week 7 DFS don'ts

Week 7 DFS don’ts: Wide receiver

In my opinion, this is the most important position group to predict correctly because of all the available players, and the volatility that comes with this position. To cash in almost any format, two of your three wide receivers need to hit. Let’s keep this week rolling with the wide receiver edition of week 7 DFS don’ts.

Julio Jones: FanDuel Price $8,500

Julio Jones is strictly a DFS don’ts for cash games. His production ceiling is among highest of any player; however, his floor is not worth his $8,500 price tag. On paper, Jones has a great matchup against one of the NFL’s worst defenses. The Patriots have given up 300 yards passing to every quarterback they’ve faced. But, the opposition’s number one receiver does not produce.

On the Suck My DFS Podcast, my co-host talks at length about New England’s track record this season against number one wide receivers. I won’t steal his thunder, but the results are not promising for Jones. I think New England will deploy Stephon Gilmore against Jones, and Malcolm Butler on the secondary receiving option.

Of course, Jones could overcome this individual matchup and score big. If he does, it won’t be on any of my cash lineups. Jones is great, but there’s too much risk for me this weekend.

Demaryius Thomas: FanDuel Price $7,100

week 7 DFS don'ts

Will Demaryius Thomas be able to produce at a consistent level with his matchup against Casey Hayward? (Courtesy of; SB Nation)

Yes, I was totally wrong on Demaryius Thomas last weekend. But, I’m not afraid of placing him back on my week 7 DFS don’ts. Why? Because Thomas will be seeing Casey Hayward for the majority of his routes. In week one Thomas was in Hayward’s coverage on 75 percent of his routes.

On those routes, Thomas turned six targets into four catches for 61 yards. It’s not a bad day by any means; however, that’s not enough to cash in a DFS contest from your second wide receiver. Also, Thomas will be playing without his running mate Emmanuel Sanders. This will allow the Chargers secondary to turn all of their attention to Thomas.

Given how bad the Chargers are against the run and the now shallow depth at wide receiver, I don’t think Thomas will have enough opportunities to double is value.

Rishard Matthews: FanDuel Price $5,500

Take advantage of what I’m about to tell you. After Monday night’s game and this weekend’s matchup against Cleveland, Rishard Matthews is going to be popular “pay down” play. However, you need to avoid him at all costs. Why? Because he has the toughest individual matchup in the NFL.

Matthews will face Jason McCourty. For those who don’t know, McCourty is playing the best football of his career. He is currently rated as the number one corner back by Pro Football Focus thus far. Last week, the Browns deployed McCourty in shadow coverage versus DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins was only targeted three times as a result.

There are plenty of other ways to get exposure to this game. I’m begging you to please stay away from Rishard Matthews for your own good. Matthews joins Jones and Thomas on my week 7 DFS don’ts.

 

Featured Image Courtesy of Sporting News

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week six DFS don'ts

Week six DFS don’ts: Report Card

An interesting trend is starting to develop. It seems as though every three weeks I’m due for a dip in DFS profitability. Thus far, I’ve only failed to profit in weeks three and six. Does that mean I should just not play in weeks nine, twelve and fifteen? Of course not, if there’s a Sunday slate, I’ll play it. Let’s wrap up week six DFS don’ts with the dreaded report card.

Quarterback: 1/3

As some of you might have noticed, no week six DFS don’ts piece about quarterbacks. Sorry about that, won’t happen again. Anyways, Tom Brady came up just short of doubling his value against the Jets and Kevin Hogan was a huge disappointment. Thankfully, Kirk Cousins redeemed me by finishing as the top fantasy quarterback this weekend.

Running Back: 4/6

Not a bad week at the running back position. Leonard Fournette and Mark Ingram were great for my cash game lineups. Unfortunately, the Denver Broncos didn’t show up and that cost me huge with C.J. Andersen. As far as my week six DFS don’ts at this position, Carlos Hyde proved me wrong. I’m glad to see he’s reestablished himself as the lead back even if it was at my expense. Both Ameer Abdullah and Elijah McGuire failed miserably to double their value.

Wide Receiver: 2/5

I don’t count players who end up being out, so, I’m not counting DeVante Parker as part of my report card. DeAndre Hopkins and Chris Hogan shockingly didn’t produce double their value. I know DeSean Jackson didn’t technically double his value; however, I’m counting this as a win since he still managed to produce with Ryan Fitzpatrick. Brandin Cooks came so close to proving me wrong, whereas Demaryius Thomas blew me away with 10 catches for over 130 yards.

Tight End: 1/4

Martellus Bennett was an easy pick. If you couldn’t tell a week ago, you can now. He doesn’t produce in this offense. Darren Fells, despite a lack of targets, still managed to produce. He’s officially supplanted Eric Ebron and is a viable DFS option moving forward. Ryan Griffin and AJ Derby were also bad calls despite great matchups.

Kicker: 2/2

At least I’m continuing to pick this position correctly. Aaron Rodgers injury aside, I didn’t like Mason Crosby going into this week. However, I loved Wil Lutz this week and he more than doubled his value.

Defense: 1/2

I will apologize for everyone who listened to the Suck My DFS Podcast and picked Denver as their defense. They were incredibly disappointing. Thankfully, Jacksonville laid an egg at home as I predicted.

Overall Score: 11/22

50% isn’t great, but, there doesn’t seem to be a correlation between who I pick and how much money I win. The weeks I’ve won the most money, I haven’t been great on individual player picks, and vice versa. The best thing about this game is that we can quickly move on to the next week. Come back tomorrow for which kicker and defense you should avoid in week seven.

