Cleat Geeks

NFL Dynasty Surefire Sleeper 2

I know it’s been a while, but I’m back to give you another Dynasty Surefire Sleeper! If you missed the first one make sure to go check it out, it was on Kenny Golladay. That being said, I thought it was only right to feature a player I see him compared to countless times for my second sleeper, and that’s Tampa Bay WR Chris Godwin. I’ve argued Golladay vs Godwin countless times with leaguemates, but they both deserve the same consideration in dynasty. They’re both young, extremely talented receivers who have a huge break out coming. Don’t be the guy who misses out.

 

Chris Godwin is another guy taken in the 3rd round of the 2017 NFL Draft. He of course went to the Bucs, who selected him with the 84th overall pick. Godwin had previously played for 3 years at Penn State, with his sophomore and junior years being when he really made a name for himself. During those two seasons he caught 128 passes, for 2,083 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also posted an impressive 15.7 yards per catch in his collegiate career, all while playing against the elite defenses in the Big Ten. He performed just as well outside of the Big Ten. He posted a career best 187 yards, on 9 catches for 2 touchdowns against USC in his final NCAA appearance, the 2017 Rose Bowl. At the NFL Combine, Godwin measured at 6 foot 1 inch, and weighed in at 209 pounds. He also ran a blazing 4.42 40 yard dash, which was 5th best among the receiver class. His best in class 4.00s time in the 20 yard shuttle further proved he had elite speed not only downfield, but also in and out of breaks. His impressive ability didn’t end there, not only does he have speed, but he did 19 reps on the bench press, showcasing his top level strength to beat press coverage at the line. When you put together all of this; the big play ability he showcased in college, as well as the elite speed and strength he showcased at the combine, it’s easy to see why Tampa was more than happy to grab Godwin in the 3rd round.

 

In his rookie season with the Bucs, Godwin put up 525 yards on 55 catches, and a touchdown. While those numbers aren’t jaw-dropping, it’s the games where he was actually given a larger role that he truly shined. In every game that Godwin was targeted at least 6 times, he put up 68 yards or better.  As the season progressed, Godwin was constantly targeted more and was earning these targets. Examples of these performances include week 14 against Detroit, where he was targeted 6 times, catching 5 of them for 68 yards, 3 catches on 6 targets against Carolina in week 16 for 98 yards, and his true breakout game in week 17 against a formidable New Orleans defense. Against the Saints, Godwin was targeted 12 times. He caught 7 of those targets and recorded 111 yards, and his first career touchdown. In 2018 I expect Desean Jackson to begin to take a backseat to Godwin more and more as the Bucs transition to the young stud that Godwin is. Being a player who was insanely productive in a limited role, it’ll be hard to imagine him not being one of the more utilized offensive weapons next year, behind Mike Evans of course. Evans however, should draw the top corner from opposing defenses, leaving Godwin to attack the lesser defenders with his elite speed and quick release ability. You’re not going to want to miss out on Godwin’s 2018 breakout season. He’s going to be a fantasy monster for years to come.

#ManCrush Monday Series: Keenan Allen

This is the sixth in a series of articles that will all include the hashtag #ManCrush in which I will highlight specific players that I have fallen in love with in terms of fantasy football and why I am excited about their 2018 season and beyond. Some aspects of subsequent articles may stem from previous articles, so I encourage you to read them all. I also encourage you to check out each of the links for a more in depth look at what makes these players so special.

The key to a successful dynasty team is to continue to have youth at all positions and hope that they can be studs for you for many years. In particular, receivers that are featured early in their careers and continue to grow into their prime and sustain a large role into their later years are ideal. For our startup dynasty draft, I was looking for players at the early stage I believed had the potential to be productive through all three phases. In a 0.5 PPR league, players targeted frequently are even more special. In the third round, I drafted Keenan Allen, who I believed to be a steal as I had considered him with my second round pick.

