The Already All-In Team (Part 1): Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and *gasp* Amari Cooper - Roto Street Journal
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The Already All-In Team (Part 1): Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and *gasp* Amari Cooper

Wolf’s Weekend Fantasy Musings (1/28/17)

I’ve never once done work in a cafe — always been a library guy. But here I am, down at Crave Cafe in Beverly, MA giving this a go.

And only 5 or so minutes into it, I’m blown away. For one, there’s no 79 year olds verbally abusing the fax machine. No, I don’t miss the haunting smell of Leanord releasing sharts every time he gets physical with technology. While great people watching, his right hook is not worth that price of admission.

Not to ramble, but I imagine this is what the jump to first class feels like. Flying is on the mind because I’m still traumatized from a recent flight to Denver (to watch Tom Brady force the Broncos into the pillow). Perhaps we’ll revisit later, as the research suggests that I’m 2.4 seconds away from losing you forever. So I’ll get to the point:

It’s the fantasy football offseason. No one ever cared about mine or your teams, and they certainly don’t on January 28th, a week before the Super Bowl. Unless they’re cut from the same psychotic cloth as me — fantasy is my oxygen. My every third thought revolves around Tarik Cohen and all the insane ways Mark Helfrich is going to use him.

Thus, a “Stream of Consciousness” style will be my attempt at staying relevant and different in the cold, dark offseason ahead.  A cathartic release of all the fantasy vomit that keeps me up at night.

At minimum, I’ll have a pile of ideas to pick through and determine what’s worth digging deeper into during the coming week. At maximum, I get the chance to be more candid, hone my voice, storytell a bit — you know, all that important advice the “become a pro blogger” sites spit out.

I’ll try to find a theme for the word vomit, of course. There will be plenty of blubber, but coherency to it will make it digestible blubber.

Today’s Core: “My Already All-In Team.”

The 2018 Already All-In Team

I realized in a conversation with my brother last night that I already have some prominent members to my Fantasy Viagra Team. Guys who just make me tingle in all the right fantasy places. Why not do some flag planting in January, before anyone else?

But Wolf, you reasonably question, it’s so early. Aren’t things going to change?

Of course they are, Phil. That’s why we treat fantasy like a stock market here at RSJ.

Values are always in flux on Roto Street. That’s why we’ve decided, unlike nearly any other fantasy site, to go all in on strictly football — it’s truly never ending, and staying up to date on even the seemingly meaningless developments is what separates a Wolf from a Sheep. Or at least it justifies a Wolf’s addiction and $300 office payout.

Even so, there’s still guys I just know in my gut are going to explode. Last year, Tyreek Hill was my guy. Just ask Matthew Berry.

This year, here’s some guys I already feel myself ready to shove all the chips in on:

Patrick Mahomes (QB – KC)

Chiefs Insider Chris Clark joined the Fantasy Fullback Dive, primarily to chat about Matt Nagy and what he might bring to the Bears. While this yielded some great food for fantasy thought, the most valuable nugget emerged when we asked about Patrick Mahomes and how the offense might evolve with him at quarterback:

“Well I think it’s going to be very intriguing to see Patrick Mahomes start because he brought a lot to this team you weren’t able to see with Alex Smith. I don’t know if you guys watched the game he played against Denver, but he made throws that I’ve never seen a quarterback make. His arm talent is probably near the top 3-5 arms in the NFL, and I understand that’s saying a lot for a rookie but again I’ve never seen a QB make the type of throws he’s made.

Mahomes is dropping back, he has Von Miller rushing at him and this is the fourth quarter, tie ball game. He had just got put back in because Tyler Bray had fumbled away a snap Denver returned for a touchdown. Tied ballgame. Mahomes is dropping back, sees Miller coming, spins around goes off to the right and as he’s getting hit by a linebacker right in his chest he throws a probably 25 yard pass between three defenders that hits DeMarcus Robinson in the numbers. He catches it and goes out of bounds to continue the drive.

