Ranking Rookie Fantasy Breakouts.

5) Ke-Shawn Vaughn, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Vaughn is going to immediately push the underwhelming Ronald Jones in his first season in Tampa Bay. Despite playing for the often overlooked Vanderbilt Commodores Vaughn put together some great statistical years his final two seasons.  

An explosive back that can break away from any tacklers if given space to work one on one. He will most likely be looked at as a third down back at the very least to help in the pass game.  Early looks would put him in a spot similar to James White in New England. While Bruce Arians has openly said that Ronald Jones will start the season as the number one back but Vaughn has too much big play potential to not make a difference in the league. 

4) Michael Pittman Jr, WR, Indianapolis Colts

The Colt’s dealt with consistent wide receiver injuries during the 2019 season.  The addition of Michael Pittman Jr gives them insurance incase of another potential injury apocalypse.  Pittman has great hands and a great frame for impact in the red zone.  At 6’4” 223 pounds his frame is similar to Mike Williams.  Philip Rivers had an instant connection with Williams in Los Angeles leading to double digit touchdowns in 2018.  

Pittman Jr. is a physical receiver that fits in well with TY Hilton and Paris Campbell who will be able to stretch the field with their speed leaving the middle open.  Pittman Jr.’s size and ability to handle press coverage will make him an immediate producer.  

3) Cam Akers, RB, Los Angeles Rams

The Los Angeles Rams spent their first pick of the draft on a running back.  The obvious is that they believe in the talent of the former Florida State star.  Despite having Malcom Brown and Darrell Henderson I see Cam Akers winning the starting spot.  Akers had great numbers in college behind a subpar offensive line and will now be behind a more improved offensive line heading into next season.  

Akers had 18 touchdowns (14 rush, 4 pass) in his final season as a Seminole, showing he has a nose for the end zone.  His pass catching ability is going to fit in nicely with Sean McVay’s offense.  The most telling part of the story of Akers is he was the first pick of the Rams, meaning they had little faith in their existing backs on the roster.  He will be given the chance to succeed.  Most rookies don’t get that chance right away. 

2) Jerry Juedy, WR, Denver Broncos

I literally jumped out of my seat when Jeudy dropped to the Broncos at 15.  Denver was in need of a second option behind Courtland Sutton.  Jeudy combines deadly deep ball speed with unique acceleration in and out of routes that allows him to keep opposing defenders on their heels at all times.  

While CeeDee Lamb is in a great spot Juedy has the potential to be the first option in Denver.  Jeudy will immediately be in the starting lineup.  He will immediately be given chances to make an impact.  The Broncos will be a much better offense in 2020 and Jeudy will have a chance to be an elite receiver.  I would still take Courtland Sutton before him in a fantasy draft but Juedy will be on my radar in early rounds. 

1) Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

A dynamic dual threat option in an RPO offense.  Kansas City had a running back carousel last season with injuries and lack of production.  They needed a guy that they could rely on.  Edwards-Helaire posted 1,414 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns for the defending National Champions.  He became the only player in SEC history to rush for over 1,000 yards and have 55 catches.  

Before the Patrick Mahomes days Andy Reid was money for fantasy running backs.  Before the release of Kareem Hunt, Reid had 12 straight seasons with a back in the top 10 in fantasy.  No matter who he put on the field they found ways to produce.  The Chiefs have obvious talent all over the field and will now have a serious threat in the backfield.  Edwards-Helaire should be the starting going into camp and if he stays healthy he should be a very high upside second or third round pick. 

Three Fits for Jameis Winston

New England Patriots

Jameis Winston with Bill Belichick may seem like a ridiculous combination.  But maybe this is exactly what Jameis needs. A stable organization that is going to have a solid game plan week in and week out.  The Patriots are beginning to rebuild the organization on the offensive side. Obviously the Patriots will look to bring back Tom Brady but even if they do, signing a 26 year old Winston to a two-year deal and having him as an insurance policy would not be a crazy idea.  The Patriots have young receivers with speed like N’Keal Harry and Jacoby Meyers that they can develop along with Winston.  

