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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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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2018 fantasy football RB 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 RB rankings:

Running back rankings: 1-10

1. Le’Veon Bell- Pittsburgh Steelers

Bell still doesn’t have the long-term contract he desires. He will sit out preseason then come back for the regular season, making him a safer running back pick than others getting carries before the season starts. His season will likely start off slow, much like last year, but then he will come on strong. He finished second in scoring among running backs last year and should have another great season.

2. Todd Gurley- Los Angeles Rams

Last season Gurley finished second for all players and first for running backs in fantasy. It would be hard to imagine him having quite the same season this year, as teams figure out Sean McVay’s play-calls and tendencies, but he should play well again. The Rams also have a first-place schedule to worry about. Gurley, like Bell, helps out in the receiving game too, which aids in making him a great running back.

3. Ezekiel Elliot- Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys lack playmakers and are going to need to hand Elliot the rock often. Elliot still has a great line in front of him and can capitalize on that. Teams may stack the box to stop him and make Dak Prescott beat them, but Prescott excels on play-action passes, so they will be kept honest.

2018 fantasy football rb rankings

David Johnson (Photo by azcardinals.com)

4. David Johnson- Arizona Cardinals

Johnson is returning from his broken wrist last season. He has had plenty of time to heal so that injury shouldn’t be a concern for this season. Johnson was an early first-round pick in fantasy drafts last year, so this year may be the time to take him later in the first and get good value on him. He will be the focal point of the offense once again and can help out a new quarterback, whoever it ends up being, with his receiving capabilities.

5. Alvin Kamara- New Orleans Saints

The news that Mark Ingram is out for four games helps Kamara’s case for this season. He will still be splitting carries with Ingram when he returns, which makes it hard to put him much higher than this on the list. Kamara broke onto the scene last year and now will have teams game-planning around him. He finished as the fourth best running back last season and will have to work to get back to that spot.

6. Kareem Hunt- Kansas City Chiefs

With Mahomes taking over, teams will stack the box on Hunt next season. Defenses likely won’t pay too often, as Mahomes won’t complete a very high percentage of his passes. The good news is Hunt will get a large portion of the check-downs that Mahomes throws.

7. Leonard Fournette- Jacksonville Jaguars

Fournette finished eighth among running backs last year and didn’ have a great offensive line in front of him. Andrew Norwell was signed to help improve the line and Fournette should see a little better results because of it. He missed three games due to injuries and being late to a team photo, so that is a concern going forward, but he’s still a top ten running back.

8. Saquon Barkley- New York Giants

Rookie running backs breaking out and having good seasons is more of a norm now. Barkley is one of the most talented college running backs in history and will be the player that the Giants have been looking for at the position for years. The offensive line for the Giants got better this offseason with the acquisitions of Nate Solder and Will Hernandez. He can help out in the passing game as well.

9. Melvin Gordon- Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers’ defense has gotten a lot better, which means that they will lead a lot more and Gordon will get more carries to close out games. Gordon finished fifth last year and is a good candidate to have another good year. He will be hoping that Dan Feeny and Forrest Lamp can stay healthy and improve this season to help create holes.

10. Dalvin Cook- Minnesota Vikings

Cook has a significant injury history dating back to college, so taking him could be a risk. His ability makes it a risk worth taking. He played well in his limited time last year. The offensive line was decent last year and Brian O’Neill as drafted to help improve it even more. Kirk Cousins loves to throw to running backs out of the backfield, so Cook should have a high work rate.

Running back rankings: 11-20

11. Christian McCaffrey- Carolina Panthers

The offensive line got worse this offseason with the loss of Norwell, but McCaffrey had 113 targets in the passing game. He was a boom-or-bust play last year with seven games of under six fantasy points and six games of over 10 points. Jonathan Stewart is now gone, so McCaffrey should see a better work rate.

12. Devonta Freeman- Atlanta Falcons

Freeman finished 13th last year and does split carries with Tevin Coleman. He formerly was the number one running back in fantasy, but that was under a different offensive coordinator. His value is limited with him sharing carries and playing for Steve Sarkisian, who fails to get the most out of his players.

13. Jordan Howard- Chicago Bears

Not many people have Howard this high on their lists, but with the offense getting better around him, he can have a good season. He was the 10th best running back last year and the field should be more spread out for him with Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller and Taylor Gabriel being able to produce.

2018 Fantasy football RB rankings

LeSean McCoy (Photo by buffalorumblings.com)

14. LeSean McCoy- Buffalo Bills

Taking McCoy as a number one running back is no longer a viable option. He is aging and the team around him isn’t going to be very helpful. Cordy Glenn was traded and both Richie Incognito and Eric Wood retired this offseason. Their offensive line is not going to be good. This paired with the fact that an unproven quarterback will be taking snaps, means that other teams can focus their time on shutting down the run.

15. Jerick McKinnon- San Francisco 49ers

McKinnon was just the 24th best running back last season, but he has a tremendous opportunity this year. The 49ers will be able to use him on all three downs and his only competition for carries is Matt Breida. Even if Breida gets a decent amount of carries, McKinnon will get work in the passing game.

16. Kenyan Drake- Miami Dolphins

Frank Gore was signed this offseason, giving Drake a running mate. Gore’s career is winding down and while he may still get a decent amount of carries, Drake will be given the majority. With Ryan Tannehill returning to the lineup, Drake should be a security blanket to throw to in the passing game.

17. Alex Collins- Baltimore Ravens

While he didn’t start off the season to get a lot of the work out of the backfield, Collins ran with his opportunity and finished as the 16th ranked running back. With a full season getting the majority of the carries, Collins should be expected to be a RB2.

18. Joe Mixon- Cincinnati Bengals

After getting his feet wet as a rookie, Mixon is poised for a bigger year in 2018. The offensive line in front of him will be much better with the additions of Cordy Glenn and Billy Price.

