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Trust Issues

For those of you that have been playing fantasy football for a few years, you probably have a list of a few players who you won't draft for whatever reason - injuries, lack of production, poor performance in a playoff game for you etc. Players who you ultimately cannot trust.

The TNFF crew is back again to discuss some fantasy players that they are having trust issues with heading into the 2020 NFL season. Players they can’t get behind or commit to in a dynasty league setting.

Tyreek Hill (WR - Kansas City Chiefs)

Yes, I am aware that Hill finished as the WR #3 in 2018 and the WR #9 in 2017. I am also aware that he is only 26 years old and that he plays with one of the best QBs in the game in Patrick Mahomes and on one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL.

Before you call me an idiot and skip ahead to read about the next player, let me try to explain my selection. There is no doubt in my mind that Hill, if healthy, will finish as a top 10 WR this year and for many years to come. My issue with Hill is his inconsistency from week to week. According to Mike Tagliere and his "Boom, Bust and Everything in Between" article, Hill has produced WR2 or better numbers in just 26-of-49 (44.1 percent) career games. This means that more than 50 percent of the time, Hill will produce WR3 or worse numbers!

Hill's boom weeks are massive and Hill alone can win you some weeks. However, do I want to risk Hill having a bust week during the playoffs? Can I trust him to have one of his boom games? Odds are he will have a bust week during the playoffs. I prefer consistency and a safe floor with my fantasy football players.

With a dynasty ADP of 1.10 (1QB league), I am happy to pass on Tyreek Hill and draft a more consistent WR or another position altogether.

- Joe "the editor Simonetti (@joesimonetti77)

Dalvin Cook (RB - Minnesota Vikings)

Dalvin Cook is one of the most exciting and electric running backs to watch in the NFL. There are very few backs in the NFL that are used as a three-down back but Cook is one of those guys. He is crazy elusive and can hit an open hole to take it to the house from anywhere on the field. He can catch the ball in space and do anything that you need him to do. Last year Dalvin Cook was a monster during the fantasy regular season as he averaged 22.8 PPR points/game. This was second only to Christian McCaffery.

Sounds great, eh? This is a player that is certainly worthy of that early first-round startup value in a dynasty league?

Nope! I just don’t trust him!

Coming out of college, the dynasty community has always been high on Cook. He was being drafted in the top half of drafts in 2017 with the hopes of obtaining that three-down back that would help your fantasy team for years. Unfortunately, it has been years of disappointment. One of Pro Football Focus' biggest concern for Cook coming into his first year in the NFL was that he “suffered nagging muscular injuries throughout his career at FSU.” Well … PFF was right! Year one for Cook ended abruptly in week four with an ACL tear in his knee. Year two for Cook was also another one full of injuries. That season in week two, he had a hamstring strain that caused him to miss a total of five games but he was rendered a non-factor for the majority of the year. He only had three games where he put up RB1 type of numbers.

Since Dalvin Cook has come into the league we have been paying top value for what he is supposed to do. There has never been a discount due to his injuries. If you laugh at that and say “It hasn’t been that bad.” Think of it this way … he has only played one more game since the beginning of 2017 than Will Fuller! At least with Fuller, we get an injury discount on his cost. The consensus RB ahead of Cook, Ezekiel Elliot has played 12 more games than Cook in just the last 3 years in the NFL. Throughout Cook's career, he has seemed like that really good looking significant other that keeps cheating on you (getting injured). Well, last year when he left me at the altar (injured during the fantasy playoffs) that was the last straw. I can’t keep making excuses to all my friends that he will change and things will get better. To go along with his injury concerns, there are now contract issues as his rookie deal expires at the end of the year. I am selling him to someone else in my dynasty league and as someone that has top-five running back upside. I don’t trust him and can’t be a part of this relationship any longer.

I am moving on from Dalvin Cook for my new love interest in Baltimore Ravens, running back JK Dobbins. If my team was not looking like a contender this year I would target JK Dobbins and a 2021 first-round pick. If my team is a contender, I am trying to acquire JK Dobbins and another running back similar to Austin Ekeler, Kenyon Drake, even Chris Carson. Once I have him, together we will ride off into the sunset and win a future championship.

