Player Spotlight: The Mystery of Marshawn Lynch

The NFL prides itself on its ability to change. Every offseason, a team makes a splash and a surprise occurs. This offseason, no surprise was bigger than Marshawn Lynch coming out of retirement and being traded from the Seattle Seahawks to his hometown Oakland Raiders. The Raiders, fresh off one of their best seasons in over a decade, needed someone to replace the recent departure of Latavius Murray. Lynch is not only a replacement, but an upgrade even with the year away from football.

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Above: We found out what Marshawn did before the Raiders came calling

Comparing 2015 Lynch to 2016 Murray

Now before we get all analytical, it is important to note games played. In Lynch’s final season with the Seahawks, he only managed to play in 7 total games. He averaged 3.8 yards per carry and was only able to crack the endzone 3 total times (all rushing) on the season.

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Above: Live look at the Seahawks O-line the last time Lynch terrorized opposing defenses

Murray had a forgetful final year in Oakland after breaking 1,000 yards in just his second year as a pro. In 14 games, Murray averaged 4 yards per carry and was able to find pay dirt a whopping 12 times. While those numbers are impressive, his 788 total rushing yards and diminished role as the season went on were not. Lynch, like Murray, will have to split time with Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington in the Raider backfield.

The O-line Matters…Big Time

One overwhelming positive for Lynch this season is he’ll be running behind one of the top offensive lines in the league. In 2015, Lynch was forced to run behind the 30th ranked Offensive Line in the entire league according to Pro-Football Focus. The Seahawks were ranked 29th in run blocking. No need to be an expert to know how bad that number is.
In 2016, the Oakland Raiders boasted the 4th best offensive line in all of football according to Pro-Football Focus. The most absurd thing about the Oakland O-line is that the average starter is 6’4 and 327 pounds. That is a step below a refrigerator running at you and clearing a path for a guy who is no small back in his own right. Beast mode will be able to eat in Oakland for sure.

The Offense

Look at the Oakland offense and you’ll see why they are a possible super bowl contender this year. Derek Carr is a stud, Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are a dangerous receiving duo, the O-Line is still in tact and now they have added Marshawn Lynch. If the Raiders fail in 2017, it won’t be due to lack of offense. They have the weapons to be a top 5 and possibly a top 3 offense in the entire league.

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Above: Marshawn wants you to hold something

Focusing back on Lynch, I’ll take it a step further with my prediction. Assuming good health (a big assumption since he only managed to play in 7 games in 2015 then took a year off), I will say Lynch will average 4 yards a carry while running for 1,200 yards and scoring a staggering 15 TDs to become one of the best backs in football once again.
Look out NFL, Beast Mode is back.

How to Take Your League to the Next Level: Starting a Keeper League

Depending on the year, I (Matt) run 3-5 fantasy football leagues but my favorite is always my keeper league. Playing in a keeper league takes competition to the next level. It means that come trade deadline time there are buyers and seller just like the pros. It means you use your IR to hold onto players that are out for the season. It also means the trash talk is so much better. A keeper league, however, takes a lot of commitment from both the league manager and the players from year to year, so it can be a bit daunting to take a leap of faith and start that league; here’s 4 tips to help you take your league to the next level from someone who’s keeper league is currently on its 7th season. 

  1. Make Sure Everyone Knows Everyone

This may seem simple, but it’s crucial for a successful keeper league to work long term. My league is made up of a bunch of friends from my hometown. Through the 7 seasons we’ve played together we’ve formed understandings of how each other draft, who is the one that never offers a fair trade, and who consistently finishes at the bottom of the league. We have 3 keepers per year, which really gives our teams character. The sense of community that comes with this type of league makes it feel more authentic, almost like we’re managing professional teams.

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  1. Keep Track of League History

This helps up the smack talk and keep everyone competitive throughout the season. Even when players in my league are eliminated from playoffs they keep up with their teams and usually avoid tanking because they don’t want to drop in the overall league standings that I post after every season. I recommend tracking: overall record, division winners, regular season awards (if you have them), and of course, league championships.

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  1. Be Intentional About Divisions

 Since teams are more consistent year to year there’s a unique opportunity in to be intentional about the way you organize divisions. I mentioned above I keep track of each team’s combined regular season record from all 7 seasons. I use this record to organize my league into 3 divisions: DI, DII, and DIII; with the 4 best teams being in DI and the worst teams in DIII. Division winners are guaranteed playoff berths and then we have 3 wildcard spots (there’s 12 teams, and the top 2 seeds get byes). This makes it so the best fantasy players in the league get better by competing against each other for that guaranteed playoff spot and the worst players have a shot every year to finally make it to the playoffs. This seriously ups the competitive nature of the league, since players take pride in being ranked a “DI” player and “D3” players who are stigmatized as perennial underdogs can still be the champion of…something.

