Cleat Geeks

Broncos Seek To Halt Skid

 

Four in a row. That’s what the Broncos have done. After starting 2-0 for the sixth straight season, the Broncos have lost four games in a row. Last season, a historic eight-game losing streak tanked the season. At 2-4, having dropped four in a row, the Broncos are in danger of heading that way again. And now they get to face the Arizona Cardinals on a short week.

It hasn’t been a great season for the Cardinals, either. They have new coaches and rookie Josh Rosen is still learning the NFL game. Aside from a win in San Francisco in Week 5, the Cardinals have stumbled. They come into Thursday’s home tilt 1-5, among the worse records in the NFL. But they still have David Johnson, and that might be enough.

The Broncos, in addition to losing four straight, have been historically bad against the run the past two games. They allowed Isaiah Crowell to run for 219 yards, a career high and Jets franchise record, on just 15 carries in Week 5. In Week 6 at home, while they held the Rams’ passing game in check, the Broncos allowed Todd Gurley to run for a career high 208 yards. And with only three days between games, there wasn’t much time to work on a good fix.

The Cardinals haven’t been good this season, but Johnson is an all world running back who’s starting to find his form. He got into the end zone for the Cardinals in Week 6 and now returns home against a reeling rush defense in Denver. If they can’t contain him, Johnson could make it a long night for the Broncos.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals’ defense allowed Latavius Murray to go for 155 yards on Sunday. The Broncos are averaging 5.3 yards per carry through six weeks, so if the coaches can commit to the run, it could be a good night for rookie Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman. But given the recent splits, that could be a big if. And if the Broncos’ losing streak extends to five games, it’s going to be a long 10 days before the Broncos head to Kansas City to face the red hot Chiefs.

Fantasy Impact:

  • It’s hard to feel great about the Broncos’ passing game, however Emmanuel Sanders has been a solid WR2 and Demaryius Thomas, especially given bye weeks, has been a decent flex of late. Case Keenum, while not being a great NFL quarterback, has been decent for fantasy the past two weeks, and the Cardinals’ defense isn’t what it once was. He might be a streaming consideration in deep 2 QB leagues.
  • I like both Lindsay and Freeman as starts this week. I know Freeman disappointed last week, but this should be a better match-up and he should be relatively fresh after getting less than 10 carries Sunday. If the Broncos can keep it close, or build a lead, they can keep it on the ground. And Lindsay provides explosive burst in the rushing and receiving game, showing he doesn’t need a lot of touches to return flex-worthy value.
  • If you are in a deep league and desperate, Courtland Sutton remains an interesting dart throw. He had a long gain on Sunday, and had a TD catch in Week 5. He’s getting plenty of snaps, and only needs one or two to salvage an OK deep league flex day.

Broncos Drop Fourth Straight

 

There was a moment near the end of the first half, with the Broncos trailing 13-3 and just a few seconds left, when the crowd let out a roar. Chad Kelly, backup quarterback, stepped on the field. All he did was kneel down to take the game to the locker room, and it was only because starter Case Keenum was being evaluated for a concussion. But on a cold, snowy Sunday in Denver, it was a sign of hope to fans desperate to see a spark.

The Broncos showed some spark in the second half. Emmanuel Sanders, Demaryius Thomas and Courtland Sutton all had 40-plus yard receptions. Bradley Chubb, the No. 5 overall pick in April, had three sacks, and Von Miller added 1.5 sacks. And the Broncos hung tough, closing the lead to 23-20 with just under 1:30 left in the game. But in the end it wasn’t enough. The Rams moved to 6-0, and the Broncos dropped to 2-4, losers of four straight games.

And for a team that was once 2-0, and had entered the team with playoff hopes, there are more questions than answers. And not much time to get things fixed before their next contest, a Thursday night game in Arizona.

It was a game of highs and lows, as has been the case for much of the season for Denver. The offense kept it close, and Keenum tossed two touchdowns and threw for more than 300 yards. But he also threw an interception for the sixth straight game, and neither rookie Royce Freeman nor rookie Phillip Lindsay was able to do much on the ground.

On defense, the Broncos held the high-scoring Rams to 23 points, and recorded five sacks. Jared Goff was held without a touchdown pass, and to barely 200 yards. But the Broncos allowed a 200 yard rusher for the second week in a row, as Todd Gurley went for a career high 208 yards and two touchdowns.

Now the Broncos have a short week to lick their wounds, both physically and metaphorically, before trying to halt their skid in Arizona.