Another throw earlier in the game, he didn’t have his feet set. He had a defender wrapped around his legs, and throws a 15-yard dart to Albert Wilson for a first down on 3rd-and-12. Those were two throws I’ve never seen a QB, especially in a Chiefs uniform, make.”

Clark has watched a ton of Chiefs tape. This ringing endorsement of Mahomes highlights both his borderline elite arm and also his balls.

Even more impressive, however, is that these throws came without any of his top weapons around him. Mahomes got the Week 17 Nod with Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill resting, and still picked apart the Aqib Talib and Chris Harris secondary.

Clark wisely points out that the Chiefs led the league in yards of separation for pass catchers. In fact, he chalks up Alex Smith‘s career wasn’t because the QB take a sudden step, but that he had fairly routine deep throws widely available to him due to such explosive talent and proper schemes to shake him free:

“I said this earlier with Alex Smith, he threw to guys that were wide open. Close to four yards of separation on average for his targets. Mahomes was almost a yard less than that. That’s a huge difference.”

Clark added that, even in the absence of this separation, Mahomes could thrive, as he has the velocity, ball placement, and, most importantly, confidence to thread it into tight spaces:

“You have guys like Chris Conley and DeMarcus Robinson who aren’t going to get the separation that Alex Smith wants but Mahomes will put the ball on them and give them opportunities to make plays without separation. So that’s a big deal.”

Let’s recall, Alex Smith was the No.2 scoring QB in fantasy last year. Sure, he’s a top-half signal caller in the league. But this much fantasy production was not a result of Smith’s own arm. It was far more due to his incredible Surrounding Talent and creative Offensive Scheme (hence, why we use our Fantasy Stock Formula to grade all relevant Fantasy Factors.)

If Mahomes is as talented as Clark claims, he could be 2018’s Carson Wentz. Of course, he needs Smith to actually be traded away, but this seems a foregone conclusion at this point. His trade would not only yield a worthy draft asset, but free up $7+ million of cap space for the team to add even more pieces around Mahomes, ideally on the line.

I imagine Mahomes will be a popular name among late round QB enthusiasts, aka anyone who knows anything about fantasy. That doesn’t mean I can’t be first. The Top-5 upside is so real, and the annual 12th round Philip Rivers insurance policy will again be readily available. All-in.

Tyreek Hill (WR – KC) 

Well, if I’m this in love with Mahomes, my continued googly-eyed affection for Tyreek Hill should surprise no one. What might?

I’d rather have Tyreek Hill than Julio Jones in 2018, especially if Mahomes is slinging the rock. Seem outlandish? Consider:

A) The “raw” Hill already scored more points than Julio last season, in only his second season. Imagine what he can do with another season of polish.

B) But he’s so inconsistent! Actually, Hill logged 5 WR1 efforts and 3 WR2 games in 2017, compared to 3 and 3 respectively for Julio. You were more likely to get Top-24 production out of Hill than Julio.

Not so boom-or-busty now.

This all also came with Smith at signal caller. While no one can complain of Smith’s 2017 efforts, Mahomes’ upside is far greater. We’ve seen how dangerous QBs who have the mobility to buy extra time can be in freeing up their deep threats. No WRs gained more deep separation than Hill in 2017, and now he’ll have even more time to do damage, with a QB who can rope it even farther.

Others will call for regression, especially with a sophmore signal caller. I’ll be screaming back that the upside is only just being unlocked.

Amari Cooper (WR – OAK)

After a campaign so nightmarish he landed a “Bust of the Year” nomination, Amari Cooper will cause most owners to shudder. Finding the upside in the darkness is where true wolves separate, and with a talent as high as Cooper’s, there’s always light.

First and foremost? Jon Gruden churns out 1,000 yard WR1s even more than he says, “This Guy.” In fact, in all 11 years of coaching , Gruden has always had at least one 1,000 yard WR:

One particularly dominant WR under Gruden was Tim Brown, and he’s predicting massive results for Cooper: “If he can’t (get the best out of Cooper), nobody can,” Brown said. “I think for Amari, this is going to be an incredible opportunity for him to get 120-125 catches a year with no problems.”

