15 Burning Questions Ahead of the 2016 NFL Draft
Free agency is winding down, and the NFL Draft is looming, so it’s a good time to take a breath and assess a few of the more perplexing fantasy situations around the league. Here are 15 questions currently keeping me up at night. (Not really – I’m actually sleeping really well right now. It's the offseason.)
1. Who is going to play quarterback for the Jets?
A reunion with Ryan Fitzpatrick seems inevitable, but that doesn’t mean that it will happen. The fantasy value of Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker and Matt Forte depends heavily on whether or not FitzMagic is under center. He finished as the #11 QB last year and is currently the 25th passer off the board in early drafts.
2. How will the touches be distributed in the Jaguars’ backfield?
T.J. Yeldon was shaping up as a nice 5th round sleeper given his probable workload, but the Jaguars gave Chris Ivory big money in free agency. It sounds as if the duo will split the work, effectively limiting the upside of both players. I expect Ivory will see more carries, while Yeldon will have a much larger role in the passing game.
3. Are the Eagles going to stand pat at running back?
If so, Ryan Mathews’ value will skyrocket after the draft. The Eagles have been tied to Ezekiel Elliot, and if he lands in Philly, he’ll likely see his fantasy draft stock rise into the 2nd round. If the Eagles go into the season with Mathews as the starter, he’ll likely hold 4th or 5th round value.
5. Who is going to play quarterback for the Broncos?
There are strong rumblings of a Colin Kaepernick trade in the works. With Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders in the receiving game, this is a good landing spot for any quarterback, and Kaepernick could rejuvenate his career with a change of scenery.
6. Will Josh Gordon play in 2016?
Things were looking pretty good for Gordon until news broke that he failed another drug test in March. Now things are on hold for another 2-3 months. He’s reportedly been hanging out with known party animal Johnny Manziel, which is not a good way to prove to the league he’s turned over a new leaf. I’m not holding my breath here.
7. How will the touches be distributed in the Jets’ backfield?
Matt Forte thinks he’s going to be the team’s every-down back, but he’s been a 4.0 YPC guy over the past two years, is on the wrong side of 30 and the team has a couple of other capable backs on the roster (Bilal Powell and Khiry Robinson). He’s currently being drafted in the 4th round, so it seems the fantasy community has similar concerns.
8. Who will win the RB1 job in Dallas?
The Cowboys signed Alfred Morris but still reportedly view Darren McFadden as their starter. And why not? After taking over the RB1 job in Week 7, DMC averaged 20.9 touches for 108 yards en route to 11.9 FP per game (standard). He averaged 4.75 YPC and was a fringe RB1 in both formats. He is currently the 41st RB off the board in the 10th round. The Cowboys have also been tied to Ezekiel Elliot.
9. Is Eddie Lacy serious about his fitness?
Lacy has reportedly spent the offseason working with P90X creator Tony Horton and he seems to get leaner and leaner in every subsequent photo. Lacy gained 3,001 total yards and scored 24 touchdowns in his first two seasons. His fitness was largely to blame for his disappointing 2015 season, and now that he’s entering a contract year, it appears he’s finally getting serious about what he puts into his body. I am still a big believer in Lacy's running ability, and the fact that he was still able to rush for 4.1 YPC last year despite carrying what equates to a hefty toddler around his waist is a testament to his talent. If he shows up to camp in great shape and stays healthy, a return to the top 10 is likely.
10. Will the Colts draft a running back?
Frank Gore finished as the #12 RB last year despite a disappointing year from the Colts’ offense. He’s currently the 38th back off the board in the 9th round and will be a great value at that point in the draft if the team doesn’t use an early-round pick to draft a running back.
11. Will Chris Hogan play starter’s snaps for the Patriots?
The Patriots flirted with Rishard Matthews, who in my estimation would have been an ideal fit with Tom Brady and Co. But he landed in Tennessee and the Pats signed Chris Hogan instead. Hogan is actually an inch taller than Matthews and apparently bested Matthews’ combine times in every drill at his 2012 pro day. If Hogan can lock down the starting job opposite Julian Edelman, he could post 2014 Brandon LaFell-type numbers.
12. Are the Dolphins done at running back?
Miami let Lamar Miller walk and tried to sign C.J. Anderson. They don’t seem content to hand second-year back Jay Ajayi the job, and if the team uses a significant draft pick on a running back (or signs Arian Foster), whatever positive vibes Ajayi has going will be quickly squashed.
13. Are the Bills committed to Tyrod Taylor?
This is a huge question that will drastically impact my 2016 draft plan. Taylor only threw for an average of 217 yards per game in 2015, but he had a 20-to-6 TD-to-INT ratio and his yards per attempt (7.99) was 5th in the league. However, what really makes him a fantasy producer is his ability in the running game. On average, he rushed 7.4 times per game for 41 yards and 0.29 rush TD, allowing him to finish with the 7th-highest PPG at his position. Provided the Bills don’t draft a quarterback, owners looking for 2014 Russell Wilson or 2015 Carson Palmer should strongly consider Taylor in the later rounds.
14. Will the Bengals spend an early round pick on a receiver?
The team let Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu walk and only signed Brandon LaFell to replace them. If LaFell goes into the season as the team’s real-world WR2, he’ll be a fantasy WR5 type. There is opportunity for an NFL-ready rookie to come in and get heavy snaps right away.
15. Are the Raiders done at running back?
Latavius Murray finished the season as the #11 fantasy running back, but his 4.0 YPC leaves something to be desired. The team doesn’t seem content at the position after trying to sign DeMarco Murray last year. It seems unlikely that Latavius will see the 308 touches that he garnered last season, though what Oakland does in the draft will have a lot to do with that.