Fantasy Football Tight End Sleeper: Julius Thomas

Fantasy football tight end sleeper: Julius Thomas

The 2017 season is approaching and tight end Julius Thomas begins a new chapter with the Miami Dolphins. His two seasons in Jacksonville were a bust, but being reunited with former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator and current Dolphins head coach Adam Gase, he is my pick as the top tight end sleeper.

Adam Gase Connection

Gase became the offensive coordinator in Denver under head coach John Fox in 2013. 2013 was also the year Thomas became the starting tight end with Peyton Manning and company. Thomas broke onto the scene with 65 catches for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns. He would finish as the third tight end in fantasy that season.

He also excelled as one of Manning’s favorite targets in the red zone. From inside the 20-yard line, he finished seventh in receptions (14), second in yards (112) and sixth in touchdowns (8). He finished fifth in yards (33) and sixth in touchdowns with five from inside the 10-yard line.

Fantasy Football Tight End Sleeper: Julius Thomas

Julius Thomas (Photo by:nfl.com)

The following season, Thomas slipped a little but still had another good season. Although his numbers in receptions (43) and yards (489) dropped from the previous season, Thomas recorded 12 touchdowns for the second straight season. Thomas still finished seventh in fantasy under tight ends.

He was efficient in the red zone especially inside the 20-yard line. He was seventh in receptions (13), eighth in yards (94) and third in touchdowns with nine. From the 10-yard line, he improved to fourth with seven receptions and six touchdowns.

In the two years under Gase in Denver, Thomas reached elite status. He finished no worse than the number seven fantasy tight end in standard leagues over that span, combining for 108 catches for 1,277 yards and 24 touchdowns.

Down production in Jacksonville

Fantasy Football Tight End Sleeper: Julius Thomas

Julius Thomas (Photo by:profootballtalk.nbcsports.com)

In 2015, Thomas got his big pay day as he signed a five-year, $46 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. What people forget is that Thomas wasn’t going to have the same amount of success he had in Denver. Not having Manning was a a big factor to some for Thomas’ decline.

In the 2015 season, he had a stretch of four straight games in which he caught a touchdown. He finished with 46 catches, 455 yards but only had five touchdowns. Catching touchdowns was part of the popularity with Thomas in fantasy. Most of the targets went to wide receiver Allen Robinson. Players like Robinson, Blake Bortles and Allen Hurns improved in fantasy and this hurt Thomas’ production as an elite fantasy player.

The following season, Thomas caught four touchdowns from weeks 1-11 before missing the rest of the season due to injury. His four scores in that span were tied for second among all tight ends.

Thomas had moderate stretches of success while in Jacksonville, but injuries plagued seasons (missing 11 games in two seasons) and limited him to 21 games with nine touchdowns and 35 yards per game.

2017 Outlook

Fantasy Football Tight End Sleeper: Julius Thomas

Julius Thomas and Adam Gase (Photo by:oregonlive.com)

The move to Miami could be the best situation for Thomas as he reunites with Gase. He was a fantasy stud in Denver, and Gase could be a big reason why, given his track record with tight ends.

In 2015 as the offensive coordinator in Chicago, Gase helped Martellus Bennett and Zach Miller combine for 87 catches for 878 yards and eight touchdowns, which would have been the number seven Fantasy tight end in standard leagues.

Last year with the Dolphins, the combination of Dion Sims, Jordan Cameron, MarQueis Gray and Dominique Jones had 55 catches for 551 yards and six touchdowns. It would’ve been good for the number 10 fantasy tight end. So there is some optimism for Thomas to bounce back.

However, there could be some problems for Thomas. Dolphins’ running back Jay Ajayi had a breakout season, and they have a core of young receivers in Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker along with re-signing Kenny Stills. Thomas will have a role in the offense, especially closer to the red zone, but he will likely be the third or fourth option in a balanced offense with a lot of guys to feed the ball to.

If Thomas stays healthy, he could reemerge as a top fantasy tight end. He’s worth a late-round flier as a second tight end. There’s little risk and plenty of reward with Thomas and Gase back together.

 

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Fantasy football quarterback sleeper: Eli Manning

Last year, Eli Manning had a decent season. He threw 26 touchdown passes and had 4,027 passing yards. He was considered a top 10 fantasy quarterback. However, he finished well outside the top ten in points. But in 2017, there’s a lot of promise for Manning in fantasy and this year he is my quarterback sleeper.

The “ELI-te” Manning

For fantasy owners, Manning might not be on your list given his struggles last season when he finished as the No. 20 fantasy quarterback in standard leagues. There has only been one other time Manning has finished in the 20’s at quarterback which was in 2013.  But let’s not forget the past years of Manning such as 2014 and 2015 when he was a top 12 fantasy quarterback.

Quarterback Sleeper: Eli Manning

Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. (Photo by:cbssports.com)

In that two-year span, he was excellent in fantasy football. In 2014, he threw for 4,410 passing yards, 30 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. The following year improved as he had 35 touchdowns and 4,436 passing yards and matched his interception total in 2014. He also had a six-touchdown game that year.

After having one of the worst seasons of his career in 2013, we saw Manning having maybe the best two seasons of his career. We have seen him rebound from a bad season and have a great season. Time and time again we saw Manning do well with less around him.

Manning in those two seasons had something he hadn’t had since 2012. He had a healthy No. 1 target in Odell Beckham Jr. His fantasy numbers started to improve when Beckham broke onto the scene. Beckham was the only reliable option when many parts of the Giants offense were inconsistent. Another part of his success was the change in offense with new plays and sets with new coordinator Ben McAdoo.

