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Start of the Week:
Colin Kaepernick v. St. Louis - #6 in Weekly Rankings
If you’re fortunate enough to own Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson or Drew Brees, I don’t think I need to tell you to get them in the lineup this week. But, if you own Colin Kaepernick and you’re thinking about starting someone other than those aforementioned QBs, think again. Kaepernick is currently the 10th ranked QB in .5 PPR leagues, which is fine, but he should be ranked at least a few spots higher. Brandon Lloyd and Steve Johnson have been superb additions to a pass catching core that already includes Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis. Lloyd, Johnson, and Boldin for the most part, have done their jobs in making this a potent passing offense. However, Vernon Davis has played as poor as possible this season, dropping several passes along the way including at least 1 TD. Anquan Boldin also dropped a gimme 3 yard TD against the Broncos in week 7 that he catches the next million or so times the ball is thrown to him. Kaepernick is playing mostly mistake free football and his legs are still as much of a weapon as they’ve been in the past. Crabtree and Vernon had the bye week to heal their minor maladies and should be ready to prove themselves in the second half of the season. Kaepernick’s floor is high and his ceiling is higher in a matchup against the Rams, the 27th ranked team against fantasy QBs, and the team he wiped the floor with just 3 weeks ago to the tune of 343 yards passing, 3 TDs and 37 rushing yards.
Cleveland Browns v. Tampa Bay - #5 in Weekly Rankings
Tampa Bay looks like they’re just about ready to pack in the season while doing their best to win the Jameis Winston sweepstakes. They’ve started unloading players for draft picks, albeit none on the offensive side of the ball, but maybe that’s because nobody finds their offensive players attractive enough to trade for. Tampa ranks 29th in passing yards, 28th in rushing yards and if you haven’t guessed already, dead last in total yards on offense. Their biggest loss on offense this season may not have even been from a player. Offensive coordinator, Jeff Tedford, took a leave of absence for medical reasons right before week 1 and his replacement, Marcus Arroyo, has not shown any ability to lead an offense that moves the ball. The Browns are by no means an elite defense, otherwise they’d be ranked higher. However, they’ve forced 11 turnovers in 7 games and will sustain time consuming drives, limiting Tampa Bay’s ability to score points.
Alex Smith v. New York Jets - #12 in Weekly Rankings
Alex Smith was a favorite of mine last week and he let me down. I’m going double or nothing on him this week against a defense that just got torched by Kyle Orton for 238 yards and 4 TDs on only TEN completions! This performance brought the Jets TD/INT ratio to an unimaginable 22:1 on the season. Alex Smith is coming off a 0 TD game against the Rams, but he moved the ball well completing 24 of 28 passes en route to a 34-7 victory. Nobody really stops Jamal Charles but the Jets normally do have a stout run defense. Look for Smith to continue his efficient play but this time get the ball in the endzone through the air at least twice. Start Alex Smith as a bye week fill in for Ryan, Stafford, Cutler, or Rodgers or as a complete matchup play in place of one of the QBs listed below him in the rankings.
Minnesota Vikings v. Washington - #6 in Weekly Rankings
Minnesota has a better defense than you would think. They rank 4th in passing yards against and a respectable 17th against the run. This defensive unit is riding high after returning a fumble for a TD in last week’s overtime thriller over Tampa Bay. The Vikings go home for the Redskins and either Colt McCoy or Robert Griffin III. McCoy worked his magic in an emotional game for him in his home state of Texas. He pulled a rabbit out of his hat to earn the miracle victory over big bad Dallas. However, even in this performance that nobody expected, he still did not have a passing TD, got sacked 3 times and threw an interception. The sacks and turnovers are likely to continue but an encore of magical plays and victories on the road are not very likely. RG III practiced fully on Wednesday and at this point in the week there is a good shot that he will get the start. My ranking for Minnesota does not change in the event that RG III plays. Griffin is sure to be rusty and tentative, and we’ve seen that a rusty, overly cautious Griffin is a turnover prone and ineffective quarterback. If he does start in place of McCoy, the Redskins may score a few more points, but I would increase the Vikings’ chances at causing multiple turnovers.