- Brian Bailey (@TheFFAviator)

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Stefon Diggs (WR - Buffalo Bills)

The one player that makes me want to seek professional help because I have trust issues with - well that's easy. That player is none other than the Buffalo Bills new wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Now before you get upset or bent out of shape, let me explain why.

You might be saying to yourself, Jim you're absolutely crazy. How can you have trust issues with a wide receiver who's coming off back to back 1,000+ yards receiving seasons. Well, it's for a couple of reasons.

First off, Diggs is far more volatile than you might realize. Last year he scored less than 10 PPR points in 6 of 13 regular-season games (46.15%). When he did hit though, he hit it big with 4 of 13 games going for 20+ points (30.7%), including a three week stretch from weeks 6-8.

A second point that draws concern to me is that in 2019, Diggs had his second-highest ADOT of his career with 10.97 yards and his highest yards per reception with 17.9. That is a full six yards higher than his career average before the 2019 season. It also correlates with the most air yards per target of his career (15.2)

My third area of concern for Diggs is his quarterback, Josh Allen. Allen isn't known for his accuracy and Diggs excels on deep routes on the right side of the field (30 of 63 receptions). In 2019, Allen had the third-worst completion percentage in the NFL at 58.9%, and second-worst of all full-time starters - just ahead of Dwayne Haskins at 58.6%. Allen is known more for his rushing capability than his arm and accuracy.

Combine all these concerns to go along with the history of wide receivers struggling in their first year with a new team, you can understand why I have trust issues with Diggs. The fact that Diggs is the WR23 in dynasty startups going ahead of the likes of Kennan Allen, Robert Woods, Tyler Boyd, and Jarvis Landry only adds to my mistrust. I can’t justify the cost when 46% of the time he failed to get you 10 PPR points in 2019.

  • Note week two he was targeted seven times with one reception for 49 yards and a TD

The simple fact of the matter is that what you have to pay to acquire Diggs isn't worth the possible return. I'm not even going to get into my beliefs on Josh Allen and if he's the long term answer at QB for Buffalo (look for that article coming soon).

Too often in fantasy, managers cannot separate fantasy football from real-life football. Is Stefon Diggs a good football player? Absolutely. 100%! Nobody would argue with you. He's one of the best WRs in terms of route running and getting separation. He also creates opportunities for his teammates based on defenses having to account for his presence on the field. Just don't let the end of the season stat lines fool you and don't be sucked into someone that misses double digits fantasy points nearly half the time.

- Jim Nastic (@goldjacketqbs)

Austin Ekeler (RB - Los Angeles Chargers)

Trust is important. Sometimes to a fault, I’ve been known to place trust quickly in individuals. Believing the best in people and situations is a good quality to have, but far too often it can also be a cruel mistress. In fantasy football, as in life, trust should be earned, not given. Unlike in real life, I don’t trust easily in fantasy football. Risk comes in many forms. Taking a running back with a low carry volume and likely pass-catching regression as the RB1 on my roster is a risk I’m just not willing to take.

That’s right! I said it! If I were forced to place my trust in Austin Ekeler, I’d be sleeping with one eye open. The perception seems to be that Ekeler is a sure bet to challenge for top 12 status. The situation around him may not appear to have changed very much but the obvious difference is moving from the baby-making pylon Philip Rivers to the mobile journeyman in Tyrod Taylor.

For my money, the change at quarterback is all I need to know that Ekeler’s certainty is a fickle beast.

