Ian Allan's fantasy football mailbag. In this edition: Is Fantasy Index trying to sit on both sides of the fence with Justin Tucker? How big of a concern is Minnesota's offense line? Are the odds stacked against rookie running backs? And is Melvin Gordon a bust waiting to happen?

Question 1

Why do you rank Justin Tucker #2 for the season, but in the Week 1 capsule you are "leery" and state that kickers on bad teams tend to stink. Tucker, you point out, averages only 7.0 points per game when the Ravens lose, and you expect the Ravens to lose more than win.


I have made clear a few times this summer that I think Gostkowski is easily the clear No. 1 kicker – he’s above all the others. But I still have Tucker as No. 2. I pointed out a stat trend in the weekly, which involved average scores in wins and losses over the past five years. But you have to factor in the reality that you don’t know when they’re going to win and loss. That is, I think they’re going to put up a clunker in Cincinnati this week, but they’ve still got a good defense and a good coaching staff – maybe they’ll surprise me. I think they’re going 7-9, but maybe they’re actually going 10-6. And while Tucker has averaged only 7 points in losses as a pro, I think he’s averaged 9.6 points in wins. If the Ravens go 7-9, that would be (7 x 9.6 = 67) + (9 x 7 = 63), or 130 points. That’s not bad.

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Question 2

Long, long time subscriber. Love your detailed information and how you answer questions. Don't know if you will do another mailbag in time or be able to answer before my draft on Tuesday but just saw that Min just released their high paid left guard and now how 5 new O-line starters. You have Cook ranked higher than almost everyone. Do you think the 5 new o-line starters are good enough for Cook to be a top 10 RB? Where do you rank their line?

Randy Newland (Villa Hills, KY)

Agreed. The offensive line is still a major concern. They’ve signed a couple of new tackles, but not good tackles – Mike Remmers was a disaster in Carolina last year. Riley Reiff is starting at left tackle, but the Lions tried him there and didn’t like the way he played. At the very best, he’s an average left tackle. More likely, he’s a below-average left tackle, better than maybe 10 other starters around the league. So definitely a bottom-10 offensive line, I’m thinking. Cook will get stuffed in some games. Sam Bradford will get hit way too often, and given his history of injuries, I will be surprised if he lasts 16 games. But keep in mind that Cook is not only a runner but also catching little dumpoff passes. He’s also got the speed to hit on some chunk plays. I think he’ll be a top-10 back.

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Question 3

Do you think we are overvaluing the rookie backs like McCaffrey and Cook this year? Seems like these types of players almost always take a year to develop. Charles, McCoy, Rice, Westbrook, Thurman Thomas, Sproles all had quiet rookie years. I can think of two guys who were good their first year: the great Marshall Faulk and Matt Forte.

David Kennedy (Steamburg, NY)

Kareem Hunt. Let’s add him in there too. I think he could be a top-10 back. It’s not common for rookie running backs to hit it big, but it does happen. Using standard scoring 38 rookie running backs in the last 20 years have put up top-20 numbers – about two per year. And 21 of those backs have finished with top-10 numbers.

