What we are talking about:
Here's why I hate the pick.
This dude is so woke.
He's not going to cut it.
Welcome back to Week 1, and please forgive me if this column finds you a little tardy. In case you weren't aware, we have a brand new fantasy show for your viewing pleasure. "Fantasy and Friends" hits NFL Network Monday-Wednesday and Friday (stupid Thursday night game taking us off the air) at 6 p.m. ET. Not that this should be an excuse. Because really I've spent the better part of the last 24 hours add/dropping every tight end in my leagues to make sure they can't be picked up on waivers. Obviously, a move to ruin those guys and girls who drafted Rob Gronkowski.
(Looking at you Maurice Jones-Drew.)
That's right. I'm already in mid-season form for being a (expletive) head, as I would much rather be involved in fantasy espionage than actually going out and worrying about my own lineups.
But maybe that's because I'm pretty confident with the teams I've put together this season. I'm not a complete Zero-RB truther, but I do have some strong Zero-RB leanings. It's like politics. There will never be one candidate I completely agree with, but there is one who hits enough marks in all of the right places and I vote for that person (hey, I'm trying to be respectful).
I will say, though, I feel great about every team where I drafted at least three receivers in the first three rounds. I'm less optimistic with the teams where I took a running back (typically in the second round). I actually have one league where I took Le'Veon Bell in the third round, but still kind of hate that team despite the fact I drafted Antonio Brown and Dez Bryant.
I somehow ended up with Devonta Freeman on one of my teams. Although the "somehow" is a bit disingenuous because I know how I ended up with Freeman on my team. And it rhymes with pre-game mimosas. Actually, it wasn't even mimosas; it was just straight champagne. And if I might take this point a little bit further, I would like to tell you that you haven't lived until you've been kicked out of a champagne brunch. When the manager walks over to your table, grabs your receipt and says, "I think four hours is enough," then you are really living.
And of course, that ended up leading to us going out to the bar. One power blackout later and I end up with Freeman on my team. The good news here is that Mike Shanahan's son told an ESPN reporter that he wants to go with the hot hand this season. Well, let me tell you there was none hotter than Ramon who was pouring that free champagne!
But I digress. Freeman, you might remember, had the most fantasy points for a running back last year with 243.9. The lowest point total for a top fantasy running back since Charles White in 1987 for your Los Angeles Rams. Oh, and spoiler alert, the NFL had a strike in 1987 and played three games with replacement players (which I'm sure White was one of). Of course, that did give us one of the most epic football films, ever: "The Replacements." Amazing, right? That movie would have been so much better if they used actual NFL marks instead of those USFL looking uniforms. But I guess I see the NFL's point of not wanting to romanticize that era of the league.
Here are some more numbers for you as researched by our very talented Sammy O'Brien. Freeman and Adrian Peterson were the only running backs with more than 200 fantasy points last year. The fewest since White and the H-Bomb Herschel Walker in (wait for it) 1987. (BTW, shouldn't Walker be considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame? His New Jersey Generals starts should count here, right? I mean the Ichiro truthers want him to be considered baseball's all-time hits leader. So by that logic, Herschel's 2,000-yard season should work, right? I have a bigger rant about this but I digress.)
But I want to pile on running backs some more. Freeman's 243.9 total in 2015 ranks 159th all-time in a single-season in the NFL. Adrian Peterson was the only running back with 300-plus rush attempts in 2015, fewest number of running backs since 1990 (no strike, though).
The workload for running backs is also on the decline, obviously. But in 2006, 12 running backs saw 65 percent of their team's attempts. In the last two years combined, there were just 10.
So what I'm trying to say here is, I really hate that Freeman pick. Play a receiver in your flex and have some fun.
And without further ado ...
Matthew Stafford might be the best start of the week. The Colts defense is already bad and now it is banged up which is a terrible situation. For them. It's great for us.
The Lions offense responded well to coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. The team scored an average of 4.4 more points per game and the rushing game was much improved under JBC.
Derek Carr struggled at the end of last season, but most of that can be attributed to an injury to Amari Cooper. Plus, you know, he has the Saints this week. That's nice.
Alex Smith is a nice start this week. His yards per attempt climbed to 7.4 (up from 6.5 during his rookie season), and he's taking more chances. Feel good about Jeremy Maclin, too.
Robert Griffin III could be a nice contrarian play in DFS this week. The Eagles really gave up a lot of fantasy points to quarterbacks last season. I see Hue Jackson wanting to go deep with RG3.
