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2020 Offseason Review Series Day 26: The New England Patriots

New England Patriots

Division: AFC East 2019: 12-4, Division Win
Before I dive in, I want to give a massive, massive thanks to timnog - who is a national treasure and the resident .gif queen of the Patriots - and arbrown83 - who provides excellent high-quality OC and manages, a definitive repository for content complete with data and .gifs spanning the past 20 years. Basically everything in this piece that isn't sourced in the click (twitter, youtube etc.) came from one of them and I don't want to imagine what this would look like without them.

Coaching Changes:

After last year's mass coaching exodus there are relatively few losses among the coaching staff this season, but two of them are major losses that will certainly be felt. The team has remained true to form this year in handling coaching turnover - losses have been addressed by promotions from within and the team has brought in one mid-priority, experienced outsider to supplement.

Free Agency

Players lost/cut
Player Position New Team Contract
Tom Brady QB 2 yrs, $50M
Kyle Van Noy Edge 4 yrs, $51M
Jamie Collins LB 3 yrs, $30M
Danny Shelton IDL 2 yrs, $8M
Ted Karras C 1 yr, $3M
Nate Ebner ST 1 yr, $2M
Elandon Roberts LB 1 yr, $2M
Phillip Dorsett WR 1 yr, $1M
Players signed
Player Position Old Team Contract
Beau Allen IDL 2 yrs, $7M
Adrian Phillips S 2 yrs, $6M
Damiere Byrd WR 1 yr, $1.6M
Dan Vitale FB 1 yr, $1.3M
Brian Hoyer QB 1 yr, $1M
Marquise Lee WR 1 yr, $1M
Brandon Copeland LB 1 yr, $1M
New England entered the 2020 Free Agency period without much cap space to speak of. After placing a franchise tag on Left Guard Joe Thuney and re-signing Free Safety Devin McCourty, the team was left without much of anything to work with. Trading away Duron Harmon turned out to be a necessary move solely for the cap ramifications.
Not much in the way of splashy names. Those signings left New England without even enough money to sign a draft class. Without even enough cap space to fit a veteran minimum contract, the team couldn't have possibly added any more players..... Wait. What?
Player Position Old Team Contract
Cam Newton QB 1 yr, $1.75M
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Round Pick Player Position School
2 37 Kyle Dugger Safety Lenoir-Rhyne
2 60 Josh Uche LB Michigan
3 87 Anfernee Jennings LB Alabama
3 91 Devin Asiasi TE UCLA
3 101 Dalton Keene TE Virginia Tech
5 159 Justin Rohrwasser K Marshall
6 182 Michael Onwenu G Michigan
6 195 Justin Herron OT Wake Forest
6 204 Cassh Maluia LB Wyoming
7 230 Dustin Woodard C Memphis
It's never easy to talk about Patriots drafts. In 2020 the team clearly wanted to add versatility on multiple levels, and they did something we've seen them do multiple times before and double dipped at positions of significant need. A number of pundits have panned the Pats 2020 draft class because it didn't include a Quarterback or receiver, while others have praised it because the team moved around a number of picks and that must be a good sign. If forced to give a grade I'd throw out a B/B-. Dugger has a ridiculous potential ceiling but his rawness is scary. I absolutely love the Uche pick. He was a favorite of mine through the process with nice tape who seemed generally undervalued due to lack of volume. He could return major upside. Jennings is a classic Patriots prototype pick who could be great for the team, and he was selected at about "expected" range. Asiasi is someone I liked in the scouting process as a competent receiver but I would have preferred Adam Trautman as the more complete package. I liked Dalton Keene for fit but I didn't expect him before the middle of day 3. Trading 2 4ths to the Jets to move up for Keene there just doesn't sit right. The Rohrwasser pick is another Belichick staple on the current rookie wage scale. Once the 5th round rolls around he starts taking his "reach" shots on special teamers or long-shot projects e.g. Punter Jake Bailey, Long Snapper Joe Cardona, Punter Zoltan Mesko or reclamation projects Byron Cowart and Marcus Cannon. Most of those picks have turned out pretty good for the team. Given that track record and the need, I expected and don't hate taking the kicker there. I know nothing about Rohrwasser except he apparently went 100% from 50+ yards and had a handful of impressive kicks in bad weather, but Belichick has been on point with specialists and the team hasn't brought in any competition so I believe in his ability. The rest of the selections are just prospective depth, which is hard to get excited about but is also something the team desperately needed. I'm glad the team didn't try to take a QB and instead focused on addressing a lack of roster depth, an aging safety group, an eviscerated LB corps and the worst TE room in the league. For the oldest roster in the NFL and for how many contributing bodies the team lost in free agency, this draft class isn't exactly sexy, but it is a necessity and very on-brand for the Patriots.

Projected Depth Chart

Position Groups

Camp Battles to Watch


Schedule Prediction

Other Offseason News that has Affected the Team

Thanks for reading if indeed you have. If not, thanks for at least scrolling to the bottom. I hope it's been enjoyable and informative. Stay safe and be good to each other.
E: Of course within hours of posting this the Patriots finalized multiple roster moves. Lamar Miller was signed to a 1 year deal. While the terms are unknown at the moment, he'll be a strong candidate to come in and carry a significant workload. The signing suggests that the team is unsure of Sony Michel's availability after the foot surgery that currently has him on the PUP list and does not feel comfortable leaning on Burkhead or Harris in the event that Sony misses time. Jordan Leggett has also been signed and could push Ryan Izzo for a roster spot.
submitted by O_the_Scientist to nfl [link] [comments]

Fantasy diamonds for 2020

Now that we are close to a lot of people’s fantasy drafts, I wanted to hand out some names that I frequently end up with when I do mocks, just because I have them higher in my rankings. So these are players, who present value based on their ADP (average draft position), all as an average between the three biggest platforms for fantasy football –, ESPN and Yahoo. That’s as of August 20th, with the first two having a full-PPR scoring system and the last one being set to .5PPR. They also all have a standard lineup of 1 QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs, 1 FLEX, 1 TE, 1 DEF and 1 K. I had to wait until now, so that the draft data is representative of what people actually think of these players, especially with so many mocks having the majority of users set as auto-picks and distort the results.
So I will talk about what I like about these players heading into 2020, maybe a couple of concerns and talk a little bit about what I look at them as, compared to the where people are selecting them in their mock drafts. I listed three guys for every position that fills one spot in your standard lineup (QB, TE, DEF) and five for running back and wide receiver respectively. Oh, and I’m not doing kickers here – just pick one from the high-scoring team and that you know has a proven track record of converting on his opportunities.
Here are some of my favorite value picks:


Tom Brady
ADP – 79.57 (QB9)
This seems weird to put a name here that is discussed as probably the greatest of all time and who hasn’t been on my radar as a fantasy option for a long time (especially since I usually pick my QBs very late), but I think there has never as much value with Tom Brady as this upcoming season. TB12 was QB12 last season with a broken-down Julian Edelman, who led the league in dropped passes, to go with a former first-round bust in Philip Dorsett, an undrafted rookie in Jakobi Meyers and a Mohamed Sanu, who looked like one of the worst in-season acquisitions of 2019, as the three next-most productive receivers, combining for less than 1000 yards. To go along with that he had what looks like a bad first-round choice in N’Keal Harry and the league’s least productive tight-end room. Now he is in Tampa Bay, where they have the premiere receiving duo in the game with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, a three-headed monster at tight-end, some interesting backs and pretty much a push as far as the O-line goes, while playing for a coach that is much more interesting in pushing the ball downfield. While having to learn a new system after two decades of being in New England and knowing every little intricacy about it will be a challenge no matter how long you’ve been around the league, just the sheer improvement in weapons and the increased chances to go down the field make me believe he will finisher multiple spots higher than he did in 2019. Brady has gone up quite a bit these last few weeks, but at the end of the eighth round, I think he is still a value pick. I personally have him about a round higher than that and when I do mocks, where I have my two starting RB and WR spots, my flex and one of each on the bench secured, this is a guy I end up with on quite a few occasions – even though this usually is the earliest I think about picking a QB, if nobody just falls right into my lap.

Daniel Jones
ADP – 139.50 (QB20)
A name that already was controversial at the time of the actual draft and seems to be a little controversial in this discussion as a fantasy option as well is Daniel Jones. While there are some concerns, that I will get to in a second, let me give you some numbers. In terms of average points per start (12), only ten quarterbacks put up better numbers than Jones did last season. His 18.98 points in those starts were better than what Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or Kyler Murray were able to put together. He had three different games with 4+ touchdowns and no picks (Lions, Jets, Washington) and you can’t overlook his effectiveness as a runner. Jones missed out by five carries to reach that 50-mark, but among the ones who did, he would have finished behind only Lamar Jackson with 6.2 yards per rushing attempt. He put up all those numbers despite having a banged up Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram being out for most of the time and getting sacked 38 times on 459 attempts. Now, he was highly inconsistent as a rookie, with those three games of 28+ fantasy points and not reaching 15 in any of the other contests, and his ten fumbles lost not only limited his opportunity to add to the scoring, but also directly lowered his total in the end. With that being said, I still think the offensive line will be better than it was a year ago and Jones’ top five options in the passing game will be healthy at the same time, at least for the start of 2020, which was never the case in year one for him. There are some guys like Darius Slayton, who I expect to break out in his second season, and while new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett will build on the run game, he could also involve his QB more in that area, similar to what they did in Dallas with Dak Prescott for the last few years.

Drew Lock
ADP – 146.43 (QB23)
Before I talk about any of these numbers – the sample size for Drew Lock as a rookie was pretty small. He started the last five games of 2019 and averaged 13.6 points a week, with three games right around that number and two outliers – a 24-point affair at Houston, when he threw 3 TDs in the first half alone in an upset victory, and a 6.6-point blunder in a snowstorm at Kansas City. That is not necessarily something to get super-excited about and I don’t love some of the hype Lock has been receiving this offseason, but it doesn’t yet reflect in his fantasy ADP. The highest he is ranked on any of these platforms is 22nd (ESPN). While he did already have Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant as a rookie, the latter despite being the most productive rookie tight-end, heavily fluctuated with his weekly output, putting up 159 combined yards in two of those weeks and 19 combined in the other three. He will likely take another step, when you look at the history of the position. And now you replace DeSean Hamilton and Tim Patrick, who caught just 53 percent of the targets their way and averaged 6.2 yards per targets, with two stud rookies. Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy was my top-ranked receiver in the draft and create a dependable target due his highly advanced route-running and Penn State’s K.J. Hamler opens up the offense with his blazing speed, while being a nightmare to tackle in open space as part of RPOs for example. Even though Pat Shurmur didn’t last long as a head coach for the Giants, I still like what he can do for a young quarterback, in terms of forcing the opposition to defend the entire field and running more spread looks, which Lock is used to from college. Something Lock had issues with in year one is not accounting for roaming defenders, who didn’t have anybody in their area to cover, which will get better with having more people out on the route. And most importantly, I hope he gets encouraged to give his receivers chances down the field, which he was hesitant to at some point as a rookie.

Others options I like:
Baker Mayfield (ADP 141.07; QB19)
Jared Goff (ADP 144.82; QB23)
Teddy Bridgewater (ADP 147.62; QB24)

Running backs:

Jonathan Taylor
ADP – 70.12 (RB24)
There seems to be a split between Jonathan Taylor believers, who watched him dominate college football and think he will take over this Colts backfield, and the ones who think he will be in a committee with Marlon Mack or even like scat-back Nyheim Hines to take on a larger role. Count me as a believer. If I told you there was this running back, who rushed for almost 6200 yards and 50 touchdowns in his three years in college, runs a 4.39 at 225 pounds and was selected in the second round by a team that doesn’t have a long-term answer at quarterback on the roster and could have used some of the edge rushers or corners that went off the board in that range, which role do you think he will have? Marlon Mack is a really solid back and I was actually higher on him than most people coming out of South Florida, but this kid from Wisconsin is special. Last season Mack rushed for 1091 yards in 14 games, yet all but 500 of them came before contact. He finished third in the league in terms of time behind the line of scrimmage at over three seconds and his 4.4 yards per carry, running behind what I believe is the best offensive line in all of football, isn’t overly impressive, plus he has missed at least two games in all three years in the league. There are two concerns for me when it comes to Taylor. First, he didn’t contribute much as a receiver in college, but as a junior he more than doubled his previous output, catching 26 passes for 252 yards and an additional five TDs, while catching the ball pretty natural at the combine as well. The much bigger one is fumbles, as Taylor put the ball on the ground 18 times throughout his time with the Badgers, while Mack didn’t do so once on 261 touches last season. Some of that may have to do with carrying he rock 926 times overall, but that is definitely something to monitor. If he can take care of the ball, even if he doesn’t stay on field on passing downs a whole lot (needs refinement as a protector). I believe he will absolutely be a finalist for Offensive Rookie of the Year, because he has explosiveness, power and big-play ability to make a lot of noise.

David Montgomery
ADP – 71.64 (RB26)
I already talked about Montgomery as one of my breakout candidates for 2020 (LINK). So you can read up on what I like about his skill-set there, but now let’s look at the situation this guy is in. While the Bears doesn’t blow you away with stars all over the field, but they do have one of the most underappreciated receivers in the game in Allen Robinson and another young guy in Anthony Miller, who could be used as a fly sweep threat to bind defenders or as the target on RPOs who will benefit from aggressively flowing defenders in the box. It is a little concerning me that, despite losing Kyle Long, the only addition they made on the offensive line was Germain Ifedi, but they didn’t have Long for three quarters of 2019 either. I think having second-round pick Cole Kmet as your true Y tight-end will help get the Bears backs to the edges at a higher frequency and I think the Matt Nagy offense will be stress defenses more with different personnel sets this season. Most important, Chicago did not add a single running back outside of undrafted free agent Artavis Piece this offseason and I expect Montgomery to take away some of the opportunities Tarik Cohen got last season, who averaged a miniscule 4.7 yards per touch, despite having 79 receptions. So they may use Cohen more as a true slot receiver, but at 5’6”, 190 pounds soaking wet, he will not run as much in-between the tackles (3.3 yards per carry) and Montgomery obviously will get all the goal-line work as well. The second-year back was a missed-tackle machine at Iowa State and when Nagy did allow him to gain some momentum without a defender getting hands on him before he could even cross the line of scrimmage, this guy showed some signs. He can make those subtle adjustements and cuts to not allow defenders to square him up and has the size to break tackles. He is a that I end up with a lot in the middle rounds.