2016

In 2016, Manning didn’t have a bad year, he just didn’t have the success he had the previous two seasons. Even though the head coaching change put McAdoo in charge, the offense was still the same. He still had Beckham. Victor Cruz was finally healthy. They drafted another weapon in rookie Sterling Shepard. What was so different for Manning in 2016?

Quarterback Sleeper: Eli Manning

Eli Manning (Photo by:giantswire.usatoday.com)

One major factor of his decline to some was the success of the defensive side of the ball. In the offseason, the Giants were spenders in free agency adding Olivier Vernon, Damon Harrison and Janoris Jenkins. They also brought back Jason Pierre-Paul. The defense was it’s best since 2011 when they reached the Super Bowl.

Parts of the defense came to life as these signings panned out in addition to Landon Collins improving to be a top safety in the league that season. Unlike 2014 and 2015, Manning didn’t have to come back in games forcing him to throw the football many times more then they would have liked to.

Another factor is the offensive line. The Giants have struggled protecting Manning. Ereck Flowers has been a bust, struggling at the left tackle position. He had a new right side in 2015 with Jon Jerry at guard and Bobby Hart at tackle. The offensive line struggled in the run game, something the Giants hadn’t had to worry about for a long time.

Some of his decline could be because of his age. He entered in his 12th season at age 35 and for some quarterbacks the strength and accuracy go away. Sure his numbers declined, but not drastically. I don’t think age was a factor for Manning. We have seen him have his best seasons over the age of 30 and his best seasons came when he was in his 10th and 11th seasons. 2016 may have not been his best but he led the Giants to the playoffs and he still produced a solid year.

optimism in 2017

There is reason to be excited about Manning in 2017. The Giants looked to offense in the offseason like they did last year on the defensive side.

Quarterback Sleeper: Eli Manning

Brandon Marshall (Photo by:giants.com)

The Giants gave him a new weapon in free agency after signing Brandon Marshall. The positive about Marshall is that Manning hasn’t had a big receiver like him since Plaxico Burress.

In the past two seasons, Marshall has been in the top 10 in targets inside the 20-yard line. In 2015 he had a great fantasy year finishing third in points with 109 catches, 1,502 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also finished sixth in yards (97) and fifth in touchdowns (9) inside the 20-yard line.

Marshall could have the same success with Manning throwing him the ball becoming a new red zone target and sometimes taking coverage to open up other receivers.

Along with Marshall, the Giants also have Beckham and Shepard at receiver. This is probably their strongest group of receivers since their Super Bowl XLVI championship season with Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham.

He will also have an offensive weapon at tight end in rookie Evan Engram. Manning will have Shane Vereen back and Paul Perkins progressing in his sophomore year. Assuming that the offensive line holds up and the plethora of weapons pan out, Manning could have the potential to having a breakout fantasy year.

I expect Manning to have a bounce back seasons with all these additions. Although at 36 years old, one thing every fantasy owner can expect from Manning is consistency. He hasn’t missed a start in his 12-year career. He will also throw in the range of 25-30 touchdowns and have over 4,000 passing yards.

You should be able to get Eli Manning late in your fantasy drafts. You won’t have to reach for him, and you will enjoy the late-round rewards. Manning should rebound as a No. 1 fantasy quarterback in all formats.

 

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Is Dez Bryant a top fantasy option?

Dez Bryant has struggled with injuries and in-season battles in the past two years. Bryant was once a top five receiver in fantasy. From 2012-14, he finished in the top five in fantasy points in the receiver group. But with struggles with injuries and a transition to a new Dallas offense and quarterback, will Bryant return to being the elite fantasy player that he was early in his career?

Throw up the X: 2011-14

After his rookie season, Bryant came to life. In 2011, Bryant became a top option for Tony Romo behind Jason Witten. He finished with 63 receptions, 928 yards and nine touchdowns. He finished in the top 20 that year in fantasy for receivers.

The following season, Bryant broke onto the scene. He had his first season over 1,000 yards and had over 90 receptions and double digits in touchdowns. He finished in the top 10 in receptions (92), yards (1,382) and receiving yards per game (86.4). His 12 touchdowns were top-three. Bryant finished third in fantasy that season.

Dez Bryant fantasy value

Dez Bryant and Tony Romo (Photo by: zimbio.com)

In 2013, he had another solid season. He saw his targets spike from 138 to 160. He finished in the top five in fantasy again under receivers and his 93 receptions ranked eighth. His 13 touchdowns again ranked third.

Bryant did see a small decline in receiving yards with 1,233 and his receiving yards per game (77.1) that both ranked outside the top 10.

However, Bryant did perform in the top two inside the 10-yard line of the red zone. He led the league in targets (16), receptions (11) and touchdowns (9). He finished second in yards (38) and target percentage (43.2).

Bryant developed into a red zone weapon and also ranked in the top 10 in receptions (13) and target percentage (29.9) inside the 20-yard line. He was also second in touchdowns with 10 inside the 20.

2014 was probably Bryant’s best fantasy season to date. He finished third in fantasy points among receivers, his third top five finish in a row. He led the league in receiving touchdowns with 16. Bryant also improved his receiving yards (1,320) and receiving yards per game (82.5), which ranked eighth and 10th respectively.

He did have less receptions (88) but averaged 14.3 fantasy points per game, a career-best that season which ranked third. He also had his best PPR fantasy points per game at 19.8. Bryant also doubled his catches of 20-plus yards with 22 that ranked fifth in 2014.

In those four seasons, Bryant totaled 4,863 yards and 50 touchdowns. During that time, just Calvin Johnson, Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas and A.J. Green had more yards than he did. His touchdowns were the most during that timeframe, and no other receiver had more than 43 touchdowns.

