The time is now! Send those trade offers, work the waiver wire, and tweak your lineups last minute because we are just hours away from NFL football! The preseason is done, and we’ve dissected game film, injuries, and roster moves to make the case for risers and fallers coming into the regular season. Sit back, rejoice, and adjust those rosters. Let’s get to it!
Matt Breida/Alfred Morris – RB (SF):
Drafting any sooner than the night before game one sucks, doesn’t it? That’s what the entire fantasy community has dealt with since Jerick McKinnon went down in practice and tore his ACL. Well, fear not, because if any offense is suited to have a viable replacement to your high priced RB pick, it’s Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers.
Morris saw 22 targets in 32 regular season games during his time under Shanahan in Washington, so do not expect him to magically replace Jerick McKinnon. In fact, I expect a nice split between these backs, similar to what Shanahan did with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman in Atlanta, and Hyde and Breida last year. The good news for Morris owners is that Shanahan turned Carlos Hyde into a pass-catching back in 2017 with 59 receptions on 83 targets for 350 yards. Prior to that, he saw no more than 32 targets in a season. The fact that Alfred Morris has never caught more than 17 balls in a season isn’t ideal, but with Shanahan, nothing is off the table.
Breida is the most obvious replacement for McKinnon from a style perspective, a smaller back than Morris who got 34 targets last season as a second fiddle to Hyde. However, missing most of the preseason hasn’t helped his stock, and early reports are that Morris will get the start. Breida could hold nice PPR upside in the weeks to come if he becomes a third down, pass-catching back, or if he wins the job outright. Breida ended 2017 with 4.4 YPC on 105 attempts compared to McKinnon’s 3.8 on 150 attempts. A lot of moving pieces are at play here, but these risers will soon pay off.
Keelan Cole – WR (JAX):
Keelan Cole finds the risers group with the unfortunate season-ending injury to Marquise Lee during a preseason game against the Falcons. The frontrunner to fill those shoes is definitely Cole. He ended last season as the second-most targeted receiver in Jacksonville, tied Lee with 3 TDs, and posted more Yds/Rec than anyone on the team. Additionally, his snap count increased from 34 snaps/gm to 56 after week 10, per Pro Football Focus. You have to love that for his updated 2018 outlook. From a volume perspective, Blake Bortles has averaged 584 attempts per year since 2015, and with 152 targets vacated by Lee and Allen Hurns, look for Cole reap the benefits.
Mike Williams – WR (LAC):
Williams only played in 9 games last year, seeing 23 targets for 11 receptions. We expected him to be a big part of the offense in 2018, especially in the red zone, after Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates vacated 104 targets from last season. In 2017, Williams saw the majority of his targets at less than 10 yards, leading me to believe he could be a red-zone monster, especially with his larger frame. Well, Antonio Gates is back with the Chargers, and this seriously hurts the wideout’s ceiling. Gates saw the majority of his snaps from the slot position each of the past four seasons per PFF, and I expect Williams to be out wide as long as Gates is on the field in short yardage situations. As for week one, don’t expect Gates to be on the field much. He needs to get back into football shape. For the long run though, Gates should find that connection he’s had with Philip Rivers for so long and snag some TDs from the 23-year-old receiver.
LeSean McCoy – RB (BUF):
How could you not love McCoy? Aren’t we always looking for workhorse backs in fantasy football? A perennial RB1, McCoy is entering 2018 with less-than-ideal circumstances. For starters, he is the subject of a civil lawsuit. It has no impact on his playing status at the moment, but like Zeke Elliot last year, it isn’t a situation fantasy owners want to be in.
In 2017, McCoy accounted for 58% of the Bills rushing attempts and received a 14% target share. However, some of the factors that made him the RB7 in PPR formats are no longer there. The Bills lost LG Richie Incognito, C Eric Wood and LT Cordy Glenn. It leaves them with the 29th overall offensive line according to PFF. Second, the impact that Tyrod Taylor’s departure will have on McCoy’s upside cannot be understated. Running QBs inherently open up the running lanes because of their ability to escape the pocket at any time.
The Bills will start with Nathan Peterman but could turn to rookie Josh Allen at any moment. If that doesn’t get you excited, let me tell you about their schedule. The Bills open up the season with matchups against Ravens, Chargers, Vikings, and the Packers. What is that you say? Did you say negative game-script? Yes. The Bills will likely suffer from negative game-scripts which will limit McCoy on the ground. While he could inherit a higher target share, it may not be enough to return his third round ADP.
The time is now to try and move McCoy in redraft leagues, while his value is at its apex.