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Welcome to this week's roundtable, where our fearless panel of fantasy pundits discuss Week 16 Super Subs, play a game of genius or insanity with championship start/sit scenarios, weigh-in on the career of Jameis Winston, and tell us who not to write-off so quickly in dynasty formats.
With this in mind, let's examine what we think about these topics as we head into Week 16:
Week 16 Super Subs
Matt Waldman: If desperate for a starter at one of the positions below in Week 16, give us your best argument in favor of two of the players below...
- RB Boston Scott
- RB Mike Boone
- RB DeAndre Washington
- WR Breshad Perriman
- QB Dwayne Haskins
- QB Gardner Minshew
- WR Steven Sims
- WR Greg Ward
- WR Chris Conley
- WR Keelan Cole
- TE Cameron Brate
- TE Ricky Seals-Jones
Dan Hindery: DeAndre Washington is a great play if Josh Jacobs is out, which seems probable. When Jacobs missed Week 14, Washington fully took over his role in the offense. In fact, Washington played 63 percent of the snaps that week, which was more than Jacobs played in all but three games.
In addition to seeing 14 carries and goal-line work, Washington was also targeted 7 times in the passing game. The Raiders are beat up at wide receiver and tight end, which should solidify Washington’s target share if he is in a starting role.
In addition to strong projected usage, the matchup is also favorable. According to Austin Lee’s normalized strength of schedule, the Chargers defense has been one of the 10 most friendly to opposing backs over the past five weeks, giving up 16 percent more fantasy points than average.
Drew Davenport: There are quite a few names I like on this list, but the ones I'm pointing to are Mike Boone and Breshad Perriman.
Boone's chances of producing are obviously tied to the availability of the two guys ahead of him on the depth chart. But assuming those two can't go, Boone is a plug and play RB2 this week in 12 team leagues.
If you have two good running backs to put in your lineup that's even better because then Boone makes a fantastic flex option if his only competition is Ameer Abdullah. The Vikings also happened to draw the Green Bay Packers this week who bring a defense that is 8th worst in PPR points given up to running backs this year. They've also surrendered 7 touchdowns the last 7 weeks to the position.
Boone managed two scores in Week 15 and clearly played ahead of Abdullah in goal-to-go situations. It does look like it's possible he'll cede some passing down work but either way, Boone is a solid RB2 or great flex play this week.
Perriman is another waiver wire gem that I think has a good chance to produce this week. His Week 15 matchup with the Lions was super soft, but his Week 16 opponent, Houston, is not exactly stout. They were torched last week by AJ Brown to the tune of 8 receptions, 114 yards, and a touchdown.
They've surrendered more than 15 PPR points to wide receivers 13 times already this year, including a couple of games with multiple receivers breaking that barrier. There is no reason to believe that Chris Godwin is going to play this week, and even if the miraculous happens Perriman is still a good start.
The one concern with him is that he does have bust potential due to his low target share. This could easily be a non-issue come Sunday with Godwin and Mike Evans sidelined, but Perriman did see just a 14 percent target share last week on 42 attempts for the Buccaneers.
Nevertheless, the Texans defense is a neutral or even plus matchup and Perriman is going to get the chance to play the lead role this week. I'm starting him with confidence as a WR2, or even better, in the flex spot in a 12 team league.
Mark Schofield: Perriman is a solid answer here, and this is a situation that I will be living myself in two of my leagues this week. With Godwin down for at least week, (and Mike Evans out for the season) Perriman steps into the Tampa Bay lineup and immediately becomes their go-to wide receiver. This played out last week against the Detroit Lions, as Perriman turned in his best performance of the season with over 100 yards receiving and three touchdowns.
He might not duplicate that output, as the Lions' defense is a much more porous unit than what he will face from the Houston Texans this week, but for those desperate at the WR spot, you could do a lot worse.
Washington is obviously a solid choice, with the news that Jon Gruden is shutting Josh Jacobs down for Week 16, but allow me to make a case for Washington WR Steven Sims. First off, Washington faces the New York Giants this week, a defense that is giving up 26.8 points per game to wide receivers this year in fantasy, fourth-most in the league.