News and Notes:

  • Emmanuel Sanders needed three receptions to record his 500th career catch heading into Sunday, and he got it. He finished with seven receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown.
  • The Broncos played the hottest home game in team history on September 16, and less than a month later Sunday’s game was the coldest home game in October since 1969. It’s been a wild weather season for the Broncos and the season is only six weeks old.
  • The Broncos’ rushing attack cooled Sunday, as Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay combined for just 40 rushing yards on 13 carries. Lindsay did add 48 yards on six receptions to salvage his fantasy day.

Broncos Host Rams

 

The 2-3 Broncos return home, fresh off a 34-16 pounding at the hands of the New York Jets, riding a three game losing streak and hosting the best team in the NFL, the 5-0 Los Angeles Rams. Normally that would be cause for major alarm, and while the Broncos are still likely to drop their fourth straight, there is reason for optimism.

That optimism comes in one word: snow! The forecast for Sunday calls for temperatures in the 20s and snowfall on Sunday afternoon. That combined with the altitude gives the Broncos somewhat of a chance to cool off the red hot Rams offense. It might be a stretch, but for those who saw the Broncos give up long play after long play to Sam Darnold and the Jets on Sunday, hope is all we have left.

The Broncos also need to be better on offense. The weather might force the coaches to give more carries to Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay, which isn’t a bad thing. If the Broncos can use the elements and put up a defensive show similar to what they did against the Chiefs, while maximizing potential on offense, they have a chance.

Stranger things have happened in the NFL in 2018, just ask the Vikings about that home game against the Buffalo Bills.

Fantasy Advice:

The Broncos have been rough for fantasy. I’m staying away from Case Keenum, though it might be an OK match-up. He hasn’t been consistent, and the elements won’t be great. I’m not high on starting any Broncos’ receivers, but if pressed I still think Sanders has the most potential. He’s more of a flex range for this game. I do like the Broncos backs given the conditions. I think Freeman might finally get more carries, and could have a chance to get a TD. But that might also be some wishful thinking.

Broncos Embarrassed In The Meadowlands

 

The Broncos slumped to 2-3 on the season, losing their third straight game 34-16 in the Meadowlands on Sunday. It was the team’s worst performance of the season, and one that seriously calls into question what to expect from this team the rest of the regular season.

Case Keenum, who put up some numbers in garbage time, does not appear to be the answer. The calls from fans to consider giving second year man Chad Kelly a shot are getting louder, as are calls from fans to change coaches. Last season Vance Joseph led the Broncos to an eight-game losing streak in the middle of a 5-11 season. This three game losing streak has had many feeling the Broncos are in similar peril in 2018.

Prior to the season I predicted this team could have an improved offense, a re-ignited defense and a chance to finish around 9-7 and make the playoffs. That seems like an ill-conceived pipe dream at this point.

The Broncos gave up a 77 yard rushing TD to Isaiah Crowell then a 75 yard passing TD to Robby Anderson on the next play. They surrendered more than 500 yards to the Jets’ offense, including 219 yards to Crowell, a Jets franchise record.

The Broncos host the red-hot, and undefeated, Los Angeles Rams on Sunday and then travel to play the Chiefs again on October 28. So it could be a very long month for a Broncos team that leaves New York with more questions than answers.

News and Notes:

  • It was a big day for Broncos receivers. Demaryius Thomas grabbed five passes for 105 yards and a TD, while Emmanuel Sanders grabbed nine for 72 yards. Rookie Courtland Sutton grabbed two passes for 18 yards and his first TD as a pro, while fellow rookie DaeSean Hamilton caught all three of his targets for 44 yards. All that was a promising sign on a dim day.
  • It was a frustrating day for running backs Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, who simply didn’t get enough touches. Lindsay had 61 yards on 12 carries, adding 20 more on three catches. Freeman had just 31 yards, but got just five carries. In a promising sign he did catch three passes for 16 yards.
  • Punter Marquette King could be done as a Bronco. He was placed on IR Saturday with an injury, and reports are the Broncos may release him in the next few weeks. If true, it’s a disappointing end to the tenure of one of the Broncos’ biggest off-season signings.

Broncos Fall in Baltimore

 

Well, the team was likely not going to go undefeated. Now we know they won’t after a 27-14 loss in Baltimore. The Broncos dropped to 2-1, and the flaws that dogged them in a pair of close wins came home to roost in their first road game of the season. The team now has just a few days to get things cleaned up before they host the red hot Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football. And after yesterday’s demonstration in Baltimore, there is plenty to clean up.

Things started well for the Broncos, who forced a three and out, including a big sack of Joe Flacco by rookie Bradley Chubb. On the ensuing punt, reserve linebacker Joe Jones blocked it, setting up a first and goal. And rookie Royce Freeman strolled in on the first carry of the game, giving Denver a 7-0 lead.

