Wed Apr 24 11:57am ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer
Lindsay looking good to repeat
The NFL released schedules last week, so it is time to see how this impacts the fantasy world. Next up, the running back spot.
Using our rules for our money leagues, we came up with a schedule strength ranking for the running back position. We are using our fantasy defenses report to calculate the rankings. This report can be found in all of our leagues under the "reports" heading. We took the schedule of each team and entered the average number of fantasy points allowed to running backs last season from all of their opponents to get our fantasy points allowed number. This is a good indication of the running backs with the most favorable schedules for fantasy scoring for the coming season.
The Ravens had arguably the most potent rushing attack down the stretch last year and will look to carry that over to this year, so having the easiest schedule for running backs bodes well for this entire offense. Baltimore should be run heavy once again with Mark Ingram and quarterback Lamar Jackson leading the way. Both are setup for big years.
Phillip Lindsay was a huge surprise last year and is looking good again to at least repeat, having the second easiest schedule for running backs. New England, Detroit and Pittsburgh also have favorable schedules, making their running backs good targets for this coming year (i.e. Sony Michel, Kerryon Johnson and James Conner).
The Chiefs have run the ball well in recent years with whomever is starting, but have a schedule that could make it a little more difficult this year. Kansas City has the toughest schedule for running backs, which might send up a few red flags for likely starter Damien Williams.
Atlanta struggled to run the ball last year and could be in a similar situation this season, having the second hardest schedule for running backs. Cincinnati, Tampa Bay and Houston are other teams with very challenging schedules for running backs. Keep this in mind come draft day.
Take a close at these rankings and tweak your overall rankings accordingly. These schedules could impact running backs - good or bad.
|FANTASY POINTS ALLOWED|
Jeff Paur is a two-time finalist for FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and won the FSWA award for Best Fantasy Football Article on the Web in 2011. He also was the most accurate expert in 2012, winning the FSTA Fantasy Football Accuracy Award. If you have any questions for Jeff, email him at email@example.com. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.
May 29th: Quarterback Preview
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry led the NFL in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns last season and was a key piece of the team's attack down the stretch, but offensive coordinator Arthur Smith says that Henry's 2020 workload will "depend [on] how games go." Smith went on to add that the team wants to make sure other guys get touches as well. It makes sense to reduce Henry's workload some to keep him healthy and rested for the stretch run, as last season he led the NFL in rushing attempts. He's still a fantasy RB1 -- and has the potential to be the overall RB1 in standard-scoring leagues by the end of the year -- but his ceiling could be limited somewhat if Darrynton Evans gets a larger percentage of the touches than Dion Lewis did last season.
Denver Broncos outside linebacker/edge rusher Von Miller had his first single-digit sack season since 2013 and only had 46 tackles last year, but while he wasn't as dominant, he still made an impact in his 791 defensive snaps with a disruption rate of 14.4 percent. His 52 quarterback pressures were 29 more than his next closest teammate in Derek Wolfe. The eight-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro is still the man in Denver, and the 31-year-old can still be one of the most effective pass disruptors in the game. Miller's 235 QB pressures since 2016 lead all edge defenders and are second only to Aaron Donald. His QB pressure rate of 14 percent during that span ranks first across the NFL. Having Bradley Chubb healthy across from Miller could make a world of difference in 2020 and get Miller back into double-digit sacks.
Cleveland Browns defensive end Adrian Clayborn had more sacks in one game in 2017 with the Falcons than he did in all of last year (four), but he was still very effective and made the most of his pass-rushing opportunities (282) in 2019. Clayborn tallied 35 quarterback pressures on his 282 chances, and he added 24 hurries for a disruption rate of 14.5 percent and a sack rate of 1.4 percent. Entering his age-32 season, Clayborn has never had a double-digit sack season (career high of 9.5 in 2017) and recorded only 18 combined tackles in 15 games (one start) last year. He's a situational pass-rusher who could become more effective working alongside Myles Garrett, but Clayborn can be ignored in IDP leagues.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Shaquil Barrett, 2019's NFL sack leader with 19.5, had 5.5 more sacks in his first year with Tampa than he did in 61 games with the Broncos. He had 78 total disruptions last season and capitalized on his opportunities more often than anyone else. Barrett also played a ton of snaps (836, including 508 pass rushes), which caused his disruption rate of 15.4 percent to fall a little compared to some of the other top pass-rushers. His huge season earned him the franchise tag from the Bucs. Barrett also had 45 solo tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 37 QB hits, an interception and six forced fumbles. But can he do it again? Most IDP owners won't make him an every-week starter right off the bat in 2020 unless he shows the same kind of pass-rushing force early on.