But two things work in Sims' favor. First off is the improved play from rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins. The Ohio State product turned in his best game of the year last week, and on film is improving from processing speed and decision-making standpoint.
Additionally, Sims was impressive last week against the Eagles. He had a nice reception early in the game along the sideline on a wheel route where he displayed great body control and awareness. He capped off that drive with a touchdown—his first receiving TD in the NFL—that also showed great body control and the ability to win at the catch point. HIs 11 targets last week show increased usage in the passing game, so I think he could produce solid numbers for those looking for a sub.
Maurile Tremblay: Breshad Perriman and Greg Ward are my choices.
You don't have to be desperate to start Breshad Perriman. He's a fantasy WR1 this week in my view. The Buccaneers-Texans game is expected to be a shootout (the over/under is 53 points, with Tampa Bay favored by a point), and the Buccaneers have been putting up some huge passing numbers recently. Tampa Bay's aerial attack has focused on the wide receivers all season, with relatively few targets going to their running backs and tight ends.
And it seems that Perriman will be the top WR in Week 16. Mike Evans was placed on IR, and Chris Godwin is likely out as well. When Perriman was featured in Week 15, he was the league's top fantasy WR. I wouldn't count on three touchdowns again, but there is no realistic way to do projections without allocating significant targets to Perriman and with them significant fantasy production in the expected shootout.
Similar to Perriman, Greg Ward unexpectedly finds himself suddenly atop his team's depth chart at wide receiver. Alshon Jeffery is on IR, and Nelson Agholor appears unlikely to suit up this week. Greg Ward has been more effective than rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside.
The Eagles do use their tight ends and running backs as passing targets much more than the Buccaneers do, and their game against the Cowboys is not expected to be quite the high-scoring affair as the Bucs' game is (the Cowboys-Eagles game has an over-under of 47.5 points). But with Greg Ward, as apparently the clear number one wide receiver on the Eagles, he's a passable fantasy WR2 and a solid fantasy WR3 this week.
Jeff Pasquino: I'm a bit late to the table this week, but I think many of my fellow staffers picked out the names I would take at the top of the list—Washington and Perriman, for many of the obvious reasons of both likely to start and being in great matchups and situations to put up strong fantasy numbers. I still have concerns about Perriman's hands, as his drop issues were the top reason that he is no longer a Baltimore Raven.
Even this season his catch rate is below 50 percent, which could be cause for concern. Last week he found the end zone three times on just five catches and six targets, and I expect the targets to increase enough to compensate for even a 50 percent catch rate this week.
As for a few other names, Ward and Boston Scott look good from a volume perspective, as the Eagles are running out of wide receivers and running backs as well—but the Dallas defense is no pushover, so production may not be there for Scott and Ward may only have WR3/flex value at best. Lastly, banking on Boone for Minnesota is a big gamble, as Dalvin Cook could go in a big game against Green Bay, and with that game being on Monday Night Football, lineup swap options are going to be limited.
Chad Parsons: Perriman and Ward get my votes for lineup viability in Week 16. Both have solid floor and ceiling combinations on the strength of the quarterback and sheer opportunity as the 'last man standing' on their wide receiver depth charts. Perriman is a top-18 level option with Ward more in the WR3/4 conversation.
Genius or Insanity?
Waldman: There's a fine line between genius and insanity. Week 16 is usually not the time to straddle this border but I believe it's important to reserve time for discussion of a topic or two reserved for the extreme minority of our readers who may find themselves in such a position during the most important week of the fantasy season.
Here are a few...
- Rookie QB Will Grier earns his first NFL start when the Panthers face the Colts on the road. The Panthers brass told the media after the draft that it graded Grier among the top quarterbacks of this rookie class. Drew Lock had a strong rookie debut against the Chargers that was fantasy-worthy and followed up with an even better game against the Texans, who only looked at the Broncos game to prepare for Lock. NFL defensive coaches are known for being behind the curve on new starting quarterbacks, which is why many of them produce well early on and then struggle, including Baker Mayfield, Gardner Minshew, and Kyler Murray as well as going further back to Nick Foles and Scott Mitchell. The Colts defense allows the 11th-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Is it genius or insanity to roll with first-time rookie starter Will Grier if desperate for a quarterback?
