TFG Fantasy Club Week 5: If You Had a Draft Do-Over

To: Melissa Jacobs
From: Pat Fitzmaurice

Funny how quickly things change in fantasy football, isn’t it? Only a month ago, on the eve of the new season, the consensus top five running backs were LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte and Eddie Lacy. As of now, those five rank 26th, 25th, 65th, 13th and 44th, respectively, in RB fantasy scoring.

Peterson’s problems obviously aren’t football-related, and Charles lost one full game and most of another to injury. But McCoy has been a colossal disappointment, Forte hasn’t found the end zone yet, and Lacy hasn’t had a 50-yard game yet, let alone a 100-yard game.

Things will probably get better for McCoy, but I don’t know if we’ll see a full on return to fantasy dominance. Injuries have weakened the Eagles’ offensive line, and guard Evan Mathis and center Jason Kelce aren’t expected back until Week 10 or so. McCoy had 52 catches on 65 targets last season. This year, he has 10 receptions on 13 targets, he hasn’t caught a pass in his last two games, and he’s being out-targeted by Darren Sproles. Forte owners probably don’t have much reason to worry — the TDs will come eventually. (Although, as with the Eagles, the Bears’ center and left guard are both out with injuries.) Lacy dealt with some tough matchups that contributed to the sluggish start. But Thursday night’s game against the Vikings showed that there’s nothing wrong with him.

A lot of the RBs who have been ripping it up thus far are guys who were drafted in the late first round or the second round of most fantasy leagues, after the top five had gone off the board — dudes like DeMarco Murray, Marshawn Lynch, Le’Veon Bell, Giovanni Bernard and Alfred Morris.

So here’s a question for you: If the season were to begin anew this week, which five or six running backs would sit atop your draft board?

From: Melissa Jacobs
To: Pat Fitzmaurice

Wow, that is a lot of disappointment. This is why I hate having one of the top three draft positions. Even top shelf running backs are a total crapshoot these days. They are too easily injured and, as you point out, too affected by offensive line issues. But then again, you can’t really win a fantasy championship without a highly productive back. If you were lucky enough to draft a Murray or Bell, you can survive filling the other slot with a middle-of-the-road back that may have a periodic hot week like Lamar Miller or even rotating in an emerging rookie like Jerick McKinnon.

If draft day were today, my Top 5 would be 1) Murray for obvious reasons 2) Lynch, also for obvious reasons. 3) Forte, as I agree that the touchdowns are coming 4) Bell 5) McCoy.

I believe McCoy’s re-emergence starts Sunday against St. Louis. As you point out, Shady’s opposition has been difficult, especially when you consider the defensive emphasis on stopping him.  I just don’t think the Rams have the personnel to do so.

Cool game, Pat. How about you take on WRs? The top five draft picks were Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, A.J. Green and Brandon Marshall. Yet the top receivers this year to date are Antonio Brown, Jordy Nelson, Steve Smith, Julio Jones and Randall Cobb. If you had to lock in five receivers for the rest of the season, who are they?

On a related note, have you finally come around on Steve Smith yet, or still think Old Man Smitty’s production falls because he’s Old Man Smitty?

Murray would likely go number one in most early October drafts.

From: Pat Fitzmaurice
To: Melissa Jacobs

Even though he’s making me look stupid for ranking him so low before the season, Steve Smith Sr.’s fast start is a great story. And I love some of these “old man” lines he’s been spitting out lately, like, “I’m 35 years old. I just ran around those guys like they were schoolyard boys,” and, in the locker room after last week’s game, per Peter King’s column, “Old man playing a young man’s game. Gonna have to ice up.”

I’m somewhere between thinking his hot start is a fluke and thinking he can keep up such a blistering pace. I’m guessing he only has another 4-5 TDs in him this year, tops, but that he gets to 90 catches and 1,200 yards. Joe Flacco seems to love throwing to him, and Smith seems rejuvenated by being on a good team.

That said, he isn’t top five the rest of the way. I think my rest-of-season top five would be: Calvin Johnson, Jordy Nelson, Dez Bryant, Antonio Brown and Demaryius Thomas. I can’t justify significant downgrades for Megatron, Dez or Demaryius. (I realize Demaryius has his fantasy owners on the brink of hari-kari, but he’ll be fine.) As a Packers fan, I already knew that Jordy has the best pair of hands in the league, but I didn’t realize what an enormous percentage of throws were going to go his way. The Packers’ TE shortage and the failure of either Jarrett Boykin or Davante Adams to emerge as a reliable No. 3 receiver are working in Nelson’s favor. And I love Antonio Brown. The questions about his TD-scoring ability have been answered, haven’t they?

Let’s finish what we started. I’ll take tight ends, you can take quarterbacks.

My rest-of-season top five at TE would be: Jimmy Graham, Julius Thomas, Travis Kelce, Rob Gronkowski, and Martellus Bennett. The first two are pretty self-explanatory. Then, the old Gronk has to make way for the new Gronk — Kelce is basically a younger, pre-injury version of Gronkowski. The kid is a wild man. I think the proverbial genie is out of the bottle, and Kelce owners are about to get their three wishes. Gronk stays in the top five because he still knows what to do in the red zone. Bennett, the self-described “Black Unicorn,” rounds out the list. Jay Cutler loves throwing to him — Bennett’s numbers last season would’ve been much better if Cutler hadn’t missed so many games.

OK, Melissa. Hit me with your top five QBs rest of season.

From: Melissa Jacobs
To: Pat Fitzmaurice

I’m so glad you mentioned Kelce. What a stud and such a needed addition to an otherwise blasé Chiefs passing game. Kelce is one of the fastest emerging tight ends but he’s certainly not alone.  What a special time for the position. Aside from the five you mentioned, I think of Vernon Davis, Greg Olsen and younger guys like Larry Donnell and Eric Ebron. The position has changed so much that many of these guys are leading their teams in targets.

To answer your quarterback question, Aaron Rodgers’ dominance is fresh on the brain.  Rodgers had 3 touchdowns against Minnesota just hours ago. 3 easy touchdowns at that.

I’ll go Rodgers no. 1. Besides tonight, he is playing with that magic that no secondary can stymie.  2. Peyton Manning for obvious reasons. 3. Andrew Luck as his numbers are just obscene 4. Philip Rivers– the Rivers revival is real and he’s developed some special chemistry with Keenan Allen, and Eddie Royal, for that matter. Plus, he gets to face Oakland twice! 5. Matt Ryan – not a sexy pick but it’s hard to deny his numbers (11 touchdowns through four games.)

So there you have it. I’d love to hear how the readers feel about our hypothetical new draft.

In the meantime, the Packers scored 742 points tonight. Cheers to you, Pat!