Welcome to Week 7 of the 2020 Footballguys' Roundtable. Our intrepid and oddball panel of fantasy pundits discuss and debate the fallout from Andy Dalton's first start in Dallas, Michael Thomas's return to New Orleans, prominent receivers they're buying or selling, and a game of "Believe or Deceive" with the Tampa Bay offense.
- Andy Dalton's First Start in Dallas
- Michael Thomas's Return to New Orleans
- Buy-Sell: Receiver Edition
- Believe or Deceive: Tampa Bay Offense
Andy Dalton's First Start in Dallas
- Target distribution
- Run/Pass balance
- Dalton's projected fantasy ranking based on 1-QB and Super-Flex Formats
- Who will be Dalton's favorite receiver?
- Is there a Cowboys receiver (or receivers) you'd be hoping to trade away or acquire?
- Do the issues with the Cowboys offensive line hurt Dalton more than Prescott despite the fact that Dalton has experience audibling an offense into better plays or address threatening defensive looks?
I'm continuing the line of Dalton/Dallas questions because fantasy football is often a reactionary business and having good intel can help our readers navigate this landscape and earn maximum value.
Jeff Pasquino: The Dallas offense is struggling to re-define itself with not only Dak out but also numerous linemen injured. As such, the long ball is a tough one to throw, so the shorter routes are going to be favored by Andy Dalton. Dalton is very familiar with pressure and quick throws, but the top targets are going to be Dalton Schultz, Zeke Elliott, and whichever wideouts are running the shorter routes. I tend to favor both CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper as Michael Gallup seems to run routes that take longer to develop. I'd say that Schultz and Elliott will be Dalton's favorite receivers, followed by a close call between Lamb and Cooper.
I would be looking to trade away Gallup as quickly as possible as I just do not see him being as effective with Dalton and a beat-up offensive line.
Jason Wood: I'm reluctant to extrapolate one game into definitive conclusions, but in an NFL season, we rarely get the luxury of waiting for statistically significant sample sizes. In looking at the target distribution, it wasn't all that different than what we saw from Dak Prescott. Cooper and Lamb had 10 targets, Gallup had 6, and Schultz had 5. The only difference was Ezekiel Elliott getting a team-high 11 targets.
Unfortunately, they were low-value targets that led to just 31 yards. If we're to assume rational coaching, Elliott's 11 targets will be a season-high. I suspect Dalton's favorite target will be Amari Cooper—simply because I still think he's the team's best overall receiver. But I wouldn't argue against anyone choosing CeeDee Lamb, either.
In terms of the receivers' value going forward, I would be a seller presuming you don't give up significant value. When Dalton was able to stay upright in Cincinnati, he was more than capable of sustaining A.J. Green's fantasy value. So I suspect both Cooper and Lamb will have strong weeks. But whatever value they (and Michael Gallup) had with Prescott is now a thing of the past.
If you can trade them now for 90 percent of the prior value, do it. If you can get 80 percent, and it helps the overall mix of your team, do it. If you're getting vulture offers for 60 cents on the dollar, hold on and realize you now have more volatile WR2s than consistent WR1s.
And yes, of course, the offensive line issues are more problematic for Dalton. Dalton doesn't have the mobility to make pinpoint throws off-script. Prescott was arguably the league's best at it.
Andy Hicks: After last week's even split, we have a clearer picture after the first full game of Andy Dalton. Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, and CeeDee Lamb are likely to be the preferred targets. After the lackluster effort by the Cowboys against the Cardinals there is every chance that Dallas changes the game script in future games, but it is hard to see downfield passing given the line issues.
There was almost certainly no room for three lead wide receivers in Dallas and with Cedrick Wilson, Dalton Schultz, and others eating into the pie, it is time to let Michael Gallup go. I have no doubt he will have his moments though, but good luck figuring out when.
When one of a team's major strengths becomes a weakness then it is hard to overcome. Prescott was always more mobile than Dalton so had an advantage under these circumstances. Now while Dalton is more experienced than Prescott, Dak is hardly a rookie, and judging by the first game Dalton has to work on his audibling among several other issues.