19. Lamar Miller- Houston Texans

This ranking is very dependent on Deshaun Watson coming back healthy. At the end of the season, with Watson out of the lineup, Miller had five straight games of under 10 fantasy points. He didn’t have his greatest season last year, but the Texans had a bad offensive line and bad quarterback play without Watson.

20. Derrick Henry- Tennessee Titans

Demarco Murray is finally gone, so Henry can take the lead back role. He will split carries with Dion Lewis, but they should compliment each other well. Henry finished 25th last year and should be able to finish in the top 20 this season.

Running back rankings: 21-30

21. Derrius Guice- Washington Redskins

Guice will be part of a tandem as well, with Chris Thompson. Thompson will capitalize on all of Alex Smith’s short throws, but Guice is going to be tasked with getting all the tough yards on first and second down. He should also receive the majority of the goal line carries.

2018 fantasy football RB rankings

Marshawn Lynch (Photo by sportingnews.com)

22. Marshawn Lynch- Oakland Raiders

He wasn’t the same back that he was before retirement, but he was a top 20 fantasy back last season. Doug Martin now joins the fold, but Lynch will still see the majority of the carries. The line isn’t quite the same great one it was in 2016, but is still solid.

23. Rashaad Penny- Seattle Seahawks

The offensive line is still a huge issue that wasn’t adequately addressed, so Penny will be thrown into the fire as a rookie. The Seahawks did draft him too early, but that shows confidence in his abilities and a desire to use him in their offense. He can stay on the field for all three downs.

24. Royce Freeman- Denver Broncos

Freeman found the perfect situation in the Denver Broncos. He was a great runner behind zone blocking in college and will now run behind a similar zone blocking scheme in the NFL. With C.J. Anderson gone Freeman will only have to fight for carries with Devontae Booker.

25. Jay Ajayi- Philadelphia Eagles

He will surely have a better season than last year when he ranked 33rd in fantasy points for running backs. Ajayi will be the workhorse back, but they have many talented running backs who will get touches this season. They have talked about getting him more involved in the game plan, so expect him to be in the RB2-Flex range.

26. Ronald Jones II- Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs needed a new running back without Doug Martin being on the roster any longer. Jones is a quick running back, who figures to get most of the carries this season. He will also help out in the passing game.

27. Mark Ingram- New Orleans Saints

Ingram is now suspended for four games for breaking the performance-enhancing drug rules of the NFL. He finished sixth last year, but was figured to take a small step back with the emergence of Kamara. With the suspension, he is now dropping down draft boards and shouldn’t be seen as more than a flex player even when he comes back.

28. Carlos Hyde- Cleveland Browns

Hyde has a new home in Cleveland but has to split carries with Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson Jr. He should get carries near the goal line, but other parts of the field might see a more even split. Hyde also has injury problems as last season was the only year he played all 16 games.

29. Marlon Mack- Indianapolis Colts

There are reports that Jordan Wilkins will be a star, but he wasn’t vey successful in college. Mack should get most of the carries and he now has a much improved offensive line to run behind.

30. Chris Thompson- Washington Redskins

Thompson was crushing it before going down with injury and missing the last six games of the season. He is an excellent third-down back who should thrive playing with “Captain Check-Down” Alex Smith.

 

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Tennessee Titans 2018 NFL Draft profile

The 2018 NFL Draft is now under two weeks away, which means that Draftmas is back. Draftmas will take a look at each NFL team heading into the NFL Draft, what their needs are and who they could be targeting. You will find it here. Draftmas will continue with the Tennessee Titans 2018 NFL Draft profile. 

Summary

In 2017, the Tennessee Titans surprised many by sneaking into the playoffs with a 9-7 record. After a late three-game skid, a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars helped them reach the postseason. In the Wild Card round, the Titans pulled off one of the most exciting upsets of the year by defeating the Kansas City Chiefs.

Despite their relative success, it was not enough to save head coach Mike Mularkey’s job. Mularkey lost the trust of the Titans’ front office and was blamed for the regression of quarterback Marcus Mariota. The Titans hired former Houston Texans’ defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel to replace Mularkey.

Tennessee Titans 2018 NFL Draft profile

Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota breaks free from Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner. (Photo by Mark Zaleski/AP)

The Titans’ offense was just average in 2017, ranking 19th in points and 23rd in yards. The decline in Mariota’s play was evident, as he only threw 13 touchdowns with 15 interceptions. Despite playing with talented running backs and a reliable offensive line, Mariota made several wrong decisions, putting his team in a bad position. The Titans’ offense relied heavily on the ground game, powered by DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. Henry got hot late in the season and showed great potential. New offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur will have plenty of talent to work with and should be able to improve after a disappointing season.

Along with their offense, Tennessee’s defense also ranked in the middle of the pack in 2017. Despite having the fourth-best rushing defense in the NFL, the Titans had one of the worst passing defenses in the league. The Titans gave up nearly 4,000 yards and 27 touchdowns through the air this season, which is in the bottom 10 in both categories. The addition of free agent Malcolm Butler will help, but the Titans will still need to focus on helping their defense in this year’s draft.

Picks and Needs

The Tennessee Titans have six picks in the 2018 NFL Draft, the lowest amount they have had since 2014.

First round (1 pick): 25

Second round (1): 57

Third round (1): 89

Fourth round (1): 125

Fifth round (1): 162

Sixth round (1): 199

Seventh round (0):

Offensive needs:

Tennessee Titans 2018 NFL Draft profile

Titans receiver Corey Davis. (Photo by Andrew Nelles / Tennesseean.com)

Wide receiver – The Titans selected Corey Davis at the beginning of the 2017 NFL Draft, and he had a very rough rookie season. He suffered a hamstring injury early in the year and struggled to bounce back, tallying up only 375 yards. With Rishard Matthews and Taywan Taylor as the other main receiving targets, the Titans may look for an upgrade in the draft.

