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Fantasy Football Player Notes

2020 Half PPR Draft Rankings
James Conner Note
James Conner photo 26. James Conner RB - (at CLE)
If Conner were able to stay on the field, he'd be considered as a top-10 running back in fantasy. Unfortunately, he hasn't done that, and it's led them to draft Jaylen Samuels, Benny Snell, and now Anthony McFarland. While none of them are better than Conner, it's likely we see them take some of the workload away from him in 2020.
4 weeks ago
JuJu Smith-Schuster Note
JuJu Smith-Schuster photo 32. JuJu Smith-Schuster WR - (at CLE)
Did everyone forget just how talented Smith-Schuster is because he had a down year in 2019? He played through multiple injuries and dealt with what was probably the worst quarterback situation in the league. In Week 1 and Week 2, when Ben Roethlisberger was on the field, Smith-Schuster saw 16 targets, catching 11 of them for 162 yards. Not too shabby. Insert bad quarterbacks, paired with Smith-Schuster trying to run routes from the perimeter, and it was a recipe for disaster. The Steelers have vowed to put him back in the slot where he belongs, and he's getting back Roethlisberger, who's continually supported fantasy receivers throughout his long career. Going all the way back to 2008, Ben Roethlisberger's No. 1 and No. 2 wide receivers combined for at least 225 targets on eight different occasions, including 334 times when he had Antonio Brown and Smith-Schuster in 2018. With Roethlisberger on the field, the Steelers haven't thrown the ball less than 584 times since way back in 2012. It's hard to see a scenario where Smith-Schuster doesn't see at least 130 targets if he's healthy (that would be just a 22.2 percent target share), which is elite volume, so even if he's average, he'd be a high-end WR2. I'll leave you with this... Smith-Schuster posted 1,426 yards in his second NFL season at the age of 22. There are just six players who posted more yardage in one of their first two seasons. The list includes Isaac Bruce, Josh Gordon, Torry Holt, Jerry Rice, Victor Cruz, and Odell Beckham Jr. We can't pretend Smith-Schuster is anywhere close to average. He's worth a third-round pick in drafts, even though many are getting him in the fourth.
4 weeks ago
Diontae Johnson Note
Diontae Johnson photo 90. Diontae Johnson WR - (at CLE)
When the Steelers drafted Johnson in the third round in 2019, many did a double take, but once he got on the field, he proved worthy. The Steelers liked him so much, he saw a very-high 18.0 percent target share in his rookie season. It didn't hurt that JuJu Smith-Schuster was hurt and missing some time, but it highlights how much they believe in him. He'll play the "Antonio Brown role" in the offense moving forward while Smith-Schuster goes back to the slot. The downside is that Johnson will then see the opposing No. 1 cornerback, as they don't go into the slot very often. Still, throughout Ben Roethlisberger's long 15-year career (excluding 2019), he's supported two top-40 wide receivers in 12 of them, with 11 of them supporting two top-32 receivers. There is certainly risk with Roethlisberger's elbow, but at WR43 (his current ADP), you're getting a slight discount. I mean, even with Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges under center, he finished as the WR43 his rookie season. Snagging him as your WR4 would be a good idea, as I believe he'll be a WR3 more often than not.
4 weeks ago
Ben Roethlisberger Note
Ben Roethlisberger photo 115. Ben Roethlisberger QB - (at CLE)
This is one of the weirdest offseasons in NFL history. It's uncharted territory with so many question marks. Then you add in Roethlisberger, who's been rehabbing from an elbow injury that had him tear three tendons in his throwing arm. Yikes. His teammates have said he looks good while throwing the ball around, and have also said he's lost weight, and looks lighter on his feet. Many are undervaluing the Steelers this year due to what happened last year, but don't forget they averaged 66.4 and 66.1 plays per game in 2017 and 2018, while averaging just 58.6 plays per game in 2019. That amounts to an extra 120-plus plays for this offense with Roethlisberger back. The pass attempts dropped from 687 to 510. While that 687 number from 2018 was sky-high, the Steelers continually have averaged 585-610 pass attempts. We can talk about Roethlisberger throwing at least 26 touchdowns in six of his last eight seasons and that he's averaged at least 7.5 yards per attempt each year from 2014-2018, but none of that matters if his elbow isn't right. It adds a level of risk to the entire roster, though he was apparently playing through some elbow pain for quite some time, and it makes sense considering how three tendons finally snapped. We'll talk about it throughout the season in The Primer, but you should also know that Roethlisberger has been horrendous on the road over the last six years, averaging just 15.22 fantasy points per game compared to the 22.19 fantasy points per game at home. He opens the season on the road against the Giants, which is a juicy matchup, but should you trust him coming off the arm injury? I'd probably play it safe and stream him throughout the year once we know he's healthy.
