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Axe Elf

Axe Elf's 2016 Dream Team, February Edition

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I have a feeling this is going to be a very short offseason--for me, anyway. Here we are, before free agency, before the draft, before every new coaching staff has been finalized, and even before the Super Bowl, and Axe Elf is already thinking about who to draft in the 2016 season. While some of those pending moves still to come could affect my choices in one way or another, I believe I have already identified several players that deserve to be heavily targeted by smart owners (i.e., those who listen to Axe Elf) this summer.

I'm singling out these players based on expected production, of course, but also based on expected value. So while I call this my "Dream Team," I couldn’t really expect to have Julio Jones, Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham, Jr. as my WRs, because that could never happen in real life (well, maybe in an auction league, but then I'd be left with garbage at every other position). In between those established studs that will command a premium at the draft, and those "up-and-comers" like David Johnson and Jameis Winston (whose sexy hype will likely prompt them to be overdrafted by owners who aren't as shrewd as they think they are), there are my players--the ones that could be somewhat overlooked or "fall through the draft cracks" but still offer tremendous upside.

Although many of these endorsements are universal, regardless of league format or scoring, keep in mind that I make most of my money in Draft Master leagues using PPR scoring, and so my choices are geared toward those settings. That means that having four or five guys who can put up huge numbers in five or six weeks each, even if they disappear for the other ten, is just as good as having two studs who put up big numbers just about every week--and the platoon is often less expensive than the studs. Draft Master leagues typically have a roster size somewhere in the 20-24 range, with 9-10 starters (1-2 "flex" players) determined on a "best-ball" basis each week. My "Dream Team" is therefore of indefinite size, but with positional recommendations and a couple of extra players to target in case you miss out on one of the others. Be aware of those format biases as you're reading this, but to the extent that it helps you win championships in your own various league formats--you're welcome in advance. That's what Axe Elf is all about after all; helping you bring home the hardware (so long as you have the good sense to stay out of the leagues he's in, of course).

QBs (2-3)

Matthew Stafford

The Lions fired former Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi on October 26, the week before their 8th game, and installed Jim Bob Cooter as the "interim" OC. Week 9 was their bye. Over the second half of the season following the bye, Matthew Stafford averaged 21.6 fantasy points per game, which was 4th-best in the NFL over that span, behind Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, and Kirk Cousins. In fact, 21.6 points per game over the course of the entire season would have made Stafford the #2 QB overall, behind only Newton. The "interim" has now been removed and Jim Bob Cooter is the official Offensive Coordinator for the Lions’ 2016 season. If you are concerned about the quality of opponents Stafford faced, he posted averages of 253.3 yards, 2.3 TDs and 0.3 INTs against the three top-10 pass defenses that he faced, and 283.8 yards, 2.4 TDs and 0.2 INTs against the five bottom-10 pass defenses that he faced in that span--so the quality of opponent didn't seem to matter much. However, it's worth noting that the Lions' 2016 schedule includes games against the Giants (#32 against the pass), Saints (#31), Jaguars (#29), Eagles (#28), Redskins (#25), Colts (#24) and Rams (#23). That can't hurt--and speaking of being hurt, Stafford never is. He hasn't missed a game since 2010. Assuming the weapons around him don't change in the offseason, the maturation of Eric Ebron and Ameer Abdullah should help keep Stafford among the top 2016 QBs--and probably at a draft price somewhere fashionably outside of the top 10.

Ryan Tannehill

As much as Ryan Tannehill was criticized in 2015, he was still the #17 overall QB, averaging 16.1 fantasy points per game. With 2 more points per game, he would have been a top 10 fantasy QB. I think he will get the benefit of those 2 points per game from Adam Gase coming to town as the new head coach, and with a full season of DeVante Parker on the field. In the 8 games where Parker participated, Tannehill went over 300 yards five times (ok, one was 297, close enough), and over 350 yards three times. He went over 300 yards only two other times in the other 8 games (and they were 300 and 307), so Tannehill clearly benefits from Parker's involvement. Gase was able to get the best out of Peyton Manning in Denver and Jay Cutler in Chicago, and with weapons like Jarvis Landry and Jordan Cameron complementing DeVante Parker, Gase can do the same with Tannehill in Miami. The Dolphins' passing game also has the advantage of 9 “plus” matchups against defenses that were poor against the pass in 2015, including PIT (#30), SF (#27), STL (#23), CLE (#22), CIN (#20), and two games each against BUF (#19) and NE (#17). Tannehill should make a fine QB2 in Draft Master leagues, with the opportunity to throw up big numbers in five or six games and a low risk of injury--he hasn't missed a game in his four-year career. He may be shunned a bit in the draft, however, because of the disappointment he was to people who drafted him with great expectations in 2015.

Alex Smith

Like Stafford and Tannehill, Alex Smith offers a pretty good return on a minimal draft day investment, and also a pretty low injury risk (he missed one game in each of his first two seasons with Kansas City, and none in 2015). He has finished as the #13, #19 and #15 overall fantasy QB for KC in 2013, 2014 and 2015, respectively, so he's a perfectly credible QB2, and he'll be available as a late-round/$1 pickup. He doesn't usually do anything flashy, but his level of consistency from one game to the next offers a 15-point safety net in those weeks when your stud QB posts a clunker. His team lost their Offensive Coordinator (Doug Pederson) to Philadelphia, but the internal promotions of Brad Childress and Matt Nagy to co-Offensive Coordinators means that the Chiefs' gameplan isn't going to change significantly in 2016. Although they will likely remain a run-first team, the schedule against the pass is moderately favorable, with opponents like NO (#31), PIT (#30), JAX (#29), IND (#24), ATL (#18) and TB (#16), as well as two divisional games with OAK (#26).

