Top takeaways from Super Bowl LIII

It’s all over and done with. The 2018-19 NFL season came to a ho-hum conclusion with the New England Patriots defeating the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII on Sunday evening in Atlanta.

All of the excitement that came with a two-week wait for the big game culminated in one of the lowest-scoring first halves in Super Bowl history. Struggles by both Tom Brady and Jared Goff gave way to a 3-0 halftime score.

When all was said and done in Atlanta on Sunday evening, New England came out on top by the score of 13-3. It’s a game that saw Sean McVay struggle big time calling plays against Bill Belichick and Co. And on the other side of the ball, the Patriots struggled to score until the final quarter of action.

Here are your biggest takeaways from New England’s sixth Super Bowl championship under the wizardry of Brady and Belichick.

Patriots dynasty continues 

It wasn’t pretty at times. Tom Brady struggled to get things going before helping his team to 10 fourth quarter points. The likes of Rob Gronkowski, James White and Sony Michel were largely held in check. But when all was said and done Sunday night in Atlanta, Mr. Brady earned a record sixth Super Bowl title.

More than anything, it was the performance we saw from Bill Belichick, Brian Flores and the Patriots’ defense that made the difference here. But we still can’t take away just how dominant this team has been under the leadership of Tom Brady. He just continues to win at a clip we’ve never seen in the modern history of the NFL.

Stage was too big for Jared Goff

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

It’s something we focused on a ton in the lead up to Sunday’s big game. Was the stage in Atlanta going to be too big for this third-year quarterback? That question was answered early with the Rams putting up 57 total yards, two first downs and exactly zero points prior to halftime. For his part, Goff completed just 5-of-12 passes with 32 net passing yards in the first two quarters.

Goff did have his Rams driving late in the fourth quarter to potentially tie the game up. That’s when the young quarterback made a rookie mistake. He floated the ball up to Brandin Cooks in double coverage. All-Pro Patriots corner Stephon Gilmore intercepted it — pretty much ending the game in the process. Just a horrible all-around performance from Goff in the biggest game of his career.

Pats struggle to get James White involved

The AFC Championship Game saw this veteran running back come up with third-down conversation after third-down conversion on the ground. He also dominated to the tune of 15 catches for 97 yards in the AFC Divisional Playoffs win over the Los Angeles Chargers. Whether it was the Rams’ solid defensive scheme or something completely different, this didn’t take hold in the Super Bowl.

White caught just one pass out of the backfield and added four rushing yards in a surprisingly ineffective performance for the birthday boy. New England focused more on Julian Edelman creating mismatches underneath against the Rams’ defense. Even then, it was pretty surprising to see how little White was involved in this one.

Wade Phillips dials up amazing scheme

Feb 3, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips before Super Bowl LIII against the New England Patriots at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most underrated stories heading into Super Bowl LIII was the brilliance of Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. His scheme worked perfectly against Dak Prescott in the divisional round, forcing the quarterback to beat his defense. Then, in the NFC Championship Game, Los Angeles’ defense pretty much shut down the Drew Brees and Michael Thomas connection.

What was apparent Sunday in Atlanta was that Phillips would force Tom Brady to dink-and-dunk his way down the field. Whether it was bracket coverage or taking away the boundary, Brady had a heck of a time driving the ball down the field. Los Angeles also dialed up a ton of pressure against a quarterback that had not been sacked in the postseason heading into Sunday’s game. Despite the loss, Phillips’ scheme proved extremely effective in this one.

It was just a bad football game

After two weeks of anticipation and story after story about the game, both the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots disappointed us at every turn. As noted above, Jared Goff was downright horrible for the Rams. Equally as shocking, Tom Brady might have put up the worst performance of his playoff career. Dropped passes, penalties and missed opportunities defined the majority of the game.

When all was said and done, New England came out on top in one of the most brutal offensive showings in Super Bowl history. Sure we can say the defenses played well. They did. Both coordinators did their thing. Even then, the game itself might have been the most disappointing in NFL Playoff history. Can fans inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium get a refund? We’re asking for tens of thousands of fans.

Todd Gurley was a complete non-factor

Feb 3, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley (30) warms up before Super Bowl LIII against the New England Patriots at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

A lot was made of Sean McVay’s lack of usage of the All-Pro running back in the conference championship game. Was Gurley still battling a knee injury that cost him the final two regular season games? If not, was something else going on? We still don’t have a complete answer to these two questions. What we do know is that Gurley was a non-factor in Super Bowl LIII.

