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When it comes to finding a premium RB1 to lead your team, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better situation than Cincinnati. Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson loves to run like Blake Bortles loves to throw to Allen Robinson. Last season, the Bengals averaged 30 rushing attempts per game, which ranked sixth overall among NFL teams. Only the quarterback-challenged Texans, Rex Ryan's Jets, run-heavy Seattle, Carolina and the DeMarco Murray-led Cowboys ran the ball more.
Of course, you can't have a good running game without a talented running back and the Bengals found a gem with rookie Jeremy Hill. A second-round pick out of LSU in 2014, Hill blew the doors off any tempered expectations in his rookie season, finishing with 1,124 yards and nine touchdowns on 5.1 yards per carry.
Hill saved his best for the final stretch of the season, amassing nearly 400 yards over his last three games while averaging about 24 attempts per game to go along with 3 of his 9 total touchdowns. It's always important to notice how young players finish out the season as it can serve as a tell-tale sign of what's in store for the following year.
In terms of ADP, Hill is currently being drafted as the 10th overall running back, a great value considering he's going just after LeSean McCoy, a player not a lot of people are high on this season.
A healthy RB is a good RB
When the season finally ended, Hill answered several questions a fantasy owner would have when drafting a potential RB1 and one of the most important was his durability. With no injuries at all in 2014 and nothing lingering from his college days either, Hill embodied the kind of reliability we love to see among younger running backs at a position that's one of the hardest to stay healthy at.
Stellar supporting cast
Hill also has the benefit of running behind one of the better offensive lines in the league, with left tackle Andrew Whitworth putting together one of his best seasons ever. The line suffered a little bit due to fellow tackle Andre Smith missing time, but he's back now and should help solidify what was already a stout run-blocking group.
The receivers in Cincinnati aren't too shabs either, with Top 5 wideout A.J. Green helping to keep defenses honest. Green was sidelined last season with turf toe and missed two games. Turf toe is an injury that can linger, so he might be at risk to aggravate it in 2015. Still, he's among the most talented of wideouts when he's healthy, and Hill can only benefit.
How Hill got where he is and what you should look for in matchups
Hill's first big game came as a result of opportunity (like most great fantasy performances do). When then-starter Bernard injured his hip in Week 8, causing him to leave the game and miss the next three contests, Hill stepped up and flourished.
In his first true start as a Bengal, Hill feasted on a great matchup against an offensively inept Jacksonville team and took off. It's always a good idea to start a running back going against a team that struggles to score since it often leads to more rushing opportunities for the winning team. Hill finished with 154 yards on what was a season-high 24 carries for him up to that point in addition to 2 touchdowns. He solidified his role in Jackson's offense with that performance and would go on to have four more 100-yard games and maintained his role as the team's top back even when Bernard returned.
Bernard still a factor
While it might be apparent Hill is the top gun, backup Giovani Bernard still poses a threat to steal touches even after a dominant season from Hill. Bernard averaged a solid 4.0 yards per carry on 680 yards and five touchdowns of his own in 2014. More importantly, Bernard caught 43 passes for 349 yards. His ability to get up the field after the catch is very good and will likely keep him relevant in Cincinnati's offense. Of the total running back workload, Hill finished with 222 carries to Gio's 168, which isn't a huge discrepancy considering Bernard missed three game.
One factor working against Bernard is injury risk. He already has one surgically repaired knee dating back to his college days in North Carolina to go along with a hip injury last season which caused him to miss time. While he still managed to turn in a solid season, Bernard remains a high-risk player due to his inability to stay healthy.
Knowing when to use Hill in DFS
If you play daily fantasy, knowing which particular game a running back will cash in is key. One variable that factored into the Bengals success running the ball was home field advantage. The Bengals ran with a 31.9 attempts per game average in the old jungle, which makes sense considering they tended to get out to quick leads at home.
If you're drafting in the 7-10 range in your redraft league, Hill is definitely among the top running backs available. He's in a better situation than LeSean McCoy and DeMarco Murray, and will likely eat up chunks of yardage due to the offense he's in and the talented offensive line blocking for him.
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.
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.
Alfred Morris in 2012. Eddie Lacy in 2013. Jeremy Hill in 2014.
What do all three of those running backs have in common? They were all rookies when they rushed for over 1,000 yards and surprised everybody. By doing so, they cemented themselves as some of the best fantasy bargains in their respective rookie seasons. They did this through their talent obviously, but they also had a high volume of carries and good talent around them which likely played an even bigger role in their early success.
