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Doug Orth | Archive | Email |
Staff Writer

Early Observations: NFC
Preseason Matchup Analysis

ARI | ATL | CAR | CHI | DAL | DET | GB | LAR | MIN | NO | NYG | PHI | SF | SEA | TB | WAS | AFC

There is a certain charm to the NFL offseason. The coaches are eternally optimistic (they have to be, most of them are either on the hot seat now or could be after a few bad games) and the media - acting as a conduit for the team - knows fans crave information. As a result, probably 90 percent of the offseason chatter is positive - if only because it is difficult for a player to look bad if he isn't on the field - because no team wants its fans to go into the offseason hoping for a 6-10 season.

My intent here is not to throw coaches and/or the media under the bus. Regarding the media, many reporters are very knowledgeable about football and/or the team they cover and provide the service they are supposed to - delivering either their impressions of what they just saw or sending along a coach's observation of the player(s) that stuck out in their mind. However, not every person "on the beat" is qualified to make a sound judgement about what they just saw on the football field, but that is not a problem for that reporter or their employer - it is a problem for fantasy owners if we believe something they say at face value and run with it. In short, it helps to have a very sensitive "B.S. detector" during the spring and summer. There is useful information being dispensed every day for us to absorb, but it is up to us to make sure it jives with what we already know about the team and/or player.

As a result, I’m going to try to provide a respectable opinion on how the offseason buzz from all 16 NFC teams translates to fantasy owners after doing the same thing last week with the AFC:

For a player that probably carried a lot of owners to fantasy titles as a rookie during the second half of last season, there seems to be a lot of debate about how much the team is going to put on David Johnson's plate this season. ESPN Cardinals reporters Josh Weinfuss probably started the debate with his prediction about Chris Johnson beating out David Johnson to claim the starting job. (Remember what I said about bold predictions last week?) That came almost a month to the day when HC Bruce Arians said the former FCS superstar had "earned the right to be the bell cow". Since Weinfuss' prediction, there has been a 60/30/10 suggestion thrown out there, with David on top, Chris in the middle and Andre Ellington on the bottom of the split. For the third straight season, Arians has said he wants to utilize packages where he has two of his top three backs on the field at the same time in an attempt to create mismatches in the passing game, although injuries have derailed that plan each of the first two times. Of course, there is little doubt David Johnson will be the anchor, at least in the eyes of writer Darren Urban.

Few teams can make three receivers viable in fantasy. Then again, few teams have a third receiver as capable as John Brown, who turned in a 1,000-yard season in his second year as a pro last year. Arians thinks there is room for more and believes the 2014 third-rounder - when he isn't being a "great houseguest" at QB Carson Palmer's lavish three-story beachfront estate during the summer - is capable of a lot more. Arians believes Brown could have 1,400 yards "easy" (he had 1,003), but attributed the failure to reach that plateau was due to his inability to "finish the season" - most notably, his receiver's pressing for 1,000 yards and three drops during a Week 15 game versus Philadelphia in which he had "200 (yards) worth of drops". Just in case Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and Brown seemed to be enough at receiver, Arians also likes what he has in 5-10, 160-pound J.J. Nelson, a sub-4.3 speed demon that made a name for himself with a four-catch, 142-yard, one-score effort against Cincinnati as a rookie last season in a game in which Floyd was sidelined. "He has a very unique skill in tracking the ball that the great ones have when the ball's coming over your opposite shoulder. When you have a little fast guy that can do that, you have a special one," Arians said.

Late-June Fantasy Reaction: David Johnson is going to be all right, kids. Mike Jurecki's 60/30/10 estimate should probably be the floor of the workload the 24-year-old Johnson will see, although there will very likely be a few games this season in which his touches fall short of that ratio if the Cardinals are holding a significant lead late. I could see the split working its way toward 70/20/10 as the season progresses, but the point to be made here is that while there will be almost certainly be a few frustrating 12-15 touch days for the Northern Iowa product this year, I suspect he'll live up to his 1.08 ADP. Brown saw at least seven targets in all but two games from Week 12 on (including playoffs), which is about the target level I look for when it comes to determining how much a coach/quarterback makes a certain receiver a priority in their passing attack. With Fitzgerald getting another year older (33 when the season begins), it is hard for me to believe "Smokey" won't take the next step and emerge as a potential low-end WR2. Nelson is a bit more of a dynasty league consideration. His size is probably going to keep him from ever being a full-time player, but he's one of a handful of players that makes a sense for owners to use in a pinch as a high-upside flex should one of Arizona's top three receivers get hurt.

For the second straight offseason, running back is a major area of focus for the Falcons, although admittedly not for the same reasons it was last spring and summer. Devonta Freeman turned in a Pro Bowl campaign last season, essentially riding a dominant four-game stretch from Weeks 3-6 during which he totaled 462 rushing yards, 25 catches for 233 yards and nine touchdowns en route to an unlikely top-place fantasy finish among all running backs. However, the TDs started drying up after that and Freeman really never came close to approaching his insane early-season production following a Week 11 concussion. Over the final five games of the season, the second-year back saved his fantasy owners with 25 receptions, but failed to eclipse 3.4 yards per carry each time out. Enter Tevin Coleman, who started and impressed in last year's opener as a rookie only to deal with injuries thereafter (broken ribs and a concussion as a result of falling in the shower among them). While Freeman should have a solid grasp on third-down duties after collecting 73 catches a season ago, Atlanta loves the big-play ability Coleman possesses and appears willing to give him another shot to wrestle some (if not most) early-down duties away from his teammate, provided he shows better ball control than he did as a rookie. To that end, HC Dan Quinn told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Coleman and Freeman "make a pretty unique combination".

The problem with spoiling a quarterback with a player like Tony Gonzalez is what happens after the legendary tight end retires; QB Matt Ryan has been forced to deal with the likes of Levine Toilolo, Bear Pascoe, Jacob Tamme and Tony Moeaki in the two years since Gonzo's departure. While Tamme was able to give the Falcons a boost from time to time last year when defenses began to overplay WR Julio Jones, he wasn't a factor in the red zone (one touchdown catch). That last figure - the one score - was one of the main reasons TE Austin Hooper was chosen in the third round of April's draft. No one is going to confuse Hooper with Gonzalez anytime soon, but the 6-4, 254-pound rookie has the best combination of size, speed and red-zone ability the team has had at its disposal since the soon-to-be Hall-of-Famer.

