2018 fantasy football WR rankings

The NFL Draft is now over and the next big event for football fans is likely their very own fantasy football drafts. The Game Haus will have rankings by both Joe DiTullio and Braxton Angle, as well as composite rankings, coming out over the coming weeks. The rankings are for standard leagues. These will be adjusted when the season gets closer, but it’s never too early to look ahead. Here are Joe’s WR rankings:

Wide receiver rankings: 1-10

1. Antonio Brown- Pittsburgh Steelers

Brown has totally proven himself over the last couple of years and will be the first wide receiver off the board in most drafts. He finished second in scoring last season, but sat out the last two games of the season. Brown did have some off games last season (five games of under 10 fantasy points) but did enough in other weeks to make up for it.

2. DeAndre Hopkins- Houston Texans

The leading fantasy receiver last season was DeAndre Hopkins. He has proven that it doesn’t matter which quarterback is playing, he still produces. Hopkins will be hoping that Deshaun Watson is healthy though, as three of his top four performances were with the rookie under center. With Watson improving in year two, Hopkins should be near the top of most fantasy rankings.

3. Julio Jones- Atlanta Falcons

Jones finished sixth among receivers last season and that was with Steve Sarkisian, who couldn’t figure out how to get him the ball properly. He also was coming off of a foot injury that led him to sit out of offseason workouts. While Sarkisian is still there, Jones will now have Calvin Ridley lining up with him and Mo Sanu. He is simply too talented not to give the ball to. Sarkisian needs to spend his offseason figuring out how to get the most of his players, Jones included, or he will be out of a job.

4. Odell Beckham Jr.- New York Giants

He only played four games last season before getting injured but was able to rank fourth among receivers in those four weeks. If Beckham can get healthy and stay healthy he will produce. He will be aided by the fact that the run game will be better, which will keep defenses honest.

5. Keenan Allen- Los Angeles Chargers

2018 fantasy football wr rankings

Keenan Allen (Photo by nbanflnobody.com)

Last year was the first season in which Allen has been able to play in a full 16 game schedule and he shined. Allen finished fourth in fantasy points last season with help from a few very good weeks. With Mike Williams coming back healthy and the offensive line being more healthy at the start of the season, Phillip Rivers will not only have more time to read defenses, but will have more options to throw to, as teams can’t solely focus on stopping Allen.

6. Michael Thomas- New Orleans Saints

Thomas finished eighth last season and continues to get better every year. He also has Drew Brees throwing him the ball and a lot of bad secondaries to go up against in the NFC South. Since his rookie season, only Antonio Brown has more fantasy points than Thomas at the wide receiver position. Expect more big things to come for Thomas this season.

7. A.J. Green- Cincinnati Bengals

He finished 10th last season and that was without too many viable receivers on the roster. John Ross and Tyler Boyd should have increased roles in the upcoming season, but it is hard to tell with Marvin Lewis coached teams. Tyler Eifert and Tyler Kroft should create a good tight end tandem. This means that there will be less focus on Green. The offensive line will also be vastly improved from last season, meaning Andy Dalton will have time to hit him on more deep balls.

8. Davante Adams- Green Bay Packers

Without Jordy Nelson on the roster anymore, Adams is unquestionably the go-to-guy for Aaron Rodgers. He was just outside the top ten in fantasy scoring last season and should see a huge bump up with Rodgers being healthy as well. Randall Cobb, Jimmy Graham and some young receivers will help keep double teams off of Adams.

9. Mike Evans- Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Evans disappointed fantasy owners last year, finishing 20th overall. While it wasn’t a great season, he still managed to get 1,000 receiving yards. If Jameis Winston can take another step forward this season, Evans should move back up in the final fantasy scoring ranks.

10. Tyreek Hill- Kansas City Chiefs

Hill finished fourth in scoring last season but now has to deal with a new quarterback. Pat Mahomes has potential but needs to improve his accuracy. The reason Hill stays in the top 10 is that they can get him the ball in so many ways and once he has it, he’s a threat to take it all the way. Expect a decrease in production, but not by too much.

Wide Receiver rankings: 11-20

11. Larry Fitzgerald- Arizona Cardinals

The ageless wonder continues to be a great option in fantasy football. He was top 10 in scoring last year and now will now have a new quarterback. If Sam Bradford is the starter, he will hit him on short routes and let Fitzgerald run after the catch. If Josh Rosen gets the nod he will need to rely on Fitzgerald early and often. Fitzgerald will produce with whatever quarterback is throwing him the ball.

12. Adam Thielen- Minnesota Vikings

With Case Keenum having his career year, Thielen also excelled. Now he has Kirk Cousins, who hasn’t had great receivers to work with throughout his career. They have already started to work together and Thielen should post similar, if not better, numbers than last season.

13. Alshon Jeffery- Philadelphia Eagles

Jeffery tore his rotator cuff and may not be ready for the start of the season. He finished 15th last season while playing very sparingly over the last two weeks of the season. No matter who is throwing passes on the opening day of the season, Jeffery is a solid WR2 play.

14. T.Y. Hilton- Indianapolis Colts

He had a bad season without Andrew Luck, ranking outside of the top 20. With Luck seemingly coming back this season, Hilton should move up higher in draft boards. The offensive line is now built to protect Luck and the Colts being conservative with his injury recovery, should mean he stays healthy.

15. Doug Baldwin- Seattle Seahawks

Baldwin is now one of the only decent targets that Russell Wilson can throw to with Jimmy Graham, Paul Richardson and Jermaine Kearse all leaving the team in recent seasons. He should get a lot of targets and be a decent WR2 if Wilson can stay healthy behind a bad offensive line.

2018 fantasy football WR rankings

Amari Cooper (Photo by silverandblackpride.com)

16. Amari Cooper- Oakland Raiders

Cooper struggled last season and didn’t produce. With Jon Gruden now taking over, a healthy Derek Carr and an offseason to get things straight, Cooper should start living up to his potential again. The field should be wide open with Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant flanking him.

17. Demaryius Thomas- Denver Broncos

A new quarterback in Denver in Keenum should increase Thomas’ productivity. He finished 23rd last season without good quarterback play, so a healthy bump up the projections should be expected. If Keenum has a season that is even slightly close to his season last year, Thomas will star.

18. Golden Tate- Detroit Lions

Tate has over 90 catches in the last four seasons and is a model of constant production. He is in the last year of his deal, meaning he will want to produce. Matt Stafford targets Tate over one more time per game than his running mate, Marvin Jones Jr.

19. Marvin Jones- Detroit Lions

He doesn’t get as many targets as Tate, but he makes the most of them and finished fifth in scoring last season. He will likely regress to the norm this season and shouldn’t be drafted as the fifth overall receiver this season. He fits in better as a WR2 than a WR1.

20. Allen Robinson- Chicago Bears

Robinson has new digs in Chicago and will be Mitchell Trubisky’s number one target. He’s used to performing with a quarterback that didn’t always play well and should help Trubisky’s development. His 2015 season will give a lot of hopes to fantasy owners this season.

Wide receiver rankings: 21-30

21. Jarvis Landry- Cleveland Browns

The Browns might have some semblance of a passing offense with Tyrod Taylor. Landry is a catch machine who is another receiver used to playing without the best players at quarterback. If the running game can keep the offense balanced, Landry shouldn’t see much dropoff in production.

22. Stefon Diggs- Minnesota Vikings

Diggs has morphed into the second best receiver on his team but still is capable of making big plays. He finished 17th last season and should finish in a similar range depending on how he vibes with Kirk Cousins.

23. Julian Edelman- New Orleans Saints

One of Tom Brady’s favorite targets returns from injury and will need to regain his quickness. Brady’s familiarity with Edelman and Brandin Cooks leaving should open up opportunities that Edelman has had in the past.