This move would be completely wild if not for the stability of the Patriots defense and the mind of Bill Belichick.  Jameis would have to become a different type of quarterback, limiting his turnovers would be step one but that would be the case no matter where he signs.  New England has shown the ability to rehab players’ careers. If they can turn Winston into a winning quarterback it could be the greatest example of their internal strength.

Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers had a gunslinger last year. Their problem was their gunslinger was old and past his prime. Jameis has similar turnover issues as Rivers but he does bring a bit of mobility needed to allow talented receivers like Kennan Allen, Mike Williams and Hunter Henry to get open and push downfield.  Winston has never had a versatile runningback like Austin Ekeler that can be a solid check down option for Winston.  

Los Angeles is looking for a splash, but seeing Tom Brady join the AFC West competing with Patrick Mahomes twice a year would not be a good move for the GOAT.  Winston wouldn’t be as flashy but pairing him with those skilled players and a defens that can force tunrovers make him a great fit. 

Green Bay Packers

The Packers have Aaron Rodgers.  Do they really need the headache of Jameis?  The answer is no but would it really be a bad idea to keep their options open as Rodgers gets closer to the tailend of his career.  Roders is 36 years old and has shown injury issues over the last two seasons. Having Jameis on the bench ready to step in incase of an injury would allow the Packers to have a solid option rather than throw out guys that are nowhere near the skill level of Rodgers. 

We have seen what Jameis can do with talented receivers, placing him with Davante Adams would work very well.  Quietly Jameis has really found a way to help younger recievers progress so wo

Wildcard Weekend Picks ATS and SU

Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans -3

This game has upset written all over it.  The Texans are three point favorites mainly due to the home field advantage they will take into this game. Being at home may not actually be an advantage for the Texans.  Houston was 5-3 both home and away in 2019 but has only covered the spread in two of those eight games.  

DeShaun Watson has struggled over his last three games throwing five interceptions in those games. Matching up with a Buffalo defense that is giving up just 16.19 points per game this season. Buffalo is tough to move the ball against and they will need to jump out to an early lead to control the tempo of the game.  Buffalo will have a Tre’Davious White shadowing the DeAndre Hopkings throughout the game which should limit his big play ability. If Watson can utilize his secondary options he will be successful, that has not always been great for Houston though. Watson is in a tough spot, he will have to carry the offense.

Josh Allen and the Bills offense has been inconsistent at times but the emergence of Devin Singletary has given Buffalo a versatile offensive threat that opens up the big play ability  of John Brown. Relying totally on the Bills offense would worry me if they didn’t have such an advantage on the defensive end. 

Pick: Bills ML

Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots -5

A nightmare of a matchup for any team, the Tennessee Titans will enter into a context with the greatest QB of all time as well as arguably the best coach of all time. The Titans have found something in former Miami cast off Ryan Tannahill.  Tannahill has found a way to elevate the entire roster making a star out of rookie AJ Brown. Derrick Henry has thrived with the new addition of a passing game. Henry walked away with the leagues rushing title.  

The Patriots have found trouble moving the ball.  They will have to find a way to establish the running game as the Titans have given up 117 yards per game over their last three.  The Patriots will have to lean a lot on Sony Michel. He and Rex Burkhead helped New England average 151 rush yards over its last three contests. 

The Patriots are struggling on both ends.  They still possess a dominant defense, Stephen Gilmore will most likely be matched up with AJ Brown.  If Gilmore can shut down the rookie that will allow the Pat’s defense to focus on shutting down Henry. The Titans will hang around but the Patriots have enough to pull this one out.  Don’t get wrapped up on the loss to the Dolphins, this is still a capable Patriots team. 

Pick: Pats win, Titans Cover

Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints -9

This game is hard to ignore the underlying narrative of the Case Keenum miracle throw to Stefon Diggs just two years ago.  With Kirk Cousins now behind center for Minnesota you immediately have questions about his big game performances of the past.  The Saints are the superior team, but with Dalvin Cook most likely available in this game it seems like nine points is just too much.  

I don’t have much of an opinion on this one, should be the most lopsided game of the day.  Late garbage time touchdown gets the cover for the Vikings.   