Raheem Mostert
ADP – 77.58 (RB27)
Somebody I was concerned with a few weeks ago, when he asked for a trade and I thought even if he stayed wasn’t on good terms with San Francisco, is Mostert. Now that they have sweetened the pot for him a little bit and he seems to locked in, I think him going in the 8th to 10th round make no sense. Mostert is coming a playoff run, in which he rushed for 336 yards and five touchdowns over three games, but people seem to forget that he also averaged 5.6 yards per rush during the regular season – second-highest behind only Lamar Jackson among players with 100+ attempts – and scored a touchdown every 15th time he touched the ball. Maybe the craziest statistic for Mostert is that in the ten total games he received double-digit carries, only once did he average less than 4.8 yards per attempt. If you look at the offensive line, not only did they their two starting tackles a combined 86 percent of the offensive snaps and I think a healthy Trent Williams could actually be a significant upgrade over what I saw from Joe Staley last year, but they also get starting center Weston Richburg back, who went on IR after week 13. Kyle Shanahan’s offense still goes through the rushing attack, where he is the very best at creating issues for the defense and stacking plays together, and that will be even more apparent without Emmanuel Sanders gone and probably missing Deebo Samuel for a few games early on. The one concern for me is that the Shanahan’s have always had at least two-back systems and there are capable players on that roster, with old friend Tevin Coleman, Jerick McKinnon hopefully finally healthy after he got a big deal from San Fran two years ago and at least one more of the young guys. However, from week 12 on, when he gashed Baltimore’s number-five run defense for 146 yards, Mostert led the team in rush attempts and yards all but once and he has established himself as the top option in my opinion.

J.K. Dobbins
ADP – 112.92 (RB38)
Another rookie that I think gets doubted because of the situation he is in is Dobbins, even though people look at it the wrong way. The Ravens just set a new all-time mark in rushing yards with 3296, which had stood for over 40 years, What people fear about grabbing anybody outside of the top two contributors is that they made up for 72.4 percent of their rushing production over the 15 games they played. However, not only do I believe that number to drop, but even then there were 218 carries left on the table for the rest of the squad. Quarterback Lamar Jackson actually led Baltimore with a QB-record 1206 yards on the ground and while he has shown that he is just a different breed in terms of not even allowing defenders to touch him in one-on-one situations and never showed any weakness getting up after a hit. I think it is very enthusiastic to believe he repeats those 176 carries. The top running back Mark Ingram also had an outstanding season, including 15 touchdowns, but he was on the field for only 45.6 percent of the snaps on offense and now on the wrong side of 30, it’s safe to assume he will give up some of that workload, especially considering there was no special talent on the roster to demand those chances. At the very worst, Dobbins should be able to replace what Gus Edwards did last season and that was worth over 700 rushing yards, averaging 5.3 yards a clip. But this kid was a 2000-yard workhorse at Ohio State last season and I had him as my number two back in the draft, thanks to his combination of explosiveness and strength, while having great ball-security fundamentals. He is a perfect fit in that zone-read heavy offense from shotgun, which he basically played in last season with the Buckeyes and another dual-threat QB. I would not be shocked if he emerges a few weeks into the season and ends up leading this team in rushing.

Antonio Gibson
ADP – 141.61 (RB50)
If you are looking for a really deep sleeper, either if you are a zero-RB advocate or you just have your roster filled out already and just try to grab the player left on the board with the most upside, I think this is a name that has to be on your radar. Antonio Gibson primarily lined up at slot receiver for Memphis last season, but he was most effective taking handoffs and slicing through defenses that way. The explosion he has, the long-speed and that contact balance to bounce off hits are all on a different level to most backs in the league. Now, he has only really run two plays when in the backfield – power and stretch, mostly with another back on the opposite side of the QB in split sets – but he seems to have a natural feel for the position and he can do so much more for an offense. I believe Gibson will be a swiss-army knife for new offensive coordinator Scott Turner, who will move him around the formation, get him the ball on jet sweeps or as a decoy off those or create mismatches with slower defenders, as he comes out of the backfield. I was already pretty high on him, despite having an RB room that went five or six names deep at that point, because I believe he could be on the field for the majority of snaps anyway, thanks to his versatility, but now that Derrius Guice was let go due to some off-the-field stuff, the rookie is even more intriguing to me. When you look at who Washington is bringing back, their leading rushing from 2019 is a 35-year old Adrian Peterson and the next-closest guy is QB Dwayne Haskins with 101. And when you look at receiving yards, after the clear leader in Terry McLaurin, the next two names are RB Chris Thompson, who left in free agency, and Kelvin Harmon, who recently suffered a season-ending injury. So the offense is bound to improve and Gibson should have plenty of opportunities. That is golden for a running back around the 50s.

Other options I like:
Cam Akers (ADP – 93.32; RB32)
Jordan Howard (ADP – 113.18; RB37)
Zack Moss (ADP – 131.88; RB47)

Wide receivers:

Calvin Ridley
ADP – 50.08 (WR17)
I’m pretty sure not a lot of people know Calvin Ridley was a top 15 fantasy wide receiver last season based on average points per game (15.2) in non-PPR leagues and top 18 in the two other formats as well. He averaged 9.3 yards per target and converted 47 of his 63 receptions into new first downs, despite his longest catch going for only 36 yards. He is more of a deep threat than that (especially of double-moves) and I would be shocked if he doesn’t have at least one 50-yarder this upcoming season, while also being an excellent red-zone receiver ever since coming into the league. Julio Jones is still the number one receiver on that team and I think the best as an actual player at the position in the world, but the Falcons want to take some pressure off him with Ridley. Atlanta’s top candidate for their WR3 role is Russell Gage, who had a fairly productive second season, but almost half of his yardage total came in the four games he started in place of Ridley. So he will not demand a target share in the same region as Mohamed Sanu, who the Falcons traded away mid-2019. While a lot of it is about Austin Hooper leaving town and I will talk about his replacement in the tight-end segment, this team has by far the highest amount of vacated targets from a year ago at 258. I would not pick guys like Cooper Kupp or Keenan Allen ahead of Ridley and while I have him right around that range among receivers, I have this guy about ten spots higher in my overall rankings, which a full round later in those stages of a draft presents excellent value. I thought the Falcons number two could make that Juju Smith-Schuster jump in his second season, but with injuries that might have just been postponed things by one year and we see less of a difference between him and Julio’s numbers in 2020. I think you can book Ridley for a 1000 yards and around double-digit TDs.

Stefon Diggs
ADP – 65.81 (WR25)
This is one I don’t understand at all. Stefon Diggs “only” finished last season as the WR24 in full-PPR formats (18th in non-PPR), but he was within ten points of the guys that own the six spots above him, while missing one game. That was for a Vikings team that finished with the fourth-lowest pass play percentage (51.7%) and was in the bottom-six in terms of plays run per game (60.5). While Buffalo didn’t pass the ball at an immensely higher rate (about four percent more), they finished top ten in plays run, as they switched to a more up-tempo, 11 personnel attack – and that was without having a true number one and in the process not an ideal two. Diggs finished last season with the second-highest yards per target (12.0) and third in terms of percentage of his team’s air yardage, as the premiere deep threat in all of football. The one real concern here is that Josh Allen was one of the worst deep-ball thrower statistically last season, completing only 24.1 percent of his passes travelling 20+ yards through the air – dead-last according to Pro Football Focus- With that being said, a lot of that had to do with not having that guy, who can create separation vertically, with John Brown not showing that extra gear to gain a step on his defender and nobody else on the roster to average over eight yards per target with at least 15 grabs. Allen is still obviously not the most precise passer in the NFL and he has even more room to grow as a decision-maker at times, but having that guy who can streak downfield on go and post routes – especially in the mold Minnesota used him last season as that backside target on bootlegs – will open up the offense in a major way and Brian Daboll will encourage him to let it fly a few times each week to just let the defense know they need to account for it. I know I’m higher than pretty much anybody, but Diggs is my WR14 and a mid-fourth round pick for me.

Terry McLaurin
ADP – 70.93 (WR26)
A second-year receiver I like a whole lot is this guy from Washington. McLaurin was phenomenal as a rookie. He went for 919 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, despite missing two games and being part of one of the very worst passing attacks in the entire league. His quarterback Dwayne Haskins had a really rough rookie campaign, completing only 58.3 percent of his passes for just over 150 yards per game and the same amount of touchdowns as interceptions (seven). So obviously a lot of this will come down to how much that guy can grow coming into his second season and how that will influence his top target, who he already had built up plenty of chemistry with at Ohio State before joining the same team in the pros. I personally had a top-20 grade on Haskins and think he will make a big jump now that he is in better shape and had a full offseason to watch tape and hopefully be able to work through progressions more quickly. He simply wasn’t ready when thrown out there last season and had a brutal welcome to the NFL. However, even if Ron Rivera decides to go a different route with who lines up under center at some point, the offense should be much more beneficial for the young star receiver. Last season, Washington finished 30th in neutral situation pass rate and 31st in pace, while the Panthers with Scott Turner calling shots were fourth and fifth in those respective categories. Now as the new offensive coordinator in the nation’s capital, I expect this offense to be much more wide open and McLaurin will be his new version of D.J. Moore in that attack, who went for almost 1200 yards in 15 games last year. Right now this kid is going anywhere from the sixth to the ninth round, depending on the platform you use, and I think he should be a fourth-rounder, simply because of the changes offensively and the fact he is their clear-cut number one option.

Marvin Jones
ADP – 111.03 (WR39)
One of the most overlooked receivers this year to me is Marvin Jones. This guy is going between wide receiver 36 and 42 depending on the platform, despite having finished 15th in average fantasy points in PPR-formats last season. Now, he has missed ten combined games over the last two seasons, but in the three years prior he missed only one total game and the last time he played a full 16 contests (2017), he led the league with 18.0 yards per reception. Since coming to Detroit, Jones’ average receptions per game have gone up every single season and over these last three years, he has scored half a touchdown per week. Obviously Kenny Golladay is and will remain the top target in that offense and you would assume the chances for second-year tight-end T.J. Hockenson will increase, already because he was a top-ten pick alone, but Jones also caught passes from Jeff Driskel and David Blough over his final five games rather than the uber-talented Matthew Stafford, during which he averaged 18 yards less per week. While Detroit used their second-round pick on another running back in D’Andre Swift (Georgia) and the offense will be built on the rushing attack, number 11 will frequently be the target off deep play-action and the Lions really only have three relevant receivers on that roster. So at this point, Jones is going as a low WR4 at best and I personally look at him as a nice flex option. Grabbing him a round later than a guy like Julian Edelman and using that other pick for like a high-upside rookie back or maybe a QB/TE you like in that range makes a lot of sense to me. I really like him as a fallback option if you go RB-heavy early on and you only have two dependable receivers on your roster at that point.

Diontae Johnson
ADP – 125.54 (WR43)
I had several candidates to choose from for this final wide receiver spot, but in the end I went with the guy I think could be the best of the bunch and will receive the biggest boost in quarterback play. Diontae Johnson quietly hauled in 59 passes for 680 yards and five touchdowns as a rookie. That was despite the ball being thrown by Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges, who combined for just 186.3 passing yards per game (31st in the league) and tying for an NFL-low 4.5 air yards per completion. This year the Steelers get Ben Roethlisberger back under center, who led the league with 5129 passing yards in 2018 and even at 70-80 percent of himself should be a major upgrade over the two guys, who are clearly on the lower end of backup material even. I recently talked about Johnson’s skill-set more in detail and said he was be breakout candidate(LINK!!), because I saw start-stop quickness to win as a route-runner, how slippery he is to put a hand on that punt return ability he displays with the ball in his hands, with the feel for where defenders are coming from. He already made some huge plays as a rookie, often times catching the ball a few yards short of the sticks on shallow crossers and finding a way to convert for his team. Pittsburgh does have Juju Smith-Schuster as the primary target and I believe he will bounce back in a major way, James Washington came onto the scene last season and they also brought in another receiving weapon in flex tight-end Eric Ebron to go with another second-rounder receiver. However, I think Johnson could easily be one of the more productive number two guys for his respective team and at the very least a nice matchup play for your flex spot. Even if he somehow ended up repeating his output from a year ago, he was still the WR39 in PPR formats. If you take that as a baseline and think what Big Ben could do for him, just putting the ball out in front on some double-moves, that could be a great pick in the double-digit rounds, especially considering he led all receivers in separation, according to Next Gen Stats.

Other options I like:
Darius Slayton (ADP – 128.30; WR45)
Mecole Hardman (ADP – 130.83; WR45)
Jalen Reagor (ADP – 142.32; WR53)


Hayden Hurst
ADP – 124.06 (TE13)
If I could only choose to tell you about one player in this entire breakdown, this might be my guy. The Falcons just lost Austin Hooper to free agency, after he put up career-highs in targets (97), receptions (75), yards (787) and touchdowns (6). Because of that they spent a second-round pick to acquire what basically was the Ravens’ TE3. That alone tells you how much they wanted him, since they could have used that selection in the draft to address some other areas of need or grab another one in the draft, since only one was off the board at that point. Not saying he isn’t worth it, but that is rare compensation for a player who is third on a team’s depth chart and has barely cracked 500 receiving yards to go with three touchdowns through his first two years in the league. With that being said, Hurst is a former first-round pick and someone who Baltimore actually selected ahead of reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson. The speed, feel as a route-runner and physicality after the catch put the former South Carolina standout at the top of my tight-end board as well and I’m guessing that’s where the Falcons had him too, So based on pure talent, you can argue that he and Hooper are basically at the same level. What makes this guy so intriguing as a value pick for me is the offense he has landed in. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter is famous for heavily involving the TE as a volume pass-catcher on stick and hook routes underneath, but also allowing them to work down the seams, where Matt Ryan had a lot of confidence, putting the ball to the back-shoulder of Hooper, who could shield it with his body and come down with the catch. When you look at the target rate of these two guys, the difference is enormous, as Hooper averaged 7.5 looks per game compared to only 2.4 for Hurst in his second season, while the latter averaged almost a full yard more per target. I love this guy as a low-end TE1 as my 13th pick or so of the draft.

