The NFL draft is next week. The entire football world is focusing on that, and rightfully so. Most of the free agency dust has settled. However, there are still a handful of players out there that can help teams win, even if they don’t find a home until after the draft. Here are four of those players.
(Photo from timescall.com)
The first two names are relatively new additions to the free agent pool. Anderson spent five seasons in Denver after going undrafted out of Cal. His release had more to do with finances than football. He is not going to win any foot races, but he is a very tough runner who gets better as the season goes on.
Anderson had 767 yards and eight touchdowns in the second half of the 2014 season and 234 yards rushing yards during Denver’s playoff run to Super Bowl 50. This past season he rushed for over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career after an injury plagued 2016.
True featured running backs are a rare breed in today’s NFL. So there is plenty of room for guys like Anderson, who is only 27 years old. He will be a valuable pickup for a team that comes up short in a rich running back draft.
Bryant’s production has fallen off dramatically since 2014. He has not posted 1,000 receiving yards since then. Injuries, lack of chemistry with anyone other than Tony Romo and general unhappiness with the Cowboys are all factors in his statistical decline and eventual release from the Cowboys.
The former first-round pick may still have some good football left in him, but he is going to get opportunities and offers based on the player he is and not the player he was. Bryant has been very vocal about wanting to face the Cowboys twice a year, but there is not an obvious fit in the NFC East. The Ravens, Texans and Packers have all been mentioned as possible destinations.
He could work very well as a complementary receiver in Baltimore or Houston. The Packers simply do not sign many free agents. Thus, Green Bay going after a loud receiver who has been mediocre for the last three years would be a shocker. The Ravens and Texans represent Bryant’s best chances at adding a decent second act to his career.
Galette comes with injury and character concerns. He returned to the field in 2017 after missing the 2015 and 2016 seasons due to injury. He played in all 16 games and posted three sacks for Washington last year.
The three hardest things to find in the NFL are elite quarterbacks, left tackles and pass rushers. In the last three seasons in which Galette has played, he has 25 total sacks. That kind of production should get him an opportunity somewhere, even though it may be during training camp for the veteran’s minimum. If the team structures his contract wisely, he is the definition of low risk, high reward.
Decker has had one of the more interesting careers you will ever come across. He has been in some great offenses for wide receivers like the record-setting 2013 Broncos. Decker has also been in some horrible offenses for wide receivers. The Tim Tebow led Broncos of 2011 and last year’s Titans immediately spring to mind.
(Photo from titansonline.com)
Still, Decker managed to be productive even in run-heavy offenses. He blocked well and put up 44 catches for the 2011 Broncos and 54 with last year’s Titans. When he has played regularly, stayed healthy and been in more modern offenses, Decker has been a shoe-in for 80 catches.
Simply put, Decker will do whatever is asked of him and do it well. He is the kind of player that you really have to pay attention to in order to appreciate. Thus, it is mystifying that Decker continues to wait for his phone to ring. Personnel around the league are sleeping on this guy in a big way.
The Ravens and Raiders have kicked the tires on the former Minnesota Golden Gopher. There has also been some chatter about a reunion between Decker and the Broncos.
The early phases of free agency and rounds of the NFL Draft get most of the headlines, but it is often the latter part of both that separate bad teams from average ones and good teams from championship-caliber clubs.
Featured image from SI.com
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On Nov. 6, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers shut down quarterback Jameis Winston to rest his injured shoulder. He is expected to miss at least two weeks.
Winston said he did not aggravate the sprained AC joint he suffered three weeks earlier. The injury happened before halftime on Sunday when he was sacked by Cameron Jordan and Alex Okafor.
Coach Dirk Koetter said he was definitely hurt after the play. That led to backup Ryan Fitzpatrick replacing him. With Winston out, how will the other players respond without him?
Mike Evans and Desean Jackson
For starters, Mike Evans will miss this week due to suspension. But in the times Fitzpatrick has played, Evans is his first target as he throws to him 21 percent of the time according to Graham Barfield of Fantasy Guru. He should remain a solid starter with Fitzpatrick, who likes his tall receivers.
Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson (Photo by bucswire.usatoday.com)
In 2015 as a the starter for the New York Jets, he had the best season of his career with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. He threw for 3,905 yards and 31 touchdowns, making Marshall and Decker remain reliable fantasy players. Evans will remain a key contributor with Fitzpatrick because of his size and ability to catch anything in any area.
As for DeSean Jackson, it’s not the best of news. He has only been thrown to 10 percent of the time even with a touchdown from Fitzpatrick. Jackson is known as a deep threat, and his new quarterback isn’t the best at it.
But Jackson has been inconsistent mostly due to some bad throws and his inability to find other ways to get open. However, Jackson does have a favorable matchup this week against the Jets and is a high flex play this week.
RUNNING BACKS and Cameron Brate
Doug Martin could be the safest play in the next couple weeks. Even though he was dominated by the Saints last week, he should gain a lot of production. As for the other running backs in the passing game, including Martin, Fitzpatrick has targeted all running backs a combined 19 percent of the time, which is second in total attempts by Fitzpatrick. Running backs like Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims could be in play in deep leagues, especially if Martin struggles again.
Doug Martin (Photo by cbssports.com)
Cameron Brate is another intriguing fantasy player. With Evans out, Brate is likely to see a bump in production. The Jets have given up the seventh most fantasy points to tight ends.
Some concern is that Fitzpatrick has only targeted Brate 15 percent of the time, which is behind Evans and the running backs. It’s even behind Adam Humphries! So his fantasy appeal may not be great, but is a safe play for this week in his favorable matchup.
Winston going forward
As for Winston, he is expected to miss only two weeks. But he really isn’t worth it at this point especially with the shoulder injury this late in the year.
I expect that if the Bucs aren’t in a good spot, he could be out the rest of the season. There are other good quarterbacks to go get like Josh McCown of the Jets, Jay Cutler of the Dolphins and maybe even Fitzpatrick.
Winston should be dropped from fantasy teams at this point with the concern of his shoulder.
Featured image from profootballtalk.nbcsports.com.
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Week 1 is here and everyone is excited for the NFL season and fantasy football. Now it’s time to figure out who to start and who to sit.
Looking at all the matchups and analysis from fantasy football experts, I’ve decided to give the five quarterbacks I love for week 1.
Marcus Mariota (TEN) vs Oakland Raiders
Marcus Mariota (Photo by:dailymail.co.uk)
The Titans and Raiders might be the highest scoring game in week 1. Tennessee’s defense ranked 30th in passing defense and Oakland finished 24th. Marcus Mariota struggled last year against Oakland, throwing for 214 yards with 2 interceptions and a fumble along with 22 rushing yards.
However, this Titans team is different than last year. They have new additions at receiver with Eric Decker and fifth-overall pick Corey Davis, along with Rishard Matthews and tight end Delanie Walker to compliment their run game.
Mariota can thrive in this matchup as a runner. The Raiders’ defense tied for most rushing touchdowns allowed to quarterbacks last season.
Derek Carr (OAK) vs Tennessee Titans
Derek Carr (Photo by: bleacherreport.com)
As I mentioned with Mariota, you have to like Derek Carr as well in this matchup. Carr also struggled fantasy wise in this matchup last year, throwing for 249 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Both teams have questionable secondaries and both teams have solid offenses. The Titans were awful against the pass, allowing 269 yards per game last year
Carr has weapons and is coming off a good 2016 campaign and back from injury. He should thrive in this week 1 matchup.
Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) vs Cleveland Browns
Ben Roethlisberger (Photo by:deadspin.com)
Some people say this is obvious. In all seriousness, The Browns’ defense allowed the most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks last year (19.4 points per game in standard scoring). They also ranked 21st in pass defense.
Roethlisberger had a decent game in his only start against Cleveland with 167 passing yards. That game was dominated by Le’Veon Bell on the ground. To top that, Roethlisberger has Antonio Brown and Bell back after his holdout with contract issues. Martavis Bryant also returns after his year-long suspension.
Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense should start out hot against the Browns.
Sam Bradford (MIN) vs New Orleans Saints
Sam Bradford (Photo by:billypenn.com)
When we look at 2016 for Sam Bradford, his season was up and down. However, he finished with the highest completion percentage (71.6 percent) and 15th highest in passing yards per game (258 yards). That’s remarkable, especially being traded days before the opening week last year with little preparation.
But back to his matchup the New Orleans Saints. He faces the worst passing defense a year ago, which allowed 274 passing yards per game. It’s a no brainer to look at him if you have quarterback issues.
Now that Bradford won’t have distractions with being traded and is now used to the playbook, expect Bradford to have top-10 potential in week 1.
Carson Palmer (ARI) vs Detroit Lions
Carson Palmer (Photo by: azcardinals.com)
After a dominating 2015 campaign, Carson Palmer struggled in 2016. Once viewed as a QB1, he’s now regarded as a QB2. But for week 1 Palmer is a good QB1.
Detroit’s pass rush is a big question mark with Ziggy Ansah just now beginning to practice and have no one truly dangerous playing alongside him.
This helps Palmer. Last year’s touchdown-per-attempt rate when pressured last season was just 2.7 percent, yet that leapt to 4.7 percent in a clean pocket. That is a rate well ahead of the league average (4.2).
The Lions also really only have one good cornerback with Darius Slay, which opens the deep ball on favorable matchups. Palmer was third in air yards per attempt last season, a stat that supports big-play upside. The Cardinals offense is poised for a strong showing this week.
Featured image from fantasypros.com
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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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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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The NFL regular season is fast approaching. The Chiefs and Patriots will be kicking off the 2017-2018 NFL season this week. 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 East division preview.
4: New York Jets
(Photo Credit: JULIO CORTEZ/AP)
Last season: 5-11
Strength of schedule: 8
Is it worth it to do a preview on the Jets? Let’s just stick a fork in them right now and put them on the clock. New York had an underwhelming season last year and seemed to completely blow up the roster and start a rebuild. There is little to look forward to this season so Jet fans start watching college football and look for your next quarterback.
Josh McCown will be under center for an offense who will have two really solid running backs, Matt Forte and Bilal Powell. This duo combined to lead the Jets to 112.6 rush yards per game. That was the only true positive from the offense as they ranked 30th in points. This season they won’t have Eric Decker or Brandon Marshall and their starting receivers will be Jalin Marshall and Robby Anderson. There won’t be much of a passing attack, making the Jets one dimensional and predictable.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Jets have plenty of talent to be a good unit. The issue is that the offense is going to hurt them by keeping them on the field often. Up front, Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson will be a handful for any offensive line. The two combined for 126 tackles and 11.5 sacks.
The play of the defensive line should make life easy for the linebackers. With a good defensive front, linebackers Daren Lee, Demario Davis and Jordan Jenkins should be free to fly around and make plays.
Cornerback play will be suspect with Buster Skrine and Morris Claiborne but the secondary will be led by a fantastic safety duo. Marcus Maye and rookie Jamal Adams, the fantastic duo, have turned heads in both practices and in the preseason. These two will be feared and are the future of the New York Jets’ defense.
The entire defense should be very improved and part of the reason is the only way to go is up from a defense that gave up 25.6 points per game. They also ranked 29th in interceptions (8), 29th in sacks (27) and 17th in passing yards allowed per game (243.6). Todd Bowles is known for his defense but left it in Arizona.
With a rebuild going on in New York, the Jets will be difficult to watch. The defense will be talented but an offense with no playmakers and no big play ability will bring the team down. It doesn’t help that they have the eighth toughest schedule. J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets, are now on the clock.
Prediction: 1-15 (0-6), miss the playoffs
3: Miami Dolphins
(Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)
Last season: 10-6
Strength of schedule: 6
Miami lost their quarterback for the season so they went to the broadcast booth and pulled out Jay Cutler. Cutler is no franchise savior. He wasn’t even in shape because according to him, quarterbacks don’t need to be in great cardiovascular shape. With that being said, his best season came under Adam Gase so this move is intriguing. In that season, Cutler had 3,659 yards 21 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a career high 92.3 quarterback rating.
The Dolphins offensive line is one of the worst in the league according to Pro Football Focus. In the past, bad offensive lines have brought out the worst in Cutler. Aside from the offensive line, Cutler will have some really solid weapons around him. At running back, Jay Ajaya is poised to have another big season. Ajaya rushed for 1,272 yards and eight touchdowns to lead the Dolphins on the ground.
The receiving corp is one of the most talented in the league. Jarvis Landry is the headliner with 288 receptions, 3,051 yards and 13 touchdowns in his first three seasons. Alongside the stud Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills create mismatches while teams focus on the running game and Landry. Parker and Stills combined for 98 receptions, 1,470 yards and 13 touchdowns. These weapons should make life easy for Cutler but he has had many weapons in the past and still found ways to mess up.
Cutler used to have Matt Forte in the backfield. He also has had receivers Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall but still had rough seasons. Cutler may make some great throws over the course of the season but when push comes to shove he will also do something boneheaded and cost his team dearly.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Dolphins are going to struggle. Last season they gave up 23.8 points per game, ranking 18th. The defensive line couldn’t stop the run, giving up 140.4 yards per game nor could they get pressure on the quarterback accumulating just 33 sacks. Cameron Wake is 35 years old and has lost a step over the past few seasons.
With an at best average defensive line, the linebacking corps and defensive backs will struggle to succeed. This defense was ranked at the bottom of the league last season and are in a worse position this season. As Jay Cutler begins to turn the ball over, the defense will be in bad situations making the numbers worse. Miami is in for a rough season.
Prediction: 4-12 (2-4), miss the playoffs
losses: TB, @LAC, NO, Ten, @ATL, Oak, @Car, @NE, Den, NE, @Buf, @KC
2: Buffalo Bills
Last season: 7-9
Strength of schedule: 5
Buffalo is under a new regime and fans are hoping this group of coaches will finally end the playoff drought which has lasted since 1999. Sean McDermott was hired to improve the defense and get the Bills back to the promised land.
In order for the Bills to have a good season, and make the playoffs, they must ride LeSean McCoy there. Buffalo led the NFL in rushing yards last season at 164.4 yards per game. Their fantastic ground game led the Bills to the 10th best scoring offense, averaging 24.9 points per game. The rushing attack will still be one of the leagues best behind a top 10 offensive line.
The big improvement the Bills will see this season will be in the passing game. Buffalo averaged a dreadful 189.8 passing yards last season. They drafted Zay Jones and traded for Jordan Matthews to give Tyrod Taylor more reliable weapons. Sammy Watkins was shipped out because of his inability to stay healthy. Jones and Matthews will be a solid duo barring any injuries.
