Fantasy Football Impact of the Offensive Line: Baltimore Ravens

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Round 3 of our Offensive Line brings us to the first focus for an east coast team: the Baltimore Ravens.

For a look at the Arizona Cardinals or the Oakland Raiders, simply click on the links.

Baltimore Ravens

One of the more intriguing teams for the approaching 2019 season is the Baltimore Ravens. Officially Joe Flacco-less, officially Mark Ingram-full. We saw Lamar Jackson be a top 10 fantasy QB from weeks 11-16. We saw Alex Collins and Gus Edwards become decent fantasy options on a weekly basis. What we didn’t see was a fantasy relevant wide receiver; the best receiver on the Ravens was John Brown with 715 yards and 5 touchdowns.

The Ravens offensive line remained mostly healthy throughout the 2018 campaign with only Alex Lewis missing any remarkable time with 3 games. They allowed 32 sacks which is an average amount. They also committed an average number of penalties.

What they didn’t do was excel.

2018 End-of-Season Starters and Their 2019 Status

Position 2018 Starter 2019 Starter Notes
Left Tackle Ronnie Stanley Ronnie Stanley One of the best LTs in 2018. Mostly healthy and consistent.
Left Guard Alex Lewis Alex Lewis Missed some games due to a neck injury. Was otherwise pretty bad.
Center Matt Skura Matt Skura A perennial practice squad player who lucked into the role. Likely to be replaced.
Right Guard Marshal Yanda Marshal Yanda One of the best RGs in the league in 2018. Returns after a largely healthy year.
Right Tackle James Hurst Orlando Brown Hurst and Brown swapped depth chart positions during the 2018 season. Currently is Brown’s role.
Tight End Nick Boyle Nick Boyle Was signed as a free agent in 2019. Boyle is effective at pass and run blocking but lives in a 4 headed monster Tight End position in Baltimore.

Current O-Line Ranking

Name Position NFL Ranking (in Position)
Ronnie Stanley Left Tackle 9
Alex Lewis Left Guard 27
Matt Skura Center 20
Marshal Yanda Right Guard 4
Orlando Brown Right Tackle 18
Nick Boyle Tight End 9
Overall Team O-Line 14
*Rankings based on ProFootballFocus.com scoring

Free Agency: Move Along, Nothing to See Here

The Baltimore Ravens made a huge wave with their signing of Mark Ingram, but have made no changes to their offensive line through free agency. Nick Boyle was signed as a Free Agent but he was already on the team in 2018.

It’s conceivable that they wanted to make more free agency moves but were strapped by the amount of cap space that they have available in addition to a number of expiring contracts in 2020. They may be considering extending some of those and will need the money available to make those moves.

NFL Draft Thoughts

The Ravens currently have 8 picks at their disposal. They will have to use them carefully because they have 7 positions of need. On the O-Line, they have a need at Left Guard and at Center. Both Alex Lewis’ and Matt Skura’s contracts expire after the season ends. Based on their performance, I do not anticipate either of them being resigned unless it is a depth move. Replacements need to be found through the draft regardless of those decisions because of their performance.

We must consider what is a greater position of need. Unfortunately for the purposes of this article, I believe the Ravens will place Wide Receiver above the inside positions of the Offensive Line. They have Willie Snead (whose contract is also expiring at the end of the season) and then there are a bunch of names that I have never seen on a fantasy football roster. Multiple mock drafts have the Ravens selecting Parris Campbell from Ohio State. If they do, he will immediately move up my preseason draft board rankings.

Their first round pick is now behind us. The Ravens do not have a second round pick. They traded it to Philadelphia as part of a package deal to get Philly’s Round One pick in 2018 which the Ravens used to draft Lamar Jackson. Now we are in the third round. Do the Ravens have a need greater than Guard and Center? Let’s assume that they do not.

The likely targets for either of the Ravens 2 third round picks are:

  • Greg Little – Tackle – Mississippi
  • Mitch Hyatt – Tackle – Clemson
  • Tyler Roemer – Tackle – San Diego State
  • Lamont Gaillard – Center – Georgia
  • Michael Jordan – Guard (but can move to Center) – Ohio State

Look for those names to be called on day 2 of the NFL Draft. If they are drafted by the Ravens, they are instantly in the conversation of starting in week 1.

One name that might still be on the board in Round 3 or 4 is Connor McGovern out of Penn State. He is another one who, like Michael Jordan, is capable of playing Center or Guard. He was an essential piece to Saquon Barkley’s amazing 2017 season at Penn State. Considering the lack of receiving talent on the Ravens roster in addition to the signing of Mark Ingram AND the proclivity of Lamar Jackson running the ball, McGovern would be a perfect fit. If the Ravens draft McGovern AND if he lands the starting role, I will move Mark Ingram higher in my preseason rankings.

2019 Thoughts

The Baltimore Ravens are on the knife’s edge. A couple of right moves and they could find themselves the AFC North champions. The Bengals are rebuilding and the Steelers are on a downward trend. The Browns appear to be a juggarnaut this year, but they have turned disappointment into a habit. A couple of missed opportunities and the Ravens will quickly start moving pieces before the trade deadline in preparation for the 2020 season.

