Teams have begun releasing their depth charts. Or as I like to call them, depth charges.
Why? Because they are absolute bombs waiting to sink your Fantasy team.
For one, I count at least 14 teams at RB alone whose depth charts are more likely to change than Elton John’s concert outfit.
Furthermore, every team uses early preseason depth charts differently. Some use it to motivate players. Others use it to simply placate the beat writers. Even teams with sincere motivations need to have their depth charts questioned. Is a WR2 listed there because he’s the slot receiver or does the team plan for him to get the second most targets? And speaking of plans, you know what happens to the best-laid plans of both mice and men, right?
Don’t fret as I am here to guide you position by position through some of the more shaky depth charts. Hopefully, you don’t get submarined along the way.
2017 Fantasy Football Depth Charts
2017 Fantasy Football Depth Charts: Wide Receiver
Did you see this tweet?
Saints first unofficial depth chart ahead of Thursday’s preseason debut. pic.twitter.com/B1GQQpYJ99
— Josh Katzenstein (@jkatzenstein) August 8, 2017
So are you trying to tell me that the 32-year old Ted Ginn who has never caught 60 balls or reached 800 receiving yards in a season is listed ahead of the explosive Willie Snead? Snead, who easily eclipsed both of those marks in his two seasons in the NFL.
That might be my favorite obvious example. Let’s look at some other team’s wide receiver depth charts.
Los Angeles Chargers
As certain as I am that Snead will surpass Ginn on the depth chart is as uncertain as I am as to who will be the second best receiver for the Chargers. Don’t be surprised if it’s WR1 Keenan Allen! Many expected it might be first round pick Mike Williams, but he might not even play this year due to injury. It could be Travis Benjamin, but reports coming out of camp are that the Chargers plan to use him primarily as a returner.
The likely candidate is Tyrell Williams who had an extremely solid 69 receptions for 1,059 yards and seven touchdowns last year. But let’s also remember that this is a team that features both Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry. I think I’m staying away from the LAC WR2 regardless. Of course, some might feel that way about the next team too.
Allen Hurns might be a decent WR2, when he’s healthy, which is infrequently. Hurns had trouble staying healthy in college and is seeing the same thing as a pro. He played only 11 games last year and had zero 100-yard games on his way to a laughable 477 yards. Even had Hurns played those extra five games, he still would have been well short of the 1,031 yard mirage of the previous season. Meanwhile, Marqise Lee might have had one of the most under-the-radar seasons of over 850 receiving yards. There should be absolutely no surprise that Lee is having a strong preseason.
6.Jaguars WR Marqise Lee continued to stand out Tuesday. Caught TD and made spectacular grab just out of bounds on 50-50 ball…
— John Oehser (@JohnOehser) August 8, 2017
And as Lee proved last year, there can be value had at the Jags WR3 spot. But that might very well be 2016 Heisman Trophy Finalist Dede Westbrook, who has extremely good hands, which might be necessary for a team who saw more than its share of drops last year.
2017 Fantasy Football Depth Charts: Running Back
As I mentioned above, there are more than a dozen teams that have some serious questions at running back. You probably know most of them, but I will start with one that I miffed on last year.
Well, miffed might be a little strong. I told everyone in the preseason that DeMarco Murray would be the primary guy, but around Thanksgiving, Derrick Henry would become the primary back. DeMarco Murray was a Fantasy darling last year, but even Cinderella got old eventually. When I heard that Murray is struggling with a nagging hamstring injury I was as surprised as a mafia widow. Murray’s yardage totals steadily declined the last quarter of the season last year and despite being one of the most valuable RBs with nearly 300 carries, he still only managed five 100-plus yard games.
Derrick Henry, meanwhile, had half as many rushing touchdowns despite seeing a third as many carries. Given that Murray saw the bulk of his carries, Henry made his count by scoring five touchdowns and averaging 4.5 yards per rush. Henry is probably the top “handcuff” out there and I am predicting he tops more than 1,000 combined yards. Doubt it? Watch some of Henry’s highlights….
Unfortunately, not every depth chart is talented.
I miss when the ‘Hawks backfield was “Lynch and don’t flinch”! For the second year in a row, the Seahawks backfield presents far more questions than answers.
Eddie Lacy is currently atop the depth chart. But the Packers let Lacy go and their backfield is not exactly Fort Knox tight either. Of course, Thomas Rawls sends sirens blaring in my mind, but in his case, it is quite literally as well since he is a constant injury risk. I suspect that the Seahawks will try to give Lacy the bulk of the carries to keep Rawls fresh. You can pencil Lacy in as the Week 1 starter, but Lacy is now two seasons removed from a 1,000-yard season and three seasons removed from his rookie and best season when he rushed for a career best 11 touchdowns. Rawls might easily see 10 carries a game, but expect a YPC much closer to his 3.2 last year than 5.6 his rookie year. Neither back inspires much confidence.
I’d actually grab C.J. Prosise for PPR reasons. Prosise is not going to get a ton of carries either. However, it is worth noting that Seattle running backs had 75 catches last year. I wouldn’t be surprised if Prosise gets at least 85% of those.
Don’t worry about Marcel Reese taking many of those. Reese will be the fullback. He was signed for his blocking ability given Seattle’s offensive line struggles. I do think if Lacy or Rawls misses time with injury (a quick shake of the 8-ball shows “Very Likely”), Collins will benefit the most. He could see 20-plus carries a game. However, he rushed for a mundane 4.0 YPC average that was buoyed by his 7.9 YPC against the 49ers in Week 17.
