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Fantasy Football Today
1430542543
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer

One of the best position battles we'll monitor closely during training camp this season will be Arizona's backfield with Andre Ellington and rookie David Johnson, who was drafted in the third round Friday. The winner could be a quality Fantasy option.

And don't be surprised to see Johnson come out on top.

Ellington has plenty of upside, but he's had trouble staying healthy during his first two years in the NFL. He's coming off hernia surgery, which has limited him this offseason, and he also dealt with a foot injury in 2014 that still isn't 100 percent healed.

He also struggled with his production last year as a featured back with just 3.3 yards per carry. His final stats were 201 carries for 660 yards and three touchdowns and 46 catches for 395 yards and two touchdowns.

If healthy, Ellington could easily beat out Johnson, but Cardinals general manager views Johnson as a three-down back. Johnson (6-foot-1, 224 pounds) has size on Ellington (5-foot-9, 199 pounds) with a similar skill set.

Last year for Northern Iowa, Johnson had 287 carries for 1,553 yards and 17 touchdowns and eight games with at least 100 rushing yards. He also excelled as a receiver with more than 30 catches in each of his four seasons with the Panthers, and he had 536 receiving yards as a senior.

Johnson is going to make things tough on Ellington, especially if he remains limited with injuries heading into training camp. Ellington is no longer a must-own running back this season, and I might pass on him on Draft Day and take Johnson with a better value pick.

Johnson is a running back I plan to target in all leagues. 

1430538921
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer

One of the top running back prospects in the draft, Tevin Coleman landed in Atlanta with a third-round pick. And there's a lot to like. 

Coleman, from Indiana, is coming off a sensational junior year where he ran for 2,036 yards on 270 carries (a ridiculous 7.5 yard average) with 15 touchdowns. The big, tough rusher has surprising speed but is pretty much a one-cut runner who is more of a bully than a fleet-footed guy who will avoid tackles. 

The good news is that Coleman figures to slide right into a sizable role given the lack of options at running back for the Falcons. Second-year back Devonta Freeman offers the biggest challenge for playing time but could just as easily end up getting wedged into a passing downs role. He could end up as the Roy Helu to Coleman's Alfred Morris -- an apt comparison given the new offensive coordinator in Atlanta, Kyle Shanahan. He worked with Morris and Helu in Washington and could easily deploy these backs in similar fashion. 

The biggest negative might not have anything to do with either of these guys. The Falcons offensive line is still messy, and if it can't block for Coleman (or Freeman) then we could see long days for them over the course of the season. It also doesn't help either one that they're on the same squad as Matt Ryan, which means there will be passing. 

Coleman is the better back of the two. I'd go so far as to say he's in the mix as a low-end No. 2 Fantasy running back in his spot with the Falcons. I wouldn't rule out 250 carries for him, and I wouldn't wait longer than Round 5 or 6 to take a chance on him. Freeman slides from similar territory to a No. 3 Fantasy running back who will go closer to Round 10 than Round 8. If we're talking long-term formats, Coleman is worth a pick in the same neighborhood as above. He's also worth a first-round pick in dynasty/keeper leagues. 

1430537057
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer

Friday was the day for tight ends in the NFL Draft as four players -- Maxx Williams (Ravens), Clive Walford (Raiders), Tyler Kroft (Bengals) and Jeff Heuerman (Broncos) -- were selected in the second and third rounds. All these tight ends have potential to help their NFL teams, but Fantasy owners should be wary of them this season.

We've seen this show before.

Last year, seven tight ends were drafted in the first three rounds with Eric Ebron (Lions), Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Buccaneers), Jace Amaro (Jets), Troy Niklas (Cardinals), C.J. Fiedorowicz (Texans), Richard Rodgers (Packers) and Crockett Gilmore (Ravens). None of them were helpful for Fantasy owners.

Sure, Ebron, Seferian-Jenkins, Amaro and Rodgers had some positive moments last year, but they were few and far between. They weren't reliable starting options, and this class will be the same.

