In the “early days” of fantasy football, the most
popular plan was to get your backfield set before looking elsewhere.
But we’re not in Kansas anymore, ToTo. Actually some still
are, right Boss?
The 21st-century game of football has evolved into an aerial show.
No longer do teams “run to set up the pass.” The passing
game has become the key to victory and the running game feeds
off of the pass. And runs out the clock.
Rules changes, enacted by the league, are a big part of it. They’ve
made passing easier than running the ball. The no-contact rule
on receivers beyond five yards from the line of scrimmage was
finally enforced. Hand-check a receiver, sometimes just touch
him and the flag comes out. Protection of receivers going over
the middle in 2009 helped too. Head-hunting is being legislated
out of the game.
Coaching staffs have changed as well. They are more aggressive.
More willing to take a chance on the big play. It helped that
the proliferation of the spread offense in high schools and colleges
have made quarterbacks better at reading defenses and more ready
to play when they enter the league.
All these changes helped the passing game league-wide. Just how
much? See the first chart below. From 2006 to 2015 passing yards
are up 19 percent and still rising. Passing touchdowns have jumped
29.9 percent. Rushing yards have been dropping while rushing TDs
stayed consistently around the 400-mark until the last two seasons.
Passing vs. Rushing:
2006 - 2015
Individually, it’s easy to see in chart No. 2 that 4,000-yard,
30-TD throwing quarterbacks, once a luxury, are now available to
every fantasy owner in a 10-team league. So obviously, there is
no need to rush to get your quarterback at the expense of other
≥ 4000 Yds
≥ 30 TDs
≥ 1000 Yds
≥ 10 TDs
≥ 1000 Yds
≥ 10 TDs
Thousand-yard rushers are still out there, but look how hard it
is to find a running back who will rush for 10 touchdowns. Shouldnít
they be your priority?
Thatís where fantasy leagues themselves have made a difference.
The proliferation of PPR leagues (points-per-reception) has given
another big boost to the value of receivers and tight ends at the
expense of running backs, except for those with really good hands.
Itís easier to find two 1,000-yard receivers than two running
backs. And for the risk-averse, itís more likely that you
will be right when you select a receiver.
Based on the numbers, fantasy owners should select two receivers
and one running back in the first three rounds, ignoring quarterbacks,
tight ends (except for Rob Gronkowski) and obviously kickers and
Hey itís easy to draft Antonio Brown and expect big things,
itís another to expect a 1,000 yards from a guy who hasnít
done it before. Or hasnít done it lately. So the million dollar
question is: Which receivers will join the elite list and who will
First off, I donít believe any rookie receiver will hit the
plateau. Corey Coleman (Cleveland) and Sterling Shepard (New York
Giants) might get the closest, but neither will hit the mark.
Back in his role as the Packers' No.2 wideout,
Randall Cobb is a good bet to crack the 1000-yd mark.
2015 sub 1,000-yard receivers who
will crack the mark in 2016
Cobb wasnít up to be ďthe man, in 2015Ē but now that Batman
Nelson) is back, he can once again be a great Robin. As the
second option, Cobb is tough to stop and even if Nelson isnít
100%, just the threat of him going deep will open up the field
for the shifty Cobb.
Jones isnít Calvin
Johnson, who averaged 81-1291-9 for his career, but heís a
better receiver than Golden
Tate and will show it this season. Heís a touchdown maker
and a better deep threat and will push Tate into the possession
receiver role. I think his 74.1 ADP is vastly undervalued.
This is another easy one. He was blowing up scoreboards
before his season-ending lacerated kidney. He only played eight
games so doubling last season would produce an incredible 134-1450-8.
He wonít hit those lofty totals after the addition of Travis
Benjamin in the off-season, but he should be a top-10 fantasy
Bryant had a double whammy Ė he hurt his foot and the only
viable quarterback on the Dallas roster also missed time. In fact,
he and Tony
Romo only played in three games together last season. Bryant
should be healthy this season. More importantly, the Cowboys have
found what appears to be a decent backup in rookie Dak
Prescott (Mississippi State) should/when something happens
2015 1,000-yard receivers who will
miss the mark in 2016
Itís not going to be pretty in Denver. At least not when
the Broncos are on offense. Thomas struggled with the inferior
quarterback play of Peyton
Manning and Brock
Osweiler last season and under Trevor
Lynch itís likely to be worse. The newly run-oriented Broncos
will not target him 177 times and if he wants any chance to reach
the 1,000-yard mark he better break a lot of wide-receiver screen
passes for big yards.
Fitzgerald produced monster numbers last season, being
the short-yardage, stick-moving, touchdown-making option that
the Cardinals relied on constantly. But it took its toll on his
32-year-old body. Check his final six games and you will see he
didnít crack 66 yards in any of the games and scored just twice.
If I was the Arizona coaching staff Iíd be trying to keep him
fresh for the inevitable playoffs. Iím expecting a drastically
reduced workload because the team has a lot of other talent at
the wideout position (Michael Floyd, J.J.
Brown, and Jaron
Baldwin went crazy down the stretch, amassing 724 yards
and 12 touchdowns over the final eight games. Baldwin was the
teamís best option in the second half of the season Ö actually
more like their only reliable option with injuries in the backfield
and tight end. The emergence of Tyler
Lockett, the return of Thomas
Rawls at tailback and the eventual return of Jimmy
Graham (knee - questionable for Week 1) will all work against
Baldwin reproducing his 2015 season.
Decker and Marshall made quite a duo last season. The two
combined for 189 receptions, 2,529 receiving yards and 26 touchdown
catches on 305 targets. Had Ryan
Fitzpatrick not signed, both receivers might have made this
list, but the addition of the best receiving back in the league,
Forte, will steal targets and receptions from the possession
receiver. Decker will probably get to run deep more often this
season, but the deep ball has never been a Fitzpatrick strong
point and Deckerís overall production should dip below the magic
1,000-yard total in 2016.
Steve Schwarz served as the fantasy sports editor of The Sports Network and is the 2014 FSWA Football Writer of the Year.