As fantasy football is reactionary, there will be natural worry about the first game with Dalton under center, but patience should pay off if the team has belief in their coaches and Dalton. If not, this could get ugly. With the division being a basket case of horribleness it won’t take much for Dallas to build some momentum and fall backside first into the playoffs.
Jordan McNamara: It is tough to draw big inferences out of the Dallas offense on a single game. Dalton's game script got out of sorts early because of turnovers that were not his fault, and the game got away from Dallas.
I think this creates a buying opportunity, especially in Super-flex dynasty leagues. His cost heading into the week was centered around a first-round rookie pick. I think you can get a discount on him after his first game as I like his chances to play well down the stretch and potentially earn a starting job in 2021.
As for wide receivers, Amari Cooper has been the most targeted wide receiver in the offense and I expect things to stay that way. Michael Gallup leads the team in snaps most weeks but is a clear step behind CeeDee Lamb in the pecking order. I expect that order to stay the same, particularly because Cooper and Lamb are being used at very similar depths of the field.
Drew Davenport: The Cowboys offense was not what we wanted to see in their first game under Andy Dalton. The offensive line's injuries are taking their toll as Dalton was often under pressure. It seemed as though he couldn't even hit his back foot before the pressure was getting to him.
I think this is going to force Dallas to go more run-heavy and that we'll see a small shift towards more of the running game. The pressure also is a good indicator that they'll have to move to more short throws to get the ball out quicker and find some success moving the ball.
This favors Ezekiel Elliott and Dalton Schultz, and to a lesser extent Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb. In Week 6, Elliott had a whopping 11 targets, and Dalton had just 6.1 Intended Air Yards according to the NFL's NextGen Stats. I would expect that to be a hallmark of the offense going forward.
I think when it comes to the fantasy prospects of the pass-catchers on the offense there isn't much of a window either way on their receivers. Cooper and Lamb settle in as more volatile WR2s at this point, and Gallup becomes virtually useless in regular size leagues.
Had he snared his end-zone target on Monday night, it would be a great time to try and sell him for whatever you can get for him. But, with Dalton at the helm, the ceiling of the offense has just been capped and it is unlikely you can return good value trading any of these guys away. Holding Cooper and Lamb, and either cutting or benching Gallup is the only move right now.
Dalton should get better the longer he's in the offense and gets to play, but for now, I'm not wanting to get too involved in the future of the Cowboys receiving corps for the rest of the season until I see some signs of improvement. Dalton can certainly handle pressure as an NFL quarterback, but short term, I think the offensive line issues limit him more than they would Prescott simply because Dalton has fewer reps in the offense and fewer reps with the guys catching his passes.
He looked overwhelmed on Monday. Again, that will improve, but it will limit the ceiling of all fantasy players in the offense for the foreseeable future.
Maurile Tremblay: Amari Cooper is most likely to lead the team in targets going forward, but CeeDee Lamb is right on his tail. Lamb has actually been more efficient with his targets so far, and his share of the looks has been on the upswing in recent weeks. Ezekiel Elliott is probably next, with Michael Gallup and Dalton Schultz bringing up the rear among regular contributors.
I'd be trying to trade for CeeDee Lamb in both redraft leagues and dynasty leagues if for some reason his owner hasn't significantly adjusted his estimation of Lamb's value upward since the start of the season. Realistically, anyone who drafted Lamb was high on him, to begin with, and should be higher on him now, so it'd be hard to pry Lamb from him for a reasonable price. But it's worth exploring.
I'd be looking to trade away Michael Gallup if anyone still marks him at roughly the same value he had coming into the season. Gallup is still a young, talented receiver who could generate interest in a deal — but I see him as taking a clear back seat to Cooper and Lamb for as long as those three remain Cowboys.
Dalton's time in Cincinnati afforded him plenty of experience playing behind poor offensive lines. But the lack of a solid pocket does hurt Dalton more than it hurts Prescott. Prescott is more athletic than Dalton and has a stronger arm.
