Below, find all the news and moves that truly impact the fantasy value needle, with no stone left unturned. We ground each breakdown in our Fantasy Stock Formula, analyzing which factor(s) have seen a change (Talent, Opportunity, Surrounding Talent, Coaching Scheme, Risk, and Upside) to identify Risers, Fallers, Penny Stocks, and Value Holes.
Even with the added weaponry for Mitch Trubisky, the Bears couldn't pass up on Memphis WR Anthony Miller with the 51st pick of the draft. Unsurprisingly, Matt Nagy has only spoken glowingly about his rookie toy. Slated for a potential starting role in the slot, Miller has a chance to make an immediate impact in Nagy's offense.
“You want to be able to see throughout their pro days, the combine, what they put on tape — any time you can see a route that relates to what you do as an offense, you kind of tag that and say, ‘OK. Hey, there it is. I found one," Nagy said, "And so with Anthony, you see a guy that at the top of his route, he likes to stick the top of the route and it’s sharp, so what that does is it sets the angle for the quarterback."
"And you don’t see that from every wide receiver. There’s a violent move for him to be able to set angles, whether it’s a slant route, a post route, an out route, et cetera, he’s aggressive with it and I think that fits his style of play.”
Nagy may just make Miller the 2018 Cooper Kupp. The new HC has a clear vision for the role and route tree he'll ask of Miller, and early predictions have Miller "earmarked for the slot." Taylor Gabriel may blow up more often, but Miller could be the more consistent and reliable PPR product, and both are worthy late round Penny Stocks.
David Johnson put on a show in the first day of OTAs, confirming his health and talent remain fully in tact following last year’s season-ending wrist dislocation. Despite Bruce Arians’ departure, Johnson was reportedly still lining up at WR and frequently motioning out of the backfield in practice, suggesting he’ll maintain his target-hog receiving “Usage” in addition to his bell cow back status.
Johnson entered 2018 with some mild concerns over both his health and his role outside of Bruce Arians’ workhorse-obsessed scheme. If the first day of OTAs was any indication, both worries should be assuaged, as Johnson looked as explosive as ever while moving all over the formation:
“I don’t want to get too excited,” new HC Steve Wilks gushed, “but David Johnson, he looked outstanding today. It’s good to have him back there, just flying around. The things that he’s doing right now, it’s pretty exciting.”
Players also took notice, too. “Penny Stock” candidate Ricky Seals-Jones noted, “He’s a different cat, man…the moves David can do are different.”
With his health and usage now firmer, Johnson will continue climbing up 2018 rankings. Last year’s Consensus No.1 is just one season removed from over 2,100 total yards and 20 TDs, and his lofty goals remain 1,000+ yards rushing AND 1,000 yards receiving for 2018. Sam Bradford is a dump off aficionado, and this enormous ambitions aren’t impossible.Moreover, Johnson's expressed excitement over some subtle offensive tweaks, like running behind a fullback -- which suggests a high-volume run-game is coming under defensive-minded Wilks. In fact, Wilks already said as much at the 2018 Combine, stating: "We want to be productive, number one, in running the football," Wilks told reporters Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine. "This is a pass-happy league," Wilks emphasized several times. "It's my philosophy as a head coach -- I believe in establishing the run. And that's what we're going to do... As a defensive coordinator, there’s nothing more demoralizing to a team than being able to run the ball... When you look at some of the premier running backs in the National Football League, we have one right here in (David) Johnson.” He'll also benefit from new RB Coach Kirby Wilson, who has coached some of the best out of Curtis Martin, Emmitt Smith, and Adrian Peterson. According to DJ, Wilson is already "always in my ear" and preaching the little intracicies to take his game to the next level. All great news for Johnson. Despite falling to 5-6 in drafts, he's in position to score the most FPs in 2018, making the 6th pick an amazing place to draft.
Despite finishing strong over 2017’s final five weeks (and even leading the team in rushing), Barber’s grip on the Buccaneers starting role never felt real. This was fully realized after Tampa Bay sank the 38th overall pick into explosive rookie Ronald Jones; while Tampa Bay Times’ Greg Auman expects the two backs to “share the load initially,” with Jones gaining usage as he also gains trust by proving himself in key intricacies like pass-protection. In a best case, Jones develops slowly while Barber continues to thrive… but even then, he’ll be behind an ineffective line. More likely, he provides unusable, plodding early season volume and fades into nothingness by midseason. There’s higher upside stabs that can be made.
