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The last time I wrote this column, Derrick Henry was healthy, Adrian Peterson was a free agent, Von Miller was a Bronco, and Mike White was a quarterback I once saw a flash of promise from at Western Kentucky but never dreamed of writing about in fantasy setting.
Most importantly, I knew nothing about Tina Tintor. A native of Las Vegas, this 23-year-old woman was an avid reader, enjoyed Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Oreos, the Twighlight saga, Dubstep, Goosebumps, and the classic board game Sorry. At least that's what I learned from finding her Facebook page — if it was the correct page of hers. None of these things even begin to give us an idea about who she really was — her goals, her dreams, whom she loved, and who loved her.
I wish I never knew Tintor existed because it would mean that she was still alive and Henry Ruggs would still be enjoying a promising career as an NFL wide receiver. Sadly, what I just shared about Tintor was more than what I could find in any article that covered the car crash and I'm sharing it because she deserves to be seen as more than just the "identified victim."
To say Monday and Tuesday felt like eight weeks of the season in a 24-hour period doesn't even begin to address the 50-60 years of love, family, and potential contributions Tintor could have reasonably expected if not for a car crash that appears to have been entirely avoidable. Although I'm positive that this tragic event was an accident, I can't use the word "accident," to describe what happened to Tintor.
It's a heavy way to begin a fantasy article, but sometimes we all need to acknowledge what's happening around us before escaping into our screens and earbuds, especially when I'm going to be writing about the fantasy impact of the Raiders cutting Ruggs. It doesn't feel right to discuss former and current Raiders wide receivers without knowing a thing about Tina Tintor. And frankly, what I know feels inadequate.
My condolences to Tintor's friends and loved ones. And while many lack compassion, I offer my best to Ruggs and his friends and family who will be living with this tragic mistake until the end of their days. DUI is a societal problem that's not remotely restricted to millionaire athletes under 30 years of age.
Rest in peace, Tina.
The Restrictive Application of Value in Fantasy Drafts
While moderating the Footballguys Roundtable, I've raised the topic of players that the hobby loves and hates too much. Nick Chubb was one of those players mentioned as loved too much this year. The main thrust of Dave Kluge's argument is that Chubb isn't performing to his ADP and we should have known this would be the case due to the talent and usage of Kareem Hunt that restricts Chubb's upside.
Kluge thinks that Chubb's supporters are trying to justify his selection and failing.
One of the most important things I ever learned was the value of knowing the frame of reference of a person's argument. So before we go further, what's mine? We all know I'm a huge fan of Chubb's talent and a dyed-in-the-wool promoter of Chubb's fantasy value. For those of you that get news from talk-show TV, that may trigger your belief that I'm biased.
But what requires less bias: Going along with every TV network, media outlet, former NFL player, and NFL scout on earth that said Saquon Barkley was, far and away, the best running back in his draft class when missing on this take wouldn't hurt your brand in an industry where the majority of your income comes from selling a draft publication? Or, going against all of that for a player that few believed was anything more than a second-round reach and damaged goods and didn't even begin the year as a starter?
My scouting process isn't error-free but it is designed to limit bias. Suffice to say, I have practice when it comes to finding ways to limit bias in my analysis.
So, when I saw Kluge's perspective, the first thing I wondered was, "how many first-round picks have performed to first-round value thus far?
Here's the ADP data that Footballguys collected from September 4 for PPR formats and their current fantasy value by position — "RB1 = first-ranked RB, etc."
- Christian McCaffrey - RB42 (5 games missed due to injury)
- Dalvin Cook - RB28 (2 games missed due to injury)
- Alvin Kamara - RB7
- Derrick Henry - RB1 (will miss the next 6-10 weeks due to injury)
- Ezekiel Elliott - RB10
- Davante Adams - WR7
- Travis Kelce - TE1
- Aaron Jones - RB5
- Tyreek Hill - WR2
- Austin Ekeler - RB3
- Saquon Barkley - RB37 (3 games missed, so far, due to injury)
- Jonathan Taylor - RB2
One-third of this list isn't already failing to meet expectations due to injury and we have another six weeks before the fantasy playoffs. By the way, Nick Chubb's consensus ADP was 13 and if you go beyond Footballguys collection of data to site-specific ADP, Chubb was 14 at Underdog and 18 in the FFPC's ADP.
