TFG Fantasy Club: Let The Games Begin

TFG Fantasy Club is a weekly email exchange between TFG editor Melissa Jacobs and TFG Fantasy contributor Pat Fitzmaurice covering all the hot button fantasy issues with a few added surprises. Look for special guests to pop in occasionally, and feel free to chime in below.

August 4 12:24 PM

Hi Pat,

Roger Goodell got his wish. Actual football is back, meaning fans got to pivot from the ramifications of the Ray Rice “sentence” to Ryan Nassib’s revved up arm. With so many moving parts and so much hope, I believe this is the most exciting time for fantasy. Though even with so much information and dissection out there, an obvious, somewhat comfortable formula exists. Beat writer observes something. Coach says something. So and so played two more snaps at practice. Fill in the blank running back didn’t cut well today.  Fantasy expert retweets it and often adds quick commentary with what to glean for fantasy purposes. And in many cases, ADP shifts. All before said player even takes the field in the preseason.

One example is the well-respected Evan Silva of Rotoworld who tweeted this blurb Sunday night from a Chicago Tribune artlicle:  “Marquess Wilson jumped to catch a 20-yard pass near the left sideline with cornerback Charles Tillman on his back.”

This was far down on the list of observations from Rich Campbell, the Bears beat writer but by selecting that item, at least a chunk of Silva’s 55,000 followers probably moved up Wilson as a sleeper and maybe even contemplated the notion of Wilson stealing some targets from Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall. That is before Wilson fractured his clavicle bone on Monday and will be out anywhere from most of the season to the entire season. Sigh.

Back to the aforementioned formula, do you find cherry picking news to be an effective fantasy tool, especially for those who draft early? And what particular players have you become more excited about just from hearing sound bites or reading observations? I have to say I’m pretty pumped about Emmanuel Sanders in Denver, solely based on his fellow receivers’ praise and the fact the he believes he’s snagging 80 catches this year. Granted, if Sanders were playing in Jacksonville I’d feel differently.

Happy preseason Week 2!


August 4 4:14 PM

Hi Melissa,

‘Tis the season for overreaction. I get it, though. Football fans at this time of year are like bears coming out of hibernation. We’re ready to eat, dammit, and we’re not as particular about what we digest as we will be in a few weeks. With the example you mentioned, I’m guessing that Silva wanted to remind his followers that Marquess Wilson was potentially relevant (up until the injury, anyway), and this was a chance to punctuate it with an example of Wilson doing something notable. A lot of people here in the Chicago area thought Wilson could emerge as a legitimate No. 3 receiver and complement to Marshall and Alshon, unlike the other receivers on Chicago’s training camp roster, who leave Bears fans feeling wistful for the Brian Baschnagel era.

But, yeah, it’s funny how the Hall of Fame Game can incite a Hatfields-McCoys type of feud on Twitter between Rashad Jennings’ advocates and detractors. Rookie Andre Williams had a couple of nice runs, and some people took it as evidence that Jennings’ rising ADP is too high. I’m sort of bearish on Jennings myself, but I thought he looked pretty decent the other night. I didn’t feel like anything I saw the other night validated my decision to fade Jennings in this year’s RB rankings. I’m trying my best to filter out a lot of the meaningless noise from training camp. For instance, reports out of Rams camp suggest that Kenny Britt has been a model citizen and is even taking on a leadership role. It’s a nice spin, but I’m still taking “quits on his team” again in the Britt pool.

Interesting that you bring up Manny Sanders, Melissa. His arrival in Denver and Eric Decker’s move from the Broncos to the Jets sets up sort of an interesting little “nurture vs. nature” experiment. I think Sanders’ talents are pretty modest, but a modestly talented receiver in Denver’s passing attack might put up a 1,200-yard, 10-TD season. It seems like Sanders’ ADP is too high, but in three months we might be laughing about what a bargain he was, and how obvious it should have. Decker, on the other hand, is a pretty extraordinary talent, but the Jets’ passing game might not nurture his numbers the way the Broncos’ attack did last year.

