Fantasy Football Mailbag: Thursday 7/21/16

We all know Ezekiel Elliott has absurd potential in his rookie season. Should we be giving up other keepers in order to roster him?

Fantasy football research never stops, and offseason news can really complicate things, especially when coaches talk up second- and third-string players. That's why we're starting up a fantasy football mailbag.

Have a question about a certain player, team, draft strategy, or anything football? Shoot us a question on Twitter or send an email to, and we can talk anything fantasy football related -- even daily fantasy football.

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Now, let's answer some questions.

Email submission from Randy Rosa:

Need some help here... Won championship against kids, son in laws, nephews and sister last year... Now have to defend the crown. 12 team half point ppr, 2 wr, 1 rb, and 2 flex. Three keeper option, so if I drop all keepers I will get first pick in the draft. My choice is keep three out of Jamal Charles, mark Ingram, Brandon cooks, or amari cooper... OR I can drop all and pick up Ezekiel as first pick and grab players available next two rounds. Is Zeke worth it?

First, Randy, congratulations on your championship. Doing that in a season in which Jamaal Charles and Mark Ingram both missed the fantasy playoffs is sickly, so the squad must have been pumping along like a beauty. Second, even though there are tons of reasons to love Ezekiel Elliott this year, I'd be inclined to keep the core you've got in tact.

A good way to check on one-year keeper questions is by bopping over to Fantasy Football Calculator and investigating their average draft position (ADP) data. It'll give you a read on the public's perception of each asset so you can best assess whether a person is worthwhile to hold.

By going here and looking at the rules for Randy's league, we'll see that Elliott is going 11th overall in these formats, higher than any player on the potential keeper list. However, as we look down the list, we see that Charles, Amari Cooper, and Brandin Cooks are all second-rounders, and Ingram is going in the third. If you can have three of those four players, I'd have a really hard time letting go, even if the top asset you'd get in return would be individually superior.

The preference to keep the assets you have here really doesn't have much to do with Elliott. He's a fine target heading into the year, and we have every reason to believe he should do well. But with the talent you've stockpiled, I'd be very much more inclined to hang tight and roll out the studs.

Email submission from Jordan Fleming

I have a keeper question for a 12 team, half point PPR league with 2 RB, 2 WR and 1 Flex (RB/WR/TE). I have the number one overall pick so most likely taking Antonio Brown. I can keep 3 players from this list: Allen Robinson - 4th round pick, Latavius Murray - 8th round pick, Jordy Nelson - 9th round pick, Melvin Gordon - 12th round pick

Going through the same exercise as we did above in comparing ADP's to what you'd be giving up, we can see that each of these players is worth their draft slot, so you really can't go wrong. Pairing Antonio Brown with Allen Robinson and Jordy Nelson (who we talked more about in yesterday's mailbag) would give you three top-tier receivers. I'm not passing on that. That brings us to comparing Latavius Murray to Melvin Gordon, and with the discrepancy in their respective costs, Gordon wins that battle in my eyes.

We can all agree that Gordon was straight awful in his rookie season. There's really no counter argument there. But what people have tended to overlook is that Murray had his own inefficiencies, increasing his risk heading into this season.

Of the 44 players who had at least 100 rushes last year, Gordon ranked 30th in success rate, a numberFire metric that tracks the percentage of plays on which the player increased the team's Net Expected Points for the drive. Obviously, 30th isn't great. However, Murray was all the way down in 42nd, besting only DeMarco Murray and Alfred Morris. You can start to see why the Oakland Raiders brought in DeAndre Washington with a fifth-round pick now.

The other aspect of Gordon's tough season is that almost the entire team was dinged up. They used three different starters at both guard positions, they lost their starting center in Week 2, and left tackle King Dunlap missed nine games. Toss in injuries to Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates, and it's not hard to see why Gordon would struggle, making it seem as if he's in for a big-time rebound in 2016.

The obvious restriction to Gordon is the presence of Danny Woodhead, who will take away receiving-down work. That's a factor to consider for sure. But you also must consider that the cost of Gordon is lower, and Philip Rivers has been one of the most efficient passers in the league ever since he claimed the job. With all of those aspects aligning, Gordon may be the best bet given his reduced cost and quality potential.

It's easy to understand the incentive to be contrarian. If you had done so last year and forgone early-round running backs, you may have avoided the apocalypse that happened at the position. However, in a half- or full-PPR league, spreading yourself thin at wide receiver would be a tough pill to swallow.

As numberFire's Brandon Gdula pointed out in June, identifying quality wide receivers on waivers is no simple task. Typically, a receiver will have a big game, get picked up in a bunch of leagues, and then largely fail to produce the subsequent few weeks. This makes it hard to find replacement-level options during the season, lowering the incentive to ignore the position during the draft.

We also touched on this in yesterday's mailbag, but all of this becomes even more difficult with scoring rules that favor wide receivers. That position will understandably hold an advantage in a league that rewards what they do most, meaning it's harder for a similarly-priced running back to outscore a wide receiver. You'll find value at running back by focusing your attention exclusively there, but that value may not erase the scoring gap created by ignoring wide receivers.

It's good to look for ways to differentiate yourself from league mates in fantasy drafts, and the creativity here is pretty cool. It'd just be an extremely difficult landscape to navigate under the given scoring rules, favoring a more balanced approach between the two positions in early rounds.

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