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Alex Schillinger: I think the response to Amari Cooper’s 2017 season has been a collective, “What the fuck?” In his first two seasons as a pro, Cooper caught over 150 balls for over 2,100 yards while pulling down 11 TDs. But this year…this year he’s been plain awful.

Mike Bergsman: Awful is an understatement. The crazy thing is he’s actually not been good for quite a while. His last game over 100 yards receiving was in Week 8 of last year. So it’s been 13 games played, and almost a year in real time, since Cooper last broke 100 yards. That’s nuts. Since that last big game, he’s amassed 44 receptions for 484 yards and four touchdowns. That’s only worth 8.95 fantasy points per game in PPR leagues! There’s only one logical conclusion here. Amari Cooper is past his prime. He’s getting old and he just can’t do what he used–wait…he’s only 23? Okay maybe that’s not it.

Alex: It’s not like he doesn’t have skill. He’s proven he can be one of the top fantasy WRs in the league. He’s got character, a strong work ethic and no real injuries.1 Sure he’s dropped a few balls but, c’mon, that can’t be his only issue, can it? He’s not even getting targeted in the first place. Wait…

Look, I know I’m not the numbers guy here but I did some digging. Oakland is averaging seven fewer passing attempts per game than they did last year. My guess: it’s because of their (suddenly, surprisingly) piss poor line. Right now, they are on pace to allow more than twice as many sacks than they did all of last season. That’s disastrous and it’s not like the running game is helping them out at all either. They’re averaging a pedestrian2 4.2 yards per attempt and 30 yards per game fewer than what they ground out3 last year. Honestly, I don’t know that Cooper is the problem…the Raiders kinda suck.

Mike: You’re definitely onto something with the whole Raiders-sucking concept and the numbers back you up. Cooper’s getting targeted 6.6 times per week in 2017, compared to 8.2 per game in 2016. Looking back to Week 9 in 2016, across that miserable 13-game stretch, he’s averaged 6.5 targets per game. That’s really low usage and it’s been going on long enough to suggest that no change is imminent. As a point of reference, Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins, number one and two in targets so far this year, have been targeted 12.8 and 12.2 targets per game, respectively.

Cooper has been targeted outrageously little in the last 13 games but even when he has been targeted, he’s been ineffective, catching only 52.3% of the passes thrown his way. Hopkins has a catch rate of 57.3% with Brown at 62.5%. Is this another Raiders-sucking problem? Well, Raiders wideout Michael Crabtree is catching 79.1% of catches so far this year meaning this one falls squarely on Cooper.

This feels insane to say but here we are: Cooper is not even worth starting as a flex option at this point in what has been an unbelievably bad stretch for him. Even worse, it’s hard to imagine him turning things around given his porous offensive line, poor QB play,4 and lack of a running game. With that being said, he’s still got all that talent that made him so great in the past and his owner is probably dying to give him away. He could be worth a flyer as a trade target if you’re willing to take on some risk.

Maybe I’m not being fair. You drafted him; what do you think , Gollumpus?

Alex: I don’t think it’s fair to say it’s not worth keeping him on your roster. He’s still the top WR on a team that’s not the Cleveland Browns. That still counts for something. Sure, he’s getting hounded by the press about his abissmal hands which, you know, is never good, but I don’t think he’s done for just yet. He’ll do fine this year once Carr is back to 100%. I say that this year-long slump is mostly bad luck and worse circumstance. He’s due to bounce back soon enough, so I think Cooper’s still a good Flex play going forward.

Kareem Hunt and Todd Gurley are back at it again in this week’s PPGAR rankings, though their leads have narrowed significantly as the season has gone on. After scoring 45.6, 25.9 and 25.3 points in each of the first three weeks of the season, Hunt has actually “slowed down” amassing only 16.1 and 14.6 points in the last two weeks (which is still pretty damn good).

In other PPGAR news, Leonard Fournette has been a delightful surprise this year on a fairly stagnant offense. It’s possible his numbers will pull back to the pack a bit as teams hone in on the run against Jacksonville and dare Blake Bortles to throw on them. Out wide, DeAndre Hopkins might be back, you guys. Remember what a beast he was in 2014 and 2015? Well, this year he’s been a target machine on a surprisingly efficient offense in Houston even if he’s another slow-down candidate as defenses learn Deshaun Watson’s tendencies.1

Every league’s got one. Someone who can’t figure out why everyone else in the league doesn’t talk to them anymore. Someone who, for 16 weeks out of the year,1 is simply unbearable. The person whose fantasy takes are so stupidly, scorchingly hot that having your knees blown out by Vontaze Burfict seems preferable to listening to them. I repeat: every league’s got one. Which means that if you’re thinking, “That doesn’t sounds like anyone in my league,” then guess what, bro? It’s you. You’re that guy. But don’t fret, we at The Read Option have got you covered. The most insufferable fantasy players come in five varieties and here’s how you can make sure you’re not a single one of them.