- Kerryon Johnson came off injured reserve this week and has been practicing without setbacks. Bo Scarbrough is saying all the right things that a UDFA who got a shot to play would say to the media about working in a committee with Johnson. Detroit travels to Denver this weekend and the Broncos are among the eight-best teams at limiting fantasy points from the running back position this year. However, Denver's defense has given up the 9th-most rushing yards during the past five weeks, which includes last week's snow game where there were already environmental limitations with running the football. Is it genius or insanity to consider Kerryon Johnson as an RB3 in a lineup that allows such a flex position?
- Josh Allen is the fifth-ranked fantasy quarterback this year but he travels to New England for a crucial division tilt with the Patriots defense that is the third-best unit in the league at limiting fantasy scoring at the quarterback position. Although Allen has performed well overall, he's delivered sub-par passing yardage during the past three games, including totals of 231, 146, and 139 and a passing touchdown in each outing. In two of those outings, Allen has scored a rushing touchdown to mitigate the potential for awfulness. Do you bench Allen in what might be the most meaningful game of his career during the most meaningful game of your fantasy season?
Pick at least one of the scenarios below and explain why going along with it is genius or insanity?
Hindery: I am actually an example of someone facing one of these questions myself. I’m playing in the finals of a Superflex dynasty league with my QB2 choice coming down to either Drew Lock or Will Grier. I am rolling the dice with Grier because of how high I am on this offense in general.
Cam Newton was my favorite quarterback target this offseason and I would love to have seen what type of numbers he could have put up had he not suffered the foot injury during the preseason. One of the biggest reasons I was high on Newton is the offensive weapons Carolina now has.
D.J. Moore is one of the best young wide receivers in the league, Curtis Samuel is a dynamic playmaker, the tight ends are excellent, and Christian McCaffrey is the best pass-catching back in the league.
Due to the surrounding talent, Grier is stepping into a great situation. He can pick up easy yards on short passes to McCaffrey, where he does his damage after the catch. If Grier can throw accurately on deep balls, there are big plays downfield to be had as well.
Recently, it was noted that according to PFF numbers, Moore and Samuel were tied for the lowest catchable target rate on deep passes (21 percent). If Carolina can find a passer with at least average deep ball accuracy, this offense could really take off. Grier could be that guy. He is a gunslinger and won’t be afraid to take some chances trying to hit big plays.
Davenport: I have to come down on the side of insanity here with Grier. I can certainly see the side of the argument mentioned in the question— rookies often get a little grace period until there is some film to pick apart. And I definitely agree with Dan when he said "The Colts have been eliminated from playoff contention and the pass defense has been awful of late. In the last two weeks, the Colts have given up 763 passing yards, 8 passing touchdowns, and allowed an 83 completion percentage."
But I have to disagree with Dan's conclusion. I think I was one of the first to bail on the Kyle Allen experiment, and this makes me very nervous about Grier's prospects. They knew what they had in Allen a while ago, or at least, it seemed like they should know. The fact that it took this long to give Grier a look is surprising, maybe even shocking. To me, that speaks to the fact that they thought Allen was demonstrably better to this point in the season. It certainly doesn't preclude Grier from having a nice fantasy game, or a nice NFL career, but since the question is about this week I have to believe it's a little crazy to go with Grier right now. Even if you're desperate, it feels like there are better places to turn.
Waldman: I'll add some context for Drew and the rest of you reading this that you may not realize about the NFL. The idea that a rookie quarterback isn't ready to start despite getting drafted reasonably high and earned a high grade from his team pre-draft isn't the automatic sign that the rookie was a bad pick, lacks talent, or is a disappointment.
This is a media-drawn conclusion. Among the people with current or past NFL ties that I've spoken with about this subject is Russ Lande, a former scout for the Rams and Browns as well as the former personnel director for the Montreal Alouettes in the CFL. Russ is currently a final candidate for the Alouette's GM position.
