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When Josh McCown signed with the New York Jets this year, most figured he’d be a punching bag for opposing teams as the Jets willingly tanked their way to the top of a 2018 draft class that has all sorts of potential. The Jets’ offense seemed doomed. It would have been a pleasant surprise if McCown had been serviceable. That’s not even close to how things unfolded. Shockingly, McCown has been – brace yourself – really good. He’s the 7th rated QB in terms of PPGAR, ahead of more respected names like Matt Stafford, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers. Even more incredible, he’s been doing it without any star power at receiver other than Robby Anderson who, it should be mentioned, was completely anonymous going into this season.

If McCown is the surprise of the season at QB then Alvin Kamara is the big story at RB. Through Week 13 , it’s honestly incredible how productive Kamara continues to be. In the last six games, Kamara has averaged 27.4 PPG. That’s six more PPG than Le’Veon Bell. Not bad I say. Not bad at all.

For years, Jimmy Graham was consistently a top three TE for New Orleans. When he was traded to Seattle in 2015, the expectation was that Graham would fit in right away, providing the big red zone target that Russell Wilson had been sorely lacking. Two and a half years later, Graham has finally fulfilled that promise. He’s got seven touchdowns so far this season, all of which have come in the last six games. While their running game has failed the Seahawks, their passing game has been fantastic and Graham has been a big reason for it. Wilson is now the second rated QB in PPGAR, Doug Baldwin is the ninth best WR and Graham is fourth in the TE standings. That’s quite a bit of firepower on one offense. We’ll see if the Seahawks defense can at least be average without Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor because, with this ridiculously good pass attack, that might be all Seattle needs for a playoff push.

The king is dead. Todd Gurley has defeated Kareem Hunt and usurped the PPGAR throne. That would be the same Todd Gurley who failed to gain 900 yards rushing in 16 games last year and who, subsequently, had fantasy football players across the world tearing their hair out. Under boy-genius coach Sean McVay, Gurley and his quarterback, Jared Goff, have had quite the resurgence this year, along with the rest of the Los Angeles Rams organization. So while Hunt may have fallen from the top spot, he’s been ably replaced. The king is dead. Long live the king.

As we’ve outlined in the past several weeks, there have been several pleasant fantasy surprises throughout the league. But for every Dak Prescott or Leonard Fournette exceeding their expectations, there’s a Matt Ryan or Jay Ajayi utterly failing to meet theirs. That said, there are a lot of games still to play and there’s a good chance some of these poor performers will get back on track. Theo Riddick sticks out as a turnaround candidate since he averaged about five receptions per game in each of 2015 and 2016. He appears to be underutilized so far in 2017, averaging just 3.8 receptions per game and generating the kind of weak fantasy impact that is easily replaced by second tier RBs or even waiver options.1 Given his prior performance, Riddick owners are surely hoping that it’s only a matter of time before he turns it around. Here’s hoping some other early season disappointments – Alshon Jeffery, T.Y. Hilton, and Marcus Mariota all come to mind – can turn it around, too.

 

For six weeks in a row Kareem Hunt has led the league in PPGAR so it’s no surprise to see him at the top of the leaderboard at this point, though his lead has dwindled. Also unsurprising: the top five players are running backs which, if you’ve followed us the past several weeks, you’ll know is nothing new. It’s not all RBs, though. As the season has progressed, some intriguing story lines have emerged: can Deshaun Watson continue his elite play? Can Zach Ertz continue to outpace his tight end counterparts? Can Chris Thompson really be this good? (I totally predicted he would be, by the way.) Time will tell how long these players can continue their dominance but for now, to paraphrase the Big Tuna himself, you are what your PPGAR says you are.

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.

 

Show of hands: how many of you have done fantasy drafts in Madden? I know I can’t be the only one. So the other day I was thinking about how great it feels to draft the best possible team, sit back and marvel at the juggernaut I’ve built. I rarely ever play the actual games; usually, I just simulate the season. If the team isn’t any good, I can always restart the season until it works out.1

Fantasy football scratches the same itch except that when I’m playing real fantasy football – by which I mean real fantasy football, not video game football2 – I can’t restart when things don’t go my way. Which sucks. To avoid that misery, my fellow fantasy players and I go to great lengths to build strong teams.3 All of which begs the question: can these two types of team building be combined? Can Madden ratings provide insight into future fantasy success?

Dalvin Cook was one of the most electrifying running backs in college football last season. In his final year at Florida State, Cook rushed for over 1,700 yards,1 caught 33 balls and scored 20 total touchdowns. And he did all this behind a line that was, for lack of a better word, meh. After his last collegiate snap, he was looking like he’d be a hell of an NFL athlete with first round potential.

Then came the combine and suddenly all the excitement over Cook’s on-field play was quickly replaced with the anxiety and doubt. It’s not like his combine performance was awful: he ran a 4.49 forty,2 he benched 225 lbs. 22 times3 and he tied Alvin Kamara for the highest elusiveness rating among running backs. But in an annual assessment of NFL prospects designed by SPARQ to measure each player’s athleticism in comparison to other NFL players, Cook finished 5th among running backs, leaving him in the 6th percentile.4

Have you ever wondered how your alma mater stands up against other schools in terms of fantasy output? I personally have not, as Northwood University and the University of Detroit Mercy are apparently not producing NFL caliber talent at an alarming pace. But for all the students and alums of our nation’s great football schools, here’s a look at five years of fantasy output sorted by school, conference and state.

I’m surprised by this because it’s been a long time since Miami stopped being the powerhouse it once was. Then again, a big chunk of Miami’s fantasy output in the last five years comes from Andre Johnson, Jimmy Graham, Frank Gore, Greg Olsen and Reggie Wayne.

If you look at the last five years, Miami’s output is certainly trending down. Being that Miami isn’t churning out NFL talent like they used to and that the players above are aging (or already out of the league), it’s a lock that Miami will fall in these rankings over the next few years. And if California at number two feels surprising to you, I’ll ask you to remember that the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Marshawn Lynch went to Cal.

It’s a well documented fact that people hate trading their players in fantasy football leagues. And despite the fact that in ten years of playing, I’ve managed to successfully negotiate a total of 11 trades, every year I still find myself spending hours discovering and analyzing seemingly perfect offers, only to get denied in seconds. Usually starting right after the draft. I research what the talking heads are saying, I look at the needs of the teams I’m offering a trade to, and I even use three trade analyzers to make sure it’s fair.

But the response is always the same: nope. LeGarrette Blount and Kyle Rudolph for Le’Veon Bell…nope. Kirk Cousins and Brandin Cooks for Rishard Matthews and Jordan Howard…nope. Antonio Brown, Travis Kelce, the Chiefs D, Aaron Rodgers, and my cat for Matt Prater and that week old guac that’s in your fridge…nope.

What? Really? He’s, like, a really good cat.