If you're unfamiliar with the work Brett Kollman does on Youtube,
I highly recommend checking out his channel, The
Film Room. It features the kind of film study you might expect
from major networks like ESPN, CBS, etc. if they weren't so busy
featuring Matthew Berry doing humor-free comedy sketches or Trey
Wingo getting dunked by former NFL quarterbacks.
video is a collaboration with Christopher Harris that includes
a slightly awkward exchange between the two of them about rookie
RBs. Kollman says he doesn't mind gambling on risky RBs early
in drafts because he can always get productive rookie RBs in the
late rounds, which prompts Harris to ask him who he's targeting
in the second half of drafts this year.
Kollman struggles to answer the question because his logic, although
sound prior to Ezekiel
Elliott's 2016 campaign, no longer applies in 2017. Thanks
to Elliott's phenomenal success last year (in conjunction with
a little phenomenon known as "recency bias"), rookie RBs have
been flying off draft boards like mad in 2017.
Fournette and Kansas City's Kareem
Hunt (especially after the injury to Spencer
Ware—who was doomed as soon as I burned my 5th-round draft
pick on him in the FFToday Staff League) are both second rounders
according to the Fantasy Football Calculator.
McCaffrey and Minnesota's Dalvin
Cook aren't far behind (with both going in the early third).
Mixon is going at 4.2 in standard leagues, which means there
are lots of folks who believe that Marvin Lewis will stop terrorizing
fantasy owners by switching between Jeremy
Hill and Giovanni Bernard for maximum inefficiency).
With so many on the market, we're likely
overvaluing the the consensus top five rookie running backs.
But Fournette, Hunt, McCaffrey, Cook, and Mixon (promising though
they are) may not even finish as the top 5 rookie RBs in 2017.
Thanks to injury, unpredictable situations, and the presence of
competent veterans (such as Jonathan
Stewart, who will presumably deprive McCaffrey of goal line
work in Carolina), it's possible that less celebrated rookies
will turn out to be more valuable than any of the promising runners
covered so far. For example, if All-Day Peterson turns out to
be yesterday's news and the Saints' coaching staff continues to
hate on Mark
Ingram for no reason, Alvin
Kamara could become a major cog in a high-powered offense.
If Jay Gruden decides to nurture his RBs instead of humiliating
them, he might turn Samaje
Perine into something special. There are always surprises
in the NFL, and it's possible that Indy's Marlon
Mack or Houston's D'Onta
Foreman will prove to be astonishingly valuable.
The rookie running back riddle becomes even more puzzling in Denver,
Booker is injured, Jamaal
Charles is reported to have lost a step, and C.J.
Anderson seems incapable of keeping the starting job locked
down. Could the Broncos actually turn to rookie De'Angelo Henderson—or
Williams (who was just released by the Bills and signed to
Denver's practice squad)? Anything's possible—especially with
running backs in Denver . . . going back to the '90s.
Kollman was right about rookie RBs before 2016; there were simply
too many unknowns associated with them for fantasy owners to draft
5 rookies RBs out of the first 38 players taken. But the post-Zeke
world of fantasy is a different environment, and fantasy owners
are being forced to think long and hard about when to snap up
untested NFL talent.
So I'm challenging readers to respond to this rookie RB phenomenon
(and this column) in one of two ways.
Response option #1: Go on the record
with your rookie RB projections for the 2017 season by emailing
me or posting your prediction for the top 5 in the comments
below. This will be fun information to review at the end of the
season. For comparison's sake, the top 5 rookie RBs according
to FFToday appear in this order for standard leagues:
3 – Leonard
Fournette (Tom Coughlin made hay with Fred Taylor in Jacksonville
as a coach; he can do something similar with Fournette from the
4 – Christian
McCaffrey (Like a lot of my colleagues at FFToday, I worry
about Stewart taking too much of McCaffrey's workload.)
5 – D'Onta
Foreman (his groin injury made him disappear from a lot of
folks' radar screens, but we know that 1) Lamar Miller is better
when he shares the load & 2) Alfred
Blue is the wrong person to share it with—so I would rather
take my chances with Foreman than with Mixon, whose fate as a
running back will be mercilessly toyed with by Lewis).
Yeah, it's crazy to rank Foreman ahead of Mixon, but you know
that crazy stuff is going to happen in the NFL, so if you want
to be right, you need to pick something crazy. What's your crazy
pick as far as rookie RBs go?
