Thu May 18 10:35am ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer
Henry could be a league winner
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.
Defenses obviously change from year to year, but knowing the running backs that might have the easiest schedule for fantasy is always a good idea when formulating your rankings and draft strategy. This is especially true when it comes to deciding between two fringe draft picks. If you are having a tough time deciding between backs like Damien Harris or D’Onta Foreman, pick the back that has the easier schedule of the two. This could pay off in the end.
The Broncos have the most favorable schedule for fantasy running backs this season. This bodes well for Javonte Williams. He is returning from a torn ACL, but once he is in the starting lineup, good things could be setup for the talented Williams. Plus, he gets a new offense that should be a benefit for him.
Derrick Henry and the Titans get the second most favorable schedule for backs. Henry is getting older, but hasn’t shown many signs of slowing down just yet. And with the Titans still lacking some top options in the passing game, it could be another heavy dose of Henry all season long in Tennessee. He might have a monster season.
The Lions, Steelers and Chiefs round out the top five easiest running back schedules. It is intriguing to see the Lions on the list. Rookie back Jahmyr Gibbs is getting a lot of hype and could post big numbers in year one with a lot of things going his way. Najee Harris is another interesting fantasy back for this year. He is coming off a poor season but gets an upgraded offensive line and favorable schedule. Maybe this is the year it all comes together for him.
Philadelphia has one of the best offenses and rush offenses in all of football, but will have a tough fantasy schedule for their running backs. The Eagles get the toughest fantasy schedule for running backs this season. It is tough to bet against the Eagles offense, but D’Andre Swift and Rashaad Penny already have question marks coming into the season. It might be best to let someone else pick them come draft day.
The Seahawks, Dolphins, Giants and Cowboys also have challenging fantasy schedules for running backs. Miami is the one that sticks out. They are another team with a host of backs looking for playing time. It might be smart to let someone else deal with that mess in the backfield, especially after looking at their schedule. Seattle has two really good backs looking for playing time and should give them plenty of weekly touches, but a challenging schedule could limit their ceilings just a little.
And it is tough to go against Saquon Barkley, but he could face a little more resistance this year. The opposition might make the Giants passing attack beat them more often than not. But even with that said, we wouldn’t knock Barkley too much because of a tough fantasy schedule.
We also wanted to look at playoff schedules for fantasy running backs. So we crunched the numbers of all the schedules from Week 14-17, which is the fantasy playoffs for most leagues. We know you have to get to the playoffs first, but knowing the running backs with the easiest playoff schedules doesn’t hurt by any means, especially in the big money contests.
|RB PLAYOFF SOS|
The Titans have the easiest fantasy playoff schedule for running backs. So once again, Henry is looking pretty good to fantasy owners. If he can stay on the field and play all season, Henry could be a league winner for fantasy owners.
The Browns, Bears, Jets and Chargers round out the top five easiest fantasy playoff schedules for running backs. Nick Chubb becomes a little more intriguing come draft day. He already seems setup for a big year with Deshaun Watson starting from day one at quarterback. Chubb looks even better because of this playoff schedule, though.
Seattle has the toughest fantasy playoff schedule. Some owners are concerned about the possible split in work, making these two talented backs scary to pick come draft day. Well, a tough regular season and playoff fantasy schedule doesn’t make picking either back any easier come draft day.
The Rams, Commanders, Dolphins and Ravens are the other four teams that make up the top five toughest fantasy playoff running back schedules. Cam Akers already is a little scary come draft day, but getting a really tough playoff schedule dings his value even more. And Miami is the other team besides the Seahawks to make both the regular season and fantasy playoffs top-five toughest fantasy running back schedule list. This is a concern for that backfield.
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.
