The mission of this article is to make our in-house experts sizzle and bristle over the hot-button issues that face dynasty owners. Our experts make the entire route tree HOT as they address topics from the world of IDP, Devy, Start/sit, Non-PPR, PPR, and everything in between. Try not to get burned by all the fiery YAC below! This is Dynasty Hot Routes!
Which Tight End has surprised you the most through the halfway-point of the season?
Joshua Johnson – I must confess, I fell victim to EB85 syndrome during the 2014 draft season. It clouded my rationale and set many a Dynasty squad back a few years. Of course, I’m talking about the butt of all future TE prospect jokes Eric Ebron. While watching him split secondaries wide open in his college tapes, I got drunk on him. My addictive personality could not be satiated. I don’t expect your sympathy. Although we all have our similar stories. Needless to say, Ebron has literally and metaphorically dropped the ball (go ahead and laugh now… I certainly did). Ebron’s rookie numbers (25 receptions for 248 yards and 1 TD) were not abysmal. Not even his 9.9 YPC could slow the foam in my mouth. Ebron also missed three games his rookie season and made only seven starts (not to mention only a 41% snap percentage). The injuries persisted, yet he remains effective when healthy. During the 2015 season, he had a five-game stretch where he scored three touchdowns! His one TD during the 2016 season was a bit alarming, but he was 61 of 85 on his targets and he broke 700 yards receiving! This was supposed to be the year of Ebron! Unfortunately, I think he spent the off-season buttering his hands. Matthew Stafford clearly does not trust him. He is 15 of 32 on his 2017 targets and his TE partner Darren Fells is 11 of 16. Can you blame Stafford? I traded Jimmy Graham & Terrence Williams for Ebron and Carlos Henderson, and now I am in position for pick 1.02, need I say anymore!
John Orr – Kyle Rudolph, with his up-and-down start. I was expecting him to come out of the gates firing on all cylinders in that offense. Week 1 was baffling, as he only had 3 targets. Week 2 was better with 7, but then 7 targets over the next two weeks. Now, I thought he would be much more involved in the red zone, and honestly, overall. Then the results came in weeks 5-8; he was back in the 8 targets per game range, and that was what I needed to see. I had him ranked high among TEs, and he needs to keep it up the rest of the way to keep me happy.
Shaun Laibe – I was really high on Evan Engram heading into the NFL draft, but he has greatly exceeded my expectations thus far. Engram’s immediate chemistry with Eli Manning cannot be understated, as he has seen at least 7 targets in 5 of 7 games. Injuries to Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall have expedited Engram’s rise, but the rookie is here to stay. I expect he will be a top-10 fantasy TE for years to come.
Pete Lawrence – Easily its Evan Engram. Obviously, he has benefitted from the injuries to nearly the entire Giants wide receiver room, but he had been producing even before the injuries struck. Eli Manning has shown trust in Engram, which has paid off for fantasy owners. Engram currently has a 15.7-percent (2nd-overall at the position) Hog Rate, a metric which represents targets per snap to capture the rate of passing game utilization on a per-play basis. This, plus a 20.5-percent target share (9th-overall at the position) and an 82.4-percent (13TH-overall at the position) are all positive signs that when Engram is on the field, and he nearly always is, there’s a strong chance the ball is going in his direction. Right now Engram is sitting at 52.2 points, nearly halfway to Rob Gronkowski’s rookie season of 112.6 points. A boost in touchdowns, and Engram should be within distance to threaten that stellar mark. Start him with confidence.
John Hogue – It has to be one of the guys playing in New York, right? Well, with all due respect to Evan Engram, I’m giving the nod to Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Engram has been amazing, and he’s way ahead of the curve, but we expected him to get here eventually. ASJ was left for dead; outplayed by Cameron Brate, dismissed by the high-flying Bucs and replaced by O.J. Howard, and shipped off to the Purgatory (or so we thought) that was the Josh McCown-led Jets. But with his career circling the drain, Seferian-Jenkins came back from the abyss to lead the surprising Jets in targets since joining the team after serving a suspension to start the season. Even more impressive, he overcame the alcohol addiction that plagued him in Tampa Bay on the way to complete career resuscitation. He might not be as statistically impressive as guys like Engram or George Kittle, but the comeback from a downward spiral that usually ends careers makes him the biggest surprise in the league.
Which Wide Receiver has surprised you the most through the halfway-point of the season?
Joshua Johnson – Tyler Boyd, why I have you forsaken me?! The addition of John Ross was supposed to make you John Taylor to AJ Green’s Jerry Rice. You were going to make Brandon LaFell irrelevant. I will give you a pass because that pesky knee injury just won’t heal. Please just go on IR and stop wasting an active roster spot! I know the talent is there; just get healthy, and we can dominate in 2018.
John Orr – Terrelle Pryor had really high expectations with Washington this season.
Fresh out of Cleveland, where he exploded into fantasy fame, playing with Cousins and a high flying offense seemed to bode well for him. Not the case. Disappointing to say the least.
Shaun Laibe – The receiver I’ve been most surprised by is Will Fuller. After missing the first three games of the season, Fuller has already scored 7 TDs on just 13 receptions. [/profiler]Deshaun Watson[/profiler] and company are quickly turning into one of the most potent offenses in the league. While there is no way Fuller can sustain this torrid TD pace, he has ascended to a must-start in all formats.
