2019 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Experts debate rankings on Todd Gurley, Davante Adams, more

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Yesterday, we talked about the risk factors for the Big Four running backs. Today, we're going head to head, debating some of our rankings discrepancies. Below is a lightly edited transcript of a chat between Dave Richard, Jamey Eisenberg, Heath Cummings and Chris Towers. 

chris.towers: We chatted about the Big 4 running backs yesterday, and I forced you to find the downside in each. That was no fun for you, I'm sure.

jamey.eisenberg: Chris "Debbie Downer" Towers, back for more.

chris.towers: Not necessarily!

But you're not going to be happy with me today either.

heath.cummings: I'm eating my 10 AM lunch. I can't be anything but happy.

chris.towers: We'll see. We're doing a rankings audit today. I'm going to ask you guys questions about your rankings, and you're going to have to answer them.

dave.richard: So, we're going to do our jobs. Okay, sounds great.

chris.towers: And we'll start at QB. I get it, we're all excited about Baker Mayfield. He's fun, he's brash, he does the air drum solo for "In the Air Tonight" — Celebrities, they're just like us!

But it's possible we're getting a bit ahead of ourselves. He's ranking fourth for Jamey, fifth for Dave, and seventh for Heath. Heath and Jamey, specifically, have him ranked ahead of Matt Ryan.

Defend putting Mayfield, who doesn't run, plays on a team that wants to run the ball a lot, and played in a glacially slow offense under Freddie Kitchens, above Matt Ryan, who has finished as a top-two Fantasy QB two of the last three years.

heath.cummings: Ryan has also finished outside of the top-12 in 2 of the last 4 years.

I'm hopeful Kitchens' slow pace last year was more a result of his first year as a play caller and not intentional. But I'm the lowest guy on Mayfield so I'm not sure I have too much to defend here. I'm mostly uncertain about Ryan.

jamey.eisenberg: I expect Ryan to regress because of a better run game — Dan Quinn wants to be more committed there — and an improved defense. Last time I checked, Mayfield got arguably the best upgrade of any quarterback this offseason with Odell Beckham joining his receiving corps. And don't forget about Todd Monken joining Kitchens' staff. Arrow up for Mayfield, who will improve as a passer in Year 2. Slight arrow down for Ryan.

chris.towers: Mayfield did, indeed, add Odell Beckham.

Matt Ryan has Julio Jones — better than Beckham, in my eyes at least — and Calvin Ridley. Anybody trying to make the case for Jarvis Landry as being better than Ridley?

I didn't think so.

And, Ryan may throw less this season, fine: Mayfield's 16-game pace after Hue Jackson's firing was 526 pass attempts. Are we overreacting to half a season with a 7.2% touchdown rate?

dave.richard: That run game Jamey speaks of hinges on a rusher who's missed 16 games over the past two years and contributes plenty in the passing game when he is healthy. And there's very little quality depth behind him. I'm loving getting Matt Ryan in our analyst drafts.

jamey.eisenberg: Monken was part of the offense that was second in the NFL in pass attempts last season and led the NFL in passing yards. We'll see what kind of influence he has.

The running back in Atlanta doesn't have to be Freeman leading the way for Atlanta to be more committed to running.

dave.richard: Then they're gonna punt a lot.

Mayfield is a playmaker, so I get why the fellas are higher on him than I am. And for crying out loud, I have him fifth, so I obviously like his chances at a big season. I think Ryan continues airing it out, just as he has when he connected for 4,900-plus yards and 35-plus touchdowns in two of his last three seasons.

heath.cummings: 21 or fewer touchdowns in two of his last four. Terrible.

dave.richard: Ryan's thrown for 4,500 in six of his last seven. Touchdowns are the issue. Ridley helps that cause, as does Hooper, Freeman, etc.

And Julio was playing hurt in 2017.

chris.towers: Alright, let's move on from last year's No. 1 pick to this year's: Heath, why so low on Kyler Murray? You've got him 17th, while Dave and Jamey have him as a top-10 option.

heath.cummings: I am far less certain about this working out in Arizona than everyone else seems to be. Is there upside? Absolutely! But I'm not sure how much upside with a defense that can't get off the field and an offensive line that is going to be bad, maybe terrible.

But also, I have him projected for 11 fewer points than Jared Goff, my No. 9 QB. It's a large group.

chris.towers: I think there may be a little bit of recency bias going on with young coaches, too: Sean McVay turned the Rams around overnight; Matt Nagy did the same for the Bears. But it doesn't always work out that way.

heath.cummings: And those two quarterbacks, Goff and Trubisky, were terrible as rookies.

chris.towers: (With different coaches.)

dave.richard: I'd be surprised if it didn't work out. Kingsbury's Air Raid offense is predicated on up-tempo snaps, quick, accurate passing, a rushing quarterback and a lot of aggressive playcalling. Not only is Murray suited to do all of these things, he's BEEN doing them. The learning curve for Murray is tiny compared to a typical rookie quarterback. The O-line isn't even top 16 but it's not a liability, especially if the Cardinals negate it with quick passes. The receiving corps is mostly young but there are plenty of good-to-elite route-runners with some speed.

jamey.eisenberg: Kliff Kingsbury is a Fantasy god, and Kyler Murray is this year's Patrick Mahomes.

heath.cummings: You should rank him higher then.

dave.richard: Oy, not sure if I'm going that far.

But I do think the Cardinals offense will be prolific. Murray will have some crazy weeks. I think Week 1 will be one of them.

jamey.eisenberg: (I'm joking Heath.)

dave.richard: I'll put it on record here: NO ONE on Draft Day has as much upside as Murray once you get past Round 7.

heath.cummings: Lamar Jackson.

chris.towers: Cam Newton is going after Round 7!

dave.richard: Nope.

jamey.eisenberg: Lots of guys have as much or more upside than Murray after Round 7.

dave.richard: Cam has more upside than Murray. I'll amend that.

chris.towers: Thank you.