24. Pierre Garcon- San Francisco 49ers

Garcon is the number one receiver for the 49ers and his ranking will be very dependant on Jimmy Garoppolo improving. The soon-to-be 32-year-old had a season-ending injury, but should be able to reclaim his place as the team’s most productive receiver.

25. Robbie Anderson- New York Jets

There is no question about Anderson’s talent on the field, but he has off-the-field issues that make him a risky pick. He finished 16th in scoring last year and if he can stay on the field, will produce again this season.

2018 fantasy football wr rankings

JuJu Smith-Schuster (Photo by yahoo.com)

26. JuJu Smith-Schuster- Pittsburgh Steelers

He had a breakout season last year and now Martavis Bryant is gone, making him the undeniable number two target. The 18th wide receiver from last year may not have quite as good of a season with teams being able to scout him for a full season, but he is worth a pick in the middle rounds of most fantasy drafts.

27. Josh Gordon- Cleveland Browns

Gordon is another receiver that needs to stay on the field and can be a solid pick for fantasy. He too will benefit from the skill position players the Browns acquired this offseason.

28. Emmanuel Sanders- Denver Broncos

The 2017 season was disappointing for Sanders due to injuries and bad quarterback play. Keenum is the key here, as if he plays well Sanders should have a much better 2018.

29. Chris Hogan- New England Patriots

Hogan had a shoulder injury that left him unable to compete for the last seven games of the season (Hogan had one catch over that span). He was a great fantasy option last season and now Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola are gone.

30. Devin Funchess- Carolina Panthers

Funchess and Greg Olsen will be Cam Newton’s first options this season, but there is more help around them now. He will continue to use his size to create matchup problems with just about every secondary in the league.

 

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2018 fantasy football composite rankings: RB

The NFL Draft is now over and the next big event for football fans is likely their very own fantasy football drafts. The Game Haus will have rankings by both Joe DiTullio and Braxton Angle, as well as composite rankings, coming out over the coming weeks. These will be adjusted when the season gets closer, but it’s never too early to look ahead.

Tiebreakers were decided by both Joe and Braxton.

For longer explanations, you can find their individual rankings here: Joe and Braxton.

Here are the composite running back rankings:

Running back rankings: 1-10

1. Todd Gurley- Los Angeles Rams

Braxton’s rank: 2

Joe’s rank: 2

2. Ezekiel Elliot- Dallas Cowboys

Braxton’s rank: 1

Joe’s rank: 3

3. Le’Veon Bell- Pittsburgh Steelers

Braxton’s rank: 3

Joe’s rank: 1

4. Leonard Fournette- Jacksonville Jaguars

Braxton’s rank: 4

Joe’s rank: 7

5. Kareem Hunt- Kansas City Chiefs

Braxton’s rank: 5

Joe’s rank: 6

6. Alvin Kamara- New Orleans Saints

Braxton’s rank: 7

Joe’s rank: 5

7. David Johnson- Arizona Cardinals

Braxton’s rank: 8

Joe’s rank: 4

8. Saquon Barkley- New York Giants

Braxton’s rank: 6

Joe’s rank: 8

9. Melvin Gordon- Los Angeles Chargers

Braxton’s rank: 10

Joe’s rank: 9

10. Dalvin Cook- Minnesota Vikings

Braxton’s rank: 11

Joe’s rank: 10

Running back rankings: 11-20

11. Devonta Freeman- Atlanta Falcons

Braxton’s rank: 9

Joe’s rank: 12

12. Jerick Mckinnon- San Francisco 49ers

Braxton’s rank: 12

Joe’s rank: 15

13. Jordan Howard- Chicago Bears

Braxton’s rank: 14

Joe’s rank: 13

14. Christian McCaffrey- Carolina Panthers

Braxton’s rank: 19

Joe’s rank: 11

15. LeSean McCoy- Buffalo Bills

Braxton’s rank: 17

Joe’s rank: 14

16. Joe Mixon- Cincinnati Bengals

Braxton’s rank: 15

Joe’s rank: 18

17. Derrick Henry- Tennessee Titans

Braxton’s rank: 13

Joe’s rank: 20

18. Alex Collins- Baltimore Ravens

Braxton’s rank: 23

Joe’s rank: 17

19. Lamar Miller- Houston Texans

Braxton’s rank: 22

Joe’s rank: 19

20. Kenyan Drake- Miami Dolphins

Braxton’s rank: 25

Joe’s rank: 16

Running back rankings: 21-30

 21. Derrius Guice- Washington Redskins

Braxton’s rank: 21

Joe’s rank: 21

22. Royce Freeman- Denver Broncos

Braxton’s rank: 18

Joe’s rank: 24

23. Carlos Hyde- Cleveland Browns

Braxton’s rank: 16

Joe’s rank: 28

24. Mark Ingram- New Orleans Saints

Braxton’s rank: 20

Joe’s rank: 27

25. Jay Ajayi- Philadelphia Eagles

Braxton’s rank: 26

Joe’s rank: 25

26. Marshawn Lynch- Oakland Raiders

Braxton’s rank: 29

Joe’s rank: 22

27. Marlon Mack- Indianapolis Colts

Braxton’s rank: 24

Joe’s rank: 29

28. Ronald Jones- Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Braxton’s rank: 28

Joe’s rank: 26

29. Rashaad Penny- Seattle Seahawks

Braxton’s rank: N/A

Joe’s rank: 23

30. Sony Michel- New England Patriots

Braxton’s rank: 30

Joe’s rank: N/A

 

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Western Conference Playoff Preview

NBA Western Conference finals preview

And now, the matchup you’ve all been waiting for; The clash of the Titans; The metaphorical NBA Finals everyone has wanted to see all season is upon us. The Golden State Warriors will face the Houston Rockets in the NBA Western Conference Finals (Game 1 on Monday).

These two teams boast the best offenses in the league during the regular season. Both teams are Averaging at least 112 points per game, so casual fans can expect high scoring games and many shots to be taken. As for the diehard NBA fans, expect to watch the best offensive schemes the game has to offer. As basketball enthusiasts, we have been drooling over this possible matchup throughout the year, and we actually get to watch it, unlike in years past.

For those that need catching up on the NBA or just feel like reading for the buildup, continue reading as normal. For those that know these teams inside and out, feel free to skip the next section. WARNING: watching these two teams will feel like a school session, with the class specializing in movement off-the-ball. Take notes if you have to.

 DURING THE REGULAR SEASON

Western Conference finals preview

James Harden (Photo by businessinsider.com)

The Rockets secured the home court advantage as the top seed in the West with the best record in the league (65-17) and won the regular season series against Golden State (3-1). Superstar guard, James Harden, will probably end up the league’s MVP with the season he has had; posting numbers like 8.8 APG (assists per game), 5.4 RPG (rebounds per game), 86% FT (free throw) percentage, a league-leading PER (player efficiency rating) of 29.8, and career high in points per game with 30.4.

The question coming into this series is: Will Harden be able to lead his Rockets as the MVP past the Warriors? Or will the onslaught of Warriors’ famed “death lineup” be too much for his team to handle? While this discussion isn’t all about James Harden, he will certainly be the focusing point of this series for not just the Warriors, but for all basketball fans.

Harden will not be doing it all by himself; there are other key players he has in Houston, such as fellow guard and 9x all-star Chris Paul making his first ever conference finals (13 seasons) to help distribute the ball to his teammates and orchestrate the offense. Clint Capella has had a breakout season both offensively and defensively; second in blocks per game and first in FG% (granted most if not all of those baskets come from within five feet of the rim). And from the bench, Eric Gordon posted 18 PPG on 43% shooting. Houston have rotational players that fill the roles of deep threat shooting (Ryan Andersen and Gerald Green), defensive anchors (Trevor Ariza, PJ Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute) and size (Nene) needed to complete an NBA roster.