After seeing one touch in the Rams’ first possession, Gurley didn’t see the ball until late in the second quarter. All said, the dynamic back put up 10 yards on three attempts in the first three quarters. He didn’t see a whole lot more action as the game progressed — tallying 35 yards on 10 attempts. We’re sure to find out here soon exactly what was going on behind the scenes with Gurley. But one thing is clear. His inability to make any real impact cost the Rams big time.

Where was Brandin Cooks?

It goes without saying that Cooks wanted to exact revenge against the team that traded him to the Rams less than a calendar year ago. That just didn’t come to fruition. Pats cornerback Stephon Gilmore played like the All-Pro that he is — holding Cooks to all of two catches in the first half alone.

It goes without saying that Cooks wanted to exact revenge against the team that traded him to the Rams less than a calendar year ago. That just didn’t come to fruition. Pats cornerback Stephon Gilmore played like the All-Pro that he is — holding Cooks to all of two catches in the first half alone.

One of the Rams’ most expensive players came up absolutely small in the game’s grandest of stages. Two weeks after tallying 107 yards on seven catches against another former team, Cooks caught just 8-of-13 targets for 120 yards in the Rams’ loss. Most of that came with the game decided late in the final stanza. Prior to that, Cooks dropped what would have been a game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter. Just brutal.

Tom Brady did not play well, period!

When it counted the most Sunday night, Mr. Brady came up big time en route to earning his record sixth Lombardi Trophy. But prior to the game-winning 60-yard touchdown drive in the four quarter, the future Hall of Famer struggled big time. It will be lost in the narrative because the Patriots came out on top. In no way does this mean it should be ignored.

Brady had issues getting the ball downfield to his receivers on a consistent basis. He struggled with the interior pressure Los Angeles was providing. In the end, the game’s best quarterback completed 21-of-35 passes for 262 yards without a touchdown in a ho-hum overall performance. Sure the Pats came out on top, but that had more to do with the team’s performance on defense.

By: Vincent Frank

Full list of Takeaways

Winners and losers from the Divisional Round of the 2019 NFL playoffs

The Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs got underway Saturday night with the AFC’s top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs in action against the Indianapolis Colts. A week off did nothing to slow the Chiefs’ offensive momentum.

Led by Patrick Mahomes, who did not find his first career playoff start nearly as intimidating as the pundits thought he would, the Chiefs jumped out to a 24-7 lead in the first half, and never looked back. The Colts hardly looked ready to play, nothing like the team that rode a 10-1 streak into the weekend. The Chiefs went on to win by a final score of 31-13.

The Cowboys and Rams met in LA for the late game on Saturday night to decide the first of the NFC Championship entrants. The Rams’ running game had no troubles against a usually stout Cowboys defense, and the home team rolled on for a 30-22 win.

On Sunday, the Patriots had no problems running around and through the Chargers, winning 41-28 to lock down their eighth consecutive appearance in the AFC Championship game.

The Saints turned aside the Eagles, sinking their hope of a Super Bowl repeat with a 20-14 win in New Orleans. The Saints will host the Rams there next weekend.

Winner: Michael Thomas

The postseason hasn’t been filled with inspiring performances from offensive skill players. But the Saints wide receiver changed that. He and Drew Brees single-handedly got the Saints offense rolling again after a slow start. His best catch of the day — and there were A LOT of them — was on the Saints’ go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter. Just watch it.

He finished the game with 171 yards and a touchdown on 12 catches.

Loser: Nick Foles’ magic

You can’t impugn what the guy did prior to this game. The Eagles wouldn’t have been playing this weekend, or last, if Foles hadn’t stepped up as the team’s “closer” again this season with Carson Wentz hurt. But he turned into a pumpkin again, underthrowing his receivers and just unable to get the ball to his receivers when the Eagles needed it the most.

With free agency looming this spring, Foles may have cost himself some money with his performance this week, maybe not much, but enough to notice.

Winner: Time of possession

It feels like we haven’t had a good conversation about time of possession since the early days of the Chip Kelly experience in Philly. This time it was the Saints putting on the clock clinic.