 

Featured Image Courtesy of Grizzly Bear Blues

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week six DFS don'ts

Week six DFS don’ts: Wide receiver

My week five was one to forget in terms of my wide receiver predictions. Yes, there were obvious calls I could have made, but I wanted to take some risks. I’ll be doing the same this week. However, I’ll try to make these more calculated. Let’s find out which players are my wide receiver edition of week six DFS don’ts.

Brandin Cooks: FanDuel Price $7,900

This pains me to say because I love Brandin Cooks. I was so excited when I found out he was traded to New England. However, there are problems with Cooks that emerged in last Thursday’s game against the Buccaneers.

As we all know, Rob Gronkowski was inactive in last week’s game. With Gronk out, we saw a shift towards the pass catching running backs and Danny Amendola. Cooks did see a season-high in targets, but it still failed to reach double digits. It’s clear that Chris Hogan is the number one receiving option in this offense going forward.

Offensive role aside, Cooks does not have a favorable matchup this week. Yes, I know they are playing the Jets. However, I’m referring to Cooks’ individual matchup versus Morris Claiborne. Claiborne has been deployed in shadow coverage every week since week two. According to Pro Football Focus, Claiborne has only been targeted 14 times since week two, allowing nine total catches for 95 yards.

We also have a track record of teams choosing to shadow Cooks over Hogan. In week four, James Bradberry shadowed Brandin Cooks on over 65 percent of the snaps. Bradberry was targeted six times, only surrendering three catches for 38 yards. Teams clearly see Cooks as the most talented wide receiver and are choosing to focus on him as opposed to Hogan or Amendola. If you want DFS shares of the Patriots, pivot to another receiver this week.

Demaryius Thomas: Fanduel price $6,800

week six DFS don'ts: wide receiver

Will Demaryius Thomas find a way to reach the end zone for the first time all season against the tough Giants secondary? (Photo: Denver Post)

2017 has been so disappointing thus far for Demaryius Thomas. Denver allocated resources in the offseason to build the offensive line and support Trevor Siemian, and it hasn’t translated to production for Thomas.

Granted, he’s had a solid floor in terms of point production. However, he failed miserably in a great matchup versus Oakland in week four. Thomas was only able to turn five targets into one catch for 11 yards.

This week’s matchup does not bode well for Thomas, or any Denver wide receiver. While the Giants are depleted on offense, they still have one of the best secondaries in the league. Another strike against Thomas is the 12-point spread.

This kind of spread indicates that the game will be over in the third quarter, or even by halftime. Meaning, the Broncos will look to sit on their lead and fee C.J. Anderson against a below average run defense. Consider other options in Thomas’ price range, as his matchup and role have landed him on my week six DFS don’ts.

DeVante Parker: FanDuel Price $6,000

You can attribute Parker’s place on this list to Jay Cutler. It’s embarrassing how poorly he played against a bad Titans defense. How on earth does a starting NFL quarterback not throw for 100 yards in a game in which they play all four quarters? Cutler failed to complete 50 percent of his passes, including one interception. His overall body language was disheartening and his interest in the game looked minimal. I don’t think anyone on the Dolphins offense has a chance to produce as long as Cutler remains the quarterback.

Parker’s health is also uncertain, as his status for Sunday’s game is questionable. Not all injuries are equal. Parker left the game with an ankle injury which can linger if not addressed immediately. If you really want to play Parker this week, keep checking practice reports and his official status as the week continues. Parker joins Thomas and Cooks on my week six DFS don’ts.

 

Featured Image Courtesy of Boston Globe

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Trevor Siemian's fantasy impact

Trevor Siemian’s fantasy impact on the Broncos skilled players

On Monday August 21, Denver Broncos head coach Vance Joseph named Trevor Siemian the starting quarterback for the regular season over Paxton Lynch.

What to expect from Siemian

When Siemian took over in 2016 after the retirement of Peyton Manning, he completed 59.5 percent of his passes for 3,410 yards, 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions and ran for 57 yards in 14 starts. He did miss time and had surgery on his left, non-throwing shoulder in January. Siemian only had four games with at least 20 Fantasy points. Needless to say he won’t entice fantasy players to pick him in only one QB starting leagues.

Trevor Siemian's fantasy impact

Trevor Siemian (Photo by: chicagotribune.com)

But Siemian won this job with great reason. He’s more experienced. Siemian looked sharp through two preseason games, completing 14 of 18 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown. And this is a new year for the Broncos with a new head coach in Joseph and a new offensive coordinator Mike McCoy who was the OC in Denver from 2009 to 2012. He helped the Broncos offense rank second in total offense in 2012. His passing offense ranked in the top-10 twice in that span. During his time as head coach for the San Diego, now Los Angeles Chargers, his passing offense ranked no worse then 12th. Granted most of the time they had to throw the ball coming from behind and he also had Philip Rivers. But this could benefit Siemian with the coaching changes.

Granted Siemian isn’t Manning or Rivers, but he proved last season he can move the offense when given protection. He doesn’t have a cannon, but he can make all the throws, get through his progression, and isn’t afraid to test defensive backs down the seam. But is this enough to trust him to help the other skill players in Denver?

Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders

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. While this news isn’t the greatest for the whole offense, it’s “good” news for both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.