Pete Lawrence – Negative: Terrelle Pryor is the easy choice here. He was going from the woeful Browns to the Kirk Cousins HTTR. And for some reason, the fantasy numbers disappeared. We could also say Kenny Britt, who appears to have checked out on the Browns after replacing Pryor. But how about Amari Cooper? On 68 targets he only has 34 receptions for 404 receiving yards and 3 receiving touchdowns. A vast majority of these numbers coming on his Thursday Night Football explosion of 11 receptions 210 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns. Cooper has two weeks this season where he has one reception and single digit receiving yards without even getting you a touchdown. Six of his eight weeks, Cooper is below double-digits in PPR leagues. I don’t have an answer for why his stats are this way, but I am buying him wherever I can.
Positive: Don’t tell Chris Bean…. This dude Will Fuller is the truth. All he does is score touchdowns and tear up the football field. His stats scream regression for the touchdowns, but in that Texans offense with Deshaun Watson at quarterback, the sky is the limit. You remember that Rick and Morty episode where they go to the spa and flush out the toxic versions of themselves? If Will Fuller stepped into that machine, the toxic version of himself would be Jarvis Landry. Buy Fuller where you can at full-price.
John Hogue – Surprise, surprise… Adam Thielen is the WR5 in PPR, and yet he scored his first and only touchdown in Week 8. If you told me before the season that Thielen would be a top-5 receiver going into the bye, I would have assumed that 1) he would be the touchdown scorer to Stefon Diggs’ volume production, and 2) Sam Bradford would be a MVP candidate on his way to a QB1 season. Diggs has been injured, but when he has been healthy, he has been the scoring threat, and Bradford played one masterful game before succumbing to a knee injury. So the wonder of Thielen’s breakout season has been the sheer volume (48 catches for 627 yards, second to Antonio Brown in both categories), and the fact that he’s done it with two quarterbacks, including the uninspiring Case Keenum. The touchdowns will increase, and Thielen will be even better for fantasy purposes, so the surprise is that there is still plenty of room for improvement from the most unlikely top-5 receiver in the game.
Potpourri: Which player has surprised you the most through the halfway-point of the season?
Joshua Johnson – Demarcus Lawrence has seemingly got past the demons that haunted him. The result has been at least one sack in every game so far this year. I really liked him coming out of college, but I had basically written him off as a bust this summer. Serviceable, but hardly elite. Then he recorded at least five tackles in each of the first four games. He has slowed a little over the last three or four games, however, he has solidified himself as top-10 maybe even top-5 DE moving forward.
Negative: Ramik Wilson and I have been through so much together. What happened to you this year, brother? You let me down so much, and even worse, you let yourself down. The Chiefs gave you so many chances, and to this point, your season highlight is being dragged five yards on a Mike Gillislee TD run. I am a patient man, but we are done. #Friendsoff
John Orr – The play of Deshaun Watson has been fantastic for my 2-QB leagues where I was able to trade for him. I loved his landing spot and potential. Rookie QBs need some time to really absorb and learn in the NFL. It’s exciting to think about him long-term with his continued desire to get better. One of my favorites heading into the season, I still did not expect him to blow up so well so early. Been a good start of the season for him.
Shaun Laibe – I cannot get over just how far Carson Wentz has come in his second season. After a mediocre first year in which Wentz threw 16 TDs in 16 games, he has broken out in a huge way in 2017, having already thrown 19 TDs through 8 games. The Eagles are off to a hot start as well with the league’s best record at 7-1. His superb play and leadership have taken him to the top of the league’s MVP candidacy as well. The future is bright in Philadelphia.
Pete Lawrence – On the positive side, Deshaun Watson. Dude is balling out. All preseason, we were looking at throwing-velocity, and now Watson is slinging it all over the field. He looked all-pro against the Legion of Boom in Seattle on Sunday, with Richard Sherman paying respects to what Watson did on the field.
On the negative side, I would say Joe Mixon. I absolutely underestimated the ineptitude of the Bengals offensive line. I have twice written about Mixon here and here. Mixon is constantly getting hit before or at the line of scrimmage and is having trouble producing. The talent is obviously there, but the coaching and offensive line issues are hindering what Mixon can do for the team. In Week 8 Mixon was posting a solid 7 carry, 48 rushing-yard stat line heading into halftime against the Steelers. He didn’t get a single carry in the second half. Against a porous Colts rush defense, Mixon only produced an 11 carry for 18 rushing-yard stat line. This might be a wasted year for Mixon, but don’t lose sight of the talent. He will need an improvement in 2018, but hold on to the talent.
John Hogue – It’s Deshaun Watson, but my colleagues have done an excellent job of thoroughly explaining his surprising rookie season. So let’s talk about the second biggest surprise… the Jacksonville Jaguars’ defense. In 2016 they used early draft picks on CB Jaylen Ramsey and LB Myles Jack, and then in 2017, they acquired edge rusher Calais Campbell, defensive back Barry Church, and cornerback A.J. Bouye. So they had the look of a top-tier defense going into the season; we didn’t know they would be this good, though. The Jags have allowed a league-low 110 points, including holding Houston, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh to single-digits and shutting out Colts in Week 7. They have the best pass defense in the NFL, allowing just four passing touchdowns while intercepting 10 passes (tied for third in the NFL) and leading the league in sacks with 33. “Sack-sonville” is killing fantasy quarterbacks and receivers, but they have been remarkable for fantasy production otherwise, leading all DSTs with a whopping 14.6 fantasy points-per-game, three points more than the second-best unit (Baltimore), and ahead of Matt Ryan, Antonio Brown, and LeSean McCoy in overall fantasy points-per-game. Calling the Jags “surprising” is a bit of an understatement when one thinks of them as a 3rd round pick in redraft leagues; a more appropriate word would be “Shock-sonville!”