Let's start with the volume argument. In 2013, Lacy's 284 carries his rookie season ranked fifth overall. Morris had 335 carries in 2012 which was good for third best that season and Hill's 222 carries ranked 13th this past season. It's through this idea of volume carries that we will use to see if we can figure out who will be the guy to post 1,000-plus rushing yards in 2015.
Among those three rookie seasons, Morris found the most success in the yardage category and also (coincidentally) had the most volume. The sixth-round draft pick by the Redskins thrived under Kyle Shanhan's zone run blocking scheme and finished second in the league in rushing yards with 1,613. He trailed only Adrian Peterson that season, who had a monstrous 2,097 yards and come 14 yards short of breaking Eric Dickerson's long held record of 2,105 set in 1984. Morris also had a pre-injury Robert Griffin III under center. RG3 and the Redskins also ran a read option offense that few defensive coordinators had figured out yet.
Lacy had a similar story to Morris. He might've been slightly more hyped coming out of college, but his draft stock took a bit of a nose dive when an injury forced him to miss several workouts during the combine which led to Giovani Bernard getting selected as the first running back overall in the 2013 draft. Le'Veon Bell and Montee Ball were also taken before Lacy, as Eddie was eventually taken later in the second round by the Green Bay Packers. While Lacy never possessed crazy explosiveness and was even considered 'too fat' to play running back by many, he showed great determination and purpose to go along with his immense strength and eventually finished with 1,178 yards and more importantly, 11 touchdowns. Lacy had Aaron Rodgers under center.
Just this past season, LSU product Jeremy Hill found himself embedded in a run heavy offense in Cincinnati under offensive coordinator Hue Jackson and found his place quickly after former starter Giovani Bernard went down with an injury early in the season. Hill rushed for 1,124 yards and 9 touchdowns. While there was some luck involved since he had to wait for an opportunity before he could see a spike in numbers, Hill's volume of carries increased even after Bernard recovered. If you extrapolate Hill's rushing attempts had he been the full-time starter at the beginning of the season, you would've been looking at numbers similar to Lacy and Morris.
While Hill didn't have a premier quarterback under center like RG3 (2012 RG3, not today's RG3) and Rodgers, he did have an offensive line that hovered around the Top 10 in run blocking. Another running back who probably had the most potential for volume last season was Bishop Sankey of the Tennessee Titans. Sankey found himself on an offense without a true No. 1 running back, but Tennessee's offensive line ranked in the bottom 15 and Sankey also didn't prove to be very explosive in his own right. So this theory isn't full proof, but it's a good start.
Why it's important for fantasy football
Identifying bargains and hitting on them is always key in fantasy football. For example, if you ended up with a pair of running backs like Le'Veon Bell and Jeremy Hill, you would've been set at running back for the majority of the 2014 season.
Bell was the 12th running back taken off on the board on average in standard rules fantasy drafts this year according to FantasyPros. Hill was the 40th RB selected on average. Bell finished as the No. 2 running back in fantasy this past season with 272 fantasy points, trailing only DeMarco Murray. Hill finished as the 10th best running back in fantasy with 171 fantasy points and compiled those numbers in roughly 10 starts, closing out the year with three straight 100-yard efforts.
Chances are, you were probably bummed out if you drafted those guys initially, as they were guys you took simply because they were the last running back left in their tier or whatever. but as the season went along, you were happier and happier.
Who's the potential best bargain in this year's crop of rookie running backs?
Obviously, it's too early to tell. But before you get angry and click the 'x' button, there's a way to reasonably predict which future rookie running back has the best chance to put up good numbers in their first season. That way comes from (you guessed it), identifying which team would have the potential to give the rookie running back the highest volume of carries.
The biggest and most obvious factor when predicting a bargain fantasy rookie running back is playing time. If the team doesn't need that running back because they already have a firm starter in his place, then he won't be in the backfield accruing stats for your fantasy team. A good example of this is Christine Michael in Seattle, a guy who drew some hype before the 2014 began only to be kept on the bench due to Marshawn Lynch's continued success. Carlos Hyde and Frank Gore are two other examples. So let's take a look at some of the team's that actually need a running back and assess whether or not that team has enough talent to help a rookie become a bargain fantasy running back in 2015.