Late-June Fantasy Reaction: It seems ridiculous that a running back could lose an important part of his job less than one year after finishing with 337 touches, 1.639 total yards and 14 total touchdowns, but such is the state of the position today. (It bears mentioning here that Coleman was handpicked by second-year HC Dan Quinn and second-year OC Kyle Shanahan.) Freeman should be the overwhelming favorite to start Week 1 for obvious reasons, but he is probably going to need another year of injuries and fumbles from Coleman in order to secure the job for good - and that is unlikely to happen. Coleman does possess more big-play ability than Freeman, so it shouldn't come as a surprise if the backfield evolves into a 60/40 split with Freeman on the high end of it and serving as the main third-down back. That kind of workload share doesn't bode well for Freeman living up to his 2.02 ADP, so he is definitely an early candidate to disappoint (although not bust). At this point, consider Freeman a low-end RB1 and Coleman a high-end RB3. Rookie tight ends are rarely ever productive for fantasy purposes, but Hooper probably has the best shot of any player in this draft class to be the exception. Defenses will be intent on stopping Jones in scoring territory (and Freeman, to a lesser extent), leaving Hooper one-on-one with a linebacker or safety on a fairly regular basis near the goal line. Perhaps the Stanford product tops out at 35 catches in 2016, but I'd be willing to bet he can turn five or six of those into scores. That alone would make him a TE2 consideration.

Jonathan Stewart got his first real crack at being the featured back for the Panthers last year, although "featured" probably isn't the right word since his quarterback ran 132 times and converted eight of his 10 regular-season rushing scores inside the 10. As has been the story of Stewart's career, however, injuries kept him from completing a season for the fourth straight year. He missed the final three games of the 2015 campaign as a result of a foot injury, which he aggravated in the Super Bowl. Four months later, Stewart is still dealing with the effects of that injury. As expected, HC Ron Rivera is unconcerned (or so he says): Lately he said hes been feeling really good Were really trying to be smart with that and I wouldnt say its 100 percent, but its almost there," Rivera told The Charlotte Observer.

Not much was expected out of WR Devin Funchess when he was drafted last year, at least until Kelvin Benjamin tore his ACL in August. Although Corey Brown and Funchess each caught 31 passes and occasionally made noteworthy plays, it was Ted Ginn who emerged as Cam Newton's top receiver. Benjamin should be back to claim his rightful place as the Panthers' best wideout this season, but it appears the 2015 second-round pick is anxious to take the next step in his development. As some are well aware, Newton isn't the most accurate quarterback and when he misses, he tends to miss high. That makes size a more important quality than usual for Carolina receivers, something the 6-5 Benjamin and 6-4 Funchess both have. (Brown and Ginn are both 5-11.) While Benjamin has been mostly limited to individual drills, the 22-year-old NFL sophomore was considered "the star of OTAs" by the Observer, showing "terrific hands" and looking "more fluid in his routes this spring".

Late-June Fantasy Reaction: Thanks in large part to Newton stealing so many of the touchdowns he would have scored on just about any other team last year, Stewart finished as RB16 in standard scoring despite the fact his 242 carries ranked seventh in the league. Considering that 2015 should have represented his ceiling in terms of workload and the fact Carolina's defense allowed the offense to run when it wanted to, I have sincere doubts J-Stew will perform at a higher level entering his age-29 season with injury concerns and a defense that figures to fall off a bit after losing CB Josh Norman. Stewart theoretically presents a safe floor given Cameron Artis-Payne and Mike Tolbert aren't threats to take his job, but Im not going to buy it. His ADP is 5.06 in PPR leagues at the moment - ahead of players such as Danny Woodhead and Duke Johnson - is probably going to be about two full rounds before I want to consider him. In my opinion, he should be treated as a RB3 in 12-team leagues to account for the risk he carries. As a player some considered to be a tight end prospect coming out of Michigan, Funchess was never going to be a good bet to enjoy a Benjamin-like rookie season. What made more sense was that he would eventually become a red-zone maven. In a sense, that is what happened (all five of his TDs covered 16 yards or fewer), but the Panthers' offense got on such a roll that it seemingly didn't matter who Newton was throwing to in some games. Funchess has a long ways to go before he reaches the top of his game, but at 22 years of age, he has some time. At the moment, his ADP is 13.08 in 12-team leagues, making him a WR5/6. For a player of his size and skill (and adding to that the amount of development that tends to take place between a player's first and second year), that ADP is a small price to pay for a player with the ability to finish with 50 catches and eight TDs this season.

The more, the merrier: Doesn't it seem like that is HC John Fox's approach to the running back position? To be fair, he has reason to feel that way at the moment, but can he be sure after one year that Jeremy Langford won't eventually develop into next great Bears' back? It seems odd Chicago knew it would part ways with Matt Forte if the team didn't think he could be and felt it had the "committee" in place to replace him. In that case, why use a fifth-round pick on Indiana RB Jordan Howard? New OC Dowell Loggains has said weighed in on his backfield this offseason, suggesting Langford "needs to do a better job in the passing game" and that Howard is a "change-of-pace back". RB coach Stan Drayton told the Chicago Tribune: "Maybe not one can do all that Matt brought to the table, but they all bring a strength that can probably add up to what he brought. To say you're going to replace Matt Forte it's going to take years, right?" Fox told the Tribune once he finds out what their individual strengths and weaknesses are, the plan will be to "ride the hot hand" (then why bother to find out what their individual strengths and weaknesses are?). We're just getting started. ESPN Bears reporter Jeff Dickerson stated that he expected Jacquizz Rodgers to be involved in the backfield competition before suggesting a week later he expects Langford to be the featured rusher, while The Chicago Sun-Times suggests to "not count out" Ka'Deem Carey. The Chicago Tribune predicts a backfield by committee.

Continuing my mini-tirade on Chicago reporting, Dickerson stated on June 13 that WR Kevin White, who missed all of his rookie season last year due to a stress fracture in his shin, appeared "strong and fast" at OTAs. Two days later, the Sun-Times reported he looked "like a work in progress" while also noting his "physical gifts are apparent (and) fast and imposing, but his drops stood out". Perhaps the two reports are actually mirroring one another, but it is hard to look "strong and fast" if the same player is looking "like a work in progress". To his credit, White has reportedly been 100 percent "for months" and spent a good chunk of the offseason building chemistry with QB Jay Cutler. WR coach Curtis Johnson has even noted that while he has to slow him down occasionally, White is "here every day (and) doing everything hes asked to do. Hes a very, very smart guy (who) knows what hes doing.

