Below, find all the news and moves that truly impact the fantasy football 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. All caught up? Return to the homepage.
Keep in mind, Nagy’s very first personnel conversation with GM Ryan Pace revolved around finding his next Kelce. This is a crucial cog of this attack, in which Kelce racked up a TE-leading 122 targets.“It’s an important role,” Nagy said. “It’s easy to create some plays for."
Burton was far and away Nagy's top choice for this job, which makes perfect sense considering the former Eagles' insane athleticism. At 6'3", 235 lbs, Burton is a physical freak, logging 2014 Combine bests in the 40 (4.62), the 3-cone (7.14) and the 20-yd shuttle (4.32). Nagy's well aware of this athletic upside, stating:
"And when you have a guy that has the size that Trey has and the speed that he has, it’s about mismatches. That’s one of the things that I learned through coach Reid is getting mismatches throughout, and that’s what Trey does."
The early results suggest a perfect fit. Carrying a 99 ADP and 93 ECR, Burton seems likely to bring a high-yardage floor to an otherwise uncertain position in this price range. This makes him a steal, and a Must-Target if you miss out on a more established Top-6 option. He's risen into the 70s on my Big Board.
For more on Matt Nagy's impact on the entire Bears' offense, click here.
“I said to him, ‘I need Marshawn Lynch,” Gruden told Sports Illustrated in February. ‘I don’t need this part-time Lynch. I need full-time Lynch... We don’t need another back, we need a feature back... I’m counting on him being a big part of our football team.”
Meanwhile, Lynch's family and friends reported the back "loves Gruden" and answered the above challenge by working himself into "the best condition I’ve seen him in in a long time." This was full on display during his 60-yard TD run, as Lynch looked faster than he has in years, perhaps even ever.
There's some very real unsexy upside here. For one, Lynch openly admits he wasn't in game-shape until midseason last year. When finally in peak form, following the team's bye and during their final 8 weeks, Lynch rushed for 625 of 891 yards (70%), as well as 5 of 7 TDs (71%). A Pro-Bowl level 1250 yds and 10 TDs pace. Already looking in phenomenal shape, Lynch should avoid the slow start and pick up right where he left off... mauling people.
Beyond his physical form, Lynch also benefited from the team's midseason switch from a zone-based attack to a power-heavy blocking scheme. In this misfitted zone-blocking scheme, PFF had the offensive line allowing the RB’s only 1.42 yards before contact collectively. In 2016 with power-blocking, the Raiders O-line allowed 1.9 yards before contact. This is fantastic news, as Gruden has historically deployed a power-blocking scheme -- ideal for the absolute bruisers along the Raiders line. Moreover, new o-line coach Tom Cable worked with Lynch in Seattle, and, despite a history in zone schemes, Cable fully understands the concepts and assignments in which Lynch thrives. This one play displayed the gap-blocks and multiple blockers that Lynch has run wild with before. He rises For more on Gruden's new-look offense, click here.
For more news and analysis, visit and bookmark our Fantasy Stock Watch.
Post-game, Cousins suggested this chemistry is nothing new, while hinting he'll deliver weekly target baths:"[Diggs] makes plays," Cousins said. "He makes plays and gives you the motivation to give him the ball more and more. To trust him and throw him open and make the contested catch. Once again tonight, he proved me right." We've long been recommending Diggs over last-year's breakout star Adam Thielen, and this early showing only further validates our case. With some Antonio Brown-lite to his game, Diggs has always been a strong "Individual Talent." Now, this should fully flourish thanks to the "Surrounding Talent" upgrade in Cousins, and a "Coaching Scheme" boost in DeFilippo -- an aggressive play-caller who's a master in the Red Zone (perfect, considering Diggs was PFF's top-graded WR in contested situations). Health is an admitted question mark, as Diggs has missed time each year and played banged up through others. Still, with every other factor on the Fantasy Stock Formula grading out to perfection, Diggs seems ready for the WR1 Elite Leap. For more news and analysis, visit and bookmark our Fantasy Stock Watch.
At 6'4" and 246 lbs with a 4.64 forty and combine-leading vertical and broad jumps, Njoku drips in raw ability. Still, questions of whether he could be refined and utilized properly have always existed... but may be put to rest soon. In his sophomore debut, Njoku flashed it all. On his first score, Njoku blew past the linebackers in coverage, and then outran the entire defense for a 36-yard TD. Next, he outleaped the defenders draped over him and highpointed a beautiful score. Clearly, Haley and the team recognize the insane athleticism at their disposal, and are thus far using it to perfection. Yes, this was against a Giants team that has been histroically bad at defending tight ends the past two seasons, but it's still an impressive performance nonetheless. Currently sporting a 132 Overall ADP, Njoku needs to skyrocket up Big Boards everywhere. He's risen from 128 to 105 on mine, and could continue climbing further if Josh Gordon's holdout seems likely to linger.