Side note: This assessment of team's picking is just for the first round of the 2015 draft only and based on team needs only. It doesn't take into account the teams who don't have a significant need for a new running back (for sake of the 'demand' argument earlier). This argument doesn't take talent into account as much either. It assumes all this year's top running backs are equally talented (we know that's not exactly the case, but for arguments sake lets say it is).
Jacksonville Jaguars (pick No. 3) — The Toby Gerhart experiment failed for the Jaguars in 2014, and now it's looking like they may need a true workhorse to complement scat back Denard Robinson. The point of this article isn't to try and predict if Jacksonville would take a running back, it's to see how well that running back could do if he got drafted there.
Jacksonville's offensive line struggled mightily last season. They ranked dead last in pass protection and 29th in run blocking according to Football Outsiders. Drafting a rookie running back to your fantasy team in a redraft league who plays on Jacksonville in 2015 would be risky if they don't make some big changes to their offensive line in the offseason.
Good volume probability: High Talent on team: Low Overall bargain probability: Low
Atlanta Falcons (pick No. 8) — A big factor that could help a rookie running backs cause on this team is Kyle Shanahan's zone run blocking scheme. We mentioned early how Morris had immense success in this offense as a rookie despite not being the most highly touted running back coming out of the draft.
The Atlanta Falcons ranked in the middle of the pack when it came to run blocking last season, and that was with some key injuries along the offensive line. Plus, they already have one of the best receivers in the league in Julio Jones, a guy who can stretch the field and take corners and safeties deep which will clear out space for the running back. We saw how DeSean Jackson's speed in Philadelphia helped LeSean McCoy win the rushing title in 2013.
The running back situation is currently cloudy but the potential for volume exists. Veteran Steven Jackson will likely be cut and Jacquizz Rodgers is a free agent. That leaves Devonta Freeman left. Freeman didn't play much as a rookie and struggled when he did.
The Falcons also play in the NFC South, a division currently known for some of the worst defenses in the league. The Falcons put up nearly 60 points on a Thursday night game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers early this season. If the Falcons end up taking a good rookie running back sometime this draft, fantasy numbers could be very good.
Good volume probability: Medium Talent on team: High Overall bargain probability: High
St. Louis Rams (pick No 10) — The Rams were a team that slowly got better as the season went along, especially on the defensive side. They drafted a rookie running back last year in Tre Mason and Mason ended up having one monster game against Oakland to go along with several good ones.
Despite Mason's solid 765 yard, four touchdown rookie season, there's still some doubt as to whether or not he can be an every-down back for St. Louis. The Rams (like Atlanta) ranked in the middle of the road when it came to run blocking in 2014. But unlike Atlanta, they have quarterback and receiver issues which make them much more susceptible to team stacking the box.
Good volume probability: Medium Talent on team: Medium Overall bargain probability: Average
Baltimore Ravens (pick No. 26) — The Ravens struggled on the offensive line but added tackle Eugene Monroe from Jacksonville at a great price and also got great production out of their rookie linemen. That, combined with Gary Kubiak's wizardry in the run game led to former castaway Justin Forsett having a career season in 2014. Joe Flacco also played some of the best ball of his career and the Ravens made the playoffs after failing to the previous season.
Good volume probability: Medium Talent on team: High Overall bargain probability: High
New England Patriots (pick No. 32) — I'm sure you're cringing as you read this based on Bill Belichick's unpredictable offensive game planing that has screwed your fantasy team over countless times but the Patriots are in need of a running back if they don't resign Stevan Ridley. Their offensive line ranked in the Top 5 in run blocking this season and helped Jonas Gray have a monster game against Indianapolis on Sunday night. They also helped LaGarrette Blount reclaim fantasy relevance in the playoffs as well.
If they take a running back, of course you'll most definitely not want to take him high due to the risk. But there's also a high probability that the rookie running back has some good outings as long as he doesn't fumble and get in Belichick's doghouse.
Good volume probability: Low Talent on team: High Overall bargain probability: Low
So if you're looking at right now, the Falcons, Ravens and Rams probably have the best chances for high volume carries for a rookie running back. The Falcons and Ravens have the most talent on the offensive side of the ball with their quarterbacks, while Baltimore has the best offensive line and Atlanta has a good receiving core. If any of the most highly-touted rookie running backs gets selected onto the Ravens or Falcons, he likely has the best potential to be a bargain fantasy running back in 2015.