Though 125 catches is hyperbolic, a 100-1200-8 stat line isn’t out of Cooper’s grasp. Brown feasted out of the slot, where Cooper has been at his most dominant dating back to Alabama. In fact, last years 11 catch – 210 yd -2 TD week winner came while he ran 35% of his routes from the slot, by far the highest in his career. PFF has all the stats, noting:

Despite running just 17.9 percent of his routes away from the outside boundary, Cooper has averaged 2.81 yards per route run from the slot in his three-year NFL career. He has also brought in seven of his 15 receiving touchdowns (46.7 percent) at slot receiver.

To add perspective, Cooper’s 2.81 YPRR from the slot would rank No. 4 in the PFF era (since 2006) if measured against the top season performances — in terms of YPRR – by a starting slot receiver. His career 1.76 career YPRR would drop to just 1.53 if we were to subtract his slot production from his NFL stat line.

The Alabama product’s dominance in the slot even dates back to his final year in Tuscaloosa, as he totaled 443 receiving yards and four touchdowns on just 66 slot routes to average 6.71 YPRR with the Crimson Tide in 2014

Up to this point, Cooper’s been wildly inconsistent. Even in topping 1,000 yards his first two seasons, Cooper’s monster efforts versus duds were impossible to project. However, under a coach who’s long produced monster WR1 campaigns and capitalized on slot skillsets, Cooper could easily have his most productive season yet.

I expect Gruden to put Cooper where he belongs, and the results to follow.

Michael Crabtree would put an obvious dent into this prediction, but he’ll need to take a paycut given he’s due $7mil but would count for $0 against the cap if cut this offseason. Crabtree doesn’t seem like the pay cut kind of guy, meaning Cooper could see a serious boost in volume.

All we need now is for Cooper to remember his glue-like hands from college. Higher percentage slot routes could allow him to find this groove, and unlock the best NFL Cooper we’ve seen yet.

Back to the Plane Ride from Hell

Well, look at the time. Crave’s preparing to close up, and I consider this whole cafe experience an enormous win. Whereas I expected to feel intrusive, the exact opposite was true. Though I’ll oddly miss Leonard vs Copier Round 6, that’s easy to swap out for a steady stream of cold brew, a Egg, Provolone, Prosciutto and Pepper Jelly on Herb and Cheese bread, and some bomb ass Chocolate Milk. Might never turn back.

Regardless, I’ll have to return to this “All In” team next week. There’s plenty of prospects making me move downstairs that I need to release. And we haven’t even dipped into my favorite fantasy products of all: the thoroughbred horses.

For now, I leave you with the remainder of that plane story from hell:

Like a “Saw” clip that particularly sticks with you, the scene still pops up when least expected, and the details forever remain vivid.

I’m scrambling with my buddy to get onto the plane. We had been crushing Logan Airport beers because airport beers are the best beers. Make the flight, turn the corner, and we both instantly see it (zoom camera, cue dramatic music):

An enormous man — beyond fat, we’re talking Lifetime Special level. 400 lbs an entirely fair over/under.I instinctively, like a doctor hitting the knee cap, turn to my friend and whisper, “Sucks to whoever ends up in that middle seat.” Immediately I regret this. Karma is very real, and I had just set myself up for the 8th ring of Dante’s inferno.

The lucky winner of this contest from hell was, of course, me. This man’s body literally ate the arm rest, and overflowed onto my seat. I could’ve used his skin as a blanket if I so chose. I still remember the way it clung like saran wrap.

Six hours crammed like a human sausage casing. The guy in the aisle seat next to me stated, after the flight, “That was the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been on a plane. I can only imagine how you felt.” Thanks for the concern.

Best part of all? There was a low hum going throughout the flight, and this gargantuan being turned to me and keenly observed: “You hear that buzzing? How ridiculous!”

Help give The Wolf’s next rant some direction — let us know what you’d like to hear some rambles on by hitting me up on Twitter, or even better, on Snapchat

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