On Aug. 4, 2016, ESPN public relations sent out the following news release.
ESPN's Matthew Berry Signs Multi-Year Extension Through 2021
Matthew Berry, the most recognizable and influential personality in fantasy sports, has reached a new contract extension with ESPN to continue as the company's Senior Fantasy Analyst through 2021.
Berry will continue to write for ESPN.com, host ESPN's "Fantasy Focus Football" podcast, serve as lead fantasy analyst for Fantasy Football Kickoff and Fantasy Football Now on ESPN2, as well as make regular appearances on Monday Night Countdown, Sunday NFL Countdown, NFL Live, and SportsCenter on ESPN, and more.
"No one works harder or loves his job more than Matthew Berry, and it shows in everything he does for ESPN and the fans we serve," said Chad Millman, ESPN Vice President and Editorial Director, Domestic Digital Content. "He actually lives the 'Fantasy Life' he describes in his writing, which makes his voice uniquely authentic and adds depth and breadth to his analysis. Matthew is the leading voice in fantasy sports and this passionate and engaged audience is crucial to every platform at ESPN. Without question we are happy to have Matthew at ESPN for years to come."
Since Berry joined ESPN full time nearly a decade ago, ESPN fantasy football has grown steadily every year and has been recognized as the No. 1 fantasy football game in the industry for the last several years. He also was the first fantasy football analyst to join ESPN's NFL Draft Day coverage last year.
Berry's written work forms the foundation of ESPN's industry-leading fantasy football coverage. His annual "Love/Hate" column, which will be released on Aug. 11, consistently ranks among the top trafficked stories on ESPN.com for the entire year, while the in-season editions are among the most-read columns on ESPN.com on a weekly basis. Berry also headlines ESPN's weekly fantasy football rankings, which are among ESPN's most popular pieces of content each week during the fantasy football season and are integrated in ESPN's industry-leading fantasy football game and the ESPN's Fantasy Football app.
The Fantasy Focus Football podcast, which Berry cohosts along with partner Field Yates, is ESPN's top-rated podcast on a yearly basis, and generated the top five individual months by any company podcast during the 2016 NFL season. It was named best Fantasy Sports Podcast for 2015 by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association and has won seven Podcast Awards until this past year, when it was declared a "legacy" podcast, making it ineligible from winning additional awards. Also, as part of Berry's new responsibilities, the podcast will become the first ESPN digital audio product to be filmed for digital video distribution on a daily basis.
His first book, "Fantasy Life," was published in 2013 and debuted at number five on the New York Times Best Seller list, spending two months on the list. He has won a Sports Emmy for his work on Fantasy Football Now on ESPN2 -- the network's highest rated non-live event programming in the fall -- and was named the 2013 Marketer of the Year by the Academy of Marketing Science for his role in fueling the growth of fantasy football.
Berry joined ESPN in January of 2005, working part time for ESPN Radio 710 in Los Angeles. In 2006, he joined ESPN2's The Fantasy Show alongside Ron Jaworski, and in February 2007 he joined the company full time when his web site, TalentedMr.Roto.com, was acquired by ESPN. Berry also founded and still owns RotoPass.com and is the founder of Fantasy Movie League, as well as the app Fantasy Life, based off of his book.
Berry started writing about fantasy sports professionally in 1999 and has been a contributor to many top media and sports outlets prior to joining ESPN, He is a graduate of Syracuse University.
ESPN Fantasy Sports serves fans with a wide range of Fantasy games, along with industry-leading expert analysis and content, compelling community tools, and full integration across multiple platforms, including the No. 1 NFL Fantasy Football Game.
So, when I read that, I was actually speechless. I mean ... it's kind of insane to read, you know? The entire public relations team did a bang-up job. Seriously, my mom couldn't have written it better. I actually edited it down a little bit for this. So I'm truly humbled and blessed, and even kind of embarrassed.
And here's the thing: It's actually 100 percent true. Every rating, award, download and page view is absolutely accurate. There's only one thing that anyone could quibble about with the release:
It's not the whole story. Not even close.
You see, ESPN PR could have easily sent out the following release, also 100 percent accurate:
ESPN's Matthew Berry doesn't get fired
Matthew Berry, one of the hundreds of different people who contribute to ESPN's fantasy coverage on all platforms, has reached a new contract extension with ESPN to keep doing his job. With incredible assistance from the Fantasy editorial team, the copy desk and ESPN Stats & Information, Berry will continue to write and rank for ESPN.com. With tremendous support from producers, directors, associate producers, production assistants, huge technical crews, the hair and makeup department, anchors and fellow analysts, he'll appear on various ESPN TV shows, usually for about 90 seconds.
"I'm surprised people find him to be a good writer/entertaining," said Reddit commenter pooroldben, upon learning of the new contract. "Honestly I find him incredibly irritating and a genuinely unpleasant human."
Twitter user @IronMetalRoses added, " ... but he sucks, tho. He's been overrated the past three years and is declining."
After doing some part-time work at hours no one really listened to on ESPN Radio 710 in Los Angeles, Berry joined ESPN in 2006 as the main fantasy analyst for ESPN2's "The Fantasy Show." The show was canceled after half a season. The next year, Berry was the main fantasy analyst for ESPNEWS' "Fantasy Insiders" show. That show was canceled after a year. Doing a fantasy football segment by himself on the first episode of Sunday NFL Countdown in 2008, Berry was removed for the second episode and only brought back later that year when paired with polished NFL analyst Merril Hoge. Among the very popular ESPN TV shows that Berry has absolutely nothing to do with are Mike & Mike in the Morning, First Take, His and Hers, SportsNation, Highly Questionable, Around the Horn, Pardon the Interruption and all editions of SportsCenter, except for the 11 a.m. ET edition on Thursday, on which he appeared for five weeks last year. The segment was canceled in early November 2015. He has not appeared on the show since. SportsCenter continues to improve its ratings in total views across platforms.
In 2011, he had a weekly segment on ESPN Radio's popular SVP & Russillo. That was canceled after eight weeks. In 2013, Berry appeared weekly on the popular The Herd with Colin Cowherd. That segment was canceled after six weeks. Those are the only two times in the past decade Berry has had a weekly segment on ESPN Radio. As of this writing, he has not appeared on ESPN Radio in almost a year. ESPN Radio is coming off another record-setting year for ratings across platforms and in total revenue.
Berry will continue to write his "Love/Hate" column for ESPN, a column that in 2011 suggested Michael Vick should be the No. 1 overall pick. Among the "loves" in last year's preseason edition were Andre Johnson, Ameer Abdullah, Joseph Randle, Ryan Tannehill and Nelson Agholor. Yeesh. A paid spokesperson for DraftKings.com, Berry drew the ire of, well, pretty much everyone last year for his first column of 2015, which badly misjudged how interested people were in DFS advice in the column. He had been appearing in national DraftKings commercials for more than a month and assumed everyone knew he was a paid spokesman for the company. Not everyone did, and Berry had to write an apology column the week after. And don't get us started on the whole pool noodle thing. In fact, Berry can be counted on to screw up at least one column a year.