The three week long storm (of bye weeks) is finally coming to an end. If the last 2 weeks were a fantasy football hurricane, monsoon, and/or tornado for you, this week should only be partly cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms. The worst of the storm is over, and if you’ve come away with little to no damage, then congratulations to you. If you’ve sustained irreparable damage then you have my condolences. I personally escaped fantasy destruction due to the fine work of running back/fantasy football contractor, Marshawn Lynch. The walls he erected and insulation he installed at approximately 4:25 EST on Sunday totally shielded me from disaster. He’s an expert builder as he’s built specifically for me a nearly insurmountable lead in my division that should put me into the week 15 semifinals via bye. I hope you’ve hired someone even half as reliable as my beast mode contractor, Marshawn Lynch, to get you through the coming Winter weather.
We’re back to a manageable four teams with byes, and two of those teams are barely relevant in the fantasy world (Jets, Jaguars). However, not everyone is in the clear as owners of DeMarco Murray, Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Terrence Williams, Percy Harvin, Eric Decker, Chris Ivory, Denard Robinson, Justin Forsett, Steve Smith and Torrey Smith are still left with holes in the starting lineup.
You can use the following sleepers and busts advice to ensure that your Week 11 and fantasy football future will be disaster free.
Without further ado, your week 11 Sleepers and Busts:
DISCLAIMER: A sleeper is not a must start and a bust is not a must bench, they are merely indications that a player will have a better or worse game this week than they normally do. It all really depends on your alternatives. I will give an example of a few players for whom I personally would start the sleeper over or bench the bust for. These players are simply there as an indication of how good or bad I think the sleepers/busts will perform so you have a comparison in mind when applying it to your actual lineup. For example if I am comparing a QB to a stud like Andrew Luck, I am not necessarily saying you need to start him over Luck (even if I would) but it will imply that I feel really good about him.
· Colin Kaepernick at New York Giants. It’s been a strange year for Colin Kaepernick and his owners. He’s had one complete dud to this point, but he’s also only had one performance that can be considered very good. The rest of his games have just been average, ordinary and boring in terms of fantasy scoring. He’s ranked 13th among fantasy QBs, but the film shows that he should be ranked significantly higher. This past week Anquan Boldin dropped 4 passes including one that would have gone for a long TD. Boldin dropped a TD a few weeks ago from 3 yards out as well. Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis can’t stop dropping passes. They each dropped 2 passes while I was writing this sentence. And Kaepernick owners remember all too well, a play where Davis and second TE, Derrick Carrier, ran into each other in the endzone on a sure TD pass.
At least a few hundred yards and at least a few TDs have been left on the table because of the 49ers pass catchers’ dropped passes. This week the 49ers travel to East Rutherford to face the New York Giants, a defense that is banged up in the secondary and at LB and is struggling mightily. The Giants rank 25th in passing yards against and dead last in rushing yards against.
The Giants last 4 opponents have scored between 27-40 points. If you watched the Giants game in week 11, you’d think they didn’t know that Russell Wilson was a running threat in the read-option game. Wilson struggled as a passer, but as a runner he ripped off several chunks of 15-30 yard gains en route to 100+ yards rushing.
Colin Kaepernick brings a similar skill-set in the run game and the 49ers sport a pass catching core of Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree, Steve Johnson, Brandon Lloyd and Vernon Davis. Sure these players (other than Boldin) have under achieved, but the Giants simply do not have the talent or play calling intelligence on defense to match up with the 49ers. Look for the 49ers to spread out the Giants, and for Kaepernick to run for a high rushing total while picking them apart in the passing game. Before any Giants fans attack me…..I am a diehard Giants fan. It just is what it is.
I’d Start Colin Kaepernick over: Eli Manning, Cam Newton, Jay Cutler, Russell Wilson
· Mark Sanchez at Green Bay. It’s been a fun two weeks for the Sanchize and his owners but the fun takes a temporary hiatus this week in Green Bay. I give Mark Sanchez (and Chip Kelly) a ton of credit for his success in his first start this season, but it occurred at home, in mild weather, against a pitiful Carolina defense. After easy matchups against the Texans (Ranked 19th against QBs) and Panthers (Rank 27th against QBs), the Packers present Sanchez his first real challenge.