5. The “If I Woulda Started” Guy

We get it. There’s nothing worse than losing your matchup by a few points only to find that the guy you drafted in the fourteenth round and promptly forgot about managed to put up 22 points like he was possessed by the fantasy ghost of LaDainian Tomlinson. That’s a tough loss to take but, dude, shut up about it. No one likes a whiny loser. Plus, there’s a reason you didn’t start Cole Beasley over Amari Cooper and it’s because Cooper is way better.2

How to avoid it: Don’t look at your bench and, more importantly, don’t talk about your bench. It can only cause grief. If you find yourself staring down the barrel of a loss, close your computer and forget about your entire team.3

4. The Ridiculous Trade Guy

Enough is enough. I get why you’re proposing ridiculously lopsided trades but seriously, stop. No one is going to trade you a top 10 RB for your second string QB. Sure, there are going to be times when a player is struggling and their owner might be willing to listen to trade offers just to shake things up but make sure that what you’re offering at least approximates equal value. Your preposterously uneven trade offers make you seem like a condescending asshole who thinks your leaguemates are a bunch of dumb yokels who’ve never seen one of them there foosball games before. Keep this shit up and soon enough you’ll find yourself blacklisted so that people won’t even bother opening up your trade offers. Then what, trade master? Then what?

How to avoid it: You can use math and trade analyzers if you really want to aim for fair trades but your best friend here is straight up common sense. Stop overvaluing your players and you might find that people stop hating you. Hell, you might even make a few trades once in a while.

3. The “I’m Undefeated In My Other League” Guy

Oh really? Cool. No one cares. Just because you’re tearing it up in some mythical league no one else is in, doesn’t mean you’ve gained any more cred in this league where, coincidentally, you’re getting your ass beat week in and week out. This is the fantasy sports equivalent of bragging about your hot girlfriend who lives in Canada.

How to avoid it: Stop bringing up your other leagues. We’re starting to think they’re not real, anyway.

2. The “I Won The Whole Thing X Years Ago” Guy

Remember that year you drafted LaDainian Tomlinson, Shaun Alexander and Marvin Harrison? Good for you. No one else does. Nor does anyone care to hear about it. The thing about fantasy is that everyone plays in a couple of leagues4 and that each of those leagues anoints a champion every single year. You’re not special because you won your office league in 2007, Derek.

“Seriously, don’t be that guy. The one up there.” – Shaun Alexander

How to avoid it: The only year that matters in fantasy is the current year. Any past seasons are moot at this point. You wanna brag? Make your team unstoppable this season. Otherwise, just shut up already.

1. The Champion

Let’s be real. No one likes the champion. With their smug disposition, their air of undeserved accomplishment, their…oh God, please just let me win it this year.

Here’s how to avoid it: Don’t. Win the whole damn thing and bask in the glory of every single person in the league hating you for the next several months. The greatest reward in fantasy isn’t prize money or a stupid trophy. No. The greatest reward in fantasy is seeing the utter, crushing defeat on everyone else’s faces once they have to crown you champion. Bask in that shit. At least until next year starts.5

Another week, another Kareem Hunt explosion of fantasy output. Will he slow down?

As promised last week, we’d start to see some of the guys we are accustomed to seeing in the top tier of PPGAR. Tom Brady, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, Devonta Freeman, etc. are all working their way up the charts.

Despite this, with next week being the quarter mark of the season, Kareem Hunt, Todd Gurley, Chris Thompson, Ty Montgomery, and Stefon Diggs make up the top five players in terms of PPGAR through the first three weeks. Like a Donald Trump tweet, this season in Fantasy Football has been so unpredictable.1

One of the reasons RBs are ruling the roost so far this season is that RB output is down about a point per game compared to years passed. In the past five years, replacement tier PPG has been around nine for RBs. This year, replacement tier PPG for RBs has been about eight. Basically, the highest performing RBs are playing really well and the gap has widened between the highest tier and replacement tier output, compared to other positions.

One man arms himself with a calculator, the other with his intuition. They enter the cage for a no holds barred bloodbath to answer the age-old question, “Can Kareem Hunt keep this up?”

Kareem Hunt – Kansas City Chiefs
2017 : 3 GP | 401 yds | 9 rec | 137 yds | 6 Total TDs

Alex Schillinger: Kareem Hunt didn’t exactly have the best start to his professional career: he fumbled his very first NFL carry. After that, though, he’s been pretty much flawless with 392 yards (on 46 carries) and four rushing TDs to go with a pair of receiving TDs. The Toledo alum has worked his way onto 100% of the rosters in ESPN leagues and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. But the question remains, is it even possible for the rookie to keep up this pace?

Mike Bergsman: You mean, a pace of 2,138 yards rushing, 731 yards receiving, 32 touchdowns, and 48 receptions? A pace that equates to an average of 32.3 PPG and 516 total fantasy points, shattering every record ever, and probably inserting himself into the Hall of Fame based on one year alone? Absolutely not.

Long gone are the days of Aaron Rodgers, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown atop the PPGAR rankings.

The top 10 players in terms of PPGAR so far this year are absolutely dumbfounding. I know it’s early, but c’mon, Sam Bradford, Alex Smith, Todd Gurley, Tarik Cohen, Jason Witten, and future first ballot Hall of Famer Kareem Hunt!?!

In all actuality, this trend is not new. Have a look at some of the best fantasy performers in week two of last year.

