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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 24, 2022

Ian Allan answers your fantasy football questions. In this edition: A peak behind the curtain at how the fantasy sausage is made. Rookie dynasty rankings. The best backup running backs. Chase vs. Diggs. And more.

Question 1

I was looking at your year-long Player rankings for this week and Javonte Williams, one of my potential Keepers, jumped out as the #6 overall RB. I thought that couldn't be right, given his committee situation with Melvin Gordon, and checked your overall scoring spreadsheet. There, I noticed that Williams (along with several committee backs and back-ups) were forecast to have 17 starts, while most of the bigger name starters were at 14-15 starts. Is starting 17 games a realistic expectation for any NFL running back or are you purposely trying to bias the value of some starters down by assigning them less starts?

Drew Paterson (Ferndale, WA)

This is a good question, and I’m glad you asked it. With the running backs, there are three different ways I project them. Group One: With a regular starting running back (such as Jonathan Taylor or Najee Harris) I’m forecasting simply what I believe will happen. There’s the per-game projection, and then there’s the projection of how many games they will play. For most of these guys, you tend to see them projected to start about 14-15 games (it’s hard for running backs to stay healthy for all 17 games). Group Two: With backup running backs (Alexander Mattison, Darrell Henderson), it’s a two-part projection. There’s the forecast of how they’ll do if elevated into the starting lineup. This is the projection you see in the player’s per-game forecast, even if he’s predicted to start only 1-3 games. But there’s also the projected backup production from the other 14 or so games. (And sometimes I will tinker with those behind-the-curtain stats that you can’t see, moving the player up the draft board to where I want – Deshaun Watson being a prominent recent example.) Group Three: With some players and teams, especially those emphasizing a committee approach, I go with more of a season-long approach, just trying to divide up the statistical pie. Consider AJ Dillon, for example. He’s really a three-part projection. There’s how he’ll do in a typical game – sharing time with Aaron Jones. Dillon probably won’t play in a few games, so there should be some number of games where his projection is “zero”. But there should also be some games where Jones isn’t playing. In those, Dillon’s role should expand significantly, with him becoming more of a top-5 back. With a lot of those committee situations, it plays out that way – there’s the potential to miss games, but there’s also the potential to be enhanced by an injury to another player. So I figure we can just wash that out by going with a 17-game projection. And with the entrenched third-down backs (who take less punishment), I tend to just put them down for 17 games.

Javonte Williams, then, becomes a tricky case. If we back up a few weeks, he’s definitely a committee back – an AJ Dillon type of player (with the ability to miss games, and also the ability to be enhanced). If we start buying into the theory that Williams will be more of a featured back than a committee back, then the projected number of games for him needs to come down. This dynamic played a role in him moving up the draft board last week.

Of course, it’s not an entirely mathematic process. I use numbers to get the players in an initial order, but then there’s the process of going through the list by hand, tweaking numbers to get it just the way I want. I will be spending a couple hours on the player list this afternoon, polishing it up for the version that goes out tomorrow.

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Question 2

If you were to do a dynasty (PPR) rookie redraft today, what would the first round (12 picks) look like?

dan renzi (Moorestown, NJ)

DYNASTY ROOKIES / BIG BOARD
RkPosTmPlayer
1.RBHOUDameon Pierce
2.RBNYJBreece Hall
3.RBWASBrian Robinson
4.WRATLDrake London
5.WRPITGeorge Pickens
6.WRNOChris Olave
7.WRNYJGarrett Wilson
8.TEBALIsaiah Likely
9.WRDETJameson Williams
10.WRWASJahan Dotson
11.WRTENTreylon Burks
12.WRGBRomeo Doubs
13.RBTBRachaad White
14.WRGBChristian Watson
15.RBSEAKen Walker
16.WRINDAlec Pierce
17.RBLVZamir White
18.RBBUFJames Cook
19.WRKCSkyy Moore
20.RBLACIsaiah Spiller
21.WRNYGWan'Dale Robinson
22.WRBUFKhalil Shakir
23.RBATLTyler Allgeier
24.QBPITKenny Pickett
25.TEARITrey McBride

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Question 3

I have used your products every year since there was only a preseason magazine and have done well over the years. Can you please rank, in order, your top 5 or 6 backup rbs that have potential upside?