Pick: Saints win, Vikings Cover

Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles +1.5

A battle of injury riddled playoff teams will come down to which quarterback will be able to overcome those injuries in order to establish their offense.  Carson Wentz has been phenomenal this season becoming the first ever quarterback with 4,000 yards in a season where not one of his wide receivers had over 500 yards.  

Russell Wilson has a legitimate argument for MVP of the National Football League.  The Seahawks lost a lot in week 16 and 17. Most notable they will be without Chris Carson.  Marshawn Lynch and Travis Homer took over the backfield duties last week against the stout 49ers defense.  Even with Carson out the way you beat the Eagles is by throwing the ball. Wilson will have to connect with Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf to open up the running lanes for Beast Mode and company.  Surprisingly the Eagles defense has been great at home and should force pressure on Wilson.  

The biggest question coming into this game will be the health of the last man standing, Eagles Tight End Zach Ertz.  While injuries to Lane Johnson and Miles Sanders are important, Wentz has always relied on Ertz and if he is healthy enough to play he will at the very least be a great decoy to open up one on ones for Greg Ward and Dallas Goedert.  I am least confident in this pick, I am taking Eagles -1.5.

Pick: Eagles -1.5

The Airing of Fantasy Football Grievances!

Being a fantasy football champion is not easy.  As a multiple time champion across many leagues I have found that your season can be dependant on many things.  If you draft well, you can be set if you avoid injuries. If you don’t draft well you better be good at working the waiver wire.  After my most recent championship was locked in yesterday, I took a look at how some teams drafted and wanted to help them air out their grievances. In honor of the great Seinfeld’s festivus we are going to host the airing of grievances to our top three fantasy disappointments in 2019. 

3. David Montegomery, RB, Chicago Bears

A popular sleeper in most leagues, this rookie RB out of Iowa State was supposed to walk into an awesome situation.  Taking over the primary back roll with for the departing Jordan Howard should have lead to solid production for a run heavy offense.  Well that was not the story of 2019 for Montegomery. The problem was not completely on the rookie. The Bears had plenty of problems other than their running game.  

Still when you finish the season ranked behind James White, Ronald Jones and just two points ahead of James Conner (played ten games) you have to be called a bust.  Montegomery went from a top sleeper to a droppable option. Next season could be a different story for the Bears and their run game but for the 2019 season they deserve to be hated.

2. Le’Veon Bell, RB, New York Jets

Remember last year when people took Le’veon Bell with a top three pick in their drafts?  I do, because I was one of those people. Bell was supposed to have a new life in New York.  An up and coming Quarterback, an offense with some solid weapons, a team that was on the rise.  Bell was going to be the final piece of the puzzle of a team that was supposed to compete in 2019.  We forgot about Adam Gase.  

Le’Veon Bell has averaged just 3.3 YPC, 4 total touchdowns and 61 receptions.  All of these numbers acceptable for a fifth round RB3 on your team, but not for a guy that was a preseason #18 average draft position.  Bell currently ranks 15th overall in fantasy points by running backs, behind rookie Miles Sanders, barely ahead of Kenyan Drake. Bell’s season was ok, but we don’t want ok.  Hey Adam Gase this guy is the best player you have on the field. Be smarter.

1. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Cleveland Browns

The Browns were going to be good in 2019.  Baker Mayfield and new addition Odell Beckham Jr.  were going to set the league on fire with a huge aerial attack.  Beckham Jr. was finally happy and can flourish to his full potential…… Uh no.   The Browns much like Beckham’s fantasy output have been a complete flop this season.  

Odell was projected as the #6 wide receiver in most preseason ADP, closing as the 18th player overall in most leagues.  You were spending a second round fantasy pick on a guy that has seen the end zone just two times the entire season heading into week 16.  

Odell found some success in game 16 of the year but he already burned you and it’s too late to make up for it now.

