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With the third week of the preseason in the books, the outlook for the season is starting to clear up.
Fantasy owners are making last-minute preparations for their drafts, and our trio of Fantasy football experts — Dave Richard, Jamey Eisenberg and Heath Cummings — are making constant tweaks to their rankings heading into the home stretch of the preseason.
I thought this was a good time to take a closer look at those rankings, so we’ll be running a series of pieces on the rankings all week leading up the final weekend of draft season.
First up, let’s take a look at the most interesting divergences in their respective rankings.
Why does Heath hate Andrew Luck ?
|Jamey: 3rd||Dave: 3rd||Heath: 6th|
Heath is generally the least likely of the trio to reach for a high-upside quarterback, but you’ll never see him grabbing Luck at his current ADP (42nd at FantasyPros.com). The last two years have seen the best and worst of Luck so far.
Heath’s reasoning: “I don’t think 2014 Andrew Luck is the only version of him. There is some uncertainty over whether he is legitimately an elite quarterback.”
Luck was incredible in 2014, upping his yards per attempt to a career-best 7.7, while tossing 40 touchdowns. However, 2015 looked a lot more like the first two years of his career even before the injuries, as he completed below 60 percent of his passes, with a 6.4 yards per attempt and a 5.1 percent touchdown rate. The one thing with Luck is, we know the volume is going to be there, as he has averaged 38.3 pass attempts per game in his career. The question is whether the touchdown rate he reached in 2014 — when he finished third in the league — represents his baseline. To Heath’s point, 2014 is the clear outlier among Luck’s four seasons to this point.
Is Dave right to be high on Blake Bortles ?
|Jamey: 14th||Dave: 8th||Heath: 15th|
If all Bortles does is repeat his 2015 performance, Dave comes out ahead here, as Bortles is coming off a No. 4 finish at the position in a breakout season for the former No. 3 overall pick.
Dave’s reasoning: “I don’t see a lack of pass attempts nor a lack of targets for Bortles to succeed with.”
If Bortles fails, it won’t be for a lack of opportunities, coming off a season where he dropped back to pass 684 times last season, including sacks and scrambles. The Jacksonville Jaguars should have an improved defense — they really can’t get much worse — but even if his workload is limited a bit, maybe the offensive line can improve to the point where he doesn’t lead the league in sacks for a third straight season. Bortles tossed 35 touchdowns, but he didn’t need an outlandish touchdown rate to get there thanks to his total passing volume, and it’s not unreasonable to expect some improvement in his efficiency and interceptions as he continues to grow. Bortles is an underrated rusher, as well, and it wouldn’t be a total surprise if he picked up a few more scores on the ground either.
Why is Jamey down on Andy Dalton ?
|Jamey: 19th||Dave: 15th||Heath: 14th|
Dalton finished as just the No. 19 quarterback last season, but would have been a top-10 performer if not for a broken thumb that kept him out of three games.
Dave’s reasoning: “Aside from A.J. Green , I don’t buy into his receiving corps. The last time he had an incomplete receiving, corps which was 2014, he was not a good Fantasy quarterback.”
The Cincinnati Bengals lost Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu to free agency this offseason, and won’t have tight end Tyler Eifert for the start of the season as he recovers from ankle surgery. Eifert will likely be out until at least Week 4, and the offseason additions of Brandon LaFell and rookie Tyler Boyd don’t exactly get the blood flowing. The Bengals will likely try to rely on the running game more this season, just as they did in 2014, when he passed the ball just 482 times — and finished 18th at the position. Dalton is currently the No. 16 quarterback off the board according to ADP, a sign that Jamey’s view is winning out.
Is Jamey doubting Adrian Peterson ?
Peterson rang in his 30’s with another huge season in 2015, as he rushed for 1,485 yards and 11 touchdowns, ultimately finishing second at the position — the eighth top-eight finish in nine seasons.
Jamey’s reasoning: “I’m concerned by his age and his career workload.”
It’s a pretty huge workload, of course, as Peterson enters his age-31 season with 2,621 career touches, including 300-plus in six of nine. Peterson still looked good in 2015, obviously, but may have shown just a few signs of decline. He ranked 14th in yards per carry after contact with 2.3, down from a pre-suspension mark of 3.0, which led the league in 2013. In fact, 2015 was the first season Peterson time Peterson played a full season and did not average at least 3.0 yards per carry after contact since 2009, when he was at 2.9. Even legends fall off at some point, and we don’t often get a lot of prior warning, so it wouldn’t be a total shock if Peterson’s end was finally here. At the very least, you’ll want to snag Jerick McKinnon as his backup, as Jamey often does in our drafts.
What does Heath know about Cincinnati’s backfield?
|Jamey: 15th||Dave: 15th||Heath: 18th|
Hill disappointed big time last season, but is still going off the board 23 spots before Bernard at FantasyPros.com.