Randy Newland (Sunrise, FL)

There are second backs who have value. AJ Dillon, Tony Pollard, Nyheim Hines, Kareem Hunt, Rhamondre Stevenson. But you said “potential upside”. So I think you’re instead looking for players who aren’t particularly valuable but will become valuable if the right injury occurs. In that class, I would be looking at with Alexander Mattison, Mark Ingram, Mike Davis, Darrell Henderson, Rachaad White and Zamir White. (And to clarify, Dillon, Hunt and Stevenson are better than any of those guys – with potential top-5 numbers if they get a chance to play in more of a full-time role.)

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Question 4

What is Taysom Hill’s TE rank?

Ray Phillips (Cornelius, NC)

I’ve currently got him around 45th among tight ends. Not a guy I’m thinking about at all. I expect he’ll get a few change-of-pace touches, but I don’t see a path for him to put together viable numbers.

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Question 5

Can you explain the PPR disparity between Ja’Marr Chase (top 5 overall) and Stefon Diggs (outside top 15)? Diggs has less proven target competition, is tied to the better quarterback in a pass-heavy offense, and Beasley and Sanders account for 184 vacated targets from last year.

Garrett Seymour (New Glarus, WI)

I like Chase a lot more than Diggs. To me, Chase is in that top 3 with Kupp and Jefferson. I think they’re going to do a lot more with him, getting him a lot more catches. They’re going to move him around more, and I think he’s going to catch a lot more short passes. I think we got a sample of that in the playoffs last year, especially in the Tennessee game. And Chase has shown a lot more ability to put the ball in the end zone. To me, Diggs is definitely down in that next tier, with guys like CeeDee Lamb and Davante Adams. You mention “less proven target competition”, “better quarterback” and “pass-heavy offense.” But hold on. Joe Burrow averaged more touchdown passes last year, while also averaging 29 more passing yards per week. And I think the Bills have the deep receiving group. Gabriel Davis is an up-and-comer; he might be as good as Higgins. Isaiah McKenzie won’t catch as many passes as Boyd, but the Bills have a bunch of other guys who potentially could grab a few balls here and there – Khali Shakir and Isaiah Hodgins look like they’re ready to chip in, and they’ve got Jamison Crowder for depth. And I like Dawson Knox more than Hayden Hurst. I’m definitely selecting Chase before Diggs.

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Question 6

Was wondering about Calvin Ridley with him being suspended. Is it worth stashing him on my roster then having him for 2023 season as my 3-year keeper. I will not have to declare my keeper for the 2023 season until August 27, 2023.

Bruce Sadler (Lakeland, FL)

It might pay off nicely. In the Experts Poll section of the 2021 magazine, Ridley was the No. 7 wide receiver. At that time, all 20 of those analysts ranked him as a top-12 receiver. So I would think there’s some chance he’ll be heading into the 2023 season as a top-30 receiver prospect. Perhaps a fair over-under would be about 42nd.

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Question 7

A few years ago, I had a tip that Mahomes was someone special, and drafted him in the 14th round, knowing I'd be carrying him on my bench the whole year as he watched from the sidelines, because I'd then be able to draft him the next three years as my Keeper. Is there a player at any position you think might be worth drafting in the last few rounds who might have to sit on my bench all year, but is worth drafting because of his almost guaranteed (like Mahomes) star quality in his second and subsequent years?

Steven Schipper (Brampton, ON)

I don’t have a Mahomes-level prospect, but there are a few names we can kick around. Calvin Ridley, for one. He’s definitely not playing at all this year, but I could see him cracking the top 30 among wide receivers on draft boards next summer. Malik Willis can sure run around. With that playing style, I could see becoming a top-15 quarterback next year if they can get him polished up enough to put on the field – a Jalen Hurts kind of guy. And two other wide receivers: Jameson Williams and Christian Watson. In part because of knee injuries, I don’t think either will be a big factor this year. (Watson probably will get on the field in a reserve role in September, but I don’t think Williams will play at all until the second half of the season.) They could head into next season projecting to be their teams’ most productive wide receivers. At running back, I will go with Rachaad White, Isaiah Spiller and Zamier White as the more lightly regarded back who could become starters in 2023.

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Question 8

Dynasty League. I have Zach Ertz and picked up Isaiah Likely. Would you keep Ertz based on experience and target share or roll with a younger player on an offense that needs playmakers?