During a conversation that we had on my Scout Talk Podcast about quarterback readiness, Russ told a story about his relationship with Eagles and Rams scouts and what they shared with him pre-draft and post-draft about Carson Wentz and Jared Goff that's indicative of most team's attitudes around the league.
After pre-draft workouts and interviews, the Eagles came away with the initial impression that Wentz would need a year to prepare for his stint as a starter and the Rams thought Goff had a chance to be ready immediately. The caveat here is that scouts and coaches have an understanding that until the player is picked and in the facility for at least a month and learning the playbook, they truly won't know what they have.
This may seem absurd to the fan, and journalists, who have been indoctrinated to believe that if an early-round quarterback isn't ready immediately, something is wrong. However, coaches and scouts separate talent and upside from acclimation time when it comes to quarterbacks.
As we saw with Goff and Wentz, the initial impression for each was the opposite of their actual readiness after a month or two in their respective facilities. So, before we take Kyle Allen's usage as an indicator of Grier's talent and potential, it's best to consider these points above and take a step back.
After all, Mark brought up Haskin's improved play and Washington's staff didn't feel Haskins was ready to compete for the starting job this summer.
Davenport: Point taken. As for Allen, yes, you bench Allen!
There are avenues to production against the Patriots defense this year, but they aren't very wide avenues and fantasy football is primarily about probabilities. Allen was a great fantasy asset during Weeks 5 to 13 when he had some good to great matchups on the slate.
But as soon as the schedule showed up with the Ravens, Steelers, and then Patriots for the fantasy playoffs it was time to bail on Allen. He's been awesome for the most part this year, but he managed just 153 yards passing and 3 interceptions the last time these two teams met and he was similarly limited against the Ravens tough pass defense.
Allen is the perfect fantasy play against average or weaker opponents, but it's not crazy to bench him this week and turn to a different streamer. Any quarterback streamer likely has Allen's floor beat, and the ceiling is certainly a better bet for someone not facing the Patriots.
Schofield: Two things can be true.
Josh Allen is a different quarterback than he was back in Week 4 when the New England Patriots harassed him all game long, forced multiple interceptions, and had Allen pressured often and missing reads.
Allen is also a bad play this week.
The strength of this Patriots' team right now is its defense. Stephon Gilmore is playing the cornerback position better than anyone and is almost a lock for Defensive Player of the Year. Bill Belichick has faced Allen twice now, and in those games, Allen has a completion percentage of just 47.8 percent, yards per attempt of just 5.4, and just one touchdown to go along with five interceptions.
Allen is improving as a quarterback, and if you look back at that Week 4 game his first interception was a prime example of a quarterback locking onto a target and leading defenders to the football with his eyes. Allen has not been doing as much of that recently, but Belichick has a way of bringing out the worst in you as an opponent.
Tremblay: Starting Will Grier in any format is insanity. Based on the spread and over/under, Carolina is expected to score only 20 points against the Colts. I expect the Panthers to limit Grier's exposure by relying heavily on the running game.
Grier has some fine targets to throw to, but I do not expect him to rack up fantasy points by throwing the ball downfield. If your league starts two quarterbacks, take a chance on him if you're desperate. If your league starts one quarterback, you can definitely find somebody on the waiver wire with better fantasy prospects than Grier's.
Pasquino: I'm going to side with the benching here, for starting Allen against a tough defense when he has struggled to throw touchdowns of late is just asking for trouble. The upside here is that New England has struggled with rushing quarterbacks (Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson), but asking for Allen to post a Top-12 fantasy score could be a bit of a stretch.
Parsons: I was a fan of Kerryon Johnson the prospect entering the NFL and he is clearly better than the rotation of backs they have cycled through since Johnson left the lineup earlier in the season. The biggest question to-date with Johnson on the field (beyond durability) is his receiving involvement and lack of impact.
With the Lions missing Marvin Jones and any tight end presence in the passing game, Johnson is a welcome addition back and a solid bet for 12-15 touches, if not more. Johnson is the type of boom-bust FLEX option I can support when swinging for the fences is mandated in the fantasy playoffs.