In the 2013 NFL draft, Allen was in fact a third round pick by the San Diego Chargers (now Los Angeles) and he had only just turned 21 years old a few days prior. He played at the University of California in college so he was a local guy, despite being from North Carolina originally. As a rookie, Allen surpassed 1,000 yards and 100 targets and finished the season with 71 receptions, 1,046 yards, and 8 touchdowns in 15 games.

In 2016, when I drafted Allen to my team, he was coming off a season that had been cut in half by a fluky lacerated kidney injury he sustained on a touchdown catch in week 8 against the Ravens. At that point in the 2015 season, Allen already had a season line of 67-725-4, which had him on pace for 134 catches (would have ranked 3rd most in one season in NFL history), 1,450 yards, and 8 touchdowns. I was hoping Allen could bounce back from this injury and get right back on track in 2016. While he was ready to go week 1 for the Chargers and started the game off with 6 catches for 63 yards, Allen left the game just before half with a knee injury that ultimately turned out to be a torn ACL that cost him the rest of the season. Allen started drawing the “Injury prone” tag, and although losing him hurt, I still won our fantasy championship and I still believed in him. I just had to wait a bit longer until the 2017 season.

2017 was a career year for Allen. In his first season playing in all 16 games for the Chargers, Allen went for 102 catches (4th in NFL) on 159 targets (5th), 1,393 yards (3rd), and 6 touchdowns. Allen had seven games with 100+ yards, including four in a row from weeks 11-14, racking up 10+ catches and at least one touchdown in three of the four. Coincidentally, the Chargers won all four of those games. This type of production coming off a major knee injury and the lacerated kidney the year prior earned Allen the 2017 NFL Comeback Player of the Year award and his first Pro-Bowl selection.

Allen has been credited as an elite route runner with excellent hands. Much like I’ve talked about previously with Adam Thielen and Cooper Kupp, Allen has the ability to play both as an outside receiver as well as the slot. His size (6’2″, 205), quickness, and toughness allow him to separate quickly and make him a nightmare to cover 1-on-1. Allen ranked 4th in the NFL in yards after the catch (YAC) among wide receivers in 2017. Allen’s chemistry with quarterback Philip Rivers makes them one of the best QB-WR duos in the league. Rivers always knows where Allen is, and looks his way frequently in crucial situations. Allen had an NFL-best 30 first down catches on third down. With the emergence of other weapons for the Chargers like running back Melvin Gordon and tight end Hunter Henry, Allen isn’t a high touchdown player, but certainly makes up for it elsewhere.

Now that we are post-draft and looking ahead to 2018, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about Allen and the Chargers offense. With Rivers still at the helm and surrounded by playmakers, the Chargers will use a high powered offense to try to come out on top of the tough AFC West division. In the backfield, Gordon leads the charge, with Austin Ekeler providing an excellent change of pace. The Chargers added Justin Jackson out of Northwestern with their final pick of last weekend’s draft. Alongside Allen, the rest of the receiving corps includes Tyrell Williams, 2017 first round pick Mike Williams, and Travis Benjamin, among others. Due to my obsession with Patrick Mahomes, my favorite sleeper wide receiver is his former teammate Dylan Cantrell, who the Chargers selected in round six. The Chargers are moving on from future Hall of Fame tight end Antonio Gates, but still have the young and talented Hunter Henry to create mismatches and serve as a red zone threat. Having all of these weapons means defenses won’t be able to key on Allen, but it also means there are many mouths to feed. While Allen may regress from his 2017 numbers, he is still a prime candidate to reach the 100 receptions mark and easily surpass 1,000 yards. If he can find his way into the end zone a few more times, he will remain a top receiver in 2018 and for the foreseeable future, as he only just turned 26 years old.

 

Thanks for reading! Be sure to go back and read all my other #ManCrush articles if you haven’t already! Stayed tuned for next #ManCrush Monday! Check out all my work and follow me on Twitter @brad_petrowitz.