Injuries and quarterback issues: 2015-16

Dez Bryant fantasy value

Dez Bryant (Photo by: whatthebuc.net)

Before the season, Bryant resigned with the Cowboys on a five-year, $70 million contract that included $45 million of guaranteed money and a $20 million signing bonus.

In a game against the Giants on Sep. 13, 2015, Bryant had a foot injury. The x-ray revealed a fracture in the foot that required surgery. He returned in week eight and struggled, getting two receptions for 12 yards.

In a season in which he struggled with health issues, he caught 31 passes for 401 yards and three touchdowns. Before the injury, part of Bryant’s success was having Tony Romo as the quarterback. They only played three games together in 2015 as Romo had a back injury.

Bryant played with two other quarterbacks (Matt Cassel and Kellen Moore) that season. All of his three touchdowns came from a different quarterback. On Jan. 6, 2016, he underwent foot and ankle surgeries.

In 2016, his favorite quarterback in the preseason went down with another back injury and rookie Dak Prescott became the starter. It proved again that Bryant missed Romo as the quarterback as he and Prescott only connected on 16 of their first 41 targets in their first five games together.

This led to inconsistent fantasy numbers, as Bryant had just three games with 10 or more points, but two games with less than two points. He also missed three games with a knee injury. However, removing week 17 where they played only one series, Bryant and Prescott came to life.

In the final eight games including the playoffs, Bryant had 66 targets, 43 receptions, 646 yards and eight touchdowns. That’s a 65.2 percent completion rate. It seemed that Bryant came back to being the receiver he once was.

2017 outlook

Dez Bryant fantasy value

Dez Bryant (Photo by: sbnation.com)

In 2017, there is some concern regarding Bryant. Besides adding no receiver help to complement him, Bryant will face Janoris Jenkins twice, Josh Norman twice, Aqib Talib/Chris Harris Jr., Patrick Peterson, Marcus Peters, Desmond Trufant, Jason Verrett/Casey Hayward and Richard Sherman.

In the two matchups with the Giants last year, he was held to just two catches for 18 yards on 14 targets and fumbled once that clinched the Giants win in the second meeting.

The last time he played against Sherman, he totaled just two catches for 12 yards on six targets.

And expect Norman to shadow Bryant this year after not doing so in 2016. In the first three games for Bryant, he plays the Giants at home and then goes to Denver and Arizona on the road. We could see again early season struggles for him.

He has missed 22 games in two seasons. He is also in a run-heavy offense with a great offensive line and a premier running back. The defense in Dallas hasn’t improved, especially in the backfield which could lead to Prescott throwing the ball more if they have to play catch up. That would benefit Bryant but the game plan will be to run the ball to protect Prescott.

But how good will Prescott be if he has to throw to win? That’s a question for another article.

Bryant is a top-10 fantasy receiver that should be drafted somewhere in the third round. Be cautious with his durability, and Prescott worries me this year as he is my top bust for quarterbacks. In some leagues he will be a top receiver for most teams, but he’s a high-end WR2 with a ceiling as a middling WR1.

 

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Top 5 2017 Fantasy Tight Ends

The tight end position is known for big targets that can create space and are touchdown machines in the red zone. Tight ends can sometimes be nerve racking because there aren’t many that are elite. When its draft time it’s all about patience especially for tight ends as you don’t want to reach too high or wait to long for your starting TE.

Here are the top-5 fantasy tight ends you should consider for your fantasy team in 2017.

No.5 Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings

To start, my number five tight end is Kyle Rudolph of the Minnesota Vikings. In 2016 he was the most heavily targeted tight end in the league. This was due in part to Pat Shurmur replacing Norv Turner as Minnesota’s offensive coordinator in early November. Tight ends have accounted for a 24 percent target share during Shurmur’s 122 games as a head coach or coordinator since 2009 according to ESPN.

In 2016, Rudolph  paced all tight ends with 128 targets and ranked in the top four in receptions, yards, touchdowns and end zone targets (11). In the past, Rudolph would average around three receptions and 27.8 yards per game, basically becoming a touchdown-or-bust tight end. Rudolph flipped the switch in 2016 and put up 5.2 grabs and 52.5 yards per game. This helped him finish second at the position in fantasy points, his best ranking since he landed 11th in 2012.

In 2017, Rudolph should continue to be a featured option in the Viking offense as Shurmur is still around. He’s not a top-tier option but he’s much better than the tight ends you’ll find at the end of your draft.

No.4 Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins

Jordan Reed has proven to be a valuable target in Washington. In 2016 he ranked in the top 10 tight ends in receptions, yards and touchdowns despite only playing 12 games.

Reed has posted a pair of top-10 fantasy seasons in the past two seasons. In 2015, he had his best season to date with 87 catches for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns, which allowed him to finish as the No. 3 fantasy tight end in standard leagues. In 2016 he still produced at a high level with 66 catches for 686 yards and six touchdowns but finished as just the No. 8 tight end in standard formats. An impressive stat is that Reed has caught at least three-quarters of his targets during each of his four NFL seasons. That’s scary good.

The one issue with Reed is injuries. He has yet to play a full 16 games in his career. Last year he missed two games with a shoulder injury and one with a concussion. But these injuries haven’t prevented Reed’s numbers to drastically decline. However in 2017 he should become the number one option in Washington with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon both moving on.

No.3 Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers

My number three tight end is Greg Olsen of the Carolina Panthers. He may not be the flashiest player, but without a doubt he’s the most consistent tight end in the NFL.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Tight Ends

Greg Olsen (Photo by: nj.com)

Olsen finished third in fantasy points and in the top-seven at the position in targets, completions and receiving yards each of the past five years. In 2016 he had seven games with eight-plus fantasy points. He did, however, only have three touchdowns, his fewest since 2007. Olsen is still the main piece in the Panthers passing game especially in the red zone . He had another 1,000 yard season for the third year in a row and maintains consistency in targets and receptions.