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  1. Switch it Up, Make Your League Unique

No matter how competitive it is, things can get stale if they’re the same from year to year. Don’t be afraid to be unique when making rules for your league. In this league we utilize the Offensive Player (OP) position. This usually means having a second starting QB on your roster and it adds a whole different element to the league. When thinking about making changes from year to year always ask your players for their opinions about what can be done to improve the league. They’ll appreciate having buy-in and it’ll make all the players feel like they contribute to the success of your keeper league. If your league is split about making a change, just do it!

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The 6 Fantasy Players You Find in Every League

A wise person once said “keep your friends close and your fantasy football opponents closer”, or something like that. If you want to be successful you need to understand the other teams in your league just as much as you understand your own. There are some fantasy players that will show up in all of these leagues, for better or for worse. If you want to finish in the Top 2 of your league these are the players you need to know:

  1. The One that Drafts Players from Their Favorite NFL Team

We all know one of these fantasy players. They tend to be new to fantasy sports, eagerly drafting every player they know with no regard for positions or basic fantasy concepts. They’re the ones drafting Drew Brees in the first round because they just got his jersey for their birthday. Every now and then, though, the experienced fantasy players pick up this mentality too, they spend their offseason following training camps and reading too far into players’ tweets. They believe that because they are sitting in row 37 A in Week 5 they can safely predict that this is Mark Ingram’s breakout year, and no they don’t care that their team also signed Adrian Peterson and drafted Alvin Kamara. I always suggest completely avoiding drafting players on your favorite NFL team and players on their rival team. This helps you see a player’s really fantasy value and stops you from getting burned twice when your favorite player fumbles, throws an interception, or downright disappoints you. This player isn’t a threat to you but they may hound you to give them Brandin Cooks before they realize he got traded 3 months ago.

 

  1. The Player that Won’t Stop Offering You Trades

This one is more annoying than dangerous. They are the one that makes you turn off notifications from the ESPN app because your phone won’t stop vibrating from their ridiculous offers. They are hitting up your Facebook inbox with another ridiculous package deal. They slide into your Twitter DMs with messages like “you’re the only trade partner I need, we are perfect for each other” even though you know they are also offering trades to the jerk with the good hair that always finishes in first place. They even hit you up with those texts at 2 am that read “you up? I’m trying to trade”. The key to this player is to keep making counter offers that tilt in your favor, after a while they’ll accept a bogus offer because they just want to get you to finally agree to that trade they’ve worked so hard for. Instant validation for both parties, and your significant other can stop being concerned with that strange person that’s always blowing up your phone.

 

  1. The Player that is Way too into Fantasy Sports

This player loves fantasy sports, they are currently in the middle of 3 fantasy baseball seasons and have already drafted for 2 of their 6 fantasy football leagues. They follow every sports personality on twitter constantly hoping for a nugget of statistical relevance to cling onto. Seriously, these players will even watch Sports Science hoping that they can gain insight. You go out to get a beer with them and can’t talk about anything but fantasy sports; not even real sports. This player is so desperate for fantasy insight they are reading a blog that started two days ago by two amateur fantasy sports bloggers. These players are exactly who we are, they are the best fantasy sports players, and they are the most dangerous players in your league because they always want that “W” more than you. Also, I’m just kidding about Sports Science, nobody watches that.

 

  1. The Mimic

The mimic is the worst of the worst. This fantasy GM is the type of person who swipes up that player you wanted one or two spots ahead of where you would have picked them. This person might as well be a mind reader. Whether it’s a crystal ball or your own big mouth, you need to play things close to the vest when approaching the mimic. When talking to the mimic, come to the realization that you might as well be talking to yourself. Side note: one possible way to outsmart the mimic is to lead them down the wrong path. Tell them about a player you think will kill it this season but don’t make it too obvious that you are just blowing smoke. Make it believable that you would actually pick the garbage player and watch the mimic shoot himself in the foot. Unfortunately, most of the time the mimics do not reveal themselves. They are quiet and collected and the moment they have the chance to steal a player you want, they’ll pounce. You’ve been warned!

  1. The Waiver Wire Hero

Everybody who plays fantasy football should take notes on the waiver wire hero. This type of fantasy GM knows that drafting your team is only half the battle. If we’re talking sports, injury talk is sure to follow. You need to have a list of back-up options ready to go. The waiver wire hero rummages through the scraps hoping to strike gold. It may sound rare, but this actually happens very often. I was once in a league with some friends a few years back and a certain waiver wire hero picked up some random rookie receiver by the name of Odell Beckham Jr. He beat me in the championship BECAUSE OF OBJ. The waiver wire hero is the most dangerous player in the game.

