Cam Newton was dreadful last year. His completion percentage was an abysmal 52.9% and he threw only 19 touchdowns against 14 interceptions. He struggled mightily in the run game too, as he went from ten rushing TDs and an average of 4.8 YPC in 2015 to 4.0 YPC and only five touchdowns in 2016. But in 2017, Cam has returned to form. Despite losing Kelvin Benjamin and Ted Ginn Jr., he’s been significantly more effective in both the passing and rushing games. He’s completing 60.3% of his passes and has thrown for 21 touchdowns while rushing for five more. While his total passing yardage is down from last year, he’s been far more efficient in 2017 and the result is that he’s now the fourth rated QB in terms of PPGAR. A lot of people, myself included, counted Cam out after last year’s Super Bowl hangover. However, he’s definitely back and seems poised to continue his success, perhaps even winning some fantasy football league championships in Week 16.
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.
Through Week 11, Julio Jones was the 9th rated WR in terms of PPGAR. He had 13.5 PPG and averaged only 2.5 more PPG than replacement level players. Then, without warning, Julio did that thing he does every year and straight up murdered an opposing secondary. There were funerals and everything. The eulogies were all about how Jones had 50 points in a single game.1
Jones’ owners have been (not so) patiently waiting for this kind of explosion and in its wake Julio is now the 3rd rated WR in terms of PPGAR. He’s a total stud and it looks like he and the Falcons are hitting their stride at the right time. Look for him to continue his offensive outburst despite the fact he’ll play pretty outstanding secondaries for the remainder of the season, with the exception of Week 15, when he looks to annihilate the Bucs again. God help those poor bastards.
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 Saints are playing their best football in several years, despite the fact that Drew Brees is on pace to throw fewer than 30 touchdowns for the first time since 2007 and for fewer than 4,000 yards for the first time since 2005. The world was a lot different back in 2005 when our President was a bumbling orator, white female pop stars were trying to incorporate rap into their sound and North Korea was threatening to nuke America. Back then the Saints were just becoming the offense-only team that we’ve all come to love (for fantasy purposes, at least) over the last decade. It feels like every game they played finished 45-42 with Drew Brees passing for, like, 600 yards and six touchdowns. Now, with a vastly improved run game that includes two of the top ten players in terms of PPGAR, and a surprisingly stout defense, the Saints no longer have to rely so heavily on Brees. It looks like Sean Payton has finally realized that defense is more than just “what’s happening when Drew doesn’t have the ball.” Two years out from Rob Ryan’s reign of defensive ineptitude, the Saints look like a complete team on a mission.
Aside from that Saints RB duo, the rest of our top ten includes the usual suspects. DeAndre Hopkins, Leonard Fournette and Le’Veon Bell don’t seem to be falling out any time soon while Kareem Hunt looks like he may bounce back from a tough couple of weeks. In addition to posting fewer than 100 yards from scrimmage games in each of the last two weeks, Hunt is – somewhat surprisingly – entering this weeks’ contest against the Giants without having scored a touchdown in six weeks! That said, don’t be surprised if Hunt puts up huge numbers against a Giants team in a death spiral.
It looks like Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin are in the midst of their annual “where the fuck has this been all season?” scoring frenzy. They’ve both gone ballistic in their last few weeks and have quietly1 moved up the PPGAR ranks.
Down in Houston, Deandre Hopkins and Will Fuller are still clinging to their high rankings but it’s only a matter of time before they fall off the map because, well, did you see how bad Tom Savage was last week? The guy even admitted he played like crap. (If you’re reading, I appreciate your honesty, Tom.)
Meanwhile, after Adrian Peterson’s departure, Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram are somehow making it work in a shared backfield in New Orleans with both runners now in the top 11 for RBs in terms of PPGAR. If they continue to put up numbers like this – as Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman did for the 2016 Falcons – and the Saints’ surprisingly stalwart defense continues to play this well, New Orleans could make some noise down the stretch and into the playoffs.