They rank 9th in passing yards against and 12th against opposing fantasy QBs. The Green Bay defense will be riding high as they’re coming off a near perfect game against the Chicago Bears. The high temperature at Lambeau is projected to be only 28 degrees. Sanchez will have to throw a frozen ball, against a quality secondary, with Clay Mathews and Julius Peppers bearing down on him all game.
Even if we don’t see the old, turnover prone Sanchize from the Jets, this matchup does not bode well for a QB making just his second start since 2012.
I’d Start the following players over Mark Sanchez: Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Josh McCown, Shaun Hill
· Branden Oliver vs. Oakland. Many Brandon Oliver owners have cut bait on the young RB. Before the bye week Oliver had struggled and the return of Ryan Mathews is finally here. I am here to say that if you haven’t cut bait yet, give it at least one more week and get him in the lineup! Sure, Ryan Mathews is back…sort of. The sources out of San Diego are saying that Mathews is expected to receive approximately 15 touches.
Let’s think about this. In a matchup at home against Oakland, a game in which the Chargers should win running away, Mathews will receive 15 touches. Fine, so how many touches does that leave for other SD running backs including Branden Oliver? Since this game should be a blowout I’ll use the numbers in two Chargers blowout wins earlier this season. Against Jacksonville in Week 4, San Diego RBs received 27 touches and against the Jets in Week 5, San Diego RBs received 43 touches. Since San Diego has played Oakland already, the 33 touches RBs received in that Week 6 game are relevant as well.
Therefore, if Ryan Mathews does receive 15 touches as advertised, then that leaves Oliver and/or other SD backs with 12-28 touches. Even if we stay on the lower end of this range and say he gets 14-18 touches, that is a huge number of touches against a team that ranks 27th in rushing yards against. It’s important to note that Oliver had 124 total yards and a TD in his previous meeting with Oakland. Owners may have sourced on Oliver but his previous three games have been difficult matchups against the Chiefs, Broncos and Dolphins. This game is easier and offers huge upside to Oliver and his owners. Use him as a RB2 with confidence.
I’d start Branden Oliver over: Bishop Sankey, Ben Tate, Lamar Miller, Joique Bell
· Jeremy Hill at New Orleans. This could be a knee jerk reaction, but I just cannot forget what I witnessed in the Bengals/Browns game in Cincinnati last Thursday. Andy Dalton played one of the worst games I’ve seen in recent memory. I hope he has a Men In Black flashy thing available because he needs to forget everything that happened in that ugly, ugly, ugly game.
I do not see the cure for his struggles being a road matchup against an angry desperate Saints team who has forced 8 turnovers and 15 sacks in the last four weeks. We could see another lopsided score which will once again result in another low output from Jeremy Hill. Last week, Hill had only 61 total yards. In his last three games he has had one big time game in Jacksonville sandwiched between two disastrous games against Baltimore and Cleveland. He will go as the offense goes, so unless Dalton gets back on track immediately, Hill will struggle. I just don’t see Dalton being able to get over a 10-for-33. 83 yard passing performance in a difficult environment like New Orleans.
I’d start the following players over Jeremy Hill: Frank Gore, Andre Ellington, Shane Vereen, CJ Anderson, Branden Oliver
· Pierre Garcon vs. Tampa Bay. Pierre the waiter is a forgotten man. The emergence of DeSean Jackson has turned last year’s NFL leader in receptions into an unreliable WR 3/4. He’s a matchup play and this week I believe the matchup is ripe. For one, I believe that one of the main goals of the Redskins bye week was to renew the chemistry between RG III and his WRs, especially Garcon. Secondly, the Buccaneers, a team that ranks dead last against opposing WRs in .5 PPR leagues are coming to Washington.
Roddy White is a WR who is past his prime but still runs effective routes and even he registered a big day against the hopeless Bucs defense. White was getting free in the middle of the field for 10-25 yards at a time on slant and seam routes, and he capitalized on an even easier short crossing route for a TD.
Garcon is a younger, crisp route runner in the mold of Roddy and he should be able to capitalize off Tampa Bay’s inability to cover well run routes in the middle of the field. Garcon can pay huge dividends in the right matchup so try to put his struggles aside and get him in the lineup in deep leagues that start 3 WRs.
I’d Start Pierre Garcon over: DeAndre Hopkins, Jordan Matthews, Larry Fitzgerald, Doug Baldwin
· Brandon LaFell at Indianapolis. When Vontae Davis got injured just a handful of snaps into the game in week 8 against Pittsburgh, the floodgates opened and Pittsburgh put up 51 points. Even after giving up all of those yards and TDs to Big Ben, the Colts still rank 9th against opposing fantasy WRs. When Davis is healthy they are in the top 3. Vontae Davis is the best cornerback in the business. Bill Belichick knows this.