Trevor Siemian's fantasy impact

Demaryius Thomas and Emanuel Sanders (Photo by: numberfire.com)

First with Demaryius Thomas. Thomas had 90 catches for 1,083 yards and five touchdowns on 145 targets in 2016.  Thomas only had seven games with double digit fantasy points. He had career lows in receptions and yards per game at 5.6 receptions and 67 yards since becoming a full time starter in Denver.

Emmanuel Sanders had 73 passes for 1,032 yards and five touchdowns. on 139 targets. While these numbers are average, they weren’t standouts like they were in 2014. He only had four games with double digits. Sanders had eight games where he had less then five points.  Sanders also had his lowest stats, receptions and yards per game, at 4.9 receptions and 64.5 yards.

It isn’t like Thomas and Sanders are inconsistent. Thomas is working on five years in a row of at least 90 catches and 1,000 yards. Sanders went to the Pro Bowl in 2016 and had his third season in a row with at least 75 catches, 1,000 yards and five touchdowns. The main reason for the decline has been due to bad quarterback play. Now granted not all of it was bad quarterback play. Thomas dealt with a hip injury all season and the Broncos had a very inconsistent running game. Plus this was Siemian’s first year as a starter so it was expected they might struggle.

While this may all still to be true from a fantasy standpoint, there is reason for hope. Denver doesn’t really have any other viable receiving threats. These two could see an a rise in production as they develop more chemistry with Siemian.

The running backs

The 2016 Denver Broncos running game still proved to be irrelevant. C.J. Anderson struggled, only playing in seven games before an injury. He was off to a good start. Anderson had four games with at least 10 Fantasy points in a standard league in the seven games he was healthy, with five total touchdowns and three outings with at least 90 total yards. He will enter 2017 as the no.1 back and there’s good opportunity for him. Devontae Booker is on the shelf due to a wrist injury. Anderson was likely going to split carrries but now he can solidify his job. He could actually get more of a workload especially with the QB situation. But don’t expect a boost in Anderson’s rankings with the news of Siemian as the starter. Anderson is still a RB2 or a high flex option. The main thing to keep in mind is Anderson’s health.

Trevor Siemian's fantasy impact

CJ Anderson, Devonetae Booker, Jamaal Charles and Terrell Davis (Photo by: denverpost.com)

As for Jamaal Charles, his role is likely to work in a part-time role behind Anderson. He will enter behind him with Booker’s injury. He will get his touches and could get extended reps if Anderson has another injury. Charles will be a guy to look at on third downs for Siemian to dump the ball to.

Conclusion

Overall, Siemian’ only worth a late-round pick in two-quarterback leagues this year. But for the skilled players it helps their rankings a little bit having Siemian as the starter. While most fantasy players know this, Siemian, out of all the quarterback battles, has the best players and coaches around him. He could have a surprising season with these weapons. However, with new coaches and a new offense, I still think Siemian will have his tough outings. Don’t over reach for the skill players in Denver as inconsistent QB play is still in the air.

 

Featured image from denverbroncos.com.

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Fantasy Football Bold Predictions NFC West

Fantasy football bold predictions: NFC West

The preseason is here and so is fantasy football. We have seen endless articles making bold predictions on players, numbers and who are sleepers. This article and many coming are my 2017 fantasy football bold predictions starting with the the NFC West.

Arizona Cardinals: Carson Palmer will Bounce Back in 2017

Headlined as a fantasy sleeper, Carson Palmer is a QB20 and picked towards the end of drafts.

Fantasy Football Bold Predictions NFC West

Carson Palmer (Photo by: si.com)

In 2015, Palmer had one of the best seasons of his career. He finished in the top-five among quarterbacks in 2015 with 35 touchdowns and 4,600-plus yard season. He had receivers like Larry Fitzgerald, and the emergence of John Brown and Michael Floyd really helped Palmer.

But 2016 was the opposite. Even though he was 36 that season, the departure of Michael Floyd and the recurring illnesses of John Brown were not helpful. Besides that, Palmer hit a wall with efficiency.

His 8.7 yards per attempt in 2015 dropped down to 7.1. Another big part of the struggle was the breakout of David Johnson. But Palmer did have a good end of the season with at least 20 fantasy points in a standard leagues in six of his final nine games, and no outing with fewer than 17 points.

But in 2017 Palmer is back and fully focused. Brown is finally healthy and the emergence of J.J. Nelson to complement Larry Fitzgerald and with David Johnson in the backfield should help Palmer have a season like 2015.

Los Angeles Rams: Sammy Watkins will play a full season, but will not have over five touchdowns

Sammy Watkins was traded to the Los Angeles Rams on Aug. 11. There’s no worse situation to be in than the Rams. He is ranked as the 21st wide receiver and selected around the fourth to fifth round.

Fantasy Football Bold Predictions NFC West

Sammy Watkins (Photo by: dailynews.com)

Watkins has missed 11 games over his last two seasons including eight in 2016 because of a foot injury that required multiple surgeries. The good news is that he’s healthy now. He should get the time to rest and learn the offense this preseason.

The bad news is now he’s with the LA Rams. Fantasy owners cringe now because of the situation. His quarterback is Jared Goff who was on the lower end of quarterbacks in 2016. Even though a rookie, he completed a miserable 54.5 percent of his passes, had a 5-to-7 TD/INT ratio and averaged 5.3 yards per attempt.

But for Watkins, he has averaged 0.46 touchdowns per game over his career. And while there’s hope for Goff, he has to learn a new offense and that doesn’t look good for either Goff or Watkins. Look for running back Todd Gurley to have a big role in Los Angeles.

