WATCH: WATKINS TRADE ANALYSIS
NFL NEWS AND NOTES
1. Ezekiel Elliott Suspended Six Games
Elliott is expected to file an appeal on his six-game domestic violence suspension Tuesday. However, the appeal will go through Roger Goodell – the same man who handed down the suspension. So if the suspension does get reduced, it’s unlikely to be by much. Season-long owners need to proceed as if Elliott will miss the full six games, AKA 46 percent of fantasy’s 13-week regular season. He’s not someone I would draft before Round 4 or so, especially with the Cowboys facing two elite defenses during the fantasy playoffs (Giants Week 14, Seahawks Week 16).
While Elliott is out, Darren McFadden is expected to be the Cowboys’ feature back. It’s a role he held in 2015 when he came on for an ineffective Joseph Randle five games into the season and became a fantasy superstar. In 11 games as a starter, McFadden averaged 18.3 carries, 2.54 catches and 107.8 total yards per game. That included five 100-yard rushing games in that 11-game span and a massive 75.9 percent snap rate. Of course, the sledding will be tougher this time for McFadden, just as it would have been for Elliott. The offensive line will be weaker this year after losing LG Ronald Leary (signed with Broncos) and RT Doug Free (retired). Also, the Cowboys’ schedule is outrageously tough, the hardest in the NFL as identified by ESPN’s Mike Clay’s metrics. McFadden is also now 29 years old. He’s certainly in play at $6,100 in Week 1 as a candidate for 20 touches, but the matchup (at NYG) is difficult and the price tag is no bargain.
2. Bills Trade Sammy Watkins to Rams
Let’s get one thing straight right away: Sammy Watkins is one of the best wide receivers in the league when healthy. He ranked fifth in PFF’s Yards Per Route Run metric in his 13 2015 games, adding nine TDs and ranking third in passer rating when targeted. The ugly eight games Watkins limped through last year before undergoing another foot surgery can be thrown out. So the question isn’t Watkins’ talent, it’s is Jared Goff capable of getting him the ball?
It’s a very fair question after a rookie season in which Goff completed a pathetic 54.6 percent of his passes (only Cam Newton was worse), posted a 5.31 YPA (no one was worse) and recorded a miserable 63.6 passer rating (no one was worse). Goff crippled top Rams WR Kenny Britt while Case Keenum helped Britt become a very viable weekly option. The hope for Watkins here is two-fold: first, Goff is just 22 years old and should naturally progress in his second NFL season. Second, new head coach Sean McVay was the Redskins’ offensive coordinator from 2014-16, showing talent-maximizing ability. Watkins comes with injury and QB concerns, but the weekly ceiling here will remain high. He’s on the GPP radar for Week 1 at $6,200 in a home game against Vontae Davis and the Colts. Speaking of Week 1, Watkins’ presence will certainly open up the box for Todd Gurley, who has one of the best possible matchups at $6,000.
3. Eagles Trade Jordan Matthews to Bills
Even if you think Jordan Matthews is a good receiver, this trade was still a no-brainer decision for the Eagles. They were ridiculously desperate for simple talent at CB to fill out a defense which is quietly exceptional at just about every other position. Ronald Darby, who was PFF’s No. 8 overall corner among 117 qualifiers in 2015 before sinking to No. 36 last year, will make this unit significantly better. I still like a Kirk Cousins/Terrelle Pryor stack in Week 1, but the expectation is lowered a bit.
As for the Bills, their three-WR set is now Zay Jones/Matthews on the outside and Anquan Boldin in the slot. It’s an odd group as all three have traditionally played inside. Of course, that doesn’t mean Jones and Matthews will fail as outside receivers. What it will mean is Tyrod Taylor’s ownership percentage will likely plummet even though he’s averaged 19.57 DK PPG in 19 career games with Watkins vs. 18.85 in 10 career games without. Taylor ($6,200), Matthews ($4,500), Boldin ($8,500) and Jones ($3,500) are all very cheap in an ideal Week 1 matchup against the Jets’ funnel defense.
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