That means he can move around in the pocket better, throw on the move more accurately, and get the ball to its destination from a compromised pocket without being able to fully step into his throw. Dalton can't do any of that nearly as well. With a battered offensive line, Dalton will take more sacks and will also miss throws that Prescott would have to make.
Chad Parsons: It was a one-off game/performance for Dallas and Dalton in Week 6. I am not changing my expectations for the offense and Dalton going forward, which is a potential top-12 fantasy quarterback (strong weapons, volume-infused), and Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb largely unaffected with the quarterback change for their fantasy outlook.
Cooper has been and will be my WR1 in Dallas. While Michael Gallup is on a strong historical trajectory, he is the one left out - for now - as a weekly fantasy starter. The offensive line is definitely concerning and takes Ezekiel Elliott from potentially the overall RB1 for the rest of the season to more of a mid-RB1.
Waldman: The pass rush is a far more significant concern for Dalton than Prescott, which many of you have astutely noted. Getting Elliott going early could help matters and it will be one of the best chances for Gallup and Cooper to deliver fantasy upside as vertical threats through the play-action game.
This team will try to be balanced on offense but other than Washington and Cincinnati, Dallas will have to throw the ball against tougher defenses like Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and San Francisco and keep up with the Steelers, Cardinals, Vikings, and Ravens offenses.
Lamb is on the bottom cusp of fantasy WR1 value after five weeks and No.7 since Week 3. Low-end expectations for Lamb would be top-20 production the rest of the way. Mid-range expectations would be no worse than the top-15. High expectations, would be a top-10 value at the position.
I think Cooper and Gallup will be more volatile on a weekly basis, but Cooper's volatility will have much higher low-points than Gallup and it makes him worth keeping.
Michael Thomas's Return to New Orleans
Waldman: One of the best fantasy receivers of the past three years returns to the field this weekend and Jene Bramel forecasts Thomas returning to full strength. With this in mind, how does this change the fantasy makeup of the Saints' offense?.
- Does Thomas have an instant fantasy WR1 status?
- Whose fantasy value in the receiving rotation does this help and hurt?
- Drew Brees was QB15 prior to the Saints' Week 6 bye. Is he a buy-low option or do you expect more of the same with his fantasy production?
Whatever hopes we had for the Saints offense to be plug-and-play, we now know that's not the case. At least with the 40-year old incarnation of Drew Brees. Thomas's return will increase the size of the offensive pie (more offensive plays, more snaps, more scoring opportunities) so it's not a zero-sum game, but it sets Emmanuel Sanders back to fringe flex/WR4 fodder and makes Tre'Quan Smith a waiver drop in shallow leagues.
Brees is absolutely a buy if he's being priced as a middling QB2. Last year Brees was QB8 on a per-game basis. In 2018, he was QB8 on a per-game basis. Seeing a trend?
Pasquino: The New Orleans' passing game changed dramatically when Thomas was sidelined. Emmanuel Sanders and Tre'Quan Smith each had solid weeks but no receiver stepped up as the definitive go-to target.
I had originally thought that Jared Cook and Sanders would be the leaders in receptions and targets after Thomas was out, but Cook missed a game and Sanders took a while to develop a rapport with Drew Brees. Once Sanders finally found the end zone in Week 3, his targets started to increase—a reflection of Brees' confidence in him—from five in Week 3, then nine, and finally a season-high of 14 targets in Week 5.
With Thomas' return, I expect this offense to be more of what I expected the passing game to be when this team was first put together—a dominant Thomas at WR1, Sanders excelling as the WR2, and Cook and Kamara complementing a strong 1-2 receiver punch. With four strong options in the passing game (and Smith as WR3), this offense will be hard to defend going forwards.
New Orleans should be expected to post 300+ yards passing most weeks and 2-3 touchdowns, leading to good production for the top four targets each contest. That should boost Brees' fantasy value back into the QB1 pool, and that makes him a great "buy" or "trade for" target right now.