Late-June Fantasy Reaction: The good news about all the above predictions regarding the running back position is that someone has to be right because all the bases are covered. Langford led all backs in drops last year and ranked last in yards after contact, so he is a prime candidate to be part of a committee. Howard is a power back that struggles as a receiver. Carey appears to be valued more for his intangibles than his skill, which makes for a good story but rarely helps in the fantasy box score. Rodgers is almost the consummate committee back - an average talent who is too small to do much more than contribute sporadically on passing downs. Given Fox's history and the current roster, I'd be willing to bet heavily on Langford needing a huge camp to be something more than a lead back of a committee. As such, he needs to be treated as a high-upside RB3, which means his current 4.04 ADP is way too high. Howard should settle in as a RB5 and a pretty decent handcuff, meaning he should be getting drafted (which he is not at the moment). Carey and Rodgers are going to need injuries to the top two back in order to be fantasy-relevant. Even then, it'd be hard to promote them as flex options.

White's current ADP is 7.05, which I think will ultimately prove to be at least two rounds too low. Yes, the learning curve is steep. Yes, he missed all of last season with an injury and is essentially a rookie. While I expect there to be bumps in the road, there is a reason analysts were split between Amari Cooper, White and DeVante Parker as the draft's top receiver last year. The West Virginia product may not prove it quite this year, but I tend to believe he'll be the Bears' No. 1 option sometime in 2017 - regardless of whether or not Alshon Jeffery gets his extension or not. White is going to be a bargain as a WR3 (and possibly WR4/flex) for those owners who go receiver-heavy early if he can put together a 16-game season. I'd venture to say his floor will be 60-plus catches, 900-plus yards and 7-8 touchdowns, which puts him around 200 PPR fantasy points - a total that would have netted him WR27 honors a season ago.

With QB Tony Romo feeling great, TE Jason Witten entrenched in his position and first-round rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott almost certain to open the season as the featured back following Darren McFaddens elbow injury, there is only one place left to go: wide receiver. Dez Bryant was cleared for football activities earlier this month, but he has been limited to individual work up to this point, although the plan is to get his timing down with Romo during some private workouts before camp.

With Bryant limited this offseason, Brice Butler has taken the majority of first-team snaps at his X receiver spot, which is notable for a couple of reasons: 1) he's not stealing snaps from Terrance Williams and 2) there should be little doubt which player will be the next man up should Bryant go down again. The first part is notable because Williams hasn't really shown much growth over his three-year career in Dallas, yet the Cowboys still really don't have any legitimate challengers in the pipeline to brace themselves for another underwhelming season as he enters his walk year and/or injury if they don't cross-train Butler. Perhaps Butler's education at the Z is happening behind the scenes, which is about the only this prediction will come true. However, there is reason to believe Butler's time is coming: the Raiders' seventh-round pick in 2013 arrived from Oakland shortly after Bryant suffers his initial foot injury in the opener, but he estimates he had one or two practices with Romo and may have caught a couple of passes from him in those practices. Butler's first catch as a Cowboy was a 67-yarder, teasing the kind of big-play potential he can provide.

Late-June Fantasy Reaction: Last year proved how Romo-centric the Cowboys' offense really is, as Dallas went 3-1 in his starts and 1-11 with anybody else under center. Yes, it helps to have a running game, which is what the team hopes it took care of with the selection of Elliott. But that is only part of the equation, as people are somehow overlooking the fact Bryant only played nine games and was rarely healthy even when he was in uniform. While a re-aggravation of his foot injury is something that owners need to be concerned about for the upcoming season, it is not as if Bryant should struggle to be a top-10 receiver if he stays healthy. The wild-card here is Butler, who may just be getting eased into the Cowboys' offense by learning Bryant's position first. It makes little to no sense to have him learn the X receiver position in this offense in the final year of his contract - unless they have long-term plans for him (or really fearful of another Bryant injury) - when challenging Williams should be the primary immediate goal. With Cole Beasley locked into the slot, Butler will either be No. 2 or No. 4 on the depth chart. Butler is rightfully going undrafted in even 14-team leagues, but he is a player to keep an eye on as camp approaches and throughout the preseason. At the very least, he needs to be on the radar of dynasty owners in leagues of all sizes. The talent is there, so we have to hope Dallas does the right thing.

The Lions have drafted a pair of transcendent players over the last two generations, only to watch both retire seemingly before it was "their time". Barry Sanders came along in 1989 and was a six-time All-Pro and 10-time Pro Bowler. In 2007, it was Calvin Johnson (three-time All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowler). One phrase - among many - that could be said about both was "matchup nightmare". Detroit doesn't have to worry about another such retirement for a while, but it has to hope that TE Eric Ebron is that next transcendent player in the wake of Johnson's retirement. While QB Matthew Stafford seems to believe the absence of Johnson is going to make things more difficult for defenses "in a certain way that they dont know who were going to", you'd be hard-pressed to find a single quarterback that doesn't want to have a clear go-to guy to lean on in tough situations. At 6-4 and 255 pounds with great athleticism, Ebron has the potential to be that guy and expects to be that guy. Certainly, no one is expecting the third-year tight end to become "Megatron", but OC Jim Bob Cooter expects him to take "big strides" in 2016 after finishing with 47 catches, 537 yards and five TDs last season.

Considering the rushing attack ranked last in the league last year, it seems hard to believe Detroit could have at least two fantasy-viable running backs. We can be somewhat certain about one, as Theo Riddick is expected to resume his role as the pass-catching force he was last year when he led all backs with 80 catches. Cooter expects to give him more carries this year - he had 43 in 2015 - but is that realistic for a player with a career 2.9 YPC? Then we have Ameer Abdullah, who drew a "he's about as quick as Barry Sanders" quote from Jets HC Todd Bowles in last year's preseason opener, only to fall victim to ball security issues - a problem early in his college career - Riddick's emergence and an offensive scheme that failed to take into account how bad of shape the offensive line was in. Nevertheless, Abdullah has generated some offseason hype despite recovering from surgery on a torn labrum that he played through at the end of the season, although he is expected to be ready for camp. Last year's preseason darling Zach Zenner and Stevan Ridley figure to fight it out for Joique Bell's old short-yardage/goal-line role. Given the likelihood that Detroit may struggle in the red zone this year more than it did last season (sans Johnson), it is debatable how important of a role that will be.

