Fantasy Football News Roundup: Derrick Henry, Dak Prescott, Sony Michel, Alshon Jeffery
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.
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Derrick Henry Gets Paid
Continuity. That’s a word you’re going to hear a lot when it comes to fake football analysis this summer. The idea is that without teams having a normal offseason, the best equipped clubs are going to be the ones bringing back a majority of their rosters. For example, perhaps the Panthers aren’t able to install new offensive coordinator Joe Brady’s principles as seamlessly as they would’ve been in any other year. Meanwhile the Saints are set up nicely as virtually all of their starters/coaches are returning.
The Titans fall into the latter category after re-signing Ryan Tannehill, and more recently, working out a long-term extension with Derrick Henry. The two sides agreed to a four year, $50 million extension before Wednesday’s deadline. The contract includes $25.5 million in guaranteed money, which is actually quite reasonable for a running back these days.
We aren’t here to discuss whether or not running backs matter though. We care about what this means for Henry’s 2020 fantasy outlook. As stated above, this gives his offense great continuity heading into the year. “The Big Dog” led the league in carries, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns last season and is understandably being taken in the first round of fantasy drafts because of it. Returning alongside him are his head coach, offensive coordinator, and 4-of-5 offensive linemen.
Henry is admittedly more reliant on game script than most first-round backs but luckily Tennessee drew the second-softest schedule based on sportsbook Win Totals. Why is that so important? The 26-year-old averages an absurd 5.82 yards per carry when his team has the lead. Draft him early with confidence.
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
Dak Prescott To Play On Franchise Tag
Unlike Henry, Dak Prescott didn’t receive an extension from his team before Wednesday’s deadline. Instead, the former fourth-round pick out of Mississippi State will become just the third quarterback in NFL history to play a season under the franchise tag.
Jane Slater of NFL Network reported the two sides talked until the very last minute, with Dallas offering a deal that included $33 to $35 million per season and $110 million guaranteed. That’s quite a bit of money but isn’t anything near what Patrick Mahomes just received. No, Prescott isn’t Mahomes. The quarterback market is changing, however, and Prescott’s camp feels he is still getting better.
Instead of debating how good Prescott is in “real life” let’s talk about his fantasy prospects, shall we? The 26-year-old is currently the QB3 in our expert consensus rankings, and for good reason. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is returning to call plays and Dallas is shedding 166 targets that were wasted on Jason Witten and Randall Cobb in 2019. Most of those should go to electric rookie CeeDee Lamb and the ever-intriguing Blake Jarwin. Similar to the Titans, the Cowboys return 4-of-5 offensive line starters.
#Cowboys QB @dak is the 8th QB to be designated a franchise player since 1993 but only 2 have actually played a season under the tag
• Drew Brees in 05 (Chargers)
• Kirk Cousins in 16 & 17 (Redskins)
Both would go on to sign deals with a different team the following season
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) May 27, 2020
Making Quick Decisions On Swift
D’Andre Swift was viewed as the best all-around running back entering the 2020 NFL draft. Then a trio of backs landed in more desirable landing spots and he almost feels like a forgotten man after being selected by Matt Patricia’s Detroit Lions. Without a proper training camp we likely won’t get clarity on Swift’s role in this offense. The man himself isn’t sure what to expect either:
“I can’t even give you my role,” Swift said. “Whatever role they have for me, I just gotta make sure I’m in the best shape and know all of the plays so I’m ready to take it on full force. But I’m not going in there looking to do anything, just doing what I’ve been doing.”
Situation matters for rookie running backs but it isn’t everything, especially if the 21-year-old is actually good. The 35th overall pick in the draft, Swift put together a 440/2,885/20 rushing line across three seasons at Georgia while adding 73 receptions. Meanwhile, Kerryon Johnson has played in just 18-of-32 games since being drafted in 2018. Johnson’s efficiency dipped wildly as a sophomore last year and his PFF elusive rating fell from 64.2 to 48.3. Swift should enter the year as Detroit’s passing-down back with an opportunity to seize the early-down role as well.
Sony Michel Rehabbing
Nobody really wants Sony Michel in fantasy football this year and it’s easy to make a case against the two-down grinder. The Georgia product didn’t eclipse 100 rushing yards in any of his 16 regular season contests last year. He caught just 12 passes in a full season. James White, Rex Burkhead, and Damien Harris are all still around. Then we find out the 25-year-old had offseason foot surgery.
With all those factors working against him it appears the hate has gone too far. Michel had offseason surgery last year too, which caused Harris to become a mid-round pick at one point over the summer. Harris finished his rookie campaign with a total of four touches. Sure, he might be more involved in his second full season, but Michel is still the lead-back on early downs. For all the injury concerns surrounding him entering 2019 he never missed a game.
It’s all about price. If Michel was going in the first six rounds of drafts he would be a massive bust candidate. As the RB35 in our ECR I’d be willing to take the plunge, particularly in standard scoring formats. New England is going to run the ball this year and having Cam Newton at quarterback could help open up some rushing lanes. Mike Reiss of ESPN recently reported that Michel has been rehabbing at the team’s facilities for several weeks now. He posted a picture on Instagram without a walking boot on. We overreacted to a cleanup procedure for Michel last offseason and it appears we’re doing it again.
Alshon Jeffery Destined For PUP?
Is it me or has it been years since we got good news regarding Alshon Jeffery? The 30-year-old played in 10 games last season and noticeably lacked the burst that once made him an exciting fantasy asset. About a month ago it was reported that Jeffery was without a timetable to return from his Lisfranc injury. Now Jimmy Kempski of Philly Voice reports the veteran is “almost certain” to start 2020 on the PUP list.
Jeffery is a near afterthought for fantasy players at this point. By placing him on PUP to start the regular season he would miss at least the Eagles’ first six games. This would be big for TCU rookie Jalen Reagor, who was recently predicted to lead Philadelphia’s receivers in snaps and receptions by Adam Caplan. Still ranked as the WR57 in our ECR, expect Reagor to rise up draft boards as we inch closer and closer to Week 1.
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Brendan Tuma is a correspondent at FantasyPros. To read more from Brendan, check out his archive and follow him @toomuchtuma.