Fantasy Football News Roundup: Derrick Henry, Terry McLaurin, Raheem Mostert, Marlon Mack
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The best part about the growth of the fantasy sports industry is that player analysis has never been more accessible. In fact, we’re at the point where one of the most overlooked aspects of playing fantasy football is simply reading the news. Often, there is a lot to learn from what a coach or executive say, as well as the information that beat reporters share. Using this news to our advantage is one of the few ways fantasy players can create an edge for themselves. Here’s a summary of this week’s headlines.
How Will the Titans Use “The Big Dog” In 2020?
It took four years, but the Tennessee Titans finally committed to Derrick Henry last year, particularly in the second half. Over his final nine games, “The Big Dog” scored 12 rushing touchdowns while averaging 25 carries for 149 rushing yards. That included this three-game stretch:
|Divisional Round||30||195||1 (Passing)|
It was a historic run, and the question on everyone’s mind entering the 2020 season is what his usage will be like moving forward. Luckily, Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith has an answer, saying that Henry’s workload for the upcoming season “depends on game flow.” Helpful! He elaborated, “we’ll see how the season evolves for him, and if another running back emerges.”
This news mostly confirms what we already knew. Henry is game-flow dependent, which means he’ll pile up carries and yards when Tennessee has a lead, but he’ll get regulated to the bench if the Titans are trailing. What happened late last year is that Ryan Tannehill and the entire offense were firing on all cylinders, so the usage concerns never arose.
Henry only caught 18-of-24 targets in the passing game last season. Both of those numbers represented a career-high. Using a mid-first round pick on him in your fantasy football league this year (especially if you play PPR) means you need Tennessee to be playing with leads. The offense is probably due for some regression, but the Titans are blessed with one of the easiest schedules according to opponent over/under totals. Consider him in the tier of running backs after the big five of CMC, Zeke, Saquon, Dalvin Cook, and Alvin Kamara.
Over Derrick Henry's final nine games of the season he scored 12 rushing TDs while averaging (!!) 25 carries for 149 yards. This remains hilarious and unbelievable pic.twitter.com/Gqkwgnr6rO
— Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma) May 23, 2020
Terry McLaurin Set For a Year Two Leap
Rookie wideout Terry McLaurin was thrust into an impossible spot last year, playing for one of the worst-run organizations with one of the least inspiring quarterback situations. That didn’t stop him from posting 58 receptions, 919 yards, and seven touchdowns on just 93 targets, however.
The third-round pick out of Ohio State played in just 14 games, but he made his mark felt. Now he enters this season as Washington’s undisputed number-one receiver. New coach Ron Rivera isn’t wasting any time fueling the hype train, as he recently compared McLaurin to fellow 2020 breakout candidate D.J. Moore.
“I mean, he’s a young man I think that had a solid year last year as a rookie, a third-round pick,” Rivera said. “He’s a guy that could be on the verge (of stardom), he really is.”
Moore saw 135 targets in 2019, which was his second season under Rivera. It’s also worth noting that former Panthers OC Scott Turner is now with the Redskins, too. A target boost like the one Moore saw in his sophomore campaign would be massive for McLaurin. He’s an upside selection as the WR27 in our expert consensus rankings.
Raheem Mostert: Searching For Gold
Figuring out the 49ers’ backfield is going to be one of the keys to the 2020 fantasy season. Raheem Mostert is currently RB26 in our ECR, with Tevin Coleman at RB44 and Jerick McKinnon left for dead at RB81. At this point, McKinnon needs to prove that he’s healthy before we can view him as anything more than a late-round dart throw.
Mostert is a divisive fantasy asset right now. There are those who buy into his late-season surge capped off by a 220-yard, four score performance in the NFC Championship. However, others simply see the Niners reverting back to a running back by committee and benching Mostert the second someone else has the hot hand.
A new contract would certainly show San Francisco’s faith in the former UDFA. The Athletic’s Matt Barrow recently wrote that Mostert “could see a deal get done” ahead of teammate George Kittle. This news is encouraging for Mostert fans, as both Coleman and McKinnon have contracts that will expire after this season.
While an extension for Mostert would certainly prove that San Francisco intends to keep him around for a few years, it remains unlikely that Kyle Shanahan suddenly makes him a three-down back. Even with Mostert on a new contract, this offense seems destined to utilize multiple running backs. When it comes to ambiguous situations like this, it’s often wise to draft the cheaper option for fantasy football purposes. Coleman’s ADP is currently mouthwatering.
Mack Attack Remains the Starter (For Now)
Similar to the 49ers’ offense, the Colts appear ready to use multiple running backs in 2020. We’ve already discussed the PPR upside of Nyheim Hines, who looks like the team’s preferred back for third downs. That leaves impressive rookie Jonathan Taylor and returning starter Marlon Mack to compete for early-down and goal-line work.
When asked about Mack’s role among the threesome, Colts coach Frank Reich admitted that “there’s definitely inherent respect for the starter returning.” Indianapolis has talked up all three of their running backs at various points this offseason. The franchise continues to imply they will use the entire trio on a week-to-week basis.
As it stands now, it looks like Hines will come in on third down. Mack will begin the season as the “starter,” and Taylor will have to outproduce him to earn more work as the year goes on, barring injury. That scenario should be seen as probable, considering how talented the second-round rookie is. Still, Taylor sits at RB22 in our ECR with Mack ranked as RB40. Taylor is a juicy upside fantasy selection, but (like Tevin Coleman) there is value to be had in simply taking the cheaper of the two right now.
Tompa Bay Bucs to Use 12 Personnel as Base Offense
The Bucs will arguably be the most interesting team in the NFL this season. That is what happens when a group of fantasy-friendly skill position players joins forces with the greatest quarterback of all time. Oh, and the cast has also added that greatest tight end of all time as well.
Just how fantasy-friendly the Bucs will be moving forward remains to be seen. Jameis Winston, the inventor of the 30/30 club, is no longer around. Gone are his persistent jump balls deep down the field, pick-sixes that put the offense in comeback mode, and general wildness that created all those shootouts. Let’s just say Tom Brady is a different quarterback than him.
The offense is going to look different, too. Coach Bruce Arians said this week that 12 personnel will be their base set. That means Brady will consistently have two tight ends on the field with him. Arians added that they will use three tight ends at times, too. This personnel grouping makes sense, as all three of Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, and Cameron Brate are capable of being starters on most teams.
This development also means that Chris Godwin won’t play in the slot as often as he did in 2019. It’s not a death sentence for his value, because A) Godwin is good but also B) he actually totaled more yards per route run from the outside than the slot last year. Still, the “slot role” in Arians’ offense is a highly targeted one, and Godwin was already set to lose some volume without Winston under center. This news is another reason why he feels a bit pricey as the WR6 in our ECR.
Chris Godwin in 2019 …
Yards per route run from the slot: 2.22
Yards per route run from the outside: 2.27 https://t.co/9IbyPozwxh
— Jared Smola (@SmolaDS) June 4, 2020