The Ravens have a Vegas over/under of 9 wins in their 2019 campaign. They will not be able to live up to that goal without some help on the offensive line. Look for the Ravens to strike late on day 2 or early on day 3 of the NFL Draft.

Conclusion

Let’s assume that the Ravens make the right choices. They know their way to the division championship and they found it with an arguably mediocre team in 2018. If the Ravens are able to utilize their defense as it should be used, they will be able to turn their focus to the run game.

Mark Ingram will have a good fantasy year. It will be even better if the Ravens make the right decisions for their offensive line.

Lamar Jackson will continue his life of fantasy relevance. It will be even more consistent with improvements to the offensive line.

The Ravens WILL draft a wide receiver on day 1 in April. Hot take: that rookie will lead the team in receiving.

They have the means to make a fantasy owner happy. A couple of steps towards improving their offensive line will turn that good year into a GREAT one. We will be watching the draft very closely. We cannot make any further assessments until then.

Fantasy Football Impact of the Offensive Line: Oakland Raiders

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Round 2 of our Offensive Line focus brings us to Oakland and a review of the Raiders along with their hope for the 2019 season.

For a look at Round 1 and the Arizona Cardinals, please click here!

Oakland Raiders

The Oakland Raiders were a fantasy wasteland in 2018. Derek Carr was the 18th QB after week 16 scoring a dismal 14.3 points per game according to FantasyPros.com.

The Running Backs were dreadful. Marshawn Lynch only played in 6 games averaging 10.7 0.5 PPR points per game. After the Raiders’ bye in week 7, Doug Martin took over the lead back role and continued the mediocrity. He averaged 9.3 points per game.

Finally, the Wide Receivers felt the pain of having an under-performing Quarterback. Amari Cooper was a disappointment until he was traded to the Dallas Cowboys during the Raiders bye week. That left Jordy Nelson, Dwayne Harris, and Seth Roberts to carry the load. None of them were up to the task.

A large chunk of the failures can be placed squarely on the shoulders of Jon Gruden. Whether the misery was part of his master plan or a spotlight on how out of touch he was with the NFL in 2018, the team failed, in part, because of him.  A second part of the offensive failures could also be placed with Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson, who has not had a successful campaign with any team in over a decade.

Regardless of coaching, the team would not have had a successful offense due to the poor play of their offensive line. Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker combined for the most penalties by Tackles in the NFL. The line as a whole allowed Derek Carr to be sacked 51 times. That is not a typo. FIFTY ONE.

2018 End-of-Season Starters and Their 2019 Status

Position 2018 Starter 2019 Starter Notes
Left Tackle Kolton Miller Trent Brown After a SB win with the Patriots in 2018, Brown moves to the Raiders and is currently the highest paid Lineman in the NFL.
Left Guard Kelechi Osemele Kolton Miller Osemele moves to the Jets. Miller was terribly ineffective at LT. Moves to LG. Committed many penalties in 2018.
Center Rodney Hudson Rodney Hudson One of the best Centers in the league in 2018.
Right Guard Gabe Jackson Gabe Jackson One of the best Right Guards in the league in 2018.
Right Tackle Brandon Parker Brandon Parker Tied for 10th in the NFL for penalties. Half of his were false starts.
Tight End Jared Cook Lee Smith Cook went to the Saints. Current depth chart lists Smith #1. Uncertain if that remains after the draft.

Current O-Line Ranking

Name Position NFL Ranking (in Position)
Trent Brown Left Tackle 21
Kolton Miller Left Guard 30
Rodney Hudson Center 3
Gabe Jackson Right Guard 8
Brandon Parker Right Tackle 30
Lee Smith Tight End 3
Overall Team O-Line 19
*Rankings based on ProFootballFocus.com scoring

Free Agency: One down, one to go

As mentioned above, the Tackle position for the Oakland Raiders was the weakest in the NFL in 2018. The Raiders made strides in the right direction. On March 13, the Raiders signed unrestricted free agent Trent Brown to the biggest contract for an NFL lineman. Trent Brown spent the 2018 season with the Super Bowl winning New England Patriots. He is a consistently healthy player that adds strength to the tackle. This will allow Kolton Miller to move to the Left Guard position. That loud noise you just heard was a sigh of relief from Derek Carr. When Miller wasn’t committing penalties, he was opening doors for the opposing defense. Removing him from the outside left is a smart move.

This was a necessary move to give Derek Carr time to throw the ball to his newest targets. It will also improve the possibilities for whomever starts at Running Back in 2019.

NFL Draft Thoughts

With consistency, strength, and leadership at the Left Tackle, Center, and Right Guard positions, the Raiders need to take a long hard look at their sophomore O-Line players (Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker). Their rookie seasons were awful. The Raiders spent some impressive draft capital on those two players in 2018. Kolton Miller was their first round pick (1.15) while Brandon Parker was the first pick in the 3rd round! They will not simply forget the talent that convinced the Raiders’ main office to commit those early picks.