Williams fills a big hole for the Ravens and should play right away with Dennis Pitta (hip) hurt, and Walford has huge upside but has Mychal Rivera in his way. Kroft will compete with Tyler Eifert for playing time, and Heuerman will help Owen Daniels and Virgil Green replace the departed Julius Thomas. For seasonal leagues, only Williams has the chance to help Fantasy owners this year, but his production will likely be minimal, so avoid him on Draft Day.

In dynasty leagues, I would draft them in this order: Williams, Walford, Heuerman and Kroft, with the latter two easily reversible depending on what happens with Peyton Manning in the future. 

1430536290
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer

Two rookie running backs with potential to put up big numbers were drafted by teams with crowded backfields. Ameer Abdullah was taken by the Lions while Duke Johnson became property of the Browns

As a Fantasy fan, both picks made me angry. I want to see these guys in solid, regular, contributing roles. I'm not sure we're going to get that right away.

In Detroit, Abdullah is basically the replacement for Reggie Bush. Both of them are excellent one-cut runners with speed and great hands. Neither of them are bangers between the tackles and questions are out there as to whether or not Abdullah has enough bulk to be an inside rusher. There are also questions about what he can contribute after running the ball 813 times in 53 games at Nebraska, tallying over 5,000 total yards and 46 touchdowns. It all certainly suggests that the Lions will return Theo Riddick to a limited role so long as primary rusher Joique Bell is healthy. Abdullah, theoretically, will handle passing situations. 

The running back situation in Cleveland isn't nearly as clear. Johnson is capable of handling a big role in an offense, just as he did at Miami. In three years with the Canes he had just over 4,200 total yards on 526 carries and 69 receptions in 33 games. But the Browns had two rookie running backs last season who put up some nice stats. Isaiah Crowell figured to be the running downs back while Terrance West would compete on passing downs. Now both of their roles are in jeopardy with the versatile Johnson coming aboard.  

Both picks tell you a lot, especially about the non-prospects. Maybe the Browns aren't sold on Crowell and West. Maybe the Lions aren't sold on Riddick and are concerned for Bell's long-term health. It's rare to see rookies taken with a Top 100 pick not get a chance to contribute for their teams, so it's probably wise to figure they'll make an impact. 

In Detroit, Bell is still the best back. I'll take Abdullah with a mid-round pick where I previously took Riddick, who is now a late pick if a pick at all. So long as Bell is healthy, he's still going to lead the way for this run game. 

As for Cleveland, it's probably going to come down to training camp to see just how much work Johnson can take away from Crowell and West. Knowing what I know about Johnson, though, I'm willing to bet that he ends up the best rusher of the three. If I can get him just before the midway point of my drafts (Round 7 or so), I'll be happy. Others will aim for Crowell with an earlier pick but I don't know if he can fend off Johnson for 17 weeks. I'll pass on him and West, who is at best a late pick. 

I'm sure this won't be the last time a running back lands on a team with a crowded backfield.

1430532124
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer

You can make a solid argument that the Jets have one of the best receiving corps in the NFL after they drafted Devin Smith in the second round of the NFL Draft on Friday. He joins Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker and Jace Amaro, and this is an excellent group.

Now it's up to Geno Smith or Ryan Fitzpatrick to take advantage of all this talent.

We'll start with Devin Smith, who was the seventh receiver drafted and the first one taken in Round 2 at No. 37 overall. He had a solid career at Ohio State and finished 2014 with 33 catches for 931 yards and 12 touchdowns.

He'll be the No. 3 receiver for the Jets behind Marshall and Decker, and his Fantasy value is minimal in seasonal leagues. If the Jets had a prolific passing attack then we could recommend their No. 3 receiver, but there aren't going to be enough passes in this offense to make Smith relevant.

He should be a nice second-round pick in rookie-only drafts because he'll eventually replace Marshall as a starter in a year or two, and that's when Smith can really thrive. We just hope the Jets have a capable quarterback by then.

Marshall and Decker, who were both Top 10 Fantasy receivers in 2012 and 2013 before struggling last year, will suffer if Geno Smith or Fitzpatrick don't play at a high level. Marshall is a low-end No. 2 receiver, and Decker is just a No. 3 option at best. Amaro also has plenty of upside, but his value is tied to the quarterbacks.