#ManCrush Monday Series: Cooper Kupp

This is the fourth in a series of articles that will all include the hashtag #ManCrush in which I will highlight specific players that I have fallen in love with in terms of fantasy football and why I am excited about their 2018 season and beyond. Some aspects of subsequent articles may stem from previous articles, so I encourage you to read them all. I also encourage you to check out each of the links for a more in depth look at what makes these players so special.

In my first rookie draft going into the second season of my dynasty league, I had the 10th pick and was in an interesting position to try to improve on a team that had just won a championship, lost only one game, and outscored the next highest person by a full week’s worth of points. My immediate need was running back depth, and I missed out on a chance to grab Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey, Joe Mixon or Kareem Hunt, as they all went in the top 8. I chose Samaje Perine, who has yet to claim any significant role with Washington. If he pans out at all in the next year or two, I may write a #ManCrush article on him. If not, he’ll be a bust for me. I had a chance to take Alvin Kamara, and hindsight is 20/20, but at the time the Saints had recently acquired Adrian Peterson and still had Mark Ingram, and it was uncertain how much Kamara would be involved. He actually fell all the way to pick #38.

In the second round, I grabbed Patrick Mahomes as the first QB off the board because I didn’t want to miss out on him.

Coming into the third round, my pick had moved up because two members or our league had elected to keep more players rather than having rookie draft picks. Since I had gotten a running back and a quarterback, my next look was to wide receiver. By this 28th overall spot, Corey Davis, Mike Williams, John Ross, and Zay Jones had already been taken. Which brings us to the man this article is really about: Cooper Kupp.

Kupp was a unique prospect out of Eastern Washington, an FCS program who plays in the Big Sky Conference. Much like last week’s #ManCrush Adam Thielen, Kupp was unrecruited by any FBS teams, and wound up choosing EWU. The FBS missed out. Kupp was incredibly productive in college, averaging 107 receptions, 1,616 yards, and 18 touchdowns over four seasons, including an average line of 8-124-1 on a per-game basis. Kupp is the most prolific pass-catcher in FCS history, setting all-time records in total receptions (428), receiving yards (6,464), and receiving touchdowns (73). Now you may be thinking what many people think: his production came against a lower level of competition. You’re right, but you’re also wrong. Over his four years at EWU, Kupp had a chance to play against a Pac-12 opponent to start each season, and he produced just the same. Have a look:

Season Opp Rec Yards TD
2013 Oregon St. 5 119 2
2014 Washington 8 145 3
2015 Oregon 15 246 3
2016 Washington St. 12 206 3

 

The most important thing to take from this table is the the 2014 Washington secondary featured eventual 1st and 2nd round NFL picks in CB Marcus Peters, CB Sidney Jones, CB Kevin King, and S Budda Baker. As you can see, the “level level of competition” argument is not very strong.

Because of his production and rising fame, Kupp earned an invite to both the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine, performing well at both. Kupp does not possess top-end speed, but he is an advanced route-runner with the agility to get in and out of breaks, great hands and ball-tracking ability, decent size, incredible football IQ, and a competitive drive on every snap. He is also willing to block, which is becoming more and more important in today’s NFL. He has an ability to play both outside or in the slot, and at 6’2″, 205lbs., he is similar to Adam Thielen. Kupp was drafted in the third round by the Los Angeles Rams, which paired him with the offensive mind of new head coach Sean McVay. Despite all the playmakers on the Rams roster, Kupp quickly became one of QB Jared Goff’s favorite targets, particularly on third down. Kupp had 18 first down catches on third down. Are you starting to sense the Thielen-Kupp trend? All in all, Kupp led the Rams in receiving, and among rookie wide receivers in 2017, Kupp ranked 1st in catches (62), tied for 1st in catches of 20+ yards (12), 2nd in receiving yards (869) behind only JuJu Smith-Schuster, 1st in total first downs (42), and tied for 4th in touchdowns (5). Looking like a solid third round pick for both the Rams and myself.