Hicks: Unless Thomas will play injured he should be what we thought he was. Given the extra recuperation time, that is unlikely. I wouldn’t overthink this too much. Thomas is too good not to be a fantasy WR1, if not this week very soon once his timing is back.
Drew Brees is the most accurate passer in the NFL for many reasons. He makes good decisions, is smart, and doesn’t throw the ball far from the line of scrimmage limiting the risk of an incompletion. The ball goes into the hands of the playmakers and what happens is up to them. He has limited upside and every week will be a battle of wits as the defense knows what they have to stop.
He doesn’t scare opposing secondaries anymore and that limits his fantasy production. It boggles the mind to what Jameis Winston could do, both good and bad in this offense.
Davenport: Yes! Thomas has an instant WR1 status. I'm seeing some surprising questions on Twitter recently about Thomas' value when he returns. The recency bias is rearing it's ugly head here.
The last time we saw him on the field he was having a poor game, and then got hurt. In the interim, he's had a fight in practice and a long recovery. There is also a lot that has been made of Drew Brees and his unwillingness to throw down the field.
But that hasn't suddenly popped up this year. He is 27th in the league in Intended Air Yards, a category he finished 29th in last year while Thomas was piling up monster catch totals. The fuss being made over Drew Brees and the offense is overblown. Thomas is going to be Thomas, starting in his first game back.
The biggest hit to value in the receiving rotation is Tre'Quan Smith, but it will also hit Emmanuel Sanders. Sanders should be relevant still, but when Thomas is on the field in recent history Smith is virtually useless. I also think that the Saints weren't really trusting anyone too much with Thomas out - except for Alvin Kamara. I have no data to back this up, but my hunch is that with a more reliable receiver to move the ball back in the lineup, the Kamara usage will ease up and he'll come back to the pack a little bit.
I'm still not that interested in buying Drew Brees. As QB15 this is about right for what this offense and team are right now. I do think he'll get a little bump, but not enough for him to pop up as a target to go after aggressively. He'll have his big games still, but the high-teens scores he's been putting up are pretty fair for this version of the Saints and Brees.
Tremblay: Of course. He's instantly a top-five fantasy wide receiver when he gets back on the field, and arguably No.1. Strictly as a receiver, I think Alvin Kamara suffers by giving up some volume. His total fantasy value will still be fine, though. The reduction in receiving volume will be offset by more sustained drives and more red zone opportunities.
Beyond that, I think Tre'Quan Smith suffers the most as he is removed from flex consideration. With players like Emmanuel Sanders and Jared Cook, I think it's mostly a wash -- getting Thomas back will reduce the number of their targets but improve the quality.
Parsons: Yes, Thomas returns to WR1 status. Tre'Quan Smith turns back into a pumpkin after two quality games in the past month and Emmanuel Sanders shifts down to a flex option instead of WR2/3 play over the past few weeks. Jared Cook has seen minimal volume this season and largely been a disappointment. Cook could devolve to being a fantasy cut in the coming weeks with Thomas back. I am bullish on Drew Brees being a top-10 fantasy quarterback the rest of 2020.
Waldman: I'm buying Brees because after reading Andy's take on Brees in August and early September, I studied Brees' first three games and came to a different conclusion. Brees isn't throwing deep as often because opposing defenses have made it a priority to take it away from the veteran quarterback.
While it's convenient to think that Brees' decline in production is age-related arm decline, there is no visual film evidence that correlates to this idea. It's possible that Brees has lost some arm strength and we'll see definitive evidence of this at some point but the "floaters" that he's delivered this year are no different than the type of "floaters" he delivered in San Diego more than a decade ago.
The tape shows that Brees and the Saints have faced defenses that have often dropped its secondary 15-20 yards downfield, begging Brees to check the ball to Kamara and he's obliged. Why would these defenses be so worried about protecting the vertical zones if they thought Brees lacked the arm.
After all, Jared Cook had an insane 16.4 yards per catch as a tight end in 2019—his highest average in a 12-year career—and he's at 15.1 per catch after 4 games. Cook is the Saints' best deep threat. Even so, the Saints have burned defenses for years with one-dimensional receivers and it became clear to opponents that "weak-armed" Brees is deadly accurate as a vertical passer.
