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Fantasy Football Index publisher Ian Allan answers your questions about fantasy football. Click here to submit a question.

Mailbag

Mailbag for August 5, 2021

Ian Allan answers your fantasy football questions. In this edition: Fantasy Index Open kicks off. Ranking the backup running backs. Mike Davis, Darrell Henderson, Alvin Kamara, Gus Edwards and more.

Question 1

When and where you start taking entries for the 2021 Fantasy Index Open?

Zach Nizolek (Kansas City, MO)

That competition just launched. We’re going with a later deadline this year. In the past, we’ve had picks due before the start of the first week of the preseason. This year, picks will be due before the start of the season opener in September. This is the competition where you submit a top 20 at each position. No moves, no lineups, no games. We will grade each top 20 at each position at the end of the year, with the most total points getting a big trophy from the team at Affordable Trophies. To enter, log on to the side and go to the “Your Stuff” tab at the top of the screen. There’s a link for the 2021 Fantasy Index Open.

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Question 2

Could Mike Davis be the 2021/2022 version of 2008/2009 Michael Turner?

Eric Petru (Cincinnati, OH)

No. Definitely not. Michael Turner was a transcendent talent – a 240-pound beast who could run people over. He was a difference maker who had the misfortune of being stuck behind LaDainian Tomlinson for four years. I remember Turner flashing that talent with the Chargers with his limited opportunities. He ran for only 1,257 yards in his four seasons with them, but he averaged 5.5 yards per carry. Davis has never been that kind of a player. Davis averaged less than 4 yards per attempt in six of his last 10 games last year. To me, Davis looks a lot more like a backup kind of guy rather than a player who should be starting on opening day.

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Question 3

Not understanding the wide variance between Akers before his injury and Henderson after Akers' injury.

DEO GARLOCK (Raleigh, NC)

Akers has shown some ability to be a bell-cow back. He had over 20 carries four times last year, grinding out big games against the Patriots and Seahawks. Henderson is a smaller back who hasn’t demonstrated he can be that kind of a player. With Henderson, I would think there will be more of an effort to work in another back.

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Question 4

In the back third of drafts, I always like to draft a handcuff or two (especially in leagues with deeper benches). Do you have a ranking of handcuff RBs with the most upside?

JIM HIGGINS (Lafayette, CA)

I was in a draft on Tuesday night. This was the Draft Sharks Invitational, with 300 players selected, so all of the notable backup running backs were chosen. That’s a role I prioritize – I want insurance-policy backs rather than contributing role players. I got three I like in the second half of the draft – Darrel Williams, Rashaad Penny, Chuba Hubbard. This was after other teams had taken two of the really good ones (Alexander Mattison, Latavius Murray). I figured I’d get Samaje Perine, but he went before I thought he would.

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Question 5

I was somewhat surprised that the Ravens re-signed Gus Edwards to a 2 year, $9 MM contract this off-season. That's good money for a guy that seems like a perennial second fiddle to first Mark Ingram and now JK Dobbins. I know Edwards is not a good receiver, but any chance he takes advantage of the Ravens productive rushing offense and starts getting more carries and scores in the red zone?

Drew Paterson (Ferndale, WA)

I don’t consider Edwards to be a second fiddle or backup behind Dobbins. They’re different guys with different roles. Dobbins will get more carries, with the speed to get outside. They also have Lamar Jackson keeping it himself and popping outside. Edwards is their hammer, pounding away between the tackles. What he does, I think he’ll continue to do, and $4-5 million per year seems like a fair price tag for those services.

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Question 6

An owner in our league passed away suddenly and we are strongly considering keeping his place in the league for this season as a tribute to him. We are comfortable with using the league rankings for the draft and lineup decisions, but do you have any recommendations as to how to handle free agents (we use FAAB) and trades?