Not hyperbole: the 2017 NFL trade deadline was the most exciting trade deadline in NFL history. Even as a few big trade rumors failed to come to fruition1 there was a flurry of activity including two trades – Jay Ajayi to the Eagles and Kelvin Benjamin to the Bills – that came out of nowhere and that could prove to be very meaningful to the remainder of both the NFL and fantasy football seasons.
In light of all this game changing activity, our team of analysts set out to determine which trades were the best, which trades were the worst and which trades they wanted to see happen but didn’t.
Best Trade: Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco
Remember when San Francisco went, like, a century without ever having to worry about their quarterbacks? Well, that’s not the case anymore. Since 2004, the 49ers have had 13 different starting quarterbacks and only Alex Smith and Colin “Somehow I’m Still Not On A Team” Kaepernick have played an entire season for them in that span of time. Queue Jimmy. He might only have a total of 94 passes attempted in the NFL, but he’s already proven he’s a better option than the Blaine Gabberts, J.T. O’Sullivans and Trent Dilfers of the world. Holy God they’ve had some bad quarterbacks.
Worst Trade: Kelvin Benjamin to Buffalo
Buffalo Bills QB Tyrod Taylor has all the talent in the world, but never seems to be, well, good. He finished last year as the eleventh ranked QB in fantasy scoring. And when Jordan Matthews went down early last month, things weren’t looking good for his 2017 prospects. But with the addition of Benjamin, Taylor’s got another deep threat that can complement Zay Jones’s speed and Brandon Tate’s random exceptional playmaking. The problem here is that the Bills don’t throw the ball often enough to give Benjamin any real opportunity. Buffalo ranks 9th in the NFL in pass yards per game and 0th in pass plays. Benjamin has talent but the Bills might not be able to capitalize on it.
Wish List: Martavis Bryant to any other team
Let’s face it, everyone is #TeamJuJu in the Bryant-JuJu dust-up, and clearly Bryant is feeling the heat. He missed last week’s game against the Detroit Lions and Smith-Schuster put on a show. Dude caught 7 balls for 193 yards, scored a touchdown, and won everyone’s heart with his heartwrenching stolen bike fiasco.
All things considered, Bryant’s looking like he’s gonna lose some targets going forward. He would have been much better served had he been moved to a team in need of a speedy deep threat. But who needs that?
Best Trade: Cleveland fails to trade for A.J. McCarron
Every week I write about the dumb things that happen in the NFL so naturally when I learned that the Cleveland Browns – the NFL’s foremost experts in incompetence – had botched a trade by fucking up the required paperwork, well, it just made my day. Part of what makes this disaster so spectacular is that not executing the deal – i.e. an absolute failure to complete Cleveland’s objective – is probably the best possible outcome for the Browns as far as roster construction is concerned. Sure McCarron looked pretty good in his extremely limited Bengals appearances, but he was playing behind a great line and surrounded by a ton of weapons. That’s, um, not the situation in Cleveland. And while McCarron – a former fifth round pick – would have been playing on a restricted tender next year, the second and third round draft picks Cleveland had planned to give up to get him would have been playing on, bear with me here, rookie contracts. I’ll take my chances with the rookies.
Worst Trade: Cleveland fails to trade for A.J. McCarron
Can we go back to the part where Cleveland lost out on this trade because they failed to execute basic league requirements? Then they appealed for an exception and were denied? It’s one thing to try and fail at acquiring a superstar but this is not that. McCarron is far from a sure thing – Cleveland’s long pursuit of Jimmy Garoppolo indicates that McCarron wasn’t even their first choice – but that they tried so hard to get him and then celebrated so much once they thought they had…I mean, this is pretty bleak for Cleveland. After decades of misery, they didn’t have much respectability to lose but what little they had is certainly gone now.
Wish List: Cleveland fails to trade for A.J. McCarron
There is nothing left to wish for. This debacle has everything I could ever want in an NFL trade: a flailing team desperately trying to trade valuable assets for an unknown quantity, an entire organization spiraling into self-parody and front office nerds celebrating so hard that they forget to do their paperwork. Front office nerds love their paperwork! It’s practically their defining characteristic. Think about how hard those nerds must have been celebrating! And still, however boisterous the Browns’ brouhaha, however fabulous their fete, know that their celebration paled in comparison to my unquenchable glee when I heard this ridiculous-ass story. Thank God for the Browns.