We'll see if Smith or Fitzpatrick can win the starting job, and we hope this offense under Chan Gailey can be productive. The receiving corps is great, but the quarterback play will determine just how good Marshall, Decker, Amaro and now Devin Smith will be in 2015.

1430531213
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer

The Panthers receiving corps got deeper -- and larger -- with second-round pick Devin Funchess joining the crew. A tight end-turned-receiver at Michigan, Funchess gives Cam Newton another big-bodied downfield threat opposite Kelvin Benjamin. He stands at 6-foot-4 and 232 pounds and basically will cause major problems for the smaller cornerbacks in the NFC South (and whoever else the Panthers play). 

Funchess was a consistent contributor for the Wolverines, catching 111 passes for 1,481 yards and 10 touchdowns over his last two seasons (24 games). He used his long arms and big hands to make catches, out-muscling smaller defensive backs along the way. But he also had his fair share of drops and never sped away from defenders (he ran his 40 in 4.7 seconds at the combine, then 4.47 at Michigan's Pro Day). 

The bottom line is that he's going to be Benjamin-lite in the Panthers offense. Benjamin should still be the main receiver there with Funchess earning a shot to be a gigantic weapon on the other side of the field. Really, it's great news for Newton, who went from having one of his most puzzling receiving corps last year to having, potentially, his best one ever by 2016. Let's hope Funchess makes strides in training camp. Assuming the Panthers keep him as a receiver and not a tight end, he's worth a late pick in seasonal Fantasy leagues, a middle- to late-round pick in dynasty/keeper formats and is worth a second- or third-round choice in rookie-only drafts.

1430529110
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer

When Marcus Mariota was drafted, we complained that he had no one to throw to. 

Now he does. Boy, does he ever. 

The Titans took a big gamble in Round 2 and selected former Missouri receiver Dorial Green-Beckham with the 40th pick in the draft. Emphasis on the word "big" -- Green-Beckham is 6-foot-5 and 237 pounds, instantly creating a Kelvin Benjamin-like mismatch for Mariota and the Titans. 

But will Green-Beckham be as good as Benjamin? That remains to be seen as he has the height of big receivers like Benjamin but not necessarily the bulk. He's also not as physical as someone his size should be. He's also still raw as far as route running and overall technique to the game. And while he should be a dynamo in the red zone and on 50-50 jump balls, he never consistently used his leaping ability well and his hands aren't as polished as they could be. That didn't stop him in school, tallying 1,278 yards on 87 catches with 17 touchdowns including 12 in his last 14 games. 

When he spoke with the media following his selection he said he hasn't taken a day off. It sounds like his work ethic is solid, which is good considering what we know about his off-field life. He had three different incidents while at Missouri, including two arrests for marijuana possession and one involving domestic violence, that led to him being kicked off the team. If he's willing to turn his life around and focus on football then he could become fantastic.

Because I expect growing pains in the Titans offense and in Green-Beckham's game, expectations are low for 2015. Take him with a low-risk mid- to late-round pick as a Fantasy reserve receiver in seasonal standard and PPR formats. He'll go a little higher in long-term leagues and as a second-round pick in rookie-only drafts.

1430525767
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer

A year after trying to solve their run game issues with free agent Toby Gerhart, they selected Alabama's T.J. Yeldon with a second-round pick in the draft.

It's a step in the right direction.  

Yeldon's a tall but lean rusher with good speed and great cutting ability. Though he isn't as physical as someone who is 6-foot-1 and 226 pounds should be, he can still do a good job as a nimble runner capable enough of working between the tackles. And with 4.5 speed, he should combine his good speed with fluid feet. 

The best news for Yeldon is where he wound up. Jacksonville's running back corps is about as appealing as a bowl of rotten fruit. Gerhart stunk last year and Denard Robinson couldn't hold up as the feature back. Provided that he does well in training camp, Yeldon should be in line to work as at least a 15-touch back with goal-line duties. 

That sounds great, but it hasn't worked out for Jaguars rushers over the past few years. Their offensive line still needs work and they have scored a total of 20 rushing touchdowns over the last three seasons. So for Yeldon to buck the trend, he's probably going to have to play beyond expectations. 