Jonnu Smith
ADP – 147.77 (TE21)
While I know it isn’t overly exciting, purely based on receiving yards, finishing 18th at your own position would make me think you get drafted higher than 21rd, but that is the most simplistic and least interesting case for Jonnu Smith. Let me talk you through a couple of other things instead. Of just 45 targets over the 2019 regular season, Smith caught 35 of them for 439 yards and three touchdowns. That left him tied for ninth among all players in the league at 10.0 yards per target and his 8.3 yards after the catch on average was the second-highest number among tight-ends, behind only George Kittle, who is obviously in a different stratosphere. While Tennessee is trying to run it back with a strong offensive line and a battering ram in Derrick Henry behind it, to go with shots off play-action, the Titans last season were 30th in plays run and they had the third-lowest percentage of pass plays (51.2). Those numbers are likely to go up at least a little bit with a more capable passer in Ryan Tannehill being under center for a full season and opposing teams likely selling out to stop the run. So that should result in more opportunities for Smith, who despite seeing a low target share, finished seventh in yards per route run among TEs last season. If you combine his targets with the ones of Delanie Walker until he got hurt, who is now out of the picture for Tennessee, that lands him at 75, which – while I know it doesn’t quite work that way – would result in 732 yards and five TDs if you simply multiply it with the numbers he actually put up on 45 looks. This guy is close to undrafted in a lot of leagues and with the way he started being used down the stretch – streaking downfield more and even taking some handoffs for big gains as a true running back – that gives you a high-upside TE2. Please take him over a second defense or whatever you may think of at that point of your drafts.

Jack Doyle
ADP – 148.51 (TE23)
This is a name that I seem to have a weird fantasy crush on, but when you really look into it, it makes some sense. Doyle may not blow you away statistically, never having reached the 700-yard mark or surpassed five touchdowns in his seven-year career, but he is a very good all-around player, who is on the field all the time. We all remember when Eric Ebron went off for 750 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2018, but a lot of that was thanks to Doyle going down with an injury, since he had been on the field for 81.7 percent of the snaps as long as he was healthy, When he put up career-highs the year prior, he logged over 90 percent of the snaps, and while he wasn’t as effective last season as a full-time starter, he did average over 10 yards per catch and converted two thirds of his catches into first downs. That was with Ebron on the roster and being more of a downfield target, while Doyle was responsible for the dirty-work in the run game and even as a pass-protector. Now, I know the Colts signed Trey Burton this offseason, but he had just 84 receiving yards and no TDs over the one half of 2019 he was available for and should be much less likely to steal targets from what I think is the clear TE1 in this offense still. While yards per target, yards per route run and all those statistics are great to predict what can happen, the one relevant fantasy factor before anything else is how much a player is on the field and I don’t see why Doyle wouldn’t be out there for 80 percent of their offensive plays again. Indianapolis was in 12 personnel 26 percent of the snaps last season (sixth-highest in the league), so even if Burton re-emerges to some degree, this should hold true. And with Philip Rivers coming in, who checked it down to his backs more than any other QB in the league last season, I could see some of that share to going to Doyle leaking out late or curling up over the middle.

Other options I like:
Mike Gesicki (ADP – 137.23; TE15)
Blake Jarwin (ADP – 150.07; TE23)
Chris Herndon (ADP – 150.37; TE25)

Defenses in the comments!

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The Rookie Report: Week 5 Starts & Sits

Welcome back to the Rookie Report! We’re at the quarter turn of the season (assuming the coronavirus doesn’t derail things), and the rookie picture is starting to come clearer. Each week we’ll have a better idea of what normal expectations will look like for the rookie crop. We were treated to some dazzling rookie performances from the wide receivers in week 4, from CeeDee Lamb’s 2 touchdowns, to Brandon Aiyuk’s acrobatic hurdle, to Justin Jefferson’s second straight 100-yard game. There have been plenty of intriguing rookie wideouts this season. Many of them are listed as borderline options this week, so please keep in mind that all players under the same header at the same position are listed in the order that I would play them this week. I also want to mention that anywhere that you see fantasy points allowed referenced, it’s based on half-PPR scoring unless otherwise noted. Let’s dive into week 5…
Editor's Note: this article was originally posted before the kickoff of Thursday Night Football - enjoy a very thorough preview of rookie fantasy production for Week 5. Cheers!

Rookies to Start:

RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, KC (Wk. 5: vs. LV): If you drafted Edwards-Helaire in the first round of your fantasy draft, the last few weeks probably haven’t been what you were hoping for from him. After a breakout debut, CEH hasn’t found his way back to the end zone and has finished outside of the top-20 running backs in 2 out of 3 weeks. Do not despair. Edwards-Helaire has still averaged 20 touches per game in the last 3 weeks and seen a larger share of the running back touches each week. He’s also through the toughest part of his schedule and hasn’t finished lower than the RB26 in PPR scoring formats. This week he gets his easiest matchup to-date. The Raiders have allowed more fantasy points to the running back position than any team in the league and they rank 30th in Football Outsiders’ run defense DVOA stat. This week will be a great opportunity for a big game out of CEH. He should be worth his price tag in DFS formats and has top-5 RB upside this week in a great matchup. If you can find an impatient fantasy player who is upset by Edwards-Helaire’s start, I would recommend sending a trade offer. His value is about to go up.
RB James Robinson, JAX (Wk. 5: @ HOU): Most people had no idea who James Robinson was before he took the starting gig in Jacksonville, but he has definitely taken the job and run with it. He’s the RB6 for the season and has posted an impressive 40 receiving yards per game. This week he gets to square off with a Texans’ defense allowing the 4th-most RB points per game and ranking 29th in run defense DVOA. The Texans actually haven’t given up much receiving production to opposing backs, allowing just 3.3 catches (T-2nd fewest) and 25.5 receiving yards (6th-fewest) to the position per game, but a lot of that can be explained by the fact that Houston has mostly played from behind and their opponents have been able to lean on the run game. Houston’s opponents have been trailing on the scoreboard for just 24% of their offensive plays. This week the Texans are actually favored by 6, so if they get ahead, I’d expect Robinson to eclipse those receiving averages that Houston has been allowing to RBS. They’re also a bad enough run defense that Robinson will make some hay on the ground as well. He’s a locked-in RB2 this week.
WR CeeDee Lamb, DAL (Wk. 5 vs. NYG): The Cowboys have been one of the most prolific passing offenses in the league so far, and Lamb has been the clear #2 receiver in the target pecking order. There has been an obvious effort to get the ball into Amari Cooper’s hands this season as he’s averaged nearly 13 targets per game (on pace for 200(!) targets), but Lamb has been seeing a healthy 7 targets per game himself. There’s bound to be a week at some point where Michael Gallup gets the squeaky wheel treatment and the team forces him some targets, but Dallas throws so much I don’t think that will have much impact on Lamb when it happens. This week Dallas faces the Giants, who have been allowing the 13th-most points per game to WRs. The one functional part of their pass defense has been James Bradbury, who has limited Robert Woods and Allen Robinson each to less than 40 yards this season, and this week will be shadowing Amari Cooper. That should help get Lamb a little more work this week. Lamb should be a safe WR2/3 this week with Dallas’s implied total sitting at a robust 31.75 points.
WR Justin Jefferson, MIN (Wk. 5: @ SEA): Jefferson’s seems to have fully vanquished Bisi Johnson and taken over the #2 receiver role in Minnesota with his breakout performances over the last two weeks. Jefferson played mostly in the slot in college at LSU, so it seemed like early production wouldn’t be easy to come by in an offense that has 3+ receivers on the field for just 44% of their snaps, but over the last two weeks, Jefferson has made it clear he can thrive as a perimeter receiver. This passing game still runs through Adam Thielen, but this week the Vikings are going to have to be able to put up some points if they want to keep pace with the Seahawks explosive offense. Minnesota is a 7-point underdog this week, but still has an implied total of 25.25 points. I’d expect them to try to run the ball when they can to keep the ball out of Russell Wilson’s hands, and they may have some success there with box safety Jamal Adams sidelined, but there should be plenty of passing volume for Jefferson to be a safe WR3 with upside this week. No team has coughed up more fantasy points to opposing WRs than the Seahawks so far. He should be a bargain at his $5,500 DraftKings price tag.

Borderline Rookies:

QB Justin Herbert, LAC (Wk. 5: @ NO): Herbert finally got the nod from the coach as the full-time starter with Tyrod Taylor recovered from his chest injury, and it would’ve been coaching malpractice if he hadn’t. Herbert has thrown for at least 290 yards every week and kept his team in every game he’s played. They’re 0-3 in his starts but are yet to lose by more than 1 score. New Orleans’ best cornerback Marshon Lattimore is questionable for this week, and this Saints’ defense has allowed multiple TD passes and at least 21 fantasy points to every QB they’ve faced so far. Herbert has shown himself to be a solid QB2 option, and he’ll have a nice upside for more this week if the Saints are without Lattimore. As a TD underdog, Herbert should again be throwing a fair amount.
QB Joe Burrow, CIN (Wk. 5: @ BAL): Burrow’s matchup this week sounds daunting on paper, but the Ravens haven’t been a death sentence for QBs so far this season. Baltimore has allowed 275+ passing yards in 3 straight games including more than 300 to Dwayne Haskins last weekend. Burrow has topped 300 yards in each of the last 3 weeks, and the Ravens secondary is a bit banged up with Marcus Peters and Jimmy Smith both missing some practice time this week. It’s still a talented secondary, and Burrow will have an uphill battle to go over 300 for the 4th-straight week, but he’s not a bad QB2 option this week. The Bengals will likely have to throw often as a 13-point underdog.
RB Jonathan Taylor, IND (Wk. 5: @ CLE): Obviously most people with Taylor on their rosters are going to be starting him this week, but I wanted to single him out as someone who shouldn’t be a slam-dunk start this week. We knew when Marlon Mack went down that Nyheim Hines was still going to be heavily involved in this offense, especially in any weeks where the Colts play from behind. What we didn’t know was how big a role Jordan Wilkins was going to play. Wilkins has had at least 9 carries in each of the last 3 games and has taken a chunk out of Taylor’s weekly ceiling. The rookie has still handled a sizable workload, but as we saw last week, if he doesn’t get in the end zone he will have a hard time finishing as a top-20 back for the week. Cleveland isn’t a great matchup for opposing backs. Ezekiel Elliott is the only back to reach 50 rushing yards against them. Several backs have had success catching the ball out of the backfield against the Browns, but Taylor has been targeted just 4 times in the last 3 weeks. You can’t count on passing game usage. I think Taylor projects as a flex option this week that needs to get in the end zone to return real value to your lineup.
RB Antonio Gibson, WAS (Wk. 5: vs. LAR): Gibson has been making the most of his opportunities each week, but at some point, you’d like the see the Football Team give him more of them. Peyton Barber has been pushed to the bench, but JD McKissic continues to out-snap him each week. Gibson is averaging 16 PPR points per game over the last 3 weeks and has found the end zone each week, but he’d have RB1 upside if he was unleashed in a workhorse role. The Rams have been a beatable run defense, ranking 28th in run defense DVOA, but it’s hard to consider Gibson an auto-start while playing just half the snaps. He should be a safe flex play this week, and his price tag of $5,000 on DraftKings makes him an interesting bargain option this week.
RB Josh Kelley, LAC (Wk. 5: @ NO): Austin Ekeler’s trip to IR should be good news for Josh Kelley’s fantasy outlook, but he fumbled in a crucial spot in each of the last two games and it’s opened the door for the now healthy Justin Jackson to work his way into the mix. Kelley played 30 snaps to Jackson’s 21 last week, and I’d expect a similar split going forward unless Kelley can stop fumbling and can separate himself from Jackson on the field. New Orleans has been one of the tougher run defenses in the league, ranking 4th in run defense DVOA, so Kelley will probably have to make things happen in the receiving game to have a strong week. The Saints have only allowed 31 receiving yards per game to opposing backs though. New Orleans is favored by a touchdown, so game script should keep the Chargers throwing a bit. I’d view Kelley as an upside RB3 this week despite a less than ideal matchup.
WR Laviska Shenault, JAX (Wk. 5: @ HOU): Shenault finally had the kind of week we’ve been looking for out of him last Sunday with 91 yards on 6 touches (5 receptions), and this week he faces a Houston defense that is fresh off of allowing Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson to combine for 12 catches and 217 yards. I’d like to see the Jaguars give Shenault more of a full-time role and he still has a floor somewhere around 40-50 scrimmage yards and 8 or so PPR points, but I like his chances to post a ceiling week in this one. He should match up with the burnable Vernon Hargreaves for most of the game, and I love his upside as a WR3 this week.
WR Jerry Jeudy, DEN (Wk. 5: @ NE): This doesn’t shape up as a great week for Jeudy, but volume alone could get him through to a nice fantasy week. Brett Rypien is likely to be under center again, and he won’t have much to work with outside of Jeudy. Noah Fant and KJ Hamler will be sidelined in this one, so that leaves Tim Patrick and probably DaeSean Hamilton as the other receiving options. It’s a little worrying that Jeudy was limited to just 4 targets in Rypien’s first start with the Broncos throwing 31 times (he averaged 8 targets per game in the first 3 weeks), but he did find the end zone and top 60 receiving yards. I’d expect Rypien to look his way more often in this one. Josh Jackson is a tough matchup in the slot where Jeudy plays 70% of his snaps, but the Pats have given up lines of 7-67-1 to Tyler Lockett and 6-84-1 to Hunter Renfrow this season. Jeudy should make for a nice WR3 in a week where there should be plenty of volume for him.
WR Brandon Aiyuk, SF (Wk. 5: vs. Mia.): Aiyuk could get Jimmy Garoppolo back this week at QB, and he faces a Miami defense that ranks just 28th in pass defense DVOA and has allowed the 8th-most WR points per game so far. On the surface, it looks like a great matchup, but he may have to tangle with the best part of the Dolphins’ secondary in Xavien Howard. The 49ers only target their WRs on a league-low 39% of their pass attempts, and with Garoppolo and Mostert back this could be a game where they get ahead and lean on the run game. Howard was torched by DK Metcalf last week, so there is some hope for Aiyuk, but the limited volume makes me hesitant to rank him higher than Jeudy or Shenault in week 5.
WR Tee Higgins, CIN (Wk. 5: @ BAL): As I mentioned under Burrow above, the Ravens’ secondary is banged up this week and they haven’t been as dominant as they were a year ago. Higgins is working as a full-time WR in this offense, playing ahead of AJ Green, and the Ravens have ranked a pretty average 14th in pass defense DVOA. He isn’t a guy I would target in DFS lineups, but with the pass-happy game script the Bengals are likely to be dealing with, he should be a passable WR3 option.
WR Gabriel Davis, BUF (Wk. 5: @ TEN): This game is up in the air at the moment thanks to the Titans’ coronavirus outbreak, and that probably doesn’t help Davis if they do in fact play. He played a lot last week with Cole Beasley battling through a foot injury and being limited to just 18 snaps. John Brown has also been a bit hobbled at practice this week with a calf injury. Having the game on Monday or Tuesday would give those guys a little extra time to get right and would hurt Davis’s opportunity. The rookie has shown he can perform when called upon, and Tennessee isn’t a pass defense to fear, allowing the 12th-most WR points per game. Buffalo is averaging over 330 passing yards per game, so Davis has some upside as a desperation WR3 even with everyone else healthy, but if Beasley or Brown will be limited or sit out, Davis should move up your rankings this week. If your league doesn’t allow you to designate replacement players ahead of time though, it’ll be tough to trust anyone in this game.

