week 7 DFS don'ts

Week 7 DFS don’ts: Tight end

Week 6 might have been my worst week at the tight end position. No one’s perfect, but none of my low priced tight ends were even close to hitting. Thankfully, I get another shot to be right, or wrong, in week 7. Let’s dive right into the tight end edition of week 7 DFS don’ts.

Evan Engram: FanDuel Price $5,500

I love Evan Engram. I have shares of him in multiple seasonal fantasy leagues, but it’s not happening this weekend. I’ve talked multiple times about this Seahawks defense and how it is not good for opposing tight ends.

Kam Chancellor is great. His size as a safety allows him to play physically with tight ends and not worry about being bullied. Earl Thomas also has incredible playmaking skills, which keep quarterbacks from testing the deep middle.

Personnel aside, the Seahawks cover 3 scheme does not allow tight ends to accumulate a lot of yards. To successfully attack a Cover 3 defense, the ball has to get to the hash marks. This is the area by which neither player in their zone can account for. The Giants haven’t yet shown the ability to attack this part of the field.

The Seahawks statistically have been great against the tight end position. They have allowed zero touchdowns thus far, and only one time has a tight end scored double digit points. This occurred in week 5 against the Rams.

Overall, the Seahawks won’t allow Engram to get going because he is the focal point of the passing game. They won’t have a disappointing outing like the Denver Broncos because they have a superior coach in Pete Carroll. Stay away from Evan Engram this weekend.

Zach Miller: FanDuel Price $5,200

week 7 DFS don'ts

Don’t be fooled by Zach Miller’s recent production, as it has come in the most unconventional ways. (Photo by CBS Sports Chicago)

Please don’t fall for this trick. I’ve heard people talking about how Mitch Trubisky has made Zach Miller relevant. This could not be further from the truth. Miller’s production the last two weeks is nothing but complete luck. Miller’s touchdown against the Vikings should have been an interception.

Instead, the ball was tipped and fell right into his hands. Against the Ravens, Miller caught a touchdown from Tarik, freaking, Cohen. He caught a touchdown pass from a running back and people are trying to correlate that production to Trubisky.

Miller’s matchup is one of the worst this weekend for any tight end. He and the Bears will host the Carolina Panthers, who have been one of the NFL’s best defenses. Outside of Zach Ertz, they have done a great job against tight ends.

There are other players in much better situations at Miller’s price with more reliable production. Miller joins Engram on my week 7 DFS don’ts.

 

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Odell Beckham Jr. fantasy injury

Fantasy reaction: Odell Beckham Jr.’s injury

The New York Giants had a rough week 5 on Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers. Not only did they not get their first win, but they also suffered multiple injuries at one position.

The team lost four receivers on Sunday. They lost Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard to ankle injuries within a span of four plays in the second quarter. Then they lost Dwayne Harris to a foot fracture and is out for the remainder of the 2017 season.

But the bigger name is their star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. The Giants announced after the game that Beckham fractured his ankle and is expected to miss the rest of the season. This is of course a big blow to the Giants offense and to fantasy owners.

Fantasy players know that they can fix this, even if it’s a high-caliber player like Beckham.

The Giants situation

Granted the Giants had other options, but they don’t have someone to replace a talent like Beckham. Now they face the problem of who will replace the other receivers. According to ESPN, Shapard could miss a couple of weeks, and Marshall’s injury is unknown, but being carted off isn’t a good sign.

Odell Beckham Jr. fantasy injury

Odell Beckham Jr. (Photo by: nytimes.com)

The only wide receiver healthy as of Sunday on the roster is Roger Lewis Jr., who had a 29-yard touchdown catch on Sunday. The Giants made a couple of moves on Monday, promoting Travis Rudolph from their practice squad and re-signing Tavarres King, who played the last three seasons with the Giants. They also have tight end Evan Engram, who is more of a receiver tight end and will likely become Eli Manning’s top target. Also expect running back Shane Vereen to have a bigger role in the passing game.