The thing that Olsen excels in is durability. He hasn’t missed a game since 2007. He is always a reliable TE1 and expect him to bounce back in touchdowns and being consistent.

No.2 Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Tight Ends

Rob Gronkowski (Photo by: washingtontimes.com)

I know I will have some hate mail, but if it weren’t for injuries Gronkowski would be my number one tight end. The three-time top fantasy tight end has missed at least one game during each of the past five years and a total of 24 during that span. However, outside of fantasy he is the best tight end in the NFL and always a top two in fantasy.

In 2016 he appeared in eight games and finished with 25 catches for 540 yards and three touchdowns on 38 targets. He still finished as the No. 20 Fantasy tight end in standard leagues which goes to show how good he is. From weeks 6-10 he was the top fantasy tight end in fantasy points. He’s finished in the top five in touchdowns, fantasy points and yards per target during the past four seasons in which he’s appeared in at least 11 games. In fact he has double digit touchdowns in all but two seasons of his seven year career and they were due to injuries.

Again, people will not agree with this ranking but I fear Gronkowski will again have injury issues. He hasn’t seen a full 16 games since his first two seasons. In 2014 and 2015 he only missed a total of two games and had top fantasy seasons. We hope he plays at least 13 games because when he’s healthy he’s easily the best fantasy tight end in any format. If he can do that he will be the Gronkowski that we can rely on. I do expect him to be ready and also to be the first tight end off the board in Rounds 2 or 3.

No.1 Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

Everyone might question this but I’m going with Travis Kelce as my number one tight end for fantasy in 2017. The first thing is why is he in front of Gronkowski? . Gronkowski hasn’t played a full 16 games since 2011. Kelce has played in 16 games three of his four seasons and has started 42 of his 49 career games.

But other then durability Kelce had a breakout 2016 season. He led almost every category at the tight end position including yards, yards per game, catches for 20 and 40 plus yards, and had the longest catch among tight ends. The Chiefs tight end was also second in receptions. Kelce finished as the No. 1 Fantasy tight end in standard leagues with 85 catches for 1,125 yards and four touchdowns on 117 targets. Another interesting stat about Kelce is that he was second among receivers with 100 plus yard games behind only Julio Jones with six. He had a span where he had four 100 plus yards game towards the time of the fantasy playoffs.

Kelce if anything he should see an increase in usage this year with the release of Jeremy Maclin.  Even though he will be picked as the second tight end behind Gronk, Kelce is a good option and is valuable in both standard and PPR leagues. Look for him around the 4th to 5th round to be off the board as he has become a top tier tight end in fantasy.

 

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Top 5 Kickers in Fantasy

Top five kickers in fantasy football

When it comes to fantasy football, the one position that gets no recognition is the kicker. They just kick extra points and field goals to the common player. But just because they’re the pink label at your draft party doesn’t mean they can’t be a big component of your team.

There will be a time you need that one point to win a championship and it comes down to a kicker either you have or are playing against. Kickers can at times make or break your fantasy team, so don’t overlook them.

Here are the top five kickers for fantasy football in 2017.

No.5 Wil Lutz, New Orleans Saints

Lutz had a successful rookie year in 2016. He had the fifth-most points thanks in part to his 98.0 percent accuracy on 50 PAT attempts. He was one of only two kickers with that many behind Matt Bryant.

He went on to post seven top-10 fantasy weeks and finished seventh at the position in fantasy points. Lutz made 28 of his 34 field goals (82.4 percent) that ranked 12th in field goals made and attempted. His situation in New Orleans is a good fit due to a good offense for him to get plenty of opportunities.

The Saints rank 31st in attempts in the past decade (278) but Lutz will be effective when his name is called. It’s possible the 23-year-old’s effectiveness improves in his second season.

No.4 Stephen Gostkowski, New England Patriots

top 5 NFL kickers

Stephen Gostkowski (Photo by: patriots.com)

Even though he had a disappointing 2016 season, I still like Stephen Gostkowski and rank him fourth on my list. Gostkowski had five straight seasons as a top-three fantasy kicker, including number one in each of the previous three years.

In 2016, Gostkowski fell to eighth in fantasy scoring. He converted 84.4 percent of his field goal attempts, which was his worst mark since 2012, and missed three extra point attempts. His 32 attempts were his lowest mark since 2010.

But Gostkowski still had at least over 50 percent when he attempted a field goal from each distance. The real reason why Gostkowski is still a reliable kicker is because of the team is playing for which has one of the best offenses in the NFL.

Gostkowski is still a quality kicker and expected to see more opportunities in 2017 as the Patriots rank third in the NFL with 336 field goal attempts during the past decade. Expect Gostkowski to bounce back.

No.3 Dan Bailey, Dallas Cowboys

Bailey converted only 27 (or 84.4 percent) of 32 field goal attempts last season, but his career mark of 89.5 percent is second-best all time behind only Justin Tucker.

Two of his five misses were in outside stadiums and not in dome stadiums where he is most comfortable. Three of his misses also came from 50-plus yards. He did have a career-low from 40-49 yards at 77.8 percent where he has done better than 83.3 percent in his first five seasons.

Bailey finished 10th at the position last year and has finished no lower than 11th since entering the league in 2011. Bailey is one of two kickers who haven’t missed an extra point attempt during the past two seasons. The high efficiency has led to a lot of fantasy success. The Cowboys offense should allow him plenty of opportunities.