Rookies to Sit:

RB JK Dobbins, BAL (Wk. 5: vs. Cin.): Dobbins has been a victim of a crowded backfield so far this year, and I don’t see a lot of reasons that won’t continue going forward. The Ravens have played in a few lopsided wins already, and still, Dobbins has failed to top 43% of the snaps played or 7 touches in any game this year. The Bengals are another opponent that the Ravens should handle easily, and I know the RB pickings can be slim out there this week, but I’d stay away from Dobbins outside of the deepest of leagues this week. Cincy has allowed the 12th-most RB points per game on the year, but that total is split 3 ways for Baltimore.
RB Cam Akers, LAR (Wk. 5: @ WAS): Akers is practicing as of Thursday, but his status for Sunday’s game remains in doubt. If he plays, I think you have to wait a week to see how he is re-integrated into the backfield. The Rams look to be a true committee with no clear lead option, and that’s a situation you typically want to avoid in fantasy. Washington has allowed the 10th-fewest RB fantasy points per game on the year, and Akers likely won’t see enough work to post a big week this Sunday. I wouldn’t consider him outside of a desperation scenario.
RB Zack Moss, BUF (Wk. 5: @ TEN): It looks like Moss will be ready to return to action this week, assuming the Bills still have a game to play, but I would take a wait-and-see approach before putting him back in your lineup. If the Bills and Titans play at all, it won’t be until Monday or Tuesday, and that happens only if there are no more positive COVID tests for Tennessee. If your league doesn’t allow you to designate a replacement player prior to this week’s games, I wouldn’t even consider Moss. He may return to his red-zone role and faces a defense that has allowed the 9th-most RB points per game so far, but Devin Singletary performed well as the workhorse back over the last two weeks. There’s no guarantee that we go right back to the same workload split we were seeing before Moss’s injury, and Moss wasn’t exactly lighting up the fantasy box scores before he got hurt (averaged 7.7 PPR points per game the first two weeks). I would like to see how it plays out before re-inserting Moss into any lineups, especially considering the COVID uncertainty surrounding this game.
RB Anthony McFarland, PIT (Wk. 5: @ PHI): McFarland saw his first real game action in week 3 and flashed the kind of speed that the Steelers coveted him for, tallying 42 yards on 6 carries and a 7-yard reception. That performance came against the Texans though, and they rank just 29th in run defense DVOA. The Eagles rank a passable 15th in that stat, but they were 3rd in 2019 and only Darrell Henderson has made it to 60 scrimmage yards against Philly so far this season. I know it’s a dire week at running back but counting on McFarland to see more work than he did in week 3 is a fool’s errand. This is still James Conner’s backfield.
WR Henry Ruggs, LV (Wk. 5: @ KC): Ruggs seems likely to return this week while Bryan Edwards likely will remain sidelined, but this is not a great spot for him to have a breakout game. The Chiefs have allowed the fewest WR points per game and rank 1st in pass defense DVOA. Ruggs has the kind of obscene speed that can make a fantasy week on one play, but the Raiders don’t involve the receivers enough in their passing attack to make you feel good about starting Ruggs this week. The Raiders throw just 40.1% of their passing targets in the direction of their wideouts. Only the 49ers WRs have a lower target share.
WR John Hightower, PHI (Wk. 5: @ PIT): Hightower has led the Eagles in WR snaps each of the past two weeks with the rest of the position group banged up, but it’s led to just 4 catches and 41 yards. As of Thursday, Alshon Jeffrey isn’t practicing, DeSean Jackson was a limited participant, and JJ Arcega-Whiteside was practicing in full. Even if all 3 missed this game, I would tell you not to play Hightower against the Steelers. Pittsburgh ranks 8th in pass defense DVOA. If D-Jax plays, Hightower would likely see a significant drop in snap share.
WR Chase Claypool, PIT (Wk. 5: vs. Phi.): With Diontae Johnson practicing in full ahead of this week’s game, Claypool may have missed his window to shine when the Tennessee game was pushed back. He is likely to go back to playing limited snaps sharing the WR3 role with James Washington on Sunday. The Steelers have tried to get him involved in the game-plan each week, and he did record an 80-yard touchdown in week 2 against Denver, but Philly has allowed just one pass play of 40+ yards so far this year. Claypool is no more than a low-volume TD dart throw against an opponent that has allowed just 2 receiving TDs to opposing WRs thus far.
WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, CLE (Wk. 5: vs. Ind.): With KhaDarel Hodge sidelined in week 4 due to a hamstring injury, it was Peoples-Jones who slid into the WR3 role for the Browns, playing 44% of the offensive snaps. He wasn’t targeted in the game, but you might chalk that up to the Browns playing with a large lead for much of the day (Cleveland led by multiple scores for all but one offensive play in the last 2 and half quarters of the game). Hodge was placed on injured reserve for at least the next few weeks, but I wouldn’t view DPJ as a guy to add even in deeper leagues right now. Hodge was targeted just 6 times in the first 3 weeks of the season in this same role, and no team plays a smaller share of their snaps with 3+ WRs on the field than the Browns (36%). Cleveland also just called up Taywan Taylor from their practice squad, and he may steal some snaps from DPJ as well. Taylor caught 37 passes for Tennessee just two seasons ago. Add in the fact that Cleveland’s opponent this week, the Colts, rank 2nd in pass defense DVOA and it’s an easy call to leave Peoples-Jones on the waiver wire this week.
TE Harrison Bryant, CLE (Wk. 5: vs. Ind.): Bryant has continued to see his snap share and fantasy output increase each and every week this season, and as mentioned with Peoples-Jones, the Browns don’t have 3+ receivers on the field very often. This all bodes well for Bryant moving forward, but there are a couple of factors that don’t: the looming return of David Njoku and a matchup this week with the Colts. Njoku has been designated to return from injured reserve and could even be ready to suit up in week 5. Even if he doesn’t return this week, The Colts have allowed the fewest TE points per game in the league so far and have faced off with Chris Herndon, Kyle Rudolph, Jimmy Graham, and Tyler Eifert. Njoku’s return would probably at least cut Bryant’s snaps in half, and if Njoku is out one more week even 5 PPR points out of the rookie TE would be considered a successful week in this matchup.
TE Adam Trautman, NO (Wk. 5: vs. LAC): Trautman was a popular sleeper pick for last week as Jared Cook was sidelined by a groin injury, but things didn’t exactly work out in his favor against the Lions. Josh Hill served as the TE1, and Trautman wasn’t even targeted once. He was even out-snapped by another tight end, Garrett Griffin, who has one career reception that came in 2017. Even if Cook sits again this week, you can likely find more upside elsewhere this week. The Chargers have allowed the 10th-most TE points per game on the season, but I wouldn’t be confident that Trautman can capitalize on the matchup.
Rookies on Byes in Week 5: RB D’Andre Swift, DET, RB AJ Dillon, GB, WR Quintez Cephus, DET

Deep League Sleepers, Stashes, and Cheap DFS Options:

RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn, TB (Wk. 5: @ CHI): Vaughn got his first real action of the season in week 4, and he made the most of it, scoring a late touchdown and finishing with 10.6 PPR points on just 19 snaps. The Bucs’ offense is very banged up heading into this week’s game in Chicago, and that should benefit Vaughn. LeSean McCoy has been ruled out, Leonard Fournette is doubtful, and a number of pass-catchers will be out as well for this game. Ronald Jones should handle the bulk of the rushing work, but he has been ineffective as a receiver out of the backfield. Jones has 12 catches out of 18 targets for just 57 yards (3.2 yards per target). The Bears haven’t given up a lot of receiving production to opposing backs thus far (4.5 receptions and 33.5 receiving yards per game), but with the limited weapons, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Vaughn log 5+ targets and a handful of carries. If you’re hamstrung at running back in a deep PPR league, he’s a viable fill-in this week, and he costs just $1,000 on DraftKings for the Thursday night showdown slate. A strong performance here could open up more opportunities for him in the weeks to come.
RB DeeJay Dallas, SEA (Wk. 5: vs. Min.): Dallas saw his first action of the season in week 4 with Carlos Hyde sidelined, and it looks like Hyde will be out again this week. Dallas split backup work with Travis Homer, but he did manage to put up 23 yards on 4 touches. He won’t be a worthwhile play in any formats this week, but Dallas is worth monitoring and possibly even stashing in deeper dynasty formats. Chris Carson has been battling a number of injuries and Dallas would be forced into a bigger role if anything happens to Carson.
WR Darnell Mooney, CHI (Wk. 5: vs. TB): Mooney is listed as questionable for this game, but if he plays, he’s going to be an intriguing option in deep leagues and DFS formats. The changing of the guard at QB in Chicago looks like it will be a good thing for Mooney. He was targeted 8 times by Mitch Trubisky in 2+ games. He was targeted 9 times by Nick Foles in week 4. This week the Bears face a tough matchup against a Bucs’ defense that ranks 4th in pass defense DVOA and has allowed the 12th-fewest WR points per game, but their best corner Carlton Davis will likely be shadowing Allen Robinson. Davis has regularly been used to shadow big-bodied #1 WRs like Robinson and has had success, limiting Michael Thomas in week 1 (3 catches for 17 yards), and limiting De’Andre Hopkins late last year (5 for 23). Robinson is still going to command targets, but Mooney will have a much more favorable matchup and should see plenty of work himself. If Mooney doesn’t play, this would then apply to Anthony Miller. Mooney could be a passable WR3 in deeper leagues this week and is a sneaky DFS option as well if he plays.
WR Tyler Johnson, TB (Wk. 5: @ CHI): Johnson has quietly been on the field for over 30% of the Bucs snaps each of the last two weeks. It hasn’t led to any targets, but the Bucs are quickly running out of weapons ahead of the rookie. With Chris Godwin and Justin Watson already ruled out for this week, and Mike Evans a true game time-decision, Johnson seems likely to play a large number of snaps Thursday night. Brady is bound to look his way at least a few times in this one. If Evans is out, the group of weapons will consist of Scotty Miller, Gronk, Ronald Jones, Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Cameron Brate, and Johnson. The Bears’ defense has been solid against the pass (they allow the 3rd-fewest WR points per game), but you could do worse than Johnson at his minuscule $200 price tag in the Thursday showdown slate on DraftKings.

