The Deep Route Fantasy Notebook features recaps and thoughts about the recent action in the NFL and its implications in fantasy football, along with weekly awards, draft spotlights,and other random tidbits.
THINGS I KNOW
I know Todd Gurley is still very good. As a lifelong Florida Gator fan, I have grown accustomed to watching star players dominate against the Gators en route to a successful NFL career. Todd Gurley was no exception; his combination of power and speed coupled with insane field vision led to huge games against a usually-stout Florida defense. The Rams and the rest of the NFL witnessed what I saw in his three years at the University of Georgia when Gurley had a monster rookie season, rushing for 1,106 yards and ten touchdowns through thirteen games. Unfortunately, the sophomore slump, a horrendous coaching staff, a lack of supporting cast, a rookie quarterback and a new city, all hindered Gurley’s 2016 performance. Many wondered if Gurley was just another highly drafted bust at the running back position (I’m looking at you, Trent Richardson) but not me! In case you haven’t noticed, I will always brag about my great fantasy selections, but at least I call myself out for the bad ones (I am still looking at you, Trent Richardson). All Gurley needed was a new coaching staff, an actual offensive line, some legit receivers to take the load off of Gurley, and most importantly an expanded role in the passing game. Clearly, Gurley has benefitted from those improvements as he posted over 20 fantasy points (in PPR) in the first two weeks of the season. He looked more like the Todd Gurley of Georgia than the Todd Gurley shackled to the ground by Jeff Fisher. Also, he had a pretty sweet pair of hurdles on Sunday. I expect Gurley to continue to wreak havoc on opposing defenses.
I know DeVante Parker will have a breakout year. Finally, I can say this without my stomach doing somersaults. I have been a fan of DeVante Parker’s since his days as a one-hand catching, jump-ball snagging receiver at Louisville. Injuries and subpar quarterback play have derailed the first two seasons of his career, but this is the year all that preseason hype finally translates to greatness on the field. As evidence, Parker racked up 85 yards on four catches, including this beastly snag to save a potential interception. Randy Moss would be proud. Furthermore, DVP is not only in line for a breakout season, but I can easily see him becoming the leading receiver for Miami. He has great ball-tracking skills, a surprising physicality, and reliable hands. Keep an eye out for Parker’s rise to stardom.
I know Trevor Siemian might actually be good enough to take the Broncos to the playoffs. I used to think Trevor Siemian was an average starter at best, but after Sunday’s thumping of the Cowboys, I need to reconsider. Statistically, Siemian has been a beast this year. He is tied for first in the league with six passing touchdowns and has posted just over 23 fantasy points in each game, making him the second-highest scoring fantasy quarterback thus far. Is it time we consider Siemian a legitimate starting quarterback? Better yet, a good starting quarterback? He is only 16th in completion percentage (65%) and passing yards (450), though. Despite those average stats, even if it has been only two games into the season, Broncos’ receiver Demaryius Thomas thinks there are multiple reasons to why Siemian is not respected as a starter. “Maybe because he wasn’t drafted in the first round,” Thomas said. “He comes from Northwestern. He doesn’t like to talking to the media much, but he has to say what he has to say.” Those are all good points, but it still does not prove if the Broncos have finally found their guy since The Sheriff called it quits. Only time will tell if Siemian is legit, but if the first two weeks are any indicator, I fully expect “T-Man Wiggle” to lead this rejuvenated Denver team into January.
I know Younghoe Koo should be released. (Note: As of September 20th at 4:00 ET, Koo is still on the Chargers’ roster.) He was such a great story as only the fourth player in NFL history to be born in South Korea. Unfortunately for Koo, a kicker has only one job, besides having serious swagger, and that is to kick the ball through the uprights. The San Diego Los Angeles Chargers could be 2-0 had Koo not missed a game-winning field goal in both week one and week two. Sorry Younghoe, you have a fantastic background and an even cooler name but you simply are not cut out for the NFL, yet.
I know Tony Romo is not a god, he is just a former NFL quarterback. There has been much hype surrounding the former Dallas signal-caller’s almost psychic ability to predict a play before it happens, and while it is certainly entertaining I think everyone is vastly overreacting to it. Of course Romo knows what is going to happen, he was literally just apart of the NFL under a year ago. The difference between him and other former quarterbacks-turned-commentators is Romo is the most recent to come out of the league. This means he is the most familiar with the latest offensive and defensive styles, therefore he understands all the intricate details and positional setups put into a play like this. Romo is not a wizard; he simply just understands the modern NFL offenses. Another thing: As a commentator myself, I understand Romo is trying to add another element to the games, which is what his job requires him to do. There is however a clear difference between contributing to the game and taking away from the game. Romo yells out the play in that video above as if he wants everyone to know he knows the play; he is bragging to try and become the center of attention. It could just be a giddiness and excitement that comes with a new job, but I tune on a football game to watch football, not to be interrupted by Romo’s supposed “all-knowingness.” My point is the broadcast is about the game, not the announcers. With that said, I do think he has done a phenomenal job otherwise and hopefully instead of calling out the play call, maybe Romo should direct the audience to a certain player and say something like “Watch out for a fade route to number 16.” That would get the viewers more involved with the game and is a clear win-win for everyone.