Guard – The Titans’ have two solid starting guards in Quinton Spain and Josh Kline, but they could be improved upon. Derrick Henry and the newly-signed Dion Lewis will make a strong one-two punch and will use all the help they can get. With tackles Jack Conklin and Taylor Lewan on the outside, adding a strong guard may push the team’s rushing attack over the top.

 

Defensive needs:

Nose tackle – DaQuan Jones and Jurrell Casey are excellent 3-4 defensive ends and help set the edge for Tennessee’s athletic pass rushers. However, they lack a strong inside presence on the defensive line. A talented nose tackle that takes up double-team blocks will make the Titans’ pass rush even better.

Inside linebacker – The loss of Avery Williamson in free agency hurts this team’s depth at the linebacker position. Williamson and Wesley Woodyard formed a dynamic duo, and the Titans now need to find his replacement.

Safety – Kevin Byard was one of the best safeties in the NFL last season, but he could use a running mate. Byard plays free safety, meaning the Titans’ will likely need a strong safety to play in the box. With how awful the Titans’ pass defense was in 2017, any additional depth on the back end would be helpful.

Targets

Tennessee Titans 2018 NFL Draft profile

Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

First round:

Pick No. 25: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama

Evans plays extremely fast and can play well against the run and pass. At Alabama, Evans displayed his ability to tackle ball carriers in the backfield as well as rush the passer. He will be able to fill the void left by Avery Williamson and should start right away. Evans needs some additional coaching, but that will not be an issue given that coach Mike Vrabel was a linebacker himself.

Second round:

Pick No. 57: Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford

There have been varying opinions on his ability to play nose tackle in the NFL, but Phillips has elite strength and was very productive in college. His upper body strength and competitiveness helps him close inside running lanes. He is also very smart and understands blocking schemes. If he were to come to Tennessee, he could enter the defensive line rotation with Jurrell Casey and DaQuan Jones.

Third round:

Pick No. 89: Michael Gallup, WR, Colorado State

In a thin receiver class, Gallup may not fall to the Titans at pick 89. Gallup put up impressive numbers in his time with Colorado State, utilizing his impressive build and speed. He also has shown impressive ball skills and reliability. Gallup has room to grow as a route-runner, but has shown improvement during last season. Gallup could compete right away as the Titans’ second wide receiver behind Corey Davis.

Conclusion

The Tennessee Titans have a very complete roster and should be in the Wild Card hunt again next season. With a talented defense and running game, the fate of the Titans’ season sits solely on the shoulders of quarterback Marcus Mariota. If he can bounce back, there is no reason why the Titans will not be back in the playoffs in 2018.

Enjoy the days of Draftmas here at The Game Haus! Make sure to tune in tomorrow for the Atlanta Falcons 2018 NFL Draft profile.

 

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NFL divisional playoffs picks

NFL divisional playoffs preview and picks

We were fortunate enough to get four reasonably competitive games to kick off the NFL playoffs last week. You can check out last week’s picks here.

For this week’s divisional playoffs, games will be picked both straight up and against the spread. Outright upsets have an asterisk. All point spreads are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing.

Postseason record- 3-1

Postseason record against the spread- 2-2

Saturday

Falcons at Eagles – For the first time since the NFL adopted its current playoff format, a sixth seed is favorite over a home standing top seed. This is not without merit though. Without Carson Wentz, the Eagles are just another average to below-average football team. In the final two games of the regular season, Philadelphia’s offense accounted for a grand total of 13 points, and the team as a whole was pushed around for long stretches by the non-playoff bound Cowboys and Raiders.

The above paragraph is not a good recipe for taking on the Falcons at the moment. Atlanta needed to win as much as humanly possible late in the regular season to keep its playoff hopes alive. The sudden death nature of the NFL playoffs changed nothing for them last week. They have been in that situation for almost 2 months.

Reigning MVP Matt Ryan and the offense are not quite the juggernaut they were last year, but they are still very good. What has sparked Atlanta’s late-season run as much as anything is defense. The Falcons have not surrendered more than 24 points in a game since Week 11. This includes holding the top-ranked scoring offense to just 13 points last week. If all the offense has to do is score in the high 20s, this team is tough to beat.

Apart from winning a shootout with the lowly Giants, the Eagles offense has not gotten anywhere close to the high 20s with backup quarterbacks since the injury to Wentz. Philadelphia’s defense is pretty good and has stood on its head in recent weeks to keep the Eagles in games. Thus, this will not be a blowout.

However, one of these teams is quarterbacked by Matt Ryan and the other by Nick Foles. Sometimes, it is just that simple.

Winner: Atlanta

Good bet: Falcons (-3) Atl 21 Phi 13

Titans at Patriots – Tennessee did a great job of making a few plays to pull off the big upset in Kansas City last week. However, that result had more to do with Kansas City’s collapse. If New England has a double-digit lead, whoever is playing running back will get the ball a lot more than 11 or 12 times.

NFL divisional playoffs picks

Photo from USA Today

You can’t help but be impressed with the resilience and toughness of Tennessee. That roster is not good enough to get to this point on talent alone. Different guys have stepped up for them all year long. Last week, it was Marcus Mariota playing with his head on a swivel to complete a touchdown pass to himself and Derrick Henry rushing for 156 yards in the absence of backfield mate DeMarco Murray that made the difference.

However, the Titans lack the firepower to really make the Patriots nervous in a playoff game. At this point, nothing more can be said about the greatness of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. They are 25-9 in playoff games. Moreover, only three of those nine losses have been at home. Tennessee will keep this close for a while with solid fundamental football, but New England will pull away late.

Winner: New England

Good bet: Patriots (-13) NE 34 Ten 20

Sunday

Jaguars at Steelers – Vegas is showing great restraint by making the Steelers only a seven-point favorite here. With the way the Jacksonville passing offense has looked for the last month, a double-digit spread would have been perfectly reasonable.

However, the Jacksonville defense has shut down some very good offenses this year. The Jaguars went in to Pittsburgh early in the year and intercepted Ben Roethlisberger five times in a route.