RBs (5-7)

DeMarco Murray

DeMarco Murray was a HUGE disappointment this season, right? That perception is probably going to get him overlooked a little in 2016--but did you know that he was still the #15 PPR RB in 2015? Doug Pederson comes over from Kansas City, where he was the offensive coordinator for one of the best rushing offenses in the league the past three seasons (the Chiefs were a top-10 rushing offense in each of Pederson's three seasons as their OC). He can get the most out of a workhorse RB like Jamaal Charles (or DeMarco Murray), and still sprinkle in guys like Knile Davis and Charcandrick West (or Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles)--and he should be able to tell which one of his three backs is the workhorse. (Hint: It's DeMarco Murray.) After winning the rushing title in 2014, Murray has had a more restful year in 2015, so he should come back fresh for 2016 with a Chip OFF of his shoulder, so to speak, yet something to prove in what should be a much more featured role under Pederson. I worried about Murray's durability in his first few years with the Cowboys, but after standing up to the beating he took in 2014 and making it through 2015 with no significant injures as well, I'm willing to rate his injury risk as tolerable for the upcoming season. Yes, he had a great offensive line in Dallas, but Pro Football Focus rates the Philadelphia offensive line #10 overall (and #11 in run blocking), so it's not like he'll have to do it all on his own for his new team. Finally, the Eagles have one of the best schedules for a RB in the league, sporting 6 divisional games with Washington (#26 against the run), NY Giants (#24) and Dallas (#T22), as well as Cleveland (#30) and the NFC North run defenses--Chicago (#T22), Green Bay (#21), Detroit (#19) and Minnesota (#17). That's a solid 11 "plus" matchups for a run-first coach, a run-hungry RB, and a team that's capable of making it happen.

Danny Woodhead

The last time Ken Whisenhunt was the Offensive Coordinator of the San Diego Chargers, Danny Woodhead was in his first year with the team and finished as the #13 PPR RB. Woodhead spent 2014 on IR, but came back in 2015 to be the #3 PPR RB. Whisenhunt's return to the team shouldn't be a bad thing for Woodhead's production, and though he may not be in the top 5 again, I'll bet that his draft price will be less than it should be for what promises to be another top 10 season. San Diego doesn't have a lot of good matchups against poor run defenses (only five), but then, most of Woodhead's production doesn't come from straight rushing attempts anyway. If anything, that might HELP his production, if Melvin Gordon has trouble getting on track in a game against a solid run defense, cue the pass-catching 3rd-down back. Woodhead isn't exactly a "receiver" per se either, but the number of good matchups that San Diego has against poor pass defenses jumps up to nine.

Jeremy Langford

Assuming Matt Forte is done in Chicago, Jeremy Langford would be the heir apparent. Langford did enough in basically just November and December to finish as the #30 PPR RB, in the company of T.J. Yeldon (#28) and Eddie Lacy (#32). In those two months, Langford averaged a combined 81.9 yards per game, which would translate to 1310 combined yards over 16 games. That would have been the 5th-most combined yards among RBs in 2015--and he was sharing the backfield with Forte for all but three of those weeks! Finally, if you thought the Eagles and DeMarco Murray had a favorable schedule for a RB, check out the whopping THIRTEEN out of sixteen "plus" matchups for the Bears and Jeremy Langford: GB (#21), DET (#19) and MIN (#17) twice each, then PHI (#32), SF (#29), WAS (#26), IND (#25), NYG (#24), DAL (#22) and TEN (#18). Merry Christmas for Langford owners in 2016!

Isaiah Crowell/Duke Johnson

Meet new head coach Hue Jackson's next Jeremy Hill/Giovani Bernard combination--with an even better offensive line. Pro Football Focus rated the 2015 Bengals' line as #8 overall, and #10 in run blocking, but the Browns' line is ranked #2 overall, and #5 in run blocking. With improved consistency in the Browns' game-planning, Isaiah Crowell should find a little more consistency himself. He had some solid games in 2015 (over 14 four times), but also disappeared way too often (less than 7 points nine times). Duke Johnson may have a little more upside for PPR leagues, as he scored less than 7 points only 3 times (and 2 of them were the first two weeks of his rookie campaign), but he only posted more than 14 points twice in 2015. Half of their 2016 games are against permissive run defenses, so I would expect either one of these guys to pump out a pretty consistent tennish points each week en route to top 20 finishes for both, much like Hill and Bernard did in 2015, at a much lower cost than Hill was commanding last summer.

