Replacing DeSean Jackson might be more important than you think. Last season, over 30% of Philadelphia’s points came on drives where DeSean Jackson had a reception greater than 20 yards. DJax is gone. Will the Eagles offense compensate? Either they’ll need to replace those explosive plays, or learn to grind out longer drives. I wouldn’t sell Chip Kelly short yet, but it’s worth paying attention to any scenario that affects THIRTY PERCENT OF YOUR SCORING. As far as replacing those splash plays go, DJax basically doubled-up the next closest Eagles receivers, posting 25 20 yard + receptions for 815 yards and 6 TDs, vs. 13 each for Riley Cooper and Brent Celek (for 827 yards and 6 TDs combined.) Jeremy Maclin, the ostensible replacement for DJax, is the obvious player to target. But in his first four years in the league, he managed only 51 such 20+ yard receptions (about 13/year). Can that number increase in Kelly’s offense? Sure. Prior to Kelly’s arrival, DJax himself averaged only 16 such plays per season. That number ballooned to 25 last season. But do you really feel confident that the trio of Maclin, Celek, and Cooper can replace Jackson’s explosive plays? Zach Ertz could help, maybe? What does this all mean? Most simply, that the Eagles offense will be different this season. One scenario has the Eagles replacing these splash plays “by committee”, in which case a rising tide lifts all boats1, and all the Philly pass catchers will see an uptick in their production. The other scenario is a huge potential risk to Philly’s offense that may not be accounted for in the fantasy ADP of top options LeSean McCoy and Nick Foles. Some quick math: Jackson’s splash plays affected 30% of Philly’s scoring. Let’s say Philly manages to replace most of that, but come up short and finish the season with 10% less scoring. That would have dropped LeSean McCoy’s 2013 FP/G from 3rd to 6th, and Nick Foles’ from 3rd to 10th.
The Doug Martin bandwagon is open for business. After a coaching change and a disappointing and mostly lost season, there’s not much buzz about Doug Martin. But the Bucs have focused offseason attention on their offensive line, and the new coaching staff is expected to lean on Martin. As a college coach, new Bucs offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford didn’t make much use of RBs in the pass game, which could be a concern for Martin. However, the NFL is not college, and it’s already been reported elsewhere that the Bucs plan to work on getting Doug Martin more involved in the pass game. The signals regarding Martin’s eventual usage aren’t fully clear yet, and he’s still not a cheap player to acquire2. But his availability in the second round (if you’re willing to bet on a return to 2011 form) means you can do something else in round one, grab Martin, then play the zero-RB game later.
Joique Bell is still underrated. I’ve written about Bell so much, I’m pretty sure my tombstone will mention it. But the Lions backfield is “shaping up to be a 50:50 timeshare.” In fact, Evan Silva of Rotoworld lists Bell as Detroit’s starter. Bell is coming off two very productive seasons and just signed a contract with more guaranteed money than the Lions gave Reggie Bush. But you can get Bell over 40 picks later in redraft. In dynasty start ups? Bell is undrafted. Think about that for a minute. A top twenty PPR RB is undrafted. Yes, I know Bell is 27 years old. But look at the RB ADP starting around the 40th RB, and tell me how many guys below that you really think will have a longer and more productive career from here on out than Joique Bell. We could argue, but it’s probably not many. Look, RB is increasingly devalued, and they have a short shelf life, so spending a lot of dynasty capital on a RB isn’t a great plan probably. So why not go all “zero RB“, skip Reggie Bush, and grab Joique Bell. Off waivers.
Lamar Miller is still alive too. John Paulsen noted recently that Miami threw the ball 63% of the time last year. Only three teams threw a higher percentage of the time. But new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor only threw the ball 52% of the time as a college OC. For that matter, the Eagles, for whom Lazor coached last season, were the most balanced run-pass offense in the league. What about the signing of Knowshon Moreno? Fair point. But the history of Lazor, as well as simple reversion to the mean, suggest there will be many more rushing attempts available in Miami this year. A rising tide lifts all boats3. But more than that, as Justin Winn noted, the amount of salary cap space tied up in RBs is dwindling. The likely impact of that is that “the better player” is more likely to see the field. Is Lamar Miller better than Knowshon Moreno? I don’t know, but Shawn Siegele likes Miller as a post hype super sleeper. The RotoViz thing to do, when a backfield situation is unclear, is to grab the cheaper guy. Miller is available 30 picks later than Moreno.
Gavin Escobar is also wildly undervalued. In dynasty start ups, he’s the 39th TE drafted. That represents a huge opportunity. Let’s count opportunities on our fingers: (1) Jason Witten is 31. He could play forever like Tony Gonzalez, but that would be the exception, not the rule. (2) The Cowboys spent a 2nd round pick on Escobar, which suggests they have decent expectations of him. (3) The Cowboys salary cap is a mess, and the defense is in shambles. Escobar is cheap and Dallas’ draft/free agency capital is more likely to be spent on defense in the near future. (4) He costs literally nothing to acquire in start ups. (5) He has a top-12 Phenom Index score. (6) He has an above average Agility Score, which, along with the Phenom score, have predictive value. (7) The Cowboys new kinda-sorta offensive coordinator is Scott Linehan. In his time in Detroit, the Lions finished 6th, 3rd, 1st, 1st, and 5th in pass attempts. A rising tide lifts all boats4. He had no problem throwing to both Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler. From 2010 to 2012 in Detroit, they finished 2nd and 4th in total pass targets, respectively. So even with Witten still starting, Escobar could have situational usefulness this year, and would be a definite starter if Witten goes down. (8) He’s only 23! That’s 8 fingers worth of opportunity, so grab Escobar with both hands, and don’t look back.