Seattle Seahawks: Doug Baldwin will break into the top-five for wide receivers

Doug Baldwin checks in as the WR10 and ranked 29th overall among fantasy players. Baldwin hasn’t received a whole lot of love from a fantasy perspective. Maybe that’s because Seattle isn’t known as a passing team, but they have done better over the past two seasons. Last year, they ranked tied for 18th with 567 pass attempts. This was the first year Russell Wilson has thrown over 500 pass attempts.

Fantasy Football Bold Predictions NFC West

Doug Baldwin (Photo by: ftw.usatoday.com)

But back to Baldwin. His target share in the last three years has been steady at 22, 21, and 22 percent respectively. He’s blossomed in his new No. 1 wide receiver role, delivering back-to-back top-10 fantasy finishes in both standard and PPR formats. Baldwin’s eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving in consecutive years, and he set a new single-season high of 1,128 yards last year.

His touchdown total however, dipped from 14 in 2015 to seven last year. But 21 touchdowns over the past two seasons is an impressive stat. With guys like Dez Bryant, T.Y. Hilton, DeAndre Hopkins, Demaryius Thomas and Amari Cooper ranked right around Baldwin, his touchdowns over the past two seasons rank best out of all of them.

A key stat for Baldwin is in 2015, 95 percent of Baldwin’s yardage (1,011) and 93 percent of his touchdowns (13) came from the slot, per Next Gen Stats. In 2016, those percentages fell to 59 for yardage (662) and 57 for touchdowns (four). Baldwin proved he could win outside, posting a 78 percent catch rate and 15.36 yards per catch average when lined up out wide.

He has proven to be a top target for Seattle and I expect him to continue his dominance with the run game still in question. His only threat to take targets away is Jimmy Graham but that didn’t stop him in 2016.

San Francisco 49ers: Carlos Hyde will run for over 1,000 yards

Carlos Hyde as of right now is being selected right around the third to fourth round. He is ranked as the 15th running back.

Fantasy Football Bold Predictions NFC West

Carlos Hyde (Photo by: sfgate.com)

Hyde has had some problems staying healthy (14 games missed in three seasons). But when he’s on the field he’s one of the better backs in the league. He averaged a career-best 4.6 YPC on 217 carries last season and has ranked among the top 10 in the NFL in YAC each of the past two years.

He has been the best running back on his team in terms of success rate every year he’s been in the league, and just last season, only 10 running backs had more top-24 PPR performances and only 7 had more top-12 ones.

Hyde will be in a new offense in 2017 under Kyle Shanahan. He will fit his offense around the skillset of his personnel. With Cleveland in 2014, the team ran for five more touchdowns than they threw for. With the Atlanta Falcons, we saw Shanahan turn Devonta Freeman into a top fantasy running back in 2015. Granted in a better offense, Shanahan works well with running backs when the offense molds together.

Hyde finished 2016 ranked 18th in fantasy points in only 13 games, posting five top-10 weeks and nine touchdowns. He just missed 1,000 yards by 12 yards. There’s been a lot of hype around the backup Joe Williams. But he has been dominating training camp and Jon Lynch liked the shape Hyde was in as recently as late July.

 

Featured image from calvinayre.com.

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NFL top 100 players 2017: 90-81

The NFL season is right around the corner and all the lists of top players of the NFL are out. There is only one problem with these lists: they look back on the 2016 season too much. This list will look forward to the 2017 season and predict who will be the top 100 players for the 2017 season. The Game Haus staff compiled their lists together to rank who they think will be the top 100 players this upcoming season.

This is the second installment, containing players 90-81.

90. Malcolm Butler, CB, New England Patriots

NFL Top 100

Malcolm Butler (photo by twitter.com)

Butler has gone from unknown out of the University of West Alabama, to Super Bowl hero, to one of the best corners in the league. He put his talents on display last season with 63 total tackles, four interceptions, 16 passes defended, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and a sack.

He will pair with number 97 on our list, Stephon Gilmore, to create a great cornerback tandem. The Patriots had the best scoring defense in the league and ranked 12th against the pass. That rank will only get better this season with Butler improving from year to year and Gilmore on the other side of the field.

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick get a lot of the praise, and deservedly so, but Butler and the defense are good enough to get some recognition too.

Comments: “I personally have Butler much higher on my list. Butler isn’t always asked to cover the elite receivers, but he’s proven to be excellent in coverage. Only 50 percent of the passes thrown his direction get completed. On average, he holds receivers well below their average in yards per game. He was essential to a Patriots secondary that played a major factor in getting New England a fifth Super Bowl ring.”-Blake Van Poucke

89. Josh Norman, CB, Washington Redskins

NFL Top 100

Josh Norman (Photo by washingtonpost.com)

It was a tumultuous, but effective first year in the nation’s capital for Norman. People criticized him for only playing one side of the field, not understanding what type of corner he is. He finished the season with 67 total tackles, three interceptions, 19 passes defended and two forced fumbles.

While Washington’s pass defense wasn’t good last year, ranking 25th in the NFL, Norman usually did a solid job of shutting down his side of the field. The rest of the Redskins’ secondary let the team down. In 2017, teams will still try to avoid throwing the ball to Norman’s side of the field because they can do so much damage throwing away from him.

Norman may get headlines for getting into scuffles with notable wide receivers, but he can play and it will show once again in 2017.