A frequent target of criticism on social media, message boards and blogs, Berry co-hosted the Fantasy Focus podcast with Nate Ravitz for many years. Upon learning of the contract extension, Facebook.com user David Martignetti commented, "Matthew is not funny and no more Nate and PodVader to reign him in."
This is a common refrain: that Ravitz, not Berry, was the key to the show's success. The real dude guy 1, an iTunes commenter, said in a recent one-star review, "Don't listen and waste your time! Matt Berry is not funny at all and should stop giving out ff [advice] and be an ESPN parking lot attendant instead. Seriously go find other better ff podcasts."
Berry was fired as host of a college TV talk show because they felt he was too uncomfortable to watch, forced to quit writing for his college newspaper, fired from two different production assistant jobs, failed to get way too many screenwriting jobs to count, fired from his own script that he sold at Paramount, forced to go to arbitration with Paul Hogan, failed to get a job writing for free at two different fantasy sports websites until latching on at Rotoworld, who eventually fired him from his $100 a week job, started his own site and supplied fantasy content for free to CBSSports.com. They fired him after a year. Had multiple meetings and failed to convince executives at Fox, CBS, Yahoo!, ESPN, Fox again, Sporting News, ESPN again, Yahoo! again, and USA Today on his ideas about fantasy before finally lucking out and finding a way into ESPN in 2007.
Meanwhile, since 2007, ESPN Fantasy has grown tremendously thanks to the hard work and incredible passion of the entire company, from the technology and product teams that have built the apps and improved the games every year to the salespeople that have helped monetize it to the marketing and promotion folks, who make everyone aware of it, to the literally thousands of people who touch our content every day on every possible platform: discussing, promoting, linking to, tweeting and Facebooking about, designing, writing and editing about fantasy sports for almost a decade.
ESPN Fantasy serves fans with a wide range of games, along with industry-leading expert analysis and content, compelling community tools, and full integration across multiple platforms, including the No. 1 NFL Fantasy Football Game. And that would continue without missing a beat if Matthew Berry got hit by a bus tomorrow.
So after the first news release went out, I got such a wonderful response: emails, tweets and texts from friends, fans, colleagues and fellow fantasy analysts. It meant a tremendous amount to me. Really, you have no idea. I cannot thank you all enough.
The first news release is great, right? That's the one I sent to my parents and showed my wife. It's the one I posted on Facebook, it's the one I'll pull out and read when I'm old.
But, you see, the first news release doesn't happen without the second. NOT. AT. ALL.
I am 46 years old and have had some sort of job every year of my life since I was 14. From paperboy to cashier at a toy store to production assistant in radio, show business and sports, I've worked a bunch of different jobs at a bunch of different companies. And I'm beyond thrilled that at the end of this deal I'll have been at ESPN for more than 15 years. It's by far the longest I have ever worked in one place, and I couldn't be happier.
But it wasn't the smoothest ride, and no doubt there are many challenges still to come.
Which brings us, meandering slowly once again, into this year's preseason Love/Hate. I chose to write this because as we all embark on our little fantasy football journey this year, there will be ups, there will be downs and there will most certainly be unexpected challenges and opportunities. How you react to them will make all the difference. And as you face that adversity, I hope you'll remember the second release, because you don't get the trophy without it.
Before we actually get to some football content, a few ground rules. Sadly, I have to lay them out every year. We start with this:
I hate the terms "sleeper" and "bust." I believe there is no such thing. To put it another way, every single player can be either a sleeper or a bust. It just comes down to what it costs to acquire said player and whether that player exceeds or falls short of that cost.
Not to get all Shark Tanky -- it isn't actually word but what the hell do I care, I got a five-year deal, I'm above the laws of grammar and spelling -- but a super-basic business term is return on investment, or "ROI." Let's pretend you are on the hit ABC show pitching the sharks and your company makes two products:
1. A T-shirt that advertises ESPN's brand new free fantasy app that allows you to control all of your fantasy teams in one app, with increased video and content.
2. A T-shirt that advertises the new Star Wars film "Rogue One," coming this holiday season from Disney/LucasFilm.
Both products sell equally well.
Mark Cuban can't believe how blatant all the company promotion is, so he's out.
Lori Greiner asks about price point.
You tell her the App shirt sells for $20 and the Star Wars shirt sells for $25.
Mr. Wonderful hasn't been paying attention, but he snaps out of it to tell you he's so bored by this whole analogy he's out too.
Barbara Corcoran scolds Mr. Wonderful for being a jerk and says a bunch of really nice, kind and supportive things about your business before also saying, yeah, she's out.
Daymond John, the apparel expert of the sharks, says he might be interested, but only if you consolidated your business to one product. Since both shirts sell at the exact same rate, you might say you want to keep selling the $25 shirt, since you take in $5 more on that shirt.
But then Lori asks what it costs to make each shirt. Each shirt costs the same to make. However, there is no royalty on the ESPN shirt, as they are pushing the new-and-improved app almost as much as they are promoting the fact that you should play your league out on ESPN.com on the free, fully customized league manager product. ESPN is happy to let you print as many shirts as you want, as they want the advertising.
The Star Wars shirt, however, charges a 30 percent royalty rate on the image of Darth Vader because, did I mention that Darth Vader is in "Rogue One"? Because he is, and that's awesome. Anyway, because of the royalty rate, you have to pay Disney $7.50 more per shirt for Star Wars than you do for the app shirt.
So despite the Star Wars shirt being more expensive, you actually make more money (or have a better ROI) on the app shirt, to the tune of $2.50 more per shirt. A "Shark Tank" producer has explained all of this to you during a commercial break, because you were kicked off long ago ... because let's face it, who is investing in a two-shirt company?
I seem to have lost my way. Whatever. Five-year deal. Word count means nothing to me. (Editor's note: Don't I know it!) The point is that in fantasy, the idea of ROI is the same as in the T-shirt example. Every player has value. Every. Single. Player. It's just what it costs to acquire that player. Now, a player's perceived value is baked into his draft position. There's a reason Rob Gronkowski goes early in drafts and Eric Ebron does not. As it stands today, one is a much more valuable commodity.
But sometimes, players are not properly valued. Last year, Devonta Freeman was priced as a backup running back on a so-so offense, going in the 10th to 12th round. His ROI was the No. 1 running back in fantasy, worthy of a first-round selection. Meanwhile, Eddie Lacy was a first-rounder in cost last season, but he finished outside the top 25 of running backs, making his ROI as a 10th-rounder or so.
Getting below-market players and avoiding players who don't return value is how you win in fantasy football. That brings us to this column, which is all about players who, based on ESPN.com live draft results for standard 10-team leagues, are either under- or over-valued.
Please use this column as intended.
It is not a sleepers and busts column. Rather, it's a market inefficiency column. With puns.
So here's what I did: I went to that ESPN.com average draft position (ADP) page. This is a list of the average rounds in which players are being drafted in ESPN standard 10-team leagues. I made notes about who is going too high or too low in drafts, and very soon I will discuss them.