Also, there is more than one way to look at the performance of Blake Bortles last week. It is easy to say he threw for just 87 yards and therefore was completely awful, or you can commend him for his 88 rushing yards and ability to make enough plays for his team to win, even though he did not play very well.

Not very many people have subscribed to the second school of thought leading up to this game, but I am one of them. With a great supporting cast around him, Bortles is fine. Other than one or two games, Jacksonville has had no problem scoring points this year. Almost every offense is going to get shut down at least once or twice a year, no matter who the quarterback is.

Jacksonville is too good to get blown out. Any team that leads the league in rushing offense, as well as several defensive categories, is capable of going anywhere and beating anyone. However, Roethlisberger getting Antonio Brown back will be the difference in this one. Even if Brown is not fully healthy, his presence alone gives the vaunted Jacksonville defense another thing to worry about on a loaded Steelers offense.

Winner: Pittsburgh

Good Bet: Jaguars (+7) Pit 27 Jac 24

Saints at Vikings – No team was more impressive than New Orleans last week. All year, the Saints had done most of their damage by running the ball with Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. Carolina held that duo to under 50 combined rushing yards. The Saints still managed to win. Drew Brees showed us all why he is going to the Hall of Fame someday.

NFL divisional playoffs picks

Photo from si.com

Unless there is a truly dominant team, whoever wins the Super Bowl has to find a way to win a game or two where its best stuff is not working. There is no dominant NFL team this year, and that is exactly what the Saints did last week.

This week, the task is a little bit tougher as New Orleans goes on the road to face another very stout defensive unit in Minnesota. The vast majority of Minnesota’s success this year has come from backups, castoffs and other spare parts. Mike Zimmer and his staff have done an incredible job of getting the most out of Case Keenum. Keenum has nearly doubled his career touchdown passes this season. However, much like the other NFC matchup this weekend, it is foolish not to take the established star quarterback over the journeyman in playoff football.

Winner: New Orleans

Good Bet: *Saints (+ 5.5) NO 27 Min 20

 

Featured image from chiefs.com

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NFL Week 9

Stack your money Sunday’s: Week 9

Teams against the spread through Week 8

Buffalo 5-1-1

Kansas City 6-2

Philadelphia 6-2

NY Jets 5-2-1

Houston 5-2

New Orleans 5-2

Houston 5-2

Chicago 5-3

Minnesota 5-3

Pittsburgh 5-3

Jacksonville 4-3

Dallas 4-3

LA Rams 4-3

Indianapolis 4-4

San Francisco 4-4

Miami 3-3-1

Carolina 4-4

New England 4-4

Baltimore 4-4

NY Giants 3-4

Seattle 3-4

Cincinnati 3-4

LA Chargers 3-4-1

Green Bay 3-4

Tennessee 3-4

Detroit 3-4

Oakland 3-5

Denver 2-4-1

Atlanta 2-5

Washington 2-5

Cleveland 2-6

Tampa Bay 1-5-1

Arizona 1-6

 

Week 8 Review (1-2) Overall: 15-8-1

Pittsburgh Steelers (-3) @ Detroit Lions

Pittsburgh Steelers 20 Detroit Lions 15

NFL Week 9

The Steelers sit atop the AFC. (Photo from FanRag Sports)

JuJu on that beat! With Martavis Bryant suspended, Smith-Schuster, the wideout from USC, had seven receptions for 193 yards, including a 97-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger during the third quarter. Pittsburgh’s defense was phenomenal, forcing two turnovers and not allowing Detroit to score a touchdown.

It appeared the Lions still had a shot when they were down one in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, Matt Stafford was sacked on fourth down. On third and fourth down, the Lions were a combined 2-14. The turnover on downs led to the big JuJu touchdown.

Matt Prater did not disappoint fantasy teams, as he knocked in a total of five field goals.

Atlanta Falcons (-6) @ New York Jets

Atlanta Falcons 25 New York Jets 20

Two points away from covering. Close but no cigar. The Jets looked like they were going to pull off the upset heading into halftime with a 17-13 lead.

A Matt Bryant field goal and a Mohamed Sanu touchdown put the Falcons ahead with less than 13 minutes to play. The Jets were unable to score a touchdown in the second half, and Atlanta squeaked out a close one.

The Falcons, who have an average run defense, shutdown New York, allowing only 43 yards on 22 carries. They also limited the Jets to a mere 15 first downs, which is tied for their best performance of the year.

Atlanta looks to continue their success this week, going on the road to face Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.

Oakland Raiders (+2.5) @ Buffalo Bills

Buffalo Bills 34 Oakland Raiders 14

The Raiders are truly the most unpredictable team in the league. They went into this game following an emotional win over Kansas City, and appeared to be the better team. That was until the game actually started. Oakland turned the ball over not once, twice, or even three times, but four times, including a pair of interceptions by Derek Carr. They have now lost five games, which is already more than last season.

Give credit to the Bills, who look like a legitimate playoff team, even though they just got smacked by the Jets. Tyrod Taylor continues to not turn the ball over, and LeSean McCoy is playing like vintage Shady McCoy. McCoy had a 48-yard touchdown run and added a little spice, holding the ball out from 10 yards out to taunt the pitiful Oakland defense.

At this point, I think it is safe to say the Bills are more likely to play in the playoffs than the Raiders.

WEEK 9 PICKS

Los Angeles Rams (-3.5) @ New York Giants

PICK: RAMS TO COVER

The Rams are coming off a bye, which means they had an extra week to prepare for this one-win Giants team. Quite frankly, the Rams are just the better team. They are second in scoring, sixth in yards per play and eighth in first downs. Their defense also ranks ninth against the pass.

On the other hand, the Giants, on both sides of the ball, have been a mess. New York ranks 24th in yards per play on both offense and defense. Eli Manning has his team at 29th in plays per drive and last in first downs. Their defense ranks 23rd in rushing yards allowed, which is not great considering the Rams are the sixth best rushing team, largely due to Todd Gurley.

