Tag Archives: Lesean McCoy

What we learned from Preseason 2013

As the real games get ready to kickoff and your fantasy drafts are completed, it’s easy to quickly close the book on yet another preseason.  To fantasy owners the consternation shifts from hoping that 12th round “sleeper” pick is really available in the 12th round to which WR or RB is best for my flex play?

We’ll have plenty of articles (and a few podcasts) here during the season about who to start or who to add in your leagues.  Understand,  however that before we get there we need to have a grasp of some of the preseason.   The “next man up” from your league’s waiver wire, or from your own team’s bench (if you drafted well)  is formed in the preseason.  So here’s a review of what went down this last month or so….

Things we Know

1.) The Eagles will move the football.  I don’t know how many wins they’ll get, or how many games QB Michael Vick will be healthy for, but overall you have to think they’ll be plenty of productive Eagles in fantasy football this year.  Guys like Vick,  RB LeSean McCoy, and WR Desean Jackson may seem like obvious plays, but as the season goes on and the roles of Chip Kelly’s offense become more defined you may see players like TE Brent Celek, WR Jason Avant, and RB Chris Polk (potential goaline work) emerge as weekly plays. The truth is no one puts their whole playbook on display in the preseason – but the Eagles philosophy was clear in each of their games.  I’m attaching the nickname “pace and space” to it, and I think there will be several Eagles who can help out your fantasy team this season.

2.) The Raiders OL is going to cap fantasy production.  Sure they have some guys hurt who could return during the season, but right now they are selecting their QB because he can run – not so much run as a weapon – but run from the unblocked pass rush.  It is possible that QB Terrell Pryor has some useful fantasy weeks as he breaks off some long runs in garbage time of games the Raiders are behind, but good luck predicting when those will happen.  The guy is throwing jump passes whenever I see him – this is not a successful NFL formula.  Guys like WR Denarius Moore, WR Rod Streater, and WR Bryce  Butler (a rookie with a very nice preseason) could all be weekly teases as well.  The weak offensive line is going to make most of the Raiders struggle this season – and I would advocate looking to deal them after they have big fantasy weeks to owners with short term memories.

Particularly valuable in this regard would be RB Darren McFadden.  I love McFadden and early in the preaseaon was very happy to take a shot on him as a RB2 with stud potential.   But that has changed, and the more I see from Oakland – the OL, the jump pass QB,  the coach not revealing the jump pass QB is officially his week 1 starter for “competitive advantage”…it screams trouble.  So if McFadden has a good game here and there, or hopefully 2 in a row – it might be good to find an owner in your league who still believes in him.  They’ll be one, there always is – and then maybe you can work out a deal for a more consistent player.

3. The Giants don’t currently have a NFL quality backup RB on their roster.  This is one to watch, because of the injury to RB Andre Brown.  Brown who’ll be out at least 8 weeks, was going to play a key part in absorbing touches this year that the Giants didn’t want starter RB David Wilson to carry.  I think the Giants feel Wilson is good for about 15-20 touches a week – he won’t be a grinder and they need to keep him fresh all season.  The current next men up on the Giants are RB’s Da’rel Scott and Michael Cox – a very inexperienced duo.  Personally I like Cox, but I just can’t see the Giants making him a part of the plan – as a playoff contender they’ll want a steadier option.

So, it’s very likely that your league’s 1st waiver feeding frenzy will be for whomever the Giants sign in Week 2 at RB.  In the NFL, if you sign a guy after week 1 the contract you give them no longer becomes guaranteed for the year.  This makes it easier for teams to take chances on veteran players: The Giants could bring in RB Michael Turner or RB Willis McGahee – or lesser talent guys that have experience in their system like RB Tim Hightower or Brandon Jacobs.

As for whether it’ll be worth it for you to get caught up in this frenzy – well it depends on who the Giants sign.  I mean we’ll be talking about a part time job, for only part time – but if it’s a more talented player it could be an indication that Brown’s injury history (he broke the same leg last season) has worried the Giants  enough that his replacement could stick with the team even after Brown returns.

4.) Youth should be served at WR – this rookie class wasn’t very top heavy with super elite talent.  What it did have however was useful NFL depth WR’s for 2013, which makes them useful border fantasy starters.  DeAndre Hopkins, Kenny Stills, Quinton Patton, Robert Woods, Marcus Wheaton, Kenbrell Thompkins , and Cordarrelle Patterson  are the ones I like best.  All of them are worth monitoring to some degree b/c many of them can be found on your average league’s waiver wire.