Jameis Winston's Future
Waldman: Jameis Winston is second among NFL quarterbacks with 30 touchdowns and leads the league with 4,573 passing yards--including a gaudy 8.25 yards per attempt and a 61.7 percent passing percentage.
At the same time, Winston has 24 interceptions more than twice as much as any player among the top five in fantasy production at the position. You can get the same total with the sum of interception totals from Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson, Josh Allen, and Patrick Mahomes II.
Where is his career heading and from purely a football standpoint--not a fantasy one--would you want him as your quarterback? Answer the same question from a fantasy standpoint.
Adam Harstad: There's a lot of research out there showing that the most stable statistics are things like yards per attempt and first down rate, even touchdown rate (which over a sufficiently large sample has one of the strongest correlations with player talent, at least at quarterback). Meanwhile, far and away the least stable stat is interception rate.
I'm not saying that Winston isn't an interception-throwing machine. Of course, he is. I'm saying that interception-throwing suffers far more swings from a week to week and season to season than anything else.
Someone who is not good at getting first downs isn't going to suddenly have a season where they're leading the league in first downs gained. But someone who is bad at avoiding interceptions very well might have a season where he posts one of the lowest interception rates in the league.
Don't believe me? In 2005, Jake Plummer had the lowest interception rate in the NFL (minimum 300 attempts). Jake Plummer! In fact, if you raise the minimum attempt threshold to 400, Plummer had the 8th-best interception rate of all time.
Three of the seven seasons ahead of him came from Steve Bartkowski, Aaron Brooks, and Jeff George. Some extremely reckless quarterbacks have "positive-varianced" their way into extremely low interception rates.
Obviously, the ideal is to find yourself a great quarterback who is great at everything. But barring that, it seems like the next best thing would be to find a quarterback who is great at the things that are stable and valuable (getting positive plays) and bad at the things that are much more unstable and random (throwing interceptions) and then just hope that things break your way for long enough to win a title.
Hindery: It is easier to trust Winston as a fantasy starter than it would be to entrust my NFL franchise to him. Winston has shown enough talent that some team (likely the Buccaneers) is going to view him as their 2020 starter. It is worth remembering that Winston is still just 25-years old and is only 15 months older than Baker Mayfield.
He is still a young quarterback and there are not 32 quarterbacks with more short or long-term upside than Winston. From a fantasy perspective, as long as he is a starting quarterback, he is going to put up fantasy numbers.
Most scoring systems don’t punish too severely for turnovers and Winston will continue to rack up big yardage and touchdown numbers. From a real NFL perspective, it is harder to talk yourself into Winston ever developing into a disciplined enough passer to win big.
He turned the ball over a ton in college and every season in the NFL. This isn’t a new issue for him and it doesn’t seem to be trending in a positive direction, either.
Parsons: I am a fan of the bold downfield passers in general. When a quarterback is 'captain check-down' and struggles any time they need to push the envelope, that is one of the bigger frustrations watching the DNA of a quarterback. At some point, as Greg Cosell commonly mentions, an NFL quarterback needs to drop back in the pocket and deliver with timing, anticipation, and rhythm.
Aggressiveness wins games. Aggressiveness goes to the playoffs. Aggressiveness is eventually required to win a Super Bowl. It would be tough for Tampa Bay to let Jameis Winston walk. At a minimum, I see Winston brought back on a short-term deal. On the fantasy side, Winston is gold as even the games he digs a hole through turnovers, he creates a negative game script where he puts up big numbers in comeback mode, whether successful to secure the win or not.
Davenport: Unfortunately I don't see Winston's NFL career going anywhere near where we thought it might go a few years ago. I don't think he's a terrible quarterback, but there are too often lapses in judgment that seems like mistakes he shouldn't be making at this point.
I was giving him a pass until the second half of the season because he's learning a new offense, but I don't see a top-shelf quarterback emerging. Head Coach Bruce Arians said that he likes to give his quarterbacks eight games to learn where the ball should go in his offense yet from Weeks 9 through 15 Winston has thrown 12 of his 24 interceptions and seems to be making the same mistakes he was making early on. He simply can't be a franchise quarterback until he scales back on the turnovers.