That’s all I’ve got for this week. Hopefully, it helps you with your toughest lineup decisions involving rookies. Keep a close eye on the injury report throughout the week and keep an eye out for updates on the Bills/Titans game. You don’t want to leave an inactive player in your lineup. Feel free to hit me up on twitter if you have any questions or want to yell at me about anything written above (@Shawn_Foss). As always: Good luck, trust your gut and have fun. It’s just a game. Original article from
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The 5 Guns: A Plea of Simplicity to New Shooters

5 Guns
I’ve made comments in the past asserting that the vast majority of all firearms activities can be done with just 5 different guns. I still stand by this. I believe that anyone, with a gun from each of these categories, can participate, in a meaningful way, in most gun-related things. Not necessarily at the highest level , and not every single discipline or subcategory. For example, having a Ruger 10/22 will gain you entry into a whole host of target shooting and competitive disciplines, but it won’t be good enough or even legal to shoot in Olympic smallbore- you’ll need something else. Your deer rifle with a Nikon Prostaff scope chambered in .270WIN might shoot tight groups at 200 yards and will allow you to compete, even well, in a PRS (long-range, high precision rifle competition) match, but you probably won’t beat the dude launching handloaded 6.5 Creedmoor pills out of their GA Precision rifle with a Nightforce scope (this rifle setup costs thousands of dollars and is capable of extreme accuracy at very long ranges). It also won’t be good enough to go hunt a coastal brown bear in Alaska- you’ll need something else for that. This isn’t to belittle inexpensive or general purpose gear. The opposite case is my thesis.
The 3 main categories of firearms-related activities generally are: defensive use, recreational use (collecting, competition, non-competitive target shooting), and hunting. I separate hunting from recreational use, even though almost all hunting is considered to be recreational in some way, since the gear is more practical and use-driven (food security is no laughing matter), as opposed to “just for fun” or novelty for its own sake. If there is a flaw in my viewpoint, perhaps that would be it- lets discuss in the comments. I think the only aspect of recreational use that isn’t really addressed by owning 5 general purpose guns is collecting. Modern, common, and/or inexpensive firearms are not necessarily collectible (almost by definition) and their use is focused around practicality instead of design novelty, rarity, historical provenance, etc. But competitive shooting, and recreational shooting can be entered into in a meaningful way with 5 guns.
This post means to show that while special purpose gear outclasses general purpose gear for those special purposes, for the average user, general purpose gear gets you so much performance and so much value, that you should focus on it over special gear, UNLESS A SPECIFIC and SPECIAL NEED arises from your experience that DICTATES A REQUIREMENT FOR SPECIAL GEAR. Most people do not shoot enough to warrant buying super niche items. Start with these 5, learn to shoot, learn and develop your own needs and interests, then branch off into technical la-la-land and transcend to full gun nerd.
Let it also be known that you don’t have to buy all these guns at the same time or in any particular order. Just consider how you may use guns now, how you want or see yourself using guns in the future, and buy these guns as needed. This list is meant to illustrate simply that having the right guns for a given purpose isn’t hard or expensive, and that a small, simple, budget-minded collection of 5 guns can accomplish an enormous amount of activities in the world of guns.
Bottom Line 5 guns:
Semi-auto, striker-fired, polymer-framed 9mm pistol. HK VP9, Walther PPQ, Glock 19, Smith and Wesson M&P 2.0, Sig P320, Ruger SR9, or CZ P-10C are great places to start. Good quality, decently priced. Look for police trade-ins, used versions. These pistols can be had for under $600 new, as little as $350 used. Buy a concealed carry holster (ccw can help with this- body fitment is personal and unique), 3-5 extra magazines, and hit the range. Consider a weapon light down the road.
16” barrel, mid length gas system AR15 with an adjustable stock and preferably an M-Lock handguard. Buy the rifle from Midwest Industries, Aero Precision, Ruger, Bravo Company USA, Smith and Wesson, or Sons of Liberty Gun Works. Get a weapon light from Surefire, ModLite, Cloud Defensive (these 3 are expensive), Streamlight, or Inforce (both are vetted, affordable alternatives), then buy a quick-adjust 2-point sling from Ferro Concepts, Blue Force Gear, Haley Strategic, Magpul, Viking Tactics, Little Creek Trading, or others (they all range from $25-80 or so). Seriously consider spending $120-250 on a new red dot sight made by Vortex, Holosun, Burris, Sig, Primary Arms, or get a used red dot from Aimpoint or Trijicon ($300-500). It’s probably the single most drastic improvement you can make in performance value on a rifle. Buy 6-10 Magpul Pmags for practice and use. You should budget $600-1000 for the rifle, and roughly $500 total for all the essential accessories.
12ga shotgun- Mossberg 500/590, Benelli Nova/Super Nova, and Browning BPS are excellent. Remington has fallen off in quality since 2007, but their 870 pump is still quality enough to recommend, they just have cosmetic finish issues. Consider buying a Remington used. Semi-auto guns are also a good choice. Benelli and Berretta are the top of the heap, with FN and Browning as mid-tier, Stoeger, Mossberg, Winchester, and Remington rounding out the acceptable budget level. If possible, get a gun that comes with a short, 18.5-22” barrel AND a long, 26-30” barrel for maximum versatility. $300-600 for a new pump, $600-1400 for a semi-auto. Get a gun that has a 3" chamber and removable chokes in at least the long barrel. Get the same sling that you have on your rifle, Velcro cards from Vang Comp, Esstac, others, and consider a forend light from Surefire or Streamlight.
A semi-auto 22 LR rifle. Ruger 10/22, Marlin Model 60, Thompson/Center TCR22. Bolt-actions like Savage and CZ are great, but leave a little to be desired as far as rapid-fire capability. If you have a bolt 22, keep it and don’t worry. If you’re buying new, go semiauto. For a “perfect” 22, look at the Liberty Training Rifle, a concept put out by the Appleseed Project, for ideas on a solid rifle great for training, hunting, and target shooting. Put a red dot or scope on it if you want, but iron sights are fine for this gun and a great way to practice fundamentals.
A high power, bolt-action rifle with a variable-power, magnified optic. Savage, Ruger, Thompson/Center all make great guns for under $500 new. Tikka and Weatherby make maybe the best rifles for under $1000. Vortex, Athlon, Burris, SWFA, and others make relatively inexpensive, but feature-rich optics. A good rule of thumb is whatever you spend on a rifle, spend that amount on a scope, or as close to it as possible. Rifles are so good nowadays that even cheap rifles will outshoot most people, but scopes are not that way- the more you buy upfront, the more you save in the long run, both in money, maintenance, and usage.
The Whys and Wherefores:
Defensive use can be separated into self-defense (defense of your own bodily person, no matter the location or scenario), home and family defense (defense of a static place of residence/work and the people there), and community defense, one of the more important missions here. This is really the most specific category and is most heavily scrutinized by the legal system, for obvious reasons. You will find some of the most experienced shooters alive (and dead) focus on defensive shooting. There are really only a small number of situations where defensive shootings can ethically and legally happen, clear and present threats against your life and/or body at close distance being a reasonable summary of those situations. There are extremely few justifiable defensive shootings that happen at distances greater than 100m and there are even fewer that happen in situations where you are not reacting to a specific threat. Shotguns, intermediate size rifles, and pistols are what are most widely recommended for defensive use and versions are included in our 5 guns.
Recreational use, for the purposes of my thesis, includes the most diverse set of disciplines, from the most casual backyard plinking, to extremely rigorous and intensive competitions like Olympic slow-fire pistol, to practical 2-gun action matches, and everything in between. Because of this diversity, these 5 guns will be the most deficient in this category, but, will allow any new shooter to, at minimum, start competitive shooting, in enough disciplines to begin to learn which ones you actually enjoy and pursue at a higher level. The fact is, many folks who like shooting skeet/trap/sporting clays with shotguns, often really have no interest in smallbore rifle competitions, and many of the folks who shoot long-range PRS matches may not enjoy shooting 3-gun. However, the 5 guns will let you do ANY of these, at least at the beginner level. Also, most folks who shoot, like to shoot for fun and like to shoot different stuff for fun. So while you may not like PRS, you still might want to hit the 600m KD range every once in a while and ring some steel with your bolt gun, just for fun, or to prepare for antelope season. That’s where the 5 guns shine- versatility.
Hunting is separated from recreational shooting since it shares an aspect serious and practical enough to be more co-related with defensive use than “fun” and that is food security. Animals are still the best single-origin source of protein widely available. A vegan or vegetarian diet of mixed beans actually surpasses the nutritional quality of meat, but you have to pay attention to what you eat and make sure the protein sources you ingest form a complete profile of amino acids and other nutrients in order to functionally replace meat in a diet. This is not hard in our agriculture-based society, but its also not as easy as many folks think. I highly admire folks who do it right- we need more folks like that. However, hunting provides a very practical way to secure relatively cheap protein that is free of the many ethical and health problems associated with capitalistic, industrial food production (including all plant farming).
Hunting with firearms also offers a view into practical outdoor weapon skills that are not otherwise replicated except in a warzone. If you learn to shoot a rifle in hunting, you’ve learned at least some of what is important in an outdoor defensive scenario, or even combat (Shooting a bolt-action rifle from prone off of a backpack at a target 400m away is something shared by hunters and military snipers). Again, disciplines vary wildly, as does the weapon selection. Shotguns and rifles are the main players though, and since we have at least one of each of those in our 5 guns, we’re mostly covered.
I will try to include resources for more info and reinforcement where I can. Know that this is not exhaustive in scope, I am not a professional shooter or an expert in firearms engineering or usage. I shoot when I can, hunt a fair amount, and have done some junior-level competition shooting. Understand that almost everything you read on this post is a summary of what I have read and learned from actual experts and professionals and is not a synthesis of my own making. Most of the people and sources I will include are experts or professionals. Don’t focus on the fact that many of these people are chuds, conservatives, cops, or whatever. They shoot for a living and they are experts. Shooting as a skill has no morality or ideology. The lesson is more important than the teacher. Focus on what skills they are trying to convey instead of the shirts they wear, or their political viewpoints. The dangerous dearth of functional firearms knowledge in leftist communities necessitates sacrificing absolute purity for the sake of destroying ignorance, building both skill and a foundation of competence among our communities.
The Pistol: Location independent self-defense with a firearm pigeon holes you into pistols, concealed or not. It just isn’t practical or in some places, legal, to carry a rifle, shotgun, or rocket launcher on your person for the purpose of fending off meth zombies or other threats. Pistols also can be adequate home defense weapons, as well as really fun guns that have a huge assortment of competitive disciplines available. In other words, they are versatile and fill 2/3 of our categories. So that’s why you should get a pistol.
What kind of pistol? Why do I recommend such a specific design like a striker-fired, polymer-framed, semi-automatic 9mm? Because currently, that is the most modern, most versatile, and most feature-rich pistol design available. It’s also the most competitive as far as designs, features, and cost go from a manufacturer standpoint. Revolvers and older semiauto designs DO have some advantages. Revolvers can be shot from inside pockets, they can chamber a much wider variety of cartridges. 1911s have essentially the best-designed trigger of any large-production handgun available, they also have excellent ergonomics. These advantages are not enough to outclass the many advantages that modern handguns have- higher ammo capacity, lighter weight, better reliability, simpler manual of arms, ubiquity, market support. A Glock 19 is very, very easy to learn how to manipulate, even if the trigger sucks compared to a Wilson Combat 1911. Its also ¼ of the price. If you buy a Glock 19 or similar pistol and leave it bone stock, you can enter almost all the same competitions you could with a revolver or 1911, you have a lighter gun that is easier to carry and provides more capability at a similar price point.
9mm is practically universal, is one of the cheapest available cartridges to shoot, is essentially as effective in performance as other major defensive handgun cartridges, and is smaller, allowing for higher capacity and lower recoil. Some resources FBI switches back to 9mm. Garand Thumb on pistols, Primary & Secondary talks handguns. /CCW