 

  1. The All Too Often Underrated Female Player

Fantasy football leagues always seem to be full of dudes. There appears to be this perception that female players will be less engaged in leagues or aren’t “die-hard” enough fans to win fantasy leagues. Women love football just as much as everyone else and that means that you’d be a fool to underestimate the female player in your league. I can personally attest to this; the league I run for my Knoxville friends (Go Vols) included 3 female players and 7 males last season. All 3 female players finished in the top 6, with a female player ultimately winning it all (shoutout to B-Wright). Bottom line here, gentlemen, is it’s 2017 and if you want to win you need to take every player serious.

 

Honorable Mentions:

The player with the horrible team name: We all know that one GM who just does not know how to name a fantasy team. They go with something corny like a pokemon pun or a joke that only they would find funny. DON”T BE THIS TYPE OF PLAYER, do some research and find a good name. Also, don’t be that fantasy owner that names their team after a player who isn’t on their roster!

The Trash Talker:  Nothing we can do here but beat the snot out of this player’s team. They let their mouth run and talk the talk and all you can do to shut them up is walk the walk. Most of the time this person is full of hot air and likes the Cowboys.

The quitter:  Now if you are involved in a money league, this type of person is not a problem. However, if you’re playing just for fun then there will likely be at least 1 or 2 of these types of players. It’s unfortunate but if there is no reason to play, then odds are someone will lose interest because fantasy football is only for those in it for the long haul.

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How to Avoid Making Rookie Mistakes

Since we are rookies to blogging, we thought it was only appropriate to start by talking about NFL rookies, we encourage you to give feedback in the comments! 

It’s July, which is a dangerous time for fantasy football players; the time of year where our excitement outweighs rationale thoughts. We begin to forget about the surprising disappointments of last season (looking at you, Cam) and the perennial disappointments, maybe this year Desean Jackson will be more consistent? What is fresh in our minds, though, are the flashy highlight reels, big time college stats, and questionable suit choices that come along with the NFL draft. It’s so easy to think that these players can be immediate impact players for our teams, yet rookies rarely make or break a fantasy roster. Below we break down who we think might be fantasy contributors this year, and who we think you should avoid like Roger Goodell avoids Gillette Field.

Quarterbacks

It’s a pretty safe fantasy rule not to draft QBs early, it’s a safer rule not to draft rookie QBs at all. There are plenty of good quarterback options this season without considering rookies, even if you are in a league that allows you to start 2 QBs. This is the fantasy position with the least potential for rookies.

Deshaun Watson

Deshaun Watson currently has the highest Average Draft Position (ADR) of all rookie QBs, according to ESPN. His ADR is 120, which puts him as a decent option in the 10th or 12th round, depending on league size. I think the Texans will stick with Savage to open the season, and turn to Watson once they realize there is little difference between Osweiler and Savage. This will likely be too late to benefit fantasy owners, so my suggestion is: let Watson get drafted by an impatient owner who will release him after week 2; then claim him on waivers if Houston struggles early. –Matt

Deshone Kizer

Speaking of Osweiler; I think he has a rebound this season. Not like a “Drew Brees after getting traded to the Saints” rebound but a decent enough one to keep the starting job in Cleveland. I think this is a tempting pick, but Kizer won’t pay off for overzealous fantasy owners any more than he did for underwhelmed Notre Dame fans. –Matt

Mitch Trubisky

Just because Chicago blew their draft on a subpar ACC quarterback doesn’t mean you have to. He’s a QB 4 at best and should be avoided. –Matt

Patrick Mahomes II

Not a chance. The best thing Mahomes has going for him is overinflated college stats from playing in the Big XII, which I’m pretty sure is the best conference in the Group of 6. I only commented on Mahomes so I could mention that Alex Smith is underrated, even for fantasy owners. –Matt

Josh Dobbs

Am I only talking about Dobbs because he’s a Vol? Maybe. But, I think he has serious sleeper potential. Big Ben, who spent a chunk of the offseason mulling retirement, is beaten up and I wouldn’t be shocked if he misses significant playing time at some point this season. Although Dobbs has a mediocre arm, he can scramble very well. That dual-threat is always beneficial for fantasy owners. You still shouldn’t consider drafting him, but if Roethlisberger get injured put a claim on him quick. –Matt

Runningbacks

The RB position has been weak for fantasy owners over the last few years. It appears that trend will continue this year, and that is why there is strong potential for rookies to make fantasy impacts at this position.