1999Edgerrin James, Ind.1,5535862,139172
2016Ezekiel Elliott, Dall.1,6313631,994162
2007Adrian Peterson, Minn.1,3412681,609133
2012Doug Martin, T.B.1,4544721,926123
2000Mike Anderson, Den.1,5001691,669154
2002Clinton Portis, Den.1,5083641,872174
2008Matt Forte, Chi.1,2384771,715124
1998Fred Taylor, Jac.1,2234211,644175
2012Alfred Morris, Wash.1,613771,690135
2015Todd Gurley, St.L.1,1061881,294105
2008Steve Slaton, Hou.1,2823771,659106
2001LaDainian Tomlinson, S.D.1,2363671,603107
2013Eddie Lacy, G.B.1,1782571,435117
2015David Johnson, Ariz.5814571,038137
1997Corey Dillon, Cin.1,1292591,388108
2006Maurice Jones-Drew, Jac.9414361,377168
1998Robert Edwards, N.E.1,1153311,446129
2004Willis McGahee, Buff.1,1281691,297139
2016Jordan Howard, Chi.1,3132981,61179
2012Trent Richardson, Clev.9503671,3171210
2014Jeremy Hill, Cin.1,1242151,339910
2001Dominic Rhodes, Ind.1,1042241,3281011
2008Chris Johnson, Tenn.1,2282601,4881011
2006Joseph Addai, Ind.1,0813251,406812
2007Marshawn Lynch, Buff.1,1151841,299712
1997Warrick Dunn, T.B.9784621,440713
2001Anthony Thomas, Chi.1,1831781,361713
1999Olandis Gary, Den.1,1591591,318714
2006Reggie Bush, N.O.5657421,307914
2003Domanick Davis, Hou.1,0313511,382815
2013LeVeon Bell, Pitt.8603991,259815
2000Jamal Lewis, Balt.1,3642961,660616
2009Knowshon Moreno, Den.9472131,160917
2013Giovani Bernard, Cin.6955141,209817
2008Kevin Smith, Det.9762861,262818
2013Zac Stacy, St.L.9731411,114818
1997Antowain Smith, 8401771,017819
2005Cadillac Williams, T.B.1,178811,259619

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Question 4

Thanks for another great season of Fantasy Index, you avoid group-think and form your own opinions , and always have. I've been using your products since 1992, and you've always been a cut above the rest. My question is about Melvin Gordon and his insanely high ranking. In Clueless Ken Whisenhunt's 13 seasons as an OC or HC, he's produced 7 top 20 RBs, but only one was a top 10 guy: Gordon 2016. Gordon reached career highs across the board last season, but STILL missed 1,000 yards and only averaged 3.9 ypc rushing. Gordon's TD totals are unsustainable. When you factor in the return of K.Allen, T.Williams, M.Williams, Hunter/Gates, each getting plenty of action on offense, and the fact that he's only had one good season in his career, clearly Melvin Gordon is due for a (major) regression and will likely fall back in line with his career numbers 819 yards rushing, 3.7 ypc, 5 tds, 35 recs. In preseason, he's rushed 19 times for 58 yards, a 3.1 ypc avg. He's a lesser RB on a lesser team with a lousy castoff coaching staff with a first-year head coach. I just don’t see how you can rank him as a top 5, let alone to 20 RB. I'd rather have Abdullah, Crowell, Hyde, etc.

Rob Dammers (wellington, FL)

Thanks for the kind words. I am comfortable with Gordon being a worthy member of the second tier of running backs. I think he’ll play more and get more touches than a lot of other backs. He’s one of the few backs with a chance to account for 80-plus percent of his team’s rushing yards and touchdowns. He was the only player in the league last year who scored all of his team’s rushing touchdowns. He’s the guy. And I think you also need to factor in Anthony Lynn. I believe he played a role in Buffalo leading the league in rushing last year. I think he wants to bring more running into that offense. I’m not sure how much of a factor he’ll be (it didn’t jump out in the preseason games, I will concede), but I’m intrigued enough that I would make Gordon one of the first five running backs selected.

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Question 5

When you are deciding between comparable players (specifically WR) what factors do you more heavily factor in your decision to draft? Looking at the most recent Sept. 2 the following players are still available (customized rankings): 29-Cobb, 30-Coleman, 33-Shepard, 35-T.Ginn, 37-D.Moncrief (who I drafted). I'm mainly comparing Cobb vs. Coleman. Cobb has the better quarterback, has had a couple down year, but is still young. Coleman has a higher ceiling (I think), is on a bad team that is going to be throwing the ball all over at the end of games, in addition to it appears he has a good rapport with Kizer. I'm leaning towards dropping Moncrief because I have no idea what's Luck's health situation is and picking up Coleman.