New York just isn’t scoring, as they rank 29th in percentage of offensive drives ending in a score. The Rams rank third in that department, which is clearly a major difference.

This game could end up in a double-digit victory for the Rams. The Giants cannot run the football, so if Eli struggles, watch out.

Also, the Rams love to score right off the bat, ranking fourth in first quarter points per game. On the flip side, the Giants are 31st. As for third down conversions, the Rams are first in the league, while New York ranks 29th.

Numbers don’t tell the whole story, but I think it’s clear that the Giants are not very good at the moment. Keep in mind Janoris Jenkins will not be playing this week either.

Atlanta Falcons (-2) @ Carolina Panthers

PICK: FALCONS TO COVER

Not only did Cam Newton lose his best friend on the team, Kelvin Benjamin, but he lost his best receiver. Newton has publicly expressed that he is not a fan of the move, so expect a shaky start for the former MVP.

Carolina has lost two out of their last three games, and currently rank 23rd in points. Newton is not playing like an MVP, as he already has 11 interceptions.

Although it is somewhat of a disappointing start for Atlanta, they are still very solid. Their offense ranks fifth in yards, fourth in yards per rushing attempt, and fifth in first downs. Atlanta has the 11th ranked defense, which is the second best defense the Panthers have seen this year. The Falcons also rank second in yards per drive, while Carolina is 20th.

Matt Ryan has been somewhat average and has thrown more interceptions than usual. Luckily, the Panthers do not force many turnovers, as they rank 27th in that department.

If it comes down to the wire, Carolina is 27th in fourth quarter points per game, which cannot be trusted. Take the Falcons on the road.

Baltimore Ravens @ Tennessee Titans (-3)

PICK: TITANS TO COVER

NFL Week 9

Expect big numbers from the Titans’ backfield. (Photo from Titans Online)

Like the Rams, the Titans are also coming off of a bye week. They sit atop the AFC South, tied with the Jags for a share of first place, so a home game like this is a must win.

When the Titans rush the ball for over 100 yards, they are 3-0. Baltimore ranks 30th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game, letting up almost 133 yards per contest.

As long as the Titans stick to the run, they will be fine. Even after the Ravens 40-0 win over Miami, they still rank dead last in passing yards, and second to last in overall yards. Their running game has been decent, but Tennessee defends the run well, and sits fifth in opponent rushing yards per attempt.

Expect Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry to run wild, and for Joe Flacco to continue to look bad, especially after nearly being concussed a week ago.

 

Featured image by myAJC.com

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DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry fantasy situation

Is DeMarco Murray in danger of losing his job to Derrick Henry?

How to Handle the situation at this moment

DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry fantasy situation

DeMarco Murray (Photo by: apexfantasyleagues.com)

In the first two games, Murray had 60 total yards on 14 touches and then 28 total yards on 10 touches before his injury. Again it may seem normal, but after this injury this could become the end of Murray as the lead back.

If Murray isn’t a go for the week 3 game against Seattle, this opens the door for Henry to show his ability. Henry could have a good week with the Seattle’s run defense has allowed 10-plus fantasy points to a running back in each of the first two weeks.

This could cause Murray to lose some touches. Vice versa, then fantasy owners won’t have to worry as Murray then could get his touches back when he heals.

If you Have Derrick Henry or both

If you’re a Derrick Henry owner, you could be in the driver’s seat.

DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry fantasy situation

Derrick Henry (Photo by: titansonline.com)

As I mentioned above, with a chance Murray won’t be available, this could be Henry’s big chance to take over. Even if Murray plays, he’s in for a decent workload. With Seattle’s run defense struggling, he has a good offensive line to run behind.

Tennessee finished the 2016 season as a top-graded run blocking unit, and the Titans brought back all of last year’s starters and have begun the year healthy up front. Henry’s 5.8 yards per carry in two games is No. 12 among running backs.

This could mean with a solid performance, that Henry’s name will be around for people to trade for in fantasy. Expect Henry to be the lead running back by season’s end. The Titans did not use a high draft pick on the running back to not want him to get more involved in the offense.

If you have both then you can relax. Keep tabs over the next week then you can make the determination who to start. But in this case I still start the healthier back in Henry.

What Happens if Henry dominates

If the situation whether Murray plays or not with Henry dominates, then it will be time for panic.

One thing not to do is trade him or cut him. Trading him isn’t an answer because no one will give you anything good for him, not even the owner who has Henry. Cutting him won’t do better because there is no one better. What’s next?

Murray was a second or third-round pick in most leagues. And having to say this it will take really his ability to get healthy and hoping Henry doesn’t do well. But this definitely means Murray and Henry will split reps more.

While the worst hasn’t happened, be prepared for a bumpy ride Murray owners. You could be heading for a disappointing road.

 

Featured image from tennessean.com.

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NFL week two: Eight takeaways

1. New England looked great, but let’s pump the brakes

Tom Brady threw for 447 yards and three touchdowns, but did we forget who they played? That’s right, New Orleans. In the previous week, the Saints allowed 470 yards to the Minnesota Vikings, who are predominately relevant because of their defense.

This is a Saints team who, last year, finished second to last in total points allowed, and dead last in passing yards allowed. With that said, it is expected for Tom Brady and the New England offense to put up numbers.

Despite the big win however, New England is still banged up. Rob Gronkowski had to exit with a groin injury and Dont’a Hightower might be out another week or two. With Danny Amendola still sidelined, it was nice to see production from Chris Hogan and Philip Dorsett, but we will see how long these two can last as consistent playmakers. Especially when New England plays a legit defense.

2. Maybe the Titans will be as good as we thought?

NFL week two: eight takeaways

Derrick Henry could take over as the RB1 (Tennessee Titans)

Going into the season, people were high on Tennessee. For good reason of course, since they do have Marcus Mariota behind center.

