Ian Allan answers your fantasy football questions. Special jumbo-sized kickoff edition. Is Fantasy Index missing the boat on J.K. Dobbins? How much does strength of schedule matter? Do losing teams pass for more yards? What's up with Devonta Freeman? Sleepers, backup running backs, and more.

Question 1

You have J.K. Dobbins ranked as your 68th RB. He is ranked MUCH higher elsewhere, sometimes more than 30 spots higher. Why so sour on him?

Joe Cronin (Fairport, NY)

I have him as Baltimore’s 3rd-best running back. There are a couple of other established runners on that team – Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards. Edwards ran for over 100 yards in his lone start last year. He’s averaged over 5 yards per carry two years in a row. Is Dobbins even better than Justice Hill (their No. 4 back)? Probably, but I can’t even say that with 100 percent certainty. A talented guy, and maybe Ingram gets hurt, allowing Dobbins to step in and excel. But that injury won’t necessarily occur, and if and when it does, I think it would be some kind of committee of backs. There are 31 other teams, and they all have running backs too. I’m aware that a bunch of folks are exciting about Dobbins, but there are a bunch of other prospects that I am more excited about.

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Question 2

Your thoughts on Devonta Freeman? Any chance he winds up in Washington or Jacksonville or somwhere else? Has he priced himself out of the market, or have his skills just declined.

John Brower (Chapel Hill, NC)

He could have been the backup in Seattle. He was offered the same $4 million deal that Carlos Hyde took. I doubt he’ll get that much know. I think he may be in the position now where he’s waiting for an injury. He supposedly worked out for Jacksonville last week, so maybe they’ll sign him if they don’t like what they see out of James Robinson in Week 1. But the Jaguars aren’t necessarily pulling out the stops to move up from 3-13 to 5-11 – I think all of their moves are being made with one eye on the 2021 draft.

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Question 3

I was looking at the SOS page in The Index and wondered if you have ever analyzed the effectiveness of using last year's numbers to project things for this year. I get reluctant, but there isn't much else to use

Josh Obusek (Pittsburgh, PA)

I don’t think schedules should be a big part of what you’re doing. You’re looking for a slight edge. Below see the teams that have entered the season projecting to play the easiest schedules in the last 15 years. On average, these teams scored 11 more points in said season (compared to the previous year). That’s like a touchdown and a field goal. Of the 36 teams, 23 scored more points, but 13 scored fewer points. The scoring trends get more pronounced, of course, if you look not at teams that PROJECT to play easy schedules, but teams that actually wind up playing easy schedules.

EASIEST SCHEDULES (last 15 years)
2008• New England991570.387-179
2015• Atlanta1041502.410-42
2009• Chicago1051492.414-48
2015• Indianapolis1061491.416-125
2015• Houston1061482.418-33
2008San Diego1081480.42227
2017• Indianapolis1071463.424-148
2015Tampa Bay1081462.42665
2009Green Bay1091461.42842
2015New Orleans1091452.4307
2008• Oakland1121440.438-20
2014• Tennessee1121440.438-191
2017• Tennessee1111423.439-47
2009• Arizona1131430.441-52
2009• San Francisco1131421.443-9
2005St. Louis1141420.44544
2010• Arizona1141420.445-86
2010St. Louis1151410.449114
2008New Orleans1151410.44984
2006Green Bay1151410.4493
2017• Cincinnati1151410.449-35

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Question 4

Love your cheat sheet – your rankings have helped me win plenty of titles over the years, but I have a question. I notice that every year players who are oft-injured are moved way down your overall draft list because they are projected to score fewer total points. But isn't that inaccurate? Shouldn't we be more concerned with fantasy points per game instead of total points across the entire season? That is, Carson Wentz, for example, should be worth his total number of predicted points PLUS the points that could be expected from any free-agent quarterback I would pick up and use on weeks when Wentz is injured, right? I understand that I might prefer to draft a healthier quarterback expected to start all 16 games, but I think you are unfairly ranking oft-injured players lower based on their predicted total points without factoring in that a FA would be used in their absence. Thoughts?