It will be hard to be rely on these new faces especially with their matchup this week against the Broncos at Denver. Even with a poor offensive line, don’t expect the Giants’ offense to offer reliable fantasy options.  The only players to give a look at especially in deeper leagues are Lewis and Engram and then Vereen only in PPR.

Wavier Wire

The first option is to look at the wavier wire and look at streamable players from this point on. Of course none of these receivers are anything close to Beckham, but they could help you week-in and week-out especially if you need players with good matchups.

The first is to look at Lewis of the Giants. He’s the next man up after the Giants lost four receivers on Sunday. He had a 29-yard touchdown catch. It may not look like much, but with Beckham out and Marshall and Shepard expected to miss time, he could be the new No. 1 receiver for Big Blue. However, his next two matchups are Denver and Seattle, who will both be coming off byes. He might not be the first choice, but shouldn’t be ignored if you’re desperate.

Odell Beckham Jr. fantasy injury

Roger Lewis Jr. (Photo by: sanluisobispo.com)

A streamable receiver to look at is Carolina Panthers receiver Devin Funchess. Since they lost tight end Greg Olsen in week 2, he has seen 27 targets over the last three weeks. Funchess also has crossed the goal line on three occasions over the last two games.

Part of his success is his quarterback Cam Newton playing sensational the past two games. His 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame makes him a natural red-zone target.

The Panthers face the Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the next three weeks. These three teams are ranked inside the top-10 in fantasy points allowed to opposing wide receivers. Funchess also missed practice on Monday with a knee injury, and should be watched closely if he doesn’t play on Thursday.

Other receivers to look at are Jermaine Kearse of the Jets, Mike Wallace of the Ravens, Nelson Agholor of the Eagles and Kendall Wright of the Bears.

Look at trades

If no one in free agency interests you, maybe it’s time to find a trade. Personally I’m not a big fan of trades unless I’m the one receiving the trade, but if times are desperate, then a trade could be in the cards.

One big name that is having a good start to the season is New England Patriots receiver Chris Hogan. Sure he may cost you, but if you have assets, he’s worth it. He may be 31st in the league in targets, but he is a touchdown machine. Hogan has turned four of his last 26 targets into trips to the end zone. They may have lots of mouths to feed in New England, but he has been consistent since week 2 and is continuing to play at a high pace.

Now there’s players to look at who are having down years. Names like Amari Cooper, Terrelle Pryor, Sammy Watkins and Golden Tate could be valuable down the stretch if they turn it around. Some fantasy owners might give up these players for the right price, and it might not take much to land these players. Even with their struggles, they are top receivers on their teams. Their targets will remain consistent, and the plan here is to hope for a bounce back.

Now if you’re one of those players that want to land a star to replace a star then look at Julio Jones. He has struggled out of the gate with no touchdowns, but coming off a bye could be what Jones needs to get going. If you have assets and want to make the swing to the fences, this a trade you want to try.

Best bet: Look for the hot hand

In the end, the best bet is to look at players that are hot. Running backs, wide receivers and tight ends that are playing consistent are the best way to replace Beckham without getting rid of your whole team. There’s no clear way to replace Beckham, but we all can relate to losing the star of your team. Hopefully to most they can overcome this, but continue to make moves for the hot hand if there’s no clear long-term replacement.

 

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2017 NFC East division

2017 NFC East division preview

The NFL regular season is fast approaching. In the blink of an eye, Sep. 7 will arrive and the Chiefs and Patriots will be kicking off. In the meantime, Hagan’s Haus will be bringing you the divisional previews and predictions of how teams will finish in their respective divisions. Without further adu, here is the 2017 NFC East division preview.

4. Washington Redskins

Last season: 8-7-1

Strength of Schedule: 7

Last season was an up and down one for the Redskins. This year the schedule makers didn’t make it any easier on them. Aside from playing in the tough NFC East, Washington must also play the AFC West. The AFC West is arguably the best division in football. As if the tough schedule wasn’t enough to deal with, the Redskins have glaring weaknesses on both sides of the ball.