Thursday Night Pick Steelers vs. Browns

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns -3 

The Steelers have won four straight games propelling them into AFC playoff contention.   It’s been the defense that has taken the reigns with the loss of Big Ben and injury to James Conner. The Steelers defense has allowed fewer than 193 passing yards and 96 rushing yards over their last three games. Pittsburgh was able to bottle up the red-hot Cooper Kupp last week.  They will look to do the same to Odell Beckham. Beckham was targeted ten times last week but was still unable to make an impact in a game that Cleveland actually won. 

Cleveland’s offensive line has been solid on the run but has had serious problems protecting Baker in throwing situations. The Steelers are third in the league in sacks, while applying a ton of pressure.  Baker Mayfield has been subpar under pressure this season.  Mayfield has a completion percentage of just 37% while under pressure this season. Mayfield’s flaws are apparent, this matchup is not good for the struggling former #1 pick. 

Both of these teams need this win.  The Cleveland flaws are obvious.  Pittsburgh will be able to exploit those flaws while Mason Rudolph does what he does best: game manage.  Steelers are just a better overall team, most importantly better coaching. 

Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers +3

Forget the Waiver Wire- Play your Bench

Injuries week one are going to open the door for multiple “handcuffs” and waiver wire pickups to make an impact in week two.  Injuries to Darrius Guice, Nick Foles, Tevin Coleman and Joe Mixon should leave other players with a chance to make impacts.  I am looking more toward the players that showed up bigger than expected the first week of the season.  Here are three players that are will continue to overplay their preseason fantasy value in week two. They are most likely owned in your league, put them in the lineup!

Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, Baltimore Ravens (32% ESPN) (30% Yahoo)

Speed plays in the NFL. Look at the breakouts of Alvin Kamara and Tyreke Hill over the past few seasons.  Marquise Brown showed off that speed in his first career NFL game. Catching his first pass for a 47-yard slant straight to the endzone.  Brown continued to dominate the field going for 147 total yards and adding another 40-yard touchdown reception.  

Marquise will get another favorable matchup in week 2 when the Ravens take on the Arizona Cardinals who just gave up 385 passing yards to the Detroit Lions in week one.  Danny Amendola put up huge numbers last week hauling in seven catches for 101 yards and a touchdown.  While Brown will have his ups and downs during his first season in the league he will have flashes of brilliance like he did Week 1.  Week 2 should be just as explosive. 

Jamison Crowder, New York Jets, (70% ESPN) (46% Yahoo)

Drafting Jamison Crowder always comes with its risk.  As a multi time Crowder drafter I have been bite quit a few times.  Like an addict though I just couldn’t get enough of the potential high that Crowder can bring.  Taking Crowder looks like it may pay off heading into week one.  Crowder found himself as the favorite target for Sam Darnold. catching 14 of 17 passes for 99 yards. While Crowder didn’t find the endzone he still brought tons of value especially in PPR leagues. 

The best part about Crowder is that he is still available in over 50% of leagues.  Crowder’s health during a full season is always up in the air. In week two the Jets will matchup with the Browns coming off of an embarrassing defeat against the Tennessee Titans 43-13.  Marcus Mariota was able to torch the Browns secondary, the Jets should have a similar chance to do that on Monday.  

Devin Singletary, Buffalo Bills, (70% ESPN) (71% Yahoo)

Singletary was listed at the top of the depth chart in Buffalo to begin the season.  Playing 70% of the snaps for the Bills in week one showed who was considered to be the #1 RB for Buffalo but his actual carries were limited to just four actual carries.  Singletary was able to gain 70 yards as well as bring in five catches. Singletary showed the bust-out potential he has, which will make him a featured back going into week 2. 

A matchup with the Giants defense is just what the doctor ordered for a potential impactful game. New York gave up 151 rushing yards to the Dallas Cowboys last week, they should not bring an impactful push against the run heavy Buffalo Bills.  Singletary will be the featured back and should have a very solid game ahead of him.  I’m looking for 100+ rushing yards and 50+ receiving yards.

Five Backup Rb’s that could be Fantasy Relevant

Ito Smith, Atlanta Falcons

Ito Smith had a nice 2018 season, filling for the injured Devonta Freeman.  Smith was still forced to play second fiddle to Tevin Coleman but was able to average 3.5 yards per carry and add four touchdowns, doing so with just 90 carries on the season. 