No.2 Matt Bryant, Atlanta Falcons

top 5 NFL kickers

Matt Bryant (Photo by: http://atlantafalcons.blog.ajc.com)

It doesn’t matter how old you are if you’re Matt Bryant. The 42-year-old led all fantasy kickers in points with 176 points last season. Bryant has finished as a top-five fantasy kicker in four of the past seven years and posted a top-10 fantasy week 13 times last season, which was four more than the next-closest kicker. With Atlanta’s terrific offense, he converted an NFL-high 56 of his 57 extra point attempts.

Bryant is getting older but he still can hit his marks. He made 34 of 37 field goal attempts (91.9 percent) last season. One concerning stat from last year is besides attempts from 20-29 yards, he didn’t attempt over 10 field goals in each yard category. However, he made over 75 percent when attempting his field goals. He will still get his chances and be a top-5 kicker at the end of the season.

No.1 Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens

Justin Tucker ranks number one on my list and has every right to be. He was ridiculous last year. He missed one field goal all season and the one he missed was blocked. Bryant was a perfect 14 for 14 from 40-49 yards and 10 of 10 from 50-plus yards. No other kicker last year was perfect from 50-plus yards.

Tucker’s career 89.8 percent field goal conversion rate is the best of all time, and he has connected on all 56 extra point attempts since the league moved the ball to the 15-yard line in 2015.

The Baltimore Ravens have been reliable with their kicker as they have attempted an NFL-high 352 field goals during the past decade. He’s your best bet at the position as he was second in total points last year in standard scoring with 174 fantasy points and has finished no lower than 11th since he entered the league in 2012.

 

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Demaryius Thomas fantasy football 2017: A reliable fantasy option?

Demaryius Thomas had one of his worst seasons of his NFL career last season. Thomas is a big receiver who has the whole package. Thomas runs a 4.41 40-yard dash, stands 6-foot-3, 229 pounds and has great hands. He uses his body to get after the ball and has progressed into a top target for the Denver Broncos.

But last season we didn’t see the Demaryius Thomas we are used to seeing.

The Demaryius Thomas we know would have double digit touchdowns and week in and week out would be a big factor in the Denver offense. Is Thomas still reliable as a top fantasy player? Is it his fault for his struggling 2016 season? Thomas is still a top talented receiver but poor quarterback play has made Thomas questionable as a reliable fantasy player.

Early Career

Thomas was drafted in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. From 2010-2011, he was a non-fantasy factor as he was still developing as a receiver in the NFL. He only started seven games in the two-year span and had 40 and 79 fantasy points in 2010 and 2011 respectively. Combining those two year stats are still less then what he did in 2012 and also in his disappointing 2016.

Demaryius Thomas fantasy football 2017

Demaryius Thomas and Tim Tebow (Photo: Denver Post)

Part of the lack of early production is similar to what Thomas struggled with last season: poor quarterback play. In 2010, Kyle Orton had a solid campaign with over 3,600 yards, 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions. But one bad game against the Arizona Cardinals led to Tim Tebow taking over for the last three games.

2011 really started the inconsistency of quarterbacks in Denver. Orton struggled in the first four weeks and was replaced again by Tebow and never took another snap. Tebow finished the season with the lowest passing completion rate in the NFL, reaching 50 percent in just four of his 14 games.

Thomas did thrive towards the end of the season as he emerged as Tebow’s favorite target. He would end the season setting a franchise-record by leading the Broncos in both receiving and targets over the final seven games.

The dominance with Peyton Manning

Demaryius Thomas fantasy football 2017

Demaryius Thomas and Peyton Manning (Photo by:lightningrodsports.com)

Thomas’ production with Peyton Manning was crazy. In 2012, 2013 and 2014, Thomas finished fifth, second and second respectively among all receivers in fantasy points. In those three years, he had over 200 fantasy points in those seasons during Manning’s prime with Denver.

He had at least 10 touchdowns per season from 2012-14 and as well as over 140 targets, 90 receptions and well over 1,400 yards in each of those three years. He was clearly a fantasy beast while Manning was Manning. It could be also because the Broncos finally went back to orange jerseys instead of those horrible navy blue jerseys.

In 2015, Manning struggled with injuries and had to give way Brock Osweiler for nine games, yet Thomas still performed well. He still saw 176 targets, 105 receptions and 1,304 yards. He did only finish with six touchdowns but still ranked 13th at wide receiver in 2015.

The production was still there for Thomas as he used his size to his advantage to catch the ball and rack up targets and yards. One key factor that could have led to the decreased production was the coaching staff changes. In 2013 and 2014, Thomas thrived with offensive coordinator Adam Gase and head coach John Fox. Fox and Gase were let go after 2014 but Thomas still produced with head coach Gary Kubiack and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison in 2015.

2016

In 2016, Thomas saw a lot of change before, during and after the season. Manning retired and Osweiler left for the Houston Texans. Before and during the season there was always a quarterback controversy between Trevor Siemian and rookie Paxton Lynch. Kubiack missed a game early in the season with concerns over his health which led him to retire after 2016.

Demaryius Thomas fantasy football 2017

Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian (Photo by: USA Today)

Thomas had 90 catches for 1,083 yards and five touchdowns on 145 targets in 2016. He also had seven games with double digits in fantasy points in standard leagues. Thomas finished as the 16th wide receiver by posting consistent but not flashy games, averaging 67 yards and 5.6 receptions per game.

Most of the decline was due to poor quarterback play, and that isn’t expected to get much better this year with either Siemian or Lynch as the starter. Last season, Siemian struggled with injuries and Lynch didn’t develope the way the Broncos expected him to. The Broncos passed for an average of 230.3 yards per game last season, tying them for the 11th least passing yards per game in the league.