Late-June Fantasy Reaction: Ebron has burned his fair share of owners over his first two seasons, although most have only themselves to blame considering how rarely young tight ends emerge as fantasy forces. He teased owners with his ability in the early part of last season, finding the end zone in three of his first five games while posting double-digit fantasy totals four times over that same stretch. Despite missing two full games and being roughly fourth in line for targets, Ebron still finished as the TE13. Without making it sound too simplistic, it makes sense that should be his floor in 2016, especially considering he will be the main red-zone option without Johnson around. A jump from 47 to 60-plus receptions in a post-Megatron world is not asking for much, and neither is adding 1-2 touchdowns to his total. A 62-680-7 line last year would have made him put him in ninth place in PPR scoring each of the last two years, and it is realistic for him to flirt with those totals this year if he simply stays healthy. His upside is as a mid-range TE1, but he's being drafted as a mid-range TE2 with his current 11.07 ADP. Riddick is the kind of back that scares me as a RB2 because of his lack of involvement in the running game, but one I love to have as a flex option. Being able to count on nearly five catches and 40-plus yards on average from a running back in PPR scoring doesn't sound like much, but it is a good place to start, so when I can treat rushing yards as a bonus from my running back, I don't mind as much. I'd be stunned if Riddick sees much more than the 43 carries he did last year, though, so treat him as a wide receiver with a poor yards-per-catch mark and you should be fine. I like Abdullah as much as I did last year and, sure, he really only has himself to blame for his early-season fumble woes, but were Bell or Riddick really going to create big plays behind the Lions' line? Probably not. I'd be stunned if Abdullah doesn't end up around 800-900 rushing yards this season given the scheme and personnel improvements the team has made up front in the offseason and assuming Detroit isn't too stubborn about making this backfield a three-headed committee. His 6.3 ADP is a bit high for my tastes, though, as I would prefer him about a round later.

Green Bay
There seems to be only two things most Packers' fans care about this summer - how much weight can RB Eddie Lacy lose and when will HC Mike McCarthy free WR Jeff Janis? As most folks know by now, Lacy began a weight-loss program with P90X founder Tony Horton sometime in February. As expected, the compliments flowed in like fine wine: at least three teammates expressed how much trimmer the third-year back looked, ESPN staff writer Rob Demovsky called him one of the "winners of the offseason" and's Albert Breer used the word "remarkable" to describe his transformation. Lacy is reportedly going to spend some of the remainder of his offseason with Horton in order to continue his quest to drop 20-30 pounds from the approximate 260 pounds he was carrying last season.

Depending on who you ask, Janis' 7-145-2 line against the Cardinals in the NFC Divisional Round was either the biggest fluke of our lifetime or just an example of what he is capable of given the chance to succeed. (NumberFire does a great job of breaking it down here.) Count longtime Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writer Bob McGinn in the latter group, as he suggested the Saginaw Valley State product was the prime example of his belief that HC Mike McCarthy "made more errors in allocating playing time" than any Packer coach in 25 years or more. McGinn suggests that McCarthy's odd handling of his staff last offseason led to some assistants getting overextended, which led to - among other things - the coaches being out of touch with the roster. QB coach Alex Van Pelt was asked to coach the receivers in addition to the quarterbacks after some staff reshuffling - including McCarthy giving play-calling duties to Tom Clements - which resulted in certain players - namely the wideouts - not getting the detailed coaching they should have received. McGinn also believes rather than design plays for the freaky athlete Janis, the Packers kept rolling with Davante Adams despite how poor he was playing. (Others have speculated how James Jones continued to play during the second half of the season when it became obvious he could not separate from coverage.) At any rate, Janis has been the target of more offseason discussion than any backup receiver in recent memory. McCarthy has addressed the need for him to "progress through the fundamentals of the position" and show the same kind of improvement this season as he experienced on special teams as a gunner last season. So far, so good. Journal-Sentinel writer Ryan Wood stated: "Janis is coming", " he continually beat the likes of CBs Sam Shields and Damarious Randall, and S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix" in team drills" and "If talent wins, Janis will earn (the third receiver) role." And if that wasn't enough, here are some thoughts from his coaches.

Late-June Fantasy Reaction: I don't think Green Bay knows exactly what it wants to do yet with Lacy and will probably take a wait-and-see approach in regards to his conditioning before making a decision on whether his share of the workload with James Starks will be 70/30 or closer to 50/50. Starks is a league-average talent, so if Lacy takes care of his business in a contract year, he'll probably regain his previous fantasy form. Considering he was in the discussion for the top pick in most drafts last year, his 2.10 ADP seems like a bargain. Yes, there will be risk with him, but his upside is that of a top-five overall pick if his body is right. The Packers addressed the assistant coaching situation that likely overburdened Van Pelt last year by promoting offensive quality control coach Luke Getsy to WR coach, so the Packers may have come to the same conclusion McGinn did. For what it is worth, McCarthy has praised (Adams' offseason work, so nothing should be assumed when it comes to Janis. After all, Adams was dogged by an ankle injury for most of the season. Still, the thought of Janis and Jordy Nelson (and even TE Jared Cook) stretching the field vertically this season - after having virtually no one to do it last season - has to be appealing for the Pack. QB Aaron Rodgers has long been capable of making three (and sometimes four) receivers fantasy-relevant, so the winner of Janis vs. Adams is going to mean something to owners in most leagues. I am admittedly a bit biased toward Janis, but that is in large part because he fits Rodgers' aggressive mentality better than Adams. I think Janis and Adams' 14th-round ADPs are understandable, but ultimately too low. I think both have low-end WR3 upside if named the starter, and it might be a good strategy for owners - especially those drafting early - to load up on both to cover their bases.

Los Angeles
The Rams ranked last in the NFL in 2015 with 2,805 passing yards, which could actually be considered a fairly high total since Nick Foles and Case Keenum were the two quarterbacks most responsible for the passing yardage and WR Tavon Austin was the only player with more than 40 catches. Quite often, it's easy to look at a quarterback's options when projecting his final numbers and end up with total that is 500 yards more than his previous career high. (With Los Angeles, it is difficult to figure out how No. 1 overall pick QB Jared Goff is going to get to 3,000.) The Rams currently have 12 receivers on the roster, probably trying to figure out how the math is going to work out as well. Early indications are that fourth-round rookie WR Pharoh Cooper will probably help his new quarterback hit that benchmark. The South Carolina product has impressed seemingly everyone wearing a horn on their helmet or cap so far, and he even prompted HC Jeff Fisher to tell the Los Angeles Daily News, "I expect that (Cooper will) be a household name at some point." Fisher also was reportedly thrilled how quickly he picked up the playbook, while Keenum and Goff have expressed how much they like throwing to him over the middle.