THINGS I DON’T KNOW
I don’t know what is going on in Cincinnati, but offensive talent is being wasted. Obviously, I do not mean that string of teddy bears they call an offensive line, but at least the Bengals realize something must be done. They canned offensive coordinator Ken Zampese a day after a boring defeat to Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans and rightfully promoted quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor. Hopefully, Lazor can return the Bengals’ offense to their dominant ways. Other than the offensive line, the Bengals have not really lost any significant players. A.J. Green is still an ultra-talented freak of nature, when healthy. Tyler Eifert is still a red zone beast, though he also seems to always be dealing with injuries. Joe Mixon is an absolute stud and is reminiscent of a young Le’Veon Bell. He is also miles better than incumbent backs Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill. The Bengals receiving core alongside Green is not terrible either and I’m sure new receiving toy John Ross will enjoy Cincinnati’s vertical offense. The defense is missing a few key players to suspensions and injuries, but it still has talent, though it also has little production on the field. That leaves a certain fiery-haired quarterback standing all alone (Not actually alone, Andy Dalton never spends more than two seconds by himself before defenses demolish his offensive line and bring him down.) Dalton has certainly been inconsistent, but when he’s hot, he is a top-10 quarterback in the league who can win games. Unfortunately for the Bengals, the only thing on fire these days seem to be Dalton’s glistening orange hair and Marvin Lewis’ seat. Something has to be fixed in Cincinnati, or there could be a clean sweep coming just around the corner. In the mean time, Mixon should see increased touches like he did in the Houston game. He should be a starter by midseason at the latest.
I don’t know why Ezekiel Elliot ran for only eight yards on nine carries in Sunday’s 42-17 loss to the Broncos. I ran more than that. This Boise State dog ran more than that (Don’t worry, Kohl the Retriever will get the recognition he deserves.) Could his terrible performance be because of the everlasting fog surrounding his legal battle with the NFL? Could it be the great Denver defense shutting him down, subsequently causing Denver to control the game and force Dallas to throw the ball more? While the answer is unclear, what is clear is Elliot is a top-five running back talent, especially behind one of the best offensive lines of this decade. There might be small reasons for Elliot’s lackluster performance but there is no excuse for what Elliot did, or did not do, on this play. Shame on you Zeke, that is Football 101 of How to Get Benched.
I don’t know where all the LA football fans are. Check out these pictures of the Rams and Chargers respective home crowds this weekend. The Rams not only won last week, they destroyed the Colts 49-6. Support should have been booming for the Sean McVay-era Rams after a game like that. Maybe no one wants to break their backs and burn their bottoms sitting on bleachers for over two hours? Were all the fans still celebrating over USC’s thrilling overtime victory almost 12 hours before? Was there a colossal pre-Emmys party everyone was invited to? As for the Chargers, 27,000 people is the lowest number of fans that could watch a game since 1969, therefore shouldn’t it have been easy to find fans to support their new team? All of these questions point to only one logical conclusion: LA does not want and never did want a professional football team. The sports scene is already clustered enough with two baseball stadiums, the famous Staples Center, and a load of college football teams. Also, LA traffic is arguably the worst in the country, as I unfortunately discovered for myself back in March. Adding not one but two football games guarantees traffic will be twice as heavy everyday there is a Rams or Chargers game. Of course, that all depends on people actually showing up to the games. I am completely against the relocation of any team because the cities owe it to their fans to keep the teams. In addition, San Diego is a fantastic city and fans lived for their annual preseason-hype of the Chargers. However, both teams did have their fair shares of stadium issues in recent years, ultimately leading to their respective moves to the City of Angels. One LA team might be fine once that new Inglewood palace gets created, but two LA teams? Los Angeles is one big melting pot, but adding a second NFL team pushes the already-spilling soup further over the pot’s edges; it is simply too much.
I don’t know when the Sean Payton-Drew Brees era will end, but it might be best if it ended soon. Ever since Brees bolted over from San Diego in 2006, the Saints posted winning seasons through 2013 with only two losing seasons, and one of them was due to Payton’s suspension over Bountygate. Oh yeah, they won a Super Bowl in 2009. Payton and Brees have been one of the league’s best coach-quarterback combos in their reign that saw Brees throw over 5,000 yards four times. Those were great times, times that literally transformed the city, but the 2017 Saints are nowhere near that level anymore. Since 2013, New Orleans has failed to win more than eight games in a season. This is mostly because of the lack of talent, specifically young talent. Michael Thomas and Willie Snead, though the latter is serving a suspension, have been a gift to the team, but Brees is about to turn 39. Mark Ingram is slowly losing playing time to an aging and out-of-place Adrian Peterson. Luckily, the Saints traded up for stud running back Alvin Kamara, and although he led the team in snaps in week one it is tough to get all three backs the ball, as Peterson clearly found out. Defensively, the team’s best players have all been drafted in the previous two drafts. Sheldon Rankins has major potential and the team really likes rookies Marshon Lattimore and Alex Anzalone. The Saints have made some good draft picks in recent years, but it has not produced results on the field. It migsht be best to officially start the rebuild. Some friendly word of advice from a self-proclaimed genius GM (My Connected Franchise skills clearly speak for myself): Trade Payton and get some compensation back for a relatively young, outgoing coach. Let Brees play out his career in New Orleans, he means so much to the city after all, but draft his successor EARLY this draft. Everyone knows it is supposed to be a deep quarterback class, and one guy the Saints could look at it is featured in this week’s Draft Spotlight.