As mentioned, McDermott was hired to fix a defense that allowed 23.6 points per game and a rush defense that gave up 133.1 yards per game. The defensive line is very talented and will improve the rush defense under the tutelage of McDermott. His defenses have had a reputation for doing so while in Carolina. In his last four seasons as defensive coordinator, McDermotts’ defenses ranked second, 16th, fourth and sixth in rush defense.
Buffalo will be an improved football team and will fight for a wild card spot but the tough schedule will make it difficult. The Bills may not end the drought this season but are heading in the right direction.
Prediction: 8-8 (4-2), wildcard candidate
losses: @Car, Den, @Cin, TB, @KC, NE, Ind, @NE
1: New England Patriots
(Photo Credit: https://www.usatoday.com)
Last season: 14-2
Strength of schedule: 12
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are the best quarterback and head coach duo of all-time. Both are the G.O.A.T’s and as long as these two are around, the Patriots will be in contention. New England has won eight straight division titles and 14 of the last 17. Blah blah blah, we know all this already and we know that the Patriots are going to be damn good this season. This preview is a typical preview of the Patriots.
The Patriots’ offseason was the rich just getting richer. New England acquired Brandin Cooks, Dwayne Allen and Stephon Gillmore. Rob Gronkowski and Dion Lewis will also be returning from their injuries. Brady will have plenty of weapons to have another legendary season.
There is nothing to worry about with the offense and as long as father time doesn’t sack Tom Brady, the Patriots will have one of the best offenses in the NFL.
What will really make the Patriots great again is their defense. Last season New England ranked first in points allowed at 15.6 per game. The front four of Lawerence Guy, Alan Branch, Malcolm Brown and Trey Flowers aren’t superstars but will do their job sufficiently enough that the rest of the defense will be able to make plays.
The Patriots’ secondary is going to be close to unstoppable. It may even be the best secondary in the NFL. Stephon Gillmore and Malcolm Butler are going to lock down both sides of the field. Safeties Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty will patrol the middle of the field against the run and the pass. It is scary that Belichick will have this much talent to work with.
The Patriots are a world class organization that knows how to win. Until they show signs of falling off the map, they are the prohibitive favorites to not only win the division but the conference as well.
Prediction: 14-2 (6-0), division champion
losses: ATL, @Oak
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Football is right around the corner and The Game Haus is going to get you ready for the 2017-18 NFL season. The Super Bowl series is going to explain how every team in the NFL can win Super Bowl LII. The Super Bowl series will be divided into eight editions, one for each division. This is the sixth edition, Super Bowl series: AFC South.
(Photo Credit: http://cover32.com)
The Houston Texans have finished 9-7 for three straight years. Last season, it was enough to win the division but the Texans should be striving for better.
Houston has been led by its defense and has been a quarterback away from being one of the best teams in the NFL. That is why they took a shot on Deshaun Watson in this year’s draft. Houston is very close to winning a Super Bowl so explaining how they can win it this season will be relatively simple.
Houston’s defense is nothing short of elite. J.J. Watt only played in three games last season which may have turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Watt’s injury allowed Jadeveon Clowney to finally show signs of stardom. Clowney made some amazing plays against the Raiders in the playoffs, to the point where it looked like he was taking over the game. With Watt returning, the combination of these two great defenders may push Houston’s defense to legendary status.
The Texans gave up the fewest yards per game last season, allowing teams to just over 300 yards per game. Unfortunately, that didn’t always stop teams from scoring on them. Houston gave up 20.5 points per game last season, which ranked 11th in the NFL. They also struggled closing out halves giving up 7.4 points per second quarter and seven points per fourth quarter.
If the Texans can do a better job at closing out halves, their defense will take the next step. They must also replace nose tackle Vince Wilfork, cornerback A.J. Bouye and safety Quinton Demps in order to continue being an elite defense. Houston must also do a better job at creating turnovers. They only had 1.1 takeaways per game.
Houston’s offense is the part of the team that needs the most work. The offensive unit 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). The lack of success from the offense resulted in the Texans drafting Watson and trading Brock Osweiler.
If it wasn’t for Houston’s run game, its offense would have been one of the worst of all time. The Texans ran for 116.2 yards per game on the 28.5 attempts per game. Lamar Miller was a bright spot on this offense as he ran for 1,073 yards and five touchdowns on just 268 carries. He needs to build on this season to help whoever lines up under center. This may be difficult with the loss of right tackle Derek Newton who is out for the season with patellar tendon tears.
If the Texans can go from one of the league’s worst offenses to being one of the top 15, then this defense will be able to carry Houston to a Super Bowl LII victory.
(Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
The Titans finished the season tied with the Texans at 9-7 but lost the division on tiebreakers. Marcus Mariota broke his leg in week 15 and the Titans lost to the Jaguars 38-17 in that contest. Had the Titans won that game, they would have won the division. Mariota is young but the Titans can go as far as he will lead them.
Marcus Mariota is becoming the face of the franchise but part of his success is due to the sustainable running game of the Titans. Tennessee ranked third in the NFL with 136.7 yards per game on the ground. They also ran the ball often, averaging 28.5 attempts per game. This effective running game has taken the pressure off of their young quarterback which has given him the opportunity to succeed.
Taking the next step means giving Mariota receivers that will allow him to improve on the Titans 25th-ranked passing attack. Tennessee drafted Corey Davis and signed Eric Decker to be that help. The Titans’ coaching staff must now open the playbook and allow Mariota to take charge of the offense.
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 also has helped the Titans to a 72 percent conversion rate in red zone scoring while never throwing a red zone interception in his career.
Aside from continuing to dominate the run game and opening up the passing attack for Mariota, Tennessee needs to do a much better job of scoring in the second half. The Titans ranked 23rd in second half scoring, averaging 9.7 points. Shoring up these loose ends will turn the Titans’ offense into a playoff-caliber offense.
Defensively, the Titans are much closer to Super Bowl caliber. Tennesse only gave up 23.6 points per game which may seem impressive considering its defense got off to such slow starts. The Titans ranked 29th in first quarter points allowed. Getting off to quicker starts will bring that 23.6 point total down and result in more wins.
Tennessee had a horrible secondary last season. Their pass defense was the third-worst in the NFL. The Titans addressed this problem in the offseason. They let go of Jason McCourty but drafted cornerback Adoree Jackson and signed defensive backs Logan Ryan and John Cyprien. The combination of these three players can help the Titans catch up to their second-ranked rush defense.
If the Titans allow Mariota to sling the rock more then the offense can become more balanced. Defensively, the Titans secondary must give up less than 250 yards a game through the air. Simply doing these two things, in addition to what the Titans already do well, will push Tennessee from fringe playoff team to Super Bowl contender.
(Photo Credit: Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images)
The story of the Colts’ failures are well documented. Their defense is pathetic and they are contributing to wasting away Andrew Luck’s career. Indianapolis went 8-8 last season and has missed the playoffs for two consecutive years. In order for the Colts to really have a shot at winning Super Bowl LII, they need this defense to become much better.
The Colts have finally begun to realize they need to address the defense. In the draft, the Colts selected safety Malik Hooker who many believe is the next Ed Reed and cornerback Quincy Wilson.
During free agency, the Colts signed numerous defenders that will fit in with the new 3-4 scheme. These players include defensive ends Margus Hunt, Jabaal Sheard and John Simon along with linebackers Sean Spence and Jon Bostic.
This complete change in scheme and personnel is what is supposed to cure a defense that ranked 22nd in points allowed. Indianapolis’ defense didn’t have a strength. They ranked 27th against the pass (269.2 yards per game) and 25th against the run (120.4 yards per game) for a total of 382.9 yards allowed per game. The unit as a whole must improve if the Colts are to have a shot at making the playoffs.