Chris Masters (Toronto, ON)

Condolences. That’s a cool way to remember your friend. There may be certain behavior traits you can work it. (Perhaps, for example, he always took a wide receiver in the first round.) For day-to-day operations, maybe the commissioner could handle the decision making, perhaps handing it off to others for a few games where he didn’t want to be involved (perhaps not wanting to pick a lineup of a team playing against himself). If you wanted to stay away from having to draft and manage players, you could pre-determine that this team each week would have the average score. That is, each week you look at the other 11 scores; whatever the middle score is, that’s the score of this 12th team. Such an approach might add a few ties to your standings, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It would lock in this team as a middle-of-the-pack entry.

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Question 7

Do you see Freeman or Ingram or any other veteran RB having a fantasy impact?

Robert McKinlay (Belews Creek, NC)

To me, they both look like third-string backs right now. Ingram’s in Houston, with a better opportunity to possibly move past David Johnson and Phillip Lindsay. But the Texans will be terrible this year – tough to envision Ingram doing much. With the Saints, they’ve got Ty Montgomery playing at wide receiver right now. That could help make Freeman their best back short of Kamara and Murray.

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Question 8

I’m in a league where we have 3rd round reversal and half ppr. I have the 9th pick and I’m trying to figure out how i can get away with taking Adams/Hill at 9, Mahomes at 15 and Carson at 28 and still like that team would you?

Tavis Medrano (Arcadia, CA)

There will be a chance you will get that WR-RB combination. The second round, I think, is the one where you might do something different. I think there will be somebody available there who’s higher than Mahomes on your board. If you look at some of the possible player combinations, I think they’ll show that it makes sense to wait until later on a QB. For example, consider the combo of rounds 2 and 6. Assume you’re selecting a QB and a WR. If you’re going QB first then WR second, does that yield more expected points than WR then QB? And try the same experiment with QB-RB in some of the upcoming rounds. I expect the numbers will show it’s better to go with a RB or WR with that second-round pick. (Then again, Patrick Mahomes is pretty awesome, and you may want to simply go off your gut and grab him.)

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Question 9

You have Kamara a top RB. You have Taysom Hill atop the depth chart. Those two don’t mix. I’ve had Kamara since day one in my keeper league because I “saw” it. I’m now seeing something totally different and it’s horrifying. The keeper deadline is approaching and I’m frantically trying to work out a trade. Change my mind

James Costello (Portland, ME)

It seems like most observers believe Winston will be the starting quarterback. I think it’s more of a 50-50 deal, with Hill having been a successful fill-in starter last year. If Winston is turning the ball over, he won’t stay in the lineup for long. With Hill, on the other hand, he might be too much of a Tebow-type guy – a changeup guy who’s not effective one defenses get a feel on how to play him. With Kamara, I fear that he won’t be nearly as prolific as a pass catcher with these guys at quarterback. Last year Kamara was on pace for over 100 catches and 1,000 receiving yards when Drew Brees was at quarterback. When Hill took over for four games, Kamara caught 10 passes for 51 yards. And I wouldn’t think Winston will step in and do a Brees impersonation. Those short balls to running backs require timing, accuracy and quick decision-making, and those have never been strong suits of Winston. Maybe Sean Payton somehow can coach him up, but I think that’s a tall order. But at the same time, the team might run more this year, and with Michael Thomas probably missing the first half of the year, Kamara should be a focal point of the passing game.

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Question 10

I’m in a 10-team, 1/2 PPR league. ESPN did a 10-team, 1/2 PPR mock draft, and the guy drafting from the No. 9 slot used a zero-RB strategy. His first five picks: Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Michael Thomas (before news of his surgery), Allen Robinson and DJ Moore. Still, he was able to land as his starting running backs Chase Edmonds and Javonte Williams in the sixth and seventh rounds, respectively, before getting Kyler Murray as his QB in the eighth round. I’m surprised his running backs weren’t much worse. What are your thoughts on the zero-RB strategy this season?

Paul Owers (Boynton Beach, FL)

Edmonds and Williams are both wildly risky picks. I think they look a lot better if you also obtain the other notable running backs on those teams. If you draft both Edmonds and James Conner, I think you can comfortably figure you’re going to going to get a lot of good running backs from that pair. If Edmonds (who looks like a third-down guy to me) breaks down, you would have Conner ready to then step in and put top-15 numbers. Similarly in Denver. I think there are some selling points with that offense, and there will be some good running days. But Javonte Williams looks like a much safer choice when you also have Melvin Gordon. With Gordon also being a capable back and a lot more experienced, I actually have him higher on my board.

