Mike Clay of PFF Fantasy (ProFootballFocus.com) was kind enough to lend his wisdom to us and answer some pressing fantasy football questions for you. Mike’s among the very best fantasy football experts and you can find him not just on ProFootballFocus.com but on Rotoworld.com.
We’ll both be at the Fantasy Football Fest in AC along with Rob Warner, Jim Day and a ton of other experts, let us know if you are doing to be there.
Let’s get to the questions, but first we wanted to point out that PFF Fantasy has a premium membership option this year and in our humble opinion it’s going to be worth the investment. Check out PFF Gold and see more after Mike’s Q&A…
1. Excluding Peyton Manning what comeback candidates do you have for this year?
Chris Johnson really jumps off the page here. He finally appears to be motivated to prove his naysayers wrong and beat writers/coaches/teammates anticipate a big rebound. We know this guy has the skills and I anticipate a 180 from what we saw last season, especially if Jake Locker comes in and opens up the passing game. Sticking with the running back theme, the Chiefs are going to lean heavily on their tailbacks this season, both by running the ball a ton and in the passing game. Both Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis are in for rebounds, although Charles figures to be a RB1, while Hillis is more like a flex play.
2. Looking at your rankings you have both Michael Turner and Frank Gore each totaling less than 200 carries. You’re lower on them than many experts. Is it a matter of age or do you see other rushers eating into their production and overtaking them in the next couple of years?
Age and wear are certainly a consideration, but factors out of their control are also in play. The Falcons pass offense is going to be a bigger part of their philosophy with Dirk Koetter in town and Julio Jones emerging as a major force. Additionally, Jacquizz Rodgers is in for a much bigger role, especially on passing downs. Gore benefited from a run-heavy 49ers offensive attack last season. The Niners still figure to gameplan around the run, but they can afford to throw more after adding Mario Manningham, Randy Moss, and A.J. Jenkins. Like Turner, Gore also has competition for reps. Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James were acquired during the offseason and Kendall Hunter will be more involved in his sophomore season.
3. Who are the most undervalued players you see right now?
A few of my favorites include a pair of Saints (Mark Ingram and Lance Moore), a former Saint (Robert Meachem), and a pair of ex-Miami Hurricanes (Leonard Hankerson and Greg Olsen). Ingram is overlooked because of the timeshare in New Orleans, but there are other factors to consider. Other backs have a clearer path to touches, but play in a poor offense or aren’t nearly as talented. Additionally, Darren Sproles is strictly a passing down guy and Ingram is clearly the preferred choice to Pierre Thomas on early downs and inside the five. Meachem is getting some hype recently, but really does have WR2 upside this season. Don’t be surprised if he steps right into Vincent Jackson’s old role and has a huge season. With Meachem out in New Orleans, Moore’s role should increase just a little bit. Considering he was already worth a look at WR3 before, he’s definitely in the mix now. Hankerson is going to win the No. 2 job in Washington and has WR3 written all over him, especially if teams focus on slowing Pierre Garcon. Olsen is a guy I’ve come around on recently after coach Ron Rivera said he’d be “the guy” this season. I believe him. Expect Olsen to finish second on the Panthers in receptions.
4. Looking at ADP data QBs and TEs are being drafted earlier than ever. If you are drafting late in the first round in a serpentine format would consider drafting a QB or TE with one of those first two picks?
I’d definitely consider Aaron Rodgers late in round one, but I’d grab one of those middle-of-the back running backs (eg. Steven Jackson, Darren McFadden, Matt Forte) before I took a tight end. As strong as Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski are, running back isn’t nearly as deep and you can find values later in Antonio Gates, Jermichael Finley, and Olsen.
5. In Dynasty leagues how do you rank the rookie running backs?
With the turnover in this league, you need to focus on the short-term more than the 10-plus-year window the “dynasty” term seems to put in people’s minds. Talent is obviously the number-one factor, but opportunity isn’t far behind. Trent Richardson easily has the most talent and the best opportunity among this year’s rookie class. He’s the easy pick. I really like Doug Martin’s skillset and expect him to blow by LeGarrette Blount in Tampa Bay. David Wilson and Isaiah Pead are also intriguing names. Both have fragile backs ahead of them on the depth chart, but Wilson has a better shot of unseating Ahmad Bradshaw than Pead does Steven Jackson. On the other hand, Bryce Brown is a very deep sleeper, but really has no chance of finding regular snaps on the Eagles over the next few seasons. Even if he proves to be a top-10 talent at the position, his best case scenario is a timeshare for the next four years. Weight talent and opportunity the right way and you’ll have yourself a nice set of rankings.
6. Every year there is a surprising amount of turnover in the top 10 fantasy football RBs and WRs. Who do you see falling out of the top 10 at each position and who do you see entering the top 10?
Running Backs- Out: Lynch, Sproles, M. Bush, Turner, Peterson … In: C. Johnson, McFadden, Forte, S. Jackson, MurrayI’m really just making theses lists based off my rankings. Peterson, Lynch, and Sproles will be borderline RB1s this season, so there’s nothing negative to say there aside of Peterson’s obvious injury issues. I already mentioned why I expect Turner to slide back and Bush is stuck behind Matt Forte. I anticipate a rebound from Chris Johnson this season and the other four names on my list missed, at least, one game due to injury last season.
Wide Receivers- Out: Nelson, Welker, Smith, Harvin, Wallace, V Jackson … In: J Jones, Jennings, Nicks, A. Johnson, A Green, ColstonI still like everyone on the ‘Out’ list, but have them as WR2s; as opposed to the top-ten. I like Jones, Jennings, and Nicks as top-five options this season and Johnson/Green are right there. Colston is quietly a value pick this season after the big names come off the board.