It's funny how players come out of the woodwork. One day an NFL running back is playing behind two running backs and chances are slim he'll see a lick of playing time. Most people only know him as a blip on the depth chart, a player who might come on in the event of a catastrophic turn of events for the starters and even if you do get his shot, he'll likely only end up posting mediocre numbers before the starters return from whatever caused them to come off the field.

We always have that notion when we watch the NFL, but time and time again a backup will come onto the scene and show us skills that we never thought a backup would have. We ask ourselves questions like 'how did this guy slip through the cracks?' 'Does he do this in practice?' 'Why does that one guy in our league always get to the waiver wire before me? He must have no life.'

The guy we asked those questions about last year was Broncos' C.J. Anderson, as we enjoyed the roller coaster ride that took us down another surprising turn into the 'who we consider an elite fantasy running back' category. Anderson dazzled those who only heard of the other famous C.J. (2K) before him. Anderson showed quick feet in getting up to the line, a decisive explosion when cutting upfield (perhaps his best trait) and added a eye-opening desire to break tackles through his elite balance and lack of fear when engaging defenders in the open field. It was because of these traits (and several more that we'll mention later in this piece) that led Anderson to become the hottest running back down the stretch of 2014. Considering he only started seven games, it was quite an impression.

Disclaimer: When identifying a very good fantasy running back, you can simplify everything down to two basic traits before you get into specifics. These are the two basic idea of what a fantasy running back should have.

1. Talent

2. Potential for high volume of carries

Of course, there are many more details to extrapolate from those scenarios, but those are the two overarching traits you must understand while drafting a quality fantasy running back.

Anderson's talent

On paper, Anderson doesn't exactly rattle nerves of defenders. He stands at a fun-sized 5'8, 224lbs. His 4.60 speed won't blow the lid of defenses. His one calling card was the 20-yard shuttle, which he posted a combine-high 4.12 seconds for that particular year.

He doesn't have a breathtaking open field running style like the LeSean McCoy's or Adrian Peterson's of the world. He doesn't even have a nickname yet, as CJ2K has already been taken. Maybe CJ1.5K plus 500 yards receiving would be a reasonable expectation at this point.

But he offers so much in so many other areas that the idea of him not being a burner almost seems like an afterthought when you watch him play.

Anderson possesses several highly valuable traits at the NFL level, one of which is elite balance while running through the hole. As Anderson takes a handoff, he shows the kind of burst needed to get to the line of scrimmage quickly enough before the defenders diagnose what hole he's running to. It's not an elite burst, but it's still very good.

Once at the line of scrimmage, he changes his footwork from long strides into short, choppy steps in order to change direction quickly. This is just before he shows us why he's an elite running back at the NFL level.

Right before he hits the hole, he shows a very impressive cut upfield which allows him to accelerate through the hole. He lacks a third gear which prevents him from maybe splitting the two deeper defenders, but he still gets a very positive gain on the play.

Highlight Reel: C.J. Anderson in 2014

 

Notice how he ramps up his acceleration after putting his foot in the ground and cutting upfield. His balance allows that shift to be a smooth, seamless transition, which is a valuable quality when it comes to gaining a speed advantage on the defense.

In this second clip, you'll see how his balance and running style allows him to slip past defenders.

Highlight Reel: C.J. Anderson in 2014

Notice how his pad level stays low which forces defenders to tackle him at the waist or risk being too high which would give the smaller Anderson a momentum advantage. Anderson stays on an even plane for the entire length of the run aside from when he breaks out of a tackle. His feet are always moving, which allows him to break through arm tackles. His toughness is also on display as he avoids running out of bounds and instead cuts it back and looks to take on more defenders. That's the sign of a true workhorse back.

In this third clip, you'll see his running style directly translate to points on the field. Watch for the same characteristics I noted above.

Highlight Reel: C.J. Anderson in 2014

Another trait Anderson possesses is a high level of mental toughness. He processes a play very quickly which allows him to be one step ahead of the defense mentally at times. Here we see an example of it after the catch.

