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Fantasy Football Mailbag: Ronald Jones outlook, Ezekiel Elliott vs. Saquon Barkley and auction strategy

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Submit questions for Andrew either via email ([email protected]) or Twitter @AndrewErickson_ or @PFF_Fantasy. Without further ado: Let's talk about RoJo, Zeke, Saquon and some auction strategy.

This week’s questions come courtesy of @profootballfocus on Instagram.

What do you think about Ronald Jones this year? — @timchic

I've been drafting Ronald Jones in plenty of Best Ball drafts this summer and acquired him in one of my dynasty leagues as well — so, yeah, you could say I'm high on the third-year running back. 

I wrote back at the start of July about how he was being undervalued, and the buzz on him seems to be improving considerably, as his ADP has risen from RB36 to RB31. But even at a slightly higher cost, he is still worth targeting in the fifth or sixth round of drafts. 

All he did last season was improve in all facets of his game after a disastrous rookie season. He finished fifth in yards per route run (1.82) among running backs and flashed explosiveness with the 14th-best breakaway percentage (31.5%) and fourth-highest yards after the catch per reception (9.7).

His only real threat to early-down work is third-round rookie Ke’Shawn Vaughn, who was recently placed on the COVID-19 reserve list. If Vaughn misses time during training camp, I just don't see how he is going to show the coaching staff in Tampa Bay that he is worthy of the starting job.

The biggest knock on Jones will be is lack of usage in the passing game, because all anybody seems to care about is that he struggles in pass protection and was benched for it last season. But let me tell you that pass protection and fantasy points do not correlate. 

During Christian McCaffrey’s rookie season, he ranked 67th out of 75 running backs in PFF’s pass-blocking efficiency. He turned out more than fine. 

Don't focus on the fact that Jones might not top his 31 receptions from last season. Instead, remember that he is the starting running back on an above-average offense and will no longer have to split touches with Peyton Barber near the end zone. 

The recent free-agent signing of LeSean McCoy should not affect Jones’ role as the starter. McCoy is 32 and was a healthy scratch during the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory.

I will be in an auction draft for the first time this year. What strategies and tips do I need to know? — @bolt_gang_or_dont_bang

Auction drafts are great and a nice break from the traditional snake drafts most fantasy players participate in. For starters, you need to be prepared with tiered rankings. You can find a collection of PFF fantasy analysts' tiers here. PFF's fantasy football cheat sheet can develop auction prices for every single player based on specific league settings. 

Having tiers is super helpful because it allows you to read the room as players are purchased. Players in the same tier should cost around the same amount. This can help keep you from overpaying — or inspire you to pay up for the final player in a particular tier. 

For example, say in a $100 league Clyde Edwards Helaire goes for $50 off the board, and he's in the same tier for you as Miles Sanders. You can use the CEH price to your advantage when Sanders gets put up for bidding knowing that you are not looking to spend any more than $50 — and hopefully get him for a cheaper price. 

It's important to make sure you save some money for the last few rounds of any auction draft. That way you can still get your choice of late-round selections while being able to price enforce at the same time. You do not want to run out of money in the ninth or 10th round.

Generally, you want to spend the majority of your budget on your core running backs and wide receivers to start, lay low more toward the middle of the draft and finish strong. Good luck!

Is Saquon Barkley a slam dunk pick at No. 2 overall or is it worth considering other players? — @joshua_doepker

I do think that Saquon Barkley is worthy as the No. 2 overall pick in fantasy football drafts, but I also think there is an extremely strong case for Ezekiel Elliott there as well. In my current fantasy rankings, I have Elliot ranked second because I want to try to mitigate risk as much as possible in the early rounds of drafts, especially with a top-five selection. 

Between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants, there's no debate over which team is going to score more points or see more trips to the end zone. I'm bullish that Elliott will score double-digit touchdowns and finish as a top option at the position. 

You just can't beat his weekly consistency — Elliott didn't finish a single week worse than RB26 during the entire 2019 season, a feat that even RB1 Christian McCaffrey couldn't accomplish.

As for Barkley and the Giants, it’s not outside of the range of outcomes that quarterback Daniel Jones does not mesh with first-time head coach Joe Judge and new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. This offense could struggle, especially if there are issues implementing a new scheme in a shortened offseason. 

Quick Hitters

Who is the best handcuff running back this year? Tony Pollard, Alexander Mattison, Darwin Thompson or someone else? — @4xfitz

I would not include Darwin Thompson on a list of top handcuffs — it’s likely going to be DeAndre Washington you want to target in K.C. Washington started three games for the Las Vegas Raiders over the final four weeks of 2019 and averaged more than 19 fantasy points per game. He also ranked second in the NFL in yards per route run (2.30) at the running back position.

The top handcuff overall — regardless of draft price — is Kareem Hunt. He would easily become a top-five running back once again if he saw all the touches with the Cleveland Browns

Factoring in cost, Chase Edmonds is extremely affordable (RB51) and also offers huge upside with the Arizona Cardinals. During the one game last season when Edmonds received double-digit rushing attempts, he scored three touchdowns and rushed for over 120 yards.

You can read more on 2020 premium fantasy football running back handcuffs here.

Kenny Golladay or Allen Robinson? — @jb_431

Kenny Golladay. I prefer wide receivers with quality quarterbacks. 

Kenyan Drake or Austin Ekeler? — @pjcastle10

Kenyan Drake. Offense on the ascent versus offense in a rebuild. 

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