Welcome to Rotoworld's second Twitter mailbag. I’m going to borrow from last year’s introduction for those interested in a quick Twitter primer.
A recovering Luddite myself, it took a while to warm up to our newest social media phenomenon. While I can sympathize with the sentiment that "nobody cares" about the mindless trivia of daily living, what Twitter does accomplish -- quite brilliantly -- is to merge clusters of people interested in similar topics, such as fantasy football.
It's transformed the nature of sports journalism, not just in breaking news instantaneously but also in tapping into a virtual army of participants sharing the same interests. For fantasy football leaguers, it's a godsend. Ask a beat writer, former scout, NFL insider, or fantasy "expert" for advice, and there's a good chance you will hear back within hours or even minutes. Make your voice heard in the latest NFL Draft speculation, track multiple fantasy sites, and even keep tabs on NFL players. You can't find a better way to gather information or pass along opinion than Twitter.
For those interested in starting a Twitter account, @Rotoworld_FB contributor Chet Gresham (@Chet_G) has a handy "Twitter 101 For Fantasy Football" guide to nudge the hesitant fantasy owner out of the nest. After you have "followed" the Rotoworld football team -- @ChrisWesseling, @evansilva, @adamlevitan, @RotoPat, @JoshNorris and @MikeClayNFL -- you can peruse my lists. I've compiled nearly 200 of the top NFL beat writers, 80 national NFL insiders, 50 must-follow team sources, official NFL team websites, and a smorgasbord of fantasy football, baseball, and general sports writers as well as culture critics.
On to the mailbag.
@Joey_Mitch: “Where do you stand on Chris Johnson dynasty value? If talent is there and effort was lacking, isn't he a prime buy low?”
Nobody has taken more time and effort to break down Johnson’s 2011 struggles and 2012 outlook than Evan Silva in this brilliant column. Silva came to the conclusion, not that Johnson should be avoided like the plague in the first round this year, but that film-watching mandates a “leap of faith” to expect a return to pre-holdout production.
As I’ve long been a Johnson acolyte, the open space over which I’m leaping is less a chasm than a fissure. The findings of Silva and several national analysts suggest Johnson’s problems were three-fold: effort, red-zone opportunity and the combination of Chris Palmer’s scheme and subpar run-blocking.
Johnson concedes he didn’t arrive in football shape last year. If you believe -- as I do -- that Johnson’s questionable effort was a vestige of his protracted holdout, there is tangible evidence on which to hang your hat for a 2012 turnaround. For the first time in his career, Johnson joined teammates for voluntary OTAs rather than working out on his own in Florida. Furthermore, CJ has added 8-10 pounds of muscle this offseason after shying away from contact last year. “People who know” Johnson expect a big bounce-back season because he has “rededicated himself” and is “running harder” than he was prior to his 2,000-yard season in 2009.
Even if you remain skeptical of the Titans’ sudden profusion of young talent and OC Chris Palmer’s more wide-open and “explosive” offense, simple regression toward the mean tells us Johnson will see a marked uptick in scoring opportunities. Whereas Arian Foster led the NFL with 64 red-zone carries, Johnson saw just 18 (for comparison’s sake, that’s one more than Jackie Battle). Similarly, Johnson’s six carries inside the 5-yard line pale in comparison to Michael Turner’s league-leading 28. It requires no leap of faith to expect touchdown numbers closer to Johnson’s 2008-10 average of 12.7 than last year’s total of 4.
ESPN’s Football Scientist K.C. Joyner believes Johnson’s early-season 2011 woes can be traced to the rough transition from Mike Heimerdinger’s counter elements to Palmer’s new scheme, which never had a chance to click after a lost offseason and training camp. Johnson’s per-carry average of 4.8 -- right in line with his career mark -- over the final nine games suggests the Titans were “all the way back to the kind of plays that Johnson liked best and that worked best for him in the past.” With plenty of practice to further hone that timing with his blockers this year, Johnson can be expected to carry over that second-half success into the 2012 season. Joyner lists Johnson as fantasy’s top running back and the No. 2 pick behind Aaron Rodgers. I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s not as absurd as the “experts” would have you believe. Every year the fantasy football world is forced to re-learn that a preseason consensus at the top of the draft is a wrong-headed notion.
