On Tuesday's edition of First Aid. The Helpers discuss the Bears/Cowboys and Eagles/Seahawks and give their fantasy implications for those players in Week 15. Plus weekly awards and a little venting on fluky week 14 was in some instances.
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
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.
Hey everybody, this is Josh Gordon, Pro Bowl wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns. Just wanted to say thanks if you're one of the few lucky fantasy owners that stuck with me through this whole suspension ordeal. I say this honestly: You guys are true believers.
As I sealed the deal on my 12th straight used car sale (I promise all customers a free pine tree air freshener if you know what I mean) I could only feel bad as I watched my teammates enjoy the benefits of an easy schedule and play against some of the worst defenses in the league over a five-game stretch of the season. I can only express regret for not being there to give you all fantasy points. But Good things often come to those who wait, and success and prosperity currently lines your remaining path in the 2014 fantasy football season.
You gotta admit, that section of the Browns' schedule from Week 2-7 was as soft as the NFL's domestic violence policy. My matchups would've been pretty tasty considering our opponents consisted of Tennessee, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, Oakland, Tampa Bay, Cincinnati and Houston. Damn, what I could've done to those cornerbacks.
Don't fret too much, you'll still get some mileage out of me come the end of the regular season, and the first pay off will come this week against Atlanta in the comfortable confines of the Georgia Dome.
Why the Falcons' offense helps me
Well, we know their offensive line has struggled due to injuries, but the real key stat is time of possession. The Falcons are holding onto the ball an average of 28 minutes and 17 seconds per game, which ranks 25th in the league. They don't do much better at home, as they hang onto the ball for 28 minutes and 43 seconds per game. The offense relies too much on the pass as evidenced by their 38.2 pass attempts per game, which forces the clock to stop on incomplete passes and leads to punts. Of the 113 offensive drives put together by Atlanta, 28 of them have resulted in a 3 and out. That's 26th worst in the league.
All this should help Bryan Hoyer and myself stay on the field more. I know my Browns aren't exactly great in time of possession either. We actually rank behind Atlanta in that category. But, we're making changes in that area. We cut Ben Tate earlier this week, and our most talented running back in Isaiah Crowell is finally starting. Crowell averaged a respectable 4.4 yards per carry in his first start as a Brown against Houston last week, and the purpose he shows when running the ball should help us extend drives and keep our offense moving down the field. The longer I'm on the field, the opportunity I will have to score points. Stick that in your pipe.
How about the Atlanta defense?
It's nice if you're me. The Falcons rank dead last in passing yards allowed, averaging 281.2 per game. They're also 24th in rushing yards allowed, so our offense should be able to provide a lot of scoring for you. The Falcons gave up 292 passing yards to Carolina last week. That's right, the team whose tight end leads them in receptions managed to put up nearly 300 yards passing. The week before, Josh McCown and Tampa notched 301 passing yards against them.
There also shouldn't be a lot of pressure on the quarterback this week either. The Falcons have registered only 13 sacks on the year, which is tied for second worst in the league. Only Oakland is worse with 10. There shouldn't be any problem when it comes time for me to get open. One thing needs to happen though.
The elephant in the room
Brian Hoyer has to really show up this week. I'm not saying he can't, but he went 20-for-50 last week against a below average secondary in Houston and finished with a dismal 61 quarterback rating. Granted, J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney were breathing down his neck most of the game and he won't have to deal with that so much against Atlanta, but he's got to avoid looking like that other quarterback in our division with the red hair.
But despite Hoyer's struggles last week, I think my presence gives him an added boost. I can run after the catch like nobody's business. Last year, I led the league in receiving yards on just 87 catches and only one receiver in the Top 10 had less receptions than that. I averaged 18.9 yards per catch and turned short passes into large chunks of yardage. Only Kenny Stills averaged more yards per catch than me.
All the elements are there. A good matchup, a better running game and a (hopefully) a serviceable quarterback. I should be good to help you start your run to your fantasy championship, maybe throw you around 18-20 fantasy points (roughly 120 receiving yards and a touchdown). Take care.
Photo for this article is courtesy of Asim Bharwani of Flickr. You can view his page here.
1. Allen Hurns WR/Jacksonville Jaguars (3.2% Owned)
After four receptions, 110 yards, and two touchdowns, it's safe to say that little known rookie wide receiver Hurns is now widely known among the fantasy football community. If you paid attention to the Jaguars in the preseason then these totals may not surprise you. Hurns led the NFL in receiving yards during the preseason (293) and established himself as a sleeper candidate to many fantasy football owners.
With veteran wide receiver Cecil Shorts ruled out with a hamstring injury, Hurns was given a chance to start opposite Marqise Lee. Although Hurns splashed in week one, I think he will struggle to find consistency throughout the regular season. Chad Henne is average at best and as long as the quarterback play is inconsistent the Jaguars receivers cannot be counted on.