CJ Anderson

Even though Ronnie Hillman is technically still the "starter," Anderson has been the back that the Broncos have trusted when they have needed to close out a game late in the season. In the 8 contests that Anderson has played fully healthy since the Broncos' bye (including 2 playoff games), he went over 15 fantasy points 5 times, with a monster tally of 31.3 in the Week 12 win over the Patriots. He also has a combined 173 yards and a TD on 36 touches in the postseason (so far). Hillman posted more than 15 fantasy points only 3 times all year, peaking with 20.7 in the regular season finale against San Diego, and he has only 61 combined yards and no TDs on 28 touches in the playoffs. The Broncos won't have an easy schedule next season (only five good matchups for RBs), but it's a fluke when Gary Kubiak doesn't have a top 10 RB (see the parade of no-name backs that Kubiak turned into stars--Terrell Davis, Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson, Clinton Portis, Reuben Droughns, Steve Slaton, Arian Foster and Justin Forsett). I don't think he can go two years in a row without producing a stud RB--and I think CJ Anderson will be the beneficiary of some attention paid to the offensive line (especially at tackle) in the offseason, and the expected retirement of Peyton Manning.

David Cobb

Considering that one of the first things that Mularkey said in December when he was named the interim head coach of the Titans was that he wanted to get David Cobb more involved in the offense--and given that Cobb then had 13 carries for 40 yards in the very next game (after 7 previous carries all season) and closed out the year with 19 carries for 73 yards and a TD against the Colts--I'm surmising that Cobb is probably going to be NON-interim head coach Mike Mularkey's next bellcow RB. Like Gary Kubiak, Mularkey has been a bit of a RB whisperer over the years. If you prorate the per-game averages of all of the RB1s who have played under Mike Mularkey as an Offensive Coordinator or Head Coach to account for injury-shortened seasons, you get an 11-year average of 1370 combined yards and 10 TDs per season for a Mularkey RB. (That's Jerome Bettis in PIT from 2001-2003, Willis McGahee in BUF from 2004-2005, Ronnie Brown in MIA in 2006, Michael Turner in ATL from 2008-2011, and Maurice Jones-Drew in JAX in 2012.) Those stats would be good enough to finish as the #4 RB in 2015 in standard scoring (although Mularkey RBs don't catch a lot of passes, so that's a bit of a drawback in PPR scoring). Still, it shouldn't cost you much to take a flyer on this guy, who could easily end up in the top 15 by year’s end, even in PPR leagues. The Titans have a pretty good slate of nine games against some of the lesser run defenses in the league, too, including two games with the Colts (#25, who Cobb spanked in the 2015 closer) and non-divisional games with CLE (#30), MIA (#28), SD (#27), CHI (#22), GB (#21), DET (#19) and MIN (#17).

WRs (6-8)

Keenan Allen

This is probably the guy who will be the least "under the radar" of all the targets discussed here, but I'm hoping that his absence for the second half of 2015 will cause him to be overlooked by some of the more casual drafters who only refer to year-end standings with a "what have you done for me lately" mentality. I would expect that he will at least slide out of that upper tier of first-round blue chip WRs like Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham, Jr. and DeAndre Hopkins--even though he could very well post top-5 numbers in 2016. Through 8 games before he got hurt, he was on pace for 134 receptions, just two short of Brown and Jones this season, and his pace for 1450 yards would have tied him for 5th with Odell Beckham, Jr. Allen had his best overall season as a rookie in 2013, with 1046 yards and 8 TDs--and new Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt was his OC that year too. They say an NFL receiver blossoms in his third season; well, last year was Allen's third season, but since he was on IR for half of it, his fourth season is kind of like his third season. Antonio Gates is getting old, Malcom Floyd can't stay healthy, Stevie Johnson draws a little attention, but isn't really a threat to put up WR1 numbers--and Philip Rivers has proven that he can still throw. I can see Keenan Allen having a monster year in 2016 with nine "plus" passing game matchups on the schedule--OAK (#26) twice, NO (#31), JAX (#29), IND (#24), CLE (#22), MIA (#21), ATL (#18) and TB (#16).

Sammy Watkins

Sammy Watkins is staring his magical third season in the face as 2016 approaches, with stability in the coaching staff, game plan, and probably even at QB, now that Tyrod Taylor is a Pro Bowl selection, all carrying over from 2015 into the new season. This is a good thing, as Watkins scored over 19 fantasy points in 6 of the 9 games after their Week 8 bye (and over 24 points in 4 of those games). As only the #20 overall WR for 2015, though, I'm hoping to get him at a bit of a discount from the top-10 potential suggested by his late-season performance. His opponents are stacking up well, with a full 9 games against teams ranked 20th or worse in defending the pass (Pittsburgh, #30, Jacksonville, #29, San Francisco, #27, Oakland, #26, St. Louis, #23, Cleveland, #22, Miami twice, (#21), and Cincinnati, #20), as well as New England twice (#17) for 11 total "plus" matchups.

Golden Tate

I'm kind of liking the Lions stack with Stafford for 2016. Like Stafford, Golden Tate will have those same seven games against bottom-10 pass defenses, and like Stafford, Tate flourished after the transition to Jim Bob Cooter as the Offensive Coordinator. Tate averaged 10.6 PPR fantasy points per game before the Week 9 bye, and 15.8 points per game in the eight weeks after the bye under Cooter. Over a 16 game season, that average would have been good enough for the #15 WR in 2015. I think Calvin Johnson has probably seen better days--but he's still good enough to draw the opponent's #1 coverage, leaving Tate free to do what he did in 2015 for at least one more year.

