They Are Who We Thought They Were?
In a blink of an eye, we are over one quarter of the way through the season. Five weeks have come and gone, and now we are all looking at our rosters and starting to wonder - are these guys who we thought they were on draft day? This article will examine two players at the QB, RB, and WR positions, one who has underachieved and one who as overachieved and attempt to answer the question: are they who we thought they were?
THE GOOD: ALEX SMITH / KC
The Alex Smith who finds himself as the #1 overall fantasy QB so far this season, is the same guy who was #22 overall QB in 2016, #15 in 2015, #16 in 2014, #13 in 2013... I think you see what I am getting at here. Hell, the Chiefs traded up to draft QB Patrick Mahomes this year, and there was talk before the season started that he could potentially replace the 13-year vet. Pssh, haven't heard anything like that since.
So, what has changed this year? What is allowing him to perform at such an exceptional fantasy level? Let me rephrase that because Smith is not just balling out from a fantasy standpoint. What is allowing him to perform at an MVP-caliber level?
Two words. Kareem Hunt. Spencer Ware is a good back, but Kareem Hunt has been a different beast all together. He has opened up the passing game for the Chiefs in a way that it hasn't been since Smith came to Kansas City. The emergence of Tyreek Hill and consistent production from Travis Kelce haven't hurt either.
The Verdict: He is not who we thought he was. Before this year, we thought Smith was, at best, a mid- to low-end QB2. He is not that anymore. Smith will not finish the season as the #1 overall QB, and he won't finish in the top-3 either. The Chiefs don't ask that much from him to put up those numbers. He will, however, be a QB1 in the top-10. Smith will not air it out for 300-400 hundred yards every week, but he protects the football and he racks up rushing yards, and has rushing TD upside.
THE BAD: BEN ROETHLISBERGER / PIT
Big Ben almost retired at the end of last season. The fact the Steelers were one LeVeon Bell injury away from a Superbowl likely persuaded him to lace 'em up one more time. Ben entered his 14th season in a great fantasy position. He was the QB for a Superbowl contending team that had Antonio Brown, Bell, Martavis Bryant, and JuJu Smith Schuster as weapons. Don't get me wrong, Ben was not being drafted as a top-5 QB, but most were expecting low end QB1 numbers from him.
After 5 weeks, the 35 year-old vet has thrown for 1,269 yards, 6 TDs and 7 Interceptions. He sits as the 25th overall QB, behind the likes of Jacoby Brissett, Blake Bortles, Brian Hoyer, and... get this... Josh McCown. Yes, that Josh McCown. Ben has struggled in away games the past 3-years. Now, however, he is bringing that stink back with him to the Steel City. In Week 5 against the Jaguars, Ben threw for 312 yards and 5 picks. After the game, he said, "Maybe I don't have it any more." That's not something you want to hear from your fantasy QB.
The Verdict: He is not who we thought he was. Ben stinks. He is 100 percent droppable. Will he get better? Yes. The end of his schedule is easier, and he has more home games. Is he worth a valued roster spot? No. The only way I would play Ben this year was if I had AB, my primary QB was on a Bye and the Steelers were at home in a plus matchup against a bad defense. Even then, I am checking the waiver wire first. Ben has only finished as a top-12 QB once in the past 5 seasons.
THE GOOD: TODD GURLEY / LAR
Todd Gurley came out in 2017 playing like he was back in 2015. In his first season, Gurley rushed for 1,106 yards and 10 TDs in only 13 games. Naturally, expectations were sky-high in his sophomore campaign, and he failed to live up to them. Last year, Gurley only rushed for 885 yards and 6 TDs, but he did get more involved in the passing game. Back to the present, so far Gurley has been the #2 overall RB, while rushing for 405 yards and 4 TDs and adding 241 yards and 3 TDs through the air.
Two weeks ago, your faithful stewards at FFCircus tapped Gurley as a sell-high candidate. We argued that the hot start to Gurley's season was in part due to the the Rams playing the worst run defenses. We pointed out that 10 of his remaining games were against top-15 run defenses. In his first game against a legitimate run defense in Seattle, Gurley was bottled up for 43 yards on 14 carries and only 2 catches for 7 yards.