Jonathan Sheppard (Woodbury, NJ)

To me, Ginn looks like a good part-time receiver. I know he’s dropped a bunch of passes, but I think they’re going to use him – and on more than just vertical long routes. I saw him catch a number of short balls in the preseason, and also gain 24 yards on an end-around. I would be comfortable starting him in about half of their games (if he’s what I think he is). But Coleman is the guy I would grab. In that Tampa Bay game, he looked like he might develop into everything the Browns were hoping for when they selected him 15th in the draft a year ago. Going back to his rookie year, Coleman was supposedly looking like another Brandin Cooks in the team drills. Then he got hurt. Then he came back and went over 100 yards, with a couple of touchdowns, in the Week 2 game against Baltimore. Then he got hurt again, and they had peashooter check-down passer Cody Kessler at quarterback.

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Question 6

I'm in a 16 team PPR Dynasty league with rosters that we had to cut down to 24. Some of the rookie draft picks were released by the deeper teams. Last year not much came across the waiver wire so I'm thinking of using a good chunk of my $100 free agent budget on one of the rookies. The top guys available are DeAngelo Henderson, Chris Carson, Taywan Taylor, Trent Taylor and Bucky Hodges. How would you rank those guys? My weakest position is TE (Witten, Derby, Swoope) but I'm not sure how that would affect the decision especially since Rico Gathers is also available and I'd be inclined to maybe release Derby as well for some Witten.

Jeff Fell (Sarnia, ON)

I’d be looking at Taywan Taylor first. He looks very much like an NFL receiver – like he’s going to be starting (or playing in the slot) for years and years. He passes the eyeball test, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he ends up being a better pro than Corey Davis. (Not saying that will happen, but maybe.) Chris Carson, also, is roster worthy. He showed really well in the preseason, trying to force his way up Seattle’s depth chart. He reminds me of Thomas Rawls and Isaiah Crowell – all were highly regarded prospects who didn’t have the college careers they envisioned for different reasons. I wouldn’t worry too much about tight ends. Swoope will be back for the second half of the season, and he could still be good. Gathers looks like an NFL tight end; he should be on a roster (rather than Derby), on the chance he develops into a top-10 tight end in 2018 or 2019.

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Question 7

So what is your take on Ezekiel Elliott situation? What does your crystal ball say?


I haven’t followed it closely. I’m not a legal expert, so I don’t feel like I have anything special to add. I try to focus on what I’m good at – analyzing numbers and watching games, sharing opinions about how players are going to perform. Elliott’s attorneys raise some good arguments, so I think there’s some chance this winds up in court, delaying the decision for months, with Elliott playing all 16 games (then perhaps serving a six-game suspension next year). But I think it’s probably more likely that the NFL will prevail, with Elliott sitting out six games starting in Week 2.

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Question 8

I play in a TD-heavy keeper league and thought I was set with Davante Adams and Jamison Crowder, Now that Willie Snead is suspended for 3 games, would you add Ted Ginn and subtract Crowder? Though Crowder will see more targets in the slot, I suspect Ginn will score more with the deep ball with Brees as his QB. Thoughts?

HOWIE FISHMAN (Hermosa Beach, CA)

I like Ginn. I moved him above Snead even before the suspension. I think he’ll be the No. 2 wide receiver in that offense. But I don’t think he’s quite up there with Adams and Crowder. I see Ginn as more of a part-time option – start him when the Saints are playing at home, where they tend to average about an extra touchdown pass per game. But tend to sit him when they’re playing on the road.

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Question 9

Where are the podcasts on your website?

Jeffrey Palarino (Pittsburgh, PA)

Justin Eleff posts one every week; sometimes two. So if you go to the website and start scrolling down, you should hit one before long. During the regular season, I expect to be talking with him every Wednesday or Thursday. If you want to see the listing of all past episodes, you can see them all together on iTunes (and probably other sites as well). I will talk with the tech guys and see if we can get a tab added to our own website, where all of the podcasts are listed together.

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Question 10

I'm in a 12-team half-point PPR League. I'm heavy on receivers (M.Thomas, D.Bryant, D.Thomas, Greg Olsen and Kyle Rudolph). Light on running back (Bell/Lynch, with no backups). With late bye weeks for the above-mentioned backs, should I hold off dumping Olsen or Rudolph in favor of a free agent back, the likes of West, Hill, Forte, or should I ride out the season for a couple of weeks to see if someone establishes themselves?