Michael Floyd

It is somewhat surprising to me that Michael Floyd was only the #38 WR in 2015. Some of that was due to his slow start (he scored less than 3 PPR points in four of his first five games)--possibly due to the broken fingers he suffered early in the preseason--but he also disappeared in three more games later in the season, giving him seven weeks in which he scored a grand total of 12.5 points. Still, Floyd was good for 15+ points in seven games (ok, one was 14.9, but I'll let it slide), and he posted 20+ points in three of those games. For that half of a season when Floyd was involved in a game, he performed like a top 15 WR, and in a Draft Master league, you love to see the big games when you can tolerate the dud games more easily. As Fitzgerald gets older--and if Floyd can keep from breaking his fingers again--I would expect to see Floyd more heavily involved in more weeks as Carson Palmer takes one more run at a Super Bowl. The schedule is also a plus, featuring 11 favorable matchups for the Cardinals' passing game, with SF (#27) and STL (#23) twice each, plus NO (#31), WAS (#25), MIA (#21), BUF (#19), ATL (#18), NE (#17) and TB (#16).

Donte Moncrief

In the seven weeks that Andrew Luck was the Colts' QB, Donte Moncrief had 13 or more fantasy points five times. He averaged 13.9 PPR fantasy points over those seven games, which, prorated over a full season, would make him the #20 WR, just edging out the current #20, Sammy Watkins (and placing him ahead of T.Y. Hilton, #22). However, without Luck, Moncrief scored over 10 points only three times in the remaining nine games. I'll keep my fingers crossed for a full year of Luck and some big games out of Moncrief, who, by the way, is also a third year WR in 2016.

Tavon Austin

After failing to crack the top 50 in his first two seasons, Tavon Austin fulfilled his third year charm by emerging as a speedy playmaker for a team that desperately needed one to complement Todd Gurley. He finished as the #27 WR overall, but his penchant for big games, rather than consistent games, makes him a difficult start in standard leagues--yet tailor made for the Draft Master format. Austin posted 21 or more PPR points in 4 games, and he had 5 additional games in which he scored 10-16 fantasy points, which works out to about 9 serviceable weeks. His season totals of 900 total yards from scrimmage and 10 total TDs are respectable, and although his five games under 6 fantasy points didn't add much to his aggregate, they are not as much of a concern in a "best ball" format. As Austin is dangerous as both a runner and a receiver, you can count a total of 9 "plus" matchups against either the run or the pass on the Rams' schedule next season. I wouldn't be surprised if several other WRs with 2015 numbers comparable to Austin's (John Brown, Randall Cobb, Travis Benjamin) are drafted more expensively in 2016 than he--and I wouldn't be surprised to see a top 20ish season out of Austin, especially if the Rams can land a competent QB to complement Austin and Gurley.

DeVante Parker

I’m kind of afraid that DeVante Parker is going to be a popular prospect next season, and he may well be overdrafted more times than he presents a draft day bargain. Still, if there are 20-25 WRs off the board and Parker is still there, he’s should be given serious consideration. First of all, he stacks with Ryan Tannehill, one of my 2016 QB targets, and should share in the benefit that Adam Gase brings to the Miami offense in general--and the passing game in particular. He will also share in the benefit of the same 9 “plus” matchups that Tannehill has against woeful pass defenses. And then there’s the fact that Parker somewhat quietly averaged 14.1 PPR fantasy points per game over the last six weeks of the 2015 season--and that’s even after you include the Week 14 clunker of only 3.6 PPR points.

Breshad Perriman

Breshad Perriman is likely to be one of my most deadly secret weapons next season--but draft him early and often, because once he has a couple of preseason games under his belt, the cat is likely to be out of the bag. Consider first Perriman’s situation. He steps into a WR void on a team that likes to throw the ball downfield under Marc Trestman, and has a QB capable of throwing the ball downfield in Joe Flacco, but whose leading receiver last year caught 75 balls for 944 yards and 5 TDs--and that was the one (Kamar Aiken) that was healthy all year! Amazingly, the next leading receiver (after the injured Steve Smith) was Crockett Gillmore, with 33 catches, 412 yards, and 4 TDs. Yeah, Smith says he will be back, but he’ll be 37 years old and rehabbing an Achilles tear, so he won’t be stretching the field the way that Perriman can--and boy, can Perriman ever stretch the field! Consider Perriman’s scouting report for the 2015 draft, and the most striking thing is the comparison he invites to Josh Gordon. He has had an issue with drops, like Gordon, but his quickness off the line is supposedly astounding, and his straight-line speed has been clocked at 4.24 and 4.27, depending on who you believe. His routes reportedly lack sharpness and commitment, especially when he is not the focus of the play, but he can basically just outrun everyone on the field--remember when that was Torrey Smith? Finally, consider Perriman’s schedule. 2016 opponents include 2 games each against Pittsburgh (#30 against the pass), Cleveland (#22) and Cincinnati (#20), as well as games with the Giants (#32), Jaguars (#29), Eagles (#28), Raiders (#26), Redskins (#25), Dolphins (#21), Bills (#19) and Patriots (#17). That's an astonishing 14 “plus” matchups out of 16 games--the most of any of my “Dream Team” players--and he may not even be covered by the opposition’s best defenders as long as Steve Smith is still on the field! Expect Perriman to have a generous helping of monster games, even if he sputters a few weeks as well--but that’s just perfect for a Draft Master roster.

