4 Fantasy Running Backs to Avoid in 2015

Carlos Hyde has some flex appeal, but don't rush out to draft him

Carlos Hyde has some flex appeal, but don’t rush out to draft him

Carlos Hyde, 49ers: Some devoted Niners fans are still optimistic that this young sophomore out of Ohio State can still fill the void left by Frank Gore and be the franchise back for the future, but common sense simply dictates that this year is not Hyde’s year. Finally inheriting the starting job for a team that has dwindled down to the bottom echelon of the NFL, it will be difficult for Hyde to make any significant (fantasy) contributions, especially without the help of run-happy offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Furthermore, the regression of the Niner defense suggests that the team will likely be playing games from behind, decreasing Hyde’s touches even more. Lastly, with Reggie Bush also a more likely candidate to steal receptions because of his proven status as a target, I struggle to suggest Hyde even as a bottom-end RB2.

Tevin Coleman, Falcons: I definitely fell into the pre-draft hype of Coleman, especially during the past offseason. I even put him high up on my likely fantasy breakouts list for this year. So why the sudden change of heart? First of all, the most concerning part of Coleman’s fantasy draft stock is his unbelievably high ADP, at 76. Sure, he has immense raw talent and a high ceiling, but he is way too unproven to be placed that high in player rankings. Coleman is also sharing the spotlight with former Florida State product Devonta Freeman, who is also top-100 in most fantasy lists. Though they both returned from injury for tonight’s game against the Dolphins, Freeman was listed as an inactive, and Coleman did not fare much better, posting 2 yards on 4 carries. Coleman can be a risk worth taking, but definitely not as a seventh-round pick.

Joique Bell, Lions: Bell has never been a solid fantasy pick, as he never was the sole starting back for the Lions, and he will not get that opportunity this year. With a proven specimen coming from Nebraska in Ameer Abdullah, who greatly impressed during his preseason appearances, the Lions will likely return to their usual run committee this season. Not only is Bell struggling to return to health before the start of the season, but there is some threat that the Lions’ third and fourth string backs, Theo Riddick, and Zach Zenner, will further drain the depleted amount of carries that Bell will start his season with. Though he has good hands and is a threat for receptions, he has little-to-no potential as a solid RB2 and owners should avoid drafting him.

Melvin Gordon, Chargers: A report from Chargers RB coach Ollie Wilson refuted any claims that Gordon had concerning pass-protection issues, stating that he’s had no problem with Gordon’s pass protecting. Be that as it may, from a fantasy standpoint, this bares little to no relevance. Not only is Gordon dealing with ankle issues, but a huge part of what made Ryan Mathews an attractive fantasy option was his receiving abilities from an ever-improving quarterback in Rivers. Sure Mathews is now out of the picture, but Danny Woodhead and Branden Oliver are still more of a threat than Gordon. Let’s also not forget his meager 34 yards on 14 carries in his latest preseason showing—not persuasive by any means.

Fantasy Draft Zone: Next up in Green Bay

Ty Montgomery

Ty Montgomery is just one of the players who will try to fill the void left by Jordy Nelson

Along with the news that Jordy Nelson is out for the entire 2015 season due to an ACL tear, the Packers offensive line is also suffering some key injuries. However, if there is any concern about Green Bay’s offense this season, cut it out now. The Packers have certainly suffered their share of woes this preseason but as long as Aaron Rodgers is under center, a prolific offense remains in Wisconsin.

The man who protects Rodger’s blind side is currently sitting out the rest of preseason. Left tackle, David Bakhtiari, is currently nursing a knee ailment although he expects to be back for the regular season. The Packers starting line is also missing right guard T.J. Lang who is working through the concussion protocol and Josh Sitton with an ankle injury. The Packers line is comprised of backups right now but all the starters figure to be healthy by week one.

Unfortunately for Mr. Nelson, he won’t be available by week one. In 2012, Nelson also endured an injury-riddled season in which he missed four games and caught only 49 balls for 745 yards. Other starting receivers such as Greg Jennings, Randall Cobb, and Donald Driver accounted for 12 more missed games. Yet, Aaron Rodgers still threw for 39 touchdowns that year, his second most in his career.