After the Ravens scored a touchdown on their next drive, the Broncos’ offense went back to work. The team finished an eight play, 70-yard drive with a 35-yard TD run from Emmanuel Sanders. That put the Broncos up 14-7, but was sadly the high point of the game for the team.

The Broncos later blocked a Justin Tucker field goal attempt, but the offense couldn’t get going. And penalties were a big reason why. The Broncos incurred 120 yards of penalties in the game, including a number of personal foul penalties. One of which was a personal foul on rookie running back Phillip Lindsay, which led to his ejection. He had just four carries and 20 yards prior to being ejected. And without him, the Broncos’ offense lacked some spark.

The defense also had its share of struggles. Adam “Pacman” Jones didn’t play, and during the game Tramaine Brock was injured. That left the Broncos secondary thin as they had only Chris Harris, Jr., Bradley Roby and rookie Isaac Yiadom at cornerback. That didn’t prove to be enough as Flacco was able to keep the offense moving enough to put points on the board, while the Ravens’ defense smothered the Broncos’ offense for the final three quarters.

John Brown caught five passes for 86 yards, while Michael Crabtree caught seven passes for 61 yards. And Javorius Allen scored a pair of touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving) for the Ravens, who held on for the 27-14 victory. Now the Ravens prepare for their division rivals, the Steelers, on Sunday Night Football, while the Broncos will go back to the drawing board before meeting the 3-0 Chiefs.

News and Notes:

  • There were some questions about the final 53, namely fan-favorite players who were left off. One of those who made the cut was Jones, who did so on the basis of his great work on Special Teams. He continues to pay dividends, making several plays yesterday including the blocked punt to spark the Broncos’ offense early.
  • Freeman ran better on Sunday, arguably his best game so far. He ran hard on his 13 carries against a stout Ravens’ rush defense. He only recorded 53 yards, but I was encouraged by what I saw.
  • Demaryius Thomas bounced back well from a down game in Week 2. He caught all five of his targets for 63 yards and had another 39-yard play called back due to penalty. And he made some tough catches in traffic.
  • Quarterback Case Keenum has struggled to start the season. After a three-interception game in Week 1, he hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass in the past two games. But he has thrown an interception in each, now sitting with three TD passes and five INTs through three games. He had two TD passes reversed by officials in Week 2, and did add a rushing TD, but the Broncos need more consistent production. Sunday he threw for just 192 yards and was sacked three times in addition to his interception.
  • Von Miller was held without a sack for the first time this season. After three sacks on opening day, and one in Week 2, he was limited to just two tackles in the game against the Ravens.

Broncos Hit The Road

 

The Broncos face their first road test of the season on Sunday as they travel to battle the Baltimore Ravens (1-1). The Broncos started the season 2-0, squeaking out a 27-24 win over the Seahawks in Week 1 and a 20-19 win over the division rival Raiders in Week 2. While it’s nice to be 2-0, the wins were hardly impressive.

In fact, on Sunday, the Broncos’ offense struggled to do anything in the first half. The Raiders built a 12-0 lead thanks to a bend but don’t break approach from the defense. And while the Broncos accounted for six sacks against Russell Wilson in Week 1, they mustered just a single sack against Derek Carr in Week 2 while allowing him to complete 29-of-32 passes for 288 yards and a touchdown.

But they made the plays they needed to when it mattered, including a blocked extra point by Shaq Barrett in the first half that ended up being the difference in the game. And now they face a Ravens’ team that was barely tested in their home opener and looked sloppy in a divisional loss to the Bengals last Thursday night. Flacco was sacked four times and committed three turnovers against the Bengals, something that the Broncos’ defense must seek to replicate if the team wants to win Sunday.

The Ravens will have had 10 days to prepare for the game, and get to return home, but their defense was hardly imposing in Week 2, surrendering four touchdowns to Bengals QB Andy Dalton. Case Keenum has started slowly, tossing three TDs against four INTs in two games (and adding one rushing), but his came could have looked much different. He had two touchdown passes reversed by officials Sunday, including a beautiful throw to Courtland Sutton that appeared to have been a missed call on replay. If he can have better luck, and avoid costly mistakes, Keenum can take the Broncos’ offense to the next level.

Much of that also depends on Demaryius Thomas, who struggled mightily in Week 2. He led the team with 11 targets, but grabbed just five of them for 18 yards, dropping a number of passes and eliciting boos from the home crowd in the fourth quarter. He can play better, and must if the Broncos are going to get their first road win of the season.

