4th Year Running Backs and Wide Receivers

June 23, 2018

 

 

Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams – Todd Gurley had a season for the ages in 2017. He finished as the best fantasy RB in just about every scoring system out there. His usage in the receiving game is something that was not expected but was a pleasant surprise to say the least. Gurley averaged 4.2 receptions, 52.5 receiving yards per game in 15 games last season and led all RB’s with 6 receiving TD’s. I think it’s reasonable to expect some regression in this area in 2018 to the tune of around 3 receptions, 35 receiving yards a game. However, without a legitimate threat behind him on the depth chart, Gurley will once again receive the bulk of the carries this season. As with every other player in this article, he is entering his prime right now and I’m expecting another top 5 RB finish from Gurley in 2018. He’s one of the safest fantasy options out there and will be the backbone of many fantasy teams this season.

 

 

David Johnson, RB, Arizona Cardinals – David Johnson’s 2016 season was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. He was a dominant, brute force that wreaked havoc on opposing defenses and led many fantasy teams to championships that year. Fast forward to the present and it’s looking like Johnson will be a 1st round pick in all formats and that is right where he should be going. Johnson’s wrist injury that cost him the entire 2017 season should not deter you from wanting to draft DJ this season. It’s not like he tore his ACL or tore his Achilles. I’m not going to label Johnson as injury prone from a wrist injury. Bottom line, Johnson is a stud. Period. Personally, there’s no other RB I’d rather have on my team than him. That includes the aforementioned Todd Gurley as well as LeVeon Bell and Ezekiel Elliott. That may be bold, but I feel DJ has the most upside of any of those RB’s.

 

 

Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angeles Chargers – Melvin Gordon has cemented himself as one of the premier fantasy RB’s in the NFL. While his numbers don’t jump off the page compared to Gurley’s numbers last season and Johnson’s in 2016, Gordon has produced consistent fantasy numbers and has steadily improved on his receiving numbers in each of the last two seasons. Gordon has had at least 975 rushing yards, 8 rushing TD’s, 40 receptions, 400 receiving yards, 2 receiving TD’s in each of the last two seasons. I don’t see any reason why that won’t continue in 2018. The Chargers are a potent offensive team that will rely on Gordon to be the bellcow RB once again this season. He is the unquestioned goal line back, so the opportunity for 8+ rushing TD’s is well in sight. Once the top 4 fantasy RB’s (Gurley, DJ, Bell, Elliott) are off the board, Gordon should be in the same conversation as Alvin Kamara, Kareem Hunt and Saquon Barkley. His reliability and defined role are what I covet on my fantasy team.

 

 

Jay Ajayi, RB, Philadelphia Eagles – After Jay Ajayi’s breakout 2016 season with the Miami Dolphins, the bulk of the fantasy community was buying Ajayi’s success and targeting him in 2017 drafts. While he wasn’t a complete bust last season, he didn’t exactly light the world on fire. It’s not easy switching teams midway through the season, but Ajayi performed well in limited action for his new team, the Philadelphia Eagles, in the final 7 games of the 2017 season. While his 5.8 YPC mark in those 7 games is not sustainable, I can absolutely see Ajayi putting up high end RB2 numbers in 2018, but not much more than that. Personally, I’m more of a believer in Ajayi than most, but I admit my expectations are tempered a bit. Time will tell if Ajayi can evolve into the RB1 most of us envisioned he could be a few seasons ago.

 

 

Duke Johnson, RB, Cleveland Browns – Duke Johnson had a career year in 2017. He had career highs in rushing TD’s (4), receptions (74), receiving yards (693), receiving TD’s (3) and finished as the 11th best PPR fantasy RB last season. I’m in the camp that believes one of the most important statistics that nobody talks about is games played. Duke has played in all 16 games in each of his first 3 seasons. He is the quintessential PPR running back. Personally, I’m not worried about the moves the Cleveland Browns made this offseason. Yes, Carlos Hyde and Nick Chubb will be apart of the game plan, but Duke Johnson’s role in the offense is not going to change. While it may be tough to duplicate his 2017 numbers, I still think Duke can finish between RB15-25 in 2018.

 

 

Tevin Coleman, RB, Atlanta Falcons – Entering his 4th season, Tevin Coleman has a defined role in the Atlanta Falcons offense. He is the complimentary back to Devonta Freeman, although if you ask me, it seems much more like an RBBC than a back-up type of role for Coleman. Anyway, last season Coleman set career highs in rushing attempts (156) and rushing yards (628). Coleman is going to be a highly sought after free agent come next spring and I’m in the camp that believes it is inevitable Coleman will be playing on a different team in 2019 and have his shot at being an every down RB. Everything I’ve seen from Coleman leads me to believe he’ll have success in that type of role. Why? In his career, Coleman has had 6 games in which he’s had at least 15 carries. In those 6 games, he had 111 combined rushing attempts for 461 total rushing yards, averaging 4.1 YPC in those 6 games. Look, I know it’s a very small sample size. Bottom line is I’m a believer in Coleman’s abilities and think he is a solid RB3/RB4 to have on your team this season. If I were in a dynasty league, I’d be doing whatever I can to acquire Coleman in a trade before it’s too late and his value skyrockets. 