Just remember, the guys you drafted in the first few rounds or for the most money in your auction draft often have a couple of bad weeks per year. It’s rare that EVERY week you’ll get their “average” points per game. They call this crazy phenomenon “reversion to the mean.”

Let’s hope some of the guys you expected to shine all year will do some of that mean reversion black magic. Without further adieu, here’s the PPGAR rankings through week two.

 

You started LeGarrette Blount at your Flex last week, didn’t you? Then you watched as a dozen guys who weren’t even on rosters scored more points. It was a lot fun. Now that your season has been tanked by a bunch of hack experts – or maybe because your team has been ravaged by the early-season injury bug – you’re scrambling to find someone to throw in at Flex. Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. Here are some Week 3 steals still available in most leagues.1

J.J. Nelson, WR, ARI – Owned in 44.9% of leagues

With John Brown doubtful on Monday night, Nelson is your best option in Arizona. He’s had a hell of a start to the season, scoring two TDs in as many games and catching five balls in each. He’s a great PPR option and should continue to see a decent workload this week.

Tarik Cohen, RB, CHI – Owned in 48.4% of leagues

Jordan Howard is struggling to stay healthy so far this season and can been found on the injury report again this week2 which means Cohen will likely see a good amount of action again. So far he’s made the most of this time on the field scoring one receiving TD and averaging 6.5 yards per touch.

Mohamed Sanu, WR, ATL – Owned in 30.2% of leagues

Sanu has been consistent in the first two weeks of the year as he’s been targeted a team-leading 15 times, catching 11 of those balls. He’s yet to find his way into the end zone but Sanu and quarterback Matt Ryan seem to have a good rapport going and should look to keep it up going up against an improved Lions secondary that will likely key in on Julio Jones.3

Jermaine Kearse, WR, NYJ – Owned in 26.6% of leagues

Kearse has spent his NFL career locked in as the third passing option for Seattle, stuck behind guys like Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham and an assortment of pass-catching running backs. But he’s finally in the primary receiving role and making the most out of it. Kearse leads his team in targets, receptions, yards and receiving TDs. Admittedly, his team is the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Jets, but Kearse is showing that he can thrive in a first option role.

Once upon a time, when the endearing story lines of Duck Dynasty and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo captivated our hearts and people were twerking to the revolutionary sounds of ‘Timber’ and ‘Work Bitch,’ there was a running back ready to take the world by storm. His name was Circle Button. Um, I mean Eddie Lacy.

In his first two years (2013-2014), the 2nd round pick rushed for over 2,300 yards becoming Green Bay’s first 1,000 yard rusher since 2009. Across that frame, he averaged 4.4 ypc, caught 77 balls, and scored 24 TDs. Lacy was dynamic, quick-footed and, well, thin. By 2015, he seemed primed to become one of the league’s top running backs and was being drafted 3rd overall. Lemme say that one again. Eddie Lacy was being drafted 3rd overall.

Then in 2015 Lacy took a hard hit in a Week 2 contest against the Seattle Seahawks and never quite recovered. He missed the 1,000 yard mark for the first time in his career due to a massive drop in carries1 and followed 2015 up with another injury-shortened season in 2016.

Weighed down by injuries, poor performance and, um, weight, Lacy wasn’t re-signed by Green Bay and instead signed a lucrative deal with Seattle. He entered this year’s training camp 30 lbs overweight. Dude was so fat, he was put on an incentive program just to motivate him to lose weight. That’s not a fat joke. He was literally put on an incentive program to lose weight. The motivational tactic seemed to work as Lacy appeared to get his shit together, dropping the excess poundage2 and making the Seahawks’ final roster. Shortly after, rumors started swirling that he was going to be the workhorse of the Seahawks offense, that he “looked great,” that “he’s definitely 100 percent” and of course that “none of these are real quotes, they’re just generic statements that tend to surround Lacy.” Spoiler alert: Lacy hasn’t looked great, hasn’t been a workhorse and may not be at 100%. Shocking, I know.

Eddie Lacy - Dreads
I swear, those dreads add at least 25 lbs.

In the first two weeks of the season, Lacy rode the pine, rushing for only three yards in Week 1 and following that up with an appearance as a healthy scratch for Week 2. To say the least, it’s not looking good for Circle Button. Lacy finds himself on a team with three other legitimate rushing threats in Thomas Rawls, Chris Carson, and C.J. Prosise – all of which can also contribute to the passing game – leaving Lacy on the fringes of the 53 man roster.

Despite the fact that as of writing this, Lacy is owned in 95% of all ESPN fantasy leagues, it sure looks like we’ve already arrived at the end of his season and maybe even his career. Which is really disappointing. But for some nagging injuries, Lacy could have been great. While there’s still hope for Lacy, it’s small…unlike Lacy himself.3 He’s only 27 years old and while his weight struggles have shown that he isn’t exactly Bo Jackson in the weight room, he should be able to get one more chance to prove that he’s got the dedication that it takes to make it in the NFL. Maybe he’ll even be serviceable on a new team next year. Or maybe we’ll be talking, once again, about the wasted promise of Eddie Lacy.