In football, when someone goes down, the motto is, “next guy up”. The injuries to the Packers are unlucky and untimely but the season must go on. Production will have to be filled by one person or more likely, a collection of guys. Davante Adams is a name that has been tossed around but Jeff Janis and Ty Montgomery are also players to watch out for. Aaron Rodgers is still the best quarterback in the league and he will make do with the weapons at his disposal.

Andre Williams Closing in on Rashad Jennings

Rashad Jennings

Rashad Jennings can feel the footsteps of Andre Williams right behind him

Andre Williams has certainly been busy this offseason. The Giants 4th round pick in last April’s draft spent the offseason working on weaknesses in his game with veteran teammate Rashad Jennings. The two backs have been spending plenty of extra time just catching passes out of the backfield and working on the discipline needed to allow a play to develop.

Williams is also fighting for the starting running back job with Jennings, who left the Oakland Raiders last summer to sign a 4 year $10 million deal with the Giants. Jennings’ first season in the blue and white was less than impressive, running for only 639 yards on 167 touches and just 4 touchdowns. He was also nursing a nagging ankle injury as well as a strained MCL for most of the season. Williams came in for the injured Jennings and took advantage of the opportunity, leading the Giants in rushing with 721 yards on 217 touches and 7 touchdowns.

This offseason, Williams set out to become a bigger part of the Giants passing game, an area which he struggled last year, dropping the ball 19 times out of 37 targets. In addition to dropped passes, he also fumbled the ball 6 times. His hard work this offseason has resulted in an increase in first team reps in camp and in preseason games. There is little doubt that Andre Williams will be the starter for the Giants this season, the real question to ask is when?

The Giants are already committed to improving the run game this season, which ranked 23rd in the league last season. Besides the offensive line, a big reason for that was Jennings’ injury plagued season and both backs not being able to follow their blocking. “I’m just really working on staying patient this year, not just go-go-go as soon as you see the first hole, but remembering what’s supposed to happen and waiting to make sure that its time to go,” Williams told reporters after Saturday nights preseason game vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Jennings, who turned 30 last March, realizes that he is no longer the young back he once was, and he has turned his focus on teaching Andre Williams different tricks of the trade. Jennings turned Williams onto watching film of Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, who last season proved to be one of the leagues most patient and elite running backs. Jennings said that William’s biggest problem last year was not waiting long enough for his blocking to develop, and has helped the young player work on that this offseason, truly showing how a veteran teammate is supposed to act.

20 Fast Facts for Your Fantasy Football Draft

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Last Season: 21 backs and QB Russell Wilson scored more rushing touchdowns than Shady McCoy

Earlier this season I rolled out 50 Fundamental Facts for your upcoming fantasy drafts, but things change quickly once the preseason gets rolling. There are only a couple weeks left to the start of the NFL season and so much has already happened. Here are 20 additions facts to keep you up to date and primed for not just a strong draft, but also a successful fantasy football season.