He'll see immense red zone volume and have plenty of space underneath, as Beckham's return should only further shake Engram free. Not to mention the addition of Saquon Barkley. “You look at teams with a solid running game and great running back, it opens the doors for a lot of things in the passing game,” Engram said. “Especially in the middle of the field. And that’s where the tight ends usually get a lot of their production. So it’s exciting. I’m excited to see him come in and make the transition.”
Expect Shurmur to capitalize upon these physical gifts, while Engram takes the usual sophomore leap himself.
He may struggle for the volume to reach Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz territory, as Engram will be below Beckham, Barkley, and likely Shepard most weeks on the target totem pole. Still, the quality of these looks will be sky-high, and Engram should approach or surpass double-digit scores with similar yardage and reception totals.
Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs could not be more perfect for new OC John DeFilippo's system. DeFilippo wants receivers who can run the entire route tree from every single position. Both wideouts are dangerous on every pattern, vast experience both outside and in the slot. The creative, mismatch possibilities are truly endless here.
Just look at their history: Stefon Diggs was the primary slot man in 2016, racking up 43 catches and 478 yards inside; a year later, Adam Thielen logged the most slot snaps, and did the most damage here with 592 yards on 46 receptions. Both have the finesse and pristine route-running to dominate inside.
Yet, they also are equally dangerous out-wide. Both have excellent top-end speed, and can blow by defenders who bite on their dangerous double moves. From 2015-17 on throws of 20 yards or more, Thielen posted a 51.4 reception percentage on 35 targets. Diggs notched a 43.5 reception percentage on 46 targets, with five of his touchdowns coming on such deep routes.
Even more, Diggs in particular can dominate in one-on-one situations. In fact, Diggs was PFF's highest graded WR in contested situations last year.
This mirrors DeFilippo's evaluation of Diggs, who was not only "shocked" by his pristine route running, but also added, "More of the tape study of what I had of the Vikings was when I got here, the tape doesn’t do that justice,” he said. “His ball skills are fantastic. The way he tracks the football in the air.”
This is crucial praise from DeFilippo. When you dig into his red zone philosophies and tendencies, he's gushes about giving his players chances to win those one-on-one balls:
"Red zone football is about matchups,” DeFilippo said. “It’s who can beat who, one-on-one. Can a back beat a safety one-on-one in the hole? Can a receiver beat a DB one-on-one, in a two-yard space, where you’re telling him he has two yards to work from the back of the end line to go up and get a football?
"I’ve been on a team where we had a bunch of 5-foot-8 receiver [in Cleveland}, and it made life really, really hard, and our 6-foot-5 tight end [Gary Barnidge] broke Ozzie Newsome’s record for touchdowns in the red zone. So, does having guys that are bigger, like [Stefon] Diggs and [Adam] Thielen and [Laquon] Treadwell and [Kyle} Rudolph help? Heck yeah."
Expect Diggs' contested skills to be called upon heavily in the Red Zone. According to "all accounts," Diggs "has shown up to OTAs and the offseason program looking quicker and stronger as he works to develop a bond with a new quarterback in Cousins." I like his chances at topping 10+ TDs for the first time in his career.
Health remains an issue -- he's missed time in all three of his professional seasons, and often seems to have something nagging to play through. Yet, if he can get this under control, Diggs is set up for his first 1,000 yard and double-digit TD season of his career. He's never played with a coach who can maximize his skill set, or a signal caller who can deliver the mail, quite like DeFilippo and Cousins. Despite Thielen's massive 2017 breakout, I think Diggs is the highest scorer here.
Though Thielen would be hard-pressed to top his Pro-Bowl level 91 receptions and 1276 yards from last season (especially if Diggs can stay healthy), he could stand for an uptick in his 4 TDs -- especially under Red Zone maestro DeFilippo. Thus, I expect him to remain a low-end WR1, with the upside to even surpass last year's explosion if Diggs' health woes get in the way.
All-in-all, both WRs will be playing with the best QB, and potential best play-caller of their young careers (granted, Shurmur is a beast). Expect a career season from Diggs (health-permitting), and continued success from Thielen, making both prime Round 3 targets -- ideally as high-end WR2s, yet passable WR1s if you've gone RB-RB for a stable of horses.
To learn more about what to expect out of John DeFilippo's offense in 2018, check out our Vikings Team Preview.
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.