Must Have Players: Kelce & Helu
Josh Shepardson highlights two players he must have in NFL fantasy leagues this year.
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I couldn’t come up with just one must-have player in fantasy football this season, as two players stood out to me when combing through the FantasyPros NFL expert consensus rankings. These two players are at completely opposite ends of the draft spectrum. Travis Kelce checks in as the fourth ranked tight end in the expert consensus rankings and the 49th ranked player overall, while Roy Helu ranks 48th among running backs in standard scoring formats, 45th in PPR formats, 149th among all players in standard leagues and 123rd among all players in PPR formats. The latter must-have player will be much easier to acquire on draft day than the former, but both will be on nearly all of my fantasy football rosters this season.
Kelce missed his entire draft class season of 2013, but he made waves in his first healthy NFL season last year reeling in 67 grabs for 862 receiving yards and five touchdown catches. He ranked sixth at the position in receptions and receiving yards and tied for 11th in touchdown grabs despite barely cracking the top 15 in targets. The athletic tight end who’s referred to by some as “Baby Gronk” was extremely efficient. That’s best illustrated by what he did on his snaps in route. Pro Football Focus provides a statistic called yards per route run (YPRR), and among tight ends who received 25% or more of their team’s targets, Kelce ranked second to only Rob Gronkowski with 2.26 YPRR. That mark would have cracked the top 15 at wide receiver. The University of Cincinnati product is a wide receiver in a big tight end’s body, standing 6-foot-5 and weighing 260 pounds. He’s a matchup nightmare, and I consider him the second best fantasy tight end this season with Jimmy Graham having been dealt from the pass-happy Saints’ offense to the run-heavy Seahawks’ offense. Gronkowski is understandably being selected in the first round of many drafts, but I’ll take his doppelganger a few rounds later.
The other player I’ll be owning a ton of shares of is Helu. Unlike with Kelce, you won’t have to spend third or fourth round draft capital to secure the services of Helu. The fourth-round pick of the Redskins in the 2011 draft will be playing for a new organization this year after signing with the Oakland Raiders. Helu’s most extensive work came in his rookie season when he rushed for 640 yards on 151 carries and added 49 receptions for 379 yards receiving. He showed off his well-rounded skill-set that season eclipsing 1,000 yards from scrimmage. Unfortunately, he was quickly relegated to backup duties in his second season when Alfred Morris emerged as the bell cow, and Helu would only total 104 carries in his last three years in Washington. He did continue to shine in the passing game, though, reeling in more than 30 receptions each of the last two years and totaling 73 catches for 728 yards receiving in 2013 and 2014 combined.
Helu’s pass catching prowess should result in a niche role in the Raiders’ backfield at worst, making him a possible flex option in larger PPR leagues even if he’s unable to secure a larger role. That said, the opportunity to grab the lion’s share of playing time for the Raiders might be greater than many pigskin prognosticators are giving him credit for. Latavius Murray sits atop the depth chart for the men in silver and black, and at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, he’s built like a back who should be able to be leaned on as a workhorse. He hasn’t done it yet, though, and last year was his first time getting work after being drafted in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Murray carried the ball 82 times and was impressive scampering for 424 yards at 5.2 yards per carry. With such limited work, it is reasonable to question whether he’ll hold up to the rigors of carrying a full workload. His college stats don’t paint the most inspiring picture, either. In four years at Central Florida, Murray bested 100 carries only two times and surpassed 1,000 yards rushing one time. His size and speed are impressive, and his limited work in the NFL has been too, but he’s far from a sure thing to succeed as the feature back. Helu’s ability to catch the ball makes him a true every down threat should he bypass Murray on the depth chart, or if the door is opened by the Central Florida product being bit by the injury bug. At Helu’s modest draft day cost, he’s a worthwhile gamble.