Dorial Green-Beckham

After Mike Mularkey was named the interim head coach, Dorial Green-Beckham averaged 11.7 points per game over the last five weeks of 2015, even counting his big fat goose egg in Week 16. I would assume that the team is going to try to bring him along with Mariota as the future of the team’s aerial assault, and his 6’5” 237lb frame makes him a natural red zone target. The Titans’ offense is inconsistent enough that I wouldn’t want to count on Green-Beckham as a weekly starter, even at WR3, but I’m perfectly willing to add him as depth to a Draft Master team for the big games with which he is likely to pepper the season.

TEs (2-3)

Zach Ertz

For all his preseason hype last year, Zach Ertz left a bad taste in his owners’ mouths for most of 2015, so I’m hoping that none of them were really paying attention any more by the time the last four weeks of the season rolled around. In case you were one of those who hadn’t noticed, Ertz rather unobtrusively AVERAGED 8.75 catches, 112.5 yards, and 21.5 PPR fantasy points per game in the last quarter of the season--AVERAGED!!! To put that in perspective, that’s in excess of four points per game more than the top TEs of 2015 (Reed with 17.4 ppg and Gronkowski with 17.0 ppg)--and everyone says you should draft Gronkowski in the first round! Doug Pederson’s system shouldn’t do anything to stifle Ertz either, coming as it does from a team and a coach that has traditionally featured a TE in the offense--most recently Travis Kelce. I’m kind of hoping that Sam Bradford stays with the team (he says he wants to stay, and his style matches the West Coast offense that Pederson should be installing), since his frequent targeting of Ertz was a big part of his late-season success. Even if the QB changes, though, the system should still favor Ertz as the featured TE. The Eagles only have a relatively average 8 “plus” matchups versus the pass, and TEs tend to score pretty inconsistently anyway--so I would rather have 3 TEs on a Draft Master team than 3 QBs--but I think Ertz has bright shining top 5 potential to solidly anchor a TE platoon in 2016.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins

I believe we just saw the tip of the iceberg for this guy in the first game of 2015. Remember that one--5 receptions for 110 yards and 2 TDs? Yeah. That’s what Dirk Koetter TEs do. Koetter coached the most prolific TE in school history as the head coach at Arizona State. Koetter sent Marcedes Lewis to the Pro Bowl as the Offensive Coordinator for Jacksonville. Koetter coached Tony Gonzalez to three of his most prolific seasons as the Falcons Offensive Coordinator, and he was the OC when ASJ had that monster game to open the 2015 season. Now he’s the head coach. Although Seferian-Jenkins wasn’t healthy much after that first game, he still averaged 13.6 PPR fantasy points per game in the games he actually WAS healthy. Even when he wasn’t, Tampa Bay TEs were collectively responsible for 65 receptions, 814 yards, and 8 TDs. As Jameis Winston develops, so should Koetter’s implementation of his game plan, which leans heavily on TE screens to set up vertical downfield passes--and also targets the TE frequently in the red zone. If he can stay healthy--and therein lies the big IF--Austin Seferian-Jenkins will finish close to, if not among, the top 5 TEs in 2016, with a few monster games like Week 1 of 2015. I really can’t understand why people aren’t all over this guy--he’s even entering that magical third year--but he seems to have more skeptics than believers. So much the better, I guess.

Eric Ebron

I’m building on my Lions stack of Stafford and Tate to include Eric Ebron, who in his third season appears poised to become the factor that they drafted him to be. Now, don’t get me wrong here; I don’t think Ebron will be strong enough to be a TE1 in a standard league, and he would drive you crazy trying to figure out when to start him even if he was TE2 depth on your bench. That said, his 5 TDs in 2015 (in five different games) tied him for 9th among TEs in that category (with the likes of Gates and Kelce), and when he scored a TD, he was usually good for 15 or more PPR fantasy points in those five weeks. I don’t see the kind of late-season swell with Ebron under Jim Bob Cooter that I see with Stafford and Tate, but it does seem like Stafford started to trust Ebron in 2015, as guys like Fauria and Pettigrew and Wright have cleared themselves from contention for TE targets. Yes, Ebron will probably still disappear far too often in 2016 to be a reliable fantasy starter--but I bet he can be a regular contributor to a Draft Master team as TE depth.

Ks (2)

Yes, two kickers. There’s an ongoing debate amongst Draft Master enthusiasts as to whether it’s better to have two Kickers and two Defenses, or to just have one of each and use the other two roster slots on a couple of lottery tickets at the skill positions. Well, two years ago, I did the math. I loaded every NFL kicker’s weekly production into an Excel spreadsheet, paired every kicker with every other kicker, and looked at how many points you gain by having a second kicker as opposed to only one. The Reader’s Digest version is that you start out in a hole that’s about 50 points deep if you have only one kicker, compared to the teams that have two. Given that I forfeited $250 in 2015 Draft Master leagues due to five separate instances of just missing the next tier of payouts by 22 points or less, you don’t want to start out in a 50 point hole! There are a couple of reasons for the 50 point deficit. First of all, since kickers average about 7-8 points a week, you’re automatically losing that many points during the week that your single kicker is on a bye. Secondly, kickers are wildly inconsistent. Even the best kickers will throw up a few 1-2 point games, and even the worst will have a dozen or more points a couple of times a year. When you are missing out on an extra 7-9 points that a second kicker could score over your primary kicker in 5-6 weeks in the course of a season, that’s another 40ish points that a second kicker would add to your total. So if you think that some RB7 or WR8 is going to contribute more than 50 points to your team--above and beyond the points scored by the other skill players--then be my guest; but MOST of the time, that end-of-the-bench player isn’t going to be included in your best-ball lineup very often, if at all.