Chubb's best PPR ADP was 10 at MFL and his non-PPR value was 7. He was the ninth RB selected based on Footballguys' September ADP monitoring.
Currently, Chubb is RB21 with two games missed due to injury if looking at total points. At the same time, if you are projecting performance for the rest of the year, it's wiser to consider fantasy points per game rather than total fantasy points when evaluating players who missed time with a minor injury that isn't expected to inhibit their play moving forward.
In this case, Chubb's Fpts/G of 1.5 places him 15th among RBs and just 0.9 points of No.13 runner Joe Mixon's pace. Considering that Hunt is 12th and Hunt will be out at least another 2-3 weeks and most likely not returning until Week 14. Even with D'Ernest Johnson assuming much of Hunts' role, Chubb is a good bet to at least be 12th in Fpts/G by the end of this month.
After looking at September ADP and current Fpts/G, there are some questions worth considering:
- Is Chubb really under-performing to expectation? His ADP was low-RB1 and his Fpts/Gm is high-RB2.
- Even if you judge solely on the criteria of total points, not a wise method for projecting performance solely on its own, are we being unrealistic to expect our first-round or early-second-round picks to perform exactly as they've been drafted?
- When factoring in the annual rates of injury and underperformance, why aren't we considering a player meeting expectations if he is performing as a starter after being drafted as a starter?
I don't think there's really much to justify about Chubb's fantasy value unless you began this exercise with the expectation that because Chubb was the ninth RB taken that he must perform as an RB1. While it's ideal to hit bull's eyes when drafting, I've long espoused the philosophy that your first-round picks aren't meant to be bull's eyes as much as they are meant to be safe picks relative to their draft position.
It means that I'm expecting starters with my first four picks. Depending on my strategy, I might even expect the same from rounds 5-8. After all, in most leagues, there are only 6-8 spots in a starting lineup when not including kickers and tight ends.
And because many in the hobby don't draft quarterbacks and tight ends until at least the eighth round, you're often not drafting true starters after the fourth round as much as you're drafting players you hope will perform as starters when you decide to use them to injury, bye weeks, and earlier picks underperforming.
Plus, the late rounds are the area where the best drafters find 1-2 players who far exceed expectations and change the scope of rosters. This is especially impactful because these players avoid seeing the waiver wire.
I don't think Chubb's performance needs any justification. However, I think any belief that you must hit bull's eyes in your first 2-4 rounds is unrealistic and may need further explanation.
Cooper Kupp, Deebo Samuel, and JaMarr Chase
This trio of receivers is on a history pace — even if this were a 16-game season. I have Kupp on track for 185 targets, 133 receptions, 1,849 yards, and 18 touchdowns — and I decreased the touchdown totals from the pace he's actually on. I have Samuel earning 168 targets, 101 receptions, and 1,728 yards. I also adjusted those expectations downward, including the 11 touchdowns.
As for Chase, I have him at 117 targets, 80 catches, 1,523 yards, and 14 scores. I also adjusted some of those figures downward. On the surface, there's not much in common with these three players. Kupp primarily plays in the slot, Samuel is a limited route runner but stretches the field vertically and he's great after the catch. Chase can do it all.
A deeper look reveals similarities. All three use their feet and hands well as ball carriers and are legitimate YAC options. Kupp leads the league with 924 YAC. Samuel and Chase are second and third with 819 and 786, respectively. I didn't know their ranking or yardage figures until I looked up them after writing above that YAC was a similarity among them — it's that obvious from the film.
All three possess excellent short-area acceleration, which affords them early separation. As I often broach with readers about scouting wide receiver talent, long speed is valuable but many NFL decision-makers overvalue it. It's far more important for the receiver to have the initial acceleration within the first 5-15 yards of their starting point and then refinement of release skills to earn that open lane to accelerate.
And all three are skilled pass-catchers against contact from defenders, attacking the ball early and securing it efficiently as the contact arrives.
I think all three will remain difficult to stop this year. If I were to envision scenarios for each where we see their paces slow, here's what I'd hypothesize:
- The Rams begin targeting Woods more often, especially in the red zone.
- Chase hits a rookie wall due to the fatigue of playing a longer football season inherent to the NFL.
