College Football Pick’em
Wide Receivers Preview Part One
Talking the business of sports
It’s that time of year again. Training camp reports are coming in faster than we can consume them all. Beat writers are breaking down play-by-play scrimmage action on Twitter. Highlight videos of one-on-one videos in shorts are going viral. Unofficial depth charts are here. It’s all so much. It’s also so awesome.
While I’ll like to tell you that you can just ignore all the chatter, it’s not quite that easy. Some of this stuff will end up mattering. There is some signal amongst the noise. And I’m here to help you try to sort it all out. Let’s start with the rookie 1.01 and his place on the Jets‘ first depth chart.
The Case: This one is pretty straightforward. The Jets released their first unofficial depth chart. Breece Hall was listed on the third team behind Michael Carter and Tevin Coleman. The rookie still has much to prove.
The Verdict: Don’t believe it.
The only reason I included this is that it contains a universal truth: Do not believe an unofficial depth chart in August, especially when it contradicts nearly everything else we’re hearing. Hall has been one of the stars of Jets training camp. He’s going to lead the team in rushing as long as he stays healthy. I’ve actually moved Hall up to RB15 since the start of camp. You can draft him in Round 3.
The Case: Virtually everyone who has visited Chiefs camp over the past week has made a version of the same comment: JuJu Smith-Schuster appears to be separating as the No. 1 wide receiver in Kansas City. While Marquez Valdes-Scantling was very good at OTAs and we’ve certainly seen our share of Skyy Moore and Mecole Hardman videos, it’s become apparent that Smith-Schuster leads the pack early in camp.
The Verdict: Believe it.
If you wanted to accuse me of confirmation bias, I wouldn’t argue. I’ve long believed in Smith-Schuster and had him in my top-20 when he first signed with the Chiefs, Thankfully the voters agree with me, and I think it’s because of the logic behind it. He’s the only receiver on this team with a good Fantasy season under his belt. In fact, he has three more than the rest of the receivers combined. If Smith-Schuster can stay healthy, he absolutely has top-12 upside.
The risks for Smith-Schuster aren’t just injury though. This Chiefs team could simply spread the ball around more than they have in the past. There’s also a risk that Skyy Moore, who may have more upside, grows into a role as the season goes on. For those reasons, I prefer to draft Smith-Schuster as a borderline No. 2 receiver late early in Round 6.
The Case: This one came straight from the source, with McVay praising both Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson and saying he looks at it as if he has “two starting backs”. And it makes sense, after all, we still haven’t seen Akers look anything like the back he was before his Achilles injury. You should expect a full-blown committee in Los Angeles, with both backs finishing outside the top-20 running backs.
The Verdict: Don’t believe it
Since McVay took over the Rams, he’s used a feature back in all but one year. I’m including last year when Darrell Henderson was the lead back before he got hurt and then Sony Michel was until Cam Akers came back and then Akers was in the playoffs. Henderson and Michel combined for 14 games with at least 16 touches and Akers added three more in the playoffs despite being just six months removed from a torn Achilles.
That’s not to say they won’t share. All running backs share. But I have Akers projected for just under 16 touches per game, and Henderson at about half of that. That makes Akers worth a pick in Round 5 and Henderson one of the top backups in the Round 10 range. Both have far more upside beyond that.
The Case: After early reports that Williams was taking over this backfield, the drum is beating to a different tune. Reports of a split that is close to 50-50, with both on a pitch count, and Gordon possibly working more in the passing game have emerged. It seems quite clear that unless one of these backs gets hurt it will be a close timeshare again.
The Verdict: Believe it.
I believe it because it’s very similar to what Nathaniel Hackett’s Packers did last year. And because Melvin Gordon was still very good last year, better than Williams in some regards.
At this point, Williams is pretty clearly being overdrafted in Round 2 and Gordon is being underdrafted in Round 9. But I’d still strongly prefer Williams and Gordon’s age does make it easy to see a path where Williams takes over more work as the season goes on. The bigger concern is that Gordon continues to be better at hitting the hole than Williams and so he steals more touchdowns. Well, that or Gordon playing more on passing downs. If that happens this could be another nightmare situation for both backs.
For now, draft Williams in Round 3, and bump Gordon up to Round 8. They may get close before the season starts.
© 2004-2022 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.
CBS Sports is a registered trademark of CBS Broadcasting Inc. Commissioner.com is a registered trademark of CBS Interactive Inc.
Images by Getty Images and US Presswire