Well I suppose summer vacation is over. One intrepid tweeter told me the other day, "enough with the summer fluff pieces on Stephen Gostkowski and time to get into some really fantasy seriousness." And he is right. I'm kind of ready to get to fantasy football too. My summer has been a haze of watching reruns of "How I Met Your Mother," "Tangled" (which is the baby's favorite), and the wheel of "Bachelor" shows.
That's right. I take no great pride in watching "The Bachelorette" but I blame Petros Papadakis. (One half of the famed "Petros and Money" radio show out here in Southern California. And if you are unfamiliar, yes, that's Money as in Matt "Money" Smith of "NFL Fantasy Live" fame. Though to people out here, PMS is like the biggest deal ever, and oh yeah, he does that fantasy show.)
And before I do get into the sleepers, you know how much I love to say that Aaron Rodgers is going to be motivated this season because his brother aired their family's dirty laundry on "The Bachelorette" this summer. I'm still convinced this is the case, even though a lot of the football types in the building kind of bristle at the idea. But I did get a pretty good endorsement of this theory a few weeks ago. Forgive me, I did share this story with you on my Facebook page. However, it's too good not to share in case you missed it. (ICYMI for all of you hipsters.)
(Yes, I know. This also serves as a small, not-so-humble 'look at me' moment that's typically reserved for people like Chris Law. But it's not like that, at all. Well maybe a little. I've never really been a morning gym guy in my life, so I'm kind of stoked on it.)
But she was watching "GMFB" and saw Rodgers' name on the screen and literally said, "Oh look, he's trying to soak up some of his brother's publicity."
"No, Aaron is."
"Wait, Aaron is soaking up Jordan's publicity?"
"Yes. Nobody really knew who Aaron was until Jordan went on 'The Bachelorette.' He's making Aaron famous. Because now people are talking about him again."
Yeah. That checks out.
I mean, Jordan has one million followers on Instagram (it was 915K a few weeks ago when I shared this on Facebook, so holy [expletive]!).
Aaron doesn't even have an account. So look at the numbers, because she nailed it.
So I will continue to insist a huge bounce-back for Rodgers. Aaron. I figure Jordan is still with JoJo; at least according to those Instagram photos from six days ago. And besides, he can't break up with her just yet. Although, do you think that's why they've delayed an announcement on the next season of "The Bachelor"? Maybe the producers want to see if he is going to be single in a few months and then go with him? What a huge coop that would be for both Rodgers brothers doing what they do best in the fall. One guy looking like a D, mugging for the camera as he tries to get famous. And the other searching for true love on a reality TV show.
But enough about that. It really is time to put away these fluff pieces (not likely) and get to the serious football.
Winston finished just outside QB1 territory (QB13) last season, but I like him to step up in his second-year. He had 22 touchdown passes which was the fourth-most among rookie quarterbacks. Which isn't a surprise because it's not like Terry Bradshaw was slinging the rock as a rookie. Hell, did he even play as a rookie? A lot of those dudes sat the bench. The one thing I kind of like about Winston is that he isn't afraid to force the issue and go downfield. He was among the leaders in yards per attempt, so he's not a dump-off specialist. He'll frustrate you some with his interceptions, but then he'll seed one to Adam Humphries to make you best friends again.
Mariota opened like Guns N' Roses with a huge debut in the first couple of weeks, and everybody scrambled to get him off the waiver wire. He had some ebbs and flows like most rookies, but he had at least 30 fantasy points twice in his rookie year. Tied for most by a rookie. I love his scrambling ability. He had a number of sick runs, and that always helps to propel a quarterback's value. He's much more cautious than Winston, but make no mistake, he can make all of the throws that he needs to. He's really got something cooking with tight end Delanie Walker. I like Mariota to have the safer floor than Winston because he does do a great job. Well, maybe a decent job. He did have 10 picks last year. So maybe I'm driving down narrative street.
Mostly when you pick a rookie fantasy running back, you're damning the guy who is starting ahead of him. I'm not super-stoked on Latavius Murray. Which is strange because I love to take Murray in the fourth-round because I find him a great value and really love the Raiders offensive line. That's why I have Washington here. He's going to have a defined third-down role at some point. And he could actually become a Danny Woodhead-type, who ranks in Top 25 each season kind of way. I also believe he could end up being the No. 1 in Oakland. And then stuff will go crazy.