The AR: So if I can use a pistol for all defensive use, why an AR15 ? Aren’t those just redundancies at this point? Well yes, but actually no. The AR15 is effectively not concealable in any configuration that is useful as a long gun. So you can’t take it with you like a pistol. But, for a home defense weapon and as a community defensive weapon, it far outclasses pistols. So much so, that you’ll notice all militaries use rifles and not pistols as their main weapon (duh). Pistols are only used when you run out of ammo with a rifle and know you’re about to die being overrun, as a barely acceptable defensive stopgap to use in order to get to your rifle that isn’t currently with you, or if you can’t carry a rifle. If you expect to face rifle threats, or are able to bring a rifle legally and practically, bring a rifle. Its that simple. The terminal performance of rifles are excellent and at ranges that make them the most effective personal weapon ever devised in the history of humankind. We will not see rifles replaced in this role until phasers, blasters, gauss rifles, and rail guns become a real thing instead of science fiction. That’s why you need one.
Why the AR15? Its combination of modularity, straight line design, lightweight cartridge, ubiquity, market support, price, and easy/simple manual of arms make it the best choice in the US for an all-purpose rifle. Why not AK, SKS? Good quality AKs and SKSs are no longer cheaper than good quality ARs, they are less adaptable to different roles, and have more complicated manual of arms. In other parts of the world, AKs still make a lot of sense, but with current import laws and supply in the US, ARs are now king.
A 16” barrel AR with a midlength gas system is the sweet spot of performance and versatility- you get excellent velocity, reliability, a good degree of compactness, and light weight. This rifle can be used to great effect in any of our 3 categories- all manner of competitions, small to medium-sized game hunting, and defensive use. Close range to medium range, as well. It is highly versatile, perhaps the most versatile weapon you can possibly own, with the possible exception of a shotgun. There are many companies that make good ARs, I recommend a small number of those in a failed attempt at brevity. There is no need to spend $4000 on a rifle setup, and you also shouldn’t spend under $500. The point of diminishing returns is very real and since the whole idea of 5 guns is optimization, focus on that middle-tier. That’s where the bang for your buck is.
A weapon light is absolutely essentially for defensive use, since you can’t shoot what you can’t see. Bad things usually happen at night, so a weapon-mounted light should be the first thing you buy for your AR. There are many companies, but few are highly regarded as good enough- the list I made is generally what is recommended by professional end users and instructors. Stick to it unless you get a specific recommendation otherwise from a trusted source, like an instructor.
A quick-adjust 2-point sling is also essential. Its not only comfortable, but allows you to maintain control of your rifle while having one or both hands free. It makes it harder to drop, lose, or have your weapon taken away from you. Get one. One-point slings are faster, but retention is worse (getting whacked in your nether regions by a hot steel barrel is not fun, neither is hanging yourself on a fence with a rifle sling). Traditional 2-point shooting slings have good retention and are comfy, but are slow to shoot with. A quick-adjust 2-point is the best of both worlds. 2-point retention, almost 1-point speed. Get one.
A red dot sight is preferable for a general use rifle over holographic sights, or magnified optics. A red dot gives you speed, low light use, is very easy to learn to shoot, and is much cheaper at similar levels of quality and reliability. With some training, you can effectively use a red dot to 300m or so. Holographic sights are faster, better for low light, and close range. But they are expensive and their battery life sucks. Low Power Variable Optics (like 1-4, 1-6x, etc) have begun to edge out red dots among professional end users in competitive, hunting, and military circles, but I recommend against them for one reason- cost vs quality. To get a good or excellent duty-grade red dot, you will spend $200-500. To get a good or excellent duty-grade LPVO, you will spend, minimum, $1000. A red dot will still allow you to do most of what an LPVO will do, for less than half the cost. A $250 red dot and $750 on ammo and range trips will beat a $1000 LPVO and no practice, every single time.
Buy 6-10 Magpul Pmags to start off with. No, you don’t need that many mags for fighting off zombie hordes (maybe?). You DO need that many mags for efficient practice so you spend more time shooting instead of reloading the same 2 mags over and over again. Plus, mags break and fail and having replacements is essential. Pmags are the best because they are equally reliable as good metal mags, and they also fail in obvious ways (diagnostic advantage). If a Pmag breaks, it breaks visibly (feed lips break off, or the body cracks). When metal mags break, it may not be visible, since metal can deform to failure, but not visibly. That’s why Pmags are better. There is a reason why many professional end users set up their ARs in very similar ways to what I have explained- because it works. Check out the following: Travis Haley/GarandThumb, Larry Vickers, Milspec Mojo, Vigilance Elite, Ronin tactics
The gauge: A 12ga shotgun is the most terminally effective personal weapon widely available. Sure, you can spend $8000 on a Barrett or other anti-materiel rifle and get better performance at all ranges, but why do that when you can spend $300 to get the same punch at 50 meters and in? Also, with proper ammo selection, you can hunt pretty much any animal in North America with a shotgun, from small squirrels, quails, and doves, to turkeys, ducks, geese, deer, even moose! Not to mention the countless competition disciplines that utilize shotguns. It has no equal as far as versatility is concerned. Its also pretty cheap to buy. Most good quality pumps are under $500 and will provide a lifetime of shooting.
The trick with shotgunning is that to maximize the versatility, you kind of need 2 barrels. If you choose a short barrel for defensive use and large game hunting, you essentially eliminate utility for fast and flying game or classic clay pigeon competition. If you pick a long barrel, you eliminate the former. Never fear, most major manufacturers offer kits that include 2 barrels- a short 18-20” barrel for defense and certain types of hunting, and a long 26-28” barrel with removable chokes for the flying stuff. Switching barrels is easy and allows for maximized use. Its worth chasing down one of these “Field/Security” combos.
There are important shotgun upgrades to consider, particularly a weapon light for defense, Velcro shotgun cards for ammo storage, a sling, and 2-3 choke tubes. Buy the sling first, preferably the same quick-adjust 2-point that your AR has, for ease of training, then get the shotgun cards. The cards are nice because they are modular and can be removed easily when you don’t need them or for fast topping up of on-gun ammo. Finally, get choke tubes. Your gun will likely come with one or a set in the box. A variety of chokes gives a range of utility that complements ammo choice for what you’re shooting. A “Full” choke makes for tight patterns for longer range shooting, while “Modified” and “Improved” are intermediate constrictions between full and “Open” or “Cylinder”. Modified and Improved are generally considered to be the most versatile.
Shotgun weapon lights are more difficult to remove for when you’re not using it as your primary defensive weapon, so forego it if you have an AR with a light already. If you buy the shotgun first, get the light. You’ll notice I haven’t said anything about pistol grip-only shotguns. Why? They suck. For Almost everything- don’t listen to me, see for yourself- InRangeTV, also, an in depth look at shotguns for defensive use-Primary and Secondary
The 22: The most popular firearms cartridge available worldwide. Its been around for close to 150 years, simply being one of the best things to happen to guns, ever. You should have one for a lot of reasons. Not really for defense- the 22 LR is not really effective in that role (usable, sure; effective, no). If you have these 5 guns, the 22 will not be your go-to weapon for defense. However, for target shooting, competition, training, and most small game hunting, there really isn’t a better weapon out there. The 22 LR simply rocks. Its super light, super easy to shoot, super cheap to shoot, you can shoot it at ranges where many other guns aren’t allowed, its legal almost everywhere, and its plain FUN. It’s a great gun for kids and new shooters to learn on since its not intimidating and provides all the essential aspects of firearms ownership and use.
Get a semi-auto 22. Its better to train with, since you can learn positional shooting without breaking stance to work a manual repeating action and you have a speed advantage available when needed. Sure, some bolt-action 22s are more accurate, but again, unless you’re trying to get involved in precision-oriented smallbore shooting, the advantages of a semi-auto 22 outweigh bolt guns. Put a sling on it, buy a few extra magazines, and hit the range! From there, as you refine how you want to use your 22, consider upgrading your iron sights (Tech Sights, NoDak Spud sights), getting a red dot, or a magnified optic. Each of these enhances the rifle’s use potential in different areas. But mainly, shoot the thing! Rimfire Central is an excellent resource to learn about the ins and outs of all things 22 LR.
High Power Rifle: the big boy. This is the apex of the main trunk of the firearms development tree. Full-size rifles are incredibly useful tools. Their capability at medium to long range eclipses every other personal weapon that isn’t ordnance or crew-served. They are an ideal choice for hunting medium and large game, make for excellent competition weapons, and can be pressed into defensive roles.
Other than the pump shotgun, this is the only other manually-operated action weapon I recommend owning amongst the 5 guns. The reason for this is, like the shotgun, a function of cost vs. quality. Yes, excellent, desirable full-power rifles exist in semi-auto. Yes, they have more utility than their bolt-action counterparts. They are also A LOT more expensive. Bolt-action rifles are robust, mature designs that provide strength, reliability, a high degree of precision, for low cost and low weight. To get a semi-auto gun that is as accurate as a bolt gun, you’re gonna have to spend a lot more money. You can get a bolt gun that will be effective to 1000 yards or more, is as reliable and lighter weight, and costs less than even your AR15. These rifles are not expensive to buy, but they are certainly the most expensive to shoot regularly of our 5 guns, their ammo being fairly pricey. However, their utility in hunting and recreational shooting cannot be ignored. They provide a capability that can’t be filled by another platform, at least not without great expense and sacrifice in other areas. Buy one of those I recommend, or a different one recommended by a trusted, knowledgeable source, like an instructor.
Get a magnified optic for it- something with a variable zoom objective that has a low end below 5x and an upper zoom around 10x. 3-9x is a pretty classic range, 2-10x is great, as is 3-12x or 4-14x. Objective lens sizes of around 40mm are perhaps the most versatile. Scopes with BDC type reticles, rangefinding reticles, and illumination provide tons of utility and should be focused on rather than simple crosshair reticles without illumination. Consider a sling for the rifle, as well as maybe a bipod. While not as necessary for bolt-action guns, try to select one that uses detachable magazines. They provide more utility and capability over those that use internal magazines. /longrange is an excellent place to ask a knowledgeable group of folks for advice on excellent starting setups.
Other notes: With regard to stock furniture on practical weapons, go synthetic. Synthetic stocks are very robust, strong, and often cheaper than wood stocks. They are not nearly as aesthetically pleasing, but they are more functional. Wood can swell and warp in varying temperatures, humidity, and atmospheric pressure. Wood is also prone to cracking, breaking, dry rotting in some conditions, especially cheap wooden stocks. Synthetic stocks do not have these same problems. Also, it just feels worse to scar up a pretty walnut stock hauling a gun through a briar patch, whereas for a plastic gun, it doesn’t feel like abuse. If you do choose wood, consider laminated wood- it looks great, its super strong and has all or most of the advantages of synthetic.
These 5 guns I have attempted to persuade new shooters to focus on are really dependent on another factor. Training. If you do not train and practice with these weapons, they will not be as effective, or as versatile as I postulate they can be. I say that an AR with a red dot can do most of the things that an AR with an LPVO can do. Its true, but only if you practice. Anyone can sling rapid fire strings into a silhouette target at 25 yards with either a red dot or an LPVO. NOT everyone can do it at 100m with a red dot and an LPVO. But if you practice, you can. Optics do not increase the range of a weapon, they only increase your ability to see your target. LPVOs create that advantage of target identification with magnification. But for someone that can see theiThe same goes for shotguns. If you don’t practice running a pump gun, you will create malfunctions and you will wonder “why did p8nt recommend this shitty gun that doesn’t work?”. Or, if you want to hunt birds, you will need to take it to the skeet range and learn to shoot flying targets. It is not hard, but it is a totally different mentality and approach than almost every other type of shooting. You must train and practice. Shooting, in all its forms, is a perishable skill. Hit the range.
Other training videos:
Importance of Dry Fire
Bob Vogel on pistol grip
Jerry Miculek on how to shoot a pistol
What practice ammo?
Pat McNamara on fundamentals playlist
Practical Rifle Zeros
EDITED for formatting, clarification of a few points.
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Observations following Misk U Accident (Long)

