Football is here again and we are now in the prime of fantasy draft season. While rankings can be found left and right, it is often unclear whether those rankings take into account recent news around the league. Here are the two biggest pieces of news I paid attention to over the past week along with their fantasy implications.
Rookie DeShone Kizer was recently named the starter of the Browns, and while he will not be a player of consequence in standard leagues (at least to start the season) there are a number of other Browns skill position players who are affected by the decision.
Kizer worked nearly exclusively out of the shotgun at Notre Dame, and that has translated to the preseason with the Browns. While the most common takes when Kizer was named starter have to do with wide receiver, Kizer’s ascension to the starting role also affect the running backs.
The gut reaction in this regard is that Duke Johnson runs better than Isaiah Crowell out of the shotgun, so Crowell’s role or effectiveness will shrink. However, upon further examination this isn’t the case. Last season, Crowell ran out of the shotgun 79 times and averaged 6.0 yards per carry. Meanwhile, Duke Johnson received 45 carries from the shotgun formation and managed 5.4 yards per carry.
Taking a more macro view, Crowell has 171 career attempts out of the shotgun and has averaged 5.0 yards per carry. Johnson, on the other hand, has 80 career carries out of the shotgun formation and averages 5.3 yards per carry. Both marks are strong, and while Johnson holds a slight edge as the more effective back out of shotgun, there should not be any added concern about Crowell’s profile due to Kizer’s role.
As for the aforementioned wide receivers, Kizer winning the job over Brock Osweiler is a positive for both Kenny Britt and Corey Coleman. For example, Osweiler averaged just 5.8 yards per attempt last season. While the comparisons certainly aren’t perfect, Kizer averaged 8.4 yards per attempt in college as compared to Osweiler’s 7.8. Regardless, Kizer is an upgrade to help Corey Coleman and Kenny Britt hit their ceiling this season.
Kizer and Coleman have also shown a connection this preseason as Kizer has targeted Coleman 14 times as opposed to targeting Kenny Britt six times. Of course, preseason results must be taken with a grain of salt, but Coleman’s stock should on the rise.
With the season ending knee injury to Chicago Bears wide receiver Cam Meredith, it’s time to pay attention to Kevin White, Kendall Wright, and Dion Sims. While this trio isn’t exactly a replication of the Greatest Show on Turf, there is room for optimism on each of the three players.
While draft capital isn’t a stand alone reason to bet on a player, in most cases, the higher a player is drafted the more opportunities they have to show NFL caliber talent. That has been the case for Kevin White who has just 19 career receptions in two NFL seasons. However, when he was able to remain on the field last season, White was force-fed targets, as he was targeted 35 times in four weeks. Prorated, that works out to 140 targets over 16 games, and with Cam Meredith now out of the picture, the Bears will likely be back to forcing the ball to White in an effort to make their investment in him pay off.
Through his first three seasons in the NFL, Kendall Wright looked like he was set to become a consistent fantasy option. However, he fell out of favor in Tennessee and will now have the chance to make his mark in Chicago. With Markus Wheaton hurt and Victor Cruz struggling to earn a roster spot, Wright will have an outside role essentially handed to him by default. While there’s always danger in taking too much from preseason, Wright managed to haul in three receptions for 35 yards in the Bears’ latest preseason game against the Titans, all of which were third down conversions.
The final piece to the Bears receiving core is Dion Sims. Sims was not frequently targeted as a member of the Miami Dolphins due to the relatively deep wide receiving core that included DaVante Parker, Kenny Stills, and target-hog Jarvis Landry. However, the competition for targets in Chicago is lesser, meaning Sims has the upside to see 80 targets this season. What Sims has been able to show in the limited sample we have of his career thus far is an ability to catch the ball close to the end zone. Sims has converted 12-of-15 targets in the red zone, and once he is inside the opponent’s’ 10, he has converted 8-of-11 targets. The Bears don’t have a clear red zone target among their wide receivers, so Sims could be a touchdown dependent fantasy option this season and a tight end to stream.