Ian Allan answers your fantasy football questions. In this edition. Is Fantasy Index missing the boat on JuJu Smith-Schuster? Is Todd Gurley headed for a massive regression towards the mean? And why should anyone select a quarterback early?
I can't remember a season more bizarre for QBs than this one. Beyond Rodgers and Wilson, it feels like a logjam of 15+ players who grade out as QB2s who all come with a chance of finishing top 10 as well as some form of risk be it related to injury, system or something else. I always wait on a QB and prefer to find a backup on waivers, but I'm wondering if it makes sense to think about drafting a strategic platoon. Are there pairs you think might match well together based on schedule? For example, a QB with quality matchups to start when Roethlisberger is on the road, or a combo of an early season starter who risks losing his job like Tyrod Taylor with an early-season risk like Wentz or Watson? I'm looking for any way to avoid a dart throw at this position in the later rounds.
Steven Chaitman (Chicago, IL)
I agree with the concept. There’s Rodgers and Wilson. I think most will have them as the top 2 quarterbacks. A lot of people like Deshaun Watson, and he might be the next quarterback chosen in a lot of drafts. For me, after those first two, there are another 19 quarterbacks that I like. I’ve got Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton and Derek Carr at the end of those group. In a typical draft, I would be comfortable taking a pair of quarterbacks from that group of 19. I am higher than most on Alex Smith, so for me, I would expect he’ll be my second quarterback. I think Smith is capable, and I like the way Jay Gruden puts together his offenses.
Picking first in a 12-team, PPR league, I am struggling with taking Gurley. No doubt, he’s awesome but last year seemed a little flukey to me. It’s highly doubtful that he will register another 6 receiving TDs and with the addition of Cooks as a goal-line threat, a mediocre offensive line, and teams potentially using the Atlanta model to scheme against Gurley, a sizable regression is definitely a possibility. Moreso, I have seen Gurley suck in 2016. I have never seen Bell, Elliott, DJ, or Kamara suck over a prolonged period. If (and this is a giant IF), Bell gets his contract situation worked out, might he be worthy of the #1 pick? If he’s healthy (another giant IF), he will almost certainly get more rushing attempts/yards, and more targets/ receptions than Gurley. He may not get as many goal line opportunities as Gurley, but we’re only a year removed from 2016, when Bell registered more rushing TDs than Gurley in fewer games played. Final thought is that while Bell has had injury issues in the past, he’s now gone two consecutive years without any material injuries. Is a healthy and happy Bell a better pick than Gurley?
STEVEN MATH (Austin, TX)
I don’t think Gurley is a no-brainer, but he seems to be the guy to me. He struggled in 2016, but that was with a different coaching staff. Big difference between Sean McVay and Jeff Fisher. And I don’t think Brandin Cooks will be much of a factor around the end zone. With Bell, I think his holdout and history of injuries removes him from consideration for the No. 1 spot. You correctly point out that Bell hasn’t had as many injury issues the last two years, but recall that a groin injury sidelined him for almost all of the AFC Championship game in New England. On my scorecard, Bell has had problems with injuries in four of the last five seasons. And while it’s not necessarily a big deal, the Steelers are switching offensive coordinators. That might prove to be a positive; maybe Randy Fichtner will call more running plays around the goal line. But some potential the offense won’t be quite the same without Todd Haley. At this time last year, nobody was figuring the Falcons would miss Kyle Shanahan much. I like Gurley a lot more than Bell.
I love your product but I am confused by two of your rankings: JuJu Smith-Schuster and Deshaun Watson. JuJu Smith-Schuster has great potential but he is still the #2 in Pittsburgh. When Antonio Brown is healthy (so exclude the last three games of the season) he was good not great. What makes you think he will put up 10 numbers over players like A.J. Green, Davante Adams, and T.Y. Hilton who are clearly the #1 WR? You say you are concerned with Deshaun Watson ability to stay healthy and only have him starting 13 games but Rodgers who I can't remember the last time he didn't get hurt in a season you have starting 15 games, and for him to start 15 games is a long shot. If you were so concerned about the Watson getting injured why are you not concerned about the same thing with Rodgers? If you know you can pick up a decent backup such as Alex Smith, why not run with Deshaun as the fourth QB off the board and ride his great per-game numbers. Classic question would you rater have a player that will play 10 games at 16 points a game or a player that will play 16 games at 11 points a game. Seeing that when the 16 point player is not playing you won't be getting zeros but maybe 6 points a game doesn't it make sense to go for the riskier player if there is that much of a difference?