Best Trade: Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco
The 49ers – a QB black hole this year – acquire a clear cut #1 QB that has been waiting patiently behind the GOAT, Tom Brady. Jimmy G brings a spark to the Bay Area and this move will attract free agent weapons in the upcoming offseason. The 49ers were able to finally solidify this position of need and Garoppolo’s arrival should allow them to get back on their feet sooner rather than later.
Worst Trade: Jay Ajayi to Philadelphia
Ajayi was a disturbance in the Dolphins locker room and the franchise promptly sent him packing. Now, Ajayi is running behind an offensive line that has lost LT Jason Peters for the season. Ajayi will have to split carries with LeGarrette Blount and doesn’t offer much in the versatile passing scheme that the Eagles have flourished with this season.
Wish List: Jarvis Landry to a competent offense
Honestly, I would’ve like to have seen Jarvis Landry sent to a team that is willing to expand upon his skill set. Without Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins have had major issues at the QB position. Jay Cutler and Matt Moore simply have not been able to funnel the ball to Landry and his average YPC is a measly 8.0. Landry would’ve been a nice addition to any team in the playoff hunt and could’ve blown up even more in a pass heavy system. Instead, his value remains stagnant as he’s stuck in this anemic Miami offense.
Best Trade: Kelvin Benjamin to Buffalo
I know, I know. This is such a 2015 pick. However, the Buffalo Bills are a top 10 red zone team this year without a true number one receiver. Perhaps Benjamin will enjoy a resurgence on a team that has actually been able to move the ball pretty well despite a lack of star power outside of LeSean McCoy. Tyrod Taylor, for all the criticism he receives, is actually a better of a passer than Cam Newton in terms of air yards per completion and AYD.2 Assuming he gets healthy, Benjamin instantly becomes the big playmaking number one receiver the Bills have needed.
Worst Trade: Jay Ajayi to Philadelphia
Jay Ajayi is a volume running back. In 2016, when Ajayi broke out, he averaged 18.6 rush attempts per game in a lead back role. He’s not going to get that in Philadelphia with LeGarrette Blount playing as well as he is. Had Ajayi been traded in the offseason, I would have liked this trade a lot more. Assuming he does take the lead role from Blount, he’ll be facing eight in the box around 35% of the time3 which is an awful lot higher than the 22% Ajayi saw in 2016.
Wish List: T.Y. Hilton to a team with a quarterback
I selfishly want this because I drafted Hilton with the anticipation that he’d get Andrew Luck back at some point. Alas, Luck is done for the year and Hilton is stuck with Jacoby Brissett passing to him. If last year’s leader in reception yards could have gotten traded to a team like New Orleans, Seattle or Kansas City he could have re-established himself as one of the better wide receivers in the league. That didn’t happen and now we’re stuck with another half season of Hilton chasing down errant passes and failing to put up the type of numbers he’s capable of.
This week’s PPGAR rankings is just a list of everyone in the Houston Texans offense. Well, not quite. But after that game in Seattle it seems possible, right? In all seriousness, Houston’s offense is nastttyyyy which makes the fact that they started the season with Tom Savage at the helm and a gameplan built rely exclusively on their defense to get them into a playoff spot all the more absurd. Props to Deshaun Watson and Co. for such a prolific half-season.
Sadly, Deshaun and gun-slinging Texans will be holstered for the remainder of the season with Tom Savage once again in command of the offense, now that Deshaun is now tragically done for the year after he tore his ACL in practice.1
Meanwhile, as Kareem Hunt continues his downward trajectory one guy who has maintained his strong play is Melvin Gordon. He’s flown under the radar this year with the rookie class of RBs playing so well, but his consistent performance in 2017 is a testament to the growth he’s shown since his rookie year. It also goes to show that sometimes buying low2 can really pay off in fantasy football.
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.