On the other side of the ball, the Colts are led by a great quarterback. Andrew Luck has put up impressive numbers so far, with 19,078 yards, 132 touchdowns and just 68 interceptions but needs more balance. Indianapolis only ran the ball 39 percent of the time for an average of 101.8 yards per game. Frank Gore did rush for over 1,000 yards last season but he is 34 years old. The Colts drafted running back Marlon Mack as a possible spell or replacement for Gore.
Even with their unbalanced offense, the Colts managed to put up 25.7 points per game last season, good for eighth best in the league. Adding a rushing attack will only improve the offense, thus the team’s chances at a Lombardi Trophy. If the defense comes around to being a top 15 defense, you can guarantee that Andrew Luck will win Super Bowl LII.
(Photo Credit: http://www.firstcoastnews.com)
The Jacksonville Jaguars have been so bad that they have picked in the top five of the NFL Draft for six years running, which is an NFL record. Jacksonville is far from competing for a Super Bowl, or so it seems. It is going to be difficult for the Jaguars to make the playoffs, let alone win the Super Bowl, but it is possible.
Jacksonville has a very good and underrated defense. Although they gave up 25 points per game, they ranked sixth in yards allowed at 321.7. The Jaguars offense put them in bad situations often as displayed in Jacksonville’s amount of giveaways per game.
Jacksonville had 1.8 turnovers per game, tied for 26th in the NFL. Jacksonville’s secondary led the way allowing just 215.2 yards per game through the air.
Jacksonville’s secondary led the way allowing just 215.2 yards per game through the air. They lost defensive backs John Cyprien and Prince Amukamara but signed A.J. Bouye and Barry Church, both of which are upgrades over their counterpart.
To improve this defense even more, the Jags signed defensive end Calais Campbell. The Jacksonville defense will be elite and as long as their offense doesn’t make crucial mistakes, they can lead this team to the playoffs.
Getting to the playoffs is one thing, but getting to the Super Bowl is an entirely different beast. Jacksonville is going to need a complete resurgence from its offense. They signed tackle Brandon Albert and drafted tackle Cam Robinson to bolster their offensive line. If this unit plays well, they can open up running lanes for one of the most dynamic running backs to enter the league since Adrian Peterson.
Leonard Fournette, the man to be the best running back since Adrian Peterson, will be asked to be a workhorse and improve the 22nd-ranked rushing game. Jacksonville must also run the ball more than 37 percent of the time if Fournette is going to become a threat on the offense.
Generating a solid running game will help in a multitude of areas for Jacksonville. The Jaguars ranked 28th in third down conversion percentage at 35.3 percent. Shortening the chains will go a long way in fixing this problem. Converting more on third down can lead to more points as well.
Jacksonville scored 19.9 points per game last season. By now you can see the pattern starting to form. Running the ball leads to shorter third downs, which leads to more points, which all leads to taking the ball out of Blake Bortles’ hands. Bortles has shown flashes of brilliance but the entire weight of the offense is too much for him. If Leonard Fournette can make an immediate impact, then this offense can become really good.
Being better on defense and offense simply aren’t enough. Jacksonville must become more disciplined as well. The Jaguars gave up 8.1 penalties per game for an average of 74.2 yards per game. Both ranked 31st in the NFL. Improving on this is a must if the Jaguars want to start drafting outside of the top five.
Defending home field is also vital in acquiring success in the NFL. In the past four years, the Jaguars are 9-29 at home. Playing in such a humid and hot climate should provide a better home field advantage.
If Jacksonville can put all these things together, then it is possible for them to win Super Bowl LII. The odds of that happening though are the about as equivalent of the Patriots going 0-16.
Thank you for checking out the Super Bowl series: AFC South. Stay tuned the remaining editions of Super Bowl series and check out the previous editions of the Super Bowl series here.
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This class of wide receivers is deeper than it has been in years for fantasy football. You can win your league with two stud running backs in the first round and take one of these wide receivers as your number one, so pay attention to this list if you’re going to take two running backs.
40. Randall Cobb (Green Bay Packers): In 2015, when Jordy Nelson suffered a season-ending knee injury, the demand for Randall Cobb was high. He was the No. 1 wide receiver on a high-powered Packers offense, but he didn’t live up to expectations.
He followed up his disappointing 2015 season with an even more disappointing 2016 season. Cobb had 610 receiving yards and six touchdowns, and less catches per game last season than any season since 2014.
Mike McCarthy wants Cobb to get more involved in the Packers’ offense, but with a healthy Jordy Nelson, an emerging Davante Adams and a recently acquired Martellus Bennett, targets are going to be hard to come by. Don’t draft Cobb too early, but if the price is right take him.
39. Jeremy Maclin (Baltimore Ravens): The Chiefs made the surprising move to cut Maclin this offseason. He ended up signing with the Ravens on a two-year deal. Jeremy Maclin had a disappointing season with the Chiefs but is in line for a lot of targets this season with Baltimore.
After losing their core of receivers and recently losing tight end Dennis Pitta, Jeremy Maclin is the new No. 1 receiver in Baltimore. He’s playing with a reliable (and elite, debate that in the comments if you must) quarterback in Joe Flacco, but there are some things that make Maclin unreliable.
He ranked in the bottom half of production and efficiency last season and has dealt with his fair share of injuries. He ranked 62nd in receptions and 69th in receiving yards. I have high hopes for Maclin given his current situation in Baltimore, as he has a chance to regain his No. 1 wide receiver status.
38. Pierre Garçon (San Francisco 49ers): Pierre Garçon had a bounceback season with the Washington Redskins last year. Quietly, he was one of the most productive receivers in the league last season. He ranked 16th in the league in receiving yards with 1,041 and 17th in receptions with 79. He’s now joining a revamped 49ers team led by quarterback Brian Hoyer.
Not only was Garçon one of the most productive receivers, he ranked in the top half in efficiency. Pierre Garçon was the 13th-ranked receiver in terms of yards per target and that number can increase during Garçon’s tenure in San Francisco.
All in all, I didn’t agree with his choice to leave Washington, but I do think Garçon will surprise people and keep up his production next season.
37. Devante Parker (Miami Dolphins): The long awaited breakout of Devante Parker came last season, kinda. Parker had a nice year, with 744 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He has drawn criticism from head coach Adam Gase and hasn’t fully emerged as the big receiver everyone thought he would be.
Standing at 6-foot-3, Parker should be catching more touchdowns than he did. He had only seven end zone targets which ended up as four touchdowns, which is weak for his size and role in the offense.
With Kenny Stills and Jarvis Landry on the Dolphins’ roster, there’s limited space for targets for Parker. He needs to emerge as a big end zone threat to make some noise in fantasy this season.
36. Eric Decker (Tennessee Titans): I don’t think Decker would make this list if he was still on the Jets. Riddled by injuries last season, Eric Decker never got the chance to do anything noteworthy for the Jets. But in 2015, we saw the Eric Decker that we expected. He was one of the most productive receivers in the league ranking in the top half in categories such as receptions, receiving yards, total touchdowns and fantasy points per game.
Now he heads to Tennessee to play alongside Demarco Murray and Marcus Mariota. The up-and-coming Titans offense has their new No. 1 receiver and Decker has the opportunity to regain his status from 2016.