Okay, let's move on to running back: You're all in agreement on Todd Gurley as the No. 13 option across the board. Isn't it time to start moving him up? He's had no reported issues in training camp. Sure, he's more of an injury risk than most backs, but … he was also far and away the best back in Fantasy for two straight years. 

heath.cummings: Has he played football yet?

jamey.eisenberg: He also has yet to have carries in a regular-season game.

Feels less risky to draft Gurley in Round 2 now. But there are still 12 running backs I like better than him as of now.

chris.towers: Really? Joe Mixon? Who had knee surgery last season, doesn't catch passes, and plays in what will likely be an awful offense?

Le'Veon Bell, with several knee injuries in his past, and who all of you seem to consider a bust?

Dalvin Cook! Who has missed more games than he's played — and frankly hasn't been all that good when he has played?

heath.cummings: Here's my real question with Gurley: What is the ceiling now? I have to assume the Rams would like for Gurley to be in better shape come the playoffs than he was last year. Does that mean 15 touches a week? 17? I have him projected for 16.8. At his efficiency from the last two years, that's still a top-five back. I don't think it's fair to expect that for two reasons. I think he loses a higher percentage of targets than carries, and targets are more valuable. Also, the offensive line is not going to be as good. It might only be average.

chris.towers: Right, he might be running behind an average offensive line.

If his line is average, what does that make Joe Mixon's?

jamey.eisenberg: Mixon might finally have someone who uses him the right way. Where did his coach come from again?

heath.cummings: It is bad. But I expect more touches per game for Mixon. He averaged 20 per game last year.

chris.towers: Lamar Miller might have more touches per game than Todd Gurley, too.

jamey.eisenberg: So will Chris Carson and Mark Ingram.

dave.richard: The Rams are playing it smart with Gurley and not exposing him to anything that could strain his knee. Unless they baby him and reallllly limit his touches, they're eventually going to have to let him loose and hope for the best. The arthritis is something he has to manage. We can't confidently say that it will be a non-issue all season. It could crush his availability at any time. Thing is, there are now several other running backs with injury issues that you'll pass on for Gurley. I get that. I agree with Heath that Gurley's touches are sure to come down, but I'm not so sure it'll be entirely in the passing game.

jamey.eisenberg: We should really sink Gurley now.

chris.towers: And yet, we don't have them ranked above Todd Gurley. Clearly, a mistake!

heath.cummings: I actually have Gurley for one more touch than Carson.

And a lot more than Ingram.

jamey.eisenberg: Chris just declared he is drafting Lamar Miller over Todd Gurley. I like it.

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chris.towers: We can't confidently say it will be a non-issue all season: We also can't confidently say any running back will get hurt. It's not a binary. He's an injury risk, more so than your typical running back. But he's been far and away the best running back in Fantasy under Sean McVay. He's not going to lose touches in the red zone!

Move. Him. Up.

Here's an interesting one for wide receiverJamey has Davante Adams as the No. 1 (1!!!!) wide receiver. Heath has him sixth. Make your cases.

heath.cummings: I'm worried about Adams' target share in comparison to last year. He's never been a very efficient receiver (career high is 8.2 yards per target) so he's going to need 160 targets to even top 1,300 yards. I expect the Packers will spread the ball around more than they did last year. But also, Adams is my No. 6 receiver (No. 5 in PPR) but I have him as a first-round pick in both formats. The top six are all very close.

jamey.eisenberg: I LOVE the track record of Aaron Rodgers' No. 1 WR. And I don't expect that to change in Matt LaFleur's offense, especially everything being said out of that building since LaFleur was hired. Per Adam Aizer: If you give Jordy Nelson 16 games with Rodgers in 2013, then in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2018 Green Bay's No. 1 WR finished 1, 2, 1 and 4 in non PPR and 1, 3, 2 and 2 in PPR. Adams was No. 1 in points per game last year and would have been No. 1 in total points at the position if he played Week 17. I get it, DeAndre Hopkins is awesome. He's 1B for me. But I'll take Adams over the field this year on Draft Day.

chris.towers: Jordy Nelson also averaged 9.3 yards per target for his career, with four straight years over 10.0. Adams' career average is 7.4.

Hot take? Jordy was a lot better.

dave.richard: I don't think there's any doubt Adams is a stud who can score 12-plus touchdowns. But Rodgers had no one else to trust last year! Allison was hurt, Valdes-Scantling was raw, Jimmy Graham dropped too many passes. The situation has changed and I think it could cost Adams some volume, just as Heath said. I'd rather have DeAndre Hopkins and Julio Jones, both of whom have overcome sharing targets.

chris.towers: Also, talk about a team that is probably gonna run the ball more.

dave.richard: Yeah, I don't know if I'm buying that.

jamey.eisenberg: Are they?

heath.cummings: I have them projected for 424 rush attempts. They ran the ball 333 times last year.

chris.towers: We're sure the Falcons will, but not the Packers, who added Matt LaFleur as their OC?

jamey.eisenberg: I'll take the under.

Yes, the Falcons will run the ball more.

dave.richard: I'll take the under on both of those teams, Chris.

heath.cummings: LaFleur's Titans ran the ball 456 times. His Rams ran the ball 454 times.

dave.richard: Who were those teams quarterbacks again?

jamey.eisenberg: LOL

The Titans.


heath.cummings: The Packers 333 attempts were their lowest mark in at least 12 years.

Fantasy Writer

Though he can be found covering three different sports depending on the time of year, there is one unifying theme in how Chris Towers approaches sports; "Where's the evidence?" It doesn't matter how outlandish... Full Bio

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