Every week I’ll talk a little about a college football player who I think will, or will not, make a great NFL player. This week, I’ll be highlighting Sam Darnold.
I had the pleasure of watching the then-unkown USC quarterback carve through a talented Penn State defense in the Rose Bowl last year, and I joined many people in developing a man-crush on Sam Darnold. Despite his weird throwing motion that resembles a discus throw, Darnold just gets the job done. Any throw he needs to make, he’ll do it. He has immaculate field vision and can make reads that most college quarterbacks could have no chance of seeing. Darnold throws an absolute dart when he needs to, but don’t underestimate his mobility. It is no wonder that so many teams *cough* Jets *cough* are losing for his services. “Suck for Sam” could pay huge dividends to the team that selects this gifted, humble passer. Early Projection: Top 5 pick
The Hall Awards: Joe Thomas and Antonio Gates
Imagine going to work and pushing and shoving strong, towering men every Sunday for a five-month span for eleven years. Can’t imagine it? Just ask star left tackle Joe Thomas what it is like. On Sunday, the guy played his 10,000 straight snap. That is absurd. So many things could have happened to dissipate that streak. He could have lost his shoe, got dirt in his eye, or worse, he could have been seriously injured. Not even two LCL tears throughout his career could keep Thomas from leaving the field. Joe Thomas is beyond human, and will look pretty good wearing a gold jacket down the road. Speaking of future hall of famers, Antonio Gates moved to sixth all-time after snagging his 113th receiving touchdown. This subsequently made him the tight end with the most receiving touchdowns in NFL history, another historic feat. Congrats to both Thomas and Gates for being true examples of greatness.
The Mirrorball Trophy: Marshawn Lynch
For those that do not watch Dancing With The Stars—I have never seen it nor thought I would ever write about it—the winners at the end of the season receive the Mirrorball Trophy, or so the Internet tells me. Unfortunately for this year’s contestants, including former outspoken wide receiver Terrell Owens, the Trophy has already been claimed by Marshawn Lynch. If you haven’t seen Beast Mode’s crazed dance moves, stop what you are doing because this is totally worth your time.
The Prove Me Wrong Award: Jack Doyle
In my last article, I said I was queasy about starting Jack Doyle this week against a surprisingly good Cardinal defense against tight ends. Naturally the week I bench Doyle is also the week he blows up with eight receptions for 79 yards. Luckily, I barely pulled out a win in both of my leagues so my gaffe will go unpunished, though I will never doubt the great Jack Doyle again.
The “Hands” Award: DeVante Parker
I talked about this grab a little bit earlier, but you should really check it out for yourself if you have not already. Parker wins a bare competition for this weekly award.
The MVP (Most Valuable Pup) Award: Kohl, the Boise State retriever
Do I really have to explain this one? Another question: Why aren’t all teams doing this?
ONE LAST THING
Only 10 teams have not lost thus far in the season, but nine other unfortunate franchises have seen their fair share of early struggles. I decided to give some quick thoughts for each winless team, in order from terrible to not-as-terrible, and what their futures may have in store:
- Jets – Arguably the least talented roster in the NFL. Two wins is the ceiling for this surefire first-pick contender.
- Bears – Calls for Mitchell Trubisky seem premature, and frankly, really stupid. Why let a rookie quarterback suffer in a pointless season surrounded by mostly mediocre talent?
- Colts – Man, they really screwed up by aving one of the most talented players in the NFL on a horrendous roster. This might be the worst defense in the NFL, and the only person to blame is Chuck Pagano.
- Browns – Not as bad as they are given credit for. DeShone Kizer could be the best Browns’ quarterback since the franchise was rebooted in 1999, which really is not saying much.
- Bengals – I think I voiced my concerns sufficiently enough earlier.
- 49ers – After completely overhauling the front office and coaching staff, optimism is high that the 49ers will eventually get it right. For now though, the team will have to wait for a top-5 pick in April.
- Giants – I had such high hopes; they were my pick to win the NFC! Too bad they have no offensive line, otherwise the G-Men have a really talented roster.
- Saints – I also think I have said all that needs to be said.
- Chargers – Let’s not get hasty, they should be 2-0. Unfortunately, they play in the toughest division in football right now.