Leonard Fournette

I love Fournette as a fantasy player this year. His current ADR is 25, which puts him a 2nd or 3rd round pick, depending on league size. That seems like a bit of a risk for someone who has never had a carry in the NFL. It seems like even more of a risk for someone who is wearing a Jaguars jersey. Fournette, however, could be the spark in a Jacksonville offense which seems to be on the brink of a breakthrough. If Fournette takes pressure off Bortles, we could see more success in their passing game; which will lead to a healthy dose of redzone handoffs for this big back. Since I run a keeper league, I’m willing to take that risk and hope he pays off as much as the last LSU rookie I took a risk on. –Matt

Christian McCaffery

If I ran a PPR league I’d take McCaffery over Fournette. Since I don’t, I’m still considering him a hot commodity in the 3rd or 4th round (ADR of 32). McCaffery was an explosive college player, who had a quiet senior season on an unsuccessful Stanford team. Don’t forget, however, that this is the player who should’ve won the 2015 Heisman trophy after racking up almost 2,500 combined rushing and receiving yards during his junior season. There are a couple of elements working against him, though: including Jonathan Stewart cutting into his carries and a quarterback who prefers to get the rushing yards himself. Still, McCaffery is a solid pick, and worthy of consideration for a future keeper. –Matt

Joe Mixon

I’m not starting this with “I’m here to strictly speak about his ability to play football” because, well I’m not. I’m giving Mixon a hard pass. –Matt

Wide Receivers

The words wide receiver and rookie do not go well together. Most of the time, rookie wide outs take a year or two to blossom into what they were expected to be on draft day. Unless you’re Odell Beckham Jr., you’re likely going to take some time to develop. Looking at this year’s class, there are some intriguing prospects but all of them have some type of deterrent.

Mike Williams – This guy couldn’t have gone to a better team. Williams is the type of big body receiver that Philip Rivers loves to throw to. Williams will develop nicely as long as he is able to stay on the field, but that seems to be somewhat of a recurring problem. In 2015 at Clemson, Williams broke a bone in his neck on the first offensive series of the season for the Tigers. He would miss the rest of the season and now, as a rookie, is dealing with mild disk herniation in his back. Nothing worse than falling behind the 8-ball as a rookie and it already wasn’t too appealing since Rivers has a whole 467 targets to throw to. Williams is only worth a late round flyer but he has some tremendous upside. Eric

Corey Davis – I’m starting the Marcus Mariota fan club this year, if it hasn’t been started already. The Titans are a sneaky good team that has the potential to make the playoffs but this isn’t real life, this is fantasy. For Corey Davis, the rookie wide out that was the 5th pick in the draft, the Titans are a very solid team to play for. They have a young QB who keeps improving every year. They have a running game that could possibly be second to none. They also have a lack of talent at the wide receiver position so Davis can come right in and be the sure-fire number 1 option. Eric Decker was recently signed but he is always good for an injury or two during the season, plus he seems to be in more of a mentoring role for someone like Davis. I like Davis as a mid-round prospect but don’t go too high because he is a rookie after all. If you are going to bank on a rookie wide receiver doing it big this season though, then this is the guy.  -Eric

John Ross – The speedster out of Washington turned heads with his NFL-record breaking 40-yard dash time of 4.22 seconds. This cheetah of a human being is small but quick and seems to be drawing the obvious comparison of Brandin Cooks. Having a QB like Andy Dalton isn’t the worst thing, but the Bengals have a myriad of targets to throw to including Tyler Eifert and AJ Green as the top guys. Ross can be a very good complimentary slot piece for the Bengals and is worth a late round flyer.  -Eric

JuJu Smith-Schuster – The name alone is first round talent. BET ON THIS MAN.  -Eric

Tight Ends

If you’re not drafting Gronkowski then you’re taking a risk when you draft your Tight End. Don’t jump on a rookie TE early, actually don’t jump on any TE early. If you’re patient, though, a rookie TE could pay off big…well as big as a TE can pay off.

O.J. Howard

Howard is a flashy pick. He’s got huge size and was a large topic of conversation during the draft. He has a lot of fantasy challenges facing him, though. Cameron Brate was a popular target for Jameis Winston last season, and that isn’t likely to change. More importantly, Mike Evans is going to get the majority of redzone targets. Winston, also, doesn’t seem to be progressing to an elite level anytime soon; so as it stands now Howard is receiving half of the passes from a quarterback who will miss him half of those times. Also, O.J. Howard and Alabama lost the national championship game.–Matt

David Njoku

Njoku currently has an ADR of 134, which is the 12th or 13th round; about 1 round later than Howard. I think this makes him a steal pick. Njoku brings a similar presence to the field as Howard, but has a much better fantasy situation. With the departure of Terrell Pryor, Cleveland lacks impact receivers. Regardless of whether Osweiler or Kizer is taking snaps, they’ll be looking to dump short passes to Njoku a lot. Even in non-PPR leagues this can pay off. He won’t see that many redzone targets but I expect him to rack up a decent amount of yards per game. I’m looking at Njoku as a consistent option for a position that rarely features any type of consistency. –Matt

Kickers

You didn’t actually think we were going to talk about kickers, did you?