Good morning and Happy Monday to you, my fellow VX ladies and germs.
If you haven't heard, there was a rather serious accident at Miskatonic University's VX laboratory last Friday afternoon. At this time (Monday morning, 2020-Jul-13 in the standard reckoning) there are reports of catastrophic damage to Atwood Hall, but thankfully no fatalities or disappearances, since the building was nearly empty due to the University having been closed since mid-March due to the ongoing COVID pandemic. Our colleague bowtochris is in Arkham and says there haven't been any evacuation orders, which is also very encouraging. (As an aside, I've heard that the Massachusetts State Police Special Bureau is investigating the incident, but I've been unable to confirm that.)
I think I speak for the whole VX community in saying that our thoughts and prayers are with Miskatonic University and the families affected during these difficult times.
This post is a followup to this developing story, a silver lining of sorts. It concerns some very interesting experimental data I observed on Saturday afternoon. I’m particularly indebted to my colleague QuantumFTL for their help in making sense of the data.
First, a few words about myself, for context. I maintain a modest VX lab in a barn behind a farmhouse built in 1844 in a little tiny hamlet called Surprise, N.Y. My ex-wife and I bought the property from a quivering, very-motivated Wall Street lackey right after the crash in 2008. I figured we could start a homestead. "Collapse now and avoid the rush", as they say. I took a few classes in VX when I was an undergrad at SUNY Buffalo because I found the theory really interesting, but I never really got into it as a hobby (more a passion now!) until we bought the property. I'm an IT/security consultant by trade, and my business (which I run from home) never really took much of a hit during the Great Recession (or during Corona, thank the Gods). So I've been able, over the course of twelve years, to build some pretty interesting VX apparati in the barn. Because I’m way out in the country (nearest neighbor's a quarter mile away), I’ve been able to safely do experiments which would never be tolerated in an urban environment. I'm very lucky to have had this opportunity. I'm grateful to the Gods for it. It's fun as hell.
My ex-wife, it turns out, does not care much for the country, nor my drinking, nor the growing of cannabis plants, nor the late-night fireworks in the barn, nor my loud music [often late at night, in the barn], nor my hair-brained, abortive attempt to start a microbrewery called VX MASTERZ (I cannot get the hang of brewing beer), nor trying to communicate with the friendly little tadpole-lookin' fellas which appeared one morning inside an ultrapure heavy-water tank in the barn, nor ... well, you get the idea. Now it's just me, my computers, my VX gear, my house, my garden, my barn, two cats named Frankie and Zara, one of the little tadpole fellas who insisted on staying on Earth and now lives in a very luxurious koi pond next to the house [he now calls himself Z'&~^hrr3'rz2ruz~''z"3"[email protected]'az'az7at!lel, as far as the human tongue can pronounce those sounds], and two goats named Cosmo and Schmutz. I love my fuckin' life.
But enough about me. You didn't start reading this to hear about me. You came here for the lab report, Goddamnit. As Applied VX Letters Rule #1 says, "Full data or GTFO." So let's GTF on with it. Buckle up yer Heisenberg Recompensators, grab a cup of coffee, and spark that beat-the-Monday-morning-blues joint, my lovelies. Shit's about to get weird.
This is a basic schematic of my current laboratory layout. Particularly note the oversized battery bank and the apparatus labeled "ground loop". For the past few years, the main focus of my research has been based on Nikola Tesla's theory for using the Earth itself as a medium for manipulating electromagnetic fields. My current working hypothesis is that Tesla's theory is also true for VX processes. The initial data I've gathered during Saturday's impromptu, serendipitous experiment strongly suggest that my hypothesis is true.
Full data are, of course, available on VXNET. My username there is the same as here. Again, I offer my most gracious thanks and appreciation to QuantumFTL for their help in the analysis. VX is a collaborative science involving many brilliant people across the world. When we work together, we can achieve glorious things.
My post on the Saturday megathread explains most of the initial setup for this experiment, so I won't repeat myself. If you haven't read that post, please do so before continuing here.
As you can see in the schematic, my lab has three independent power sources: 1) the municipal electrical grid; 2) solar panels on the roof of the barn; 3) the apparatus labeled "ground loop".
If you're unfamiliar with the Tesla Theory, I recommend reading about our boy Nick's experiments at Wardenclyffe before continuing here, because that will cause the following to make a lot more sense.
The "ground loop" is a 2/0 AWG 7-strand wire made of a proprietary nickel/chromium/iridium/high-carbon steel alloy available from Terradex (shout-out to Dragonai!). The wire measures 400' long and is run through a 2” PVC conduit lined with aluminum foil, sealed against moisture, and buried below the frost line. Through various experiments combining Tesla's techniques with more modern VX science, I've been able to generate significant amounts of electrical power using the loop; not nearly enough to run a full VX system, but certainly enough to power an average home. My paper on this was returned "revise and resubmit" by Applied VX Letters. I'm not even mad. They actually gave me some really insightful and interesting feedback, and said the paper was “surprisingly strong for a non-professional”.
Anyway, based on the strange readings I was getting with my Meitz-Fürgel portable particle detector, I simply had to try and get better data. Most VX that can be done safely in a populated area is limited to microscale near-field gestalt work (which you can monitor with an Arduino and a few stock sensors), but since I’m out in the sticks where there’s almost no interference, it was worth it for me to invest in a good sensor module. I have a Yoshihatsu II-b AiO unit with the expansion card, to which I’ve added both a δ-phase and a combination ζ/μ-phase detector of my own design. I can hear a pin drop in Tahiti with this thing if the ionospheric conditions are right.
Problem was, I wasn't entirely sure what had happened over at MU, so I was hesitant to turn on my whole system at full power. But then I had a stroke of genius: try running the system entirely off the ground loop at extremely low power, using the battery bank as an enormous surge protector.
Additional problem: I keep the batteries fully charged. The bank consists of 40 cells rated at 38 kA·h each, for a grand total of 1.52 MA·h capacity. That's a lot of juice to dump all at once. My SCRAM unit (a 2018 TerraSCRAM MkIII) is one of the best on the market, but it's still pretty nerve-wracking to have my hand on the switch and think "I'm about to release, like, ten lightning bolts worth of energy in the next few seconds". Beads of cold sweat form on my forehead. I quietly say the Druidic Psalm: "Ever as I walk along the Path do I feel the presence of the Gods. I know that in everything I do, They are with me..." I take a deep breath and throw the switch.
There is a loud snapping noise, followed by a hum which is felt more than heard. The hairs on my arms stand on end. The control console begins displaying strongly-worded warnings. The viewport of the TerraSCRAM goes blindingly white. For a second or two, I'm sure I'm about to get reborn. And then I see the battery meter start to drop, first quickly, then logarithmically tailing off towards zero. I exhale. The scent of ozone—that sharp, tangy, instantly-recognizable lightning smell—hangs in the air. Nothing seems broken or melted. Frankie and Zara are still sleeping in their little cat loft up in the rafters. I climb down from the control room and give the TerraSCRAM a "good job" pat. It's distinctly cool to the touch. Little droplets of condensation are starting to form on the viewport. I grab a shop towel and wipe them off.
Now the real fun begins.
As you can see from the schematic, I've installed isolation switches for each power source. The lab can draw power from the grid, from the rooftop PV panels, from the ground loop, or from any combination of these. I flip the correct combination of switches and throw the ground loop breaker.
I feel like I've had my guts rearranged. My vision blurs. The cats start yowling. I'm vaguely aware of throwing up on the floor. Now I'm quite sure I'm about to get reborn. Somehow I manage to turn the breaker back off; or maybe it trips itself, I’m not sure. I come to on the floor of the barn a few minutes later. Frankie is licking bits of puke off my face. I go in the house, clean myself up, and fetch a mop and bucket. While cleaning up the puddle, I ponder what the fuck just happened. And then I have another stroke of genius.
It's theorized that infrasound is one of the reasons people sometimes see ghosts. Experimental tests on people resulted in nausea, visual disturbances, and a sense of impending doom. The "brown note" isn't real—Mythbusters busted that one—but infrasound sure is. I go and check the control console. Sure enough, the ground loop started resonating at 6 Hz as soon as I turned on the breaker. Since I don't want a repeat of my experience (and the cats are now pissed at me), I need a way to make that not happen.
Well, why not take the NOLO-1 rectifier off the grid side and stick it between the ground loop and the rest of the system? I'm not sure it'll work at a tenth of its normal speed, but I’ve found that once you've started doing hair-brained mad-scientist shit, it's best to commit 100% and see it through to the conclusion.
After fifteen minutes, the NOLO-1 is in position, attached with jumper cables. This time I cross myself before throwing the breaker.
A tiny click as the breaker makes contact, and then silence. I hear birds singing in the woods behind the barn. I see tiny motes of dust floating in the afternoon light coming through the window. It’s so peaceful. I wonder if I've gotten reborn. An electronic notification breaks my reverie. It's the "you just got a coin" sound from Super Mario 1. It's coming from the control console. It means the battery bank is fully charged. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a blue halo beginning to form around my Tesla coils. It's getting brighter. Suddenly the rational part of my brain kicks in and I realize what's going on. I scramble up the ladder to the control room, fling my rolling chair out of the way, and pull up a terminal shell.
startup-diag suspend -t 45s vxctl bothTeslas POWER ON vxctl GO vxctl bothTeslas MODE PLASMA-BALL; ARC 1 PWR 1 vxctl GO 
The familiar sizzle as the coils ignite is an immense relief. A blue-white arc of plasma lazily drifts between them, fifty million volts strong. It's a simple effect, mostly just used to impress guests, but it’s mesmerizing. The only problem is, it shouldn't be fucking possible. The ground loop only generates enough power to trickle-charge the battery and capacitor banks, keeping them topped up when I'm away on vacation. And yet, it's just poured about ten lightning bolts worth of energy into them over the course of a minute or so, and it's now powering a pair of 3-meter Tesla coils. I reluctantly turn my gaze from the coils back to the control console.
vxdiag status --all --summary >>> 2020-07-11T14:21:28 ALL SYSTEMS OK >>> TerraSCRAM (/dev/scram/) reports 1 minor incident within last 60m (use vxctl --report for details) >>> Frankie and Zara are outside the barn vxdiag status vxnet >>> 2020-07-11T14:21:51 PINGING VXNET >>> 2020-07-11T14:21:52 VXNET IS UP (29ms) >>> 2020-07-11T14:21:52 PNODE US/NY0781 IS UP >>> STATUS: AUTO-TX ENABLED vxdiag status --charge bat000 cap000 >>> 2020-07-11T14:22:06 BATTERY BANK 0 (/dev/bat000/) – 100.0% >>> 2020-07-11T14:22:06 CAPACITOR BANK 0 (/dev/cap000/) – 100.0% 
At this point I edited my comment on the megathread letting everyone know I was okay. I then fixed myself a chemical concoction made with coconut seltzer, pineapple juice, ice, and gin, put some Muddy Waters on the stereo, and began experimenting.
Over the next few hours, with QuantumFTL’s help, I was able to produce the following results:
Around 17:00 EDT, the amount of power being generated through the ground loop started falling off rapidly. I switched to solar and grid power and began analyzing my results.
When the Abbott Hall VX laboratory at MU lost primary containment, the area of no-space in the core collapsed into an ethereal fireball of exotic particles. The μ-resistivity of air being what it is, the actual quantum flux was close to zero in and directly around Arkham, which is why bowtochris only observed a light shower of neutrinos.
However, further than about 30-50 miles away from Arkham, the core-collapse wave was able to overcome the air’s μ-resistivity. This surely produced spectacular auroral displays, which we unfortunately didn’t get to see because of the bad weather conditions. This was the reason for the elevated Δ-2 counts I observed on Saturday morning.
The thing is, a core-collapse wave radiates through the full 360° in the x, y, z, w, and v dimensions. In other words, half the expanding eldritch bubble went down into the Earth and began immediately colliding with normal matter in the upper crust. When I observed an elevated particle flux in all bands, originating in the direction of Arkham, that was from absorption and reradiation of new particles through the layers of the upper crust. This was why my lab’s ground loop was able to perform far beyond its normal specifications.
I suspect many of you will have questions about this, so AMA! I have a videoconference with a client at 14:00 EDT, but I’ll do my best to stick around until then.
submitted by XyzzyxXorbax to VXJunkies [link] [comments]