Unfortunately, Mariota hasn’t looked great in his first two games of 2017. Through two games, Mariota has only thrown one touchdown, and has a quarterback rating of 78.7. In his previous two seasons, Mariota’s quarterback ratings were 91.5, and 95.6.

Still, the Titans put up 37 points. Granted it was against Jacksonville, but up until this point in his career, Blake Bortles had been undefeated against Tennessee when he plays at home.

A main reason for the big victory was Tennessee’s ability to run the football. They racked up 179 yards on the ground, mostly from Derrick Henry, who ran for 94 yards, on 6.57 yards per carry.  The Titans defense was also able to force three turnovers, which is a given against Bortles, but they still count. If Mariota can improve, this team could easily win the division.

3. The Panthers are 2-0, but they are overrated

What a blessing it is to start your season against the 49ers and the Bills. Look, the defense has been spectacular, only allowing six total points through two games, but Cam Newton and the offense looks pitiful. It’s understood that Newton is playing banged up, but maybe they need to check for a concussion, because this guy looks lost on the field.

If you watched the game, then you know that your grandmother would have completed the “would be” touchdown pass to Christian McCaffrey, instead of sailing it four feet over his head like Newton did.

Greg Olsen will also 6-8 weeks of the season due to his broken foot, so expect more mediocre play from Carolina’s offense. Carolina is only averaging 2.9 yards per carry is something to keep an eye on as well.

4. The Chiefs look really good

NFL week two: eight takeaways

Kareem Hunt’s debut was no fluke (Sporting News)

After two weeks, Kansas City looks like the best team in football. Not only did they smack the Patriots, but they also beat a good Eagles team. Alex Smith has five touchdowns and has yet to throw an interception, and Kareem Hunt might be able to sit out the rest of the year and still win Rookie of the Year.

In his first two career games, Hunt has 229 yards rushing, along with five total touchdowns. Kansas City is averaging 6.5 yards per carry, which is good for first in the NFL.

The pass rush looks great, as Chris Jones had three of their six sacks against Carson Wentz and the Eagles. If they can slow down the run, this team could be dangerous.

5. Thank God for the Honey Badger, but the Cardinals’ season is over

Without a clutch, game-sealing interception by Tyrann Mathieu, the Cardinals could easily be 0-2. With David Johnson scheduled to miss a serious amount of time, the Cardinals need all the luck they can get, and Mathieu helped them stay relevant for another week.

Carson Palmer has been just awful, with four interceptions and a QBR below 66, his career looks to be done. He turned it around late in the game, but that’s expected against a garbage Colts team. The Cardinals can’t run the ball, and for some reason, are having a hard time defending the pass, so kudos to Mathieu, but it is safe to already write off Arizona.

6. Jay Cutler and the Dolphins might be a perfect match

The Dolphins might be the most underrated team in football, and we might see the best version of Jay Cutler. Yes, it was only one game, but Cutler completed 72.7 percent of his passes, and had a QBR of 101.8.

Jay Ajayi showed that last year was no fluke, rushing for 122 yards. Jarvis Landry led Miami with 13 catches, and the Fins defense held Melvin Gordon to 13 yards on nine attempts. Watch out for Miami.

7. The Raiders are dope

The Raiders home opener was everything you could have hoped for. In a 45-25 win over the Jets, we saw Marshawn Lynch dancing, Michael Crabtree with three touchdowns and Derek Carr looking like a real MVP. Carr has yet to commit a turnover and the Raiders are fifth in the league in rushing.

The defense, who at times, holds this team back, has already recovered two fumbles and is doing a decent job of defending the run. If the defense gets better, the Raiders could be looking at an easy route to home field advantage.

8. Cowboys in trouble?

NFL week two: eight takeaways

Has Dak been exposed? (FanSided)

As someone who does not think Dak Prescott is a franchise quarterback, Sunday’s performance was beautiful to watch. Without Ezekiel Elliott, Dak is nothing. Elliott was held to eight yards on nine attempts, which caused Prescott to actually have to make plays. This resulted in a pair of interceptions.

Denver’s D is top notch, but the Cowboys should be concerned. If the run game is not there, this team is unable to produce, especially with a washed up Dez Bryant. Yeah, he caught a touchdown, but with all those targets, he should have been much better.

 

 

Featured image by Washington Post

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2017 AFC South division preview

2017 AFC South division preview

The NFL regular season is fast approaching. The season opener is just one day away and the Chiefs and Patriots will be kicking off the 2017-18 NFL season. 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 ado, here is the 2017 AFC South division preview.

4: Jacksonville Jaguars

Last season: 3-13

Strength of schedule: 30

Cleveland is the one organization that gets joked about the most in terms of putrid franchises but Jacksonville is arguably just as pathetic. The Jaguars have picked in the top five of the NFL Draft for six years running, which is an NFL record. It is safe to assume the Jaguars will finish fourth in this division given this tragic recent history.

Jacksonville has not won more than eight games in a season since 2007. Over these past nine seasons, they have averaged just 4.6 wins per year. The prediction will be somewhere right around that number until they can prove to win more or until they find a quarterback that is actually decent.

2017 AFC South division preview

(Photo Credit: Bob Mack/The Florida Times-Union via AP)

The Jaguars offense has been abysmal. Jacksonville only managed to score 19.9 points per game last season. This stems from the lack of a two-dimensional offense. The Jags are always behind the chains, making life much more difficult for Bortles. Jacksonville drafted Leonard Fournette to fix its 22nd ranked rushing attack.

An improved rushing attack could improve their 35.3 percent third down conversion percentage. Running the ball efficiently will lead to shorter third downs which theoretically should lead to more points. This is the formula for success because it takes the ball out of Blake Bortles’ hands.

A better offense can help the Jaguars under the radar defense look even better. Although the Jaguars defense gave up 25 points per game, they ranked sixth in yards allowed at 321.7 per game. The offense kept turning over the ball and putting the Jags’ defense in short fields.