A few more notes before we get there. Please understand that ADP varies widely depending on the site you play on. So while we hope everyone plays with us (I mentioned the new app, right?), we know some of you have stubborn commissioners who haven't seen the light. But I had to pick a list to do this off of and hey, I'm a company man, blah blah blah. So I am using ESPN's. So while I have Chicago Bears tight end Zach Miller currently ranked 10th (guess what list he's on), ESPN has him ranked 13th (though his ESPN ADP is 18th), a competitor's site also has him being drafted at 18th overall, yet another site has him being drafted at 26. So it varies wildly. It's very important to know the ADP of the site you are playing on.
If you'd like extra credit, a quick and helpful exercise is to go through the ADP on the site you are drafting on and, comparing it with whatever set of rankings you are going to use, see which players you "love" and "hate."
Since I have Miller at 10, and that's higher than he's being drafted, he's a "Love." Meanwhile, ESPN and two other competitor sites all have Ben Roethlisberger as a top-five QB this year. I currently have him as QB8. So for me, he's a "hate," even though I think Ben is a very good QB who will have a nice season. He's just being drafted too high for me relative to what I believe his return will be, so, you know ... "hate."
Lastly, remember that just because I "love" guys like Kirk Cousins and "hate" guys like Big Ben, I'm not saying you should draft Cousins over Ben. (Though I think it'll be closer than folks think). It just means at Cousins' ADP of 11th round, I think that is too low, while Roethlisberger's fifth-round price tag on ESPN is too pricey for me. In addition to not being a sleepers and busts column, it's also not a comprehensive list of every player I like or dislike. I think Keenan Allen has a big year, but I have him as a WR2, which is where he's going, so he doesn't make the list. He is valued properly. And to answer a common question every year, there's a reason there are so many more loves than hates. You don't really need me to tell you not to draft Case Keenum. His value and rank reflect that he's not thought of highly in fantasy. I'll still go round by round, and in a standard ESPN league there are 16 rounds, so you'll get at least 16 hates. I am from the "there's no such thing as a bad pick after Round 12" philosophy. So that means I am choosing "hates" only from guys who are high enough to be drafted with big expectations. That's a very finite group.
Finally, please remember this is being written in early August. No preseason games have been played, camps haven't been open that long and much can and will change in the next month. Fantasy value changes all the time. Roles and opportunities, information about players and schemes, draft trends, health and results in the preseason all play a factor, and if you refuse to keep your mind open and are unwilling to change an opinion of a player once you get new info, that's a quick way to lose. The next few weeks are crucial. Also, be sure to read my 100 Facts column, which will give a lot of context to every single thing you read this preseason. It's probably my favorite column of the year.
So follow me on Twitter and become my friend on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, the Fantasy Life app and whatever new app will be invented this week. Listen to our daily Fantasy Focus podcast, watch the "Fantasy Football Marathon" starting at 7 p.m. ET on Monday, Aug. 15 (Adam Schefter and I will be on TV for 28 straight hours. I may get fired yet). Read all the articles, news blurbs and rankings updates, watch the preseason games until it's time to draft, mock draft like crazy and then make the decision.
If you choose to ignore that, don't blame me for it. Remember, only a poor craftsman blames his tools. That's all I am: your tool. Wait, that came out wrong. Which is odd, given that I've used that joke seven years in a row now. What? I got a long-term deal. You think I'm updating my material now? Please. I'm going full Haynesworth.
Quarterbacks I love in 2016
Tom Brady, New England Patriots (ADP is QB7, my QB5): The Gronk You Tour, Part Two: This time it's personal! Coming off a season in which Brady was the second-best player in fantasy, it's sort of silly to think he's going to take it to the next level or anything out of some sort of revenge narrative. I mean, it's not like he wasn't trying his best last year. But consider this: As great as Brady's career has been, it's amazing to note that his completion percentage and TD total have risen in consecutive years while his INT count has declined in each instance ... the first time that has occurred in his career. One of the reasons for that is the continuity on offense. Last season, the Patriots returned every key offensive skill player to the team (sorry, Brandon LaFell, I said "key"), and they do so again this year while adding Martellus Bennett and Chris Hogan, among others. They are a pass-first, second and third team; did you know the Patriots had a league-high 84 pass attempts inside an opponent's 10-yard line? Brady scored on 74.1 percent of his opportunities (pass completions plus rushing attempts) inside the opponent's 10 last season. By comparison, Cam Newton scored on 56.8 percent of such opportunities in 2015. The biggest argument against Brady is the four-game suspension and I'm just not worried about it. You can do a lot of damage in 12 games. You know who played 12 games last year? Todd Gurley, last year's No. 5 RB. Quarterback is so deep this year that five games of a replacement-level QB (suspension plus bye week) and Brady is easily a top-five fantasy QB. I wrote a little more in depth in my Draft Day Manifesto, but among the QBs I really like to pair with Brady are Derek Carr, Kirk Cousins, Matthew Stafford, Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan.
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints (ADP QB6, my QB6): So he's going where he should. I just wanted to throw him in here because I often see him drafted behind Ben Roethlisberger, and that's nuts to me. After missing a game in Week 3 because of injury, Brees was the second-best QB in fantasy from Week 4 on. He has compiled at least 4,300 yards passing and 33 total touchdowns for eight straight seasons. Or, you know, eight more times than Roethlisberger has. (Big Ben has never done it). Adding Coby Fleener and rookie Michael Thomas should help, especially with the emergence of Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead, the return of Mark Ingram and a defense that should continue to be somewhat suspect. Per Tristan H. Cockcroft's always helpful consistency rankings, Brees was starter-worthy (finished as a top-10 QB for a week he played in) more than 52 percent of the time the past three years. Only Russell Wilson has a higher percentage. Big Ben? 33.3 percent. (You'll never guess who is going to be in "hate" by the way. Wait, you guessed? Who told you?)
Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins (ADP QB13, my QB11): OK, so when you draft him someone WILL make a lame "you like that" joke. Warning you up front, you'll have to deal with that. In fantasy football history, it's second only to someone saying "championship" after "Houshmanzilli" in terms of way-past-its-prime jokes. BUT, that's the only thing you're going to regret about drafting him. He's going at QB13 on ESPN, but I have seen him much lower on other sites, and I guess if you want to poke holes, you can say he's unlikely to repeat the five rushing touchdowns. And that may be true, although I believe three of them were designed runs. When a season like that comes out of nowhere, the question is, in essence, why did it happen and is it repeatable? It happened because he was a perfect fit for what Jay Gruden and Sean McVay wanted to do offensively. They had to throw aggressively because of their poor defense and he finally figured out how to stop turning the ball over. You look at Jordan Reed, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson, along with a lack of depth in the backfield, and this is a team that will be throwing. A LOT. So yeah, totally repeatable. Did you see this nugget in John Keim's blog post? It included this quote: "After the first Dallas game, the Redskins changed their offensive approach. Offensive coordinator Sean McVay knew he needed to stay more aggressive with the passing game." That Dallas game was Week 13. Weeks 14-17, Washington (Cousins didn't play all of Week 17) led the NFL in yards per attempt, QBR and completion percentage, tied for the lead in passing touchdowns, and was third in passing yards. Need more of a sample size? Fine.
