As humans, we’re creatures of habit.
So, when the pervasive outbreak of COVID-19 suddenly stopped the world in its tracks, but still allowed time to tick, we didn’t know what to expect.
Whether it was that 5 o’clock pub stool, now empty. Or your favorite shore town’s beaches, now overran solely with seagulls, instead of the suspected spring breakers and their blue cans, everything slowly began to change.
Your adventurous, long-weekend trips turn into more time being your best homebody. Maybe re-watching vintage films or trying new recipes.
And when Monday comes, instead of carrying yourself into work in the morning, you now roll out of bed, hop onto Zoom or Life Size in your half-ass home office. And that’s only if you’re lucky.
But, even though COVID-19 has already quickly altered life for everyone, we cannot lose hope. Now, more now than ever, we need to come together, as a community, as a country, and as a world.
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For me, I recently graduated from college and was just getting adjusted to my new full-time position when the news broke that Utah Jazz’s Center, Rudy Gobert, tested positive for the virus. I remember returning to my desk, still in disbelief, thinking that this could be the moment where everything turns.
It was, and suddenly one-by-one we all began making sacrifices. Our sports, our events, and our local establishments all but gone. Even some of our youth were robbed of the closing moments of their high school or college experience and the opportunity to walk across the stage and finally say, “I Did it!”
I, myself, initially had marked on the calendar returning to my faithful alma mater this weekend to take part in the St. Patrick’s Day festivities. But instead, I’m here – writing the first installment of “Start, Sit & Seth” for the upcoming fantasy football season.
For those who are new here and wondering why the first mention of fantasy football comes in 300 words deep, don’t worry, we’ll get there.
This column, now in its third season, attempts to bridge anecdotal storytelling, and fantasy football analysis to bring readers hope, inspiration, and a feel-good perspective with fantasy football at its core.
Optimism is another theme I aim to present. I believe that with a glass-half-full mentality, it’s these uncertain times that bring out the everyday heroes of the American people. The medical professionals and first responders illustrate this as they continue to risk their lives every day. And where would we be without our journalists bringing us the facts, and our content creators for keeping us all sane?
While we, of course, have to readjust the way we do things, practicing social distance consistently, you have to focus on the positives.
In my life, I’m fortunate enough to work for a print-based media organization that transitioned an entire company to work remotely in less than a week. The leadership in both the management and the information technology sectors is solely responsible for saving the short and long-term employment of hundreds across the nation.
I’m also amazingly lucky to have this, Dynasty Football Factory (DFF). Not only am I surrounded by an amazing group of talented individuals here at DFF that make working in the fantasy sports industry an absolute joy. But it also gives me a platform that allows me to use my words and my voice for a greater cause.
As we all continue to adjust to our new norm, take this as a time to indulge in your hobbies or discover new ones.I know myself, and everyone here at DFF, will continue to bring you quality content when you need it most.
In the end, we have to continue to learn and grow from this as individuals and as an entire species. We need to continue to be good people through and through, loving each other, and taking care of business when times get tough.
I believe, that if we continue to do that, we will beat this. And one day when this is all said and done, maybe, just maybe, we will learn to appreciate the simple things in life just a little more.
One of these commodities that I appreciate now, more-than-ever, is fantasy football. Even as the sports world stands still, the fantasy landscape, specifically redraft, is continuing to shift rapidly.
Below are my early off-season starts and sits. Please keep in mind that while my analysis is based off film, stats, trends, and my opinion, it also factors in their projected Average Draft Position (ADP) for Points Per Receptions (PPR) leagues. Essentially, the price for a player can ultimately outweigh my love or disdain for them.
With too much discrepancy still with quarterbacks’ and tight ends’ ADPs, we will stick with the running back and wide receiver position for this column. But be sure to stay posted for more analysis on those positions later.
I’ll leave the non-fantasy football readers with some final words from the 2010’s pop band, Fun. May their words now feel truer than ever.
“If you’re lost and alone. Or you’re sinking like a stone. Carry On. May your past be the sound of your feet upon the ground. Carry on.”
Now, let’s get to it.
Running Backs I’d Start This Season With
Austin Ekeler (Los Angeles Chargers)
He capitalized on the opportunity, even when Gordon returned as the team’s “starter” in Week 5, posting over 1,500 total yards and 11 touchdowns.
What’s even more impressive than Ekeler’s RB4 finish was his efficiency. He proved to be an elite pass-catching weapon, averaging 10.8 Yards Per Reception (YPR), the most by any running back in 2019. But he also proved to be a tough runner, averaging 4.2 Yards Per Carry (YPC), being more efficient with less work than Gordon.
Ultimately, that production led to a 4-year, $24.5 million paycheck and Gordon’s imminent departure.