One of Siemian’s most noticeable flaws as an inexperienced quarterback was taking unnecessary hits by holding onto the ball too long. The Broncos are trying to work around that habit by upgrading his protection. They signed offensive tackle Menelik Watson and offensive guard Ronald Leary, while also drafting offensive tackle Garrett Bolles with their first pick in the draft.

This also helps the run game they will try to use more as they have C.J. Anderson, Devontae Booker and Jamaal Charles. Last year the Broncos averaged just 92.8 rushing yards per game and only 3.6 yards per carry, good for 27th  and 28th in the league.

2017 prediction

Is Thomas still an effective receiver? Thomas still has plenty of upside as a No. 2 fantasy receiver or a very high-end flex player if the quarterback play is consistent. He’s working on five years in a row of at least 90 catches and 1,000 yards. One reason he could bounce back is the return of offensive coordinator Mike McCoy who left Denver in 2012 when Thomas broke out.

He has the potential to still be a bonafide WR1 especially as he is now healthy from a hip injury. He is still a WR2 or a flex option as I mentioned previously.

 

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Jameis Winston on the Rise

Jameis Winston on the rise in fantasy

Jameis Winston had an average fantasy season in 2016. He ranked outside of the top 12 on a per game basis but finished 10th in overall fantasy points at the quarterback position. He was, however, able to score at least 20 fantasy points in nine of his 16 games played and failed to post at least 15 fantasy points just once. Winston had 21.2 fantasy points per game that ranked 14th among QB’s. This was better then Cam Newton, Russell Wilson and Derek Carr who were all drafted higher then him. Jameis Winston is on the rise and poised to have a breakout 2017 fantasy football season. He is in route to being a top quarterback this year and you don’t want to miss it.

Winston should be expected to have a great season in large part due to the plethora of weapons he has. The Buccaneers signed wide receiver DeSean Jackson, drafted tight end O.J. Howard and they still have wide receiver Mike Evans and tight end Cameron Brate. This creates more opportunities as Winston is expected to have more designed roll-out plays called for him in 2017, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.

Jameis on the Rise

DeSean Jackson (Photo by: thefantasygreek.com)

Winston will have a deep threat to work with this season in Jackson. Last season Winston ranked towards the bottom in 40+ yard completions.  Jackson has proven he is one of the best deep threat receivers in the NFL, having five catches of 40+ yards that ranked seventh in the category. In fact, three of his four touchdowns came off from 40+ yard catches. With Jackson on the field, safeties will be forced to play a little deeper to respect his speed. This will open up the field for Winston to hit his underneath receivers.

The signing of Jackson doesn’t only help Winston, it also helps Evans. With Jackson’s speed making safeties play deeper, it will be more difficult to roll coverage in Evans’ direction. That will result in a lot more man-to-man coverages for Evans which he the size, speed and soft hands to take advantage of.

Winston will also have two tight ends to throw to. We have seen a quarterback by the name of Tom Brady excel with two reliable tight ends . Winston loved throwing to Brate last year as he was the second leading receiver on his team. Brate also led the league in touchdowns for tight ends and was second among receiving touchdowns inside of the 20-yard line.

O.J. Howard (Photo by: mmqb.si.com)

Winston will also have first round draft pick Howard to go along with Brate. Howard, from Alabama, could struggle early but he is still a weapon that defenses will have to respect. He can also be a valuable deep threat option along with Jackson. At Alabama three of his seven career touchdowns were from 40+ yards with two of them coming against Clemson in the National Championship game in 2015. Howard can be a game changer tight end the Winston can rely on especially a big target in the red zone.

Last but not least, the running game in Tampa is finally healthy. All of the moving parts in the backfield from last year have created a deeper, more confident stable of runners that offer multiple pass-catching options for Winston. This will help Winston from having to force the ball down field which led to 18 interceptions. Charles Sims and Jacquizz Rodgers will be the primary pass-catchers out of the backfield and Doug Martin will pound the ball taking some of the pressure off Winston (after finishing is PED suspension).

Winston may not be a top five quarterback but he is a quarterback you should be targeting after the top players at the position are gone. He will rarely lose you a week as Tampa’s offense is built around him. Winston looks to be ranked between the 10th to 12th quarterback and thus won’t be drafted high. He could be the steal of your fantasy draft at quarterback as people aren’t quite sold on him yet. He enter as a high-end QB2 in most leagues but has the potential to be a QB1 as the season progresses.

 

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Under the Radar Fantasy Running Backs

Under the radar fantasy running backs to watch

This season there are fantasy running backs worth watching. These five running backs may not be the biggest names in the NFL, but they can be valuable assets for your team this upcoming season.

Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears

Under the Radar Fantasy Running Backs

Jordan Howard (Photo by: chicagobears.com)

The first running back that everyone should keep an eye on is Jordan Howard. When starter Jeremy Langford got hurt last season, Howard took the starting job and didn’t look back. Not only was he good, he was dominant.

As a rookie, Howard rushed for the second-most yards in 2016 with 1,313, behind another rookie in Ezekiel Elliot. Howard also finished second in yards per carry with a 5.2 average. Howard averaged 87.5 rushing yards per game that ranked third in the league and just outside the top 10 in attempts (252).

Howard only scored six touchdowns, which ranked 20th in the NFL. Howard is on a team in which they have to come from behind which leads to passing situations on almost every down. This means that Howard doesn’t get the ball late in games to improve on some of his numbers.

Howard’s numbers will improve, especially in touchdowns. I also don’t expect Howard to have that sophomore slump. Howard will be a first round pick and could still rise to a top-five pick.

Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins

After Arian Foster retired early in the 2016 season, Ajayi had his chance to play and went all in. Three times did he have a 200-yard or more rushing game, including back-to-back weeks. Miami did rank 18th in rushing attempts, but in those attempts Ajayi ran the ball with intensity and purpose.