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Question 11

One of my leagues has a somewhat rigid format. You need to draft exactly 2 QBs, TEs, Ds and Ks, 4 RBs and WRs and 1 flex. My question is in this 17-round draft when would you draft your first Defense and Kicker?

Todd Faulds (Coral Springs, FL)

That rule enhances the value of kickers. In a typical league, with perhaps 15 kickers drafted, you can operate under the assumption that you’ll be able to find a kicker on the waiver wire, if necessary. Daniel Carlson, Tyler Bass and Jason Sanders, for example, weren’t among the first 15 kickers drafted last year in the last majority of drafts. But with 24 kickers being selected, it becomes harder to find a good one on the waiver wire. I would definitely select both kickers before my second defense, and maybe (or probably) before some other players. At some of these other positions, for example, you may decide that the last guy you’re going to pick will be there in round 17. At quarterback, for example, the 24th chosen might not be all that bad. I was in a draft Tuesday night and selected Derek Carr as the 23rd quarterback (he was 15th on my board), and the following QBs weren’t among the first 24: Sam Darnold, Daniel Jones, Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz. And picking 24th carries the added value of making you more willing to trade out your backup quarterback on the waiver wire – maybe Daniel Jones looks decent in Week 1 and you decide to grab him for a few weeks, seeing if he’s for real. The decision making is similar at the other positions. In general, I would like to obtain one of the first half-dozen kickers (I don’t have a strong preference inside that group), and with everyone’s draft lists looking different, I would be aware that I might be able to get two of those guys. I don’t think others like Robbie Gould and Ryan Succop as much as I do. I don’t feel as strongly about defenses.

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Question 12

I acquired Zeke in a 2 PPR keeper Lg assuming he has a bounce back year with a healthier O-Line and Prescott’s return. However, as a diehard Eagles fan I felt buyer’s remorse almost immediately. Ha. So I tried to move him for a few other comparable RBs and no one wants to touch him based on last year’s bad year and the emergence of Tony Pollard. Based on the Index’s rankings, I should stick to my guns and keep Elliott .... even if I may be miserable at times rooting for the Boys. Ha. Are you confident that Zeke will get his usual volume and return to his very productive form or will he lose too many touches to Pollard and a head coach who has always been a fantasy nightmare for RB owners? Thanks!

Rich Giandrea (Audubon, NJ)

I don’t think Elliott will get back to being that best-of-the-best killer threat who was about the best runner in the league. It’s tough to play at that level. Even if everyone on the offensive line is healthy, that group won’t be as good as the crushing group that Elliott was running behind early in his career. And the Cowboys aren’t going to run the ball like they did in those days; they’ll passing more now, and they’ll also do a better job of working in a second back. But I like Elliott as a guy who’ll bounce back. I think he’ll be more like he was early in his career than the guy who struggled last year. That’s a great, high-scoring offense, and all reports are he’s in much better shape this year.

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Question 13

I noticed you have Ruggs ranked way higher than their other receivers on the Raiders - John Brown, Hunter Renfrow, Bryan Edwards, Zay Jones, Willie Snead. In the magazine you said that it's not clear who will be the No. 2 option. John Brown had a 72 catch, 1000 yard season two years ago before getting hurt last year. Bryan Edwards is a lot bigger and also was hurt for much of last year. Why are you so much higher on Ruggs than those two guys? (WR48 vs. WR83 and WR89) It seems it is harder for the smaller guys to be big producers in the NFL than the bigger guys. Only one of the top 12 FFI wide receivers ranked is under 6' - Tyreek Hill.

Jeff Zwiers (Bellingham, WA)

Zay Jones, Snead. I’m comfortable working under the assumption they won’t have relevant roles. Renfrow will have a role in the slot. If there’s a notable performer, I think it will be Ruggs, Brown or Edwards. Ruggs has that speed, and he did some good things last year. Early in his first game, he took a pass and nearly turned it into a long touchdown, getting pulled down at the 1-yard line. He got hurt in that game, and it set him back. Later, he had the huge game at Arrowhead and caught the long game-winner against the Jets. If I’m gambling on one, it would be Ruggs.

