Fantasy Football “Double Take”
2nd Year Players Worth a 2nd Look
All too often we fantasy football enthusiasts are consumed with the “latest”. Particularly with the ever-growing popularity of dynasty leagues fantasy football players are all but consumed with the current crop of rookie prospects (2019) as they jockey for position in their respective rookie drafts. So much so, that those among last year’s rookie class that didn’t make an immediate impact in fantasy leagues this past season are typically dismissed. Even, the 2020 NFL Draft Class (I must admit even I’m excited about it) seems to move the needle more than the “late bloomers” of the 2018 NFL Daft Class.
However, time and again we’ve given up far too early on a prospect after only one season. The masses routinely, prematurely, dub rookies who didn’t meet our lofty expectations or struggled during their first professional season as “busts” with no remorse. Consider this a warning, a P.S.A. if you will to demonstrate some patience, “double take” and have a little faith in a few 2nd year players worth a 2nd look.
Ronald Jones RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After a brutal rookie season in which injury, the speed, and the complexity of the NFL was seemingly too much for the young ball carrier out of Southern Cal the Ronald Jones’ stock has plummeted since the 2018 preseason (although there’s been a recent uptick). Jones only played 90 snaps last year, averaged less than 2.0 yards a carry and accounted for only one touchdown on a paltry 23 carries during his entire rookie campaign. There’s no other way to describe that performance (or lack thereof) other than AWFUL. You’ve undoubtedly been advised by any number of thoughtful and insightful fantasy analysts that you should avoid Jones at all costs but there are several reasons why I think it would be foolish to dismiss him entirely.
- New coaching staff – The hiring of a new head coach/coaching staff can work wonders for a maligned player or be a death sentence for that player’s career with their current team. In Jones’ case I believe it’s the former. In part, because the guy that drafted him (GM Jason Licht) is still in the building. Additionally, I’m encouraged by what I hear from his new running backs coach, Todd McNair. It isn’t that Jones “looks unbelievable” or has been the “best player on the field” during OTAs and mini-camp (it’s this type of hyperbole that we hear out of every practice in helmets and shorts regarding young players); but rather the more substantive observation that Jones’ confidence is growing; and more importantly the new coaching staff recognized that his confidence was shot last season.
- Confidence – Speaking of confidence my colleague CPGM Drew always says, “Confidence is a Mofo!” Not that it was ever a popular concept (because it can’t be quantified), but fantasy footballers have bent the knee to analytics so much so that the mental/psychological part of the game and player is wholly ignored. The reps he missed while rehabbing an injury, a coach opting to play veterans because his job hung int the balance, a bad offensive line (at least in terms of run-blocking), and the harsh reality of going from being the big man on campus to being regulated to baby snook in the coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico all contributed to Ronald Jones doing entirely too much thinking, trying not to screw up his limited opportunities rather than trusting his abilities, being decisive, and playing fast. I will never forget hearing former NFL running back DeAngelo Williams say that during his rookie season, “All I could see was colors.” In his second season, “The game slowed down, I could see faces and numbers.” And let’s not overlook Melvin Gordon’s forgettable rookie season when the former first round pick averaged just 3.5 yards per carry on 184 touts with ZERO touchdowns and a whopping SIX fumbles. Gordon has gone on to average just under 13 touchdowns per season over the last three years and was on pace for a career year prior to injury averaging 5.1 yards per carry, with 14 total touchdowns (in 12 games). Gordon rewarded fantasy/dynasty footballers that exercised patience. It shouldn’t surprise you that a rookie struggled (mightily) on a bad team; what you SHOULD be floored by is when a rookie(s) excels when his head coach is fired in-season.
- No significant additions to the position group – The Bucs didn’t draft a running back, let Jacquizz Rodgers walk, added Andre Ellington who hasn’t held fantasy relevance since 2013/14 and signed UDFA Bruce Anderson out of North Dakota State. Anderson is intriguing but there’s no guarantee he makes the roster. The reality is Jones is the most talented back on the roster and the decision not to add more substantial competition to the running back position suggests the Bucs plan to give Jones every opportunity to impress.
- Opportunity – Speaking of opportunity… Incumbent Peyton Barber finished with 234 uneventful rushing attempts last season. That was good for 9th most in the NFL. Jones is almost certain to get a substantial amount of that volume even if he only takes a small step in the right direction.
- Current ADP – Ronald Jones’ ADP has risen slightly over the last few weeks (8th round) in redraft leagues but he’s going in the 9th round of Dynasty startup drafts. Jones’ value at a 9th round ADP is all relative but even if I were flush at the running back position it would be difficult for me to pass up a 22-year-old running back, with considerable upside, in a backfield headlined by the aforementioned Barber.