When you want to talk about running backs I don't believe in, Matt Jones is probably near the top of the list. And now he's out for the rest of the preseason with a shoulder injury. I'm a little worried about Marshall here because Robert Kelley has kind of lurked past him on the depth chart. But Marshall was drafted. Not like a first-round pick, but he was drafted. And GMs hate to be shown up in situations like this. There could be a situation where Kelley is put on the practice squad, but then the Patriots try to claim him and then he's pulled up to the main roster. It's very convoluted. You might also ask about Chris Thompson, but he's a third-down back. Let's just say one of these running backs is going to emerge. My educated guess is that it's Marshall.
The one holdup for the Seahawks receivers is going to be volume. Will the Seahawks throw the ball enough to see a rise in productivity like we had with Doug Baldwin last year? I feel like the volume will be there. It's why you try not to give fruits and sweets to a child too early. Because once they develop a taste for that, it's going to be hard to convince them to eat their veggies. No matter how good it is for him or her. We could see something similar for the Seahawks in regards to the passing game. Now that Russell Wilson has a taste for the passing game, he might not be satisfied with just being a game-manager type of quarterback. Plus he's so good at it. And then, enter Lockett. I could see him sniff 1,000 receiving yards with eight touchdowns this year.
Here is a situation where volume shouldn't be much of an issue. What I really love here is the 49ers could be an awful team. Well, let's just say the defense could be really bad which means there will be a lot more opportunities for passing if the 49ers are trailing. Which I expect to happen a lot. Plus, the 49ers will run a lot more plays under Chip Kelly. The 49ers ran the third-fewest plays in the NFL last season. That will obviously change. The Eagles were at the top of that list under Kelly, so there is going to be a lot of volume. Make no mistake, you will hear a lot of Blaine Gabbert jokes when you make this pick. But don't let it get to you. You're going to be fine with Smith.
Another great volume play. I expect a new Matthew Stafford this year. I live in Los Angeles where I had to witness the final years of Kobe Bryant on the Lakers. The whole offense was terrible to watch because everything had to be deferred to Kobe. Even when they brought in Mike D'Antoni, Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, everything had to go through Kobe. And what could have been a really fun team instead derailed. Though I would say a lot of that would have to do with Nash's injuries. So maybe if Nash had stayed healthy things could have been different.
But I'm getting off point.
Stafford no longer has to look at Calvin Johnson every time he retreats to throw the football. That's going to open it up for the other receivers. Jones is going to thrive as a No. 2 option opposite Golden Tate. In fact, I see him getting more yards and touchdowns than Tate. I see Golden much in the same way Randall Cobb was last year in Green Bay. A No. 2 who is expected to be a No. 1. I just can't see Golden being golden for your fantasy team.
Alright, I'll see myself out the door.
Steve Smith Sr. is the greatest player in the history of the NFL. I am in no way disrespecting him here. But Aiken was really good down the stretch last season. Aiken had 75-944-5 at the end of last year, and I don't see him ceding this gig to any of the veteran options (looking at you, too, Mike Wallace and/or Breshad Perriman) and he's going to end up as the top receiving option for this team.
I'm not sure how the Giants were able to land the Odell Beckham Jr. of this year's draft. Here's what teams should do; find out who the Giants like at receiver and then draft him. The Giants are like the kid on your block who had both Xbox and PlayStation. We all hated that kid. But don't hate these Giants. I know some of you might be scared about him not getting enough targets and such. But Rueben Randle had like 797 yards and eight touchdowns. Dude (or ladies), Shepard > Randle. By a lot. So I could see both Giants receivers have great years. OBJ steps into another stratosphere. Shepard tags along as a 1,000-yard 8 touchdown guy.
The Patriots have longed to reemploy the two-tight end strategy they had a few years ago. Now they have the guy who can get it done. I don't see Bennett taking away anything from Gronk. He plays a different game. Bennett stretches the field. Both can work in tandem to be effective. And the trend says anytime the Bears trade away a tight end, he does pretty well. (I know I've bashed Mike Martz for this previously, but it warrants mentioning again for anybody who missed it. Nice move, guy.)
If you're looking for a streaming option who could end up being a pretty good value, I love the Duval D. This team is going to get busy on the defensive end this season. I'm a little worried because too many people are starting to get hip to Jacksonville. Don't let that deter you.