Coming into 2018, there is nothing but optimism for Kupp and the Rams. After leading the NFL in scoring in 2017, there’s no reason why they couldn’t do it again. Goff will continue to grow in his third year as he continues to learn from McVay. 2017 MVP runner-up Todd Gurley will continue to be a three-down threat with a solid offensive line in front of him. The young duo of tights ends in Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett have the potential to become what Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis were for the Redskins with McVay calling the plays there. Moving specifically to Kupp, the departure of Sammy Watkins leaves production to be claimed, particularly in the touchdown department. While Robert Woods had his best statistical season last year with the Rams, he has still never surpassed the 1,000 yard mark in his five year career. The Rams acquired Brandin Cooks from the Patriots in an unexpected move and he will help fill Watkins’ role, but Kupp will get his share along with what he had last season. Cooks ability to stretch the defense will open things up underneath for Kupp. As we see across the league, solid chemistry and trust between a quarterback and a receiver cannot be overlooked. After falling just short of 100 targets in 2017, I expect Kupp to surpass that this year and give the Rams at least 75-1,050-6 in 2018, especially if he can cut down on the drops that hurt him in 2017.

Thanks for reading! Be sure to go back and read my first three articles on David JohnsonPatrick Mahomes, and Adam Thielen if you haven’t already! Stayed tuned for my next #ManCrush article! Check out all my work and follow me on Twitter @brad_petrowitz.

#ManCrush Monday Series: Adam Thielen

This is the third in a series of articles that will all include the hashtag #ManCrush in which I will highlight specific players that I have fallen in love with in terms of fantasy football and why I am excited about their 2018 season and beyond. Some aspects of subsequent articles may stem from previous articles, so I encourage you to read them all. I also encourage you to check out each of the links for a more in depth look at what makes these players so special.

 

As I’ve noted previously, I am a huge fan of the Green Bay Packers, and the rivalries that exist in the NFC North are some of the most historic, longest running rivalries in sports. Even though I live in Michigan and many of my friends cheer for the Lions every Sunday, I’ve always been told you can’t cheer for another team within the division. Whether having this #ManCrush violates this rule or is somehow a loophole, I don’t care, because I have fallen in love with Adam Thielen of the Minnesota Vikings, and it started in a week 16 match-up against Green Bay on Christmas Eve in 2016.

I was visiting my relatives in Wisconsin over the holiday break, and everyone native to the state of Wisconsin is either a Packers fan or they’re lying. I felt at home being able to watch a Packers game and not be the only one cheering for them. Week 16 also happened to be the championship week of the first year of my dynasty league, and it turned out to be everything a championship match-up should be. I had picked up Thielen after he had been heavily targeted in week 12 at Detroit. It immediately paid off as he scored 10+ fantasy points the next two weeks only to put up a goose egg in week 15. I had a tough decision to make going into week 16. I knew I couldn’t afford to have any duds this week if I wanted to win a championship, but I have a bias for wanting to watch my fantasy player if possible, and since I knew this game would be televised, I chose to keep Thielen in my lineup.

What a great decision that turned out to be, as Thielen had the best game of his NFL career. He posted a career-high 12 catches for 202 yards and scored twice for his first multi-touchdown game, including a 71 yard touchdown on which he beat Quinten Rollins with a double move to help keep the Vikings at least within striking distance of the Packers. It was a win-win for me, as the Packers got the win 38-25, and Thielen gave me a whopping 42 fantasy points. I needed each and every one of those points from Thielen, as my opponent had Le’Veon Bell and Travis Kelce scored nearly 60 points combined and ended up with a total of 172. I edged him out with 177 points thanks to Thielen and my first #ManCrush David Johnson, who scored over 30 points against the Seahawks. Thielen finished the 2016 season with 69 catches for 967 yards in just 10 starts. This production earned him a brand new, 3-year deal worth $27 million ($11 million guaranteed).