Jokes aside, the Tampa Bay game in Week 7 (the "You like that!" game) was a turning point for Cousins, as he led his team back to an improbable victory and seemed to finally feel comfortable in the offense, knowing the team was his. (Remember, RG III was the starter at the beginning of camp.) From Week 7 on, he had the fifth-best QBR in the NFL, led the NFL in completion percentage and yards per attempt, was sixth in touchdown passes, threw just three picks and only Cam Newton and Russell Wilson had more fantasy points per game.
Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills (ADP QB18, my QB12): Taylor is playing for a contract extension and locked into the starting job this season (he was splitting reps all through training camp last year). On a points-per-game basis last season, he was the eighth-best QB in fantasy, the team finally figured out how to use Sammy Watkins and I need some short entries because I just wrote a novel on Kirk Cousins.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (ADP QB20, my QB 13): Yes, there's no Calvin Johnson. But while Marvin Jones isn't Calvin, he's still pretty good. And one might even say Stafford is Cooterrific. Coming out of their Week 9 bye last season (after Jim Bob Cooter was installed as offensive coordinator), Stafford was a different guy, much more comfortable in the offense. After the bye, Stafford ranked first in completions, second in completion percentage, tied for third in touchdown passes, fifth in passing yards, threw just two interceptions and had more than 310 passing yards OR multiple touchdown passes in all seven of his games. He was the fourth-best fantasy QB in that time frame. An improved offensive line should keep him more upright and while I don't expect him to be the fourth-best fantasy QB this year -- and yeah, no Megatron -- he's going outside the top 15. Come on!
Others receiving votes: From Weeks 10-17, Jameis Winston was the ninth-best QB in fantasy. Some of that is skewed by his five-touchdown game against Philly, but even without that game, he averaged better than 16 points a game. I like Winston to improve his accuracy and efficiency this season and take a next step. ... Yes, it has been a minute but Robert Griffin III has been a top-10 fantasy QB before. Andy Dalton averaged more than 16 points a game under Hue Jackson and obviously doesn't have the rushing upside of RG III. If Josh Gordon comes back to being Josh Gordon. ... Finally, this is being written before even one preseason game has been played, but whoever wins the 49ers QB job is interesting to me. Chip Kelly made fantasy stars out of the likes of Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez. Whatever you think of Colin Kaepernick or Blaine Gabbert, you can't tell me Foles or Sanchez is better. Because they aren't. They all can run some and by the way, Jeff Driskel is worth remembering toward the end of your dynasty draft.
Quarterbacks I hate in 2016
Any QB drafted in the first four rounds: The position is the deepest it has ever been. Wait on a QB. Wait, wait, wait, especially in ESPN standard 10-team leagues.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers (ADP QB5, my QB8): I know. You're shocked. It's not that I don't like him, I just don't like as much as everyone else. It's insane to me that he's going ahead of Brees. Ben's best season ever was 2014, which featured the two six-touchdown games and he was still just five points better than Brees that year. Five. As mentioned in the Brees write-up, this is about the inconsistency of Roethlisberger ("startable" as a top-10 option only 33 percent of the time the past three seasons). He has played all 16 games only three times in his career and while replacement level at QB is strong, if you're drafting one of the top five you're doing it so that you don't have to waste a roster spot on another QB. Losing Martavis Bryant to suspension doesn't help and new tight end Ladarius Green is already banged up. Big Ben will definitely be a solid fantasy QB this season, but if he finishes as a top-five QB (where he's being drafted), it would be only the second time in 13 years he has done so.
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars (ADP QB10, my QB14): The weird part is I actually think Bortles takes a step forward and becomes a better NFL QB this season while regressing as a fantasy QB. I pointed this out in 100 Facts, but so much of his production last season came while the Jags were down big (15 TDs when trailing by 10 or more and 83 percent of his total TDs came when trailing). The Jags will have a better defense and a more balanced offense, especially in close. Last season, no QB had more passing attempts inside an opponent's 10-yard line, and only one had more such passing touchdowns than Bortles. The addition of Chris Ivory (fourth-most rushing attempts and tied for the seventh-most rushing touchdowns inside an opponent's 10-yard line the past two seasons) should also bring that back to the mean. Bortles does have talented offensive players around him, of course, and if he can solve his accuracy and turnover issues Jags fans should be excited. He'll be solid this season and have some big games, but those expecting last year's top-five QB again will be disappointed.
Running backs I love in 2016
Lamar Miller, RB, Houston Texans (ADP RB7, my RB3): This is something like the 15th annual preseason "Love/Hate" and some things have remained unchanged. It's insanely long, there's an egocentric trope about myself to start it and Lamar Miller is listed as a "love." He has been a love every year he has been in the league, and while he always has seemed to leave us wanting more, this might be the last year I get to use him here, because as he shoots up the ranks, it becomes harder to say he's "undervalued." But I believe he's a first-rounder this year and so far, he has not being drafted like it. "Free Lamar Miller" was a frequent chant heard during his time in Miami. By this point you probably know that, of running backs with at least 400 carries the past two seasons, he has the highest yards-per-carry (YPC) mark. This will give you an idea of what we are talking about here with Miller:
Past two seasons:
Lamar Miller: 403 carries for 1,971 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns
Le'Veon Bell: 410 carries for 1,917 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns
Bell obviously kills him in receptions, averaging about two more per game. And yes, Le'Veon has played 10 fewer games than Miller in this span, which is why the totals are so close. But the point remains: They've had basically the same number of touches over the past two years and look how they compare.
Now let's talk about Miller and touches. Under Bill O'Brien, Arian Foster averaged 23 touches a game, which is 368 during the course of the season. Last season, Miller had only 241 touches. With Miller expecting a workload similar to what Bell gets when healthy, imagine what he can do. On a per-touch basis, he has produced like an elite back. This season, he'll get the work to put up elite totals every week. All in on Lamar Miller. ALL. IN.
LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills (ADP RB13, my RB9): He's not without risk, of course, but then again, aren't we all? Tyrod Taylor helps all facets of this offense including the run game, because run, they shall. The Bills ended last season with five straight games with 30-plus rush attempts, the second-longest streak of 2015 and the longest active streak heading into 2016. Karlos Williams is an important handcuff when he comes back from suspension, but there will be enough runs for all involved. The offensive line improved a lot last season, as McCoy and Williams averaged 5.41 yards per carry going left behind Richie Incognito and Cordy Glenn last year. While Glenn is expected to sit out the preseason, I'm not concerned at the moment.