On the other hand, I absolutely love Winston as a fantasy quarterback with Arians around. As promised, the Buccaneers pushed the ball down the field this year and have been aggressive with their play-calling by letting him throw over 40 times in 8 games already this year. This is partially a product of their poor defense, but it's also no coincidence that Carson Palmer was such a fantasy asset for a few years under Arians. Winston is a fine fantasy quarterback as long as the landscape remains mostly unchanged heading into 2020 and his weapons come back intact from their late-season injuries.
Schofield: Last week, Winston got me into two championship games. He is welcome as my fantasy quarterback anytime.
I would be terrified if he were the quarterback of my football team.
The more I study and think about the quarterback position, the more I believe that quarterbacks are who they are. We speak so often about "development" and "traits" and "coaching staff" and "scheme fit," but in reality, these players are nearly finished products by the time they leave college, and other than smoothing out some rough edges, what we see in college is what we get.
Winston was a risk-seeking interception machine in college. There was no window he was afraid to challenge, no throw he thought he could not make, and no triple coverage situation that he would shy away from. Think back to his days at Florida State and the moments he would force throws to Nick O'Leary in triple coverage. He does the same things now in the NFL. Years of experience have not changed that.
He can put up big fantasy days that make him a viable QB1 for your league. But if you are counting on him to deliver a division title, well, that is a different question...
Tremblay: Jameis Winston is, at turns, one of the most impressive quarterbacks in the league and one of the least impressive. He can fit the ball into tight windows downfield, and he can miss an obvious read and gift an interception to an opposing linebacker.
The case for optimism is that he obviously has the arm strength, accuracy, timing, and guts to perform at a very high level in the NFL. All he has to do is cut down on the mistakes, which should happen with more experience.
The case for pessimism is that he already has a decent amount of experience at this point, and if he hasn't cut down on the mistakes by now, maybe he never will.
It is difficult to separate Winston's prospects as an NFL passer from his prospects as a fantasy player because they really go hand-in-hand. Whenever Winston is on the field, his big-play ability makes him a solid (sometimes exceptional) fantasy option. But in order to stay on the field, he has to protect the ball better and show sounder judgment.
I believe that Winston has shown enough potential so far that the Buccaneers should commit another year to him as their starter. Bruce Arians says that his offense takes a while to get the hang of, and Winston's late-season production signals that he may be getting there. Assuming he enters the 2020 season as the Bucs' starter once again, I will be happy to draft him as a solid fantasy QB1. His upside potential is exceptional.
But his leash is limited. If he doesn't cut down on the mindless mistakes next year, he could find himself as firmly planted on the bench as Marcus Mariota.
Pasquino: If I can stomach the interceptions, sure, I can use him as my NFL quarterback, and that's the core question. I disagree with Adam's statement that interceptions are one of the more volatile numbers for quarterbacks. While I do agree that some picks are the result of misfortune unrelated to the passer himself, such as a tipped pass or a receiver running the wrong route or falling down, but overall a high interception rate that has repeated year after year is a pattern that cannot be ignored.
Winston has double-digit interceptions in all five of his seasons as a pro, which is very statistically relevant. Is he forcing the ball in spots? Does he take too many chances? Or are some of the throws virtual punts that can be forgiven? Whatever it is, the totals are too high in a league where turnovers decide games.
Now as for fantasy value, interceptions are some of the easiest numbers to overcome. Most leagues give -2 max for an interception, with some giving just -1 for an errant pass. That's easily overcome with 20-50 passing yards, and one could argue an interception may even result in a high correlation to more passing yards for the game as the same quarterback will be throwing more late in a contest with 1-3 interceptions.
So, yes, I am fine with taking a quarterback that can throw 400+ yards and 3+ touchdowns in a game even if I must suffer through 2-4 picks on that same stat line for Winston.
Don't Write-off: Dynasty Edition
Matt Waldman: Who is a young player that the dynasty community has written off too early?
Harstad: Emphatically, O.J. Howard.
Coming into 2019, Howard was the clear consensus #4 tight end and everyone agreed that he was primed to make the leap and turn the "Big 3" (Kelce, Kittle, Ertz) into a "Big 4".