@Joey_Mitch: “Mark Ingram: talent is still there in a great offense and banged up all of last year, buy this year?”
Absolutely. The offseason concerns over his minor knee scope were severely overblown, and Darren McFadden has proven that early-career turf toe scares have no ill effects on future production. Despite playing just 10 games as a rookie, Ingram still led the Saints’ multi-faceted backfield in carries.
On pace for 213 touches before his season-ending injury, Ingram is expected to be the lead dog in the backfield once again. It’s easy to forget that NFL Films guru Greg Cosell had fallen in “love” with Ingram as a potential “true foundation back” by mid-season last year. Cosell and coach Sean Payton both agreed the only thing keeping Ingram from strong Rookie of the Year consideration was Payton himself.
@Joey_Mitch: “Fred Davis, best tight end no one is talking about in an offense about to improve significantly? What kind of talent is Helu?”
Yes. Davis’ 66.3 yards per game last season were behind only Rob Gronkowski’s 82.9 and Jimmy Graham’s 81.9 among tight ends. Davis had 8-of-12 games over 50 yards whereas Jason Witten managed just 8-of-16 over the half-century mark. I do expect immediate improvement with Robert Griffin III injecting life into the Redskins this season.
Helu doesn’t have much in the way of lateral agility, but his impressive size/speed ratio, short-area burst, decisive cuts and above-average hands still make him an ideal fit for the Shanahans’ zone-blocking scheme. What’s difficult to gauge about his fantasy value is that his floor-to-ceiling range is perhaps wider than any top-40 back in the league.
If he stays healthy (a big “if”) and manages to become entrenched as a true workhorse back (an even bigger “if”), Helu has the potential to lead the NFL in rushing in this ground attack. On the other hand, he could spend the season wallowing in the fantasy mud as a change-of-pace back with an occasional breakout game wasted on your bench. I believe Helu can carve out a 4-5 year window of fantasy success, but durability concerns and the whims of Shanahan have me questioning his stability in Dynasty leagues.
@Ty_In_StL: “What round should Mike Wallace be targeted and is he the best Steeler WR to go for?”
Wallace’s ADP has dropped from late-third to mid-fourth in the past few days, according to FantasyFootballCalculator.com. If you’re dying to draft him, I think you can probably wait until the fifth round over the next week or two. If Wallace does reverse course and report to camp in the next two weeks, he's worthy of a fourth-round pick. Until then, I'd let someone else deal with the potential headache of "handcuffing" Emmanuel Sanders on the chance that Wallace sits at home for 10 games.
And, yes, Wallace has the talent and touchdown advantage over Antonio Brown -- in spades. Wallace hasn’t finished outside of the top-10 fantasy receivers since he’s joined the starting lineup. If Wallace re-joins his teammates in August, he's the pick over Brown in any format.
@elishearn: “Which RBs are you targeting in rounds 7-11 in redraft? RB25-RB50. From McGahee/Helu/Wells to Pead/Hillman/Jacquizz.”
Out of that group, I’d roll the dice on Helu in the late sixth round and Pead at the back-end of the draft. I think Pead has a major playmaking edge on Ronnie Hillman. Jacquizz is a mediocre talent and a third-down back, a species constantly overvalued in fantasy leagues.
Among other backs currently going in rounds 7-11, I’d target Jahvid Best (once he gets clearance from doctors), Stevan Ridley (in the Green-Ellis role), Peyton Hillis (better player in the Thomas Jones role), Jonathan Stewart (talent-wise, a top-5 back in the entire league) and Mark Ingram (see above).