Not every pre-conceived notion is accurate or needs to be stuck by. I wrote in my ‘Undraftables’ series that training camp can change my opinion on player usage and team role. That has happened in a few cases. In the interest of being an open book to the readers that give me a job, I’m going to call myself out on some of my ideas earlier in the preseason. I like a lot of what I wrote in the early summer months. I’m still fading Mike Evans, I don’t want any Lamar Miller or Michael Crabtree, so on, so forth. On the bright side, there are only three players that I have flip-flopped on!
What I wrote on June 20th:
“Christian McCaffery actually finished 10th among PPR running backs in fantasy football in his rookie season. I’d say that’s a pretty decent finish for his 2017 preseason ADP. Still, we could feel the disappointment from fantasy owners who were clamoring for him to become the every down back in Carolina (or at least average more than 7.3 carries per game). The 80-catch season is where he made his nut. Finding the end zone 7 times helps too.
So wouldn’t you assume going into his second year there is nowhere to go but up? Well, former Panthers offensive guard, Andrew Norwell signed a nice deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars leaving Carolina even more depleted on the offensive line than they were before. This won’t complicate things for McCaffery’s pass catching prospects, but I wouldn’t expect an astounding improvement on the 3.7 yards per carry that he averaged last year.
The Panthers made a very wise decision and signed C.J. Anderson. C.J. Anderson ran for 1,000 yards last season and was on the field for just over 50% of offensive snaps for the Broncos. C.J. also graded out as the 6th most effective running back in the NFL last year according to PFF. I believe that Anderson will hit the ground running (DAD JOKE!) and eat up the majority of carries so I wouldn’t expect an improvement on McCaffery’s 2017 share. As far as the passing game goes: Greg Olson, and Curtis Samuel are healthy and they drafted Maryland’s D.J. Moore in the first round. Cam Newton is going to have a lot of options that he didn’t have last season outside of McCaffery. McCaffery should have a fine season, but not good enough for me to want to draft him late in the second round. Take Chris Thompson five or six rounds later in PPR.”
We have to take preseason with a grain of salt. These are not real games so coaching staffs don’t want to show their hand on the finer points of their offensive game plan. Preseason is when the easy plays are called so the new players can get reps along with the veterans. Still, at no point in this preseason have I felt that the Panthers have any interest in giving C.J. Anderson enough work. This is clearly Christian McCaffery’s backfield. I now believe that he will have the volume to go along with his skill set to warrant his current ADP. Christian McCaffrey actually improved as the season went on in 2017 and he’s shown big play ability so far in the preseason.
Ronald Jones II
On May 21st I wrote:
“I expect the talented rookie to pull away and get the starting job with relative ease although I do expect Barber to be involved as well. Jones has drawn a lot of comparisons to Chris Johnson. A speed-demon running back with a smaller frame. I watched his highlight tape in April and I was thoroughly impressed with his breakaway speed. I think he is going to be special.”
Well, times have changed since this little excerpt. Ronald Jones hasn’t been able to fully grasp the offense and pass protection and Peyton Barber has excelled tremendously during training camp and taken the starting running back job by the horns. The good news is, I still am a fan of Ronald Jones at his price in dynasty. I still believe that he is a dynamic talent and whether it be later on this season, or in 2019 and beyond, Jones will be productive.
In the same article as above I wrote:
“I think that Royce Freeman is a talented back who had a great career at Oregon. However, I’m weary to invest in him this season in fantasy football. The Broncos offensive line was pretty terrible last season and Devontae Booker will likely compete for carries again this season. Last year was very frustrating for C.J. Anderson owners. He seemed like he was playing a lot better than the results and a lot of that can be attributed to a light workload. It’s the situation and not the player.”
I hope that Denver gives Freeman the vast majority of the carries in 2018. My concerns of usage have alleviated quite a bit, but they are still there in the back of my mind. I knew Freeman was good, but he’s been downright impressive this preseason. He might be good enough to limit the damage of a sub-par offensive line. I’m now taking a gamble of Freeman at his ADP in any draft that I can. He has the best chance of the backs ranked outside of the top 20 to crack the top 10 by season’s end. Hey, at least I was correct to be concerned about Rashaad Penny!
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