There were a lot of very, very good reasons for this belief. Howard was a high draft pick (#19 in the 2017 draft) who had been extremely productive through his first two years (once you adjusted for the fact that tight end has a brutal learning curve and young players are rarely productive).
Advanced stats loved him, too. For my money, receiving yards per route run (YPRR) is the only true efficiency stat for receivers. In 2017, the top six tight ends in YPRR were Ricky Seals-Jones (small sample), Rob Gronkowski, Hunter Henry, Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, and O.J. Howard.
In 2018, they were George Kittle, Travis Kelce, O.J. Howard, Mark Andrews, Zach Ertz, and Vernon Davis. You'll note that these lists have a high degree of face validity-- Seals-Jones aside, they certainly look like a good list of the best receiving tight ends in the league. And Howard was on there twice in his first two years at a position where players historically struggle their first two years.
And the scouting typically matched the stats. Pro Football Focus charted every snap by every tight end in 2018 and Howard graded out as the 2nd-best tight end overall (behind Kittle), or 3rd-best purely as a receiver (Kittle and Kelce).
Howard looked primed to take off like a rocket ship in 2019. Instead, Howard struggled to pick up a new scheme and played inconsistently. Pro Football Focus grades him 84th out of 115 tight ends this season, (though he rises to 55th purely as a receiver).
Howard has also fallen to 24th (out of 41 qualifying tight ends) in YPRR and 29th in PPR fantasy points. It's been an awful, no-good, very-bad year now matter how you slice it, and I'm not interested in arguing otherwise.
But the drop in Howard's dynasty value is not commensurate. No Footballguys staffer has him higher than 14th in their most recent dynasty rankings. In various rankings he finds himself falling behind Eric Ebron, Jared Cook, Jonnu Smith, Mike Gesicki, Dawson Knox, Will Dissly, or Kyle Rudolph.
Again, a fall is totally appropriate, both because we should be less confident in how good Howard is and because in the meantime we've seen several other tight ends break out (Hooper, Waller, Andrews, etc). I'm just arguing that the drop was substantially steeper than it should have been.
This drop stems from the unconscious assumption that fantasy careers are orderly curves. Players improve in consecutive seasons until peaking and then decline in consecutive seasons until they're out of the league. It makes no allowances for breakthroughs, or unique struggles, or scheme fit, or learning curves.
We saw this bias towards thinking of careers as orderly curves when Randy Moss was in Oakland. We saw it with Larry Fitzgerald when his quarterbacks were John Skelton, Ryan Lindley, Max Hall, and associates. We saw it with Greg Olsen when the Bears hired Mike Martz (who, like Arians, famously didn't use a tight end). We saw it with Todd Gurley when he had a sophomore slump following a standout rookie campaign.
John Brown, Tyler Lockett, Davante Adams... I could list names like this all day because the simple fact is that NFL careers are very rarely curve-shaped. They're messy, they're unpredictable. Production ebbs and flows with scheme and supporting cast, which are always in flux.
But the positive indicators Howard showed that had us so excited about his prospects heading into 2019 haven't vanished. He's still the guy who did all those things I praised him for at the top of the post.
And as the ebb and flow of scheme and supporting cast inevitably land him in a more favorable circumstance, there's a good chance he shows it. He's being valued as if his breakout was canceled when in fact it might have just been delayed.
I don't know what the mechanism might be that puts him in more favorable circumstances. Maybe he gets traded, maybe he leaves in free agency, maybe Bruce Arians gets fired or retires again. Maybe things suddenly click and Howard finds his fit in Arians' system. I don't know.
All I know is that dynasty is a long game and you'll rarely go broke betting on talent at bargain-basement prices.
Hindery: Parris Campbell has fallen out of the top-50 of the wide receiver dynasty rankings if you put together a consensus list across the industry and is ranked as the WR56 in the consensus position rankings here at Footballguys. While a surprisingly large number of rookie wide receivers have made an instant impact, Campbell is going to end up with a disappointing 2019 stat line of 18 catches for 127 yards and 1 touchdown.