  1. Drew Brees led the league and set a career high with 659 pass attempts last season.
  2. Jimmy Graham, Kenny Stills, and Pierre Thomas altogether caught 193 of those passes.
  3. None of the aforementioned remained in the Mardi Gras city for the 2015 season.
  4. Before his season-ending injury in 2014, Brandin Cooks led all wide receivers last season by catching 80% of his targets.
  5. Cooks is healthy and the undisputed No. 1 option for Drew Brees. *
  6. Cam Newton’s yardage total has regressed every year he’s been in the league with his lowest total last season of 3,127 yards.
  7. Kelvin Benjamin accounted for nearly a third (32.2%) of Newton’s passing yards.
  8. Benjamin is out for the season with a torn ACL.
  9. Greg Olsen has led the team in receiving yards for the previous two years. Strong chance Olsen gets the hat trick in 2015.
  10. Eddie Royal has 15 touchdowns in the previous two years.
  11. Eddie Royal’s WR ADP is 51. A couple spots behind the likes of Percy Harvin and Terrance Williams.
  12. C.J. Anderson was fantasy’s No. 1 running back from week 12 on, averaging 18 points per game.
  13. The Denver Broncos have averaged 12 rushing touchdowns a year since Peyton Manning has been under center.
  14. In 2012, Green Bay receivers missed a combined 16 games.
  15. That year, Aaron Rodgers threw for 4,295 yards and 39 touchdowns, while finishing as fantasy’s No. 2 QB.
  16. 21 running backs and QB Russell Wilson scored more rushing touchdowns than LeSean McCoy’s 5 scores last season.
  17. The Texans ran the ball on 52% of play calls, most in the league.
  18. Arian Foster is out for at least half the year paving the way for Alfred Blue who averaged 93 yards in the three games Foster missed last season.
  19. Larry Fitzgerald had his worst statistical year last season (lows in receptions, yards, and touchdowns).
  20. Carson Palmer is definitely better than Cardinals’ reserves Stanton and Lindley, but Fitzgerald will have competition for targets. (Ellington, Floyd, and Brown combined for 141 receptions).

Fantasy Running Backs: Late Round Gold

Chris Ivory is quickly moving up fantasy draft boards

Act now because Chris Ivory is quickly moving up fantasy draft boards

Chris Ivory, Jets:

After three seasons with the Saints, Ivory was shipped to the Jets as an intended first-line back to bolster a staggeringly weak offense. For the past two seasons, Ivory’s draft stock has gradually risen as he produced two 800-yard seasons and a career-high six touchdowns last year. Although his workload was considerably light, splitting some of the sparse touches he got with Chris Johnson, this future could be the next point on a career that is trending upwards. With Johnson signing with the Cardinals, the Jets’ running depth chart has become noticeably bare. The only two serious contenders are Ivory and former Patriots back Stevan Ridley, who is ten months removed from the ACL and MCL injuries that sidelined him for the majority of last season. With Ivory getting a serious number of touches this year and another season of experience under his belt, his average ADP of 81 looks a bit too high.

Ameer Abdullah, Lions:

Arguably the most impressive preseason rookie (perhaps a bit of my Lions bias is in play here), Abdullah’s ADP has risen nearly ten spots since the first list was compiled. This was mostly due to Abdullah’s explosive preseason week 1 performance against the Jets, which saw him gather 67 yards on just 7 carries and a comparison to Barry Sanders in terms of raw speed. An absolute phenom as a college player at Nebraska, Abdullah will have to wrestle the starting job away from Joique Bell and Theo Riddick, with the former trying to return to 100% before the end of the preseason. As he has crossed the threshold into the top 25 of RB ADPs, Abdullah is a safe RB3 with good RB2 potential, should he get the starting job in the Motor City.

Doug Martin, Buccaneers:

After two severely disappointing years in Tampa Bay following a spectacular rookie season, Doug Martin is in quick need of redemption. The negative signs that are pointing for owners not to draft Martin are surely there: a weak offensive line to work with and a solid trio of backs all competing for the starting job does not help Martin’s case for fantasy viability. However, he showed up to camp 15 pounds lighter and noticeably quicker, which could give owners flashes of the Muscle Hamster’s superb performances as a rookie. With Martin a frontrunner to start in Tampa, he is a safe RB2 selection.

Fantasy Draft Zone: Another Down Year for Cam Newton

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Kelvin Benjamin owners weren’t the only ones who took a hit when the young star tore his ACL last week. Cam Newton’s value also took a serious smack in the chops. In 2014, Newton attempted 448 passes for 3127 yards and 18 TDs, and many of those targets went Benjamin’s way. Benjamin’s injury drastically reduces Newton’s value.

Benjamin was Newton’s safety blanket and go to receiver as the season progressed, especially in the red zone. Newton has a nasty habit of throwing the ball too high for most receivers to catch. What made Benjamin special is that he consistently was able to handle Newton’s errant throws.

