Ian Allan answers your fantasy football questions. In this edition: If games are played without fans, does that eliminate crowd-noise advantage for defenses? Why T.Y. Hilton's value could be on the rise. Over-rated rookie running backs. Stash players for 2021. And more.
Which player on Pats, Bucs, and Colts will benefit most from their new QBs, Newton, Brady, and Rivers?
Bob McKinlay (Casselberry, FL)
When Philip Rivers was with the Chargers, he sure jammed a lot balls into Keenan Allen’s hands. In each of the last three years, Allen caught more than twice as many passes as any other wide receiver on his team. I think that can be attributed to Rivers more than Allen. That is, I don’t think Allen is simply a mismatch nightmare. I think it’s more of a case where Rivers got comfortable with him, sending a lot of balls in his direction. If there’s a receiver like that on the Colts roster, I’m pretty sure it will be T.Y. Hilton.
Considering COVID-19, are you beginning to give thought to adjusting defense rankings without crowd noise? Won't it be easier for opponents to play in Seattle, Kansas City, Denver, etc.?
Albert Chapman (Las Vegas, NV)
Clever idea. Thanks for sending it in. This is exactly the kind of question I love to see when compiling the Mailbag. It’s an interesting theory, and we can explore it by dipping into the substantial data that’s available.
You mention Seattle, Denver and KC. Let’s also include the Saints, since they’re often mentioned as a team benefitting from a home-field advantage. And with all four of these teams, let’s look not just as last year, but at the last four years. More data should provide a paint a better, more accurate picture.
Over the last four years, there hasn’t been a big home-away difference for these defenses. Three of the four teams, in fact, have averaged better production on the road. Really. That’s with each defense playing 32 games at home and 31-32 on the road. Overall, interceptions and touchdowns have been about the same. Slightly more sacks at home, but slightly more fumble recoveries on the road. The teams allowed fewer points at home, but for this one I’m scoring it via 2 points for takeaways, 1 for sacks and 6 for every defensive touchdown.
|HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE FOR DEFENSES?|
|Kansas City home||32||17.8||72||40||26||9||8.1|
|New Orleans away||31||21.6||82||28||23||4||6.7|
|Kansas City away||31||25.5||83||21||18||6||6.4|
|New Orleans home||32||25.1||86||25||16||3||5.8|
So while I like the theory, I don’t think it’s one we should be putting much stock into while projecting defenses.
I have Deebo Samuel in several leagues. You were very high on him in the magazine. Please tell me not to fear – that he'll be fine and healthy come the start of the season.
Joe Van Koevering (St Petersburg, FL)
If Samuel is healthy for the start of the season, he’ll be one of the big steals of drafts. I had him slotted as a possible top-5 receiver prior to his injury. But a broken foot is definitely a concern. Will he be 100 percent before October? And will his role be quite the same after all the down time. He was emerging as a real threat at the end of last year, not only as a pass catcher but on end-arounds. He ran for 20-plus yards in six of his last eight games. Hopefully they can get that foot back to where they’re comfortable using him on those kind of plays.
I play in a four-player keeper league (one keeper has to be a rookie). The price of a keeper is where they were drafted the year before. Which players do you anticipate making a huge jump from 2020 to 2021 that aren’t marquee players this season?
John Evans (Jacksonville, FL)
I would consider throwing a late-round pick at a rookie receiver, figuring they’ll be ready for more expanded roles next season. Justin Jefferson, Brandon Aiyuk, Tee Higgins and Michael Pittman. You pick up one of those guys with one of your last couple picks with the hope they’ll be worth a middle-round choice next year. Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb will fairly be selected a few rounds earlier; they’re more likely to provide some decent depth production in 2020. With the other guys, there’s more of a chance they’re not really truly worth fantasy roster spots initially. If there are better players sitting available on the waiver wire, then you’re essentially trading away a 2020 roster spot in hopes of enhancing the value of a 2021 roster spot. If we’re looking at that kind of situation, I would be more interested in trying to maximize the value of that 2020 late-round pick right now, using it on a variety of other players. In your league, I would be thinking about the running back situations in Seattle and Pittsburgh. Chris Carson and James Conner are both violent, high-contact runners in contract years. I don’t think either team will be interested in throwing much money at those guys. So could make sense to use a late-round pick on Rashaad Penny or Benny Snell, hoping they might be an opening-day starter next year. Snell is the more promising of the two (with Penny coming back from an ACL surgery, he’ll likely start this season on the PUP list). Kareem Hunt is another option to consider; he’s a backup for now, but he probably will be signed as a starter next spring.
You hate to ignore the running backs in an offense as potent as the Chiefs', but putting draft values on Damien Williams and Clyde Edwards-Helaire is tricky this year. In the magazine, you're cool on Edwards-Helaire, and certainly the lack of offseason training may leave him struggling to carve out a role. Do you take a shot anyway, on the chance he becomes the unquestioned starter by the end of the season? Right now, Williams seems like the safer pick, but where do you draft him?