Comments: “Norman experienced maybe the biggest drop off from his first team all-pro 2015 with the Panthers after being moved to the Redskins. Nevertheless, he only experienced a small drop in production while taking on a smaller role on Washington’s secondary. He wasn’t the shutdown corner he was in 2015, but he was still very effective.”-Blake Van Poucke

88. Sean Lee, LB, Dallas Cowboys

NFL Top 100

Sean Lee (Photo by nfl.com)

Lee had a phenomenal 2017 with 146 total tackles, one pass defended and one fumble recovery. There is a noticeable difference when he is on the field and healthy for the Cowboys as opposed to when he is not.

One of the things Lee is known for the most is that he is injury prone, as he has never played all 16 games in a season. Staying healthy is a key for him to stay on this list, but if he does and performs like previous years, he will deserve his slot. Last year Dallas had the fifth-best scoring defense in the league and with an emphasis on drafting defensive players and controlling the clock on offense, Lee should be able to have another great season.

Playing under Rod Marinelli, Lee has thrived and there is no reason, other than injury, to think he won’t continue to thrive for the Cowboys.

Comments: “Sean Lee is one of the best linebackers in the league. The Cowboys look so much better on the defensive side of the ball when Lee is healthy. He is a tackle machine and is the heart and soul of the defense. If Lee can stay healthy, his spot on this list is almost guaranteed.”-Joe DiTullio

87. Marcus Mariota, QB, Tennessee Titans

NFL Top 100

Marcus Mariota (Photo by titansonline.com)

In his second season in the NFL, Mariota threw for 3,426 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions on 61% completion. His career is trending upward as he only won three games as a starter during his rookie season, but ended up winning eight in his sophomore campaign.

The Titans are starting to build a legitimate offensive threat around their franchise quarterback. DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry provide two good running backs that keep each other fresh behind a good offensive line, which features Taylor Lewan. Tennessee selected Corey Davis with the fifth pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and will pair him with Eric Decker, whom they have recently just signed, Rishard Matthews and Delanie Walker.

With more weapons and another year of experience under his belt, look for Mariota to have a very successful 2017.

Comments: “Marcus Mariota is not getting the respect he deserves and is a top 45 player. He got injured in the 15th game and still put up 3,426 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Had Mariota stayed healthy I fully believe the Titans would have won the division. Mariota will be a top-five quarterback by the end of this season.” -Matthew Hagan

 86. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Oakland Raiders

NFL Top 100

Marshawn Lynch (Photo by upi.com)

A guy who didn’t play last season makes the top 100. “Beast Mode” has given a lot of people reason to believe in him over the years, but had a disappointing and injury-plagued 2015 season before retiring. The 31-year-old has 9,112 rushing yards and will be looking to tack on as many yards as possible in his new silver and black uniform.

Live-game action is something that can’t be substituted, so Lynch may not have the greatest of starts, but he will have one thing that many running backs over the age of 30 don’t have, fresh legs. Another thing Lynch has going for him in 2017? His offensive line is among the best in the NFL and should be able to clear him a lot of space before he is contacted.

Lynch partially makes the list because of his great career, but also partially because of how great the guys in front of him will be.

Comments: “Similar to Brandon Marshall, Marshawn Lynch only made this list off of reputation. Lynch is 31 years old and didn’t even play last season. There will be some rust and he won’t be the every down back for the Raiders. I will be surprised if Lynch rushes for more than 700 yards.” -Matthew Hagan

“He lives up to his nickname Beast Mode. It seems impossible to tackle him. He can explode up the middle and have that big run like he had against the Saints that made him known as Beast Mode. With his new home with the Raiders I see him having the same success with the offensive line in Oakland. I think he could be a little higher on this list especially in front of Demaryius Thomas.”- Craig Stogdill

85. Jerrell Freeman, LB, Chicago Bears

NFL Top 100

Jerrell Freeman (Photo by chicagobears.com)

Freeman was suspended for his use of PED’s in 2016, but still put up impressive numbers. He was left off of the NFL’s top 100 player list, but because this list focuses on how well the players will do in 2017, he makes the cut. In 12 games in 2016, Freeman recorded 112 total tackles and four passes defended.

Assuming he can stay on the field, Freeman is by far the best player on the Bears’ defense. He is good at both stopping the run and in coverage, which makes him a three-down linebacker.

In 2017 Freeman will continue to be the best player on the Bears’ defense and make top 100 lists.

Comments: “Freeman didn’t make a lot of top 100 lists because of his PED suspension last season. In 2017 Freeman will return to form and have another great season. His ability to cover makes him a very valuable player.”-Joe DiTullio

84. Justin Houston, LB, Kansas City Chiefs

NFL Top 100

Justin Houston (Photo by cbssports.com)

Injuries have derailed Houston’s last two seasons, but in 2014 he had 22 sacks. He has had knee injuries, but now says he is healthy and ready to play. If he can stay healthy an regain his form he is one of the most dominant players in the league, but that is a big if.

Kansas City ranked 28th in sacks in 2017, but if Houston is healthy he should be able to help improve that number drastically. While knee injuries are never a good thing, Houston will be 28 this season, meaning that he should still be able to bounce back.

If Houston plays a healthy season, he will be on this list at season’s end, but if he gets hurt again, his best years are probably behind him.