Michael Vick at Kansas City - #20 in Weekly Rankings
There are some people out there that cannot resist taking a flier on Michael Vick when he’s named the starter. In deep 2 QB leagues during a bye week like this, you really have no choice. Still, I would not voluntarily want any part of this Jets' offense at KC, including the QB. Vick is terribly inaccurate (48.2 completion %) and is a shell of the injury prone dual threat and fantasy stud from his pre jail/dog fighting days that owners dream of when they pick him up. He can make some plays with his legs, which is big for a quarterback, but only if he is also able to make a few plays with his arm as well. That ability seems to have escaped him. I do not view him much differently than I viewed Terrelle Pryor last year. If he starts the rest of the year, Vick, like Pryor last year, is sure to have 1 or 2 games that are fantasy gold. However, the Chiefs with Pro Bowlers Justin Houston, Dontari Poe and Tamba Hali are a very good and fast defense and they will not be the 1 team that Vick gets the best of. Let someone else take a chance.
Indianapolis Colts at New York Giants - #11 in Weekly Rankings
I’m kind of hedging with this ranking of the Colts. The Colts are one of my favorite defenses in the NFL, but that is only with a healthy Vontae Davis. The loss of Davis opened the flood gates last week against Pittsburgh. Darius Butler was burned time after time and Greg Toler looks a lot better on number 2 WRs than he does on top WRs….although nobody ever looks good when covering Antonio Brown. The Colts defense had been great all season prior to last week’s lapse against the Steelers. The Giants lack the weapons like LeVeon Bell/Antonio Brown/Heath Miller that devastated the Colts throughout the game last week. I would like this matchup if Davis plays but if he’s out, look for the Giants to take advantage of Darius Butler. In summary if Vontae Davis is able to go then I see the Colts as high as #8. If he is out, (he missed practice on Wednesday) then I see them as low as #17. So I’m rating them #11 for now, but beware of the Vontae Davis’s status.
An all-out Eifert will be required to ensure your team is among the best it can possibly be. As the fantasy playoffs near, it's always good to have depth at each position on your roster so you can plan for injuries and give yourself a shot at a more favorable matchup.
When it comes to the tight end position, quality performances on a repeat basis can be hard to come by at times. So far this fantasy season, only about seven tight ends (Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Gates, Julius Thomas, Martellus Bennett, Greg Olsen, Delanie Walker, Dwayne Allen and Jimmy Graham) have more than 60 fantasy points. The first five of those TEs could be considered in the top tier this year, while the next two make up the 'slightly below No. 1 tier'. After those seven, there's a bit of a drop off with Travis Kelce, Larry Donnell, Heath Miller, Owen Daniels and Zach Ertz making up the 'feast or famine' No.2 tier.
So if you don't have one of those seven (and there's about a 50 percent chance you don't if you're in a 12 or 14 team league), you might want to take a look at a few other options especially as the playoffs near. If you have one of the lower tier tight ends listed above, giving another guy a shot at being your No. 1 tight end could make a difference when it matters most.
The case for Eifert
One of the players most owners will be looking at in the coming weeks is Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert, a second-year man out of Notre Dame who's due to return from I.R. by Week 11 after suffering an elbow injury in Week 1. He caught all three of his targets for 37 yards before going down in that one game.
Possessing soft hands, Eifert stands an impressive 6'6, 250 lbs and his speed is something of a mystery still. While he was initially dubbed a Jason Witten clone coming out, Eifert impressed scouts with his speed after he ran a 4.6 40, which was the fourth fastest time among all tight ends. You factor that in with his height and this is somebody who has all the tools to be great.
the Bengals are also invested in him since they drafted him in the first round of the 2013 draft. Plus, on a team riddled with injuries to its receiving core, Eifert steps into a favorable situation where his services could be relied upon much more than last year.
