Jesse Pantuosco

Bump and Run

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Rankings Tease

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


Remember this bad boy from last summer? Well guess what—it’s getting a sequel. Take that, Deadpool! That’s right—it’s Draft Guide Month here at Rotoworld. I’ll be handling team previews, our annual industry mock draft, my world-famous kicker profiles and a quick how-to guide for auction drafts.

 

That’s pretty much what I did last year, but if there’s one thing you should know about me it’s that I REFUSE to be typecast. That’s why I’m adding a new wrinkle this year. Along with Evan, RotoPat, Ray, Reebs, Nick and the rest of the funky bunch ($5 to the first person who photo-shops one of our faces over a picture of Marky Mark), I’ll be submitting my own rankings for each position. I’m still putting the finishing touches on my top 200 but I’ve already compiled my initial ranks for all the major fantasy positions including quarterback, wide receiver, tight end and running back. You’ll have to purchase the magazine to see my full rankings but I know you’re thirsty for some fantasy hot takes, so here are a few spoilers to whet your whistle. 

 

Amari Cooper, WR15: John Mulaney has a great bit at the beginning of his new Netflix special (I know this because I’ve seen it no fewer than four times) about his aloof father. During the bit Mulaney says, “none of us really know our fathers.” To me, this captures the true essence of Amari Cooper. Not to get all Psychology 101 on you guys, but who is Amari Cooper? Talk about an identity crisis. One week he’s Larry Fitzgerald, the next he’s Larry the Cable Guy. What gives?

 

To call Cooper’s 2017 campaign “uneven” would be putting it lightly. Cooper tallied a career-high seven touchdowns but also set career-lows in both yards (680) and catches (48) while committing the third-most drops behind only Dez Bryant and Keenan Allen. The former fourth overall pick erupted for a career-best 210 yards in a Week 7 win over Kansas City but also endured a five-game stretch where he totaled a combined 84 yards on 13 catches.

 

I don’t know what to think of the Raiders under new old coach Jon Gruden, but I do know this. Cooper topped 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons and is still just 23. He also wasn’t healthy last year, playing through a back injury and missing two games with a concussion and a high-ankle sprain. The Raiders lost red-zone weapon Michael Crabtree this offseason but gained Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant, so we’ll call it a wash. Cooper’s inconsistency continues to keep me up at night, but I still consider him a top-15 receiver, warts and all.

 

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Jimmy Garoppolo, QB11: Rich, ridiculously good-looking and undefeated as an NFL starter—is there anything Jimmy Handsome can’t do? Garoppolo’s meteoric ascent in San Francisco was one of the best stories in football last year, if not all of human history. But seriously, all you Patriots haters out there (aka most of you) must have LOVED IT. To recap: 1) Tom Brady gets jealous of his successor, locks him out of the TB12 Center out of spite, gets him traded for peanuts and Garoppolo immediately turns the 49ers into world beaters. Let that be a lesson to all you petty veterans out there (looking at you, Roethlisberger)—karma is a you know what.

 

If you weren’t a believer in Garoppolo, he made you one by going bonkers against the Jaguars in Week 16. Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye, Calais Campbell, Myles Jack, Tashaun Gipson, Dante Fowler … none of them fazed Jimmy G in the slightest. He also impressed against the Rams (292 yards, two touchdowns), who figure to be the Niners’ main competition in the NFC West this year (sorry, Seahawks). Tony Romo is still the GOAT at Eastern Illinois but maybe not for long if Garoppolo keeps this up (it’s okay Tony, I know the feeling).

 

The Niners are getting Pierre Garcon back from injury, but other than that, San Fran’s pass-catching corps is mostly the same as it was last year. That’s a relative disappointment, especially considering all the great wide receivers that were available in free agency. Deep threat Marquise Goodwin finally broke out last year and Trent Taylor also showed flashes as a rookie (so did tight end George Kittle) but let’s be honest—the Niners’ receiving depth chart isn’t exactly a murderer’s row. And as dominant as Garoppolo appeared in his five starts, that’s still an extremely small sample size. Jimmy G is much more than a flash in the pan, but with a limited supporting cast and only seven NFL starts under his belt, he’s probably on the lower end of the QB1 spectrum.