- Samuel's limited route tree and quarterbacking generate inconsistency.
However, with the exception of Woods earning more red-zone love at a slight expense to Kupp's touchdown totals, I don't believe any of this will happen. If someone in your re-draft league thinks they are selling high because they are overthinking their regression potential, I'd take the risk.
The Chiefs' Triumverate
We're all old enough to remember when the Packers and Patriots started poorly and the public overanalyzed the performances, predicting the demise of Aaron Rodger and Tom Brady. Two-deep coverage shells have been around forever and they may be trendy analysis, but Patrick Mahomes II has been splitting these looks for big plays since he entered the league.
This isn't a chicken or egg situation, it's clearly the egg: Kansas City's offensive line hasn't played well. They're the chicken and the egg.
Mahomes isn't playing as well as he has in the past because like every mortal that has ever played the position, quarterbacks eventually lose trust in their line play when pressured enough. The convenient analysis among those who claimed Mahomes would struggle because he's reckless will use this opportunity to tell you that he's gotten away with being reckless unless until now whereas the nuance of the actual truth is that the pressure is forcing Mahomes to cross the line from daring to reckless and it's that slight difference that defines greatness.
Still, Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill remain elite fantasy producers despite the navel-gazing we all perform as fantasy analysts. Although Kelce has been struggling in recent weeks, he's still the No.3 fantasy tight ends since Week 5. Hill is the No.7 receiver during the same three-week span and Mahomes is the No.9 quarterback.
Don't overthink it. Even if Kansas City figures out that running the ball and checking down to outlets is the best way to beat defenses and they remain as patient on the field as they say they will be off it, these three players will get theirs. Unless your team build is counting on one of these players to be dominant and some fantasy GM is actually giving you commensurate value for a dominant player, continue holding and start this trio.
It's awful circumstances that underpin Edwards' opportunity, but it's also the reality of fantasy football. Edwards has earned no fewer than four targets per game with the exception of Week 2. With Henry Ruggs no longer a Raider, Edwards is the best bet to see his targets climb until we learn if the interest in DeSean Jackson is acted on.
Still don't expect a massive increase. Ruggs averaged five targets per game and that's slightly inflated if you remove the 14 targets Ruggs earned in Weeks 2-3 — just 4 less than what he earned from Weeks 4-7. Edwards is likely to earn a bump of 1-2 targets per week if Zay Jones becomes a bigger factor — and that's likely.
If Jones is a minimal factor in the offense, Edwards could earn 2-4 more looks and in that case, he could become the No.2 option for Las Vegas down the stretch. Expect these extra targets to be a mix of RPO/screens/crossers and vertical shots on deep crossers, posts, and fades.
My advice: Add Zay Jones as a potential hedge if you have Edwards, need a better starter at the position, and the room to keep Jones on your roster for a week or two. Once the dust settles, you'll know if you need to drop one or both receivers. After all, Hunter Renfrow or Foster Moreau could earn more love.
The addition of DOnta Foreman and Adrian Peterson and the release of Mekhi Sargent gives us an indication that any hope for Jeremy McNichols as a lead back is rooted in workout metrics rather than the reality of the tape. McNichol's career-best output on the ground is an 8-carry, 84-yard afternoon against the Jets in Week 4. Before that? A 3-carry, 26-yard day against Seattle's sieve of a run defense in Week 2.
This includes all the games from his four-year career. McNichols is a space player whose profile looks like Ray Rice's on the surface but there's little substance to his game for that comparison to have an all-around fit.
The optimal situation for McNichols without Henry is him earning 4-6 targets a week as a receiver and 4-6 touches as a runner. If he can generate 8-12 touches, he'll have low-end flex value.
While the phrase "the 36-year-old Adrian Peterson," triggers many of you, "the 35-year-old Adrian Peterson with the lowly Detroit Lions," played all 16 games last year, averaging 19.75 snaps, 9 runs, and 1.125 targets. Despite the Lions shoehorning DAndre Swift into the offense, Peterson had 5 games with at least 15 touches, 5 games with at least 1 touchdown, and 2 games with 2 touchdowns.
If you're expecting McNichols to be a fantasy find and discounting Peterson, then, at best, you'll be half-wrong. I'd err on the side of Peterson.