According to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, only the Bills and Cardinals had "substantive" talks with the Cardinals about trading for DeAndre Hopkins. Of course, nobody made a move, and Arizona released him on Friday. Since the multi-time Pro Bowler became a free agent, several teams have emerged as potential suitors. However, other clubs like the Browns appear uninterested, meaning a reunion between Hopkins and Deshaun Watson probably won't happen. The Chiefs have since expressed their faith in Kadarius Toney to become the top wideout on the depth chart, while the Bills may not have the cash to make a move, considering Hopkins could command more than the $15 million Odell Beckham Jr. received from Baltimore. Nonetheless, there will be plenty of updates and speculation moving forward. But it will be hard to tell how Hopkins will look from a fantasy standpoint until he officially inks a new deal
Jacksonville Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr. entered training camp last offseason working his way back from a foot injury that cost him his rookie year. However, the 24-year-old is healthy this offseason, so he's focused on "fine-tuning" his skills. "Last year was more about getting healthy and getting back," said Etienne during OTAs. "This year, I didn't have to worry about my foot. It's great. So I'm able to work on football, all football." Although Etienne got off to a slow start in 2022-23, he still finished with 1,125 yards and five rushing touchdowns off 220 carries. He also caught 35 passes for 316 yards. Nonetheless, the former Clemson Tiger is the top option on the depth chart, so he may easily surpass his ADP projections this season.
During an interview with Cameron Cox of 12News, Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker stated he would attend training camp. "Oh yeah, of course, I'll be there when it's time to be there," said Baker. "I'll be there smiling and (be) the same regular guy that I am." The All-Pro finished last season with 111 total tackles (75 solo), seven passes defensed, and two sacks. However, he requested a trade in April after failing to secure a new deal. Nonetheless, with Arizona in rebuilding mode, it will be interesting to see the outcome of this situation.
2023 is the last year that the Cincinnati Bengals will have quarterback Joe Burrow on the cheap via his rookie deal. While it does seem inevitable a deal will get done between the two sides, how big will it be? Per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, Burrow should agree to a percentage of the salary each year to compensate for it going up. Nonetheless, the contract extension talks shouldn't impact Burrow's fantasy outlook for 2023. Even without a ton of rushing upside, Burrow should still be viewed as a Top 5-7 quarterback for fantasy in 2023. The Bengals ran 11 personnel at an 82% rate in 2022, good for the second-highest in the NFL. With Joe Mixon, Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and some improvements on the offensive line, it's hard not to see the Bengals' offense as a potent foe for 2023. In the two seasons combined Burrow has averaged 4500+ passing yards and 34+ TD passes per year.
The New York Jets signed undrafted rookie wide receiver Jerome Kapp to an undisclosed deal this week and placed defensive lineman Bradlee Anae (undisclosed) on the Injured Reserve in a corresponding move. Kapp took part in the team's rookie minicamp earlier this month. In his final collegiate season at Kutztown, he produced 47 catches for 916 yards and nine touchdowns. In three total seasons at Kutztown, Kapp caught 122 passes for 2,190 yards and 22 touchdowns over 36 games. He'll be a long shot to make the team's active roster out of training camp this summer, but he could stick on the team's practice squad.
Tennessee Titans wide receiver Chris Moore, who is coming off the best season of his NFL career, will look to be versatile in order to help his new team in 2023. "I can do whatever they need me to do," Moore said. "First, I am a football player, and then I'm a receiver. Whatever they want me to do, I'm going to do it." The former fourth-rounder of the Ravens in 2016, Moore spent the last two years with the Texans and caught 48 passes for 548 yards and two TDs in 16 games (seven starts) in 2022. In his six NFL seasons, he's caught 116 passes for 1,286 yards and eight scores, and he also has experience as a kick returner. The 29-year-old will likely be behind Treylon Burks, Kyle Phillips and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine in the receiving pecking order, though, so he'll be off the fantasy radar to begin the year.
San Francisco 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw (thumb) had a minor procedure after last year to fix an injured thumb, and he's still working his way back, which is why he wasn't taking part in organized team activities this week. Once he's back to full health, Greenlaw expects to absorb everything new defensive coordinator Steve Wilks has to offer him. The former fifth-rounder in 2019 only has two career sacks to his name, but he's hoping to be used more as a blitzer in the new defensive scheme in 2023. In his four seasons in the Bay Area, the 26-year-old has recorded 326 tackles (217 solo), 13 tackles for loss, five QB hits, three interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), 10 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries (one for a TD) in 47 games (39 starts).
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley is the team's unquestioned workhorse back. He played 80 percent of the offensive snaps last year. Matt Breida was a speedy complement to Barkley who also worked well in tandem with the star runner in multi-back packages. He's the favorite to be the backup again. Gary Brightwell had a team-high 4.5 yards per carry on 31 carries in 2022, but he's expected to be challenged for the No. 3 role by rookie Eric Gray, who brings a reputation as a "balanced, agile runner with darting quickness and steady pass-catching skills." If Gray impresses during training camp this summer, the 24-year-old Brightwell could find himself No. 4 on the team's RB depth chart to open the year.