Dan Woods (Auburn, WA)

You’ll want to get a third running back at some point. You can’t count on Bell and Lynch staying healthy. Perhaps use a week or two to evaluable where Rudolph is at. They pretty much ignored him in the preseason, so I’m nervous that they’re not going to use him nearly as extensively this year. He was the most-targeted tight end in the league last year. This year, I’m thinking Dalvin Cook and Adam Thielen will pick up a lot of those short balls. (They’ve got Thielen playing in the slot, so he’s running different routes.)

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Question 11

I have Martellus Bennett as my TE end, but, he's going up against a tough Seattle DEF. I have Charles Clay as a backup, going up against a more suspect NYJ DEF. Do I sit Bennett and go with Clay? Or, does Martellus kick butt in a grudge match against his brother? Thanks for your insight!

David Hogshire (Plymouth, MN)

If it’s PPR, I’m thinking about Clay, because I think he’s going to catch a lot of dumpoff balls this year. But more likely I would start Bennett. Seattle’s defense is going to be really good, but many teams have tended to attack them with tight ends. Multiple times in recent years, the Seahawks have allowed more touchdowns to tight ends than to wide receivers.

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Question 12

Our original league, like yours, is still going and is still TD only. With 2 RBs, 2 WRs and a flex I have to sit one of these guys: Abdullah, Baldwin and Adams.

Henry Goers (Bartlett, IL)

I’m in a TD-only league, and I tend to just go off the numbers. That is, you scout the 32 teams, put together the rankings, and then see what the projections tell you. For this week, it works out to Baldwin at 2.8 points (or, if you prefer, a 47 percent chance of a touchdown), Abdullah at 2.5 and Adams at 2.4. So Adams is the guy I would leave out, even though he had a good game against Seattle last year. The Seahawks, recall, were playing without Earl Thomas in that game. That’s a tough defense; it’s allowed only 78 TD passes in its last 80 games, which is almost unbelievable, considering the way the game is played today. Abdullah ain’t perfect; I don’t think he will get any goal-line looks. But I would toss him out there this week and hope for the best.

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Question 13

I don't see teams depth chart? Available somewhere on site?

JON JENSEN (Central, SC)

Those are in the product each week. They’re on the last few pages, and updated versions will be sent out every Tuesday going forward.

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Question 14

In the past, I never really looked at the Overall rankings in the weekly product because I assumed that was to give you an idea of who to use in a flex position and our league didn't have a flex position. This year we added a flex position that can be any position on the roster (yes, even a kicker or defense). All TDs are 6 points, so it would seem that QBs should be higher in the overall ranking than other players. The custom scoring list shows projected fantasy points by position, but not on the overall list. Both of my QBs (Stafford, Rivers) are listed well below my RB3 (Abdullah) and WR2 & WR3 (Crabtree, Benjamin) even though the projected fantasy points is 8-10 points higher. Am I looking at the overall ranking wrong in the weekly?

Roy Sherman (Columbia, TN)

With overall rankings, you getting a measure of how valuable a player is at his position. That is, maybe Michael Crabtree is 40 points better than the 45th-best wide receiver, so he’s ranked ahead of Matthew Stafford, who’s only 30 points better than the 16th-best quarterback. But if you’ve got an open flex position, you should instead be looking at the projected points for each player – Rivers or Stafford will be in that spot every week.

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Question 15

I have the No. 1 overall pick in a 16-team league, 6 points for TD passes. Would I take Rodgers or Brady with the top pick, or David Johnson with the top pick and then go QB with the 32nd pick? I lost my first six games last year and never recovered, and I need a bounce-back year.

STEVE KATZ (Columbia, MD)

One way to measure these guys is to look at how much better they are than the worst start at their position. I’ve got Rodgers projected to produce 472 points. That’s 106 more than the 16th-best quarterback, Andy Dalton. I’ve got David Johnson scoring 259 points – that’s 140 more than the 32nd-best running back, LeGarrette Blount.