C.J. Anderson, Denver Broncos (ADP RB14, my RB12): He seems to be creeping up in ADP. When I was putting this list together he was a bit lower, but regardless, he's a love for me. Look, what's Denver going to do? Let Paxton Sanchez Siemian throw it? Exactly. If I'm Gary Kubiak, and as far as you know, I could be, I'm going to win this year by playing great defense and running the ball, traditionally a hallmark of a Kubiak offense. And when CJA has gotten the rock, he has been effective. In 11 career games with 15-plus rushes (including playoffs), Anderson has totaled 1,083 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. Only Todd Gurley and Adrian Peterson hit both of those benchmarks in 2015 and, if projected over a 16-game season, works out to 1,575 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns, which on rushing totals only would've made him the No. 2 running back in fantasy last season. Finally healthy after a slow start to the season, Anderson looked like his old self down the stretch. And the fact that Denver matched Miami's offer to keep him bodes well for how they think of him.
When the apocalypse comes -- and it's coming -- the only beings that will survive are Frank Gore and people who look exactly like Frank Gore because, in an apocalypse, everything gets nutty and it's hard to concentrate. It'll be easier for the zombies to not mess with anyone who might or might not be Frank Gore and focus their efforts on the rest of us pathetic humans. Frank Gore will not die. He's like a Twinkie, if that Twinkie were filled with tasty fantasy points, that is!
Looking back on it, it's as true then as it is now. Sure, I probably could have written something new, but I got my deal. It's so much easier to cut and paste. (I'm telling you. Full Haynesworth here. FULL. HAYNESWORTH.) Yes, Gore's old, but he hasn't missed a game since 2010. Showing up is half the battle. As bad as the Colts were last season and as frustrating as Gore was, he still finished as the 12th-best running back in fantasy. That probably speaks more to how ugly running back was last season, but whatevs dude, it still counts. On a terrible team with a bad offensive line, and let's call it an inconsistent offense, there were still only four players (Adrian Peterson, Todd Gurley, Chris Ivory and Devonta Freeman) who finished the regular season with more rushing yards AND more rushing touchdowns than Gore (967 and 6). He had 14 games with 15-plus touches in 2015. In the past five games Gore played in with Andrew Luck, he had more than 90 yards four times and averaged 11.54 fantasy points per game (RB11 LeSean McCoy averaged 11.42 last year). The Colts upgraded their offensive line and Gore, who is both a very good pass blocker and decent pass catcher, will stay on the field as much as possible to protect Andrew Luck. He doesn't have very much competition for work as the No. 1 back on what should be a very good offense. Josh Ferguson is sort of interesting in a late-round sort of way, but this is Gore's gig as long as he's solid. And he will be.
Dion Lewis, New England Patriots (ADP RB18, my RB16): As the pass-catching running back on the team that attempted the fifth-most passes last season, and one in which the QB doesn't throw deep anymore, Lewis was very good in the limited time he was healthy. In the six full games Lewis played, he scored 73 points in ESPN standard scoring. Last season, only six running backs scored more than 73 points in their first six games. With 15 red zone touches (including 12 carries) in the seven games in which he appeared, Lewis is not only a third-down back. Since Tom Brady's average depth of target has dropped for three straight years now (more dump-offs to running backs!), Lewis is an integral part of the offense. Stop me if you've heard this one before, but yes, health is an issue. But when healthy, he's the best running back on one of the best offenses in football.
Matt Jones, Washington Redskins (ADP RB24, my RB21): Sometimes you don't have to be the best-looking one left at the bar, you just have to be the only one left at the bar. Matt Jones got a lot prettier when Alfred Morris was not re-signed. Now, Chris Thompson is going to take some third-down work and rookie Keith Marshall has impressed so far, but this is Jones' job. His leash isn't long, but he'll get first crack and I believe he will take the job and run with it. Ha! You see what I did there? Run? Running back? Whatever. I don't have to be funny until 2021. This is going to be one of the better offenses in the NFL and he'll be the main guy. Small sample size and all that, but when Jones has received work (more than 10 carries) he has averaged 11.9 ESPN points per game. Extend that to a 16-game season and you're looking at 190 points ... or the third-highest-scoring RB in 2015 (Doug Martin was RB3 with 187 points). He showed flashes of being special last preseason, was inconsistent in his rookie year and he knows it. Expect him to seize the opportunity.
Rashad Jennings (ADP RB31, my RB27) and Paul Perkins, New York Giants (ADP RB57, my RB37): Jennings was a beast down the stretch once he finally got work (the third-best RB in fantasy Weeks 14-17, the only weeks he had at least 14 carries) and this is going to be a high-tempo (fifth-most offensive snaps the past two years), fantasy-friendly offense. Perkins is a talented rookie who was an elusive pass catcher at UCLA (also averaged 5.6 yards per carry there). He'll fit nicely with the Giants offense. Now, Jennings is 31 and has had issues staying healthy in the past, so you need to make sure you have both of these guys (among the reasons I have Perkins as high as I do). But combined, this is an RB2 that you can get for much cheaper than that.
Others receiving votes: Over the past two years, the Bengals were top five in rushing attempts under Hue Jackson. He's going to run, run, run in Cleveland, making both Duke Johnson Jr. and Isaiah Crowell undervalued. ... Latavius Murray is not on the most solid ground, but the Raiders' offensive line is no joke. Rookie DeAndre Washington is definitely going to have a role in Oakland and he easily could have a big one. ... I am not a big Justin Forsett believer, so I'd watch the Ravens closely. Rookie Kenneth Dixon is a nice fit for Marc Trestman's offense from a skill standpoint and as of this writing, Terrance West has been the talk of Ravens camp. ... Chris Ivory, not T.J. Yeldon, is the Jags running back you want. ... The lead back in an Adam Gase offense, on a per-game basis, gets more than 65 percent of the RB touches. At some point this season, Jay Ajayi is going to have a lot of value. ... I think the jury is still out on if DeMarco Murray is really all that good. Derrick Henry is a very worthwhile flyer, especially with his RB37 ADP. ... I already mentioned Keith Marshall and Josh Ferguson, and I will say for those betting against Jeremy Langford (looking at you, Mike Clay), Ka'Deem Carey scored on all three of his runs inside the 10 last season and averaged over 4.5 yards per carry on a bad team. I know you all love Jordan Howard, but John Fox has traditionally not been a rookie lover.
Running backs I hate in 2016
Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons (ADP RB5, my RB10): So yeah, I'm a little nervous. Let's start with repeatability. Since 2003, only five RBs have caught 70 passes AND scored 14 total touchdowns in a season, and none of them have done it twice in that span (LaDainian Tomlinson, Priest Holmes, Steven Jackson, Ray Rice and Jamaal Charles). Does Freeman belong in this category? Furthermore, can he do something than none of them (or any other RB for that matter) has done since 2002-03? Now, Tomlinson and Holmes both did it in 2002 and 2003. Are you ready to say Devonta Freeman is LaDainian Tomlinson or Priest Holmes in their prime?