The noticeable absence of WR Tavon Austin and WR Keenan Allen may raise some eyebrows here….but it’s likely Austin was drafted in your league, and if you did it you likely don’t want to hear me rail against him again.   Allen is a mix of bad situation and brittle body – he may produce in 2013, but it’s likely that you’ll have to put up with a lot of bad weeks of having him rostered – as opposed to being able to add a guy from the above group as solid depth.

What we don’t know

1.) The Denver running game.  If you were hoping the preseason was going to sort this one out, it may have just made things a lot worse.  Oddly enough I think the guy best suited to the gig is RB Knowshon Moreno, but the Broncos seemed to have passed on him awhile ago.  The current “starter” Ronnie Hillman I don’t think is a full time RB, and rookie Montee Ball is a guy of average talent.

To make things completely insane the latest reports out of Denver is that they may rotate these guys in and out series-by-series.   Fantasy owners if you’re looking for one trend to root against with all your might, root against this one – because if this works and becomes a NFL strategy, fantasy football will become impossible.

2.) The Steelers running game Le’veon Bell was drafted so he could be the bellcow 25 carry guy.  He got hurt in camp, then he got hurt 4 plays into his 1st preseason game.  So the Steelers went out and made a semi-surprise Jonathan Dwyer cut (he was their leading rusher last year), and instead went out and picked up Felix Jones (Jones had been cut from Philly).

Jones was a hot name for a few minutes, until it looked like the Steelers had settled on slightly banged up RB Isaac Redman to be atop their depth chart.   It’s a little bit of a mess at this point. Head coach Mike Tomlin has said that they don’t plan on using a running back committee (yay for the oldschool!) and the starter will get 25-30 carries.

But it’s far from clear that Redman is worth a fantasy investment.  For one thing, his injury history is bad- even currently he’s got a pinched nerve.  Then there are the reports that Le’veon Bell is trying to come back in week 2 or 3, which would certainly pose a threat to Redman’s job.  And the capper to these concerns is that the Pittsburgh offensive line has looked terrible in preseason.  Not quite Raiders terrible mind you, but not all that much above it.

I think for now you have to hold whatever cards you have in this game.  If you drafted Bell, you should still feel ok with that- albeit discouraged by injury. If you own Redman start him while you can, and trade him if Bell overtakes him to the Bell owner.  If Redman is on the waiver he’s worth an add based on potential.  Felix Jones is worth an add only if the end of your bench is very weak, and becomes a cut if Bell comes back and he hasn’t surpassed Redman on the depth chart.

3.) The Patriots passing game.  There are some things we do know about this situation QB Tom Brady will be fine.  Maybe, maybe, not super elite in fantasy – but right in that top 5 conversation.  And to do it he’ll get WR Danny Amendola and TE Rob Gronkowski (when he returns from injury) plenty of looks.

Beyond that though, there’s some pretty interesting scenarios.  Most popular is the 2 TE “Patriot Way” idea with rookie TE Zac Sudfeld.  Sudfeld is a large target at 6’7, but they seem to want to use him as the “move” TE to replace Aaron Hernandez.   And this is the plan for him I think from week 1, even without Gronkowski there – which is a little odd to me.   Sudfeld is slower than Hernandez,  and hasn’t demonstrated that he has the same hands (a fumble in preseason temporarily got him benched) – so I wonder if this “move TE” thing is a fit or if it’s a force b/c they’ll have nowhere else to put him when Gronkowski returns.   Sudfeld’s got a lot of hype in fantasy leagues right now, and I think he’ll be a productive player – but you really can’t say whether you’re going to get a guy who’s borderline top 5 at the position (like Hernandez) or borderline top 12 – making him a fringe ffl starter.

Ironically, the rookie Sudfeld might get more looks because of all the rookies at WR vying for time on the outside.   WR Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce, and Kenbrell Thompkins were all brought in this offseason to contend for playing time.   Right now the winner of the preseason appears to be undrafted FA  Thompkins.  Thompkins targets remain to be determined – Brady has had players on the outside before like Deion Branch, and David Givens who were much better actual football players than fantasy producers, and it’s unknown if any of these rookies can get in-sync enough to be Brady’s 1st read – with all the plays undoubtedly that will be scripted for Amendola, Gronk, and Sudfeld.

