In Quick Hits, we ask our writers to weigh in on a topic relevant to the dynasty landscape. This week’s question:
What’s your premier fantasy hot take?
Karl Safchick (@KarlSafchick)
The 1961 Chicago Bears weren’t exactly The Greatest Show On Turf, but they were the league’s fifth best passing offense with 2,672 passing yards in 14 games. 1,076 of those yards had rookie Mike Ditka on the receiving end, still the yardage record for rookie tight ends. There’s something quite remarkable about this receiving record. Not only did Ditka achieve this feat in 14 games, but he did he do so while catching passes from a mixture of Billy Wade and Ed Brown on a team whose passing offense would rank 30th in today’s NFL with a 40.3% market share. For reference, the league’s best tight end in 2016, Travis Kelce, enjoyed a 30.0% market share. This 56-year-old receiving record is among the most unique in NFL history, and no player has even come close to breaking it. Jeremy Shockey, the rookie tight end with the second-most receiving yards in NFL history, came 182 yards short in 2002.
Enter my 2017 hot take candidate, 20-year-old David Njoku. The kid can’t legally drink a beer yet, but he has all the capability to break the record of your grandfather’s favorite player. The former Miami Hurricane – who only has 64 career receptions – has all the physical tools to succeed in the NFL. He’s big (6’4”, 246 lbs), fast (4.64 40 yard dash), and agile. His opportunity, though, may be his most appealing attribute.
The Cleveland Browns (who in case you haven’t noticed yet, have one of the best front offices in sports), spent a first round pick on Njoku. They don’t have much competition in the passing game, though. This offseason Cleveland signed Kenny Britt, a nine-year veteran who broke a thousand yards (1,002) for the first time in 2016. Corey Coleman will eventually be asked to be the alpha in the receiving room, but he is dealing with hamstring struggles once again. The Browns starter at tight end over the last few years, Gary Barnidge, was immediately released after the team drafted Njoku, signaling their faith in the rookie.
The stars may have to align to break what seems to be an unbreakable record, but tell your grandfather Njoku is coming for his favorite player.
Jesse Patterson (@df_patterson)
I’ve been on the John Brown hype train for most of the offseason, having acquired him in several of my leagues and singing his praises all over Twitter. The rest of the dynasty community is beginning to hop on board as well, as offseason reports have flown in showering Brown with positive press. Finally clear of his disastrous 2016 in which his play suffered due to a variety of medical ailments, my bold prediction for the 2017 season is that John ‘Smokey’ Brown emerges as a top 12 dynasty wideout by this time next offseason, a viable low-end WR1 in startups for 2018.
Brown, the former Pittsburg State standout (185 receptions, 3387 yards, 34 touchdowns in 34 games) was selected by the Cardinals in the third round of the 2014 NFL draft and has been a fixture on their wide receiver depth chart ever since. Though he was generally the third or even fourth option in the passing attack behind future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald, now-departed Michael Floyd, and stud David Johnson, Brown had been able to carve out a substantial role on one of the higher-volume passing offenses in the league. Brown delivered in a career-best 65 receptions for 1005 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2015. There was a lot of hype entering the 2016 season, as Brown was being selected as the WR30 in Dynasty League Football’s August 2016 ADP. Unfortunately, Brown was diagnosed with the sickle-cell trait which limited his ability to perform at a high level throughout 2016. Following the season it was revealed that he had a cyst on the base of his spine which also contributed to a lack of energy and ability. His play suffered, and he was only able to snag 29 receptions for 517 yards and 2 touchdowns.
This offseason has been very positive one for Brown. He has managed to get his sickle-cell disease under control, had the energy-sapping cyst surgically removed, and engaged in offseason activities without any lingering effects from his notoriously troublesome hamstrings. Scout and coaching reports have gushed over Brown’s performances and conditioning, as he seems to have regained the form that made him a fantasy darling only two short seasons ago. Veteran Fitzgerald is poised to retire following the season, while Brown is set to become a free agent. It would make complete sense to scale back Fitzgerald’s role while force-feeding Brown the ball to see what his value to the team will be going forward. Playing for a new contract, Brown has all the motivation required to capitalize on an expanded role and set himself up for a big payday with an outstanding performance as the focal point of the Cardinals’ passing attack. Look for Brown to creep into the WR1 conversation over the course of this season.
Eric Hardter (@EDH_27)
The temperature of this take is going to seem akin to the fires of hell, but given the data at our disposal, I’m not sure it could even heat up leftover pizza – 49ers receiver Pierre Garçon will be a PPR WR1 in 2017. Let’s examine the details.
In 2013, Garçon finished as the PPR WR11 on the strength of his 113 receptions for 1,346 yards and five touchdowns. The 184 targets he received certainly helped, as did the dearth of any other prominent pass catchers on the team. More on that later.
He cooled down in the next two years but still managed a little over 1,500 total yards with roughly a 70% catch rate, functioning as a WR3/FLEX play while DeSean Jackson and Jordan Reed led the way. Last season saw a return to fantasy relevance with a finish as the WR22, and another year leading the Redskins in targets, receptions, and yards. However, all of this remains a far cry from PPR WR1 territory. So why am I so bullish on his 2017 outlook?
First and foremost, my man got paid, with $17 million guaranteed over two years. For a soon-to-be 31-year old receiver, that’s significant. Secondly, he’s reuniting with the man who oversaw his best season in Kyle Shanahan. And finally, circling back to the paragraph above, there’s quite literally nothing in the way of competition, with only the likes of Jeremy Kerley, Bruce Ellington, and Marquise Goodwin to fight with for looks.
Brian Hoyer is no stud, but he can get the ball to his WR1. There aren’t numerous examples of players with subpar quarterbacks providing top-end output over the years, but some examples include Fitzgerald (2016), Brandon Marshall (2015), DeAndre Hopkins (2015), Demaryius Thomas (2015), Jarvis Landry (2015), and Jeremy Maclin (2014). Volume can counterbalance efficiency, and Garçon is going to see a ton of it.
So we have a proven, highly-paid player who is the clear alpha dog on an offense that is going to be playing from behind…like, a lot. Said player has done it before, and is now back with the same coach who helped him get there. Pierre Garçon is going to be a WR1 in 2017…“take” it or leave it.