One of the backs who I've noticed execute a similar type of elusiveness is Eagles' RB Darren Sproles. Though Sproles is more of a burner and and an explosive back, his low pad level and small frame creates a similar effect on the defender as you'll see below.

Vision is another key quality to look for. Pay attention to the clip at the bottom of the article and notice how the offensive line is moving to the right, and watch how Anderson has to quickly make the decision to squeeze through a moving hole. Think of it like trying to jump through a hula hoop that's moving to the right and is about 2 inches off the ground. You have to time it just right and keep your feet high enough so you don't trip. Anderson executes it as well as you possibly could. Once Anderson breaks through the first level, his elite acceleration that we mentioned earlier allows him to change gears quickly and get to the outside.

Saints Yearbook '11: Darren Sproles

Highlight Reel: C.J. Anderson in 2014

 

 

 

Whether or not Anderson will get the correct situation is still a mystery. Montee Ball will likely get another shot at some point due the Broncos being so invested in the Wisconsin product. So if Anderson slips up at all, expect there to be a cosmic change in the Broncos' lineup. But as of now, he's the guy. And his talent is second to few in the NFL. He's worth a first-round pick in 2015 due to talent alone.

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage

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The instant impact rookie running back. Seemingly every year, one or two rookies are gifted with an opportunity to see a significant workload at a certain point in the season. Some are scheduled to be their team's starter form the get go (think Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch in 2007) while others benefit from a stroke of luck due to an injury to the starting guy or the starting guy is struggling (Branden Oliver, Jeremy Hill in 2014).

As the NFL Draft nears, it's important to look at these situations so you can identify them and play them to your advantage. It's also important to look at past examples so you can hopefully spot a similar situation in the future.

What can the draft tell us about fantasy?

When it comes to identifying what round a player is more likely to have a higher probability of immediately producing at, it can vary by position. One obvious trend is that quarterbacks taken in Rounds 1-3 typically do better. Current top fantasy quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck, Ben Reothlisberger and Aaron Rodgers were all drafted in the first two rounds in their respective drafts.

When you look at the wide receiver position, DeMaryius Thomas was a first-rounder as was Odell Beckham Jr. and Dez Bryant. Jordy Nelson was a second-round pick in 2008. Top 2014 fantasy wideout Antonio Brown was one exception to the rule. Brown was selected in the sixth round of the 2010 draft.

Running backs are a different story

Even though there's been some late-round gems at the quarterback and wide receiver position, the running back position is place where you'll find perhaps the highest probability quality fantasy players. More frequently than you'd think, you'll find top fantasy running backs who were drafted in the later rounds or even went undrafted.

There's a lot of variables that play into running backs not getting drafted as high as they used to be, and we could list 1,000 more words telling you why that is, but for the sake of this argument lets just say the NFL is a copy cat league and selecting a running back later on is just the trend right now. Even the 2015 running back class, which is being hyped as the best in years, will still likely only draw two first rounders (Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon). So with a running back class as good as this one, which has many draftniks claiming it could be as good as 14 quality starters deep, it's important to look at how late-round running backs have come to the forefront in the past and made an impact on fantasy teams. Let's take a look at last year's impact fantasy running backs who were rookies.

Case study #1 — Branden Oliver, San Diego Chargers (undrafted)

Oliver was ranked in the Top 40 among fantasy backs in fantasy points in 2014, which wasn't bad for a 5'8 undrafted rookie out of SUNY Buffalo. Oliver got his chance when starter Ryan Mathews went down with an MCL sprain. Of course, nobody saw Oliver's start coming after Mathews was scheduled to sit out the following week. Everybody had Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown pegged as the backups most likely to benefit, myself included. It goes to show you — always look all the way down on the depth chart before picking somebody up off the waiver wire. You never know what can happen.