The truth is that the coaching staff is going to have to spend time developing the skills of those 2nd year players. While it is true that the Raiders have 11 picks including 3 first round picks, it is also true that they have severe needs at many defensive positions and at running back.

One position of need which will have an impact on the offensive line is the Tight End. Lee Smith is great at pass and rush protection but in 8 full seasons in the NFL he has surpassed 10 targets in a season only 3 times. None were higher than 13 targets. The Raiders need an offensive presence at the Tight End position.

Look no further than Noah Fant. Chad Reuter of NFL.com has Noah Fant going to the Raiders at pick 27 (Oakland’s 3rd pick of the first round). That same mock has T.J. Hockenson going to the Packers earlier in the draft. I did not see the Packers taking a Tight End there because they have more dire needs at other positions. However, some fellow writers at TheFFAnalysts.com agreed with the mock draft. “A lot of people see it as a possibility,” remarks @jplumm94. “I could see Hockenson at 12,” agreed @theFF_taters. With Hockenson off the board, the Raiders hand will be forced.

Author’s note: Since the writing of this article, the Raiders have signed Luke Willson. This has to be a depth move. Willson is another Tight End that has never had fantasy relevance. He is quite good at run and pass blocking, though.

The Tight End position will likely be taken care of early in the draft. Between that, the draft capital of the 2018 rookie offensive lineman, and the other team needs in 2019 it is quite conceivable that the Raiders will stand pat at the offensive line. At most, they may use a late round pick to add some depth.

2019 Thoughts

Here is what we know about the Raiders:

  • They’ve added some impressive receivers in Free Agency
  • They’ve added a strong player to their offensive line
  • The rookies from 2018 on the o-line were college standouts
  • Derek Carr has shown that he is able to succeed

Recently, the Raiders signed Isaiah Crowell. After this signing, it is becoming clear that the improvements at offensive line do not appear to be completed to improve the run game. Crowell’s one year deal is an indicator that they are holding out until the 2020 draft class to fill the RB need.

Instead, they will be focusing on Derek Carr and the passing game. They’ll need it. The Oakland defense gave up the most points to opposing offenses in 2018. There haven’t been any slam dunk free agency signings and their defensive issues will not be solved immediately through the draft. While the defense is in the midst of a rebuild, the offense will be playing catch up.

Conclusion

Vegas odds has the Raiders winning 5 games in 2019. With the added firepower at receiver and the strengthening of the offensive line, the Raiders will be in more close games and could squeak out some additional wins through their passing game alone. The losses will likely include some garbage time points.

What does this mean for fantasy? Derek Carr’s 2018 stats means he will not be drafted in most formats. However, I could see a likelihood that he will be a waiver wire target at times in 2019. He’s going to have production. He has talent and now he has a couple of high end targets in Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams. Throw in the possibility of a new Tight End and Derek Carr has the potential to return to his Top 10 Fantasy QB stats.

Speaking of those receivers, they will both be owned in most formats. Antonio Brown is currently the 7th Wide Receiver off the board at the 2.06 according to fantasyfootballcalculator.com. Tyrell Williams is going at the incredible fantasy value of the 14th round. Both should have very good fantasy years considering the pass protection of the offensive line and Derek Carr’s ability. If the pieces remain healthy, then Antonio Brown could remain a top 5 WR and Tyrell Williams could be a solid WR2 in fantasy.

Don’t sleep on the Oakland Raiders. But, don’t overspend on them, either. We will certainly know more after the draft.

Fantasy Football Impact of the Offensive Line: Arizona Cardinals

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The offensive line is often overlooked as a key to fantasy success. Those five gentleman (occasionally six when you count a blocking Tight End) provide holes for Running Backs to run through and protection for a Quarterback to find the best target and get off a clean throw.

A good offensive line provides fantasy success:

  • The Steelers O-Line makes James Conner, Antonio Brown, Juju Smith-Schuster, and Ben Roethlisberger top 10 performers in their respective positions.
  • The Browns O-Line helps make Nick Chubb one of the best redraft waiver wire pick ups of 2018.
  • The Patriots O-Line protected Tom Brady all the way to the Super Bowl.

A bad offensive line is a direct path to the pits of misery:

  • The Cardinals O-Line makes David Johnson look mediocre and turns Josh Rosen into a rookie flop.
  • The Vikings O-Line took a fantasy winner in Kirk Cousins and turned him into a disappointment.
  • The Raiders O-Line makes their entire team almost worthless for fantasy.

The Arizona Cardinals have pieces that could be fantasy relevant in 2019. The concern is whether or not those fantasy pieces will have a chance to shine. What steps have they made to improve the chances of their highly paid offensive pieces? Will they have an opportunity to improve their O-Line ranking through the coming draft? April 25 is just a little over a month away!

Part 1 in the offensive line series will begin with the Arizona Cardinals.

