Quarter Pole: Perceptions in Review

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The first quarter of the 2016 season is in the books (other than Green Bay and Philadelphia). Bully to you if all of your preseason notions have come true. Odds are you hit some and missed some. I will review common perceptions, noting whether they are playing out as expected, or perhaps require more information.

Perceptions Proven

David Johnson is the real deal.

He may not be the #1 fantasy RB right now (DeMarco Murray is), but it certainly feels like he’ll end up that way. Well, top 3 at the very least. Johnson has forced 24 missed tackles, 8 more than the second best RB to date.  Of the first 5 RBs selected in most drafts, Johnson is the only one in the top 5 currently:

Weeks 1-4 Rushes Yards TD Targets Receptions Yards TD ADP (RB) Current Fantasy Rank
Todd Gurley 82 216 2 11 8 58 0 1 23
David Johnson 67 300 3 21 14 210 0 2 2
Adrian Peterson 31 50 0 5 2 7 0 3 82
Ezekiel Elliot 94 412 3 7 6 44 0 4 8
Lamar Miller 93 351 0 14 13 78 0 5 19
Drafting QBs late is paying off.

This strategy had many variations. Some targeted QB in the 8-10 round range, others in 13-15. Some focused on QB as soon as 5-6 signal-callers were selected, while others opted to wait until 11-12 were rostered. Naming players is somewhat arbitrary, as you needed to select the right QB no matter what strategy you used. For example, waiting until late and selecting Matt Ryan has worked. Doing the same and drafting Jay Cutler, has not. The main takeaway is that using a very early pick on a QB like Cam Newton, Russell Wilson or Andrew Luck brought with it unnecessary risks that would prove hard to overcome. Looking back, anyone would rather have T.Y. Hilton (3rd round) and Matt Ryan (12th round) rather than Russell Wilson (3rd round) and Torrey Smith (12th round).

The RB position is a mess.

A popular draft method this year was selecting WRs early in the draft. The NFL has shifted to a passing league, rendering WRs as useful, if not more, than RBs.  Furthermore, RBs have been very hard to count on in recent seasons, making WRs more attractive in early rounds. Many RBs have been injured or are grossly underperforming thus far in 2016. Selecting a solid WR early and waiting on RBs like Melvin Gordon, DeMarco Murray, and Isaiah Crowell has paid off. Hopefully you loaded up on valuable handcuffs like Bilal Powell, Theo Riddick, and Jerick McKinnon, among others.

Perceptions TBD

Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston will take a big step forward.

I was as guilty as anyone in assuming that Winston would progress. He is an enigma in that he can look great one week, and really bad another. Mariota, on the other hand, looks lost and does not resemble a high level NFL QB. Four weeks into a sophomore season is not enough data to make sweeping claims, so we will hold on both players. So far, the results are not promising:

Weeks 1-4 Completions Attempts Completion % Yards TD / INT Rushes Yards TD Fumbles Lost
Winston 103 177 58.2 1108 8 / 8 16 44 1 2
Mariota 80 136 58.8 925 4/5 13 72 0 2
Steve Smith Sr. and Jimmy Graham will not be able to overcome their injuries.

These ironmen have impressed and inspired. Graham is coming back from a patellar tendon tear, an injury that has ruined many athletic careers. Prior to the injury, Graham was playing poorly in 2015. He is much improved in the Seattle offense and appears healthy. He is currently the 6th ranked TE.

Steve Smith, at age 37, has recovered from an awful achilles tear, to once again become Baltimore’s #1 target and top producer.  Both of these cases are pleasant surprises that I did not think were possible. I wish I didn’t have to include these tough guys in my TBD category, but we have a lot of football left to play.

2016 (Weeks 1-4) Targets Receptions Yards TD
Graham 36 24 281 1
Smith 22 16 266 1
Cam Newton is the consensus #1 QB.

The Panthers are struggling at 1-3 out of the gate.  We were all given an in-depth look at how Newton handles losing after the Super Bowl. Whether a lack of maturity, the high number of vicious hits to start the season, or defenses keying on him more, Newton has not created nearly as much offense as he did in 2015. The fact that he is still the #7 QB while playing so poorly, shows just how much potential he has. Hopefully, his current concussion (a potential result of on-field immaturity, depending on how you interpret the play) won’t keep him out of game action so he can redeem himself going forward. Here are the current top 7 QBs on a fantasy points per game (FPPG) basis:

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QB Rank / FPPG
Matt Ryan 1 / 31.9
Ben Roethlisberger 2 / 26
Aaron Rodgers 3 / 26.6
Drew Brees 4 / 25.5
Derek Carr 5 / 24.3
Andrew Luck 6 / 22.7
Cam Newton 7 / 22.4

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