As we arrive at the middle of August, not only are we excited for the approach of the 2015 NCAA and NFL football seasons, we also enter NFL Fantasy Draft territory. Every die-hard fan that participates in fantasy football struggles with nursing a potentially dangerous emotional attachment to a particular team or players that were standouts during their time at their chosen university. Fear not! Gobbler Country has you covered, and will provide an overview of the myriad Hokies currently playing in the NFL, in order to assist the navigation of the NFL Fantasy Football waters. The following does not cover all the Hokies currently active in the NFL, but will focus on players that either had fantasy contribution last year or are expected to contribute this season.
We will begin by reviewing the players participating in positions where the preponderance of fantasy points exist – the offense!
Logan Thomas: Thomas was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals as a developmental player. After a string of injuries at Arizona’s QB position last year Logan found himself in the starting role and struggled. He is projected to be the third string QB on the Arizona Cardinals, and has no fantasy value.
Tyrod Taylor: Taylor is an interesting prospect, and qualifies as someone to watch. He is currently locked in a QB battle for the starting position in Buffalo. Tyrod was well regarded as the second string QB in Baltimore, and some think he has the experience and capability to start for the Bills. Gobbler Country’s own mkcost05 has an article about this subject, which you should check out, if you have not already. If Taylor ends up winning the starting job he will be working with a WR corps that includes Sammy Watkins who was still able to make a Fantasy impact with E.J. Manuel and Kyle Orton throwing to him. If Taylor finds himself the starter, he could be a value in the later rounds for fantasy players in large leagues, or a potential waiver wire pick-up.
Royal is arguably the most valuable Hokie, on the offensive side of the ball. Royal’s 2008 rookie season was breakout, catching 91 passes for 980 yards and five TDs. In 2014 he finished with 62 receptions, 778 yards, and seven TDs. This year Royal has moved to Chicago and will be working with QB Jay Cutler, who provided the passes to Royal, in 2008, that enabled him to make a splash as a rookie. In the NFL Fantasy Cheat Sheet application Royal reports that he and Cutler have been executing in the same manner as they did in the 2008 season. Royal has outside potential in later rounds for standard size PPR leagues, and certainly has value in larger leagues.
Boykin’s best statistical year was in 2013 when he logged 49 receptions, 681 yards, and three TDs. He is not projected to have a particularly productive fantasy year in 2015. He is listed as the third WR on the Carolina Panthers’ depth chart. At the start of the season it is unlikely that he will have substantial fantasy value. Considering the fact that Cam Newton is throwing to him, should injuries or performance result in him seeing increased looks, it is possible that Boykin could be a valuable waiver pick up later in the season.
Although there are other offensive former VPI players on NFL rosters they are either projected to have negligible impact on the offensive side of the ball or none at all.
Although not as common in the fantasy realm, Independent Defensive Player (IDP) leagues do have enough of a presence for Gobbler Country to explore the value of former VT defensive players plying their trade on the defensive side of the ball.
Most IDP leagues do not differentiate between the safety and corner back position and instead reference both simply as defensive backs. As one would expect for an organization that has earned the title of DBU the mass majority of IDP fantasy value, for former Hokies, is at the defensive back position.
Kam Chancellor: Pro Bowl safety Kam Chancellor is currently embroiled in a holdout with 2014 Super Bowl champions. Chancellor is a starter in Seattle’s vaunted Legion of Boom. In both the ESPN Fantasy Football 2015 and Pro Forecast Fantasy Football magazine Chancellor is ranked as the #13 DB, and should register a regular showing in IDP leagues. Assuming his holdout does not last into the season, Chancellor should find himself a valuable starter in every IDP league. In both ESPN’s Fantasy magazine and Pro Forecast’s publication he is ranked as the #13 DB.
DeAngelo Hall: Hall is a pro bowl caliber DB. Although he is starting to get long in the tooth he is still one of the better corner backs in the NFL. In 2014 Hall’s season was cut short, in week three, when he tore his Achilles tendon. So far, it seems that Hall has recovered well from the season ending injury and the ESPN Fantasy Football 2015 magazine ranked him as the #43 DB. Pro Forecast’s publication rates him much higher as the #16 DB in the league. Much depends on what role Washington reserves for Hall. Currently the Redskins are working to develop two young corners. ESPN posits that Hall could find value at the safety position. He could also maintain his position at CB if one of the younger players develops slower than expected, or Washington decides to leave the Pro-bowler as a starting CB. Either way, Hall is still a standout player, in a position that has few standouts, and will most certainly find a place in most IDP leagues.
Kyle Fuller: Fuller enters his second year in the NFL as one of the more electrifying young DBs in the country. Observations from Chicago’s training camp are promising and Fuller should find himself in a position to have significant impact in Chicago’s backfield. Last year, during his rookie season, Fuller registered 64 tackles, three forced fumbles, and four interceptions. I expect, at a minimum, that Fuller reaches similar numbers if he does not outright improve. ESPN ranks him as the #35 DB and Pro Forecast has him clocking in at #33. Just like Hall, Fuller will have a place in most IDP leagues, although his potential upside is substantially greater than Hall’s.
Brandon Flowers: In March 2015, Flowers signed a four year, $36 million deal with the San Diego Chargers. In 2014 Flowers had 64 tackles and three interceptions. Flowers is not listed as one of the top DBs in either ESPN’s magazine or Pro Forecast’s magazine, but he has had an impact in multiple seasons, as a starter, in the past, and certainly is worth paying attention to as a potential waiver pick up throughout the season.
Jayron Hosley: Hosley is facing a crossroads in his career with the Giants. He either has to play better and have a greater impact on the NY defense or he will most likely find himself on the free agent market next year, fighting for a roster spot in the NFL. Hosley has the tools, and has shown flashes of brilliance at the CB position. Based on previous seasons’ performances it is hard to recommend Hosley as a viable draft pick, or even a waiver wire pick up. But, he might be a deep sleeper, in large IDP leagues, if his self-preservation instinct kicks in and his game picks up.
Defensive Line and Linebacker
As we move closer to the line of scrimmage the fantasy value of VPI defensive players drops significantly. NFL veteran and Hokie standout Daryl Tapp will most likely be sharing time at DE while he fulfills a one year contract with the Detroit Lions. At linebacker, both Chase Williams and James Gayle are undrafted rookies hoping to find playing time on the Raiders and Redskins squads, respectively. None of these former Hokies are likely to have any substantial fantasy impact and should be avoided.
As far as standard fantasy leagues are concerned, the only NFL defense that ESPN ranks in the top ten, with a VT defensive player in a starting position, is the Seattle Seahawks. Unsurprisingly, ESPN has ranked Seattle as the premier NFL fantasy defense, and the NFL Fantasy Cheat Sheet Application ranks the Seahawks as the number three fantasy defense.
There is no question that VPI players have a significant impact for the NFL teams they find themselves playing for on Sunday. The reality is that NFL production does not necessarily translate to NFL fantasy production. There is some fantasy value to be found, in former VT players, on the offensive side of the ball, for large fantasy leagues, or potentially as sleepers and waiver wire pick-ups. But, most fantasy players, participating in standard leagues, should likely not gamble on VT offensive players. For individuals that participate in IDP leagues there is potential for significant value to be found in DBU’s backfield NFL players. As tempting as it will be to draft our favorite college players, it is recommended that fantasy players tread carefully when considering starting Hokies, outside of IDP leagues.