Arizona Cardinals

Their Offensive Line was awful even when they were healthy. Throw in multiple injuries and you are left with the first overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Josh Rosen was sacked 45 times in 2018. For a point of reference, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger were sacked 45 times COMBINED. How can you expect to succeed when your Quarterback doesn’t have time to throw? The sad David Johnson drafters among us (my hand is also raised) do not need to be reminded about the 1.2 less yards per touch compared to his successful 2016 campaign.

2018 End-of-Season Starters and Their 2019 Status

Position 2018 Starter 2019 Starter Notes
Left Tackle DJ Humphries DJ Humphries Ended 2018 on the IR
Left Guard Mike Iupati JR Sweezy Iupati signed with the Seahawks. Sweezy signed as Free Agent after spending 2018 with the Seahawks.
Center Mason Cole Mason Cole Rookie in 2018 returns in 2019. Was healthiest member of the O-Line.
Right Guard Justin Pugh Justin Pugh Spent a large amount of 2018 on the IR. Position was filled with backups.
Right Tackle Andre Smith Marcus Gilbert Smith was released before the end of the 2018 season. Gilbert was a Free Agent signing.
Tight End Ricky Seals-Jones Ricky Seals-Jones Signed Charles Clay from Free Agency.

Current O-Line Ranking

Name Position NFL Ranking (in Position)
DJ Humphries Left Tackle 25
JR Sweezy Left Guard 28
Mason Cole Center 31
Justin Pugh Right Guard 30
Marcus Gilbert Right Tackle 17
Ricky Seals-Jones Tight End 17
Overall Team O-Line 31
*Rankings based on ProFootballFocus.com scoring

Free Agency: A Huge Step in the Right Direction

Justin Pugh is a former first round pick who was signed to a long term deal before the 2018 season. While adding strength at Right Guard, Pugh suffered a knee injury and was put on Injured Reserve in week 10. He returns at full strength for the 2019 season. I do not anticipate his NFL ranking at the Right Guard position to remain that low.

If a healthy Justin Pugh is a reason to feel positive, then the addition of Marcus Gilbert is reason to celebrate! Marcus Gilbert’s arrival is a bonus having spent time as the starter for the stellar Steelers O-Line. These are two impressive gains that show that the Cardinals noticed their shortcomings and are working to improve.

JR Sweezy is a statistical downgrade from Mike Iupati. However, Sweezy is a healthier player having spent much less time on the injury report. The downgrade in run and pass protection will be made up for with stability in the position as opposed to filling it with second and third string replacements.

The addition of Charles Clay is welcome for Josh Rosen. One of Ricky Seals-Jones shortcomings is pass blocking. Charles Clay is known for that skill. One note of caution: If the Cardinals don’t work on the below average skills of their Tight Ends, the player lining up could telegraph the play calling. Since Charles Clay is better at pass blocking, it would likely mean a passing play. Ricky Seals-Jones at the line would indicate a running play.

NFL Draft Thoughts

DJ Humphries is mediocre when healthy (25th ranked Left Tackle) and has been injury prone. It would be in the Cardinal’s best interest to find a replacement. Meanwhile, it is my opinion that all the “Kyler Murray at #1 overall” talk is a bunch of hype to get a buyer for that pick. Perhaps move down a small amount and grab Jonah Williams, Left Tackle from Alabama. He is considered by some to be the #1 offensive lineman on the board and is a natural fit to the position. Those who do not rank him (thedraftnetwork.com) as the #1 offensive lineman have him at #2, instead.

Even if the Kyler Murray rumors come true, the Arizona Cardinals have nine other picks in the 2019 draft as of 3-17-2019 and would certainly get an additional pick or more for Josh Rosen. Ten total picks is a lot of opportunity to improve their depth and find some potential improvements for their offensive line.

The bottom line is that Arizona needs to make a move to improve their offensive line early in the draft. They could trade down from the #1 overall and feel secure in their draft of Jonah Williams later in the first round. Or they could use the first pick in the second round to choose another other rookie that could make an immediate impact such as:

First Round

  • Jawaan Taylor (Florida) – Currently unlikely to fall to the second round
  • Dalton Risner (Kansas State) – Currently projected as a late first rounder, could fall

Second Round

  • Michael Deiter (Wisconsin)
  • Yodny Cajuste (West Virginia)

2019 Thoughts

A healthy 2019 for Justin Pugh and the addition of Marcus Gilbert are enough to make David Johnson a fantasy value at his current ADP (2.04, 10th RB off the board according to fantasyfootballcalculator.com). Will we see a return to his 2016 form? That is highly unlikely given the current overall offensive line ranking (31st in the NFL) and the forecast for wins and losses in Arizona; Vegas odds has them at 4-5 wins. They will be playing from behind quite often which will limit his upside. However, the improved Offensive Line will provide him some holes for some additional yards and more than the dismal 10 total touchdowns from 2018.

Those same O-line additions will keep Josh Rosen (or Kyler Murray) off of his back. Not only will it improve their Quarterback longevity, it will also increase their fantasy stats. Is Rosen worth using a fantasy draft pick? No, he will consistently be on waivers in the most common league formats. He will have some usable weeks against their weaker opponents.