Geoff Maleman (Los Angeles, CA)

Definitely a factor, and when you consider the premium backup running backs – Edmonds, Snell, Mattison, Murray, Pollard – they are artificially moved up in the rankings. There are some “behind the curtain” stats that you can’t see. And I played around some with the other players as well. Ben Roethlisberger, for example. If the game is to guess how many games he’ll play, I wouldn’t put him down for 15. I’ve got him up that high because I don’t want him to fall behind lesser quarterbacks who are more likely to play 16 games. Ultimately, though, durability must be factored into the model some. If we’re looking purely at per-start production, Kareem Hunt would be a top-3 running backs. Leagues are different. Some don’t allow waiver moves. In others, there are always plenty of serviceable players sitting on the waiver wire. There’s not agreement on what the per-week fill-in production would be.

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Question 5

I have been with you since there was only a magazine! My annual question is who are some RB fliers that could have an unexpected big year due to starter injury, etc.?

Randy Newland (Sunrise, FL)

I like to stockpile as many quality backup running backs as I can. It’s hard to stay healthy at that position, so every year we see some unheralded players move into lineups, putting up top-10 numbers for stretches of games. Chase Edmonds, Benny Snell, Alexander Mattison, Latavius Murray, Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson, Tony Pollard. You try and get 2-3 of those guys, and chances are pretty good that you’ll get a hit at some point. Kareem Hunt will be the first of the backup running backs selected in most leagues, but with him also having a decent change-of-pace role, he’s in a different class.

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Question 6

Considering that there is no guarantee that the NFL will be able to play a full season, would it be a good idea to fade some players whose production is less explosive but more reliable over a given year? I'm sure that if Robert Woods plays 16 games that he'll come up with 1000 yards and a few touchdowns, but it might be better to grab D.K. Metcalf at that round of the draft if there were only, say, 10 games played before the playoffs this year, since he might have a few 2-TD games. What do you think?

Ed Burke ()

Clever idea. If we knew we we’re playing only eight games, it would make me more willing to invest in some of the running backs who are higher injury risk players – Cook, Carson, Conner and Aaron Jones.

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Question 7

A simple one I hope (since you don't do a "total flex" for week 1). A.J. Green or Marlon Mack?

Scott Martin (Sammamish, WA)

When making flex or superflex decisions, there are two routes you can go. We have the writeups for the players in the pdf version, of course, but no projected numbers there. To see the exact forecast for each guy, you can download the Excel file. That gives you the exact expected numbers for all of the stats (catches, receiving yards, rushing yards, touchdowns, etc.). That also includes expected fantasy point totals for standard, PPR and TD-only formats. This info can also be seen by using the custom rankings option on the web. That gets you the fantasy points total (for your scoring system) for each player. If you then want to see the stat breakdown for said player, you click on that number. I’m not sure of your scoring system, but Mack looks awfully appealing this week. Jacksonville should have one of the very worst run defenses, and I think they’re going to run the ball down their throats.

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Question 8

Wondering which teams will have fans, if so how many, and finally what will be the effect of less or no fans on fantasy production?


There’s a rundown at si.com. Looks like about half of the stadiums will be empty this week, and about half will have a small number of fans – 10,000 to 15,000. I believe many teams are planning to pipe in crowd noise, making for more of a regular game-day atmosphere. Earlier in the week, the league was sending out guidelines for how much noise would be allowed. Houston and Kansas City planned in front of about 17,000 last year, and it didn’t seem that different than a regular game.

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Question 9

Groin injuries can be tricky. Do I believe the reports out of Chicago that Montgomery is doing great and start him? Or do I sit him and go with Kerryon Johnson?

David Hogshire (Plymouth, MN)

Let’s see what the injury report says later today. If Montgomery seems pretty healthy, I would rather start him and hope his groin holds up, rather than worrying about how the playing time will shake out between Johnson and Adrian Peterson. I will address this issue in the Friday Supplement that goes out this afternoon.

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Question 10

How much does a team with a good defense (a killer pass rush, or overall toughness) affect your ranking of wide receivers on the same team? Does it bump them down a few spots in a draft knowing that their offense might be a little more conservative, knowing that their games will probably be tight, or do you just rank them based on individual stats from the previous year?

