In part one of this article, I examined three players that I’ve recently adjusted up in drafts. Now, it’s time for the other side of the coin. Just like becoming a master of gambling you have to know when to fold your hand on certain players. These three players have plummeted in rankings recently. In an interesting quirk, each of the players in part one was a player that I had looked at previously. However, coincidentally, the three players I’ve chosen here are all guys I have yet to discuss for DFF. With that said, let’s jump right into it.
Joe Mixon (RB – CIN)
The best place to start with Mixon is to emphasize the importance of a small drop in ranking near the top of the draft. In early mock drafts, I was selecting Mixon near the back end of the first round, usually with picks 10-12. However, I currently rank Mixon at #19 overall and as RB11, a significant change for a highly-rated player.
The reason for Mixon’s decline in the rankings is due to the decimation of the Bengals’ offensive line along with A.J. Green’s injury. Let’s begin by discussing what has happened to the Bengals’ offensive linemen over the past few months.
The Bengals drafted Jonah Williams in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft to bolster their left tackle position. However, he went down in June with a torn labrum and will miss the entire season.
Then, left guard Clint Boling retired, leaving two holes on the offensive line.
On top of this, right guard Christian Westerman bizarrely retired and then unretired a few days later. While this incident may not affect his play on the field, more drama with the offensive line was not necessary for the Bengals.
Finally, replacement left tackle Cordy Glenn suffered a concussion and is now questionable for week one. While he will likely miss one game at most, this offensive line is nothing like what the Bengals had in mind at the beginning of the offseason. This offensive-line unit as currently constructed is ranked 27th by Pro Football Focus, meaning they’re the sixth-worst offensive line in the league. Even though I believe Mixon is a talented back, poor offensive line play will prevent him from the high-end upside I might have expected from Mixon if everyone on the line were healthy.
On top of the offensive line issues, A.J. Green is expected to miss multiple games with a foot injury. Without Green on the field, the Bengals will only have Tyler Boyd and John Ross at wide receiver, allowing opposing defenses to stack the box against Mixon.
As for handling Mixon in drafts, I want to show the following table to demonstrate why he should only drop to the middle of the second round, and not even lower still.
Games 13-16 in the table are games Mixon played without both A.J. Green and quarterback Andy Dalton. He had three of his highest four rushing totals in those games and still scored three touchdowns in those contests.
Therefore, Mixon still helped your fantasy team even when the offense was lacking all of its main weapons. Mixon’s talent may once again shine despite all of the offensive issues the Bengals have.
However, given the number of quality alternatives early in drafts, I would prefer to go in a different direction from Mixon. Selecting Dalvin Cook or James Conner at the running back position over Mixon is a superior option in my opinion as both players play in offenses that I expect to succeed, unlike Mixon’s Bengals.
Dante Pettis (WR – SF)
Dante Pettis has been dropping in my ranks pretty heavily over the last month or so.
Earlier in draft season, Pettis was a borderline WR2 in my rankings, given that I expected him to be the clear leading wide receiver in a high-powered 49ers offense. However, 49ers Head Coach, Kyle Shanahan, has consistently stated that Pettis is competing with other receivers in the offense for the alpha wide receiver role and that Pettis is not even locked in as a starter. If there were only one report that was negative about Pettis, I would ignore it, but the drumbeat has been very strong over the last month or so.
In addition to the negative press surrounding Pettis, the play of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has been a tiny bit concerning throughout the preseason and training camp.
According to camp reports, Garoppolo has had some accuracy issues, especially when he threw five interceptions in a row during one camp session. Also, Garoppolo seems to be playing a bit tepidly due to his comeback from a torn ACL suffered in week three of the 2018 season. Garoppolo did not look sharp in his first preseason action against the Broncos, but he did turn in a good performance in the “dress rehearsal” week three preseason matchup against the Chiefs. While his showings have been mixed and not all horrible, they certainly do not inspire the kind of confidence in his play that most fantasy owners were hopeful of going into the 2018 season.
The final issue I take with Pettis is the competition for targets in the 49ers offense. Tight end George Kittle received 136 targets in 2018 and put up 86 receptions and 1,377 receiving yards. Kittle is the clear top option in the passing game no matter who the number one wide receiver is.
Also, rookie receivers Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd were picked in the second and third rounds, respectively. Each of them has been praised throughout camp and both should compete for snaps at wide receiver. Veteran Marquise Goodwin also seems to be locked into a starting role and sat for much of the preseason as a veteran starter would. Therefore, Pettis is simply not guaranteed to have a big role in 2019. While I believe in his talent, his MockDraftable metrics are simply not that of a top wide receiver.
Both his college dominator (31.6%) and breakout age metrics (20.9 yrs) indicate more of a middling receiver profile, which can be seen by his best comparison of Marqise Lee.
Again, Pettis can beat these metrics and become a star in the league, but considering his profile coming into the league was far from perfect, all of the signs pointing against him would make him an outlier.
I currently rank Pettis as the WR38 in half PPR scoring, so I’d be comfortable selecting him as a high-end WR4 for your bench. It’s a far cry from where he was going, but I do still believe he has a chance at being highly productive; it’s just not nearly as likely as it seemed in June or July.
Jordan Howard (RB – PHI)
When it comes to Jordan Howard, the primary reason he’s moving down is because of his backfield mate, Miles Sanders. I think we all know who Howard is at this point. He’s a two-down back who’s an above-average runner who can’t play in the passing game, at all.
Despite having 250 or more carries in each of the previous three seasons, Howard never managed to reach 30 receptions in any season and had extremely low target numbers in 2017 and 2018, likely due to the emergence of Tarik Cohen.
Once Howard was traded to the Eagles, many expected him to reclaim his two-down role from the Bears, paired with a third-down back, such as Darren Sproles. However, that all changed when the Eagles drafted Sanders in the second round of the NFL Draft.
Sanders played behind Saquon Barkley for his first two college seasons, so he received limited work. However, in 2018, Sanders demonstrated proficiency in both the rushing and receiving game and showed success as a draft prospect. I’m not the foremost college expert but I would recommend reading these two articles from my DFF colleagues to get a sense of Sanders and his skillset.
Shane Manila describes how Sanders will fit in with the Eagles. Shane expected Sanders to be the Eagles’ lead back at the time of writing and Sanders has only excelled in camp since this article came out in late April. Therefore, I think that it is clear that Sanders is at least the starter for the Eagles and has the potential to grow into a workhorse role.
With all of that said about Sanders, I think that drafting Howard is drafting a two-down handcuff with no passing game upside. I have dropped him down to RB44 in my half PPR rankings whereas Sanders sits at RB27. Getting a player with his three-down skillset so late in the draft is a bonus. While RB44 sounds like a decent ranking for Howard, he represents a tier drop for me at the running back position. I really don’t like him or any of the running backs below him and I would often prefer to look at other positions, especially wide receiver if Howard is the top running back available on my board.
Some names that I’d prefer to Howard in a similar range include Darwin Thompson, Justice Hill, and Justin Jackson. All three have far more upside than Howard and I believe each has more raw talent as well. Avoid Howard in drafts and thank me at the end of the season.
Thanks for reading this article. You can find me on Twitter at @DFF_Justin. I’d love to interact with anyone in the community, so reach out anytime!