Here we go! The NFL 2016 season is finally here which brings a welcome end to all the speculation and a beginning of real play. Every week, I’ll be identifying under and overvalued fantasy players based on weekly consensus rankings to help you set your lineups. Just a reminder, my picks fall into over/under based on their current rankings for the week, and aren’t an indication of howI feel about their overall fantasy value. Match-ups and performances make a difference on a weekly basis, otherwise we would never change our starting lineups. With that said, let’s unleash this year’s first over/under!
Danny Woodhead, RB San Diego Chargers
Currently ranked around RB30 for Week 1 versus Kansas City, Danny Woodhead represents a prime overvalued target. Last season, San Diego’s offense relied on Woodhead when faced by poor play from Melvin Gordon and their offensive line as well as injuries to their starting WR Keenan Allen and TE Antonio Gates. Don’t get me wrong, Woodhead holds strong PPR value as the clear passing down back for SD and a player that will have at least 40-50 receptions this season. Yet, we can’t ignore the improved offensive line (though still with issues) and the healthy offensive cogs now in place to start 2016: Keenan Allen, Melvin Gordon (who has looked great this preseason with 13 carries for 81 yards and a TD, and two catches for 49 yards and a TD), Travis Benjamin, and Antonio Gates. Woodhead received 23% of the red zone target share and 111 overall targets in 2015, which just isn’t sustainable now.
Also, take into account this week 1 AFC West match-up for the Chargers. Kansas City ended last season as the #3 defensive fantasy unit and looks to have another solid squad in 2016. ProFootballFocus.com ranks KC’s defensive front-seven as #7 overall and their secondary as #13. They held Woodhead to 4 catches for 17 yards last season. Playing Woodhead this week over guys like Arian Foster (RB31), Chris Ivory and TJ Yeldon (RB 32,33), LaGarrette Blount (RB 35) and Matt Jones (one spot above Woodhead; I think he plays), seems like a stretch. The flex spot can win it for you, so take a hard look at your bench and make sure you give yourself the best chance to succeed.
Kelvin Benjamin, WR Carolina Panthers
Kelvin Benjamin missed his entire sophomore season in 2015 after tearing his ACL during training camp. Reports from Ron Rivera indicate that Benjamin will have a snap count of 35 in Week 1 versus Denver, which isn’t something any fantasy owner wants to hear. Fantasy owners can expect a rotation of Devin Funchess, Benjamin, and Ted Ginn, similar to preseason. As we have been discussing with examples of Jamaal Charles and Jordy Nelson, returning from an ACL tear takes time and Benjamin’s adjustment to game-time action may be difficult to predict. Instituting a snap count in week 1 tells me that Carolina looks to be cautious with their WR1, hence my overvalued label.
In addtion, consider the change in target share that Kelvin Benjamin is likely to see in 2016. In his rookie season (2014), Benjamin received a whopping 32% of overall target share, with Greg Olsen nabbing 27%. At that time, Benjamin’s largest threat for targets besides Olsen was Jerricho Cotchery, so we can see why they relied on Benjamin so heavily. This season, all three receivers look to be involved making Benjamin’s target level from 2014 far out of reach. He ended as the #17 fantasy WR with 145 targets that season, so fantasy owners should temper their expectations until we get a sense of how this receiving corps shakes out. Though it will hurt if you paid top dollar for him, Benjamin’s Week 1 situation is enough for me to question his #36 ranking. John Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, and Corey Coleman are much better bets for fantasy production.
Mark Ingram, RB New Orleans Saints
I want to start by just saying that I like Mark Ingram, his explosiveness, ability to break tackles, and talent. However, with many analysts listing him in the top ten for Week 1 (if not higher), I had to voice my concerns. First, Spiller earned playing time with the first team often during preseason and now is listed as the RB2 over Tim Hightower. Though it didn’t translate to stats, Spiller looked fresh and primed to make some big plays. Last season, Ingram finished as the #15 fantasy RB largely in part to the 405 yards gained through the air with 50 receptions (plus 769 yards on 166 carries). If Spiller (or Hightower for that matter), claims some of these touches out of the backfield, Ingram’s high draft capital won’t even out with production for owners.
Second, Ingram hasn’t played a full season since 2012 and that season actually represents the ONLY full season he has played in his career. If he misses any time, it could mean disaster for owners. Third, New Orleans is a pass-heavy offense and will most likely be playing from behind due to their abysmal defense, giving Ingram less chances to get the number of carries needed for high fantasy production. Lastly, the Saints’ opponent, Oakland, quietly approaches 2016 with a strong defense. They are projected to have the 5th best front-seven and 9th best secondary. All these factors may make Sunday a long day and cause Ingram owners to watch their “sure thing” cost them the win.
Cam Newton, QB Carolina Panthers
I know I might get some crap for naming the 2015 MVP as overvalued, but I have to go with my gut and my respect for the Denver defensive unit. Denver defense allowed an average of just 12.3 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks in 2015 and though the offense may look different, the secondary remains the same. Top notch players like Von Milller, DeMarcus Ware, and Aqib Talib look to make it a difficult Week 1 for Newton.
The third preseason game against the Patriots reminded everyone that Cam the and Panthers, though a favorite again this season, have plenty of growth edges. Newton completed 13/29 passes for 100 yards, zero TDs, and two interceptions in three quarters of play. Cam’s accuracy left much to be desired and it reminded me of the 18/41, 265 yard, one interception loss to none other than…the Denver Broncos in Superbowl 50.