The Warriors dealt with injuries to Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Steph Curry throughout the season. Very rarely, did we see the healthy death lineup during the season. That apparently did not stop the Warriors being the highest scoring team in the league (113 PPG) despite having to settle for the no. 2 in the West.

Steph Curry, while injured during the final quarter of the season, still posted a good season averaging 26 PPG, 6 APG and 5 RPG. Kevin Durant posted almost identical numbers to Curry but switched the assist (5) and rebounding (6) numbers. The Warriors have utilized the veterans on the squad for rotation and that has been what has made them so dangerous in the past. From death lineup member Andre Iguodala all the way to rookie Jordan Bell and G-League call-up Kevon Looney, Steve Kerr has not been afraid to go deep into his bench this season.

HOW HAVE BOTH TEAMS LOOKED IN THE POSTSEASON?

Houston has conceded two losses thus far in the postseason (one in both previous rounds). Their versatile offense had proven incredibly difficult to defend for teams known for their defensive mindsets in Minnesota and Utah. The high pick and roll between James Harden/Chris Paul and Clint Capella/Nene has been their main staple and has usually caused defenders to switch and force mismatches. This draws attention from help defenders which can leave Houston’s shooters open for the two of the best passing guards to casually dish them the ball. And if help doesn’t come, that usually means a lob for Capella or an ISO finish from Harden/Paul.

One standout this postseason has been Clint Capella. The center is leading the playoffs in blocks with 2.9 per game and has won his matchups between Karl Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert; I am not saying Capella is by any means the second coming of Olajuwon, but his presence in the paint has been felt throughout the Rockets playoff run. Defense is what has been somewhat of a criticism of the Rockets in the past; especially with the system Mike D’Antoni has been famous for deploying. However, Capella looks to have become a major defensive catalyst for the Rockets high powered offense.

Western Conference finals preview

Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant (Photo by fansided.com)

Golden State played the first six games of their postseason without Steph Curry (one series and the first game of the semifinals). The Warriors began their run by beating a Kawhi-less and partially Pop-less San Antonio in 5 games; Coach Gregg Popovich left the team indefinitely as his wife tragically died of illness during the series.

The following series they faced Anthony Davis and the red-hot Pelicans; Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo had helped Davis sweep Portland in the previous round. If the semifinals were a test, Golden State passed with flying colors conceding one loss and ending the series in five.

Steph was reinserted into the squad in Game 2 of that series and didn’t seem to have lost any of his shooting touch; at last, the death lineup was back for the playoffs. With the team seemingly now healthy and four games of being able to re-awaken their chemistry, these seem to be the championship Warriors of the past few seasons; a lot of movement away from the ball, back-door cuts, slip screens and threes… lots and lots of threes.

 

HOW WILL THE SERIES PLAY OUT?

Houston’s most effective lineup (defensively and offensively) will be Chris Paul, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, PJ Tucker and Clint Capella. Eric Gordon is better coming off the bench. This allows him to be the focus of the offense when Harden or Paul needs a breather.

Harden and Paul will attempt to create switches to result in them being defended by a JaVale McGee, David West or Kevon Looney, as they are not good perimeter defenders and can be exploited with speed and finesse.

Their most effective lineup matches up well with Golden State’s death lineup in terms of size. The question will be can they keep up defensively with their movement away from the ball? Will Paul and Harden be able to chase Thompson and Curry all over the court? If they switch, what matchup are they willing to concede on that possession? This team may be able to keep up with Golden State offensively, but this series will come down to whether or not the Rockets can stop Golden State on defense.

Throughout this series, the Warriors will no doubt deploy the death lineup of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green. As we saw last season, this lineup appears unbeatable on both ends of the floor.

Green’s size and basketball IQ allow him to be able to defend almost any player on the court all while also being able to run the offense (Green is averaging close to a triple-double this postseason). Kevin Durant, while not the team’s leader, is the team’s most unstoppable force on the offensive end; the Rockets can only hope to slow down the 6’10” lanky forward. Iguodala (or “Iggy” as he is called), has been the team’s most gifted defender for the past few seasons now and can shoot from deep.

Houston will have a quite a task in stopping this team when it counts and I haven’t even talked about the Splash brothers yet; Klay and Steph have been touted by their previous coach, Mark Jackson, as the best shooting backcourt in the game’s history and don’t expect this series to be any different.

Shawn Livingston, David West, and McGee will be pivotal for the Warriors rotation in this series off the bench. One thing that will be interesting to see is if Kerr tries inserting rookie Jordan Bell to deter or hinder Capella with his heavier size and athleticism.

So, who wins? Who advances to the NBA Finals? While Houston may house the league’s probable MVP, his often-criticized individual defensive deficiencies may be his team’s undoing.

Expect the Warriors to try and get Harden to chase Klay or Steph around the court and make him expend more energy on the defensive end. What’s that Houston? You have Chris Paul now? That may be so, but this is also, for whatever reasons you want to come up with, his first ever conference finals.

Even if Houston matches up well defensively in size, that still leaves the most talented scorer in the game and his name is Kevin Durant. KD will not be stopped by any defender the Rockets have to offer as his size, ball handling, shooting and athleticism allows for him to have the advantage in nearly every situation this series could put in front of him.

And again, all of that without mentioning two of the best (if not the best) shooters this game has ever seen. Curry may not yet be completely healed from his knee sprain, but on this team, he may not have to.

The Warriors play a style that encourages individuals as much as it does teamwork, and that goes all the way to the end of the bench. The Warriors will be fresher and they have been to this stage many times in the past few seasons. Harden has disappeared in a key game in past series. Mike D’Antoni has made a conference final. What hasn’t happened are these Rockets getting past the Warriors when it matters most and don’t expect that to change.

Golden State wins in 6.

 

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College football top 10 predictions

The NFL Draft is over, now it’s time for college football to start back up again. As summer begins, teams prepare for camp and work their way towards having a good season for this upcoming year. As the countdown for college football begins, here are the top 10 teams that could make an impact in the 2018-2019 season.

1. Alabama

college football

Jalen Hurts stiff arms defender
(sec country)

Coming off of winning a National Title, the Alabama Crimson Tide might be able to go back for a fourth time. They still have leading junior quarterback, Jalen Hurts, who is a talented playmaker. He also has sophomore Tua Tagovailoa right behind him; he is also a very talented quarterback who is able to make plays. Even tho Bo Scarborough has moved on to the NFL, the Tide still has Damien Harris to run the ball past defenders on offense. On the defensive side, the Tide has the two good linebackers in Dylan Moses and Mack Wilson. They also have one of the most dangerous defensive linemen in the SEC with Raekwon Davis leading the herd.

2. Georgia

college football

Jake Fromm
(AI.com)

Georgia may have lost their starting linebackers and running backs, but this season still looks promising for the Bulldogs. During the spring game, there were some freshman that showed a lot of potential for the upcoming season. Sophomore, Monty Rice, was one of the linebackers in the spring game that showed out and could make an impact on the Bulldogs’ defense. Georgia still has a talented receiving core, including wide receivers Terry Godwin, Riley Ridley, Mecole Hardman and tight end Isaac Nauta. Not only the Bulldogs have talented receivers, they have quarterback Jake Fromm, who finished his season out with 2,173 total passing yards and 21 touchdowns.

3. Clemson

Clemson is a young team that had an outstanding season last year. The question is, can they do it again? The Tigers have major key players on defense that are returning this season, including senior linebacker Kendall Joseph and defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. Clemson lost key receivers due to the NFL draft, and they are still predicting who is going to fill in these empty holes, and become a threat on offense.

4. Oklahoma

Without Heisman winner Baker Mayfield in the picture, the Sooners have questions about who will be the next quarterback. During the spring game, redshirt sophomore Austin Kendall proved that he is the man for the job. The Sooners are also waiting to see if redshirt junior Kyler Murray will play this year or play professional baseball.