2017 NFC East division preview

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Offensively, their line is average but consistent. The running back situation is somewhat of a mess. None of Washington’s running backs had more than 750 yards last season.

Rob Kelley, Matt Jones and Chris Thompson all got significant carries and return this season. Washington also drafted Samaje Perine from Oklahoma. Without a clear cut go-to running back, the offense will be one dimensional.

The strength of the offense is the passing attack, but it isn’t even all that great on paper. Kirk Cousins is an average NFL quarterback who will not lead a team to a Super Bowl. In their division, he won’t even be able to get them into the playoffs this season.

He doesn’t have the best of receivers either. His number one receiver is a converted quarterback. Cousins’ other viable offensive weapon is tight end Jordan Reed who has had nagging injuries keeping him out of the lineup.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Redskins are going to struggle. The Redskins gave up 23.9 points per game last season because they couldn’t stop the run. Teams ran for an average of 119.8 yards per game. This problem wasn’t addressed in the draft or in free agency. Washington did draft Jonathan Allen, but are playing him at defensive end and his strength is against the pass.

With the lack of a running game and a defense that can’t stop the run, teams will control the flow of the game and the clock against the Redskins. Washington will be playing from behind and Kirk Cousins will have a higher interception total this season. Their seventh ranked schedule is also a major reason on why they will have a rough year.

Prediction: 5-11 (3-3), miss the playoffs

3. Philadelphia Eagles

Last season: 7-9

Strength of Schedule: (T) 10

The Eagles made a lot of moves in the offseason to help out second-year quarterback Carson Wentz. They made it a point to do so because the second season is the most important in the development of a quarterback.

2017 NFC East division preview

(Photo Credit: http://www.csnphilly.com)

Heading into the season the Eagles have the best ranked offensive line according to Pro Football Focus. That line should pave the way for a solid year by LeGarrette Blount, who led the league in rushing touchdowns last season.

Wentz was also given a new huge weapon at receiver in Alshon Jeffery. Jordan Mathews, who had 73 receptions in 2016, returns to play alongside Jeffery. Carson Wentz is also blessed with a really good tight end, Zach Ertz, who led the team in catches with 78.

The Eagles have a very talented defense that allowed 20.7 points per game last season. The defense hasn’t changed much and should play similar to the way they did last season.

Philly has road games outside the division against the Chiefs, Panthers and Seahawks. They also have home games against the Cardinals, Broncos and Raiders. A tough division and tough schedule are what may hold Philadelphia back this season.

Prediction: 7-9 (3-3), miss the playoffs

2. New York Giants

Last season: 11-5

Strength of Schedule: 8

2017 NFC East division preview

(Photo Credit: https://rukkus.com/)

New York’s season came to an abrupt end in the playoffs against the Packers after a 38-13 thrashing. It was just a bad game for the Giants and not a true indication of how good they really are. In reality, the Giants are a team capable of winning the Super Bowl and it starts with their defense.

Quietly, the Giants had one of the best defenses in the league last season. They gave up just 17.8 points per game, which was second best in the NFL. Their defensive line got lots of pressure and the amazing secondary put fear into opposing quarterbacks.

The weak spot of the defense is the linebacking corp and if they can just be average, then the Giants will have an elite defense yet again.

Offensively, the Giants can sleep easy knowing Eli Manning is still under center. He doesn’t get the shine like most Super Bowl winning quarterbacks, but he hasn’t missed a game since before Nov. 21, 2004. Manning is consistent and the team knows they will be able to get 4,000 yards and 25 or more touchdowns from him.

He has Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram as targets for 2017. This is going to make his job easy.

The only question mark on the offense is at running back. Paul Perkins is the man but can he shoulder the load for an entire season? He only carried the ball 112 times for 456 yards last season and will be taking over for Rashad Jennings. If he can be the workhorse, the Giants will have a dangerous offense that can win them a lot of games.