Conclusion

Honestly, could it get any worse than it was in 2018? We know David Johnson’s capabilities. He didn’t have an underwhelming 2018 due to a lack of  talent. We know that Josh Rosen has a hall of fame wide receiver target in Larry Fitzgerald and a talented Christian Kirk in the slot. All they need are those O-Line pieces to help them succeed.

The Cardinals management has made strides in the right direction with some free agent signings. If they can stay healthy, there will be improvements. The outlook could be even brighter after the draft.

Week 16 RB/TE Start ’em Sit ’em

Here we are, folks! The dream we all dream of. This is our Super Bowl! It all comes down to some good old fashioned trash talk and 16 football games to decide whether or not you’ll be lifting that trophy.

How do you like the new digs? The Fantasy Fanalysts are here to help. Bring on the championship week AND look forward to the off season in preparation for 2019! Don’t forget to use the promo code TOP2 if you sign up for DRAFT! I dipped my toes in for the first time a few weeks back and I have been having a lot of fun!

Let’s talk some RB/TE Starts and Sits!

Running Back: Start ’em

CHRIS CARSON (SEATTLE SEAHAWKS)

Chris Carson has been THE MAN in Seattle. In the last five games, he has averaged a total of 98.4 yards and has scored a touchdown in four out of those five games! Granted, the yards average is slightly skewed by last week’s matchup against the 49ers. In every other week, he was a solid RB2. But, that’s exactly what you want from a guy that you either drafted late OR picked up on waivers!

Now, we have arrived at week 16 and the Seahawks are at home against the Kansas City Chiefs. On the season, the Chiefs are the worst defense against fantasy running backs. 173 yards and 1.3 touchdowns per game! Sometimes, recent weeks might tell a different story. Recent weeks only enforces the trend! Even teams that struggle at RB or were beset with injuries looked wonderful against the Chiefs run defense.

Chris Carson for the win!

KALEN BALLAGE (MIAMI DOLPHINS)

I understand. If you take away the 75 yard touchdown run in week 15, Kalen Ballage stat line would be 11 for 48. Mediocre at best.

I also understand that this is the Championship Week! Are you really going to trust your championship to a relative unknown? Probably not. Let’s be honest, though. You didn’t make it to the championship game having a need at Running Back. This pick is for those redrafters who are still paying attention to their leagues and want to win their consolation matchup. It’s also for the dynasty leagues where Ballage was dropped in week 3 when it was clear that he wasn’t going to be a part of the offense. Go pick up Kalen Ballage!

The Dolphins are at home against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The last time the Jaguars played an away game, they allowed 1 person to run for 238 yards and score 4 touchdowns. The Jaguars DO NOT CARE when they aren’t at home. This is a glory start and it’s going to feel SO good when you win your matchup because of Kalen Ballage.

Running Back: Sit ’em

JAYLEN SAMUELS (PITTSBURGH STEELERS)

If you’re in a Yahoo league and can start Samuels in your Tight End slot, you should ABSOLUTELY start him. He will be far better than 80% of ALL other tight ends.

Otherwise, stay away. The New Orleans Saints defense has been amazing lately. They have allowed 12 points per game TOTAL in the last 5 weeks. TWELVE POINTS PER GAME!!!! That’s not to the Running Back position. That’s to the entire opposing team!

Here are some scary numbers:

  • Tevin Coleman in week 12 – 8 rushes for 6 yards
  • Peyton Barber in week 13 – 14 rushes for 42 yards
  • Christian McCaffrey in week 15 – 15 rushes for 53 yards. Yes, he still had a good game playing quarterback for a snap and PPR leagues were beneficial.

If you are in a bind, Jaylen Samuels might get you 9 or 10 points. He definitely has a solid floor because Pittsburgh likes to use one running back. But this matchup is the scariest of the week, without a doubt.

ADRIAN PETERSON (WASHINGTON REDSKINS)

75% ineffective in the last 4 games. He was saved by the 90+ yard touchdown run in week 13, otherwise he’d be 100% ineffective. He’s tired and likely isn’t risking severe injury in a losing battle.

This week, the Redskins are playing an away game against the Tennessee Titans. The Redskins could really use a new QB! They might be looking towards a better draft position. I see very little chance of a positive outcome for the Redskins and, in particular, Adrian Peterson. Leave him on your bench OR just drop him all together since he won’t clear fantasy waivers until after his game starts.

Sidebar: Alex Smith’s contract had $71 million in guarantees. Derrius Guice’s infection sounds terrifying. Sorry, Washington. You might be at the bottom of the standings for a few more years.

Tight End: Start ’em

JARED COOK (OAKLAND RAIDERS)

The Raiders actually try when they play on their home field. In addition, they have a winnable matchup against the Denver Broncos. Yes, Denver is favored to win. This IS the Oakland Raiders that we’re talking about.