Ajayi’s 1,272 rushing yards ranked fourth among rushers in the league. Ajayi also ranked fifth in yards per game at 84.8, ninth in rushing attempts with 260, seventh in rushing yards per attempt (4.9) and just outside the top 10 in touchdowns with eight.

Although the Dolphins ranked 18th in rushing attempts, they did rank ninth in rushing yards which means Ajayi has an effective offensive line that should help deliver a repeat performance in 2017. Ajayi’s ADP (average draft position) is around the eighth to ninth running back picked, which means look for him second or third round.

Leonard Fournette, Jacksonville Jaguars

The 6-foot-1, 235-pound bruiser known as Leonard Fournette will be the new man in the Jacksonville Jaguars backfield. Fournette is a running back who can punish defenses with power and get chunks of yardage with speed. He’s not the most agile running back, but when he has a running lane, he accelerates quickly and can hit a home run.

Fournette won’t give you many catches, that’s not his game. His backups T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory don’t pose any threat other than a carry here and there to give Fournette a blow. Yeldon will be the pass-catcher and Ivory is the same type of back Fournette is. Although the Jaguars ranked 17th or lower in every rushing category, Fourette should help those numbers because of the ability he has.

I see Fournette as a guy like Ezekiel Elliot. A physical, breaking tackles and hit the home run guy once in open space back. The Jaguars will use the fourth overall selection in this year’s NFL Draft to protect quarterback Blake Bortles from having to drop back 40 times a game. I would rate Fournette a high-end RB2 with the potential to be a solid RB1. He will be a second round pick in most fantasy drafts.

Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

under the radar fantasy running backs

Joe Mixon (Photo by: cincinnati.com)

The good part about the Cincinnati Bengals running game is that they have ranked top-ten in the NFL in both rushing attempts and red-zone carries in each of the past three seasons. However, the Bengals running game for yards and consistency has been dreadful ever since Jeremy Hill’s rookie season in 2014.

Hill has declined and has delivered fewer than 60 rushing yards per game. Hill doesn’t catch the ball either. Giovani Bernard is working back from a torn ACL and will mostly be used in the passing game.

Fans should be excited to see Joe Mixon from a fantasy perspective rather than his off-the-field issues. Mixon has the potential to be a better runner than Hill, and a solid pass-catcher like Bernard. I look at Mixon and I see a David Johnson or Le’Veon Bell type player who has great ability to run and catch the ball.

Hill will probably be the starter and end up getting a good number of touches. Mixon will eventually take over somewhere in the middle of the season but don’t count him out to take the job sooner. If he’s there by the fourth to fifth round he could be a steal as he has the potential to be a RB1 but will start likely as a RB3 if he is the backup.

Mike Gillislee, New England Patriots

My dark horse running back is Mike Gillislee of the New England Patriots. With the departure of LeGarrette Blount, the Patriots signed Rex Burkhead to a one-year contract and still have James White and Dion Lewis. What separates Gillislee from the others is that he can pound the ball between the tackles.

He will fill the shoes that Blount filled last year. He was LeSean McCoy’s backup in Buffalo last year and finished with only 101 carries but ran for 576 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns. His 5.7 yards per carry ranked first among all running backs with at least 100 carries.

The Bills didn’t have a great offensive line as it ranked 16th in run blocking but Gillislee’s 3.34 yards after contact per attempt was third best in the NFL. He was also a machine within the 10-yard line as seven of his eight touchdowns came from within that range.

We know Gillislee can be valuable for touchdowns, but be cautious because of the other running backs the Patriots have around him. Gillislee will get his touches as the Patriots ranked third in rushing attempts in 2016. Gillislee’s ADP right now is around the fourth to fifth round as a RB3 mostly because he enters as the starter.

 

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Eric Decker’s fantasy impact with the Titans

On June 18, the Tennessee Titans signed Eric Decker to a one-year deal. After being cut by the New York Jets just six days earlier, he quickly finds himself a new home in the Music City. How will Eric Decker’s new Titans deal affect his fantasy value?
Decker missed most of last season with hip and shoulder injuries. What he brings to the Titans is another weapon for quarterback Marcus Mariota and joins a solid combination of targets such as rookie Corey Davis, Rishard Matthews and Delaine Walker. Along with these guys, this gives the Titans a new look. In 2016 the Titans were a run-first football team as they ranked fourth in rushing attempts.

With all of these weapons, Decker should find himself as the first or second receiving option in the Titan offense. Decker has good size at 6-foot-3, and can be a versatile receiver that will excel as a red zone target due to his size. In 2015, the last full season he played, Decker was the top option in the red zone with 29 targets inside the 20-yard line, 16 inside the 10-yard line and 6 within the 5-yard line. He should maintain those numbers as he and Davis are their tallest receivers on the Titans roster.

Eric Decker's fantasy impact titans

Marcus Mariota (Photo by si.com)

The biggest winner though is Marcus Mariota. Mariota had an up-and-down 2016 fantasy season. From weeks 5-12 he was one of the best quarterbacks, throwing 21 touchdowns and only three interceptions.

Through weeks 1-4 and 13-17 he was one of the worst, ranking 31st in fantasy points.

What did help Mariota in 2016 was the addition of Matthews and the deep ball. Mariota jumped from 35 deep ball passes of 20-plus yards in 2015 to 50 in 2016. Matthews recorded the sixth-most in that category with 16 receptions. Decker had the same number in 2015 with Ryan Fitzpatrick as his quarterback and should only help Mariota improve these numbers.
In the receiving core, Rishard Matthews will find his production down slightly depending how coaches like the personnel around him. He’s going from being the number one receiving option, not counting tight end Delanie Walker, to a possible number two or three receiver behind Decker and Davis.