Even though Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald ranked sixth on NFL.com's Nick Shook's top-10 pass disruptors of 2019, the five-time All-Pro is still one of the best all-around pass-rushers in the league. He played more total snaps (882) than anyone else on the list, which is why his 15.7 percent disruption rate is a little lower. Donald's 267 quarterback pressures since 2016 are the most in the NFL in that span. His 69 QB pressures were second-most in 2019, and his pressure percentage (13.5) was the highest among interior linemen with a minimum of 300 pass rushes. The 29-year-old has made the Pro Bowl in each of his six seasons and has 72 sacks so far in his career. He's the real deal and is an elite IDP defensive lineman.
Jacksonville Jaguars edge-rushing linebacker Josh Allen had an incredible rookie season in 2019, being selected to the Pro Bowl with 54 total disruptions and 10.5 sacks. He had a disruption rate of 16.2 percent and a sack rate of 3.1 percent, but how much of his success had to do with fellow pass-rushers Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue? Campbell is now playing in Baltimore after a trade and Ngakoue is disgruntled and wants to be traded. If Ngakoue leaves, too, Allen will have a tougher time putting up those kind of numbers in his second season. The 22-year-old seventh overall pick should still be a force to be reckoned with for years to come, but he might not be a weekly starter in IDP leagues just yet.
Chicago Bears defensive end Robert Quinn earned his five-year deal on the free-agent market with an excellent season in 2019 with the Cowboys. Working opposite of DeMarcus Lawrence, Quinn pressured the quarterback on 14 percent of pass rushes, the third-highest rate in the NFL with a minimum of 250 pass rushes. He had 49 QB pressures last year, which is the same number that Bears pass-rusher Khalil Mack had, but Quinn accomplished it on 116 fewer pass rushes. If Quinn can maintain that level of play, the Bears Defense could be a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. Before 2019, though, Quinn didn't have a double-digit sack season since 2014, so many IDP owners will be skeptical that he can produce those numbers again in a new environment. In his career, the 30-year-old has 80.5 sacks in nine seasons, including four seasons with double-digit QB takedowns.
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa made the Pro Bowl and was named the 2019 Defensive Rookie of the Year while racking up the fourth-most quarterback pressures in the NFL (60) while finishing with a pressure percentage of 13.9, good for fourth-best in the league. The younger brother of Chargers pass-rusher Joey Bosa, Nick is just 22 years old and had nine sacks, 16 tackles for loss and 25 QB hits in his first season. He might have to shoulder a bigger load in San Fran with DeForest Buckner now in Indy, but Bosa will likely be up to the task as one of the best young pass-rushers in football. He's an easy top-10 defensive line target in IDP setups.
New Orleans Saints wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders said on NFL Network's Total Access on Tuesday that playing with quarterback Drew Brees will be similar to his days with Peyton Manning in Denver. "Like I said in '14, that's wide receiver heaven. To be back in the situation with another Hall of Fame quarterback and trying to do something special and win a Super Bowl, I'm all in. Truthfully, I'm blessed to be in this position that I'm in right now," Sanders said. He had 101 catches for 1,404 yards and nine touchdowns in his first year with Manning in Denver, and he had over 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons with the Broncos. He might not return to those glory days, but Sanders can be a reliable and cheap WR3 for fantasy owners in the Big Easy if he can stay healthy.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Trent Taylor (foot) has been sprinting, cutting and catching passes from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo while the team waits for the green light to return to their practice facilities. Taylor missed all of 2019 with a foot injury, but he's been part of a group of receivers running routes for Garoppolo in the Bay Area in recent weeks. Others include Jalen Hurd, Shawn Poindexter, Dante Pettis and Kendrick Bourne. Despite missing all of last year, Taylor could be the team's slot man if he proves his health this summer. While he might not be quite ready for football action at the moment, there's still time for him to get up to speed. He'll be a post-injury sleeper late in deep PPR leagues.