Comments: “It’s a shame that Houston has only been able to play 16 games in the last two seasons. A fully healthy Justin Houston is still a top-five player in this league. 2013 is considered by many to be one of the greatest single seasons ever from a defensive end. He was still around a sack per game in 2016, but only got five games in. For the sake of entertainment, please stay healthy Justin Houston.”-Blake Van Poucke

83. Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos

NFL Top 100

Demaryius Thomas (Photo by denverpost.com)

Thomas has made five straight Pro Bowls but saw his production dip last season. He had 1,083 receiving yards and five touchdowns on 90 receptions. These are all the lowest these stats have been since his second season in the league.

Most of this isn’t Thomas’ fault. He is still a good talent but has been playing with young quarterbacks who aren’t the most talented, yet. Evidence of this is his 62.5% catch percentage in 2016, which is the third highest in his career. Ultimately Thomas’ fate rests in the hands of the developing young quarterbacks, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch.

While Thomas is a player anyone would want on their team, his production and ranking in 2017 may not match his actual talent.

Comments: “Demaryius Thomas is a really good player but the quarterback situation in Denver hurts him. Neither Paxton Lynch nor Trevor Siemian will be good enough to keep Thomas as a top 100 player. Unfortunately for receivers, being a top player is somewhat out of their hands.” -Matthew Hagan

“Last year was rough for DT. He didn’t have Peyton Manning to throw him the ball and played injured last season. But Thomas is still a big target with great speed for his size. He has the size of a tight end with the speed, agility and ball skills of a wide receiver. He can get up there and make that acrobatic catch. I think DT is ranked way too high only because of his situation and that 2017 won’t look any better”- Craig Stogdill 

82. Gerald McCoy, DT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL Top 100

Gerald McCoy (Photo by tampabay.com)

The Bucs have been lucky enough to have a consistently good player like McCoy on their team for seven seasons. Last year he continued his good production with 34 total tackles, 6.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumbles recovered.

As a defensive tackle, his pass rushing numbers stand out with 42 career sacks in his seven seasons. In a division that features Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and Cam Newton, getting after the quarterback is a must. McCoy will have to be a great player once again to give the Bucs a chance to leap into the playoffs.

This season McCoy will be a top 100 player once again.

Comments: “This guy has been a stalwart on defense for the Bucs for a long time. He could be ranked higher just due to consistency. I expect that with his team finally in a real playoff push (last year a lot of things needed to happen for them to get in) he will exceed expectations, which are already pretty high.”- Robert Hanes

81. Phillip Rivers, QB, Los Angeles Chargers

NFL Top 100

Phillip Rivers (Photo by espn.com)

In the Chargers’ last season in San Diego, Rivers had a solid season, despite not having the best talent around him. He threw for 4,386 yards on 60.4% completion, with 38 touchdowns and 21 interceptions.

That might not be the best stat-line, but he was throwing to Tyrell Williams and Dontrelle Inman for the most part, who were virtual unknowns before the season. In 2017 the Chargers will have Keenan Allen back (pending his ability to stay healthy), rookie Mike Williams, a reliable Antonio Gates and an up and coming Hunter Henry to go along with Williams, Inman and Travis Benjamin.

Rivers is aging and will be 36 this season, but he hasn’t shown many signs of slowing down. With a better cast around him in 2017, look for him to keep on climbing up in the record books and be a top 100 player yet again.

Comments:“Rivers had one of his worst seasons as a pro last year and being 35 years old doesn’t help. He threw 21 interceptions and was the leader of the offense that committed the most turnovers per game last season. As this year goes by, fans will start to realize that it is time for the Chargers to move on and look for their next franchise quarterback.” -Matthew Hagan

“What Rivers did last season with no offensive line and a crop of receivers that no one knew about is nothing short of amazing. Based on last year this ranking is justified, but looking ahead to this season, with his new weapons and a better team overall, Rivers is going to have a very good season and is better than a lot of players ahead of him on this list.”- Joe DiTullio

NFL Top 100 Players: 100-91

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2017 fantasy football wide receiver rankings: 20-11

A good wide receiver one is important for any fantasy team. Last article, I featured some solid WR2s with WR1 upside. This list contains some low WR1s and some great number one receivers for your team.

20. Brandin Cooks (New England Patriots): How is it possible that the defending Super Bowl champs got even better? In this offseason, the Patriots made the blockbuster deal to acquire Saints stud Brandin Cooks. After playing under Drew Brees for the last two seasons, Cooks has gotten at least 75 receptions and 1,100 yards.

fantasy football wide receivers

(Photo credit: https://www.profootballfocus.com/brandin-cooks-wins-his-routes/)

Cooks was reliable and productive for the Saints last season. He ranked sixth in the league in yards per target with an even 10.0 and ranked 14th in yards after the catch with 383. Now he is playing alongside arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, Tom Brady.

With the Patriots Cooks will primarily be used in the slot. We’ll have to see how he adjusts to the slot more often in New England. He has the ability to be a top five wide receiver if he pans out in New England.

19. Terrelle Pryor (Washington Redskins): The breakout story of 2016 now takes his talents to Washington to play with Kirk Cousins. Cousins has already said that he wants to get Pryor the ball.

One of the NFL’s Swiss army knives, Pryor can do it all. Last season he had 1,007 yards and four touchdowns. In 2013 with the Raiders, Pryor rushed for 567 yards on 83 attempts. Now with Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson out of Washington, Pryor is the No. 1 receiver and there are good things to come from it.

18. Keenan Allen (Los Angeles Chargers)- Last year I had so much hope for Keenan Allen. I drafted him early and was sure he would finish as a top ten receiver. He then tore his ACL in the end of the first half of the first game of the season. He has all the talent to be a stud receiver in this league, if he can stay healthy. Since he’s been in the league, he hasn’t played a full season.

