield. And I think that you should be preparing for his value to skyrocket once that happens.

 

 

So there they are, five players that I will be looking to draft this year. Hopefully I have offered you some useful insight that you can take with you to your draft. Make sure to keep an eye on Smart Fantasy this season as I continue to break out some quality fantasy analysis. The typical articles will cover the following:

  • 5 Waiver Wire Targets
  • 5 Buy Low/Sell High Players for Trades
  • 5 Players You Should Start
  • 5 Players You Should Sit

The first article will come out between weeks one and two. Thanks for the read and good luck in your fantasy seasons!

Kent Weyrauch

Kent Weyrauch

Hello, my name is Kent and I am a fantasy football fanatic! I just started playing 3 years ago, but I have quickly allowed it to consume my entire life. Last year I won two leagues through quality research and waiver wire action, so I hope that I can provide you with similar info so you can do the same thing.

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