Philip Rivers was historically great for a running back’s target share. Only twice in the last 10 years have his running backs amassed less than 23% of his team’s targets. And only once in those 10 years did he fail to target RBs more than 100 times. Rivers’ lack of mobility and T-Rex throwing motion play perfectly into a heavy running back target volume. Tyrod Taylor (aka T-Mobile, aka TyGod) is a much different passer. He offers far more in the way of rushing ability and doesn’t have much history throwing to a focal point receiving back. In his three years as Buffalo’s full-time starter, Taylor only once gave his running backs more than 100 targets. That 2017 season was the only time Tyrod sent more than 23% of his targets to running backs as well. Tyrod’s most targeted running back that season was LeSean McCoy who lead the entire team with 77 targets. Tyrod Taylor has always given wideouts and tight ends the trust, and Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Hunter Henry will command targets. The Chargers have a completely different team makeup than Taylor has ever been a part of.

All of this is to say that Austin Ekeler will almost assuredly see fewer targets in 2020. While most think that his carry volume is set to see a large increase, I’m not as confident. The Chargers have a track record of using a two-back system. Recently, Melvin Gordon handled the lion’s share of rushing work while also soaking up targets of his own. Tyrod will likely have between 75 and 100 carries and the team likes both Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelley. With the increase in expected quarterback rushing and the team likely using a tandem at the position, it stands to reason that Ekeler may not exceed his 132 carries from 2019.

Austin Ekeler is a player who needs ample work as a receiver. More than 65% of his career fantasy points have been derived in the passing game, and in 2019 that number was over 76%. Ekeler will not score eight receiving touchdowns again this season. And if he doesn’t eclipse 100 targets, fantasy rosters will suffer. Ekeler himself, his skewed volume, and his impossible efficiency are a fantasy outlier. These players can be useful when taken for their upside in the mid-rounds, but spending my second-round pick on an outlier at his ceiling is a Public Enemy to winning championships. You can’t truss it!

-Travis Seel (@TSeel14)

Amari Cooper (WR Dallas Cowboys)

A tale as old as time - can you trust Amari Cooper? Some will tell you that you can trust him, while others will advise strongly against it. I think there ARE fantasy teams that can utilize a player with his frustrating skill set. With Cooper, there are some weeks you’re over the moon, as you watch him rack up 11 receptions for 157 yards and a TD (week 10 in 2019), while other weeks you’re wallowing in your sorrows to his abysmal 3 receptions (on 8 targets) for 38 yards and no TD (week 11 in 2019).

I, for one, am not willing to live with the risk. At the beginning of the offseason, I had come around on Amari Cooper - he’s had a full season in the books to learn Kellen Moore's offense, he’s built a rapport with Dak, and he signed a brand new contract extension. What could go wrong? Well, then something unexpected happened. WR CeeDee Lamb fell to the Cowboys at pick #17 in the NFL draft and Jerry Jones couldn’t help himself. He scooped him up and now his team has THREE great WR options. I know what the narrative says - there are 190 vacated targets and somebody has to take them, right? Correct!! Let's break down the target totals and we can look at what to expect in 2020.

In 2019 the target distribution was:

Amari Cooper = 119 Targets

Michael Gallup = 113 Targets

Randal Cobb = 83

Jason Witten = 83

Ezekiel Elliott = 71

It’s safe to assume Blake Jarwin will take most of Jason Witten's targets, but what about the rest of them? Cobb’s 83 targets could EASILY be taken over to CeeDee and his playmaking ability, and I don’t think it's unrealistic to think they integrate Tony Pollard into the passing game. The other big take away I have from these breakdowns is how involved Michael Gallup really was. This is a guy who had only 82 fewer yards, saw only SIX fewer targets, and just two fewer TD’s than Cooper and is being drafted three rounds later! Are we REALLY sure Cooper is even the WR1 for this team in 2020?

As I stated above, Cooper DOES have fantasy value, but he’s not a player I'm willing to TRUST on a weekly basis. I would rather buy the value dip on Gallup and role with his steady WR2 production.

Julien Barnett (@Julien_Barnett & @ThePointAfterFF)

Thank you for reading our article. Do you agree or disagree with any of TNFF's selections? Please leave a comment or feedback on Twitter @TrueNorthFFB or at our respective handles.

Edited by: Joe Simonetti (@joesimonetti77)

Graphic work: Dan Made Graphics (@DanMadeGraphics)