New York has talent on both sides of the ball. They will continue to build off of last season’s success and have another solid campaign in 2017 but it won’t be good enough to knock off the Cowboys for the division title.

Prediction: 10-6 (3-3), wildcard candidate

1. Dallas

Last season: 13-3

Strength of Schedule: (T) 10

2016 was a great year for Dallas as they ran out to a 13-3 record and a first-round bye. Unfortunately, their defense let them down against one of the game’s best quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers. Dallas fell to the Packers 34-31 in the divisional round of the playoffs and their surprising season came to end. This year there are Super Bowl expectations for America’s team.

2017 NFC East division preview

(Photo Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)

The entire team is led by their running game. It is no secret how talented the offensive line is in Dallas and the Cowboys used it to their advantage. Rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott led the NFL in rushing yards with 1,631 yards last season. The success of their running game took pressure off rookie quarterback Dak Prescott.

Prescott should take a leap this year as the Cowboys will attempt to open up the playbook. Dak threw for 3,667 yards, 23 touchdowns and four interceptions. The formula for success is still to run the ball, but with a better understanding of the offense and solid weapons around him, Dak could have an even better sophomore season.

The issue with the Cowboys is their defense but more specifically, their pass defense. Dallas addressed their defense by adding Taco Charlton to try and create quick pressure on opposing quarterbacks. They also drafted Jourdan Lewis out of Michigan, who was one of the best corners in the nation. To improve the secondary even further, they signed Nolan Carroll from the division rival Eagles.

All these moves should improve the defense but there is a potential superstar, who isn’t a new acquisition, waiting to be unleashed.

Jaylon Smith was a consensus top five pick last season before he blew his knee out in a bowl game. Smith sat out last season after the Cowboys drafted him in the second round. If Smith can stay healthy, he will be a Pro-Bowl caliber player. Adding him to this defense could be the difference in losing to Green Bay and heading to Minnesota for Super Bowl LII.

With all the talent the Cowboys have on offense, the defense just needs to be average. They will be better than average with the moves they made in the offseason and the Cowboys will be a legitimate Super Bowl contender this season.

Prediction: 12-4, division champion

 

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Top five 2017 fantasy wide receivers

In fantasy football, the deepest position is wide receiver. Teams have a plethora of different receivers and many of them have different skillsets. Some are the dominant number one options, some are the big red zone threats and others the speedy slot receivers.

But these five receivers separate themselves from the rest and these are the top five fantasy wide receivers in 2017.

No. 5 A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Wide Receivers

A.J. Green (Photo by:www.sbnation.com)

Green has been dominant ever since he came into the league in 2011. In his first five seasons, he posted over 1,000 yards every year. He joins only Randy Moss in that category.

Twice he has finished as a top-five receiver in fantasy and once in the top-10 in those five seasons. He has also been Andy Dalton’s favorite target as he has seen over 100 targets in each of those five seasons.

In PPR leagues, he has finished in the top-nine at the position during three of the past five seasons.

However, in 2016 Green struggled with injuries and missed out on 1,000 yards. He averaged 96.4 yards per game on 6.6 catches per game (both personal bests) before a hamstring injury sidelined him for six games. He still managed to have 100 targets and caught 66 passes for 964 yards and four scores in 10 games. Green still ranked in the top-30 in standard leagues.

Green is finally healthy and expect him to still be a target machine for Dalton. There is a little concern due to Tyler Eifert finally being healthy taking away some targets from Green. That shouldn’t be enough to shy away from Green as a roster asset. Green is a no-brainer No. 1 receiver that is a high second-round pick if not a end of the first round.