Belichick is the type of coach who is matchup specific in his game plans and he will not force the ball to his big play WR if the matchup isn’t right. Davis had been playing through an injury before the bye week and has had two weeks to recover and prepare.
LaFell has been a nice story and he and Rob Gronkowski have been the keys to the Patriots high powered passing attack since the Pats turned their season around several weeks ago. The Patriots can and probably will succeed passing the football but look for it to be with Gronk, Edelman, Vereen and maybe Tim Wright. LaFell should not be used in 3 WR formats this week.
I’d start the following players over Brandon LaFell: Vincent Jackson, Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter, John Brown
· Austin Seferian-Jenkins at Washington. Seferian Jenkins is a raw talent who at this point in his career has shaky hands. However, he does get open a lot, and he receives enough red-zone and overall targets to hold matchup play value against a team who ranks 23rd against the TE, the Washington Redskins.
The Redskins are coming off back to back weeks where they were victimized by Vikings TE, Chase Ford, and Dallas’s Jason Witten who has not exactly been lighting it up. Josh McCown targeted Seferian-Jenkins 8 times last week and a successful redzone play was called specifically for him in last week’s loss to Atlanta. This marked the 3rd game in the last four where Seferian Jenkins had either topped 50 yards or scored a TD. He is a low end TE1 this week and should be started by teams who are playing the matchups every week or by those owners who drafted Vernon Davis or Dennis Pitta.
I’d start Austin Seferian-Jenkins over: Mychal Rivera, Larry Donnell, Charles Clay, Vernon Davis
· Mychal Rivera at San Diego. Everyone’s favorite pickup at TE has been a monster over the last three weeks with 21 catches, 185 yards and 3 TDs. Rivera has had immense short term value and he has long term value as well, but this week I’m going to say he has very little value. Rivera opposes San Diego the second ranked team against fantasy TEs.
The Chargers have shut down the likes of Julius Thomas and Travis Kelce as well as Rivera himself, who did not record a catch in week 6. Furthermore, Oakland and Derek Carr seem to be regressing on offense. Carr has not been able to sustain drives and he won’t figure it out all of a sudden on the road against one of the AFC’s top teams that are coming off a bye. It’s so hard to bench Rivera after the run he’s been on but these are the tough decisions fantasy owners have to make sometimes.
I’d start the following players over Mychal Rivera: Dwayne Allen, Travis Kelce, Kyle Rudolph, Austin Seferian-Jenkins
That’ll do it for week 11. Good luck in this last difficult bye week. Make sure you’ve stocked up and are well prepared for this last part of the storm.
1. Bobby Rainey and Charles Sims RB/Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9.2 and 0.2% Owned)
As the trade deadline approaches, there are rumblings that Buccaneers running back Doug Martin has the potential to be on the trading block. If Martin is dealt, or Lovie Smith realizes that Martin is not that good, there would be a big hole in the Buccaneers backfield.
When Martin was forced to miss a couple of weeks earlier this season, the Buccaneers relied on Bobby Rainey to carry the load, and early indications suggested Rainey had the potential to be the feature back, even when Martin was healthy. Those thoughts were quickly put into question as Rainey struggled protecting the football. In limited time this season Rainey has been impressive averaging 4.9 yards per carry this season, and has shown to be a reliable target in the passing game.
The other option to replace Martin would be rookie Charles Sims. Sims was taken by the Buccaneers in the 3rd round in the 2014 NFL draft, and there were even rumblings in training camp that Sims could supplant Martin as the starter going into the season. Those aspirations were quickly put to rest when the rookie suffered a torn ligament in his ankle during practice. After being placed on the Inured Reserve-Designated to Return list, Sims has now resumed practicing and once again there are suggestions that Sims will play a major role in the second half of the season. Sims is eligible to return to action next week against the Browns.
When Sims does become eligible to return you should avoid starting him for at least a first week. It will be unclear how Smith will split up the carries between the three running backs, but I would assume a relatively even time-share early on. As the weeks progress I fully expect Sims to gain a bigger and bigger role within the offense, and could see the majority of the carries just in time for the fantasy playoffs. Both Rainey and Sims are players worth a roster spot, but until I see how the coaching staff divies up the work I would avoid starting them at all costs.