Now, if you drafted Cam, you most likely did so early and probably don’t have anyone that would even be worth considering benching him (Carr should have a huge game though…just saying). However, rankings have Cam around QB5-7 this week and I view him more as a QB10-12. Keep in mind that he will only get Kelvin Benjamin for 35 snaps and may rely on the running game (something they did not do in last year’s Superbowl) and option plays to try to adjust to the pass-rush and solid coverage by Denver. Denver plans to pressure Cam and pressure him a lot. Per ProFootballFocus.com, Newton completed just 35.3 % of his passes when pressured in Superbowl 50. Food for thought?
Jeremy Hill, RB Cincinnati Bengals
Yup, I’m going to do it and you can’t stop me. Those listening to our TFA podcast know that Jeremy Hill comes up…often. Fantasy owners undervalued him all off-season and for good reason given his massive bust in 2015 that contributed to many weekly fantasy losses. I understand, and I was on that train with you (Sigh, team Hill or High Water). I’m on a different train now–one that believes Hill represents one of the most significant draft day values this season and a Week 1 undervalued candidate. Currently ranked as the 25th RB and lower than Matt Forte, Frank Gore, Jeremy Langford, Jonathan Stewart (vs DEN) and Melvin Gordon (vs KC), I had to use this platform to encourage you to start Hill.
The New York Jets front seven aren’t something to underestimate (ProFootballFocus.com ranks them 10th overall). Coming off a strong preseason showing with 53 yards and 2 TDs on 14 carries, Hill looks ready to roll for 2016. He is a lock to receive 15+ carries, most goal line work, and is only one season out from a 5.1 YPC. Don’t let last season intimidate you. Hill is bouncing back in 2016 and it starts against the Jets.
DeSean Jackson, WR Washington Redskins
DeSean Jackson, the WR1 for Washington, comes into Week 1 ranked lower/around Jordan Matthews, Donte Moncrief, Marvin Jones, and Michael Crabtree. Yes, he missed 7 games last season with injury but finished the #17 and #10 fantasy WR in 2014 and 2013, respectively. Jackson is a legit deep threat for Kirk Cousins and needed only 56 receptions in 2014 to gain 1169 yards and 6 TDs, good for an average of 20.9 yards per catch (ranked #1 among WRs for YPC that season). With only Jordan Reed as a threat to his target share, Jackson is primed to help Cousins begin the 2016 as hot as he ended it in 2015.
Jackson faces the Pittsburgh secondary in Week 1 which as you can remember from last season, is like swiss cheese. Their secondary is ranked 19th for 2016 which indicates that it won’t be much better and gives Jackson the health (currently), skills, and opportunity to help your fantasy team start the season 1-0. He will get his opportunities and only needs a few catches to justify your flex or WR2-3 spot. That, and you probably got him for next to nothing in your draft!
Matt Ryan, QB Atlanta Falcons
Ok, Matt Ryan’s showing in the preseason left something to be desired. That’s doesn’t mean ranking him around QB #16 for Week 1 versus the weak Tampa Bay defense is justified. Ryan’s 2015 season put many off, but he finished a top ten fantasy QB every other season since 2010. Armed with Julio Jones, newly acquired Mohammad Sanu, and running back tandem Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, Ryan possesses everything needed to be a fantasy success.
Ryan embodies a top undervalued play this week due to their juicy match-up with the Bucs’ 31st ranked front-seven and 27th ranked secondary. Ryan’s offensive line is top notch and led by Center Alex Mack (ranked 5th according to ProFootballFocus.com), so he should get plenty of time to find his favorite targets. Atlanta Falcons defense, though better than last season, aren’t top notch themselves (projected as 26th ranked secondary, 28th ranked front-seven). This game could be fantasy gold for multiple players since both QBs may be throwing from behind due to the weak defenses. The Falcons have the better offensive line by far, so I’m excited to see Ryan tee-off. Catch more rationale for Ryan’s undervalued status in 2016 here .
Duke Johnson, Jr. RB, Cleveland Browns
Though projected to have the 21st ranked front-seven in 2016 and giving up the 5th most fantasy points to RBs last season, Philadelphia defense showed some toughness this preseason (particularly in Colts game) and could out perform predictions. Duke Johnson and the Browns face this front in Week 1 and I believe that Crowell will struggle to find running lanes. Browns have the 21st ranked offensive line, which will make that task even more difficult for him. Due to this, I think Hue Jackson will get Duke involved early and often, using dump-offs and quick passes to get him in space where he can make plays. Jackson notoriously likes to run the ball, use his RBs heavily, and is the play caller in Cleveland. To anyone that watched game tape on Crowell and Duke, it’s clear that Johnson has the superior talent both running and receiving.
Currently Duke is ranked around guys like Arian Foster, Ameer Abdullah, Danny Woodhead, and Gio Bernard. Given their match-ups and situations, I would play Duke over all of these (Foster being the closest, though I don’t like his match-up vs Seattle). Last season, Duke finished as the #37 fantasy RB and received the 6th most targets (74) among RBs. Reports out of Browns camp indicate that they would like to get him even more involved and run game coordinator Kirby Wilson called Duke “an ultimate weapon”. With Josh Gordon suspended until Week 5, Duke should capitalize on the Browns’ need for reliable receivers. Clearly more of an asset in PPR leagues, Duke has upside even in standard and will look to exploit the Philadelphia defense in week 1.
Check back next week for more over/under valued fantasy players to help you make the hard lineup decisions that you know are coming in 2016! Use #TFAOverUnder for any questions or comments!