Late-June Fantasy Reaction: Even two months after the draft, I'll admit I'm having trouble understanding why the Rams selected Cooper, unless it was because they have little desire to bring back Austin in 2017. Cooper (5-11, 203) and Austin (5-8, 176) may bring different strengths to the table, but both players are slot-only receivers playing for a team that isn't going to utilize a lot of four-wide set (thereby creating the need for two slots). Fisher suggested Austin could double his 52 catches last year in an early June interview (which is summer optimism at its finest for a NFL head coach), suggesting he wants his pint-sized receiver to be the focal point of the passing game, thereby rendering my initial thought moot. New OC Rob Boras is also reportedly considering the idea of using TE Lance Kendricks all over the formation as well, perhaps further eliminating even more slot snaps for Cooper. As such, the rookie will probably be no better than the fourth receiver in an offense that will go only as far as RB Todd Gurley can take it. Assuming Austin can make another leap and finish with about 60-70 catches, he should be a value pick at his current 9.02 ADP. Cooper will probably need an Austin injury in order to be usable in yearly leagues and, as a result, sit on the waiver wire for the majority of the season.

The name Teddy Bridgewater seems to elicit a slight groan out of many fantasy fans. He's athletic, but not so much so that he can turn an average stat line into a great one with his legs. He's accurate, but not so much so that he'll pick apart a defense, in large part because the Vikings averaged fewer than 30 pass attempts due to their Adrian Peterson-centric offense. Last but not least, Bridgewater doesnt throw a great deep ball, so he can't make up for a low-volume game or turn a good fantasy effort into a great one very often. According to his head coach and teammates, that last negative may be changing, however. HC Mike Zimmer told The Pioneer Press: "Bridgewater has shown plenty of improvement this spring, especially throwing the deep ball." WR Stefon Diggs credited his quarterback's noticeable improvement to the timing Bridgewater and his teammates (led by Diggs and TE Kyle Rudolph, among others) established while working out in Orlando. If he is indeed an improved deep-ball thrower, it will come as good news to Diggs and first-round rookie Laquon Treadwell, who doesn't have great timed speed but is a very proficient vertical receiver based on his high-pointing skills and knack for understanding where he is on the field at all times.

Short of Peterson potentially getting more involved in the passing game this season, the only other Viking fantasy-position player to generate somewhat notable headlines was Charles Johnson, who disappointed a lot of owners last season. Johnson went from a player that appeared to be Bridgewater's favorite target in the preseason to one who seemed not to be in the game plan as soon as Week 1 rolled around. A rib injury in Week 3 paved the way for Diggs' breakout performance the following week, which served as the knockout blow to Johnson's chances of turning it around. Well, Johnson is back to turning heads this offseason, as he reportedly "popped out (the) most during spring workouts". Treadwell is a near-lock to start Opening Week regardless of what happens in camp, but perhaps Minnesota will have some depth at the position for the first time in a long time.

Late-June Fantasy Reaction: A quick glance at the breadth of OC Norv Turner's career reveals his offenses rarely ever push for the league lead in pass attempts, so even a huge leap from Bridgewater and his deep ball this offseason probably isn't going to result in more than three or four more throws per game on average. With that said, if the third-year quarterback has truly improved on the deep ball as much as is being reported, his next step as a viable fantasy signal-caller is going to come organically. It should also go without saying that a bigger receiver like Treadwell and a full offseason building chemistry with Diggs is going to help - as opposed to Mike Wallace and Johnson - in that regard as well. The low-volume nature of Minnesota's offense is going to keep Teddy B. firmly in the QB2 range, although he should be able to spot-start for his owners a bit more than last year. Johnson likely only solidified his spot on the roster with his offseason work; Diggs and Treadwell should be the future at the position and Johnson probably isn't cut out for work in three-wide packages either as Jarius Wright is firmly locked into the slot role. Johnson could reenter the fantasy conversation should Diggs and Treadwell get hurt at some point, but his ceiling now might be as an end-of-the-bench fantasy option.

New Orleans
TE Josh Hill was a hugely popular sleeper pick in fantasy drafts last year, in part because HC Sean Payton couldn't stop talking about him. Outside of the Saints' curious decision to match the Bears' three-year offer sheet worth over $7 M for what amounts to be a third-string tight end and special teams contributor, Hill has been non-buzzworthy in 2016. This year, it is all about Coby Fleener. Of course, Payton is already in love, although he also seems to understand what the ex-Colt is. "He's not going to be the first guy you put in at the point of attack on a power play, but thats OK. Let's make sure we understand the things that he does real well, and I think we can do that offensively. Watching his skill set, I think for us as coaches, it's exciting because I see a number of ways where he's going to be able to help us in the passing game," Payton said. QB Drew Brees echoed his coachs optimism: "I'm watching Colts' film or Fleener film. It was like, 'Man, this guy has an uncanny ability to separate.' He's always open. There's always a place to throw the ball where he can get it. He's 6-5 or 6-6, there is a place where I can throw the ball where he can get it or nobody can."

In case you are looking for a shining example of why owners have to sometimes make educated guesses rather than trust beat writers, look no further than the third-receiver situation in New Orleans. senior writer John DeShazier said in early June he doesn't believe second-round rookie Michael Thomas will beat out Brandon Coleman for the No. 3 job, while ESPN staff writer Mike Triplett isn't certain Coleman has a roster spot locked down. Meanwhile, contributor Sean Kelley has Thomas pegged as "the real deal" and the New Orleans Advocate believes the rookie will be "asked to fill a lot of the things that Marques Colston used to do for this offense". Although Brees wasn't talking directly about Thomas in the following quote, the "confidence" he speaks of comes from a play the rookie made during OTAs: If you take a guy who is smart, tough and has a great feel for the game, understands body position, and control, then hes never really covered. Theres always places he can use his body where you can throw it where its him or nobody. Again, thats great confidence for a quarterback knowing that Ive got this outlet, I got this guy that has this range and this feel.

Late-June Fantasy Reaction: Let's get one thing clear right away: Fleener isn't going to be the next Jimmy Graham. What he can be is potentially one of the best downfield tight ends in the league and a huge boon near the goal line for a team that starts a pair of receivers under 6-0. It also helps that Payton isn't pretending he's going to turn Fleener into an every-down tight ends, so his purpose is to make sure opposing defenses respect the middle of the field. Barring injury, I suspect 70 catches, 850 yards and 7-8 touchdowns is a reasonable floor and one that will make him a very good investment as a mid-level TE1. Regarding Coleman, I think he's going to need a very poor camp not to make the team, but I don't believe for a second that hell keep Thomas out of the Colston role for very long, if at all. Thomas may be a bit inconsistent in fantasy considering how many playmakers the Saints have now, but he and Fleener figure to be the most attractive targets for Brees in the red zone. While Coleman will probably steal a couple of scores, I'd be willing to bet on nearly 50 receptions and at least six scores for the Ohio State product. Owners should feel good about landing him as a WR4 in most leagues.