Obviously, he could still have a very good year and not reach those levels, and hey, I have him as a top-10 RB, so it's not as if I'm expecting him to fall off a cliff. He'll be heavily involved in the passing game, and the addition of Alex Mack to what was already a very good offensive line can only help. So while he beat up the NFC East last season (449 yards and five touchdowns versus NYG, DAL, WSH and PHI, which he gets again this year), the schedule gets tougher this year as they face the NFC West and AFC West. Most concerning is the second half of last season, when he became mortal. I've pointed this out before, but in Weeks 9-17, Tim Hightower (who hadn't taken an NFL snap since 2011 before Week 9) and Ameer Abdullah (who didn't play more than 42 percent of snaps in a single one of those games) had more than Freeman's 352 rushing yards. Freeman averaged just 3.1 yards per carry during the second half. He was also just 39th in yards after contact per rush. If you add Freeman's receiving yards, he was 20th among runners in total yards over the second half. Which is still solid, but it's not top five, you know?
Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders (ADP RB19, my RB22): Murray has looked better in camp recently and no doubt, the Raiders' offensive line is no joke, so he's been creeping up my ranks a bit, but I'm still nervous. As mentioned in others receiving votes above, DeAndre Washington will most certainly cut into Murray's workload. And that's not a good thing, because last year workload was all Murray had going for him. Well, that, and an awesome name. My next kid, boy or girl, is going to be named Latavius.
His fantasy production was a result of volume (third in the NFL with 266 carries) and not efficiency (33rd in yards per carry.) He seemed to wear down as the game went on, averaging just 2.2 yards per carry in the fourth quarter last season and scored five of his six rushing TDs on his first 10 carries of the game. It wasn't just the games during which he fizzled out, he wore down as the season went on, too. Murray's yards per carry dropped from 4.8 in games 1-8 to 3.3 in games 9-16 (a 31.3 percent drop-off). How bad was he down the stretch? In Weeks 11-17, his yards per carry was 3.18 ... or less than Melvin Gordon's 3.26. In fact, there were 32 RBs to get at least 60 carries during that stretch, and Murray ranked dead last in YPC (Alfred Morris, Javorius Allen and Shaun Draughn are among the names who ranked ahead of him). He was also 27th among RBs with at least 40 carries in rushing yards after first contact per rush. Oakland plans on running more plays from under center this season, which should also help him, but I'd feel a lot better about him as my flex than as the RB19 at which he's being drafted.
DeMarco Murray, Tennessee Titans (ADP RB20, my RB25): How convinced are we that Murray is really good? Yes, he had great production behind the Cowboys' offensive line. But then again, Darren McFadden was the 13th-best RB in fantasy last season despite not getting double-digit carries until Week 7 and playing on an offense with no other weapons, as Tony Romo and Dez Bryant were out for most of the season. Murray was brutal in Philadelphia. His 3.64 yards per carry ranked 65th among RBs, and if you subtract his 54-yard run in Week 17, we are looking at 3.38. Trent Richardson's career yards per carry: 3.31. And now Murray's in Tennessee, where he'll have to compete for touches with Derrick Henry (especially around the goal line) and third-down back Dexter McCluster. When he didn't get the ball last season in Philly he pouted, made a public stink about it and generally didn't play well with others. Forgetting the injury concerns (just one year of five he has played all 16 games, though he has been healthier recently) and granting that the Titans' system is a better fit for his skill set, you can't tell me there isn't real risk here if it all goes south ... and, you know, in Tennessee, that could definitely happen. Like Murray, I'd feel much better about him as a flex than the RB2 he's going as.
T.J. Yeldon, Jacksonville Jaguars (ADP RB32, my RB42): How about I just put this red zone stat from last season right here:
T.J. Yeldon: 25 touches and 2 scores
Chris Ivory: 43 touches and 7 scores
With an improved defense, the Jags' offense will be a bit more balanced, and you know I expect Bortles to regress, but they're still going to be a passing offense. So now you've got Yeldon as the non-red zone part of a committee on a pass-first team. Friend of the podcast Allen Hurns came on the show recently and we asked him point-blank which guy you should draft. He said Ivory. Are you going to argue with him? Barring injury to Ivory, I'm not convinced Yeldon will be flex-worthy in non-bye weeks this season.
Wide receivers I love in 2016
Brandin Cooks, New Orleans Saints (ADP WR14, my WR10): So, I met Cooks this summer at an event. I say that not to name drop, but rather to say that we had about an hour where we were just hanging out, the two of us, waiting for it to start. Loved the guy. We talked football the whole time, his approach and thoughts, and while I won't share what we discussed, I will say that after talking to him I am even higher on him than before. He was mentioned in this column last year and he delivered. He was leaving the event to meet up with Drew Brees and start catching passes. It was the middle of June. Don't want to take my word for it? Fine. Cooks has caught 68.8 percent of his targets for his career. Not bad, especially since he got at least eight targets in 10 games last season. Just 22 years old and improving every year, expect Cooks to take another leap as the No. 1 wideout on a team that had the second-most pass attempts in football last season.
Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers (ADP WR22, my WR15): Since Aaron Rodgers became a starter in 2009, only Tom Brady averages more fantasy points between the hashes than the Green Bay QB. Here's why you care about that stat: Since entering the league in 2011, no active receiver (as of now, since Wes Welker is not on a team) other than Cobb has more than 206 slot receptions ... Cobb has 250. Since entering the league in 2011, no receiver other than Cobb has more than 21 receiving touchdowns out of the slot ... Cobb has 29. Since entering the league in 2011, no receiver has more fantasy points (both standard and PPR) than Cobb out of the slot. Me likey Cobb in the slot.
He averages 17.2 percent more yards per catch in games Jordy Nelson plays and is catching 73.6 percent of passes alongside Nelson (64.1 percent otherwise). Nelson's back and so is Cobb in the role he's comfortable in, on the Packers and in fantasy, where he's an easy top-15 option being drafted outside the top 20.
Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers (ADP WR16, my WR11): DeAndre Hopkins. Julio Jones. There, I just named the only two players in the NFL who had more targets through the first eight weeks of last season than Allen. Philip Rivers is like coverage, schmoverage. I'll throw it to Allen no matter what. In seven of his eight games last season, Allen either saw double-digit targets OR found the end zone. In his past 16 games, Allen has 1,212 yards and eight touchdowns, basically the same as 2015's WR12 Brandin Cooks (1,138 yards and 9 TDs). In 2015, Allen had three games in which he caught at least 12 passes. DeAndre Hopkins, Jarvis Landry, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall and Demaryius Thomas all caught at least 105 passes last season and they managed only two games with at least 12 catches between the five of them. Entering his fourth year and fully healthy, the sky's the limit.
Golden Tate, Detroit Lions (ADP WR25, my WR19): Fifth in total receptions in the two years he has been in Detroit (more than DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall, among others), Tate is now the new horse in Jim Bob Cooter's rodeo. I would absolutely buy a ticket to something called Jim Bob Cooter's Rodeo. Also, that should be a fantasy team name this year. All small sample size, but in the three games Tate played with Matthew Stafford but without Calvin Johnson in 2014, he had 24 catches (34 percent of the team total) on 40 targets(!) for 349 yards and two scores. You know I am high on Stafford. Well, here's a No. 1 WR, who has been top 10 when Johnson is out, on a good offense being drafted as a WR3. And if you add in the two games in which Johnson was hurt and obviously active as just a decoy, you can add 105 yards and four TDs for the Golden one.