5. Ohio State

college football

Urban Myer and his team prepare for the game
(Ohio State athletics)

The Buckeyes have put in a lot of work during the offseason. Even though they’ve lost a handful of key players on the defensive line due to the draft, head coach Urban Myer still contains talented players and incoming freshman lined up ready to play. Sophomore defensive end, Chase Young, showed that he was ready to be placed on the line during the spring ball game. This season, he may start alongside Dre’Mont Jones and Nick Bosa. Not only will the Buckeyes have a good defense, but they also have promising key players on offense as well, including sophomore J.K Dobbins, who ran for 1,364 yards last season, and junior wide receiver Parris Campbell.

6. UCF

college football

UCF
(the ringer.com)

The Knights had a perfect season last year, and they had one of their best linebackers, Shaquem Griffin, make it to the NFL draft. UCF also has an outstanding running back core led by Adrian Killins Jr. who rushed for 762 yards last season. That’s not all, the Knights have quarterback McKenzie Milton that can put the ball in any pocket to any receiver and can run the ball like a tailback. Last season, he threw for 4,037 yards and rushed for 497 yards. UCF may cause problems on offense with this duo next season.

7. Stanford

The Cardinals have had a pretty decent season in 2017, even though they lost in the Alamo Bowl to TCU. They also lost their star Heisman runner-up, Bryce Love due to a sprained ankle. He didn’t even participate in the spring, because he is still recovering. By this fall, Love should be able to return and take the Pac 12 by storm. Stanford’s defense will play a key factor for next season.

8. TCU

In replacement of Kenny Hill, sophomore quarterback Shawn Robinson will lead the offense for next season. Their offensive line is fairly young, but the receivers are pretty talented including KaVontae Turpin and Jalen Reagor.

9. Miami

The Hurricanes had begun to rebuild a dynasty last season, until they were exposed to Pittsburgh. They can still have another shot in the College Football Playoff next season. They have key receivers, including sophomore Jeff Thomas, Ahmmon Richards and return running back Travis Homer. On the defensive side, safety Jaquan Johnson, and linebacker Shaquille Quarterman are returning and will lead the defense for next season.

10. Michigan State

The Spartans still have a majority of their starters coming back. Brian Lewerke will lead the offense; he is a gunslinger that threw for over 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns last season. LJ Scott is in the backfield with him and he will cause a lot of damage in the Big Ten.

 

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Minnesota Vikings depth chart

Way-too-early Minnesota Vikings’ depth chart prediction

With the NFL Draft over and training camp over a month away, we are officially in the “dead zone” of the NFL offseason. With that being said, it is never too early to speculate how teams’ depth charts will look heading into next season.

The Minnesota Vikings have the majority of their depth chart set in stone, aside from some spots on offense. Here is a way-too-early Minnesota Vikings’ depth chart prediction.

Offense

Below is the current projected depth chart for the Minnesota Vikings. Rookies are in bold.

1 2 3 4 5
Quarterback Kirk Cousins Trevor Siemian Kyle Sloter
Running back Dalvin Cook Latavius Murray Mack Brown
Fullback C.J. Ham
Wide receiver Stefon Diggs Adam Thielen Kendall Wright Laquon Treadwell Tavarres King
Tight end Kyle Rudolph David Morgan Tyler Conklin
Left tackle Riley Reiff Rashod Hill
Left guard Nick Easton Cornelius Edison
Center Pat Elflein Josh Andrews
Right guard Mike Remmers Danny Isidora Colby Gossett
Right tackle Brian O’Neill Cedrick Lang
Minnesota Vikings depth chart

Kirk Cousins as a Washington Redskin. Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

There are not too many surprises with the quarterback position. The Vikings signed Cousins to a massive three-year, $84 million contract during free agency. He will be the team’s franchise quarterback going forward.

Dalvin Cook missed most of last season due to an ACL tear. Prior to the injury, Cook was a favorite to win rookie of the year. His dynamic ability as a runner and receiver out of the backfield will make this offense one to be reckoned with.

There was some movement along the offensive line, as this was the Vikings’ biggest need heading into the offseason. Second-round pick Brian O’Neill will start at right tackle, forcing Mike Remmers inside at guard. It is likely that several of these linemen rotate to find the best combination of players.

Defense

Now moving on to defense, here is the anticipated depth chart. Again, rookies are in bold.

1 2 3 4 5
Left defensive end Danielle Hunter Brian Robison
Left defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson Jalyn Holmes
Right defensive tackle Linval Joseph Jaleel Johnson Dylan Bradley
Right defensive end Everson Griffen Tashawn Bower
Weak-side linebacker Ben Gedeon Reshard Cliett
Middle linebacker Eric Kendricks Eric Wilson
Strong-side linebacker Anthony Barr Kentrell Brothers
Cornerback Xavier Rhodes Trae Waynes Terence Newman Mike Hughes Mackensie Alexander
Strong safety Andrew Sendejo Anthony Harris
Free safety Harrison Smith Jack Tocho
Minnesota Vikings depth chart

Sheldon Richardson as a New York Jet. (Photo from turnonthejets.com)

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The only new starter on the Minnesota Vikings’ defense is Sheldon Richardson. Richardson signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the team in March. He should provide an additional pass rush to Minnesota’s already stout defensive line.

Due to the amount of depth on the Vikings’ defense, rookies Mike Hughes and Jalyn Holmes will struggle to find playing time in 2018. However, Hughes should get on the field early as a returner.

One big question on the defense is the fate of linebacker Kentrell Brothers. Last month, Brothers was suspended for the first four games of the 2018 season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Seventh-round pick Devante Downs has the best chance of any of the Vikings’ linebackers to fill in for Brothers. However, this remains unlikely, due to Downs recovering from a serious leg injury.

Special Teams

Minnesota Vikings depth chart

Former Auburn kicker Daniel Carlson. (Photo by Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports)

  • Kicker: Daniel Carlson
  • Punter: Ryan Quigley
  • Long Snapper: Kevin McDermott

Don’t forget about special teams! The only change from the Vikings’ 2017 roster is at the kicker position. It is facetious to guess who will win the Vikings’ kicking job this early, but Daniel Carlson does appear to be the favorite.

At Auburn, Carlson displayed one of the strongest legs in football. Although his accuracy took a small dip in 2017, the Minnesota Vikings believe he can be the team’s long-term answer at the position.

 

Featured image by Carlos Gonzalez/Star Tribune

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Philadelphia Eagles 53-man roster

Eagles 53-man roster prediction offense edition

Real football begins in just about four months. Today we look forward and consider who will be playing once the preseason is over and the games start to matter.

There is a lot of speculation involved with projecting a roster from this far out. Even Eagles general manager Howie Roseman does not know exactly who will be on the roster after final cuts are made.

Let’s break down the roster by position groups to show exactly who could be left on the roster. There will be two parts, offense and defense. The first is offense. Next week, we will look at predictions on the defense. Only players on the Eagles official roster on their website will be listed.

Quarterback – (3)

Philadelphia Eagles 53-man roster

Sudfeld and Foles (Photo by AP/Matt Rourke)

Make the roster: Carson Wentz, Nick Foles, Nate Sudfeld

Cuts: Joe Callahan

Barring a surprise trade of Nick Foles, Philadelphia seems to have this position group settled. Joe Callahan would have to outplay Nate Sudfeld substantially for them to put him on the roster. The Eagles have been very vocal in their praise for Sudfeld, and it seems they truly like him and his potential.

Although the signing of Callahan to a two-year contract is interesting, Sudfeld still holds a large edge over Callahan. He even has an extra year of learning the offense on his side.

Running back – (4)

Make the roster: Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, Darren Sproles, Josh Adams

Cuts: Donnel Pumphrey, Wendell Smallwood, Matt Jones

Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement and Darren Sproles are locks to make the roster. Adams will have to fight for his spot against the remaining three running backs.