Well, a stroke of luck happened and Oliver took off against the New York Jets. After Brown went out with a concussion early on and with Mathews already sidelined, Oliver feasted on the weak Jets passing defense and caught four balls for 68 yards and 1 touchdown. He also rushed for over 100 yards and finished with 29 fantasy points. 

Watching that game, Oliver's ability in the passing game no doubt helped keep the defense and honest and led to him being more effective on the ground. Oliver also benefitted from Brown leaving the first half of that game with a concussion, which opened up the doors for him within the offense.

He didn't slow down afterward that game either. The Chargers leaned heavily on him the following week and Oliver made a nice second impression with a 101-yard effort against the Oakland Raiders and one touchdown. While those numbers were impressive, it's worth noting Oliver averaged just 3.9 yards a clip on 26 carries against one of the worst rushing defenses in the league, so it was no surprise that Oliver's production eventually dropped off.

While he turned out to be a nice addition off the waiver wire for a brief stretch, Oliver's fantasy value hit a snag after he ran into some tough defenses that started with a 36-yard performance against Denver on Thursday night. He tossed in six more equally ineffective games before finishing with 582 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns for the year, with half of his fantasy points coming in those two games against Oakland and New York.

Lessons learned

Oliver proved (at least in his rookie season) to be more of a scat, receiving type back. He's not a guy that can beat you with 20 carries per game. He's more of a Darren Sproles type player who will beat you out of the backfield. But in the right matchup against a weak passing defense, he proved he could produce for at least a few weeks.

One of the takeaways you can use from Oliver is to considers drafting backup running backs where the starter has an injury history. Now, this doesn't always work out. DeMarco Murray was injured almost every season but managed to finish 2014 without any major injuries to speak of. He did suffer a hand injury at one point, but it didn't slow him up much to create a ton of value for the backup running back on Dallas.

In the case of Oliver, starting RB Ryan Mathews also had a long injury history. So keep an eye out for running backs (especially the rookies in this draft) who get drafted to a team with a No. 1 back who is prone to sitting out games.

Next, always be keen on matchups. Oliver benefited from two easy defenses (New York Jets weak passing defense and Oakland's weak rushing defense) when he put up his best numbers.

Lastly, always make sure to scope out the entire depth chart of a team. Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown were the top backups but Oliver was also on the depth chart as well.

View Nathan Rupert's Flickr page here.

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage

Entering the 2014 fantasy draft, Montee Ball was being scooped up early by fantasy owners who thought they had found the next big thing.  Those that expected RB1 numbers from Ball were sadly mistaken, as a season of injuries and the emergence of CJ Anderson caused him to finish as the 90th RB overall in standard scoring behind teammates CJ Anderson (11th overall) and Ronnie Hillman (41 overall).  To put how disappointing Ball's season was into perspective, Ball finished with only 27.4 fantasy points on the season in 5 games played.  These beyond disappointing numbers in 2014 killed many owners fantasy seasons, but now the hopefuls are looking to the future... and the future's name is CJ Anderson.  Entering 2015, Anderson is going in current mocks between the late first to second round, eerily similar to Ball's ADP entering 2014.  Could this spell disaster for Anderson next season?  This analyst thinks that the clear answer is a resounding 'no.'  Let's take a look at both backs in order to find proof that Anderson is not doomed to repeat the failures of Montee Ball.

Evidence vs. Speculation

In 2013, Knowshon Moreno finished as the #5 fantasy running back with Ball (next big thing) showing flashes of greatness.  When Moreno left the Broncos after the 2013 season, the fantasy world was abuzz that Ball would be the workhorse back and repeat Moreno's numbers in 2014.  This was pure speculation.  In his entire rookie season, Ball never had more than 15 carries per game and averaged only 7.5.  In other words, Ball was never the bell cow in the Broncos' 2013 offense so to expect him to just take that role in 2014 was nothing but a hopeful prediction.  Additionally, Ball only had a single 100+ yard game (13 carries for 117 yards) and in that game had a single rush for 45 yards.  Remove that rush and Ball had 12 carries for 72 yards, which while still impressive is not RB1 material.  Finally, even though Ball showed some flashes of being a viable fantasy starter in 2015, there was one glaring statistic that should have made people realize he couldn't be the workhorse back in 2014.  In his rookie season, on rushing attempts 11-20 Ball averaged only 3.4 yards per carry.  In other words, when Ball was given more than 10 carries per game, his stats dropped significantly.

