It's easy to focus on the collateral damage caused by noteworthy
NFL developments over the past two weeks. The departure of Sammy
Watkins from Buffalo, for example, presumably reduces Tyrod
Taylor's value. The replacement of Ryan
Tannehill by Jay
Cutler in Miami makes Jarvis
Landry less of a PPR lock than he has been in recent years.
And what about the impact of Ezekiel
Elliott's suspension on poor Dez
Bryant? Defenses will be sure to key on Dez with no Zeke to
distract their attention.
However, this article will focus on the opposite of collateral damage
by examining 4 players (1 QB, 1 RB, 1 WR, & 1 TE) who deserve
a rankings boost as a consequence of the Elliott suspension, the
unexpected change at quarterback in Miami, and Buffalo's release
of Sammy Watkins and acquisition of Jordan Matthews. Wherever Dak Prescott, Todd Gurley, DeVante Parker, and Zach Ertz were in your
rankings in early August, they should all be a little higher now
(a phenomenon we can call "collateral boostage").
Zeke's absence could be an opportunity
for more goal line sneaks for Prescott, boosting his value.
Part of the credit for Prescott's impressive rookie campaign goes
to another phenomenally talented rookie: Elliott. Without Zeke to
keep defenses honest, the Cowboy offense will sputter in 2017 in
ways that it didn't in 2016. But so what? What will that sputtering
look like for Prescott's stats? Will there be garbage time yardage?
Plenty. Moreover, Prescott ran for 239 yards in 2016. With Elliott
MIA for six weeks, do you expect that total to go up or down in
2017? I'll take the over. Elliott was efficient with carries inside
the 5-yard line, scoring on 7-of-11 attempts. Therefore, Elliott's
absence smells to me like an opportunity for more goal line sneaks
from Prescott, who should improve on the 6 rushing TDs he had as
There are possible downsides, of course. Defenses will have an easier
time taking Bryant away from Prescott, but he knows how to use his
other overlooked weapons, including receiving backs such as Darren McFadden and tight ends such as Methuselah (at least I think that's
his name). Sure, it's possible that in the absence of Elliott, Prescott
will have a complete meltdown in 2017, exposing his 2016 campaign
as nothing more than an extended opportunity to ride Zeke's coattails.
However, I don't think that's in the cards for Prescott, who achieved
a phenomenal 104.9 passer rating as a rookie and threw an average
of 1 interception for every 4 games played. Prescott's got game;
he should have been high in your rankings even before news of the
suspension broke. He should be higher now.
Sammy Watkins' departure from Buffalo sent shockwaves through my
draft board. Even though Watkins spent his time as a Bill being
healthy only on days not ending in -y, he established a chemistry
with Tyrod Taylor that is vastly superior to anything we can expect
him to develop with Jared Goff in Los Angeles. Theoretically, one
could argue that Goff's value improves by miles with the arrival
of Watkins, but one would be wasting one's breath—since no
one was within a continent of drafting Goff anyway.
The real beneficiary of the Watkins trade is Todd Gurley, who must
feel like he has a new lease on life with Jeff Fisher gone and a
bona fide star wide-out doing the work that used to be split between
a No.2 impersonating a No.1 (Kenny Britt) and an athletic stuntman
impersonating a WR (Tavon Austin). One fair knock on Gurley is that
he was ineffective in 2016 whether defenses stacked the box against
him or not, so Watkins stretching the field may not be the answer
to all of Gurley's prayers. But if you remember anything about Gurley's
rookie season, you know that the talent is there. That talent slumbered
into despair last year for reasons that were all too obvious. In
my opinion, what Gurley needed more than anything else in 2017 was
hope, and that hope has come in the form of a new head coach (Sean
McVay) and an instant transformation of the passing offense (courtesy
Jarvis Landry had 94 receptions in 2016—almost as many as
DeVante Parker (56) and Kenny Stills (42) combined. Tannehill was
effective enough in the Adam Gase version of the Air Coryell offense
to help the Dolphins make the playoffs last year, but he was far
more comfortable throwing shorter balls to Landry than longer balls
to his very talented outside WRs.
If Cutler can do one thing better than Tannehill in Gase's system
(and it's possible that he only does this one thing better), it's
delivering the deep ball to tall, athletic receivers. The best year
of Culter's career came under Gase in Chicago, when his targets
included Alshon Jeffery (6'3"), Brandon Marshall (6'4"),
and even TE Martellus Bennett (6'6"). Height never tells the
full story, but it's worth noting that DeVante Parker is 6'3",
Kenny Stills is 6'0", and Jarvis Landry is 5'11". It doesn't
hurt that Parker is entering his third year as a pro—or that
he reported to camp in the best shape (and with the best work ethic)
of his career. As anyone who owned Alshon Jeffery back in the day
knows, Cutler likes to glom onto a favorite receiving target. No
one can predict who Cutler's favorite target will be in Miami in
2017 (not even by listening carefully to that futuristic song by
Billy Joel), but Gase knows it should be Parker, and he's probably
a good enough coach to see to it that Parker becomes Cutler's go-to
option. Wherever Parker is on your draft board, move him up.
Ertz (beneficiary of Jordan Mathews' departure for Buffalo)
Jordan Matthews missed two games in 2016. In those contests, Ertz
led the Eagles in targets (31) as well as receptions (22).
Nelson Agholor is currently expected to take over the slot, with
Carson Wentz being challenged to throw more outside balls to Philadelphia's
two newly acquired stud WRs (Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith). There's
no reason to doubt that most of the targets that went to Matthews
in 2016 will find their way into the hands of Jeffery and Smith,
but Ertz will soak up plenty of the short-and-over-the-middle-targets
that always went to Matthews in the past. Don't get carried away;
Ertz won't be quite as good as he was in the games Matthews missed
last year (when the only other important receiver on the field was
Nelson Agholor), but his average performance on the season should
improve over what it was through the 14 games when Matthews was
healthy—which was already solid for a TE. Bump him up.
Do you have better candidates for the collateral boostage tag at
these skill positions? If so, let me know who (and why you think
so) by emailing me or posting a comment below. And if you've been
waiting to post your overvalued players based on ADP in 2017, share
those insights as well.
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.