As a rookie in 2013, Eifert recorded at least one catch in 15 games and finished with 39 catches for 445 yards and two touchdowns. While his two touchdowns were a bit underwhelming and he never recorded a 100-yard game, Eifert displayed a knack for remaining involved in an offense that was crowded with the likes of fellow tight end Jermaine Gresham, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Giovani Bernard and of course, A.J. Green.
When you factor in the fact that Bernard was one of the most targeted running backs in the league last season, it made it that much more difficult for Eifert to find his spot within the offense. It's no surprise he wasn't making a huge impact. Eifert finished the 2013 season with 59 targets, which ranked sixth behind Gresham, Sanu, A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, and Bernard.
Keep in mind, young receivers often take a little longer to become difference makers in the first few years of their career. Guys like Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez didn't begin to put up fantasy worthy numbers until their second and third years. Not saying Eifert will put up those numbers eventually, it's just worth noting that receiving tight ends don't come out and crush it immediately.
A brighter picture for him in 2014
Eifert won't have to compete with so many other receivers for targets like he did last season. With Jones out for the year, there's 80 targets up for grabs right there. Bernard isn't seeing the kind of targets he did last year as the Bengals have become more of a run team under new coach Hue Jackson.
Also, There's less of a chance Gresham interferes with Eifert's production like last season, as the fifth-year tight end hasn't been much of a factor with just 28 catches for 211 yards and zero touchdowns in 2014. There were even talks of him possibly getting traded which would've given Eifert's value an even bigger boost, but now that the trade deadline has passed it's unlikely that will happen.
Eifert is currently on schedule to return for Cincy's Week 11 matchup against the New Orleans Saints, a team that ranks 31st in the league in passing yards allowed per game (289). The next three games are good matchups as well with Houston (28th against the pass), Tampa Bay (30th against the pass) and Pittsburgh (19th against the pass).
What you should do about it
Since he's not due back until a few more weeks, it'd be wise to grab Eifert either now or next week before he becomes more of a wanted man. It'd be best to acquire him without wasting a waiver pickup unless your tight end spot is your greatest weakness. Still, there's not a lot of receiving tight ends with more upside than Eifert at the moment. He's well worth the acquisition especially if your team appears destined for the playoffs and needs a few more quality depth guys to ensure you don't get snake bitten by an unlucky injury.
View Navin Rajagopalan's Flickr page here.
Editor's note: In light of the recent possibility of Doug Martin getting traded, this article from July 20, 2014 was re-posted to help inform you on rookie running back Charles Sims.
Every running back in the NFL can catch a pass or two thrown his way, but there are few who are truly exceptional receivers. Those gifted with the hand-eye coordination and awareness required to be a prolific pass catcher are some of the most potent fantasy players you can draft due to their versatility.
Start of the Week
1. Sammy Watkins v. New York Jets #15 Weekly Rankings
Watkins had his first career 100-yard receiving game in week 7 against the Vikings, including the game winning touchdown catch with two seconds remaining. Now that Kyle Orton is the starting quarterback in Buffalo, Watkins should be a more consistent fantasy option in the second half of the season.
After his best game as a pro in week 7, Watkins now gets the fortune to play against a Jets secondary that is exposable. The Jets are allowing an average of 22 fantasy points-per-week to opposing wide receivers, a number ranking them in the bottom half of the league. In the three weeks that Kyle Orton has been the Bills starting quarterback, Watkins registered 10 or more targets in two of the three weeks, showing Watkins is going to get plenty of work going forward.
Even though head coach Doug Marrone has a preference for a running-dominated offense, I do not see the combination of Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon having a lot of success against the Jets front-seven. If the Bills want any hope of pulling the upset in New York, Watkins will to be involved early and often against the suspect Jets secondary.
2. Zach Ertz v. Arizona Cardinals #8 Weekly Rankings
Early on this season, Eagles tight end Zach Ertz was looking like a diamond in the rough for fantasy owners. Ertz was heavily involved in the Eagles passing offense, totaling 7 catches on 10 targets for 161 receiving yards and one score in the first two weeks of the season. However it has been rough sailing for Ertz lately, having just 143 yards combined after week two.