Expect Cam’s pass attempts to fall and his rush attempts to increase as he arguably has no viable options at receiver. Cam’s stock should fall quickly, mostly because his value as a rusher will be difficult to replicate, as many defenses gameplan specifically for Cam’s read option, and his scrambling talent. As a result, Cam will find it much more difficult to have success in the run game.

With Benjamin’s injury, Devin Funchess becomes one of the Panthers only viable receivers the team has after tight end Greg Olsen. Carolina expects Funchess to become the team’s go-to-guy, but that’s asking a great deal from an unproven rookie.

Can C.J. Spiller Cash in Down in Cajun Country?

C.J. Spiller has never been in a better situation for NFL success

C.J. Spiller has never been in a better situation for NFL success, but can he stay healthy?

While C.J. Spiller is still on the mend from his arthroscopic knee surgery, fantasy football owners are wondering whether or not they should kick the tires on this 28-year-old running back. Signing with the Saints could completely turn around Spiller’s NFL legacy, but only if he can stay healthy enough to make that happen. Ever since the Saints lost Darren Sproles, Sean Payton has longed for a game-breaker like Spiller to reignite the team’s ground game.

This is truly the perfect situation for Spiller because of Payton’s play calling, but wise fantasy owners are having a hard time weighing the risks. Spiller is only three years removed from a season in which he averaged six yards per carry and had eight total touchdowns. Known for his world-class speed, the Clemson product can torch any open field defender. Unfortunately for Spiller, his talents did not match the “between the tackle” game plan of the Bills. After suffering a season-ending broken collarbone in 2014, Spiller packed up and took his talents to Louisiana.

Spiller landed in the right place for a back of his talents. Sean Payton and the Saints love having a satellite back: essentially a player that can be put wherever on the field, in open space, and they’ll make a play. Players that have benefitted under this playbook in the past include, Reggie Bush, Darren Sproles, and Pierre Thomas. If healthy, there is no reason why Spiller couldn’t produce within this system.

There is certainly an element of risk with drafting Spiller, but the reward can be monumental. Spiller finds himself in the most optimal scenario leaving Buffalo for New Orleans. When Spiller gets his touches in the new offense, he’ll make the most of them. Welcome to your new home C.J.

2015 Fantasy Football: Top 5 Rookie Report

Amari

Amari Cooper is the odds on favorite to lead the Raiders in receiving

Last season was the year of the rookie: breakout performances were showcased by Kelvin Benjamin, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr. and more. There is always a pique of interest surrounding a rookie during draft day. As an avid fantasy player, we want to take the risk and ride the coattails of said rookie to success. Well here are four rookies to keep an eye out for heading into the 2015 season; risk and reward included.

  1. Melvin Gordon

Melvin Gordon is the first rookie off the board in every draft room and rightfully so. The Wisconsin product boasts the coveted combination of talent and opportunity. Gordon sits atop the Chargers depth chart with little threat to unseat him. Danny Woodhead figures to be a factor on third down and passing plays which puts a cap on Gordon’s ceiling. However, Gordon will handle all the early work and goal line carries in the Bolts’ prolific offense. Grab Gordon as an RB2/Flex when the third round comes up.

2) Amari Cooper

With the No. 4 pick in the 2015 draft, the Oakland raiders select, Amari Cooper out of Alabama. If there is anything that the 2014 wide receiver class proved, it is the importance of having a young, stud receiver. That’s how much promise Oakland is instilling within Cooper moving forward. With the highest floor among all rookies, Cooper is expected to produce in large volume from week one. Unfortunately, Cooper’s ceiling is a bit daunting; he plays for the Oakland Raiders and Derek Carr is the quarterback. Nonetheless, Cooper will only get better as time goes on. Draft the rookie receiver confidently in the sixth round.