New York Giants
Rookie WR Sterling Shepard was ticketed for a fairly large role in New York's offense in large part because Rueben Randle departed in free agency and the team - despite its optimism - really has no idea how long it can count on Victor Cruz after he has spent most of the last two seasons rehabbing/recovering from a torn patellar tendon and calf injury, with the former likely being the reason we may never see the incredible lateral explosiveness we used to see with him. Regardless, if the Giants hoped they were getting an immediate plug-and-play receiver to start opposite Odell Beckham when they selected Shepard, it appears they may hit the jackpot. The second-round rookie "caught everything" in OTAs (which isn't surprising for anyone who watched him play at Oklahoma) and has pretty much been a standout in just about every area since then. As for who else might step up if Cruz fails to do so, look no further than 2015 sixth-rounder Geremy Davis. He's already made an impression this spring on QB Eli Manning. At 6-2 and 217 pounds, he has the size to live on the outside like Randle did. If Cruz or Davis emerge, it should mean even more time in the slot for Shepard - which would be a good thing.

New York Daily News' writer Ralph Vacchiano addressed the Giants' running back situation in the middle of May and it was interesting to note his reaction to the way the team handled its business in the backfield last season: "The answer to (how will it all shake out at RB) depends on who was responsible for that stupid, four-running back rotation they used last year: (former HC) Tom Coughlin or (new HC) Ben McAdoo. Hopefully it was Coughlin, and hopefully McAdoo saw that the running game worked better with one guy getting the lion's share of the workload while everyone else filled roles." Vacchiano appears to be a bigger fan of Rashad Jennings than most and believes he will be the "likely workhorse" this season after getting 48.3 percent of the carries last year. He also expects Shane Vereen to "again be the third-down back and primary receiver-out-of-the-backfield weapon". He doubts rookie Paul Perkins will have much of an impact and Andre Williams will get the first shot at goal-line work. Still, it is worth noting VP of Player Evaluation Marc Ross considers Perkins "a complete back", while GM Jerry Reese and McAdoo appear to be in agreement Perkins could be an every-down back sooner than later.

Late-June Fantasy Reaction: I have zero doubt that Shepard is the real deal and will be more than just OBJ's sidekick for the next few years. Although they are completely different receivers, Shepards rookie floor should be what Randle's ceiling turned out to be. Even with all the headaches that came along with Randle, he still occasionally flirted with WR3 value. Shepard is also unlikely to spend time in a coach's doghouse like Randle did, has great hands and runs routes better than Randle ever could, so I suspect the rookie will push for WR3 value right away. Jennings showed late last season that New York could support one productive fantasy running back, but I tend to disagree with Vacchiano in the long term. Counting on a 31-year-old Jennings to start the season is fine, but there's nothing in his history to suggest he can withstand a full load or will do something special with it. Perkins should (and probably will) overtake Jennings at some point during the season, with Vereen spelling him in the same way he is expected to spell Jennings. The most talented back on the roster in my opinion, however, is someone who has yet to generate any buzz - Illinois State RB Marshaun Coprich. In a backfield completing devoid of big-play ability, he has it. He reportedly received college free agent offers from 15 teams after the draft, so he is not some name out of a hat who I've chosen to promote. I expect Jennings, Vereen, Perkins and Coprich to make the final roster and, by year's end, it wouldnt surprise me at all if the two young guns are handling the rock the majority of the time. Both rookies are going undrafted even in 14-team leagues, so feel free to wait until the end of the draft to invest in them.

With most of the news regarding receivers coming out of Eagles' camp being bad - Jordan Matthews reportedly being better in the slot than outside (OK, not bad news but not great news considering new HC Doug Pederson won't go three-wide as often as former HC Chip Kelly did), Nelson Agholor looking average at best when he's not dealing with issues off the field and Rueben Randle missing a chunk of offseason work due to having his gallbladder removed, we'll instead focus our energy on the supposed committee backfield in Philly. Although Darren Sproles made some news by sitting out voluntary workouts, he is apparently content with his contract and situation with the Eagles despite reports to the contrary. The bigger issue is to what degree fifth-round rookie Wendell Smallwood will eat into Ryan Matthews' early-down workload or Sproles' pass-catching snaps. Pederson is sure Smallwood can do the latter, but there are some that see him as the key to this backfield, even as early as this year. Of course, as every coach is required to do these days, Pederson believes his backfield "could be a little bit of a running back by committee".

Late-June Fantasy Reaction: As most owners have known for several years, a coach's idea of RBBC is not the same as fantasy owners'. Smallwood should be considered an immediate threat to Sproles touches simply because I think the rookie was chosen primarily to prepare the Eagles for life without the 33-year-old as he enters his contract year, with the hope the youngster may be able to spell a primary runner as well. Unlike the case with the Giants above, I believe the leading returning rusher (in this case, Mathews) is the best talent in the backfield and should have a fairly firm grasp on early-down touches, at least up until if/when he get injured. Mathews is a low-end RB2 in my book given what figures to be a limited role and his injury history, so his current 5.07 ADP should probably be considered his ceiling. I'll need to see some preseason action before I'm willing to buy Sproles at 10.02, because I think the Eagles would rather use him 5-10 offensive snaps per game and allow Smallwood to be the primary breather and third-down back. The rookie is not even getting drafted in 14-team PPR leagues at the moment, so early drafters should buy now, because Smallwood's stock is going to increase in a couple of months.

San Francisco
At the moment, owners have one reason to care about the Niners - RB Carlos Hyde. As the focal point of a Chip Kelly offense with no other running back worthy of stealing carries from him, there are plenty of folks dreaming of 25-30 carry games from the third-year back. Hyde obviously likes what Kelly's offense means for him, but don't expect him to change his physical style. The Ohio State product also believes Kelly's offense will help showcase his abilities as a receiver, although there is plenty of evidence to the contrary: 1) Hyde never caught more than 16 passes in a college or pro season, 2) the passing game is where backup Shaun Draughn excels the most and 3) Kelly's offenses have typically always allowed for another back to get in on the action.