If you were patient with Ertz, I think this is one week you can depend on him to put up some high-end TE1 numbers. The Cardinals' defense has allowed an average of 9.2 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends, a number that ranks them in the bottom-10 in the NFL. With Ertz’s ability to attack a defense vertically, I think Ertz could have his best game of the season. If you remember last year, the Cardinals also struggled against tight ends, and Ertz benefited from that and recorded his first break out game as a rookie in 2013. Ertz caught five of six passes for 68 and two touchdowns in that contest. According to Pro Football Focus, the Cardinals linebacker’s struggle in coverage, especially ILB Larry Foote. Foote has been picked apart in coverage this season, allowing 20 receptions leading to a passer rating of 97.4 on passes thrown in his direction.
If you had the patience to stick with the ultra-athletic tight end, I believe your patience will pay off this weekend.
1. Doug Baldwin v. Carolina Panthers #25 Weekly Rankings
Fresh off a 7-catch, 123-yard game against the St. Louis Rams in week 7, Baldwin looks to keep the hot-streak going against one of the most underachieving defenses in the NFL.
When the Seahawks sent Percy Harvin to the Jets for a conditional draft pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, I had a serious question as to who was going to pick up the slack out of the Seahawks' receivers. Although none of the Seahawks' receivers are going to make opposing defensive coordinators cower in fear, Baldwin’s skill-set will lend itself to consistency. He's not going to make many big plays (only 4 passes thrown 15 yds+ this season) but his route-running combined with his consistent hands should make him a reliable option for quarterback Russell Wilson, who has exceptional accuracy to the short and intermediate areas of the field.
Baldwin was likely one of the first couple players picked up off of the waiver wire this week and I feel he has a chance to make an impact right away for fantasy owners. The Panthers have been terrible from a fantasy perspective against opposing wide receivers, allowing a league-high 12 touchdowns and an average of 26.4 fantasy points-per-game.
2. Jordan Reed v. Dallas Cowboys #9 Weekly Rankings
I know that Colt McCoy is starting for the Redskins, and that does scare me a little bit. However, I still feel that Redskins tight end Jordan Reed is still capable of having a very productive fantasy day against a Cowboys' defense allowing the third-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends.
So far in the early stages of the NFL season, the Dallas Cowboys have been one of the biggest surprises in the league with their 6-1 start. Coming off a season in which they allowed an NFL record for total yards allowed, many people (including myself) figured the struggles would continue due to the lack of talent on the defensive side of the ball (especially the front-four).
Despite the team being ranked the no. 14 defense in the NFL in terms of yards per game, the Dallas defense has been susceptible to big games from tight ends. The Cowboys defense has allowed the most receptions (50) and rank in the bottom two in yards (541) and touchdowns (7) to tight ends. Even though the Redskins are down to their third-string quarterback, I still feel that Reed has the ability to carve out a very productive fantasy day.
1. Brandon Marshall AND Alshon Jeffery v New England Patriots #13 and 14 Weekly Rankings
Now before you panic fantasy owner’s let me just be clear that I am NOT telling you too bench Brandon Marshall or Alshon Jeffery. However, I am telling you to temper your expectation’s for the tandem this weekend.
Last weekend it was reported that Brandon Marshall was frustrated with Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and his inability to take care of the football. While Cutler has had his issues, I feel like Marshall was letting out more of his own personal frustration then specifically too Cutler. Marshall is currently on pace for around 75 receptions and 750 yards, totals that would be the worst since his final season in Miami,
Jeffery has been the more consistent of the two Bears receivers so far this season, but last weekend was held in check, totaling just one catch for 9 yards. This weekend the tandem of Marshall and Jeffery get to take on combination of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, two cornerbacks that love to play physical man-to-man coverage with receivers. As expected the Patriots have been great against opposing wide receivers this season, allowing the second fewest fantasy points on a weekly basis (14.7). Even though I still expect the tandem of Marshall and Jeffery to still put up respectable numbers, I just advise tempering your expectations with a very tough matchup in this week 8 matchup with the Patriots.
HEY YOU, FANTASTY OWNER OUT THERE……WAKE UP!