Brees is just fine; his receivers were adjusting.
Thomas is absolutely an immediate WR1 in fantasy. I would bump Cook, who will benefit from the attention that teams must pay to Thomas. Considering that Sanders and Brees needed on-field time to gel, I don't think there's a great contextual argument against Sanders delivering in the future with Thomas on the field simply because he didn't do so during the week that Thomas was healthy.
If anything, I believe Sanders is a buy-low who will benefit in the intermediate and deep game due to Thomas' presence. Smith is a now bye-week match-up play, at best.
Essentially, if you believe Brees' value will rise, Thomas's production alone won't be the reason. It will be Thomas's production plus the players who benefit from defenses forced to adjust and I'm banking on Sanders and Cook as those beneficiaries.
Buy-Sell: Receiver Edition
Waldman: Pick one receiver you're buying and one you're selling for a PPR format that starts 3-4 options.
Hicks: Out of this list, I would be buying D.J. Moore and selling JuJu Smith-Schuster. Moore is top 10 in the league for receiving yards, but with only one touchdown, he falls to a borderline WR2 to date. Now while Robby Anderson leads him in targets, receptions, and yards, Moore is the better receiver and I expect the numbers to even out and lean in Moore’s favor as the season continues.
I have already written heavily about JuJu Smith-Schuster and my preseason fears for him have come to life. His contract situation, disappearance following Antonio Brown leaving, and suitability for a secondary role were evident to me. Now, as the guy most invested in Chase Claypool preseason, even I’m surprised at his development and progress to date.
If we discount Smith-Schuster's first game of the season, which is just an arbitrary move, he ranks outside the top 60 receivers. Even if we include it he still doesn’t rank as a WR3. There is no doubt he is a quality receiver and will make a nice free-agent addition next year for another side with an established WR1. If he sees the big picture, maybe he accepts his role in Pittsburgh, but he becomes almost impossible to start for 2020.
McNamara: I'd buy D.J. Moore. If you removed touchdowns from wide receiver scoring he'd be a top-12 wide receiver to date. With only one touchdown, Moore is a positive regression candidate.
Some may say he will never be a big touchdown scorer, but he is up in yards per target, yards per receptions, and despite Robby Anderson's ascension, Moore is on pace for 128 targets, down only 7 from last year (15 games). Take the bargain on Moore if the fantasy GM who is rostering him is running scared.
Travis Fulgham screams sell high. He saw a grand total of three targets last year as a sixth-round pick out of Old Dominion before being cut by the Lions. He has become a target by an extreme necessity for the Eagles. With Dallas Goedert and Jalen Reagor projected to return in the near future, Fulgham is unlikely to continue at this pace.
Pasquino: I'm buying JuJu Smith-Schuster because right now, all the attention is on Chase Claypool. He's been the hot pickup for a few weeks now (next to Fulgham), and defenses are looking to scheme ways to shut down the rookie phenom for the Steelers.
Smith-Schuster has had a few subpar performances, but now that defenses are going to have to defend and respect Claypool more, he should see more one-on-one coverage and be able to get open for bigger plays for Ben Roethlisberger. Those two have been teammates for four years, and it feels like it is just a matter of time until JuJu gets his mojo back and starts posting big numbers once again as the WR1 for Pittsburgh.
I'm selling Travis Fulgham. This is purely an "availability" fade. DeSean Jackson is slated to make his return in Week 7, Alshon Jeffery is a distinct possibility in Week 8 or 9, and Dallas Goedert and Jalen Reagor are returning soon as well.
Miles Sanders looks likely to miss Week 7, but he will either return Week 8 or in Week 10 after their bye. This is all to say that there will be a steady stream of Eagles offensive pieces coming back in the next four weeks (followed by Zach Ertz down the road as well). Fulgham seems destined to head back to a minor role very soon.