Howie Fishman (Hermosa Beach, CA)

I would go with Likely. I think we’ve seen enough to conclude he’s going to be a good tight end. I would be scared to go down as the owner who had Likely in his mitts and let him go in favor of keeping a 32-year-old.

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Question 9

Is the #2 pick an absolute CMC/Taylor pick or is there someone else you would roll the dice with?

Rick Hart (Hammond, LA)

Taylor is definitely going early. In the drafts I’ve been in, there’s always been an owner willing to roll the dice early on McCaffrey. If he stays healthy and performs anything like he did back in 2018-19, he’ll make teams championship contenders. I’m a little cooler on him. In a PPR format, I would rather select Ekeler or one of the three elite receivers.

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Question 10

I’m having difficulty coming up with a second keeper. All my studs have expiring or inflated contracts. I can keep Brady for $17 but I’m concerned with your comments regarding last year’s second half numbers. I do have the option of keeping Lazard for $8 or Gallup for $1. $200 cap. Thoughts?

James Costello (Portland, ME)

I would keep Lazard. He’s been used mostly as a blocking, supportive receiver in recent years, but in those rare instances that the Packers have asked him to do more, he’s been able to come through. Most notably in that early-season game at New Orleans, with Davante Adams sidelined, when he caught 6 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown. With the roster shuffled there, I think Lazard will be getting a lot more opportunities to be more of a featured receiver. I think he’ll be their No. 1 guy. I don’t see who else it would be. They’ve got the two rookies, but Christian Watson (coming off a knee surgery) has hardly practiced. Romeo Doubs has caught a couple of touchdowns, showing some playmaking ability, but he’s also dropped 4 passes and is just a fourth-round pick. Randall Cobb and Sammy Watkins, I think those guys at this point are nominal veterans best suited to play supporting roles. Brady is the other possible option; he might put up top-5 passing numbers. But I worry about the amount of turnover there, particularly with the issues on the offensive line. And while I don’t have the exact specs on your league, the tendency is for owners to be leery of spending much on quarterbacks. I’m in an auction that’s just wrapping up, and I was surprised by how little the good quarterbacks went for. Brady, Prescott, Stafford and Russell Wilson all went for $7-$11 (out of $200 cap).

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Question 11

I'm looking at the latest rankings and two of the biggest movers up were Javonte Williams into the top 10 overall and CeeDee Lamb into the top 20. Besides Melvin Gordon' s comments stating the team wants Vonte to "be the guy", what was the impetus for both to move up so significantly (I like both guys by the way just don't want to reach for them due to confirmation bias).

James Stewart (Waynesboro, VA)

I wouldn’t say anything has changed too much with those guys. I’ve just been playing around with the numbers, over-analyzing things as I tend to do. With Gordon’s comments, I moved a little bit of his production to Williams. With there being a clump of running backs (all with various flaws) projecting to finish with similar overall numbers, that moved Williams up a few spots. With the Cowboys, I’ve been adjusting those numbers as it’s been more apparent that they’re not going to get great play from those rookie receivers. With that team, the overall passing projection (for the team) has declined, but I’ve shifted more of it to flowing through Lamb. But in general, he’s what he’s been all along – a good contender to be the most productive wide receiver short of those big three.

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Question 12

My question is regarding my keeper/dynasty league. I plan to trade Dobbins for one of two WRs, AJ Brown or Michael Pittman. Who do you like here? I've read a lot of stories on both. There doesn't seem to be a major consensus on who's better. I'm leaning towards Pittman.

Cal Hoskison (Houston, TX)

Via ADP, they’re similar, but I like Pittman better. I have more confidence in Matt Ryan’s ability to consistently connect with him. With Brown, you’re also getting a heavily featured player, but I worry there will be more games with the Eagles where they revert to the run-oriented offense they were using in the second half of last year. Or games where Jalen Hurts simply isn’t connecting on the passes.

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Question 13

I have overall number 1 pick this year. Considering trading it to the guy who has the number 2 overall pick. What’s the least you’d accept for #1 overall this year? Thinking I let him keep his #2 overall but obtain his 2nd and 3rd rounders plus another pick or two.