35. Willie Snead (New Orleans Saints): Willie Snead has found success early in his career in the NFL. Snead has eclipsed 850 yards and 65 receptions in both of his seasons in the NFL so far. Playing with elite quarterback Drew Brees, Snead was the number 2/3 wide receiver for the Saints but now things have changed.
Brandin Cooks is gone but the emergence of Michael Thomas has put Snead as the No. 2 receiver. Snead won’t flash anything special in terms of efficiency and production, but one thing he is, is reliable. His reliability is what makes him so intriguing, as he’s a lock to gain 900 yards and five touchdowns. Take him as a No. 2 receiver or flex and love the numbers.
34. Desean Jackson (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): Another old face in a new place. Desean Jackson almost played a full season last year and was as explosive as ever. Jackson eclipsed 1,000 yards for Kirk Cousins and has the opportunity to be even better this year.
Most likely lining up in the slot and returning punts, Jackson has big play ability written all over him. Playing with Mike Evans and Jameis Winston, the new look Bucs have a high-powered offense and a lot of potential.
When healthy, Jackson can put up big yardage, but the only issue with him is he won’t have the touchdowns that the stud wide outs will have.
33. Brandon Marshall (New York Giants): From one New York team to the next, Brandon Marshall finds himself in a good situation with the New York Giants. He is the No. 2 wide receiver behind the top tier, two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Eli Manning.
Last season didn’t go as planned for Brandon Marshall but he’s a big bodied, reliable receiver with something left in the tank. The Giants pass on 62 percent of their plays and Marshall has the opportunity as the No. 2 receiver to see tons of targets and big plays in the red zone. The Giants weren’t great in the red zone last season, as they were successful on 51 percent of their plays, but Marshall will help in that category. Expect double digit touchdowns from Marshall this year.
32. Kelvin Benjamin (Carolina Panthers): Everyone is down on Kelvin Benjamin this season and I don’t know why. He missed his sophomore season with a torn ACL, and didn’t quite rebound like everyone thought he would. He still had 941 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Those numbers were only slightly worse than his impressive 2014 rookie campaign. Keep in mind that the entire Panthers offense was out of sync last season.
Now the revamped offensive line and a healthy Cam Newton makes KB an intriguing fantasy player this year. Still the No. 1 receiver in Carolina, Kelvin is a monster and has the opportunity to be a stud this year.
31. Stefon Diggs (Minnesota Vikings): Diggs broke out as the No. 1 receiver for Minnesota last season. He had 903 yards and three touchdowns in 2016. Stefon Diggs ranked in the top 15 players in the league in terms of receptions with 84 and fantasy points per game with 13.
The Vikings did a lot to revamp their offense by bolstering the offensive line and adding rookie running back Dalvin Cook. Teddy Bridgewater won’t be under center for the Vikings this season, as he recovers form his a knee injury. Diggs won’t have double digit touchdowns due to a lack of looks in the red zone, but 1,000 yards is very possible as he is a clear WR2.
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Football is right around the corner and The Game Haus is going to get you ready for the 2017-18 NFL season. The Super Bowl Series is going to explain how every team in the NFL can win Super Bowl LII. The Super Bowl Series will be divided into eight editions, one for each division. This is the second edition, Super Bowl Series: AFC East.
New England Patriots
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)
The defending Super Bowl champions are the easiest team in the NFL to dissect during the Super Bowl series. If you had to bet your life on a team winning the division then your safest bet would be the Patriots. Since 2000, the Patriots have won 14 out of the 17 division titles, including eight straight. New England’s dominance within the division shouldn’t change this season.
The old adage says defense wins championships. Defensively, the Patriots are going to be stacked. Last season, the Patriots ranked first in points allowed per game at 15.6. They were also eighth in yards allowed per game (326.4) and ranked seventh in opponents third down conversion percentage (37 percent). The Patriots also added defensive end Kony Ealy and cornerback Stephon Gilmore to improve.
To win Super Bowl LII, New England must put up defensive numbers in the same ballpark as last seasons. If the Patriots allow under 20 points per game, the chances of making it back to the Super Bowl increase exponentially.
One area of concern from the Patriots’ offense comes from the offensive line. Pro Football Focus recently released its projected 2017 offensive line rankings in which New England was surprisingly ranked 19th. Tom Brady can make up for a poor offensive line with his quick release which averages between 2.1 to 2.5 seconds.
The Patriots will improve as they get Rob Gronkowski back from injury. New England also traded for wide receiver Brandin Cooks who will help stretch the field vertically.
The only thing stopping the Patriots from winning Super Bowl LII is injuries to key players, and even then, Bill Belichick could still pull a rabbit out of his hat and win the big game.
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Miami was a surprise playoff team last year, especially after its 1-4 start. The Dolphins finished the season with a 10-6 record to earn a wild card berth. They lost that wild card game in Pittsburgh, 30-12.
In order to win the Super Bowl, the Dolphins must improve vastly on defense. Miami ranked 18th in points allowed per game (23.8), 15th in passing yards allowed per game (242.2), 19th in sacks (33) and 30th in rushing yards allowing 140.4 yards per game.
Ndamukong Suh and Jordan Phillips must stuff the run this season to help Miami improve their rush defense.
Rookie linebacker Raekwon McMillian was a tackling machine at Ohio State, racking up 275 total tackles in three years and his immediate impact should help the Dolphins stop the run better in 2017.
On the offensive side of the ball, Miami must continue to dominate up front. The Dolphins ranked ninth in the NFL in rushing, averaging 114 yards per game. Miami needs to stay in the top 10 in rushing to help Ryan Tannehill succeed in the passing game.
Running the ball consistently will help Tannehill and the rest of the Dolphins offense improve their 26th-ranked passing attack. If the Dolphins can progress their passing game to a similar level of their running game, then the offense can average more than 22.7 points per game which ranked 17th last season.
Miami must improve its rushing defense, passing offense and upset New England in the regular season to earn some home playoff games. If the Dolphins are able to do this then they will have a shot at hoisting up the Lombardi Trophy.
(Photo Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports)
Buffalo is starting off fresh with new head coach Sean McDermott. McDermott will emphasize defense with the Bills and that could turn them into contenders very quickly. Buffalo hasn’t made the playoffs since 1999 and taking the leap from 7-9 to Super Bowl champs is going to be difficult.
Last season, the Bills were the best rushing team in the NFL averaging 164.4 yards per game. Staying first in rushing will be the first step towards making the playoffs. Buffalo did not have trouble scoring points either as they averaged 24.9 points per game which was 10th best in the NFL.
The major area that needs improvement on offense is in the passing game. Buffalo only threw for 189.8 yards per game last season. In this era of football, passing for less than 200 yards is somewhat pitiful. Buffalo needs to jump that number up past 230 yards or more to become a dangerous offensive juggernaut.
Defensively, Buffalo was average last season. The Bills gave up 23.6 points per game which ranked 16th. Buffalo should try to become a top-10 scoring defense to improve its chances of making the playoffs. The secondary was the best unit on defense as they only gave up 223.9 yards passing per game.
The rush defense was a different story. Buffalo ranked 29th, giving up 133.1 yards per game. If Buffalo’s rush defense can move into the middle of the pack, then its defense can really become great.
For the Buffalo Bills to end their long playoff drought and win the Super Bowl, they must improve their passing attack on offense and stop the run on defense. Also, just like Miami, the Bills must split with the Patriots. Splitting with New England gives the Bills a shot at winning the division and home games in the playoffs make all the difference.