Response option #2: If you play
in a dynasty league as well as a redraft league, the difference
in your approach to rookie RBs in those two contexts is probably
huge each year. Was the disparity even greater in 2017 than it
has been in the past? If so, how? (Again, please respond by posting
a comment below or emailing
This Q&A column is lucky enough to have Matthew Schiff back
for the 2017 season, so let's get into his insights for Week 1.
Trap Game: Pittsburgh at Cleveland
Welcome back for another season of prognostication and picks.
If you are new to this column, you’ll be asked to provide feedback
and insight as to how you run your league up above. In this section,
we’ll try and highlight some of the “tasty” matchups available
for your fantasy players with a survivor pool spin. My picks make
note of my record on the season for that particular pick as well
as which teams I have already used, since most survivor pools
do not allow you to repeat a pick. Although we have chosen well
over the years, it only takes one upset to knock you out of your
survivor pool. This week is no exception.
The golden rule is to STEER CLEAR OF DIVISIONAL MATCHUPS, especially
early in the season, more especially when they involve LARGE point
spreads, and even more especially when they are hosted by the
underdog. As such, the Pittsburgh game against Cleveland screams
“TRAP.” We all know how bad the Browns are, right? Well, they
won all four of their pre-season games. Yeah, yeah, the preseason
is mostly meaningless, but it did show us something about DeShone
Kizer, the rookie from Notre Dame, who will be under center
against one of the powerhouse teams in the NFL. Most rookies would
flinch, but Kizer may come into the NFL as calm, cool, and collected
Prescott did just last year. Combine the poise of the Browns’
QB with home-field advantage and with reasonable concerns about
Le’Veon Bell being soft after returning to team activities less
than a week ago, and that juicy betting point spread doesn’t look
so good. With so many things starting to go in the Browns' favor,
an upset in Week 1 isn’t out of the question.
#3: Bills over NY Jets (Last Season: 12-5)
Few games this weekend will draw less attention than the Bills
hosting the Jets. Neither team is sexy. Both have “old” running
McCoy and Matt
Forte), retread QBs (Tyrod
Taylor and Josh
McCown), not much in the way of receivers (an injured Jordan
Matthews and an out-of-nowhere-suddenly-elevated-to-#1 wideout
Anderson). But someone has to win this game, and there seems
to be “more” talent on the home team. Yes, trick plays can always
swing the balance in a divisional game such as this one, but if
you insist on saving the Falcons or the Patriots for later in
the season, the Bills may be the safest choice available. Just
don’t flip the channel and expect this to be a fun game to watch—unless
it features some of your fantasy starters.
#2: New England over Kansas City (Last
There are a few teams that I love to reserve for later in the
season, and the Patriots are one of them. Why? Because Bill Bellichick
has a tendency to lose early season games (often, it seems, because
he doesn't want to tip his hand about how he intends to use players
over the course of a season). If this game were away and during
the day, it would smell like a trap. But the Pats open the season
at home . . . on national TV. Need I say more? New England is
the favorite to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl yet again—because
they really are THAT good an organization. Their defense is improved
Gilmore now opposite Malcolm
Butler in the secondary, and a healthy Rob
Gronkowski is back. The loss of Julian
Edelman to a season-ending knee injury may impact Tom
Brady at the beginning of the season—but not enough for him
to be outgunned as a QB by Alex
Smith—especially considering that the Chiefs have lost two
of their top RB threats (with Jamaal
Charles now in Denver and Spencer
Ware injured). Rookie Kareem
Hunt is promising, but how well would you do with your blocking
assignments out of the backfield against a Bellichick-coached
defense in your very first NFL game? For all these reasons, I'm
defying a personal tradition and recommending the Pats in Week
#1: Atlanta at Chicago: (Last Season 15-2)
The Falcons were only a few minutes from winning the Super Bowl
last year, whereas the Bears were barely better than the Browns.
That alone should make this a great Survivor Pick. But wait, there's
more! Chicago's quarterback is Mike
Glennon, a fifth-year player from NC State who has never started
before. Gone are both Alshon
Jeffery (now in Philadelphia) and Cameron
Meredith (injured), and in their places are Kevin
White and Kendall
Wright, neither of whom would qualify as a true #1 on any
roster (except, perhaps, for the Jets). Put that patchwork offense
up against the likes of Matt
Freeman, and Tevin
Coleman—and this one should be over by the end of the first
quarter. Despite Kyle Shanahan’s departure as offensive coordinator
in Atlanta, the Falcons should cruise to an opening week road
Mike Davis has been writing about
fantasy football since 1999--and playing video games even longer
than that. His latest novel (concerning a gamer who gets trapped
inside Nethack after eating too many shrooms) can
be found here.