Last Thursday I woke up, and got ready for work just like any other day. The moment I stepped outside I was greeted with a welcome change of pace. The late August, muggy heat had subsided, and a cool, brisk air briefly took its place. It felt like a Fall morning. In an instant my mind filled with all things Fall. Pumpkins & apples. Football & Scott Hansen. Combinations that make so much sense you contemplate the possibility of some divine creator. A feeling of pure joy rose within me. We’ve made it!
In less than a week the NFL regular season (real football as I’ve been told so many times over the past four weeks) will grace our televisions. In preparation for the season, and its fantasy counterpart, all analysis and research has reached a fever pitch. My article last week explored the concept of embracing the ‘calm before the storm’ mentality, and we must continue this practice as we reach the last leg of preseason. This week’s preseason games games are essentially meaningless. They are the NFL’s equivalent of a one-legged man in a butt kicking contest. So let’s take this downtime to go over how some injuries will impact teams around the league.
Marquise Lee & the Jacksonville Jaguars:
Losing Lee for the 2018 season is a huge blow to the Jags’ offense. This is obviously the most significant wide receiver injury this off-season. He was signed on to be the WR1 after the Allen Bros. (Robinson & Hurns) left Jacksonville for potentially greener pastures. By that I mean more money. Now the primary wide receivers are Donte Moncrief, Keelan Cole, and Dede Westbrook. Lee posted 56 receptions on 96 targets for 702 yards and three touchdowns. Not “knock-your-socks-off” kinds of numbers, but he was in a fantastic position to drastically improve off of his 2017 campaign.
The show must go on as they say. So, now we essentially have 100+ targets vacated from the Jags’ offense to distribute, and attempt to determine the next man up. While my heart wants Dede Westbrook to assume the mantle of WR1, but my mind tells me that it will likely fall to last year’s undrafted free agent breakout, Keelan Cole. Did you know that Cole led the Jaguars in receiving yards in 2017? It’s true. Cole had 748 yards on 42 receptions. He also ended the season with two monster, back-to-back 100+ yard games in Weeks 15 & 16. It’s important to note that Cole is an entirely different type of receiver than Lee. Where Lee expertise is with passes underneath defenses, Cole excels as the deep threat. Cole will inherit a decent portion of Lee’s projected target share, but it’s tough to expect him to see too much of an increase in targets given his specific skill set. He comes at an incredible value in drafts, though, with a consensus ADP of #153. That will continue to rise, so he may be someone to reach for in your drafts. Keep an eye on Dede Westbrook as well. He was impressive in his rookie preseason games before injury kept him off the field for essentially the remainder of the season. Dede has the skill and pedigree to move up the depth chart and assume the WR1 before season’s end.
Alshon Jeffery & the Philadelphia Eagles:
Well, it seems like this shoulder injury is proving to be a bit more significant than previously thought. Jeffery will miss at least the first two games of the season. This is not the best sign for a player who has an extensive injury history. Last season Jeffery averaged around 7.5 targets a game, ending the season with 120 targets. Those targets will now be split between wide receivers Nelson Agholor (who’s also dealing with an undisclosed injury) & Mike Wallace, though Ertz will likely be the primary pass catching target. To make matters worse there is no clear picture on who will be starting Week 1 for the Eagles. Wentz is still recovering, and the coaching staff has no desire to risk further injury by rushing their franchise quarterback back to the field. So the Eagles very well may start their 2018 season down their star QB & WR. Though Foles won the Super Bowl for the Eagles he has looked abysmal so far this preseason.
It’s also not a sure thing that Jeffery will be ready and healthy by Week 3. There’s no reason to assume that, once he returns to the field, Jeffery will perform at 100%, or that he won’t be eased back into action over the course of a week or two. Jeffery caught an abysmal 47.5% of his targets last season. Hopefully that poor catch rate was attributed to his shoulder injury, but it’s just as likely that he’s not the talent that people think he is. He hasn’t posted a 1,000+ yard season since 2014 while on the Bears. Since the news of his two week absence has come out, Jeffery’s ADP has plummeted from a late 4th Round pick to a mid-6th Rounder. Even still, I’m not certain I want to own Jeffery stock. There are more exciting options being taken in that round who are healthy and pose significant upside. I’d be more keen to draft Mike Wallace with the last pick of my draft, and see how long Jeffery’s injury keeps him from the field. It’s helpful that Wallace is currently the only healthy wide receiver on the roster.
Doug Baldwin & the Seattle Seahawks:
Doug Baldwin said earlier this week at a presser that his knee “won’t be 100%” this season. The media and fantasy football communities alike have spread that quote like wildfire. The fact of the matter is that quote is being completely blown out of proportion. He prefaced his knee’s health by saying that he hasn’t been 100% since he’s been born. Baldwin is a gamer. He’s a veteran at the position, and knows what it takes to succeed. That said, his condition is something that you will need to monitor throughout the season. While I’m still high on Baldwin this season as the primary wideout for the Seahawks, there’s now more risk involved in drafting him. I argue he’s still no more of a risk than the wide receivers he’s currently being drafted around, such as Amari Cooper & T.Y. Hilton. Cooper, who proverbially s*it the bed last season, and T.Y. who relies so heavily on the health and excellence of Andrew Luck. Baldwin could be a headache for the beginning of the season, but I think he’ll pan out in the end. That is his tendency. He’s been reliable and consistent finishing within the top-12 at the position (PPR) over the last three seasons.
One thing to note is Tyler Lockett’s new contract with the Seahawks. On Wednesday the Lockett was given a three-year $37.8 million contract. That’s some fantastic WR2 money! The organization doesn’t have a problem with dropping wide receiver talent if it’s going to cost them. Golden Tate, Paul Richardson, Jermaine Kearse are prime examples of this. The Seahawks’ investment in Lockett can be read in a number of ways. It could very well mean the beginning of the end for Baldwin in Seattle. I don’t think Wilson nor the offense will shy too far from Baldwin (given he’s healthy), but it does make Lockett a more interesting late round pick as the Seahawks will want to get him more involved in the offense. Just something to consider. Either way, this might be Baldwin’s last season on the Seahawks.
I’ll see you all next week with some weekly fantasy advice!
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday August 26th, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #134 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This will be our final fantasy baseball show of the 2018 season. Come join us to give our final thoughts on the season as well as the fantasy playoffs and roto league stretch runs.
Major League Fantasy Football Radio Show: Join host Corey D Roberts live August 16th, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #89 of Major League Fantasy Football Radio. Call in number is 323-870-4395 press 1 to speak with the host. This week we will take a close look at some possible ADP steals in our drafts this season.
My guest this week is Andy Macuga. He is the former Head Football and Baseball Coach for Borrego Springs H.S. out in the San Diego area. Andy is also a 6 year veteran of Major League Fantasy Sports leagues and a frequent radio guest.