Arizona Cardinals (Chandler Catanzaro)

Minnesota Vikings (Blair Walsh)

I like the sites that use team Kickers. Then you don’t have to worry about injuries or firings. About all you can ask from a Kicker is to have a decent offense behind them, to play in a dome and have very few outdoor cold weather games. With the Vikings moving into their new dome in 2016, these are a couple of team Kickers that I will likely be targeting frequently--although I’m not one to pay more than the minimum for any Ks. Walsh should be especially easy to obtain (assuming he keeps his job), because everyone is going to remember that “wide left” chip shot that put his team out of the playoffs. That anomaly aside, Walsh is generally a pretty good kicker with a big leg, and he should be even better in their new dome. Catanzaro I like because of the Cardinals’ offense in general--they give him plenty of chances to score.

Ds (2)

As with Kickers, the same principle holds for drafting two Defenses instead of just one in Draft Master leagues, although the differential is a little smaller. A single Defense only costs you around 35-40 points (on the average) over having two of them. I’m still going for two.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings were the #7 overall fantasy Defense in 2015, but they were the #3 fantasy Defense over the last three weeks of the season against some pretty good offenses (Green Bay, New York Giants and Chicago Bears). I like the direction they are headed, but I could change my mind as the summer goes along.

Houston Texans

Similarly, the Texans were the #11 overall fantasy Defense for the year, but they ended the season as the #1 fantasy Defense over the last 3 weeks (against admittedly less impressive opponents in the Colts, Titans and Jaguars). Actually, the middle tier of Defenses was grouped so tightly that if Houston had only earned ten more fantasy points over the course of the season, they would have been the #6 overall Defense. If they can just get Jadeveon Clowney to stay healthy, he and Watt and Cushing and Wilfork should add up to a pretty smothering Defense in 2016.

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You will have no need to dream for that team, your league mates will gladly give you that roster - are you sure this isn't your "Dream Bench" list??

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You will have no need to dream for that team, your league mates will gladly give you that roster

That's what I'm hoping!

Happens pretty much every year, though; smirks and giggles in August, rock-kicking and mealy-mouthed grumbling about luck in December.

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You will have no need to dream for that team, your league mates will gladly give you that roster

That's what I'm hoping!

Happens pretty much every year, though; smirks and giggles in August, rock-kicking and mealy-mouthed grumbling about luck in December.

Are you planning to autodraft rds 1-3?

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That was an impressive troll. Did you copy/paste from reddit or somewhere?

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Great write up!

You will have no need to dream for that team, your league mates will gladly give you that roster - are you sure this isn't your "Dream Bench" list??

I would take a starting lineup of

QB: Matthew Stafford

RB: Demarco Murray

RB: Jeremy Langford

WR: Keenan Allen

WR: Sammy Watkins

WR: Michael Floyd

TE: Zach Ertz

in a heartbeat. I figure to be targeting most of the guys in this thread as well.

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It's an excellent body of work and there are some real gems on Axe's list! Donte Moncrief & Devante Parker both have breakout potential. We're all thinking the same things; who's Allen Robinson now? Right here, they're him! I'm definitely going to monitor Devin Funchess in the SB. Although, if he performs well, perhaps he doesn't end up as a value pick? The thing with C.J. Anderson or anyone in that Bronco backfield, it's all about Peyton Manning. Kubiak this, Kubiak that, no, not if Peyton Manning is still there. Kubiak tried to wrestle control of the offense away from his QB, but Sir Mellonhead wasn't having any part of it. A performance vs New England was cited and they had a 2nd big game on the ground the week before or after, but guess what? Those were games when Peyton Manning was on the bench! Now, if the powdered wiggie isn't wheeled out of the tunnel come September, then yeah, it's on!

If we're talking about those lower rounds and a RB whose poised for volume, a Matt Jones is another young player who could break. Again, the situation with Alfred Morris has to shake out in Jones' favor.

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It's an excellent body of work and there are some real gems on Axe's list! Donte Moncrief & Devante Parker both have breakout potential. We're all thinking the same things; who's Allen Robinson now? Right here, they're him! I'm definitely going to monitor Devin Funchess in the SB. Although, if he performs well, perhaps he doesn't end up as a value pick? The thing with C.J. Anderson or anyone in that Bronco backfield, it's all about Peyton Manning. Kubiak this, Kubiak that, no, not if Peyton Manning is still there. Kubiak tried to wrestle control of the offense away from his QB, but Sir Mellonhead wasn't having any part of it. A performance vs New England was cited and they had a 2nd big game on the ground the week before or after, but guess what? Those were games when Peyton Manning was on the bench! Now, if the powdered wiggie isn't wheeled out of the tunnel come September, then yeah, it's on!

If we're talking about those lower rounds and a RB whose poised for volume, a Matt Jones is another young player who could break. Again, the situation with Alfred Morris has to shake out in Jones' favor.