On the flip side, Emmanuel Sanders has started red hot. He caught 10 passes for 135 yards in Week 1 and grabbed all four of his targets for 96 yards in Week 2. He appears to have found some good chemistry with Keenum, and appears to be the Broncos’ go-to man for big plays. Also stepping up big is undrafted rookie free agent Phillip Lindsay, who ran for 107 yards on 14 carries. He leads the team with 178 yards rushing in two games, and has the third highest rushing total of any running back in the NFL through two weeks.

Fantasy Impact

Keenum hasn’t been incredible, but he’s produced decent numbers. He is QB 18 through two games, and is worthy of consideration in deep and two QB leagues, especially considering this week’s match-up. On the ground, I’m staying away from rookie Royce Freeman. He has just 99 yards in two games despite plenty of work, and is really only a value if he can find the end zone. Considering the Bengals had their best success throwing, that seems less likely. And the way Lindsay has played, I expect Freeman to cede work unless the Broncos build a lead. Lindsay is currently RB14 in PPR and should be in your lineup.

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Among receivers, Sanders is a must start. As for the rest, I think it depends on your options. I expect Thomas to be better than he was a week ago, and he and Sutton should get some opportunities in the Red Zone. But I want to see them bounce back a bit before I feel good playing them. At tight end, I liked what I saw from Jake Butt, who caught four of six targets in Week 2 for 48 yards. I expect the Broncos to keep getting him involved, and he could be an upside play in deeper leagues in a position that’s kind of a toss up.

Prediction

The Broncos are 2-0 but haven’t looked dominant. Yet I think they’ve done some good things, and I think they can match up well with the Ravens. Baltimore started hot by routing the Bills at home, but they showed their weaknesses in that Thursday night game against the Bengals. I think the Broncos will move to 3-0 with another close win.

Todd Gurley Outside Top 5 What?!?!?!?

Every year there are a couple of players that are worthy of the Number one overall pick, tends to be 2-3 guys mostly two for debate. This year it is a little different; there are a total of 4 worthy names that could go number 1 without debate, and all should be expected to finish top 4 unless an injury. But what if I could convince you that only one will be outside the top 5 with ease and then increase your chances from 25% to 33% of getting the projected number one fantasy player? That player is Todd Gurley: I will be giving you all the three main reasons why he shouldn’t go number 1 and technically outside the top 4 but we all know worse case he is going number 4; my biggest issue is trying to sway your mind not to pick him until 4 and the other three are poised to have a greater season.

Team Scheme

Sean McVay has been calling plays since 2014 as Redskins Offensive Coordinator, and each year has favor passing way more than running. In 2014, he ran the ball 42% of the time versus passing the ball 58%, then in 2015, he ran the ball 44% to passing the ball 56%. Then in 2016, he posted his highest passing rate, which was 62% versus running the ball 38%. I want to highlight the jump from 2015-2016 as a crucial jump that should be looked at more deeply. As we can recall, 2015 was Kirk Cousins true season as the starter, so it could be Sean babying him into his system as the starter until he can get the full grasp of the playbook, and then once he is comfortable with the offense, have him be the number one guy on the team leading the team. With the jump in play calling Kirk saw a decrease in TDs from 29 to 25 but saw an increase in yards with an additional 751 passing yards. Now let’s look at 2017, which the Rams posted a 53% passing rate versus 47% rushing rate. Does that look familiar at all? Kirk’s first year as a starter under McVay posted a 56% passing rate, now Goff’s first year under McVay posted a 53% passing rate, should we see an increase in 2018 as well? I believe at the lowest we will see a 55% Vs 45% rate but am expecting something closer to 57% versus 43% due to Sean McVay pass-friendly scheme.  What does all this mean to Gurley’s production?  Last year Gurley has 61% of all the rushing attempts on the team (including Goff scrambles) so if we say he keeps that rate, and the Rams run close to the same amount of plays and we use the 57% Vs 43% scheme rate projection he will have 255 rushing attempts which is 22 fewer attempts plus if we assume he runs at the same average it would lead to 103 less rushing yards, which would give him less the 10 points then lest then this year.