Ed Burke ()

There seems to be a growing belief that losing teams put up better passing stats. You fall behind, the theory goes, and pile up a bunch of cheap yards in the second half. And I suppose you can point to games here and there where that kind of dynamic is in play. But when you look at the big picture, it’s not really the case. If we use standard fantasy scoring (6 for TDs, 1 for every 10 yards), only 5 of the 17 best passing games last year belonged to teams that finished with losing records. Only 2 of the bottom 15 belonged to teams with winning records. In the chart below, teams finishing with losing records are in bold. Teams tagged with black dots finished at .500.

1.Tampa Bay7-9-05,12733710.7
3.• Dallas8-8-04,90230670.2
4.New Orleans13-3-04,43136659.1
5.Kansas City12-4-04,69030649.0
6.LA Chargers5-11-04,64824608.8
7.LA Rams9-7-04,66922598.9
9.NY Giants4-12-04,07030587.0
11.San Francisco13-3-04,02928570.9
15.New England12-4-04,15325565.3
16.Green Bay13-3-04,01726557.7
26.• Chicago8-8-03,57320477.3
29.NY Jets7-9-03,44319458.3
31.• Pittsburgh8-8-03,21418429.4

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Question 11

A lot of hype about Brady and Newton but I know I've read in the past that it takes at least a full year for a new QB on a team to fully acclimate/succeed. Do you agree?

Mike (USA)

I have interest in both of those guys. With Newton, he’s got one of the game’s best coaching staffs helping to put things together. I think they’ll find ways to innovatively tap into his abilities. And with Brady, with his smarts and experience, I like his chances of identifying areas to exploit against defenses that haven’t had a chance to play against opponents yet.

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Question 12

I believe I read that you referred to Emanuel Sanders as an “accent piece” in the Saints offense. I recall a slot receiver (Lance Moore) circa 08-10 who regularly racked up about 80 catch, 900 yard seasons with a TD about every other game. Do you not envision Sanders playing a similar role or is your thinking that his skills have diminished? When I heard of the trade, I perceived another Lance Moore type role as the de facto WR2 playing from the slot.

Joe Nordstrand (Dickinson, TX)

They’ve got a bunch of other targets. Michael Thomas probably will catch 120-plus balls. Alvin Kamara has caught over 80 passes three years in a row. And Jared Cook put up the 3rd-best PPR numbers of any tight end in the league in the second half of last year – 28 for 537, with 7 TDs. So when Emmanuel Sanders gets fused in here, I don’t think it’s to catch a ton of balls every week. He’ll pop up with some big plays here and there, but there will be plenty of weeks where he goes 2-for-27 or 3-35. If I had Sanders on one of my fantasy rosters (I don’t) I would be looking to use him primarily when the Saints are playing at home. Drew Brees typically tends to average about an extra touchdown in that building, so the odds of having Sanders hit in that kind of situation are a lot better.

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Question 13

In previous years you have published a projected win-loss record and win percentage for each team in a table format. That information is very useful as it applies to the FF maxim "If in doubt, draft a player from a good team/offense." Also, personally, I like the new color-coded Cheat Sheet, and especially the embedded positional rankings.

Douglas Eisemann (Springfield, VA)

Thanks for the kind words. I’ve been busy with other stuff, so I haven’t had the opportunity to go through all 256 games and count up the wins and losses for each team. But I’ve settled on the teams I like and don’t like. Washington and Jacksonville look like the disaster teams to me, with Carolina, Miami and the Jets the others in the bottom 5. With the Chargers (Derwin James) and Broncos (Von Miller) losing some of their best players, the AFC West is looking very soft outside of KC.

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Question 14

I'm in a 12-team standard league and referenced the Sept 7 cheat sheet to execute my draft. I had the 8th overall pick and took the best available player according to the sheet which was Nick Chubb. During and after the draft I got roasted by several guys and the CBS site. CBS dinged me for taking Chubb prior to the middle of the second round. Why are you sold on Chubb this year given the new staff with limited training camp and Hunt in the picture? Is he at risk of being somewhat game flow dependent?

Scott Osborn (Walton, KY)

I think they’re going to run the heck out of the ball. They’ve bolstered their offensive line, and they’ve brought in Kevin Stefanski, who orchestrated a run-heavy system in Minnesota last year. I think they’re going to have a Cook-Mattison combo of backs. Chubb, I think, is their Dalvin Cook. I believe Hunt will be more of a Mattison guy – a change-of-pace and playing in obvious passing situations.