But, Denver was recently decimated by the Tight End position in week 14 when George Kittle caught 7 passes for 210 yards and scored 3 touchdowns. No, I’m not suggesting that Jared Cook will even sniff those stats. But between his usage and the positive matchup, we’re in the realm of 5 for 60 and a touchdown. Even 5 for 60 WITHOUT the touchdown will be a TE1 day in this wacky position. He’s a good player to have in your lineup this week.

BLAKE JARWIN (DALLAS COWBOYS)

Blake Jarwin is all alone. Geoff Swaim has already been declared out after missing the last 4 games with injury.

If you haven’t noticed, I’m a big fan of home games. Dallas is playing at home. Icing on the cake, they’re playing the Buccaneers. I will listen to the argument that the Bucs defense has improved since firing their Defensive Coordinator a few weeks ago. Indeed, in the last four weeks, the best Tight End performance against the Bucs was George Kittle in week 14 (6 for 48). The Cowboys are in a fight for their playoff seeding. After taking that brutal defeat at the hands of the Colts last week, they will be coming home with the desire to prove themselves in front of their home crowd. And while there is a new DC in Tampa, it’s the same players. They were beaten before, they can be beaten again.

Blake Jarwin will have a decent game.

Tight End: Sit ’em

VANCE MCDONALD (PITTSBURGH STEELERS)

Above, I wrote about the scary New Orleans Saints in the section about Jaylen Samuels. Copy and Paste here. I would imagine that either Antonio Brown or Juju Smith-Schuster will have a decent game. Jaylen Samuels will likely land in RB3 territory. I just don’t have a lot of hope for a high point total. I really hope that, like most fantasy championship matchups that I’ve seen, your Tight End position is filled with Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, or George Kittle.

For those sitting in the consolation bracket, you might have McDonald on your squad. You can cross your fingers for a lucky touchdown OR you can look elsewhere for a Tight End.

Good luck to each of you in week 16! GO GET THAT CHAMPIONSHIP TROPHY! Get those bragging rights. Win your consolation bracket. I truly hope you wake up on the 25th with a special gift of a Fantasy Football Victory!

Week 15 RB/TE Start ’em Sit ’em

There are only two weeks left, unless you’re in a league that oddly includes week 17 as your playoff finals. We are already underway after Damien Williams and Justin Jackson showed what they can do when they are designated as the lead RB for their team. I hope you had either of them in your lineups!

Meanwhile, Travis Kelce’s performance reminds me of the scene in Rocky IV when Rocky finally lands a punch on Ivan Drago that draws blood. Rocky returns to the corner where his trainer shouts, “He’s NOT a machine!”

On the Chargers side, I’ve heard several people talking up Antonio Gates as if he had an incredible night. 4 for 54, folks. It’s okay, but nothing worth bringing up at the water cooler.

Let’s discuss some starts and sits.

Running Back: Start ’em

DALVIN COOK (MINNESOTA VIKINGS)

The Vikings return home, licking their wounds, after being decimated by the Seattle Seahawks. They have fired their “Sean McVay 2.0” OC, John DeFilippo. The lone shining offensive star from that game was Dalvin Cook.

Now, the Vikings are in Minneapolis and they are facing the Miami Dolphins defense who is easily beaten on the ground. It’s quite possible that the Vikings stop trying to make Kirk Cousins a thing and focus on that electrifying piece in their backfield: Dalvin Cook. That dude is absolutely amazing when he’s healthy. Guess what? He’s healthy.

The Dolphins can be exposed on the ground. On the season, they are the 8th worst team against the Running Back position. While they have improved over the past few weeks, it can be explained. The Patriots had to keep up with the Miami offense last week while also suffering an identity crises at Running Back. Are they RBBC? It looks like it.

In week 13, they held LeSean McCoy in check, but allowed Josh Allen to rush for 135 yards. In week 12, Marlon Mack rushed for 85 yards, but it was 5.7 yards per carry.

If Dalvin Cook can touch the ball 15 times on the ground and another 5 times through the air, his big play ability will likely equate to 100 yards and a touchdown, if not more. Those are the kind of numbers that I can get behind.

DOUG MARTIN (OAKLAND RAIDERS)

When do you definitely want to start an Oakland Raiders Running Back in 2018?

  • When they play at home OR
  • When they play against the Cincinnati Bengals

They only get one of those as the Raiders are travelling to Cincinnati to face the Bengals. Defensively, this matchup is a dumpster fire. On the offense, you can safely start your Running Backs. Joe Mixon is going to light up the universe; he’s an auto-start. That brings us to Doug Martin.

Doug Martin has rushed for almost 100 yards and has scored 2 touchdowns in the last two matchups. He is still capable of giving you fantasy value. The Bengals are a perfect foe for your semi-finals roster. The Cincinnati Bengals are the worst team against the Running Back position. In week 13, Philip Lindsay rushed for 157 yards and scored 2 touchdowns. In week 14 (also known as “the week that Austin Ekeler looked tired”), Austin Ekeler rushed for 66 yards and scored a touchdown. These are numbers that you can believe in. Doug Martin will have a good game. If you’re in a really bad pinch or a deeper league, Jalen Richard should also have a decent game.