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Photo Creds= LA times

Overall Team Talent

 

The team that most the most moves in the past off-season would hands down be the LA Rams, and they added a lot of talented players but also added a lot of high ego vocal players to the team as well. The biggest offensive acquisition the team made was: Brandin Cooks, which is a speedy young Wideout who has posted 3 straight thousand-yard seasons for 3 out of 4 seasons in the NFL as well. Also, if we account for the slot specialist Cooper Cupp, plus Robert Woods, there could be a solid 3 headed monster, plus the third-year number one overall pick finally getting his feet under him in the NFL and making large strides to become better every day. Now, the team has more talent than It has ever had. At QB, Jared Goff, RB Todd Gurley, WR Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, and Cooper Cupp, TE Tyler Higbee, and Gerald Everett, and finally the number two back Malcolm Brown. First Malcolm Brown posted a 3.9 average last year as the Rams number 2 and could be poised for a couple more carries which could help or hurt Gurley overall production. The last big move is Brandin Cooks, the Rams had 0 receiver eclipse 1,000 yards last year, but now with Cooks on the team, we could finally see Cooks get 1,000 yards again due to his talent and the attention to Gurley all game. Todd Gurley had 788 receiving yards last year but now with a more pass-heavy offense and a more comfortable Goff, we could see more deep passes and fewer dinks down the field which overall would hurt Gurley’s overall production and see fewer targets which then would cause fewer opportunities. Overall, I would expect him to be in the 600-650 zone of receiving yards due to his explosiveness but could be at the 45-50 reception zone which is close to 20 fewer catches.

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Photo creds= Bleeding green nation

Strength of Schedule

In 2017 the LA Rams average rush defense against Fantasy RBs was 11.5, which means they faced near the top-tier rush defenses more times than not. Even with that hard schedule he would go on to be the top back in fantasy and help up well against the competition and competed at a high level. When we look at his 2018 schedule, he will face an average rank of 10.4, which is whole team difference in defense points allowed versus RBs. If you looked at last year’s 10 versus 11 the difference in points would be .34 points but then times 17 would make it be 5.78 fewer points, then last year. Of course, the strength of defense should be a minimal factor investigated when trying to predict a player’s performance but also not ignored completely. With all of that of being said, playing a stronger level of defenses and having way more film on the scheme they are running, and how they will utilize the whole team will make it seem like the opportunities overall decrease.

Image result for rams schedule

Photo Creds= Pro Sports Backgrounds

My Take: Many of you all may be asking, who’s your top 5 then? Its pretty simple, I have Zeke being the number one back regardless of team talent and such, and the QB play, because when looked in-depth Dak is a great QB when Zeke is on the field. At my number two I got Bell due to regardless of his contract issues and such, he going to ball out once he’s on the field, and the reason for being number two is the same as last year, slow start and him not being a viable option late season due to Steelers having everything locked up. My number three is going to be David Johnson due to being one of the best dual-threat players the league has to offer and being hungry to come back with a vengeance. My number 4 right now is Melvin Gordon due to many reasons, one being whole team talent and finally starting to develop a great O-line and being under a very friendly rushing scheme with Lynn being known to love running the ball first. My RB5 is Kamara due to him being so explosive and having no Mark in the field for the first four weeks, and with Brees aging, they may lean the defense and run game, even more, this upcoming season. Finally I want to say, I’m not saying Todd will be a bust this upcoming season, but I do see this season being a “Down” season for him due to all of the factors that were stated above, I see him finishing in between 6-8 for RBs which is a great finish regardless, but when accounting for his ADP it would be seen as a bad year for him.

 

All stats came from CBSsports and make sure to check the Twitter page out @FutureofFantas1 and feel free to look at the podcast @futureoffantasyfootball on YouTube

Top 10 Fantasy Football Running Backs

In fantasy football, running backs are way more important than you think, there’s an abundance of great receivers but only a few great backs out there. Positional value is key in fantasy football, the difference between an RB1 and RB2 is huge, I’m here to give you my top 10 rb’s for the upcoming season and a sleeper to keep an eye on.

Sleeper pick – Nyheim Hines 

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Nyheim is a quick, crafty back from North Carolina State. It’s widely believed that the Colts are going to go with a running back by committee this season and the Colts starting running back Marlon Mack, is currently battling injuries. Hines speed and pass catching abilities is what wowed the Colts, he’s worth a late round flier, especially in PPR leagues. 

 

10. Dalvin Cook

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Cook had an amazing start to his rookie campaign rushing for 354 yards on 74 carries (4.8 ypc) and hauling in 11 receptions for 90 yards in four games. Unfortunately his season was ended short by an acl tear in week four. I expect Cook to pick up where he left off and to be even more efficient than last year with a better QB in Kirk Cousins alongside him. 

9. Leonard Fournette

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Another 2017 rookie sensation makes the list coming in at number nine. Leonard Fournette was one of the most consistent fantasy running backs last season scoring at least 13 fantasy points (Standard ESPN PPR scoring) in 11 of the 13 games he played in. The power back out of LSU will more also be of a focal point in the Jaguars offense with their two top receivers, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns leaving this off-season. 