Christopher Coulson (Mission Hills, KS)

When you take Jonathan Taylor at the No. 1 pick, you don’t have to worry about potentially forcing one of your next two picks on a running back you’re not crazy about. If that doesn’t worry you much, then it’s not a big move down to the second or third spot, with Cooper Kupp and Justin Jefferson grabbing a ton of balls. If you could get the person in the second or third position to trade first and second-round picks and throw in a little extra, I would consider that deal.

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Question 14

Been a subscriber for 27 years, and have done very well. This year I have the ninth pick in a running back friendly scoring system. I'm thinking Javonte Williams with the pick, but the noise about Gordon and Javonte splitting carries kind of scares me. Thoughts? Thanks.

Patrick LaMendola (Penfield, NY)

That’s one of the big questions, isn’t it? They both finished with exactly 203 carries last year, with Gordon starting in all 16 games that he played. Nathaniel Hackett has said a couple of times that he’d like to stick with a one-two punch approach, and Williams (a couple of months back) said he likes that approach. Williams split time with Michael Carter at North Carolina, never averaging more than 15 carries per game. But at the time same, he’s a 22-year-old back who looks like he might develop into something special. Gordon in an interview last week indicated it’s his belief that the Broncos would like Williams to move into a more featured role. That’s he available info; make of it what you will. I think we’ll see Williams’ workload increase, but that Gordon won’t simply become an afterthought. I think he’ll be in the discussions for you, given where you’re drafting. He’s not as proven as guys like Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, Leonard Fournette and James Conner, but those guys have all been in the league for five years, and they’ve all missed games every year. Running back is a young man’s position, so I think it’s fair to consider him alongside those guys.

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Question 15

Two of my leagues this year have gone with the two-QB roster setup (not superflex, just two QBs). I'd love to know some overall ranking information on how they should be weighted differently. The scoring scheme is the same, full point PPR for the both of them, but I'm having a hard time deciding how much more highly I should seek out the elite QBs in the first 5 rounds.

Raymond Hoffmann (Royersford, PA)

I’m a big fan of getting more quarterbacks into the game. They’re the guys driving the mother league. They’re the guys with the contracts over $100 million, so makes sense to see them being selected in the first rounds of fantasy drafts. This rule change is one way to do that. (A similar but more forgiving option is to go with a “superflex”, which can be either a quarterback or a player from another position.) With the double quarterbacks, everyone will want to have two good ones, and everyone will be looking also at that third quarterback. Multiple teams will start by drafting two quarterbacks. In our rankings, they’re statistically driven. You start with the assumption of what you could have by waiting at the position and measure how much better you would be by selecting one earlier. For example, identify the best QB, RB and WR that you think will be available in the 10th round of your draft. We’ll call that the statistical baseline. Then look at how much better you can get by selecting one earlier. In the default settings in the custom rankings area of the website, I believe it operates under the assumption that 30 quarterbacks will be picked in your league, with 18 being guys who will be chosen before that hypothetical 10th round (“guys who’ll go for more than $1 in an auction”). If you’re going with double quarterbacks, then change in the settings that 30 and 18 to instead 37 quarterbacks being selected and 27 of them going for more than $1. It will move all quarterbacks up your draft board.

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Question 16

I kept Conner in the 9th, and I've got pick #3. I love McCaffrey this year; my issue is that both he and Conner have a Week 13 bye - our league finishes with 3 straight divisional games in Weeks 12, 13 and 14 - that game will more than likely loom HUGE in a playoff berth and I don't think I can afford to be without 2 top 20 players. Taking all this into consideration, should I just let CMC go and take someone like Harris, Henry or Mixon? Thanks!

Scott Anderson (Las Vegas, NV)

I wouldn’t worry too much about Week 13. That’s a long way off, and it represents just one of your 14 games. If Conner and McCaffrey both play in the 13 other games, you’ll be a happy man (and you’ll have the bonus of not needing a replacement starter for any of those other games.) Neither McCaffrey nor Conner, however, has tended to be durable. So if you’re building around those two guys, you’ll need to have some others capable of filling in. Nyheim Hines, as you know, is one of my personal favorites. He could be fill one of those spots with a pick in the second half of the draft.