The Verdict: He is who we thought he was. Gurley is the top offensive weapon for the Rams. He is a touch hog and opportunity is king in fantasy. We are still believers in selling high on Gurley, but only if you bring back a haul that makes your team better. As he continues to play better defenses, he will come back to earth, and at that point you are better off riding him yourself.
THE BAD: JAY AJAYI / MIA
Ajayi has not had an ideal start to the 2017 season. He had an ADP of 12th overall and 7th for RBs this year, but the Dolphins' RBA is currently the RB #41.
Ajayi's meteoric rise up the draft board was largely propelled by a 3 weeks in the his 2016 season. Ajayi rushed for 1,274 yards and 8 TDs last year, but almost half of his total yards and 4 of his TDs were racked up in 3 Weeks where he eclipsed the 200 yard mark. Most Ajayi owners expected a heavy, consistent workhorse back who would eclipse 1k yards with 7-10 TDs. That is not they guy they have got so far.
The Verdict: He is who we thought he was. In the two games the Dolphins were competive in this year, Ajayi had 30 touches and 27 touches. So far, Jay Cutler has been Ajayi's worst enemy. A switch at QB should only help him. The Dolphins are not good. In fact, they are statistically the worst offense in the league, but they will use Ajayi early and often. Keep plugging Ajayi into your lineups. It is only a matter of time before he finds pay dirt and he will eclipse the 1,000 yard mark by season's end. It will be interesting to see how the Hurricane induced Week 1 bye affects Ajayi. We might see a dip in production at the tail end of the year.
THE GOOD: CHRIS HOGAN / NE
When the Patriots brought in Brandin Cooks and Mike Gillislee in the off season, many looked at that roster and saw Cooks, Edelman, Gronk, Gillislee, and White as all better fantasy options than Chris Hogan. Edelman is done for the year, Gronk is struggling to stay on the field again, and Chris Hogan is the #5 WR in Fantasy, on pace for 16 TDs.
Hogan finished 2016 as the #58 WR last year. He has never had more that 41 receptions (2014) 646 yards (2016), and now 5 TDs this season. His owners are enjoying fantastic early season success, but will it hold up? Did Hogan owners draft the man they thought they did, or the super hero they have enjoyed for the first quarter of the season?
The Verdict - He is not who we thought he was. He's better. Hogan is on pace for 16 TDs on the year, something a WR hasn't been done since Dez Bryant in 2014. Should you expect 16 TDs? Nah. But 12-14 certainly isn't out of the question. Hogan has been on the field for 92% of the Patriots offensive snaps this season, and has established himself as one of Brady's favorite redzone targets. He is not going to rack up a ton of receiving yards, but he has been one of the most consistent WR plays of the season. Hogan is a solid WR2 going forward.
THE BAD: AMARI COOPER / OAK
"The Bad" doesn't quite capture how Cooper owners must feel. The f@#$ing awful might be a better fit. Amari Cooper was drafted at the end of the 1st or at the top of 2nd round in almost every single league this season. The 3rd year pro put up over 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons with the Raiders.
In the last four weeks, Cooper has caught 4 balls for 23 yards total. It bears repeating. In the last four weeks, Cooper, a consensus second round draft pick, has a total of 4 receptions for 23 yards. Woof. He is also struggling with dropping balls again this season, a problem he worked hard to improve on last year. Let's not mince words here, let's dive straight into the analysis.
Verdict: He is who we thought he was. If you are caught off guard by this, you haven't been paying attention to Amari Cooper's career. He has always struggled with drops. This is nothing new. In his rookie season, Cooper caught 2 or less passes in four weeks. He had 1 catch for 4 yards in Week 11, 0 catches in Week 14, and 2 catches each in Weeks 16 and 17. In his sophomore year, he had 2 catches in Week 13 and 1 catch in Week 15. These types of weeks are not new either. He has just bundled then together to start the year. The injury to Derek Carr is not helping anything. Do not panic and drop him. Do not trade him for pennies on the dollar. Bench him and wait for his coming out party. He is too talented not to have one soon.
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