Paul Owers (Lake Worth, FL)
I wouldn’t spend much time thinking about Edwards-Helaire. He’s been wildly overdrafted in every league I’ve seen, so I’m operating under the assumption that he’ll be gone long before I would even be considering him. Same is true for Jonathan Taylor. For each of those teams, the more compelling running backs are Damien Williams and Marlon Mack. In each case, I’m not sure that the veteran won’t finish with better stats, and they’re going a lot later in drafts.
If you look at the historical numbers, you tend to be correct about twice as often when you instead go with the veteran running back. In the last 20 years, 46 running backs have been selected between 20th and 50th. Only 14 of those 46 running backs put up top-30 numbers in their first season. Only 15 (about one in three) were even the best running back on their own team. Keep that in mind when you’re at your draft and wonder whether you can get acceptable starter-type production out of Edwards-Helaire, Taylor or D’Andre Swift.
|ROOKIE BACKS: HITTING AND MISSING|
|2000||Trung Canidate, St.L.||31||6||1||7||0||2.0||147|
|2001||Anthony Thomas, Chi.||38||1,183||22||1,205||7||202.1||17|
|2001||Michael Bennett, Min.||27||682||29||711||3||137.8||29|
|2001||Deuce McAllister, N.O.||23||91||15||106||2||57.3||65|
|2001||LaMont Jordan, NYJ||49||292||7||299||2||52.6||72|
|2002||DeShaun Foster, Car.||34||0||0||0||0||0||--|
|2003||DeShaun Foster, Car.||34||429||26||455||2||101.6||42|
|2003||Larry Johnson, K.C.||27||85||1||86||1||15.7||116|
|2003||Willis McGahee, Buff.||23||0||0||0||0||0||--|
|2004||Kevin Jones, Det.||30||1,133||28||1,161||6||195.3||21|
|2004||Julius Jones, Dall.||43||819||17||836||7||151.8||31|
|2004||Steven Jackson, St.L.||24||673||19||692||4||131.2||33|
|2004||Tatum Bell, Den.||41||396||5||401||3||70.6||63|
|2004||Chris Perry, Cin.||26||1||3||4||0||6.4||143|
|2005||J.J. Arrington, Ariz.||44||370||25||395||2||87.9||53|
|2006||Joseph Addai, Ind.||30||1,081||40||1,121||8||228.6||13|
|2006||Laurence Maroney, N.E.||21||745||22||767||7||157.9||27|
|2006||DeAngelo Williams, Car.||27||501||33||534||2||126.4||39|
|2006||LenDale White, Ten.||45||244||14||258||0||44.4||72|
|2007||Kenny Irons, Cin.||49||0||0||0||0||0||--|
|2007||Chris Henry, Ten.||50||0||0||0||0||0||--|
|2008||Matt Forte, Chi.||44||1,238||63||1,301||12||306.5||2|
|2008||Chris Johnson, Ten.||24||1,228||43||1,271||10||251.8||11|
|2008||Felix Jones, Dall.||22||266||2||268||4||53.6||75|
|2008||Rashard Mendenhall, Pitt.||23||58||2||60||0||9.5||128|
|2009||Beanie Wells, Ariz.||31||793||12||805||7||147.6||37|
|2009||Donald Brown, Ind.||27||281||11||292||3||74.0||60|
|2010||Jahvid Best, Det.||30||555||58||613||6||198.2||20|
|2010||Dexter McCluster, K.C.||36||71||21||92||2||61.0||65|
|2011||Mark Ingram, N.O.||28||474||11||485||5||93.0||46|
|2011||Ryan Williams, Ariz.||38||0||0||0||0||0||--|
|2012||Doug Martin, T.B.||31||1,454||49||1,503||12||313.6||2|
|2012||David Wilson, NYG||32||358||4||362||6||79.2||51|
|2012||Isaiah Pead, St.L.||50||54||3||57||0||10.0||130|
|2013||Giovani Bernard, Cin.||37||695||56||751||8||224.9||13|
|2013||LeVeon Bell, Pitt.||48||860||45||905||8||218.9||15|
|2015||T.J. Yeldon, Jac.||36||740||36||776||3||155.9||28|
|2016||Derrick Henry, Ten.||45||490||13||503||5||105.7||45|
|2017||Joe Mixon, Cin.||48||626||30||656||4||145.3||33|
|2017||Dalvin Cook, Min.||41||354||11||365||2||67.4||72|
|2018||Nick Chubb, Cle.||35||996||20||1,016||10||194.5||17|
|2018||Kerryon Johnson, Det.||43||641||32||673||4||141.4||33|
|2018||Sony Michel, N.E.||31||931||7||938||6||141.1||34|
|2018||Rashaad Penny, Sea.||27||419||9||428||2||70.4||68|
|2018||Ronald Jones, T.B.||38||44||7||51||1||20.7||95|
|2019||Josh Jacobs, Oak.||24||1,150||20||1,170||7||193.6||21|
At the coveted RB position, there is a tier of elites, followed by a tier of rising stars, followed by a tier of fading stars. Please help me sort through the “Sinking 7”. Specifically; Bell, Gurley, Gordon, David Johnson, Connor, Carson and Fournette. All seven carry significant risk due to age, injury, or role. All seven are generally going in Rounds 3 and 4. Who do you think still has gas in the tank for 2020, and who should I stay away from in a full PPR league?