With a full set of preseason games dead ahead, what will you be watching closely as a fantasy owner, Melissa? Any position battles that interest you? Any rookies you’re especially anxious to see? I always love this first preseason weekend. Yeah, we’re going to see some pretty putrid football for the most part, but I always love watching the rookies get their first taste of the NFL.



August 5 10:10 AM


Football is supposed to taste great. So why do I keep opting for the leftover Chinese of fantasy football, you know that carton of kung pao tofu from a 4.5 star restaurant on Yelp that’s long since coagulated but seems like it should be bursting with nutrients? Yes, I’m talking about the battle for the Oakland Raiders starting running back gig between Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden.  Given the Raiders’ revamped offensive line, it feels like one of these guys could be a steal as an RB3.

Monday was depth chart release day for many teams and Jones-Drew is listed as the #1 back. Not a huge surprise. In both backs, we’re dealing with a severe medical history. I’m not sure Jones-Drew’s foot is ever going to be back to normal and he’s going to need to produce far more than 3.4 yards per carry like from last season, especially on a non-prolific offense, if he’s going to be a true featured back. Many have written off McFadden but he could be an interesting option, particularly as a receiving threat. If he can play more than his career average of 10 games a year, of course.

Over on the other coast, I’m completely sucked into “Baby Gronk” aka Zach Sudfeld’s stellar preseason and whether he has some actual value for the regular season with the Jets. Of course we went down this path last year. Like many, I called him a sleeper. I drafted him in multiple leagues. And I was burned when the Pats cut him early in the season. So I’ll be watching his preseason games with a more critical eye.

Rookie-wise, I’m intrigued by both Sammy Watkins in Buffalo and Mike Evans in Tampa. Well, maybe Watkins a little less so after Sunday. Watkins should have plenty of targets, but man, E.J. Manuel did not look good. And Evans, though #2 behind Vincent Jackson, should in theory be a force in what in theory will be an efficient offense led by Josh McCown. Then again McCown could be terrible, making both Jackson and Evans busts. Lovie Smith doesn’t exactly have a storied history when it comes to fielding WRs with value.


Can MJD and DMC stay off the PUP?

August 5 1:59 PM


Kung pao tofu isn’t my thing, but if you’ve got some Mongolian chicken in the fridge, I’m in. Like you, I’m strangely attracted to the cartons of leftovers in the Oakland backfield. But regardless of the depth chart, I don’t want anything to do with Jones-Drew. I’ve been a satisfied MJD owner many times over and don’t want to taint those fond memories by drafting the washed-up version of a once-great fantasy asset. On the other hand, I’m not completely sure McFadden’s skills are gone What if the 2010 version of DMC — the one who had 1,664 yards from scrimmage and 10 TDs in just 13 games (!) — has just been going through a period of dormancy, sort of like those cicadas who stay underground for years before emerging in a cacophony of shrieking. In fact, it would be ideal if MJD stayed atop the depth chart through the preseason. Then, I could get McFadden for the price of an egg roll, and in my larger leagues I might also grab Latavius Murray. To use a craps analogy, I’d be putting all my chips on the don’t-pass line when it was MJD’s turn to roll.

I’m intrigued by Watkins and Evans, too. And I think we’re going to see at least two other rookie WRs emerge as worthwhile fantasy contributors this year. The Saints’ Brandin Cooks is an obvious possibility, as is the Panthers’ Kelvin Benjamin. But there are other candidates who weren’t first-round draft picks: Cody Latimer (Broncos), Davante Adams (Packers), Donte Moncrief (Colts). And I can’t wait to see the rookie RBs in the preseason. Sure, this looks like a pretty “meh” RB draft class, but one or more of these rookies generating very little buzz at the moment is going to take the preseason by storm and have fantasy owners excited 3-4 weeks from now.