The Titans ran a three receiver set 46.9 percent of the time in 2016, which was 18th in the NFL but was below the league average of 51.62 percent. With some of the new players we could see some different packages to include their top receivers.

Eric Decker's fantasy impact titans

Corey Davis (Photo by: titansonline.com)

Davis, the fifth overall selection in the 2017 NFL draft from Western Michigan, will be an effective receiver in the near future but will not be this year. He has the potential to be a great NFL player and should still have a good season but doesn’t have the pressure on him with Decker’s presence.

Davis has good receivers to learn from like Decker because he and Decker are the same type of receiver. They are the same size, both have good hands and Davis can become a great red zone threat like Decker.

Before signing Decker, Davis would’ve been the second receiver and still could be battling with Matthews. Davis will be a great asset for years to come in fantasy and should be considered a WR3 or filler for receiver position.

As for Delanie Walker, he’s in a difficult situation. Walker will still be a top target in the offense, but adding Decker will decrease his targets, especially in the red zone. Walker will remain a top tight end selection and should go in the middle in the of your 2017 fantasy draft, but I expect his numbers to decrease with the addition of Decker.

As for where to draft Decker, he was drafted on average as the 29th receiver in 2016. This ranks in the 50’s overall after having a breakout season in 2015.

In 2017, factoring in his health and his role on the Titans, he looks to be between the 30th and 45th receiver making his draft position in the 90’s. He could be undervalued there, but with the concern of injuries and unsure of how his quarterback produces, I believe he is properly positioned and should be as a WR3 with the potential to be a WR2.

 

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Football Stars on New Teams

NFL Fantasy Studs Sporting New Colors

In 2017, many NFL players will be moving on to new teams. I have composed a list of five NFL fantasy studs sporting new colors this season. These five players will have a major impact on not only their new teams success, but on your fantasy teams success should you be fortunate enough to draft them.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Oakland Raiders

 

NFL Fantasy Studs Sporting New Colors

Marshawn Lynch (Photo by: silverandblackpride.com)

A lot of people are excited to see Marshawn Lynch back in the NFL. After being retired in 2016, Lynch finds himself in his hometown team’s silver and black. Lynch is a big powered back that lives up to his name “Beast Mode”. He will be the go to guy with the Oakland Raiders after they lost Latavius Murray to Minnesota in free agency. The Raiders ranked within the top-10 in most rushing categories and Lynch should only improve on those statistics in 2017. The Raiders did find themselves in the top-10 in fumbles lost in 2016 and adding Lynch will improve that number as he had zero in 2015 and one in 2014. Lynch will be a high-end RB2 and maybe even a low-end RB1 in most fantasy leagues depending on how committed to the run the Raiders are in 2017.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Baltimore Ravens

 

Changing to the wide receiver position, another player to focus on is new Baltimore Ravens receiver Jeremy Maclin. Cut by the Kansas City Chiefs on June 2, he found a new home in Baltimore just 11 days later on a two-year deal. Maclin should fit in right away as Joe Flacco’s number one target. Maclin’s numbers should increase as he is in a better passing offense with the Ravens. The Ravens ranked 12th in passing yards while the Chiefs ranked 19th and Baltimore attempted 679 passes, which led the league, to Kansas City’s 546.  Maclin at worst is a valuable flex option and has the potential to be a high-end WR2.

Alshon Jeffrey, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

 

NFL Fantasy Studs Sporting New Colors

Alshon Jeffrey (Photo by: nj.com)

Another receiver looking to rebound is Alshon Jeffrey of the Philadelphia Eagles. Jeffrey is a big target with good hands and solid route running skills. Like most Chicago Bear offensive players, Jeffrey struggled last year as he only managed 95 catches for 821 yards and two touchdowns. He was also suspended for four games by the NFL for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. This year Jeffrey should bounce back being paired with Carson Wentz and having a good core of receivers in Torrey Smith, Jordan Mathews and tight end Zach Ertz around him. The Eagles last year ranked 24th in receiving yards and 29th in yards-per-reception and Jeffrey should only help improve those numbers. Jeffrey will be a high-end WR2 but will be a drafted too early as a WR1.

Brandin Cooks, WR, New England Patriots

 

One player that could see a new role is receiver Brandin Cooks. After trade on March 10 to the New England Patriots, Cooks finds himself in a plethora of receivers that he will pair with. Tom Brady will be happy to have him. As a fantasy owner I wouldn’t worry about how many catches he will get. The Patriot offense is all about spreading the ball around. Cooks was part of that with the New Orleans Saints but he was also the number one target for them. In New England he’s another weapon and the primary deep threat for Brady. He will lose some value but he will remain a solid WR2 option in leagues this season.

Adrian Peterson, RB, New Orleans Saints

 

One of the more intriguing players we will be watching is running back Adrian Peterson of the New Orleans Saints. Peterson shouldn’t be expected to be the player he was with the Minnesota Vikings but more of an option the Saints have at running back along with Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara. There is no guarantee he will be the starter come week one but the Saints signed him to get some carries and take a good portion of the workload. The Saints have proven to have a consistent running game as they rank in the top-15 in most rushing categories and adding Peterson can only strengthen those numbers. He has struggled with injuries but he is Adrian Peterson and we have seen him bounce back from injuries before. He is someone to take a gamble on late in the draft as he will get touchdowns and carries.

These five players were major components for their old teams and you should expect them to be contributors to their new teams in 2017. The roles the fill will be changing and their fantasy output should be researched thoroughly before making them a key contributed for your team.

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