Kelly was quite successful in making at least one receiver very fantasy-relevant during his three-year stay in Philly, guiding DeSean Jackson (2013), Jeremy Maclin (2014) and Jordan Matthews (2015) to career-best seasons despite some less-than-elite quarterbacking. What receiver is next in line? The obvious answer is Torrey Smith, who is easily the greybeard of the receiver group expected to make the team at 27 years of age. The ex-Raven has obviously tasted some success in the league and emerged as the early leader in the clubhouse, as he was the team's most prominent pass-catcher during some early June practices. Smith is hard to trust given his history as a one-trick pony, so it is entirely reasonable to look elsewhere for the next great Kelly receiver. There should be no debate that Kelly has been able to cater his offense to different types of receivers (look above), so it is notable that Matthews - primarily a slot receiver - was able to attract the targets he did in 2015. The leading candidate for slot duties in San Fran is Bruce Ellington, who the coach pointed to in late February as a player that can do some "interesting things". One of the interesting things Ellington has done throughout his career is line up in the backfield, which makes him a candidate to serve as the LaMichael James/DeAnthony Thomas/Kenjon Barner speed back that draws the defense's attention as the player in motion and occasionally gets featured on the fly sweep.

Late-June Fantasy Reaction: Hyde supporters will proudly point to Week 1 of last season when he stole the spotlight with 180 total yards and two scores in a Monday Night Football win over Minnesota. His detractors will point to the remainder of the 2015 season and his college career; Hyde has yet to play a full season in college or the NFL. In fact, he has missed 11 games in his first two pro seasons, which is one fewer than his predecessor, Frank Gore, has missed in his 12-year career. Hyde also has yet to really prove he is much of a receiver, so it will be interesting to see just how much time he has dedicated this offseason to working on his hands. The lack of durability and likely low reception totals scare me and make me believe he'll play below his current ADP of 4.07 just as often as he performs above it (when he plays). The talent and job security are solid, however, which is a nice (and rare) combination to have in any fantasy runner these days, so he should be a solid RB2 when all is said and done. I definitely want to see more of Smith before making a judgement on him, but his 11.12 ADP makes him a huge value pick in my estimation, even if all he does is come close to matching his best years in Baltimore. He's going to get his shot at volume in this offense, so it will be incumbent upon him to show he has developed into something more than a vertical threat. Still, I like the value he brings in an area where most owners will be taking him as their final receiver. Ellington is probably the closest thing San Francisco has to a matchup nightmare despite being only 5-9 and 197 pounds. Given the historical inaccuracy of Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick, Kelly could decide his passing game needs more short throws than long ones. Ellington is plenty quick and fast enough to thrive in the slot. Barring a huge preseason, he'll likely go undrafted in fantasy, but it wouldn't surprise me if he leads this team in catches.

The general consensus following RB Thomas Rawls' season-ending ankle injury last season in Week 14 was that he'd be good as new by the time offseason work rolled around. He is still clearly the top dog on the depth chart despite the Seahawks' decision to draft three running backs, but the hope of him being ready for training camp appears to be a pipe dream. In fact, the message really hasn't changed on Rawls from late May to the middle of June. Worse yet, HC Pete Carroll "expects" Rawls to be ready for Week 1, which can be treated as a coin-flip guess given his usual optimism and the fact that coaches tend to expect the best until the worst is confirmed. Third-round rookie C.J. Prosise isnt being considered as a viable early-down option (at least not yet) - the Seahawks reportedly view him as a third-down back with mismatch capabilities - so it appears fifth-round rookie Alex Collins and Christine Michael are the frontrunners to give Rawls as much time as he needs. Others seem to think Michael's roster spot is in danger. At last check, Michael dropped eight pounds to get to 217, so perhaps it is a sign the annual fantasy tease finally understands his NFL future might be hanging by a thread?

It had been nearly 10 years since a Seahawks' receiver finished higher than 25th in PPR scoring (Bobby Engram, 13th; 2007) until Doug Baldwin had the second half of a lifetime last season, catching 42 of his 56 targets for 678 yards and 12 touchdowns from Week 10-16. The outburst came as a result of the team's desire to emphasize quicker passes, timing routes and spread formations while also serving to help a struggling offensive line. It appears to be the plan of attack this season as well, although not everyone believes that. It also appears they'll be doing so while focusing on one of their breakout players from 2015, Tyler Lockett. The 2015 third-rounder, who was drafted primarily to return kicks with the hope he would develop into something more, delivered much more with 51 catches, 664 yards and six touchdowns. Baldwin believes Lockett has "taken his craft to the next level" by improving his releases off the line of scrimmage. Carroll has taken notice, stating in mid-June that "hes a starting receiver for us". He went one step further later in the month, saying "hes right in the middle of all of our planning and all of our preparation".

Late-June Fantasy Reaction: Whether it is because it is the middle of the summer or something else entirely, it doesn't seem as though the notion that Rawls could be limited this year has registered with many owners. There is some thought that Rawls may not play at all in the preseason, and that is not something that should be taken lightly with someone as unproven as the former undrafted free agent. Carroll made waves by saying recently that TE Jimmy Graham, who is trying to come back from the dreaded torn patellar tendon injury, is further along than Rawls in his recovery. That is a scary thought, and one that makes his current 3.05 ADP much too high. If pressed, I believe Collins beats out Michael in camp to start Week 1 if Rawls isn't ready, while Prosise gets comfortable with his primary role. It's too much to ask Prosise, who made a late switch from receiver to running back in college, to seamlessly transition to a primary back in his rookie season, although I do think it will happen sometime early in his career. Given what we know at the moment, I'd put Rawls somewhere in the fifth round in redraft leagues, Prosise in the 10th-round area (his current ADP is 13.03) and Collins in the 13th-14th round area. Lockett isn't too dissimilar from John Brown, so I'm actually happy to see his ADP only about a half-round lower than Arizona's third receiver. If Seattle sticks with its second-half offensive approach, he'll live up to his 7.11 ADP and then some.

Tampa Bay
QB Jameis Winston first made news this offseason by trading in a can of lard for a six-pack. (OK, that was a cheap shot, and I admit it.) The first overall pick of the 2015 draft was listed at 231 pounds last year but reportedly weighed in "the upper 240s" at the Pro Bowl. Winston decided after watching the work habits of players such as Russell Wilson and Julio Jones that he needed to have an offseason plan, and so in February, he contacted famed nutritionist/trainer Tim Grover, whose list of former clients include Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, to help him avoid the dreaded sophomore slump. The result was a weight loss of 18 pounds with a goal to be between 225 and 229 by training camp. While there were plenty of questions regarding Winston and his off-field behavior entering his rookie season, very few evaluators doubted his readiness as a pro passer. After winning NFL Rookie of the Year honors, new HC Dirk Koetter - Winston's play-caller last year - is putting more on his young quarterback's plate this season, although Koetter admits he gave the former Heisman Trophy winner more and more as the 2015 season progressed. The coach apparently has seen enough in his year-plus around Winston and wants him to "test the boundaries of the offense": I think the upside is huge because Jameis loves to play football. Hes a tremendous leader, tireless worker, first guy in the building and the last guy to leave. Football is really, really important to him. Hes got plenty of things he can work on (but) the players want to play for him, play with him and play hard for him. I think the skys the limit. This guys been successful at every level, and Im a true believer that hell be successful at this level, too."