It is understandable that his stock has taken a hit. However, Campbell fits the profile of the type of wide receiver we have seen break out a bit later. He has elite measurables, fairly high draft pedigree (mid-second round), and has some valid excuses for his lack of rookie production.
We can’t make too many judgments about his rookie season because of injuries. He missed much of training camp with an injury, which slowed his development and limited him to a part-time role early. Twice during the season, it looked like he was poised to take over as a starter when injuries struck again.
If he can get healthy, Campbell has the physical traits and mental makeup to emerge as the top target in the Colts offense. Campbell is a player who I hope to be able to buy low on this offseason.
Davenport: Perhaps "written-off" isn't exactly the right description for this player, but JuJu Smith-Schuster is a name that comes to mind immediately.
Waldman: Absolutely not the right phrase for him but I am interested to hear the angle you're taking here, Drew.
Davenport: I have the same tendency as others in the fantasy community to overreact to the short term and forget who we are dealing with but the fact that Smith-Schuster has fallen as far as he has in most dynasty rankings is a little bit nuts. Ben Roethlisberger is saying that he wants to play a couple more years, and even if he doesn't, Smith-Schuster is so young, and so talented, that all it will take for him to succeed is to get some moderately adequate quarterback play. Don't write him off as a top-10 young wide receiver.
Waldman: Good angle, Drew, it highlights that many dynasty players have too much of a re-draft mentality.
Schofield: A player in this category might be Sony Michel. The Patriots' running back room is always difficult to figure out, but that could change in a season. The future of Tom Brady in New England is a massive question mark, especially with the news that he is stepping down as the co-chair of the Boston Best Buddies chapter. Yet one more sign that Brady's time in New England might be coming to an end.
In a post-Brady world, the running game becomes a much bigger focus of the offense, and looking at the current stable of backs Michel is the player best-suited to handle the share of the load. James White is better suited for a passing offense and Rex Burkhead has value as a change-of-pace back, but Michel can handle the load as a ball-carrier. While he is best suited for a gap/power scheme, his vision is sufficient to operate in a zone-blocking scheme provided there is cohesive blocking in front of him. Given the uncertainty over Brady's future, Michel is still worth keeping an eye on in dynasty leagues.
Tremblay: Rashaad Penny. He's an explosive running back with big-play ability who's been stuck behind Chris Carson on the Seahawks' depth chart. His situation has been poor, but his talent is still promising, and in dynasty, talent is more important in the long run.
Penny has shown promise both as a runner and as a receiver. Chris Carson has one year left on his contract after this season. If and when Penny takes over as the Seahawks' starting running back, I'd expect him to be in the mix as a top-ten fantasy RB. In terms of current dynasty value,
Pasquino: Having retired from playing Dynasty a few years back, this is a slightly harder one to answer, but overall I think that some players are thrown in the "lost cause" bucket after a bad first or second season with little production. You could even argue a player mentioned here today, Perriman, belongs in this category, but again I have concerns about his reception percentages.
Rookies that struggle in their first season can blossom in their second. Look no further than Michael Gallup in Dallas this year.
So what rookie wide receiver may fit this category for 2020? N'keal Harry is my pick, as he has not been on the field nearly enough for a real evaluation, but the revolving door at wideout for the Patriots this year aside from Julian Edelman likely lowers the perceived value for Harry. A strong playoff for Harry could change this, but for now, I put Harry in the "too early to write off" category.
Parsons: To name a subset, the underperforming or 'out-of-sight, out-of-mind' rookies who had buzz post-NFL Draft but have not done much in Year One. Andy Isabella is a big one for me. Isabella is hyper-athletic and was productive in college in the Brandin Cooks-type mold with Day-Two pedigree.
Drew Sample is another Day-Two pick with essentially a redshirt rookie season. The lead job is his for the taking in 2020 in Cincinnati. Damien Harris and Darrell Henderson are a pair of Day-Two backs who sparsely saw the field but are the same prospects who were going in the 10-18 range of rookie drafts in May. I would bet they are available for late second or third-round picks when we get to 2020 rookie draft.