New York Jets
(Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports)
The New York Jets are going to need a miracle to win Super Bowl LII. Coming off a 5-11 season, the Jets seemed to have gotten worse with the moves they have made. New York let go of Eric Decker, David Harris, Marcus Gilchrist, Brandon Marshall, Darrelle Revis, Nick Folk and Nick Mangold. The roster is going to look completely different from last year.
Making the playoffs is going to be hard and winning the Super Bowl is going to be close to impossible. If the Jets are going to win the Super Bowl, then Josh McCown, Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg are going to have to have an unbelievable year. The Jets ranked 27th in passing yards per game with 216.6. Whoever earns the starting job at quarterback will need to take a big leap to improve this number.
New York ranked 30th in points scored last season, averaging only 17.2 points per game. That must also improve drastically. The Jets did have a solid running game averaging 112.6 yards per game last year. Matt Forte is getting old for a running back but Bilal Powell will spell Forte enough that the Jets can continue to be a solid running team.
Head coach Todd Bowles is known for his defense but last season the Jets had no defense. They ranked 28th in points (25.6), 29th in interceptions (8), 29th in sacks (27) and 17th in passing yards allowed per game (243.6). Bowles must turn the Jets into a top five defense if the Jets want to win games this season.
The most important thing the Jets must do is find their starting quarterback. Improving the passing game and putting more points on the board is key in the Jets pursuit of a Super Bowl. If they manage to do this along with becoming a top five defense under Bowles, then the Jets can win Super Bowl LII.
Thank you for checking out the Super Bowl Series: AFC East. Stay tuned the remaining editions of Super Bowl series.
On June 18, the Tennessee Titans signed Eric Decker to a one-year deal. After being cut by the New York Jets just six days earlier, he quickly finds himself a new home in the Music City. How will Eric Decker’s new Titans deal affect his fantasy value?
Decker missed most of last season with hip and shoulder injuries. What he brings to the Titans is another weapon for quarterback Marcus Mariota and joins a solid combination of targets such as rookie Corey Davis, Rishard Matthews and Delaine Walker. Along with these guys, this gives the Titans a new look. In 2016 the Titans were a run-first football team as they ranked fourth in rushing attempts.
With all of these weapons, Decker should find himself as the first or second receiving option in the Titan offense. Decker has good size at 6-foot-3, and can be a versatile receiver that will excel as a red zone target due to his size. In 2015, the last full season he played, Decker was the top option in the red zone with 29 targets inside the 20-yard line, 16 inside the 10-yard line and 6 within the 5-yard line. He should maintain those numbers as he and Davis are their tallest receivers on the Titans roster.
Marcus Mariota (Photo by si.com)
The biggest winner though is Marcus Mariota. Mariota had an up-and-down 2016 fantasy season. From weeks 5-12 he was one of the best quarterbacks, throwing 21 touchdowns and only three interceptions.
Through weeks 1-4 and 13-17 he was one of the worst, ranking 31st in fantasy points.
What did help Mariota in 2016 was the addition of Matthews and the deep ball. Mariota jumped from 35 deep ball passes of 20-plus yards in 2015 to 50 in 2016. Matthews recorded the sixth-most in that category with 16 receptions. Decker had the same number in 2015 with Ryan Fitzpatrick as his quarterback and should only help Mariota improve these numbers.
In the receiving core, Rishard Matthews will find his production down slightly depending how coaches like the personnel around him. He’s going from being the number one receiving option, not counting tight end Delanie Walker, to a possible number two or three receiver behind Decker and Davis.
The Titans ran a three receiver set 46.9 percent of the time in 2016, which was 18th in the NFL but was below the league average of 51.62 percent. With some of the new players we could see some different packages to include their top receivers.
Corey Davis (Photo by: titansonline.com)
Davis, the fifth overall selection in the 2017 NFL draft from Western Michigan, will be an effective receiver in the near future but will not be this year. He has the potential to be a great NFL player and should still have a good season but doesn’t have the pressure on him with Decker’s presence.
Davis has good receivers to learn from like Decker because he and Decker are the same type of receiver. They are the same size, both have good hands and Davis can become a great red zone threat like Decker.
Before signing Decker, Davis would’ve been the second receiver and still could be battling with Matthews. Davis will be a great asset for years to come in fantasy and should be considered a WR3 or filler for receiver position.
As for Delanie Walker, he’s in a difficult situation. Walker will still be a top target in the offense, but adding Decker will decrease his targets, especially in the red zone. Walker will remain a top tight end selection and should go in the middle in the of your 2017 fantasy draft, but I expect his numbers to decrease with the addition of Decker.
As for where to draft Decker, he was drafted on average as the 29th receiver in 2016. This ranks in the 50’s overall after having a breakout season in 2015.
In 2017, factoring in his health and his role on the Titans, he looks to be between the 30th and 45th receiver making his draft position in the 90’s. He could be undervalued there, but with the concern of injuries and unsure of how his quarterback produces, I believe he is properly positioned and should be as a WR3 with the potential to be a WR2.
Featured image from sportingnews.com.
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All rankings are PPR rankings. Although some of my colleagues here at The Game Haus disagree, PPR is the way to go. I believe it, and you, the fans, believe it too (according to our Twitter poll). Here’s your 2016 fantasy football wide receiver rankings.
1. Antonio Brown
AB is the best wide receiver in the NFL. (Photo: Getty Images)
From Surefire Wide Receviers: “Antonio Brown is the number one overall player in fantasy football. If the owner of the number one pick in your draft doesn’t take Brown, deliver a swift backhand to said owner’s jaw. There’s no reason to be cute about it. AB is far and away better than all other receivers and players since 2013.
Numbers make arguments better, so let’s talk about numbers. Antonio Brown caught 136(!) passes last season, good for second-most in a single season in the history of the NFL. Brown played in all 16 games in each of his last three seasons, proving he’s nothing short of incredibly durable.
Brown’s numbers are already huge, but what if his quarterback would’ve played all 16 games? Ben Roethlisberger missed four games last season, which took Brown out of his normal rhythm. Had Big Ben played each game last season, Brown would’ve been on pace to finish with 158 catches for 2,128 yards and 13 touchdowns. The receptions and yards would’ve broken their NFL single season records.
Again, don’t be cute about taking anyone over Brown. He’s the best receiver in football, bar none. If he gets Ben Roethlisberger for all 16 games this season, Brown could break records. He’s the biggest stud in PPR leagues ever. Now, make him the biggest stud on your team by doing all you can to draft him.”
2. Julio Jones
From Surefire Wide Receivers: ”
Remember that time I told you AB caught 136 passes, which was the second-best in a single season? Well, Jones tied Brown’s mark with 136 receptions of his own. For the first three games in 2015, it looked like Julio Jones would overtake Antonio Brown as the best wideout in the league. His game log below shows exactly why.
9 catches, 141 yards, 2 touchdowns
13 catches, 135 yards
12 catches, 164 yards, 2 touchdowns
Jones would cool off for the next two games, yet finished the season with four total games under 90 yards receiving. One of those games saw Jones reel in seven passes for 88 yards, two yards shy of the mark of 90 yards.
Antonio Brown is the best wide receiver in the NFL, but Julio Jones is the clear number two option. He demands targets from Matt Ryan, receiving 203 of them to lead the NFL last season. Jones also averaged 116.9 yards per game, good for first in the league. Draft Jones as the a distinguished WR1, as no player will top Brown or Jones’ production this season.”