It happened in the third quarter. Trailing 10-14, the Saints got the ball at their own 8-yard line. From there they put together a grinding 92-yard touchdown drive over 18 plays and 11:29 minutes, essentially monopolizing the entire third quarter.

Winner: The Patriots defense

Absent most of the season, the Patriots defense looked like one of the NFL’s most fearsome in the first half of the game. Philip Rivers never had a chance against a pass rush that was previously dormant.

Loser: Philip Rivers’ legacy

He’s got more yards, more touchdowns and fewer interceptions over the course of his career than either Eli Manning or Ben Roethlisberger, but unlike those other two first-round picks from the 2004 draft, he does not have a Super Bowl ring. Instead, he and J.P. Losman have something in common.

Winner: Patriots running backs

The Chargers defense put on a clinic for how to stop a creative running game in last week’s win against the Ravens. Apparently, Patriots OC Josh McDaniels was able to find some holes in their game plan.

Sony Michel rolled up nearly 100 yards and scored three touchdowns … in the first half. He’s the first rookie running back in franchise history to rush for more than 100 yards in a playoff game. He finished the day with 129 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries.

James White, who led the team in receptions during the regular season with 87, was Tom Brady’s favorite receiver on the day, catching 15 of 17 passes for 97 yards.

The Patriots chewed up the clock with their running backs, leaving little time for Rivers and Co. to put points on the board. It also helped keep the workload light for their defense, and teased out what their game plan might be next week against Kansas City.

Winner: C.J. Anderson

The Rams signed C.J. Anderson in mid-December, when Todd Gurley was dealing with a knee injury. Anderson had been released by both the Panthers and Raiders earlier in the season and was really just supposed to be a warm body while Gurley could heal up.

Instead, Anderson has bulldozed every defense he faced. In two games to end the season, he carried the ball 43 times for 299 yards and two touchdowns — that averaged out to 7 yards per carry. But that was against two of the worst teams in the NFL, the Cardinals and 49ers. Next up was the playoffs — and a Cowboys defense that ranked fifth in the league against the run during the regular season. Last week, they held the Seahawks’ top-ranked rushing offense to just 73 yards on the ground.

Anderson had more than that in the first half alone: 12 carries for 78 yards. Even with a healthy Gurley back in the lineup, Anderson was a force in the Rams’ first playoff win in 14 years. He used his, uh, rotund frame to help the Rams dominate the time of possession and scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown.

Anderson was the leading rusher with 123 yards and two touchdowns. Plus, he did this:

All the Winners and Losers here



Which top NFL playoff team is at biggest risk of divisional-round upset?

An upset alert shouldn’t be necessary to make the top-seeded teams in the NFL playoffs aware of the imminent threat facing them this weekend.

Three of the four outfits that advanced from last week’s wild-card round, after all, did so on the road. And only once this decade (in 2015) have the top two seeds on each side advanced to the conference championship games.

But while this weekend’s traveling teams collectively posted a 18-14 mark as visitors this season, the foursome of teams hosting after a first-round bye (the Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams) combined for a 28-4 record at home.

In light of that, we asked our NFL experts: Which team coming off a first-round bye is at the biggest risk of falling in a divisional-round upset?

Nancy Armour

I love Patrick Mahomes and everything he’s done for the Chiefs this season, and would like to think he’s going to be the one to end Kansas City’s long, long, long history of playoff heartbreak. Especially against the Indianapolis Colts. But until it actually happens, I can’t ignore the karma. Kansas City has lost 10 of its last 11 playoff games – that one victory came against Brian Hoyer and the Houston Texans – and is 0-4 against Indianapolis in the postseason. That includes the most crushing loss of all, the 2013 wild-card game in which Kansas City blew a 28-point lead and lost 45-44. Mahomes and Andy Reid have said all the right things this week, but I’m going to have to see it to believe it.

Jarrett Bell

The Chiefs. After watching all three quarterbacks who made their playoff debuts last weekend lose, that’s not a good omen for projected MVP Patrick Mahomes. No, the NFL-record 6 consecutive playoff home losses by KC isn’t on Mahomes…who wasn’t even born the last time the home team won in the playoffs at Arrowhead. But there’s just something spooky about that. Add Capt. Andrew Luck maybe carving up a suspect Chiefs defense, and I think we might see this No. 1 seed bite the dust. Of course, Mr. 50 Touchdowns has spent an entire season proving doubters wrong. And on a personal note, Andy Reid has made me look foolish multiple times when picking against him. But to borrow phrasing from my former colleague, Gordon Forbes, I just can’t shake the feeling KC’s season is about to be BBQ’d.