After taking a look at the numbers, it seems that there's a bit more evidence supporting Anderson's case.  In the first nine weeks of 2014 Anderson tallied only 17 carries.  In week 10, he began to take the reins and rushed for 90 yards on 13 carries (6.9 yards per carry).  Fully taking over the backfield in week 12, he averaged 23 carries per game (140 carries in 6 weeks) and 4.6 yards per carry (648 yards on 140 carries) for the remainder of the season.  This is the definition of a workhorse back, a role that Montee Ball never actually achieved in 2013.  And remember that glaring statistic of Montee Ball only averaging 3.4 yards per carry after 10 rushes?  It doesn't seem like Anderson has that problem.  On carries 11-20, Anderson averages 4.3 yards per carry, and on carries 21-30, he averages 4.9 yards per carry.  These are the type of numbers required from a workhorse back and should continue in 2015.

Wear and Tear

Montee Ball and CJ Anderson are both only 24 years old, and should have good long careers ahead of them right? While they could both have long careers ahead of them, the level of wear and tear of Ball is MUCH higher than that of Anderson.  Now, I understand that CJ Anderson has 186 career carries in the NFL while Ball has only 175, but this goes beyond the NFL.  In his 4 year college career, Ball rushed 924 times for an impressive 5140 yards (5.6 avg) while in Anderson's short career rushed only 198 times for 1135 yards (5.7 avg).  A lot of people forget that rookies entering the NFL don't have equal levels of wear and tear.  While you can't say that Ball's injury in 2014 was directly caused by his heavy workload in college, it certainly didn't help.  Likewise Anderson, even with his heavy workload in 2014, remained injury free and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.  This could be a testament to his build and the toughness he has.  Measuring in at 5'8" and 224 lbs, Anderson is simply a more durable back compared to the 5'10" 216 lbs Montee Ball.  And even as a shorter and heavier back, Anderson has a bit more top speed than Ball.  In fact, in addition to speed Anderson slights Ball in a few categories.  Let's take a look at their combine results...

* = Top Performer 40 Yard Dash Bench Press Vertical Jump Broad Jump 3 Cone Drill 20 Yard Shuttle
CJ Anderson

4.60 sec

17 reps 32" 119" 7.15 sec 4.12 sec*
Montee Ball 4.66 sec 15 reps 32" 118" 6.88 sec 4.40 sec

Now I know these numbers are extremely close (too close to call really) but with how similar they are it makes you wonder why Ball was drafted in the second round while Anderson went undrafted.

Where to Target CJ Anderson in 2015

After crunching the numbers, it is clear that CJ Anderson has solidified himself as a workhorse-capable back.  He is entering the 2015 season as the Broncos #1 back and with an expected reduced workload from Peyton Manning, Anderson looks like one of the best backs (situationally) for 2015.  Additionally, with Gary Kubiak returning to the Broncos (this time as their head coach) I expect even more emphasis on the running game.  In my opinion, if Kubiak (as offensive coordinator) was able to turn the journeyman, Justin Forsett into a viable fantasy starter, I can only imagine what he can do with a gem like CJ Anderson.  Because Ball's ADP in 2014 was based on speculation and assumed potential, he failed to live up to the hype.  In Anderson's case the hype is real! I expect Anderson to finish in the top 10 for RBs easily and could push the top 5.  Look to scoop up Anderson in the back end of the first round or the very early second round.