From one implosive situation, we move to another…
2017 Fantasy Football Depth Charts: Quarterback
I honestly don’t remember the last time a quarterback was a solid bet to play 16 games for Cleveland. I think it might have been Bernie Kosar. So let’s look at this year’s set of candidates:
As I detailed in the QB rankings piece, everyone has a different opinion about this situation.
Cody Kessler is currently the one sitting atop the Browns quarterback depth chart. As a rookie quarterback last year, Kessler resembled um … a rookie. In the nine games he played last year, he passed for 300 yards only once and four times he didn’t even hit the century mark. However, there are some reasons for optimism as he threw three times the amount of touchdowns as he did interceptions.
If Kessler was nothing special, Brock Osweiler was anti-special. Despite it being his fifth year in the league, Osweiler threw more picks than touchdowns last year as a Houston Texan and did not even average 200 yards passing a game. However, Osweiler showed enough potential during his time in Denver that Cleveland was willing to take his contract off of Houston’s hands. The Browns even named Osweiler the starter for the first preseason game.
Osweiler is likely your Week 1 starter for the Browns, but don’t count out DeShone Kizer who Hue Jackson has said is progressing quicker than expected. If I’m in a keeper league, I would grab Kizer. But it’s way too murky of a situation to grab a Cleveland quarterback in a standard league.
And from one murky situation, we move to another….
Brandon Weeden is the Texans QB3 and might actually be one of the better QB3s in the league. But he’s not starter material. If he’s starting for Houston this year, things did not go as the Texans had planned. Everyone is just waiting for DeShaun Watson to take over from Tom Savage while Savage keeps the spot warm. But Savage is exactly the kind of quarterback who everyone sees as a lame duck, but might end up looking like a beautiful swan.
Well, maybe not a swan. But don’t be surprised if Savage has a season similar to Blaine Gabbert in 2015 when playing for the 49ers he managed to pass for over 2,000 yards in just eight games. Savage has far better weapons at his disposal than Gabbert did. Savage will have a comeback player of the year candidate in DeAndre Hopkins along with a strong running game on which to rely on. Watson might the be future of the Texans as O’Brien has absolutely warmed up to him.
O’Brien: “Deshaun is ahead of any rookie quarterback I’ve ever been around.”
— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) August 1, 2017
And Watson is certainly a playmaker with his legs if not his arm. However, until Watson learns to get rid of the ball sooner and his arm matches his legs, Savage might be the Texans quarterback longer than expected.
2017 Fantasy Football Depth Charts: Tight End
In this humble scribe’s opinion, there is no tight end depth chart that is more unsettled that offers more upside than the Baltimore Ravens. You may not have realized but Dennis Pitta actually had more receptions than any other tight end last year. Unfortunately, Pitta suffered a career ending injury and won’t be returning. Even if Joe Flacco starts the year on the sideline due to injury, the prospect of Ryan Mallett does not soften the upside of the tight end in Baltimore. The question is, who’s it going to be?
This is a wide open competition as Baltimore has no less than five tight ends listed on its depth chart including Ben Watson, Ryan Malleck, Maxx Williams, Larry Donnell, and Crockett Gillmore.
Gillmore probably had the most productive season last year of any one fighting for the starting Ravens TE spot. However, that does not say very much and don’t be surprised if Baltimore releases him with an injury settlement. Larry Donnell broke out for six touchdowns in 2014 but is coming off a miserable season where he caught 15 total passes for a measly 92 yards. The best news regarding Maxx Williams lately is that he avoided the PUP list.
Despite all the questions, don’t be surprised if any Ravens starting TE ends up producing like Dennis Pitta did last year. Ben Watson is the most proven and has nearly 5,000 receiving yards and more than 400 catches. He is just two years removed from a 74-catch season. And given how injury prone and inexperienced the Baltimore TEs are, don’t be surprised if Watson is given the first shot. However, he too is coming off an injury-riddled year at the ripe old age of 36. The best bet to win the starting job might be Ryan Malleck who is 6’4 and 249 pounds but has a 34.5-inch vertical leap. With a 4.81 40-time, he might be just fast enough to be a similar red zone threat to Dennis Pitta.
San Francisco 49ers
Finally, one last depth chart battle this is probably not on your radar. However, it’s worth mentioning because it is Exhibit 1A to remind you to consider what players battling for a roster spot might have been drafted by the previous GM. He might not be the starter to begin the season, but a player favored by the GM could be a valuable asset during the Fantasy playoffs. And what is happening in San Francisco is a situation that anyone in a dynasty league should be watching closely.
If Vance McDonald does get cut, Garret Celek might still be the opening day starter. However, the player I would keep a close eye on is George Kittle. Glowing reports are coming out of camp about this kid. Of course, those reports must be taken with a grain of salt, but the ability should not be questioned. He is an extremely fast TE, whose 40 time was 1/100th slower than O.J. Howard, thought by many to be the top TE in this draft. But I also like the opportunity for Kittle as Kyle Shanahan had a lot of success in Atlanta running plays using double (and sometimes triple) tight end sets. Don’t be surprised if this time next year the 49ers tight end depth chart is settled and Kittle is at the top of it.
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