Nate Davis

Maybe the question for the bye week playoff teams should be, “Who’s not at risk?” All of them feel fairly vulnerable to me with the exception of New Orleans. But maybe the Rams are in the most jeopardy. Their “home” game threatens to be overrun by Cowboys fans and a team that seems well-equipped to pull off the upset at the L.A. Coliseum, where the Rams lost their wild-card contest to the Falcons a year ago. Dallas just locked down Seattle’s top-ranked ground game and will next face Todd Gurley, who’s probably going to be less than 100% after a knee issue forced him to miss two games. More worrisome, as much talent as the Rams defense has, it surrendered a league-worst 5.1 yards per carry … and is now tasked with slowing league rushing champ Zeke Elliott and highly mobile QB Dak Prescott? Gulp.

Jori Epstein

The Rams. The Cowboys’ top-5 run D is riding momentum after holding the Seahawks – 160 yards per game in the regular season – to 73 in a wildcard win. Rams all-pro running back Todd Gurley, on the other hand, is returning from nearly a month on the sideline with knee inflammation and soreness. Dallas will have its hand full containing an offense that’s averaged 37.1 points at their home Coliseum. Dak Prescott, too, must take care not to turn over the ball. But if the team follows the blueprint it used to hold the ball 9:40 more than the Seahawks last week, Ezekiel Elliott can capitalize on a Rams defense allowing a league-worst 5.1 yards per carry. Add in the star-studded Cowboys fans expected to line the Coliseum? Dallas upsets a young L.A. offense to reach its first NFC Championship Game in 23 years.

Full List

FANTASY FOOTBALL RANKINGS: Here’s the expert consensus on the top 50 players

Football season is fast approaching and with it, comes fantasy football.

While there’s no foolproof way of drafting your fantasy team, it’s key to get your first few picks right if you hope to compete for your league’s championship at the end of the season.

With the help of Fantasy Pros, we gathered the rankings of 17 experts from The Athletic, Yahoo! Sports, Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports, Walter Football, and theScore in order to put together a consensus ranking from experts across the sports world.

Running backs are once again the most vital position in the sport, and quarterback looks to be surprisingly deep this year, though the top QBs will likely still get fantasy players their money’s worth.

Take a look below and plan out your strategy for the first few rounds of your upcoming draft.

One thing to know: Todd Gurley had an absolutely unbelievable 2017, accumulating 2,093 total yards and 19 touchdowns. Those numbers would be tough to replicate, but he’s still almost universally the top overall draft pick for fantasy players.

2. Le’Veon Bell — RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Average Rank: 2.3

One thing to know: Le’Veon Bell has been a top-five rusher for two straight seasons since coming back from his 2015 injury. He’s also an important part of the Steelers passing game for PPR players.

Which RB Will Make Your Fantasy Team Better?

Written by Drew Loftis and Jarad Wilk at New York

The hardest task in a routine fantasy football draft is choosing which running backs to take and when to take them. Post fantasy Madman Drew Loftis and Roto Rage Jarad Wilk debate which of these RBs is the best addition to your roster:

Melvin Gordon vs. Devonta Freeman

Drew: Both these guys go near the turn in the first two rounds. Picking that high, I go with safest guy. There is no one to challenge Gordon in the San Diego backfield. If healthy, he is the go-to guy. Freeman gets the bulk of carries, but Tevin Coleman steals a fair amount. That makes touchdowns more fickle, and it introduces a performance variable that doesn’t exist for Gordon: If Freeman doesn’t perform well, Coleman could get extra work. That factor doesn’t exist for Gordon.

Jarad: Even with Coleman in the picture last season, Freeman ranked second in the league in red-zone touches (62). He also had a team-high 17 targets in the red zone. Freeman also just signed a massive five-year, $41.25 million deal, so he will continue to be the focal point of the Falcons’ rushing attack. Gordon may have no competition, but he also has trouble staying on the field — missed three games last year, two the year before. Last season, Freeman had more yards per carry (4.8 to 3.9), more total touchdowns (13 to 12), more targets (65 to 57), a better catch percentage and more total yards (1,541 to 1,416). Freeman is the way to go.