With Coleman now in San Francisco Smith should be secured as he #2 behind Devonta Freeman.  The Falcons defense was an atrocity last season.  Constantly playing from behind forced Atlanta to abandon the run game.  Assuming they don’t have the same injury trouble of the defense Atlanta should have a chance to be a good team next season.  Which means they will commit to the run more.  Freeman, the usually durable and versitale back will give up some carries to Smith to avoid injury.  I like Smith’s chances to be a late round selection especially for Freeman handcuffs.

Carlos Hyde, Kansas City Chiefs

The great mystery of Carlos Hyde will continue in Kansas City.  Is Carlos Hyde a legit option as a RB1.  He will split time in KC to start the season behind last season’s end of the year darling Damien Williams.  Williams has never seen more then 13 carries in a game or more then 50 carries in a season. 

Chief running backs are always a target for me in any format as Andy Reid loves to punch it in on the goal line.  The arm of Patrick Mahomes also opens up the middle of the field and the check downs. Hyde has the talent to be a top back if Damien Williams can’t be consistent.

Darrell Henderson, Los Angeles Rams

This one is simple, there is word out that Todd Gurley may not be 100% going into the season. Henderson was a college star at Memphis rushing for 1,909 yards and 22 touchdowns in his final season.  Henderson’s transition to the NFL should be seamless in the Los Angeles system. Last season we saw how CJ Anderson got off his coach and was able to make an impact for the Rams. 

Todd Gurley is the obvious #1 back but if anything happens to Gurley, Henderson will be a steal for anyone that takes him. 

Chase Edmonds, Arizona Cardinals

Once upon a time there was a future star named David Johnson.  Johnson had a tough season; injuries and a rather odd game plan slowed the offense and the fantasy scoring in check.  Edmonds stepped in for the injured Johnson and showed that he can be productive.  With Kliff Kingsbury at the helm everyone on the field becomes fantasy relevant.  Edmonds is a handcuff to start the season but can quickly become a featured back as the season progresses.

David Montgomery, Chicago Bears

The Bears shocked many by moving workhorse back Jordan Howard in the offseason.  Presumably opening it up for their spread offseason and a large amount of Tarick Cohen.  While Cohen will be a must in a PPR format, a sleeper will be 3rdround draft picks out of Iowa State David Montgomery.  

It’s hard to believe that the Bears will just feature Cohen as a solo back. Mike Davis was signed in the offseason to be a bruiser back, but he has been around the block and not found his niche in the NFL and there is no reason to think he will in this system. Look at Montgomery late in case you are not a believer in Cohen.

Isaac Bruce should be in Canton

Isaac Bruce spent 16-years in the NFL as one of the most underrated players of his generation.  When Bruce retired not only was he arguably the best player in the history of the St. Louis Rams but was also second all-time in receiving yards (15,208 yards) behind only the great Jerry Rice. Bruce has been treated the same way as the city of St. Louis has been treated, like an afterthought.

Bruce seems to be penalized for a couple factors:

Bruce played on alongside another Hall of Fame hopeful Torry Holt

It is widely believed that Holt’s presence somehow made Bruce’s accomplishments less impressive. Holt however was drafted in 1999 a whole five years into Bruce’s career.  He was a complement to the greatness of Bruce.  Still, there is a group of people that believe Holt and Bruce are splitting votes.  This notion is absurd, while Holt is worthy of a finalist spot it was always clear who was the alpha dog in the pack of Rams receivers his whole career.

Bruce didn’t make the all-decade team. 

This one seems stupid to me, but I have seen comments about it.  Bruce was never really the best wideout of his time, being overshadowed by greats like Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens and Randy Moss.  If Bruce’s number had been from 1990 to 2000 he would have had a better chance of making one of these teams, but he was right in the middle of both of those time periods. 

The Greatest Show on Turf inflated his numbers.  