The vengeance of Earthlings

Edit: Apparently I am supposed to link you guys things. Neat. However I also admit that this is a good idea, so here are the first two parts to the story.
Part 1:
part 2:
Carry on.

I looked out over the empty market. Barren were stalls that once held hundreds of merchants and wares from all over the known galaxy. Pock marked holes and the remains of my guards lay scattered about the deck. Once my ship had been the center of hub for trade in the commonwealth and as the owner of the Market my will ruled over it all. The Market didn’t exactly have a routine trade schedule, a few days here in a slow system. A month there where business was booming. Eventually I would make my way to Ratungi Prime and there…there I would rest in the paradise of my home world until the urge to move began again.
With beings as resilient as we are, our parties can last for years. A side effect of near immortality, cells so perfect that with focus we can filter out impurities and toxins, but without that focus the metabolism grinds to a halt, whatever is in your blood breaking down in months instead of minutes. A single drink could last for hours, making drinking competitions into high stakes marathons. How fast can you consume and still focus enough to filter it all out? Entire worlds had been won and lost over the game. Only the sharpest minds with an iron will ever entered a high stakes game. Winner take all. I had played once when I was younger. For nearly a day my opponent took me drink for drink until finally he started to slow. Less than an hour later I was the sole owner of the Market.
Over a kilometer long and have again as wide I once held sway to the rich and powerful of the Ratungi elite. When my ship came into ports, hundreds of transports, cargo runners, smugglers and the like would come. They paid to hold their wares in my hold, paid for the privilege of flying with me, paid for the privilege of security provided by my men. I could make more in a day than some of my people made in a year. Tourists who wanted to trade and buy and sell came from the planets I visited. There was even a market day holiday in the Sagorno cluster when I arrived. I am a living god to these lesser beings who paid homage to me with every credit they spent.
Black market, grey market, there was no difference and even fewer rules. Weapons, drugs, slaves, rugs or food. It was all for sale and I got a percentage of everything. That’s the trick really, always go for a percentage. The money didn’t matter so long as every merchant realized they owed their prosperity to me, a tenth of a credit or tens of thousands, it all went into my coffers. No one even considered breaking the rule of the market. Thou shall not steal. I had made examples of those who tried. As my eyes tracked over the empty stalls not even the thought of dangling a thief in the reactor and watching them boil from the inside could bring light to my heavy heart.
It started with a windfall. A crop of mammals that I unloaded across my run. Even a god must share his wealth with his people from time to time. So, I unloaded them across the planets to my friends. Or at least those who could pay for the product. I didn’t hear about U’dougsarlig ‘iliath until almost two cycles after the incident occurred. U’dougsarlig ‘iliath existed now inside of sealed box, the slime that he was forced to consume was still being processed through his body. Even light causes him to scream and thrash in agony. That thought made me smirk, he was a third-rate trader at best, but even that… at least when I made someone an example it was relatively quick. A dip in the reactor would kill in a matter of hours, skin falling away as the cells in the creature’s body failed to hold together under the radioactive onslaught. This was something altogether new. I didn’t pay it much mind until I heard about the others.
News began to reach me about Ratungi traders going missing or being found in horrifying states. One had been bolted to the front of his own ship. His body shutting down in stages as the damage to his extremities took its toll. I say found but that isn’t right. His ship was set on a long elliptical down the gravity well. By the time an automated message was sent out on the planetary net with a camera recording all of his suffering he was to far into the well to stop. The local planetary governor tried to eliminate all records of the footage, no one wants that kind of scandal tied to their planet. But you can still find the footage in the net if you know who to pay, I myself have a copy of it for the discerning user.
I wasn’t afraid then. I don’t think it helped if I had been. The Market was all that mattered to me. I can tell you exactly when it started, Market profits always had fluctuated a bit, but ever since that footage came out vendors had started deserting their stalls. Tourists no longer paid for the privilege of seeing the Market. I started to charge the vendors more, taking a tithe of their goods upon arrival, just to maintain my own investments. Instead of rising to the challenge, they left. Cowards. Over night it seemed that no one wanted to worship at my alter. That was when I made the connection.
A quick scan on the net added validity to my theory. On my screen I overlaid the path of the Market against the attacks. I checked the names of the missing or dead against my trade list. One by one I crossed out their names. Something was hunting my people. Something was coming for me. This last sent a shiver down my spine. A persistent beeping drew me out of my reverie. Comm channel, high priority. Opening the transmission, I saw a familiar face.
“Ke’ ithalli Ortagasa. To what do I owe the pleasure?” Ke’ ithalli Ortagasa stared at me through the screen. His eyes wide and obviously terrified. Only his head filled the screen, blocking everything behind him.
“Great Je’ Dethal Sousa, I offer my entire hold of goods if you will grant me safe passage. I am being hunted by Earthlings.”
Earthlings, the name didn’t ring a bell. I scanned the net and glanced at their species record. Lost a planet, floating in space, these nearly extinct mammals weren’t physically imposing. No claws or spines I could see. There was something about them though that looked familiar. I couldn’t quite place my finger on it.
“Ke’ ithalli Ortagasa, you don’t have enough in your entire holdings to entice me. If you are being hunted by some walking mammal, I don’t see how that is any problem to me.”
“Never the less Great Je’ Dethal Sousa, I must land. They are after you as well. If my guards stand with your own, we have a chance together. Did you see what happened to U’dougsarlig ‘iliath? We must stand together!”
Here was an opportunity. Ke’ ithalli Ortagasa was not a rival exactly. I didn’t have those anymore. But he did have several mines of raw ore that could fetch a nice price in several systems. It seemed a shame not to own those at least if the Earthlings did come.
“All that you have in the ship. The ship itself and half of your mining shares. Nonnegotiable.”
“Done.” he breathed out the word, I was surprised, few beings in the galaxy were as good a trader as the Ratungi and I was well known for being one of the best. But he didn’t even try to bargain me down. The relief that I saw was not feigned he was truly terrified of the Earthlings.
“You may land in dock 4. My men will meet you there.” I signed off as he tried to thank me. If I played this right, I could take all of his mines… The thought had virtue.
Ke’ ithalli Ortagasa slumped into his seat and started crying. Relief really had flooded through him. They wouldn’t kill him. In front of him, out of view of the camera stood two male Earthlings. The larger one, who had identified himself as ‘the captain’ nodded at him.
“Well done Ortaga. I know that must’ve been hard, selling out one of your own.” Ke’ ithalli Ortagasa nodded.
“Please” he said. “I’ve done what you asked. Just let me go.”
The Captain stood up, dressed in simple ships clothes and bedecked with guns from head to toe he looked formidable. Blue eyes looked him up and down and then turned to the smaller male.
“Honey?” he asked.
The smaller male didn’t carry any guns. Instead he simply whistled and 3 of the females appeared from the shadows. The females were covered in brown black fur, black lips pulled back to show razor sharp teeth.
“Unfortunately, my wife has a point. You dealt in a commodity that you should never have touched and now you must pay the price. I do wish I could thank you with a quicker death. You have been very helpful but being a Ratungi… It is now a curse for you. And for that I am sorry.” He turned back to the smaller male.
“Don’t take to long, I want the dogs ready to go the second we land.” He patted Ke’ ithalli Ortagasa on the shoulder. “raise your throat. It’ll help.” He walked away, barking order through an ear piece to people Ke’ ithalli Ortagasa couldn’t see. All his attention focused on the teeth of the females. The small male raised her hand and made a fist. Ke’ ithalli Ortagasa noted that the teeth weren’t razor sharp. He wasn’t certain if that was better or worse.
“Expect resistance. It probably won’t be heavy at first, but we need as much momentum at the start to push through.” The captain tapped a button on a small device at his belt and a shimmer grew out from the device to cover him before blending with the light around him. An unwilling gift given to the crew by a Ratungi. The body armor was a fine mesh of nanites that responded in nanoseconds to an impact. Absorbing any projectile and sacrificing themselves to radiation or focused laser. It was a one time use shield and he only had a few left but this should be the end of the business that started more than two years ago.
Behind him three others had gathered. The entirety of his crew. The engineer, a large man named Sable carried nothing but a scarp of ships hull he had fashioned into a sword at his back, at a meter and a half it stood almost as tall as Sable himself. Strapped to his arm was another section of hull. The metal, tempered to withstand solar radiation, entry into a planetary atmosphere and even light ship arms would lead the way, giving covered for the other two.
Austin and Tyson, one was a stowaway, the other a cook. From the first day Austin had been discovered Tyson had taken him under his wing teaching him everything he knew, how to cook, clean a deck and shoot a ships cannon. It hadn’t taken long before Austin had made himself a useful member of the crew and seemed to have adopted Tyson as his elder brother. When the first batch of kids had been found and rescued Austin had returned the favor, becoming the elder brother to a brood of toddlers and children. This was the first time He had been allowed to come on one of these “collection” missions as he called them and the Captain could see it in his stance. He was nervous. They had left the children and their ship in the care of a friend and the Captain could see that being away from his adopted siblings was setting him on edge.
A glance at Tyson was all it took. Tyson didn’t even nod in response, just turned to Austin and started in on a story about the time he had been gambling in a Darmini pleasure den and found himself naked and out of credits. By the end of the story Austin’s stance was calm, firm. He would be alright. Both men shouldered standard issue rifles and side arms, each one carefully inspected by sable before being returned to their owners.
The scrabbling of paws announced the last of the family. 3 of the dogs came in and sat patiently, their muzzles dark red, tongues lolling. Behind them Chiara walked her face a blank mask. The Captain knew better than to ask how it went. The first time, when he had first seen the children in a pen being sold as food by a Ratungi he had been furious. When he told his wife the price of the children, he had planned on selling the ship to pay for them all. She had disappeared, returning later that night with 13 of the children, a hard drive and a cold anger that frankly terrified him. This wasn’t the farm girl he had fallen in love with. She was a Valkyrie. She was Kali. She was the embodiment of every mother who had ever given birth and would defend her children beyond death itself if that is what it took. When she told him that they were going to hunt down every single being who had been involved with the trafficking of her new children the Captain didn’t even question it. Simply set the coordinates and did what she asked.
Once only a few weeks into it Sable had asked why they had left the rest of the human fleet on what looked like a fool’s errand. The Captain simply looked at him and then said “if you have a problem with it, take it up with her.” Sable wisely shut up after that.
There was a thunk as the ships auto pilot landed them on the deck. The subliminal hiss of air as the pressures were matched and then the light over the airlock switched from red to green.
Sitting in my office I watched the ship land with a pleasurable shiver of anticipation. I expected Ke’ ithalli Ortagasa to exit with a gift for me. I expected to see a small army of beings exit and join with my own forces. I expected to take Ke’ ithalli Ortagasa to dinner and discuss how we would eradicate this nuisance once and for all. I did not expect to see the front rank of my guards fall in a hail of bullets.
The attack was so fast, four men of the front rank gone in an eye blink. I saw a chunk of metal fly forward and I thought for an instant that the ship must have exploded. But the chuck of hull stopped and swiveled to meet my guards own return salvo. I saw it then, the earthling. I have sold more dangerous looking stock before; gladiators are always in high demand. This creature would fetch a nice price to the right buyer. Behind him two more dropped into the protective shadow of the giant. They began a withering attack on one side while the giant simply charged into the other, tossing my hand-picked guards like children’s toys. Children’s toys. I looked more closely at the Earthling. Bipedal, multi colored skin with patches of fur on their heads and faces. Behind the two came another two, this pair opposite in almost every respect. One was tall the other short, one stocky at least on par with the giant who…was that a sword? Why was he attacking projectile weapons with a sword? What kind of insanity possessed this creature? More importantly, why was he winning? The dock guards were already dead, they might still be fighting but it wouldn’t take long. That didn’t matter to me. I made certain that I only took those without family, made sure that their life insurance checks would be paid out to me. Each death added a bit more to my holdings and new guards could always be hired.
I watched as the last guard lifted his weapon to the air. Obviously surrendering. Coward. It wouldn’t help, that much I could tell already. The smallest earthling raised his hand, pointing it at the guard and made a fist. It happened so fast I had to rewind the scene. Three creatures blurred at the guard. I paused and zoomed in. they were fur covered, wearing some kind of covering around their middles. Were these the Earthling Females I had heard of? I watched in fascination as they dragged the guard into the shadows. I wanted one of those. No two. Make them fight. It could be part of a grand reopening. A gladiator fight of a hundred species. Prize going to the last man standing and with the house taking some of each bet…
In the middle of the great market place a battle raged. The giant holding his shield out, never breaking stride. On either side two Earthlings took shots, each percussive blast either removing a guard from the fight or sending them scurrying backwards. I tried to coordinate the guards, feeding them information from my screens. Each ambush was foiled. The females moving to fast and disabling my men before retreating, leaving them as easy pickings for the trio. Behind them taking cover were the last two. The smaller one didn’t seem to be doing anything, I could see her mouth open making gestures. Did she think she was some kind of sage? The bigger one was keeping the little one safe. Eliminating my men’s attempts to sneak behind.
The captain holstered his pistol, empty, and pulled the modified shotgun from its sheath on his back. An heirloom from a dead world it was sawn down to only a dozen inches. Two bright metal barrels exploded with a barrage of lead, taking the jumping guard full in the stomach and launching parts of him backwards. With a grunt of satisfaction, the captain breached the weapon and loaded two more rounds in it. He slapped a fresh magazine into the empty pistols and looked to his wife. She had been keeping up a constant stream of commands. Her dogs, so well trained didn’t hesitate. Two remained, one taking three rounds at close range. It has still mauled the guard who had shot it, ravaging its hands. Its pack mates didn’t look kindly on the loss of their sister.
“Sable, swing wide. Austin, Tyson, take out that nest on the deck above.”
Sable shifted his shield onto his back and charged a knot of guards who had taken refuge in a stall that seemed to cater to some kind of clay pottery. The screaming man was drenched in blood and blood lust. Above a group of guards took pot shots at him, their rounds pinging harmlessly off his shield. Below them Tyson braced himself and Austin, taking a running start jumped onto Tysons back and jumped, slapping a small explosive to the ‘ceiling’ just below the nest of guards. There was a boom, a crash and the Captain smiled. The thick tangle of smoking debris and limbs that fell wasn’t shooting at them anymore. Well done. He checked his pistols again and got back into the fray.
I wasn’t worried that they had gotten through the dock.
I felt a tingle of fear as they came through the market place.
Oily dread began to pump its way through me when I watched them not attack the barracks. They simply slapped open the door, launched a rocket at the bulkhead, where had they gotten that? and then closed the door again. My hand-picked guards, strongest, fiercest most blood thirsty warriors were simply sucked out into the void.
I was numb when I heard a knocking on my door.
The Captain was spattered with blood. He stood alone, that small weapon lazily propped on his shoulder. I knew that look. Carefully sculpted to be nonchalant. He was here to make a deal. I smiled. After everything I had seen, even now if I played my cards right, I would still come out on top. Whatever it was they wanted I would pay it, and then pay more just to watch them fight again. He pressed the intercom.
“hey big fella, I really hope you are in there. We made a mess out here and frankly I’m kind of tired of chasing you. So why don’t you come out here so we can talk.”
I hit the answering button. “Thank you but no, I am quite happy to be on this side of a door from you.”
The Earthling looked around for a second or two and then his eyes tracked up to the camera. Looking it seemed, directly at me.
“Come out Ratungi. Or I will huff and puff and blow this door open.”
“I have no idea what you mean, but if you don’t leave then I will be forced to summon my guards.”
The big man lowered his head and rubbed his face. He rested his chin on the twin barrels of that weapon, blew out a breath and then said “Are you the great Je’ Dethal Sousa? If you are then I can promise you. We have no intention of killing you. One thing you should know about Earthlings, we take our promises very seriously. Cross my heart and hope to die.”
I sagged with relief. Tension I didn’t know I had been holding flowed from my head to my toes and out. I felt limp and ecstatic. I could make this work. He wanted to talk.
“We can talk right here easily enough” I said, trying to gain some semblance of control. “this door can withstand a battleships cannon without a scratch. Now if you want to join me as a personal guard or better yet sell me some of your crew to fight in the gladiator pits then we can make a deal. I can offer you anything you desire.” It was a bad gambit, but it wasn’t like they didn’t know I was desperate. This way maybe I could at least see what enticed the Earthling. After that it was all a negotiation.
The big man looked directly into the camera. “Huff. Puff” he said, stepping back and letting two of the Earthlings come forward. I had watched them, a tandem offense and defense, they had been magnificent. One of them placed an explosive on the door. The second one moved it. The first one moved it back. Finally, they settled on a third location and there was a sharp pop followed by a ping of metal ricocheting around the room.
The door slid open with only a grunt of effort. A giant slab of metal was great protection, but without the locking controls it was just a sliding door. Sable looked around first, taking the pistol shot against his shield. He walked forward. The shots pinging off the metal one after another until there was a click of an empty chamber. The Captain stepped out from behind him.
“Hi there. Are you The Great Je’ Dethal Sousa?” he asked. Behind him the smaller male walked with only two females in tow. Their fur, more a uniform red and yellow, matted to their bodies did nothing to draw the eye away from their teeth. Why is the female of the species so terrifying? The smaller male came over to me. He was fearless. “Are you the Great Je’ Dethal Sousa? Lord of the Market, defender of the deal and trafficker of human children?”
Three things clicked into place in my head. I had sold some of livestock to U’dougsarlig ‘iliath who had ended up in a box. the livestock had been pink. Bipedal. clever but not intelligent. offspring. I didn't think that the furry gore spattered females were the most dangerous thing in the room anymore.
"I can get you as many of the children as you want. whatever you want. Please!"
I could hear the drip drip drip of blood falling from the sword of the giant. The matching pair had stationed themselves at the entrance to the room, just in case there were any wayward guards who wanted to get in big with the boss. The captain had leaned back against a wall chewing on a fingernail, his other hand holding that tiny weapon of destruction in my general direction. The small male nodded. “Sable. Go get the rods.” Without a word the giant left.
“I take it…we have a deal?”
“Well as best I can tell, it was a trap.” I poured myself another drink. The sour swill seemed to match my mood. Across from me sat Da Talai, she looked at me or at least I assumed she did, her goggles covered her eyes. Like all Mesarians she had some extreme light sensitivity, but I suppose that’s what you get when you live on a planet with no more than a candle light for a sun. Her thick pelt rippled in displeasure.
“what do you mean it was a trap? Who was it meant for?” she speared a piece of meat from her plate and daintily ate it. “I mean, did it work?” I had been nursing a headache all day and this dive of a bar wasn’t helping any. Overhead the broadcasts were competing against the din of the crowd. Something about another colony gone dark. Third one this cycle. A lot of fingers were being pointed back and forth. A lot of rumors but so far no one had anything concrete.
“Hey, Jan. Mesarian to Jan. Come on back buddy.” Da Talais voice snapped me back to the here and now.
“sorry, I mean, Ke’ ithalli Ortagasa, the Ratungi that’s been living in the top floor of the building in his own private fortress for the last cycle or two because of a very healthy fear of death is missing. The entire place is trashed. And I don’t mean night after a big party trashed. I mean a night after the Astros win the season cup during both full moons and enough Spice to choke a worm, had a love child with a bomb, trashed.”
Da Talai’s eyebrows raised. “What the fuck did that?”
“Near as we can tell? No idea.” I drank a bit, not out of thirst or wanting to be drunk. Just for lack of having anything better to do with my hands. The entire scene of Ke’ ithalli Ortagasa home. from front door through the blown-out walls to the bloody mess of guards. So much mess. How much blood did the average guard have anyways? Was there a good blood to guard ratio so when they die it is extra bloody? Was there a study on this and if so what kind of psychopath would have taken the time to-
“Hey.” Da Talai derailed my thoughts. “check it out” she pointed at the broadcast screen. On the monitor was an image of The Market, a lot of people had been wondering what had happened to it after it missed its next two scheduled stops. Overlaid was the news caster and through the din he could just catch out her words.
“-unication with the missing ship several cycles ago. This is the first footage to be received from it. We are warning viewers, the images you are about to see are disturbing.” She faded away and in her place was a Ratungi. He had been impaled. Metal rods pinned him like some kind of masochistic butterfly to a bulkhead wall. Jan squinted. Was that frost on the rods? The only way that could be is if they had punched through to a chiller or… or punctured through to the void itself. No, not even a Ratungi could survive the literal icy chill of the void pushing through their bodies… could they?
The camera man approached the still Ratungi, a second man laid a hand on the Ratungi’s chest, searching for a pulse. Everyone in the bar jumped with the Ratungi started to scream and thrash.
“Huff Puff, not the children. Please don’t touch the children. They don’t like that. Huff puff. Please. Find the rest. Don’t touch them. Please. Please pleasepleasepleaseplease” the footage cut off. The anchorwoman came back on relaying the harrowing chase of The Market, how it was on a ballistic trajectory out of the elliptical plane of the known galaxy. There was a second survivor. Another Ratungi who was left unnamed. It was he who had sent the distress call, but no pictures of him. If they were willing to show an impaled being screaming and begging, but not the second guy… I knew better than to add to my own nightmares.
I ordered another round. Between the colonies and this, it was time to return to the fleet.
“Da Talai” I said, knocking back the last of the drink in my hand. “This isn’t over yet I can promise you that.”
I assume she squinted at me dubiously under her goggles, but I carried on. “You can trust me. Earthlings have always known for keeping their promises.”
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