 

Published in Fantasy Coverage
Tuesday, 18 November 2014 00:00

Week 12 pickups

Top Additions

1.    Jonas Gray RB/New England Patriots (8.4% Owned)

Raise your hand if you started Patriots running back Jonas Gray this week? Not many? That is what I thought. Well after gashing the Colts on Sunday night for 199 yards on a whopping 38 attempts (5.2 YPC), fantasy owners can expect Gray to be one of the hot commodities on the waiver wire this week.

Gray was buried on the depth chart at the start of the year behind veterans Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen. With Ridley out for the year with a torn ACL, Gray has taken over as the bell cow in the Patriots backfield, and Vereen has once again been relegated to a third-down/COP back in the Patriots offense.

I have to warn you fantasy owners; Patriots Head Coach Bill Belicheck can cause some serious headaches with how he divvies up the workload for his running backs, using the flow of the game to dictate his primary rusher for the day. Although you cannot expect Gray to go out and run for 200 yards and four touchdowns on a weekly basis, he's well worth stashing on your roster especially if Belicheck continues to get the former golden domer more involved in the offensive game plan.

Recommendation: Stash and See

Value: Flex/High RB3 w/ Potential

2.    Jordan Matthews WR/Philadelphia Eagles (41.7% Owned)

After posting two startight weeks with 100+ yards and a touchdown, it's safe to say that rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews has replaced Riley Cooper as the team’s no. 2 option in the passing game.

In the last two games, Matthews and quarterback Mark Sanchez have shown solid chemistry, connecting for 12 receptions for 245 yards and three touchdowns. I expect Jeremy Maclin to continue to be the focal point of the Eagles passing game, but with the up-tempo offense Kelly employs there's no reason to think that Matthews cannot continue to put up quality fantasy numbers on a weekly basis.

If Matthews was left unclaimed after last week’s monster 7/138/2 line against the Panthers go out and grab him immediately.

Recommendation: Add Immediately

Value: WR2/High Flex

3.    C.J. Anderson RB/Denver Broncos (77.8% Owned)

When asked how he would split up the carries between his stable of running backs, Broncos Head Coach John Fox stated that the primary factor would be "first and foremost" on "who's healthy." After losing Ronnie Hillman for an extended period of time with a sprained foot, the Broncos were left to depend on UDFA C.J. Anderson and second-year running back Montee Ball to carry the load.

Fantasy owners who thought Ball was going to come in and make a big splash were quickly disappointed after he re-aggravated the groin injury that cost him the last five weeks. Early indications are the Ball will be out an extended period of time, and could even be placed on injured reserve depending on the results of his MRI on Monday.

With both Ball and Hillman out the Broncos backfield suddenly went from one of the deeper groups in the league to one of the thinnest. Anderson has shown the ability to carry the load for the Broncos running game, racking up 119 yards on 22 carries (5.4 YPC) over the last two weeks. Anderson also proved a legitimate receiving threat out of the backfield, hauling in 12 passes for 159 yards and one touchdown. On an offense with Peyton Manning running the show, there will be no shortage of scoring opportunities for Anderson, and as long as he is the starting running back he has the potential to post RB1-type numbers going forward.

Recommendation: Add Immediately

Value: High RB2/Low RB1

4.    Isaiah Crowell RB/Cleveland Browns (23.7% Owned)

How frustrating has it been trying to figure out how the Browns will handle their running game this season. One week it’s Tate getting the bulk of the carries, the next it's Terrance West, and finally this week Isaiah Crowell was the Browns starting running back.

I have been saying for some time now that Crowell is the best running back on the Browns roster, and if Sunday’s game is any indication as to how the Browns will split up the carries in the future, the coaching staff agrees with me. Crowell totaled 90 yards of offense (61 rush, 30 receiving) against the Texans, and out-carried West 3:1.

While no one is certain how the Browns coaching staff is going to split the carries up, unless you are Mike Pettine, it is clear to anyone that watches the Browns offense that Crowell is the best of the Brown’s running backs. 