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Question 17

I play in a 0.5 PPR super flex league. We are able to keep up to 5 players total (2 must be rookies from last year). The cost of keeping a player is what you spent last year. Which five would you take? Justin Herbert $25, Lamar Jackson $24, Trey Lance $3, Najee Harris $39, Javonte Williams $2, AJ Dillon $2, Cam Akers $1, JK Dobbins $1, AJ Brown $31, Rashod Bateman $1, TJ Hockenson $8

John Evans (Jacksonville, FL)

You’re looking to create value – guys who will dramatically outperform their contract. Najee Harris and A.J. Brown are both great players, but they would be the first two to toss, given that you can probably re-sign them for about what they would cost. You’ve got a bunch of guys at $1-2, and they all look like much better keepers. Bateman, Williams, Dillon – those guys will blow out away those price tags.

At the same time, quarterbacks are king in a Superflex format. You have to have two good ones. You would know better than I what players tend to go for in your league, but seems like Herbert and Jackson are both worth a lot more than those contracts. Herbert would be a top-4 overall pick in your league, and Jackson (I think) would go in the top 10. I would give some thought to keeping both of them, and it can be argued that Lance (as a possible top-10 quarterback priced at only $3) is the best value on your roster. An outside-the-box GM in your shoes might keep all three of those quarterbacks, auctioning one off in a trade. If we’re playing it straight, I would keep Herbert, Lance, J.Williams, Dillon and Bateman.

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Question 18

I draft in the 12 position and am struggling to choose between keeping Najee Harris with the 12th pick overall, keeping Deebo (last pick of 5th round) or keeping Michael Pittman (10th round). Initially I had Najee locked in but am doubting that now. Pittman's value is great. Given the great receivers already off the board, I'm starting to lean at keeping my wideouts and grabbing the best 2 RBs that I can get with my wraparound picks.

randy sanginario (Princeton, MA)

In these kind of situations, I always go for the value. If you protect Najee Harris, you’re getting a player with the 12th pick who’s pretty similar to the player you would pick there. Harris might even be that choice. But Pittman will be long gone before the 10th round. He’s the guy, in my opinion.

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Question 19

1/2 point PPR with two keepers. Kamara, Kelce, or Fournette? Originally was going to keep the two RBs but the recent TB OL injuries are worrisome. What is your recommendation?

Anthony Marijanovich Jr. (Plymouth, MI)

I like Kelce more than either of those guys. With Kamara, there’s the potential he may be suspended for six games, and I think that offense might fall off anyway. With Fournette, there’s the offensive line and questions about his conditioning. With both of those backs, durability is a concern.

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Question 20

12-team half-PPR keeper league, Am choosing between Tyreek Hill and Kyle Pitts. What should I do?

Nick Askew (Eugene, OR)

I would keep Hill. He’ll outperform Pitts, while also leaving you available to cash in on some of the nice values that are available on tight ends in the middle rounds.

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Question 21

Where is an updated dynasty startup or rookie only rankings in the cheat sheet updates?

Mike Munson (Tracy, MN)

In the Monday version of the updates, we focus on 2022-only rankings. In the Thursday version, it also includes a dynasty rankings board, with rookies tagged with black dots.

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Question 22

14 team re-draft no keeper league. I can basically maneuver myself into a position where I’d have the top two picks at the expense of having my next two picks be the final picks of round 4 (#55 and #56). So I could start Taylor-Kupp for the cost of going to the end of Rd 4 for my third and fourth selections. Am I overthinking this, or is it the no-brainer it seems?

Matt Tinker (Orleans, VT)

It looks like a no-brainer to me. Both player packages include picks 1 and 56, so set those to the side. Question is whether you could rather have picks 2 and 55, or picks 28 and 29. You would be picking up 26 slots of early draft position while giving away 26 slots in the later rounds. In a draft I just completed, spots 2 and 55 project to generate 66 more fantasy points than spots 28-29.

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Question 23

I can keep one player, and I'm trying to choose between Gabriel Davis (and pick him in the 13th round), J.K. Dobbins (and pick him in the last round), or Rhamondre Stevenson (and pick him in the 12th round). I will be picking 8th, and my gut has been leaning towards Davis since I will likely go RB with my first 2 picks, but curious to get your thoughts. All 3 players are high upside this year.

Jeff Hornstein (Miami, FL)

Agreed. Davis.

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Question 24

Hey Ian, can we get an offensive line update?

Robert Tecca (Saint Michael, MN)

Andy will have an offensive line update soon.

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