If the Chargers don’t spend heavy draft capital on another replacement, third-year back Justin Jackson should step in and help fill some of the 162 vacated rushing attempts and 55 receptions. However, I see Ekeler’s usage increasing even more as it’s becoming apparent that he may be the new center-piece in the offense, similar to how Christian McCaffrey is used in Carolina.
His ADP could be anywhere in the top-20 picks. Yes, a steeper price to pay for a player with only one full season of elite fantasy production. But, throw in his limited injury history, only missing two games in three seasons, and he’s worthy of the draft capital.
There’s no denying that if Tyrod Taylor is the day one starter that it could somewhat hurt Ekeler’s ceiling. But I’m OK with that and hope it continues to be a discussion, dropping his ADP even lower. With a fairly inaccurate Philip Rivers last season, Ekeler became only the eighth running back to eclipse 92 receptions in NFL history – solidifying one of the sturdiest floors in the game.
Like most, I suggest taking a running-back heavy approach at the top end of your drafts this season. There’s going to be a ton of wide receiver depth in later rounds. If you can pair Ekeler with another elite running back, you should feel confident heading in.
Kenyan Drake (Arizona)
Placing Kenyan Drake on this list ahead of his fifth professional season feels like a true underdog story. For years, I’ve written about Drake, advising readers not to draft or start him, not because of the talent, but because of his situation.
Thanks to Kliff Kingsbury, Drake’s career feels like it’s just beginning. The Alabama product proved to be efficient when given the opportunity in Miami, averaging 4.6 YPC and 8.1 YPR. The underlying issue always was the usage, never seeing more than north of 140 carries or 75 targets.
Arizona quickly fixed that, handing it off to him 123 times in just eight games – more than he received in all of 2018. Drake capitalized rushing for 643 yards and eight touchdowns. He also added another 171 yards on 26 receptions. From Week 8 out he was RB7, averaging fewer fantasy points per game than only McCaffrey, Derrick Henry, and Aaron Jones.
Undoubtedly, that type of finish will make for a higher ADP come draft-time – roughly late second to the early third round. But with DeAndre Hopkins added, opening up this offense even more for Kyler Murray in his sophomore season, I’m all in on the 26-year-old from Powder Springs.
Running Backs I’d Leave sitting
Le’Veon Bell (New York Jets)
Le’Veon Bell will most likely come into the season with a similar ADP to the formerly great-but-now-in-question running backs like Todd Gurley and David Johnson. Oddly enough, it was only two seasons ago that the trio were all going in the top three in most redraft leagues.
And while I honestly do believe that Bell, like his fellow backs, is still a talented player, this is more about his situation. From the very beginning, it’s felt like head coach Adam Gase never truly wanted Bell to be a Jet. After serious trade-deadline rumbles, the picture became even clearer.
Gase’s track record, intertwined with the mediocre tire fire that is the New York Jets, makes me want no part of Bell here in 2020, in redraft or dynasty. Gase failed to get production out of talented backs like Drake and Damien Williams, who have both found recent success under new coaches. And Bell had a career-low 4.0 Yards Per Touch (YPT) after averaging 5.2 YPT over five seasons in Pittsburgh.
However, the most concerning part off Bell’s, mediocre season, was not just that he finished the season as RB15, but that he did it on almost the exact same usage numbers that he saw with Pittsburgh. He averaged 245.8 rushing attempts and 79.4 targets per season across his span with the Steelers. In his lone season as a Jet, Bell had 245 carries and 78 targets.
Even with almost identical usage, Bell’s fantasy points were reduced by 21 percent. This, what I like to call the Adam Gase-effect and is exactly why I’ll be leaving the former Spartan sitting come draft time.
Malcolm Brown (Los Angeles Rams)
The unreasonable amount of Malcolm Brown love that has been swirling around the internet since Gurley was cut is mind-boggling.
As a former owner of Brown, I can attest that realistically this payer’s absolute ceiling is Sony Michel. The Rams last season reduced Gurley’s targets by 42 percent. After Brown’s two-touchdown performance Week 1, most analysts, myself included, projected that Brown had become the true beneficiary of Gurley’s lack of volume, specifically in the red zone and in the passing game. However, the targets never came. He had a total of six, yes, six targets.
With no first-round pick in the upcoming draft, it would be hard imagine the Rams would want to spend much of that capital on another running back after using a third-round pick last year on Darrell Henderson. They also still have a 2018 sixth-round pick invested in John Kelly who’s only seen minuscule work in two seasons.
And though Henderson’s 3.8 YPC doesn’t blow away Brown’s 3.7 YPC, this was a simple eye test. Henderson looks like an explosive player. Brown looks like just another guy.
But, regardless of how the Rams running back room shakes out until Sean McVay admits his mistakes last season of not throwing to the running back, I’m out on their backfield, specifically Brown and his loyalists on Twitter.