Heath’s reasoning: ” Giovani Bernard is the most talented back in Cincinnati. While he will still trail Hill in rushing attempts and probably touchdowns, Bernard will dominate receptions out of the backfield and will surpass Hill in total yardage.”
Heath basically views Hill and Bernard as a toss up, a position that certainly stands out in the community. However, it makes a certain sort of sense; Hill will get the bulk of the work in the running game, but the Bengals may just run the ball 450 times between the two of them anyway, given the depleted state of their receiving corps. And when they do opt to put the ball in the air, Bernard is the one who will benefit, coming off a season where he saw 47 more targets than Hill. Bernard is just a more dynamic all-around player, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him out-touch Hill when it’s all said and done.
What does Dave see in Chris Ivory ?
|Jamey: 32nd||Dave: 24th||Heath: 39th|
Ivory put together his best season in 2015, rushing for 1,070 yards, and was able to parlay that into a five-year, $32 million deal with the Jaguars, who are heavily invest at the position after taking T.J. Yeldon in the second round a year ago.
Dave’s reasoning: “I don’t think the Jaguars brought him in for nothing. Lots of touchdowns and should have more yards than Yeldon by the end of the year.”
Yeldon wasn’t bad as a rookie, rushing for 4.1 yards per carry and showing off some skills in the passing game, so it’s hard to see them just totally burying him in favor of the veteran. If Ivory does earn the bulk of the workload, he should live up to Dave’s ranking, as he finished seventh in Fantasy scoring at the position a year ago. However, even two years ago, Ivory finished 20th, despite rushing the ball fewer than 200 times. Even if Yeldon gets the passing down work, Ivory has a pretty good chance to be a starting-caliber option at the position, especially as the No. 29 back off the board according to ADP.
Why doesn’t Dave have Antonio Brown No. 1?
|Jamey: 1st||Dave: 2nd||Heath: 1st|
Brown isn’t just the consensus No. 1 player at his position — he is currently the No. 1 player off the board across the industry, with Odell Beckham right behind him at most sites.
Dave’s reasoning: “Supreme confidence that, in his third year, Beckham will dominate a relatively easy schedule and improve a little bit on the 60.8 percent catch rate he had last year.”
At the point in his career Beckham is at, Brown had one 1,100-yard season under his belt, and was on his way to 787 yards in 13 games as a complementary piece in year three. What makes Beckham so special is he has already put his name into the discussion for best receiver in football at a time when most players are still trying to establish themselves. If he manages to take a step forward in year three, he doesn’t have that far to go to vault himself over Brown as the No. 1 overall player. Sterling Shepard could be a better complimentary piece than Rueben Randle ever was, and if Beckham gets just an inch more space, it’s not crazy to think he could start challenging the NFL record book in year three.
What does Jamey love so much about Donte Moncrief ?
|Jamey: 19th||Dave: 27th||Heath: 25th|
Moncrief finally emerged as a starter for the Indianapolis Colts last season, but injuries to Andrew Luck kept him from breaking out in his second season.
Jamey’s reasoning: “I expect his third year to be a breakout season for him. There are a boatload of targets to go around with Coby Fleener and Andre Johnson gone, and I do not expect the Colts to run the ball very well.”
Moncrief won’t be the No. 1 target in Indianapolis with T.Y. Hilton around, but the two don’t necessarily have to cut into each others’ production, because Moncrief has ideal size for the outside. The two should be on the field at nearly all times for the Colts, and if you’re buying a Luck bounceback, Moncrief as a breakout candidate makes perfect sense. So, it’s fair to say Heath won’t have much Moncrief this season.
Why doesn’t Heath buy Coby Fleener?
|Jamey: 4th||Dave: 4th||Heath: 7th|
Fleener represents a nice athleticism upgrade over Ben Watson, who enjoyed a career season in 2015, hauling in 74 passes for 825 yards and six touchdowns with the New Orleans Saints .
Heath’s reasoning: “Reports haven’t exactly been glowing out of New Orleans, and while situation matters, I don’t think he’s as talented as guys like Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz .”
Fleener has shown flashes of elite production, most notably in 2014, when he finished sixth at the position in Fantasy scoring in a breakout season with the Colts. The rest of his career has mostly been defined by inconsistency and disappointment, as he has not finished higher than 15th in tight end scoring in any of his other three seasons. This is certainly a great opportunity for Fleener, as the Saints’ offense has featured the tight end prominently, and he theoretically fits in great working out of the slot, where Watson lined up 43.9 percent of the time last season. The question really does come down to talent, and Heath might not be wrong about Kelce and Ertz being the better players in a vacuum. Of course, the Saints don’t play in a vacuum; they play in a dome. If nothing else, Fleener has to be more talented than a 35-year-old Ben Watson was, right?
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / 2016 Fantasy Football Rankings: Adrian Peterson a bust; Donte Moncrief a breakout