Wood: Sadly, I'm selling JuJu Smith-Schuster. I can't give you a convincing analytical argument for why Smith-Schuster isn't producing, but I also can't tell you there's a reason it'll reverse course. Chase Claypool has emerged far faster than most expected, and with the Steelers offense humming along, I don't know where that leaves Smith-Schuster other than a boom-bust secondary option along with Diontae Johnson and James Washington.
I'm buying Travis Fulgham. He's passed the test for three weeks running, and the Eagles are so decimated by injuries they don't have the luxury to bench their most productive receiver for older veterans. Theoretically, Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson are both on the cusp of returning, but what have either of them done in the last few seasons to make us think they will stay healthy and outplay what Fulgham has done since getting snaps?
Tremblay: I'm buying Travis Fulgham and selling Tim Patrick. Both have benefited from increased playing time due to others' injuries. The Eagles' corps of wide receiving has been a disaster area this season, with Alshon Jeffrey, DeSean Jackson, and Jalen Reagor all missing significant time with injury. The Broncos have also suffered because Courtland Sutton is out for the season and K.J. Hamler is struggling through a hamstring injury. Both Fulgham and Patrick have stepped in and made the most of their opportunities.
I prefer Fulgham to Patrick because of how I see things unfolding when their respective position groups are at full strength. Fulgham is displacing older receivers whom the Eagles should be ready to move on from. When Alshon Jeffrey returns and DeSean Jackson is at full strength, they should not be allowed to interfere with the Eagles' youth movement at the position.
The Eagles should give every chance to Travis Fulgham and (when healthy) Jalen Reagor to establish themselves as the future in Philadelphia. Jackson is nearing the end of his career, and Jeffrey has worn out the team's patience. Fulgham seems to be part of the future, and that makes him a better choice for the present as well.
In Denver, the situation is different. Tim Patrick has been playing alongside Jerry Jeudy in recent weeks, but when everybody is back to full strength, it will be Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, and K.J. Hamler leading the way. Sutton won't be back until next year, but Hamler could return as soon as this week, and it's worth noting that in the two games he's played in this season, he got more targets than Patrick in both. Unlike Fulgham in Philadelphia, I see Tim Patrick as a short-term fill-in for the Broncos. And his time as a starter could end as soon as Hamler is at full strength.
Parsons: I am buying D.J. Moore, who is WR34 in PPR PPG on the season with just a single touchdown, and Robby Anderson healthy and playing extremely well. On the flip side, I am selling Travis Fulgham maintaining his standing on the Eagles offense. Fulgham has been a revelation, but the Eagles are decimated by injuries. However, DeSean Jackson is on track to return this week and Dallas Goedert, Alshon Jeffery, and Jalen Reagor are not far behind. Farther down the line, Zach Ertz will be back as well. Fulgham will be a relic later in the season if even half of the projected returnees maintain their track and health.
Waldman: I'm buying Fulgham because the Eagles' coaching staff told last week's broadcast crew that Fulgham would remain the starter moving forward and it seemed clear to me they were making this statement with the return of injured veterans as part of its consideration. Moore is an obvious buy for the reasons stated above. I'm still going with Patrick as a buy because he fits the Sutton role in the Denver offense than any other receiver on the roster and his physical style of play and proven past production as an intermediate and deep play-action option when called upon.
I'm selling JuJu Smith-Schuster. I watched the All-22 of the past three games of the Steelers' receiver and it's clear that Smith-Schuster is the third read in this offense the majority of the time. When he's the first or second option in the progression, the Steelers are targeting him on crossing routes, screen passes, quick throw-outs to the flat, and the occasional over-route or out against zone where they hope it can leverage Smith-Schuster's skill after the catch.
Most of these looks are shorter passes but when he has been open on intermediate routes, Ben Roethlisberger has been inaccurate.
There's a possibility that opposing defenses will adjust its safety and linebacker play to pay more attention to Chase Claypool, James Washington, and Diontae Johnson and that will uncover the middle of the field enough for Smith-Schuster. Even so, I also wonder if the knee injury he's been dealing with is more serious than we know.