8. Melvin Gordon

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Gordon has been one of the most versatile backs since entering the league in 2015. He had career highs in rushing yards with 1105 and receiving yards with 476 last season. Each season Gordon’s rushing attempts and targets have steadily increased, 221 combined in 2015, 311 in 2016 and 367 in 2017. If they increase again in 2018 he’ll be in the top five discussion but even if he gets similar looks to 2017 he’s a reliable RB1 option. 

7. Kareem Hunt

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Hunt was an absolute workhouse last year, leading the league in rushing with 1327 yards on 272 attempts with eight touchdowns. The Chiefs will be rolling into the season with new, second year quarterback Pat Mahomes, if the gunslinger lives up to expectations Hunt may be even more dangerous. Andy Reid has stated be wants to get Hunt more involved in the pass game.

6. Saquan Barkley

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Saquan Barkley often drew comparisons to Barry Sanders at Penn State. The 2017 All-American had 1,903 yards and 21 touchdowns in 13 games. Now it’s time for him to show everybody what he’s got, the lone rookie on this list should receive a ton of touches. Saquan and Odell have potential to be one of the deadliest RB/WR combo’s in the league.

5.David Johnson 

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David Johnson is undoubtably one of the best dual threat backs in the league but he missed nearly the entire season last year with a broken wrist. Arizona will also have a new starting QB in either Sam Bradford or Josh Rosen. Coming off an injury and having a shaky Qb alongside him make him a slight risk with an early pick but Johnson is a touchdown machine who rushed for 16 and caught four touchdowns his last full season in 2016. Don’t be afraid to take Johnson but give my third and fourth ranked rb an extra look first. 

4. Alvin Kamara

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       Alvin Kamara is the fourth running back on this list from the 2017 draft class and probably the biggest surprise from last year. The third round pick out of Tennessee won Offensive Rookie of the Year, in quite a stacked class. New Orleans high powered offense lead by future Hall of Famer Drew Brees was taken to a new level with Kamara’s explosiveness, Mark Ingram is suspended for the first four games of the season so Kamara will see an uptick in touches to start the year.

3. Ezekiel Elliot 

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Playing behind the best offensive line in the NFL has its advantages and Zeke being the great running back he is makes for him to be a perennial top back. While only playing 10 games in 2017 he still managed to rush for 983 yards and seven touchdowns. With all the talk of suspension behind him, Zeke is slotted to be a top three back this year, his duel threat ability even warrants some number one pick talk. 

2. Todd Gurley

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Todd Gurley had a phenomenal bounce back last year, leading the league in rushing touchdowns with 13, rushing for 1,305 yards and catching 64 passes for 788 yards. Sean Mcvay brought a new scheme into Los Angeles and it worked amazing, Gurley was miles ahead of any player in fantasy last year. He also showed his ability to be a pass catching back last year, which is a huge addition to his game. 

1. Le’veon Bell

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Gurley and Bell are 1a and 1b for me, it was very difficult to pick one over the other but I had to give Le’veon the nod. Bell has had his fair share of off-season headlines with hold out threats but don’t let that scare you. He’s in a contract year and if he wants to get paid as the top back in the NFL he’ll need to play his absolute best. Le’veon is a huge part of the Steelers dynamic offense, he had 321 rushing attempts (most in the league) and was targeted 106 times as a receiver. His extremely high usage and efficiency make him not only the number one running back in Fantasy Football but the number one player overall. 

What did you think of the list? Anyone to high? Anyone to low? Anyone on the list who shouldn’t be? Should we have included someone else on the list? Let me know in the comment section below and keep an eye out for our top ten lists of WR’s, QB’s and TE’s in the near future!

THE PACK: Headlines & Analysis From Pre-season Week 2

Welcome back Packers fans! With me writing this next article, that means we are one week closer to the regular season opener against the rival Chicago Bears at Lambeau on Sunday Night Football!

There was plenty of storylines for the Packers in the news this week, not to mention the 51-34 victory over the Steelers on Thursday. I’d like to touch on a few headlines I found intriguing and look at how our roster is shaping up at this stage of the season.

MACK TO THE PACK?

