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5 Things We Learned in Preseason Week 4

Sep 5, 2016

Latavius Murray

Latavius Murray remains the top RB in Oakland

R.C. Fischer discusses “Five Fantasy Things “They” Are Not Telling You From Week 4 of the Preseason.

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After each week of preseason games, I’ll be discussing things that I believe the football media is shaping the wrong way or has totally overlooked. Here’s my take after watching all the Week 4 preseason contests.

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5) D.J. Foster…the Dion Lewis we deserve

When UDFA running back D.J. Foster debuted for the Patriots in Week 3, people thought he would likely be released on cut-down day and wind up on the practice squad. After he caught nine passes on 10 targets for 110 yards in Week 4, he kicked Tyler Gaffney to the curb. That’s where much of the national reporting typically stops.

What is being missed: D.J. Foster is better at the Dion Lewis role than Dion Lewis, and is certainly better than James White. You think Foster might matter someday down the road? He might matter by Week 2-to-3 of the regular season and become a fantasy PPR star.

See the future predicted in more detail, back in June 2016: Very Deep Sleeper: D.J. Foster.

4) Jay Ajayi…worse than underwhelming

I love that some failing preseason running backs are given a relentless Comedy Central Roast treatment by the mainstream fantasy football media, while other media favorites have their awful performances spun into ‘not that bad’ verbiage. I don’t know why, but Ajayi has obtained a semi-protected status. His awful end of 2015 performance was whistled right past, and he was portrayed as an obvious star of the future. His 2016 preseason floundering has been painted with a polite ‘not good’ or ‘needs to get better.’

Not good? Not good!? It’s been awful.

Playing Week 4 of the preseason, as a starter vs. a Week 4 preseason defense, Ajayi fumbled his first carry away and then moments later shanked an easy catch over the middle – he’s been dropping passes all preseason. He’s not a talented runner, and he has troubling hands in the passing game. Miami has a huge problem here.

You have a huge problem if you own him in fantasy. You’re not holding a possible starter or Arian Foster handcuff…you’re holding a ticking time bomb. Seattle and New England Weeks 1–2 this season on top of everything else.

3) Justin Forsett…not going back to Baltimore?

Total ‘Hail Mary’ here…

Everyone was a little shocked when Justin Forsett got released this weekend. Instantly, the word was he would be re-signing with Baltimore.

Why?

I mean, I’m sure he might. But, if you’re Justin Forsett, and you’re at the end of your career, and you are not going to command money or respect for this final go-round…why not go for a ring? Why not rejoin the coach who re-launched you in Baltimore? Why not join Gary Kubiak in Denver?

If Forsett goes to Denver, he leaps ahead of Devontae Booker because of ‘experience.’ All that stands in the way is overrated C.J. Anderson from Forsett as the main man on a title team. He’d have some fantasy value there.

If Forsett is not back with Baltimore, then the message is clear…Kenneth Dixon is going to happen faster than we think in Baltimore. Don’t get too distracted by Terrance West, and less-than-Dixon Javorius Allen. No Forsett in Baltimore opens the window more for Dixon.

In Week 3 of the preseason, the Ravens’ dress rehearsal for the starters, Forsett started on the first play, and then Dixon came in on the second play. Dixon’s ascension to the Ravens’ main starter is inevitable, and closer than you think.

2) Josh Ferguson…misunderstood, super-sleeper

Every time I see a roto-blurb about Colts’ UDFA rookie RB Josh Ferguson, the template is something like: “This guy was a training camp darling, but he’s been a joke in the preseason games. He might not make the team.”

He not only made the team, he’s likely to be the Colts’ leading fantasy scorer at running back for PPR this season.

The analysts keep dinging him for not gaining many yards this preseason. News flash: No Colts running back went anywhere this preseason…their O-Line is a disaster. Frank Gore ran for a little over 2.0 yards per carry. Stevan Ridley was brought in Week 4, and promptly rushed for 11 yards on 9 carries…and was promptly released.

Ferguson is not a Gore handcuff. Ferguson is not a threat to be a main carry guy. He’s a pass-game specialist. He was one of the most prolific pass-catching running backs in the history of college football (168 catches in his college career, 4.0 receptions per game over his final three seasons in a low output pass game). Everyone gets jazzed by Duke Johnson, Charles Sims, Theo Riddick in that specific receiving specialist role, but no one cares that Ferguson is the same, and may be better in the NFL than all the names just mentioned as he was in college.

Indy is going to have to pass a lot with that O-Line. Josh Ferguson is just the man for the job!

1) I thought the Raiders hated Latavius Murray and were desperate to replace him?

Is there a roto-blurb from the past two years that does not dismiss Murray? When he has a good/great game, it’s a ‘surprise’ and analysts ‘don’t expect to keep happening.’ When he has a mediocre game, he’s ‘back to normal’. About 84% (I kept track) of Murray’s roto-blurbs mention that the team is unhappy with him, and they are trying to find a better running back.

Here’s what the Raiders have done to replace Murray the past two years…

2015: Signed Roy Helu as a backup, who went on to be a colossal bust.

2015: Didn’t trade for or sign a front-line running back, despite the media rumors of every available running back heading to Oakland.

2015: Didn’t draft a running back.

2015: Didn’t make a deal for a running back before the trade deadline.

2016: Didn’t sign a free agent running back, despite the media again crying that they would because they just knew the team hated Murray.

2016: Didn’t trade for a running back in the offseason.

2016: Drafted a running back, an NFL backup-level talent in the fifth-round (DeAndre Washington), who was immediately pushed in the media as someone who could bump Murray immediately…and was thus more evidence the Raiders didn’t like Murray. Washington’s lucky he made the 53-man roster – he is ZERO threat to Murray. Have you seen the preseason games?

2016: Jalen Richard was given a half-hearted media push as a threat for 15 minutes.

2016: With all the talented running backs that were cut this weekend, Oakland hasn’t signed one of them.

Man, is Oakland desperate to replace Murray. They hate him so much!

We’re down to one running back out there, recently released, that would matter, one who would change the narrative a bit – Ronnie Hillman. Every recently released running back of note is spoken for/signed elsewhere already. Once Hillman signs somewhere not-Oakland, will we get another round of degrading Murray notes in fantasy?

Why people are so fanatical about the great opportunity Lamar Miller has in Houston, with a poor O-Line from 2015 that got worse going into 2016 (lost Brandon Brooks), but Latavius Murray, the CLEAR No. 1 running back in Oakland, 2015 Pro Bowl player, with a vastly improved O-Line, and with season highs in output that rival Miller’s best seasons – well, he’s 50–60+ ADP spots down from Miller on the ranking list.

Thank you, football media, for giving me a vastly cheaper version of Lamar Miller in Latavius Murray! Keep writing those spot-on stories about how his team doesn’t feel comfortable with Latavius…no matter how many times you’re wrong.

*If Ronnie Hillman signs with Oakland right before/after this goes to post. My bad. If you think the press on Murray was bad before, wait until Hillman lands there (in this scenario). Hillman would go from laughed out of Denver by the press to hailed by them as the ‘next Marcus Allen.’

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