Recommendation: Add Immediately

Value: Flex w/High RB2 Potential

5.    Josh Gordon WR/Cleveland Browns(68.3% Owned)

The wait is finally over Browns fans as Josh Gordon is finally eligible to play after serving the final game of his suspension this weekend.

It's tough to say how heavily involved Gordon might be in his first week back. Last year under Norv Turner, the Browns offense led the NFL in passing attempts. This year it is a different story, as new head coach Mike Pettine has made it clear that he wants to feature an offense that is predicated on a power-running game.

Gordon’s talent is undeniable and should immediately become the no. 1 option in the Browns passing game. For his first game back I would rank Gordon more as a high-end WR2, and depending how offensive coordinator Kyle Shannahan implements him, could easily reach high end WR1 numbers in the very near future.

Recommendation: Add Immediately

Value: WR1

Players to Monitor

1.    Charles Johnson WR/Minnesota Vikings

If you are not a Vikings fan, you are probably not very familiar with Johnson, but ever since being signed off the Browns practice squad he has quietly become the Vikings most consistent receiver. While his overall stat line may not be that impressive, Johnson has been one of the few receivers that has shown the ability to stretch the field for the Vikings, as well as showing the ability to get separation from man coverage. After posting 6 catches for 87 yards in week 11 against the Bears, I expect Johnson to get some more run with the first-team offense. Do not waste a waiver claim on Johnson this week, but definitely keep an eye on his production going forward.

2.    Cody Latimer and Jacob Tamme WR and TE/Denver Broncos

It was a tough week for the Broncos offense. After getting held to 7 points on offense for the first time since 2001, Peyton Manning lost a lot more than just a game on Sunday. Both Julius Thomas (Ankle) and Emmanuel Sanders (Concussion) left Sunday’s game and did not return. While Sanders’ concussion does not look to be major, Thomas was not quite as lucky as his ankle injury could cause him to miss an extended period of time.

If Sanders is forced to miss any time with his concussion there will be a massive void that will need to be filled opposite Demariyus Thomas. I would imagine the Broncos go to a combination of veteran Andre Caldwell and rookie second-round pick Cody Lattimer.

Julius Thomas was forced from Sunday’s game with what is being called a low-ankle sprain, and could potentially miss an extended period of time. If he is forced to miss time, Manning’s long time teammate Jacob Tamme will be given the first opportunity to fill the void in Thomas’ absence. While Tamme will not blow anyone away with his athleticism, he's a very reliable target in the red zone, and if we know one thing about a Peyton Manning led offense they might get down in that area a few times a game. I would not recommend spending a waiver priority on any of these players, except for Tamme due to the lack of quality depth at tight end in fantasy football. As for the rest of them, keep them on your radar in the coming weeks to see how they are integrated in the Broncos offense.

3.    Latavius Murray RB/Oakland Raiders (0.7% Owned)

I have no idea what took so long for the Raiders coaching staff to give this kid an opportunity, but like the say “better late than never”. Murray rushed for a team-high 43 yards giving the Raiders running game a much needed kick in the butt.

Now falling to 0-10 this season the Raiders have no reason to not see what they have in Murray, especially when their other options are two veterans in McFadden and Jones-Drew that are completely washed-up.

Being on a terrible team like the Raiders that will consistently be playing from behind will likely limit Murray’s fantasy potential, but there is no denying that he has the ability to make plays that the veterans simply cannot make at this stage in their career. Keep an eye on Murray as I expect his role to continue to grow in the Raiders offense. 

 

Published in Waiver Wire
Tuesday, 11 November 2014 00:00

Week 11 pickups

View ELZ's Flickr page here.

       C.J. Anderson RB/Denver Broncos (2.8% Owned)

All week the talk out of Denver was how second-year running back Montee Ball was getting close to returning from a groin injury that has cost him the last month and half of the season. However, the Broncos offense took fantasy owners for a loop when it was C.J. Anderson getting the bulk of the carries instead of Ronnie Hillman.