Rumors surfaced earlier this week about the possibility of Green Bay making a move to acquire All-Pro OLB/DE Khalil Mack, whose contract negotiations with the Raiders are going absolutely nowhere as his holdout continues. The Packers could certainly use an elite pass-rusher like Mack, who has accrued 40.5 sacks in his first four seasons in the league and has yet to miss a game. The offer the Packers would likely make if they were to pursue Mack would come from their 2019 draft capital, from which they have a 1st round pick of their own as well as another 1st rounder acquired from the Saints. It’s impossible to say at this point if the Raiders would go for an offer like this, but as one of the most cash-poor teams in the NFL, it is unlikely they will be able to sign Mack to the type of long-term mega-deal he is looking for.

The main issue for the Packers, if that trade were to be made, is that they don’t really have the cap space either. With them “creeping” closer to a new deal with QB Aaron Rodgers that will likely make him the highest paid player in NFL history, they wouldn’t be able to also support the highest paid defensive player in NFL history and still put a team on the field. For right now, I think the cost-controlled assets in the two 1st round picks will be more valuable for the Packers going forward, but if they wanted to make a bold move and compete for a Super Bowl right now in the stacked NFC, Mack would certainly be a difference maker. Another factor they may influence any decisions is that there have also been rumors that the Bears may have interest in Mack, and the Packers certainly don’t want to have to face Mack twice a year.

THE HARD TRUTH

Aaron Rodgers’ told it like it was, calling the performance of his three rookie receivers in practice prior to last week’s game against the Titans “piss poor.” Despite any positives we may have seen from the Packers’ rookie receivers in that game, there have been plenty of growing pains, mistakes, and mental lapses as well that do not bode well for them. As I mentioned last week, Rodgers is one of those quarterbacks that you have to impress with your performance in order to earn his trust and respect. He will be the one who misses WR Jordy Nelson the most. He’s a competitor, and if you want to be on the field with him, you have got to make the plays that need to be made and do your job, no matter what position, but particularly the skill positions of running back and wide receiver. He softened his stance with comments this week, saying it was “nothing personal” and as a leader “you try to inspire.” These three rookies certainly didn’t come to play against the Steelers, as they combined for 2 catches and 27 yards on 8 targets. There are still a few openings at receiver for the Packers behind Davante Adams, but no one has stood out yet.

“16” that Rodgers mentioned in his comments is second-year fan favorite Jake Kumerow out of Wisconsin-Whitewater. He and WR DeAngeo Yancey have progressed, at least in Rodgers’ eyes. Kumerow had 3 catches on as many targets Thursday, with the majority coming on an 82-yard touchdown from QB DeShone Kizer. Kumerow also had 3 catches and a long 52-yard touchdown last week, but now has been diagnosed with a shoulder sprain. The wide receiver snaps will be something to look at in next week’s dress rehearsal if Aaron Rodgers plays more than a single series.

GAME RECAP

Even with the uptick in scoring that we have seen this preseason already, mainly due to the NFL’s new and highly controversial tackling rule, the Packers took it to a new level against the Steelers, putting up 51 points with contributions on both side of the ball. Veteran CB Tramon Williams took an intercepted rookie QB Mason Rudolph and took it to the house on the first play from scrimmage, and rookie CB Josh Jackson added another pick-six early in the second half off QB Josh Dobbs.

Rodgers found his new toy TE Jimmy Graham for a touchdown on his first and only series. A slew of other tight ends contributed for the Packers as well, including Lance Kendricks, Mercedes Lewis, Robert Tonyan, and Emanuel Byrd. Tight end has not been a position of consistent production or use for the Packers in recent years, but the Packers are hopeful that the connection between Rodgers and Graham can get to the level Graham had with QB Drew Brees in New Orleans and add another dimension to the offense. Rodgers has been raving about Graham, which is the opposite of his comments towards his other receivers.

Feeding off of my article from last week, the projected starting running backs again left much to be desired on their limited snaps, averaging 2.0 yards per carry. RB Ty Montgomery showed terrible ball security with a fumble on a kick return. RB Jamaal Williams exited the game with an ankle injury, which luckily was only minor. Aaron Jones is already suspended for two games to start the season, and if Williams injury lingers into before week 1, Montgomery will likely carry a larger load and be spelled by whatever backs make the final roster and are available, whether it be their preseason leading rusher Joel Bouagnon, sophomore Devante Mays (currently dealing with a hamstring injury), or recently added LeShun Daniels. The Packers offense has looked explosive through the air, but they have the toughest strength of schedule for 2018 and will need to be able to establish a solid running game to keep defenses honest and be able to eat away at the clock and close out close games on the ground.

LB Oren Burks looked good and led the Packers with 6 tackles for a second straight week. As a 3rd round pick, it is promising to see him fill the void left by LB Jake Ryan’s season-ending injury. What’s more impressive is that he is able to take charge of the huddle with the second-team with Blake Martinez off the field, and he has been able to pick up on defensive coordinator’s Mike Pettine’s complex scheme. Take a look at this highlight for just a taste of what he can bring to the table this year.