Leonard Fournette vs. Todd Gurley

Drew: This a what-we-know vs. what-we-don’t-know argument. We know, after last season, Gurley is not QB-proof. In fact, if we go back to his first season — when he produced four consecutive 100-yard games after his first start – he has exactly one 100-yard game and two games with two TDs. Considering one of those two-TD games came in that one 100-yard game, that give you exactly two strong fantasy games in the past 24. We’re not sure what to expect from Fournette, but we will gamble the volume he receives gives a better opportunity to best Gurley’s consistent inefficiency.

Jarad: After a solid rookie campaign, 2016 was a huge disappointment for Gurley after being drafted as a top-five running back. There is, however, reason to be optimistic — he is just 22-years-old, has remained healthy, the O-line is slightly improved and he saw plenty of touches, as well as targets. The Rams also have a new, very young (31) coach who already has said he expects big things from Gurley and a bounce-back is not out of the question. Fournette, though very talented, is also an unknown playing for the Jaguars, who haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2011 and haven’t won more than five games since 2010.

As Role Dropping, Rams Look To Get Gurley More Touches.

Written by Bob Garcia IV at

With Gurley’s role in the running game progressively dropping, the Rams are looking to get him more involved.

It has not been the season that the Los Angeles Rams had envisioned for many reasons currently being in all-too-familiar territory holding a below .500 record placing them well out of the playoff picture.

A major part of the Rams’ struggles has been the subpar play of the offense that is one of the least productive units in the league. Although the focus has been primarily on their quarterback situation, there is equally if not more troubling signs in the running game led by Todd Gurley.

The reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year has experienced a disappointing first half of the season as he ranks 18th in rushing yards (451), 40th in yards per carry (3.1), 24th in yards per game (56.4), and has yet to record a rush for 20 or more yards.

However, what has been most concerning as the season has worn on is the Rams deciding to slowly move away from the running game. Gurley has had a noticeable drop in the amount of carries over the last three games averaging just 13.6 attempts. All of this appeared to come to a head on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers as he had just 12 carries for 48 yards in the 13-10 loss.

Gurley did have his longest run of the season with an 18-yard rush against the Panthers, but the Rams elected to go away from running game in the second half including just one attempt in the fourth quarter. In light of that, head coach Jeff Fisher has reiterated his desire to reincorporate the 22-year-old in the rushing attack moving forward.

“It’s been a much greater challenge. Defenses are saying, ‘Don’t let Gurley or Tavon beat you and put the ball down the field,'” Fisher said. We’ve got to do a better job, we recognize that. Todd’s number of carries the last few weeks are not what we would like. I think they’re 15, 14, and 12. Those numbers need to get up in the 20s.

“Again, they’re offset a little bit by our third-down stuff, in addition to the two-minute snaps. But, his touches and his numbers need to increase significantly.”

It has become increasingly more difficult with each passing each for Los Angeles to rely on the ground game due to the struggles that Case Keenum has had throwing the ball. It has led to opposing defenses loading up the box more frequently against them which force Gurley to run the ball in more strenuous circumstances.

To continue reading this article, click here.

The Rams Need More Offensive Firepower

Written by Gary Klein at

The Rams, the only NFL team without a touchdown, are trying to keep it light.

Coach Jeff Fisher gathered the offense in the end zone before practice this week at Cal Lutheran and instructed all the players to touch a ball, ostensibly to give them the feeling of what it’s like to finish a drive there.

Fisher also told the team that while searching the halls of the team’s facility he found a box.

“I showed it to them,” he said Wednesday. “It was full of touchdowns. So we watched some touchdowns.”

Fisher was referring to last season’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Rams’ opponent on Sunday at Tampa, Fla.

Quarterback Case Keenum connected with receivers Tavon Austin and Kenny Britt for touchdowns and Austin and running back Todd Gurley rushed for touchdowns in a 31-23 victory.

Rams players and coaches would welcome similar offensive production this week.

Actually, one touchdown would be an achievement for an offense that has reached the 20-yard line only once in two games.

After being shut out by San Francisco, 28-0, the Rams defeated the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, 9-3, with three field goals by Greg Zuerlein.

“It’s concerning,” offensive coordinator Rob Boras said when asked about the lack of touchdowns, “that’s our job.”

Keenum is at the helm of an offense that is averaging 234 yards and 4.5 points a game, which ranks last in the NFL in both categories.