Hillman was forced from Sunday’s game with a foot injury during the fouth quarter and did not return, leaving the door open for Anderson to get a major role in garbage time. Anderson produced in a major way this weekend totaling 163 yards of total offense, including a 51-yard touchdown reception.

I would not expect Anderson to have many days like this one going forward. When Ball comes back I fully expect the Broncos to use a full-blown committee approach at the running back position, limiting the potential of any of the Broncos three options. Anderson is still worth the stash on fantasy rosters, especially if you happen to own either Ronnie Hillman or Montee Ball.

Secondary Bears' Receivers (Josh Morgan, Marquess Wilson) (0.0, 0.1% Owned)

Well if you did not watch the entire Sunday Night Football game, and I do not blame you if you stopped at half, you probably did not notice that Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall went down with another ankle injury. Although the injury is not to the same ankle Marshall injured earlier this season, it was serious enough to keep Marshall from returning to the game. While it is up for debate whether or not it was the injury or the scoreboard that kept Marshall out, there is a very real chance that Marshall could be sidelined for week 11.

If Marshall is going to miss next week’s game, there are a couple of different options I think the Bears could go. The first one would be to trot out veteran Josh Morgan. Morgan has been invisible in the Bears offense, totaling just 6 catches on the season showing very little explosiveness even when given the opportunities. I do not expect his role to change very much going forward, and could eventually slide to no. 4 on the depth chart if the next player I am going to mention is able to return from an injury that cost him the first half of the season.

During the offseason workouts, there was one name that was consistently popping up from Bears camp, and that was Marquess Wilson. Despite the strong offseason, Wilson suffered a broken clavicle that has cost him the entire first half of the season. Wilson is currently on the IR/Designated to Return List, but has since started doing drills at practice. Now that he has begun practicing the Bears have 21 days to decide whether they active Wilson, place him on the season-ending injured reserve list, or just outright release him.

Recommendation: Wait and See

Value: WR5 w/potential

       Odell Beckham Jr. WR/New York Giants (57.5% Owned)

I think it is safe to say that OBJ is officially healthy after battling a nagging hamstring injury all offseason. The rookie wide receiver has been everything the Giants could have asked for during the last two weeks, piling up 15 receptions for 264 yards, tops on the team in both categories.

With Reuben Randle proving to be an inconsistent option in the passing game, Beckham has ran with the opportunities presented to him. Even with a tough matchup this weekend against the Seahawks, Beckham was able to beat Seahawks' cornerback Richard Sherman consistently, including a 44-yard completion on a double move that left Sherman looking for his jock.

Over the last two games, Beckham has established himself as the Giants most consistent receiver. Although Beckham and Randle are being targeted about the same amount of times (20-19), Beckham has been much more efficient, catching 75% of the passes thrown his way, compared to just 61% by Randle. I expect Beckham to continue his hot streak in week 11 when the Giants return home for a matchup with the San Francisco 49ers.

Recommendation: Add Immediately

Value: WR2

         Martavis Bryant WR/Pittsburgh Steelers (60.4% Owned)

After the Steelers passing attack totaled 12 touchdown passes over the last two weeks, it was conceivable that they would take a slight step back, but I doubt anyone expected the Steelers to be dominated like they were against a terrible Jets secondary.

Bryant was quiet much of the day, totaling just three catches for 63-yards through the first three and a half quarters. Fantasy owners forgave Bryant for the slow start, as Bryant scored an 80-yard touchdown pass during garbage time. Although Bryant is still playing in a limited amount of snaps, it is clear the Roethlisberger is getting more and more comfortable with the rookie.

Next week the Steelers get another matchup with the Titans that Roethlisberger and the rest of the offense can take advantage of. Even though Bryant will still play in a limited fashion, his talent is undeniable, and should carve out more playing time if he is able to learn the playbook.