Wide Receivers I’d Start This Season With
Courtland Sutton (Denver)
Courtland Sutton will return with the Broncos here in 2020 on what seems to be an upward note. Drew Lock looks that he just may be the signal-caller that’s been missing since Peyton Manning’s retirement, winning four of his five starts. And Sutton took an ideal second-year leap posting a 72-1112-6 line and being selected to his first-career Pro Bowl.
Although his overall finish of the WR18, doesn’t jump off the page, his 25 percent target share does. Sutton’s target share was the sixth highest in the NFL and well higher than his other fellow second-year receivers. Keep in mind that Sutton did all this by catching passes from three different quarterbacks; Eight games with Joe Flacco, three with Brandon Allen, and five with Lock.
Sutton will need to continue to progress, specifically with his catch percentage (58.1% in 2019), to make the final step into being a true fantasy WR1. And if the Broncos do go wide receiver in the first round as many mock drafts are suggesting, it’ll just be one more weapon to draw coverage away from him.
With a full-offseason to work with Lock and continue to develop their chemistry, I’d be more than happy to take Sutton as my WR1 somewhere in the back-half of the third round.
Julian Edelman (New England)
In what was a relatively down year for the receiver position as a whole in 2019, Julian Edelman at 33-years-old posted a career-high yardage total on his way to a WR4 finish.
In his final season with Tom Brady under the helm, Edelman took 100 receptions for 1117 yards and six touchdowns. He proved to be the solely-valuable fantasy asset player on a usually-dynamic New England offense.
The now Brady-less, Edelman is going at an extremely discounted price. In the latest mock draft by ESPN, Edelman was drafted as WR27, in the mid-fifth round. Factor in some of the rookies getting drafted ahead of him as well and Edelman could easily slide into the sixth round, maybe being the steal of a draft.
Sure, the fact we don’t know if it’ll be under center in New England should push down Edelman’s initial stock. But I’m not buying the narrative that Bill Belichick is just going to tank to go get Trevor Lawrence.
In 2008, when Brady was lost in Week 1 to a torn ACL, Matt Cassel filled in valiantly, leading the Patriots to an 11-5 record. He also supported both Randy Moss and Wes Welker as top-13 receivers that season. While he isn’t Randy Moss, Edelman is a Super Bowl MVP and a fan-favorite in New England. And at the end of it, this is more about faith in Belicheck and the system than anything.
Wide Receivers I’d Leave sitting
DJ Chark (Jacksonville)
I know that I’m going to get a lot of backlash from the fantasy community for having D.J. Chark here on this list. That’s OK, let me hear it. Just know that I do believe in him and his talent. However, what I don’t believe in are his current ADP and his situation.
Last season, Chark was a fantasy Cinderella, finishing the season as WR16, after going late or undrafted in a majority of leagues. Before getting nicked up in the closing month of the season, he was WR5.
However, that’s only half the story. I see a regression coming for both Chark and the Jacksonville passing game as a whole. As a team, the Jaguars finished the season with only three total rushing touchdowns, by far the worst in NFL.
I also believe not being seen as the team’s true number one target early in the season helped get Chark out to an unreal touchdown rate, finding the end zone on every 9.1 receptions.
In comparison, John Brown and Tyler Locket, the players who finished around Chark for the season, had touchdown rates of 12 and 10.3 Receptions per Touchdown (RPT), respectively.
With the third-year receiver currently being taken in the same round as players like Calvin Ridley, Mark Ingram, and Chris Carson, there is no way I can spend that type of capital on a clear regression candidate on an inconsistent offense.
Instead, I rather pass on Chark, hope he struggles out of the gates, and buy him at a cheaper value later in the season. Again, I love the player, just not the current price.
Terry McLaurin (Washington)
Terry McLaurin is another young receiver who broke out early in his 2019 campaign and now carries a heavy price tag in redraft leagues. That’s why he finds himself here, as my final sit of the early-off season.
In Washington, under center, it looks like it’ll either be Dwayne Haskins or Tua Tagovailoa if Washington pulls the trigger with the second-overall pick. But no matter the quarterback, and even with Ron Rivera leading the regime, I can’t fathom spending a fourth or fifth-round pick on McLaurin.
His touchdown rate of 8.3 RPT is even higher than Chark. And while you have to love his 15.8 YPR, you have to think that comes down a bit being the team’s clear one heading into the season.
Last season McLaurin posted over 125 yards and a touchdown twice against Philadelphia – nearly 25 percent of his season total. Now likely to be shadowed by three-time Pro-Bowler Darius Slay, it may be tougher sledding this go around.
I do expect another step forward for McLaurin in year two, maybe eclipsing the century yardage mark and getting north of 70 receptions. However, I don’t think it’s enough to compensate for his current top-20 wide receiver price tag.
And if you have an inspiring story that you want to be featured in an upcoming edition of “Start, Sit & Seth,” please feel to reach out.
For more fantasy football and uplifting content, you can find me on Twitter @Between_SethFF.