Now if you want to swoop Hurns up off of the waiver wire you had better have one of the top waiver positions, as he will likely be one of the first players picked up once bidding opens up Tuesday. Hurns holds the value of a WR4 at the moment, but if Shorts continues to miss time, Hurns will be given more and more opportunities to make plays for an offense that is in desperate need for playmakers.
Value: Low Flex/WR4
Advice: Stash in Deep Leagues
2. Kelvin Benjamin WR/Carolina Panthers (38.2% Owned)
With starting quarterback Cam Newton sidelined with a fractured rib, it's reasonable to believe that the Panthers passing game would struggle during week one. However, Kelvin Benjamin showed that he is going to be the focal point of the Panthers passing attack regardless of who's under center.
Benjamin was targeted 8 times, second only to tight end Greg Olson for the Panthers, and led the team with 92 receiving yards. Benjamin also flashed some of his elite athleticism when he made an acrobatic touchdown catch around the body of Buccaneers cornerback Mike Jenkins. With quarterback Cam Newton returning to the lineup next Sunday, Benjamin could see a more increased role in the passing game.
Going forward, Benjamin should be viewed at the very least a WR3 for fantasy owners as he has clearly developed a solid relationship with the Panthers' quarterbacks. With the Panthers lack of talent the wide receiver position aside from Benjamin, there's no reason to think that Benjamin will lead the Panthers receivers in targets and receptions.
Value: Low WR2/FLEX
Advice: Add Immediately (All Leagues)
3. Brandin Cooks WR/New Orleans Saints (65.5% Owned)
While Cooks is the least likely on this list to be available once the waiver wire opens, if you are lucky enough to have the opportunity then don't hesitate to put in a waiver claim on the rookie wide receiver.
Cooks tallied a 7/77/1 line in his NFL debut, showing that the positive reviews coming from Saints training camp were not just hearsay. Cooks was often referred to as the “star of camp”, and reportedly made “at least one highlight reel catch” per day according to several beat reporters in New Orleans.
With the ability to line up in various spots in the offensive formation, Cooks is a mismatch for nearly anyone trying to cover him. The Saints broke in their new toy, lining Cooks up in the backfield, slot, and out wide on any given formation. With the departure of Darren Sproles to the Eagles, Cooks will be asked to play the role of scat back and make up for the loss of Sproles’ production in the passing game.
Although Cooks plays on an offense with Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston, there's not reason to think that Drew Brees cannot spread the ball around. Now filling the role that Darren Sproles had, as well as lining up as the primary slot receiver Cooks has the potential to reach WR2 value, especially in PPR leagues.
Value: Low WR2/Flex
Advice: Add Immediately
4. Josh Gordon WR/Cleveland Browns (25.3% Owned)
After the NFL announced that Gordon’s yearlong suspension would stand, there was no reason to waste a draft pick on the troubled receiver, however fantasy owners may be getting an early Christmas present courtesy of the NFL.
Earlier this week it was reported that the NFL and the NFLPA had an agreement to finally begin testing for HGH, as well as make other alterations to the NFL’s drug policy. Due to the alterations of the current drug policy, the NFLPA would fight for suspensions issued in the current year to be revoked.
Gordon is currently serving a yearlong suspension for his third violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy, but if the league establishes higher thresholds for THC in the new NFL drug policy Gordon could see most, if not all of his suspension wiped away. If Gordon is able to play next weekend with a clean slate, he immediately becomes top flight WR1 for any fantasy team.
Last season, after missing the first two games of the season due to a suspension Gordon took the league by storm, leading the NFL in receiving yards (1646) and finishing second in yards-per-catch (18.7). If Gordon is still available in your league now would be the time to grab him, because when a new drug testing policy is instated Gordon will more likely than not have his suspension reduced, or even completely thrown out.
Advice: Stash and Wait
Well one game in and Ben Tate is already battling injuries, something that should come as a surprise to no one. If Tate misses an extended period of time, it will be up to rookie third round selection Terrance West to carry the load for the Browns running game.
After Tate got injured it was up West to stabilize the Browns rushing game. West did exactly that rushing for 100 yards on 18 carries, showing to be a great fit Coach Shanahan’s zone-running scheme. After having a rough preseason, it was good to see West bounce back and show continued development within the Browns offense.
Even though Isaiah Crowell was the guy to get the touchdowns during today’s game, he is not someone that you can currently count on as a consistent fantasy option. If Tate misses next week’s game Crowell will be used as the COP back to West, and could be the primary option near the goal line.
If Tate misses next week’s contest with the Saints, West will be asked to carry the workload for the Browns. Head Coach Mike Pettine has been adamant since training camp about establishing a more balanced approach to the offense, so if West does start in week two there is potential for West to reach RB2 value, and at worst would make for a serviceable flex play.
Advice: Add Immediately
One of the most talented dogs in the dog pound was kenneled for 2014, and it leaves fantasy owners wondering if anybody else is capable of leading the pack.