Im not falling for matt jones again

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The thing with C.J. Anderson or anyone in that Bronco backfield, it's all about Peyton Manning. Kubiak this, Kubiak that, no, not if Peyton Manning is still there. Kubiak tried to wrestle control of the offense away from his QB, but Sir Mellonhead wasn't having any part of it. A performance vs New England was cited and they had a 2nd big game on the ground the week before or after, but guess what? Those were games when Peyton Manning was on the bench! Now, if the powdered wiggie isn't wheeled out of the tunnel come September, then yeah, it's on!

Well, I DID say...

CJ Anderson will be the beneficiary of some attention paid to the offensive line (especially at tackle) in the offseason, and the expected retirement of Peyton Manning.

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That was impressive. Did you copy/paste from reddit or somewhere?

Of course not. It wouldn't be "Axe Elf's" then, now would it?

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That was an impressive troll. Did you copy/paste from reddit or somewhere?

Disagree and mock the Axe Elf all u wish (I certainly do)....

but these are definitely his words.

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You will have no need to dream for that team, your league mates will gladly give you that roster

That's what I'm hoping!

Happens pretty much every year, though; smirks and giggles in August, rock-kicking and mealy-mouthed grumbling about luck in December.

Are you planning to autodraft rds 1-3?

Never mind, I just figured it out...you are planning on selling your 1-3rd rd picks in an attempt to monopolize rds 4-7th!

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You will have no need to dream for that team, your league mates will gladly give you that roster

That's what I'm hoping!

Happens pretty much every year, though; smirks and giggles in August, rock-kicking and mealy-mouthed grumbling about luck in December.

Are you planning to autodraft rds 1-3?

Never mind, I just figured it out...you are planning on selling your 1-3rd rd picks in an attempt to monopolize rds 4-7th!

Axually, I mostly do auction drafts. I don't worry about rounds.

Usually when I look at the ADPs of the players I have drafted, though, I end up with like zero players that would be drafted in the 1st round, maybe one or two that would be drafted in the 2nd, but then like seven or eight that would be drafted in rounds 3-6. So you're kind of onto something here.

"First round picks" are usually overpriced and too likely to bust, relative to their price. Finding the guys in that next tier that will perform like top 10 players is a greater value--DeMarco Murray, Keenan Allen and Sammy Watkins would fit that mold from this list. If your top 10 players come from an even lower tier, like Matthew Stafford or Austin Seferian-Jenkins, so much the better.

Remember, the goal isn't to get as many first round picks as possible in August, the goal is to have as many top 10 players as possible in December.

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That was an impressive troll. Did you copy/paste from reddit or somewhere?

X2

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Axe Elf wrote: “Well, I DID say… CJ Anderson will be the beneficiary of some attention paid to the offensive line … and the expected retirement of Peyton Manning.”

That’s right and I shouldn’t have ignored that. But for me it lacked emphasis & clarity. You made no correlation between the philosophical approach of Peyton Manning and what that means to the team he’s on at any given time. He’s not just the QB, he controls the offense, always has! The coach, whether he’s run-oriented or prefers a more balanced approach doesn’t mean much. You also failed to mention that when Anderson had his big game v New England, Manning was on the bench.

Here’s the explanation you "did" offer: “… it’s a fluke when Gary Kubiak doesn't have a top 10 RB… I don't think he can go two years in a row without producing a stud RB…”

That’s what I afforded the greater weight. But it’s your content, wherever the greater emphasis was meant, that should belong to you. Apart from that, perhaps the Broncos will draft a RB. Watching Anderson, it’s not difficult to see why he went undrafted. He’s neither fast nor elusive, not a power guy. He’ll get what’s blocked, but guys that can exploit open holes are a dime-a-dozen. Out of the backfield, he’s small, can’t elevate, tiny catching radius. But, he’s got that low center, really stout bottom. He’s not brittle, looks the part, tough.

But back the other way, while emphasis on the running game certainly works in Anderson’s favor, much of the opposing defense’s gameplan focused on stopping Manning. Then there’s that theme thing, Kubiak making chicken salad out of… well. Sometimes I have a talent bias, which is probably the main reason I’d tend to opt for other players. :D

David Cobb (5’11”, 229lbs) on the other hand, is certainly a player of interest. I carried him some this past year, when I could. Accordingly, he’s not a homerun hitter either, but can improvise some, “savvy vision”. He too has a low center, good pad level, move the chains workhorse. Knows how to find the endzone. Not a difference-maker but a quality every-down back. I think you’re right, Sankey, Andrews, they had opportunities and didn’t cement it. Cobb seems poised to assume the volume there.

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Well, sorry if there wasn't enough emphasis on Manning for you, but I do agree that him overriding Kubiak had a huge negative influence on Anderson's overall season, and that if Manning retires as expected, I'm willing to give Anderson another chance in Kubiak's system WITHOUT Manning. I think he will come fairly cheaply, too, because of all the people who got burned by him this year, so it shouldn't be hard for him to cover his cost with his performance.

There is talk of letting Ronnie Hillman go, as well, so barring the drafting of some blue-chip RB that could take over immediately, I think Anderson will have at least one year to become the next in the long line of "inferior" RBs that Kubiak's system has turned into studs.