John Brown, Arizona Cardinals (ADP WR32, my WR27): Honestly, if it hadn't been for me getting on a table and yelling at everyone -- I'm a big hit at New Year's, at the rankings summit? Not so much -- that we needed to be higher on Brown ... but they were all, Michael Floyd this and Larry Fitzgerald that. The deep threat on a team that throws deep, he is 5-foot-11, 179 pounds and through his first 31 regular-season games, Brown has 113 catches for 1,699 yards and 12 touchdowns. Antonio Brown is 5-foot-10, 181 pounds and through his first 31 regular-season games, he had 111 catches for 1,717 yards and three touchdowns. Last season, John Brown had 10 regular-season games with 99 yards OR a touchdown. Want to know who else had exactly 10 such games in 2015? None other than Antonio Brown (WR1 last season), Julio Jones (WR2) and DeAndre Hopkins (WR6).
Players who caught more passes AND averaged more yards per catch than John Brown in 2015: Allen Robinson, Mike Evans, and T.Y. Hilton. He averaged more yards after the catch (4.96) than Julio Jones (4.72) and Antonio Brown (4.46). He is a young, special player who continues his upward ascent on one the best passing offenses in the NFL. You know, I'm getting angry again just writing this. Seriously, you should have seen them, ignoring my beloved John Brown over and over again until I beat them into submission. Don't make come to your house and do it to you, because I will.
DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins (ADP WR30, my WR28): Excuse me, pardon me, yes, oops, sorry, just ... if you could ... just a smidge to the left, perfect ... hey, or, sorry, didn't mean to elbow you there. Should have at least bought you dinner first, right? Ha! No? OK. Sorry. Pardon me. Yep. Just heading over there, yes ... if you wouldn't mind scooching that way and ... ahh. Whew. See? Still plenty of room left on the bandwagon. Parker outscored DeAndre Hopkins during the final six weeks of last season and now fully healthy, he's ready to play the "X" receiver in Miami, the same role as Demaryius Thomas and Alshon Jeffery played previously for new Dolphins head coach Adam Gase. You know, if you don't get on board, they take away our fantasy analyst secret decoder ring and everything.
Jordan Matthews, Philadelphia Eagles (ADP WR33, my WR25): I am assuming he will be back healthy by the start of the season and, other than Zach Ertz, the Eagles don't really have anyone else to throw to. I love this stat from "100 Facts:" The only pass catchers with at least 100 targets and eight receiving touchdowns in each of the past two seasons are Brandon Marshall, Calvin Johnson, Antonio Brown, Jeremy Maclin, Rob Gronkowski, Odell Beckham Jr. and ... Jordan Matthews. Doug Pederson is going to want to throw the ball, and Matthews is another No. 1 WR not being drafted anywhere close to it.
Torrey Smith, San Francisco 49ers (ADP WR43, my WR33): Pretty much left for dead in San Francisco, he is now going to be the No. 1 WR in a Chip Kelly offense. Even in a season where everything that could go wrong with an offense did go wrong, Jordan Matthews was still a top-20 fantasy WR last season. Smith didn't forget how to play football; this guy is an obvious deep threat with crazy speed (great for a Kelly offense which likes to get WRs in space and try to maximize yards after the catch), but he's also much better in the red zone than you think, converting more than 70 percent of his red zone catches into touchdowns. Yeah, yeah, I hear you, Bruce Ellington truthers, but I'm putting my money on Smith, who now has five straight seasons of playing all 16 games and has been a top-20 fantasy receiver before. He's going to see the ball a lot, and whatever the 49ers' offense will be this season, it'll be an upgrade over last season. Top-20 upside with a dirt-cheap price tag.
Others receiving votes: Willie Snead played 14 games with Drew Brees in 2015. If you don't count a blowout loss against the Redskins (Snead missed most of practice that week because of a knee injury, so the blowout nature gave the Saints an excuse to rest him), his 16-game pace for yardage was 1,157, a total that would have ranked him 13th in the league. ... Speaking with members of the Vikings coaching staff recently, they couldn't stop raving about Stefon Diggs, who now enters the season fully healthy and firmly entrenched as the No. 1 WR in Minnesota. Yes, they drafted Laquon Treadwell and they are obviously a conservative run-first team, but he gave us a tease of what he could do last season (the 41 points he scored in three games from Weeks 6-8 were more than Eric Decker or Demaryius Thomas scored in any three-game stretch) and I believe this year he will put it all together. Best part? It won't cost much. ... Travis Benjamin had more than 35 percent of the Browns' WR catches last season with, oh, let's call it inconsistent quarterback play. Now in San Diego where he has a great QB who can utilize his speed in a variety of ways, he's primed for a very nice season. ... Corey Coleman is interesting, and dynasty league players should be all over Josh Doctson, but my favorite rookie wideout this year is Sterling Shepard. No QB had more pass attempts or fantasy points in three-WR sets last season than Eli Manning, so regardless of whether Victor Cruz is healthy, Shepard will be on the field. Giants head coach Ben McAdoo compared him to a former player of his that he coached: Randall Cobb. ... Deeper PPR leagues should take note of Rashad Greene in Jacksonville. He had flashes last season but couldn't stay healthy. This season, he's going to be the Jaguars' No. 3 out of the slot, and as it was described to me by someone from the team, "he's gonna be our Wes Welker."
Wide receivers I hate in 2016
Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears (ADP WR10, my WR13): Did you have Jeffery last season? You did? Then you know. Stephania Bell said on a recent podcast -- download it now. You don't need to listen! We just want the clicks! -- that Jeffery worried her the most of any wide receiver, injury-wise. Once again dealing with soft tissue injuries this preseason, he's a super-stud when healthy. I'm just not sure when that will be. I've learned a few things in my time at ESPN. Best places to go to the bathroom. How to get free tickets to Disney World. And when Stephania's worried, I'm worried. If he's my No. 2, I can live with it for the upside. But I just can't justify him as a WR1, which is where he's being drafted.
T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts (ADP WR18, my WR23): Love him as a player, but the problem fantasy-wise is the inconsistency. Hilton has scored a touchdown in only three of his past 21 games (including playoffs). Three. With Andrew Luck last season, Hilton had 31 catches on 62 targets for 548 yards and three touchdowns, 70 fantasy points and a reception on 11.7 percent of routes.
Donte Moncrief with Andrew Luck, meanwhile: 32 catches on 54 targets for 351 yards and five touchdowns, 62 fantasy points and a reception on 12.6 percent of routes. Moncrief is going two rounds later. Per Tristan Cockcroft's consistency ranks, once again, Hilton has been "start-worthy" (a top-20 option in a given week) just 43 percent of the time the past three seasons. I'm fine with him as my WR3 or flex, but he's going to cost you a WR2 price.
Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks (ADP WR20, my WR26): Tied for WR34 through Week 11 (when Jimmy Graham went down), Baldwin had a ridiculous run in the second half. Last season, no WR scored more touchdowns than Baldwin, yet 43 players had more targets and 21 players had more receptions. I'm going to name my hair Doug Baldwin this year, because they're both regressing.
