We are quickly approaching the height of fantasy football drafting season. This is clearly the time to make broad pronouncements. Making any grant projections later than this would seem like hedging bets, right? Also, I am being forced to write this.
Time to pretend I am not enjoying this.
Leonard Fournette Will Disappoint
The hype is too much. Let’s just start with the fact that running backs not named Ezekiel Elliott have disappointed us all before. Devonta Freeman had 15.5 yards per game as a rookie. I actually turned that season into a dynasty trade where Freeman was the throwaway last minute add. Carlos Hyde had 333 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie (988 yards and 6 touchdowns last year). Melvin Gordon had 641 yards and did not reach the endzone as a rookie. Isaiah Crowell, 607 yards. Remember he has 952 rushing yards last year.
Then we need to point out the team around him. Blake Bortles has been missing players in practice. He looks tired and the team is putting him on a “pitch count.” There is no threat of the passing game any more. Also, Pro Football Focus ranked the Jaguars offensive line 13th in the NFL... and that was before Branden Alberts retired. This is a middling line that will not help.
Finally, Fournette made his collegiate living beating up on the weak. In his last two seasons at LSU (2015-2016), he played six games against top 50 overall defenses. He averaged 19.7 carries for 87.5 yards and half a touchdown. Ouch. He had three 100+ yard games and zero 200+ yard games. He did play nine games against teams ranked between 50 and 100. There he averaged 2.5 carries, 155.0 yards and 1.7 touchdowns. Two of his 200+ yard games came in these nine games. Sadly, he also played four games against teams ranked worse than 100th in the nation. He put up an average of 24.8 carries, 219.0 yards and 3.0 touchdowns. Three were 200+ yard games.
Adrian Peterson is Done
Now that I have that off my chest... we look at other running backs. The Saints gave Peterson a two year deal, but there is just $1.5 million in dead money if they cut him next year. They would have to pay him a $2.4 million roster bonus if he stays. The Saints have no faith in him. No one else did either as he visited multiple teams just trying to find someone who would have him.
The stats tell the story. Over Peterson’s last ten games, he has had two 100+ yard games, but eight games under 70 yards. He has averaged 59.6 yards per game in this time and 3.53 yards per carry. He has not been good in some time.
Michael Thomas Will Be a Top 3 WR
Thomas turned 121 targets into 92 catches, 1,137 yards and nine touchdowns. The Rookie finished ninth in the NFL in both yards and receptions. Those are more likely to repeat than touchdown numbers. Remember also that Mike Evans had a great rookie campaign of 123 targets for 68 receptions, 1,051 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Thomas will still be in a pass happy offense and the 117 targets that went to Brandin Cooks will be moved around. It was Thomas’ great rookie campaign that convinced the Saints that Cooks was a luxury they could do without.
Rob Gronkowski is Going to be Drafted Too High
Currently, Gronk is going in the second round in ESPN drafts and the third round in Yahoo. Compare this to Travis Kelce, Greg Olsen and Jordan Reed are going around the fifth round. Kyle Rudolph is going in the eighth round. Last year, Kelce had 85 catches and Rudolph had 83. Gronk has just one season (in seven years) with more catches than that. Also, Gronk has played all 16 games just once.
I would gladly take Gronk on my team, but his replacement value compared to a Kelce or a Jimmy Graham (going in the sixth round) is just not there to pass on T.Y. Hilton or Amari Cooper.
Cooper Kupp will be a WR1 in PPR
Not exactly sure I like the hype entirely. Trumaine Johnson already declared Kupp’s candidacy for the Rookie of the Year. Maybe, we shall see. Anyone who listens to Fake Teams’ RB1: A Fantasy Football Podcast knows I hate preseason player/coaches’ hype. Still, Kupp is not a burner and that plays better for Jared Goff. Goff is notably not that good. He has not stretched the ball down field. What he needs early is a guy who runs great routes and gets open. Kupp is a great route runner and has great hands. He has been getting a lot of looks so far in preseason and he really seems like a best fit scenario in LA.