But the Rams are 1-1 and in a four-way tie for first in the NFC West.

Asked if he felt that he bore the burden for the Rams’ lack of touchdowns, Keenum said “the burden for me” was winning.

“If you were to tell me right now that we’re not going to score another touchdown but we’ll win every game, I’d be OK with that,” Keenum said. “I like throwing touchdowns. I like touchdowns. I love winning.”

Keenum, however, acknowledged that “we’ve got to score touchdowns to win in this league.”

Fisher concurred.

“It’s very easily put that …  he team from the standpoint of the defense is going to need the offense at some point,” Fisher said. “They’re going to need the offense to score points.”

Against the Seahawks, the Rams at least put together a few drives that enabled the defense to rest.

Tackle Aaron Donald said defensive players were not frustrated by the offense’s inability to reach the end zone.

To continue reading this article, click here.

Rams Return and Goff Debuts

Written by Rich Hammond at

As long-awaited sequels go, “Episode 50: Return of the Rams” opened in blockbuster fashion, even if the script didn’t quite go the way the live audience of nearly 90,000 probably anticipated.

Moments after the stadium erupted in cheers as the Rams took the field in Southern California for the first time since 1994, it fell into groans when Dallas returned the opening kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown. Anxiety increased when hoped-for franchise quarterback Jared Goff was intercepted on his third play.

Oh, what an ending though. The Rams’ 50th season in Los Angeles – after a 7,903-day St. Louis detour – unofficially opened with a dramatic 28-24 win over the Cowboys in both teams’ preseason opener Saturday night.

“I just felt like the atmosphere was crazy,’’ running back Benny Cunningham said. “You couldn’t have made this up in a movie.’’

The Rams trailed 24-7 at halftime but staged a backup-fueled comeback led by third-string quarterback Sean Mannion, who took over earlier than expected after Goff suffered a mild shoulder injury. Mannion threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to running back Aaron Green with 1:54 remaining for the winning points.

“I had to remind them (in the locker room) that it was a preseason game,’’ said coach Jeff Fisher. “It was like they clinched the playoffs, as far as they were concerned. So that was fun.’’

The visuals were strong, even if the play – at least for the starters – looked quite ragged.

Playing at their temporary home for the first time, the Rams were greeted by an announced crowd of 89,140. At kickoff time, many remained outside, still attempting to get through security, and by the time they got inside, it seemed as though others had headed for the exits.

The Rams had their moments, but most of them were in the backup-heavy second half.

Star running back Todd Gurley was held out of the game, and the long-awaited debut of Goff was an abbreviated bust. Goff, expected to play as much as two quarters, got only 13 plays.

Fisher said Goff has a sore non-throwing shoulder after the hit he took on the second-quarter interception, but that Goff is fine.

“I talked to him and he was getting a little stiff so I said, `I’m not going to mess with this,’’’ Fisher said.

To continue reading this article, click here.

Who You Should Pick in the First Round

Written by Neil Greenberg at Washington

After a year in which running backs disappointed fantasy players by the truckload, wide receivers have become the most popular first-round picks. The preference for wideouts gained even more momentum after it was announced that Pittsburgh Steeler’s running back Le’Veon Bell may miss four games due to a missed drug test.

According to mock drafts conducted between July 22 and July 25, only one of the top four picks is a running back, and, for the first time in years, a receiver is going No. 1 overall. Here’s a quick look at which players are currently first-round picks, based on a 12-team, standard-scoring league, and the risks and rewards each bring to your fantasy roster.

1. Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Brown finished the 2015 season with 136 catches for 1,834 yards and 10 touchdowns, producing 250 fantasy points, the most among non-quarterbacks. And that’s with Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger missing four games last year.

With Roethlisberger healthy, Brown could be the highest-scoring fantasy player on any roster. Early projections have Brown catching 127 passes for 1,700 yards and 11 touchdowns for 233 fantasy points, most among all wide receivers.

But Brown’s value is tied to volume — he scored 1.3 fantasy points per target last season, 26th among wideouts with at least 50 passes thrown their way. If the offense reduces his opportunities in any way, it will have a trickle effect on your fantasy team’s performance.

2. Todd Gurley, RB, Los Angeles Rams

He didn’t get much action during the first month of the season, but Gurley rushed for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns, finishing third among running backs for most yards per carry after contact.