No. 4 Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers

The best fantasy wide receiver last year, Jordy Nelson ranks fourth on my list for 2017.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Wide Receivers

Jordy Nelson (Photo by: chicago.cbslocal.com)

The Comeback Player of the Year recipient also deserves the nod for fantasy comeback player of the year. He led fantasy scoring over 16 games and posted 10-plus points in nine of them. A lot of that last year was because the Green Bay Packers threw the ball 62.7 percent of the time thanks to a depleted run game.

He finished the 2016 campaign with a career-high in targets (152), and caught 97 passes for 1,257 yards and league-high 14 touchdowns.

But what puts Nelson on this list is his play in the red zone. He led all receivers from inside the 20-yard line with 29 targets, 19 catches, 127 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also led receivers inside the 10-yard line in targets (15), catches (11), yards (45) and touchdowns (9).

Nelson has been known to have very good hands and in the red zone he seems unstoppable. Some of that credit goes to Aaron Rodgers, but Nelson was on a mission in 2016 after missing 2015 with a torn ACL.

I don’t expect Nelson to have the dominant year he had in 2016 due to the improvement of their ground game in the draft and the signing of tight end Martellus Bennett taking some targets away especially in the red zone. I do believe Nelson will have a solid season still racking up over 1,000 yards, over 90 receptions and double digits in touchdowns.

When drafting Nelson, he is a No. 1 receiver and should be drafted by the second round.

No. 3 Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants

When it comes to being a big play highlight reel, Odell Beckham Jr. doesn’t disappoint. The New York Giants’ star ranks third for wide receivers in fantasy.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Wide Receivers

Odell Beckham Jr. (Photo by: giants.com)

In 2016, Beckham had a slow start compared to what he did in 2015. But Beckham finished strong and had career bests in both targets (169) and receptions (101). He still maintained well over 1,300 yards and double digits in touchdowns.

In a three-year average he has 96 receptions for 1,374 yards and 12 touchdowns. He’s finished as a top-seven fantasy wide receiver in each of those three years. He also ranked seventh in the NFL with 15 end zone targets last season (up from 11 in 2015) and led the league target percentage in the red zone from inside the 20-yard line.

The numbers and records he has at age 24 is historic and he is just getting started.

This coming season, Beckham should only improve and the ceiling for him is high. Even though the Giants signed Brandon Marshall, have second year receiver Sterling Shepard and drafted tight end Evan Engram, this should benefit Beckham in the long run. With the plethora of weapons for opposing defenses to cover, Beckham should get his reps and my bold statement is that he very well could finish the year as the best fantasy player in 2017. He is a definite middle pick in the first round.

No. 2 Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons

Even though his numbers were down in 2016, Julio Jones is still a top two fantasy receiver.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Wide Receivers

Julio Jones (Photo by:thefalconswire.usatoday.com)

When you compare Jones’ stats from 2015 to 2016, you can’t expect him to repeat those numbers especially the way the Atlanta Falcons offense played in 2016. His targets dropped by over 30 percent, his receptions by nearly 40 percent and his yards by nearly 25 percent. He also missed two games with a toe injury.

But it was the evolution of the Falcons’ offense that really dropped Jones’ stats. Players on the Falcons stepped up and helped Matt Ryan to not force the ball in Jones’ direction.

Jones was the league leader in 100-plus yard games at the receiver position with seven. He still managed to thrive in this offense as the sixth fantasy wide receiver. Jones has finished as a top-11 fantasy receiver during four of the past five seasons.

There is some concern though that comes with Jones. The first is his durability as he’s missed at least one game during four of his six NFL seasons. The other is former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan leaving to become the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

The team hired Steve Sarkisian, a former college head coach who hasn’t been in the NFL since 2004. Sarkisian saw success as the Oakland Raiders quarterback’s coach, compiling more than 4,000 passing yards, ranking eighth out of 32 NFL teams in passing yardage.

Jones should continue to be a no-brainer as a reliable fantasy receiver as a middle pick of the first round pick.

No. 1 Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers

You don’t have to be an expert in fantasy to know that the number one receiver is Antonio Brown.