 

Josh Gordon, WR21: Curb Your Enthusiasm returned from hiatus last year and so did Josh Gordon. The 27-year-old didn’t show much rust either, averaging a healthy 67 yards over his five games including 115 in a Week 17 loss to Pittsburgh. Gordon obviously wasn’t very efficient—he caught fewer than 42 percent of his targets—but you’d struggle too if DeShone Kizer (who has since graduated to a backup role behind Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay) was your starting quarterback. No one would ever confuse Tyrod Taylor for Tom Brady but he still represents a massive upgrade on Kizer, who was by most measures the worst starting quarterback in football last season. Gordon should also benefit from the addition of Jarvis Landry, who has been among the best slot receivers in football since arriving as a second-round pick in 2014.

 

Similar to Garoppolo, we’re working with a very small sample size here. Since leading the league in receiving yards at age 22, Gordon has played just 499 snaps over 10 NFL appearances, and none of those snaps came with Tyrod under center. Gordon seems to have gotten his off-field life in order, which has been his biggest roadblock to fantasy success. There will always be risk associated with Gordon, but based on last year’s results and the improvements Cleveland made this offseason, I still consider him a viable WR2.

 

Hunter Henry, TE4: I wish I had a bombshell tight end to shock you with, but looking through my rankings, there weren’t any real surprises. I guess this might qualify though. Henry’s sleeper days are long over but I doubt you’ll see him this high in any other rankings. Tight end is a paper-thin fantasy position—it’s essentially Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz and a bunch of other guys. But of the “other guys,” I prefer Henry.

 

We now know for certain that Antonio Gates isn’t coming back to Los Angeles, which elevates Henry to full-time status for the first time in his career. Henry’s usage came and went last year but he was always efficient, nabbing 45 of his 63 targets from Philip Rivers. The former Arkansas Razorback finished the year in style, averaging 58.8 yards with two touchdowns over his final four games. And though he only made four end-zone visits last season, Henry tied for the league lead among tight ends with eight touchdowns as a rookie in 2016.

 

It may come as a slight upset that I had Henry higher in my rankings than Greg Olsen and Evan Engram but Olsen is 33 and coming off a significant foot injury while most of Engram’s success last season came while Odell Beckham was out with a broken ankle. Henry has dominated in spurts but has never put together a complete season. That might scare off some of the more skittish fantasy owners, but not me. I think the 23-year-old has breakout written all over him.

 

Rashaad Penny, RB18: What was I doing on Mother’s Day? Besides watching the Celtics go medieval on LeBron James (yes, I’ll be at the game tonight), I was getting my mock on by doing an industry draft for Lindy’s Fantasy Football Magazine. I ended up with Derrius Guice as my RB2, but only because Penny was sniped from me a few picks earlier. Marshawn Lynch was a force of nature during his time in Seattle, but since his departure, the Seahawks’ backfield has been an absolute nightmare. Seahawks running backs—that includes Chris Carson, Mike Davis, Eddie Lacy, J.D. McKissic, C.J. Prosise and Thomas Rawls—combined for exactly one rushing touchdown a year ago. None of the six players I just named topped 250 yards rushing in 2017. So yeah, you could say Seattle’s backfield was in need of an overhaul.

 

It was a surprise Penny went in the first round but now that he’s on the Seahawks’ roster, fantasy owners should be salivating at his upside. If you’re not familiar with Penny, know that he is a human being who rushed for 2,027 yards and 19 touchdowns as a senior at San Diego State this past season. I don’t care what conference you play in—2,027 is still an absurd, borderline impossible amount of yards. Bottom line: the dude can play.

 

And here’s the cherry on top of your fantasy ice cream sundae—head coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider have both said they view Penny as a three-down back. We’ll see about that—Penny never caught more than 18 passes in a season at SDSU. But assuming Carroll and Schneider aren’t yanking our chains, Penny should be the workhorse from Day 1. Even if he goes through the usual rookie growing pains—a definite possibility given the anemic state of Seattle’s offensive line—fantasy owners will still have volume to fall back on. He’s not in Saquon Barkley’s league, but I do have Penny ahead of fellow rookies Guice, Sony Michel and Ronald Jones. Opportunity is everything in fantasy and Penny should have plenty of it in Seattle.



Jesse Pantuosco is a football and baseball writer for Rotoworld. He has won three Fantasy Sports Writers Association Awards. Follow him on Twitter @JessePantuosco.
Email :Jesse Pantuosco



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