Adam Thielen is a Minnesota native and was not highly recruited, or really recruited at all, out of high school or college (Minnesota-State Mankato), but he had a dream of playing in the NFL, and he did everything he could to put himself in a position to reach that goal. You can read about it in “Made in Minnesota“, right from Thielen himself. He made enough of an impression on coaches when he was given an opportunity, and now he is half of one of the best wide receiver duos in the league. He and running mate Stefon Diggs combined for 140 receiving yards per game in 2017, and their versatility made them a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators. While Diggs outscored Thielen 8 to 4 in touchdowns, Thielen posted 91 catches for 1,276 yards and started all 16 games for the Vikings, making him fifth in yards and eighth in receptions in terms of NFL receiving leaders last year. Diggs had 64 catches for 849 in 14 games.

At 6’3″, 200 lbs, Thielen is a taller receiver with great route running skills, strong hands, and a high football IQ. He, like Diggs, can play both outside and in the slot. Thielen fits the mold of the taller slot receiver that is becoming more popular in the NFL. His ability to create separation quickly and use his size and hands to convert on third down consistently made him a very reliable target in those situations. In fact, Thielen ranked second in 2017 with 25 first down catches on third down, behind only Keenan Allen, and had 59 first down catches overall, good for eighth. The Vikings will move him and Diggs all over the formation and will even run the same play twice in a row, simply flipping Thielen and Diggs from slot to the outside, or vice-versa, to give a different look. If you ever lose track of him on the field, just look for the yellow gloves.

In 2017, Thielen was able to be productive with Sam Bradford and Case Keenum at quarterback, and now the Vikings have brought in the highly coveted Kirk Cousins, who has three straight seasons throwing for 4000+ yards and 25+ touchdowns. With the skill position corps of Cousins, second year running back Dalvin Cook, Thielen, Diggs, and Kyle Rudolph, the Vikings 2018 offense has the potential to support each of them from a fantasy perspective and be one of the highest scoring offenses in the entire league, especially since they’ll need to keep pace with the the rest of the NFC that all took steps forward this off-season offensively. If they hadn’t lost Jerick McKinnon to the 49ers, the Vikings offense may have been unstoppable. I predict that Thielen again tops 1,000 yards this season and sets a career high in touchdowns (which means at least 6).

Watch more on Thielen’s journey as well as highlights below:

From Undrafted to Unstoppable

Undrafted to NFL Star

One last thing: I bought this shirt and renamed my dynasty team “Hooked on a Thielen”. Thielen also wears #19, which just so happens to be my favorite/lucky number. The #ManCrush is real.

Thanks for reading! Be sure to go back and read my first two articles on David Johnson and Patrick Mahomes if you haven’t already! Stayed tuned for my next #ManCrush article on Cooper Kupp! Check out all my work and follow me on Twitter @brad_petrowitz.

 

#ManCrush Monday Series: Patrick Mahomes

This is the second in a series of articles that will all include the hashtag #ManCrush in which I will highlight specific players that I have fallen in love with in terms of fantasy football and why I am excited about their 2018 season and beyond. Some aspects of subsequent articles may stem from previous articles, so I encourage you to read them all.

 

After my first #ManCrush David Johnson led me to a fantasy championship in the first year of my dynasty league, I began my first dynasty off-season. I enjoyed watching college football, particularly my alma mater Michigan State, but I didn’t pay attention to much outside the Big 10. I had never been in a position to analyze and predict for myself who would be successful in the NFL and who I should try to add to my fantasy roster. Naturally, I started with the first position on the list: quarterback.

I didn’t know who the top prospects were at the time and I didn’t have anyone specific in mind to start with, so I went with the statistical leaders for the 2016 season. I love analytics and statistics, although I know they are influenced by offensive scheme and level of competition. The first number I saw? 5052, the most passing yards thrown by a quarterback in 2016. That quarterback’s name? Patrick Mahomes out of Texas Tech. Never heard of him. I followed his row across to find that he had thrown for 41 touchdowns with 10 interceptions, had a completion percentage of 65.7%, and also added 12 touchdowns on the ground. Who was this guy?!