3) Todd Gurley

Todd Gurley is the rookie with the most intriguing questions swirling around the air. Nearing complete recovery from an ACL tear in November, Gurley is expected to miss all of the preseason, and a “couple of weeks” of the regular. No one knows exactly what a couple of weeks entail and conflicting rumors state that Gurley may not even be ready for the entire 2015 season. Regardless, the talent is there. Compared to the likes of Adrian Peterson, Gurley will be the focal point of a run-heavy Rams’ offense once fully healthy. Gurley is definitely worth a stash in dynasty, but for redraft leagues, take your chances with Gurley in the fifth/sixth round.

4) Nelson Agholor

Did you see what Nelson Agholor did in that preseason game! No? Well check it out. Even with an arid pass from Mark Sanchez, Agholor flashes the hands, speed, and big play ability needed by any wide out to stand out. Agholor is currently listed behind Riley Cooper and Josh Huff on the depth chart but it won’t take long for the rookie to leap frog them both and start opposite Jordan Matthews. There will be plenty of mouths to feed in this up-tempo, Chip Kelly offense but Agholor is sure to get his. Draft Agholor in rounds 6-8, wait for him to grow, and then reap the rewards.

5) Ameer Abdullah

Here’s a bonus for all you folks who just can’t get enough rookies. Ameer Abdullah was originally drafted for kick/punt returns and to back up Joique Bell. Well the rookie is making the most of his time while Bell nurses an injury. There have been great reviews and raves about Abdullah since the beginning of training camp. Well the hype was certainly bolstered when Abdullah ripped off a 47-yard run against the Jets during the preseason game on Thursday. Abdullah may take a back seat once Bell returns, but the rookie has most certainly made his case for a piece of the pie in the loaded Lions’ offense.

Nelson Agholor Creating Buzz in Philly

Nelson Ag

Nelson Agholor’s eye popping 34-yard touchdown reception has fantasy owners taking notice

Perhaps the most impressive play of the first week of the preseason was a leaping, acrobatic 34-yard touchdown catch by Eagles rookie Nelson Agholor, who has already begun to win over fans in the city of brotherly love. His flash and athleticism is already garnering attention as one of this year’s top fantasy sleeper picks.

These are the same fans that were concerned when Chip Kelly used the 20th pick of this year’s draft to select this impressive wideout from USC, mostly because Agholor never received the hype that other names, such as Kevin White and Amari Cooper, enjoyed.

Already projected to start over Riley Cooper and join Zach Ertz and Jordan Matthews in a young, but promising backfield, Agholor may perhaps be the Eagles receiver to own this year in fantasy drafts.

While Jordan Matthews found huge success in the slot last year, he won’t have Jeremy Maclin this season to draw defensive attention, which means that Matthews’ numbers will most likely recede. Agholor will be a solid WR3 who impresses with his precise route running and speed, and should be taken over Jordan Matthews.

Even with an erratic and wildly inconsistent Mark Sanchez at the helm for his first NFL showing against the Colts, Agholor was able to leap and pull the ball down and burst for a quick touchdown. After all, let’s not forget the last big-name receiver whose first catch in the preseason went for a touchdown: Terrell Owens. While it may be too soon for such comparisons, Agholor will surely be a positive surprise for fantasy owners this year. The Agholor era has begun.

50 Facts for your 2015 Fantasy Football Draft

Tony Romo notched his 4th straight season as a top-10 fantasy QB

Fact #32 – Tony Romo notched his 4th straight season as a top-10 fantasy quarterback

50 fantasy facts to help you build the best fantasy football team for the upcoming season:

  1. Odell Beckham Jr.’s numbers extrapolated over a full season would amount to 121 catches for 1,704 yards and 16 touchdowns.
  2. That totals 266 fantasy points for OBJ, 4th most all time by a wide receiver in the Super Bowl era.
  3. Carson Palmer threw for at least 250 yards and two scores in every game he started and finished before being knocked out for the season.
  4. Palmer has been in the league 11 years but has only completed a full season six times. He turns 36 in December.
  5. San Diego tight end, Ladarius Green, garnered just 53 targets in his first two NFL seasons.
  6. Of those 53 targets, Green caught 36 passes for 602 yards and three touchdowns.
  7. Starting San Diego tight end, Antonio Gates, will serve a four-game suspension to start the season.
  8. Frank Gore was virtually fazed out of the 49ers passing attack in 2014 (11 receptions, one touchdown).
  9. Colts’ running backs combined for 67 receptions and seven touchdowns last season.
  10. Frank Gore will be lining up behind Andrew Luck, wearing a different jersey for the first time in his 12-year career.
  11. Buffalo finished 25th in NFL rushing yards in 2014.
  12. The year before, the team finished 2nd, only behind LeSean McCoy and the Eagles.
  13. McCoy was traded to Buffalo in early March.
  14. “Ground and Pound” coach, Rex Ryan, also now resides in Buffalo.
  15. “We’re going to run it 50 times if we can on you,” Ryan said on WGR 550-AM in late March.
  16. Brian Quick was fantasy’s No. 20 wide receiver through week six before he suffered a season ending injury in week eight.
  17. Fact: Nick Foles is better than both Rams’ starting quarterbacks last season (Shaun Hill & Austin Davis).
  18. According to ESPN, Brian Quick’s ADP is 194.
  19. The second season in Chip Kelly’s offense, Eagles’ quarterbacks combined to average 17.2 points per game.
  20. That “Eagles’ quarterback “would finish seventh in fantasy football.
  21. DeSean Jackson finished four games with over 110 yards and a touchdown last season.
  22. DeSean Jackson finished five games with less than 40 yards last season.
  23. Last season was the first time in Cam Newton’s career he did not finish as a top 5-fantasy quarterback.
  24. Rushing points accounted for 33% of Cam Newton’s total fantasy points, lowest percentage since entering the league.
  25. Colin Kaepernick had the second most rushing yards by a QB in 2014.
  26. Kaepernick only had one rushing touchdown.
  27. Andy Dalton had three more rushing touchdowns than Kaepernick.
  28. Dalton threw for fewer touchdowns and more interceptions in 2014 than his rookie season.
  29. From week 9 until the end of the season, Jeremy Hill had five games of 22 or more carries and 100 of more yards.
  30. Hill scored five touchdowns during that time frame.
  31. Tony Romo threw the fewest number of pass attempts last season (435) since becoming the starter in 2006*.
  32. Tony Romo finished as a top 10 quarterback for the fourth year in a row.
  33. Justin Forsett never eclipsed over 45 receptions and one receiving touchdown in his six-year career.
  34. Matt Forte set the record last season for most receptions by a running back (102).
  35. Matt Forte’s offensive coordinator, Marc Trestman, now calls plays for Baltimore.
  36. Matt Forte never had a season with double-digit rushing tochdowns.
  37. Forte will turn 30 this season.
  38. Since 1990, only two running backs that did not score double-digit rushing touchdowns before turning 30, successfully managed at least one double-digit rushing TD season year 30 and beyond.
  39. Last season, there were five games in which Russell Wilson had double-digit fantasy points from rushing stats alone.
  40. After the Panthers bye in week 12, Jonathan Stewart averaged 5.3 yards per carry.
  41. Long time running mate, DeAngelo Williams, departed for Pittsburgh, making Stewart the sole lead back in Carolina.
  42. Martellus Bennett led all TEs with 90 catches in 2014.
  43. Former Denver offensive coordinator, Adam Gase, is now on the Bears sideline.
  44. Gase had success in Denver with Juluis Thomas who recorded consecutive seasons with 12 touchdowns.
  45. Juluis Thomas is now a Jacksonville Jaguar.
  46. Four of Blake Bortles 11 touchdowns went to three different tight ends.
  47. Bortles also rushed for the fourth most yards by a QB.
  48. Through the first 11 weeks of the season, Peyton Manning averaged 26.7 fantasy points per game.
  49. From week 12 on, Manning averaged 11.8 points per game while throwing more picks than touchdowns.
  50. Peyton Manning, now 39, needs 18 more touchdowns to become the NFL’s all-time leader in passing TDs