Talking about what we’ve learned so far is a common topic of fantasy discussion in the early parts of the year. Two weeks ago I even planned out a post that would break down the topic, before I realized that the 2017 RB Class was just too exciting to not be the focus of its own entire article. This week, I thought about continuing with what we’ve learned – but I’m going to make it a little more interesting and talk some about what we HAVEN’T learned so far as well.
What do I mean by that? Basically, what have we seen this year that I don’t expect to last. While we have learned, for example, that Kareem Hunt is a good player, that almost seems obvious at this point. So below I have identified some early season developments and let you know whether to expect the trend to continue or not.
What We Haven’t Learned: Amari Cooper is a Bust
Cooper has been disappointing to start the season so far. Honestly, he’s just been bad. Through 5 games he’s averaged 6 points per game in PPR and just over 3 a game in standard. He has struggled to make himself a reliable red zone target for Derek Carr, and he’s struggled with bad drops. Things have been especially bad over the past 3 games, where Cooper has been virtually unstartable with a grand total of 4 receptions.
So what’s happening? For starters Carr has been banged up. This doesn’t explain all of it, but it isn’t helping Cooper get back on track. Additionally, Cooper has faced some great cornerbacks the past couple of weeks. Finally, and arguably most important, weird things happen in small samples. Take any 5 game stretch (and really Cooper has only been bad for 4) and you will likely find some wonky results. But look at Cooper’s career as a whole and you have to be impressed despite the recent rough stretch. Cooper is amazingly one of just 3 receivers EVER to start his career with back to back 1,000 yard, 70 reception seasons. This is all after being drafted #4 overall as a top-level prospect. And he’s only 23!
Cooper is legitimately on a rough patch to the point where I don’t blame anybody who refuses to start him until he bounces back. But he’s also a rare talent, with proven production all at an incredibly young age. Cooper remains a piece you can build your dynasty roster around. I still view him as a top 20 asset in all scoring formats.
What We Have Learned: Terrelle Pryor is a Bust
Pryor has opened the year with just 13 catches for 186 yards and 1 touchdown. Most owners have likely been disappointed by the lack of production from Pryor after an offseason of excitement over what Pryor would look like in Jay Gruden’s offense.
Unfortunately, Pryor just doesn’t seem as good as we thought he was. I don’t doubt his athleticism or skill, but he just doesn’t appear dominant in this offense. His physicality both on jump balls and going over the middle just seems underwhelming. Cousins did target him 11 times in week 1, but hasn’t given him more than 5 targets in a game since.
Jamison Crowder and Jordan Reed have been banged up, but Cousins isn’t going to stop throwing to them for Pryor. Meanwhile, Josh Doctson just keeps flashing the upside to kick Pryor out of the starting lineup. Even if Pryor doesn’t get benched, he simply isn’t going to the reach the upside that was hoped for in the preseason.
What We Haven’t Learned: Jordy Nelson is a WR1
Jordy Nelson currently sits as the WR6 in both PPR and Standard leagues, but I’m not sure how sustainable his production will be from here on out. His statline reads as 19 catches for 230 yards and 6 TDs. Impressively he’s done this while essentially missing week 2 against Atlanta with an injury. However, even if we give him a pass for week 2, Nelson is really only on a 16 game pace for 76 catches and 920 yards.
That said, he is also on a 16 game pace for an absurd 24 TDs. Unfortunately, that touchdown pace is almost definitely unsustainable. Nelson has always been great at scoring touchdowns, and playing with Aaron Rodgers will help maintain his pace. But, this will likely be the most value Nelson has at any point left in his career. He’s 32 and likely outscoring his current on field performance.
Nelson should remain an excellent start for contenders for the rest of the year, but you may want to shop him now before his value falls right along with his touchdown rate.
What We Have Learned: Keenan Allen is a WR1
Through 8 games of 2015 Keenan Allen was on pace for over 1,400 yards, 8 TDs, and more than 130 catches before he injured his kidney and missed the second half of the season. Basically, he was really dominant, and then really unlucky. Then last year in his first game back, he had 6 catches and 63 yards before tearing his ACL and forcing him to miss another season.
But now he’s back, and appears healthy again. Through 5 games this season, Allen is on pace for nearly 90 receptions, 1,300 yards, and 6 touchdowns. With 52 targets as well, it’s clear Allen remains Rivers’ favorite target and a dominant wide receiver. I’ve been trying to acquire as many shares of Allen as possible before everybody realizes he’s a super talented 25-year-old WR just hitting his prime. In PPR dynasty leagues Allen is comfortably a top-10 WR and top 20 overall.
All 4 of the above receivers have at least some value in any format, but Nelson and Pryor’s values are likely to trend downward from here. Nelson likely will remain productive and may help title runs, but his touchdown rate is unsustainable and he isn’t young. Allen and Cooper, meanwhile, represent two different buying opportunities. Cooper while his value is plummeting, and Allen before his value catches up to his talent.
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