3. Keenan Allen
From Surefire Wide Receivers: “Keenan Allen’s 2015 season was as successful of a half-season as we’ve seen. Allen suffered a lacerated kidney which promptly ended his season. Allen’s first eight games had him on pace for 134 receptions for 1,450 yards and 8 touchdowns. He was also on pace for 194 points, which would’ve been good enough for sixth among wide receivers.
The most intriguing aspect of Allen’s 2016 outlook is the fact that he owns targets in San Diego. Allen played in just half the games for the Chargers, yet he still finished with 89 targets (on pace for 178), which was second on the team. That number is just crazy. When Philip Rivers likes a receiver, he absolutely makes sure that receiver gets plenty of targets (see Antonio Gates/Vincent Jackson). Allen will dominate the targets this season, with Antonio Gates on his way out and no other viable receiver in the offense.
Danny Woodhead led the team in targets last season- as a running back. That shows the state of San Diego’s passing offense. I expect Allen to contend with Green to be at the top of the second tier at the wide receiver position. There’s nothing really to worry about with Allen. I really can’t see the UC-Berkeley product finishing outside the top-five of receivers this season.”
4. Odell Beckham Jr.
Odell Beckham Jr. seems to be a unanimous decision to be nothing less than a top three wide receiver this season. I’ve got him at number four, so I guess that’s close enough. With 93 targets reeled in for 1,450 yards and 13 touchdowns, OBJ is a fantastic wide receiver. He is Eli Manning’s favorite target, which adds to his allure. I do think he’s overrated in part due to one play. The catch he made was one of the #GOAT, but since then people have treated him like he’s the best athlete on the planet. I get the hype for Beckham, but I will never take him at his asking price right now, and neither should you. Regardless, the LSU product is one of the best wide receivers in football, and I’d take him in the latter half of the first round.
5. Allen Robinson
ARob is elite this season, there’s no question. He had eight straight games with five or more catches last season, including a 10/153/3 game against Tennessee. Blake Bortles is part of the next generation of great quarterbacks, and the Jacksonville offense as a whole is improving. I love Allen Robinson this season, and you should too.
6. Brandon Marshall
Brandon Marshall bet Antonio Brown his car that he’d have more receiving yards. That’s enough for me to know Brandon Marshall still feels good at age 32. Marshall can and will replicate his success in 2016. He was the number three wide receiver in all of fantasy football last season, racking up a 109/1,502/14 statline. Marshall is by far Ryan Fitzpatrick’s favorite target, and I’m very confident Marshall has all the tools to be a WR1 again this season.
7. A.J. Green
A.J. Green is on track to have a revamped 2016 season. (Photo: Go-Bengals.com)
From Surefire Wide Receivers: “Once Brown, Jones, and Odell Beckham Jr. are drafted, the fourth-best wide receiver to be drafted is a toss up. Players like A.J. Green, Dez Bryant, and DeAndre Hopkins all will be taken after the top three in many drafts this season.
Frustrating as he may be, A.J. Green is in for a career year this season. Green’s root of inconsistency in 2015 is attributed to his lack of targets. With breakout star Tyler Eifert, two different but useful running backs in Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill, and two other receivers (Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones), vying for targets, Green became just another player in Cincinnati’s potent offense a season ago.
Wide receivers don’t like to share, and Green is no different. For the first time since his rookie season, the Georgia product saw less than 30% of the team’s targets go his way. This season, Green will see an uptick in targets. 39 percent of Bengals targets is now gone with the departure of Jones and Sanu. Brandon Lafell is expected to line up opposite of Green, but he simply will not demand much attention from Andy Dalton. Rookie wideout Tyler Boyd also joins the team to fill in as a slot receiver, but still won’t contend with Green for the most targets on the team.
Green’s only problem last season was a lack of attention from Andy Dalton. This season, it will be a Dalton to Green love affair. I’m not drafting Green with my first pick, but I’m very happy with him as my second pick in the middle of the second round.”
8. Jordy Nelson
I’ve got Aaron Rodgers as my number one quarterback, and Jordy Nelson is his favorite target. Nelson was the number two wideout in 2014, and didn’t play last season due to a torn ACL he suffered in the preseason. He’s on track to play in week one, and he will pick up where he left off in 2014. Nelson had 98 catches and 13 touchdowns in 2014, so the production was clearly there. People may be afraid of Nelson’s durability, and I get that. Still, I’m taking Nelson as a low WR1 this season.
9. DeAndre Hopkins
With no quarterback to catch footballs from last season, DeAndre Hopkins still managed to go bonkers. In 2015, he caught 111 passes for 1,521 yards and 11 scores. He was the number four wideout last season, finishing just below Brandon Marshall. Brock Osweiler is no savior, but he is a step up from the tumultuous quarterbacks Hopkins dealt with last season. The only downside with Hopkins is that the Texans signed Lamar Miller during free agency. Miller is a durable back that will consistently produce for the Texans, meaning the load will be taken off Hopkins at least a little. Hopkins is still a huge game waiting to happen, so he’ll be no lower than a low WR1 this season.
10. Dez Bryant
As mentioned in the quarterback rankings, Tony Romo can’t stay healthy behind the best offensive line in the NFL. Dez Bryant also failed to stay healthy last season, paving way for a terrible year in Dallas. Bryant is back to full health in 2016, as is Romo. This points to a recharged season for Bryant, who will be the primary target for Tony Romo once again. Bryant is as sturdy as they come, so taking him as a WR2 is gold.
I had a heck of a time ranking the next four players. Consider Alshon Jeffery, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Julian Edelman 11A, 11B, 11C, and 11 D, respectively.
11. Alshon Jeffery
When he stays healthy, Alshon Jeffery is a talent not many cornerbacks in the NFL can contain. He played in all 16 games in 2013 and 2014, but played just nine last season. I trust that he’s ready to go this season, and will stay healthy. The great news on Jeffery is that the top two pass catchers behind Jeffery have departed. Tight end Martellus Bennett is now a member of the New England Patriots, while running back Matt Forte has taken his talents to the New York Jets. Jeffery averaged 87 receptions for 1,277 yards and nine touchdowns in the two seasons he played every game. Sure, Kevin White has hype, but that’s all he has. Until he does something, I’m riding with Jeffery as my WR1, especially with him being the top pass catcher by far in Chicago.
12. Demaryius Thomas
Demaryius Thomas was a borderline WR1 last season, even though he caught passes from Denver quarterbacks with a collective passer rating of 76.3. That rating is second-worst in the entire NFL. It doesn’t matter who plays quarterback, and at what level- Demaryius Thomas will put up huge numbers regardless. Let other owners sulk on Thomas due to Mark Sanchez throwing to him. Oh well, Sanchez can’t be as bad as the play last season, so Thomas will absolutely be at the lowest a high WR2 this season.
13. Eric Decker
One of the more consistent wide receivers since 2012, Eric Decker is vastly underrated. His ADP may not say so, but to the general public, Decker is just the other receiver in New York. Decker posted 80/1,027/12 last season, his second in the Jets’ offense. It’s clear the Minnesota product is becoming more and more comfortable in the New York system. The forecast in New York is not changing. Matt Forte has been added, but most of the core remains. With Ryan Fitzpatrick now signed, roll with Decker as a huge WR2.
14. Julian Edelman
Julian Edelman is quite simply a PPR monster. In 2013, he caught 105 passes, and in 2014 he reeled in 92. Last season, he was on pace for a career mark of 107 catches. One thing is certain with Edelman: New England will feed him the ball with the use of screens and quick hitters, give Edelman ample opportunities to make plays. Due to the face that he’ll be catching passes from Jimmy Garoppolo for the first four weeks of the season, I had to put Edelman behind the three that are in virtual ties ahead of him. Martellus Bennett will also take some targets, but not a crucial amount. No matter what, the Patriots will find ways to get the former quarterback the football.