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Question 16

I am in a 10-team dynasty league. I just traded McCoy and draft spots late for Michael Thomas and D. Cook. Good Move, or bad move? Buffalo scares me, and so does McCoy, I have had him for 4 years, he has never followed up a strong season with another, so this is in my opinion a possible off year and he is turning 30 soon.

Cal Hoskison (Tacoma, WA)

A steal, in my opinion. I would rather have Dalvin Cook than McCoy – the same back, only 7 years younger. And I would rather have Thomas than McCoy. You’re getting both.

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Question 17

Like most fantasy players I’m probably in one too many leagues. This year I have a similar pick in two leagues (pick 12). Seems like the same players would fall to me. Would you take the same player in both leagues? Because that's who you like? Or do You go against your instincts and take the opposing similar player?

Vincent Tubito (Staten Island, NY)

I’m not opposed to diversifying a little bit, but I tend to wind up with a lot of the same guys on my teams. When I get into the next dozen rounds, it’s usually the same guys who bubble to the top of the board in each round.

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Question 18

Love the features, updates, and ratings for years now. The cheat sheet follows me into my live drafts. One question: Why are not all the teams are represented with the Ds, PKs, and TEs the rankings?


For the pdf, we’re trying to fit everything on one page. You have four columns. One each for receivers and running backs. One for QBs and the overall. And that leaves one for the tight ends, kickers and defenses (about 21 at each position). That should work for most formats. If you want to get into the ratings of the lesser players, they are available at the website. There’s an Excel document that can be downloaded that includes rankings for 32 defenses, 40 kickers, 50 tight ends, 50 quarterbacks, 100 running backs and 120 wide receivers.

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Question 19

Trying to decide my last keeper. Demaryius Thomas in the 4th, Mark Ingram in the 7th or Martellus Bennett in the 9th. Keep in mind that players get drafted earlier on average in this league because of the number of players that are kept. We usually spend the last couple of rounds on speculation picks, hence the Michael Thomas in the last round.

BEN PIELA (Glen Rock, NJ)

They look like pretty similar prospects to me – I don’t think any of them are knockout steals. I would probably go for Bennett, locking down my ninth-round pick on what should/could be a top-10 tight end. But that’s just off the top of my head, not knowing league size or scoring system. Ingram might be pretty solid in PPR.

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Question 20

I've never heard of what I just did, though surely others have before me. I want your opinion of it! $200, standard scoring league with one flex, I kept David Johnson for $55, added LeVeon Bell for $73, C.J. Anderson for $21 and Terrence West for $2. I have a good QB in Russell Wilson, but suck at WR – Crowder, Garcon, Thielen, Coleman and Allen Robinson. Doyle, Witten, Gostkowski and Denver D round out the team plus some worse scrubs. Do you think this strategy will work? It's a big experiment but points out pretty well for Week 1.

JERRY ENGER (Littleton, CO)

I haven’t seen the other rosters, but I would guess that will be the winning team. I think Wilson is headed for a monster year, so you should be just fine there. And while it cost plenty to secure the top 2 running backs, I actually think the wide receivers aren’t that bad. Crowder, Garcon, Coleman and Robinson could all be the top guys on their teams. Thielen should catch a lot more passes this year, working out the slot. The one-two punch at tight end should work, and you’ve got the clear No. 1 kicker. Also factor in that the team is a work in progress. No doubt there will be a couple of top-15 players that emerge during the season, and you may grab one or two of those. Good luck.

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Question 21

I have a compliment not a question. Just thank you for all you do and what your team does. Been playing since mid 90s and your mag has been there every year. The mailer I get with the questions on the front is what I consider the beginning of the fantasy football season. Get the updates and listen to the podcast. I write a weekly column for the newspaper I work at and always appreciate the work you put in to produce as much as you do. Just a fan saying thanks and will keep up with you and the site through the season. Love the changes to the Open and look forward to the Blackout game.

Jason Collington (Jenks, OK)

Thanks for the kind words, Jason. I’m a former newspaper guy myself – journalism degree at the University of Washington in the ‘80s. Only limited work on newspapers post-college, though, because we got the fantasy football magazine going pretty quickly.

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