Even with the Packers making plays on defense in this game, they still have some work to do, as they allowed an average of 5.6 yards per carry and could not slow down rookie WR James Washington, who, to his credit, made some outstanding catches, racking up 114 yards and two touchdowns on just five receptions. The final score of 51-34 moves the Packers to 2-0, and they will face the Oakland Raiders next Friday night, hopefully without Khalil Mack.

See all of the game highlights here.

 

Check back all season as I cover the Packers, and follow myself @bradpetrowitz and @cleatgeeks for articles from across the NFL! DM CleatGeeks if you’re interested in writing yourself!

The Key to Drafting Like a Champion

It’s that time of year again where football is on the TV and everyone is very excited to once again see their favorite team go out there every week and play a great game. Not only is football making everyone this excited, but it’s that time of year where everyone is drafting their Fantasy Football teams and trying to figure out who will be the next breakout star and who will disappointingly under-perform their expectations heading into the season. With many new faces on new teams and ageing stars potentially going to begin their stages of regression, this season of fantasy football has the potential to be very interesting and a ton of fun to watch it play out!

This is the part where everyone has a differing opinion on how they will make it to their fantasy championships which is totally okay due to there being no right or wrong answer. It’s time to set up your draft strategy! There are many different strategies people tend to go with. One of the most popular and most talked about is the 0RB strategy mostly in those PPR leagues. This tends to stem from a mid to late draft position and has provided many mixed results. But personally, I tend to go the opposite route, I prefer the 0WR strategy. For my explanation and advise for this strategy I’m going to be talking from the view point of someone drafting in a later spot in a 12-person draft (around 10th overall) in a .5PPR 1Qb/2RB/2WR/1TE/1Flex league set up. Take my advice with a grain of salt of course, there WILL be many curveballs thrown at you in your draft and you need to be able to adapt well in these situations.

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From the 10th spot with my strategy you should be able to start off with a very solid RB with top 3 upside. The player I’m referring to is Melvin Gordon. He gets a solid amount of volume not only from his rushes but he is also one of the main receiving options for the chargers meaning he’s a solid duel threat option to have in a .5ppr setting. Then in the second round from the 13th pick there is another RB who is very similar but is coming off an unfortunate injury named Dalvin Cook. He had an amazing showing last year when healthy and says he’s 100% and ready to reenter this season with a new QB who loves his check down passes to his RBs. From selecting 2 RBs to begin the draft you’ve assured what I consider the main point producing positions in RB and now you can take shots at the stud WRs remaining meanwhile the talent on the board for the RB position has taken a huge dive from Cook and Jordan Howard down to Joe Mixon and Mckinnon. All the while stud WRs like Larry Fitzgerald, TY Hilton, and Doug Baldwin should still be remaining. Although going RB heavy is deemed as an unpopular move, but more importantly it is an effective one due to how important the top RBs are and the value you can follow up with at WR. You gain yourself the edge by taking your chances at 2 RB1s and leave yourself the choice at 2 potential high WR2s-WR1s as well, maximizing the fantasy production you should be able to expect from your team.Related image

Starting round 5 you should mainly just be selecting the top available option left on the board that you feel you need. In that round I tend to take another decent RB who I should expect to be a RB2 and then follow up by loading up on some WRs with high potential. But an important factor I want you to notice is I still haven’t selected a TE yet. Usually the stud TEs tend to go through rounds 3-5 which helps you a ton while drafting. While they pick TEs you can go right ahead, and snag higher producing skill positions and get a TE who should be a solid performer as well but at a lower cost. This year I’m personally high on Jordan Reed/Vernon Davis, Davis Njoku, and Jack Doyle. But is one of the main studs like Kyle Rudolph or Delanie Walker falls to the 7th round I consider that a must take due to the value you’re receiving from that pick. Around 10 or so is where I start looking at QBs that I really like. Holding off on the QB is a great move but seeing a handful of the top QBs selected makes you slightly anxious and could lead to a poor compulsive decision. As we saw from last year QBs like Alex Smith who are taken to be backups can come out and preform great and not be too far off of the production as a top level QB like Aaron Rodgers.  Lastly, for those of us in leagues with Kickers and defenses, hold off till the last two rounds to take those due to the unpredictability of those positions and the little value they do contribute to your team overall.

I truly hope I was able to help with the breakdown of my draft strategy and was able to offer you some valuable information that you will be able implement!

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