 

 

Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders – Is it just me, or is Amari Cooper one of the most polarizing WR’s in fantasy football? On the one hand, Cooper is a WR who was supposed to be the second coming of Randy Moss (exaggerating) and be a mainstay as a top 5 fantasy WR. On the other hand, you have a 24-year-old WR entering his 4th season that has yet to live up to his extremely high expectations but has still produced some decent numbers in his first three seasons. Look, I’ve gone on record as saying that I believe the arrival of Jon Gruden in Oakland will have an immensely positive impact on Cooper’s progression as a WR, and I’m sticking to that. Derek Carr is a solid NFL QB and with Michael Crabtree no longer in the picture, the time for Cooper to shine is now. Honestly, I’m not all that concerned about an aging and deteriorating Jordy Nelson or a reclamation project like Martavis Bryant stealing too many targets. Sure, they’ll be involved, but I think Gruden will make it a point to have his most talented WR (Cooper) be the primary target in the passing game. 150+ targets is not an outrageous projection in my opinion. He’ll cost you a late 2nd/early 3rd round draft pick, but I think it’ll be well worth it.

 

 

Nelson Agholor, WR, Philadelphia Eagles – Nelson Agholor has gradually improved in each of his first three seasons. That is not fake news. Agholor has gone from 23 receptions to 36 receptions to 62 receptions in 2017. He has gone from 283 receiving yards to 365 receiving yards to 768 receiving yards in 2017. Finally, he has gone from 1 receiving TD to 2 receiving TD’s to 8 receiving TD’s in 2017. It’s not hard to see that Carson Wentz has had a direct impact on Agholor’s progression as a WR. With Wentz fully entrenched as the Eagles starting QB and Agholor entering his prime years, the sky is truly the limit. Yes, there are other legitimate options in the potent Eagles offense (Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, Jay Ajayi), but what’s stopping Agholor from going over 70 receptions / 1,000 receiving yards? Currently going as WR40 in the 7th and sometimes 8th round in MFL10 drafts, Agholor can be had for incredible value in your draft. He’s a WR4 with WR2 upside. Sign me up, all day.

 

 

Devin Funchess, WR, Carolina Panthers – With Greg Olsen sidelined for more than ½ the 2017 season, Devin Funchess saw an increased workload in the Carolina Panthers passing game. As a result, Funchess set career highs in receptions (63), receiving yards (840) and TD’s (8) and finished as WR22 in PPR leagues last season. It’s hard to gauge how Funchess will fare heading into the 2018 season. On the one hand, I feel that Cam Newton has developed a rapport with Funchess and can trust looking his way in the passing game going forward. On the other hand, Greg Olsen is returning this season and the Panthers drafted WR D.J. Moore in the 1st round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Funchess is currently going towards the end of the 4th round / early in the 5th round in MFL10 drafts. That price tag is a bit too high for my liking. He’s being drafted as a WR2, which I believe is his ceiling. Personally, I’m steering clear of Funchess in my 2018 drafts.

 

 

Jamison Crowder, WR, Washington Redskins – After a breakout 2016 campaign, Jamison Crowder regressed in every major statistical category in 2017. Why, you ask? Honestly, I have not the slightest clue. I have my theories, sure, but it’s hard to tell where the Washington Redskins offense went wrong last season. Fast forward to the present. Kirk Cousins is out and Alex Smith is in. In my opinion, that change at QB is not exactly a fantasy friendly change. I realize Alex Smith set a career high in passing yards in 2017, but let’s call a spade a spade. Alex Smith is really ordinary. This change does not bode well for the passing game of the Redskins. Crowder is currently being drafted ahead of the following players: Nelson Agholor, Chris Hogan, Devante Parker, Randall Cobb. I believe all 4 of them have a higher upside than Crowder does and would advise you to think long and hard before you take a risk on Crowder in your 2018 draft.

 

 

Stefon Diggs, WR, Minnesota Vikings – If it weren’t for Adam Thielen’s emergence in 2017 and presence in the Minnesota Vikings offense, Stefon Diggs would be a top 10 fantasy WR going into 2018. With that said, there’s still plenty of targets to go around in the Vikings offense with Kirk Cousins at the helm. Diggs had a career high 8 receiving TD’s last season, which is right around how much I project him to have this coming season. Personally, I think Diggs has just as good of a chance as Thielen does at being the go-to target for Cousins. The difference is, Thielen is being drafted a round ahead of Diggs in MFL10’s. No matter how you slice it, I’m projecting a solid season out of Diggs in 2018, to the tune of somewhere around 80 receptions, 1,000 receiving yards, 8 receiving TD’s. His current price tag may a bit high, but he should give you a proper return on investment this season. Draft him with confidence heading into your fantasy draft.

 

 

Devante Parker, WR, Miami Dolphins – I feel like the fantasy football industry has been waiting for what seems like a decade for Devante Parker to take the next step and become a reliable fantasy WR2. An injury last season, the presence of Jarvis Landry and inconsistent QB play has had a direct impact on the success of Parker. With that said, Landry will now be catching passes for the Cleveland Browns and Ryan Tannehill will be back under center this season for the Dolphins. If not now, when? I believe it’s now or never for Parker. After a couple of underwhelming seasons to start his career, if he can’t find success in 2018 I fear he’ll never be able to put it all together. Will I be surprised if Parker finishes as a top 20 fantasy WR this season? No, but you won’t see me holding my breath on that.

 

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