As Wood said, it's hard to explain a scenario where he'll earn more targets without significant injuries to at least two players in the rotation. Sadly, I'm selling.
Believe or Deceived: Tampa Bay Edition
Matt Waldman: Should we believe or will be deceived? Pick TWO PLAYERS: one player from the list where you're a believer in his PPR value in 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 non-QB flex formats, and one you think will deceive most with a promise that goes unfulfilled.
Where do you stand?
McNamara: I am a believer in the offense at present and would have no problem investing in any of the players at an appropriate price point. My favorite at his cost is Rob Gronkowski. The tight end position is a wasteland outside of a select few players and Gronkowski has stabilized a solid snap and target share while knocking the rust off. A top-five tight end pace the rest of the way is certainly within the range of outcomes.
I am a strong supporter of Leonard Fournette but I think this is Ronald Jones II's job. Fournette is a one-injury away running back in a good offense, but I'm not convinced he is more than a desperation flex play when he returns from injury.
Parsons: I believe in Leonard Fournette. At worst, he is an injury-away option on a strong offense. Fournette was rising immediately before his injury stunted the momentum. If Ronald Jones II were to go down, Fournette is a league-changing player and riser.
I am not buying Rob Gronkowski continuing his momentum from Week 6. Gronkowski found the end zone for the first time and Chris Godwin was tepid with his snap count compared to is other healthy weeks. Add in a healthier Leonard Fournette to boost the running backs in future weeks and Mike Evans quizzically with only two targets for Gronkowski's breakout game to occur and I am fading the tight end versus having top-12 expectations the rest of the season.
Davenport: It is hard to shoehorn him into one of these categories, but I think Mike Evans has deceived everyone as to what his season-long value will be to this point. The Bucs obviously like to use him near the goal line, but this has artificially inflated his value to date.
Rob Gronkowski has been getting up to "football speed" and learning the offense but is now coming on. Chris Godwin has been hurt. So has Leonard Fournette. Tom Brady isn't going to continue to provide Evans with stat lines as we saw in Week 3 (2/2/2 for 14.2 PPR points) to prop up his value.
There are too many weapons and the ball is going to be spread around. Evans is a volatile fantasy WR2, but don't buy him as a top-end WR2 or low-end WR1. He's going to be inconsistent as the year goes on.
I started to buy into Jones at the end of the summer right before they went and acquired Leonard Fournette. Unfortunately, I made the wrong choice to fade Jones because of that move from the Bucs. I still believe that Fournette is going to cap the upside we've seen from Jones recently once he returns, but in some ways, the injury to Fournette was the best possible thing to happen to Jones.
Rather than the backfield becoming a full-blown committee, Fournette missing time has allowed Jones to show the staff (and his quarterback) he can handle the job and do what's required of him. I believe in Jones the rest of the way, and I think he has established that he should dominate touches going forward.
Tremblay: I expect the Buccaneers offense to improve across the board over the second half of the season, so I'm somewhat of a believer in all five of these players — especially Rob Gronkowski and Chris Godwin.
When O.J. Howard was healthy, he was running most of the routes from the tight end position while Gronkowski was mainly used as a blocker. When Howard went down, it was unclear whether Cameron Brate would step into Howard's role while Gronkowski remained a blocker, or whether Gronkowski would finally be let loose. It appears that the second option is our answer.
Gronkowski is a complete tight end who's an asset in the running game and the passing game, as a blocker and as a receiver. His value as a receiver was muffled a bit over the first half of the season, but he's a target that Tom Brady has long trusted, and his hands, athleticism, and determined running after the catch should make him a worthwhile fantasy starter the rest of the way.
Chris Godwin missed a game with a concussion and two games with a strained hamstring. But he's led Buccaneers receivers in targets during the three games he's played in this season. Mike Evans is, of course, a solid option in his own right, but Godwin is the more dynamic of the two and is a great fit in Bruce Arians' offense. I'd be happy to have him as my fantasy WR1 the rest of the way.