With the release of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins on Friday, Arizona Cardinals wideout Marquise Brown now becomes the team's clear No. 1 pass-catcher. Rondale Moore will be looking to overcome his injury issues but will have a big opportunity to make noise if he can stay healthy. Greg Dortch should also see plenty of chances as well. Veteran Zach Pascal and third-round rookie Michael Wilson bring nice size to the group. Hollywood Brown began 2022 as the top wideout with Hopkins suspended, but the 25-year-old former first-rounder missed time with injuries and played in only 12 games (10 starts) in his first year in the desert. He finished with 67 catches for 709 yards and three TDs. Brown has plenty of upside in fantasy, but he also might not have quarterback Kyler Murray (knee) until halfway through the season.
Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle Terence Steele (knee), who tore his ACL and MCL in his left knee in Week 14 of last season against the Houston Texans, was limited during organized team activities this week. The fourth-year offensive lineman has started 40 games in the last three seasons and is a valuable member of the team's O-line when he's healthy. "Terence isn't quite ready for some of that," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "We'll try to interject these guys the best we can." As long as the 25-year-old doesn't suffer any setbacks once training camp begins later this summer, he will open the 2023 regular season as Dallas' starting right tackle.
Dynasty | Josh Downs is dealing with a minor knee injury Dynasty Analysis: It probably isn't even newsworthy but Downs is a rookie and needs to develop chemistry with rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson while also working on needed NFL-level conditioning requirements. Mandatory OTAs kick-off next month so the team will be cautious with the projected starter in the slot to ensure he's back and fully healthy when they begin. Downs is found as DLF's rookie WR5 and our WR59 overall.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Elijah Moore and quarterback Deshaun Watson are already building important chemistry early this offseason when Watson brought a few of the team's veterans to Puerto Rico last week. But Moore has continued to build chemistry with Watson in the first few days of organized team activities this week. He was a constant target for Watson in 7-on-7 work on Wednesday. "Different quarterback, different arm, seeing what he sees and just the communication around the team," Moore said. "Everyone communicates differently, but I feel like it's going to go well, so I can't complain." The 23-year-old former second-rounder appears headed for a nice bounce-back season as Cleveland's starting slot receiver in 2023.
Cleveland Browns tight end Jordan Akins chose to sign with Cleveland this offseason mainly because it would give him another chance to work with a quarterback he already knew in Deshaun Watson. Akins played his first three NFL seasons with Watson in Houston and enjoyed catching passes from him. The 6-foot-4, 245-pounder will give Watson another big tight end who can be a weapon in the red zone, and Akins is coming off his best season with five touchdowns for the Texans. While working with Watson in Houston, Akins caught 90 passes for 1,046 yards and three TDs in three years. The 31-year-old's familiarity with Watson is a plus, but unless David Njoku misses time with an injury in 2023, Akins won't have a ton of fantasy appeal.
Dynasty | The Bills possess the best odds (+300) to sign DeAndre Hopkins according to DraftKings Dynasty Analysis: The next teams are the Chiefs (+400), Ravens (+650), and Jets (+750). Absent from the top four are the Patriots who were said to be in the mix when it became apparent the Cardinals were wanting to move on. The release of Hopkins clearly pegs the Cardinals as a team tanking for Caleb as they are absorbing the full cap hit ($22M) rather than waiting until after June 1 and halving the charge. Be the best or be the worst, don't be mediocre. The Cardinals are clearly choosing to clear the slate, removing those impact players that could potentially win games in hopes of securing a better draft position in 2024. As for Hopkins, look for the aging star to sign with a top contender, either Buffalo or Kansas City, neither of which are swimming in available cap room. Soon to be 31, Hopkins' decision could drag out as teams wrestle with contract terms and player restructuring to free cap room. He's found as DLF's WR41 and could have upside in 2023.