Donnel Pumphrey seems like he has not put on enough weight yet to contribute at the running back position. Wendell Smallwood has a history with injuries and fails to make a big enough impact when he does play.

Finally, Matt Jones has a problem with fumbling. The Eagles are a ball control offense, and turning the ball over is not acceptable for their running backs.

Offensive line – (9)

Philadelphia Eagles 53-man roster

Matt Pryor (Photo by Getty Images)

Make the roster: Jason Peters, Stefen Wisniewski, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Chance Warmack, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Matt Pryor, Isaac Seumalo

Cuts: Taylor Hart, Aaron Evans, Darrell Greene, Jordan Mailata, Jon Toth

The starting offensive line is the best in the whole NFL. The possibility of a starter being unseated is unlikely. Therefore, it is really a battle for the backup roles.

Halapoulivaati Vaitai played well as the season came to a close last year and should be the primary backup to Jason Peters and Lane Johnson. Chance Warmack is the Eagles best backup interior lineman and has a year left on his contract. Matt Pryor should make the roster because he was just drafted and has some good potential. Isaac

Seumalo is on the fence. He was terrible last season, but the year before the future looked bright for him. Hopefully there is a good battle for the ninth spot and the best player makes the roster regardless of age or size.

Recievers – (5)

Make the roster: Alshon Jeffery, Mike Wallace, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins, Bryce Treggs

Cuts: Marquess Wilson, Markus Wheaton, Shelton Gibson, Greg Ward, Rashard Davis

Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Mack Hollins are locks. Wallace is a near lock and will be on the roster unless two of the other six receivers have amazing camp, practice and preseason performances. For now, the final spot will probably be Bryce Treggs because he knows the offense and he has coveted speed at the position.

Shelton Gibson and Markus Wheaton are his biggest challengers for the roster spot. Gibson could not catch last year and had trouble learning the playbook. After a full year, he should look much better. Wheaton spent last season injured, so his performance will be a mystery until we see it.

Tight Ends – (3)

Make the roster: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Billy Brown

Cuts: Adam Zaruba, Richard Rodgers, Josh Perkins

Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert are obvious locks. Billy Brown is a young tight end the Eagles think has a bright future. His main problem is poor blocking. Unfortunately for him, blocking is very important in Philadelphia’s diverse offensive attack. Hopefully a year on the practice squad has helped him improve his blocking. If not, it could be Richard Rodgers who earns the third tight end spot.

Adam Zaruba is a former rugby player and a long shot for the 53-man roster. Josh Perkins was released by the Atlanta Falcons in January after spending a couple seasons on their team. He has a career total of three catches and 42 yards, so he should be considered another long shot for the position.

That is a total of 24 players on offense. After taking out three spots for the special teams positions, that leaves 26 open for a deep defense to retain as much talent as possible.

 

Featured image from Al Bello/Getty Images

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Dwane Casey

Toronto fires Dwane Casey

Just two days after being awarded NBA’s Coach of the Year award, Dwane Casey was fired by the Toronto Raptors.

Casey led the Raptors to a franchise-best 59-23 record in 2018, securing them the East’s top seed. While they won their first-round series against the Washington Wizards, Toronto was swept by LeBron and the Cavaliers in the semifinals.

This marked the third time in three years Cleveland ousted Casey’s Raptors from the playoffs. It was also the second year in a row the Raptors were swept out of the second round. In the 2015-2016 NBA season, the Cavs and Raptors met in the Eastern Conference Finals (in Toronto’s first trip ever) before falling in six games.

Playoff woes

During his seven-year tenure with Toronto, Dwane Casey led the Raptors to playoff berths in five straight seasons. Three of those five playoff appearances ended in sweeps. In 2015 it came at the hands of the Washington Wizards. As previously mentioned, the other two were the work of James and the Cavaliers.

Dwane Casey

Casey coaches DeMar DeRozan. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Does this speak to a coach that fails to make adjustments? Or has it simply been bad luck?

The Raptors brass seems to believe it is the former. Their President, Masai Ujiri, released a statement today saying that “this is a very difficult, but necessary step the franchise must take,” as they try to get over the hump and find their way to the NBA Finals for the first time.

With the exception of a five-game dip from 2016 to 2017, Casey saw his team’s record improve with every season he was in Toronto. Culminating in the best regular season the Raptors have ever had.

Regular season records do not mean much, however, if the team does not hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June. Just ask the 2016 Golden State Warriors.

Coach of the Year?

Casey’s peers voted him Coach of the Year for 2018 on May 9. Two days later he is unemployed. What is worth noting is that, while the award is his, he has not accepted it yet. That comes on June 25th, at a special ceremony, which might end up being a little awkward.

Firing the Coach of the Year because he had the unenviable task of facing LeBron James is a questionable decision at best. After all, LeBron-led teams have blown through the rest of the Eastern Conference in seven straight seasons. By that logic, every coach that has faced LeBron since 2010 has grounds to be let go.

Given his credentials and his proven ability to increase win records, Casey will probably not be out of a job for long. It would be surprising if the summer ends without him holding some sort of coaching position.

Summary

NBA fans shouldn’t weep for Casey for long. Instead, they should take the time to appreciate LeBron James. He is, without a doubt, the driving force behind this firing. Because he took Toronto to task for three straight years, Dwane Casey no longer has a job.

Dwane Casey

Casey and Raptors superfan Drake stand courtside. (Photo by Richard Madonik/Toronto Star)

Another factor could be his inability to maximize Lowry and DeRozan, but that blame should be split 50-50 between the players and the coach. Casey can draw up the offensive sets, but he cannot make the ball go in the basket. He can suggest innovative ways to defend LeBron, but he cannot stop him from being the best player in the world.

All in all, Toronto has some soul searching to do. After shaking their Game 1 woes in their first-round series, the choker label was plastered on the franchise yet again after running into the NBA’s most consistent buzz saw. Needless to say, if the Pacers had not lost in their Game 7 against LeBron, Casey might still be holding a clipboard.

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NASCAR power rankings: Post Dover

Following each race, I will rank the top 20 drivers based off of their finish over the weekend, their previous ranking and the momentum they’re carrying into the next race. Below the driver’s name, you can see a  or  that indicates whether they’ve climbed the rankings, fallen down the rankings, or  indicating their ranking did not change. If a driver is new to the top 20 ranking, a “↑NPR” (not previously ranked) will be shown next to the “Change:” indicator.

1. Kevin Harvick


Change: ↑2

Photo from motorsport.com/LAT Images

Kevin Harvick returns to the top spot after his big win at Dover. He swept both stages and took home the checkered flag for the fourth time this season after leading 201 of the 400 laps. He’s still third in the point standings, but he sits first in playoff points 19. He’s got two career wins at Kansas, where NASCAR travels to for a Saturday night race. Harvick has finished in the top-8 in his last four straight trips there, and five of his last six.

2. Kyle Busch


Change: ↓1

Rowdy slips from the top spot for the first time in a long time after his 35th place finish. Busch had a strong car all afternoon at Dover, running third for most of the day, until his drive shaft snapped shortly after the end of stage two. He’s still atop the point standings, but he has lost his momentum from his three straight victories. Busch has one career win at Kansas and is riding a streak of six straight top-10s at the track.

3. Joey Logano


Change: ↓1

Logano’s streak of six straight top-10 finishes came to an end at Dover after finishing 13th. This was just his second finish this season outside of the top-10, the other being a 19th at Phoenix. Logano has two victories to his name at Kansas, but his results at the track have been scattered recently. His last five races at the track have resulted in finishes of 21st, 37th, third, 38th, and first dating back to 2015. He’ll be looking to start another streak of top-10s on Saturday night.