Jacksonville also acquired A.J. Bouye and Barry Church, both are upgrades over the departed defensive backs John Cyprien and Prince Amukamara to improve their defense. Their secondary will likely improve on the 215.2 yards per game they gave up last season due to these additions.

It seems like the Jaguars have made the right moves to be a better team but they do not have history on their side. They also stink at home and defending homefield is crucial. In the past four years, the Jaguars are 9-29 at home. Playing in such a humid and hot climate should provide a better homefield advantage. Because of history, Blake Bortles or Chad Henne, the Titans and Texans, are all reasons the Jaguars draft in the top 10.

Prediction: 5-11 (2-4), miss the playoffs

Losses: @Hou, Ten, @NYJ, @Pit, @Ind, Cin, @Cle, @Ari, Sea, @SF, @Ten

3: Indianapolis Colts

Last season: 8-8

Strength of schedule: 30

The Indianapolis Colts only have one thing going for them and that is Andrew Luck. The problem is he will be out the first week of the season and possibly longer. Without Luck, the Colts are going to struggle and would be bottom feeders over the course of a 16-game season. Andrew Luck has been stellar in his career throwing for 19,078 yards, 132 touchdowns and just 68 interceptions.

2017 AFC South division preview

(Photo Credit: http://rotoprofessor.com/football/?p=9227)

His weapons at receiver are T.Y. Hilton, who had a career high in receptions (91) and yards (1,448) last season and Donte Moncrief. These two receivers have tons of talent but will falter if Luck is unavailable. Aside from the wideouts, Jack Doyle will be the go to tight end. These options are all solid but the Colts must try and run the ball more or these players will be useless.

The Colts are too predictable. They only ran the ball 39 percent of the time for 101.8 yards per game. Frank Gore is 34 years old and his best days are far behind him. Indianapolis is hoping Marlon Mack can become the feature back as this season rolls forward. There are no signs that the Colts will run the ball more or efficiently this season and that will hold their offense back and in turn, the rest of the team as well.

Defensively, there has been a change in the scheme in an attempt to fix a defense that ranked 22nd in points allowed. They also ranked 27th against the pass giving up 269.2 yards per game. The rush defense wasn’t much better as they ranked 25th against the run allowing 120.4 yards per game. The unit as a whole must improve if the Colts are to have a shot at making the playoffs.

There have been no moves that indicate this defense will show improvement. The Colts have an easy schedule and Andrew Luck, but aside from that, there is little to look forward to from this team this upcoming season. Indianapolis will struggle and this time next year the Colts will have a new head coach.

Prediction: 6-10 (3-3), miss the playoffs

Losses: @LAR, @Sea, @Ten, @Cin, @Hou, Pit, @Jax, @Buf, Den, @Bal 

2: Houston Texans

Last season: 9-7

Strength of schedule: 25

Here is something you have probably heard before: The Texans have had three straight 9-7 seasons. That won’t happen this season though as the Texans continue to struggle in their pursuit of finding their franchise quarterback. The weakness of the Texans has consistently been their offense and it will continue to haunt them this season.

Houston only had a successful run game and without it, the entire offense would have been one of the worst the NFL had ever seen. Houston ran for an average of 116.2 yards per game on 28.5 attempts per game. Lamar Miller had 1,073 yards and five touchdowns on just 268 carries. Miller is going to be a workhorse as Tom Savage lines up under center.

2017 AFC South division preview

(Photo Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

Despite the successful rushing attack, the fact of the matter is that the Texans’ offense ranked at the bottom of most offensive categories including points per game (17.4, ranking 29th), points per game in the first half (7.6, ranking 32nd), yards per game (314.7, ranking 29th), third down conversions (37.3 percent, ranking 22nd) and passing yards (198.5, ranking 29th). Every bad play this offense has in 2017 will have the fans clamoring for Deshaun Watson. That much distraction is going to take a toll on the team.

As mentioned previously, the Texans are led by their fantastic defense. Houston ranked 11th in scoring defense 20.5 points per game but first in yards allowed at just 301.3 yards per game. The Texans were led by their pass defense which ranked second allowing 201.6 yards per game. This may slip a bit with the loss of A.J. Bouye but as crazy as it sounds the secondary can improve even more with the return of J.J. Watt.

Watt paired with Jadeveon Clowney will create tons of mismatches. They will be completely unblockable causing teams to dump the ball off quickly so that the secondary won’t have to cover for too long. Whitney Mercilius, Brian Cushing and Bernardrick McKinney are great linebackers who will continue to light up opposing offenses making the Texans defense one of the top five yet again.

Houston is in the same situation it has been in recently. The offense is going to falter while the defense remains Super Bowl worthy. A bad offense and the rise of the Titans will cause the downfall of Houston.

Prediction: 8-8 (3-3), wildcard candidate

Losses: @NE, @Sea, @LAR, @Bal, @Ten, @Jax, Pit, @Ind

1: Tennessee Titans

2017 AFC South division preview

(Photo Credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qijh_Au8B0)

Last season: 9-7

Strength of schedule: 30

Tennessee is the darkhorse team to watch this season. Marcus Mariota is entering his third season and the organization has done well to build around him. There were flashes of greatness from this team last season and they might have made the playoffs had Mariota not broken his leg in the second to last game. This season they take that next step and win the division.

Tennessee ranked third in the NFL with 136.7 yards per game on the ground to lead the offense. DeMarco Murray led the way in the rushing attack averaging 80.4 yards per game. His counterpart, Derrick Henry averaged just 32.7 yards per game. That number should increase this year and this will be one of the best backfields in the entire league.

This top rushing attack is going to help take pressure off of Mariota and the passing game. Marcus Mariota has been phenomenal in his short career already. Mariota has completed 61.6 percent of his passes while throwing for 6,244 yards, 45 touchdowns and just 19 interceptions. He has shown to be a great decision maker already in his career. Mariota converted at the third-best rate in the NFL on third down last year. He has also never thrown a red zone interception in his career.