If there was one bugaboo in RB Doug Martin's huge 2015 season, it was the five fumbles on his 321 touches. Considering he had three fumbles total over his first three seasons (654 touches), no one seems to be getting too uptight about it, although the Bucs are doing what they can to make sure it won't be an issue going forward. Of course, there is no such thing as easy money for fantasy owners when it comes to a running back's workload nowadays, even after that running back just signed a five-year contract worth $35.75 million in March. Pewter Report believes despite Martin's massive contract, third-down RB Charles Sims could see more carries this year than the 107 he had in 2015 and will play a more vital role in the offense than usual because Koetter will rely more heavily on Winston's arm. To that end, Koetter has said that he believes Sims "can be an every-down back if need be".

Late-June Fantasy Reaction: Consider for a second that Winston threw for over 4,000 yards and accounted for 28 total touchdowns despite the fact he was an overweight rookie who had a lead receiver that led the league in drops in a run-based offense. One would think a more committed Winston with a more focused Mike Evans - not to mention Koetter running the show now as opposed to conservative former HC Lovie Smith - should lead to much more production. It's worth noting starting in Week 9, Winston ranked fifth among quarterbacks with 2,394 yards passing and seventh with 325 attempts - both of which were four cries from the 1,648 yards (19th) and 210 attempts (25th) he recorded between Weeks 1-8. While I don't think we can necessarily double Winston's second-half numbers and give him 4,500-plus yards and 650 or so attempts, it seems almost a certainty that Koetter will allow his team's success to ride on the strength of quarterback's arm this season. Even with the depth at the position now, Winston seems like a good bet to outperform his current ADP of 11.11 and push for low-end QB1 status.

As far as the running back position goes, I love the logic that goes into handing one back over $7 million per season and suggesting two or three months later that may lose touches. Obviously, if Winston is carrying the offense on a more regular basis, Martin is going to see fewer touches. Then again, Martin can handle himself in the passing game, so more Winston does not necessarily equal more Sims and less Martin. However, it does seem likely Martin will see fewer touches in 2016, if only because the Bucs want to preserve their investment in him. The Boise State product is still a good bet to push for 300 total touches, though, and should easily remain in the RB1 conversation. Koetters belief in Sims means owners need to view him as a RB3 with huge upside, since it is very possible he could become a featured back in the wake of an injury to Martin.

RB Matt Jones rushed for 123 yards and two scores in his second game as a pro and a star was born. Well, kind of. He fumbled out of the end zone the following Thursday against the Giants and only found the limelight one more time, compiling 187 total yards (including 131 receiving) and a touchdown in a rout of the Saints in Week 10. While there were more highlights, the Redskins appeared more willing to confuse fantasy owners than maintain any level of consistency at the position, cycling through Alfred Morris, Jones, Chris Thompson and Pierre Thomas. Washington wants to change that this season and were willing to let Morris leave via free agency because of the confidence the coaching staff has in Jones. Every action - or lack thereof - this offseason has pointed to the belief that Jones can and will be the lead back, as the Redskins did not pursue a free agent and waited until the seventh round to take a back in Keith Marshall, who is known as much for his tentativeness following his recovery from ACL surgery now as he was for his explosiveness pre-injury. Of course, Jones' path is not nearly that cut and dried. He lost four fumbles on 163 touches last season as a rookie, leading Washington to turn to a "special ball" that makes a sound any time he isnt putting the right amount of pressure on key points of the ball. Washington also wants him to improve as a pass-blocker, for example, in order to be the player GM Scot McCloughan likened to a recently retired running back he traded for while in Seattle, Marshawn Lynch. As far as the offseason is concerned, Washington officials appear happy with the progress he has made.

With first-round rookie WR Josh Doctson missing a large chunk of offseason workouts to rest an Achilles' injury, he could be in danger of falling behind Jamison Crowder in the battle for the third wideout job behind DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. The Redskins aren't concerned about Doctson's injury or the effect it will have on WR coach Ike Hilliard's opinion of him: Josh Doctson will be just fine. Im not worried about him at all. He can spit out (all the terminology). He knows it all. Hes going to be real good. With that said, Crowder has been everything the Redskins could have hoped for this spring and more. The prevailing opinion is Crowder will remain the main slot receiver in three-wide packages based on how he looked there this spring.

Late-June Fantasy Reaction: Considering the Redskins' usage patterns last year, it would be foolish for anyone to guarantee Jones will be a three-down back all season long; that is nearly impossible to predict in today's NFL. What is clear is that he has a good shot to do so for an offense that can make defenses fear the passing game for the first time in years and is the only back on the roster built to withstand the punishment a featured back typically endures. In short, Jones is being set up to succeed and that is all owners can ask for at the running back position anymore. Of the running backs getting drafted outside the top three rounds, I'd suggest Carlos Hyde (4.07 ADP) and Jones (5.02) probably have the best chance of finishing among the top 12 or so players at their position. Marshall could very well end up taking Thompson's job as the top third-down back behind Jones, although that will likely get decided in camp. In most normal-sized leagues, both will likely go undrafted. Doctson is almost certainly going to get featured in the red zone regardless of where he falls in the overall passing-game pecking order. He'll likely need to shoot past Garcon in order to become a starter and there is simply no guarantee that will happen since Washington may opt to break him in slowly before making him the top receiver in 2017 after Jackson and Garcon are likely allowed to hit the free-agent market. His 13.12 ADP sounds about right. Crowder doesn't present much touchdown upside at 5-8 and 185 pounds and, as a result, is going undrafted in 12-team PPR leagues. That's a tough sell for me considering he is coming off a 59-catch rookie season and playing for a quarterback who ranked in the bottom half of the league in average depth of target, which plays right into Crowder's strengths. There's going to be a role for Crowder as long as he is healthy and productive, and there's something to be said about having a "safe" receiver on fantasy benches capable of 60 or more catches.

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Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”. Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.