If I have to pick a player whose potential is most likely to go unfulfilled, I would pick Leonard Fournette. It's not that I don't believe he can produce in this offense. I believe he can. It's just that Ronald Jones II is too good and fits this offense too well to be relegated to the bench. So I see something like a 50-50 split between the two being the most likely scenario. But if it ends up being uneven, I'd favor Jones over Fournette to get the most work.
Pasquino: I will start with the deceived, as I do not think Rob Gronkowski is anything close to what he once was, nor is he a good fit for the Tampa offense. He scored for the first time in about two years on Sunday, but as soon as both Evans and Godwin are healthy and with Ronald Jones II starting to round into form, the targets for Gronkowski and his production should taper off.
Hicks: I’m on the flip side to Jeff again this week. I have a feeling we are being deceived by Ronald Jones II, but we won’t know to what extent until Leonard Fournette returns. Jones has been phenomenal during the absence of the former Jaguar, but Fournette has a definite role in this offense. A multiple-touchdown, 100-yard game will be an anomaly for Jones.
On the other hand, I think Rob Gronkowski has shaken off the rust and will produce as the season unfolds. The loss of O.J. Howard definitely helps, as does the presence of Cameron Brate who just catches touchdowns. Gronkowski will make hay while Evans and Godwin are on the field. Add in a good running game and Gronkowski will be open and catching key balls every game. His snap count may continue to be limited, but he is back.
Wood: In the immortal words of the legendary Smash Mouth, I'm a believer. I agree with Maurile that the Buccaneers remain an offense you want to have pieces of, no matter how you get them. It'll be a rising tide lifting all (most?) boats.
Chris Godwin and Mike Evans haven't been 100 percent healthy this year, and so if I'm forced into picking a deceiver, it would be whichever one of them reaggravates their injury. But if they're healthy for the rest of the season, both are capable of delivering top-12 value most weeks.
The only one of this group I have real concerns about is Leonard Fournette because it appears Ronald Jones II successfully held off Fournette's push after this acquisition. Jones isn't a natural receiver and I do think that limits his upside, but in an era where few running backs get 15+ touches per week, Jones is shaping up to be a solid value pick and must-hold. Fournette may need a Jones injury to matter.
Waldman: I believe in every option other than Fournette and most of my disbelief in Fournette has to do with opportunity. However, I'm not completely sold that Fournette is a great fit in this system. The Buccaneers run fewer gap plays than the Jaguars and more zone looks.
Fournette is not well-suited to zone blocking because he lacks great cutback agility. This is where Jones is a far superior runner for this style of offense. While a healthy Fournette is an excellent banger who can accelerate into contact, Jones has transformed from a Jamaal Charles-like prospect at USC to a thick, muscular back who broke tackles at among the highest rates of all NFL backs last year.
Jones' hands are a liability but he's a reliable between-the-tackles runner and not giving up this job without an injury.
The belief in Godwin is a good call all around, but I have to focus on Gronkowski. who I wrote a segment about in this week's Top 10. Brady and Gronkowski have spent the past couple of weeks introducing plays into the Buccaneers' playbook that were successful for them in New England.
An offense doesn't welcome this change unless they know that they need it. Additionally, Gronkowski is another in a significant list of future Hall of Fame tight ends who delivered elite production late in their careers when the athletic component of their games was no longer dominant.
That list includes Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, and Antonio Gates. The reason this is a common thing for great tight ends is that route running for tight ends relies far less on speed than it does quickness, positioning, and leverage. They may lose the field-stretching capabilities they once had but they still do strong work in the red zone and the underneath zones.
Besides, Gronkowski is younger than the three players were when they were delivering elite fantasy production and had slowed down athletically. Last week, Gronkowski showed he could still stretch the field in the intermediate ranges against zone and man--including a man-beater across the field where he was covered by a defensive back.
I'm a believer in Gronkowski not only for these reasons but also because Mike Evans will not get better this year. He's playing on a high ankle sprain and gutting it out but it means he's not going to heal quickly. Godwin, Gronkowski, and high-leverage targets to Evans and vertical looks to Miller are likely the order of priority in this offense from here on out.