Brandin Cooks is one of the next stars of the NFL. (Photo: Brynn Anderson/Associated Press)
15. Brandin Cooks
I am quite high on Brandin Cooks this season. After chalking up 1,138 yards on 84 catches last season, Cooks will be even better this season. Entering his third season, the Oregon State product is primed for his best season ever. Willie Snead, Michael Thomas, and Coby Fleener are good enough to distract defenses, yet not take away targets from Cooks. I expect this season to be the last season Cooks is ranked less than a WR1.
16. Jarvis Landry
What I love about Jarvis Landry is that he was the ninth-best wide receiver last season, even without being touchdown dependent. With just four trips to paydirt last season, Landry has huge potential to rise in rankings as the season goes on. My problem with Landry is that there’s a lot of potential great young wide receivers in Miami. Couple that with Jay Ajayi receiving rave reviews, and Landry could see his target share go down in 2016. Still, Landry should be consistent enough to find himself as a quality WR2.
17. Mike Evans
Mike Evans has huge upside just like the aforementioned Landry thanks to his independence of touchdowns. Evans scored just three times last season, yet he still was the number 23 wide receiver last season. Evans’ stock drops in PPR formats, which is why he is number 17 for me this season. However, Jameis Winston is getting better, and so is the entire team in Tampa Bay. With 1,206 yards on just 74 catches last season, Evans is a big play machine. Provided he’s able to haul in 12 or more catches this season, Evans will be considered a hard WR2.
18. Amari Cooper
Rookie wide receivers very rarely produce productive fantasy numbers, but Cooper tried to break that mold last season. Although he wasn’t Derek Carr’s favorite target, Cooper still accounted for 1,070 yards on 72 receptions in his rookie campaign. Cooper will simply be a better NFL receiver this year, as one year of experience in an NFL offense can go a long way. There’s no reason to believe Cooper will decline this season, so trust him to be your WR2 all season.
19. Doug Baldwin
Doug Baldwin exploded for 14 touchdowns last season. Baldwin was at his best in the second half of the season, and Pete Carroll has already said he will employ a similar style of offense for this season. Baldwin will lose some targets to Jimmy Graham and Tyler Lockett, but overall, I expect him to be a WR2. He’s touchdown dependent, which is really worrisome. Expect his touchdown numbers to decrease, as it’d be very hard to maintain 14 scores again this season.
Sammy Watkins is able to stay on the field better than many think, so trust him as your WR2, or get hyped if he’s your WR3. (Photo: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
20. Sammy Watkins
For some reason, Sammy Watkins is known for being injury prone, and that always hurts his draft stock. However, Watkins started all 16 games in his rookie season, and started in 13 games last season. He’s only missed three games in his entire career, yet some owners still don’t like him. I understand that Watkins finds his way on the injury report more than we’d like to see, but he still plays on nearly every Sunday. Watkins is more valuable in standard leagues, but he’s still a WR2 in any format. Provided Watkins can steadily raise his 60 reception total from last season, he will be known as a concrete WR2 by the end of the season.
21. Kelvin Benjamin
After putting up a solid 2014 rookie season, Kelvin Benjamin’s 2015 ended before it began after tearing his ACL. Now in 2015, Benjamin is on fantasy football owners’ radar once again. He’ll be a solid receiver, and the number one wideout for the Panthers. However, I expect Greg Olsen to take the most targets and receptions in Carolina, which will hurt Benjamin’s stock. Regardless, his 73/1,008/9 clip from 2014 provides signs of promise for 2016.
22. T.Y. Hilton
I really wanted to rank T.Y. Hilton higher. While charting wide receivers, I had him in the 11-19 crop. However, after doing some digging, I had to drop Hilton lower due to shear production alone. However, Andrew Luck attempted 88 deep passes in 2014, which led the NFL (PFF). Hilton was a top five wideout when it came to deep balls in 2014 (also PFF), which paves way for Hilton to be a classic boom or bust candidate. There will be weeks where Hilton is a WR1, but there will also be weeks where Hilton can’t score double digits. Be cautious with Hilton in 2016.
23. Jeremy Maclin
I wasn’t high on Jeremy Maclin in 2015, but I think he’ll be an asset to your team in 2016. Maclin was the hope to rebuild the Kansas City wide receiver corps last season, and he did just that. The Missouri product produced 87 catches for 1,088 yards and eight touchdowns last season. I think his numbers will rise in 2016 as he gets more comfortable with his role. Maclin is a WR3 for me now, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him reach WR2 numbers multiple times this season.
24. Michael Crabtree
Michael Crabtree is the definition of a possession receiver. He hogged 15 red zone targets in 2015, and earned 151 targets, 17 more than Amari Cooper. Reeling in 85 passes for 922 yards is impressive- I think. Anyway you slice it, you can trust Crabtree as a strong PPR option. He’s got limited upside, but expect Crabtree to be a solid WR2 this season.
25. John Brown
Emmanuel Sanders is a great backup option for your team. (Photo: denverbroncos.com)
John Brown was one of the most consistent wide receivers in the league last year. In nine of the 15 games he played last season, he recorded in between four and seven catches. He also had two other games with seven and 10 receptions. In eight games last season, Brown had 60 receiving yards or more. In 11 games in 2015, he had 12 fantasy points or more. With more than 12 points in all 16 games this season, Brown could see himself around 240 points, which would put him as a WR2 this season. Draft Brown as the premier playmaker in Arizona, and watch him win you a fantasy championship.
26. Emmanuel Sanders
As said with Demaryius Thomas, it doesn’t matter who plays quarterback for Denver. The quarterback quality can’t be as bad as it was last year. That said, Emmanuel Sanders still racked up 1,135 receptions on 76 receptions. There’s no reason to think his targets will go down, so trust Sanders as a WR2/WR3 mix.
27. Tyler Lockett
Maybe I’m crazy for this, but I like Tyler Locket- a lot. Tyler Lockett is the confirmed starting wide receiver paired with Doug Baldwin. He’s made “significant strides” in his game according to reports out of Seattle. Again, Pete Carroll has confirmed he will be rolling out the same style of offense as was implemented in the second half of last season, which is exactly when Lockett’s numbers surged. I’m taking Lockett, and expecting him to blow his ADP out of the water.
28. Donte Moncrief
Pegged as a sleeper last season, Donte Moncrief finished as a middling WR3. I expect him to improve upon his 64/733/6 stat line from last season, and begin to take away targets from T.Y. Hilton. Andre Johnson is now gone, making Moncreif the number two wideout in Indy. Stashing Moncrief could pay dividends, as he caught 80 percent of his red zone targets (8 of 10), and tied for more red zone receptions among returning players for the Colts.
29. Larry Fitzgerald
Larry Fitzgerald will always see playing time thanks to his ability to run block. He’ll see targets due to being in an explosive offense. I still think Fitzgerald’s play takes a dip this season with David Johnson and John Brown emerging as stars.
30. Randall Cobb
Randall Cobb will play second fiddle to Jordy Nelson. Although I still think Cobb is a good wide receiver, his inconsistency worries me. Cobb should still find around 75 catches, 900 yards, and around five touchdowns. Draft Cobb as your WR3, with upside to be a low WR2.