Ian Allan answers your fantasy football questions. In this edition: weighing the values of Philip Rivers and Isaiah Crowell. Why Brandin Cooks isn't as good as Julio Jones and T.Y. Hilton. And the declining popularity of TD-only leagues.
With a $200 salary cap I can keep Philip Rivers for $8 or Isaiah Crowell for $22. At the end of last year I thought it was a no-brainer to keep Rivers. Now I'm thinking that Crowell has the potential to be a top-5 RB with his talent, a new offensive line, and a coach that has declared that they need to use him more. Your thoughts?
James Costello (Portland, ME)
Rivers is the better player – a borderline Hall of Famer. Ten years from now, everyone will remember Rivers, who’ll have his number retired by the Chargers, while Crowell more likely will fade into obscurity. But fantasy football is different animal. There’s a lot more demand for running backs, and I think Crowell has a great chance of posting top-10 numbers. He runs hard, he’s been durable, and they’ve put a nice offensive line in front of him. No getting around that he’s on a lesser team. Rarely do we see running backs on 4-12 teams punching in double-digit touchdowns. But Hue Jackson is a throwback coach who’s a big believer in pounding away with the run. Jeremy Hill put up some insanely good numbers in Jackson’s offense during the second half of the 2014 season (after they moved him ahead of Giovani Bernard). I think Crowell is faster and better than Hill.
I’m not sure of your league’s exact specs, but in a general sense, I think Crowell should be valued at about $37 in your league. So if you have the chance to lock him up for $22, your $200 team becomes “worth” about $215. With Rivers, on the other hand, there are so many good quarterbacks in the teens that it’s hard to justify paying much for him. According to my draft models, he should go for only about $15, so if you go that route, you’ve increased the value of your team to only $207. You still have an extra $14 to work with, I suppose, and if you can buy $22 worth of players with it, then the deal would be a wash. That’s possible. But I would just lock in on Crowell, feeling confident that I would be able to find other good deals at quarterback.
What would you say is the most common scoring method for fantasy football? I know there are tons of variations of all the methods, but do you think TD-only is falling by the wayside?
WAYNE WILLIAMS (Mechanicsvlle, VA)
I believe standard scoring and PPR are the big two. I don’t have the official numbers, but I’d say they probably have 80 percent of the market share. I’m not sure which would be more popular. I don’t think many are playing TD-only nowadays – certainly not new, startup leagues. I will put a poll up on the site, but I don’t think polling our readers would be a representative sample (I think we’ve got a much higher percentage of guys who’ve been playing TD-only since back in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
TD-only league. I need a starting RB. At WR I have Julio, Hilton and Cooks. I have been offered Todd Gurley for Julio, plus he will throw in the 12th pick in the rookie draft. Julio is a monster in standard leagues, but has been disappointing in a TD-only league. Which is more likely: Will Julio start scoring double digit TDs, or will Gurley bounce back and score double digit TDs?
JOHN BENNETT (Chino, CA)
Your three wide receivers are all great players, but I don’t think any of them is a safe choice to be one of the top 10 touchdown scorers among wide receivers. Jones has scored 6, 9 and 6 TDs in the last three years. He catches lots of passes,, but they’re not giving points for catches and yards in your league. He’s scored on only 20 of his 323 catches over the last three years, one of the worst rates in the league. Only flicker of hope is that their new offensive coordinator says they’ll try to use Jones more often in the red zone, and that’s enough to make him the best of these three, I think. Similarly with Hilton, he’s a great player (led the league in receiving yards last year) but has never been a good scorer. He’s caught 7, 5 and 6 TDs in his last three seasons. He’s Andrew Luck’s favorite target and will have some big games, but as a smaller, speedy receiver who’s best in space, he doesn’t get used much in the red zone. He’s kind of like DeSean Jackson.
Cooks is great player, but I would select at least 20 other wide receivers before him in a TD-only format. The Patriots tend to spread things around. They’ve got three other wide receivers that I think are significant (Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan). I don’t envision them forcing everything to Cooks at the expense of those guys. And they also don’t heavily use their wide receivers in general. New England’s wide receivers have caught only 41 of the team’s 102 touchdown passes over the last three years, the lowest rate in the league. So for 2017, I would be far more interested in getting rid of Cooks rather than Jones or Hilton.
I’m not crazy about Gurley. There are less-heralded running backs who are higher on my board for TD-only – Mike Gillislee and LeGarrette Blount, for example. The Rams have a lesser offensive line. But I think Gurley has talent and some potential to bounce back this year. I believe he should be one of the first 10 running backs drafted in TD-only. I think he could get a nice boost from being used differently. The new coaching staff could prove to be a huge upgrade.
Modified keeper/dynasty league (12 teams, PPR). Currently I am picking #6, #14 and #16 with Melvin Gordon as my 3rd-round keeper. A.J. Green is my designated Franchise Player, and I've traded for Amari Cooper. I've been offered LeSean McCoy and a 5th-round pick for Amari Cooper. Most of the top backs are unavailable. So do I go into the draft pretty much set at wide with AJ and Cooper and search for a running back? Or solidify my running backs with McCoy and Gordon and use 1-2 of my early picks on a Jordy, T.Y., or Dez?
Anthony Cillis (Lagrangeville, NY)
I think we’re talking about multiple decisions, and I don’t think they’re tied together. You definitely keep Gordon. He’s about all the Chargers have at running back and is very good in this format – he’ll catch lots of passes. I’m not as confident with McCoy. He’s a 29-year-old, and I’m a little nervous about how he’ll fit into Buffalo’s new offense. He tends to be a freelancer, and that’s driven some coaches crazy – Andy Reid, Chip Kelly. So I think there’s a chance the Bills will sour on him, while Cooper will be catching 85-plus passes for years and years, making him really good in this PPR format. But it’s tough to find running backs, and I think we can worry about 2018 and 2019 later. The opponent is throwing in a fifth-round pick, which I think seals this deal. You take on McCoy, and there will be some good pass catchers available with those early-round picks. You should have no trouble securing Jonathan Williams in the later rounds, and if he performs the way he’s supposed to, he should be the No. 2 back behind McCoy.
Obviously this time of year Fantasy Rankings are a whole lot of guesswork, estimations and hot air if you will. That being said, I still enjoy looking at and pondering them and a lot of the other analysts (including a few that I respect, not as much as you of course Ian) update their rankings on a weekly basis whereas you do not start doing so until camps open and I am just curious as to whether or not you have ever considered doing it more frequently earlier in the year or not? Why or why not?
Jay Harding (Oregon City, OR)
I update the rankings as things occur. Since the magazine was printed in mid-June, for example, I have gone into my projections file and made adjustments for Eric Decker signing with Tennessee and Jeremy Maclin signing with Baltimore. And I changed my slotting for Washington, moving Jamison Crowder ahead of Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson. Previously I had Crowder as the third of those three receivers, but after seeing a few additional articles on these receivers, I came to the conclusion that Crowder probably will be the best. There are projected stats posted at the website (anyone who’s purchased a magazine can use them to generate customized rankings that fit their league’s scoring system). Those stats are slightly different than the ones that were printed in the magazine. I’ll continue to massage the rankings as we go along, and the changes will pick up as players show up at training camp.