Last Week's Question: Is 2016 the
right year to push for dynasty leagues?
In last week's column, I
reviewed high-impact rookies at every skill position, including
Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott at QB, Ezekiel Elliott at RB, Will
Fuller and Sterling Shepard at WR, and Hunter Henry at TE. The
purpose of the column was to point out the success all of these
players enjoyed through the first quarter of the season—not
to predict great things for any of them in Week 5. But most of
them delivered on Sunday just the same.
Wentz had a solid game (238 yards passing with 2 TDs and 1 pick).
Prescott posted roughly similar numbers (except that one of his
TDs came on the ground and his single turnover was a fumble instead
of an interception). Elliott had an electrifying performance with
134 yards rushing, 37 receiving, and 2 TDs (one of them a 60-yard
scamper). Henry had a perfectly respectable day for a tight end
(with 74 receiving yards and a TD). Only the receivers disappointed,
but Fuller's lackluster performance (1 catch for 4 yards) came
against the smothering defense of the Vikings, and Shepard's dudly
day (2 catches for 14 yards) may have had more to do with Eli
Manning's discombobulation than his own lack of experience.
Since there doesn't seem to be anything fluky about the impact
that rookies are having on offenses throughout the NFL, I hoped
to hear from readers who would make the case for dynasty leagues
(with their emphasis on incoming players). Unfortunately, my question
drew no comments and no emails. Maybe FFers are less impressed
by rookies than I am; maybe my column simply doesn't reach dynasty
enthusiasts; or maybe readers were just too busy to respond last
week. Whatever the reason for the lack of responses, I think the
fact that rookies are succeeding in every important offensive
position bears more commentary than it has received so far in
I therefore welcome belated
commentary on the question I posed last week as well as alternative
questions from readers who have a more interesting approach to
the subject. For the time being, however, Q&A moves on to
the next subject.
Tevin Coleman is just one example of a
RB handcuff that's providing exceptional value each week.
This Week's Question: Is zero-RB
irrelevant in the age of golden handcuffs?
Maybe it's hyperbolic for me to call the current NFL moment "the
age of golden handcuffs," but it reflects my envy of anyone
who drafted Devonta Freeman early and Tevin Coleman late in 2016.
The two Atlanta backs are both top 10 RBs so far this season, so
I can only congratulate the Freeman owners who decided that Coleman
was worth a handcuff—even though they were wrong.
They weren't wrong to grab Coleman, but they were wrong to assume
that Freeman would have to miss time for Coleman to become a starter.
Ordinarily, fantasy owners have to be strapped for RBs to start
two from the same team, but in light of how well the Falcon RBs
performed against an elite Denver offense (286 yards between them),
anyone who owns the pair is likely to start both and look forward
to the results.
Coleman is only the most prominent success story of handcuff-able
RBs. I don't know how many Thomas
Rawls owners handcuffed Christine
Michael, but it was probably more than those who nabbed Isaiah
Crowell after Duke
Johnson, which was probably more than those who shored up Jeremy
Langford with Jordan
Howard. Whether injury was the catalyst of discovery in these
backfields or not, it seems as if the better back may have been
the one ranked lower by the coaching staff and the fantasy community
in the preseason.
Considering that 6 of the top 10 running backs according to ESPN's
preseason draft ranks have been mostly absent (Bell), injured (Adrian
Peterson and Doug
Martin) or disappointing (Todd
Miller, and Eddie
Lacy), it seems as if 2016 should be another banner year for
But those who went with high-profile WRs in the early rounds ran
into problems of their own, as Odell
Beckham Jr., DeAndre
Marshall, and Keenan
Allen have all failed to justify their high ADP so far this
season. It's surprising that Sammie
Coates has outperformed all of these celebrity wideouts through
Week 5, but even more surprising to zero-RB enthusiasts that so
many of them have missed significant time due to injury (Bryant,
Watkins, Marshall, and Allen). Part of the logic for going zero-RB
is that WRs are supposed to be less injury-prone than RBs, but the
top-flight WRs have kept pace with the top-flight RBs on the injury
front so far this year.
So now that we're more than a month into the season, I'm curious
about whether we can say that any particular draft strategy appears
to have paid off in 2016. Whether the first-place team in your league
went zero-RB or not, my guess is that the player that most differentiates
that team from the competition is probably a running back who started
the season as a backup/handcuff to another, more highly touted RB.
Am I right? If you have a couple of minutes to evaluate the roster
and draft strategy of the first-place team in your league, please
either comment below or email
me with your sense of what sets that team apart in your league.
#3 New England over Cincinnati:(3-2,
JAX, OAK, DAL, MIN, PIT)
Tom Brady is back in a big way. He cleaned Cleveland's clock in
Week 5, and this week he goes up against the other NFL team from
Ohio. Even though Andy Dalton and the Bengals are more talented
than the Browns, the Patriots' stingy defense (which has allowed
only 74 points this season) should have little trouble making Cincy
look every bit as inept as Cleveland. The Bengals will be hard pressed
to keep up with the Patriots' methodical offense, which is already
reminding spectators of Bill Belichick's last Super Bowl run. Take
the Pats and enjoy a leisurely Sunday on the couch.
Tennessee over Cleveland: (4-1, HOU, AZ, CAR, WAS. GB)
Cody Kessler should be back under center for the Browns. He's received
a lot of praise from Hue Jackson, but it's difficult to say how
much of that praise stems from Kessler's talent and how much is
attributable to the fact that he isn't Charlie Whitehurst, who was
ineffectual enough in relief of Kessler to be cut earlier this week.
(Aside: If you don't know why Whitehurst is nicknamed "Clipboard
Jesus," you really need to look at a
picture of him.) While the Browns were riding their quarterback
carousel in Week 5, Tennessee's Marcus Mariota was busy reminding
the world why he was considered a possible franchise quarterback.
Those inclined to dismiss his 4 TD performance merely because it
came against Miami's 29th-ranked defense would do well to remember
that the Brown D is ranked 30th. The Titans have a good defense
and a much-better-than-expected running game, which should be enough
for them to win a contest at home against a young Browns team that
is still trying to find its identity.
Pittsburgh over Miami: (5-0, SEA, CAR, MIA, CIN, NE)
Dolphins faithful are trying to trick themselves into believing
that the likely return of Arian
Foster in Week 6 will be enough to get the team's dysfunctional
offense back on track. The problem is that there's no reason to
think Foster's hamstring is the key to helping QB Ryan
Tannehill understand how to distribute the ball effectively
within Adam Gase's system. Even if the Dolphins magically started
playing well enough to compete with average NFL teams, their challenge
this week is to defeat the elite Steelers, whose arsenal of Ben
Bell, and Antonio
Brown was daunting enough even before Sammie
Coates emerged as an additional threat. What does it take to
beat the Steelers? Something better than a team that is in the bottom
5 on both offense and defense, as the Dolphins are. Take the Steelers
this week if you’re uneasy about either of the two choices above. Mike Davis has been writing about
fantasy football since 1999--and playing video games even longer
than that. His latest novel (concerning a gamer who gets trapped
inside Nethack after eating too many shrooms) can
be found here.