Image The Comedy Central Roast of Rob Lowe was hilarious. Readers of this space know I've been a huge fan for years and loved "The Grinder" as well. Saddened by its premature cancellation! The winners of the roast were Pete Davidson who has now become a stalwart at these events. He's been great on "Saturday Night Live" so this is no surprise. Nikki Glaser was probably my favorite. Obviously her burn on Peyton Manning was legendary. "I love you in commercials. I'd say you're the greatest of all-time. You're like the Tom Brady of commercials." Gold. Rob Lowe was really good, too. I know, I know. They have writers, but Lowe has a really good delivery which shouldn't be surprising for an actor. And seriously, "The Grinder" was lit.
I don't really like the tape on Latavius Murray. But you have to like the Raiders offensive line. Murray should be able to get close to 1,400 yards over a full season behind that crew.
I really like Murray's matchup against the Saints who allowed the third-most fantasy points to running backs last season. And their run-D is an improvement over their pass defense.
The Dolphins allowed the most points to fantasy running backs last year, and that means the awakened Christine Michael is going to have a huge game for the Seahawks.
Ryan Mathews is poised for a great season under the direction of Doug Pederson, but Darren Sproles is a pretty fun play. Don't sleep on Sproles even though he's 80. Or seems like it.
Spencer Ware excelled after contact last season. But he's in a weird spot here because the Chargers don't make a lot of contact on defense.
Image Kevin Owens is the champion that we need over on the RAW brand. I was really bummed out Finn Balor was injured and not going to be given the chance to run with the championship. But sometimes situations like this work out for the best. I mean, not for Finn. But in the long run. Many of you are probably too young to remember Stone Cold Steve Austin who was my favorite as a kid. But his run started because HHH was involved in the "MSG Incident" which gave Stone Cold the run as the King of the Ring, which bore his "Austin 3:16" promo. Owens has that chance here. And he's that freaking good to make it happen.
Image NXT will be in Los Angeles in October and I can't wait to get out there to see it. Oh, who am I kidding? I'm super-stoked to see Bobby Roode's entrance. This is easily the best theme song/entrance since Finn Balor. NXT has the best entrances for real, right? Loved Shinsuke Nakamura's entrance on the same show at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn. I think I watch NXT more than SmackDown!
DeSean Jackson slipped in a bunch of drafts I did this year, but I really like him this season. And I even like his matchup this week, too. Don't sleep on the contract players.
If I'm bullish on Stafford, it stands to reason I would be all about Marvin Jones Jr. and Golden Tate this week. I'm not high on Tate overall this season, but you have to start him this week.
If the Colts DBs are banged up, and that means the Lions are going to score a ton of points, you can count on Indy to try to keep up. Get Donte Moncrief in your lineups immediately.
Most of Jeremy Maclin's production (more like all of it) occurred when Jamaal Charles was on the bench. So I'm comfortable with him this week against the Chargers.
Amari Cooper is almost too obvious to mention (not too much to keep me from mentioning him); but I'm cool if you want to add Michael Crabtree to your starting lineups.
Image Sorry for the spoiler alert here, but I'm bald. And because of that, I end up wearing a ton of hats. I own like 60 of them. The wife gets upset, but I point out the cost of my hats still is cheaper than the product/shampoo I don't purchase for my hair. All of that being said, I really like this hat.
Image As you know, my guy Derrick Levaseur is the GOAT when it comes to "Big Brother." He was never on the block! But I have to say, my guy Victor is going to give him a run for his money. Battled back from two evictions and then continued to beast comps, dude is legit. If Paul wins HOH on Thursday night, he's going to coast to the half mil.
Zach Miller is an interesting play this week. Jay Cutler likes to funnel targets to one person. The receiver he likes the most in the red zone is Miller. Plus with Forte gone, Miller is the safety valve.
Jared Cook might be the best option in DFS leagues. I know we've been burned before. But the combination of a contract year and the best quarterback he's played for is too much.
Survivor pick: The Kansas City Chiefs. Andy Reid has been good in openers in recent years. He's 2-1 in openers for the Chiefs. But he's got a good team this year. The Chiefs were actually more productive without Jamaal Charles last year. So add in the porous Chargers defense and I like Kansas City in Week 1.
ImageDudes at the UFC bar didn't appreciate me wearing a Brock Lesnar shirt the last time I was there. I have a feeling my CM Punk shirt will draw even more ire. I'll be watching Punk the same way I watch the Bears; full-fledged optimism.
Here's a weird stat of the week. Eli Manning did not throw a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys last season. There is no way that I could start him now!
I'm totally kidding about Eli. I mean, I did bench him for Stafford but that was based more on the matchup than anything else. The matchup for Stafford, obviously.
I'd stay away from Jay Cutler this week. Mostly because I fear the Bears could be up by 50 points early, and then the team will do nothing but run the ball a lot in the second half.