Allen Hurns, Jacksonville Jaguars (ADP WR34, my WR37): Fourteenth in fantasy points last season, tied for seventh in touchdowns and tied for 31st in targets. I just renamed my hair Allen Hurns.
Laquon Treadwell, Minnesota Vikings (ADP WR42, my WR54): Love him in dynasty and actually think he'll be all right in PPR, but I'm fully in the Stefon Diggs camp as the Vikings wideout you want. They threw the fewest passes in the NFL last season and came within a missed field goal of being in the final eight. I don't see them changing their offensive philosophy that much, so I don't see this offense supporting more than one fantasy-relevant wideout. Time to start digging on Diggsy! Whatever. I'm punch-drunk at this point. I'm not wearing pants. I'm above the law!
Ted %&*!!#$ Ginn, Carolina Panthers (ADP WR51, my WR56): Podcast fans know where this is going. Ted Ginn is not good at football, especially if you subtract his outlier -- not just an outlier for him, but historically. I mean, it was nuts - three-game run in Weeks 13-15 and project his regular season for 16 games, he'd have totaled 41 catches for 605 yards and five touchdowns. Charles Sims posted a 51-561-4 season in 2015. Charles Sims is a running back. A second-string running back. In an offense that was run by a rookie, not the MVP of the league. Seriously. He is not good at football.
He recorded a play of more than 40 yards or scored a touchdown in 60 percent of regular-season games last season (nine out of 15). He had done so in just 8 percent of his games (7 of 88) in the previous six seasons. The reason for this is that he is NOT ACTUALLY GOOD AT FOOTBALL!
You know that song "Drop It Like It's Hot"? That was originally called "The Ted Ginn Song."
He was fourth in the NFL in dropped passes last season, but the three WRs ahead of him on that list all had at least 28 more receptions than he did. You know why? Because he can't catch.
Am I angry about Ted Ginn? Did Ted Ginn actually cost me a playoff win in a league? Yes. And should he have even been started against me? No. Because you know why?
HE'S NOT GOOD AT %$%#%#%# FOOTBALL.
Tight ends I love in 2016
Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins (ADP TE2, my TE2): Ah, you don't need me to tell you he's awesome. I'm just putting him in here to pad my word count. Ha! Nah, just wanted to say that while I am generally a "Gronk or wait on TE" guy, Reed is the one tight end I'm OK with drafting in the fourth round. You know I love Cousins, and Reed, a legitimate difference-maker for Washington's offense, is his main target. You know he was good last season, but do you know how good?
From Week 7 forward, Reed was the top tight end in standard ESPN scoring. During that stretch, he averaged 14.3 percent more points per game than any other tight end (Gronkowski was second in points per game and Delanie Walker third). When the Redskins get close, Kirk looks for Reed, as 18.4 percent of his receptions came in the red zone.
Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles (ADP TE9, my TE8): Stop me if you've heard this one before. Another guy I have ranked exactly as the ADP sees him, but worth noting that he ended 2015 with four consecutive games of 75 or more receiving yards, matching the longest such single-season streak by a tight end since 2011 (Jimmy Graham, five). In fact, he stands as the only tight end not named Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski to have a streak of more than three games since 2007 (Antonio Gates). With pass-catching options few and far between in Philly, I expect Ertz to have his best year yet and continue to be a popular pun in fantasy football team names. It Ertz when ____, indeed.
Zach Miller, Chicago Bears (ADP TE18, my TE10): Miller started slow in 2015, averaging just 21 snaps per game in Weeks 1-8. In Weeks 9-17, he averaged 49 snaps a game and was fifth in fantasy points among tight ends and seventh in receiving yards in that span. Small sample size, but when Martellus Bennett missed Weeks 14-17, Miller was fourth among tight ends in receptions per game, seventh in targets per game and fifth in fantasy points per game. With Bennett now on the Patriots and every other Bears pass-catcher seemingly hurt these days, the athletic Miller has a chance to be something very solid this season without the draft-day price tag.
Others receiving votes: Hope springs eternal on Jordan Cameron, but Adam Gase has had a lot of success using the tight end in both Denver and Chicago, and he specifically mentioned Cameron when I spoke with him at the combine in Indy. ... Julius Thomas started last season hurt and took a while to find his groove in a new offense and city, but he did eventually string four top-five TE finishes together from Weeks 11-14, and he's being drafted outside the top 10. ... Martellus Bennett is a must-own for any Gronkowski owner, but considering how much the Patriots pass and how many two-TE sets they run, I could easily see Bennett having legit TE2 value on his own. ... Gary Kubiak has been known to turn unknown tight ends into useful fantasy players before, so I kind of like Jeff Heuerman as a deeper-league flier to see if he can grab a role. ... I like the Raiders' passing game a lot this year, so I could definitely see Clive Walford having deep-league value. ... I'm kinda buying all the hype we are hearing about Benjamin Watson out of Ravens camp, and it certainly won't cost much to find out.
Tight ends I hate in 2016
Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals (ADP TE 7, my TE9): Can he repeat? Eifert scored 13 touchdowns, but his longest reception was only 31 yards. Of the 59 instances in which a player caught 12-plus touchdown passes in a single season during the past 15 years, he is the only player without a catch longer than 31 yards.
Eifert scored eight times last season from inside the 10-yard line, despite just 52 receptions for the season. By comparison, Julio Jones, who is on the short list of best jump-ball receivers in the league today, has had six touchdowns inside the 10-yard line over the past three seasons (on 281 catches).
He's a good player when healthy and he'll be the pass-catcher you want from the Bengals after A.J. Green, but that TD rate is coming down. I've just renamed my hair Tyler Eifert. And oh yeah, he's hurt.
Ladarius Green, Pittsburgh Steelers (ADP TE12, my TE 12): His ADP has dropped now due to injury, but before he was going in the top eight, and if he gets healthy before the season starts, he'll creep back up there. Green has dealt with injury issues in the past, and he's also changed teams and is learning a new system. While Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley has never had a tight end as athletic as Green before, he certainly hasn't used the tight end as much as many of his counterparts, either. Since 2007, Haley's TE averages (as a position on a team, as opposed to just one specific tight end) for a season are: 54 catches for 561 yards and four touchdowns. That's just behind 2015 Eric Ebron (who finished as TE13 and missed two games): 47 catches for 537 yards and five touchdowns. Prior to Green's injury, he was going ahead of Gary Barnidge, who, you know, has actually been an elite fantasy tight end.
And that's a wrap. I know, no defenses and kickers. It's on purpose. Wait until the final two rounds in an ESPN standard league. You'll be streaming most of them anyway.
Special shoutout and thanks to Kyle Soppe, ESPN Fantasy researcher, for his contributions to this column. Now, if you'll excuse me, I am going to go take a nap on my boss' desk. Above the law, baby!
Matthew Berry, The Talented Mr. Roto, has already been called to human resources. He is the creator of RotoPass.com, a paid spokesman for DraftKings.com and one of the owners of the Fantasy Life app.