As the mercury rises and we inch closer to the open of training camps, our resident fantasy football sickos, Brad Evans and Liz Loza, will profile their favorite booms/busts of every NFL team. Today’s topic: The Low-Flying Desert Birds.
PPR icon Larry Fitzgerald enters his 15th season in the desert. OVER or UNDER 99.5 receptions for the future Pro Football Hall of Famer?
Brad – OVER. In the not-so-distant future, bronze statues of Fitzgerald will glisten under the scorching Sonoran sun. The man is an Arizona institution, a dedicated, unflinching consistency king whose popularity in the area is only rivaled by Kurt Warner and John McCain. Some believe given his advanced age (35) he can’t possibly continue to crank out elite fantasy campaigns, but similar to Tom Brady his football DNA is more than your standard double helix.
Fitzgerald is one of my prime targets in .5-plus PPR leagues (34.7 ADP, WR15). He’s affordable, highly reliable and destined to hog targets on a Cardinals team somewhat devoid of quality pass catchers. Last year, he skewered defenses over the middle compiling a 71 percent success rate on catches between 4-7 yards. He also ranked top-12 in several additional advanced analytics categories, including contested catch rate, total yards after catch and red-zone receptions. Equally important, he’s tied to a pair of accurate short-field passers. Fantasy owners are familiar with Sam Bradford’s ability to throw strikes, but Josh Rosen, the most precise passer on intermediate pass plays among all FBS QBs last year according to Pro Football Focus, is also capable of threading needles.
Fitz owns the characteristics any fantasy owner with a functional brain craves. He’s a high-volume, high-floor weapon who should again eclipse the 100-catch mark along with 1100 yards and 6-8 TDs. In other words, a repeat of his WR5 per game output in PPR is bankable. Draft him with supreme confidence.
Liz – OVER. Demonstrating rare adaptability, Fitzgerald has allowed his game to evolve, and, in doing so, has extended his career. Since moving to the slot in 2015, the veteran receiver has stayed healthy and cleared 100 catches for three-straight seasons. At 34-years-old the vet shows no signs of slowing down, and recently spoke about staying in Arizona beyond 2018.
Maintaining a top-twenty catch rate for consecutive campaigns, Fitz remains one of the most efficient receivers in the league. With just six total drops in the past two years, he’s also one of the most trusted WRs in the game. That’s good news for whichever QB starts in Arizona. While Christian Kirk may be the future, Fitzgerald remains the NOW. With an ADP of 61.5 (WR23), Fitzgerald is high-floor value target for budget minded ballers. He’s the Yahoo Fantasy consensus WR14 heading into 2018.
Off a crippling wrist injury that prematurely ended his 2017 campaign where does David Johnson rank in your overall RB pecking order?
Liz – NUMBER THREE.
1) Bell gets No. 1 status for his consistency (he’s been a top-four producer in three of the last four years).
2) Sean McVay and Andrew Whitworth showed up in L.A. and promptly restored Gurley’s studliness, as evidenced by the 2,093 scrimmage yards he racked up in 2017.
3) The most productive player at the position in 2016, David Johnson is reportedly back to health and looking faster than ever. Plus, he’ll get some extra blocking help this year, which makes his 1,000/1,000 goal a real possibility.
Brad – NUMERO CUATRO. Last checked, Johnson’s lower extremities exited the 2017 season unharmed. He suffered a nasty wrist injury Week 1 in Detroit, which sapped his grip strength for months, but at 100 percent entering training camp, he’s rejuvenated and primed to recapture stud status.
When at his most powerful Johnson is a fictional tornado from ‘Twister’ no storm chaser would dare tail. Everything in his path, whether in fantasy or reality, is laid to waste. Recall in 2016, he ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in multiple superficial (e.g. fantasy points per game, receptions, receiving yards, total touchdowns) and advanced categories (e.g. total evaded tackles, targets and red-zone carries).
It’s arguable DJ is worth the No. 1 overall pick. The separation between him, Todd Gurley, Le’Veon Bell and Zeke Elliott is nearly infinitesimal. However, McCoy’s past tendency to throw fewer passes to RBs compared to Bruce Arians (h/t Sharp Football Stats) along with offensive line concerns places him just outside my top-three overall. Despite the worries, he’s a volume monster who should finish close to 1700-1800 combined yards with 12-15 TDs. Keep in mind his personal goal is to join Marshall Faulk and Roger Craig in the 1,000-1,000 club at RB.
Attempting to find the elusive Lost Dutchman’s gold, what under-the-radar player owns the biggest BOOM potential?
Brad – RICKY SEALS-JONES. Mike Jurecki, one of the most plugged in sources on all things Arizona, recently disclosed Seals-Jones is expected to become a key cog in Mike McCoy’s offense, provided his untimely arrest doesn’t become a major stumbling block. The intrepid reporter couldn’t be more accurate. During the McCoy’s tenure in San Diego, tight end was a point of emphasis. Holding Antonio Gates and, later on, Hunter Henry in your hand is parallel to drawing ace-queen in poker, a likely winning proposition. It’s why his TEs scored No. 5 or better every year during the coach’s four seasons at the helm. Heck, even Julius Thomas, at his career zenith, thrived in the OC’s scheme. Given Arizona’s few premier options outside of Fitzgerald, ratcheting up RSJ’s role is only sensible. At a minimum, he’s bound to finish atop the hyphenated TE ranks (Wink). Sorry, Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
Seals-Jones was occasionally useful during spurts in 2017. When targeted five times or more, he averaged an employable 2.8-45.3-0.8 line. And that was achieved seeing a lowly 27.8 percent snap share. Toss in he ranked No. 1 in fantasy points per opportunity at the position along with his appreciable 7.2 yards per target and it’s easy to project a breakthrough campaign. He certainly owns the size and field-stretching skills to slice and dice defenses. At his Chiclets-like cost (174.3 ADP, TE23), drop a quarter and turn the knob.
Liz – BRICE BUTLER. At six-foot-three and 213 pounds, Butler has the size to play outside. A 40-yard-dash score of 4.42 and a three-cone time of 6.6 seconds indicates that he also has the speed to win on the perimeter.
A long-time darling of the metrics community, the San Diego State product flashed while in Dallas. Scoring 3 TDs in back-to-back efforts on just 55 total targets, Butler has demonstrated big hops and a desirable catch radius. Buried behind the likes of Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, and Cole Beasley, he simply hasn’t been allowed the opportunity or reps necessary to breakout.
Moving to Arizona changes that. Larry Fitzgerald will, undoubtedly, assume WR1 duties whereas rookie Christian Kirk is penciled in as the team’s No. 2 option. While at Texas A&M the 5-foot-10 and 201-pound Kirk primarily manned the slot… which means he’ll be adjusting to life outside. Meanwhile, Butler is the team’s largest red zone threat, brimming with big-play potential. The exits of Jaron Brown and John Brown have freed up 124 targets, giving Butler a shot at 60-700-6 production. Entering his sixth season in the league, Butler is going undrafted in most leagues. #HiddenGem #STASH