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Question 14

I am in a 12-team, PPR keeper league where we start a QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, TE, Flex, Kicker and Defense. I need to choose 4 of these 5 players to keep: DK Metcalf, Allen Robinson, Miles Sanders, Darren Waller and George Kittle. Each year, typically about 20-22 RBs get kept so I am leaning toward keeping Sanders even though he might be the worst of the bunch due to positional scarcity and given the depth at WR this year. I am also leaning toward keeping both TEs as it ensures I have an edge at the position and can play one of the two in my flex. Which four would you keep?

Steven Alessandrini (Flanders, NJ)

I like those other four guys a lot more than Miles Sanders. I would keep the pass catchers and figure out the running back situation later. You would have no problem finding someone willing to trade a running back for Waller or Kittle.

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Question 15

TE Dynasty TD dependent. Those available include: Logan Thomas, Irv Smith, Adam Trautman, Anthony Firkser, Cole Kmet, Blake Jarwin or Austin Hooper

Howie Fishman (Hermosa Beach, CA)

Smith-Thomas-Firkser. Smith definitely No. 1. I think he might be ready to blossom. When they sat down Kyle Rudolph for the final four games late last year, Smith caught 3 TDs in those four games.

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Question 16

Other than CMC, who else would you consider to be a "Bell Cow" running back. I was really hoping for Cam Akers this year and had a good feeling I could have landed him but ... next man up! I'd love to get your thoughts on who COULD be a bell cow this year.

Rudolph Woodhouse (Lafayette, LA)

It’s unusual for any back, I think, to log more than 80 percent of the running back touches on his team. And if a running back is carrying that kind of a workload, then you’re getting into the worry of whether he can hold up. Unless it’s Derrick Henry. But let’s look at this way. When you start working your way down the list of the most promising running backs, how far down the list do you need to travel before you run into backs where you have concerns about them maybe not getting the ball enough. For me, Chase Edmonds, just in the top 20, would be the first such back. I think he needs to be used in concert with another substantial back. Some might argue that Austin Ekeler is the same kind of back, but I have no concerns about Ekeler being in games where he doesn’t get the ball in his hands enough. Ekeler won’t have any 20-carry games, but he’ll be piling up yards as a pass catcher – he’ll get his stats. If we’re looking for something short of a workhorse, then Edmonds, Miles Sanders, and perhaps the backfields with the Broncos, Lions, Jets, Patriots, Bills, Texans, Eagles and Bucs.

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Question 17

Hello, i'm a long time reader-first time writer.... i enjoy your magazine, the format, my ability to get rankings based on my league formats, KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK! Lately i have been searching out TIER rankings and I'm hoping you can include some tiered rankings in the future. Some publications have them by position and then overall. Rankings are helpful but it's nice to see where the significant drop offs are within a position.

Jon Nahas (Chatham, MA)

In the weekly newsletters, some of the rankings are color coded. They list about 210 players, and each position is in a different color. If your use those, I think you’ll see some tier-like groups – different parts of the draft where there are clumps of receivers, running back and quarterbacks. It wouldn’t be possible for me to generate tiers by hand – not with use doing rankings for dozens of different scoring systems, and tiers themselves being a somewhat subjective concept.

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Question 18

I am debating keeping Jonathan Taylor or Justin Herbert for my 3-year keeper . My other keepers on my team are Adams, Hopkins, Lockett and Micheal Thomas . With no Wentz, which will be a better keeper?

Bruce Sadler (Lakeland, FL)

Why not keep both of them? Thomas will miss about half of this season, and is he ever going to get back to being that pass-catching monster? There seems to have been issues between him and the team. He got suspended last year after a fight at practice, then mishandled his ankle injury. With Drew Brees gone, that passing game might not be quite the same, and you’ve got three other big-time receivers anyway. With Taylor and Herbert both being great players, I would be inclined to move forward with them.