Top 5 2017 Fantasy Wide Receivers

Antonio Brown (Photo by: linkedin.com)

Compare his numbers from 2015 to last year and you will see that his numbers went down. He had 106 catches for 1,284 yards and 12 touchdowns. Even with the missed game he had, he still topped wide receivers in fantasy points for the third consecutive season.

He finished top-five in targets, receptions and receiving yards for the fourth straight year and Brown has delivered 10-plus fantasy points in 70.2 percent of his games over the past four seasons.

Brown should have another great season with Martavis Bryant back from a year suspension on the other side of him. With his addition, along with other targets, it will be impossible to double-team Brown all the time.

He’s averaged over 11 targets per game over the past four years and should repeat this stat again in 2017, even with the Steelers’ deep receiving corps and Le’Veon Bell at running back. He will remain Ben Roethlisberger’s top target and fantasy’s most consistently dominant wide receiver. He is worth taking in the top four picks and potentially the number one pick in PPR leagues.

 

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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.

 

Featured image from marketwatch.com

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Brandon Marshall

Impact pass catchers with new homes in 2017

Wide receivers and tight ends are tough positions to evaluate in the NFL. Over the years, top-level quarterback play has turned guys like Austin Collie, Deion Branch, Jacob Tamme and Willie Snead into solid pass-catching targets.

It is pretty rare to find a guy who is productive in every situation he is put in. However, this offseason has seen three players who fit that bill change teams. If healthy, they could help their new teams get to the next level.

Brandon Marshall, New York Giants

This is possibly the most impactful move of the entire offseason. In terms of raw talent, Marshall is one of the best of his era. He was a victim of the Jets’ dysfunction last year and posted an underwhelming 59 catches.

Prior to last year, he had just one full season as a starter with under 80 catches. Even at age 33, anyone who can make plays like the ones featured below on the NFL YouTube channel less than two years ago has a lot left in the tank.

The Giants are a perfect fit for Marshall. A quarterback like Eli Manning and young talent like Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram should be plenty to keep the occasionally temperamental Marshall motivated. These factors also mean he has a chance at two things he has never seen before: single coverage and the playoffs.

Eric Decker, Tennessee Titans

impact pass catchers new teams 2017

Photo: YouTube.com

Here we have another escapee from the barren wasteland that is the New York Jets. Decker missed all but three games last year due to a shoulder injury. Before that, he had become one of the most consistent pass-catchers around. This included hauling in 44 balls on the Tim Tebow-led Broncos that were allergic to throwing the ball.

He also tallied 87 catches from Peyton Manning in 2013 and 80 from Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2015. Those numbers in those situations say a lot. You will be hard pressed to find a more versatile pass catcher.

Bringing in such a reliable target was very wise of the Titans. Young quarterback Marcus Mariota is completing only about 61 percent of his throws and still trying to figure out how to be a consistently accurate NFL passer. When that is the case, you can never have enough guys like Decker around. Lastly, he is an above average blocker who should slide right into Tennessee’s run heavy offense and be a big help.

Martellus Bennett, Green Bay Packers

Free agent signings are almost as rare as unicorns in Green Bay, but this is a great one.

Aaron Rodgers has not had all that many physically imposing receiving targets over the years. However, he got a taste of it last year with Jared Cook and is no doubt happy with this replacement.

impact pass catchers new teams 2017

Photo: host.madison.com

Bennett is on a streak of 50-plus catch seasons that dates back to 2012. He has never been the top guy in an offense, but he is someone that always needs to be accounted for.

Adding him to an offense that already has Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb among others will make that difficult for defenses. At well over 6-feet tall, he can run like a wide receiver and is matchup nightmare for linebackers and defensive backs alike.

Make no mistake, the entire Packers organization is well aware of what Bennett did for Tom Brady and the Super Bowl Patriots last year, averaging 13 yards a catch and grabbing seven touchdowns. His addition to the Packers significantly strengthens their already realistic chances of doing what New England did last year.

 

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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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