Steven Math (Austin, TX)
I like Johnson. I’ve talked about him previously. I don’t think the Texans would have taken on that contract if they didn’t believe he was going to fit very well into their system. Of this group, Gurley and Fournette are the two I’m most confident won’t be on any of my teams. I’m leery of Gurley’s health, and he’s going to a team that never makes much of a commitment to the running game. With Fournette, he caught 76 passes last year, but he might not catch even half as many this year. I don’t think he’s actually a good pass-catching back, and they’ve got a new coordinator with a new system. Jacksonville signed Chris Thompson, and I believe he’ll play on third downs, catching most of those dumpoff balls.
I am in a 24-team keeper league that is TD dependent with bonus for yards over 100. I have Kareem Hunt who sits behind Nick Chubb. It appears Hunt will be the third-down back with occasional carries. This may limit TDs. With that said, I should be able to get Zack Moss. Thinking Moss will be the goal-line back despite Singletary/Allen. Would you keep Moss over Hunt?
Howie Fishman (Hermosa Beach, CA)
I was very impressed with Moss’ goal-line work at Utah. Watching his highlight tape, I saw a bunch of plays where he was hit at the 1- or 2-yard line and still managed to get into the end zone. I saw more of those plays than with any other college running back I’ve seen in recent years. But I am not ready to fast-forward to the assumption that Moss is certain to be the primary goal-line option for the Bills. He’s got to learn the offense, and they need to get comfortable with him. Josh Allen has been a very effective runner in that part of the field. If I were in a keeper league, I would be keeping Kareem Hunt. Should Chubb miss any time, Hunt will be a top-5 back while filling in. He’ll also be an unrestricted free agent next spring, and I’m thinking some team will sign him to be their starter in 2021.
If Lamar Jackson gets hurt what is RG3 value? In a league with 2 starting QBs and wonder if he is worth stashing away (we have a very large roster) even if we don't have Lamar Jackson on our team.
Eric Scolnick (Redmond, WA)
Your league is starting two quarterbacks and has larger rosters, so every starting quarterback will be rostered. There are four teams where it’s pretty certain two quarterbacks will start games (Bears, Dolphins, Chargers and Washington), so they’ll have two quarterbacks selected. That’s 36 quarterbacks, and I would put Griffin behind all of them. Question, then, is how Jackson stacks up against the remaining 27 backup quarterbacks. For each of those situations, you must weigh the upside potential and the probability of actually getting on the field. With the workload Jackson carries as a runner (constantly exposing himself to injury risk) I would think Griffin is more likely than the vast majority of backup quarterbacks to get some starts. And he’s got some run-pass potential. So if I were in such a league, Griffin probably would be the 37th quarterback chosen. The other contenders, I suppose, would be Jarrett Stidham, Marcus Mariota, Matt Barkley, Andy Dalton and Jacoby Brissett. Griffin wasn’t particularly impressive in his one start last year – a ho-hum 28-10 win over Pittsburgh in a meaningless game in Week 17. With a conservative approach, the offense scored only 1 touchdown that week, and it came on a run by rookie Justice Hill. Griffin completed only 11 of 21 passes for 96 yards, with an additional 50 yards on 8 carries.
I may be off my rocker, but it felt to me like I just drafted ahead of you in a Yahoo mock draft a few minutes ago. A lot of your previous favorites are in there. Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, Kenyan Drake, David Johnson, David Montgomery, Tevin Coleman, Marlon Mack, Davante Adams, Mike Evans, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Robert Woods, Stefon Diggs, Austin Hooper, Younghoe Koo, New Orleans. Just got my copy of the magazine for the 30th year running. Thanks for staying in the game, and keeping me in the running every year.
Ed Burke ()
I’m definitely with you on Ryan, Stafford, Johnson, Montgomery, Mack and Adams. I expect to have those guys on multiple teams. I’ve got the Ryan-Stafford quarterback pair in a league. But you’re on your own on Evans, Diggs and Hooper. I can’t envision a scenario where I’ll be drafting any of those guys (I’ve got them slotted behind plenty of players with lower ADPs). Best of luck to you.