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Buffs in the NFL: Who should you pick in fantasy football?

Is Laviska Shenault worth a late-round selection?

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars-Training Camp Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

There’s tremendous that the NFL season will begin and finish without COVID-19 related issues. But if Major League Baseball can survive two entire teams catching the virus, the NFL will do everything they can to complete the season. There’s too much money at stake for them not to try.

I’m not sure that’s good or bad news, but for the time being, we can distract ourselves with fantasy football. There are complications to this season, namely with the players who have either withdrawn from the NFL season, or the inevitability that some high-profile player will catch the virus (in which case there’s bigger things to worry about).

For the purposes of our Buffs-centric blog, we can talk about which Colorado Buffaloes you should be targeting in your fantasy draft.

Phillip Lindsay, RB, Denver Broncos

After signing as an undrafted free agent in 2018, Phillip Lindsay has rushed for 2,048 yards and 16 touchdowns across two seasons. He’s missed only one game despite draft-day concerns about his size and physicality. All of that is to say is that he’s been a very solid RB2/Flex in fantasy football, particularly when he was a free agent pickup in his Pro Bowl 2018 season.

The Broncos are poised for an offensive breakout with Drew Lock, Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy all on the come-up. Lindsay’s workload may decrease, however, as the team signed Melvin Gordon from the Los Angeles Chargers. Gordon is one of the most overrated backs in the NFL — he’s a better fantasy player than real player, as noted by his career 4.0 yards per carry — but he’s a threat to get the majority of carries and targets.

Lindsay’s role itself shouldn’t be affected too much. The Broncos essentially signed Gordon to replace the disappointing Royce Freeman, meaning Lindsay will still be 1A or 1B in this running back committee. Gordon will probably poach catches and touchdowns from the forever Buff, but with more rest, Lindsay could be explosive and efficient.

Lindsay is being drafted around pick 90, roughly the 30th running back off the board. If you can get him there, that’s good value for someone who will still be getting 15 touches per game, especially if he is more explosive with those carries.

Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

If you’re drafting Viska, it’s because you’re either in a dynasty league, or looking for potential in a very deep pool. It’s hard to see Shenault playing a lot in 2020, mostly because Jacksonville is developing him behind a number of young receivers. But fine, I’ll look for a reason to draft him.

The Jags will probably lose a lot this season, meaning Gardner Minshew will be throwing quite a bit. 2019 breakout D.J. Chark stands to be the primary target, then it’s free agent addition Chris Conley and former Biletnikoff winner Dede Westbrook. Other players like Keelan Cole and scatback Chris Thompson are there to poach targets as well. There’s a lot of options, but the good news is that only Chark is a high-quality player.

Shenault’s best chance at breaking out is (1) Conley or Westbrook being ineffective or unhealthy, which is quite possible, (2) the Jags needing a more physical receiver running underneath, since they just released the bruising Leonard Fournette, and (3) Viska needs to stay healthy and effective. If all of that happens — and I don’t see why it can’t — Shenault would get a chance to show off his abilities.

If all of that happens, you could probably pick up Shenault off waivers. There’s no need to draft him unless you’re in the aforementioned dynasty or ultra-deep leagues.

Paul Richardson, WR, Seattle Seahawks

In case you missed it, Paul Richardson signed with Washington in 2018, was released earlier this offseason, and re-signed with the Seahawks on August 29th. He’s a very late addition to the roster, but the learning curve should be easy since he played his first four seasons in that offense.

There’s an outside chance Richardson plays himself into fantasy relevance, but it could happen. The reason he was signed was because free agent addition Phillip Dorsett has been out with a foot injury, while young players John Ursua and Cody Thompson have been hurt. Richardson, a speedy threat on the outside, is also a natural replacement if D.K. Metcalf — who was injury-prone at Ole Miss — is out for any extended time.

Richardson was an inconsistent fantasy player when he was the primary option in Washington, so I’m not sure what his potential is in a conservative Seahawks offense in which he isn’t even starting. But if you need a Buffs player on your team, he wouldn’t look bad on your bench.

Mason Crosby, K, Green Bay Packers

Buffs legend Mason Crosby is still kicking it up north, still drilling clutch field goals for the Packers. He’s had a few down years, as he’s struggled with accuracy and missed extra points, but he quietly had his most accurate season in 2019. He went 22 of 24 on field goals (91.7%, by far his best) and missed just one extra point (97.6%; league average is 94.5%).

Admittedly, Crosby did have a lower volume of both field goals and extra points than someone like Justin Tucker or Wil Lutz, but the Packers should be better on offense in 2020. Davante Adams is back healthy and the team will be better equipped for Matt LaFleur’s offense.