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Question 19

I'm in a 12 team PPR league where I pick 11th. I get to keep one player and my best options are Dobbins in the 7th or A.J. Brown in the fifth. I am leaning towards Dobbins as I could probably grab a decent RB at the end of round one and a premier WR at the beginning of round 2.

Alex Konop (Northport, NY)

I don’t think it makes a ton of difference. On my board, I’ve got A.J. Brown as a late second-rounder, and you’d be getting him in the fifth. With Dobbins, I think he should go in the fourth round, and you’d be getting him in the seventh. Using PPR scoring and assuming you would be picking in the middle of each round, Brown is 39 points better than that fifth-round pick. Dobbins is 41 points better than that seventh-round draft slot – pretty much interchangeable.

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Question 20

I notice you and other analyst using the word "Free" for picks you have to spend a before the last round draft pick. PLEASE STOP. This is the most annoying inaccurate comment analysts make. If you have to take someone in the 16th round so someone else does not, they are not free, they cost something. They are only truly free if you can take the with the last pick of the draft or in waiver wire. Free is false for a player you have to use a draft pick for. Sorry rant over.

Eric Liljenberg ()

I’m not sure I understand exactly what you’re getting at. But I’m of the school of thought that at some point late in drafts (most drafts) you get to the point where you’re picking players that are some combination of the following: • Players nobody else was going to pick (you think). • Players who pretty much interchangeable with players who aren’t going to be selected. • Players who probably will be released before October (when some other player shows some kind of potential early in the year). For all of these kind of players, their most notable cost isn’t whether they were the 238th, 239th or 240th pick, but that they fill a roster spot – by putting them into that roster spot, it prevents you from holding the rights to another player.

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Question 21

Do you play in any IDP leagues? Over the years I haven't seen much from you on this topic and would love to hear your opinions.

Scott Anderson (Lakewood, CO)

I have never played in a league that includes individual defensive players. I have those guys in front of me, but I haven’t studied that portion of the game. Andy Richardson puts together the IDP projections for the site. If you have questions about defensive guys, it would be better for you to go to him.

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Question 22

I love the Lightning Round page of the magazine. Some of Michael Murillo's answers were truly comical. Thanks for the laughs. The rest was super helpful however. Brought up some questions for me. Ian, with your prediction of the Super Bowl being Chargers over San Francisco, can you please enlighten us about which players on the Chargers you must expect to play over and above. Andy, judging by your answers, it seems both you and Ian are obviously very high on Saquon Barkley. Does the injury not concern you? At those top running back spots, I think I'd rather play it safe with a running back with minimal injury history than one with. Can't afford to have your #1 draft pick go down

Johnny Bazzano (Santa Rosa, CA)

The Saquon Barkley injury forecast did not age well. As for Chargers, they look like a possible breakout team, with Herbert-Ekeler-Allen on offense and their defensive guys getting healthy. New coaching staff could help.

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Question 23

I hear people saying "If the Rams had wanted Adrian Peterson (or insert other free agents here) by now they most likely would have signed him." Is it possible that they don't really like the RBs on the free agent market and are just waiting for other teams to make their cuts? Teams like San Fran have numerous decent RB's and will undoubtedly have to cut some of them. The niners have Mostert, Gallman, Sermon, Elijah Mitchell, Hasty, FB Juszczyk, Josh Hokit (who?) and will get Jeff Wilson back around week 6/7. How many will they keep?

Jeff Zwiers (Bellingham, WA)

Good point. There will be some viable running backs cut. Teams can stash guys on IR and whatnot, but there will be some who shake free. When constructing rosters, price tag becomes a factor, as well as value to special teams. So if you have to be in one of those impossibly deep drafts (where you’re still picking after all of the clean and obvious backup running backs are chosen) makes sense to throw some darts simply on talent. That is, do you think the guy can play? Wayne Gallman looks like one of those guys. I can’t promise he’ll make the team in San Francisco, but he ran for over 500 yards in the second half of last season. I would think he might fit in somewhere at some point.

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