Time to watch some highlight videos. It was love at first sight. Mahomes’ ability to sling the ball all over the field with ease, fit the ball into tight windows, make off-platform throws, extend plays with his legs, and create explosive plays made him the kind of player I wanted on my team. As a Packers fan, I thought of Brett Favre before I ever even read any NFL player comparisons. I couldn’t get enough; I watched every highlight video on him I could find.

After I had exhausted all videos YouTube had to offer, I read up more on his journey through high school and college. He was a three-sport phenom at Whitehouse High School (TX), excelling in baseball and basketball in addition to football. As a two-year varsity starting quarterback, Mahomes was a human highlight reel. He was named the Texas State Football Player of the Year as a senior. To be voted the best football player in the state of Texas is definitely saying something. Coming into college, he had full ride scholarship offers from Rice and Oklahoma State for football, and a full ride scholarship for both baseball and football from Texas Tech. He also had a chance to be drafted into the MLB with his 93mph fastball and overall athleticism. He chose to forgo the professional baseball route and committed to Texas Tech to play football.

It turned out to be the right choice for young Mahomes, as he successfully beat out Davis Webb in 2014 and forced him to transfer to California. Webb had forced Baker Mayfield to transfer to Oklahoma following injury in 2013. I won’t get into that whole complicated situation. Webb ended up being drafted in the third round of the 2017 draft by the New York Giants. Mayfield is one of the top five quarterback prospects in the 2018 draft. In week 8 of the 2016 season, Mayfield and Oklahoma defeated Mahomes and Texas Tech in an absolute shootout in which Mahomes threw for a school record 734 yards.

There were many mixed opinions on Mahomes entering the combine and then the draft. His arm talent was undeniable, but the fact that he played in the Red Raiders’ Air Raid offense at Texas Tech and that he could be reckless with his throws at times left him open to criticism. He drew the label of “gunslinger”, which can be both good and bad. He was perhaps the most polarizing prospect entering the 2017 draft. In the end, the Kansas City Chiefs made one of the most surprising moves and traded their 27th pick, a 3rd round pick, and a 2018 1st round pick to Buffalo for the opportunity to grab Mahomes at No. 10 overall in 2017.

Throughout the off-season, there was plenty of hype about the future of the Chiefs and incumbent quarterback Alex Smith, who had earned the label of “game manager” throughout his career, the opposite of “gunslinger” Mahomes. Smith silenced doubters with the best season of his career statistically, even though the Chiefs finished 10-6 after a 5-0 start and lost by a single point to the Titans in the AFC Wild Card game. Fans pleaded for a chance to see their first round pick all season, but Mahomes’ only start came in week 17 against the Denver Broncos, with Kansas City scraping out a 27-24 victory over their division rival.

Fast forward to now. The Chiefs apparently saw enough from Mahomes in limited action to hand over the reigns, as they traded Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins. If you thought the hype train was going before, climb aboard the 2018 version. The Chiefs were busy in free agency, retaining speedster D’Anthony Thomas and signing one of the top free agent wide receivers in Sammy Watkins. It would appear that the Chiefs are building an offense to suit the strengths of their new quarterback. It’s also worth noting the only other quarterback on the roster is Chad Henne. The combination of skill position players the Chiefs now possess (Mahomes, Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill, Watkins, Chris Conley, and Travis Kelce) makes them a potential nightmare for opposing defenses.

As a dynasty team owner, I am all in on Patrick Mahomes. He is the only player I own in both of my leagues. There will certainly still be a learning curve, but with the weapons he has at his disposal and the wisdom and experience in developing quarterbacks that Andy Reid has, Mahomes may make the jump into the next tier faster than his peers. I cannot wait to see what 2018 has in store for the Chiefs.

 

 

 

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