Projections have Gurley second only to Bell in terms of fantasy-point production, but that might be optimistic with  rookie Jared Goff or veteran Case Keenum lining up at quarterback for Los Angeles. Having an inexperienced (Goff) or career backup (Keenum) under center will allow opposing defenses to stack the box and limit Gurley’s production.

3. Odell Beckham Jr, WR, New York Giants

Since the merger of 1970, three wide receivers in addition to Beckham have caught at least 150 passes for 2,000 yards and 15 touchdown in their first two NFL seasons: A.J. Green, Larry Fitzgerald and Marques Colston. None have matched Beckham’s 187 catches for 2,755 yards and 25 touchdowns.

If wide receivers break out in their third year, per the widely-held belief, it will be interesting to see how much better Beckham gets after scoring 204 and 223 fantasy points in Years 1 and 2. And don’t think cornerback Josh Norman joining the Washington Redskins is going to slow down his fantasy production.

When Beckham faced Norman in Week 15, he still caught four of seven targets for 30 yards and a touchdown when in Norman’s coverage (he totaled 76 yards receiving overall). Plus, the Giants and Redskins face off in Weeks 3 and 17, the latter of which is typically one week after the fantasy championship has already been decided.

4. Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons

By the end of the regular season, Jones produced 237 fantasy points, just 13 fewer than Brown, and set career-highs in receptions (136) and yards (1,871), while scoring eight touchdowns. His 203 targets led the league and only two other wideouts were targeted over 180 times last season: Brown and DeAndre Hopkins.

In addition, no receiver averaged more yards per route run (3.0) than Jones.

To continue reading this article, click here.

Fantasy Football Mailbag 4/7/16

Written by Jamey Eisenberg at

Sometimes it’s easy to pick the right keepers for your Fantasy team. But like most things in life, we tend to over think some of the simplest decisions.

When it comes to keeper choices, the first thing to consider is value if that comes into play. For example, if you can keep a player for a certain round designation, you always want to retain the player who has the highest potential at the lowest price. To most people that is obvious, but sometimes you need a reminder of that situation.

But when it’s a decision of just player vs. player with no value involved than that could be a tougher dilemma. And as you’ll read below, that can sometimes lead to some hard choices and throwing back some elite talent into the draft pool.

We know the time to make your keeper decisions is getting closer, so continue to send in your questions to me on Twitter @jameyeisenberg or on my Facebook page. Please use the hashtag #fantasymail, and we’ll help make some of these tough choices easy for you.

This week, we’ll cover the following topics, and please check to see if your question made it to the #fantasymail video as well:

  • Todd Gurley vs. David Johnson as a keeper
  • Who are some late-round quarterback options?
  • How good can DeAndre Hopkins be in 2016?
  • Which WR has more upside, Brandin Cooks or Kelvin Benjamin?
  • Danny Woodhead vs. John Brown as a PPR keeper
  • Latavius Murray vs. Jeremy Langford as a keeper

@JameyEisenberg #fantasymail @TG3II and @dajohnson7 pick 1. 2 keeper league keeping J Nelson.

This is such a tough call to decide between Gurley and Johnson, so I’m going to call an audible and throw back Jordy Nelson instead. I expect Nelson to be fantastic this season coming back from last year’s torn ACL, but Gurley and Johnson should be elite players at a thin position. You are now set at running back and can load up on receiver in the draft. This is what we we’re talking about with tough choices for keepers, and I hate giving someone else the chance to draft Nelson. But I would feel worse giving up on Gurley or Johnson, especially when you have the chance to keep both.

@JameyEisenberg #fantasymail any SUPER late rnd QB’s w/ a reasonable chance at top 10 Prod? Tannehill, Winston, Mariota, RG3, Fitz, Tyrod?

I like three of these quarterbacks here in Tyrod Taylor, Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. We’re going to write more about these quarterbacks this coming week in sleepers and breakouts, and I think all three of these guys could make the leap to top-10 status like we saw last season from Blake Bortles and Carson Palmer, who were considered No. 2 quarterbacks coming into the year. Ryan Tannehill should also improve with the addition of new coach Adam Gase, but I don’t know if he has the same upside as Taylor, Mariota and Winston. I also like Derek Carr in this category as well, and this is why we tell you to wait for quarterbacks on Draft Day.

To continue reading about this article, click here.