Real/Not Real NFL

 Real/ Not Real- NFL Week 3

Welcome to the third edition of the “Real or Not Real” article for the 2016 NFL season. In this piece, Ricky Sanders will examine whether the hype and/or recent production surrounding certain players warrants deeming them as “for real” or remaining skeptical and considering them “not for real.”

Here are Ricky’s thoughts surrounding players who opened some eyeballs with their Week 2 performances one way or another:

Sam Bradford, Vikings – In just his first start with the Vikings, Sam Bradford finished as QB16 in the Draftkings (DK)/FantasyDraft (FDr) scoring format. The team traded a first round pick for him so job security clearly isn’t an issue but playing in an offense substantially slower than Chip Kelly’s 2015 system definitely is/was. Bradford completed 22-31 passes (71.0-percent) for 286 yards and two touchdowns (TDs) against a Packers defense that allowed the eighth fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks (QBs) last season…although they were without their top cornerback Sam Shields. Still, this system seemed to fit Bradford better and his 9.2 yards per attempt (YPA) way exceeded his career best 7.0 that he averaged just a season ago. Both a sustainable red zone target (Kyle Rudolph) and number over target (which we’ll get to) emerged and running back (RB) Adrian Peterson suffered a knee injury (although the team is downplaying it). In other words, the team may have to focus on the passing game in the near future in order to make up for the loss of Peterson, assuming you think he is much of a loss (the offense has looked better without him). The issue here is Bradford should struggle in weeks in which his top weapon is difficult to feed and this is only a one game sample size of productivity versus five previous seasons of mediocrity. While he’s entered the fantasy conversation, going too bullish on him will probably end in heartbreak as it has so many times before. Verdict: Not For Real (unless using a pure punt in DFS)

Melvin Gordon, Chargers – After writing last week that Melvin Gordon was not for real in this very column, the situation changed drastically this weekend due to an injury to Danny Woodhead. Considering Woodhead needed to be carted off, this one doesn’t seem encouraging. Now, instead of being on the short end of a two-back split of touches, the majority will go to Gordon moving forward. Following a week where he only played 23 snaps (and Woodhead played 50), Gordon finished with 51 snaps to Kenneth Farrow’s 13 and Woodhead’s five. Since his role increased significantly (27 total touches including three catches after just 14 touches in the opener and zero catches), valuing him moving forward this week is a whole different story from last week. In an offense missing two of their best weapons in the passing game (Woodhead, Keenan Allen), they almost have no choice but to rely on the running game more from here on out. Gordon catapults from an iffy RB3 to a borderline RB1 with the Woodhead news and his second consecutive productive week was no fluke. Verdict: For Real

Tevin Coleman, Falcons – Here is a strange statistic: Devonta Freeman has played exactly 36 snaps in each of the team’s first two games while Tevin Coleman played 32 in the opener and 30 in Week 2…nearly identical on all fronts. Coleman followed up a 16.70 fantasy point Week 1 with a 15.10 fantasy point Week 2 propelled by a 13 yard TD plunge. Although Coleman was less involved in the passing game (only two targets this week after six in the opener), he still found a way to make the most of his touches. The issue here is Coleman and Freeman basically vulturing the value of one another because of the near 50/50 split. The price tag in DFS reflects the split but it makes them tough to rely on as Coleman would have only produced 9.1 fantasy points had he not scored. Having only averaged 3.4 yards per carry (YPC) to this point, he has enjoyed a bit of luck. He looks like the more talented of the two backs so far on the eye test alone, even with Freeman averaging slightly more YPC (4.0), but committees lead to frustration in the long run. He’ll be useful in the right matchups but there are disappointments on the horizon as well barring an injury to Freeman. Verdict: Not For Real (unless Freeman suffers an injury or his workload is increased)

Stefon Diggs, Vikings – Following an 186 yard performance capped with a TD, Diggs has now been targeted at the fourth highest percentage of any receiver in football (31.3-percent), behind only Jordan Matthews (through one game), Tavon Austin and Jarvis Landry. Unlike the others, Diggs has dealt with a different QB under center for each of the first two games. Diggs has averaged 10 targets per game this year after being targeted nine-plus times in five of 12 games last year. The running game doesn’t appear to be overly strong, especially with the injury to Adrian Peterson, so this team may have to throw more than they’re comfortable with in the coming weeks. Cleary, the focus of the offense is Diggs and the team uses him in creative ways by lining him up in both the slot and the outside. In fact, he has lined up in the slot nearly 40-percent of the time through two games. Knowing this guy is the best thing the team has to offer, Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner will no doubt find a way to keep him incorporated. Remember, Turner was also the offensive coordinator for the Browns in 2013 when Josh Gordon blew up for 1,646 yards and nine TDs. Verdict: For Real

Will Fuller, Texans – On an offense that already features both DeAndre Hopkins and Lamar Miller, Will Fuller is the forgotten man when game-planning against the Texans. Over the first two games, that has proved to be a mistake because Fuller has displayed the ability to stretch the field and perfectly complement the other weapons. Amongst the players targeted at least five times in Week 1, Fuller led all players in average depth of target (aDOT) at 22.5 yards. All he did was follow up that performance with an even better 25.3 aDOT in Week 2 to propel him to the league lead amongst players targeted at least 10 times to this point. Both games have resulted in 100-plus yards for Fuller which could not have been done without a competent QB (Brock Osweiler). He has all the makings of a young DeSean Jackson due to his ability to stretch the field and he’ll draw significantly less attention. It only takes one play for his day to be made so he should prove to be a fun player to roster all season long. Verdict: For Real

Corey Coleman, Browns – Like Diggs this week, the concern with Corey Coleman moving forward will be his ability to mesh with a new QB. Dissimilarly, Coleman will now be dealing with a rookie QB that has yet to take a snap in the NFL. While Coleman is certainly intriguing this upcoming week in DFS due to the similarities to the Diggs situation, the situations are quite different, and Coleman will have more significant obstacles to overcome. Cody Kessler opened the season as third on the depth chart and was generally considered a prospect that will both need time to develop and projects as a career backup. On the other hand, Josh McCown was a guy with plenty of starting experience. It’s hard to project how a young QB will mesh with a young, obviously talented receiver. I would proceed with caution as there is about a 25-percent chance Kessler is Case Keenum-esque and can’t sustain even a single receiver’s value in his offense. Verdict: Talent is For Real, Situation is Questionable

Coby Fleener, Saints – Coby Fleener panic time has been initiated after catching only 2-8 targets in Week 2 for 29 yards. This flop came on the heels of a game where he only converted 1-6 targets…in an offense led by Drew Brees! Quite literally, Brees is the most accurate QB in the history of football (66.4-percent completion) and Fleener has only been able to haul in 3-14 targets from him. Fleener only hauled in 63.5-percent of the passes from Andrew Luck last year and it was hard to imagine him every upgrading much at the QB position from Luck. Continuing to struggle with drops through this point in his career is a giant red flag and just something that is part of his game at this point. For that reason, he is difficult to trust even with Dan Marino or Joe Montana in their prime throwing to him. Verdict: Not For Real (so stop trying)