4. Clint Bowyer


Change: ↑1

Bowyer had a shot at his second win of the season, but was beat out by his teammate. The race was put under red flag due to rain with Bowyer leading. It was past the halfway point, so if the rain continued the race would be called, but unfortunately for him, the race was able to resume. Although he didn’t win, he finished with a solid second place. Bowyer has his work cut out for him at Kansas. He’s only finished in the top-10 once over his last nine starts at the track.

5. Martin Truex Jr.


Change: ↑4

Photo from motorsport.com/LAT Images

Truex Jr. got back on track at Dover, getting back into the top-10 for the first time since fourth-place finish at Martinsville, five races prior. His fourth-place finish was his sixth top-5 of the season, and he sits at ninth in the point standings. Truex Jr. has won the last two races at Kansas, so expect him to contend for his third straight at the track.

6. Brad Keselowski


Change: ↔

Keselowski had a solid run at Dover, earning him a sixth-place finish. He sits fourth in the point standings heading into Kansas. He has one win at Kansas, but it came back in 2011. Since then he’s earned six top-10s, one being a runner-up finish in the spring race last season. It’s a little surprising that we’re 11 races into the season and Kes’ hasn’t won, but that shouldn’t last much longer.

7. Denny Hamlin


Change: ↓3

Hamlin finished seventh at Dover and was able to avoid speeding penalties this week. Hamlin has sped on pit road more than any other driver this season, including two last week at Talladega. He’ll hope to evade the pit road police at Kansas on Saturday night where he has one career victory that came back in 2012. He’s been sporadic over his last five at Kansas, with finishes of fifth, 23rd, 15th, 37th, and second.

8. Kurt Busch


Change: ↓1

Kurt Busch was the third Stewart Haas Racing ford to place in the top-5 at Dover. He finished in the fifth spot, marking his second top-5 of the season, and also his second in a row. He climbs to sixth in the point standings with this solid run. He’s never won at Kansas but has four top-10s over his last six races at the track. He hasn’t visited victory lane in more than a year, his last win came at the Daytona 500 to open the 2017 season.

9. Ryan Blaney


Change: ↓1

Blaney had a solid eighth-place run at Dover and finds himself seventh in the points heading into Kansas. He’s been solid at Kansas in his young career, with an average finish of 10.0 this far. He’s finished in the top-7 four times in his six starts and he earned a pole start in this race last season. This Penske driver is definitely one to watch on Saturday.

10. Kyle Larson


Change: ↑1

Larson was slated to start on the pole at Dover, but a pre-race inspection failure landed him at the rear. He was able to battle back for a 10th place finish, his sixth top-10 of the year. Larson has never won at Kansas and his number need some work. He had an average finish of 21.0 and only has two top-10s over his eight starts. But, he did earn one of his top-10s, a sixth place, in this race last season.

11. Jimmie Johnson


Change: ↑1

Johnson continues to move up the point standings each week after a dreadfully slow start to the season. He’s now made it up to the 12th position, 198 points back from Kyle Busch in first. Johnson’s numbers at Kansas are stellar, including three career wins, nine top-5s, and 17 top-10s. This is a great shot for him to break his career-long winless streak that he’s currently on.

12. Aric Almirola


Change: ↓2

Almirola nearly grabbed a top-10 at Dover but he fell just one position short, finishing the day in 11th. He was forced to start at the rear after failing inspection. Almirola hasn’t had the best of luck at Kansas that’s for sure. In this race last year he go into a hard crash with Joey Logano and Danica Patrick, and the result for him was broken back and several missed races. He rebounded very well with a solid ninth-place run at Kansas in the fall playoff race.

13. Chase Elliott


Change: ↔

Elliott came into the race as a favorite to contend for the win. His average finishing position of 3.25 heading into the race was the best in the series, but he didn’t live up to the expectations. He ran around 10th all afternoon but finished 12th. Elliott has been hit or miss at Kansas in his short career. He has finishes of ninth, 31st, 29th and fourth across his four starts.

14. Daniel Suarez


Change: ↑3

Photo from motorsport.com

Suarez matched his career-best finish of third at Dover on Sunday. He ran a stellar race and was able to bring home a solid third place finish. The finish was his first top-5 of the season and his fourth top-10 run of the year. Over his last four races he’s finished 11th, 10th, 10th and third. In his two starts at Kansas, Suarez has a seventh-place finish and a 36th place finish in the fall race after being involved in a crash.

15. William Byron


Change: ↔

Byron finished 14th in his first career Monster Energy series start at Dover. The rookie continues to look more comfortable each week as NASCAR rolls into Kansas. He’ll be making his first Monster Energy series start on Saturday night at Kansas, but he did run the track last season in the Xfinity series. He finished fourth in the fall playoff race, the highest finisher of all the playoff drivers.

16. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.


Change: ↑3

Stenhouse Jr. finished outside the top-10 in 15th, but he actually led 24 laps in the race. The finishing position isn’t very indicative of how well he ran for most of the afternoon, but his Roush Fenway Ford faded late in the race. Stenhouse Jr. has some serious work to do this weekend a Kansas. He’s never earned a top-10 at the track over his 10 starts and has an average finish of 19.1.

17. Alex Bowman


Change: ↓3

Photo from motorsport.com/LAT Images

Bowman got trapped a couple laps down for the most of the race and wasn’t able to bounce back from it. He had a fast car that could have competed for a top-15 or even a top-10, but luck was never on his side in terms of getting his laps back. In five career starts at Kansas, Bowman has a putrid average finish of 29.6. But, in his one race at the track in Hendrick equipment, filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr., he finished seventh.

18. Erik Jones


Change: ↓2

Jones finished 18th at Dover, one lap down. He ran in the high-teens for most of the race and was always one lap down. For the majority of the race he was the first car one lap down but just couldn’t catch a break to get his lap back. Jones’ stats at Kansas are not good. In his three career stats at the circuit his average finish sits at 32.3, with his worst finish of 40th coming back in 2015 when he filled in for an injured Kyle Busch.

19. Austin Dillon


Change: ↑1

Dillon struggled again this past week as he finished the day in the 26th position. The finish was his sixth straight finish outside the top-10 and his ninth over the last 10 races. Dillon has three top-10s over his nine starts at Kansas and an average finish of 17.6. He sits 18th in the points, 221 points behind Kyle Busch.

20. Ryan Newman


Change: ↓2

Newman finished the race 23 laps down in the 33rd position. He struggled all afternoon and experience several issues that put him that many laps down. Newman has one career victory at Kansas, but it came all the way back in 2003. He has earned three top-5s and seven top-10s over his 24 starts at the track.

 

Falling out of the rankings: —

 

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running back rankings

2018 fantasy football running back rankings

As I joked about in my quarterback rankings, these will likely be irrelevant in a matter of weeks. Thankfully, the news about Mark Ingram and his four-game suspension was released this week. It will no doubt impact his draft stock and the usage of every player on the Saints’ offense through the first four games. So, let’s get right into running back rankings for 2018.

Running Back Rankings: 1-10

1. Ezekiel Elliott –  Dallas Cowboys

No offense is going to rely more on their running back than the Dallas Cowboys. The losses of Dez Bryant and Jason Witten means that the rest of their skill positions are unproven commodities and to this point, Dak Prescott isn’t capable of elevating those players. Ezekiel Elliott, as a result, is going to play a much larger role in the passing game. While he’s not as fluid a receiver as some other elite backs, the added touches will give Elliott the weekly upside of players like Todd Gurley and Le’Veon Bell. Not to mention, he’ll enter the season with fresh legs and a monster chip on his shoulder. An angry Ezekiel Elliott has me excited about his fantasy prospects in 2018.

2. Todd Gurley –  Los Angeles Rams 

I’m on record saying this entire offense is going to take a step back. Now, I think Todd Gurley’s production will be the least impacted by the regression. His volume in this offense is too great to keep him out of the top three spots. His involvement in the passing game, particularly in the screen game, would likely make him the number one overall pick in most PPR leagues. However, Sean McVay’s system will not take any coordinator by surprise and one injury to this offensive line would severely limit his production.