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Question 15

I am in a dynasty PPR league and through luck of the draft I ended up with Michael Pittman... but I already have Parris Campbell from last year! Which receiver would you keep and which would you offer as trade bait?

David Jung (San Francisco, CA)

On the current depth chart, the Colts list Hilton, Campbell and Paulson as their starting receivers. Pittman is a backup for now. Campbell has the considerable advantage of having been around for a year. So I would guess he’ll be more productive than Pittman this year. Pittman is a big, talented guy; I would probably select him if I were looking at 2021 and beyond.

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Question 16

Been a subscriber for a long time. With that in mind you usually find a couple diamond in the rough type dudes that can be difference makers that no other service has provided. Any sleepers you care to share? You know like Dalvin Cook or Kareem Hunt who no one knew anything about until they burst onto the scene and you predicted as such.


Deebo Samuel, I think, was my most key guy. I had him ranked among the top 10 among receivers prior to his foot injury. Hopefully he can get healthy and fully dialed in, giving him a chance to operate at that kind of a level. Guys I’ve drafted in many leagues: David Johnson, Hayden Hurst, Matt Ryan, Calvin Ridley, Tyler Lockett, Robbie Gould, Terry McLaurin. I guess that means I’m higher than others on those guys.

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Question 17

In a 10-team, 6pt every TD, small yardage bonus (2pts for 100yd/300yd games), dynasty league with 24 roster slots and IR, I am considering offering Matt Ryan for Ronald Jones, Deebo Samuel and a pick. Ryan wont see the field for me because I have Wilson and Dak. My concern is that I have a bunch of JustGuys at RB and WR, highlighted by Cooper Kupp and Marlon Mack. Is there enough upside and youth (and less Fournette) to gamble on these 2 possible JustGuys instead of keeping Ryan away from my opponent?

Shaun Hawkins (Albany, GA)

I would make the trade. Jones might give you something. If and when Samuel’s foot is right, he might be better than any of your receivers.

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Question 18

I'm in a 6-team keeper league that starts 2 QBs and runs an auction, so we often build a lot of depth at one position. Most teams spent a lot on their keepers, but I didn't, and thanks to your rankings, at RB, I ended up with Aaron Jones (keeper), Drake (keeper), Edwards-Helaire, Mixon, David Johnson, Ingram, Gurley, and Zack Moss. We can start up to 3 RBs a week, and I'm already looking into trades, as I could improve at QB and TE and WR depth. But my question for you is, if I don't swing a big trade, should I keep all those guys, or do you think I should drop or trade Gurley or Moss, for any vital handcuffs? Maybe Edmonds for Drake or Williams for CEH?

Craig Rinne (Lake Worth, FL)

I like the idea of finding room for Chase Edmonds. If Drake happens to get sidelined for a few games, you will probably want to have Edmonds at that point. In Arizona, they like to rely on one back, and they tend to use lots of draws at the goal line. That team scored 18 rushing touchdowns last year. I know some people absolutely love Zack Moss, but I wouldn’t be opposed to dropping him for Edmonds right now. I’m not a big Gurley fan, but since he’s on your roster, you should probably keep him around for the opener to see what he’s got. A decent chance, I think, that you’ll use the same Moss-Edmonds logic to acquire Darrel Williams.

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Question 19

Kind of a complicated one here. Had our auction over the weekend. 12 tm, non-ppr. It's not a true "dispersal" auction; we have a $200 cap for both the auction & free agency; you usually want to have some $ left over after the auction for FA blind bidding during the season. (You can cut players and their salary goes back into your FA budget.) I have a monster team, but no $$ left over - spent $194 on my starters, with six $1 players to round out the bench. My questions is, I know what the projections say, but would it be a terrible trade to send Mark Ingram ($23) or Raheem Mostert ($21) for DeVante Parker ($10) or Tyler Lockett ($10), thus freeing up $11-$13 for FA budget? If I make one of these trades, I could also cut a $1 player and promote Zack Moss from the taxi squad for $7. So my before-trade starters would be Ingram or Mostert + Lazard, and after trade would be Moss + Parker or Lockett, with about $12 in FA budget. Complex enough for you? Haha thanks!

Scott Anderson (Lakewood, CO)

I haven’t played in such a league. It’s outside of my expertise. But I would think it would be very valuable to have some free agent money to work with. Lockett is a top-10 type receiver anyway.

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