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Senior Fantasy Football Expert Shawn Childs breaks down and forecasts the top players from the biggest colleges in the nation! In this edition, he takes a look at Ronald Jones, Sam Darnold, JuJu Smith-Schuster and many more of your favorite USC players! Stay tuned for more College Football Player Breakdowns!
RB Ronald Jones – Over three seasons at USC, Jones gained 4,242 combined yards with 42 TDs and 32 catches. His best success came in his junior season in 2017 when he gained 1,737 yards with 20 TDs and 14 catches on 275 touches. Ronald added more bulk in 2017, and it helped his explosiveness in the trenches. He runs with patience and quickness, but his move to the second level of the defense can be explosive when he able to get full strides with his legs. Jones offers subtle cuts and shoulder fakes to create separation in the open field. His appears to stall in short areas when he doesn’t have the space to open up his stride. I like his vision, and his ability to hit the gas when he sees daylight. He showed hands catching ability, which gives him a chance to be much better than in the passing games at the next level. His ability to pass protect will help him on third downs. As much as like his upside, I have to take in the weakness of the Bucs’ offensive line. Jones will be the top RB on Tampa in 2018, but he will struggle in games vs. defense with strength against the run and a plus defensive line. I’m going to draft him with the idea of 250 touches for 1,100 plus yards with five to seven TDs and 20+ catches while understanding he has a much higher ceiling with a full-time job. Over the long season, there will be a couple of games when he gets hooked due to lack of running room. His value in the passing game does lower his floor from week-to-week in PPR leagues.
QB Sam Darnold – As a two-year starter for USC, Darnold passed for 7,229 yards with 57 TDs and 22 Ints. Sam has a good feel for the pass rush with the ability to slide in the pocket to create a longer passing window. He won’t be a running threat, but Darnold can convert scoring plays at the goal line and extend drives with his legs. If given an open field, he’ll take the long run. Most of his throws came out the shotgun. He has vision and the ability to locate his secondary receivers with quick decision making. He throws the ball well on the run while needing to improve his spiral when rushing his throw under duress. Darnold will trust his arm to make tight throws in coverage. At age 20, he looks poised to have a long career in the NFL. In 2018, Sam should get an opportunity to start many games. However, New York has a poor offensive line and a below average offense. In his first season in the league, Darnold projects to be more of a game manager on a team that wants to keep game score in line. I don’t see him starting in Week 1 and when/if he gets a starting opportunity, he will be a below par Fantasy option.
WR Marqise Lee – Over the last two seasons, Lee caught 119 passes for 1,553 yards and six TDs on 201 targets. In 2017, Marqise had seven games with five catches or more, but he never gained over 90 yards in any game. Lee had five games with double-digit targets. His season ended in Week 15 with an ankle injury. He’s a former second-round draft pick (2014) who expects to be the top WR in the Jaguars’ offense in 2018. Last year WRs in Jacksonville caught 177 passes for 2,426 yards and 12 TDs on 306 targets. Possession type WR with a skill set to produce 5/50 games in many weeks. His value in TDs has limited minimal upside. At best, 75 catches for 900+ yards with about five TDs.
WR Nelson Agholor – After taking some baby steps in his first two seasons in the league after getting drafted in the first round in 2015, Agholor stated to look the part of a top NFL WR last year. He caught 62 of his 95 targets for 768 yards and eight TDs, which was more than his first two seasons combined. Nelson scored five TDs in his first seven games while being more active from Week 13 to Week 15 (22/264/2 on 32 targets). He played his best game in the playoffs in the Super Bowl (9/84). Last year the WRs on the Eagles caught 178 passes for 2,269 yards and 20 TDs on 312 targets. This season the WR3 in Philly’s offense is much stronger than 2017, which make it tough believe in a jump in opportunity. I’d draft him as WR3 while expecting about 65 catches for 800+ yards and about seven TDs.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster – Over three seasons at USC, JuJu caught 213 passes for 3,092 yards and 25 TDs with his best success coming in his sophomore year (89/1454/10). Smith-Schuster adds more power than finesse to the wide receiver position. His size (6’1” and 215 Lbs.) gives him scoring ability, and his game worked well out of the slot in 2017. Over 14 games in his rookie season, JuJu caught 58 of his 79 targets for 917 yards and seven TDs with 12 catches going for 20 yards or more and six catches for longer than 40 yards. His first impact game came in Week 8 (7/193/1) while stepping up big time over the last three weeks (6/114, 6/75/1, and 9/143/1) after Antonio Brown went down with an injury. Smith-Schuster outplayed Martavis Bryant who was shipped out of town in the offseason. His high catch rate (73.4) paired with a WR2 opportunity in 2018, I expect 110+ targets leading to 75+ catches for 1,100+ yards and a chance at double-digit TDs.
WR Robert Woods – Over four seasons in Buffalo, Woods caught 203 passes for 2,451 yards and 12 TDs on 345 targets. His best success came in his sophomore year in 2014 when Robert caught 65 of his 104 targets for 699 yards and five TDs. He missed seven games over the last two seasons leading to only 21 starts. Over 12 games in 2017, Wood was on pace for the best season of his career. He caught 56 of his 85 targets for 781 yards and five TDs, which projected over 16 games would have been 75 catches for 1,041 yards and seven TDs. It’s too bad Brandin Cooks will pass him on the depth chart leading to a step back in chances. The Rams don’t have a TE of Fantasy value, which points to the WR3 in the Rams’ offense having a chance at 50 catches for 600+ yards and minimal upside TDs.
RB Javorius Allen – Despite only gaining 3.9 yards per rush and 5.4 yards per catch, the Ravens still gave 199 touches in 2017. He finished with 741 combined yards with six TDs and 46 catches. His best value came in a chaser game. Over the first nine games of the season, Javorius had five games with five catches or more. Baltimore phased him out in the passing game over the second half of year (only seven combined catches with 61 total yards). Allen is a grinder type back who enters 2018 as the third option in the run game if Alex Collinsand Kenneth Allen stay healthy.
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QB Cody Kessler – Cody lacks an impact arm while offering some upside as a game manager. Cody plays more not to lose rather than seizing the moment with impact throws in tight coverage. His accuracy plays well within the pocket with a solid feel for the pass rush. When forced to run, his game loses value leading to minimal big plays and declining success. In his first season in the league, Kessler went 0-8 in nine games played. He completed 65.6 percent of his passes for 1,380 yards with six TDs and two Ints. Cody was sacked 21 times in 195 attempts (9.7 percent of the time). As expected, he had no value as a runner (11/18). Last year the Browns only had him on the field for 23 pass attempts, which led to 126 passing yards and no TDs and one Int. Kessler is the top backup QB for Jacksonville in 2018.
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