Published in Waiver Wire
Monday, 06 October 2014 00:00

Week 6 pickups

Another week in fantasy football, and another week of new faces creeping onto the radar. This week saw some top players go down with injuries including Denver Broncos running back Montee Ball (groin), Detroit Lions wideout Calvin Johnson (ankle) and San Diego Chargers running back Donald Brown (concussion). There were also a few rookies who entered the fantasy rader. Here are this week's top waiver wire pickups.

San Diego Chargers RB Branden Oliver (owned in 12% of Yahoo! Leagues)

Why he's a good pickup: In his first ever game seeing a majority of carries, Oliver lit up a Jets defense that came into the game ranked sixth overall against the run and giving up an average of 83 rushing yards per game. Oliver finished with 182 total yards combined rushing and receiving and a score. At 5'8, Oliver is an undersized speedster that displayed great burst through the hole and looked far superior to anybody else in the Charger backfield.

With Ryan Mathews still 2-3 weeks away from returning and Danny Woodhead out for the season, it's likely Oliver remains the top guy for Week 6 at leaast. He's a great plug in guy if you have a few running backs on a bye, and his versatility in the run and passing game makes him a good add in all formats. The Chargers play the Oakland Raiders next week, a team that's giving up 158 yards per game on average to running backs.

New York Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. (owned in 10% of Yahoo! Leagues)

Why he's a good pickup: We already touched on Beckham Jr. on our podcast earlier, but he's worth mentioning as a solid waiver wire add this week. Beckham Jr. posted a 4/44/1 line in his debut with the Giants and saw a healthy five targets and his touchdown came at a key moment in the game which is often a great confidence builder. It's looking like he'll be firmly entrenched as the team's No. 3 receiver and while he's still a rookie and will likely be inconsistent from time to time, he's still valuable since he fills a much-needed void in terms of WR depth on the Giants' roster. He also gets a good matchup against a Philadelphia team that surrendered three touchdowns and 341 passing yards to Austin Davis and the Rams. Beckham Jr. is an instant flex add in 12-to-14 team leagues.

Cleveland Browns WR Taylor Gabriel (owned in 0% of Yahoo! Leagues)

Why he's a good pickup: After starting the season off slow with just 18 receiving yards in two games, the rookie has strung together back-to-back games of at least 80 receiving yards. At 5'8, Gabriel is undersized and relies on the big play to accrue the majority of his yards, but he's being utilized in the offense and the Browns have a soft stretch in their schedule coming up with their next three opponents consisting of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders. Gabriel is probably only worth adding in 14-team leagues at this point, but he's not a terrible option considering his matchups.

Owen Daniels TE Baltimore Ravens (owned in 42% of Yahoo! Leagues)

Why he's a good pickup: Daniels led the Ravens in receiving with five grabs for 70 yards on seven targets. Daniels could be a good bye-week filler if you're short on tight ends in Week 6 for a few reasons. While he's not very explosive, he has reliable hands (reeled in 19 of his 27 targets), is always a threat for a red zone score and he'll be matched up against a Tampa Bay defense that ranks 30th against the pass this Sunday.

Denver Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman (owned in 10% of Yahoo! Leagues)

Why he's a good pickup: With Montee Ball sidelined with a groin injury, Hillman finished with 64 yards on 15 carries. If Ball expects to miss a significant amount of time, Hillman will likely be the guy to fill the void with C.J. Anderson peppered in as well. Lauded at times for his struggles in pass protection which is a deal breaker when keeping quarterback Peyton Manning upright, Hillman doesn't present a ton of upside and his stats may suffer if the Broncos opt to go with a committee-style attack. Still, he'll still be running the ball on one of the most potent offenses in the league. He'll have opportunities to score.

View Chad Cooper's flickr page here.

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We believe Fantasy Football success comes down to two things — opportunity and talent. You will have Fantasy Football mastered once you understand how good a player is and how good of an opportunity he has to gain yards and score touchdowns. The thing is, you'll never master Fantasy Football. But you can get pretty darn good at it when you have even a slightly better understanding of opportunity and talent than the average Joe. That's what Fantasy Football Helpers is dedicated to doing.

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