As a matter of fact, he’s only played nine games over the past two seasons. In 2015, he was very efficient ranking third in catch rate. Now hopefully he can play a full season with Phillip Rivers, who has the ability to throw for 5,000 yards. If that does happen, Allen can be a top 10 receiver easily.

17. Allen Robinson (Jacksonville Jaguars): Another case of a wide receiver with high hopes who didn’t amount to much last season. When Blake Bortles’ production decreased, so did Robinson’s. He had 600 less receiving yards and eight less touchdowns than the season before.

Bortles, the king of garbage time, threw most of his touchdowns when the team was trailing in 2015. Robinson thrived in the red zone, especially when the Jags were behind. His production comes down to whether or not Robinson can get his numbers from 2015 back.

2017 fantasy football wide receiver rankings: 20-11

(Jim Steve-USA TODAY Sports)

16. Davante Adams (Green Bay Packers): Davante Adams finally lived up to his expectations in 2016. While he had 997 yards and 12 touchdowns, owners can’t be expecting the same numbers as last year.

Behind the scenes, Adams wasn’t very efficient but he ranked 12th in production and tenth in yards after the catch with 408 yards. Last season Adams had nine drops which is way too many for a player like him. If he can improve his catch rate his yardage will improve.

The double digit touchdowns aren’t a lock to repeat, however 7-8 is reasonable for a player like Adams. It also helps that he’s playing under Aaron Rodgers. Expect low WR1 numbers from Davante Adams.

15. Sammy Watkins (Buffalo Bills): Like Keenan Allen, Watkins has the talent and ability to be a top five wide receiver if he can stay healthy. Just a year removed from a 1,000 yard season, Sammy Watkins followed it up with a horrid 430 yards in eight games.

The thing that makes Watkins different from the rest of the receivers on this list is how he’s top dog in Buffalo. There are little to no targets around Sammy Watkins. He has Zay Jones and Marquise Goodwin as his supporting cast which is a little scary.

The targets will be there for Sammy Watkins but he won’t break the bank with his yardage numbers. Tyrod Taylor has the ability to throw for around 3,200 yards so it will be hard for Watkins to get 1,300 yards, but he’s worth it at the right price.

14. Alshon Jeffrey (Philadelphia Eagles): I’ve never been a big fan of Alshon Jeffrey, and supported drafting him as a WR1 except for this year. Jeffrey is playing under a young quarterback in Carson Wentz. People have said that Alshon Jeffrey has been a disappointment over the last two seasons, but he has still eclipsed 800 yards in both of those years.

Now Jeffrey just needs to work on his red zone production. Jeffrey only caught four of his 12 targets in the red zone for only three touchdowns. If Jeffrey can improve his catch rate inside of 20 yards, he’ll be the number one receiver we’ve all been waiting for.

13. Deandre Hopkins (Houston Texans): The Brock Osweiler experiment didn’t last long in Houston. DeAndre Hopkins also never benefited from Osweiler being there. With his big arm and love for targeting tight ends, Brock Osweiler and DeAndre Hopkins never clicked like people thought they would. After saying that, he still had 954 yards and four touchdowns.

Now DeAndre Hopkins has Tom Savage and Deshaun Watson throwing him the ball and it isn’t much different. Savage started the last three games of the season and didn’t throw a single touchdown which isn’t good for fantasy owners. Watson probably won’t get the start until midseason, and even then it isn’t likely he’ll have an amazing rookie year. The touchdowns are going to lack again for Hopkins, but he has a chance to top 1,100 yards.

2017 fantasy football wide receiver rankings: 20-11

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

12. Demaryius Thomas (Denver Broncos): Even with the horrible quarterback situation in Denver, Demaryius Thomas provided a good season. Thomas had 1,083 yards and five touchdowns.

He’s been as reliable as anyone in the league, with 1,000 receiving yards in each of his seasons since 2012. Thomas has been consistent since he entered the league, averaging 2.29 yards per route which is far better than the NFL average of 1.54.

He’s shown that he can play under any quarterback and still succeed. If he can get more touchdowns this season, then Demaryius Thomas will be a top 10 or a top five receiver easily.

11. Dez Bryant (Dallas Cowboys): Dez Bryant should be a top five wide receiver in this league. But now with the run heavy scheme that the Cowboys have, it’s hard for Bryant to put up top WR1 numbers. Couple that with the fact that he hasn’t played a full season since 2014, I’m nervous about Dez this year.

After putting up 796 yards and eight touchdowns last year, Dez is in line for a similar season this year. If he can stay healthy, he could easily put up 200 more yards and another touchdown or two. Dez won’t put up the numbers he did in 2014 behind Prescott and Elliot but if Dak Prescott can play like he did last year, 1,000 yards and ten touchdowns isn’t out of reach.

 

 

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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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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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Franchise Analysis – Denver Broncos

Entering the 2016 season, the Denver Broncos had one question: “Who will take over for the legendary Peyton Manning?” One could argue that the question still remains. Trevor Siemian proved to be a serviceable quarterback, but not capable of overcoming below average running back and offensive line play. Other than the quarterback position, where else do the Broncos need to improve to make another run at a Lombardi Trophy in 2017?

2016 Evaluation – Offense

The Broncos failed to pick up where they left off in the 2015 season. Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler both contributed to an offense that ranked 19th in points and 16th in yards. The offense dropped to 22nd in points and 27th in yards this season. Who carries the blame for such a decline? We’ve already outlined the quarterback regression, but let’s take a closer look.