The New York Giants have fewer concerns on the offensive line than most teams but will enter training camp with one glaring question mark, the man snapping to franchise quarterbackDaniel Jones. Experience favors 27-year-old Spencer Pulley, who has started 26 NFL games, including nine with New York in 2018. Other candidates include the 6-foot-6, 318-pound Nick Gates and rookie Shane Lemieux. Gates has the size but has mostly played tackle in his career, and Lemieux was exclusively a left guard at Oregon. Given that Jones is learning a new offense, it would make sense not to stick the sophomore QB behind an inexperienced center, but the players will battle for the job in training camp. Whoever wins the job will join one of the better guard tandems in the NFL along with fourth overall pick Andrew Thomas and veteran Nate Solder. The center position could make or break a line that has the potential to be great for Jones and running backSaquon Barkley.
Tennessee Titans linebackers coach Shane Bowen said that linebacker Harold Landry played too many snaps last season and that he needs to do a better job of watching Landry's snap count in 2020 in order to get the biggest bang for the buck. A second-round pick by the Titans in 2018, Landry has 13.5 sacks, 112 tackles (67 solo), one interception, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in 31 games. He's been plenty productive, but it sounds like the Titans would prefer to use him less often, which could actually make him even more productive when he is on the field. The soon-to-be 24-year-old won't be on the IDP radar, but he's an outside linebacker to keep an eye on.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner isn't worried about how many carries he gets heading into the 2020 season. Head coach Mike Tomlin has historically leaned heavily on a single back during his time in Pittsburgh but there have been some questions as to whether he will do so in 2020 considering Conner's injury history. Conner told reporters that he expects the Steelers to run the ball better this upcoming season. "We need to establish our run game first and foremost," he told reporters. Conner will open the season as the team's No. 1 running back and he could wind up as a value in fantasy drafts if he's able to turn in a full 16-game season.
Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith provided immediate returns after the Packers signed him to a lucrative free-agent deal before the 2019 season. He pressured the quarterback on 19.4 percent of pass rushes when lined up on the interior, which was the highest rate among all defenders rushing from the interior with a minimum of 100 interior pass rushes. Smith finished second overall in pressure percentage at 14.8 percent, trailing only Myles Garrett. Smith and defensive tackle Kenny Clark combined for 120 QB pressures in 2019, the most by any pass-rushing duo in the league. He had a career-high 13.5 sacks last year and 8.5 the year before, but he leaves a lot to be desired from an IDP standpoint because he's not as strong against the run and doesn't rack up many tackles.
Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett played in just 10 games last year because of a suspension, but when he was on the field he was the league's most efficient disruptor with a league-high disruption rate of 18.5 percent. The Browns had a 32.9 percent pressure rate with Garrett on the field, but without him, that number dropped to 21.5 percent. He had a pressure on 17.1 percent of dropbacks in 2019, which was the highest percentage since 2016. Garrett is one of just three players (Aaron Donald and Von Miller are the others) to post a pressure rate of 12 percent or higher in each of the last three years. The former No. 1 overall pick is a top-five IDP target at the defensive line position.
Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay, who is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons under two different offensive coordinators, thinks new coordinator Pat Shurmur's offense fits him even better. "I just think that it's what fits my style, and I've been able to adapt to every style, but I think that this style right here is something that is going to fit me, kind of like how my rookie year was. I'm excited about that," Lindsay said. However, the Broncos added Melvin Gordon III in free agency and believe that he also fits their offensive scheme very well. Lindsay had offseason wrist surgery but said is fully healthy. He'll be motivated whenever the team is allowed to practice together. He'll have a role in this offense as a 1B to Gordon's 1A, but his fantasy stock has fallen because of Gordon's addition. Target Lindsay as a low-end RB3/flex.
Former Carolina Panthers LB Luke Kuechly is considering a role in the Panthers' front office as a professional scout.
Free-agent defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan had reached an agreement on a one-year, $3.25 million deal with the Houston Texans, but the two sides have agreed to part ways and Jernigan is not expected to sign with the team, according to sources informed of the situation. Jernigan didn't take a physical with the Texans and isn't expected to do so. He was previously cleared by spinal specialist Robert Watkins after playing in just 13 games in the last two seasons due to neck and foot injuries. A second-round pick of the Ravens in 2014, the 27-year-old had his best season in Baltimore in 2016, recording five sacks, 31 combined tackles, one interception and one fumble recovery. He'll look for another one-year deal on the open market now that he's parted ways with Houston.
Arizona Cardinals S Budda Baker led all defensive backs with 147 tackles and 11 tackles for loss in 2019. It marked the second straight season he led defensive backs in TFLs (he had 13 in 2018) and amassed at least 100 tackles.
New Orleans Saints S Malcolm Jenkins - as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles - and CB Marshon Lattimore were two of only four defensive backs to record four forced fumbles last season.