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I've never done an "On Second Thought" post although Jason Wood, Sigmund Bloom, and David Dodds did them in the past. I always liked the idea of sharing my list of players who, for good or bad, might be changing my mind about their prospects for the 2021 NFL season.
In some cases, I have lingering doubts but I'm still sticking to my projections. In other cases, I'm making a big change in course.
Arizona Receivers Other Than DeAndre Hopkins
I've been high on Rondale Moore and A.J. Green this summer. Both players have tons of ability — yes, Green still has it, based on reports from new teammates and veteran coaches who have been around the NFL block. However, my RSP Quick Game co-host Mark Schofield of TD-Wire brings up a terrific point about the Arizona Cardinals scheme that gives me pause: Kliff Kingsbury refused to move his players around to create mismatches last year until much later in the season.
Has Kingsbury learned his lesson? If he hasn't, he won't be getting the most from some of the most dynamic talents in the league at the wide receiver position. This will be especially disconcerting given that all of his receivers with the exception of Andy Isabella can play multiple receiver spots at a high level.
If Kingsbury has learned his lesson will he go overboard with the shifting? This is a concern when considering that Hopkins told the media that if Green wants to switch positions with Hopkins pre-snap so he gets Hopkins' route, then he's all for it. The presumption is that Kyler Murray will be cognizant of these changes, but as Schofield notes, the quarterback can be unaware of some last-second switches while he's looking at the defense and is usually the player dictating changes based on his observations.
A lack of shifts or early disaster with this freelance could lead to a static offense that won't give Moore and Green the easy-optimal looks against mismatched defenders or the available holes in coverage.
I'm still rolling with Moore and Green as potential draft-day values because I believe Kingsbury has learned his lesson, but some minor doubts are creeping in.
Rhamondre Stevenson: There and Back Again
It's safe to say I helped chop down the wood for the Stevenson bandwagon before the draft. The videos in the linked post are excellent displays of Stevenson's versatility, on-field intelligence, smooth feet, and underrated burst. When it was time for me to deliver my initial projections of the Patriots offense, I had Stevenson as the second-most productive option on the running back depth chart with the presumption he'd emerge during the second half of the season.
During the past few weeks, Stevenson earned a lot of acclaim for his in-game preseason performances although much of what I saw was far more hype than substance — creases than any back with contributor-level skill should have accessed with ease. Patriots running back coach Ivan Fears also tried to keep media expectations low with his answers to the Stevenson buzz during post-game press conferences. He told reporters that Stevenson had a lot to learn.
With Sony Michel, Damien Harris, James White, and J.J. Taylor all on the roster at the time and performing well, I was beginning to think that the hype on Stevenson was overblown. However, I didn't adjust my projections to veer away from Stevenson. When the Patriots traded Michel, I only added to them. And from what I'm hearing, Stevenson has a strong shot of not only earning significant snaps in the offensive rotation, but he could also split red-zone looks with James White and earn the close-out carries when the Patriots have a lead.
Schofield, who covers the Patriots, believes White and Stevenson could also be a regular backfield tandem on passing downs.
As a result, I still think Damien Harris is the 1-A option for the Patriots, but not necessarily a 1-A option for fantasy GMs. This could remain one of the most difficult backfields to assess from a fantasy perspective and it usually pays to draft the best values of the bunch, which are White and Stevenson in that order.
Mike Davis gets no love
This may be a misleading statement because the only person I know who has written anything positive about Davis' 2021 prospects is my friend Gene Clemmons at the Athletic. And the reason he's the only person I know is that I rarely read other people's work due to time constraints with doing my own analysis.
I've been relatively quiet about Davis this offseason. I've long been a fan of his play, appreciating his contact balance, excellent footwork, and passing-down skills despite the fact he has always been a fringe roster guy early in his career. I've seen my share of naysayers about Davis this year, believing that Atlanta made a dumb choice during free agency because Davis was somehow exposed during the final weeks of the 2020 season in Carolina.
This is one of those narratives that happens when people don't understand running games and look solely at box scores to inform their analysis. Offensive lines usually have to be good for running backs to earn great production. The exceptions to that rule are running backs with fantastic vision, footwork, quickness, and the ability to get lost in traffic due to a low center of gravity. Christian McCaffrey has all of these traits and skills.
Davis has above-average vision and footwork for a starter, but average quickness and he's hard to lose in traffic due to his size. Without good offensive line play, he's not going to consistently deliver top-tier production without a ton of volume and teams leave the ground game at the side of the road when it stops working and the scoreboard dictates.
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