Speaking of the preseason, I love how you worked Zach “Mr. August” Sudfeld into the conversation. But it’s hard to pay attention to pseudo-Gronk when there’s no more compelling fantasy performer than Gronk himself. Would you dare draft Rob Gronkowski, Melissa? Would you, could you, Sam-I-Am? His ADP has been taxiing for a couple of weeks and is about to achieve lift-off. Once again, Gronk is going to be a make-or-break investment, and the “break” potential probably outweighs the “make” potential, considering that Gronk is just nine months removed from a major knee injury and has also had back problems. I herniated a disk while playing golf a couple of months ago, so I know how debilitating back injuries can be. Then again, I’m much older than Gronk and far, far less buff. (Nor can I drink as much.)


August 6 10:21 AM


I agree. Gronk is ever-compelling. But he’s too “still rehabbing” for my taste. If TEs were like RBs and WRs and I could throw a dart at Gronk knowing I had insurance, then sure. But in leagues with a singular TE slot, I prefer a healthy one.

Back to the topic of intriguing rookies and in particular RBs, I’m certainly on Bishop Sankey watch in Tennessee where the second-round pick will be the primary back. It sounds like Ken Whisenhunt is using training camp to ascertain the full extent of Sankey’s skill set. But with that stellar Titans offensive line and not exactly frightening competition from Shonn Green and Dexter McCluster, Sankey could ultimately be a solid RB2.  I like Sankey more than his current ADP bookends, Frank Gore and especially, Rashad Jennings.

Though don’t count out Mr. Gore just because he’s ancient in football years (31! Get him a walker!), and I say that not as a diehard 49ers fan but through observation and the power of deduction.

Gore is a marvel. While too many articles were written this offseason with both “Gore” and “Father Time” in the headline, he’s stayed healthy. Meanwhile, Kendall Hunter went to IR, Marcus Lattimore probably won’t be fully ready (and who knows what they’re getting there), and LaMichael James dislocated his elbow. James may be ready for Week 1, but truthfully he’s already been a disappointment. The Niners drafted Carlos Hyde who seems like more of an apprentice to Gore vs. someone who will be stripping significant carries from the ageless wonder any time soon.

People assume there’s a decline with Gore. But in comparing 2013 to 2012, he had more carries and more touchdowns. Sure, the yards per carry dropped but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will continue to do so.  But Gore’s most important stat is this: he hasn’t missed a game since 2010.

Ok, forget what I said about preferring Sankey over Gore.


August 6 11:06 AM


You know how much I loved Gore last year, Melissa. Well, I have him five spots below Sankey in my current RB rankings. Gore got off to a terrific start but then downshifted in mid-November. He just didn’t look like the same guy, and the numbers back that up. It’s also annoying that the 49ers stopped using him in the passing game years ago. But it’s probably going to be more of a gentle fade for Gore than a dramatic drop-off, thanks to his offensive line. That unit has had some injury issues, but it’s still a terrific group, and left tackle Joe Staley is a good bet for the Hall of Fame. Hyde is intriguing — the dude is a load to bring down — but he’ll probably be more of an understudy than a threat to Gore’s role.

The Titans’ offensive line is a good one, too, and I agree that he should be a solid RB2 for all the reasons you mentioned. And unlike Gore, Sankey is going to catch passes. The rookie is a solid buy at his current mid-fourth-round ADP.

I’m sort of lukewarm on Jennings, though I think he could make a palatable RB2. But we’ve been talking about offensive lines, and in general it’s sound strategy to fade RBs who line up behind subpar offensive lines. The Giants’ offensive line falls into that category, as does the Jaguars’ O-line, which is why I haven’t been able to get on board with all the Toby Gerhart enthusiasm. Jacksonville’s offensive line is a row of turnstiles, and Gerhart is going to see a lot of seven- or eight-man fronts because the Jags don’t have a QB who can keep safeties honest. Yes, Gerhart is in line for a high volume of touches, but it’s going to take a truckload of touches for him to overcome those obstacles and produce at the level some people expect.

We’re getting close, Melissa. The preseason is here. Mock drafts are giving way to real drafts. Football is afoot!