Is Alfred Morris the next Alfred Morris? And will Robert Griffin III be the best bargain buy in the history of fantasy football?
I could keep asking questions, but let’s attempt to answer a few instead.
Notable Additions: Re-signed Fred Davis
Notable Draft Picks: Jordan Reed
The Marquee Men (the elitest of the elite)
Alfred Morris (ADP: 11.0): Now and forever, every August we’ll attempt to find the next Alfred Morris. He was a nothing, a nobody, and for a time we thought he’d be less than even a never was. Mike Shanahan has infamously treated running backs the same way I approach ice cream each week during grocery runs: a different flavor every time (#bloglife). He’s one of the pioneers of the extreme committee approach, abandoning the hot hand once it becomes even lukewarm.
But there was Morris a year ago, getting 335 carries despite his status as a sixth-round rookie who had to beat out Roy Helu and Evan Royster for the starting job, and to a lesser extent also the injured Tim Hightower. Then he proceeded to rush for 1,613 yards, a Redskins single-season record, and in just his first season Morris has also already logged a year as one of the top 50 rushers in NFL history.
There’s more, and we’d be coating Morris’ numbers with more saliva had it not been for the absurdity of Adrian Peterson’s 2012 season. Along with Peterson, Morris was one of just two runners to average over 100 rushing yards per game, and he had a touchdown every 25.8 carries (13 total touchdowns).
So then why is he only clinging to his first-round fantasy status, and often falling out of the opening round in 12-team leagues? Catching, man.
Morris’ status as a receiver out of the backfield nearly doesn’t exist. He was often pulled during passing downs, recording only 77 receiving yards on just 11 catches all year, which included eight games without a reception.
Running backs run the ball. It’s in the name, and Morris is pretty good at that part of his job description, which is reflected in his ADP. But although he’ll surely take a step forward as a receiver, he won’t come close to matching the receiving production of LeSean McCoy, Trent Richardson, C.J. Spiller, Jamaal Charles, Arian Foster, or Ray Rice, all of whom are consistently (and rightfully) being drafted ahead of him.
Robert Griffin III (ADP: 74.7): Let’s pretend we live in a world where we can be guaranteed that in Week 1, Robert Griffin III will be playing and fully healthy, and he’ll generally look like Robert Griffin III. I know, while doing this exercise you have to battle the urge to urinate, but work with me here for a second.
In this lush, pleasant planet, RG3 could easily be one of the best draft steals in fantasy footballing history, behind only 2012 Adrian Peterson. Truth.
Often throughout these preview posts there’s been a pattern with the quarterback of the day in which I assess either how much value you’re getting from him as a late-round QB, or if he’s worth an early-round price. At his current price above (from Fantasy Football Calculator, as always), the risk associated with Griffin’s knee is more than mitigated.
On average, there will be eight quarterbacks selected before Griffin, and about 73 players overall. That’s remaining true here in the third week of August despite the repeated glowing reports from beat guys who monitor every blade of grass he steps on, and despite his participation in 11-on-11 drills.
You’re then preparing to purchase the fifth best player overall in fantasy last year at a sixth-round price, and you’re also getting him in an area of the draft that’s at least approaching late-round quarterback territory for someone of Griffin’s caliber.
Example: although his ADP has since risen slightly, last week I wrote about Tony Romo as the ideal late-round QB target, saying that he provides much better value relative to his draft position than the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. Right now, Romo’s ADP is only six spots lower than Griffin’s.
The Middle Men (middle-to-late round options)
Pierre Garcon (ADP: 50.2): In other uses of the word “steal”, I also applied it to Garcon recently. Of course, since then his ADP has jumped up nearly a full round, but he’s still pretty steal-ish, at least relative to his common draft neighbors. Among his peers, Garcon is being selected in an area of the wide receiver pool where some degree of risk is impossible to avoid.
By now we’re all well versed in the specific risk associated with Garcon: he missed six games last year with a foot injury, and he’ll wear a protective boot this year. There’s also the RG3 factor, and whatever moderate injury risk still exists with him also effects his pass catchers.
But here’s something that’s been drilled deep into your cranium too (mostly by me): when healthy, Garcon has WR1 potential. On the surface he showed that with his 633 receiving yards last year despite missing so much time, and deeper, Garcon’s value lies in how much he’s targeted. In the only stretch when he was truly healthy starting in Week 12 last year, Garcon was targeted 55 times over the seven games, 32.7 percent of the throws attempted by Griffin and Kirk Cousins. His vertical ways also led to catches of 88 and 59 yards.
Sure, you can worry about his foot if you’d like, but if it’s a wide receiver you seek in the fourth round, there’s a good chance you’ll be putting Garcon next to Jordy Nelson or Hakeem Nicks (more injury uncertainty, and target uncertainty), or Wes Welker (more target uncertainty).
The Menial Peons (sleepers, flex plays, and matchup plays)
Fred Davis (ADP: 143.1): Ahhh, yet another name to toss onto the scrap heap of streamable tight ends. This time, though, there’s a higher ceiling.
Davis’ recovery from an ACL tear has been just peachy. An early pick was used on Jordan Reed as insurance, but Davis should still be the primary tight end target. Recall that although he didn’t score last year in his seven games before suffering the injury, Davis had three weeks with 50 receiving yards or more.
Meh, you say. But then you look at Davis’ draft cost again (slightly above nothing), and note that in an offense which wasn’t run by Robert Griffin III at the time, he had a career high 796 yards in 2011 at a pace of 66.3 per game, even during a year when Davis missed four games due to a suspension.
The Mop-Up Men (deeeep sleepers and handcuffs)
Josh Morgan (ADP: undrafted): Morgan should retain the No. 2 WR duties because of his blocking ability, but beyond a reaching and desperate bye week flex play, his value is minimal.
Roy Helu (ADP: undrafted): Helu is your Morris handcuff, and thus he’s under the handcuff heading. However, he could have some stealthy value in PPR leagues.
As mentioned, Morris’ pass-catching ability is a work in progress, which makes Helu more than just a backup. He’ll also be a third-down back, and therefore a frequent target.
Helu’s 2012 season was severely shortened by Achilles and turf toe injuries (he only appeared in three games). But prior to that in 2011, he caught 49 passes for 379 yards (25.3 per game) while being targeted 59 times. In a deep, full PPR league, that’s an average of 5.7 fantasy points per game, fine flex production from a running back who won’t be drafted.