Eric Scolnick (Redmond, WA)
There are two issues with Watson. Durability for sure. He’s a slender guy, and he puts himself in harm’s way with his playing style. I don’t envision him stringing together a bunch of 16-game seasons. Does he start five games this year? Ten? Nobody knows, and that’s part of the calculation. For durability purposes, comparing him to Rodgers is ridiculous. Rodgers has been starting for 10 years. He’s missed about half of two of those seasons. He missed one game in 2010. He stayed healthy in the other seven years. No comparision.
Additionally with Watson, I have concerns that he won’t nearly as effective this year. Defenses have seen him now, and I think they’ll do a much better job of figuring out how to defend him. Think of some of the other young, mobile quarterbacks who took the league by storm in the past – Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick, Vince Young. Kordell Stewart back in the ‘90s. The tendency now is to shrug and say those guys aren’t nearly as good as Watson, but you have to go back and remember what you thought of those players heading into their second seasons as starters. I understand the logic in trying to pair him with a 16-game quarterback like Alex Smith or Kirk Cousins, but Watson isn’t a guy I’ll be drafting on any of my teams.
As for JuJu Smith-Schuster, I was really impressed by what he did as a rookie. He was good, and he got better in the second half of the year. He caught 43 passes for 725 yards in his final eight games, with 6 TDs. I’m aware that they have Antonio Brown, but they don’t have much else. They don’t have good tight ends, and they got rid of Martavis Bryant. They drafted James Washington, but I’m not confident he’ll be a good third receiver. He’s supposed to be a deep threat, but he’s short (5-foot-11) and ran only 4.54 at the combine. In this century, 20 wide receivers have finished with top-10 numbers (standard scoring) despite not being the most productive wide receivers on their own team. (41 other receivers finished with top-20 numbers as No. 2 receivers.)
|No. 2 WR with Top-10 numbers|
|2005||Anquan Boldin, Ariz.||84||1,483||17.7||3||9||202.6||3|
|2006||Reggie Wayne, Ind.||86||1,310||15.2||0||9||187.0||3|
|2014||Randall Cobb, G.B.||91||1,287||14.1||37||12||206.4||5|
|2014||Emmanuel Sanders, Den.||101||1,404||13.9||44||9||200.8||7|
|2000||Torry Holt, St.L.||82||1,635||19.9||7||6||200.2||7|
|2007||T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Cin.||112||1,143||10.2||14||12||187.7||7|
|2012||Eric Decker, Den.||85||1,064||12.5||0||13||184.4||7|
|2002||Peerless Price, Buff.||94||1,252||13.3||-13||9||177.9||7|
|2008||Anquan Boldin, Ariz.||89||1,038||11.7||67||11||176.5||7|
|2016||Davante Adams, G.B.||75||997||13.3||0||12||173.7||7|
|2013||Alshon Jeffery, Chi.||89||1,421||16.0||105||7||196.6||8|
|2004||Reggie Wayne, Ind.||77||1,210||15.7||-4||12||192.6||8|
|2000||Ed McCaffrey, Den.||101||1,317||13.0||0||9||187.7||8|
|2002||Plaxico Burress, Pitt.||78||1,325||17.0||0||7||176.5||8|
|2013||Eric Decker, Den.||87||1,288||14.8||0||11||194.8||9|
|2016||Michael Thomas, N.O.||92||1,137||12.4||0||9||167.7||9|
|2000||Cris Carter, Minn.||96||1,274||13.3||0||9||181.4||10|
|2004||Donald Driver, G.B.||84||1,208||14.4||4||9||177.2||10|
|2012||Roddy White, Atl.||92||1,351||14.7||0||7||177.1||10|