3. Le’Veon Bell – Pittsburgh Steelers

Le’Veon Bell is scaring the hell out of me at the number three spot. He once again will not be reporting to camp and won’t be working with the team until the first week of regular season practice. It took two games before we saw the kind of production we’re used to from Bell, then he exploded against Baltimore. Apart from sitting out training camp, Bell has a history of missing games for injury and suspension, and always seems to be feuding with management. Despite all of those potential negatives, he’s too talented and in too great of a system to be lower than the number three spot.

4. Leonard Fournette – Jacksonville Jaguars

Leonard Fournette is in a similar role to Ezekiel Elliot. Fournette is the going to be the focus of a run-first offense and will be receive a tremendous amount of volume. However, there are a few negatives Elliott does not have. Fournette’s role in the passing game is not as substantial, his offensive line is not as good and he missed multiple games in his rookie season. What separates Fournette from a the other players in the top ten is his consistent volume, and his team’s unquestioned commitment to the running the ball.

5. Kareem Hunt – Kansas City Chiefs

As a Kareem Hunt fan, it was absolutely egregious that he was not named the offensive rookie of the year in 2017. Alvin Kamara was great, but he didn’t lead the NFL, or even his own team in rushing yards. Rant aside, Kareem Hunt is in a great position entering 2018. The only person who can stand in his way is Andy Reid. As a season-long owner of Kareem Hunt last year, Reid would randomly not give the ball to Hunt for more multiple games in a row. Now that Patrick Mahomes is the starter, one can surmise that Hunt will receive a larger volume of touches as a result. Also, starting running backs in Andy Reid’s system are always viable fantasy options.

6. Saquon Barkley – New York Giants

Saquon Barkley will likely be over drafted come August. He’s a great player in a good situation. He’s the unquestioned starter and playing with an upgraded offensive line, an elite perimeter player and a capable quarterback. The only problem is that his popularity and camp reports will inflate his value to the point where he is going over players like Hunt and Fournette, which I struggle to agree with. If you want Barkley, you might have to take him with a top-five pick by mid-August.

7. Alvin Kamara – New Orleans Saints

Given my Kareem Hunt analysis, you might think I don’t like him. That could not be farther from the truth. I drafted him in all my redraft leagues when he was slated as the third running back on the depth chart. The only problem I have with Kamara is that he doesn’t appear to be a running back capable of handling 20 carries and 3-5 catches a game, on top of his kick return duties. What made him so great was Sean Payton’s ability to match him up with linebackers in coverage, and give him carries in unconventional running situations. Even with Mark Ingram’s four-game suspension, his volume will not that of an Elliott, Gurley or Bell. The Saints will more than likely ask Drew Brees and company to shoulder more of the load during their stretch without Ingram.

8. David Johnson – Arizona Cardinals

David Jonson’s slide to the eighth spot is the result of a few things. He’s playing in a new offensive system. During Mike McCoy’s tenure as a head coach or offensive coordinator, his offenses on average ranked 14th in attempts. When Melvin Gordon was his starting running back, his team ranked 22nd in rushing attempts both seasons. Gordon and Johnson are similar in terms of volume and involvement in the passing game, with the overall edge going to Johnson. However, the quarterback play will likely be sub-par because Sam Bradford will get injured and McCoy’s playbooks are notoriously difficult to absorb. Johnson will be a productive fantasy running back, but he should not be viewed as the same number one overall pick he was touted as last season.

9. Devonta Freeman – Atlanta Falcons

Devonta Freeman’s production, like everyone on the Atlanta Falcons in 2017, dipped. I do think he and the offense as a whole will improve with another year under Steve Sarkisian. But, there were some concerns towards the end of last season. Seemingly out of nowhere, Freeman got the football equivalent of the yipps and could not score on the goal line. In fairness, he was dealing with an injury late in the season, but it will be telling if the Falcons decide to use Tevin Coleman out of shotgun in short yardage, as opposed to pounding the ball inside with Freeman.

10. Melvin Gordon – Los Angeles Chargers

It seems like the Chargers are the most underrated team in terms of fantasy production when you consider that consistent producers like Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen are all on same offense. Every year Gordon is a good starter and is a heavy volume player. The only thing keeping Gordon from being higher on this list is that he doesn’t produce explosive plays like Kamara or Hunt.

Running Back Rankings: 11-20

11. Dalvin Cook – Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings are shaping up to be a dangerous team. They are incredibly well-balanced on offense which bodes well for Dalvin Cook, especially since he’s coming off an injury. Kirk Cousins and his perimeter weapons will help open up running lanes for Cook. Even if the upgrade at the quarterback position takes away from Cook’s volume, he no longer has to compete with Jerick McKinnon for third down touches. Don’t expect Cook’s overall production, or in draft stock.

12. Jerick McKinnon – San Francisco 49ers

I am so excited about the prospects of Jerrick McKinnon in San Francisco. For those who doubt McKinnon’s role as a full-time starter, show me the last running back who was paid $36 million and didn’t see the majority of the touches in the backfield. This is going to sound crazy, but Jerrick McKinnon is Alvin Kamara in terms of ability. McKinnon actually is faster, more explosive, just as capable as a receiver, and only smaller by one inch and four pounds. While I don’t think he can handle a full workload, I absolutely think his production is going to skyrocket with an increased role in San Francisco.

13. Derrick Henry – Tennessee Titans

Now that Derrick Henry is finally rid of Demarco Murray, he is going to see a Leonard Fournette type of volume. Henry’s knock is that he lacks explosiveness and benefited from splitting time with Murray, which is accurate but may not apply moving forward. It will be interesting to see in the first four weeks whether or not he can keep his yards per carry up while seeing the increased volume.

14. Jordan Howard – Chicago Bears

Last year Jordan Howard disappointed fantasy owners, especially those who took him in the second round. Howard was no longer sneaking up on defenses and was actually the primary focus given the team’s rookie quarterback. Thankfully, the Tarik Cohen fad faded as the season progressed, but Benny Cunningham is a classic third-down back who will still take away touches in the passing game from Howard in 2018.

15. Joe Mixon – Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Mixon could explode in productivity this year. The Bengals upgraded their left tackle position and spent a first-round pick on interior defensive linemen, Billy Price. Mixon asserted himself as the best player in this backfield and will see the majority of the touches from week one. Giovani Bernard is still there, so he will likely assume the third-down role. However, Mixon is absolutely the starter and could end up being a value on draft day.

16. Carlos Hyde – Cleveland Browns

Much of my Jerick McKinnon excitement can be applied to Carlos Hyde in Cleveland. Hyde is a complete back and no longer has to convince Kyle Shanahan to give him the ball over Matt Breida. Hyde should be drafted as a fourth-round pick though because of the presence of Duke Johnson and Nick Chubb. Johnson will be the primary third down back, and Nick Chubb could threaten Hyde’s share of the carries.

17. LeSean McCoy – Buffalo Bills

This could be the final season for LeSean McCoy in terms of fantasy relevance. While he’s still dynamic, there are too many new variables that can hamper his success. McCoy has to deal with a new starting quarterback, new starting left tackle and a new starting guard. He will no longer get the benefit of the Tyrod Taylor and running the read option. We also have to keep in mind that McCoy will be 30 years old this July.

18. Royce Freeman – Denver Broncos

Royce Freeman is going to be the week one starter if the Broncos don’t sign a veteran player at the position. The Broncos are so confident in Freeman’s ability that they did not retain C.J. Anderson. Devontae Booker, Jamaal Charless and De’Angelo Henderson were all on the roster last year and none of them could assert themselves as the dominant back. It also doesn’t hurt that Pro Football Focus has Freeman slated as the starter. I will be aggressively targeting Freeman in redrafts and rookie drafts.