Recommendation: Stash for Roster Spot
Value: RB3 w/potential
2. Donte Moncrief WR/Indianapolis Colts (0.2% Owned)
When the Colts signed Hakeem Nicks in free agency there were hopes that the veteran would be able to the no.2 receiver, the team has been looking for someone to play opposite Reggie Wayne. With Wayne now out for a few weeks and Nicks showing the inability to be a consistent option, the door is open for rookie Donte Moncrief, a third-round pick out of Ole Miss, to play a major role within one of the leagues most prolific passing offenses.
Moncrief answered the bell in week 8, torching the Steelers secondary for a team-high 7 catches for 113 yards and his first career-receiving touchdown on an impressive leaping catch between two Steelers defenders. With Nicks once again proving ineffective, and Wayne out for an extended period of time, I expect Moncrief’s role to grow more and more as the season progresses.
After posting gaudy numbers this week I expect Moncrief to be a very popular target for fantasy owners this week, but I have to warn you guys to temper expectations in the long term. Once Wayne returns there is going to be limited snaps available for Moncrief, as T.Y. Hilton is not going to be given less time and I doubt Pagano will keep Wayne out of action. You can ride Moncrief while he is hot as he should produce at the level of a WR3, with the potential to post high-end WR2 type numbers.
Recommendation: Add Immediately
Value: WR3/Flex w. Potential
1. Brandon Lafell WR/New England Patriots (8.8% Owned)
Depending on Brandon LaFell has become a lot like playing russian roulette with your fantasy lineup. LaFell has scored 20 fantasy points or more in three of the last five weeks, al though he has been unsuccessful to put together two consecutive strong performances.
Now that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has shaken off the early season rust, the Patriots offense has become one of the premier offenses in the NFL over the last month. LaFell has quietly carved out a nice role within the Patriots offense. The free agent signee has never been targeted fewer than four times in any game this season, and has been on the field for at least 70 percent of the teams offensive snaps on a weekly basis the last four games.
Recommendation: Add in Deep Leagues
2. Travaris Cadet RB/New Orleans Saints (0.4% Owned)
With running backs Khiry Robinson and Pierre Thomas sidelined with injury, little known Travaris Cadet was thrust into a major role for the Saints Sunday night game against the Packers.
Despite being buried on the depth chart under three other running backs; Cadet has a skill-set that gives him the potential to serve a reliable role within the Saints' offense. Now that Mark Ingram is back from a wrist injury that caused him to miss the last month, the Saints are looking for a speed complement to Ingram’s power. Cadet is also versatile in the passing game, having the ability to lineup in the slot, or even out wide with the ability to take advantage of matchups with slower linebackers and safeties.
Lets be clear, Mark Ingram is going to be the bell-cow for the Saints offense and rightfully so. The man has run like a man possessed this season, and is finally living up to the expectations of a first-round pick and Heisman trophy winner. Even though Ingram will see the majority of the carries, I still feel like Cadet can be a valuable piece for the Saints on third down, as well as in the passing game.
Recommendation: Add in Deep Leagues
Value: Low Flex/RB4
Guys To Monitor
1. Justin Hunter WR/Tennessee Titans (66.6% Owned)
Now that Zach Mettenberger has taken over for Jake Locker as the Titans starting quarterback, I feel Justin Hunter is a guy who is going to be in for a major workload in the second half of the season. In the preseason the combo of Hunter and Mettenberger combined to lead the preseason in passing and receiving yards, so obviously Mettenberger has some chemistry with the second-year wide receiver. I would not waste a high-priority selection on Hunter, but keep your eye on the Titans offense to see how the combo progresses.
Jeremy Hill RB/Cincinnati Bengals (80.3% Owned)
Gio Bernard suffered a minor hip-injury in the Bengals week 8 win over the Ravens, and al though it does not look like Bernard is a threat to miss any time, I think the Bengals could start to change their game plan going forward. The Bengals drafted rookie Jeremy Hill in the second-round for a reason. With offensive coordinator Hue Jackson’s preference to employ a two running back system, it was thought that the Bengals would use Bernard in a more efficient way, while letting Hill do a lot of the heavy lifting. If the hip continues to be an issue for Bernard, Hill would quickly become a legitimate RB2 so keep an eye on his workload going forward.