I'd bank on Yeldon as a No. 3 Fantasy running back to begin the year. Backs like Jonathan Stewart and Isaiah Crowell have more appeal, but shaky backs like LeGarrette Blount or Theo Riddick aren't quite on Yeldon's level. Figure him to get snagged in Round 5 or 6 in standard leagues, maybe a round later in PPR (he can catch, but who knows how many passes he'll actually see thrown his way). In dynasty/keeper leagues he'll go at about the same spot, and in rookie-only drafts he'll get taken between eighth and 14th overall. 

1430454896
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer

Everyone was waiting to see what the Eagles would do on Draft Day. In the end, they did the right thing for their franchise by staying at No. 20 and selecting Southern Cal receiver Nelson Agholor.

There was plenty of buzz about the Eagles trading up to No. 2 overall to try and get Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. It seemed like Chip Kelly wanted to reunite with another one of his former Ducks, but they might not have offered enough to trade with the Titans.

So now Philadelphia heads into the season with Sam Bradford, who is coming off two years in a row with a torn ACL, competing with Mark Sanchez to be the starting quarterback. Barring a setback, Bradford is expected to win the job.

He gets a new weapon in Agholor, who should be a nice No. 2 receiver behind Jordan Matthews. We just hope Agholor breaks the trend of recent failures from USC receivers.

With the exception of Marqise Lee last season -- it's too early to judge him -- the Trojans have had a miserable run on receivers in the NFL of late. Going back to 2000, there have been eight receivers (minus Lee) from USC drafted in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft (R. Jay Soward, Mike Williams, Keary Colbert, Dwayne Jarrett, Steve Smith, Patrick Turner, Damian Williams and Robert Woods). Only Smith had potential before his career was derailed by injuries, and Woods also gets pass since he's entering his third year in 2015.

Agholor is next in line, but hopefully with different results. And he was impressive last season at USC with 104 catches for 1,313 yards and 12 touchdowns. He will likely play outside opposite Riley Cooper in three-receiver sets, allowing Matthews to play in the slot, and he can also return punts.

In Kelly's offense, Agholor has the potential to be a No. 3 Fantasy receiver with upside in re-draft leagues. Matthews is still the breakout star of this passing game, and I like Zach Ertz to play at a high level as well. But Agholor can be third in targets, and his upside is worth buying into -- even as a USC receiver.

Plan on drafting him with a mid-round pick in re-draft leagues and a first-round pick in dynasty formats.

1430451914
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer

If Phillip Dorsett had bigger size, he would have been one of the first players picked in the 2015 draft. I'm convinced of that thanks to his unreal zip, very good route running and solid hands. But Dorsett is just under 5-foot-10 and is 185 pounds, not delivering the size that most teams look for from a No. 1 receiver.

Clearly, the Colts couldn't care less. Indianapolis had needs on defense and is rich with receiver talent but still took Dorsett with its first-round choice. That's a testament to Colts general manager Ryan Grigson, who let the draft board come to him. He didn't care about need, just talent, and Dorsett has it. 

It does make you wonder how soon Dorsett can contribute to the Colts offense, though. He'll have to battle with Donte Moncrief and Duron Carter for the third receiver spot in training camp, then he'll have to prove to the coaches that he's more valuable to have on the field than tight end Coby Fleener, who until today figured to see a lot of playing time as a mismatch pass catcher. I have no doubts whatsoever that Dorsett can jump past Moncrief and Carter on the depth chart, but his playing time won't come easy. That's not good for his short-term Fantasy value. 

Dorsett might be a guy I take late in deeper seasonal leagues. There's just no way you can back him as a sleeper in a typical 10- or 12-team draft now. Not until his playing time is cleared up, anyway. I would spend a late pick on him in dynasty/keeper formats and would still consider him a Top 12ish pick in rookie-only drafts. 

His arrival crushes Moncrief and Carter's values. They're toast. Fleener's value takes a small hit since he probably won't see as many targets as I had hoped for. T.Y. Hilton, Andre Johnson and Dwayne Allen don't lose a whole lot either -- maybe a tiny sliver each -- with Dorsett figuring to get around 60 or 70 targets this season. 

Andrew Luck remains locked in as the top quarterback in Fantasy this fall. This doesn't hurt his value one iota. 

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