Another wildcard is RB Shane Vereen who could take over a good portion of the Pats’ short passing game on screens and passes to the flat.  Vereen is a very talented player and probably worth a flex play in your fantasy lineup.

So there are  a lot of mouths to feed, and several Patriots could be fantasy factors in 2013, being patient and taking chances on a few of them despite week to week inconsistencies may be the best strategy.

 

:by Mike

 

2013 Preseason Week 2: Carolina at Philly

Carolina

I don’t hate QB Cam Newton, but I think if there’s one QB ranked in the top 5-8 QB’s likely for an under performance it’s him.  And not all of it is his fault…I saw a lot of playaction from him in this game, and it very rarely fooled anyone.  I get that the Panthers are trying to install the playaction game, some of the read option as well to take advantage of the athletic ability of Newton, but the reason it’s not working is because Cam is the only one you worry about.   Rg3 has Alfred Morris, Kapernick has Frank Gore,  Russell Wilson has Marshawn Lynch – Cam has a rapidly aging RB DeAngelo Williams (12 carries for 39 yards in this one) and a chronically broken RB Jonathan Stewart.  They just don’t have the credibility to take the focus off of Newton- and while QB’s can legitimize RB’s it’s a tougher road than having the RB help you out.

Help for that running game doesn’t look to be coming anytime soon as rookie RB Kenjon Barner – a somewhat popular dynasty name had another unimpressive game carrying 6 times for just 5 yards.

Philly

Be prepared to be sick of the terms “Chip Kelly” and “unique offense”,  as the dominating early season story of anything surrounding the Eagles.   When I watched this game (granted in preseason nothing is even close to fully installed), I didn’t notice something that was so out of this world that no one had seen it in the NFL ever.  Media talking heads will seize on this, and parts of the Chip Kelly offense are unique, but all 32 teams run “unique” offenses when you break them down into verbiage and personal packages etc…

I came in with the impression that the Eagles would simply play “faster” than everyone, and that’s not necessarily true – teams like the Patriots (with whom Kelly had a consulting position with) and Bills (who are putting it in this season) run offenses at similar tempos.   What I took away from this was the “spacing” aspect of his offense- several passes underneath, and out wide in the flat – which are designed to give players room to break tackles.   It works also with the tempo that should in theory wear down defenses to the point where it’s easier to break those tackles underneath and turn them into 1st downs.

Like the Shanahans did in Washington last season, Chip Kelly is not bringing in a brand new system to the NFL (in fact I’d argue the Pistol was “newer” at least to the NFL),  Kelly is simply tweaking the aspects of a West Coast base with a “hury up” offense element added.   Don’t get me wrong I would hate to play these guys early in the season because it will take awhile for the league to play defense on these space and tempo issues,  but this isn’t so revolutionary it’s going to change the league.

And this is  b/c the league’s already changed – defenses can’t hit players anymore so beating the hell out of your opponent to slow him down isn’t gonna work – not just against Chip Kelly, but against Tom Brady, against the read options of San Fran, Washington and Seattle – the league is about to go into video game offense mode, and it may take a few years to come up with some rules (or the relaxing of some defensive rules) to balance it back out.

One encouraging thing for defenses I did see in this game is that the refs actually called an offensive pass interference on WR Riley Cooper, for making an actual pick and preventing a DB from making the switch to his man.   That type of call is going to be crucial to policing the game going forward b/c if not:  the Eagles and other offenses will be tough to stop.

With that all said you can ignore the Chip Kelly hype as “revolutionary” and maybe even as all that “unique”, but you have to think all Eagles offensive players will get fantasy bumps.   QB Michael Vick is claiming it’s revived his love for the game,  and that is a telling comment attributable I think more to the “staleness” of Andy Reid  – which left town rather than a different set of x’s and o’s.  Vick makes a very interesting backup fantasy QB, provided he wins the position and I think he will based on his “fit” vs Foles (Foles didn’t help himself in this one mishandling snaps and throwing an endzone int)  He’s the one backup level fantasy QB (like QB 15 or later) that could actually be a top 10 or even top 5 producer at the position if things break his way.

RB Lesean McCoy looked great in this one, and he should get a bump as well. He is unquestionably a top 5 or 6 player in fantasy drafts of all formats, and in PPR he may even become worth a top 1 or 2 selection.

:by Mike