As the mercury rises and we inch closer to the open of training camps, our resident fantasy football sickos, Brad Evans and Liz Loza, will profile their favorite booms/busts of every NFL team. Today’s topic: The SoCal Stepchildren.
Based on ADP, what player unleashes the loudest BOOM this season?
Brad – PHILIP RIVERS. In a classic game of rock-paper-scissors, the passer is an old trusty chunk of metamorphic. Similar to other venerable vets Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger and Matthew Stafford, Rivers sports a high floor. Every year he slips in drafts. Every year he exceeds expectation. Eight of his past 10 seasons he’s finished inside the QB top-12. Oh, and he hasn’t missed a single start since joining the league in 2004. Rivers should be a cover athlete for the Fantasy Safety Commission.
Last season, the 36 year old underwhelmed in multiple completion percentage categories. However, his receivers dropped 44 total passes, the third-most in the NFL. The loss of Hunter Henry stings, but with Keenan Allen, Melvin Gordon, Tyrell Williams and up-and-comer Mike Williams (Sidenote: I stand with Loza in her breakout prediction of Williams) comprising the arsenal he should again rank at or near the top in yards per attempt, air yards per attempt and pass yards per game. The crystal ball says 4,300 passing yards with 28-30 TDs and 12-14 INTs is on the horizon. Pull a fast one on your opponents at his 120.4 ADP (QB12).
Liz – MIKE WILLIAMS. After being selected in the first round by the Los Angeles Chargers, the seventh overall pick promptly herniated a disc in his lower back during the first practice of rookie minicamp. He eventually made it onto the field by Week 6 (converting his lone target for 15 yards), but then hurt his knee (bone bruise) heading into Week 12 and missed another two games. The coveted rookie closed out his first professional campaign with an 11-95-0 stat line.
Heading into 2018, however, Williams has a chance to turn things around. At 6-foot-4 and nearly 220 pounds, the 23-year-old is large and in charge. He has an impressive wingspan and plump mitts, both of which help him win contested catches and dominate in the red area of the field. Unfortunately, he’s slow and his routes are raw. While he’ll never be a burner, a proper offseason – which includes both counsel from Keenan Allen and regularly facing off against Casey Hayward and Jason Verrett – should add polish those trees.
The Chargers organization undoubtedly believes in Williams’ talent. But will Philip Rivers target the novice wideout enough to make him fantasy relevant? With Hunter Henry lost for the season (ACL), the father of seven won’t have much of a choice. Expected to run more three-wide sets, Los Angeles’ second-favorite team will prioritize getting Williams involved in the red zone. A 6 TD season is well within the second-year player’s massive reach.
BELIEVE or MAKE BELIEVE: Melvin Gordon (11.7 ADP, RB8) finishes No. 10 or better in .5 PPR leagues at the RB position.
Liz – BELIEVE. Don’t even start with that “but his YPC” garbage. Averaging nearly 4 red zone touches per game and racking up 11 goal line carries in 2017, Gordon traded “efficiency” for TDs. A top-seven FF producer in back-to-back seasons, the Wisconsin product has managed 12 total scores for two consecutive years. He’s also honed his pass-catching skills, drawing over 83 targets (#7) last year. Per OC Ken Whisenhunt, that number should grow with Hunter Henry lost for the upcoming season.
A workhorse who catches A LOT of balls, Gordon is an elite option at the position. Assuming he stays healthy again this go-around, the 25-year-old should minimally deliver 1,500 total yards and 10 scores in his fourth pro effort.
Brad – BELIEVE. On the surface, Gordon resembles a never-ending drive thru lane at the local In-N-Out. His sub 4.0 YPC marks in consecutive seasons combined with horrid efficiency numbers (40 percent success rates on run and pass plays in ’17) suggest patrons should turn away. In fact, according to Sharp Football his 42 percent run success rate the past two seasons ranked dead last among RBs with at least 425 attempts. But stick it out and numbers equivalent to the caloric intake of a double-double with a side of animal style fries awaits.
Commanding the sixth-most vigorous opportunity share last season (71.5 percent), Gordon ranked top-10 in red-zone touches, breakaway runs, evaded tackles and yards after contact. His testy naysayers will argue volume had everything to do it, which is true, but fantasy worth is often tied to workload and situation. Gordon, who registered 21.4 touches per game last season, stands out in both.
You’ll occasionally see Austin Ekeler on “expert” sleeper lists this summer, a waste-of-time viewpoint. Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn is committed to Gordon. Knowing L.A.’s on-paper potency, on both ends, along with its o-line upgrades (6th-worst in run-blocking in ’17) and Gordon sports one of the safest floors in virtual pigskin. Target him with supreme confidence at or near the turn in 12-team leagues. Another 1400-1600 combined yards with 10-plus touchdowns is imminent. He’s firmly entrenched as my RB8.
At his 16.1 ADP (WR6) in .5 PPR formats, is Keenan Allen OVERVALUED, UNDERVALUED or PROPERLY VALUED?
Brad – UNDERVALUED. Miracles do exist. The fact Allen’s various extremities survived an entire 16-game slate was undeniable proof. Whatever MacGyver-like contraption surgeons fixed to his repaired knee did wonders. In 2017 he returned to greatness, enticing 27.7 percent of the target share (WR6) while tallying 102 receptions for 1,393 yards and seven scores. Equally spectacular in advanced categories, he finished No. 10 or higher in red-zone targets share, total yards per catch, yards per route and fantasy points per route. His overall 55 percent receiving success rate also moved the meter.
Allen’s downside is obvious, but if his health sustains over another full season, he’s a tremendous Round 2 option in .5 PPR. With Hunter Henry’s 5.2 targets per game up for grabs, it’s possible he could exceed 160 looks. Linking him with another elite WR or prominent RB from Round 1 is a fantastic 1-2 punch to start your draft.
Liz – PROPERLY VALUED. Free of lacerated kidneys and non-contact knee injuries, Allen proved his rookie season was no fluke. The 2017 Comeback Player of the Year converted 102 balls (via 159 looks) for nearly 1,400 yards and 7 scores. The picture of health, Allen additionally beasted after the catch, racking up the second most yards post-reception of any WR in the league.
A top-three fantasy producer, the stud wideout made NFL history from Weeks 11 – 13, becoming the first player to haul in 10 balls, 100 yards, and 1 TD in three straight contests. That’s something that neither Antonio Brown or Julio Jones – both of whom are consistently drafted ahead of Allen – have ever accomplished. The fact that Allen did it late in the season also allays any fears about his health. He’s my no-questions-asked WR6 heading in 2018.