Pairings for the Fantasy Chemist
Ethan Cowlbeck

Everyone knows that chemistry is a major factor to offensive and defensive success in the NFL. Most good offenses come with a speedster to take the top off of defenses, and an intermediate route-runner who can make tons of space. While your fantasy team obviously doesn’t always have guys playing on the same field at the same time, there are plenty of ways to implement team chemistry onto your fantasy squad. For the sake of this, I’m going to leave out QB/WR stacks and RB handcuffs. Obviously a great QB/WR stack can make a good week even better, and handcuffing an injury-prone RB protects the floor of the starter, so these are good combinations to have. While both are great examples of places where chemistry can boost the performance of your team, I wanted to think outside of the box today. Let’s dive in and I’ll show you what I’m talking about!

Brandin Cooks (WR – HOU) and Darius Slayton (WR – NYG)

I was considering putting AJ Green in this spot instead of Brandin Cooks, but I felt Cooks was the better fit due to the ceiling that would come with being Deshaun Watson’s #1 target. Regardless, Cooks is usually coming off of the board in the 6th round of 12-team drafts, making him either a WR3 or Flex depending on your league’s format. We know he’ll return plenty of value if he stays healthy, but the concussion risk is what’s holding him in the 6th round to begin with. For a great solution to pad any weeks Cooks may spend injured, look no further than Darius Slayton in the 9th round. Slayton has a healthy floor as he should come into 2020 as the lead receiver for the giants after establishing a strong connection with Daniel Jones in the second half of last season. Further adding to the appeal, Slayton lines up most frequently on the outside while teammates Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate are both slot-specialists. To me this is a recipe for Slayton breaking out as the clear favorite in the Giants passing game, and a great security blanket to target after drafting an injury prone player like Cooks. While I won’t go into detail, my emergency backup if Slayton gets taken early is Jets WR, Jamison Crowder.

Deebo Samuel (WR – SF) and Nyheim Hines (RB – IND)

This combination best suits the scenario where both QB and TE have been taken in the first 8 rounds, but can be applicable to any team. In this stage of the draft, you’re likely either filling in your last flex spot or beginning to add depth to your skill positions. Last season, Deebo emerged as San Francisco’s clear WR1 in a run-heavy offense for game-manager Jimmy Garoppolo. Prior to June, his ADP floated around the 5th round. However, following a Jones Fracture in his foot, he’s expected to miss the early part of the season, driving his ADP down into the 9th round. This means that he could be a steal of a player once he’s back to health, but only if you can find a way to manage in the early weeks that he spends holding a spot on your roster. Enter Nyheim Hines. His ADP is currently around the 12th or 13th round, but as there’s no real replacement for him if he gets sniped from you, I would encourage reaching as early as the 11th to secure him. For why he pairs perfectly with Deebo, Hines is a clearly defined receiving back on a team that signed a quarterback who loves throwing to running backs. Marlon Mack is irrelevant as a pass-catcher, and Jonathan Taylor will likely see a slow start to the season entering as a rookie amidst limited off-season reps. This makes Hines the perfect player to lease as a starter for the first few weeks of the season at a very low price before Deebo sees time back on the field.

T.J. Hockenson (TE – DET) and Jack Doyle (TE – IND)

Many people hold a similar mentality when it comes to drafting tight ends; “If you can’t secure one of the top tight ends in the draft, take 2 shots at the end of the draft.” How you take those shots matters though! The golden recipe is one player with a high ceiling, and one player with a high floor. If you go for 2 tight ends with high ceilings, you run the risk of both players busting and you ending up with nothing. If you go for 2 with high floors, you put a hard cap on the points you can add to your fantasy lineup. The ceiling TE in this equation is T.J. Hockenson of the Lions. Hockenson showed real promise at being a staple pass-catcher in Matthew Stafford’s arsenal before both players suffered season-ending injuries. He also emerged as a fantasy relevant tight end as a rookie, which is almost unheard of. With both players coming back in Hockenson’s second year, the sky really is the limit after seeing the foundation that was set in 2019. When looking for the yin to Hockenson’s yang, none other than Jack Doyle screams off of the page. I won’t beat a dead horse by mentioning who’s throwing the ball, but the departure of former teammate Eric Ebron to Pittsburgh is enticing in it’s own right for the sake of Doyle. Here’s the quick list of what you need to know: Doyle is currently being drafted as the TE22 after finishing 2019 15th in receptions and 15th in touchdowns. Ebron leaves 52 vacated targets and 3 vacated touchdowns, so the fact that Doyle has up to that amount of work to fulfill makes drafting him a no-brainer. This isn’t a player who’s just expected to have a high floor, it’s one who has already demonstrated it. If you draft this pair of tight ends, you may never have to think about the position for the rest of the year.

I’ve never seen anyone discuss this topic, so if you’ve made it this far, thanks for your interest! The point of these pairings is that each player’s advantages negate the other respective player’s pitfalls. If you have any other combinations you see in this regard, let me know! If you see problems with the players I chose and think I’m just an idiot with a loud opinion, well…let me know! I look forward to all discussions that follow!

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