Trevor Siemian proved he has limitations this season. Will the Broncos be able to elevate his play by improving his supporting cast this off season (Courtesy of; DenverBroncos.com).

If it wasn’t apparent last year, it should be now. Peyton Manning covered up a lot of holes on this team last season. Even in his diminished state, Manning’s mind and control of the offense allowed him to put the Broncos in the best play possible on every snap. When Manning played, he accounted for 16 of the 39 sacks allowed. He was able to call plays that wouldn’t ask the offensive line to block for four to six seconds. He was able to minimize the impact that his average to below average linemen had on the passing game.

Even with an upgrade at the left tackle position from Ryan Clady to Russell Okung, the Denver Broncos still struggled. The biggest hole in this starting unit was the right tackle Donald Stephenson. Using Pro Football Focus player rankings, Stephenson was rated as the 77th best tackle out of 78 qualified players. Stephenson was also rated as the worst pass-blocking tight end in football. No quarterback can have success when one of his tackles is constantly getting beat.

2016 Evaluation – Defense

One aspect of the Denver Broncos that was never in doubt, was their defense. As a whole, they ranked 4th in both points and yards allowed. The unquestioned strength of this defense is their secondary. Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. provide this defense with incredible flexibility. Talib is able to match up with the top tier receivers on the outside and Harris can lock down even the best slot receivers. When a defense doesn’t have to roll coverage to a player or exchange responsibilities in the secondary, they can focus on rushing the passer.

Sylvester Williams had a down year defending the run. Will the Broncos look to upgrade the nose tackle position, or hope Williams will bounce back in 2017? (Courtesy of; Predominatelyorange.com)

When Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, and the emerging Shane Ray are able to rush the passer, this defense is suffocating. However, they must get better at stopping the run. This defense, despite their greatness, was 28th in rushing yards allowed. In their 3-4 defense, the nose tackle must be able to occupy double teams and keep linemen from blocking linebackers. Sadly, Sylvester Williams was unable to do that. Williams ranked as the 106th best interior defender against the run out of 117 qualified players. Denver must upgrade their nose tackle in their base defense if they hope to have more opportunities to rush the passer in 2017.

Divisional Analysis

The best way to ensure a spot in the postseason is to win your division. What does this team need to ascend back to the top of the AFC West?

Clearly, Denver needs to have more production from the quarterback position. However, that doesn’t mean the position needs an upgrade. Trevor Siemian proved to be a serviceable quarterback and can absolutely play better with an improved supporting cast. They also have their 2016 first round pick, Paxton Lynch. What Siemian lacks in talent, Lynch has. With these two players on the roster, they don’t need to try and upgrade the position.

Outside of the right tackle position, Denver could benefit greatly by upgrading their tight end. In 2016 we saw Carson Wentz be productive with an average at best collection of receivers. While they may be better than my analysis, they certainly aren’t as talented as Demaryius Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders. What allowed Wentz to succeed? He had a receiving first tight end that worked the middle of the field in Zach Ertz. Given that this team isn’t great in pass protection, an upgrade at tight end will allow whoever is starting to get the ball out of their hands quicker.

Some options in the draft include David Njoku from Miami, Gerald Everett from South Alabama, and Evan Engram from Ole Miss. I know I didn’t include O.J. Howard, but I don’t think Denver will use their first round pick on this position and Howard most likely won’t be available in the second round. If Denver wanted to use a day two or three pick to address this position, they could select Tyrone Swoopes from Texas or Eric Saubert from Drake University.

We talked previously about their lack of production from their nose tackle. Given the importance of that position in the 3-4 defense, they need to bring in another player. Given John Elway’s track record of acquiring defensive free agents, I could see them going that route instead of the draft to address this need.

PostSeason Prospects

There are certain criteria that can translate into post season success. Where did the Denver Broncos stack up to the rest of the league in 2016?

It’s almost incredible that this team won nine games and didn’t finish inside the top 20 at any of these critical criteria. What’s most telling is their third down conversion ranking. It goes beyond just third down. This statistic gives you an idea about their success on first and second down. Because they struggled so much to run the ball effectively on first and second down, they often faced longer third down attempts than most NFL offenses. Also, if you can’t convert on third down, you won’t have prolonged drives. Thus, their ranking of 28th in Time of Possession.

This defense is unbelievable. Despite having a bottom third offense, the Denver defense was top 10 in every relevant defensive metric. Of course, they were not good against the run. No team can just run the ball for four quarters. When teams put the ball in the air, most of the time, it fell incomplete or in the hands of a Broncos defender. If they can just be an average team against the run in 2017, they will find themselves in the post season.

2017 Predictions

There’s no reason to doubt that John Elway will address their needs this off season through the draft and free agency. I think they will absolutely find a way to get more production out of their quarterback, whoever it is. I do want to say, under no circumstances should they try and acquire Tony Romo. Yes, Romo is talented. He’s better than every quarterback on that team, but he isn’t a good fit. Putting an injury-prone quarterback, who’s older than 30, behind a suspect offensive line is foolish because they will have to give up substantial defensive assets to acquire Romo.

This team cannot sacrifice their defense to support their offense. Elway and company will do everything possible to put their team in the best position possible. Overall, I think it will be enough to get them back into the playoffs. I believe the Denver Broncos will finish 11-5 and second in the AFC West and enter the 2017 postseason as a Wild Card.

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