The War Horse Veteran You Need This Year.
The veteran, every year there are some who provide value on draft day and can even help lead your team to the fantasy championship. Here I outline my favourite 3 for this season. The only qualifying feature they must have played 6 seasons in the NFL.
So technically he hasn’t played six seasons he is going into his sixth season as an NFL Pro. Going into a sixth season as a RB on a non-Rookie contract to me smacks as a veteran. Let‘s be honest; the life span at RB is short.
The Falcons will have all their starters back on a defence that was ravaged by injuries last year. Due to there not being starters at several positions, the Falcons had to throw the ball, throw the ball a lot in fact. Matt Ryan threw the rock 608 times and for 35 TDs. That’s 78 times more than the season before and 73 than two years ago. This amount of throwing attempts should regress to the mean as the Falcons have a healthy defence means running the ball more, controlling the clock and leaning on the veterans skill set to win out in games.
This is where Devonta Freeman comes in. People see him as an injury risk. He only played 2 games last year. But before that he has only missed 3 games in 4 years. To put that in perspective, Marlon Mack has missed six in two years. Leonard Fournette has missed 11 in two years and Aaron Jones has missed eight in two years. These players are all being drafted within five spots either way of Freeman.
Freeman averages 900 yards and 9.5 TDs on the ground and 51 receptions for 452 yards and 2 TDs. That’s RB1 numbers right there and let‘s not forget he was the Running Back 1 in fantasy in 2015. He plays for a high power offence who if the defence stays healthy has as good a shot as any to make it to the Super Bowl once again.
His current average draft position in half point PPR leagues is 3.03. The 3.03! Now admittedly if you aren’t in the first four or five picks the chance of him sliding to the end of the third round is remote but I have seen it happen. The potential value of drafting a RB1 in the third round is huge. Imagine starting your draft with one of the top four RB‘s, Keenan Allen/Mike Evans and then Devonta Freeman. Yes Sir and twice on Sundays.
Nobody encompasses the term veteran more so than the consummate professional that is Larry Fitzgerald. He has been in the league since 2004, 14 years as a pro. Let that sink in for a quick minute. That is a ridiculous amount of punishment to take on the body yet Larry hardly misses a game. In Fact you have to go back to the 2014 season for the last time he didn’t suit up for all 16 games.
Funnily enough it was the 2014 season that people had started to write off the ageing wide receiver for fantasy purposes. Saying “not again, you’ve burned me once to many times.” Queue Bruce Arians and the rejuvenation of Fitzgerald. Arians had taken over two season prior in Arizona and had two winning seasons. Fitz had poor seasons heading into the 2015 season. In 2014 he only managed 63 receptions for 784 yards and a measly two TDs. Fantasy Managers had all but given up on him.
Then something magical happened to the ageing veteran. He reeled off three 1000 yard seasons. Had over 100 receptions becoming a PPR monster, team target hog and had at least 6 TDs with a High of 9 TDs in 2015. Almost as quickly as it started it came to a screeching halt last year when Arizona Hired a new Head Coach, Steve Wilks and Drafted rookie quarterback Josh Rosen.
Admittedly Rosen wasn’t drafted to start. That job was to the journeyman and veteran himself Sam Bradford. Bradford as it turned out was still made of biscuit and Rosen was thrust into the limelight 3 games into 2018. The pairing of Rosen and Wilks had a dramatic impact on Fitzgerald along with the whole Arizona offence.
Larry had his third worst season ever in reception numbers totalling just 69 receptions for only 734 yards. He still managed to catch six TDs which helped him finish as the WR28 in half point PPR leagues. The only trouble is Larry was drafted as the WR14 coming off 3 straight 100 reception seasons. This is considered a bust in all but the deepest leagues for me.
It’s all doom and gloom so far for our beloved veteran in red. However, this is where the Larry Fit of old returns. New Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury wants to run the most plays per game in the NFL with his spread concept play book. Run and Gun. Number one overall draft pick Kyler Murray will be scrambling for his life behind a shockingly bad offensive line ranked 30th by PFF.
King of the dump off and safety valve for the new QB Fitzgerald will be essential in leading this very young receiving corps. Second year Christian Kirk and rookies Hakeem Butler, Andy Isabella and KeeSean Johnson will need the veterans presence to learn from and aspire to emulate his incredible career to date.
It’s not impossible to see Larry lead the team in receptions letting the young guns take the End Zone work and deep threat options for the team. If Larry finishes the season with 70 receptions, 811 yards and 6 touchdowns he will be a very solid WR3/flex option. His current ADP is 8.05 or the 90th pick in a 12 team league. He has gone as low as 112th and at that price it’s a steal for what could be top 30 upside if things go his way in the new explosive Cardinals offence.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Ben has lost his weapons. Antonio Brown has gone. Bell sat out last year and has now left the building too. How can someone be as good without their main cogs in the war room? Well, Rush Nation let me explain how.
A star has been born in the enigmatic Juju Smith-Schuster. He became the youngest player in league history to record over 1,000 total yards. Smith-Schuster has also set another record, as his 1,972 career yards are the most by any player at his age. Antonio who? Or do I need to do more?
Last season Juju had 166 targets, 111 receptions, 1426 yards and seven TDs. In comparison Antonio Brown had 168 targets, 1297 yards but a whopping 15 TDs. Imagine if Juju repeats last years numbers but with 50% more touchdowns and gets 10.5 Tds. Now Antonio who? What I am getting at here is Big Ben still has a stud number one receiver and not to mention Juju was even better when AB wasn’t on the field.
Now to running back, ill keep this brief. James Conner whilst talented doesn’t have, in my opinion the NFL skill set Lev Bell does. Conner or actually who ever is running behind the Steelers O-line and scheme is normally fantasy relevant. Look at Jaylen Samuels last season when Conner missed time. Samuels helped some fantasy managers to championships.
As the Steelers starting running back Conner eclipsed Bells touchdown numbers for his rushing game. Bell never managed more than 9 TDs on the ground. Conner had 12 TDs in just 12 games. The difference in the backs is receptions. Bell averaged 80 receptions in his last two seasons with Pittsburgh. Conner only managed 55. His hands and route running abilities just aren’t what Bell can offer. This means just one thing. More throwing attempts for Big Ben.
2018 was a career year for Ben numbers wise. He had a career high in attempts (675), yards (5129) and TDs (34). His 675 pass attempts in 2018 were the fourth-highest mark in a single season ever, and this coincided with the first time that he managed to play all 16 games since 2014. These numbers will regress somewhat but with second year receiver James Washington showing out in the pre season so far and Veteran receiver Donte Moncrief brought in to bolster the corp Ben still has his weapons. Oh, and they also drafted rookie Diontae Johnson who looks to have the skills to make it as a Steelers WR.
Big Ben’s current ADP is 11.05, which is the 5th pick of the 11th round, and 125th selection overall. He is also currently the 15th QB off the board. Which means in some leagues Big Ben wont even be drafted. Come on Rush Nation, Ben finished as the QB3 last year and as described above Ben could well repeat most of last years numbers. A top 5 quarterback in the 11th round. I’ll take that value all day long and so should you. Ben is one of the veterans you should target late in your drafts.
Let’s hope these veterans who could all provide value at their draft positions helps you bring home the championships.
Until next time, Keep Rushing.