Though I was never a huge Carson enthusiast, he entered the draft as the clear king atop the mountain-of-shit that was the Seahawks RB depth chart. After all, the Seahawks backfield completely floundered after Carson suffered a broken leg in Week 4, with the team's leading rusher posted a monstrous 240 yards and the team notching exactly 1 RB rushing TD in 2017. Given this abysmal output, Carson — who posted two double digit outputs in only three featured games — appeared the clear frontrunner for volume in a Russell Wilson offense.
Now, that chance is completely erased. The Seahawks reportedly LOVE Penny, to the point they were willing to reach up at 18 for him before a trade partner emerged. Moreover, Pete Carroll has said the team will treat Penny as a true “three down back,” leaving nothing but scraps and handcuff-only upside for Carson — we’ve set Penny’s over / under touch total at 300, and I’m banging the over. Consequently, Carson goes from an intriguing mid round prospect to a draft day afterthought, save the deepest leagues.
Aaron Jones sees his Opportunity Score stabilized after the Packers avoided any backfield moves this offseason. Indeed, Jamaal Williams lingers and rode heavy volume to strong fantasy outputs to close 2017, but Jones is a far more talented runner who drips in fantasy upside now.
Most will call the Packers backfield a Training Camp battle to monitor, but the tape and stats all point to one man: Aaron Jones.
According to PFF, Green Bay backs led the NFL with 2.04 yards before contact on carries in 2017 thanks to superb line play. Yet somehow, almost miraculously, the team averaged only 3.62 yards per carry. In fact, nearly every RB on the roster was under 4.0 YPC, including Jamaal Williams (3.6) and Ty Montgomery (3.8).
Everyone, that is, except Jones.
In fact, Jones and his 5.5 YPC led the NFL in terms of Individual YPC versus Team YPC Differential. Moreover, Jones ripped a 15+ yard run on every 10.1 carries... while Williams had one 15+ on all 153 of his totes. Jones' six runs of 20+ yards were more than LeVeon Bell, Leonard Fournette, and even Alvin Kamara, on a third (or even quarter, compared to Bell) of the attempts.
Simply put, the guy is incredibly explosive. As soon as Montgomery suffered his destined injury in Week 4, it was Jones, not Williams, was who got called on first. Jones certainly didn't disappoint, racking up 49 total yards + 1 TD (Wk 4), 134 tot. yds + 1 TD (Wk 5), 41 yards (Wk 6 dud), and 138 tot. yds + 1 TD (Wk 7) over his four-game starting stretch, enough to finish as the RB5 in that span.
Unfortunately, the injury imp bit, and a hampered Jones was a non-factor the rest of the season while Williams slugged his way to strong fantasy production thanks to insane volume.
Still, Jones flashed by far the most upside here. Despite a clear path to lead back duties in an Aaron Rodgers attack, Jones is insultingly going as the 86th overall pick and RB36. Let others believe this is a committee and competition, and go with the guy who'll be dominating come midseason.
Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and Trey Burton, oh my! Talk about a Surrounding Talent upgrade — Trubisky's weapons cabinet, once headlined by (puke) Kendall Wright, now features a bevy of athletic field stretchers. This is ideal, as the creative, aggressive, and vertically-minded Matt Nagy replaces the infuriatingly conservative John Fox, also landing Trubisky a healthy “Coaching Scheme” score boost. A vertical cast + a vertical coach = perfection for the strong-armed Trubisky, who was graded third by PFF on 20+ yard passes. Jared Goff followed very similar upgrades in Sean McVay and his bolstered weaponry to a QB1 breakout, and Trubisky’s own arm is all that stands between him and a similar explosion.
With his "Opportunity" and "Coaching Scheme" scores skyrocketing as the expected 49ers Featured Back, Jerick McKinnon now drips in RB1 upside.
Kyle Shanahan’s “Zone Blocking” run game has facilitated monster RB1 seasons whenever the talent fits the scheme... and even when it doesn't (cough, Carlos Hyde, cough). In fact, five of Shanahan's last 6 lead backs have been Top 15 fantasy producers, including monster outputs most recently from Devonta Freeman and Alfred Morris, while "stalwarts" like Steve Slaton have notched over 1,500 total yards and 10 TDs in this offense. McKinnon is set to be the next featured monster, according to Shanahan's mouth (and the 49ers wallet). McKinnon is now the league’s fourth richest back thanks to a monster 4-year, $30 million deal -- not "complementary" money by any means. Moreover, Shanahan has done nothing but heap praise since signing the versatile back: “I got lost watching his film, there’s so much I liked,”; “He’s an issue for teams,”; “He’s good on third down... and also first and second.” Apparently, Shanahan has found his next horse, which is a fantasy football bet I'll always hammer. All signs point to a monster 1,500+ total yard, 8-10 TD, 50+ reception season. For more on the Shanahan’s Zone Blocking Scheme and McKinnon’s fit in it, click here.