19. Christian McCaffrey – Carolina Panthers

Christian McCaffrey was higher in my rankings until the C.J. Anderson acquisition. I believe McCaffrey will be the starter and dominate all the touches between the 20’s. However, Anderson could turn into a goal-line vulture, especially knowing that the Panthers like to bring on big personnel in short yardage for Cam Newton or the former, Jonathan Stewart. I can still see them using McCaffrey in red zone passing situations to exploit matchups, but it’s possible the Anderson steals multiple touchdowns from McCaffrey this season.

20. Mark Ingram – New Orleans Saints

Mark Ingram is going to be, or I hope will be, a great value on draft day. Picking Ingram is going to come down to which round I can draft him in. If you told me right now that I could get Ingram in the fifth round, I would jump at that opportunity. If I only get 75 percent of his production last season, since he’s missing the first four games, that means I would be getting 173 carries, 843 yards, and 9 touchdowns. I’ll take that all day in the fifth round.

Running Back Rankings: 21-30

21. Derrius Guice – Washington Redskins

I’m not too high on Derrius Guice. He will certainly have every opportunity to start, but, this team had no interest in running the ball last season. They ranked 24th in rushing attempts in 2017. Also, Chris Thompson will return as the unquestioned third down and pass catching back.

22. Lamar Miller – Houston Texans

Lamar Miller is another player I’ll be aggressively targeting. Every year no one wants Lamar Miller, and every year he finishes top 15 in points (average finish of 11.25 in points the last four seasons). He’s going to play in a potentially dynamic offense based on what we saw last season. And, he’s going to be the beneficiary of seven men boxes because of their explosive perimeter players.

23. Alex Collins – Baltimore Ravens

While the Ravens are trying to transform their wide receivers and potentially their quarterback, they are committed to running the ball. The Ravens upgraded their offensive line, and, did not draft a running back in this year’s draft. Alex Collins should be a starter in all leagues and will likely be picked in the fourth or fifth round.

24. Marlon Mack – Indianapolis Colts

The entire team hinges on Andrew Luck, including Marlon Mack. Mack will likely be the starter week one, but will not have the upside of a starter in fantasy if Luck is not under center.

25. Kenyan Drake – Miami Dolphins

Kenyan Drake came on strong for the Dolphins last season. He showed the ability to be an all-around running back. However, the Dolphins have shipped a lot of their talent elsewhere, and aside from Josh Sitton, their interior linemen are sub par.

26. Jay Ajayi – Philadelphia Eagles

I love Jay Ajayi and he’s in a system, but the Eagles just signed Matt Jones this week and brought back Darren Sproles. How in the hell is he going to get enough touches to be productive? Just do yourself a favor and shy away from anyone on the Eagles.

27. Rex Burkhead – New England Patriots

I approach the Patriots the same way I approach the Eagles, just don’t (unless there’s an injury). Rex Burkhead will likely get the goal line carries and be used to exploit some receiving mismatches, but at a much smaller rate than James White.

28. Ronald Jones – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Ronald Jones will probably be the starter. Just as a result of that, he will accumulate production worthy of being drafted. I’m not sure what his upside will be behind that offensive line and in a system that wants to primarily throw the ball to a multitude of targets.

29. Marshawn Lynch – Oakland Raiders

Marshawn Lynch is projected to start week one. But, I wouldn’t be surprised if he retires before the start of the season. It’s very possible that he and Jon Gruden will clash, and as a result, he hands up his cleats again. It’s also a crowded backfield with Doug Martin, Jalen Richard, and DeAndre Washington.

30. Sony Michel – New England Patriots

My best guess is that Sony Michel will assume the Dion Lewis role for the Patriots. He’s substantially more talented than Lewis, but he cannot overcome the Patriots’ system. Unless there’s an injury, don’t count on Michel for production.

 

Featured Image Courtesy of SI.com

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AFC East West quarterbacks

Quarterback questions loom largest in AFC East and West

We now have a pretty good idea of what NFL rosters will look like come September. Predicting team records is still very difficult to do in May. However, it is now easier to understand the factors that will lead to success or failure for certain teams. Thus, here are the biggest questions in a couple of AFC divisions. One that is wide open now, and another that could be before long.

AFC West: Is Patrick Mahomes any good?

AFC East West quarterbacks

(Photo from 610sports.com)

This might be the biggest question in the entire NFL. Kansas City has taken control of this division over the last two years as Denver has struggled to transition away from Peyton Manning.

Despite a few playoff failures, Alex Smith never posted a losing record as the starting quarterback for the Chiefs. So replacing him with Patrick Mahomes is pretty bold.

Mahomes is headed into his second year with just one career start. Young quarterbacks have to get handed the keys at some point, but was Smith really what was holding the Chiefs back? His career-high passer rating of 104.7 last year would suggest otherwise.

No quarterback does it alone. Kansas City has an average defense and an offense littered with playmakers, but bad quarterback play can drag a very good roster downward. Last year’s Broncos are a prime example. That was not going to be a concern with Smith. There has to be at least a little bit of doubt when it comes to Mahomes.

One start is nowhere near enough to determine whether any player can be successful in this league, and Mahomes may come out and play very well. If he does, Kansas City will win this division again.

Still, the Broncos upgraded at quarterback, the Chargers improved the middle of their defense, and Oakland is once again being coached by Jon Gruden, the last guy that made and kept that franchise relevant. If Mahomes struggles, at least one of those teams will be right there to pounce, and one of the most consistent teams in the NFL over the last half decade will quickly turn into a non-factor.

AFC East: When do we see the rookie quarterbacks?

As long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are around, the Patriots will win this division. They have done so for nine consecutive years. The drama in the division this year is going to be when we see Sam Darnold in New York and Josh Allen in Buffalo. In a perfect world, both guys would probably benefit from a year on the bench.

Particularly in Darnold’s case, that does not seem to be feasible. This is a franchise that has won five or fewer games in three of the last four seasons. It needs a sign of hope and fast. When the inevitable losses start to mount under veteran quarterbacks Teddy Bridgewater and Josh McCown, the Jets will need to get a glimpse at what they hope is a bright future.

The Jets do have a workable schedule for the first month of the season and could get off to a decent start. So it would not be shocking to see one of the veterans last as the starter until the Week 11 bye. Of course, there is always a chance that the rookie could impress enough in training camp and the preseason to start the season opener.

Either way, the Jets know Brady and Belichick won’t be around forever, and New England does not seem to be ready for life after either one. With Darnold, the Jets have a chance to be the kings of this division in a few years. The first step to helping make that happen is making him the starter at the right time.

Josh Allen is a little more tricky. The Bills made the playoffs last year, but were anemic on offense at times and scored just a field goal in their playoff loss. AJ McCarron replaces Tyrod Taylor as the veteran presence at the quarterback position. Allen was drafted more on measurables than college production and clearly needs time to develop.

However, it is hard to imagine him being afforded that luxury if Buffalo gets off to a bad start under McCarron, who is basically a career backup except for a handful of mediocre performances filling in for an injured Andy Dalton late in the 2015 season.

The Dolphins are just sort of existing in this division at the moment. They regressed last year with Jay Cutler taking the place of Ryan Tannehill at quarterback. Even though Tannehill is coming off an injury, Miami was linked to several of the top quarterback prospects in the draft. This could be a make or break year for him as well as head coach Adam Gase.

AFC East West quarterbacks

(Photo from presnapreads.com)

These two divisions are interesting in their own way for 2018. The AFC West is intriguing right now because it is impossible to know what to expect from the team that has dominated it for the last two years. Meanwhile, the AFC East could look very different in a couple years.

This year might provide us with at least some answers in that regard. It all comes down to changes that already have and will eventually need to be made at the most important position in all of American sports, quarterback.

 

Featured image from nydailynews.com

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