I don't buy Ryan Tannehill this week, this year or just about ever. I'll be happy to change my stance on him, but I really need to see something more out of him. Actually anything.
People are a little too high on Adam Gase. Yes, he worked with Peyton Manning and Cutler did better because they ran the ball. Oooh, he's a guru.
Image "How do you have the right to dog Peyton Manning? When did you ever play quarterback?" Fine. But since I'm a comic, I think I can talk about Manning's performance on the roast, no? He's got stage presence. He didn't look nervous. But overall, he wasn't great. He's not writing his own jokes. But his delivery really makes that point painfully obvious. Was he drunk? I think people give him a pass because it's "Hey look, an NFL player is throwing down jokes" but it wasn't good. Kind of like his performance in Super Bowl 50, but he was excused for that, too. Peyton reminds me of the kind of guy who publicly laughed at all of the jokes at his expense, but then he and his dad sent people to Pete and Nikki's house to intimidate them.
I'm not in the Jeremy Hill business this week. The Jets are a tough run defense, but I could see the Jets having some success against the Bengals forcing Andy Dalton to throw.
Melvin Gordon looked good in preseason. He also showed some skills as a pass catcher. And you know Tom Telesco wants to get him involved. But it's going to be the Danny Woodhead show. Again.
Arian Foster could be a nice story for the Dolphins this year. I would find a way to make him inactive against the Seahawks this week. Come on, this can't possibly end well.
Image For every Kevin Owens championship we get, why do we have to get Roman Reigns jammed down our throat? Let's be perfectly clear; Reigns is a pretty good worker. He puts on some good matches. He just can't carry the company. He's a lot like Sheamus in that respect. Sheamus takes a pounding like a champ. He puts on some pretty great matches. But he just lacks it. (Cue the Jericho, "It!" right here.) It's almost like you get deflated when his music hits. It's not a "boo!" I don't like this character. It's instead a reaction to the insistence of Vince McMahon that they have to wedge this guy in there.
Image I get the feeling HHH is getting more control and he's trying to push his NXT guys. Which he should. Because NXT is a pretty amazing product. But it's kind of like HHH made the call to put the Universal Title (stop, I like it) on Owens. And Vinny Mac was all, "that's well and good but you have to keep Reigns in the picture." So the compromise is good if it keeps KO in the main event. But still a little bit of a bummer. But KO is champ, so I'll simmer down.
I would normally go with Jarvis Landry even with a tough matchup. But why did he have to call out the Seahawks defense? Has that ever worked? Ever?
I would never say that you shouldn't start DeAndre Hopkins. That's lunacy. Though I did bench him at some point last year in my Chicago league because I had AB, AR15 and A.J. Green. So you can see, I was loaded at WR. But if you're a matchup guy, the Bears allowed the fourth-fewest points to WRs last year. The Texans have a new quarterback. There's some stuff working against him.
The Packers are tough against wide receivers, too. I'd never sit AR, but Allen Hurns should probably have a spot on your bench.
Image I was so over Meech on "Big Brother" and wasn't bummed to see her go. I also didn't like James in his showmance, either. He made him a worse player as he just lounged in bed with Natalie instead of doing more fun things like he did in his previous season. And how do you not team with Victor and Paul? That's an automatic ticket to the final four.
Jimmy Graham isn't likely to play this week. And it's really hard to hang on to him in leagues. Even, in the best case scenario, he ended up back with the team consider this: He didn't play well for the Seahawks last year. And yeah, I'll just end with that. Darrell Bevell doesn't design offenses to highlight one player. He's a big-name player, but he's probably not going to deliver for you.
I'd sit Travis Kelce this week. Actually, you probably don't have a tight end who would be a better option. But Kelce was one of the few guys who played worse with Jamaal Charles out.
Image Can we at some point just figure out which 64 teams want to play in FBS and get rid of that elusive fifth conference? Or even the sixth if you want to count the American or whatever conference Houston plays in. And heaven forbid if Boise State or even UNLV rises as a power in the Mountain West and completely destroy the whole thing.
Image BTW, how dare the Big XII say UNLV isn't good enough to be in its conference. You would be lucky to have a school the caliber of UNLV in your little conference. Don't come crying to the Rebels when the Raiders have that stadium built just off the Las Vegas Strip and you're clamoring to play games there. CLAMORING. It's bad enough the Sooners stole Lon Kruger, but now you have to be jerks about this, too.
Be sure to watch "Fantasy and Friends" at 6 p.m. ET on NFL Network, Monday-Wednesday and Friday. (Sorry, the Thursday night game preempts us. But you can be a part of the show by going to NFL.com/fantasyandfriends. Also follow Adam Rank on Twitter @adamrank.