Running Back: Sit ’em

MARK INGRAM (NEW ORLEANS SAINTS)

Look at Mark Ingram’s performance since returning from suspension. One thing is clear: he is touchdown dependent in order to give you fantasy value. If you are in need of a “swing for the fences” player, this is your man. Keep in mind that he will not be fantasy relevant if he doesn’t score.

It gets worse. The Saints are travelling to Carolina to face the Panthers in a divisional matchup. It takes a special opponent (like the Bengals) for me to have confidence in a Running Back in an away game. To add fuel to this fire, the Panthers and Saints have always put on a show. Even though the Panthers have lost 5 in a row and appear to be falling apart at the seams, they will very likely show up for this divisional game in front of their home crowd who are hungry for a win.

Alvin Kamara is the lead back, Mark Ingram is picking up the scraps. If he scores a touchdown, your week is saved. This week, that is a huge If.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS BACKFIELD

What the heck is going on? Despite a positive rushing matchup against the Dolphins, Tom Brady threw the ball 43 times. The last 3 rushing touchdowns have been scored by James Develin. James Develin? James White had his expected PPR value game against the Vikings in week 13, but almost disappeared in week 14.  Sony Michel is getting the touches, but isn’t earning any value with them. It just hasn’t made sense.

But wait! There’s more! The Patriots travel to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers. On the season, the Steelers are the 6th best defense against the Running Back position for fantasy. Yes, they are on a 3 week losing streak and have allowed a rushing touchdown in each of their last 6 games. They are still holding the opposing Running Backs to low Yards Per Carry. So, let’s say the Patriots get to the goalline in a short yardage situation. Recent weeks have shown that they will give the ball to James Develin. Are you putting HIM in your starting lineup in the semi-finals? I didn’t think so.

Between the muddled backfield, the negative matchup, the away game, and the vultured touchdowns by James Develin, I just cannot get behind any Patriots Running Backs.

Tight End: Start ’em

KYLE RUDOLPLH (MINNESOTA VIKINGS)

We know he has the ability. The old OC just wasn’t giving him the opportunity. New OC, home game, and a positive matchup against the Dolphins leads me to believe that we will see a better game out of Kyle Rudolph.

I’ve already written about John DeFilippo above. We don’t need to rehash it here. Let’s just say that we could see a bit of a shake-up in who Kirk Cousins targets.

The Dolphins have been beaten by the Tight End position for the last half of the season! There are some obvious results like Gronk in week 14 or Ebron in week 12. But, there have been some other weeks that aren’t so obvious: Michael Roberts in week 7 or Jordan Thomas in week 8. In case those names are unfamiliar, they are from the Lions and Texans, respectively. My point is: You do not need to be a household name Tight End to have a great week against the Miami Dolphins defense.

Kyle Rudolph might even be on the free agent list in your league. If you aren’t fortunate enough to be a Kelce/Ertz/Ebron/Kittle owner and have been streaming the position, this is a great time to pick up Kyle Rudolph.

CJ UZOMAH (CINCINNATI BENGALS)

They’re playing the Raiders. The Oakland Raiders are the worst team against fantasy Tight Ends. CJ Uzomah has received 22 targets in the last 3 games. He will have the opportunity and Oakland knows how to allow production to the position.

Just like I said above, if you aren’t an owner of the big 4, you could do a lot worse than CJ Uzomah. You won’t feel very confident, but at least you’ll have the opportunity to do well.

Tight End: Sit ’em

TREY BURTON (CHICAGO BEARS)

Two weeks ago, I wrote that I had given up on Trey Burton until he proved otherwise. Well, the return of Mitchell Trubisky and the positive matchup against the Rams blinded me. I called Trey Burton a Start. Shame on me. Shame. On. Me. 2 catches for 22 yards.

The Bears might be playing at home this week, but they’re playing against the Green Bay Packers who, for all their faults, are the 3rd best team against fantasy Tight Ends. If you haven’t already, drop Trey Burton. Get that weight off of your shoulders.

Good luck to each of you in week 15! I usually say, “Unless you’re facing me.” However, I had a dreadful fantasy year in 2018. I am in exactly two playoff matchups this week. I guarantee that you aren’t facing me. I can say without any hesitation, “Good luck to you in Week 15!”

Week 14 RB/TE Start ’em Sit ’em

Like the rest of the fantasy universe, Derrick Henry was not in my starting lineup. He wasn’t even on my radar for this article. Why? Because he has stunk for the entire season. I wouldn’t have bothered entering him in my Sit ‘Em section because it was obvious.

I’ve heard a report that he was started in approximately 10% of leagues. I’m guessing that more than half of that 10% was on teams who threw in the towel early and walked away from their league leaving the same lineup that was in place in week 6.

If, by chance, you started Derrick Henry on purpose, not only have you likely won your week but you also win my Stupid Brave Award.

Let’s discuss some starts and sits.