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bhawks489 wrote: "I'm not falling for Matt Jones again"

Product of dysfunction at Florida, part of a committee. Raw, but he came out early anyway & Scot McCloughan apparently reached to get him in the 3rd rd. Got a good look for a player who wasn't ready. We don't know right now, in fact, it was reported earlier today that Washington isn't necessarily committed to him (Jones). I don't know what his initial thought was when he read that, but hopefully it was the realization that he has a lot of work to do. Still, he's in the running to assume a greater role & worth monitoring.

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Axe Elf wrote: "There is talk of letting Ronnie Hillman go, as well, so barring the drafting of some blue-chip RB that could take over immediately, I think Anderson will have at least one year to become the next in the long line of "inferior" RBs that Kubiak's system has turned into studs."

Just further proof you're backing the right horse. Even if Hillman returns, he's best suited as the down & distance 'back. That said, if things do change, look for them to add quality depth.

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bhawks489 wrote: "I'm not falling for Matt Jones again"

Product of dysfunction at Florida, part of a committee. Raw, but he came out early anyway & Scot McCloughan apparently reached to get him in the 3rd rd. Got a good look for a player who wasn't ready. We don't know right now, in fact, it was reported earlier today that Washington isn't necessarily committed to him (Jones). I don't know what his initial thought was when he read that, but hopefully it was the realization that he has a lot of work to do. Still, he's in the running to assume a greater role & worth monitoring.

Depends on what happens with Morris really. Thanks for the reply though. Very informative.

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Axe Elf wrote: "There is talk of letting Ronnie Hillman go, as well, so barring the drafting of some blue-chip RB that could take over immediately, I think Anderson will have at least one year to become the next in the long line of "inferior" RBs that Kubiak's system has turned into studs."

Just further proof you're backing the right horse. Even if Hillman returns, he's best suited as the down & distance 'back. That said, if things do change, look for them to add quality depth.

I could see Den going after a quality back. Manning is gone- 18M cap hit. Not expected to retain Ryan Clady- That's another 8 or 9M hit. Need to resign Von- talking a 14M franchise tag unless a longterm is agreed upon. And Malik Jackson- can't let that guy go. He's being compared to Michael Bennett. Just a beast in the middle.

Think you have to go for a young guy- CJ isn't a spring chicken and OZ isn't ready for primetime yet.

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Axe Elf wrote: "There is talk of letting Ronnie Hillman go, as well, so barring the drafting of some blue-chip RB that could take over immediately, I think Anderson will have at least one year to become the next in the long line of "inferior" RBs that Kubiak's system has turned into studs."

Just further proof you're backing the right horse. Even if Hillman returns, he's best suited as the down & distance 'back. That said, if things do change, look for them to add quality depth.

I could see Den going after a quality back. Manning is gone- 18M cap hit. Not expected to retain Ryan Clady- That's another 8 or 9M hit. Need to resign Von- talking a 14M franchise tag unless a longterm is agreed upon. And Malik Jackson- can't let that guy go. He's being compared to Michael Bennett. Just a beast in the middle.

Think you have to go for a young guy- CJ isn't a spring chicken and OZ isn't ready for primetime yet.

Not a spring chicken? Well, maybe he's not still a chick, but he's only 25 and 2016 will be his fourth season, after essentially only playing for a year and a half. He's still got quite a bit of tread left.

That said, obviously I wrote this based on current situations. Pretty much any of it could change, depending on what happens in the draft or free agency. It's kind of pointless to speculate on all of that now.

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Axe Elf wrote: "There is talk of letting Ronnie Hillman go, as well, so barring the drafting of some blue-chip RB that could take over immediately, I think Anderson will have at least one year to become the next in the long line of "inferior" RBs that Kubiak's system has turned into studs."

Just further proof you're backing the right horse. Even if Hillman returns, he's best suited as the down & distance 'back. That said, if things do change, look for them to add quality depth.

I could see Den going after a quality back. Manning is gone- 18M cap hit. Not expected to retain Ryan Clady- That's another 8 or 9M hit. Need to resign Von- talking a 14M franchise tag unless a longterm is agreed upon. And Malik Jackson- can't let that guy go. He's being compared to Michael Bennett. Just a beast in the middle.

Think you have to go for a young guy- CJ isn't a spring chicken and OZ isn't ready for primetime yet.

Not a spring chicken? Well, maybe he's not still a chick, but he's only 25 and 2016 will be his fourth season, after essentially only playing for a year and a half. He's still got quite a bit of tread left.

That said, obviously I wrote this based on current situations. Pretty much any of it could change, depending on what happens in the draft or free agency. It's kind of pointless to speculate on all of that now.

A back who's spent more time on the trainers table than the field doesn't inspire confidence. But as usual, you cast a wide enough net that you're bound to hit on a few...

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A wide enough net? I basically provided one single Draft Master team roster with 2 alternates.

If that's a wide net, then I guess every owner everywhere casts one when they draft their team.

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A wide enough net? I basically provided one single Draft Master team roster with 2 alternates.

If that's a wide net, then I guess every owner everywhere casts one when they draft their team.

Where's the early round picks then?

I'm seriously disappointed if your list is my team....

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not trying to be intentionally obtuse...well maybe a little...

The highest ranked players you have listed are third/fourth rounders- I know you don't do snake drafts, so you're recommending passing on the most expensive players in auction and loading up on third/fourth round talent?

You would be rolling out:

D. Murray

CJA

S.Watkins

K.Allen

Z Ertz

Not terrible...but no obvious top 3 guys either

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