Dynasty | The Cardinals' release of DeAndre Hopkins puts Kyler Murray's future clearly in doubt Dynasty Analysis: The release of Hopkins would seem to suggest the Cardinals are a team tanking for Caleb (Williams) as they are absorbing the full cap hit ($22M) rather than waiting until after June 1 and halving the charge. Be the best or be the worst, don't be mediocre. The Cardinals are clearly choosing to clear the slate, removing those impact players that could potentially win games in hopes of securing a better draft position in 2024. The Cardinals possess two first-round selections in the 2024 NFL Draft, including one from Houston acquired as part of the draft-day trade in April's NFL Draft. With Arizona, now, potentially the worst team in the NFL, coupled with Houston's less-than-stellar 2023 forecast, the team could possess two very high selections and position themselves for a selection of USC's Miller. Or, the team could choose to keep Murray and use the selections on playmakers around the soon-to-be 26-year-old. He isn't a free agent until 2029. Murray tore his ACL (and meniscus) late in 2022 and while he's reportedly making amazing progress toward a potential return, there's now little reason for him not to be shelved for much of the 2023 season. With no urgency to win games early, the team can protect its highest-priced asset, ensure Murray is fully healthy when he does return, and then make a decision on his future with a better understanding of how their draft capital is positioned. While Murray's situation plays out, dynasty coaches will need to make other plans for 2023. He's found as DLF's QB9.
According to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, the Bills are considered one of the favorites to land free-agent wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Fowler reports Buffalo has "been lurking," although the organization would need to get "creative," considering its limited cap space. Hopkins is coming off a down season, finishing the 2022-23 campaign with 64 catches for 717 yards and three touchdowns. However, after the Cardinals failed to find a trade for the multi-time Pro Bowler, he was released on Friday. Nonetheless, there will be numerous updates on the veteran's potential plans, with Fowler also mentioning the Chiefs, Jets, Cowboys, and Saints as other teams in the running to acquire his services. As a result, Hopkins' fantasy outlook will remain a mystery until he signs with a new club. Of course, if he lands in Buffalo, it would certainly improve Josh Allen's fantasy stock.
According to ESPN's Paul Gutierrez, Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels "had no issues" with wide receiver Davante Adams publicly expressing his displeasure with the franchise's direction. "I respect the hell out of anything [he] would say or suggest or anything like that," McDaniels stated. "He wants to win, and that's really his sole focus, and that's what he does here every day." The Raiders will have a different look this season, with the team trading Derek Carr to New Orleans and signing Jimmy Garoppolo. However, it appears things have settled, at least for now, with the wideout expressing his fondness for Garoppolo. That said, Adams' fantasy stock isn't as high as it was when he was a member of the Green Bay Packers. But he's still considered a top fantasy option at the position, no matter who's throwing him the ball.
New York Giants tight end Darren Waller appears to be adjusting to life on his new team. He also seems to have embraced playing under head coach Brian Daboll. "They value our opinions here," said Waller at OTAs on Thursday. "As a player, I feel like a lot of places I've gone, you're told to do things a certain way, and you do those things. But here it's like, they ask a lot of questions. They want to know what you're thinking." The 30-year-old finished the 2020 campaign with 1,196 receiving yards and nine touchdowns off 107 catches, making him one of the top tight ends in the league. However, he's battled injuries since then and hasn't been nearly as impactful. That said, Waller has proven his worth to fantasy managers in the past, so he could easily surpass his ADP projections as a member of the Giants.
According to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, the Bucs expect linebacker Devin White to attend mandatory minicamp in June. The 25-year-old wasn't at voluntary OTAs. Yet, several players weren't there, so nobody was too concerned. The 2019 No. 9 overall pick has appeared in 62 games for Tampa during his career, amassing 483 total tackles, 20.5 sacks, eight fumble recoveries, and one interception. He also made the Pro Bowl in 2020. However, White doesn't intend to play on his fifth-year option, which will pay him nearly $12 million this season. Instead, he's looking for a long-term deal. Until that happens, IDP managers may not see him on the field.
According to Darren "Doogie" Wolfson of KSTP, who "spoke to someone in the know," Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook may now be considering playing on a reduced salary. "The possibility exists that Dalvin will rework his deal, take some sort of cut, realize that there really isn't another opportunity out there," said Wolfson during an episode of Minnesota Sports with Mackey & Judd. "Like, who really truly needs a running back?" It goes without saying that Cook isn't as productive as he once was. But he still finished last season by rushing for nearly 1,200 yards and totaling 10 touchdowns. However, his fantasy appeal has fallen significantly with the recent contract turmoil. That said, if the 27-year-old remains in Minnesota, his fantasy stock will increase. On the other hand, Alexander Mattison's outlook wouldn't be as bright if Cook remains in the equation.