Running Back: Start ’em

JUSTIN JACKSON (LOS ANGELES CHARGERS)

In week 13, the Chargers traveled to Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is a team that is good and solidly in the playoff hunt. Justin Jackson rushed 8 times for 63 yards and scored a touchdown. This week, the Chargers stay home. The weather is nicer and they’re near the ocean. Oh, I almost forgot, they’re playing against the Bubonic Plague…..oops, I mean Cincinnati Bengals.

The Bengals have lost four games in a row. During that four week stretch, they have allowed almost 1000 yards and exactly 10 touchdowns either on the ground or specifically to the Running Back position. I’ll do the math for you: 250 yards and 2.5 touchdowns per game. In standard leagues (no PPR), that’s 40 points per game. That is a gigantic pie.

“But, what about Austin Ekeler?” says my doubting reader. Here is a direct quote from head coach, Anthony Lynn, “He’s [Austin Ekeler] wearing down a little bit. He’s a core special teams guy for us and he’s played a lot of running back for us. So he’s a little tired. You might see Justin (Jackson) play a little bit more.”

My case is closed. Justin Jackson will be an RB1 this week. I might create a strategy on my DRAFT drafts this week to leave my final RB slot open until the last pick and grab Justin Jackson. (Use the code TOP2 for a special gift for new users.)

JAYLEN SAMUELS (PITTSBURGH STEELERS)

The Steelers do not spread the ball around when it comes to running plays. On the ground, James Conner is responsible for 81% of the Running Back rushing yards (909 out of 1117). When you add in the passing work involving Running Backs, that 81% gets even higher!

Let’s stop pretending that Stevan Ridley will get a share. If Stevan Ridley was good, he’d still be on the Patriots, or the Jets, or the Falcons. Let’s collectively forget the 2012 season when Stevan Ridley was the RB10 overall. Trent Richardson was RB9 that year, are we talking about him anymore?

Jaylen Samuels will get the lion’s share of the running back work against the miserable running defense that is the Oakland Raiders. The Steelers have company in the AFC North and they are surging; the Baltimore Ravens are in the mix and even the Browns are still alive. The Steelers will need every win.

You get bonus points if you’re in a Yahoo league and can start Jaylen Samuels in your Tight End slot. Ridiculous? Without a doubt but, we’re here to win.

Running Back: Sit ’em

MARLON MACK (INDIANAPOLIS COLTS)

This is going to be a tough week for Running Backs who play for the Colts. Well, except maybe Nyheim Hines. The Colts travel to Houston to play the Texans who have won 9 games in a row and have a frightening defensive line. This is no time to be a hero, keep Marlon Mack on your bench.

The Colts will likely be playing from behind. They may have to abandon the run game early on. Marlon Mack is not a big man. He’s 2 inches taller and 10 pounds heavier than Nyheim Hines who most analysts consider a small back. Between his size and the abandonment of the run game, he will not have the opportunity to wear down the Texans defense. Find your points somewhere else.

JOSH ADAMS (PHILADELPHIA EAGLES)

This one is more of a “temper your expectations” call. You’re going to start Josh Adams. He’s clearly the lead back on a team that should be doing much better. Unfortunately, they will be traveling to Dallas to play a Cowboys defense that isn’t very fond of allowing fantasy points to opposing Running Backs. In the last three weeks, the Cowboys faced the Falcons, the Redskins, and the Saints. The running back position for three teams (including the powerhouse Saints), combined, gained just over 300 yards and scored 1 touchdown. That’s less than 13 points per game to the position in non-PPR scoring. Josh Adams gets slightly more than half of the touches for the position, so that equates to about 7.5 points. Does that sound like somebody you want in your playoff roster? I didn’t think so.

Tight End: Start ’em

Sigh, here we go again.

TREY BURTON (CHICAGO BEARS)

Hang on, I just threw up a little in my mouth.

If Mitchell Trubisky starts, Trey Burton should have a good game. The Los Angeles Rams can be beat at the Tight End position. We can likely point to the Rams positive pressure rate even when they aren’t blitzing. This would require the QB to find a quick target. It’s perfect for the Tight End.

Burton was occasionally good with Trubisky, but disappeared with Chase Daniel behind center, so if Trubisky is benched in week 14, DO NOT start Trey Burton.

JARED COOK (OAKLAND RAIDERS)

Who else are they going to target?

At least Oakland is playing at home. They try harder when they play at home and the Steelers CAN be beat through the air.

Tight End: Sit ’em

CHRIS HERNDON (NEW YORK JETS)

The Jets are playing an away game this week. They’re playing against the Buffalo Bills. The Bills have allowed the 28th most fantasy points to the Tight End position (5.5 points per game). On the bright side, Herndon doesn’t share a lot of the workload at his position. He gets between 70-80% of the offensive snaps while the other Tight Ends get about 30% each. I suppose you could do worse than Herndon. The matchup is quite scary for me, so I say “Sit him.”

Good luck to each of you in week 14! Unless you’re facing me. In that case, I hope you bought Super Smash Bros Ultimate for your Switch. You’re having so much fun that you forgot to set your lineup!

It’s the playoffs. Yeah, right.