There is an idea that Bruce was a product of a great offense and not an elite receiver.  The greatness of the 1999 Ram’s offense is obvious, but he had already established himself as an elite receiver.  Isaac’s most productive season came in 1995 with the likes of Mark Rypien and Chris Miller throwing him the ball.  He followed that up with a great 1996 season where the Rams featured the likes of Tony Banks and Steve Walsh.  It was his precise route running and durability that inflated his numbers not an offensive game plan.

Why He should be in.

Selected in the second round of the of the 1994 draft by the Rams, Bruce began his accent to stardom in his second season catching 119 passes, scoring 13 TDs. Continuing his domination in 1996 leading the league in yards with 1338. During his 10-season peak phase, from 1995 through 2004, Bruce led the NFL in receiving yards, was No. 1 in catches of 25+ yards, was third in average yards per game, was third in receiving first downs, ranked fourth in total receptions, fifth in touchdowns and had the most yards at the point of the catch. Bruce was the definition of consistency for the Rams proving his abilities week in and week out.

By the numbers:

6th all time in receiving yards: 15,208

13th in receptions: 1,024

42 career 100+ yard games

4-time Pro-Bowler

Bruce’s story is simple, he has been plagued by the fact that no matter what he will always be connected with the city that the NFL doesn’t want. The support from fans will have to come from the city that has felt abandoned by the league.  It’s important for the fans of the St. Louis area to remember that even though the team and the league have left, Isaac Bruce has not. Bruce still runs his foundation out of the city of St. Louis and he still supports the city in any way that he can. It’s time for the city to do its part to bring him the accolades that he deserves.  We can never forget his iconic moment in Super Bowl XXXIV, Bruce grabbed six receptions for 162 yards (third most in Super Bowl history) and one touchdown. The touchdown was a 73-yard reception that proved to be the game winner with 1:54 remaining in contest.  He is a St. Louis sports icon and deserves to be in Canton.

The Super Bowl: A St. Louis Natives Perspective

Despite the controversy of calls and rules and insanity of the NFC and AFC Championship games, the fact is that we are two weeks away from one of the biggest events in sports.  The Super Bowl is upon us! That would usually excite me, but this year I have a tough decision to make.  As native St. Louisan I have to deal with two teams that have plagued my football life.  Which way should I go? 

First of all, I love football. I grew up watching the greatest show on turf, Faulk, Warner, Holt, Proehl, Hakim and of course the great Isaac Bruce were a show that could capture the attention of the young fans as well as the older fans.  They were a look into the future of the industry, icons to any kid from St. Louis that owned a football. They were stolen from me by a corrupt system that saw my city dragged through the mud so that an owner could move a team to a place that already features about 100 professional teams.  A lot of today’s Rams roster doesn’t understand my heartache over a lost franchise.  They are LA Rams, they have taken on the persona of their young coach and ran with it.  Cocky, arrogant, flashy and talented.  They really do remind of the team that caught my attention so many years ago. But I am bitter, and I am sad that as much as I want to hold on to that memory and tell myself this is my team, they are not.  They are the Los Angeles Rams.  While I can support the success of the players I feel that by supporting this team I would be supporting the corruption that is the NFL.

Now the Patriots.  Most of St. Louis’s hatred before the Rams moved was squarely on the shoulders of the New England Patriots.  The infamous taping of the run through in Super Bowl 36 has tainted a resume that should be historically great.  Even worse it was against my beloved (at the time) St. Louis Rams.  They were blatantly cheating, and no one seemed to really care.  The NFL seemed more worried about deflated footballs then they did the image of a team clearly doing something illegal.  The Patriots have established themselves as the Yankees of football, a cult following that is loved by primarily just their fanbase. Mutually hated by everyone. 

My hate for both of these teams is equally mutual. When Super Bowl Sunday does come, I will be forced to pick a team because what is the point of watching a game if there is no really rooting interest.  After much debate internally, I have decided that the greatness of Tom Brady will overshadow my view of the organization.  I will cheer for him and him alone to succeed over a team that on paper should have the advantage at almost every position other than Quarterback.  The Rams have become an organization that makes me sick to my stomach.  Rooting for them is rooting for Stan Kroenke, no matter what your allegiance is.