Mariota accomplished all of this with Delanie Walker being his leading receiver. The Titans drafted Corey Davis and signed Eric Decker to address this issue. Mariota will have legitimate receivers to sling the ball to, making the offense impossible to predict or defend. These two additions may seem small but will make all the difference on the offensive side of the ball.

For all the Titans have going for them on offense, it is their defense that makes this team a possible Super Bowl contender. Tennesse gave up 23.6 points per game which is actually impressive considering the slow starts they were accustomed to. The Titans ranked 29th in first quarter points allowed.

Tennessee’s’ horrible secondary last season has also been improved upon as they drafted cornerback Adoree Jackson and signed defensive backs Logan Ryan and John Cyprien. The additions of these three players can help the Titans catch up to their superb rush defense which ranked second in the NFL, allowing 88.3 yards per game.

The secondary is much improved and Mariota has finally been blessed with some receiving threats. Pair that with a weak division and the third easiest schedule in the NFL means that the Tennessee Titans will finish the season as AFC South champions.

Prediction: 11-5 (4-2), division champion

Losses: Oak, Sea, @Hou, @Pit, @Ind

 

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Featured image https://calvinayre.com/2014/08/06/sports/afc-south-preview/

Running back rankings for the 2017 Fantasy Football season: 50-41

Probably the most coveted position in fantasy football, we are in the era of the running back. If you had players like Le’veon Bell, David Johnson, or Ezekiel Elliot on your team last year, you were probably in the playoffs and maybe even won your championship. These rankings can help you win your league and avoid some bad choices in your draft. Here are the Running back rankings for the 2017 Fantasy Football season: 50-41.

50. Robert Kelley (Washington Redskins)- 

Questions come into training camp, as to whether or not Kelley can remain the lead back in Washington. Last season he averaged 4.2 yards per attempt while he rushed for 704 yards and six touchdowns. It is known that Washington will go with a running back by committee approach, and there’s a lot of running backs in Washington gunning for those touches. I’d stay away from Kelley until the later rounds of drafts.

49. Jeremy Hill (Cincinnati Bengals)

For the past couple of years, Jeremy Hill has always been the guy who’s supposed to have a great year. After his breakout season in 2014 with 1,124 yards and 9 touchdowns, he hasn’t been the same.

http://rotoviz.com/2016/03/jeremy-hill-fantasy-3/?hvid=57gwhW

The touchdowns have been there (11 in 2015 and 9 last season) but he hasn’t had a 1,000 yard rushing season since. With the addition of Joe Mixon, Giovanni Bernard coming back and the depleted offensive line, I would avoid Jeremy Hill in drafts this year.

48. Latavius Murray (Minnesota Vikings)

Before the draft, Latavius Murray joined the Minnesota Vikings and I was intrigued. Once Dalvin Cook was drafted, Murray’s stocked dropped and Cook became the front runner to start for the Vikings.

He hit the injury bug a little bit last year when he missed two games but he still recorded 788 yards and 12 touchdowns. He split carries last year behind a great offensive line and now he’ll be splitting carries behind a worse offensive line. Murray is a good RB3 but nothing more.

47. Derrick Henry (Tennesse Titans)

I really like Derrick Henry this year. In the last 5 games of the season, Henry ran for more than 40 yards 3 times on minimal carries. His workload will increase this year and given Demarco Murray’s injury history, I’d stash Henry on your bench and wait it out.

http://titansized.com/2017/03/21/derrick-henry-needs-a-new-role-in-the-tennessee-titans-offense/

46. Samaje Perine (Washington Redskins)

I absolutely love Perine this year. After rushing for over 1700 yards and 21 touchdowns at Oklahoma this past season, the Washington Redskins drafted Perine with the 114th overall pick.

After running a 4.65 40 yard dash, scouts saw that he was a tough runner who could handle a big workload, which just may happen for him in Washington. The Redskins are trying to deal Matt Jones, and will use a Running back by committee, but Perine is that running back to own.

45. Jacquizz Rodgers (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Rodgers in an interesting fantasy candidate this year. Doug Martin is suspended four games and Charles Sims coming off of a torn pectoral. Rodgers will be the lead back for the start of the season. When Rodgers got at least 15 carries a game last season, he always got more than 60 yards. I would draft Rodgers for the first four games while Martin is suspended and then keep him on your bench for the rest of the season.

44. Wendall Smallwood (Philadelphia Eagles)

Smallwood reminds me a lot of his teammate Darren Sproles. Last year Sproles had a career resurgence but I think this year Smallwood will fill his shoes. After averaging 4.05 yards a carry as the 3rd running back theres no reason why he shouldn’t be able to do that in a bigger workload as the consistent third town back. He won’t get you many touchdowns but the yards will be there.

43. LaGarrette Blount (Philadelphia Eagles)

Back to back Eagles running backs, just this time I’m talking about the workhorse back. After winning a Super Bowl with the New England Patriots, Blount rushed for 1,161 yards and 18 touchdowns. The free agent market for the aging running back was slim but i think the powerful runner still has something left in the tank. The Eagles ran the ball on 40% of their plays last season without a feature back. Now Doug Pederson has his running back and good things will come from it.

Legarrette Blount racked up 69 yards rushing and three touchdowns in Sunday’s loss to Seattle.

42. Terrence West (Baltimore Ravens)

After a nice year with the Ravens, rushing for 774 yards and 5 touchdowns, West should have a bit of a fall in 2017. With the addition of Danny Woodhead and the emergence of Kenneth Dixon, I don’t see West being anything special this season. Dixon is suspended however so West could be good for four games but after that I wouldn’t keep West on your team.

41. Matt Forte (New York Jets)

Running backs may be the only good thing that the New York Jets have on they team anymore. Forte and Bilal Powel provide a strong one-two punch but in this case, Forte is the worse choice of the two. A former first round pick in fantasy football, Forte is still a good running back, but with his age and his injury history (hasn’t played a full season since 2014), I’d stay away from him this year.

 

 

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