4 weeks ago
Eric Ebron Note
Eric Ebron photo 139. Eric Ebron TE - (at CLE)
Not many realize that there will be another 100-plus targets available in the Steelers offense with Ben Roethlisberger returning, though we don't know how Ebron factors in to that. They still have Vance McDonald under contract and have three wide receivers who are more than capable, which could leave Ebron off the field more than on the field, as he's not someone you want blocking for you. He's best-suited as a streaming option and not someone you rely on every week.
4 weeks ago
Pittsburgh Steelers Note
Pittsburgh Steelers photo 151. Pittsburgh Steelers DST - (at CLE)
James Washington Note
James Washington photo 202. James Washington WR - (at CLE)
We have the battle of second-round receivers here, as Washington is coming off his most productive season in 2019, though it's important to note that he and Mason Rudolph played in college together, so there was chemistry there. Still, it was impressive for him to post 735 yards and three touchdowns on just 80 targets considering who was throwing to him. If the Steelers hadn't drafted Claypool, Washington would have sleeper appeal. Heck, he still does, but Claypool clouds his path. It does help that rookie minicamps were canceled and that there is no preseason action, so it's likely we see Washington get the reps out of the gate, and Roethlisberger has always talked good about him. Snagging Washington with a late-round pick might make sense, as you'll find out your answer in Week 1 against the Giants. If he plays the starter role and has a few big plays, you'll see many run to snag him off the waiver wire. On top of that, if Smith-Schuster or Johnson were to miss any time, Washington would likely be staring at six-plus targets per game.
4 weeks ago
Benny Snell Jr. Note
Benny Snell Jr. photo 220. Benny Snell Jr. RB - (at CLE)
Snell Jr. got a fair amount of work last year in relief of James Conner, seeing 108 carries and gaining 426 yards with two touchdowns. When he got enough volume, he generally produced, totaling at least 89 total yards or a touchdown in each game he received 17 touches or more. Reports are that he'll be the primary backup again to James Conner, but Anthony McFarland Jr. and Jaylen Samuels will still factor in. He's a low-end handcuff at this point given the crowded Pittsburgh backfield.
3 weeks ago
Chris Boswell Note
Chris Boswell photo 233. Chris Boswell K - (at CLE)
After a disastrous 2018 season, Boswell bounced back in a big way last year, hitting 93.5% of his field-goal attempts and all 28 of his extra-point attempts. Boswell's upside is limited somewhat by Heinz Field, a notoriously difficult place to kick because of its turf. Indeed, Boswell has attempted just 11 field goals of 50-plus yards in his five seasons. Nevertheless, with Ben Roethlisberger returning, the Steelers offense should move the ball with ease, providing Boswell with plenty of opportunities, which should make up for the lack of long attempts.
3 weeks ago
Anthony McFarland Jr. Note
Anthony McFarland Jr. photo 248. Anthony McFarland Jr. RB - (at CLE)
The Steelers have already said that if James Conner is healthy, they want him to be that "lead back" that Mike Tomlin has always leaned on. They also said they believe Benny Snell can be that guy if something were to happen to Conner. That doesn't mean McFarland will be chopped liver, but it does mean he's not going to be a 10-plus touch running back without injury. I've compared McFarland to Chris Thompson, which would make sense based on the Steelers' comments on the power running backs. If he gets 6-10 touches per week, he has enough explosion on a per-play basis to make an impact at times, but nothing you want to rely on consistently.
4 weeks ago
Chase Claypool Note
Chase Claypool photo 273. Chase Claypool WR - (at CLE)
Vance McDonald Note
Vance McDonald photo 294. Vance McDonald TE - (at CLE)
McDonald has always felt like he could be a breakout candidate one year, but those feelings are gone by this point. Although he'll return with the Steelers, Eric Ebron should see the primary snaps from the tight end position, making McDonald an afterthought in fantasy. Either way, the oft-injured McDonald has cleared 391 receiving yards and 38 catches just once in his career, and is no longer a fantasy option, even in deeper leagues.
3 weeks ago
Jaylen Samuels Note
Jaylen Samuels photo 297. Jaylen Samuels RB - (at CLE)
Samuels has received just 122 carries in his first two seasons, and although he can factor in as a receiver at times, he doesn't have a path to regular playing time. Even if James Conner deals with injuries again, Benny Snell Jr. and Anthony McFarland Jr. stand in Samuels' way. He's relevant only in extremely deep PPR leagues and barely so even there.
3 weeks ago
Derek Watt Note
Derek Watt photo 530. Derek Watt RB - (at CLE)
Mason Rudolph Note
Mason Rudolph photo 562. Mason Rudolph QB - (at CLE)
Trey Edmunds Note
Trey Edmunds photo 588. Trey Edmunds RB - (at CLE)
Wendell Smallwood Note
Wendell Smallwood photo 595. Wendell Smallwood RB - (at CLE)
Ray-Ray McCloud Note
Ray-Ray McCloud photo 629. Ray-Ray McCloud WR - (at CLE)